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Wise Beyond Their Years
aka: Wise Beyond His Years

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Pictured: wise.

"I grow sick and tired of all the same old lies
I might be a little young, so what's wrong?
You don't have to be old to be wise."
Judas Priest, "You Don't Have to Be Old to Be Wise"
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Children who are more mature than their age implies, with a solid comprehension of abstract concepts, good foresight and an understanding of human nature beyond what most kids their age have.

There are many ways to show that children are wise beyond their years: Kids who found themselves the head of a family and take their responsibilities seriously, the Kid Hero who actually treats their duty in a way an older hero does and doesn't simply see it it as an adventure, the teenager who refuses a stupid prank under all pressure, the cunning Enfant Terrible capable of planning and backstabbing that would make an Evil Overlord proud…

There may be a reason why these kids are what they are. Parental Abandonment (or even worse, a Teenage Wasteland) could force a kid to mature very fast, and a traumatic enough life could burn the childhood out of the most extreme and tragic examples of this trope. However, some of these characters are simply like this by nature.

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This trope applies to a good portion of anime characters, probably to appeal to a young audience while still being able to let the characters exhibit more mature behavior, like engaging in fierce combat or taking up leadership roles. This consequently makes such characters more relatable to a mature audience as well, as long as it's done well and the matter of young age doesn't raise too many eyebrows.

Note that this is based on the mentality of the character. Just being shoved into an adult role won't cut it; the average Kid Hero and Bratty Half-Pint tend to be highly immature, after all. Intelligence tends to be different from maturity as well, some Kid Geniuses can invent hyperdrives in their backyard but act in a very childish manner everywhere else. A good number of kids under Improbable Age count, but if the kid is in a high-ranking position and still thinks like a kid, they won't fit here.

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Frequently speaks in Little Professor Dialog and may enjoy Entertainment Above Their Age.

Contrast One of the Kids, Manchild, and Kiddie Kid. Compare Adorably Precocious Child, who tries to be like this but is still a kid at heart. Compare Child Prodigy, who is basically a TV Genius in child form. Innocent Prodigy is when a child really is like this, but still retains a childlike innocence in other aspects of life. If the character has an outgoing personality, they might be a Mouthy Kid or Little Miss Snarker, and when this character's maturity is displayed in a villainous light, they may become a Creepy Child. When every kid in a franchise acts like this (or at least most of them), it's probably because Most Writers Are Adults. Kids may be forced into this by living in a Teenage Wasteland. If the adultlike behavior is disturbing rather than impressive, it's Troubling Unchildlike Behavior. If a Child Prodigy acts like an adult in a child's world, rather than being thrust into the adult one, they're Acting Your Intellectual Age.


Example subpages

Other examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • While Tim Drake may start out as the most "normal" of the Robins, with living non-criminal parents even, his mother's, father's, girlfriend's and best friends' murders along with living in and working as a hero in Gotham and Bludhaven which has exposed him to some of the worst humanity has to offer has sobered up the already incredibly smart young detective and made him learn to be clever and manipulative in new ways.
    • Damian Wayne, son of Bruce and Talia al-Ghul, starts out as your average Bratty Half-Pint. Slowly, beginning in Batman and Robin, under the constant tutelage of Dick Grayson and after being given a couple of lessons in teamwork by Tim Drake, sheds his brash cockiness, evolving into an overtly serious, competent but gloomy hero. Basically, a little clone of his daddy. Stephanie Brown, the third Batgirl (not counting Helena Bertinelli) comes actually to pity his utter inability to act his age anymore, being a ten-year-old kid unable to play or interact with other children, but deadly competent in crimefighting and investigation, with snarker-tendencies.
    • Bruce Wayne himself, in several renditions of the mythos, is known to have never smiled again after the unfortunate death of his parents, shedding his childhood at once to hasten his growth into the deadly crime-fighter we know currently. Lampshaded in the animated retelling of the mythos, Justice League Unlimited, where, after temporarily being turned into children by a magical spell, Wonder Woman merrily quips how it was kind of nice to be a kid again. Batman simply shrugs, and shatters her joyful spirit by muttering "I haven't been a kid since I was eight years old."
  • Huey, Dewey and Louie, the nephews of Donald Duck, frequently come across this way in the stories of Carl Barks. Of course, next to ill-tempered, irresponsible, immature "Unca Donald" and even greedy, miserly, tunnel-visioned Uncle Scrooge, it doesn't take much to be the most responsible ones in the room, especially when aided by a Hive Mind and a Great Big Book of Everything.
  • Most members of the Legion Of Superheroes are like this, to the point that it can be easy to forget that they're (usually) teenagers.
  • Elaine Belloc from Lucifer, particularly after she returns from the dead and loses both her naivete and crush on the title character. (The readers subsequently learn that even before her death a teacher described her as "twelve going on forty)."
  • PS238:
    • Zodon, due to his four-digit IQ, has the mental age of a very cynical thirty-year-old in a seven-year-old body and most of his actions tend to fly over the heads of his classmates as a result.
    • Another offender would be Victor Vonfogg, who is just about as smart (but more prone to stereotypical Evil Genius behavior).
    • Tom Davidson, the time- and space-traveler, is another example of this trope as his abilities allows him to see things other people can't (and never will). His description as having a "Gandalf the Grey vibe" pretty much fits like a glove.
    • Tyler Marlocke also falls under this trope, as a normal kid whose being forced to go through a curriculum designed for people with superpowers by his parents, he often has to rely on his innately sensible nature in order to simply survive. After he becomes the de-facto main character, he is able to solve many problems simply through a heaping helping of good, old-fashioned common sense and some rather advanced deductive abilities. It helps that later on he gets occasional supplementary lessons from local Badass Normal and Batman expy, Revenant.
    • Cecil Holmes, Tyler's best friend, falls into this trope as well. While he is a paranoid Conspiracy Theorist who thinks the world is under constant threat of alien infiltration, the conspiracy he suspects is real. Due to some trickery on Tyler's part and some help from the Revenant, he actually becomes a federal agent, and proves to be more professional and competent than most of the adults in similar positions.
  • The Spirit's sidekick Ebony White. About eleven and can drive a car, has a thorough understanding of the city, finds minutiae info his hero misses, crafty with tools, can knock out an adult using any handy heavy object, a dead aim with a slingshot, and good at research. So what if his pronunciation makes Popeye look erudite!
  • Layla Miller from X-Factor. She knows stuff. It was eventually revealed that she's like that because her future self loaded her memories into the brain of her present self.

    Comic Strips 
  • Huey Freeman in The Boondocks, moreso than the show below. Especially as time goes on and his character is fleshed out. To the point where his lawyer neighbor often comes to him for poignant, intellectual conversation instead to his political-activist wife.
  • Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes. He has no grasp of basic math, zero work ethic, and a severe case of ADD, but often shows a grasp of complex philosophical principles.
  • Little Orphan Annie: Annie shocks adults in her world with her pluck, charisma and knowledge of business and philosophy. Plus thanks to training while the ward of Daddy Warbucks, a substantial knowledge of boxing and karate.
  • Linus from Peanuts is often a good source of advice.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In "The Wise Little Girl", the poor brother's seven-year-old girl became accustomed to look after herself while her father was away, with the result that she is exceptionally smart and clever for her age.

    Fan Works 
Cave Story

Crossover

  • Played straight and deconstructed, or at least one character points out the bad in this trope, in the fanmade novelization Breath of the Wild.
    • Played straight with the Zora. They're described as maturing slower than other races thanks to their much longer overall lives. Many times, a mature-minded Zora will still have the body of a child because they've already lived out a long life, even though they hadn't grown yet.
    • Just like in canon, Chief Riju of the Gerudo is a 12-year-old girl who is the Chief of her people. She's actually quite good at it, and rules with a regality, formality, and a decent efficiency. But Link doesn't think that this is a good thing. In his eyes, this little girl is losing her childhood innocence far too early in life. Link believes that children should get to be immature and childish. In his eyes, Riju isn't mature for her age, but rather, she's adopted intense coping mechanisms to survive her current situation, in which she is a child leading an entire race of Amazonian Gerudo women.
  • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail: Parker Cerise is the younger brother of Chloe Cerise and is shown to have a broader grasp of what's going on: when learning that his sister ran away, he questioned if it was because he didn't love her enough (when in fact it was their father she hated), fully embraced his sister's likes as his own and notes to his mom that Goh and Chloe are no longer friends because Goh never comes to visit. Talia honestly praises him for being the wisest member of the Cerise family.

Dragon Ball

  • In A Glad Day, Romayn develops very quickly and is able to grasp adult concepts as a baby. It helps that he's Goku reincarnated.

Game of Thrones / A Song of Ice and Fire

  • In The Raven's Plan, due to the plot's mental time-travel hook, the Starks are very disquieted to arrive at House Umber and find that Ned Umber is a 2 year old with the mind of at least a teenager. He also mentions that the same can probably be said for Lyanna Mormont.

Godzilla / King Kong / MonsterVerse

Harry Potter

Higurashi: When They Cry

  • Surprising Butterflies: Deconstructed with both Rika and Mion. As clan heirs, they were forced to grow up too soon and feel they had the chance to act like children.

Max and Ruby

  • Her Max: Ruby has always been an Adorably Precocious Child but she had to mature quickly after the death of her parents. It's mentioned that at seven she has the maturity of a twelve year old.

Miraculous Ladybug

  • Miraculous! Rewrite: Nora worries that Hawkmoth's various assaults upon Paris have forced Alya and her peers to grow up too fast. Hawkmoth preys upon her fears to akumatize her into Hecate, who manipulates the physical ages of her victims and attempts to transform Alya and her peers back into 'innocent children'.

Neon Genesis Evangelion

Sonic the Hedgehog

  • Deconstructed in Frenzy. Tails bemoans his lack of innocence at only 8 years old and envies 6-year old Cream for her short-sighted, naive view on the world. He wishes he hadn't grown up so quickly.

Unsorted/Dormant/Dead

  • Dungeon Keeper Ami has Child Prodigy Ami Mizuno being turned into Keeper Mercury, forcing her to become the leader of several scientific projects, military ventures and diplomatic struggles while having adults and even immortal beings working for her as her subordinates and employees.
  • Nolan Grant in The Walking Dead fanfic, Stay Together . Nolan is very smart, perceptive, and wise for his age. He is also quite mature even more than Clementine.
  • Faust, AEther, Alchemy, and young Prowl in Things We Don't Tell Humans.
  • In The Fairly Oddparents fanfic Never Had a Friend Like Me, 8-year-old Amanda figures out that Timmy has Fairy Godparents after less than two days of knowing him (though to be fair, she had the advantage of actually knowing that Fairies do exist) and has the self-restraint and responsibility not to make a wish for two months when most adults immediately start recklessly making wishes as well as recognizing that magic is not a cure-all solution (pointing out that she doesn't want friends who only put up with her because she used magic). Norm even remarks that Amanda is smarter and more mature then most adults he's met. This is something of a deconstruction however as the reason she's so responsible is because of the severe neglect her parents treat her with, meaning she had to grow up early to cope with her family life.
  • Shinji in Thousand Shinji is more intelligent -and more conniving- than your average teenager. At one point, Kaworu mentions that he was told that Shinji was wise beyond his years.
  • Once More with Feeling: After traveling to the past, Shinji looks (naturally) like a teenager. However he is rather older mentally and emotionally. Kaji notes that Shinji often seems an adult instead of a kid.
  • Shinji And Warhammer 40 K: Shinji is fourteen and practically a Mary Tzu (at least partly due to the influence of Warhammer). This is a bit of a weird theme with Neon Genesis Evangelion fanfics.
  • Missy "Vista" Biron from Worm story Atonement is only thirteen (later fourteen), but Madison picks up from the start that she's one of the team's most mature members.
  • In Worm crossover Echoes of Yesterday, Kara is eighteen, but she talks like an experienced adult, and her advice is usually wiser and more insightful than what you expect from someone who has barely reached adulthood. Of course, losing your planet and almost everyone who you've cared for at the age of fifteen before being dumped into an alien world forces you to mature fast.
    Taylor: (whispering) "God that hurts."
    Kara: "Life isn't fair. But I've also found that if you have the will and keep pushing forward… it has a habit of coming back around. No one's problems fix themselves, but no problem is unsolvable. Just takes a little work."
    Taylor: "Are you sure you're eighteen?"
  • Insomnia has Link. By his own admission he's only ten years old, and looks it, but he behaves like a grizzled warrior who's seen too many battles. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, as Tatl explains in this rant from chapter 38:
    Tatl: Link, you're weird for all kinds of reasons. You fight giant monsters like it's just another day's work. You move with that sword and aim that bow like the hero of some kind of folk tale, the kind where the hero wins, and you're not even old enough to have facial hair. When we met, you were casually strolling around the forest with a little blue thing that changes the flow of time, and you just left it sitting on your belt for any old mugger to take... You have clearly handled explosives before because I haven't even seen grown carpenters use bombs without wetting themselves a little bit. You're all kinds of insane, you're one giant boy-shaped ball of contradiction; I don't even think there's such thing as a boy-shaped ball; and you know way too much about time travel for anyone under the age of one thousand. So, uh, the fact that you seem a little more calm than you ought to sometimes? That's not really a standout.
  • Heroes Never Die: Dying over and over has given Izuku experience easily comparable to Pro Heroes. Death Arms internally notes that when he first saw Izuku rush to save Bakugo, the look on his face made him think he was a pro who had just arrived on the scene.
  • The Seventh Player: Machaira Mekhit, the titular seventh member of the Bad Kids, often shows her hand as being this. Specifically, she's of the "traumatic life destroying one's innocence" caliber of this trope.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Rachel in (500) Days of Summer, played by Chloë Grace Moretz.
  • Parodied in the coffee scene in Airplane!.
  • Aside from being physically the youngest Avenger (early twenties), Captain America in The Avengers has the experience of a soldier and it allows him to see the best way to handle just about any battlefield. It makes him the greatest and most competent field leader to serve under, age be damned.
  • Another Natalie Portman example is Marty in Beautiful Girls.
    Willie: How old are you?
    Marty: Thirteen. But I'm an old soul.
  • Angela Christ from Fassbinder's Chinese Roulette. She is not only a Child Prodigy, but also has very good abilities to discover dirty secrets and understand hidden desires of adults around her.
  • Miette in The City of Lost Children.
  • Tessa in The Constant Nymph. She shows some immaturity at times, but when it comes to her love for Lewis, she’s very intuitive.
  • The eponymous character of Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Conventional wisdom would tell us that he should be studying, preparing for his future, but he knows that the future is now; it's today. He's not going to spend his whole life wishing he had done something, he just does it. He also helps give his friend the confidence to move beyond his Parental Issues and take control of his own life, all while thwarting the attempts of Dean Bitterman to bring him down and imprison him in yet another year of high school.
  • Peter and George (to a lesser extent) in Finding Neverland
  • The Golden Child from The Golden Child, being The Golden Child and everything.
  • The precocious little brat Rupert in A King in New York.
  • The Last Summer: Two cases, possibly combined with Troubling Unchildlike Behavior, Played for Laughs.
    • Griffin's little sister (about ten) reads social media posts about the Wild Teen Party's and knows someone nearly choked on a beer bong about one. She also charges baby-sitting money to make sure her brother doesn't do anything when there parents are left alone.
    • The younger brother of Christine Purdy (about the same age as Foster's sister) can tell that Foster is trying to seduce his sister (a virgin and a Christian) and tells him man to man that it won't work, as she doesn't even kiss.
  • Thelma in Little Sweetheart. Unfortunately, she uses her intellect to blackmail people and get away with horrific crimes. She's also nine.
  • Matilda: Matilda can multiply large numbers in her head (13 times 379, for example) in seconds, and says she likes to read just about anything. It's strongly implied that the only reason she isn't in an enrichment or advanced placement program by now is because her parents don't believe in the value of education, as implied by their reaction to her teacher's point that with private instruction she could get to college years early.
    Mrs. Wormwood: You want Matilda to go to college?
    Mr. Wormwood: College? I didn't go to college. I don't know anybody who did. Bunch of hippies and cesspool salesmen, ha ha ha ha...
  • Men with Brooms: After Amy falls Off the Wagon, Chris Cutter attempts to tell her son that she's sick. He replies that even he can tell that "she's shitfaced." He promises to look after her for the night just the same because "She's the only mom I've got."
  • Emmy, the younger sister in The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, is the one who comes up with the idea for Trudy to marry Norval to cover up the fact Trudy is pregnant and doesn't remember who the father is.
  • Natalie Portman's Mathilda Lando in The Professional does a lot of tasks beyond her age such as buying groceries or training to become an assassin. A rather dark example of this trope since she exhibits a ton of Troubling Unchildlike Behavior.
  • In Quest of the Delta Knights, T is portrayed this way. An example, when he and Leonardo de Vinci find themselves captured with no means of escape, Leonardo frets about what they're going to do and how T can try to sleep at a time like this until T tells him, "when in doubt, rest." Crow responds, "You are full of crap beyond your years, kid."
  • The kid La Résistance team Wolverines in Red Dawn (1984) fancy themselves as such, but still make rash and heat-of-the-moment-driven decisions.
  • Lyddie in Saving Sarah Cain. Justified in that she was old enough for it to be plausible. She wasn't wise ridiculously beyond her years.
  • Queen Amidala was elected to be the leader of the Naboo while still in her adolescence. In The Phantom Menace she is seen being commanding to her enemies and humble toward her allies.
  • Mattie Ross, at least in the 2010 adaptation of True Grit. Her determination and drive to catch her father's killer gives even the most hardened bounty hunters pause, coupled as it is with a genuine seriousness and an impressive knowledge of law and scripture. Deconstructed, however, in that she is still naive enough to be vulnerable, and her lack of innocence as a child leads to an apparently joyless and lonely adulthood.
  • In Steven Spielberg's 2005 War of the Worlds, Rachel Ferrier has shades of this. When she's not in immediate danger, she alternates between being the voice of reason and Little Miss Snarker. At one point, she inadvertently foreshadows how the Earth will eventually force out its invaders by refusing to let Ray remove a small splinter from her hand that her body can deal with it on its own. She's also observant, recognizing the presence of danger before most of those around her, and seems to have a firmer grasp on the situation than Ray gives her credit for (after Ray is forced to kill Ogilvy to protect her, she seems to understand that a fatal fight has occurred and seeks to comfort him, despite his best efforts to shield her from it). When she's threatened with a serious crisis, though, she still behaves just like any frightened child.
  • In The Young Messiah, a rabbi tests Jesus' knowledge of the Torah with a series of trick questions, and Jesus easily sees through them all, and even offers the rabbi a few insights of his own.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Despite being the most innocent of the Scoobies, Tara takes the revelation of Joyce's death much more like an adult than any other member of the gang. We later learn it's because her own mother died when she was 17, so she's been through this before.
  • Alexis on Castle. It helps that both her father and her grandmother are much more playful than would be expected of a parent.
    • Sometimes, though, she acts more her age. Like when she cries while confessing to her father that she jumped a subway turnstile... then went back the next day and paid twice and didn't even ride.
  • Criminal Minds: Spencer Reid was an incredibly gifted child in his youth. He is also the youngest member of the BAU.
    • A rather tragic case in From Childhood's Hour with ten-year-old boy, Bobby. Because his mother was clinically depressed and suicidal, he developed a more mature and serious attitude on life. He was able figure out really quick that the man who abducted him had killed his mother, much to his horror and sadness.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • For a child, Bran shows himself far more competent at leading Winterfell than you may expect, and shows that many of the lessons Ned preached have taken root in him. For instance, his justification for leaving Winterfell undefended to send their men to take back Torrhen's Square:
    Bran: If we can't protect our own bannermen, why should they protect us?
    • Despite appearing to only be a few years older than Bran, Jojen is the first character to actually have some idea as to what Bran's dreams are.
    • The young Lady Lyanna Mormont is quick to point out the many flaws with a Stark/Mormont alliance without even bothering to consult her advisers. Jon isn't legally a Stark, but a Snow, and Sansa is a Lannister or a Bolton (depending on the source). She then rather bluntly asks why should she risk Mormont soldiers for a Stark, especially after the losses they suffered last time around. It's only when Ser Davos gives a rather sobering account of the real threat, the undead hordes, she agrees to help.
    Lyanna: Why should I have to risk one more Mormont life for someone else's war?
    • Along with Davos, Shireen is probably the Only Sane Man in Stannis's household; wondering why her Uncle who was so nice to her has to be burnt alive. She also counters Melisandre's Insane Troll Logic of equating his dying screams to a mother giving birth — Shireen points out that new mothers don't end up as ash and bone.
  • Zuri from Jessie is this (Even taking into account her penchant for imaginary friends).
  • Deconstructed in Kamen Rider Gaim with Mitsuzane. He's originally presented as quite smart and mature for his age, but the catch is that he has bought into his own hype. When considering courses of action, he has such a high opinion of his own intelligence that he generally disregards other peoples' opinions and feelings on the situation, and if his plans aren't followed he takes it poorly. By the end of the series he's shown to be more childish than anyone else on the show: he had been manipulated by the villains that he thought he had been cunningly manipulating, his approach to problem-solving had degraded to killing or strongarming anyone who interfered, and his entire goal can be boiled down to a refusal to grow up and deal with adult life.
  • Merlin starts out as a bumbling, clueless teenager. However, Character Development eventually changes him into this.
  • Manny from Modern Family.
  • Ziva from NCIS mentions that as a child in Israel, one has to grow up quickly or else you get killed.
  • One Day at a Time (2017): Alex is shallow, and at times comes off as your typical reputation-obsessed middle schooler, but several scenes reveal that he has a surprisingly smart, levelheaded, and mature outlook on topics that the adults in the series have trouble coming to grips with, such as his sister being a lesbian, the idea of having a gun in the house, and the idea of his mom dating again after her divorce.
  • Jake Brockman in Outnumbered is this in Seasons 1 & 2. However, he actually seems to become dumber as he gets older and becomes a teenager.
  • Several Power Rangers characters, including the original Mighty Morphin' Rangers. Trini in particular stand out among the original sixnote , but they all displayed a significantly higher degree of wisdom than you'd expect of high school freshmen or, in fact, the average adult. Zordon chose well.
  • Punky Brewster didn't start off this way, but she showed wisdom as the series went on. She reunited her teacher with his long-missing mother, helped a special-needs student come out of her shell to display a hidden talent, and during career day at school aspired to be an astronaut (this episode following the Challenger disaster which was its focus). Punky lost some of her wisdom when the show went into first run syndication as she shed her tomboy image and started seeing boys, but she would eventually learn from her mistakes come episode's end.
  • Reba: Kyra is arguably the smartest person in the entire family (to the point of getting straight As) and is often much more mature and level-headed at dealing with things then the adults. While she is a Deadpan Snarker and often likes to make fun of people, she's also very thoughtful and caring. Most notably she's the one who ends up successfully convincing Cheyenne to go back to high school (after she got suspended and Van quit playing football to blackmail the school into letting her back in) and also the one who calmed Cheyenne down about the prospect of childbirth.
  • Octavian on Rome. He sometimes combines this with Troubling Unchildlike Behavior, which makes him rather creepy.
  • Taken: As demonstrated by her narration of the first six episodes before her formal introduction, Allie Keys is an extraordinarily wise, intelligent and insightful nine-year-old due to her part alien heritage and the accompanying Psychic Powers. Her grandfather Jacob Clarke also exhibited these characteristics to a lesser extent. Allie has a far better understanding of life and human nature than people several times her age. For instance, in "God's Equation", her mother Lisa Clarke's bandmate Denny tells her that when he wakes up every morning, all that he can see is the end of the day. As a result, he doesn't see the point of even getting up in the morning. Allie then asks him if he thinks about the end of a song when he is performing. He says that he has to focus all of his attention of the part of the song that he is playing or he would never get through it. Without Allie saying anything, Denny then realizes that she is telling him to adopt the same attitude to life. Later in the episode, Allie is able to defuse the Hostage Situation by helping Ray Morrison to realize that he is so angry at the world because he was sexually molested when he was eight and it was easier to blame aliens for everything bad that had happened to him than to face his problems. She then allows the UFO project to take her into custody in order to protect Charlie and Lisa and prevent a bloodbath, even though she was more than powerful enough to escape. In the final episode "Taken", Allie makes the difficult decision to join the aliens in spite of her almost overwhelming desire to be a normal little girl. She knows that it is the only way to prevent people from being killed in the confrontation between the military and the abductees who came to protect her. Allie also has the wisdom to realize that Charlie and Lisa's plan to escape to South America will not work since the government would only find them again.
  • Jeff from Today's Special manages to be both this and a Manchild at the same time. While he just came to life and initially knows less about the world than a child, he often shows more maturity and wisdom than Muffy, to whom he's an occasional Big Brother Mentor. This is because Waldo's spell made Jeff smart, but not knowledgeable. He's also a quick learner, and over the course of the series, he seems to outgrow his Manchild tendencies, though there are still hints of it here and there, as he comes to understand the world better.
  • Elizabeth on The Tudors. Not surprising since she would grow up to become Elizabeth I.
  • Veronica Mars has the titular character, a private eye who not only makes a number of references that should really be beyond her range, but also regularly outsmarts many adult characters over the course of the show despite being a teenager. There is also the matter of her emotional duress which has granted her a cynicism more typical of a divorced adult.

    Myths & Religion 
  • This is a usual portrayal of child Venerables, Blesseds and/or Saints in the Roman Catholic Church. Examples: Saint Maria Goretti (12), Saint Agnes of Rome (13), Saint Domenico Savio (15), Sts. Francisco and Jacinta Marto (11 and 9, respectively), Venerable Antonietta "Nennolina" Meo (7), etc.
  • The Bible:
    • David (before he even became King) could be interpreted as this.
    • Invoked by Elihu from the Book of Job:
      "I am young in years, and you are old; that is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know ... But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding. It is not only the old who are wise ... Therefore I say: Listen to me; I too will tell you what I know."
    • For that matter, just remember 12-year-old Jesus and his behavior in the Scriptures, when Mary and Joseph lost track of him. When found, he told her that she needn't have worried, and asked why they hadn't checked his father's house first. Mary and Joseph found Jesus discoursing with grown men on the scripture when they finally checked the temple after three days of searching.. He was exactly where He knew He had to be: in His Father's house. (Luke 2:49)

    Radio 
  • In 1971, Los Angeles DJ Tom Clay created a remix of the popular social consciousness songs "What the World Needs Now Is Love" and "Abraham, Martin, and John", to which he added various spoken word tracks (speeches by JFK and Bobby Kennedy, the eulogy from Bobby's funeral by Martin Luther King, Jr., news bites from their assassinations). Among these was a Q&A between an older man and a young boy, where the former asked the latter to define various words: segregation, bigotry, hatred. When he got to prejudice, the little boy replied, "I think it's when somebody's sick."

    Tabletop Games 
  • Elisabetta Barbados, the (13-year-old) Child Empress as is known, in Anima: Beyond Fantasy. Not only she governs the largest empire of the game's setting but is also very good at fencing, being said she'll overtake her mentor Kisidan — a badass himself.

    Video Games 
  • In Ace Attorney, Franziska von Karma. She became a legal prosecutor at age thirteen, and went undefeated for FIVE YEARS.
  • Chuck Downfield of Backyard Football. He's nine years old, but knows exactly what to do with football plays.
  • Blitz, in Balmung Cycle, especially relative to the people around him.
  • Irci from BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm. Her exact age isn’t given, but she’s clearly a young child. She’s had to mature quickly, since her older sister Til is a nervous wreck and their parents are nowhere to be seen. It’s implied that Irci has largely been the one raising Til, instead of the other way around.
  • Sera is introduced in Digital Devil Saga as a goodhearted but naive teenager. The sequel reveals that she was rapidly aged due to her powers; she's seven years old. She fights to save the world, knowing that she will die, and leads the Embryon in Serph's absence.
  • EarthBound Beginnings exaggerates this trope with the the Garrickson baby of Youngtown. NPCs in the same town remark on there being "something strange" about the infant, and when talked to directly, it utters unintelligible, meaningless sounds. When Ninten's power of Telepathy is used on it, however, its thoughts are in complete, understandable sentences, and the infant reveals that it has Psychic Powers, to the point that it teaches Ninten's party how to use the Teleport PSI power.
  • Fallout 3's protagonist, the Lone Wanderer, is only 19 at the start of the game. Even so, fresh out of Vault 101, one of the first things you can find yourself doing is demonstrating that you are perfectly capable of disarming a nuclear bomb.
  • Shinra from Final Fantasy X-2.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Sanaki, the 10- to 13-year-old Apostle of Begnion, from Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn has been an empress since she was five, and still managed to avoid falling victim to the corruption of the Senators, even managing to to fight against them.
    • In Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light, and its sequel Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, 16-17 (in the first game and its remake)/19-year-old (the sequel and its remake) Prince Marth definitely counts, especially in Shadow Dragon. However, Marth (outside of Shadow Dragon, the remake of the first game) is a strange case in that he can make mature decisions and command his armies as well as anyone older than him, but can also be a borderline Kiddie Kid in how naive and innocent he is.
    • For that matter, almost all the lords count, most being in their mid to late teens with the exception of Genealogy of the Holy War's Sigurd, Awakening's Chrom, and Radiant Dawn's Miciah (chronologically, anyway) and Ike, aged three years since the last game (with Corrin having a Vague Age). However, Roy from Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade takes the cake; a political expert, commander of an army after the deceased Hector, and coolheaded Guile Hero at the ripe old age of 15, the youngest age for a lord in the series to date.
    • Also of note is Leif Faris Klaus. He starts at the same age that Roy does, and while initially a lot more naive than Roy, he becomes a very effective leader in fighting for the liberation of the people of Judgral.
    • Lysithea from Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a genius noble at the academy, who happens to be one of the youngest students.
  • Roan from Grandia II is one of these. Being raised to rule a country partly explains it.
  • In the .hack series, Wiseman. At the time of the original games, he's ten years old. You would never guess this from his efficient, calculating, highly intelligent on-line persona.
    • Sakaki in .hack//G.U. is a similar case: an elementary school student who is on the governing council of one of the largest Guilds in the game and is constantly giving speeches about morality to people much older than he is. He also tries to Take Over the World through AIDA in order to enforce his standards of morality on everyone.
  • Mission Vao from Knights of the Old Republic could be seen as this, as she had to become very street-smart very quickly after her brother abandoned her on Taris.
  • Prince Jarvan Lightshield IV from League of Legends.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, an eight-year-old named Malo becomes a successful store chain owner. What's more: he looks like a toddler.
    • According to trophy information in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, his mature, adultlike demeanor can be quite unsettling to actual adults.
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: Tetra, in spades. Being orphaned at young age and carrying half of the Triforce of Wisdom around with her might have something to do with it.
    • And of course, we have the titular princess. Whether as a child, a teenager or a young adult, she is far wiser than her age would imply. This trait is the very reason why she was granted the Triforce of Wisdom.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has Riju, the Gerudo chief. She's a young teenager at the oldest, but she has a fairly detailed knowledge of the events of a century ago and the Sheikah technology involved. Using this knowledge, she is able to figure out that Disguised in Drag Link is the old Hylian Champion and a man based solely on him carrying the Sheikah Slate.
  • The Mass Effect series fits in a rather bizarre way; alien races have different lifespans, cultures, expectations, etc., but the series also reinforces that age alone does not determine wisdom. Thus, people like Thane (who can't be more than 50 years old) display maturity and wisdom on the level of Samara, who is somewhere near a thousand years old. This makes the moments where Shepard impresses/helps them in terms of wisdom and actions this Shepard is (barely) less than 30 years old for the first two games. Wrex, who is at least 1400 years old, also displays plenty of wisdom (uncharacteristic for krogan) and character development; the latter is actually thanks to Shepard.
  • In the interactive romance novel Moonrise, Alice Devonfort is a high schooler, but she's more mature and wise than her peers.
  • Ken Amada from Persona 3 is another, largely due to the fact that his mother was killed in an accident some years prior. Said "accident" is later revealed to have been caused by another Persona-user, thus prompting Ken to join SEES to seek his revenge.
  • Not to mention six-year-old Nanako from Persona 4 who pretty much takes care of herself, and does all the housework, and is the pride of her elementary school. She basically stepped into her mother's role after her death, and both her Social Link and her TV dungeon make it clear that she's never quite gotten over that.
    • Naoto is an older example, being an Ace Detective and called upon (if not respected) by the cops despite being a first-year high school student. Her Shadow flips between Little Professor Dialogue and childish crying, manifesting the divide between how she presents herself and how the world really treats her.
  • Hilde of Soul Calibur IV is a German princess who took up the throne at a young age due to her father's onset insanity, caused by the Evil Seed. She had to become an adult very quickly to protect and guide her kingdom. It's very telling that when she is aged up to 35 in V, she has barely changed as a person from her 18-year-old self.
  • Suikoden V gives the main character, the Prince of the Queendom of Falena, and his sister, the Crown Princess And eventual Queen. The Prince is between 16 and 18, and he's already a badass Warrior Prince with political savvy and commands the respect of his entire army. Lymsleia is all of 10, and she's a masterful politican who engineers a plan to escape house arrest that only fails due to a defection. They get it from their mother Arshtat and aunt Sialeeds, both political geniuses.
  • Tales of the Abyss has multiple cases of this due to various factors. Anise is thirteen but usually acts much older and is firmly in the position of Fon Master Guardian; said Fon Master is fourteen and yet is basically ruling the world due to the power the Order of Lorelei holds, not to mention is an effective Reasonable Authority Figure. All replicas they meet fall under this as the majority are very young including said Fon Master who is actually two and The Hero Luke who is a mere seven years old which makes him the oldest seventh fonon replica in the entire game.
  • In Season 1 of The Walking Dead, Clem was already very resourceful and caring for her age, and by the time Season 2 rolls around, two years have passed and she's become even more-so. She's often a lot more sensible and level-headed than the adults around her.
    • Taken even further in Season 4, wherein AJ is frequently found having complex discussions about morality and survival with Clementine. While this is partially justified by AJ having to grow up fast in a post-apocalyptic world, the game acts like Clementine's knowledge and experience are what make her smarter than AJ, not the fact that AJ is a five year old boy whose brain is nowhere near as developed as a sixteen year old's. Even if you try to refuse AJ the right to make life and death decisions in Episode 4, the game forces Clem to retract this once she's no longer under the player's control, admitting this five year old boy knows what he's doing.

    Visual Novels 
  • Rika from Higurashi: When They Cry at times exhibits a mental capacity far beyond that of a child. Of course, that makes sense when you find out that due to the "Groundhog Day" Loop she's been stuck in, and being the only one who retains her memories, mentally she is actually hundreds of years old.
  • Infinity series:
    • Ever17 has Yagami Coco. While she normally acts quite energetic, events later in the game (especially during Coco's own route) reveal that she is more aware of how serious the situation is than most of the rest of the cast, despite being the youngest.
    • Yuni from Remember11 also sporadically shows hints of this. He puts up an act so that the others don't realize this.
  • Majikoi! Love Me Seriously! has Monshiro, who has skipped grades, acts extremely mature and is considerate of others' feelings — arguably moreso than her brother Hideo, who seems to lack an "off" switch.
  • In Strawberry Vinegar, Rie has a rather advanced vocabulary for her age, and a collection of novels that overwhelm Licia because they don't have any pictures.
    Rie: Please. I'm nine years old. I don't need pictures to keep my mind engaged.

    Webcomics 
  • Jessica from Blade of Toshubi is only 13, but she has above average intelligence, speaks several languages, and often serves as the voice of reason to the somewhat amoral Toshubi.
  • Carrie from Everyday Heroes occasionally shows flashes of older behavior... like guilting her friend into showing her true feelings. (It's that one Beat Panel, where she lets Summer's own words sink in, that really does it.)
  • Fetch Quest: Saga of the Twelve Artifacts has the Child Prodigy Ambrosia Verdandi (age 12), who has an astounding interest in the medical sciences and hopes to become a doctor someday. Shiori lampshades this in her codex:
    Shiori: "She's also far more mature than her cute appearance might indicate, and she's definitely wise beyond her years.".
  • Girl Genius: The Castle complains that Carson von Mekkhan "always [was] a suspicious old grouch, even when [he was] young." which likely explains part of why Carson lived to be as old as he is by the time the reader meets him given the very dangerous world in which he lives.
  • Nona from The Good Crook.
  • Antimony from Gunnerkrigg Court. Even at age six, "when Annie still knew how to act like a kid", her desire to help was well in place, and she showed courage and level-headedness during her very first counseling session with a ghost. Then she takes a turn toward stoicism following her mum's death. In one of the rare cases where twelve-year-old Annie actually acts her age, she ends up collapsing in tears, crying that she misses her mother. One might assume that she wears her maturity so tightly, because the child can't handle that pain. (Or maybe it was just those cherries.)
  • Rose Lalonde from Homestuck is also quite knowledgeable for her age of 13, which only expands when she reaches her God Tier as a Seer of Light.
  • Lovely Lovecraft: Howard studies astronomy and chemistry and plans to write professionally. As his tale continues, he uses the Necronomicon effectively and debates responsibility and dreams with Iranon. Adult characters remark favorably on his calmness and understanding even in comparison to his elders.
  • Subverted by Redcloak from The Order of the Stick, a powerful cleric and warlord who looks like a young adult goblin of ten or fifteen years. He's actually around fifty, but the Crimson Mantle that he wears is a religious artifact that suspends his aging. According to his brother in Start of Darkness, he is an inversion: Right-eye accuses him of being an angry kid at heart who never moved on from their family's deaths because he doesn't have to face his own mortality.
  • Ozy and Millie, as one of the central themes of the strip.
  • Similar to its main influences Calvin and Hobbes and Ozy and Millie, the child characters in Sandra and Woo are significantly cleverer than normal 12-year-old kids. Just one strip after Larisa questions the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics during a game of beach volleyball, Sandra quotes Friedrich Nietzsche to justify her destruction of Larisa's sand castle.
  • Stephen Ahn from Weak Hero. It's easy to forget that he's in middle school when Gray reminisces about him, given how mature and intelligent he was. It's not every day that you find a middle schooler casually bring up Laurens van der Post and Kant's categorical imperatives in a discussion about finding meaning in life.

    Web Original 
  • Egg of AJCO is a sharp-minded, competent prosecutor bordering on a Badass Pacifist, and currently the most perceptive character on the entire server according to the MACELIPS stats (rating at 9 points out of 10). She is also only seventeen.
  • Deena in The Guild seems much more mature than her older brother. Of course, considering that her brother is Bladezz that's not very difficult.
  • The Fool Fantastic, a member of That Guy with the Glasses, is one of the smarter members. He reviews the best movies of all time, attempting to figure out what makes them so great. You'd be surprised to learn he's 17 with all the classic films he reviews and references.
  • Weaponized by the museum guide in this story from Not Always Right, whose speech includes specifically telling small children to keep their parents in line because grown-ups think rules like "don't touch the displays" don't apply to them.

    Western Animation 
  • This appeared to be the entire premise of FOX's animated series Allen Gregory. Unfortunately, the kid was also an unlikable twerp, so the show didn't last.
  • The kids in Arthur often act far older than most 8 and 9-year-olds would act. They roam freely around their home city and get involved in many activities most kids their age don't even consider, such as taking Czech courses or practicing kendo. Brain seems to be a Flanderization of this, even having a mini science-laboratory in his room and constructing his own machinery. For all intents and purposes, they act pretty much like high schoolers unless the plot requires otherwise.
    • Ironically, it's the preschool characters who act more like 3rd and 4th graders in real life, in terms of their worldview and their vocabulary.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Azula may be considered too old to count, until you recall she managed to organize a coup in a hostile city with her words alone, breaking the Evil Chancellor in the process, at age fourteen. From what is seen of her during flashbacks, it seems like she's actually been like this since age nine. Word of God even stated the reason she chose her "friends" was because they were people she could learn useful skills from.
    • Aang himself counts later in the series, being only twelve but having the WIS score of 20. But then again, he is the Avatar. He is chronologically a hundred and twelve years old. He was frozen in time for a hundred years, so mentally he was still twelve at the beginning of the series. He matured a lot throughout the show, however. Same can be said for most of his friends, as they are all young and manage to fight armies on a daily basis, almost. A point is made of this in the episode The Southern Raiders. When Katara sets off to avenge her mother's death with Prince Zuko, Aang makes it a point to advise her several times. At the end, Sokka responds with the line: "You know, for a kid, you're pretty wise. Usually it's annoying, but right now I'm just impressed."
    • Speaking of which, Katara is probably the best example of this. From a very young age, she has had to act as a mother to her family and her brother, and her actions and reactions throughout the series reflect this very strongly. Though she occasionally has "childish" instances (half the time just to make a point), the series treats her as the group's mother figure and caretaker. Take this dialogue from the very first episode. (Considering Katara's background, that line becomes particularly poignant and bittersweet.)
      Katara: [while penguin sledding] I haven't done this since I was a kid!
      Aang: You still are a kid!
  • Huey from The Boondocks.
    "He speaks so well."
  • Jérémie Belpois of Code Lyoko is not just the leader of the Five-Man Band, but devises all the planning and strategies in the fight against XANA, sometimes even keeping ahead of the malevolent A.I. Hence, even for a Teen Genius, he proves much more mature and serious that could be expected from any 11/12-year-old. At least, as long as Aelita isn't directly involved... then he can get emotional and show his true age.
  • Members of Codename: Kids Next Door sometimes show signs of this trope, which can ironically imply that they can be more mature than some of the villains they face.
    • Especially Numbuhs One and Five. They've both been in life-threatening situations too many times to count. Numbuh Five's got the wisdom of somebody at least twice her age, and Numbuh One has a relationship with his girlfriend that some grown men would envy. They're both 10-11 years old. Numbuh Five's arguably the most mature of the main characters, especially taking into consideration how she's often the Only Sane Woman.
    • The biggest example of this trope would probably be Numbuh 362, considering she's in charge of a whole global organization filled with thousands (possibly millions) of kids.
  • The DCAU brings us Kai-ro, the ten-year-old Green Lantern from Tibet. A ten-year-old wielding a willpower-based weapon, who was easily the most level-headed member of his incarnation of the Justice League. Badass.
  • All the kids on Doug. Despite being only in sixth grade, they freely roam about town without any parental supervision, empathize with each other in ways very few real life sixth graders are able to, talk completely like adults, etc.
  • Mac from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, who's become more mature to counteract his freewheeling and borderline Jerkass friend, Bloo.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: Mandy may be a real bitch but she's EASILY the smartest and most mature and responsible character on the show.
  • Arnold from Hey Arnold! in spades.
    • Just about every kid in Arnold's class, actually. There's no way that's a group of fourth graders. No way.
      • But Arnold is the one they go to when they are in over their heads. Even the adults did this eventually.
      • And he was once asked to be a best man. He's nine.
      • So is Helga, and she was the maid of honor in that same wedding.
  • James Bond Jr. received info and equipment from school pal and genius I.Q.
  • Kaeloo: Mr. Cat may be a mere preteen, but he's well versed in advanced sciences, can repair and build machines, gadgets and robots and thinks more like an adult than a kid.
  • In The Legend of Korra, Aang and Katara's granddaughter Jinora certainly counts. She's so wise that at the age of 11 she becomes the Avatar's spiritual master, saves the world and the Avatar no less than 3 times because of her wisdom and spiritual skills, and outdoes her own grandfather's record of becoming the youngest airbending master in history at the age of 11 and implied to be the unofficial leader of the new Air Nation behind her dad, Tenzin.
  • The Monster Buster Club members are twelve years old. Said twelve-year-olds regularly beat up evil aliens and save the day with a combination of gadgetry, teamwork, and physical prowess bordering on Charles Atlas Superpower.
  • Tommy Anybody from Mr. Bogus appears to show shades of this.
  • On Ready Jet Go!, the kids all seem to be this, especially Mitchell, who is little but can build an exact copy of Saturn V.
  • In both the original Rugrats series and the spin-off All Grown Up!, Susie Carmichael's shown to be very mature for her age — at only three-years-old, she was already fluent in French and knew where human babies really came from (which she told Angelica, but Angelica didn't believe her). However, taking into consideration how Susie's mom, Lucy, is a doctor (and one of the specialities she practices is obstetrics), the latter probably shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Susie's older brother, Edwin, is a much better example.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Lisa Simpson, and this has quite often been a plot point of the show. In fact, one episode has Mayor Quimby surprised that she's a child, saying that he always thought she was a midget — Lisa explains that she isn't and that the preferred term is "little person."
    • All of the elementary school kids (except Ralph Wiggum) seem fairly mature for their age — although not all are as mature as Lisa.
    • Lisa's sister, Maggie, as well, despite being just a baby.
  • In South Park, all of the students with the exception of Butters have shown to be consistently more intelligent than the adults, especially in the later episodes, and understand many complex things. The basis of the main plot of the episode "Cartman Joins NAMBLA" is Cartman feeling too mature for his friends (he isn't) and attempting to make friends with adults. It worked far too well.
  • Steven Universe, though it takes a little while to become apparent. The first half of season one is often, "Steven somehow gets into trouble and the Crystal Gems have to save him", but once the true stakes become apparent and character development sets in, it becomes, "Steven continually helps resolve the emotional issues of his friends and family".
  • Milli and Geo of Team Umizoomi, who are Math Heroes
  • In Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012), Leonardo is responsible for the lives of his three brothers, the protection of his home and sensei, and occasionally the fate of the city. He's fifteen years old (no older than the rest of his brothers).
  • Fritz from Timothy Goes to School is the most intelligent student who mainly focuses on anything science related.

    Real Life 
  • Babur, the first Mughal emperor of a good chunk of India and the important bits of Afghanistan, became an independent ruler and military leader at 12, fighting adult enemies who more often than not had vastly more money and soldiers than he (including the freaking Khan of the Uzbeks). He made a career out of beating larger armies, and crowned it in his adult life by eating the Delhi Sultanate.
  • Famous pop singer Billie Eilish has always been mature for her age, even before she became famous. She has a nihilistic point of view on life, especially being well-spoken and eloquent for her age.
  • Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg is even more sensible than most well-known world leaders, as she tears into them for not doing anything about climate change. They call her a realist for a reason.
  • In psychological terms, "parentification" is when children are forced to mature rapidly or take on adult roles due to external circumstances, such as a child becoming the de facto therapist for a parent with mental illness or a child buying groceries and cooking for a chronically drunk or negligent parent.


Alternative Title(s): Wise Beyond Her Years, Wise Beyond His Years

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