Follow TV Tropes

This is based on opinion. Please don't list it on a work's trope example list.


Woobie Species

Go To

The Woobie is an individual who suffers. This trope is The Woobie on a wider scale, applying to an entire group. In particular, woobieness happens to be a trait of an entire species (alien or otherwise) or fantastic race.

The reasons for this can vary. Maybe they are endangered. Maybe they are misunderstood or discriminated against. Maybe they're enslaved or made into hapless mooks, especially if they're made sympathetic. Whatever the reason, the audience and/or the characters in-universe feel sorry for them.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • The cursed children from Black Bullet, young girls born with the Gastrea virus in their blood, the same virus that turn people into Eldritch Abominations. How society treats the cursed children is sickeningly in Jim Crow law levels (from public flogging and lynching to forced segregation and even Police Brutality). And because the cursed children are born with said virus, they'll eventually turn into Eldritch Abominations anyways in a much slower rate. It gets worse for them when the government plans to strip them away from their citizenship and plan a genocide against them.
  • The title creatures in Sekirei, a race of battle aliens forced to participate in a game where There Can Be Only One. This involves seeking out their One True Love and then fighting to the death against the rest of their kind with the knowledge only one will be allowed to stay with their Ashikabi. Out of the 108, the vast majority are Monster Munch or Red Shirts with absolutely no hope of winning against their more powerful elders, the Single Numbers. This leads many pairs to attempt to flee the capital, only to be hunted down and slaughtered by the Discipline Squad.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has Beastmen, despite being the mooks of the first half's Big Bad. They're an artificial species created by Lordgenome for the sole purpose of serving him and killing humans on the surface, incapable of reproducing without cloning, and because they lack spiral power they Can't Catch Up to humans who've unlocked it, swiftly slaughtered and left irrelevant.


    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): The Skullcrawlers end up being this. From the chapter they're introduced into the fic, their sole purpose in the plot is to fall prey to the Many and their Fate Worse than Death, practically becoming the Many's go-to source of fresh meat.
  • Mass Effect: Altered Humanity: The quest does this to the Batarians, surprisingly enough. They make First Contact with the warlike and more technologically advanced Krogan, who proceed to steamroll through their systems, eventually forcing the Batarians into vassalage. Then the Terran Dominion and Turians show up to liberate them, only for the Krogan to use the Batarians as shields and detonate nukes under Batarian cities if they lost to the Human-Turian ground forces, which forces the Humans and Turians to use Orbital Bombardments which results in the near-extinction of the Batarians. Then after the war the Batarians are given a handful of colonies to rebuild, but they eventually abandon them to become Space Nomads and just want to be left alone. Unfortunately they keep running into every other race, meaning they have to give up their self-imposed isolation and join a galactic community they'd rather not be a part of. Then after they became member of the United Galactic Directorate, despite having the same amount of votes as Yahg Imperium, United Rakhana Nations, and Courts of Dekkuna combined, they don't have the same voting power as the three blocs, meaning they are subject to Directorate’s laws, but have no ability to determine which laws are ratified. One Batarian remarks that they saw their colony turn into a Ghost Town due to the free trade legislation making it so there was nothing protecting local manufacturers from being driven out of business by imports.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfiction Mirrors In Shadows portrays changelings as this. They are every bit as intelligent as ponies but operate on Blue-and-Orange Morality, and drive themselves to enforce a Hive Mind mentality (going so far as to not name themselves) to cope with how they constantly need to imitate ponies just to feed. Since they feed on love via Vampiric Draining, a pony will die if they stay too long meaning if they ever actually find a pony they love, they have no choice but to abandon them.
  • My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic manages to unintentionally turn the Equestrians into this. They're forced to undergo mutations into humanoid creatures, are having their culture and way of life erased, are seen as "inferior" by Starfleet, and the few that try to protest this new status quo are always defeated and/or subjected to a Fate Worse than Death.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Dragons in the Dragonheart film series, they vowed to guide and protect humanity and in return they ended up being shunned, persecuted, hunted and driven to near extinction by humans.
  • The Thermians from Galaxy Quest. They all seem relatively peaceful and innocent, but they're also under attack by another alien species intent on wiping them out. On top of that, they have no concept of fiction, meaning that they end up mistaking a Star Trek-esque show from Earth as the real deal and model their entire society after it before finally recruiting the cast of the show to try and save them from the aforementioned genocidal aliens (and they take it pretty hard when they find out none of it was actually real).
  • In The Hobbit, the majority of the Dwarvish race who are displaced, nomadic, and downtrodden, yet choose to remain strong and proud.
  • The ISOs from TRON. Beautiful lifeforms that just emerged spontaneously from Flynn's tinkering inside The Grid. "Naive and infinitely wise," Flynn called them, convinced they could rewrite everything from science to religion and change the world. Unfortunately, the Programs had no context for what to make of them. Worse, TRON: Uprising and the Betrayal comic showed that just by existing, they were destabilizing the system and endangering every life on it. Add a magnificently done False Flag Operation from Clu that framed them as terrorists, and spread the lie that they could infect and kill Programs with just a touch, and the Programs were convinced that the only way to save themselves was siding with Clu and exterminating them all.

  • In All Tomorrows, the Mantelopes were the descendants of humans who lost a war against an alien race named the Qu. While the Qu punished most of the humans by turning them into animalistic Genetic Abominations, the Mantelopes had a much more cruel fate; the Qu morphed their bodies into grazing quadrupeds but kept their human intelligence and cultural memories of what they once were intact. Mantelopes cannot speak or interact with the world around them to any degree, so their entire culture was built around ennui and singing wordless songs of lament and anguish over their pointless existence, before natural evolution took over and they devolved into dumb animals over thousands of years.
  • Animorphs:
    • The Yeerks are the misunderstood variety... for the most part. They are basically blind, sapient slugs who only take hosts to compensate for their biology. Only those in power and those seeking power can be said to be really evil, as most of them are either swept up in the propaganda or afraid to challenge superiors.
    • The Taxxons suffer from Horror Hunger so overwhelming that any wounded will be quickly devoured by their brethren, and if they go too long without food they will eat themselves. Eventually the entire species Mode Locks themselves in morph just to escape it.
    • The Hork-Bajir were peaceful, none-too-bright herbivores until the Yeerks wanted them as shock troops. Many were abducted and turned into hosts, and the remainder were wiped out in an attempt to deprive the Yeerks of hosts (which failed, as the Yeerks already had enough for a viable breeding population).
  • The Beginning After the End: The elves. In the War Arc, their kingdom gets occupied by the Alacryans, who put many of them into slavery. Then the war ends with their king and queen being forced to sell out to Agrona, the ruler of Alacrya, when it is revealed that he has control over their princess's life and are executed afterwards. It only gets much worse for them from there, as said princess ends up going back to their homeland only to be captured by the Alacryans and turned into the vessel for an entity known as the Legacy. This is immediately followed by the Asuras unleashing a Fantastic Nuke in a failed attempt to kill off the Legacy which annihilates the elven homeland, leaving it a barren wasteland and driving the elves to near-extinction. Not to mention, almost all of the elven characters are killed off throughout the story, in particular when the Asuras send down one of their own to purge the Dicathian resistance. During said Asura's rampage, he ends up killing four named characters, all of them elves. The only surviving elven characters at this point in the novel are Tessia (the aforementioned princess, who as already stated is possessed by the Legacy), Virion, Camellia, and Saria.
  • The Oompa-Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were this once upon a time. This tribe of unusually Little People comes from Loompaland, a Death World where they were constantly at the mercy of carnivorous beasts. They found some protection from them by building a Tree Top Town to live in, but they still faced a lack of palatable food for themselves — they subsisted primarily on mashed green caterpillars — and more than anything else they craved cacao beans, which were virtually nonexistent. When chocolatier Willy Wonka came along and offered them the chance to live in his chocolate factory and enjoy all the cacao beans they wanted in exchange for serving as his new workforce, they didn't hesitate to take him up on the offer!
  • Discworld: Of all the intelligent humanoids on the Disc, Fantastic Racism may hit the goblins the hardest — they face poverty and social marginalization wherever they live, and in many areas aren't legally considered people and can be murdered and enslaved with impunity.
  • The House elves in Harry Potter have a physiological compunction to serve and be ordered around by other species, to the point that they compulsively injure themselves if they so much as think of disobeying an order or express a less-than-flattering opinion about their master. There is a big element of Happiness in Slavery, but it's clear that most House elves outside of Hogwarts are viciously abused and mistreated.
  • Humanx Commonwealth: The CunsnuC, the native inhabitants of Cachalot. They have lived in agony for centuries after humanity colonized their world because human brain waves interfere with their natural telepathy and causes them pain. It's so bad that they can't be in close proximity to a human, so they're forced to hide themselves and aren't even able to fight back. Until they're ready.
  • The Nephilim of the Hush, Hush series. Their entire purpose is to be tracked down by fallen angels and be Mind Raped into spending the rest of their lives in the service of said fallen angels. Said service consists of the fallen angels possessing their bodies for two weeks out of every year, and using them for physical sensations that are usually sex. While the Nephilim are still conscious in their possessed bodies. Also, Word of God states that Nephilim become immortal and frozen at the age they are when they are forced into the service of fallen angels, so they get to look forward to an eternity of this treatment.
  • Imminent Danger and How To Fly Straight into It features the Claktills, small friendly beings whose Suicidal Pacifism meant they didn't resist when the Rakorsians came to destroy their planet. They escaped its destruction, but have since become favourite victims of the Ssrisk, who exploit their pacifism by using them as slave labour and pets. The Psilosians have tried to help them, but the Claktill are now stuck on run-down Psilosian ships wandering through space without a home, slowly being picked off by criminals and still unable to defend themselves.
  • Man After Man: An Anthropology of the Future: The Vacuumorphs are exoskeletal humans designed to be living space probes, with all of their vulnerable parts sealed up so they can survive the natural elements of outer space without the need of a ship. It's never mentioned that anyone from Earth retrieves them. In other words, the Vacuumorphs are cursed to stay in high orbit without any way of directly seeing or communicating with the outside universe (except through their surgically-attached planetary surveying equipment) and are (presumably) forced to consume nothing but their own recycled natural waste until finally accidentally falling towards and burning up in a random planet's atmosphere. They cannot even travel through space — it's stated that they are high-orbit spaceship engineers only. Their bodies cannot operate or even survive in gravity at all — and that includes the artificial gravity of an accelerating spaceship. They're stuck in near-Earth space.
  • Mistborn:
    • The kandra, once you get past the squickiness of how their powers work note . Victims of extreme Fantastic Racism from humans who fear and/or are squicked by their abilities, the only way they survive is by creating a Contract that allows individual kandra to rent themselves out as servants to powerful humans, who often abuse them horribly (since, as the kandra Ten Soon notes, you can beat a kandra to death at night and still have them ready to serve you next morning, so long as you give them new bones). Oh, and their ancestors were human, and the process used to transform them leaves them open to mind control by an insane, nihilistic god.
    • The koloss are a Jerkass Woobie species. Created by the Lord Ruler to act as shock troops, koloss are humans who have been transformed into enormous, mentally-stunted berserkers. Only able to experience two emotions, apathetic and enraged, they vaguely remember that they were once human and still should be, but no longer know exactly what that was like. Like their "cousins" the kandra, they are also open to being controlled by the same dark god.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • The obscure species known as the Evocii, the original inhabitants of the planet that would come to be known as Nal Hutta. The Hutts conquered them, stripped them of their rights, and polluted their planet so badly most of them become horribly deformed, and what's more unlike a lot of oppressed species such as the Chevs and the Nikto, they don't even get a happy ending under the New Republic, as it's implied that the Yuuzhan Vong killed them all during their conquest of Nal Hutta.
    • No matter the time period, Wookiees are almost always being enslaved en masse or killed to the point of extinction. Even during times of relative safety the wider galaxy still views them as primitives or musclebound thugs.
    • The Nosaurians are a Woobie Species through and through. Their planet is economically struggling and the Republic puts restrictions on their one export product, causing the Nosaurians to join the Separatists out of economic desperation. After the Clone Wars, the Empire kills almost every single soldier in the Nosaurian Army and sells the families of said soldiers into slavery. Then, during the Yuuzhan Vong War, the Nosaurians put up such a resistance that the frustrated invaders kill about half of their population and render their home planet uninhabitable.
  • David Brin's Uplift saga has humans themselves. Most aliens despise or hate them as an upstart rogue species that never had a proper upbringing, but even in-universe a few view them as The Woobie.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Narns in Babylon 5 and the Bajorans in Star Trek exist to fulfill this trope. They both represent oppressed and exploited peoples, cruelly invaded and enslaved by more powerful alien forces, fighting harshly for regain independence and suffering many setbacks in the reconstruction of their home worlds once freed.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The planet of the Tivolians is the most conquered in the galaxy. However, after one of them sacrifices an innocent person in attempt to save themself, the Doctor notes that they're also one of the oldest races in the galaxy. "Your cowardice isn't quaint, it's sly."
    • Cybermen are people jammed into metal life support suits, stripped of all emotion (supposedly) and sensation, with no goal other than converting more people to Cybermen. The original Cybermen from Mondas were ordinary people who went the Transhuman route to try and save their species from the degrading conditions on their world, but because Cybernetics Eat Your Soul they no longer recall why they did this to themselves and now seek only to survive and propagate their "species".
    • The revival series frequently attempts to portray the Daleks as a Jerkass Woobie species, deliberately designed to feel nothing but hate for all other life and having no purpose other than extermination.
    The Doctor: Sealed inside your casing. Not feeling anything, ever, from birth to death, locked inside a cold metal cage. Completely alone. That explains your voice. No wonder you scream.
  • Grimm: There are entire species of Wesen whose grief and suffering far exceeds their good fortune.
    • Folterseele emit pheromones which cause people to rape them, and which also kill anyone who touches them. It's implied that every Folterseele is a Child by Rape, and their parents constantly disfigure them with hot branding irons to discourage rapists.
    • Glühenvolk and Willahara are hunted and killed by other Wesen for their body parts, and the survivors of both races have little hope of survival besides constantly running or living in seclusion.
    • El Cuegle are plagued by physically painful visions of the future showing young children committing vicious murders when they grow up. El Cuegles can only prevent these crimes and stop the painful visions by killing those children as babies, which also causes them to be hated and feared in the Wesen community.
    • The Bauerschwein have spent their entire existence being slaughtered for food and sport by Blutbaden, although some of them enter From Nobody to Nightmare territory by retaliating in ugly ways.
  • The Kamen Rider franchise is quite fond of applying this trope to a number of its villainous factions, particularly in the Heisei era. You can generally tell if a series will use this trope if one or more of the main characters is a member of the villainous factions' species. Notable examples include:
    • Kamen Rider 555: The Orphnochs are humanity's next evolutionary step, but in order to achieve this step, most Orphnochs will have had to have die once, and to make matters worse, all Orphnochs suffer from an extremely limited life-span that can only be fixed if the Orphnoch King corrects their genetic deformity which also prevents them from being able to assume a human form again. While most Orphnochs are depicted as wanting to live in peace with humanity, many are coerced by villainous Orphnochs into attacking humans lest they themselves be targeted, and when their existence becomes known to the public? Humanity attempts to exterminate them.
    • Kamen Rider OOO: The Greeed are Homunculi born of pure desire, created by a King 800 years ago. Their creation involved 10 Core Medals which contain their essence, but the King removed and destroyed one Core Medal from each set, thus resulting in an innate desire within the Greeed to fill the gap that is the loss of their tenth Core Medal. Existing as a Greeed is depicted as having an extremely distorted experience of reality, and as their very nature is to desire their lost Core Medal which had already been destroyed, they are quite physically incapable of ever achieving any sense of satisfaction, even if they were to possess the other 9 of their Core Medals.
    • Kamen Rider Drive: The Roidmudes are a species of android designed by a scientist by the name of Dr. Banno. Banno corrupted the Roidmudes by influencing them with negative human emotions, thereby forcing them into conflict with humanity. With no means to reproduce, their numbers dwindle as the series goes on, and their eventual extermination is treated as a tragedy that could have been avoided had Banno not abused them. note 
  • For the first time, the Orcs of the Tolkien's Legendarium are presented as such in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power to the point where the both the fans and the haters of the show are rooting for them. They are introduced as the Always Chaotic Evil race like in the movies and books, seeing other races as animals to exploit and enslave, but as the show goes, they are shown to be more Tragic Monsters. The show goes with one of Tolkien's ideas for their origins, where they are Elves corrupted by Morgoth. After Morgoth's defeat, they followed Sauron hoping to be better treated only for Sauron to use Blood Magic on them for his own ambitions. Adar, getting tired of seeing the Orcs constantly exploited, kills Sauron and does anything in his power to make sure the Orcs have a home, too. Sure, their treatment of the people they kidnapped is not nice; they are just as guilty of Fantastic Racism, but they had to resort to such methods because they cannot live in the sun. And when the other races think you are only capable of evil, need to be exterminated no matter what, and would more likely refuse any sort of cohabitation, you can only make a place for yourself in the world by using force and taking their home if necessary. What's even more tragic is that Sauron is back in the game, ready to subjugate them again, right when they finally got a home without any other master to corrupt them to even more evil, crushing any change hope for them to develop into a proper society or even civilization.

  • Romani Mythology: The Keshali are nature spirits. Once, the King of the Loçolici (humans cursed by Satan) took a fancy to their queen, Ana. When she refused, he decided to hunt them down and eat them. Seeing the slaughter of her people, she agreed to marry the King, which led to the horrific multiple rapes that produced every disease known to man. Tired of their queen's suffering, the Keshali baked the King a cake made of cat and dog hairs that impregnated him with Poreskoro, the spirit of The Black Death. With this attempt on his life, the King agreed to divorce Ana, but only on the condition that she kept herself alive forever by drinking the blood of three of her own kind. As soon as she dies, all Keshali will belong to the king by default and he will use that right to exterminate them for once and for all. Now, the Keshali are mostly reclusive, living in the forests and mountains. They bless and curse humans as fit, sometimes warding off the disease demons and sometimes killing them with avalanches if they encroach on their domain.
  • The original depiction of zombies in Voudoun mythology. Unlike their modern portrayals, which often depicted them as violent, carnivorous brain-eaters capable of bringing about the Zombie Apocalypse (with a few exceptions), the zombies in Voudoun are damned souls forced to obey a Bokor, the culture's version of a Necromancer, in a form of slavery that not even death can save them from, complete with not being able to form their own free will or save their former friends if their Bokor is malicous and uses them for extortion or abuse.
  • Cryptid: The Squonk is a United States cryptid that was practically built off this trope. Specifically, it is said to be so ugly that it constantly cries, to the point that it can be tracked by following its trail of tears (not that Trail of Tears). Further, if captured, it is said to be able to dissolve itself in its tears.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Chronicles of Darkness: While few supernaturals in the setting could consider themselves lucky, two especially stand out:
    • Changelings are former humans who suffered what might be the worst variation possible of Touched by Vorlons, being abdcuted and forcefully reshaped into faeric beings by The Fair Folk, who then proceeded to use them as slaves, objects or or pets. They escaped and clawed their way back to the human world, only to find out nobody missed them because they had been replaced for years by duplicates. Unable to return to their old lifes due to the time they missed and because of all the alterations they suffered, they end up having to build a new life here, constantly in fear of their former masters coming back for them.
    • Prometheans are Artificial Humans who due to being unnatural in their very being trigger a Hate Plague toward themselves everywhere they go. They also are unwilling Walking Wastelands, because even nature itself rejects them, meaning they are forced in a Walking the Earth lifestyle due to being unable to settle down or have relationships. The only way out is a long and dangerous quest to learn about humanity in order to improve themselves and Become a Real Boy- which they can only do by interacting with the very humans who instinctively hate them. On top of that, there is an entire species of monsters out to devour them.
  • To some extent, the Pathfinder version of halflings tends to be this : way too nice for their own good, often working for humans and easily taken advantage of, even enslaved on a wide scale in half the nations where their population is significant. No wonder most halfling adventurers tend to be of the Guile Hero type, with racial bonuses that truly help with that. Thankfully there is an organization in-universe (the Bellflower Network) which serves the same function the Underground Railroad did in Real Life.
  • The Eldar of Warhammer 40,000 are more of a "Jerkass Woobie Species", but after their ancestors birthed the god of depravity which destroyed their empire they're a Dying Race, scattered into tiny pockets and inevitably falling into extinction as they're killed off by the ludicrously hostile galaxy. And after they die, said depravity god is waiting to claim their souls.

  • The gods of The Order of the Stick created several humanoid species in horrible living conditions so they could serve as experience fodder for the clerics of Player Character races. As the goblin high priest Redcloak puts it, they were betrayed by their creators the moment they sprang into existence.

    Web Original 
  • Serina:
    • The porplets are are aquatic penguin-porpoise canary descendants that are near-sapient and have the intellect of small children. They are also farmed as livestock and eaten by their fully-sapient relative the seastriker, who often consume their squealing babies alive and use them like toys.
    • The mourner-in-the-mist, last of the boomsingers. Being confined to a small, mostly barren island has led them to grow stunted and inbred, and it's noted that they only survive at all due to a total lack of predators and competitors there. No more than 150 of them are alive at any given time, with short life expectancies and high rates of stillbirth. While their cries may sound as though they're lamenting their fate, at least they lack the intelligence to be aware of it.
    • In the Ultimocene multiple apex predator endlings such as the last Sea Rex and the last scissortooth may count, given their status as among the greatest of carnivores, and seeing How the Mighty Have Fallen is a surprisingly heartbreaking conclusion given that they too were the last remnants of entire clades.
  • Hamster's Paradise: The splintsters are bipedal rodents resembling a trunked kangaroo, which are the second species on the planet HP-02017 to attain sapience. However, their budding society is cruelly cut short by the first sapient species, the brutal, Blood Knight harmsters, who hunt them for sport and ultimately eradicate them just at the dawn of their civilization.

    Western Animation