Follow TV Tropes


Young Face, Old Eyes

Go To
Try looking into that place you dare not look and you'll see her staring back at you.

A character who looks young by all appearances—except for their eyes, which belong to a much older person instead. Since the Eyes Never Lie and are windows of the soul, it usually means that the character is older than their body appears to be, had a very Dark and Troubled Past, or has Seen It All and is Wise Beyond Their Years. Also a frequent attribute of Shell Shocked Veterans as the so-called Thousand-Yard Stare.

This is specifically an In-Universe trope, where other characters remark on the apparent age discrepancy between the character's face and their eyes.

A common inversion, where a character who looks very old has the eyes of a child, indicates that the person retained the youthful sense of wonder for life despite experiencing most of it already. Compare Prematurely Grey-Haired.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In the Accel World anime, Yuniko Kouzuki aka Scarlet Rain makes this facial expression whenever she becomes serious or when she stops pretending to be innocent and naive. For example, Yuniko made this facial expression in episode 21, titled "Insurrection", when she asked Haruyuki Arita how he learned about Incarnation. This occurs in the real world in the backroom of the cake shop.
  • In Lady Snowblood, a thieves guild chief recognizes Oyuki, who poses as a harmless young woman, as a major threat by noticing that her eyes can only belong to someone who has walked through hell.

    Comic Books 
  • In one of the ElfQuest stories from "Hidden Years", the human couple who Tyleet befriends are at first amazed when Tyleet tells them she's pregnant because she looks like a child to them (canonically, Tyleet is older than most trees). Then the man points out that they should have known by Tyleet's eyes.
    Unnamed Human Man: — a child, wife? No... we should have known! Her wondrous eyes always said so! She may be older than the trees... older, even, than the mountains they grow on...!

    Fan Works 
  • In Dragon From Ash, Velandryn is fascinated by High Queen Elisif's eyes, noting they're completely at odds with her whole appearance and demeanour. He later understands why she's this way after learning she saw her husband murdered in front of her and the man who did it treated as a hero.
  • In the Peggy Sue Robb Returns, Luwin, Eddard, and Rodrick Cassel all note that Robb has older eyes. The latter two comment that he has the eyes of a man who has been to battle and killed men. When Robert Baratheon arrives at Winterfell, he immediately recognizes that Robb has eyes older than his face, even in a place as hard as the North.
  • The Peggy Sue The Cutting Edge has this apply to Laurel. Both Quentin and Ra's comment on it, and it's one of the things that convince the latter that she's an agent of the Monitor.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Come and See, the protagonist, a young boy enlisted in the Belarusian army to fight the Nazis, quickly becomes traumatized by the horrors surrounding him. Horrible wrinkles form around his eyes and he has a glassy stare for much of the film, although his hair eventually grays a little, turning this trope up a few notches.

  • In the last Animorphs book, Jake is described as having gone from a boy general to a young man with an old man's eyes.
  • Mitsuko of Battle Royale happens to be described as a very cute 9th grader and is described as having a look like this in her eyes by Yuichiro and yes, her past is terrible.
  • People are sometimes startled by the appearance of the eyes of the title character of Casca: The Eternal Mercenary. In this case, it's a combination of both trauma and Really 700 Years Old, since he's spent the vast majority of his cursed existence as a soldier.
  • The Culture: In Use of Weapons, a character notices how the while the protagonist looks like a young man, a glance at his eyes indicates someone much older and wiser and gives a hint at his Dark and Troubled Past. It seems though like this might be true to a certain degree of everyone in the Culture, even if they haven't had troubled lives — a rather spoiled and beauty conscious character in Excession notes that she can tell how the difference between a rejuvenated person who is actually a couple of centuries old and someone who is actually in their 20s or 30s.
  • Mentioned in regard to Sethra Lavode from the Dragaera novels, justifiably because she's unimaginably ancient even by the standards of her extremely long-lived race.
  • Dune has Alia Atreides, whose unusual birth renders her precocious in the extreme, but with ancient eyes that only become more unnerving when they get the blue-on-blue tint. The page image is from 1984 film, and Alicia Witt manages to convey that aspect of her.
  • Haduma from Earth's Children provides an inversion. She looks to be the oldest person Jondalar has ever seen, but he notes that her eyes still look young and bright, standing out even more because of her advanced age.
  • Harrow the Ninth: Mercymorn became an ageless Lyctor while still fairly young and has strikingly beautiful eyes, but ten thousand years of war and purposely distancing herself from mortals has turned her gaze into something chilling.
    And she was so old ... and her eyes were absolutely abominable. They made my skin crawl. When she looked at us, it was like she could see through me, and she was seeing shit I hadn't even heard of.
  • The title character of I Am Davidnote . After he's smuggled out of a concentration camp, almost everyone he meets seems to fixate on his eyes, and later David overhears a conversation between two tourists saying that he has 'the eyes of an old man'.
  • InCryptid: Cute Ghost Girl Mary Dunlavy is forever sixteen, the age she was when she died, but she has Mystical White Hair and her eyes are described as looking like "twenty miles of empty highway, all wasted miles and lonely turns".
  • In Larry Niven's Known Space stories, Luis Wu physically looks like he's in his early twenties, but is actually over two-hundred years old. One character describes him as having "tired, weary eyes."
  • When meeting Nanka Yok for the first time in Labyrinths of Echo, Max remarks on the contrast of his young face and his eyes, which seem more ancient than the world itself. This is because Nanka is an immortal who learned to evade death by wandering through The Underworld for thousands of years.
  • Mary in Lamb: The Gospel According To Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal:
    She couldn't have been more than nine or ten, but there was something very old in her eyes.
  • Played very much for "creep factor" in Maggie Stiefvater's Lament. The faerie Queen is thousands of years old, and though she has the face of a pretty young girl, her eyes reveal not just her true age but also her evil.
  • Elves in Lord of the Rings, are Really 700 Years Old, but Círdan is so old (11,000 years old at the end of the Third age, to be exact) that he even has grey hair and a beard, both extremely rare in elves. His eyes, however, are described to be "keen as stars", making him an inversion of this trope. Since elves don't wither from old age, his eyes are both very knowledgeable and lively, which contrasts with the typical image of knowing yet tired.
  • In Les Misérables, 16-year-old Éponine is described as having "the eyes of a corrupted old woman".
  • In Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Ring of Thoth", the Ancient Egyptian immortal Sosra looks more peculiar than young, but his eyes show the full weight of a 3600-year lifespan spent trying to die. Sosra isn't even physically able to cry. As the viewpoint character observes:
    "There was a sense of power, of wisdom—so I read them—and of weariness, utter weariness, and ineffable despair."
  • Uprooted: Wizards can live for centuries and look twenty years old for most of that time, except for their eyes, which have all the weight of their true age. Agnieszka finds the effect very unnerving at first on the 140-year-old Sarkan.
  • Patternist: Inverted with The Ageless Biomancer Anyanwu. She's lived for centuries and often chooses to look like a little old lady, but people always remark on how her eyes look bright and clear "like babies' eyes".
  • The Vorkosigan Saga: The matriarch of a family of clones, Lily, looks like she's in her early 60s, but she's well over 100. Miles notes, "100-year-old eyes look at you differently."
  • Wayward Children: Miss Lundy began to age in reverse at one-quarter the normal rate after an inadvisable fae bargain at age seventeen. At the end of In an Absent Dream, she looks like a girl "who couldn't have been more than fourteen years old, but who had the eyes of a woman grown and condemned."
  • Ryn, the main character of The One Who Eats Monsters, looks like a slightly underfed five-foot tall, sixteen-year old girl who weighs "one hundred and three pounds." But she always wears sunglasses to hide her eyes, which are black with irises made of blue fire, and they're older than humanity. (In fact, Ryn is older than Time.) If a human sees her eyes, ancient instincts will cause them to either freeze or flee in panic as the weight of all the ages falls upon them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Inverted in Babylon 5: When Sheridan becomes "unstuck in time" in the two-part episode "War Without End", and his consciousness ends up temporarily inhabiting the body of Sheridan 17 years later in a Centauri prison cell with Delenn, and he asks her what is happening, Delenn realizes that what he told her of this timeflash incident later was true, because she sees that his eyes still had an innocence that had long disappeared in the intervening years.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor themself is repeatedly reborn in young bodies, with only the eyes giving away their real age.
      Shakespeare: Tell me, Doctor. How can a man so young have eyes so old?
      The Doctor: I do a lot of reading.
    • Inverted in "Silence in the Library", though, when River Song (who knows him better in his Eleventh regeneration) notes how young the Tenth Doctor's eyes look compared to his successor.
    • Matt Smith (the Eleventh Doctor) in particular played this trope for all it's worth.
    • "The Doctor's Wife" has an inversion; there are two characters who the Doctor notice seem to be made up of recycled parts of other people — as such, one of them has eyes that are thirty years younger than the rest of him.
    • From "A Town Called Mercy":
      "My favourite story was about a man who'd live forever but his eyes were heavy with the weight of all he'd seen."
    • Again inverted in "The Day of the Doctor", where Clara's friendship with the War Doctor develops based on her observation that he has very young eyes compared to both the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, despite him appearing to be in his 70s and the other two appearing to be in their 30s and 20s respectively.