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Playing With / Child Soldiers

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Basic Trope: Children are used as soldiers.

  • Straight: For whatever reason, children are recruited to serve in armed forces.
  • Exaggerated:
    • Kindergarteners are trained in combat.
    • Babies are pulled out of the womb and given AK-47's.
    • All front-line soldiers are children, with any adults occupying at most administrative positions.
  • Downplayed:
    • A couple of soldiers are younger than one would expect.
    • Teenagers serve regularly in civil defense, or are allowed in a specialized military training course before they are old enough to be assigned to combat units.
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    • During an exercise the army, knowing that any battlefield will probably have a lot of civilians on it, hires teenagers from a nearby town to play the role. All reasonable efforts are taken for their safety. During some exercises, some do roleplay as Child Soldiers. But of course the only weapons they shoot or have shot at them are paintball guns or similar devices.
  • Justified:
    • The village is razed to the ground and the children who somehow survive band together and fight to seek revenge on the raiders.
    • Births are not well documented, enabling children who look old enough to lie about their ages and apply to the army.
    • In this culture the age of adulthood is younger, or the children were taught War Is Glorious.
    • The city is besieged by the Evil Overlord. Everyone might as well be a soldier as he plans to Kill 'Em All anyway, with children being no exception.
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    • Bob was raised by a Camp Follower in an eighteenth century army. He knew no other life but the army so when he was old enough he became a drummer boy. If he survives he will become an infantryman himself.
    • Troperia is under attack by magic monsters that only children can perceive or interact with.
    • Most adults have already been killed, resulting in the conscription age being lowered out of sheer desperation.
  • Inverted: Old Soldier
  • Subverted:
    • Children go to great lengths to try and volunteer but an army captain absolutely refuses them on moral grounds.
    • The heroes assume they are fighting child soldiers, but they are actually just short people.
  • Double Subverted: The children then become guerrilla fighters and assist somehow.
  • Parodied:
    • Newborn babies are handed guns and given over to the Drill Sergeant Nasty who is a baby himself.
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    • The actual "war" is a lot less serious, such as a massive scale...waterballoon war.
  • Zig Zagged: A captain recruits children to fight, then his conscience gets the better of him and he can't stand to force them to fight - looking as though their role in the story will be over, then they rescue him when he's taken prisoner, then he still can't force them to fight, however one is a Teen Genius who devises a strategy to take the enemy stronghold or another is The Hero whose Magic Sword or ability to pilot a Humongous Mecha is necessary to win the war.
  • Averted: All soldiers are adults.
  • Enforced: "We need to expand our market demographic. Stick a couple of kids in the show." "But sir, it's a show about bloody war." "Just do it!"
  • Lampshaded: "My army corps is a goddamned nursery!"
  • Invoked:
    • Children are forcibly recruited into the army.
    • "I look old enough, so I'll lie about my age and join the army to protect my country!"
  • Exploited: ''Lets get some photos of dead Child Soldiers. It will be sure to be on the front page."
  • Defied:
  • Discussed: "We seem to be looking after more and more kids these days, huh Alice?"
  • Conversed: "Stories about children who fight in war break my heart."
  • Deconstructed: The ethical implications of this are explored in great detail.
  • Reconstructed: The Kid Hero breaks out of his Heroic BSoD and plays a major part in an upcoming battle.
  • Played For Drama:
    • Bob is a Kid Hero who was put on the front lines with his friends. He and his friends always played war games and are exited for the real deal. Then the battle begins, and Bob is introduced to the hell that is war. Within minutes or even seconds, Bob watched his friends get slaughtered on the battlefield. Bob is also forced to kill people during the fighting, but never enjoys it. The war breaks him, and he comes home a Shell-Shocked Veteran in the shell of a young boy.
    • The empire's army is exclusively children, with the idea that even if the opposing army fights back, the shock of killing children would destroy their morale.
    • Bob was conscripted by an Evil Army when he was ten years old, being thrown in to combat with neither choice nor desire. He experiences the horrors of war first-hand, watching comrades and equally-young enemies die from both combat and exposure to the elements. His officers are brutes who execute his own soldiers at the slightest provocation, encourages his soldiers to commit atrocities, and throws his boy-soldiers into dangerous situations unnecessarily. When Bob finally snaps and runs away, he is treated by society as a Dangerous Deserter and is shunned by his hometown and family.
    • Charlie is forced to shoot a ten-year old who pulled a Kalashnikov on him. The trauma of this action haunts him for the rest of his days, and he becomes a pariah when he returns home.

Eh, you look old enough, and we do need some more warm bodies,'re in! Head back to Child Soldiers, soldier!

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