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With her deep tan and her curly blond hair, [Annabeth] was almost exactly what I thought a stereotypical California girl would look like, except her eyes ruined the image. They were startling gray, like storm clouds; pretty, but intimidating, too, as if she were analyzing the best way to take me down in a fight.
—Percy Jackson, The Lightning Thief
Gray eyes tend to reflect inner calm and strength and often hint at healing powers. They are the color of metal and stone and are associated with coolness, resilience, and stillness. This comes in several varieties:
- Spiritual "prophet" characters, blind or otherwise, will have either gray or light blue eyes that are often described as "looking right through you". Gray eyes are a sign that a character is there to fulfill a "mentor" role and probably won't stay in the story very long. Pretty much any Blind Seer character fits this. Mentors, Seers, and so on are often older and have gray hair and, presumably, eyes in keeping. This dates to Greek Mythology, where many Oracles and the like, along with Athena, had gray eyes.
- Gray eyes can also characterize a cold, strong-willed, and unapproachable character often with an "ideas above people" mentality.
- They can also mean innocence -- frequently paired with Hair of Gold. This is an older trope, sometimes thought of as a Forgotten Trope as, nowadays, Blue Eyes are used for this instead, but that's because, way back, people (or at least, Western cultures) did not differentiate between blue or gray eyes.
- In the real olden days, gray eyes were the absolute height of beauty - nearly every blason (descriptive poem starting with the hair and ending with the feet) named the subject's eyes as gray, just as it called the cheeks red and the hair gold.
- Civil War era American superstitions characterized gray eyes with danger: namely that said person was most likely an extremely competent marksman. It's probably that the idea of gray being a "cold" color meets the Cold Sniper trope. Maybe related to this, a high percentage of Fighter Aces have gray eyes.
It should be noted that these eye color tropes are not just for characters who have eyes of this color, but when the color actually stands for something significant to that character, like blue for water, green for earth, red for evil, etc. Please do not add characters who just happen to have eyes of this color without a substantial reason behind it.
Anime and Manga
- The gray-eyed, pupil-less Hyuuga family from Naruto fit the seer archetype -- they can see a lot more than normal, including through matter or behind their backs. They have the unapproachable "ideas above people" mentality of the second gray eye type. Neji Hyuuga, who was a hardened fatalist before his Warrior Therapist session with Naruto, certainly fits. Hinata Hyuuga, though, has the eyes, but her personality is the absolute opposite.
- Kensuke Aida from Neon Genesis Evangelion.
- Guardian of the Sacred Spirit has the Holy Sage, the shaman Torogai, and the star diviner Shuga. They all have gray eyes and gray hair, despite Shuga only being probably around twenty-five.
- In Full Metal Panic, at least five of the main characters have this eye colour. The most important one is the male protagonist, Sagara Sousuke, whose strong, clear gray eyes are actually somewhat of a subplot by the end of the novel "End of Day by Day". Or, at least, they are to his worst enemy/EvilCounterpart/Stalker with a Crush. Yes, that would be Gauron, who also happens to have gray eyes, just of a different shape and nuance. The other characters who share this trait are Mithril captain Tessa Testarossa and her evil twin brother Leonard. And major Andrei Kalinin, Sousuke's commander in Mithril. (Though it should be noted that those last three are described in the novels as having blue-gray eyes, rather than just gray.)
- Fate Averruncus of Mahou Sensei Negima, who fights and acts with complete logic and reason, with the exception of his condescension to main lead Negi. He also never smiles, even when laughing.
- It's also implied that he's actually an Artificial Human.
- Bleach: Orihime has brown eyes in the manga, but the anime changed them to gray, making her a solid but anime-only example of the innocent, gray-eyed healer.
- Byakuya Kuchiki also has gray eyes and works hard to portray the perfect Type II example of this trope.
- Allen Walker, from D.Gray-man. He absolutely will not give up if he can possibly help it (or even then), and he fits the idea of a gray-eyed character as innocent very well indeed. Also excellent proof that although Brown Eyes may be better for Puppy Dog Eyes purposes, gray can be really, really cute as well.
- All Claymores have silvery gray eyes. In fact, their eye color is what most commonly gives them away when they go undercover. Needless to say they, are mostly very stoic (except for the Psychopathic Woman Children).
- A recent example is Shiki Ryougi of Kara no Kyoukai, who fits most of the criteria for the second type.
- Yuki Sohma in Fruits Basket has gray eyes, except for when they are purple for some reason. In his case, the gray is probably associated with his animal form, a gray rat.
- Ouran High School Host Club's Kyouya has gray eyes and, considering he's the "Cool" type, it's fitting.
- In One Piece the cold-hearted Trafalgar Law, also known as the Surgeon of Death, has gray eyes.
- Both L and Near of Death Note have gray eyes, though L is arguably a more apt example of this trope.
- Digimon Xros Wars: protagonist Taiki Kudou has them and is a partial/composite subversion - yes, he's quite Hot-Blooded, but he's still certainly more intellectual and levelheaded than the previous Digimon protagonists, save for Takato.
- Kai Hiwatari of Beyblade have this in the anime V-force/2002.
- Lawrence from Spice and Wolf has gray eyes, though he doesn't fit any of the particular motifs listed in the trope description. His Curtains Match the Window, however, and the effect of his gray hair makes him look a bit older than he really is.
- Rina has these eyes while in human form. As a mermaid or as "Green Pearl Voice", she has Green Eyes.
- Nezumi from No. 6 has dark gray eyes and fits the second personality type to a T -- except when it comes to Sion.
- Doctor Strange from Marvel Comics officially has gray eyes. They're often depicted as Blue Eyes or even Green Eyes, however.
- The Gray Man, foe of Dr. Fate and the Justice League.
- Annabeth from Percy Jackson and The Olympians has gray eyes, as her mother is Athena.
- Pulp heroes tended to have blue-gray eyes -- blue to indicate their heroic nature, steely gray when they were angry or determined.
- Since stoicism is the norm for heroes in the Tolkien universe, gray eyes (said to be a racial trait of, among others, the Noldor elves and the Númenoreans) take up a very large chunk of the Lord of the Rings goodie population. The fact that Tolkien's beloved wife Edith was gray-eyed was probably also pertinent.
- A chunk so large, in fact, that Samwise Gamgee is possibly the only goodie who is detailed to have anything else (brown, in his case, probably because working-class Sam is closer to Earth.)
- From Harry Potter:
- Luna Lovegood has protruding silver eyes, probably meant to be reminiscent of a full moon (hence lunacy), although Fanon often makes them silvery blue.
- Mr. Ollivander, the detached and faintly creepy wandmaker, is also described to have large silver eyes.
- Draco and Lucius have the cold gray variety.
- Sirius Black and his brother Regulus had gray eyes.
- Cedric Diggory had gray eyes as well.
- All of these characters are purebloods or halfblood, so they are probably all related. The Blacks and the Malfoys certainly are.
- Richard Rahl from the Sword of Truth series. After all, he is intended to be a philosopher, though most readers seem not to like his (Goodkind's) philosophy.
- Rand al'Thor of the Wheel of Time. He fits pretty well the strong and unapproachable archetype as the later books go on.
- Seaton from the Skylark Series had gray eyes.
- As did Kimball Kinnison and his son Christopher, from the Lensman series by the same author.
- The protagonist of the children's novel The Girl With The Silver Eyes is telekinetic, and she and other children who received strange powers because of a medical experiment performed on their mothers all have this eye color.
- Sherlock Holmes. Gray ( or 'steely') eyes of the piercing variety. His brother Mycroft's are of a "peculiarly light, watery gray".
- Alexander Tagere, the Last of the Kings and Richard III's Expy from Arcia Chronicles.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, Cold, gray eyes are a genetic trait of the Stark family line, reflecting their stoic nature and hard life up in the North. Ned's and Jon's are frequently focused on. Arya seems to be the only one of Ned's trueborn children to have inherited the eyes, as the rest take after their mother.
- Gregori from the Dark series is a healer with an unapproachable personality and the ideas-above-people mentality. A great deal is made about his silvery eyes.
- Incidentally, Xavier, the main villain of the series, shares the eye color. It is implied that silver eyes are a consequence of experimenting with darker or forbidden forms of magic.
- The elves in the Border Town Shared Universe all have silver eyes, and nearly all of them are relatively cold and intellectual.
- In the Second Sons trilogy by Jennifer Fallon, the main protagonist, Dirk Provin, has unreadable, steel gray eyes. These are handy when he has to convince literally everyone that everything they believe is a lie, including the king of the most powerful country in the region, as well as hide his own motivations and feelings from some of the most perceptive people from all sides.
- The Herons (Geoffrey, Christopher, and Cecily) have gray eyes and "tawny-yellow" hair in Elizabeth Marie Pope's The Perilous Gard. Geoffrey's are described as "level [and] rather forbidding", and he is described several times as resembling granite and steel in character. Christopher eventually reveals himself to possess a warmer, rather impulsive nature, but he, too, is cold and remote when the protagonist Kate first meets him.
- In the Doctor Who Eighth Doctor Adventures novels, the Eighth Doctor's companion Fitz Kreiner has gray eyes. Doesn't really fit any of the above stereotypes, though, apart from being clever in a Book Dumb sort of way.
- Cheslav in Yulia Latynina's Inhuman, being a Knight Templar-in-training with a dash of Raised by Wolves.
- Callista Ming from the Star Wars Expanded Universe is supposed to fit 1, but fans see her more as 2.
- Tenel Ka has gray eyes as well. She'd fit type 2 if she wasn't merely wearing the queenly mask.
- Stephen Maturin from the Aubrey-Maturin series - we never find out what colour his eyes are, for they are described as "pale", "icy", and "piercing", as well as "extraordinary", but he is intellectual, stoical, ideological, and unapproachable, especially when he removes his tinted spectacles to give the full-on Maturin Stare.
- In Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter of Mars, Cathoris has gray eyes. They indicate his off-planet parentage.
- The Haldane kings in the Deryni novels all have gray eyes.
- Not just the kings. Prince Nigel (Heir Presumptive and frequent Regent), his sons, even cousin (and Queen by marriage) Araxie. In Conall's case, the cold and strong-willed aspects of his character could be signalled by this.
- Also, Alaric Morgan has gray eyes and blond hair. He does serve as a mentor for Kelson, and he's actually innocent of the evil motives (and most of the deeds) ascribed to him. Danger and ruthlessness also factor into it, however, since he actively cultivates a dangerous reputation, and he has plenty of martial and magical skills to back it up. To top it all off, he's a devoted servant of the House of Haldane, so having the same colour eyes serves to point out that association.
- In The Great Gatsby, Jordan Baker's gray eyes are emphasized repeatedly.
- That Was Then, This Is Now, a sequel to S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders, makes mention of M&M's gray eyes and uses them to play up his wide-eyed innocence.
- In The Outsiders, Two-bit's gray eyes are often mentioned.
- The titular character of Lolita has gray eyes that the narrator frequently draws attention to. The titular character is 12 and the narrator's in his late 30s.
- Senna Wales of the Everworld series. Solidly type 2 eyes, "the color of rainclouds" and a personality to match. Her mother, who briefly appears in the ninth book, also has gray eyes, but doesn't really fit any of the personalities associated with it.
- Anne of Green Gables has gray eyes.
- Her second son, Walter, also has gray eyes. They are mentioned as being extremely striking with his dark hair and very expressive. They're one of the main reasons he becomes Mr. Fanservice in later books. One of her twins, Di, also has gray eyes.
- Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan has gray eyes of the storm/sea variety, foreshadowing her soon to be infamous temper. In her later years, she becomes renowned for her strength and calmness, not to mention her marriage to a man named for a sea (Aral Vorkosigan).
"Look at her eyes. A man could drown in those sea-gray eyes." (Aral, in Barrayar)
- Also by Bujold, Royina Ista had gray eyes. They were remarked upon by the son of the man she was rumored to be lovers with. She wasn't; in fact, she hated him, and was also responsible for his death, although not on purpose. The guilt of that death haunted her for twenty years.
Arhys: I did not picture hair the color of a winter field, nor eyes the color of winter rain. I wondered if your long grief had brought you to this sad season.
- Ista's daughter Iselle also had gray eyes, associated with her cool nerve and iron determination -- Cazaril commented that her soul was like a sword, just like Ista's.
- Fran Brodie from Lilian Jackson Braun's The Cat Who Series has "steely" gray eyes, which seem to flash angrily at least once a book.
- Polgara of The Belgariad books tends to have gray eyes (that can change to blue with her mood). She certainly fits the first example of someone wise beyond their years (though she's 3000 years old), and when they're "steel gray", it usually means she's determined enough to fit the second type...not to mention royally pissed off.
- Also from David Eddings, Queen Ehlana in the Elenium has pale gray eyes, along with Hair of Gold. Her royal champion (and eventual husband) Sparhawk describes them as "lustrous".
- In The Gray Chronicles, this trait is why the main character got Gray as his middle name. They're apparently extremely pale gray and very sensitive to light. Playing this trope more realistically than usual, however, he was the only one out of five children to inherit his mother's eyes. Everybody else got the far more dominant brown eyes of their father. The final book reveals that, as an adult, none of Gray's own children get gray eyes, as his wife's brown eyes and his own recessive genes result in brown-eyed children.
- Tamora Pierce introduced this troper to her favorite color combination: gray eyes with red hair. Tris in Circle of Magic definitely fits type 2, at least to those she's not very close to. Cleon in the Tortall Universe is also a gray-eyed redhead but doesn't necessarily fit any of the above types, though I'd say innocence is the closest, and Beka Cooper also has gray eyes, notable for not fitting the stereotypes listed above very well, but scaring people thoroughly when she's furious.
- In An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, the narrator comments a few times about gray eyes, at one point noting that they are supposedly the sharpest and frequently belong to great marksmen.
- Mordred, as portrayed by Vivian Vande Velde in The Book of Mordred, has very dark gray eyes.
- Prince Garrid from Tales of the Frog Princess. Coolness-- check. Unapproachable-- Check, before he and Li'l get together. Beauty -- Check, noted to be very handsome. Danger-- when you consider that he's the prince of vampires...
- In Georgette Heyer's Regency romance novels, you can pretty much tell who the main character(s) will be by their gray eyes.
- Josephine March from Little Women has gray eyes.
- Katniss of The Hunger Games, a great archer and (at least at first) a single-minded survivor, has gray eyes. Her mentor, Haymitch, who later proves to be a Guile Hero, also has gray eyes, as does archer and ruthless fighter Gale.
- The Bourne Identity (as in the original book, not the film). Jason Bourne is described by the doctor who first heals him as having gray eyes and points out that, due to that gray shade, his eyes will appear to change colour depending on his clothing and skin tone, as well as ambient light. This is true for roughly 15-20% of people with gray ayes, and the change can be quite startling when you see someone with apparently blue eyes change their shirt and suddenly have brown ones.
- In The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, John Dee and Niccolo Machiavelli both have them and are both (Dee less so) type 2. Of course, in such a well-researched series, it's entirely possible their eyes really were gray and the author lucked out that it matched their characterization.
- In Strange Roads: Book One of Omens in the Night, Alan Graves has 'changeable' gray eyes. It's either Type 3 (as he's the kinder, gentler protagonist to Elaine's colder personality) or Type 4 (as he's supposed to be head-turningly handsome.)
- In Gene Stratton Porter's Freckles, Freckles's gray eyes are a hint that he's not The Tramp he appears to be.
in the steady gray eyes, straightly meeting his searching ones of blue, there was unswerving candor and the appearance of longing not to be ignored
- John in Abandon Series. His eyes are apparently the same shade as ice skate blades.
- "Grey Blue Eyes" by Dave Matthews appeared on his first solo album.
- Country musician Waylon Jennings released a song "Grey Eyes You Know" on his 1971 album The Taker/Tulsa
- "Temptation" by New Order. If you've seen Trainspotting, you might recognize it. From the soundtrack or the lines sung by Diane:
Oh you've got green eyes
- Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, has gray eyes. A frequent epithet in Homer's The Odyssey even refers to her as the "gray-eyed goddess".
- Commander Miranda Keyes in Halo 2 and 3 has gray eyes as well and is portrayed as being extremely calm and controlled.
- Most of Montblanc's artworks in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Final Fantasy Tactics a 2 reveal that he has gray eyes.
- The Night Elves from Warcraft.
- Miles Edgeworth from Ace Attorney.
- Solid Snake's eye color is officially recorded as blue-gray.
- John Marston from Red Dead Redemption has dark-gray eyes.
- Master Eraqus, from Birth By Sleep, is pretty much the only Kingdom Hearts character to have gray eyes
- Miranda Lawson from Mass Effect has blue-gray eyes, fitting her personality.
- Serph from Digital Devil Saga.
- Silver from Pokémon Gold and Silver has gray eyes, as of the remakes. It both makes him have a Meaningful Name and allude to his personality.
- Nathaniel Howe of Dragon Age Origins is an archer and so falls under the "marksman" definition.
- The Regional Fairies who become humans in Gunnerkrigg Court have gray eyes as a sign of their origin. They're strong-willed, but hardly cold or unapproachable (and certainly not stoic), varying in their personalities between smiling tricksters and borderline-psychotic Tsunderes.
- In Drowtales, members of the Val'Beldrobbaen clan often have gray eyes. They have a Goth-like attitude.
- Grim Tales: Minimandy is a type three, being so sweet that her brother turns into the Unfavorite to their parents, Grim and Mandy...who are personifications of death and pure evil, respectively.
- Marten from Questionable Content fits the "inner calm" part of the equation, being the most even-tempered and supportive member of the cast.
- The Von Mekkans from Girl Genius fit the ideas-above-people characterization very well. They will do anything in their power to protect Mechanicsburg and the secrets of the Heterodynes, ranging from faking their own deaths to escorting pretenders to the Castle.
- Homestuck: the Troll race as a whole has gray eyes in childhood, and maybe two or three of the twelve child trolls encountered in the story are even vaguely calm. They look like Eyes of Gold most of the time, though, as the whites of their eyes are yellow, so you can only see the gray irises under Art Shift conditions. As they mature, the irises fill out with the troll's blood colour.
- In Ears for Elves, Kanryl's pale gray eyes show that he's somewhat cold and aloof, often alone except for his animals. The artist exploits their piercing quality by having his face on the "donate" button!
- Apollo, Artemis, and Athena in Thalias Musings. Apollo is a prophecy god, his twin sister Artemis is a deadly huntress and a sworn virgin, and Athena, also a virgin, is the Goddess of Wisdom and Battle Strategy.
- Electra in Greek Ninja, who is a demigoddes.
- Rokuro, the young wizard from Mabaka, has very light gray eyes. Innocence doesn't begin to cover it. (Let's just say, he takes the Hormone-Addled Teenager trope and subverts it hard.)
- Aria in Tasakeru fits in with the first type, being a powerful seer.
- Lisa, in The Simpsons, has gray eyes. She is probably closest to mentor, though does tend to think herself smarter than everyone else. No one would ever know it from the pupil-less animation; we only know because Milhouse says her eyes match his gray safety belt.
- Aang has gray eyes. His gray eyes match the first and third meanings on the top of the page, as he's very innocent and idealistic and also wise beyond his years.
- Ty Lee had them, too, and so did most of the other Airbenders.
- Hama has them, too.
- Heather (the second type) and Ezekiel (innocence) both have them in Total Drama Island, except for the latter's Red Eyes, Take Warning in the third season.
- Ra's Al Ghoul in Batman: Under the Red Hood.
- Mother Gothel from Tangled. She proves to be very determined when it comes to reaching her goal of having eternal youth.
- Originally, Belle from Beauty and the Beast had this eye color; at least, she did in the promotional art and artbooks. They were most noticeable in her winter dress in the "Falling in Love" Montage towards the middle of the movie. Chances were that this was to emphasise her strong-willed and independent nature, refusing to submit to the Beast's whims until he made significant changes in his character. Nowadays, she is portrayed with either Brown Eyes or Hazel Eyes to emphasise the more Bookworm aspects of her character.