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Why bother reading if you can just eat knowledge? This trope is about characters who, due to some Bizarre Alien Biology, Applied Phlebotinum, or simple artistic license, can have knowledge directly pumped into their brains by eating or somehow absorbing knowledge recipients such as books, computers or Magic Balls of Holding Knowledge.
This however only applies to non-organic knowledge recipients. If a character learns by ingesting Brains, that is simply Cannibalism Superpower, which not-only is frowned upon by connaissance connoisseurs, it's also considerably more messy.
- On the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime, Scar somehow is able to absorb some of the investigations made by the Elric brothers related to the Laboratory Five.
- In one chapter of Doraemon, Nobita eats a special kind of bread that lets him remember anything printed on it.
- One Janosch story is about a family of mice where in the son became smart by eating books.
- In Through the Eyes of Another Pony, Princess Luna has a spell that allows her to absorb all knowledge in any written document (destroying the document in the process). She later bites off more than she could chew by using this to absorb the internet.
- In The Meteor Man, the meteor could, among other things, give someone the ability to inherit the entire knowledge of a book by putting the elbow inside said book, albeit only temporarily.
- Book Girl: It's not used for information particularly (she mostly eats fiction), but the title character experiences books by eating them.
- Firmin by Sam Savage is a book about a rat Uplifted Animal this way.
- In the novel Professor Mmaas Lecture, the protagonists -- termites -- "read" human writing by eating the paper and remembering where they can taste the ink, then reciting the writing from memory.
- Samsonite is a chemical invented by Samson Fandorin, an ancestor of Erast Fandorin in Boris Akunun's book "Quest". Drinking it lets the user hear a message from Fandorin. It can also contain general knowledge (in the novel, Russian language and culture).
- This is how Magickians use the Encyclopedia Necromantick Book of Shadows in The Dragon Knight.
- Gaspode the wonder dog claims to have picked up much of his knowledge through chewing books.
- In China Miéville's Kraken, one villain needed to absorb the information in a book (printed in kraken ink) right now. And the villain was also made of ink. He forced the ink out of the book and mixed himself with the ink. Alas, it turns out kraken ink can remember it's prior identity.
- The entire premise of Chuck is that Chuck accidentally absorbs all knowledge of the CIA and NSA in a single night, and has flashes of said knowledge whenever he sees something related to them.
- Manny, Bill Bailey's character in Black Books, absorbs The Little Book Of Calm, which transforms him into a messianic figure.
- One episode of Charmed has Phoebe use a smart spell that allows her to absorb the knowledge of a book by waving her hands over it. When this happens, the pages flip by themselves and there's the sound of whispering, as if the worlds were being spoken in a sotto voice.
- Something of a Subverted Trope, but in Heroes, Sylar can copy another character's powers by cutting open their skull and examining their brain. He doesn't actually eat their brain, though, calling that "disgusting."
Mythology and Religion
- Happens in a vision in The Bible (the book of Jeremiah).
- In another vision, the Book of Revelation, the narrator (who is by tradition the Apostle John) is told to do this, and he does. It's "sweet in his mouth, and bitter in his belly".
- Odin of Norse Mythology does this.
- The Space Marines of Warhammer 40000 deserve a mention as they were revealed in Deathwatch to be able to literally gain a person's recent memories by physically eating a portion of their brain. Tasty.
- In Dungeons and Dragons, intellect devourers, small brain-sized creatures (with legs) can eat a victim's brain, then insert themselves into the skull and control the body like a meat puppet. (They can heal the grievous hole they needed to make in order to get inside.) Making matters worse, they absorb at least some of the victim's memories, making it easier to impersonate them.
- Until a recent update, your character in Dungeons and Dragons Online used stat-enhancing books pretty much exactly like this.
- In the backstory to Starcraft, the Overmind absorbed the knowledge of the xel'naga by, well, absorbing them.
- How does the Dragonborn learn the Thu'um in The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim? The quickest way would be to absorb the soul of a vanquished Dragon and glean the knowledge from them, consuming the soul in the process.
- Carbosilicate amorphs in Schlock Mercenary evolved from data storage systems. They share memories by writing a copy into chosen piece of body, then exchanging and absorbing these.
- "Ask your doctor" strip on Chainsawsuit.
- The Wayward Vagabond in Homestuck learns human etiquette by eating a book on the subject. Although it's possible that he read it and then ate each page when he was finished with it.
- It's just a way to keep prices up and intelligence stats coveted, but books in Neopets mysteriously disappear when you read them to your pet.
- In The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Jimmy creates Books Chewgum with this effect.
- Raven from Teen Titans. In one episode a mage teaches her an ability to absorb (not literally) many books at the same time, as it's faster than reading them.
- One Polish children show from the 80s had this in a song about bookworms.
- The Archmage from Gargoyles gains the power of the Tome of Eldritch Lore, not by reading it, but by EATING it. Though he has to use another MacGuffin to make it possible, so when he loses it, the energies of the book end up burning him alive from the inside.
- Martha Speaks: the title character is a dog Uplifted Animal this way.
- Chowder: Attempted by Mung Daal on Chowder. He tries to cram a stack of books in his head instead of getting him to study!