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"Of course, I was much taller in those days... six foot three..."
Basil Makepeace (clearly fibbing to impress a new resident), Waiting for God.

Something about aging shrinks people. Maybe it's the effect of old age on posture, or cartilage compression, or maybe it's just how kids these days shoot up like beanpoles with how much they eat. Either way, most senior citizens -- especially the skilled, powerful ones that can kick the crap out of younger folk -- are rarely over three or four feet tall.

In real life, there is basis for shrinking in scientific lore. Except in cases of severe osteoporosis, however, most people will only lose a couple of inches from their tallest height over their lifetime. Note, however, that each generation has been, on average, taller than the last throughout the 20th century even in the west thanks to heartier diets rich in protein that their peasant ancestors could not enjoy, while Japan in particular (and Asia in general) is currently going through an accelerated version of this phenomenon since the end of World War II. Taller people tend to have shorter lifespans, which accounts for elder characters in general being shorter, but not individual height loss.

Since this tends not to be noted as anything peculiar by younger characters, it's also an instance of Cartoonish Companions.

Examples of Miniature Senior Citizens include:


Anime & Manga

  • Most of the more famous examples come from Rumiko Takahashi's work:
    • Cherry from Urusei Yatsura.
    • Yukari Godai from Maison Ikkoku.
    • Cologne and Happôsai from Ranma One Half. Lampshaded in a flashback which showed that Cologne was normal height in the past but Happôsai was a younger version of what he looks like now. In Cologne's flashback, anyway. In Happôsai's flashback, he was tall and extremely pretty. Although it's much easier to believe Cologne than Happôsai.
      • The anime lampshades this in a different way; one episode has them travel to the past when Happôsai and Cologne were teens themselves. Happôsai tries to claim to have been a tall, blond Bishonen, but nobody believes him and, to nobody's surprise, the 18-year-old Happôsai turns out to be an ugly little dwarf. Cologne then claims that a beautiful, dark blue-haired girl sweeping in the village is her past self. Ranma outright tells her to make her lies more believable, and Cologne promptly proves that, yes, that really is her younger self. In the English dub, this nets a dumbfounded "Oh my god!" from all of the others present, even Shampoo herself.
        • In Shampoo's case it's probably more like, "OH MY GOD I'M GOING TO END UP LOOKING LIKE A RAISIN!"
      • Lampshaded again when Happôsai explains why he can't hit the pressure points on Hinako to nullify her Energy Absorption power: it involves hitting points on her front and back simultaneously and his arms are too short to do that.
      • As well as Cologne and Happôsai, Ranma ½ has other Miniature Senior Citizens as well. The manga has Happôsai's old partner/rival Lukkosai, who has managed to get himself a Jusenkyô Spring of Drowned Child curse. The anime has Happôsai's old friend Chingensai, who basically looks like Happôsai with a massive head of brown hair that, coupled with his thick beard/moustach, covers his whole head, and a trio of unnamed others who show up in an early seventh season episode.
      • Finally, a Filler episode in the first season gives us Kin Ono, the diminutive mother of Dr. Tôfû Ono. Unlike these others, she only a "normal" old person, about 60 or so, but she seems to have been fairly tiny even when she was a young girl.
    • Also lampshaded in Inuyasha, in which Miyoga is smaller than the younger characters for a reason -- he's a flea. Kikyo's sister Kaede and Kagome's grandfather are also both shorter than most of the rest of the cast, although with somewhat more realistic proportions.
  • The Slayers has, in at least Slayers NEXT (the second season of the anime), Auntie Aqua, a little old woman who's barely waist-high on Amelia. She turns out to be the last remaining fragment of the soul of the Water Dragon King, one of the five gods who serve the Dragon God Ceiphied.
  • An elderly woman from an episode of Burn Up Excess plays this trope straight, all while harassing Rio.
  • Grandma Hina in Love Hina.
  • Sana's grandmother in Kodomo no Omocha.
  • Winry's grandmother, Pinako, in Fullmetal Alchemist seems to barely come up to most character's waists. Nonetheless, she still makes fun of Ed for being short. Notably, when one character recalls Pinako as a young woman, she's a great deal taller than she is when we see her in the show's present; whether she really was that tall or the character recalling her is exaggerating (he's terrified by the mention of her name) is not made clear.
    • It should be noted that in the manga, Pinako appears in a photograph with Hohenheim and really is a great deal taller.
  • Rei's grandfather from Sailor Moon.
    • This is only in the anime. Rei's grandfather is shown to be quite dapper in the manga.
  • Samurai 7's village elder, and Kirara's grandmother, are both Miniature Senior Citizens.
  • Torogai in Seirei no Moribito.
  • Genkai in Yu Yu Hakusho (Although like Yoda, she is seen in flashbacks to have always been that height.)
  • Libra Dohko, the Hermit Guru in Saint Seiya. He's about 140 cm tall and purple when we first meet him. Considering he's 261 years old, it's understandable that over time he's managed to shrink, turn purple, lose all his hair and gain elf ears. But as we find out later on, he really was quite a looker when he was younger. Also, he's awesome.
  • Yugi's grandpa in Yu-Gi-Oh!. It should be noted, however, that Yugi's not much taller.
  • The Tsuchikage from Naruto was recently revealed to be an old man so tiny that he's only about 1.5 times as tall as his Kage head piece is long. It turns out that Onoki was always tiny, though.
    • Sabu is also pretty tiny, especially compared to his giant raccoon and his giant axe.
  • Akino Ametsuchi a.k.a. Grandma from Aria, who shrunk considerably compared to the fairly tall, lean woman we see in flashbacks of her.
  • Joey's grandma in Heroman; that woman cannot be taller than 2 feet.
  • Elmore Tenjuin of Psyren.
  • Black Butler: Most of the time, Tanaka is this way, unless he's doing exposition.
  • Master Makarov of the eponymous mage guild Fairy Tail. Ironically, one of his more used magic abilities, Titan, lets him turn into a giant. A flashback in the anime show he was short even in his youth and another in the manga showed he was short by the time he was about forty, but neither was as short as he was in the present.
  • Hikari's grandmother in Amanchu is a mild case, but she's still quite a bit smaller than Hikari, who isn't that tall herself.
  • Fuu's grandmother in Tamayura certainly counts.
  • Touhou Fuhai from Rosario to Vampire is a subversion. He looks like one at first, but that's only his Sleep Mode Size body. He's actually a Really 700 Years Old Bishonen.
  • Shiho's grandfather Jin from Mai-HiME is almost as short as she is.
  • Ueda's mother in Japan Inc.
  • Enya Geil from Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure.
  • Majorina in Smile Pretty Cure is an evil old lady who is less than half the size of her younger fellow villains.


Comics

  • Inverted in Swedish children's comic Bamse. Title character Bamse is a family man (OK, anthropomorphic bear) with four children. Three of them are half his height, very reasonable since they are supposed to be around eight years old, and the fourth is a toddler. Bamse's parents are one head taller than him, and his grandmother is again one head taller, meaning that Bamse just about reaches granny's waist, and Bamse's toddler daughter is shorter than granny's foot is long!
  • Geriatrix in Asterix is even shorter than Asterix himself, and about half the height of his hot wife.
  • Ma Dalton in Lucky Luke.


Films -- Animation

  • Disney examples; note that these are all Bumbling Dad types:
  • Mr. Fredrickson in Up was always pretty short; not much shorter than or the same height as his wife, and significantly taller than a large 8-year old, but his large head makes his shortness more prominent.


Films -- Live-Action

  • Yoda from Star Wars. He's 900 years old, and his species features many standard traits of human aging, such as whispy white hair, large ears, a wrinkled face, and a small, stooped stature.
  • In David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, Diane Selwyn is attacked by literally miniaturized old people. They're about three inches tall.
  • Benjamin Button from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was born a baby-sized old man (not a spoiler) and gets younger as the story progresses. In the original story, he might be the size of an aged adult (he's explicitly described as too big for the crib). Don't think too much about the birth.


Literature

  • Rule One, according to Lu Tze from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, is "Do not act incautiously when confronting a little bald wrinkly smiling man!"
  • Another Discworld example: Cohen the Barbarian and his Silver Horde are the bent-over variant.
  • A very extreme example: Úrsula Iguarán from One Hundred Years of Solitude lives to be 120 years old, and by that time she has shriveled to the size of a fetus.
  • In The House of the Spirits the viciously evil Esteban becomes convinced he's started getting shorter (no matter what the doctors say). This is deliberately symbolic of what he believes is a loss of power and influence due to age.
  • La Menou from Malevil. She's often referred to as a petite skeleton and she is Known Only By Her Nickname which means "tiny".
  • The earliest draft versions of JRR Tolkien's The Silmarillion, documented in the Book of Lost Tales, gave elves a very weird version of immortality. Instead of aging as they got older, they shrank. Very old elves degenerated into the tiny fairy people of European folktales. This was the author's attempt to explain how the old Norse concept of the alfar gave rise to tiny Disney-fied fairies. Later, he dropped the idea.
  • Professor Flitwick from Harry Potter.


Live-Action TV

  • When The Master uses a reversed form of the Lazarus machine on the Doctor it leads to him following this trope.
    • The immortal but still aging Captain Jack Harkness apparently mutates into just a (gigantic) head... maybe.
  • In the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, newsman Les Nessman frequently voices concern over his (never seen) aged mother's chronic shrinking.
  • Marie in Everybody Loves Raymond.
  • The Janitor from Scrubs once said to his girlfriend Lady that he didn't want children -- he just wants to adopt a little old man.
  • On ER, the term "LOL" was shorthand for "little old lady." Presumably they didn't encounter many six-foot-tall elderly women.


Myths & Religion

  • This is Older Than Feudalism, thanks to the Greek myth of Eos, goddess of the dawn, and her mortal lover Tithonus. Granted immortality but not eternal youth, Tithonus eventually degenerated into a cricket according to late Classical writers. Who Wants to Live Forever?, indeed?
  • Similar fate befalls the Cumaean Sibyl in Ovid's Metamorphoses. She is granted near-immortality by Apollo, but forgets to ask for eternal youth. In the end, her shriveled body fits inside a jar.


Video Games

  • Kliff in Guilty Gear comes up to the waist of most of the younger cast; he's even a touch shorter than May, the second-youngest character in the game (Dizzy, the actual youngest character, is taller than either). Some of his special moves restore his youth, doubling his height in the process.
  • Old man Strago from Final Fantasy VI is 4'11" (1.51 cm), the second shortest character in the game, with his granddaughter Relm being taller than him (5'0").
    • Their respective sprites, however, are just as large as the sprites for the other characters. For Relm this is accomplished through a Nice Hat, but Strago makes up for lack of height with an abundance of Mohawk.
  • Most of the older characters in the first Jak and Daxter game (such as the bird lady and Jak's uncle) are tiny and reach only to Jak's waist. Samos the Sage is significantly shorter than his daughter Keira, though apparently his younger self was short as well.
  • Inverted in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Crystal Bearers, for the Lilties. Typically small in their prime, the average never going taller than four feet (excepting the princess and those train conductors), Lilties grow much larger as they age; Cid is nearly as tall as Layle and quite wide to boot, and Jegran could easily pass for a basketball player. The elderly Lilties are large enough to toss bystanders aside as they run.
  • Chin Gentsai in The King of Fighters is a diminutive man (he's just about as tall as Choi Bounge -- himself a midget) well into his eighties, who drinks a lot, and still he can kick your ass and spit fire.
  • The twin witches Koume and Kotake in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (where they are boss characters) and Majora's Mask (where they are allies).


Web Comics


Web Original


Western Animation

  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: Madame Foster is pretty short. A series of photographs shows her starting much taller and shrinking over the years.
  • In The Simpsons, when Bart Simpson tries (and partially succeeds) in growing an inch overnight in order to win a movie role, he's told that he's growing at the same rate that Grandpa is shrinking. Grandpa then wanders by, his hair barely poking up above the table, saying "I'm as tall as I ever was!" (Of course, he's his normal height the next time we see him.)
    • Although he does once claim to be only 35, Hans Moleman at least looks elderly and is very short.
  • A textbook example of this occurs in the Dexter's Laboratory movie Ego Trip, where child Dexter looks about two feet tall, teenage Dexter has a gangly five- or six-foot frame, Future Badass Dexter looks like an eight foot tall, six-foot-wide musclebound gorilla, and elderly Dexter is a wrinkled little senile prune that's shorter than child Dexter.
    • Dexter's grandfather isn't much taller than the boy.
  • In a particularly strange spin on the trope, Hank's father in King of the Hill had his shins surgically removed after a war injury.
  • Mr. Magoo
  • The Dungeon Master, from the Dungeons & Dragons animated show. Especially when you consider the towering Venger is his son!
  • In Wakfu, Old Master Baker Ratafouine and his assistant Chouquette, as one of the show's many Animesque aspect.
    • Also Ruel Stroud's grandmother, who is even shorter than Yugo (without her giant afro).
  • A time-travel episode of Ben 10 saw that in a couple decades, Max Tennyson aged to about half his height (and width).
  • Head dog catcher McLeish's mother Agatha in the 2010 Pound Puppies.
  • Quetzal from Dragon Tales. Despite being one of the oldest dragons in Dragon Land, he is only the same height as a human like most of the younger dragons. The adult dragons are all giants.
  • Mumm-Ra from Thundercats and ThunderCats (2011) is this when in Shapeshifter Default Form.
  • Subverted in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic. Granny Smith is shorter than Applejack, but in a series of flashbacks indicate that she was always small.
  • While not as extreme as some of the other example on this page,Lo and Li from Avatar: The Last Airbender are still fairly short. A portrait of them painted in their youth, shown in the Beach Episode, shows that they were not always that small. Nor that ugly.
  • American Dragon Jake Long: Jake's grandfather is so small several people during the Halloween Episode mistook him for a kid dressed like an old Chinese wise man. Then again, it was shown in flashback he wasn't much taller than that during his prime. Jake's Mom should be glad the dragon powers weren't all that skipped her.
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