Sticky Fingers

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"Hi, hi! The more important it is to others, the more it's worth to steal. It's great watching dithered faces!"

Kleptomania, from the Greek root words "kleptein" (to steal) and "mania" (obsession with, madness). In the real world it's an obsession with collecting or hoarding things (which are typically small items like paperclips or pens, which the suffer may or may not be even aware they stole) thought to be related to OCD. While it might seem quite mild it can lead to compulsive shoplifting and often appears alongside personality disorders which can make the consequences (should it lead to shoplifting) even worse.

In fiction it's the trait of a Loveable Rogue and is frequently played for laughs. "Sufferers" tend to outright enjoy the act of theft, steal anything that isn't nailed down (particularly if it's valuable, in contrast to Real Life sufferers), gleefully enjoy the material rewards and may well be a Karma Houdini for this. They are distinguished from other thief related tropes by the fact that they steal for the pleasure of stealing and frequently have trouble leaving something valuable be. They may or may not be outright described as suffering from kleptomania. Sympathetic characters are often Mr. Vice Guy.

Compare For the Evulz. Characters who might have this trait include the Lovable Rogue, the Gentleman Thief (particularly if they do it out of boredom) and the Token Evil Teammate. They are often an Impossible Thief. The Kleptomaniac Hero is given this trait by the player's own actions (which may be lampshaded as this trope) but not necessarily characterised as such. This character may make liberal use of their Five-Finger Discount card.

You know they've met their match when you hear the words "Oi - Give Me Back My Wallet!"

If this isn't what you thought it was when you clicked on the link, you might want to try A Date with Rosie Palms instead.

Examples of Sticky Fingers include:


Anime and Manga


Comics

  • Tabitha "Boom-Boom" Smith, in Warren Ellis's Nextwave "possesses the mutant powers of blowing things up and stealing all your stuff."
  • Tank Girl
  • In The Secret of the Unicorn, a kleptomaniac named Aristides Silk steals Tintin's wallet which contains a Plot Coupon. It turns out that, similar to Real Life kleptomaniacs, he feels rather guilty about his actions; he sorts the stolen wallets by the owner's name. Thomson and Thompson end up walking out with their arms full of their own stolen wallets, and their countermeasures have varying degrees of success and slapstick.
  • "Fingers", a stage magician and thief encountered by Lucky Luke once. Not only will he constantly pickpocket everyone around him (which means he cannot be kept in prison, because he will casually disarm the guards and steal their keys), but he will regularily offer you your wallet, gun and underwear back, as a gesture of goodwill.


Fan Fiction


Film

  • Allison from The Breakfast Club, who steals the lock to Bender's locker, his knife, Brian's wallet and a patch from Andrew's jacket.
  • From the film The Thief and the Cobbler, who else but the Thief? He steals pretty much everything he can possibly get his hands on, and tries to steal several things he shouldn't even try to get his hands on. At the end of the film, he also steals all the letters from the words "The End", and then goes on to steal the film-strip itself.
  • There is a character from the movie If This Is Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium who starts the trip with an empty suitcase. By the end of the film, the suitcase is full of stuff he's pilfered, including a life preserver from a cruise boat.
  • In the second Home Alone film, Marv engages in some petty theft with literal sticky fingers: covering one of his hands in tape and then sticking it into a Salvation Army bucket full of change as he walks by.
  • Abu in Disney's Aladdin, in contrast to Al, who only stole as a necessity. This often got him and the others in trouble.
  • Emmett Ray of Sweet And Lowdown appears to be an easily diagnosible kleptomaniac.
  • Harpo in most of his appearances.
  • How High: In the scene where Silas is making the "special brownies" for Dean Cain, I Need Money tries (but fails) to steal the milk bottle.
  • Help! - The Beatles visit a jeweler seeking help to remove a ring stuck on Ringo's finger - in the background, George casually pockets several bits of merchandise.


Literature

  • Moist von Lipwig from the Discworld- it's a Running Gag that he keeps stealing Drumknott's pencil and certain samples of paper.
    • And Nobby Nobbs.
      • ...that is, Nobby is a fellow kleptomaniac, not that Moist keeps stealing him.
        • Thud! brings up the problem of why Nobby is allowed to be on the City Watch despite his thieving ways. It's because he's an old friend of Sam Vimes, he seldom steals anything of value, and (like Fred Colon) has a keen ability to read the mood on the streets as well as his ability to sneak around where the (worse) criminals can't see him.
          • Also Nobby's ability to steal without being seen has come in handy a few times, and is part of the reason he is still employed
  • Silk from The Belgariad.
  • Mulch the kleptomaniac dwarf from the Artemis Fowl series fits this trope. He also likes to steal things just for the challenge.
  • The main character of Mary Anderson's book, Step On a Crack suffers from an odd sort of kleptomania where she feels compelled to steal certain items over and over in conjunction with nightmares and occasional fugue states. All of her problems stem from repressed memories of her real mother.
  • Jean de Flambeur from The Quantum Thief is a Gentleman Thief of the Transhuman Age and is used to stealing things like time, minds or planets, but he still compulsively pickpockets people arond him to stay in shape. At times it's actually useful.
  • The eponymous Locke Lamora, of The Lies of Locke Lamora, once had it said about him that "if he had a bloody gash across his throat and a physiker was trying to sew it up, Lamora would steal the needle and thread and die laughing. He... steals too much." Lamora was 5 years old at the time.
  • Agatha Christie:


Live Action TV

  • Played for Drama (and somewhat more realistically) in an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent when a couple of murderers are caught when one of them can't resist stealing an eggcup from their victims' home. This leads to a somewhat Narmy ending where her partner screams "EGGCUP!" at her while he's hauled off.
  • Parker from Leverage. Interestingly she actually poses as a kleptomaniac when the team needs to infiltrate a rehab facility.
  • Faith in her early appearances on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Dawn in season 6.
  • Adrianna on 90210
  • In the first episode of Heroes Angela Petrelli was established as a kleptomaniac who stole socks. It wasn't explained until season four.
  • Kenzi in Lost Girl.
  • Mike Hamar of The Red Green Show is a robber on parole who hasn't had an honest day's work in his life. A Running Gag is that he frequently has to return small items to the people he's talking to, having picked their pockets out of force of habit.
  • A more realistic than usual example on My Name Is Earl of all things, with a recurring character who is shamefully compelled to steal pens and only pens, regardless of how many he has already, and regardless of the fact that he doesn't even want the pens. Still Played for Laughs, though.
  • The titular character of Sherlock. He breaks his flatmate's computer password to use the laptop ("Mine was in the bedroom"), steals a police ID, and has taken the precaution of taking his older brother's ID in case he might ever need it.


Music

  • In Help!, George Harrison is seen sneaking various items into his pockets as the Fab Four see the local jeweler.
  • The Exodus song "Force Of Habit" is about someone fitting this trope.


Real Life


Tabletop Games

  • The Kender from the Dragonlance D&D setting.
    • The Kender are convinced that they're only borrowing interesting things in good faith, and will certainly return them. Except they often wander off and forget the whole thing... but they're utterly convinced that they're not doing anything wrong. In fact, accuse a kender of being a thief and he will protest at length.
      • It must have fallen into my pouch by accident! Or maybe it fell off the table and I picked it up so it wouldn't roll under the couch. You would have lost it otherwise! You should be grateful!
  • Warhammer 40,000 has the Blood Ravens, who are also known as the Blood Magpies due to their tradition of grabbing ANYTHING that might possibly be a clue to their lost history, a useful weapon, bling or for the heck of it.


Video Games

  • Sonic the Hedgehog has Rouge the Bat.
  • Marisa Kirisame in Touhou figures that since a human lifespan is so much shorter than a Youkai's, she can "borrow" whatever she wants, and they can have it back after she's dead.
    • She's also working on an elixir of immortality, so...
  • The thief units in Disgaea are given this characterisation as the page quote shows.
  • You can give your Sims the "Kleptomanic" trait in The Sims 3. It lets you swipe three items per day. However, the item your Sim steals is random.
  • Jean Armstrong in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations.


Web Comics

  • Sam Starfall in Freefall is good enough at pickpocketing that his sticky fingers become a problem when he tries to go honest.
  • Thief in Eight Bit Theater, who steals from everyone (both via outright sleight of hand and contracts with legal mumbo jumbo) to finance the search for a cure for his sick father. When this is done he still steals everything that's isn't both nailed down and on fire.
  • The pixie Feiht in Chasing the Sunset regards anything shiny as there for the taking. (Spelling her name backwards gives you a clue to her personality.)
  • "The Raccoon" from Kiwiblitz. He steals "random crap" purely for thrills, and doesn't mind returning it when forced to do so. A later flashback shows that he literally has kleptomania.
  • Megatokyo: Meimi and Yuki Sonoda, mother and daughter Magical Girls. They often only realize they have stolen something when on their way home. Their kleptomania is tied to their powers. Meimi is an expy of Saint Tail.
  • Sette Frummagem from Unsounded. Her dad is a head of the thieves' guild, so it's no surprise that she would become a pickpocket. What is a surprise is how good she is at it.


Western Animation

Fry: Come on, Bender. I'm sure there's plenty of cool stuff to swipe.
Bender: I don't know, Fry. I feel like, for the first time in my life, I've stolen enough.
Fry: What?!? Snap out of it! (slaps Bender)
Bender: Wow, thanks buddy. Don't know what came over me. (sing-song) Oh, I love stealin'. I love takin' things.

  • One of Zak's little friends from The Secret Saturdays is a thief.
  • Red X in Teen Titans outright states that he steals for fun.
  • The mysterious pickpocket in the Tintin episode "The Secret of the Unicorn" is revealed to be a kleptomaniac old man who doesn't see anything wrong with collecting wallets (he doesn't even empty them out, just puts them on a shelf in alphabetical order).
  • In an episode of Goof Troop, Pete accidentally turns Goofy into one using hypnosis.
  • Peep on Jimmy Two-Shoes, to compliment his father's dealership.
  • Sonic's brother Manic in Sonic Underground has this problem. It stems from his upbringing as a thief's adopted son.
    • Said adoptive father might also count, given the first thing we see him do is steal Manic as a Door Step Baby (left on someone else's doorstep).
  • Mr. Krabs in SpongeBob SquarePants. One episode had an amusement park hosting a "Free Day" where everything in the park was free. Mr. Krabs took this to mean everything, including streetlight lightbulbs and the egg of the star attraction.
  • Homer Simpson from The Simpsons has been known to steal beer mugs from Moe's, office supplies (including computers) from work and especially just about anything from Ned Flanders. One episode had him get a job at a Wal-mart parody only to find out every employee has a shock collar on their neck. When his coworkers told him they all knew how to disable the collars and steal everything that's not nailed down, they asked him not to judge them. Homer not only doesn't judge them but he steals an entire cart of TVs right then and there.


Web Original


By the way, here's your wallet back. I've already memorized your credit card numbers and photocopied your driving licence.
But I don't even own a drivers license.