"It ain't over till the fat lady sings."
Brawn Hilda is, essentially, a strong, mannish, usually foreign woman. However, she's not a Hot Amazon, her strength is seen as unattractive, as she usually (purposely or not) emasculates the hero by beating him up or outdoing him in "manly" activities ( such as arm wrestling, boxing, hot dog eating, pretty much anything unfeminine really...) She usually has a stereotypical German or Russian accent, a masculine face, and is often a stereotypical female immigrant (maid, mail-order bride, etc....) or some sort of hardcore Olympic-esque athlete. Basically, the Brawn Hilda is the Fat Girl on steroids. Her personality can vary from motherly but overprotective to gruff and cantankerous—but the great majority of the time she's just a gag character whose humor stems from being the opposite of a hot exotic chick, often shown as a disappointment when a female masseuse or cleaner is hoped by a male character to be young and attractive (the masseuse will cause considerable discomfort when she works).
In more serious contexts, she tends to turn into The Rosa Klebb version of The Baroness. Bonus points if she's blonde, wears braided twin tails, and possesses the name Helga, Hilda, or Olga (which is the Russian version of Helga!).
A common characterisation of cave women.
The trope name is a reference to the Icelandic queen Brunhild in the German epic Das Nibelungenlied, who could possibly be the inspiration for such characters. In the story she challenges men who attempt to wed her into warlike games, throws boulders with ease, and even ties her own husband up and hangs him on the wall. These traits, combined with the large women who usually play her in operatic adaptations, have led people to commonly assume she's an unattractive, mannish woman, even though the story actually describes her as very attractive. "It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings" is likely a reference to Brünnhilde's famous (and memetically glass shattering) immolation scene in Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung. Big women (like Frieda Leider, Birgit Nilsson, and Jessye Norman) play her in the operas because they're usually the only ones with the vocal vigor to take on Brünnhilde's role.
Contrast with the Fat Girl, who is large, but probably not athletic; with the Hot Amazon, who may be athletic, but not usually large, is never unattractive and is more attractive because of her Action Girl traits; with Amazonian Beauty, when she is muscular and that may be part of what makes her attractive but she is portrayed to be attractive regardless; with The Baroness, who is the classic East European Femme Fatale; with the Big Beautiful Woman, whose bulk is considered attractive in of itself, and who is often non-European. Compare No Guy Wants an Amazon, when this keeps her from finding a man; and Butch Lesbian, if she likes the ladies instead.
Anime and Manga
- Mari from Project A-ko. Considering she's Kenshiro of Fist of the North Star turned into a Huge Schoolgirl by the most minimal physical alterations (and a uniform).
- In One Piece we have Boa Marigold of the Kuja Amazons, who, oddly enough, used to be a skinny and conventionally attractive girl, but bulked up using the same methods used by Sumo wrestlers. As a bonus, her hair looks a bit like a Valkyries' helmet.
- This trope holds for most of the Gonk type women among the Kuja, however to they themselves it can be considered as an aversion in universe; in the eyes of the Kuja tribe, strength itself is beauty. Most outsiders will likely disagree, however, with the exception of Boa Hancock, who just so happens to be beautiful in the conventional sense and the strongest woman on the island.
- The Alpha Team's housekeeper in Dinosaur King.
- The manga of Akira gives us one particularly badass aunt who is the size of a mountain and strong enough to smash bad guys' heads in by using a rocket launcher as a blunt weapon. She's a heroic protagonist, but really not very good-looking at all.
- In Fairy Tail, the Gonk fetishist has a couple of these in his employ, but the summon spirit Virgo takes the cake; she's approximately the size of a minivan, with a face like a pug that hates everyone in the world, alarmingly out-of-place Girlish Pigtails, and such an expansive bosom that her blouse's buttons burst. Later, when Lucy makes a contract with her, it turns out she actually can look very attractive if she wants, but she always takes on the form she thinks will please the contract-holder. Contrary to Natsu's observation, she's not any less powerful in a more compact form.
- Biscuit's real form in Hunter X Hunter.
- Much to the dismay of the men she saves, Big Bertha of the Great Lakes Avengers is one of these. (Much to her dismay, Deadpool is a fan.) But, to be fair, Deadpool is a fan of her when she is in her Ashley form.
- She only looks like that when she's using her powers. In civilian mode, she looks like this.
- Monstress of the post-Zero Hour Legion of Super-Heroes is a girly-girl type who was accidentally mutated into a tall, stout, and very muscular Brawn Hilda build. The comic refrains from depicting her strength as particularly unattractive - she doesn't humiliate any male teammates and pseudo-Cloudcuckoolander Element Lad seems to find her appealing - but she's definitely no Hot Amazon either. Her personality is largely that of a teenaged Apron Matron.
- The Baker Twins in Strangers in Paradise are big, tough and battle-scarred. They tower at least one head height over every other character and are the top enforcers for The Syndicate. They are never portrayed as "ugly," but are also never portrayed as feminine.
- Bianca Castafiore in the Tintin books ("The Milanese Nightingale") is somewhat like this.
- Dodgeball has one straight example, played by Missi Pyle, and a parody in a girl scouts team.
- Coach Balbricker in Porky's
- In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Maid Marion's lady in waiting is an example.
- Robin Hood: Men in Tights parodies Maid Marian's lady in waiting in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves; she's even named "Broomhilde." Little John, however, definitely doesn't see her as unattractive...
- The East German Olympic team (details in the Real Life section), appear in Top Secret.
- The woman in the opening scenes of The Boondock Saints
- In The Fifth Element, the government's plan to sneak the hero Korben Dallas onto a galactic cruise ship involves passing off one such agent as his wife. Interestingly, it's not the primary reason he turns them down...
- In What's New, Pussycat?, such a woman is married to Viennese psychiatrist Peter Sellers - she tracks him down to a hotel in full Wagnerian dress to stop his philandering, and appears to be a Freudian nightmare to Woody Allen.
- In Revenge of the Nerds, the homely sorority that teams up with the nerds includes a very large girl who holds her own in the arm-wrestling contest before being (narrowly) defeated by Ogre, who cries after nearly losing to her.
- The Trunchbull from Matilda.
- One of these appears as a wedding singer in The Illusionist.
- Eorache of Bored of the Rings, as a parody of Eowyn, a Germanic warrior-maiden.
- In The Fifth Elephant, Vimes' wife sings part of a very famous dwarf opera, at which point Vimes mentions that given a winged helmet and a horse, she'd have no problem ferrying dead warriors off the battlefield.
- Her Brawn Hilda status was established even earlier, in Guards Guards, when it is mentioned in passing that her proportions were such that ancient cultures would have worshipped her as a fertility goddess. (Look at a Stone Age fertility idol and you'll see what we mean.)
- There's sort of a stereotype in British literature (but sometimes American works, too) of having a female gym instructor be like this—in the Discworld book Soul Music, the protagonist sees an actual Valkyries whom she imagines as looking like her gym mistress.
- Honoria Glossop, Cora Bellinger ("Pretty massive. In shape, a bit on the lines of the Albert Hall [dead link]"), and Madeleine Bassett's friend Hilda (!) Gudgeon in PG Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster stories.
- Wodehouse's description of the Bellinger (in Very Good, Jeeves!) is priceless:
... she proved to be an upstanding light-heavyweight of some thirty summers, with a commanding eye and a square chin which I, personally, would have steered clear of. She seemed to me a good deal like what Cleopatra would have been after going in too freely for the starches and cereals. I don't know why it is, but women who have anything to do with Opera, even if they're only studying for it, always appear to run to surplus poundage ... [she] had sung us a few songs before digging in at the trough, and nobody could have denied that her pipes were in great shape. Plaster was still falling from the ceiling.
- Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine.
- Brienne from A Song of Ice and Fire is something of a deconstruction of the trope. She's a huge, ugly and tomboyish woman who desperarely wants to be a knight, but who constantly suffers for not fitting society's mold.
- The sci-fi writer Poul Anderson wrote a comedic short story entitled "Wherever You Are" in which a woman of this type is stranded among Bug-Eyed Monsters along with a milquetoast man. Ends like you'd expect, but manages to subvert most BEM-cliches in the process.
- Agatha Trunchbull from Matilda is a hulking, squinty-eyed, downright scary ex-jock with a rotten temper. She probably offed her brother, too.
- The protagonist of Fay Weldon's The Life and Loves of a She-Devil is this trope for most of the novel.
- There was a kid's novel called Fearsome's Hero in which the titular "Fearsome" was a 6th grade girl named Honey who was bigger and stronger than all the boys in her school, and who had been a bully to the main character, Tully, for several years prior. At the start of the novel, Tully kept her out of trouble with some policemen, and she fell in love with him instead, which was even worse than the bullying.
- Though not foreign, Lieutenant Violette Retancourt, a recurring character of Fred Vargas' crime novels, is positively huge, often described as unattractive (and disliked by some of her fellow policemen solely because of her appearance) and physically stronger than any of the men at the Brigade. While she is not portrayed very sympathetically when she is first introduced in Have Mercy On Us All, the main character, Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, eventually develops a vitriolic friendship with her, and her incredible strength and resilience become essential points in some novels (especially This Night's Foul Work).
- Millicent Bullstrode from Harry Potter is described as reminding Harry of a picture he'd seen in "Travels With Trolls" and enjoys putting Hermione in headlocks whenever she corners her.
Live Action TV
- Honoria Glossop (Liz Kettle) in the Jeeves and Wooster series based on the Wodehouse stories. She doesn't really look the part, but she has the personality down.
- General Burkhalter's shrewish, controlling widowed sister Gertrude Linkmeyer (played by Kathleen Freeman and Alice Ghostley) in Hogan's Heroes. She's the only recurring female in the show who isn't conventionally attractive and much comedy is gained from Burkhalter's attempts to marry her off (especially when the target is Klink).
- Parodied as Gretel (Dot Jones) in the bowling episode of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody .
- Dot Jones later deconstructs this role as the football coach Shannon Beiste ("It's French") from Glee
- Glee also gave us Cameo (the scary black girl who punched Holly Holiday's lights out) and Lauren the wrestler; however, with the latter the trope is increasingly subverted as it becomes evident that Puck finds her both her physical strength and her breezy self-confidence very sexy indeed.
Puck: What I like is that you're a girl who's an even bigger badass than I am!
- Hellga in the reboot of American Gladiators.
- Brienne in Game of Thrones, a towering woman who wants to be a knight, but is generally mocked behind her back by the same men she beats up in tournaments.
- In Phil Dunlap's Ink Pen, Norse demigod Tyr, himself a big dude, has a wife who positively dwarfs him (we only see a portion of her as she's too big to fit in the strip's panels).
- Helga from Hagar the Horrible.
- Katrinka in Fontaine Fox's Toonerville Folks.
- Sergeant Louise Lugg from Beetle Bailey is Distaff Counterpart to Sergeant Snorkel, so what else could she be? She's not foreign, but is blonde, obese, physically powerful, aggressive, and foul-mouthed (though often also femininely sensitive in some ironic way). The biggest difference between her and Sarge is that she's sexually aggressive, whereas he's afraid of women.
- This happens a good deal in opera, particularly with Heldensopran parts, due to the necessity of finding women with sufficient lung power to outsing a 100-piece orchestra without amplification. This is also sometimes done deliberately for comedy effect, as in the part of the Fairy Queen in Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe. Other common examples include:
- A situation similar to the Wagner example in the main description comes up in productions of Puccini's masterpiece Turandot. The eponymous princess is supposedly so beautiful, men will risk beheading for her hand in marriage—and yet, because you need "a silver trumpet instead of vocal chords" for the part, most of the sopranos cast in the role fall squarely in this category: Monserrat CaballéGwynneth Jones; Eva Marton; Birgit Nilsson
- Such a woman is a One-Scene Wonder in The Sound of Music, when she wins second place at the concert and won't get off the stage to keep soaking up applause.
- Fruma Sarah, Lazar Wolf's deceased wife in Fiddler on the Roof, is sometimes depicted as one of these.
- Helga from Clay Fighter.
- A supernatural version appears in Ghostbusters the Video Game. And good heavens, her scream hurts.
- The alternate female version of the Vanguard of Bloodline Champions is this. The normal one is large, tall, and has a paunch while the female version is more or less the same size.
- The first level of Dragon's Lair 2: Time Warp has Dirk escaping his mother-in-law, who comes complete with horned helmet and Rolling Pin of Doom, and is royally pissed about Daphne getting kidnapped again.
- In Exit Fate, the character Brunhild fits this trope for many reasons. She's not fat, but vaguely tomboyish, more resolved than her twin brother and fights more physically-oriented than him.
- Meg from Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn.
- They appear a lot in Nitrome's Icebreaker series as puzzle elements.
- One of the main antagonists in the original No One Lives Forever.
- Space Mama from Rayman.
- Hammer in Fable II
- There exists a mod of Team Fortress 2 that turns the Heavy into one of these.
- Helga from the Ratchet and Clank series.
- Not to mention an entire army of enemy Valkyries in A Crack in Time.
- In Double Dragon, Linda the token female mook was a tough mohawked chick with a muscular but mannish build. She became Progressively Prettier to a great degree during the Double Dragon/Battletoads Crossover games, though.
- Female super mutants in the Fallout series are like this, and sound exactly like the males.
- Helga von Bulow in Return to Castle Wolfenstein.
- Big Bertha is considered the strongest human in all of Almia in Shadows of Almia.
- Lady Germany from Scandinavia and The World. She has considerable physical power, a no-nonsense attitude, and, apart from her Boobs of Steel, is fairly masculine looking, at least for a chibi.
- Quain'tana of Drowtales is either this or an Amazonian Beauty (her character in general is a Base Breaker), seeing as she's built like a bodybuilder to the point of Viewer Gender Confusion on the part of many readers.
- Sauerkraut of Trigger Star, the party's resident Genius Bruiser. Take the traditional portrayal of Conan the Barbarian. Now add breasts. Suitably big ones. Add a Lantern Jaw of Justice and you have Sauerkraut.
- Invoked by Ralph The Guard in an Animaniacs episode. As the "Ride of the Valkyries" plays, he (defending a car from airborne pigeon attack) falls into other cars and debris. He rises..looking a bit more like the page image than you'd want to see in dear Ralph.
- Doctor Scratch-n-Sniff also dates Brawn Hildas.
- In Courage the Cowardly Dog Muriel gets mistaken for a Valkyries by an entire race of Brünnhilde-esque Valkyries.
- Disney's World War II propaganda film, Education for Death: The Making of the Nazi (1943) depicts the "Sleeping Beauty," Germany, this way.
- In Jimmy Neutron, after time traveling into an alternate future where Jimmy is rich, he soon discovers he has a cranky, hideous nanny named "Hilgo".
- In Johnny Bravo, the main character orders a mail order girl friend and gets a burly European woman who happens to have the same (low-brow) interests as Johnny.
- A leporine Western Animation example would be Millicent the "Slobovian rabbit" in the 1957 Looney Tunes short, "Rabbit Romeo."
- The Scotsman's wife on Samurai Jack.
- This trope was parodied in The Simpsons when Bart's impression of an East German woman (See Real Life, below) consists of a fake moustache and saying "Kiss me or I crush you!" in a deep voice.
- Also Lisa's gym teacher Brunella Pommelhorst.
- Averted when Bugs Bunny disguised himself as "Bwunhilde" to fool Elmer Fudd (depicted as the hero Siegfried) in "What's Opera Doc" (as it was when he had originally dressed as her in Herr Meets Hare); his Valkyries is actually quite petite.
- The horse more than makes up for it.
- Eva from Total Drama Island is the strongest chick in the show and is even seen arm wrestling in the opening song; she has a nasty temper and, of course, all of the other characters fear her (except Izzy and possibly Noah).
- Revenge of the Island brings us Jo, who is the strongest female contestant physically. However, this falls more into Informed Attribute; and is Played for Laughs. It's pretty obvious to the viewer that she's female. And pretty much everyone else except Lightning, who doesn't get that she's female until she's eliminated.
- Strika from Transformers Animated looks to be a giant robot version of this, from the two or three minutes we saw of her. She's, er, "big-boned" even relative to other Cybertronians.
- In How to Train Your Dragon, most of the grown Viking women, even the short ones, have this sort of build. ( Hiccup finds out, for example, that his Missing Mom's Breast Plate was reforged into two helmets, just after one was given to him.)
- In an episode from Dave the Barbarian ("Beef!"), Princess Candy has eyes for a hunk named Golder the Hot. However, he (and most of the other male villagers) are wooed by Bicepia the Warrior Woman, a tall and muscular Hot Amazon. Seeing that she needs to bulk up if she hopes to snatch away from Bicepia, Candy digests magic broccoli to achieve the same effects, gaining a similar figure and rechristening herself "The Can". While Candy is seen as an Amazonian Beauty at first, she still feels that Bicepia is bigger than her and continues to eat more broccoli. With each and every stalk, Candy grows more and more buff, at the cost of her beauty and brains (halfway through the episode, Candy even starts using Hulk Speak). Eventually, everyone is freaked out (especially Golder, who promptly decides to cancel his picnic date with Candy), forcing "The Can" to realize that she was better off as regular ol' Candy, a moral she quickly forgets seconds afterward.
- Aunt Figg actually dressed up as one for a few seconds during her Villain Song from the infamous 1992 animated film Tom and Jerry: The Movie.
- An episode of DuckTales (1987) was actually about Mrs. Beakley being kidnapped by Vikings due to her being dressed up like this while performing at an opera.
- The wife of the Odifferan leader Prince Uncouthma in an Aladdin episode; if I recall correctly, she was named Brawnhilda (everyone in the series had a Punny Name, after all.)
- In the second episode of Glenn Martin, DDS ("The Grossest Show On Earth"/"Circus"), Hot Mom Jackie Martin befriends the circus strongwoman (herself a shining example of this trope and Husky Russkie) and decides to take up a training regime. Unbeknown to her, the strongwoman slips in a cheat card: steroids. Thus, when Jackie finishes very brief workout, she immediately removes her jacket to reveal huge guns and chiseled abs. She still retained her beauty in the facial department (and believed herself to very much be an Amazonian Beauty), but she sported a deepened voice and increased aggressiveness as a result of the roids (at one point, she strips Glenn—who has an Oh Crap expression—down to his underwear and then tells him to hang on to the bedpost as she forcibly has sex with him). Most characters seemed to ignore her muscularity, but those who didn't always mistook her for a man, earning them a punch from an offended, violence-prone Jackie. At the end of the episode, she walks into a men's bathroom and checks herself out, commenting that she's hot, but then two guys mistake her for a guy again, and Jackie finally agrees with their sentiment that she's unattractive. By the next episode, the muscle (and all of the other negative side effects) is gone.
- Helga, of Hey Arnold! fame. Physically, she's just a young, scrawny kid, but her attitude and mannerisms more than make up for it. Extremely competative and cantankerous, she spends much of her time picking on the main character, even though she has a huge crush on him and admires him. She also plays sports (though most of the girls in the show play sports). Her older sister, Olga, is a saccharine opposite. Big Patty also counts as this trope.
- Both Muscle Princess and Susan Strong in Adventure Time. Both of them are about three times Finn's height and as big across at the shoulders as Finn is tall. Neither one is actually presented as explicitly attractive or ugly, since everyone's pretty cutesy in the show's signature noodle-style, but Muscle Princess is pretty proud of her beef; in one episode she remarks that her hairstyle is deliberately unflattering because if her hair was any good people might pay too much attention to that and not enough attention to her muscles.
- Alice from Superjail. A slight variation in that she's transsexual.
- Awesome Kong from TNA, Aja Kong, Bull Nakano and Monster Ripper from Japan, Nicole Bass, Matilda the Hun from Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (who was later Queen Kong in Powerful Women of Wrestling). It's not uncommon in wrestling actually.
- Chyna was in a way, a subversion, in that while her masculine features and traits were played up (Chris Jericho memorably dubbed her a Behildebeast), she was also seen (sometimes), as somewhat sexy in her own way. She eventually got enough plastic surgery to avert the trope somewhat and went more for Hot Amazon/Amazonian Beauty.
- The East Germans (this was back in the days before the Berlin Wall fell) doped their entire women's Olympic swimming team with steroids. The result was about as pleasant as you'd expect for a group of young women being doped with male hormones.
- In a 20/20 story about it, one of the US swimmers stated: "We saw these powerful, broad-shouldered swimmers in the pool, and we only realized they were the women's team when we saw their shoulder straps."