Shorter Means Smarter

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Being the smallest in a group will always make you smarter (and usually more agile) than the rest.

Reflectively, in a Big Guy, Little Guy Odd Couple the short one is always the planner, the schemer, the wise one. The taller may be the Dumb Muscle or the loon, the lazy one, or just the wild one, but the short guy is always somehow smarter.

Naturally, seen often with The Smart Guy and The Big Guy of the Five-Man Band. Sometimes the difference is because the small one is a child Wise Beyond Their Years, paired with a Gentle Giant. And, of course, everpresent in The Short Guy with Glasses.

Contrast Genius Bruiser and Badass Bookworm.

See also Brains and Brawn.

Examples of Shorter Means Smarter include:

Anime and Manga


  • Asterix and Obelix.
  • The Dalton brothers in Lucky Luke extend this trope to four persons, although the two "middle" ones are as equally smart as Single-Minded Twins.
    • Though Joe Dalton only looks smart compared to Averell. He's still extremely hot-headed, and his overall stupidity is often commented on by Luke.
  • Of the three Bone cousins, the two shorter ones (Fone Bone and Phoney Bone) are more intelligent than the tallest one (Smiley Bone), although they both have different kinds of intelligence.


  • Jay and Silent Bob.
  • The Princess Bride: Vizzini is more or less a a tiny-sized, dictatorial control freak with a brain... until the Man in Black shows up, anyway.
  • Pintel and Ragetti from Pirates of the Caribbean.
  • Charlie and Raymond Babbitt from Rain Man.
  • Master and Blaster from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
  • Bobble and Clank from the Disney Fairies movie.
  • In the movie adaptations of Hellboy, compare Bruiser Hellboy to his partner Abe Sapien, who's both smarter/more well-read and psychic. (Note that this is Adaptation Displacement at work; in the comics Hellboy is a Genius Bruiser and Abe has no psychic powers.)
    • Hellboy is hardly stupid in the movies either, but it's Abe who's the taller of the two by the virtue of being played by Doug Jones. He's just considerably slimmer compared to Hellboy's brawny frame.
  • Inverted in The Ice Pirates; the towering Killjoy is the smartest one of the pirates, if not the smartest person in the movie.
  • In the Star Wars universe the wisest of all Jedi is little Master Yoda. "Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not.".
    • Although wouldn't Shorter Means Smarter still be technically judging him (positively) by his size?


  • George and Lennie in Of Mice and Men.
    • As well as those cartoons that spoofed the movie version. Tex Avery's George and Junior is the most blatant imitation.
  • Mr Pin and Mr Tulip from Discworld novel The Truth. ----ing right.
    • Subverted in that Mr. Tulip, despite being dumb enough to snort curry powder, has an encyclopaedic knowledge of art history.
  • In Ranger's Apprentice, Will is constantly described as short and smart in the same breath, while his friend Horace is both tall and happy to let others do the thinking for him.
  • This trope sums up Miles Vorkosigan's entire career, especially the military side.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, arguably two of the smartest characters in the series are Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, a short Chessmaster, and Tyrion "the Imp" Lannister, a cunning dwarf.
  • In, Harry Potter, it's implied that Hermione is the shortest of the group (and she's obviously the smartest as well).
    • Justified in that women tend to be shorter than men.
  • Kruppe from The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Frequently smarter than gods.
  • Played straight with Bean in Ender's Game, although this is justified in the Shadow series because Bean has been genetically modified. He will never have an adolescent growth spurt, but his body and brain will continue growing slowly his entire life. This makes him fearsomely smart, but he'll eventually run afoul of the Square-Cube Law and die prematurely.
  • Short is common among Deal Relway's crafty secret police in the Garrett P.I. novels, although this is a result of recruitment bias rather than innate intelligence: Relway favors cops who can be both cunning and inconspicuous, and he knows others tend to underestimate short people.

Live Action TV

  • Mr Vandemar and Mr Croup of Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.
    • This editor doth protests. Croup is merely more eloquent of the two not necessarily the smarter, and both are equally (which is to say frighteningly) competent at what they do.
  • Bud and Kelly Bundy in Married... with Children with Bud being the smart one and Kelly very much not. This one is probably coincidental—David Faustino (Bud) was a prepubescent when the show started, but even as an adult he remained shorter than Christina Applegate (Kelly).
  • Kerry and Bridget from 8 Simple Rules. This seems to be an unintended result of making Bridget taller (i.e. hotter) than her sister.
  • The Mighty Boosh's Naboo the Enigma, a tiny stoner shaman who probably measures out to stand less than five foot, is the smartest main character. But considering the other three are a demented jazzman, a bubble-headed pop singer and a talking gorilla, the title was pretty easy to win.
  • The smallest person on the Firefly-class freighter Film/Serenity is five-foot-nothing, ninety-pound River Tam, and there is absolutely no doubt that she's the smartest person on the ship. Similarly, her brother Simon and the Wrench Wench Kaylee are also pretty small compared with the rest of the crew, and they're also the brains of the ship.
  • Benjamin Linus might not be the smallest guy on Lost, but he's quite a bit shorter than most of the other men—and probably the cleverest person on the island.
  • Valerie Valerie's Family: The Hogans The Hogan Family featured fraternal twins Willie & Mark; they started out about the same size, but as the actors grew up it ended up that Willie (the irresponsible one) was taller than Mark (the brainy one). Note though that these characterizations appeared before the split in height.
  • Doctor K from Power Rangers RPM - tiny, but the brains behind just about everything they have.
  • Gilmore Girls has Paris Geller who wants to remain the best in her class and is shorter than her two Brainless Beauty friends and her competition, Rory.


Video Games

  • In Tales of Symphonia, the second-shortest (and youngest) character, Genis, is The Smart Guy (and also a bit of a Bratty Half-Pint). Furthermore, the most cunning of the Desian Grand Cardinals, Rodyle, is also the shortest.
    • Another Tales series game this follows into is Tales of Legendia where Jay the Unseen is one of, if not, the smartest members in the party and also the shortest. It's even lampshaded throughout the game
  • Gomar and Shioh in F-Zero.
  • Inverted in Professor Layton and the Curious Village. While Layton and Luke are both smart, the titular tall character is the smartest and Luke is his apprentice.
  • Reese Worthington of Backyard Sports placed in the 99th percentile in a class test and was placed in the honors program. But he's really short.
  • Zexion of Kingdom Hearts. Compare him to every one else (except Roxas and Xion), and you'll find he's the shortest out of them, especially the other "Basement Members." Then again, he's the youngest apprentice...
  • Erik from The Lost Vikings.
  • Miles "Tails" Prower of Sonic the Hedgehog is a mechanical genius, and his IQ is implied to be 400.
    • Subverted with Dr. Eggman who is certainly one of the taller characters, even by human standards. He is also a genius with an IQ of 300 and easily one of the smartest characters in the series (save maybe his grandfather who's also pretty tall, and Tails).
  • The Engineer from Team Fortress 2 is the shortest of the nine playable classes. He holds 11 PhDs.
  • Naoto Shirogane from Persona 4 is the shortest playable character, (at one point before the reveal, Yosuke even refers to her as a "shrimpy, half pint detective"), yet she is also the most intelligent character in the Investigation Team, using her incredible powers of deductive reasoning to bring the team one step closer to finding the killer.

Web Original

  • Played with to hell and back in Yu-Gi-Oh The Abridged Series with two of the Dark H--"Steves" that try to rid of Yugi and Kaiba--the audience originally lead to believe the suave-voiced villain and squeaky-voiced idiot are the tall and short Steves respectively. Then their faces, and thus, lip movements, are revealed.

Western Animation

  • Pinky and The Brain.
  • Rita and Runt from Animaniacs. Inspired on the above example, although Runt is based on Rain Man.
  • Timon and Pumbaa from The Lion King are a subversion. Timon only thinks he's the smart one, while Pumbaa doesn't realize how smart he really is.
    • Played straight with Mufasa and Scar, however.

Scar: Well, as far as brains go, I got the lion's share. But, when it comes to brute strength... I'm afraid I'm at the shallow end of the gene pool.

  • Mickey Mouse and Goofy also would qualify.
  • In Dragon Hunters, Gwizdo is much smaller than the enormous Lian Chu, and also the brains of the operation.
  • Dexter from Dexter's Laboratory. Not so much when paired with his much taller rival Mandark, but definitely when paired with his sister Dee Dee.
  • Severely inverted with Genius Ditz Bulkhead in Transformers Animated.
  • Inverted in the animated TV show Aladdin. Recurring shortarse baddie Abis Mal is an absolute doofus compared to his tall, thin lackey, Haroud.
  • This is both inverted and technically played straight in The Penguins of Madagascar. Kowalski, the tallest penguin, is also the smartest. However, the leader Skipper is the second smallest but is quite intelligent at times.
  • Debatable in Invader Zim. The Irken society bases authority on height, but at least one of the Almighty Tallest is somewhat scatterbrained.
    • Zim himself is the shortest Irken known, and is about as tall as a human child.
  • In Jimmy Two Shoes, Heloise is smarter than her tall friends Jimmy and Beezy.
  • Velma Dinkley in Scooby Doo, by far the shortest and also the youngest-looking of the primary characters (though she is actually supposed to be two years younger than Shaggy, Daphne and Fred).
  • Ben 10's Grey Matter transformation.
  • Toadwart from the Adventures of the Gummi Bears.
    • Even more so with his cousin, Tadpole.
  • Charles Foster Offdensen of Metalocalypse. His somewhat short stature is even remarked on by another character at one point. Bonus in that not only is he the smartest of the six main protagonists (he's been called a genius, particularly on financial matters), he's also an insanely formidable Badass Bookworm to boot.
  • Brainiac 5 from the Legion of Super Heroes Then again, he is twelve.
    • Averted in the comics
  • Inverted in Teen Titans. The shortest member of the team is Beast Boy, who is also the least intelligent (though he does have his moments, particularly where pop culture trivia comes up); the team's Smart Guy is Cyborg, who is also the tallest and, after Starfire, second-strongest.
  • Rocky of the Looney Tunes gangster duo Rocky and Mugsy.
  • Played straight in Young Justice where Robin is the shortest and youngest member of the team but is the most all-around intelligent.
  • Of the male characters on Total Drama, the three shortest--Cody, Noah and Ezekiel—are all intelligent and geeky (though Ezekiel's intelligence is mostly confined to the manual). There are aversions, however, including the tall, lanky geek Harold.
  • On Gargoyles, Lexington is The Smart Guy as well as the shortest, wiriest member of the Clan.
  • Inverted on Recess, as genius girl Gretchen is the second tallest member of the gang.

Real Life

  • This is the stereotype associated with most Asians: shorter and smarter than Westerners. This may derive, at least in part, from the study habits of the Japanese. Because many schools in Japan accept students based on merits, students need to do a lot of studying compared to Westerners, especially those living in the United States. The strong emphasis on education leads to a higher literacy rate. The fact that the Japanese tend to be shorter than people in the United States is unrelated to their intelligence.
    • YMMV of course, the Japanese school system has been decried by some to be memorization of facts without understanding the underlying principles.
  • Until very recently the inversion was true. The taller you were the smarter you were, of course this was because a good diet allowed you to grow to your full potential height, and mental potential (like all other physical characteristics, starving your brain will stunt it). As well as being the very small percentage of the population with access to proper education and books.
  • Averted. There actually does exist a weak but statistically significant correlation between height and IQ. The only thing is, it seems that on the whole taller people do better on IQ tests and not the inverse.
  1. Her official height is 1.33m, or 4'4".