The Speechless

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Someone who does not speak onscreen because he cannot speak at all.

He is intelligent; he does show signs of sentience to us, the viewers—just not to the other characters. He may be able to vocalize onscreen, but it won't be in a known language—probably just the occasional sigh—and none of the characters will be able to interpret what he says. He will be able to gesture, but this may or may not convey any meaning to the other characters; they may play charades with him to figure out what he has to say. In extremis, may lapse into Talking with Signs—but only we the viewers get to see the signs.

Often surprisingly competent, and tends to understand what's going on better than voiced characters, while being hilariously unable to communicate that understanding. Also, often voiced by Frank Welker when they're voiced at all.

One popular use of this character is the Silent Snarker: while they never have any lines, they are highly facially expressive and used for many a Reaction Shot, Face Palm or visual This Is Gonna Suck.

One form of He Who Must Not Be Heard. The opposite is The Unintelligible, whom the characters understand, but we don't. Contrast also The Voiceless, who can talk, but just doesn't whenever we're watching. See also Heroic Mime and Cute Mute. May utilize a Voice for The Voiceless or Mouth of Sauron.

Compare Pantomime Animal.

Examples of The Speechless include:

Anime and Manga

  • Although she first appears to just be very quiet Chane Laforet from Baccano! is later revealed to have lost her ability to speak several years before the series began. She appears to have willingly given up her voice.
    • She communicates by way of hand gestures and body language/expressions.
  • Garyu of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is clearly intelligent and can understand human speech but never speaks. Being a humanoid insect that lacks a mouth may have something to do with it.
  • Mokona, from Magic Knight Rayearth can only say "Puu", making him also The Unintelligible. While he may not seem to act like it and is accorded little respect, Mokona is arguably more intelligent than anyone else in the cast—but the details are a monumental spoiler.
  • Genma Saotome in Ranma ½ is The Speechless when in panda form, forcing him to communicate by Talking with Signs. An early gag from the manga had him trying to answer a telephone, before hanging up in frustration and holding up a sign reading, "Argh! Pandas can't answer the phone!"
  • Shiro in Shakugan no Shana—he's a reanimated skeleton and therefore has no vocal cords.
  • Gola Mosca, the robot from Katekyo Hitman Reborn. Didn't stop him from getting his own Image Song.
  • Celty from Durarara!!, being headless and all, types what she wants to say on her PDA or home computer and shows it to people. From episode 4 onwards her messages and thoughts are accompanied by a voice-over as a matter of convenience for the viewer. Sometimes it's not even properly conveyed that she isn't speaking, because the VA speaks (and the listener appears to be listening) before they look at the screen. Somehow there are some people who she has spoken to before she began speaking through her PDA.
  • TEX from Eve no Jikan, since he's a "Three Laws"-Compliant robot who's been ordered not to speak.
  • Helen of Helen ESP, what with her being rendered blind, deaf, and mute from a terrible accident.

Comic Books

  • Marvel Comics' Awesome Android has no vocal components. He used Talking with Signs in his recent appearances in She-Hulk.
  • The Torso from Newcastle in Strontium Dog, owing to lack of a head. In one strip, he makes a witty comment in sign language - but, as the Narrator notes, since nobody was looking at him at the time, his remark is lost forever.
  • General Zod's associate Non is mute because he was lobotomized. Although his intelligence did suffer, he occasionally shows signs that he is smarter that he looks. Before his surgery, he was Jor El's lab partner.
  • Humberto/Hummer from Monica's Gang, who only speaks through "Hmmm".
  • Artie Maddicks was mute, but could communicate in images using his mutant power of creating holograms.
  • Snake-Eyes of G.I.Joe due to head injuries. Still clearly understood in multiple battle situations somehow.
  • Jericho from Teen Titans. His vocal cords were cut when he was a child. He communicates via sign language. He can speak if he possess someone with a voice, and that person was unconscious at the time he possessed them.
  • Black Bolt of Marvel Comics is unable to speak due to the fact that his voice is so powerful that a mere whisper is enough to send the Hulk at his strongest flying. Thats right, the Hulk.

Fan Works

  • In An Entry With a Bang!, Brox cannot speak due to throat injury, so he types instead. There's talk of fixing this, though.
  • The Pokémon fanfic Brave New World: The Buneary ninja Dawn (yes, that Dawn!) can't speak due to her throat being ripped out by her father when she was born. She communicates using "Clickspeak", a morse-code-like tapping of her foot.
    • Tiny the Larvitar also does not talk, due to severe pre-hatching trauma. He gets better.


  • Remy from Ratatouille. The movie manages to maintain some sense of realism by having him unable to converse with his human co-star Linguini. However, he's very good at charades and can largely control the actions of Linguini when the human allows him to ride on his head and pull on his hair.
    • Remy can speak, however. It's just that he speaks "rat." Humans hear his squeaks as squeaks, and the other rats hear them as English.
  • Abu, Rajah, and especially the Magic Carpet from Aladdin.
    • Abu, however can speak in screeching gibberish, occasionally venturing into screeching English, placing him closer to The Unintelligible.
  • The Giant Magnet and Car Crusher from The Brave Little Toaster (although the latter may not be intelligent or sentient).
  • Other Wybie in the movie version of Coraline. Because the Other Mother thought Coraline would prefer it that way.
  • In Dumbo, the title character never says anything throughout the whole movie, we never find out if he is mute or simply chooses not to talk, he does hiccup when he gets drunk though.
    • In the storybook adaptation of the movie, however, he's given an interior monologue, so we "hear" him "speak" that way.
    • He apparently did learn to talk when the Disney Channel did the Spin-Off series Dumbo's Circus, though. (His voice is mumbly and kind of quiet, but he does have a fairly extensive vocabulary.)
      • Well, what do you expect? He was still a baby in the original!
  • Gideon the cat from Pinocchio is mute.
    • He was originally meant to be voiced by Mel Blanc, but in the end all of his dialogue was cut, and Blanc's only contribution to a Disney movie was a hiccup.
  • Despite making lots of noise, Scrat from Ice Age doesn't speak. Also, the humans in the first film and Mama T.Rex and Rudy in the third film.
  • Dopey in Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs. Happy explains that they don't know if he can talk or not because he's never tried to (in real life, it was because they couldn't find a suitable voice actor for him). He can, however, scream and hiccup.
  • The titular Thief in The Thief and the Cobbler was written and animated as this, but when it was taken out of Richard Williams' hands, the 1995 Arabian Knight cut added a "thoughts" voiceover for him and Tack the cobbler (who almost never spoke). Re-edits closer to the intended concept leave the characters be.

Film - Live Action

  • In The Big Silence, the main character never speak due to having his throat cut.
  • Pip, the Chipmunk from Enchanted, can't talk in New York because... well, in the real world, animals can't talk. He actually knows what's going on from the beginning of the movie, but despite his very creative charades, is never able to convey it to the air-headed Prince Edward.
    • Ironically in Andelasia he has a Noo Yawk accent.
  • James Bond examples:
    • Odd Job from Goldfinger who doesn't speak English so he never talks, the only thing he ever says is "Ah,Ah!" when notifying Goldfinger during their golf game.
      • In the novel, the reason that Oddjob cannot speak is beacause he was a cleft palate.
    • Blofeld's henchman Hans in You Only Live Twice. (Hans never speaks and, unlike Jaws in later movies, he is killed before we can find out if he can or not.)
  • Lydia from The Others is mute due to a trauma that remains unspecified until the end of the film - the discovery that she (and her two fellow servants) have died from Tuberculosis traumatises her so much that she never speaks again.
  • Roach in The People Under the Stairs, whose tongue Man and Woman cut out for talking back.
  • Asham, the mute slave in the Biblical epic The Prodigal. He lost the ability to speak because of some childhood illness.
  • For much of the film Tommy, the title character is rendered entirely deaf, blind and mute after being traumatised as a young child by the sight of his stepfather killing his (previously believed killed during WW 2) father in front of his mother very shortly after the father re-appears. He does get better...eventually, but it is a couple of decades (at least) before he snaps out of it.
  • Kroenen from the Hellboy movie, due to cutting off his own lips, among other things. He can talk in the original comic.
  • The Thin Man in Charlie's Angels. In the first film he's simply mute, in the second it is implied he's an elective mute due to childhood trauma. He attempts to speak, but is killed (or is he?) before we find out if he's capable.
  • Bumblebee from the Transformers film series wasn't able to speak, only communicating through the radio, due to events before the movie started where Megatron had ripped out his vocal processors. However, in the second movie, after he recovers, he still uses the radio to "speak", as Sam says he plays it up to be cute.
  • The Professor Guinea Pig from the original The Fly couldn't speak after his teleporter accident swapped his head with a housefly's, so communicated with chalkboard, typewriter, and by knocking on tables.
  • In Lightning Jack, Jack's sidekick is mute, which creates a funny moment when he knocks on a door, and when asked who's there he can't answer.
  • Gymnasia in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. See theater for her theatrical counterpart. In the movie version, instead, she gets her Fetish Fuel tendencies toned down, but she's still a towering blonde Hot Amazon expressing herself in made-up language (resembling just a funny barrage of unrelated charades) who Pseudolous only can understand. When Pseudolous reveal that Gymnasia's gestures meant something, the others show genuine surprise, believing her to be just The Unintelligible.
  • The Golem from the silent movie classic The Golem, faithful to traditional Golem lore.


  • Discworld: The Librarian, who's been turned into an ape, can only speak in Orangutan, and to us that sounds like only one word, "Ook", over and over again (with an occasional "Eek!"). Sometimes he has to do charades to get people to understand him. The author has danced around the question of why a librarian, of all people, never thinks of writing down what he wants to say. In The Last Continent, a magical illness briefly turns him into a book. The book has no title, but every single page is filled with the word "Ook".
    • Maybe he's dyslexic. Maybe he can't be bothered carrying around pencils. Maybe he just doesn't feel like using words. Although Rule of Funny is the most likely explanation.
      • Given his habit of taste-testing things for edibility (because you never know), any loose paper he carries for purposes other than bookbinding probably gets too soggy to write on. He also has a bit of a philosophical objection to reading, because books rightfully belong on their proper shelves as Nature intended.
    • I seem to recall that at least a few of the wizards could understand him.
      • In The Last Continent, he retained a one-word vocabulary when he is transformed into a penguin ("Awk!), and later a dolphin ("Eek!).
    • The Death of Rats's vocabulary is limited to "SQUEAK", with occasional variations ("SNH, SNH, SNH"). Death understands it perfectly, as do Albert and Quoth the raven; Susan doesn't necessarily know what it says, only what it means.
      • Also, Discworld golems can't speak because they have no tongues, this being a blasphemy. They have slates and a piece of chalk which they write words on. In later novels, they are "re-made" with clay tongues and hence can speak, though they tend to be very literal-minded.
  • Lucy-B091, a Spartan-III soldier in the novel Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, lost her voice to "post-traumatic vocal disarticulation": at the age of 12, she was so traumatized from seeing 298 members of her 300-man force slaughtered, that she never spoke another word in her life after "how are you sure we're alive?" to the other survivor, Tom-B292.
  • Nick Andros, in Stephen King's The Stand, was born deaf and mute. One version of the book explicitly states he was born without eardrums or vocal cords.
  • Avoxes, in The Hunger Games, are traitors who've had their tongues mutilated as punishment by the Capitol. Avox literally means 'without voice'.
  • One member of the submarine crew from Sewer, Gas & Electric doesn't speak anything but Turkish, so has no lines except the name of his hometown, which he cries out ("Istanbul!") to indicate he's carried out an order. Except once when he's recovering from an at-sea collision, and groans "Constantinople..." instead.
  • The mysterious and aptly named Lady Silence in Dan Simmons The Terror.
  • Saro in Patricia A Wrede's The Book of Atrix Wolfe, after the spell.
  • John Singer, the central character of Carson McCullers' The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, is a deaf-mute. Much of the novel involves his relationship with another deaf-mute, Spiros Antonapoulos.
  • John Mathew of J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series is mute (presumably born that way), and relies on American sign language, whistling, writing on a notepad, and a variety of body language in order to communicate with others.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has a few:
    • Ilyn Payne had his tongue torn out by the mad king. Aftet the revolition, he's given a job as the royal executioner by the new king. His gaunt appearance and total silence make him quite frightening, which is very appropriate for his job. The closest he's come to speaking is opening his mouth and making a clacking sound, which Jaime takes for a laugh.
    • Theon is given a mute squire, which he takes as an insult. The squire is actually pretty bold and occasionally smirks at Theon's difficulties. Later, he manages to convey a complex message without the ability to speak or write.
    • At least some of Varys' "little birds" are tongueless but literate children who hide in the secret passages running through the Red Keep.
    • Victarion Greyjoy takes a tongueless woman as a concubine. He likes it because he can think out loud while she's around and she won't be able to tell anyone his secrets.
  • The God-King Susebron from Warbreaker is this for most of the book. Though it's because his tongue's been cut out from near-birth to keep him from using the Breath. He's also initially unable to write except in a special code script he uses to communicate with his priests, though his wife teaches him how to write normally midway through the book. And then he gets his tongue healed when Lightsong gives up his Breath for him.
  • Dramatically subverted at the very end of the children's book Cheltingham's Party. The title character is a cat who throws the feline equivalent of a Wild Teen Party while his master is away. When the master returns, she sees the mess everywhere and teasingly tells Cheltingham, "You have a lot of explaining to do!" Without any hesitation, Cheltingham looks right at her and says, "Cats don't talk."
  • Madame Raquin in Therese Raquin. As her health deteriorates, leaving her with locked-in syndrome. Ironically, the worse she gets, the more she realizes what happened to her son.
  • Lupus in The Roman Mysteries is mute because he had his tongue torn out.
  • The ex-P.O.W. in Beachwalker has been mute since birth. As it turns out, this was a large part of the reason why he was captured in the first place - he was unable to call for help.

Live Action TV

  • Thing, the living hand from The Addams Family, has been known to communicate via Morse code or finger alphabet such as can be used by the deaf. It seems to be of equal intelligence with anyone else in the Quirky Household.
  • Poncho in Funky Squad, the Australian spoof of 70's cop shows. The idea being that an actor with poor English skills was accidentally hired, so the creators had to think up the ridiculous plot device of Poncho being mute because he'd been shot in the tongue.
  • Lanny in Lizzie McGuire is a special case: No one can understand him except Matt...even over the phone (where apparently he remains speechless). Apparently there's something about Matt's body, because Lizzie can understand him in the Freaky Friday episode.
  • The brothers Darryl and Darryl in Newhart. Usually their other sibling Larry speaks for both of them. Frequently played with, as when Dick answers the phone and hears only silence: "Hello...Hello?...Oh hi, Darryl."
    • Subverted in the series finale, when the brothers shout "QUIET!" at their constantly chattering wives.
  • In The X-Files episode "Humbug", the Conundrum (a geek, in the classical sense) doesn't speak at all until the end: "Prob'ly something I ate.".
  • The mysterious aliens from the 1970-1 TV series UFO are never heard to speak, though they can apparently communicate with traitors and those under their control.
    • In a late episode, the UFO pilots are revealed to be human abductees under the control of an unseen alien intelligence.
  • The Stig Sort of qualifies, since he knows how to drive like hell, and use a credit card, but knows nothing about ducks. He also happens to be illegal in 17 states.
  • Lupus in Roman Mysteries. Unlike his his counterpart in the novels, he has not had his tongue torn out (presumably so they do not have to worry about accidentally getting shots of the actor's tongue) but is mute from some kind of trauma.
  • Weeping Angels in Doctor Who seem unable to speak, and they don't seem able to write either. The few times they've felt a need to communicate, they do so by controlling a victim and having him speak for them. In fact, their silence is part of what makes them so terrifying. Curiously, they've been featured in some non-visual media, including the audio "Fallen Angels" and the novel "Touched by an Angel".

Newspaper Comics

Tabletop Games

  • The "Cannot Speak" disadvantage in GURPS turns your character into this. Interestingly you can combine it with the Voice advantage, just because you can't form words doesn't mean the sounds can't be pleasing.


Video Games

  • After the first level of Drakengard, the protagonist, Caim, is one of these, as he trades away his ability to speak in order to make a Pact with the dragon.
  • Ward in Final Fantasy VIII is one of these after a throat injury. After that, he only says ".....", but Laguna and Kiros usually understand him anyway.
    • Also all Moombas, who are intelligent creatures, being an evolved form of the Shumi. According to the Shumi Elder, Laguna once tried to teach one to speak because he felt sorry that it didn't know any words and he felt that words are "useful and precious." The Elder, however, felt that the truly important things can be communicated without words.
  • Jak in Jak and Daxter The Precursor Legacy was mute for the entire game. His first instance of speech actually occurred at the beginning of the Darker and Edgier sequel and was a proclamation that he was going to kill someone. He spoke in full coherent sentences after that.
    • Jak's younger self never vocalizes either. A Fanon theory is that he lost his ability to speak due to the trauma of being separated from his actual family; Jak's utter hatred for the Baron simply let him overcome this mental block.
  • Shizune from Katawa Shoujo. Like the description she's smart, perceptive and wilful, though it's noted that the aggressive personality she has cultivated to compensate often ends up driving people away.
  • Sir Daniel Fortesque from the Medievil series. Even though he's the protagonist, since he's a walking, animated skeleton, sometime while he was in the crypt, Dan lost his lower jaw, and therefore can't talk.
  • The Black Titan from Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, stalwart and reliable companion of Claudia, the resident Cute Mute. Originally described as an animated soul of armor, crafted for Claudia's safety by her long dead parents, he's revelead to be the corpse and the soul of a mute assassin, used for spare parts by Claudia's dad and seeking redemption by protecting his innocent ward. Also, being mute he came to empathize with Claudia's handicap, to the point of feeling inconditional love for her.
  • Berserker/Herakles in Fate Stay Night doesn't talk. He growls and roars a lot, though; and he could talk if he wasn't so crazed. In fact he's quite talkative when you kill him.

Web Animation

  • The Poopsmith from Homestar Runner, who has taken a vow of silence according to one source. He uses Talking with Signs on rare occasion.
    • However, he sings the intro song for Strong Bad's 200th email. He's voiced by one of the members of They Might Be Giants.
  • Most of the cast of Adam Phillips' Brackenwood; only one, the Auld Sage, has ever actually spoken. Besides him, there's only three likely candidates we've been introduced to who even have the capacity: Bingbong, in whom nature compensated his great physical strength with the IQ of a retarded pigeon, Lemonee Wee, who hasn't really had a lot of screen time (but may be the unidentified narrator of "Last of the Dashkin"), and Bitey, who Phillips assures us can talk, but doesn't because he spends most of his time around animals who can't talk back, and thus doesn't see the point.
  • In Eric Schwartz's animations, Flip the Frog (being based on a silent movie character) never speaks. That's doesn't matter though, because his girlfriend Clarisse has such acute hearing that she can hear him nod. On the phone!

Web Comics / Web Original

  • Coffinshaker from What's Shakin' and Coffin Comics never speaks.
  • The title character of Little Dee is preverbal and only utters nonsense syllables, such as "Eee" when excited and "Wah wah" when imitating speech. Dee does speak in Vachel's dream (where she's actually Napoleon's wife Josephine) and in out-of-continuity strips where she's an actor playing herself.
  • Punch from Girl Genius, along with Judy was built by two very young Mad Scientists, and as such had some imperfections.
      • ...until they got fixed. Then he tried to catch up with - how long he could not talk? More than 30 years?..

Dimo: In fect, it ken be kind ov hard to gets heem to shot op.

Western Animation

  • Buttons from Animaniacs. (Mindy may be generously considered a Speech-Impaired Animal.)
  • Snake-Eyes, of G.I. Joe, is incapable of speech due to injuries to his larynx. He spends the time another would use for talking to be extra badass.
  • Godzilla and Godzuki from The Godzilla Power Hour.
  • Claw of the Mutates from Gargoyles.
  • Torpid of the Morlocks from X-Men Evolution.
  • Brainy from Hey Arnold!!, who usually just stands behind Helga, wheezing.
    • He actually has spoken a few words in some episodes.
  • Spot from Hong Kong Phooey.
  • Brain from Inspector Gadget.
  • The Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote from Looney Tunes shorts.
    • Wile E.'s Tiny Toon Adventures counterpart, Calamity Coyote, notably has spoken even less than Wile E.
  • Perry the Platypus from Phineas and Ferb, though he can make a weird sort of chittering sound (and once even sarcastically mimics Candace in it). Oddly he can't even talk when he switches bodies with Candace, though she can, and Phineas and Ferb's animal translator registered his noises as meaningless.
  • The Pink Panther (not Inspector Clouseau, after whom the films were not named, but the actual Pink Panther cartoon).
    • Except for two episodes: Sink Pink and Pink Ice.
    • Also, the character was voiced in the 1990s TV revival.
  • Because she's a baby and can't talk, Maggie from The Simpsons fits this trope. Especially in "future" episodes, where she is shown as a sullen teenager who still never says anything.
    • Which is kinda sad. Don't you know she has a beautiful singing voice?
    • There are a few non-canon episodes (including several Halloween specials) where she does talk, usually in a deep, scary masculine voice. Other than that she has said two canonical words in the series: Daddy and Ja.
  • Kid Wykkyd from Teen Titans appears to be mute, while Jericho certainly is. He can talk through those he possesses, however.
    • Played with when Jericho possesses Cinderblock and speaks through him ... thus rousing instant suspicion, as Cinderblock is also this trope!
  • Tom and Jerry, most of the time.
    • According to Word of God (or possibly just Word of Dante; I forget my source on this one), they could converse, but generally don't have anything to say to one another that would be any more meaningful than the slapstick violence they already visit upon one another.
  • Gromit, of Wallace and Gromit, who somehow makes his feelings clear to the audience (but not Wallace) purely by moving his clay eyebrow.
  • Numbuh Five of Codename: Kids Next Door was originally going to be one of these.
  • Moose A. Moose's best friend Zee doesn't speak. Zee communicates to Moose through Squeaky Eyes.
  • The Blue Spirit from the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode of the same name appears to be this at first, communicating with Aang only by motioning with one of his swords. This is because he turns out to be Zuko and speaking would have given away his identity. Later in the series, he speaks minimally as his Blue Spirit persona when dealing with characters who would not recognize his voice.
    • Then we have Combustion Man, who communicates only through grunts.
      • Longshot, too, until Jet's death.
      • You know, it was really unclear.
  • Hooty, an owl who can only hoot in a world of Talking Animals, is this for most of the Christmas Special Christopher The Christmas Tree.
  • Shelby Bitterman from Baby Blues never speaks during the series he does use hand gestures and motions with his wiffle bat he carries everywhere, he is also mostly emotionless except for when he shot a teddy bear through the eye with a crossbow he is shown giving a smile, but he has audibly coughed and sneezed at some points.
  • The fan named Playboy Penguin from two Looney Tunes shorts is one of these, at the end of his first appearance after Bugs Bunny decides to leave he whispers something to him and he finds out that they have longer days in Antarctica.
  • The Kabuki Twins in The Batman
    • Also from The Batman, Punch and Judy, Joker's henchmen, never talk. When Clayface is impersonating them he insults Joker's plan, to which Joker replies "Okay; 1. You never ever talk to me like that, and 2. When have you two ever talked at all?"
  • The firefighter "Beef" from the King of the Hill episode, "A Firefighting We Will Go", never says a single word onscreen and uses hand gestures to communicate. However, he laughs plenty throughout the episode.
  • In the cult BBC preschool show Kerwhizz the three teams each consist of a kid and his/her android pet. Pip, the android dog, is constantly frustrated by the fact that although he's smarter than his girl partner Ninki he can only bark and growl, which means she often fails to realise when he gets the answer right, and shouts out the wrong answer instead. Ninki got her comeuppance in one episode where their voices were temporarily swapped. This caused Pip to launch into a long speech about how his talents would at last be recognised, while Ninki could only howl in despair.
  • "Piff" a minor character from The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy he first shows up almost completely emotionless and never utters a single word, Mandy develops a crush on him and is embarrassed about it, after several tactics trying to get over him fail Grim gives her a makeover to which Piff falls in love with her and speaks his only line of dialogue "Could you go to the dance with me? Please?", upon hearing his high pitched voice Mandy gets over him and beats him up.
  • Laconia from The Smurfs is a mute wood elf. She actually makes use of sign language.
  • Freakazoid!'s mute butler Ingmar.
  • Yankee Doodle Pigeon from Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines.