Our favorite pop-culture universes are full of colorful heroes with courageous souls and amazing abilities.

But that doesn’t always include book smarts, or even basic reading skills. Which fictional characters are most likely functionally illiterate?

1. Gizmo


Warner Bros.

Reasoning: Some kind of animal; lives in a box.

2. Peter Pan

Peter Pan


Reasoning: Kidnaps Wendy so she can read to the Lost Boys; lives in lawless, postapocalyptic society.

3. Big Bird

Big Bird

Sesame Workshop

Reasoning: Canonically 5 years old; suspended in state of perpetual partial-literacy to act as surrogate for preliterate children learning to read at home.

4. Luke Skywalker

Luke Skywalker


Reasoning: Lives in a universe seemingly devoid of books, printed materials, or written language of any kind; spends half of his life on a sand farm and the other half in a swamp.

5. The Flintstones

The Flintstones

Warner Bros.

Reasoning: Set in era that predates writing; also stupid.

6. Frankenstein



Reasoning: Is relatively new to life; struggles with language and basic concepts. Abandons studies almost immediately.

7. Clifford the Big Red Dog

Clifford the Big Red Dog


Reasoning: Is dog.

8. Harry Potter

Harry Potter

Warner Bros.

Reasoning: Raised in neglect by unloving surrogate parents, before transferring to a school where traditional academics weren’t taught; basically a rich kid on an athletic scholarship (quidditch). Only has two or three spells memorized; always delegates library research to Hermione.

9. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Fred Wolf Films

Reasoning: Mutated animals raised in the sewer by another mutated animal, Splinter; accelerated aging also suggests the “teenage” turtles might be — in real time — as young as 2–3 years old.

10. Pikachu


Yoshikazu Tsuno / Getty Images

Reasoning: Nonverbal creature primarily raised for companionship and blood sports.

11. Pig-Pen


Bill Melendez Productions

Reasoning: Visibly abandoned.

12. Approximately half the people in Game of Thrones

Approximately half the people in Game of Thrones


Reasoning: Characters live in old-timey kingdoms with different survival skills and priorities; books received as wedding gifts are especially ignored or destroyed.

13. Winnie The Pooh

Winnie The Pooh

Winnie The Pooh

Reasoning: Explicitly stated.

14. Black Beauty

Black Beauty

Warner Bros.

Reasoning: Just a horse.

15. Flipper



Reasoning: Just an ocean horse.

16. The Hulk

The Hulk


Reasoning: No demonstrated ability; learned scientist Doctor Banner reverts to brute force and base instincts in Hulk-form.

17. Goofy



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