Created By: Xzenu on May 26, 2011 Last Edited By: Xzenu on May 26, 2011

Actually poisoning the well

Evil minorities/heretics sabotaging society, for example by poisoning the well

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Do We Have This * Early Development Phase

Basically, this trope is about the sneaky kind of terrorism which try to pass itself off as accidents, general misfortune, aimless delinquency, or unintentional phenomena such as pollution and disease. While throwing a dead animal in the well or otherwise poisoning the local water supply is a classic method, there are also many other ways.

The villain does it for revenge, For the Evulz, or because of a deep conviction that that the victims are bad and ought to be harmed. Such a villain is not the bomb-throwing, slogan-shouting kind of person who announce themselves as being a threat. Instead, Paranoia Ensues as they try to stay unnoticed - while usually pretending to be harmless and friendly, even allies.

In medieval times, this trope was often used on fictional Jewish characters, and used to spread fear and hatred against the Real Life Jews. In modern media, this villain is normally unaffiliated or belong to a group that doesn't resemble any real life group. Using this trope to smear Real Life individuals and groups is known as Poisoned Well Fallacy.


  • The chaos cults in Warhammer do this as often as they can.
  • In Mutant Chronicles, the cults of Ilian and Semai are portrayed as trying to break down society from the inside.
  • In The Had That Rocks The Cradle, Peyton does this on a small scale, trying to destroy Claire (and anyone who happen to get in the way).
Community Feedback Replies: 10
  • May 26, 2011
    i am very unsure. "x poisoned the wells" was a way to "prove" minoritys to be evil, not them beeing evil for real.

    best known example jews were said to have poisoned the wells, causing the black death. (not true as everybody should know by now)

    so i am waiting for some very good examples from your side
  • May 26, 2011
    In Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn, Micaiah rejects this as an option to take out a well defended enemy base. We all know this is a horrible tactic ethically, but she actually explains why this is a bad tactic in the long run, as it would cause people to question their motives, maybe turn against them.
  • May 26, 2011
    This seems too specific, and I'd say anyone who puts in a search for "Poisoning The Well" is much more likely looking for ad hominem attacks. At the very least, that's what it goes to on Wikipedia.
  • May 26, 2011
    Is this supposed to be literally poisoning wells? Or just generally people being mean to an entire town?

    Either way, I prefer Poisoning The Well to stay where it is.
  • May 26, 2011
    How about Poisoning The Water Supply, a standard plot of supervillains and other bad guys the world over?

    • Early on in Final Fantasy VI, Kefka does this to the village of Doma in one of the definitive crossings of the Moral Event Horizon in console gaming.
    • The plot of the old action flick Never Too Young To Die involves the hero trying to stop a bad guy played by Gene Simmons from poisoning the water supply.
  • May 26, 2011
    While all water supplies should be included, I do not intend to narrow it down to water.

    Basically, this trope is about the sneaky kind of terrorism which try to pass itself off as accidents, general misfortune, aimless delinquency, or unintentional phenomena such as pollution and disease.

    Btw, the other trope seem to be getting the name "Poisoned Well Fallacy".
  • May 26, 2011
    Water Source Tampering? More generic and includes non-poison effects.
  • May 26, 2011
    ^^ ok, so would I be correct in saying that Make It Look Like An Accident is related, and this is just on a grander scale. Although if terrorism is involved, it does tend to get blamed on someone. Would the Nazis burning down the Reichstag and blaming it on the Jews count?
  • May 26, 2011
    • Tribesmen of Gor Fantasy Counterpart Culture to arabs/desert dwellers; an outside party causes unrest by masquerading as one of two opposing tribes and attacking the others' oases. At one point they destroy a well, which tells Tarl's best friend of the book that they aren't really tribesmen because no tribesman, no matter how evil, would destroy a well.
    • Played with in an episode of Star Trek The Next Generation where Data - who has amnesia and doesn't know about his own history or Starfleet - is accused of poisoning a well in the village he's living in, but he's really trying to cure them of radiation poisoning by putting the cure in the drinking water.
  • May 26, 2011
    @Rolf: Yeah! With the "Fiendish Flouridators" card from the Illuminati collectible card game as page illustration! Not this trope, but a good one. Started it.

    @ladygem: Added pothole. As for the nazi thing, hmm... good question!