Giving Boomsticks To Barbarians YKTTW Discussion

Giving Boomsticks To Barbarians
Visitor from advanced civilization or time introduces gunpowder to natives
(permanent link) added: 2012-01-29 07:46:45 sponsor: SharleeD (last reply: 2012-01-30 19:27:57)

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Whether in a well-meant attempt to improve their technology, a sneaky way to even the odds for their badly-outnumbered allies, or simply as a way to scare the crap out of medieval screwheads, gunpowder seems to be the favorite thing for visitors from higher-tech societies to introduce to primitive ones. No sooner does a time traveler, space explorer, or Human Popsicle find themselves among folk unfamiliar with Stuff Blowing Up, than they reach for the sulfur, charcoal and saltpetre and start mixing up things that go bang, either to give to the natives or to use against them.

Subtrope of Giving Radio to the Romans. If gunpowder is being re-introduced after civilization's collapse, it's a Lost Technology.

[[Just to be clear, this trope is only for the introduction of gunpowder and its use in guns and/or explosives, not other sorts of weaponry.]]


  • In the Icerigger trilogy, it's the second weapon Williams introduces to the Tran for use against the Horde, right after the crossbow.
  • One of an alarming number of weapons brought to Pellucidar by the outer-world visitors.
  • In Transformers G1, time-traveling Decepticons resort to mixing gunpowder when their lasers run out of charges. Subverted in that it turns out a local wizard already knows how to make black powder: he just thinks of it as "dragon's bane".
  • Averted in the animated film Wizards, in which Black Wolf dug up his knowledge of gunpowder from long-lost records of ancient times, rather than being taught to use it by a living visitor.
  • Spellbinder, an Australian TV series, has a teenager go to a parallel world. While they have some technology (specifically, an electric-generating shirt), the visitor mixes up gunpowder, then pulls a My God, What Have I Done? when the villain learns how to make "bombs".
  • A sketch on Dave Allen At Large: An explorer is trying to buy a bunch of land from some Indians. He offers trinkets for wide swaths but they balk. They say they'll give all of the land he asks for in return for his "stick that goes boom." He says he's not supposed to, but after the offer of all of the land he relents. Then the Chief shoots the explorer and takes all the trinkets, leaving the gun.
  • Villainous example: The first innovation given to the Plated Folk of Spellsinger by an otherworldly military computer is the means to blow a warmlander city's defensive wall to smithereens, probably with gunpowder.
  • In an episode of Star Trek: TOS ("A Private Little War"), it's discovered that the Klingons are giving guns to a primitive tribe so it will dominate another. Kirk promptly evens the odds by giving similar weapons to the endangered tribe.
  • Literal example: Zardoz begins with the eponymous flying stone head/demi-god spitting guns at the feet of a pack of barbarians.
  • In the Doctor Who story "The Time Warrior", an alien stranded in medieval England gives a bandit gang guns in return for their assistance in repairing his spaceship.
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