Created By: LordGro on May 30, 2013 Last Edited By: Arivne on August 16, 2014
Troped

Burning The Ships

A wilful action that makes retreat impossible, to enforce the commitment of the affected.

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[A selection of quotes. Only one will become the page quote]

"When he reached the New World, Cortez burned his ships. As a result, his men were well-motivated."
Captain Marko Ramius, The Hunt for Red October

"What I have left behind I count now no loss; needless baggage on the road it has proved. Let those that cursed my name, curse me still, and whine their way back to the cages of the Valar! Let the ships burn!"
Feanor, The Silmarillion

"Burning your ships/your boats" means doing something that makes it impossible for yourself to turn back, especially if it is done wilfully and without necessity. The idiom derives from legends about conquerors who supposedly, upon landing their army in enemy country, ordered the invasion fleet to be burnt. Most people today have heard this tale about Hernán Cortés, but it is in fact centuries older than Cortez.

The assumed benefit of such an act is that everyone on the team-whether it be an actual army intent on conquest, or any party pursuing a risky undertaking–will show maximum commitment if they know that retreat is impossible. There isn't any use in holding back or playing it safe when there is no exit option to fall back on. Desertion or mutiny is futile if there is no hope of escape. Dissenters are silenced when there are no choices left to argue over, and everyone's best hope of survival lies in cooperating for the common success. Once the Ships are Burnt, it's do or die for everyone-succeed, or face death or captivity.

Or that is the theory. While tales of this type are a favorite of motivational trainers, who always focus on how "cutting off your retreat" will set free unknown potentials, there are only few historical examples of things like this actually happening, and then usually not for the exact same reasons. Also contrary to what motivational trainers like to suggest, it is not actually a guarantee of success.

Depending on the situation and the kind of enterprise at hand, there are many ways of Burning the Ships:
  • Throwing away vital supplies, like food or fuel.
  • Destroying irreplacable equipment needed for the return journey.
  • Intentionally leading your troops into a tight spot from which there is no way of escape without fighting.
  • Giving your position or your plans away to the enemy, so they will block your exits.
  • A group of people that intends to commit treason of some sort may send a message confessing their defection to the betrayed faction, making it impossible for anyone who gets cold feet to turn back to their old master and evade punishment.

If actual ships are destroyed, burning is the preferred method. Obviously there are other ways to wreck ships, but burning is the most picturesque.

An act like this can be unilaterally ordered by a leader, or agreed on as a collective decision. But it always hints at internal conflicts within the party that is thus committed to a common goal: Usually it is done precisely because the initiatiors of a Ship Burning do not trust in the loyalty or the morale of the rest of the group in the face of danger. Objecting to a Ship Burning is hard, as it may lead to being branded a coward or even traitor. Burning the Ships may be nothing less than a stratagem to coerce the group into a course of action they would not have chosen from their free will.

Characters who order or initiate a Ship Burning are always reckless and uncompromising, and often morally ambivalent: Shining heroes do not need to force their followers to fight, or put the lives of their companions at unnecessary risks; on the other hand, even bad guys can earn some respect from the audience if they show they have no backup plan in the case of defeat. Characters who Burn the Ships are often Anti-Heroes, Anti-Villains, or Villain Protagonists.

This trope often leads up to a Big Badass Battle Sequence, which will more than likely end in a Last Stand.

Compare and contrast Let the Past Burn, which is mostly a symbolic action on an individual scale. An employee quitting job in a way that makes sure they can't ever go back again is Take This Job and Shove It. Throw the Sheath Away is a distant relative.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Fist of the North Star: While in the process of mourning the fallen Hyui, Shuren, one of the Five Chariot Stars, incinerates his army's fortress as a memorial to his fallen comrade and as a means to force his men to attack the killer, Raoh. Shame that it did very little to help him survive his fight with Raoh.
  • Berserk: In the Battle of Doldrey, Griffith positions himself and the portion of his army that he expects to face the largest part of the enemy force with their backs to a river and no way to retreat. He does this not only to motivate his own men, but also as part of a Batman Gambit: Cornered and outnumbered, his force presents a tempting target that succeeds in drawing the enemy forces out of their castle, which is promptly captured in a sneak attack by a small flanking force.

Film
  • At the end of The Bounty Fletcher Christian has the Bounty burned, to make sure that everyone understands the mutineers are committed to living on Pitcairn Island and to prevent anyone from trying to get back to Tahiti or England. (Real Life demonstrated how this tactic can backfire. When an American whaling ship stumbled on the island 19 years later and solved the mystery of the lost HMS Bounty, only one mutineer was left alive, along with several women and children. The other mutineers and the Tahitian men that went with them had all killed each other off.)
  • In the first Jaws, Quint destroys the radio when Brodie tries to call for help, and later appears to deliberately burn out his engine so they can't escape their final confrontation with the shark.
  • In the film of The Hunt for Red October, Marko Ramius, captain of a submarine carrying nuclear missiles, sends a letter to the CO of the Soviet Navy stating that he and his command staff are defecting. When his staff officers ask him why he did it, he cites the example of Cortes' destruction of his ships.
  • Invoked in Gattaca: The movie features two brothers, Anton (born with genetic enhancements) and Vincent (without). Vincent has had a crappy life but secretly trains to become an astronaut, including swimming across a channel with no visibility. When Anton does so with him, he panics in the middle as he sees no way back. Vincent tells him that's how he got to where he is in life: by never considering a way back.
  • In The Shining, Jack Torrance, who is slowly being possessed by the evil spirits in the snowed-in Overlook Hotel, disables the ham radio (the family's only means of calling for help) and disables their snowmobile (their only means for escape).

Literature
  • The Silmarillion: After the Noldorin Elves led by Fëanor have crossed over from Aman to Middle-earth on the ships they stole from the Telerin Elves, Fëanor orders them to burn all the ships. He does this to prevent any of his followers from saying Screw This, I'm Outta Here!, and especially to make sure they can't help rest of the Noldor get to Middle-earth.
  • In Cursor's Fury book three of the Codex Alera, Sarl, the Canim commander, burns the Canim fleet to order to prevent the warriors under his command who are there under duress from fleeing back home. Invasion was commanded by priests, and two castes disliked each other passionately
  • In Belgarath the Sorceror, Riva orders the ships that carried the settlers to the Isle of the Winds burned. He knows it will take a lot of hard work to build the fortress-city, and he doesn't want anyone deciding it's too much work and leaving.
  • The Hunt for Red October: Marko Ramius, captain of a submarine carrying nuclear missiles, sends a letter to the CO of the Soviet Navy stating that he and his command staff are defecting. When his staff officers ask him why he did it, he cites this trope.
  • In Honor Harrington, the original colonists to Grayson wrecked their starship's cryonics equipment, ensuring that it would be impossible to return to the "sinful" Earth. They didn't wreck the whole thing, though, which is fortunate because it turned out that the planet was basically one huge Superfund site and there's no way they would have survived without the ship's resources.
  • In Redwall, when Cluny the Scourge arrives in Mossflower, he press gangs all of the local vermin into his cause. He orders his rats to smash the new conscript's houses, so that they'll have nothing to return to if they desert him.

Live-Action TV
  • This is a Discussed Trope in the last season of The Office (US). Andy Bernard talks about the legend of Cortes sinking all his ships to destroy the means of retreat. He then insults David Wallace and defecates on his car so that he won't have the option of returning to Dunder-Mifflin if his show business hopes don't work out.
  • In an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Sisko and Bashir come across a group of space Luddites who crash-landed on a planet ten years ago, which destroyed their only means of escape, and have forsaken all modern technology. It turns out the leader of the group and her son had secretly sabotaged the ship so it would crash and are keeping a technology-blocking device going so that nobody on the planet can use any technology.
  • In The Twilight Zone episode "On Thursday We Leave For Home", Captain Benteen tries in vain to destroy the rescue ships from Earth because he wants to remain in control of the people on the asteroid.
  • In Halt and Catch Fire Joe deliberately informs IBM that Joe and Gordon, as Cardiff Electric employees, have reverse engineered the IBM PC BIOS code. IBM sends in an army of lawyers and Nathan Cardiff is left with two choices: fully commit his company to the PC clone project Joe is advocating or get sued into bankruptcy by IBM. Everyone is furious at Joe but in the end he gets his way. This is then subverted when we realize that the project's failure will ruin everyone except Joe. He committed everyone else to the project but due to his father's connections he can walk away at any time and resume his old life.

Music
  • Manowar's "Heart of Steel" features a few lines about just this trope.
    Burn the bridge behind you
    Leave no retreat
    There's only one way home
    Those who laugh and crowd the path
    And cut each other's throats
    Will fall like melting snow
  • Christian music artist Stephen Curtis Chapman has a song titled "Burn the Ships", which references the Cortez tale. It's a metaphor for not going back to your old life once you've made a change.

Mythology and Tradition
  • After crossing the Huang He into hostile Quin territory in 208 BC, Xiang Yu of Chu supposedly ordered his army to sink the boats, as well as to pack only supplies for three days and to destroy the rest, along with the cooking utensils. This meant that they could neither go back, nor avoid starvation except by conquering the supplies of the enemy. The traditional wording of the order, "Break the kettles and sink the boats!" (破釜沉舟), are a Chinese idiom.
  • A legend about Tariq ibn Ziyad, the Berber general who conquered the Visigothic kingdom of Spain, says that he had his fleet burned after landing his army at Gibraltar in 711. This version is first mentioned only in the 12th century by the geographer al-Idrisi.
  • In Nibelungenlied (adventure 25) Hagen ferries the entire Burgundian army across the Danube into the realm of the Huns, then hacks the boat to pieces and cast it into the river. Asked why he did that, he replies he wishes that any deserters who might turn back should drown in the river. A little later he reveals that three river-women have already predicted that they will all die in Hunland.
  • In the "Greenlandic Lay of Atli" of the Poetic Edda, the Niflungs do not fasten the boat in which they have rowed to Hunland, a hint that they already know that they will not return.
  • According to The Battle of Magh Tuireadh, the Tuatha Dé Danann burnt their ships upon landing in Ireland to challenge the Fir Bolg for one half of the island.
  • Styrbjorn in "The Tale of Styrbjörn" has his fleet burnt after sailing up the Fyris River to Uppsala to challenge his uncle Erik for the kingship.

Tabletop Games
  • In the history of the Tuala Morn setting of Fantasy Hero, the ancestors of the Tualans were refugees hunting for a new homeland. Once they decided to settle in Tuala Morn, their leader scuttled their ships as a sacrifice to the sea gods, thanking them for their aid.

Video Games
  • In Warcraft III Arthas Menethil led his troops to Northrend to capture Mal'Ganis. While Arthas was out of the basecamp, a messenger from Arthas' father King Terenas arrived with orders for the men to retreat. When Arthas returned to find his men preparing to leave, he had their boats burnt to force them to go on, then blamed it on the mercenaries he hired for the job.

Western Animation
  • In one episode of Spongebob Squarepants, Mr. Krabs throws away the entire fridge on the boat he, Spongebob and Squidward are on trying to get Mr. Krabs' millionth dollar back from the clam that ate it, with the words: "Now understand each other. Nobody eats until we get my millionth dollar back."

Real Life
  • After sailing from Cuba to Mexico in 1519, Hernán Cortés had eight of his eleven ships beached and disassembled. Cortés, who acted in defiance of the orders of his superior, governor Diego Velázquez of Cuba, had just before put down a mutiny of soldiers loyal to Velázquez and feared that the same might happen again as long as the ships allowed a fast return to Cuba; furthermore he could reinforce his march inland with the crew and the equipment of the dismantled ships. The details of the decision process are murky: While Cortés himself wrote to Emperor Charles V that he alone gave the orders under the pretense that the ships were no longer seaworthy, sparing only the ships the crews of which he considered reliable, the eyewitnesses Bernal Díaz and Andres de Tapia later claimed that the destruction of the ships was decided after a general discussion. Francisco de Montejo and Alonso Portocarrero, messengers of Cortés that were sent to Spain immediately after the event, claimed that the ships really had been unseaworthy. The misconception that Cortés burned (all of) his ships is old, being first mentioned in 1546.

Community Feedback Replies: 145
  • May 30, 2013
    ChunkyDaddy
    In World Of Warcraft, Arthas Menethil leads his troops to capture Mal'Ganis. While Arthas was out of the basecamp, a messenger from Arthas' father Terenis arrives with orders for the men to retreat. Arthas returned back to camp to find his men preparing to leave, and he has their boats burnt so they can't leave.
  • May 30, 2013
    StarSword
    This could be expanded to cover any instance of the commander having means of retreat destroyed as a motivational tactic, not just ships particularly. Also, corrected the WOW example to point at the right work (that wasn't just WOW's backstory, it actually happened on-screen in Warcraft III).

    Page quote:
    "When he reached the New World, Cortez burned his ships. As a result, his men were well-motivated."
    -- Captain Marko Ramius, The Hunt For Red October

    Literature:
    • In the Tom Clancy book and movie The Hunt For Red October the eponymous Akula-class missile submarine's Captain Marko Ramius sends a letter to the CO of the Soviet Navy stating that he and his command staff are defecting, to make sure nobody has second thoughts. In the movie he references the Trope Namer when said staff officers give him a What The Hell Hero.
  • May 30, 2013
    Antigone3
    I can think of a couple examples of leaders destroying their fleet as a "we're staying here" that aren't military invasions. Do you want this trope to be purely military examples, or are you open to expanding it?
  • May 30, 2013
    JohnnyCache
    No relationship to Ship Sinking.

    Also, I'd suggest avoiding the word "ship" in the title altogether to avoid confusion with Shipping tropes.

    Maybe Firing The Fleet?

    BTW - it's spelled "picturesque".
  • May 30, 2013
    Sackett
    If this is going to be about an invasion you can't back down from then it should probably be Crossing The Rubicon.
  • May 30, 2013
    TheTitan99
    What about more individual examples? Like, I can think of a Batman example where he locks himself in a room with the Joker, to make sure the ending fight happens, and no one retreats. Or, will this trope only work for actual armies?
  • May 31, 2013
    LordGro
    @StarSword, Antigone3, Sackett, TheTitan99: I didn't really know for sure how narrow or literal this trope should be when I wrote up the description. So we'll have to decide that here.

    But Crossing The Rubicon (as well as Burning The Bridges) are established figures of speech which can be used in a wide range of senses and contexts. "Destroying the (literal) invasion fleet" certainly is a subtrope, but much more specific.

    I can imagine other means of transport/retreat (space ships, dimensional gateways, wormholes ...) the destruction of which is still "the same" trope rather than a different one. But crossing a river (like the Rubicon), for example, doesn't imply the same degree of irreversibility for *everyone* involved. Caesar himself (to stay in the picture) can't go back and avoid the conflict, but mutineers and deserters may still have a chance to bail out. If it's physically possible to ford a river in one way, then it's also possible the other way (or they might straightaway defect to Pompey). So while Crossing The Rubicon is a supertrope, it's so broad as to become a different trope in my eyes.

    For the same reason, I feel that declaring your rebellion in a letter is not quite on the same level as literal ship-burning, as it doesn't make retreat *physically* impossible. I suppose the staff officers in the example could still stage a mutiny against Ramius and then blame him for everything that happened, including the letter. When the ships are burned, there isn't even that option.

    [Note for readers: The trope definition has been widened since this post.]

    @Antigone3: Can you give examples of fleet-burning outside of a military context? I thought about this, but I couldn't think of any non-military examples.

    @Titan99: Does Batman lock up other people in the room with him, or is it just he and the Joker?

    @JohnnyCache: Thanks, I had the feeling "pittoresque" wasn't quite right. But I think we should rather change the names of unclear Shipping tropes before we try to avoid the word "ships" in tropes that are about actual ships. This problem is bound to come up again, and 'Firing The Fleet' sounds really artificial.

    @StarSword: Thanks for correcting the Warcraft example!
  • May 31, 2013
    arbiter099
    This sounds like it could morph into The Only Way Out Is Forward if broadened, or a subtrope under that idea.
  • May 31, 2013
    ghostninja109
    I haven't yet seen a trope where invaders cut off their own retreat, so perhaps this one should be more general.
  • May 31, 2013
    Koveras
    Compare Throw The Sheath Away for a one-person equivalent.
  • May 31, 2013
    Antigone3
    @LordGro:

    Literature: In Belgarath the Sorceror, Riva orders the ships that carried the settlers to the Isle of the Winds burned. He knows it will take a lot of hard work to build the fortress-city, and he doesn't want anyone deciding it's too much work and leaving.

    Tabletop Games: In the history of the Tuala Morn setting (for Fantasy Hero), the ancestors of the Tualans were refugees hunting for a new homeland. Once they decided to settle in Tuala Morn, their leader scuttled their ships as a sacrifice to the sea gods, thanking them for their aid.
  • May 31, 2013
    Melkior
    Is this the opposite of Burning Your Bridges? Or is it meant to be the same thing? If they're the opposite, do we need Burning Your Bridges for "covering your retreat" and Burning The Ships for "making retreat impossible"? How do we stop people from thinking that Burning The Ships is related to "shipping" tropes? Maybe this trope should simply be No Retreat?
  • May 31, 2013
    LordGro
    Neither The Only Way Out Is Forward nor No Retreat are good paraphrases of this trope. A situation when "the only way out is forward" can be forced upon you by the enemy or by higher powers (such as a storm destroying your fleet, etc). But this is about consciously and willfully inducing such a situation. No Retreat is even more vague; it could refer to an army that doesn't retreat even if it could, or about an order that forbids retreat, etc.

    @Melkior: I guess this is the opposite of "covering your retreat". But mark that "Burning the/Your Bridges" is an idiom that is most often used in a figurative sense. As in: cutting your ties to someone or some institution; depriving yourself of the possibility to revoke your decisions. (This is the intended meaning in Crossing The Burnt Bridge, for example). Burning the Ships is a case of Burning Your Bridges, but I was aiming for an actual military or at least, physical context, not a merely figurative, social context.

    The act of destroying a (literal) bridge to deprive yourself of the possibility to retreat would fall under this trope as I have laconic-defined it, but I don't know any example of that. In war, bridges are usually destroyed to hinder the enemy from following or attacking you, and that is not actually "Burning your Bridges" in the idiomatic sense.

    As for the "Ship" problem: Shipping "tropes" are not actually tropes, but Audience Reactions. Our main business are tropes, Audience Reactions are secondary to our mission. I don't think we should walk on eggshells to avoid the word "ship" in tropes that have to do with, you know, actual ships. If you're not sure what the title is about, click on it. We haven't renamed the Shipping tropes so far, even though it's anything but self-explanatory that Anchored Ship, Cargo Ship, Robo Ship, Ship Mates, Ship Sinking, Ship To Ship Combat, Ships That Pass In The Night and Sister Ship have nothing to do with marine vessels.

    Mark that "Burning the Ships" is a fairly established phrase, as you can check for yourself by searching Google for "Burn the Ships", "Burning the Ships", "Burn Your Ships" etc. "Burn Your Fleet" etc also has a few hits but while we could name it Burning The Fleet to avoid the dreaded term "ship" (which, of course, will make everyone think about Shipping), the important thing is that it's not about the destruction of any fleet for any reason. Most importantly it's not about destroying the enemy fleet. A pre-existing phrase helps to reduce the chances of misunderstanding.

    @ghostninja: I don't quite understand your comment. This is, in fact, a trope about invaders that cut off their own retreat, and it has a sufficient number of examples already. I don't see why it needs to be more general.

    EDIT: I rewrote the description so that it's no longer exclusively about military campaigns and not specifically about actual fleets. Needs more attention, but I'll come back another time.
  • May 31, 2013
    StarSword
    Just one minor point: The Hunt For Red October was a book first.
  • May 31, 2013
    TheTitan99
    The Batman example is... kinda weird, come to think of it a bit more, technically involving other people, but it gets really spoiler-y to explain how. I was moreso just asking a general question if a single person trapping himself would count.
  • June 1, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In an episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine Sisko & Bashir come across a group of Space Luddites - they crash-landed on a planet 10 years ago, which destroyed their only means of escape and tech, and have forsaken all modern technology. Secretly, the leader of the group and her son sabotaged the ship so it would crash and are keeping one peice of technology-blocking tech going so that nobody can use any tech on the planet.
  • September 2, 2013
    jamespolk
    • At the end of The Bounty Fletcher Christian has the Bounty burned, to make sure that everyone understands the mutineers are committed to living on Pitcairn Island and to prevent anyone from trying to get back to Tahiti or England. (Real Life demonstrated how this tactic can backfire. When an American whaling ship stumbled on the island 19 years later and solved the mystery of the lost HMS Bounty, only one mutineer was left alive, along with several women and children. The other mutineers and the Tahitian men that went with them had all killed each other off.)
  • September 2, 2013
    DAN004
    Kinda related to the "Pulled Your Own Plug" YKTTW, but this is on a massive scale and on purpose.
  • September 3, 2013
    kjnoren
    Agree that the (relation)shipping tropes shouldn't have a monopoly on any trope names (possible solution: only use "shipping", not "ship" for this).

    The Hunt for Red October example isn't an invoked trope, it's rather referenced. What Ramius did with his letters was rather burning his bridges visavi the Soviet government, but he did reference the idea of burning ones ships.
  • September 3, 2013
    OlafMerchant
    History

    • The Soviet Order No. 227 may not be a literal example of this, but the barrier troops situated behind the assaulting troops were ordered to shoot deserters, leaving no alternative but to push forward or be gunned down by the NKVD.
  • September 3, 2013
    jamespolk
    ^^ Cripes, I hope the word "ship" hasn't been so corrupted on this wiki that we can't use it to describe an actual ship.

    As noted above, "burning your bridges" is used in a figurative sense to indicate creating a situation where you can't go back to where you were before. Keith Olbermann burned his bridges at MSNBC and Current by pissing everyone off. Nelson Van Alden burned his bridges at the door-to-door salesman company when he burned that guy's face. Burning the ships is some kind of physical action wherein you can't retreat, or more probably, your followers can't retreat. Fletcher Christian burns his ship, as I noted above, so his men won't entertain thoughts of going to Tahiti or England or someplace where they could be caught. Incidentally I think the example of Marko Ramius in the book and film of The Hunt For Red October counts--he made sure the Soviet Navy knew they were defecting so that none of his people would have second thoughts and try to abort the mutiny.
  • September 3, 2013
    jamespolk
    Film

    • In the first Jaws, Quint destroys the radio when Brodie tries to call for help, and later appears to deliberately burn out his engine so they can't escape their final confrontation with the shark.
  • September 3, 2013
    Koveras
    • This is one option to weaken the enemies attacking your keep in the Crestwood questline in Dragon Age Inquisition--burning their boats, whether with magic, a firebomb, or a simple torch.
  • September 3, 2013
    jamespolk
    That isn't this trope. As suggested, this is about cutting off your own options to retreat, not anything involving attacking the enemy.
  • September 3, 2013
    TwoGunAngel
    Manowar's "Heart of Steel" features a few lines about just this trope.
    Burn the bridge behind you
    Leave no retreat
    There's only one way home
    Those who laugh and crowd the path
    And cut each other's throats
    Will fall like melting snow
  • September 3, 2013
    Andygal
    In book three of Codex Alera, Sarl, the Canim commander burns the Canim fleet to order to prevent the warriors under his command who were there under duress from fleeing back home.
  • September 4, 2013
    Arivne
    Changed "Popular History" to Real Life.
  • September 4, 2013
    DAN004
    So is "Ship" a Loaded Trope Word? o_O

    EDIT: Ah, it is. Shame.
  • September 6, 2013
    jamespolk
    In the original novel The Shining, Jack Torrance, who is slowly being possessed by the evil spirits in the Overlook Hotel, disables their ham radio (their only means of calling for help) and disables their snowmobile (their only means for escape). The film adaptation includes the scene where he smashes the radio.
  • September 18, 2013
    polarbear2217
    In The Twilight Zone episode "On Thursday We Leave For Home", Captain Benteen tries in vain to destroy the rescue ships from Earth because he wants to remain in control of the people on the asteroid.
  • September 18, 2013
    clockworkboy
    I believe something like this happened in Spongebob Square Pants concerning the food,where Mr.Krabs throws away the entire fridge on the boat he,spongebob and squidward are on just to ensure that they will help him get his millionth dollar back from the clam that ate it.He even said "Now understand each other.Nobody eats until we get my millionth dollar back."
  • December 4, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Possible quote:

    "I demolish the bridges behind me - then there is no choice but forward." - Norwegian explorer Fritjof Nanson.
  • December 4, 2013
    dalek955
    • In Honor Harrington, the original colonists to Grayson wrecked their starship's cryonics equipment, ensuring that it would be impossible to return to the "sinful" Earth. They didn't wreck the whole thing, though, which is fortunate because it turned out that the planet was basically one huge Superfund site and there's no way they would have survived without the ship's resources.
  • December 4, 2013
    LordGro
    Taking this up again. Since "burning the ships", like "burning the boats" and "burning your bridges" are all used as figures of speech, I guess there is no use in trying to separate literal and figurative examples. I suggest the basic definition as "willfully eliminating your possibility to retreat", which covers both physical destruction of ships, bridges, food rations etc, as well writing letters that declare rebellions.

    What I'm unsure about is whether the trope should include cases of a single individual [or very small harmonious groups] doing this, as this completely takes out the "enforce the commitments of your followers" aspect.
  • December 4, 2013
    marcoasalazarm
    It should include any cases where someone (be it an individual Big Bad or a group of bad guys-because more often than not, it's them, but there are a few good guy (or Anti Hero) examples) does something that eliminates any possibility of retreat, like Lord Gro defined it.

    It's victory or death, there is no other option. And (at the moment the announcement is made, at the least) the highest possibility of victory is to stick around whoever did the bridge-burning.

  • December 4, 2013
    DAN004
  • December 4, 2013
    Chabal2
    Invoked in Gattaca: The movie features two brothers, Anton (born with genetic enhancements) and Vincent (without). Vincent has had a crappy life but secretly trains to become an astronaut, including swimming across a channel with no visibility. When Anton does so with him, he panics in the middle as he sees no way back. Vincent tells him that's how he got to where he is in life: by never considering a way back.

  • December 5, 2013
    TrustBen
    This is a Discussed Trope in the last season of The Office US. Andy Bernard talks about the legend of Cortes sinking all his ships to destroy the means of retreat. He then insults David Wallace and defecates on his car so that he won't have the option of returning to Dunder-Mifflin if his show business hopes don't work out. Of course at this point Andy himself doesn't have any followers.
  • December 8, 2013
    LordGro
    @jamespolk, TrustBen: This is where it gets too figurative in my opinion. The invocation (doesn't sound like an actual discussion) in the example right above is valid, but it's not actually the trope I am trying to describe. Reason: Telling your boss how much he sucks when quitting job has a completely different motivation. It's rather that a long-held (and withheld) anger at the boss finally has an opportunity to express itself, not a trick to force oneself to maximum commitment, no matter how the quitter may rationalize his actions. In fact, I think in fiction this is exclusively a comedy trope, which will almost inevitably lead to Crossing The Burnt Bridge, i.e. the quitter that insulted his old boss has to humbly limp back to the very same to ask if he can have his job back.

    But an actual "Burning the Ships" is a serious event that builds up conflict and suspense. I think there must be at least a group of people implicated in it.

    No Retreat Allowed is not exactly the same. Like in the "Soviet Order No. 227" example above, this suggests "you'll be shot if you're caught retreating", but in a Burning the Ships situation, there is either no way to retreat at all, or, if there is, it is the enemy that blocks the exit, not your own superiors.

    While technically, Burning the Ships means to forcefully create a "point of no return", Point Of No Return is exclusively a video game trope, so there isn't much of a relationship.

    Going to rewrite the description soon. I suggest Burning Your Ships as the title; it's a little less mistakable.
  • December 8, 2013
    DAN004
  • December 9, 2013
    LordGro
    ^ Sounds very clumsy to me. Why do you dislike Burning Your Ships?
  • December 9, 2013
    JonnyB
    ^ Probably because it's not just about ships
  • December 9, 2013
    DAN004
    ^^ Cuz it sounds less clear. And Jonny B's right.
  • December 9, 2013
    MrRuano
    Fist Of The North Star: While in the process of mourning the fallen Hyui, Shuren, one of the Five Chariot Stars, incinerates his army's fortress as a memorial to his fallen comrade and as a means to force his men to attack the killer, Raoh. Shame that it did very little to help him survive his fight with Raoh.
  • December 9, 2013
    MorningStar1337
    ^ Alright how about Solidarity Anti-Retreat Clause
  • December 9, 2013
    madgodzulcan
    Codex Alera: the canim ritualist group burn their ships so the army can't return home.
  • December 9, 2013
    DAN004
    ^^ Sounds... rather okay.
  • December 9, 2013
    DAN004
    How come this hasn't been mentioned?
    • In Fullmetal Alchemist, the Elric brothers burned their house in Resembool (their hometown) as a symbol of them moving away from their past.
  • December 9, 2013
    Dcoetzee
    I really have to back Burning The Ships in this case. It is potentially misleading without explanation and may be taken too literally, but is also concise, memorable, and evocative. It is a great trope name. It captures subtleties that "Destroying Your Means Of Retreat" doesn't (e.g. the case where the officer does it to motivate their men). And that quote from The Hunt for Red October (as well as the quest in Warcraft) shows prior usage as well. We could have a crowner about the name if it comes down to that.
  • December 9, 2013
    StarSword
    I'm in favor of Burning The Ships.
  • December 9, 2013
    DAN004
    Title crowner plz?

    Please, Burning The Ships can be confused on burning your enemy's ships (see also Sink The Lifeboats).
  • January 6, 2014
    LordGro
    Title changed to Burning Your Ships. Do you still think it needs a crowner?
  • January 6, 2014
    somerandomdude
    Burning Your Bridges is a possible redirect.
  • January 6, 2014
    DAN004
    Burning Your Ships is at least better.

    Does my example count?
  • January 7, 2014
    TooBah
    Christian music artist Stephen Curtis Chapman has a song titled "Burn the Ships", which references the Cortez tale. It's a metaphor for not going back to your old life once you've made a change.
  • January 7, 2014
    LordGro
    @DAN004: I think it counts. I assume they actually lived in the house, and left their hometown after they burned it?
  • January 7, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Yeah, they now live in (the borders of) Amestris with the Rockbell Family.
  • January 7, 2014
    Sackett
    Burning Your Bridges can also be about eliminating a way to retreat. Although I guess it can be combined with making it difficult for your enemy to advance.

    Question, is this a case where we are missing the supertrope? If so perhaps we should create the supertrope first (Crossing The Rubicon?) and then the subtrope? Otherwise we will have attempts to shoehorn supertrope examples into the subtrope.
  • January 7, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ I don't think we're missing any supertrope here.
  • May 6, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    This trope needs more hats.

    There's another possible Live Action Film example…. problem is I cannot remember the damn movie's title (it's a B Movie done during the 90's, regarding Earth being abandoned and being used as a prison planet, and the president of The Federation crash-landing there with several members of his cabinet and his son with a doctor that was sent there (and Took A Level In Badass from his stay) helping them)). The Big Bad makes a speech during the final act about Cortez and burning the ships as motivation, before activating a Ragnarok-Proofed super-nuke that cannot be disarmed and thus drives all of his remaining Mooks into a zealot-like frenzy.
  • May 6, 2014
    DAN004
    Compare Let The Past Burn for another symbolism involving fire and "you can't turn back".
  • May 6, 2014
    Dalillama
    I'm amazed this one's not been mentioned yet: Real Life:
    • Alexander the Great famously burned his army's ships on arrival in Persia. When asked how the army would get home, he replied "We'll use their ships."
  • May 6, 2014
    dalek955
    No OP activity for four months, no Rolling Updates. Up For Grabs I think.
  • May 6, 2014
    DAN004
    Who wanna grab this then?
  • May 7, 2014
    Kakai
    I'd add a spoiler warning, as reveal of this can sometimes be a Wham Episode.

    To literature, as it seems nobody mentioned it yet:
    • In Cursor's Fury heroes discover that invading Cane army burnt their ships behind them, to ensure their warriors won't come back to Canea.note 
  • June 10, 2014
    Andygal
    @Kakai, it was mentioned twice, but got lost in the lack of rolling updates.
  • June 10, 2014
    JonnyB
    Is this the same or related to Burning Your Bridges?
  • June 10, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ I guess... not.
  • June 11, 2014
    Dalillama
    I went ahead and added the examples from the thread, and split up the ones that involve fighting from the ones that just involve hardship/colonizing.
  • June 12, 2014
    bitemytail
    • In Dawn Of War, while playing as the Imperial Guard, you can pass a decree that retreating from combat will be punished by execution. This improves the morale of all Guardsman squads.
      • You can also have a Commissar shoot a random soldier to restore morale, proving that you weren't kidding.
  • June 12, 2014
    ObsidianFire
    While I get what the title means, my first thought was that this was another shipping trope... until I read the short description anyway.

    I guess my question is, will people know what this trope refers to without the description? IE: on an index or work page.
  • June 12, 2014
    Dalillama
    ^^As with the Soviets from above, that's not quite this trope.

    ^That was already extensively discussed above. Personally, I'd just as soon solve the problem by deleting all the shipping pages completely, or at least renaming them, or maybe putting them off in their own section or something.
  • June 12, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    ^ Yeah, looking at the amount of Shipping Tropes we have... not going to happen.

    Besides, like DAN004 said earlier (^x22), Burning Your Ships can also me mistaken for Sink The Lifeboats. This Needs A Better Name.
  • June 12, 2014
    DAN004
  • June 12, 2014
    Dalillama
    ^^ As I mentioned, this was discussed extensively upthread, and the most votes still came back to Burning Your Ships (which is also my vote). I suppose if you insist, we can set up a crowner, but for my money the point's been covered.
  • June 13, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Try the crowner.
  • June 13, 2014
    Dalillama
    K. It'll take a bit, I'm busy this weekend and also need to learn how to set one up.
  • June 13, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    ^ A good place to start: How Crowners Work.
  • June 13, 2014
    hbi2k
    I vote for Burning Your Boats. Carries pretty much the same connotation, avoids the Loaded Trope Word "ship". Also,

    Manga
    • Griffith does this in the Battle of Doldrey in Berserk, positioning the portion of his army that he expects to face the largest part of the enemy force with their backs to a river and no way to retreat. He does this not only to motivate his own men, but also as part of a Batman Gambit. Cornered and outnumbered, his force presents a tempting target that succeeds in drawing the enemy forces out of their castle, which is promptly captured in a sneak attack by a small flanking force.
  • June 13, 2014
    jidlaph
    I first heard this phrase as "Burn the Boats", which would avoid conflict with the Shipping tropes.

    Edit: So I guess I'm agreeing with hbi2k.
  • June 14, 2014
    LordGro
    I don't think we need a crowner about the name. Changed the name and swapped the description to something less literal. Tell me if it's good.

    The reason that I did not add the Alexander the Great example was that it is not true. Guys, can you please do some basic research before you suggest or add Real Life examples? I mean, you can't even sail from Greece to Persia straightaway.

    On the other hand, if someone could tell us where that story actually comes from, that would be great. Googling leads to many references to the tale, but no indication of its original source.

    The quote is rather plain, I'm sure we can do better. Does anyone have a nice public-domain image of a burning invasion fleet?
  • June 14, 2014
    DAN004
  • June 14, 2014
    Shrikesnest
    Literature example:

    • In Redwall, when Cluny the Scourge arrives in Mossflower, he press gangs all of the local vermin into his cause. He orders his rats to smash the new conscript's houses, so that they'll have nothing to return to if they desert him.
  • June 14, 2014
    LordGro
    ^^ Why? Will people think Burning The Boats is about Shipping?

    Re: The Fullmetal Alchemist example — now that it's been mentioned I suspect this is Let The Past Burn instead.

    I am not done adding all the examples that have been mentioned. I am also not sure if all the examples that are listed are actually this trope. But I'm too tired now; will come back tomorrow.
  • June 14, 2014
    m8e
    ^Burning Your Boats might be a little clearer about the 'ownage' of the boats and who's burning them.
  • June 14, 2014
    DAN004
    ^^ Again, simply Burning The Boats can be confused with burning your enemy's boats.
  • June 15, 2014
    Snicka
    Thirding(?) Burning Your Boats.
  • August 1, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    Bump.
  • August 1, 2014
    gallium
    Is it necessary to sort the examples into military and non-military? Doesn't seem so.
  • August 1, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    Gives it better looks.
  • August 1, 2014
    DAN004
  • August 1, 2014
    hbi2k
    I'm inclined to agree that there's no need to sort the examples into military and non-military. There are also a couple examples in the comments that need to be added.

    After those are addressed, I think this will be pretty ready to launch. @Lord Gro is the OP, and his last activity was on 6/14. That means two weeks before this is Up For Grabs.
  • August 1, 2014
    DAN004
    I believe Lord Gro is still there.
  • August 3, 2014
    LordGro
    I did some changes to the draft.
    1. I (again) revamped the trope description to cut down on redundancies and verbosity.
    2. I have changed the name back to Burning The Ships. Reasons:
      • All the posters that argued for "Boats" over "Ships" did so because "Ships" could be misunderstood as referring to Shipping, which I don't count as a good reason. I actually think "Ships" is better because it suggests an action on a greater scale than "Boats", and that "Burning the/your/one's Boats" is worse precisely because it is an everyday idiom which is used for comparatively mundane situations.
      • I prefer Burning The Ships over Burning Your Ships because the latter suggests an action on an individual scale. But most of our examples involve large groups of people.
      • As for the objection that Burning The Ships is not clear enough: At some point people will have to read the trope description. "Burning the/your ships/boats" are all pre-existing idioms. If you can misinterpret one, you can misinterpret the others too. I don't want people interpreting this as "quitting job in a spectacular way" (which is Take This Job And Shove It).
    3. Soft-splitting the example section does not work. There are too many examples which do not fall clearly into any category, or where the distinction becomes meaningless. In Nibelungenlied, an army advances over a river, but they are not officially going to battle but to a feast. The Jaws example is not "military" but about a "going to battle" (with a shark). Same for the Sponge Bob Square Pants example.
  • August 3, 2014
    LordGro
    (Continued. Apparently my post was too huge, I had troubles editing it.)

    4. I have excluded some of the examples that have been suggested which seem to describe different tropes which until now we do not have. Namely the following:
    • "Shoot the Cowards/the Deserters": A case of tyrannical leadership in which the leader does put himself in danger and still has the option to retreat. Not an irreversible decision (the order, not the shooting).
      * The Soviet Order No. 227 may not be a literal example of this, but the barrier troops situated behind the assaulting troops were ordered to shoot deserters, leaving no alternative but to push forward or be gunned down by the NKVD.
      * In Dawn Of War, while playing as the Imperial Guard, you can pass a decree that retreating from combat will be punished by execution. This improves the morale of all Guardsman squads. You can also have a Commissar shoot a random soldier to restore morale, proving that you weren't kidding.
    • "Trap Them to Rule Them": Someone destroys the means of interaction/contact with the outside world so they can control an isolated group/community. The intention is different: Burning the Ships commits people to a common goal or project, but here the motive is just to control them. Edit: These examples have been added to the list.
      * In The Shining, Jack Torrance, who is slowly being possessed by the evil spirits in the Overlook Hotel, disables their ham radio (their only means of calling for help) and disables their snowmobile (their only means for escape).
      * In an episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine Sisko and Bashir come across a group of space Luddites who crash-landed on a planet ten years ago, which destroyed their only means of escape, and have forsaken all modern technology. It turns out the leader of the group and her son had secretly sabotaged the ship so it would crash and are keeping a technology-blocking device going so that nobody on the planet can use any technology.
      * In The Twilight Zone episode "On Thursday We Leave For Home", Captain Benteen tries in vain to destroy the rescue ships from Earth because he wants to remain in control of the people on the asteroid.
    • "Fighting with one's back to a river". This is tricky because apparently this is an idiom in China and Japan, derived from a historical (?) event at the Battle of Jingxing where one commander deliberately ordered his army into a position where retreat was not possible, so they would fight harder. Which is somehow related, but also kind of different from Burning the Ships. Note that the battle in Berserk is not won because of the soldiers fighting harder, but because their seeming disadvantage lures the defenders out of the castle, which is then captured by a "small flanking force". Edit: Has been added to the list.
      * Griffith does this in the Battle of Doldrey in Berserk, positioning the portion of his army that he expects to face the largest part of the enemy force with their backs to a river and no way to retreat. He does this not only to motivate his own men, but also as part of a Batman Gambit. Cornered and outnumbered, his force presents a tempting target that succeeds in drawing the enemy forces out of their castle, which is promptly captured in a sneak attack by a small flanking force.
    5. It is still an unsolved issue whether individual acts that do not affect anyone except the Ship Burner are the same trope. However, until now all cases of that kind where about people quitting their job in a spectacular way, which is Take This Job And Shove It (which is justly a separate trope). So I'm willing to just launch the trope as it is now and keep an eye on the examples that are being added. Maybe they will give us a hint whether this needs further splitting.
  • August 3, 2014
    Koncur
    • In Fullmetal Alchemist, in Ed and Al's backstory, upon setting out on their journey, they burn down their childhood home so there'd be no turning back.

    EDIT: Sorry, just noticed this was already suggested.
  • August 3, 2014
    DAN004
    "I prefer Burning The Ships over Burning Your Ships because the latter suggests an action on an individual scale. But most of our examples involve large groups of people."

    Nonsense. "Your" here can refer to "you and your people's ships". Again, Burning The Ships can be confused with burning ''your enemy's ships". And if possible we should make the title sound more general and less idiomatic. It's the rule: if you have to read the description to make sense of the title, then there's something wrong with the title.

    Pulling a hat.
  • August 4, 2014
    hbi2k
    I'm also pulling my hat. Some of the most recent round of changes were good (removing the soft-split, streamlining the trope description), but I disagree with others:

    • "Boats" > "Ships". While the danger of confusion with Shipping tropes may be small, it costs nothing to avoid it as using the word "boats" instead makes the title functionally identical in every other way.
    • I disagree with pulling the Shining, Star Trek, and Berserk examples. They are all clear examples of a leader destroying the method of retreat in order to commit others to an endeavor (completing the winter caretaking at the Overlook, founding an experimental colony, and winning a battle respectively). The fact that Griffith in Berserk had other motives does not make it less of an example.
  • August 10, 2014
    LordGro
    I have included the Shining, Star Trek and Twilight Zone examples.

    The doubts I have about the Berserk example are because 1) Griffith does not actually destroy anything, and 2) it is not clear to me whether Griffith himself is with his men with their back to the river. If he only sends his soldiers into a dangerous position while staying at a safe place himself, then maybe it is a different trope.
  • August 11, 2014
    hbi2k
    ^ The way the trope is written ("...doing something that makes it impossible for yourself to turn back, especially if it is done willfully and without necessity.") doesn't make it seem as though a character needs to physically destroy something for it to count.

    Also, Griffith is with the portion of his forces that are backed against the river and unable to retreat. Added a bit to emphasize this:

    • Griffith does this in the Battle of Doldrey in Berserk, positioning himself and the portion of his army that he expects to face the largest part of the enemy force with their backs to a river and no way to retreat. He does this not only to motivate his own men, but also as part of a Batman Gambit. Cornered and outnumbered, his force presents a tempting target that succeeds in drawing the enemy forces out of their castle, which is promptly captured in a sneak attack by a small flanking force.
  • August 11, 2014
    nielas
    • In Halt And Catch Fire Joe deliberately informs IBM that Joe and Gordon, as Cardiff Electric employees, have reverse engineered the IBM PC BIOS code. IBM sends in an army of lawyers and Nathan Cardiff is left with two choices: fully commit his company to the PC clone project Joe is advocating or get sued into bankruptcy by IBM. Everyone is furious at Joe but in the end he gets his way. This is then subverted when we realize that the project's failure will ruin everyone except Joe. He committed everyone else to the project but due to his father's connections he can walk away at any time and resume his old life.
  • August 11, 2014
    gallium
    Adding a hat. The word "ship" has the primary meaning of "oceangoing vessel", not "hoped-for romantic involvement".
  • August 12, 2014
    hbi2k
    ^ Yes, but the word "boat" means the former without any possibility of confusion with the latter. There's no downside to using "boat" instead.
  • August 12, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ and the "the" needs to be changed to "your".

    And even then I still believe it can be even less idiomatic.
  • August 12, 2014
    LordGro
    Re: The name, chapter 1: "Ships" vs. "Boats"

    You might not be aware of it but we have many tropes which contain the word ship, and not in the context of Shipping. Cool Ship, Living Ship, Abandon Ship, Colony Ship, Mile Long Ship, Faceship, Going Down With The Ship, Sinking Ship Scenario, Ghost Ship, Sapient Ship, Spy Ship, Ship Level all have nothing to do with Shipping. Say we name this trope Burning The Boats, what are we going to do about those? Must we get renames for all these tropes because our readers expect them to yet more variations of Shipping?

    How many variations and variants and subtypes of Shipping do we need anyway? Don't you think that we will need the word "ship" far more often for tropes that involve spaceships, airships and seagoing vessels than we need it for Shipping items (that are not needlessly oversplitting things)? I do, and I think the attempt to turn the word "ship" into a Loaded Trope Word that can only ever refer to Shipping pairings is a serious mix-up of priorities. Tropes are our mission; Shipping items are Audience Reactions, which are fluff.

    I have already explained why I think "ships" is better, and I see no reason to change my stance.

    Re: The name, chapter 2: "Burning the Ships" vs. "Burning Your Ships" (quoting @DAN004 here)

    "Your" here can refer to "you and your people's ships".

    The "your" in "burning your ships" does not address anyone, but is, like the "one" in "burning one's ships", a placeholder for any pronoun that is needed in context. Usually the phrase is used as "I burned my ships" or "(s)he burned her/his boats". "Your ships", like "one's ships", suggests of an action on an individual scale, while "the ships" suggests something on a larger scale, which is more representative of the trope.

    And if possible we should make the title sound more general and less idiomatic.

    Not sure if you know what an "idiom" is. An "idiom" is a figure of speech. It does not mean "less general". In fact, I believe that idioms frequently make good trope titles, because they often express complex things in a handy phrase. You would accept "Burning Your Boats", which is no less of an idiom.

    Again, Burning The Ships can be confused with burning your enemy's ships".''

    I'm not persuaded that this is a real danger. Googling the phrases "Burn the Ships" / "Burning the Ships" shows they are as well established as all the other variants of the same idiom. I have no doubt "Burning Your Boats" can be misunderstood as well by someone who just doesn't know that idiom.

    It's the rule: if you have to read the description to make sense of the title, then there's something wrong with the title.

    Well, if you know that "Burning the Ships" is an idiom, then the name makes perfect sense and is clearly indicative. If you don't know the idiom, then you will just have to click on the trope and learn it (it is explained right in the first paragraph).

    Apart from that, only rarely will a trope name manage to be completely self-explanatory for everyone. In fact, according to TV Tropes Customs, section "Editing the wiki proper", you are expected to read the trope first before you add examples of that trope:

    7. Don't forget to double check a trope before you add it to a page. It might not be what it sounds like, or the definition may have shifted since the last time you read it.

    So, I think Burning The Ships is overall the best option. Since there are five hats, I will launch this week.

    In unrelated news, I removed one quote. Googling for the source, I could find no proof that Fridtjof Nansen ever said/wrote "I demolish the bridges behind me - then there is no choice but forward."
  • August 12, 2014
    LordGro
    @hbi2k: Fair enough, I included the Berserk example.
  • August 12, 2014
    hbi2k
    "You might not be aware of it but we have many tropes which contain the word ship, and not in the context of Shipping. Cool Ship, Living Ship, Abandon Ship, Colony Ship, Mile-Long Ship, Faceship, Going Down with the Ship, Sinking Ship Scenario, Ghost Ship, Sapient Ship, Spy Ship, Ship Level all have nothing to do with Shipping. Say we name this trope Burning The Boats, what are we going to do about those?"

    Nothing. Grandfather clause. There, it costs us something (time, effort) to change the trope names, and the slight benefit is not worth the cost. In several cases, those trope titles would be less clear if changed, further adding to the cost without increasing the benefit of changing.

    In the case of a YKTTW, the cost of changing the title is about three clicks and ten keystrokes. Therefore, because the cost of changing the title before launch is effectively zero, it is worth it for the benefit of avoiding potential confusion with Shipping tropes, no matter how minor that potential may be.

    "I have already explained why I think "ships" is better, and I see no reason to change my stance."

    Are you referring to this?

    "I actually think "Ships" is better because it suggests an action on a greater scale than "Boats", and that "Burning the/your/one's Boats" is worse precisely because it is an everyday idiom which is used for comparatively mundane situations. "

    Pedantic nonsense. People use "burn your boats" and "burn your ships" as an idiom more or less interchangeably. In any case, there is nothing about it being an "everyday idiom which is used for comparatively mundane situations" that renders it ineffective as a trope title.

    "The "your" in "burning your ships" does not address anyone, but is, like the "one" in "burning one's ships", a placeholder for any pronoun that is needed in context. Usually the phrase is used as "I burned my ships" or "(s)he burned her/his boats". "Your ships", like "one's ships", suggests of an action on an individual scale, while "the ships" suggests something on a larger scale, which is more representative of the trope."

    Further nonsense. "Your" is possessive, therefore the implication is that the burner has some possession or claim on the boats being burnt, which is integral to the definition of the trope. There is nothing in either "your" or "the" to indicate a difference in scale one way or the other.

    "How many variations and variants and subtypes of Shipping do we need anyway? Don't you think that we will need the word "ship" far more often for tropes that involve spaceships, airships and seagoing vessels than we need it for Shipping items (that are not needlessly oversplitting things)? I do, and I think the attempt to turn the word "ship" into a Loaded Trope Word that can only ever refer to Shipping pairings is a serious mix-up of priorities. Tropes are our mission; Shipping items are Audience Reactions, which are fluff."

    There's no "attempt" to "turn" shipping into a Loaded Trope Term. It's already loaded. The loading is done.

    In cases where the word "ship" is necessary for clarity, as when a trope refers literally to large ocean- or spacefaring craft such that the word "boat" would be inappropriate, the word "ship" should be used. Where that is not the case, as when the word is being used metaphorically, the word "boat" should be used to avoid confusion as much as possible.
  • August 12, 2014
    DAN004
    My problem with idiom titles: other people may not know th that it's an idiom. That and sometimes they're confusable with other things.

    Burning Your Boats is just my compromise leaning to your interests. I still prefer Destroying Your Means Of Retreat.

    Btw for this trope's description, compare The Gloves Come Off (which should change its name too) and Throw The Sheath Away (which has the same "the" vs "your" problem).
  • August 12, 2014
    BaffleBlend
  • August 12, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ see? That's what I and hbi2k meant.
  • August 12, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ see? That's what I and hbi2k meant.
  • August 12, 2014
    jamespolk
    I still can't believe that people don't like the use of the word "ship" to mean "thing that carries people around in the water". It's only had that meaing for, I dunno, 1500 years.

    Just Launch It Already.
  • August 12, 2014
    DAN004
    Gonna bring this in Ask The Tropers I guess.
  • August 13, 2014
    jamespolk
    ^On what grounds? It has five hats. It's ready to launch. If it were my YKTTW I would have already launched it.
  • August 13, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ the damn title. We still don't have a consensus...
  • August 13, 2014
    jamespolk
    ^We have five hats. You seem to want to keep this going until you get the result you want, which is based on your belief that Internet fanspeak is now the primary meaning for a word that has meant exactly the same thing for a thousand years.

    Launch, launch, launch.
  • August 13, 2014
    CobraPrime
    Yeah, the concept we can't use the word ship to mean ship because people are to lazy to type the word "Relation" before other trope title is fucking stupid. The paranoia that people will use this badly is unfounded in light of all the tropes who are about actual ships with ship in the title and don't get misused such.

    Keep the title as is.
  • August 13, 2014
    SeptimusHeap
    Called here from Ask The Tropers, I'll do a quick poll - sing out if I am misrepresenting anybody:

    Conclusion 1#: I have difficulty reading through YKTTW comments.

    Conclusion 2#: Most people don't agree with the current title, but there are a few ambiguous people that could flip the vote.

    While I think the idiom is a good title and don't think there is unreasonable chance of confusion with Shipping, this YKTTW does not, in my mind, have name consensus right now.

  • August 13, 2014
    jamespolk
    Five hats are five hats. Kind of unfortunate that a troper can just shortcut the YKTTW process when faced with a result they don't like.
  • August 13, 2014
    SeptimusHeap
    I pulled a hat, because of the lack of name consensus.

    ... and now it's pulled all but one hats. I'll go to the Tech Wishlist.

    eta: Tech Wishlist topic.
  • August 13, 2014
    hbi2k
    It's worth noting that some of those hats were granted before the name change back to "ships". It's kind of dirty pool to make a controversial change that has already been the subject of much contention after getting five hats IMO.
  • August 13, 2014
    jamespolk
    Pity Lord Gro didn't launch this while he had the chance...
  • August 13, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    I support Burning The Ships.
  • August 13, 2014
    Rotpar
    I support Burning The Ships as well.
  • August 13, 2014
    LordGro
    I didn't launch precisely because I wanted to wait for the reactions (hat-wise) to the last rename. Note that the draft was down to two hats after the rename, then got three new hats (which are gone now again, but apparently partially because of a bug). The rename to Burning The Ships was ten days ago; enough time for everyone to revise their vote. If there are five hats when I return tomorrow, I will launch.

    I pulled a hat, because of the lack of name consensus.

    I am not aware that we require consensus to name tropes. My idea is that you either give a hat or you don't, and five hats means launchable.
  • August 13, 2014
    SeptimusHeap
    We are not going to launch a YKTTW when most of it disagrees with a name. Also, it was just a "no launch yet" motion that I did, not banning you from launching it.
  • August 13, 2014
    LordGro
    I don't quite understand what you are saying. Say there are five hats tomorrow, then can I launch or not?
  • August 13, 2014
    SeptimusHeap
    I guess you could launch it then, but if people then start complaining that you used a contested name, we have a problem.

    eta: Made a note in the YKTTW Crash rescue.
  • August 13, 2014
    nielas
    I support Burning The Ships. Maybe Ship Sinking should be renamed instead.

    • In the Polish comic series Kajko i Kojosz, Hegemon, the leader of the villainous Banditknights, was always afraid that his men would chicken out at the last moment and not follow him into battle. Thus he would always try to find a way to prevent this by destroying any means of retreat. The Genre Savvy heroes would realize this and use it against him. In one instance the Banditknights built a siege tower that would get them onto the town's walls. Once all of them were inside, Hegemon set fire to the bottom of the tower so everyone had to exit through the top. However, during the previous night Kajko and Kojosz sabotaged the tower by shortening the ramp at the top so all the Banditknights ended up falling into the moat instead.
  • August 13, 2014
    LordGro
    @SeptimusHeap: Well, they can file a TRS then. I don't think there is much sense in waiting for a consensus that will most likely never emerge.
  • August 13, 2014
    SeptimusHeap
    We don't do TRS for newly launched tropes anymore (we use the thread I linked before instead), but that's a minor distinction.

    Poll updated:

  • August 13, 2014
    Rotpar
    Ultimately, we should solve this problem now instead of requiring a TRS or crash rescue immediately afterwards. That's the reason YKTTW exists after all, rather than just having people kick half-baked tropes onto the wiki.

    I think the Burning The Ships name can work. I don't think we're at any serious risk of people confusing it for modern-day meta-fiction relationship-stuff. Unless there is any evidence that "burning the ships" has caught on for debunking relationship stuff outside of the wiki?

    Renaming other tropes is a TRS issue, obviously. I don't think there's any reason to rename a whole index of wiki slang at the moment.
  • August 13, 2014
    hbi2k
    If we're to the point where we're futzing around with an informal poll in the comments, I think we'd better just throw the question to a crowner.
  • August 13, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Agree...

    In fact I would make one myself.
  • August 13, 2014
    DAN004
  • August 14, 2014
    LordGro
    We don't do TRS for newly launched tropes anymore (we use the thread I linked before instead), but that's a minor distinction.

    @SeptimusHeap: You know, tropes get launched from YKTTW all the time without "consensus" over names, definitions, descriptions. Often with less than five hats. The Premature Launches Thread is usually very lenient on such launches (as it is with tropes that haven't been in YKTTW at all). Experience shows that launched tropes need to have really obvious shortcomings to be sent back to YKTTW.

    But I don't blame you for nodding off launched tropes. As much as we would like to spend eternity on TV Tropes, alas! the time everyone of us can sink into the wiki is limited.

    I feel I am getting punished for playing fair. I argued my points, I gave people time to react, I waited for five hats. If I had just launched it under a name of my choice, ignoring the comments and with less than five hats, it would most likely all be done and sit on the wiki unchallenged, and the fact that the name uses "ship" to refer to a ship would probably bother exactly no-one.

    Apart from that, the use (or restriction thereof) of the word "ship" in trope names does not only relate to this YKTTW. The exactly same problem has just now popped up on Tree Ship. If DAN004 gets his will here, he will jump over to Tree Ship and use the outcome of this crowner as an argument from precedent to have that draft renamed to "Tree Vessel". This is in effect a vote on trope naming rules and as such should be discussed on the forums, not in a YKTTW backyard where only a minority of tropers is actually aware of it.
  • August 14, 2014
    hbi2k
    ^ I hardly consider waiting a couple days for the results of a crowner to be "punishment." As it is, the crowner has reached consensus, the wrong title won, democracy doesn't work, and Just Launch It Already.
  • August 14, 2014
    jamespolk
    ^A great victory for people who know what the word "ship" means.

    ^^ Lord Gro, I agree with you that the crowner was unnecessary and going to Ask The Tropers was uncalled for, but you weren't punished. The crowner came out your way, you have five hats. Accept victory and go ahead and launch.
  • August 14, 2014
    DAN004
    ^^ Democracy works no matter who wins. Unless there's some unfair play...

    Also, is Burning The Ships clear to you ppl? (At least I coul've used it for a redirect.)
  • August 15, 2014
    LordHerobrine
    This is one of the Oldest Tricks In The Book. It's mentioned in the Art Of War (The N Ine Situations) as a method of preparing for battle or deliberately making your position fatal so your men would fight better.

    Maybe made a distinction that this isn't that trick, exactly.
  • August 15, 2014
    gallium
    never mind, not really an example
  • August 15, 2014
    randomsurfer
    Star Trek Deep Space Nine: In "Hippocratic Oath" a Jem'Hadar commander discovers that he has lost his genetic addiction to Ketracel White which his race has been bred to have in order to make them loyal to the Founders. He takes his platoon to an empty planet where he thinks the plants there have cured him, and destroys both his ship and the most of their supply of Ketracel White to get them off the stuff too; but it turns out he's the only one who is affected. Without the Ketracel White they start to have withdrawl symptoms, and it is implied that the commander is going to kill his crew in order to save them.
  • August 15, 2014
    DAN004
    Btw do we need trope pic?
  • August 16, 2014
    Antigone3
    I don't know of any public-domain illustrations of ships being burned, or I'd link them.

    As far as the two (at this time) possible quotes, I'd vote for the Red October one myself. The Silmarillion quote is at least half "abandoning the rest of the expedition to die", which may be a trope but isn't this one.

    But whichever quote is used, launch it already.
  • August 16, 2014
    LordGro
    I hollered a mod to call the crowner, but until now there is no response. Will launch in a short while.

    I couldn't find a suitable image until now. Let's save that for an Image Picking thread.
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