"Budd, I'd like to introduce my friend, the black mamba."
This is when somebody uses some sort of dangerous animal as discreet murder weapon. There's the old trick of leaving a snake in their hotel room, for instance, or the one where you drop a spider near their bed, or perhaps the one where you hide a scorpion
in their suitcase. Whatever the animal, it's being used as a subtle but deadly surprise for the intended victim. The reasons for doing this vary: maybe the villain hopes that the murder will be deemed an accident
(since sometimes, the animal could have gotten there by itself), although other times, it seems that the villain just likes doing things the difficult way for no good reason
. Sometimes it's supposed to be some sort of trademark such as a villain with a snake theme
. Sometimes it can be an ordinary house pet trained to cause an "accident" like leaving on the gas (read: turning it on after the victim is asleep).
Often, the murder animal will even be Genre Savvy
enough to know its role in the story. Rather than waste time hiding or just wandering around aimlessly, as a real animal might do, it gets straight to the point and attacks the hero by the quickest route, despite having no apparent reason to do so. No matter how big the bedroom is, the spider will almost always end up crawling onto the face of the sleeping hero — and not, say, scuttling into the wardrobe, which is arguably more likely but rather less helpful for the plot. Although this could be justified, as these critters are cold-blooded and may seek heat/warmth. Don't expect a lot of sympathy for the animal, either. The ones chosen as assassins are generally a species which people consider Always Chaotic Evil
Not to be confused with a Shark Pool
or other up-front use of animals as a means of execution. This is just about the animals which are delivered to the victim (rather than the victim being delivered to the animal) and which the victim isn't supposed to know about until its too late. Compare Attack Animal
for when someone directly commands an animal to attack, rather than leaving it as a trap. If it's just made to look
like a death by animal attack, that's This Bear Was Framed
Grammar Nazi Note:
Several of the animals mentioned below are "venomous" — they inject some toxin in their victim. It is rarely relevant if they are "poisonous" — that is, toxic if you try to eat them or if toxin is absorbed through the skin.
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Anime & Manga
- Detective Conan:
- Done once with a dog that pushes the victim down the stairs. The man is quite smart about it, training the dog to respond only if the command phrase is spoken over the phone at the same time the downstairs clock chimes.
- A more "hands-on" example occurs when a girl bitten by a snake in the ocean turns out to have been an attempt at murder by her fiancee's jealous stepsister, which involved physically holding the snake and forcing it to bite the victim. This is rather more realistic than most examples of this trope, because such an animal really can't be relied upon to kill someone on its own. Since they were both in the sea, it was basically impossible to find the "weapon" afterward, though a witness is able to spy what turned out to be tape holding the snake in place.
- One Piece features Mr. Thirteen (a sea otter with a shell-shaped knife) and Miss Friday (a vulture with a machine gun), a pair of Baroque Works assassins who tries to kill off Sanji. Naturally, Sanji makes short work of them (and steals their Eternal Log).
- Anatolia Story: One of the princesses staying in Kail's harem is killed by an assassin leaving venomous scorpions in her room (the story takes place in Asia Minor, which is home to one of the few scorpions with venom potent enough to kill a human). Earlier in the story, some of the princesses leave scorpions in Yuri's bed as a cruel prank, though those were identified as a non-lethal species; however, this happens right in the day when Kail was supposed to spend the night in Yuri's room, so the usually level-minded and sweet Yuri gets PISSED.
- This trope is parodied and double-subverted in the French comic book Rona : L'Or du Macho-Fichu. The Intrepid Reporter protagonist, while investigating in a Banana Republic where he has enemies, is advised to "offer more" to the hotel tenant before getting a room. After doing so, the tenant accepts to remove "Eugène" — a venomous snake that's "part of the house" — whom he's been paid to put in Rona's bed. The same night, though, Rona finds another deadly snake in his bed, and the tenant is outraged — it isn't Eugène, so it's utterly illegal since he's not getting any money from this.
- Used in several Suske en Wiske comics, like De Scherpe Schorpioen and De Gouden Circel.
- The Joker once got a man's pet cat, hopped up on Joker Venom, to bite its owner, killing him and giving him the usual hideous rictus grin. This occurred in his appearance in "The Laughing Fish".
- Several of these appeared in the original stories (i.e. not based on Fleming's novels) in the James Bond newspaper strip:
- Vampire bats (with venomous fangs) in "Flittermouse".
- Boa constrictors in "The Snake Goddess".
Films — Live-Action
- In the Lone Wolf book 12, The Masters of Darkness, while dressed as the enemy and hitching a ride on a giant land vehicle, the hero is attacked in his cabin by a Plaak◊, a small jelly-like horror with venomous fangs. Ironically, this isn't because Lone Wolf's disguise has failed; the target of the assassination attempt is the creature he usurped the identity.
- Get Smart:
- An episode has a gorilla who had plastic surgery and mental conditioning(!) to make it look and act human, but would turn ape and kill when given an auditory cue (and a banana).
- Another episode has an assassin drop a venomous spider in Max's suitcase while he was unpacking. Max fails to notice it clinging to the coat as he puts it in the closet where another assassin is waiting. Hilarity Ensues.
- Lodz kills Ruthie with one of her own snakes in Season One of Carnivàle. She gets better.
- Pushing Daisies uses this trope in "Pie-lette" (a dog), "Bzzzzzt!" (bees) and "Kerplunk" (a Threatening Shark).
- In an episode of Frasier, Frasier tries to help his father resolve an unsolved murder case and comes to the conclusion that one of the suspects trained a monkey to stab the victim. He's wrong.
- In the special The Real Wolfman, the specialists believed at the end that a man had trained a hyena to attack women and children and the villagers believed it was a werewolf or a large wolf.
- In an episode of Monk, it turns out that the killer, a Howard Stern-esque radio DJ, had trained the neighbor's dog to turn on the gas in the bedroom where his wife, the victim, slept whenever the dog heard a certain phrase during his radio broadcast.
- One episode of Columbo has the killer training a pair of guard dogs to attack the person saying a specific word, which he then induces the victim to say through a phone call.
- In The Avengers episode "The Hidden Tiger", house cats are turned into man-killers.
- The title character of Sledgehammer is being menaced by a cobra throughout an entire episode. The snake finally has him cornered when Sledge says, "I've been wanting to do this for a long time," and clocks the snake in the face with a vicious right-cross.
- In Once Upon a Time, Regina in the fairy tale world had a pair of Agrhaban vipers sent to her room to kill herself with (à la Cleopatra) until her lover, the Genie suggests that there's another way. He uses the vipers to murder the king. It later turns out she planned the whole thing.
- In the Bones episode "The Finger in the Nest" a dog is used. Brennan wants to adopt the dog, whom she has named Ripley, but it has to be put down. She and Booth bury him.
- From Murdoch Mysteries, episode "Evil Eye of Egypt", a cobra is placed in a sarcophagus to bite the first person opening it. Naturally, this is blamed on an antic Egyptian curse.
- The Doctor Blake Mysteries:
- In "Death of a Travelling Salesman", the victim of the week is murdered by having a venomous snake planted in his car.
- In "Ties of the Past", a priest who is allergic to bee stings is locked in the confessional with a jar full of angry bees.
- The X-Files, "Die Hand die Verletzt": Mrs Paddock has her school python and it is sent to kill one guy from the parents' committee.
- Red Dwarf: In "Stoke Me a Clipper", one of Those Wacky Nazis unleashes his pet alligator Snappy on Ace Rimmer, daredevil pilot and savior of many a dimension. Ace being, well, The Ace, he uses Snappy to air-surf away from an exploding plane, and has the gator kill his former owner so Ace can acquire his parachute. What a guy!
- A bear is baited into killing a convicted killer who was granted early parole in the Longmire episode "The Worst Kind of Hunter".
- In Terra Nova, someone was able to get someone killed by locking up a Slasher and waiting for the guy to open the door.
- Midsomer Murders: In "Wild Harvest", the first Victim of the Week is tied up in a forest, doused with truffle oil, and left to be gored to death by a wild boar.
- A vicious attack dog is used as a murder weapon in the CSI: Miami episode "At Risk".
- Whodunnit? (UK): In "Happy New Year", the Victim of the Week is bittern by a venomous snake the killer placed in his safe.
- Death in Paradise: In "A Deadly Curse", one Victim of the Week (who is deathly allergic to insect bites) is murdered when the killer releases a kissing bug in his cell.
Myths & Religion
- Older Than Feudalism: A vase (c. 480 BCE) and a poem by Pindar (476-472 BCE) are the first sources for the story of Hera sending serpents to kill the infant Heracles. Of course, it didn't work. Baby Herc just strangled the snakes and used them as rattles.
- In one episode of Bold Venture, a radio show starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, someone is murdered by having an enraged gamecock with razor sharp spurs on its faced tossed on to them while they are asleep. Their face is slashed to ribbons and they bleed to death.
- Classic Traveller, Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #12 Amber Zone article "Royal Hunt". The Evil Chancellor Hamir has arranged for attacks by two different types of animals on the Potentate and the PC party: the Delajabar, an amphibious animal that lives in the Dweljara river, and a small but highly poisonous monster that will be inserted into the party's tents at night.
- The plotline of Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon revolves around Tsukigata family, otherwise known as the 8th Fukoshi Clan, a lineage of assassins who use insects to kill.
- In Super Robot Wars Alpha Gaiden, after Dekim Barton is defeated, Khamen Khamen deemed him useless and promptly snuck a king cobra to bite and kill him, without Khamen being on the place. It almost bit Isaac, but Haran Banjou shot it dead in the nick of time.
- In the Total War games, animals are sometimes used by Assassins in cutscenes, i.e. an assassin slipping a snake into someone's bed in Medieval II.
- In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, you can fling scorpions at unwitting soldiers, watch them dance around in a panic, and then die from the poison. Shame on you for laughing.
- Nancy Drew
- In the game Secrets of Shadow Ranch, Nancy's hosts at the ranch aren't there when she arrives, as a rattlesnake somehow got into their bedroom and sent one of them to the hospital. Possibly a subversion, as it's never confirmed that the culprit actually put it there.
- Also, in Lights, Camera, Curses!, the Show Within a Show movie Pharaoh supposedly ends when the female lead (playing Nefertiti) tries to murder someone with a venomous snake. The ophidiophobic actress who plays Nefertiti isn't pleased when the director insists she hold a live (harmless) snake in this scene.
- Mentioned in Assassin's Creed I. A female Egyptian assassin eliminated Cleopatra with a planted snake.
- Far Cry 3 employs this frequently. Many outposts that can be taken tend to have cages with deadly predators just waiting to be released, and sometimes the predator can simply come from the wild. Once set loose, that defenseless-looking tiger will rip through pirates like tissue paper, giving you the outpost without lifting a finger. The animal, however, will still be there, and be more than happy to eat you next.
- The Blade Runner video game had this done with (artificial) scorpions. Not only were they used to kill a major NPC, the player character could sit on one if you failed to see it (it was the same color as the chair, making it impossible to see).
- The Venture Bros.:
- The show humorously lampshades this trope. One mook releases a scorpion into Dr. Venture's room while he is sleeping just as a competing mook let a tarantula loose. Instead of killing their intended target, the two creatures just fight each other.
- Also there's an incident where Dr. Venture is checking mail and he opens a box containing a cobra, poised to strike. However, it turns out the box was very old and the cobra simply turns to dust.
- The Monarch's solution to Dr. Venture's group therapy sessions taking away from their, er, time together? Have Henchman #21 drop a venomous snake onto the therapist. Notably, it works.
- Jonny Quest:
- TOS (The Original Series)
- "The Fraudulent Volcano". Dr. Zin's mooks use a tarantula against Dr. Quest.
- "Riddle of the Gold". Dr. Zin's agent arranges for a tiger to attack Dr. Quest during a hunt.
- In Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures, a mook sneaks a spitting cobra into the hero's jet. It blinds Race, who was piloting, nearly causing them to crash. Later, Hadji uses the cobra against the mook.
- Serpentor of G.I. Joe often threw live snakes as missile weapons. The show couldn't actually show anyone being bitten, so these allegedly-venomous serpents wrapped themselves around their targets' necks and choked them instead.
- In a Minoriteam episode, the White Shadow laments that his goons keep attempting this.
White Shadow: Honestly, why do we keep trying to kill these guys with snakes? Pound for pound, dollar for dollar, snakes have to be the worst way to kill someone!
- Family Guy: "OH MY GOD, THERE'S A BEAR IN MY OATMEAL!"
- Cleopatra successfully killed herself by having a venomous snake snuck in a basket into her room. Although scholars dispute this account due to the difficulty of forcing a snake to strike and the non-lethality of most snake bites. It is nonetheless the official history. The popular image is her clinging the snake to her bosom, so maybe she was trying to stab herself with the snake's fangs.
- According to Lost Tapes a man tried to use a centipede to harm his neighbor. It didn't really work.
- Some versions of the Assassin live-action game, as played on college campuses, allow this tactic. To make a "kill", the attacker must place a toy snake, spider, or scorpion in the target's bed, backpack, or the like; if anyone but the intended target finds the plastic or rubber Animal Assassin first, the "kill" fails.