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Apple of Discord

A group of people are thick as thieves, supporting each other in all things. If they ever reiterate this, it's Tempting Fate. Then a third party enters and asks them to decide something. It may be something as mundane as deciding what toppings they want on their pizza, or something as serious as which one of them is The Leader. Suddenly, they're at each other's throats and can't agree on anything except that each of them wants to be right.

The background of this is the Greek legend of how the Trojan War really started: Eris, the goddess of chaos, approached Hera (of fertility and happy marriage), Athena (of intelligence, you might say from a modern viewpoint) and Aphrodite (of love) while they were at an Olympic gathering, a wedding to which Eris had not been invited, and threw a golden apple among the three, on which was written "To the most beautiful one"note . Divine bitchfighting ensued, and in the end, when the three goddesses couldn't end their argument, they decided to ask Paris, a mortal prince of Troy.note  Each of them tried to bribe him so he'd choose her, and he decided it should belong to Aphrodite - versions differ on whether it was because it was true, and/or because she'd promised him the hand of the most beautiful woman on Earth, a Spartan woman who would soon be better known as Helen of Troy.

A sister trope to Centipede's Dilemma and a great way to make everyone play with the Conflict Ball. If the decision is whether to trust a once-villainous member of their group, it is the "They Still Belong to Us" Lecture.

Compare Internet Backdraft and Yoko Oh No. For an object that everyone wants which drives them into conflict, see Artifact of Attraction and Loot Drama. For a supernatural cause, see Hate Plague. For the religion, see Principia Discordia and Discordianism.


Examples

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Anime and Manga
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Chao uses a future version of Negi's family tree to disrupt his entire party as they all want to know who he will marry.
    Negi party self-destructs!! [Record time of 57 seconds]
  • The Litchi Hikari Club appears to be tearing itself apart after the capture of Bishojo schoolgirl Kanon.
  • One Piece's Little Garden arc has a hundred-year-long series of duels fought between two best friends because of an argument over which killed the bigger sea monster. Although at this point neither care what started the duel any more (or can even remember), they keep fighting out of pride and honor and probably because they just like fighting. They're still best friends, and when an outside party rigs their latest duel to break the century-long streak of perfect draws, they almost immediately decide to disregard it due to interference and go back to fighting.
  • Kakashi's bells in Naruto invoke this; he has two of them for the three-person team, and the one who doesn't get one will get sent back to the academy. The temptation to acquire one, and thus continue being a shinobi, was enough to break up The Team (Naruto was determined to remain a ninja, Sakura wanted to stay with Sasuke and Sasuke wanted to remain a ninja while not trusting the others). The entire point of the exercise was for the genin to overcome that selfishness.
  • Referenced in Sword Art Online. A particular guild (called, appropriately enough, Golden Apple) found a rare item that granted a substantial stat boost to its wearer. Some guild members wanted to sell it for money, while others believed it would be better to keep it for themselves. The decision was put to vote, and the majority agreed it should be sold. The guild leader went off personally to sell it, but died mysteriously. Because of suspicions that the murderer was a fellow guild member, the guild fell apart. In a subversion, it was later discovered that the person behind the guild leader's death had a completely unrelated motive, and took advantage of the rare item dispute to avoid suspicion.

Comic Books
  • A Bamse story involved some characters interfering with the opening of Pandora's box. Skalman temporarily defeated them by asking "Who is the most dangerous of you?". While the Ills argued, Hope managed to entrap them in the box again. Only to have it later opened by Pandora's husband.
  • Happens constantly to the Fantastic Four. The tiniest disagreement between them inevitably degenerates into shouting matches, which are basically never resolved and lead to a vicious cycle of passive-aggressive bickering and brooding (or in Ben and Johnny's case, No Holds Barred Beatdowns). They always get back together in the end though, usually after being forced to team up again to take down some supervillain or another.
  • In the Astérix story "Asterix and the Roman Agent", the titular agent (who can start arguments just by standing there doing nothing) comes to the village with a vase as a gift to the most important man in the village. Instead of giving the vase to Chief Vitalstatistix, he gives it to Asterix, which leads to a chain reaction of arguments until the entire village is at odds with one another.
    • Another one happened in Caesar's Gift, when the coming of new citizens disrupts the order of the village enough that they are arguing over the best chief when the Romans begin firing catapults at the village. Of course, the Gauls argue a lot anyway, but usually that's just Vitriolic Best Buds mixed with Boisterous Bruiser - open hostility is unusual.
  • During one Popeye adventure in the fictional country of Nazilia, an army is about to attack the king's castle. Popeye throws the would-be revolution into disarray by tossing a large lump of gold into the crowd saying whoever can get it keeps it. Soon the entire army has beaten themselves up fighting for it.

Folklore and Mythology
  • The Trope Namer and Trope Codifier is the Apple of Discord used by the Greek Goddess of Strife, Eris. According to The Judgement of Paris, Zeus held a banquet to honor the wedding of mortal Peleus to immortal Thetis (who became Achilles' parents), but Eris was not invited. To avenge this snub, Eris wrote "to the fairest" on a golden apple and threw it into the banquet, where a brawl immediately erupted, as every woman in attendance (bride included) fought for the right to claim the title.
    At least twenty years later (by the time Peleus and Thetis had a son, named Achilles, who had grown into a famed warrior), the bickering over the apple still hadn't died down, but it had narrowed down to three women — the three most powerful goddesses on Olympus (coincidence? You tell me.) These were Hera, queen of the gods, Athena, goddess of wisdom, and Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty. The three demanded Zeus choose who was the "fairest", but he wisely declined. Instead, he chose a mortal man to arbitrate. Each goddess presented their beauty to him while also offering a prize should he choose them. Eventually he chose Aphrodite as winner and accepted her promise of the most beautiful woman in Greece. The man? Paris of Troy. The woman? Helen of Sparta. Thus began the Trojan War.
  • Also in the Trojan Cycle, Ajax son of Telamon and Odysseus jointly save Achilles' body but then fall out over which one of them deserves to be rewarded with Achilles' arms (which were fashioned by the god Hephaistos), which leads to Ajax' madness and suicide.

Literature
  • Lord of the Rings: Frodo uses this as a tactic against orcs that captured and imprisoned him.
  • In Mossflower, Martin and friends are captured by Tsarmina's soldiers and escape by encouraging their captors to fight over the remaining food.
    • There's also more than one instance in the series of calling out an insult while both captors' backs are turned, so they'd each think the other said it, start fighting, and allow the protagonist to slip away.
  • In the Isaac Asimov Black Widowers story "To The Barest," ex-Black-Widower Frank Ottur invokes this and alludes to the mythological example by leaving a sum of money in his will "to the barest" of the current Black Widowers, whatever that means—with the additional caveat that if they are Genre Savvy and refuse to argue, the money will go to a local Nazi group instead. (For extra points, Ottur deliberately chose a lawyer named Parris as his executor.)
  • At the end of Discworld novel Feet of Clay, newly free-will-enabled golem Dorfl pulls this on a collection of evangelical priests. Though from disparate and rivalling faiths, they're briefly united in their endeavor to convert him until he says he'll be happy to dispute the matter with the priest of the most worthy god. Predictable bedlam ensues.
  • According to historical records, during the Warring States period of China, the gift of two peaches kills three great warriors who were sworn brothers (the one who was snubbed was Driven to Suicide, and then the other two followed suit).
  • Mentioned repeatedly in Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus!! Trilogy. Since almost all the characters in the book are members of Discordian and/or Erisian conspiracies, this should come as little surprise.
  • In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Diao Chan was a human apple of discord thrown between Dong Zhuo and his adopted son Lu Bu.
  • James Corvidae in Pact is a spirit that specializes in this. He has the ability to reassign the connections between objects and people so that someone or something attached to one person finds its way to another, usually in what appears to be an entirely legitimate fashion. In the story, he causes a fire elemental belonging to a group of elementalists to take up residence in some skywriting equipment belonging to a local Astrologer, causing conflict over who gets to keep the equipment and the elemental.
  • Used in Deltora Quest when the main characters are cornered by the 11 children of a witch they killed. They begin to discuss who gets to eat which part when Lief mentions that he wants to be eaten by the most powerful of the children. By the time the argument is over only one of the children is left alive. In this case it's not so much disagreement over who is the strongest, they all know it's Ichabod, just if it's fair that he should get to eat more because of it.

Live-Action TV
  • Malcolm in the Middle:
    • Dewey: This sort of behaviour is his modus operandi throughout the series with the younger brother being generally quiet but interjecting the right line at the right time so that everybody else will react according to his plan. Dewey is one hell of a Magnificent Bastard.
      • He does it to Hal's barbershop quartet group, asking the members why each of them has his own specific role within the group. They do make up (in the middle of a performance, no less), but presumably have problems again at the end, when Dewey starts in on them again.
      • He also works on a couple that performed. Five minutes after Dewey started in on them, they were in a gigantic fight.
    • Malcolm, Reese and Dewey once pose as political demonstrators to avoid being sent to their mother after an act of vandalism. When someone decides to send each of them a cupcake, Lois removes the cherries from two of the cupcakes so they'll fight over the remaining one. The boys eventually wise up to her plan and merely send the cherry back.
  • The 10th Kingdom: The trolls are holding Virginia captive, and Wolf throws a box into the room. The note says that it's a present for the strongest, bravest troll. Cue all three knocking each other out.
  • In Better Off Ted, Heterosexual Life-Partners and coworkers Phil and Lem start arguing when Rose, Ted's daughter, asks if one is the other's boss. In the end, they make up when they decide to give each other equal authority.
  • In a season 4 arc of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike nonchalantly brings up issues that almost break the Scoobies up entirely. By the end of the season, they figure out that their arguments were just Spike messing with them, but they don't completely feel comfortable around each other again until they team up and defeat the Big Bad through the Power of Friendship. Literally.
  • In a sketch by Loriot, two couples go to a restaurant together to celebrate the friendship they started when they vacationed together. At the end of the meal, the waiter recommends the house specialty dessert, the Kosakenzipfel, which both husbands then order. Unfortunately it turns out there is only one left. The two decide to share it, but this becomes so complicated that it devolves into a shouting match between the two families who are now presumably enemies for life.
  • Jha'dur's universal anti-agapic is a very intentional version of this on her part. Being the only surviving Dilgar, she offered up a drug that would grant immortality and immunity to disease, at the cost of another's life.note 
    Jha'dur: You will fall upon one another like wolves. It will make what we did pale by comparison. The billions that live forever will be a testimony to my work, and the billions who are murdered to buy that immortality will be the continuation of my work. Like us? You will become us! That's my monument, Commander.
  • Spooks episode 4x03 has Adam Carter infiltrating a far-right political party (which totally isn't the BNP) and manufacturing a rift between its leaders before they can ignite a race war.

Theatre
  • The Golden Apple is a loose paraphrase of the Trope Namer in the "Mythology" section above. The apple is the "symbol of our proud state of Washington" made of golden wire. Eris, Hera, Athena and Aphrodite are here named Mother Hare, Mrs. Juniper, Miss Minerva and Lovey Mars. The last-named lady is awarded the apple by Paris, who elopes with Helen.

Video Games
  • In Kid Icarus: Uprising, Hades manages to get the humans to go to war with each other over an artfiact that can grant any wish even though said artifact does not actually exist.
  • In Bleach Shattered Blade, the Sokyoku Shards get scattered about. Because even a shard grants massive power, this breaks down the Soul Society into a bunch of infighting among those who want them.
  • In MMORPG games, Rare Drops can serve as Apples of Discord and tear apart guilds or spark conflict between factions because of the ensuing Loot Drama.

Web Comics

Web Original
  • SCP-050 is a statue of a monkey with "To The Cleverest" written on its base. It loves pranks and pursuit of the title of cleverest trickster results in a massive prank war.
  • In Kickassia Fritz von Baugh tried this trick on the reviewers while trying to retake the nation for President Baugh. Of course, the use of this trope gets Lampshaded.

Western Animation
  • The season one finale of Ben 10 had the heroes distract the villains by asking who the second strongest (aside from Dr. Animo) out of them was.
  • The hero causes the wolves to fight over who is stronger in Happily N'Ever After with this.
  • Tom and Jerry short "The Truce Hurts": Tom, Jerry and Spike make a pact to stop fighting. Then they find a steak and fight over how to divide it.
  • The Looney Tunes short "The Fighting 69th" has a similar ending. Two ant armies fight over a picnic until the humans pack up, leaving only one small pastry with a cherry. Realizing the futility of their struggle, they decide to end hostilities and split the pastry evenly. However, they can't decide which side gets the cherry, and the war begins anew.
  • In the Classic Disney Short "Toy Tinkers" Donald Duck does this to Chip and Dale. Pretending to be Santa Claus he gives one a large walnut and the other a small walnut. Instantly they are fighting over who deserves the large one.
  • Teen Titans had Beast Boy and Aqualad pull this off on the clones that a villain made of himself. The villain had an enormous ego and believe he was perfect, as did his clones. The effect of the question "If you're all perfect, which one of you is the best?" should not be hard to imagine.
    • An earlier episode had a more humorous example where the normally cohesive Titans were unable to agree on pizza toppings. (Notably, Starfire thought ice cream was a topping and suggested that they have it on their pizza.)
  • Garfield and Friends: Garfield once got the Buddy Bears, those bastions of conformity and cooperation, off his back by asking them what they want on their pizza. Garfield even lampshades this by stating it to be a fundamental human behavior.
    Garfield: In the history of mankind, no two people have ever been able to agree on the toppings for pizza.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "The Ticket Master", Twilight Sparkle receives two tickets to the Grand Galloping Gala. When her sidekick Spike declines his, the spare ticket becomes a source of friction between Twilight's friends.
    • Season 2 opener "The Return of Harmony", has a shout out to the original Greek myth with a Reality Warper villain named Discord. He turns the main characters against each other, mainly using Break the Cutie and mind control, before literally turning into a pile of apples, thus making this a literal case of Apples of Discord.
    • Near the end of the episode "Lesson Zero", Twilight creates one by putting a "Want-It-Need-It" spell on her plushie, hoping that it will allow her to solve a problem and thus have something to report to Celestia. It works too well.
  • As mentioned above, Eris from The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, while the apple is more an Artifact of Doom, in one where she appears, Eris "gives up on chaos" and gives the apple to the trio, Grim tries to seal it away, Mandy wants to become the new goddess of chaos, and Billy is...well Billy. The three eventually end up fighting over it until Eris returns, glad with the chaos her plan created, and leaves with the apple.
    "Well, well... this turned out to be my best idea ever!"
  • One spin-off short from Despicable Me has all the minions fighting over a banana. It eventually falls down a hole...cut to one minion standing apart from the crowd, taking a bite out of an apple. Oh, no.
  • The Norman Mclaren short Neighbours is about two former friends who fight each other to the death over a flower growing in the middle of their two properties.

Real Life


Acceptable TargetsInternet BackdraftAward Snub
Argument of ContradictionsDiscord TropesArch-Enemy
Apocalypse WowOlder Than FeudalismArcadia
The Trojan CycleImageSource/LiteratureTsarevitch Ivan, the Fire Bird and the Gray Wolf
Classical MythologyImageSource/OtherAndrocles' Lion

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