I can't tell what's wrong or rightAn affront has been committed! The hero has been affronted. Or the villain has. Or someone has dragged the Damsel in Distress into some dangerous situation against her will. Or someone in the cast hasn't realized that they're in Cloudcuckooland and that it's a serious crime to offer Cheesy Poofs to the daughter of the mayor. Or it's a rival situation and "this town ain't big enough for the both of us." Whatever the situation, sitting down rationally and talking out the differences is just not going to settle things. No, the only way the offended party feels they can have satisfaction is with a Duel to the Death — nothing else will do! So, after striking the offending person upside the head with a glove [horseshoe, brick, or rock optional] to announce your intent, possibly doing so in public, it's time to choose your weapons! Weapon types can include: superpowers if either or both parties has them. Villains, of course, will try to do so anyway. If one character lacks a weapon, Give Me a Sword may ensue — and other characters may use this to try to stop the duel. Generally, it is the right of the challenged to choose the manner of combat, and it is considered highly improper for the challenger to object to the choice. Sometimes it's a formal "pistols at dawn" duel. Sometimes it's something dictated by The Government of the city, town, planet or dimension in which the scene takes place. Sometimes it's just a fight where there's an unspoken certainty that the loser will not be getting up again. Sometimes the location and circumstances of the duel are quite outrageous. When the hero wins, he will almost always show mercy to his opponent, much to the opponent's humiliation (unless he's an Anti-Hero out for revenge, in which case all bets are off). In such cases, the villain may taunt the hero for cowardice or weakness; or he may try to take his own death blow after the duel has officially ended and the hero is walking away, in which case, fifty-fifty, the result will often be the villain getting killed in self defense (a form of Karmic Death) or the hero or one of his friends stopping the villain Just in Time. When the villain wins, you can count on the villain to strike mercilessly. The other party will die or may have to be rushed to whatever works for first aid/resurrection in this instance. On the other hand, this may be the point of which you learn the other character is not a villain (Get It Over With is common). And several duels in media end with the loser having to get out of town. Honor may (theoretically) be satisfied with first blood, or first serious injury. However, because it will be fought with real weapons, any duel can end in death. Commonplace in westerns, naturally, with the Quick Draw shoot out Showdown at High Noon as the duel type. Jidai Geki or chanbara movies also tend to end this way, with two samurai engaging in a Single-Stroke Battle over a matter of honor, and the outcome of this is usually the death of one or both of the samurai involved. May overlap with Fight Clubbing, where the duel is, arguably, for fun. At least the spectator's fun. Compare Ten Paces and Turn. Often enforced in Gladiator Games and a Deadly Game. A situation where the combatants don't have a choice in the matter is an Involuntary Battle to the Death. There are lesser variations, and greater ones beyond simply "to the death." A lot of Card Game Anime actually end up with duels for The Fate Of The World rather than just the lives of the two involved. Serious Business, you know. See Wizard Duel for the magical equivalent. Compare Combat by Champion, and Trial by Combat. Sniper duels are a subtrope, though they usually just occur in the normal course of warfare rather than being explicitly agreed upon beforehand. The video game version of this, of course, is the Duel Boss.
If black is white or day is night
But I know when two men collide
It's a question of honour!
If black is white or day is night
But I know when two men collide
It's a question of honour!
— Sarah Brightman, "Question of Honour"
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Anime & Manga
- Anime probably have tons of examples, but the one that comes to mind right now is Rurouni Kenshin... Kenshin is a Technical Pacifist who refuses to kill under any circumstances, but quite a few antagonists have tried to force him into breaking that vow in order to fight a true Death Match with them. The most noticeable one was probably Udo Jin-e, a psychopathic killer who was a fellow assassin (though on the opposite side) during the revolution. After Kenshin prevents an assassination, he tries to put Kenshin in a situation where he HAS to kill him in order to save Kaoru, but when it doesn't work and he's left defeated but alive, he simply commits Sepukku, all while stating the he's going to watch Kenshin from hell to see him kill someone.
- Mazinger Z featured several memorable duels in all series of the franchise: the Final Battle between Kouji Kabuto and Dr. Hell in Mazinger Z (manga version), the final dog fight between Duke Fleed and The Dragon Blackie in UFO Robo Grendizer, the battle between Kouji Kabuto and a mechanized Baron Ashura in Mazinkaiser... but the most famous and most memorable was the Sword Fight between Tetsuya Tsurugi and The Dragon Great General of Darkness / Ankoku Daishogun in Great Mazinger. Not only it counted like a CMOA in that series but it also was a Dying Moment of Awesome for Ankoku Daishogun, who was ready to die without regrets as long as got the chance to fight his Worthy Opponent for last time, thus redeeming his honour.
- In Street Fighter, Akuma always fights to the death, though it's somewhat averted in that he never challenges anyone (he only takes challenges from worthy opponents), and ends up sparing loads of people anyway.
- Samurai Deeper Kyo ended with a duel to the death between the two principle characters.
- Last Exile is notable for featuring a duel to the death by airship.
- The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya - in perhaps one of the most unusual duels ever; Yuki Nagato faces off against Ryouko Asakura, both of them interfaces/agents of the Integrated Data Sentient Entity, in order to protect Kyon from Asakura's attempts to kill him in order to get a reaction from Haruhi. Asakura seems to terminally injure Yuki with the latter having apparently made no attempt to attack. It transpires that Yuki has been on the attack in a different way, breaking through Asakura's data barriers in order to terminate Asakura's data link, effectively deleting her from the world.
- In Corsair, Shirokko hates Canale, who is a blind pacifist and therefore useless as a pirate, and keeps trying to challenge him to one for any reason, hoping to be rid of him. When Canale finally is forced to duel him and beats him (being a former assassin), Shirokko is rather stunned.
- Gankutsuou features a duel with Humongous Mecha.
- Mendou Shuutarou in Urusei Yatsura is not adverse to challenging people who annoy him to duels, the first with two very large cannons.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!'s "Shadow Games"—duels to the death decided by card games. Variations of this pop up across the spinoffs Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, and Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL. Typically, a Shadow Game causes the pain and injuries from the duel to become real, with terrible consequences for the actual loser. The manga and Toei anime had different varieties of games, usually with lethal results.
- In Space Battleship Yamato/Star Blazers, there are two different versions of the same Duel To The Death between Susumu Kodai / Derek Wildstar and Dessler / Desslok near the end of the Comet Empire arc. In both versions, one dueler collapses due to shock from an injury from an explosion on Desslok's ship, rendering a duel unnecessary.
- In One Piece, this is what happened between Akainu and Aokiji during the Time Skip. The two had the first ever feud between Admirals, and it was over the Fleet Admiral position. The conflict escalated to the point of a death match on the barren island of Punk Hazard, lasting ten days and permanently altering the climate of the island, making one half a frozen wasteland, the other half permanently on fire. In the end, the winner was Akainu, but, in a rare moment of sympathy, spared Aokiji's life, and the latter proceeded to ditch the marines, not wanting to serve under Akainu.
- In SD Gundam Force, this trope is the source of conflict between Bakunetsumaru and Ashuramaru. In the past, the two dueled and Baku won, but spared his opponent. Outraged at being this perceived dishonor, Ashuramaru would later join the Dark Axis and track Bakunetsumaru down in Neotopia, this time making sure their next duel's for keeps. Bakunetsumaru wins, of course, but does not spare Ashuramaru.
- During the climax of Assassination Classroom's Hotel Arc, Nagisa engages in a deadly knife duel with Takaoka, the mastermind who poisoned his classmates with a lethal virus and blew up the antidote that the class spent the entire arc trying to obtain just to see them suffer. Despite being completely outmatched in terms of raw strength and getting curb-stomped for the first half of the match, Nagisa manages to win the duel by using an unorthodox assassination technique that gives him a big enough opening to immobilize him in a single move. Instead of killing him, Nagisa coldly smiles as he delivers the finishing blow, an act that drives Takaoka to the brink of insanity as he's rendered unconscious.
- In There, Beyond the Beyond, the two Virids—identical twins—have been expected to do this from birth in order to avoid an otherwise bloody dispute over the throne, as the survivor obviously gets to inherit. Should a victor not be decided, then they're both to be killed. Oh, and the duel's to take place on their thirteenth birthday. Needless to say, their kingdom's a bit messed up.
- There are a lot of these in Bleach but one instance stands out where Ichigo is fighting a Battle in the Center of the Mind with his Hollow self in order to gain control over its power. During the battle Ichigo struggles to find the resolve to gain a killer instinct that desires to seek battle and crush his enemies, and as a result his Hollow forces visions of past warriors Ichigo has defeated as tests for him to overcome this issue. The climax of this inner struggle comes when Ichigo faces Kenpachi who Ichigo claims that they settled things from their last battle now that they're friends, but Kenpachi claims that nothing about a battle is settled until one side is dead. Kenpachi further clarifies that if Ichigo desires power then it is inevitable that he seek out battle and not shy away from it, that men like them were born to love fighting and to continue fighting in order to gain more power. Basically Kenpachi speaks of a spirited warrior who craves battles to the death.
- Although many works of art depict duels to the death, William Hogarth's Marriage à la mode is a rare early example of "serial art" which features the trope. The six paintings show the disastrous Arranged Marriage between the son of an Impoverished Patrician and the daughter of a Nouveau Riche alderman; in the fifth painting, the husband has found his wife and her lover in bed together, challenged the lover to a duel, and lost. In the sixth painting, the lover has been executed for the nobleman's murder, and the wife has poisoned herself out of grief and shame.
- In The Astounding Wolf-Man Wolf-Man has two very climactic Duels To The Death.
- In Lucifer, Christopher Rudd gets into a duel in hell and manages to manipulate his demonic opponent into fighting him in human form. After the demon boasts that he is still stronger and faster than Christopher; Christopher shows him it is about SO much more than just speed and strength.
- Lucifer himself has a significant duel with the angel Amenadiel later in the series, where Rudd acts as Lucifer's second.
- Superdickery shows several examples of Superman challenging other people to duels to the death, usually Batman.
- In Marvel Universe, the title of The Lord of Vampires can be obtained by killing its current holder in a duelto the death. Count Dracula gains it in the pages of Dracula Lives, and has to duel for it again near the end of the original run of The Tomb of Dracula after losing it due to being temporally turned into human.
- In the first appearance of the Morlocks in X-Men comics, Callisto's battle with Storm was supposed to be this. (Callisto even threw Storm a dagger so they could do it right.) Storm ultimately won, Callisto surviving due to quick action by the Morlock's Healer, but this meant Storm was able to seize leadership of the Morlocks from her. (Technically; she would rarely enforce this, but it did end the crisis.)
- In Code Geass Megiddo, Lelouch enters one with Suzaku during the Battle of Pearl Harbor after regaining his memories and returning to his role as Zero, leader of the Black Knights. The duel was an end result of eight years of hatred and resentment, in which both men finally let out their rage on each other. The battle itself was for the most part even, but Suzaku stunned Lelouch with a Wham Line towards the end that essentially sapped his opponent of his will to fight, and would've killed him had it not been for Kallen. Suzaku's declaration at the end during their escape makes it quite clear that any battle between them in the future will also be this.
- The Mummy Trilogy:
- Serenity: The Operative vs. Mal. The Operative is so devoted to his job that he happily dispatches honorable death without anger in the name of the Federation. Until Mal makes him angry by unleashing the Reavers of Miranda on Mr. Universe's moon. Then It's Personal — sort of. But Mal wins, and settles for temporarily crippling The Operative so he can see what his bosses have done, which leads to a My God, What Have I Done? moment on the part of The Operative.
- The Princess Bride, several times:
- The Man in Black vs. Inigo Montoya: Inigo is a man of honor and spares The Man In Black's life until he can pull himself together. After mutual I Am Not Left-Handed, The Man In Black spares Inigo's life after defeating him.
- The Man in Black vs. Fezzik: The Man in Black succeeds in besting the giant, but does not kill him.
- The Man in Black vs. Vizzini: Inconceivable! The Man in Black has built up an immunity to iocaine powder.
- Humperdink vs. Westley. Westley subverts the duel, invoking To the Pain instead and wins through Refuge in Audacity.
- Inigo Montoya vs. Count Rugen: It was a heroic revenge thing, and Inigo's obsession for the last decade or more. A killing blow is finally dealt, by Inigo to the Count.
- Flash Gordon - Flash vs. Barin. Defeat Means Friendship, and Barin swears loyalty to Flash in gratitude for not having been flung to his death.
- Every final confrontation between immortals in Highlander. Off with their heads! Subverted with Connor's duel with Boston Common.
- The Gladiatorial Combat variation is in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome ("two men enter, one man leaves").
- The movie Rob Roy about 17th century Scottish freedom fighter Robert Roy MacGregor features a duel between Rob, a highlander with a heavy, basket-hilted claymore and Archibald Cunningham, an English fop with a gentleman's small sword. Archibald proves the vastly superior swordsman, but drops his guard at the moment to victory to gloat. Rob grabs Archibald's blade and uses his last ounce of strength to cleave him nearly in two.
- The 13th Warrior (1999) (based on the novel The 13th Warrior) features a lethal duel between two Norsemen warriors. Each warrior is granted three shields to use during the combat. The larger, younger Norseman splinters all three of his opponent's shields and appears to be on the verge of victory. The smaller Norseman, however, isn't as weak or exhausted as he let on, and immediately decapitates the larger man. The ruse was all part of a ploy to intimidate the heroes' enemy with their strength and cunning.
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon features a duel in which a father and daughter challenge an old villain who slew their wife/mother. Later, Jen, armed with Green Destiny, fights Yu Shu-lien, armed with a variety of weapons, though the duel is not lethal.
- House of Flying Daggers, the final battle between Jin and Leo.
- Hero (2002) features several duels. The film opens with a duel between Sky and Nameless. Later, Nameless duels and defeats Flying Snow. The true outcome of both of these duels varies with each version of the tale. Broken Sword also duels the King, but spares his life.
- Also, Flying Snow challenges Broken Sword to a duel, only for him to drop his sword instead of parrying her strike. As he dies, she impales herself on her own sword, essentially nailing herself to his body.
- The Quick and the Dead is about a series of quick-draw competitions - in effect, pistol duels. They only officially become 'to the death' after the first round, though.
- Prince Caspian has one of these, Peter vs Miraz. It underlines how badass Miraz is, because he is at least equal to Peter, whereas his traitorous second in command gets killed by Peter in around two seconds flat, despite Peter having dislocated his shield arm.
- Unsurprisingly, Ridley Scott's movie The Duellists is about a series of duels, ostensibly to the death, between two Napoleonic-era French soldiers. A slight subversion, in that despite their best efforts they consistently fail to kill each other, and in the end one of them just walks away.
- Equally unsurprisingly, the film Duel to the Death centers around a duel to the death: a recurring duel between the top warrior of Japan and China for their nations' honor. Although the Chinese swordsman is a nicer guy, both characters are treated sympathetically when they puzzle out a sinister Japanese plot to fix the fight. They still end up dueling, however, with lethal results.
- Robot Jox portrays a dystopic future where nucular armageddon is averted by resolving all battles with duels between Humongous Mecha, which are consumed through the mass media like sporting events. The trope is hilariously averted in the final duel when the villain and hero spontaneously decide to stop fighting and give each other a thumbs-up knuckle-bump.
- Peter Blood and the evil pirate Levasseur in Captain Blood.
- In The Karate Kid Part II a man who lost face before Miyagi waited his whole life to have this with him. Because as Miyagi says, "In Okinawa, honor VERY Serious Business." Miyagi avoids the duel by saving the man's life before it happens; the man is willing to consider the debt paid because of that.
- In The Man with the Golden Gun, James Bond and Scaramanga have a formal duel ("take ten paces, turn and fire") with Nick Nack as the referee. Subverted when Bond turns around to fire and finds that Scaramanga has vanished into his maze to have a cat-and-mouse game with him.
- It is Star Wars film tradition to have a lightsaber duel between two Force-users at some point in the movie, usually near the end. Just as often as not, the duel doesn't end with someone's death — Qui-Gon Jinn of Episode 1, Count Dooku of Episode 3 and Obi-Wan of Episode 4 all met their ends in a lightsaber duel, but the rest usually ended in some other fashion, sometimes with one character losing a hand.
- Plunkett & Macleane features a duel to the death pistols at dawn style between Plunkett and General Chance. Both survive however.
- The silent classic Flesh and the Devil (1927) has one of these between John Gilbert's character and the husband of Greta Garbo's character, after the latter discovers an affair between the two.
- Woody Allen's Love and Death.
Anton Inbedkov: Shall we say pistols at dawn?Boris Grushenko: Well, we can say it. I don't know what it means, but we can say it.
- Kill Bill has a series of them, leading up to the one implied by the title.
- Happens at the end of Lethal Weapon between Martin Riggs and Mr. Joshua.
- In the climax of By The Sword, Villard reveals to Suba that his father died this way to his best student, not realizing that Suba was the student who killed his father and has come back to make amends.
- In Robin and Marian, Robin and the Sheriff of Nottingham agree to fight a single combat rather than commit their armies to a pitched battle. Robin kills the Sheriff but Sir Ranulf, the Sheriff's second-in-command, disregards the agreement and attacks anyway, slaughtering Robin's men.
- The Great Waldo Pepper: Waldo and Kessler turn what is supposed to be a filming flight for a movie into one.
- In Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, the French and German officers have a duel in balloons with blunderbusses.
- Robin and Sir Miles at the end of Robin Hood (1991).
- True Believer: Shu Kai Kim engages in one with a member of a rival prison gang at the beginning of the film.
- Münchhausen has a rather unique "cuckoo" duel at the court of Catherine the Great. Combatants are locked in a room in total darkness, and take turns shooting when their opponent calls "cuckoo".
- The orcs in WarCraft have a tradition of mak'gora, a formal duel in which two orcs try to kill one another. It's considered sacred and the participants are pretty much untouchable - Blackhand refuses to stop a mak'gora in progress in an emergency situation and when Lothar wins his mak'gora, other orcs disobey Gul'dan when he wants to have the human murdered, letting Lothar leave unharmed. Gul'dan also loses a lot of points with the Horde when he "wins" a mak'gora by draining the life out of his opponent with fel magic (using magic in a mak'gora is considered cheating).
- Dune climaxes in a knife fight between Paul Arteides and Feyd-Ruatha.
- Troy has a great one between Achilles and Hector.
- The Earrings of Madame de... ends with a duel between Louise's husband Andre and Louise's lover Donati. Andre kills Donati.
- The Four Musketeers climaxes in a duel between d'Artagnan and Rochefort, as does The Three Musketeers (1993).
- Spartacus has the titular hero in two - one against Draba and one against Antoninus.
- Gladiator has Maximus fight Tigris of Gaul and later Commodus.
- Highlander has several:
- Connor MacLeod vs. Iman Fasil.
- Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez vs. The Kurgan.
- The Kurgan vs. Sunda Kastagir.
- Connor vs. The Kurgan.
- A Deleted Scene had The Kurgan vs. Yung Dol Kim.
- A flashback has Connor engaged in Pistols At Dawn with an aristocrat in the 17th century. Being immortal, Connor walks away from it.
- The Count of Monte Cristo
- A military man is brought to a secret meeting by Napoleon supporters hoping to recruit him. Instead, his bickers and trades insults with the group over their differences in politics. Finally the leader of the group feels that he has been insulted once too many times and challenges the man to a duel. Although he is wounded several times, the leader kills the military man and throws his body off of a cliff, leaving his family none the wiser of his fate for many years.
- The Count himself casually states that we will agree to a duel under any circumstances, whether swords or pistols or even drawn lots. He's that sure of victory.
- The Three Musketeers series features a number of duels, some more lethal than others. Of particular note, D'Artagnan meets and befriends the title trio when each of them challenge him to a duel on the same day.
- Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series: Stephen Maturin is an accomplished duellist: he claims to have gone out twenty times in his first year at university. There are two particular examples in the canon: he is shot in the chest by Cannings in a formal duel, and while he only aims to injure, due to his injured hands shoots him in the throat and kills him instead. In Sydney, he fights a soldier who insults him in a very fast Crowning Moment of Awesome. Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin nearly duel in the second book of the series.
- In fact they nearly duel in the first book. It's how they met.
- They also nearly "go out" for a duel again later in the series. Captain Aubrey, iron man of the Royal Navy, victor of many battles, fierce battler of many boardings, is sure that Maturin will slaughter him.
- Horatio Hornblower:
- "Hornblower and the Even Chance", one of the stories in Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, features a subversion. Hornblower knew that his opponent was both a better shot and a better swordsman (and being somewhat suicidal at the time), Hornblower chose to have a 50-50 chance duel. Two pistols, one of which was loaded, chosen by duellists at random. He was perfectly happy to kill his opponent, in fact that was the whole point of challenging him to a duel to begin with, but he would have counted being fatally shot as a win too. The captain ensured that neither of the pistols were loaded however, causing the duel to be declared null and void, and arranged for Hornblower to get a position on another, better, ship. It was played differently in the Mini Series adaptation. (See the Live-Action TV section for details.)
- During Hornblower and the Atropos, a Jerkass pearl-diving master named McCullum duels Eisenbess, the pompous minister to the exiled Prince of Seitz-Bunau (currently a midshipman). This is a problem, as diving for lost British gold is the Atropos' entire mission. When Hornblower visits the wounded McCullum and the man continues to insult with every other word, Hornblower wonders how the man has "lived for so long without previously being shot in a duel."
- The fourth novel of the Honor Harrington series goes as far to allude to it in the title, Field of Dishonor. Dueling is legal in the Star Kingdom of Manticore, and tends to be used by the aristocracy more often than the commoners. On Grayson it goes far enough you can request a trial by combat against the protectors champion.
- Honor engages in two of these in Field Of Dishonor, the first being against a professional duelist who killed her lover in a duel to goad her into challenging him, on the assumption that, as a Naval officer, she wouldn't have the same level of skill as he does. Unfortunately for him, her uncle's involvement in the Beowulf Society for Creative Anachronism made her very familiar with the chemical-propellant guns used in duels, and her genetic enhancements sharpened her hand-eye co-ordination to the point that she could simply shoot from the hip. The end result was the she hit her opponent four times before he could even raise his gun.
- The second duel in Field of Dishonor was against the man who hired the previous duelist, a cowardly, amoral aristocrat. He was so terrified that he turned and fired early...but failed to kill Honor. He was promptly splattered by both Honor and the Marshall of the Field. She is later heavily criticized by aristocrats for, in their opinion, shooting an unarmed man (he had expended all his ammo by that point), conveniently ignoring that, the moment his violated the rules of the duel, his life was legally forfeit. Even if Honor hadn't fired, the marshall would still have killed him on the spot.
- In Flag in Exile, Honor, badly injured in a shuttle crash, is forced to engage in a sword duel against a Grayson Steadholder. Despite his greater experience in swordsmanship, she cuts him down with contemptuous ease - he had the mindset of a sport fencer, not a hardened killer like Honor, and wasn't mentally prepared for a battle to the death.
- It's mentioned that there are two protocols for duels on Manticore. One is of the "first blood" variety, although death is still possible. The other is of the "until one is dead or both out of ammo" variety.
- In Anne McCaffrey's novel Dragonflight, Lessa goads the bronze dragonrider F'lar into one of these against the corrupt Holder named Fax, since Fax murdered every one of Lessa's family.
- Harry Turtledove's "Southern Victory" series has an alternate-historical version of General George S. Patton so outraged by a viewpoint character's comments that he challenges the character to a duel and requests his choice of weapons. The character gets out of it by clever choice of weapons, as with the Abraham Lincoln case below.
- Sharpe: Sharpe fights several duels in the books and films, most formally in Sharpe's Revenge against Captain Bampfylde, a Royal Navy captain who abandoned his men to the French. In the novel Sharpe's actually trying to gut-shoot Bampfylde, but unfortunately the smoothbore flintlock doesn't quite shoot straight. In the adaptation he knows Wellington wouldn't tolerate him having killed the man, so deliberately shoots him in the backside.
- Terry Pratchett's Nation features a battle between Mau and First Mate Cox, with the stakes being whether or not a tribe of cannibals will feast on Mau's tribe.
- In Dorothy L. Sayers's Gaudy Night, Lord Peter Wimsey recounts that he's been challenged to a duel three times and fought twice; the third time the police intervened, and Lord Peter suspects that the other man disliked Lord Peter's choice of weapons, swords.
Lord Peter: A bullet, you see, may go anywhere, but steel's almost bound to go somewhere.
- Harriet Vane, to whom Peter is telling the tale, then accuses him of bragging.
- In Teresa Edgerton's The Queen's Necklace, Wil is readying himself for a duel when the novel opens. The authorities intervene. It proves to be The Plan to keep him out of the way; as the queen's guard, he would have prevented her having done something foolish.
- G. K. Chesterton:
- In The Man Who Was Thursday, at one point the police infiltrating an anarchist organization set up a duel between one of their number and an anarchist, to delay him. As a consequence, the policeman demands they fight to first serious injury, not first blood, because he can delay him long enough that way.
- In the Father Brown story "The Duel of Dr Hirsch", Dr Hirsch issues a challenge to a duel.
- The entire setup of The Ball and the Cross is that an old-fashioned Catholic and militant atheist flee from the police across the English countryside to try and engage in an (illegal) duel to the death, but are thwarted at every turn in increasingly hilarious and bizarre ways.
- In Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain novel The Traitor's Hand, when Beije insults the regiment's colonel, Cain declares they will duel over it if they survive their situation and he does not apologize. They do, but he does.
- In The Last Ditch, a novice Commissar starts to mouth off about Colonel Kasteen's preference for actual tactics and Jurgen asks Cain if he should start making the arrangements. Once the above scene is described to her, the other Commissar backs down.
- In William King's Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf novel Grey Hunters, a young Marine is astounded at the way Sven and Ragnar bicker. Back on their native Fenris, it would have lead to a duel to the death.
- In Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson's Hoka stories, once Alex Jones challenged the Pirate Greenbeard to a duel — when Greenbeard was the persona he adopted to infiltrate the pirates. Staging it behind a wall, he convinced the Hoka pirates that he had actually fought it.
- In Parzival, these are so common that a duel is almost the first response of any knight meeting another.
- The Reynard Cycle: You can expect at least one of these to occur in each installment of the series.
- From Star Wars: Dueling is a big part of Adumari (well, really Cartannese) culture, so naturally it comes up a lot in Starfighters of Adumar. And, in Cartann at least, every single duel is or can be to the death. It starts with starfighter dueling - naturally, the New Republic contingent refuses to do it - and goes from there. One main character attempts Suicide by Duel Opponent; another steps in to fight the guy who would've killed her (but not before using his blastsword to draw a stick figure of a man with a tiny head to taunt his opponent) but doesn't kill, preferring to punch him within an inch of unconsciousness, and then slap him. Heck, it's considered romantic to give someone else the choice of life or death after winning a duel! (The other nations are, mercifully, less insane than Cartann. Their duels aren't deadly.)
- A Song of Ice and Fire features a number of "trials by combat" in which people are challenged to a duel in answer for their perceived crimes or to settle a dispute. Each of the Tales of Dunk and Egg ends with a duel as well. The laws allow for the trial by combat to be fought by a champion on behalf of the accuser/accused, the reasoning being that the gods will not allow the innocent party to lose. However, the fact that all the trials by combat involve each party trying to get the most dangerous warriors they can find to do the fighting, and are often unsatisfied by the outcome, it is clear that nobody really believes the gods have any say in it. Exploiting the trope, Ax-Crazy King Joffrey is found of ordering people who come to him seeking arbitration to fight to the death to resolve the matter. This and the other cruelties he calls justice don't do much to improve the public's opinion of him.
- In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Blood Angels novel Red Fury, the Flesh Tearer Noxx gets Kayne into a situation where he can challenge him. Rafen, being Kayne's sergeant, breaks his fingers and says that since Kayne can not face him, he will take his place. The resultant fight is not supposed to be to the death, but Rafen realized he intends to kill him and overpowers him.
- In Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter of Mars books, a practice of the Green Martians. Indeed, the only way to get a second name and a chieftain's metal is through this, with the chieftain.
- In The Chessman of Mars, the men of Manator sometimes fight games of jetan with live pieces to settle affairs of honor.
- In Ben Counter's Warhammer 40,000 novel Chapter War, Eumenes challenges Sarpedon in the opening; Sarpedon insists on its being to first blood. They fight such a challenge again at the climax, and this time, Sarpedon realizes he must kill.
- The Dresden Files:
- Harry Dresden was once formally challenged to a duel under the Unseelie Accords (something like the supernatural equivalent of the U.N.) by a duke of the Red Court. It was decided that it would be a duel of wills, whereby a ball of matter from outside of reality would be encased in a spell that reacted to willpower and each of the two would have to try to force it against the other. Harry ultimately won by summoning Heroic Willpower after the vampire threatened that his friends would be murdered if he won (although the vampire did try to cheat by drawing a gun when it became apparent he would lose). The vampire wasn't killed (as he fled the duel) but Ebenezer McCoy saw to that. Using a disused Soviet satellite.
- Harry himself later challenges the Duke's widow, Arianna Ortega, to a more traditional Wizard Duel To The Death in Changes.
- In White Night, Harry and fellow Warden Carlos Ramirez challenge White Court vampires Madrigal Raith and Vittorio Malvora to a two-on-two duel in front of practically the entire White Court due to a string of serial murders of weaker magically-talented humans, in an effort to prove how weak the White Council of Wizards was. Since this is on the tail end of the two vampires trying to claim that the string of murders was their idea (instead of them stealing the thunder from another vampire noble house), the White King pretty much forces them to go along with the challenge, telling them they have to deal with the consequences of their actions. Harry and Ramirez proceed to kick some incubus ass.
- Jim Butcher must like this trope; Codex Alera also has this as a political and social institution, known as juris macto. Although they've been threatened several times, we only see two. One is between Tavi and Navaris, who hopelessly outclasses him but is a little too psycho for her own good; Tavi Breaking Speeches her into making a mistake in a fit of blind rage. The other is a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown of Isana by Lord Antillus, who also finds himself being psychoanalyzed mid-fight, though, since Isana knew she couldn't win, that was actually the whole point of the challenge.
- The juris macto comes with an interesting caveat: The challenged can have a champion fight on their behalf, but the challenger cannot. This serves to radically shrink the number that happen, since a High Lord or elite metalcrafter might well step in on behalf of the defendant if they're convinced of his innocence.
- One epic duel we don't get to see was the legendary one between Aldrick ex Gladius and Araris Valerian. These two Master Swordsmen went for ten hours note in Alera Imperia, where something like 50,000 people turned out to see it.
- The juris macto has an interesting legal implication as well: A non-Citizen can become a Citizen by challenging and defeating them, as we learn in the backstory of High Lady Placida, who killed the brother of a High Lord to gain her Citizenship. A juris macto can also be non-fatal, as witnessed in Academ's Fury and the duel between High Lord Kalarus and his son Brencis, which gained Brencis his Citizenship. This seem to be a pro forma method of granting Citizen's kids their own Citizenship without killing their parents.
- The finale of The Belgariad by David Eddings is a duel between The Hero and Chosen One, Garion, and the Dark God Torak. To address the seeming impossibility of a farmboy killing a Physical God, both are acting as proxies of the competing Purposes of the Universe, with control over fate itself going to the victor.
- Similar things happen in another series by David Eddings, The Elenium, at least twice. One duel is between Sparhawk and Martel (who acts as an evil god Azash's champion). Another duel is between Sparhawk and a Physical God Cyrgon—there they both act as champions of counteracting cosmic forces.
- In Robert E. Howard's "The Shadow Kingdom" Kull refused to fight one with a mere ambassador.
- In 1632, a bar fight nearly turns into a duel, until MacKay is informed that dueling is illegal in Grantville. In a separate incident, Tom Simpson states that if challenged to a duel, his weapon of choice would be the 10 pound sledgehammer, the announcement of which probably guaranteed that he would never be challenged to a duel.
- This is Colonel Mustard's shtick in the Clue books. He challenges everyone left and right for the slightest infraction, though only once in the entire series does he actually duke it out with someone.
- In Scaramouche, Andre-Louis Moreau does this with several members of the Privleged Party, but the most notable one is the duel with the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr.
- In John C. Wright's Count to the Eschaton, Menelaus's second occupation.
- In Fredric R. Stewart's Cerberon, after George punches Aladavan, and he's convinced Aladavan plans terrible retribution, George suggests they have a duel to get it over with. Fortunately for George, Aladavan considers the idea ridiculous.
- Aladavan is forced to duel the son of a wizard he killed in a Trial by Combat. Aladavan is not allowed to use his sword or magic in the fight, while his opponent is fully armed.
- George offers to duel Captain Mayhew to settle their differences. He tells Mayhew about the special ammunition his pistols are loaded with and lets him pick which one he wants to use.
- In Bernard Cornwell's The Pale Horseman, the protagonist Uhtred is sentenced to fight a duel with one of Alfred The Great's champions. It's interrupted by a full-scale Danish invasion.
- The Shadow of the Torturer features a duel between the protagonist and a mysterious army officer that's fought using flowers. The flower in question, the avern, has poisonous leaves that the combatants pluck off and throw at each other like darts.
- Another bizarre duel takes place in The System of the World - it's fought with cannons. (Not quite as odd in context - the challenged party, who has the right to choose the weapons, is an officer of a merchant ship, and more familiar with cannons than swords or pistols.)
- In Poul Anderson's "Holmgang", Bo and Lundgard stage this in space, after Bo learns he killed Johnny and is going to seize the ship for his rebellion.
- In Julie Kagawa's The Iron King, when Ash and Puck meet. Meghan asks Puck not, because of the danger, and Puck says that duels to the death tend to end in it.
- In Stephanie Burgis's A Tangle of Magicks , the brother of a woman the Viscount Scarwood ruined fought one. He was the one who got shot, not fatally.
- In Dune the Fremen fight duels with their traditional Sandworm-tooth crysknives, that are always to the death. The first time Paul is challenged to one he is reluctant to kill his opponent, which the onlookers initially mistake for "toying with him".
- In Richard Ellis Preston Jr.'s Chronicles Of The Pneumatic Zeppelin novel Romulus Buckle & the Engines of War, a Mexican Standoff is resolved by Romulus's insulting Goethe and requiring this.
- Dying of the Light has a rather elaborate system for dueling. The duelists must decide on the weapons used, the location, the mode, and whether or not they fight with a partner. The challenged gets the first choice, any of the four, followed by the challenger, the challenged again, and finally the challenger. The dueling code also covers special circumstances, such as if one party is young, sick, or partnerless.
- In the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries a number are fought, despite being illegal.
- Implied in Sense and Sensibility when Colonel Brandon tells Elinor that he and Willougby "met by appointment" to settle the matter of Willoughby's having impregnated and abandoned Brandon's ward. Both left unwounded. Though it doesn't go into detail, deloping—deliberately missing—was not uncommon. Elinor privately thinks such measures are too far, but doesn't censure her friend out loud.
- After Wickham and Lydia disappear in Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Bennet fears that her husband would duel Wickham on finding him and leave the family to the Collins' charity. She refuses to be calmed by her elder daughters' reminders that Mr. Bennet is really not the kind of character who would get into a duel.
- In The Empress Game, the gladiatorial combat in which Kayla participates is often brutal, but Kayla herself prefers to incapacitate her enemies rather than kill them. Later, in the Empress Game itself, the duels are not to the death, which Kayla notes is sometimes to her advantage — if she actually had to damage her opponents rather than just score points, she'd have a tougher job, since some of them could take more damage than she could.
- The Icelandic Sagas contain several of these, usually delivered in Beige Prose concerning the outcome rather than spending any time on giving a blow-by-blow recapture. Usually they are done to prevent a Cycle of Revenge between two injured parties, and usually duking it out doesn't take anyway.
- The Dinosaur Lords has a duel between Falk and the commander of Emperor's Praetorian Guard as part of Falk's plot to take over the Guard for purposes of The Coup. Falk wins handily.
- There was a Boys Own-type series featuring a large hero nicknamed Colossus. In one book he's challenged by an arrogant toreador, who thinks Colossus is Too Dumb to Live when he chooses swords as his weapon of choice. Colossus however turns up with two huge claymores, which the toreador can barely lift. He then suffers the humiliation of being spanked by the flat of the blade wielded by the hero.
- This Immortal:
- Conrad challenges Hasan the Arab to a duel to the death (after having payed his death tax and acquiered a duel permit, of course) in order to stop him from killing Myshtigo. The dual is fought using slingshots but is interrupted by a group of Kouretes, so no one actually dies.
- When captured by the Kouretes, the group is given the option that one of them fight the Dead Man in a duel to the death to win all of their freedom. Moreby is very confident that whoever fights will lose, as that's what always happens. Hasan kills the Dead Man, but, predictably, Moreby does not keep his promise of letting them go.
- The Firefly episode "Shindig" has Mal dueling Atherton Wing as a result of Mal decking the aristocrat for essentially calling Inara a whore. Mal wins, and lets Atherton live — albeit perhaps a bit scratched up.
"Mercy is the mark of a great man." *Stabbity!* "I guess I'm just a good man." *Stabbity times two!* "Well, I'm all right."
- Has happened a few times on Star Trek:
- The Original Series:
- The Next Generation:
- Tasha Yar's duel with Yareena in "Code of Honor". In a twist, Tasha does kill Yareena, but then Dr. Crusher revives her after Yareena's been officially dead long enough to nullify her marriage to her jerkass husband.
- Klingons, unsurprisingly, have more than one dueling protocol. After Duras kills K'Ehleyr, Worf's lover, Worf storms onto his ship and kills him in the Rite of Vengeance. This also happens to resolve the Empire's Succession Crisis and puts Gowron in the top spot.
- During the finale of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Worf then removes Gowron from power with one of these because Gowron is using the war to play politics (with disastrous results for the actual soldiers). Then he gives the coat to his sworn brother, Martok.
- Quark participates in no less than two of these, although neither ends in death. The first time, he is temporarily in charge of a Klingon noble House and attempts to prove that the head of another House has been attempting to destroy "his" House through financial means (a big no-no in Klingon society). The other Klingon challenges him to a duel in response, figuring the weak Ferengi will be easy to beat. However, Quark drops his bat'leth at the start of the fight, refusing to participate in this farce. When the other Klingon tries to strike him down anyway, Gowron intervenes, having seen proof of the other Klingon's dishonor, and praises Quark's bravery. Later, an aide to his Klingon lover challenges Quark. Quark wins by using Worf to remotely control his body. Quark/Worf knocks the other Klingon down but spares him. Quark's lover declares honor satisfied and dismisses the other Klingon from her employ.
- Star Trek: Enterprise expands the Andorian culture into Romanticism incarnate, to contrast them with their Enlightentment Vulcan rivals. No surprise that Archer eventually has to duel his frenemy Shran, although the Andorian dueling code is so complex they're able to find an accepted way to avoid an actual killing.
- Doctor Who
- Although the Doctor rarely picks up a weapon, he did duel with an alien spaceship captain in "The Christmas Invasion" special, in a "this town ain't big enough for the both of us" scene. After beating the alien, he graciously decided to let him live (despite the fact the aliens had come to enslave humanity and had previously killed two diplomatic aides in cold blood), but when the humiliated alien captain attacked the Doctor from behind, the Doctor finished him off by dropping him off the edge of the spaceship hovering over London. By throwing a piece of fruit at the release button.
- In The King's Demons, Hugh insists on taking up the king's champion's gauntlet, to protect his father. He is highly insulted when the champion, having unhorsed him, comes to finish him off and the Doctor intervenes, saving his life.
- In The Curse of Peladon, The Doctor is forced into a duel with the champion. Even though he's an old man, the Doctor wins anyway.
- It's been done on Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, probably more than once.
- Angel, several times. In one of the earliest, he wins when his opponent impales him, assumes he's won, and turns away. Angel then cuts his head off. What kind of demon assumes impalement is automatically going to work?
- Discussed when Buffy and Webs, a former classmate who was turned into a vampire, fought in "Conversations With Dead People".
- The Middleman had the title character forced into a vastly outnumbered Duel to the Death on behalf of his mentor, Sensei Ping.
- The first season had the title character challenge someone who revealed him as a bastard to a duel, and was shocked when the man enthusiastically replied, "To the death!". Luckily, he was just messing with his head.
- The third season ends with a Blackadder in a duel to the death with cannon against the Duke of Wellington. Lucky thing he had that cigarette case on him.
- Speaking of which: the A Bit of Fry and Laurie sketch The Duel. It turns out that "sword or pistol" is an either-or, so when the challenger picks the sword, his opponent gets... the pistol. They eventually settle for dueling with handkerchiefs, but the sketch ends when the witness realizes he doesn't have anything left to drop.
- Babylon 5 has one in the second season episode Knives, though it's more a Suicide by Cop gambit to save one Centauri's family from being tainted by a charge of treason.
Neroon: Den'sha, you said. "To the death". And death there was. The death... was mine. To see a human invoke the name of Valen — to be willing to die for one my kind, when I was intent on killing one of my own... the rightness of my cause... disappeared.
- Minbari duel with hollow metal quarterstaffs(probably sharpened at the edges). As a duel is presumably consensual it is considered by them to be "suicide" and hence it is not Minbari killing Minbari.
- The most dramatic example of this is Marcus dueling Neroon, to prevent the latter from assassinating Delenn. Marcus loses, but he gets better.
- James May's Man Lab has an entire segment dedicated to the art of dueling, culminating in James and his producer Will dueling over a parking space with flintlocks the first time (resulting in the death of an errant sound man), and paintball guns the second time. Will wins the second duel, and as James lays "dying," his life flashes before his eyes.
- Surprisingly, there are several in Stargate SG-1. After finding out that La Résistance leader K'tano is actually a minor Goa'uld named Imhotep, Teal'c challenges him to a duel. However, instead of traditional Jaffa weapons, they use wooden training staffs in the shape of the staff weapons. When K'tano is about to finish Teal'c off after breaking his staff in two, Teal'c uses a broken piece of the staff to impale K'tano as he lunges for the killing blow.
- Later on, Cameron Mitchell engages in several sword duels with holographic knights. He wins one by beating the knight. The other one can't be beaten normally and almost kills Cameron, but Daniel ends up shooting the holo-projector. Also, Cameron is captured by a secretive tribe of Jaffa, who have developed their own form of martial arts. As Cameron is accused of killing one of their tribesman (the guy is actually alive at SGC), he is told that he will be executed by allowing a family member of the deceased to fight him. Being fair, they send one of their own to teach Cameron their martial art. When it comes time for the duel, Cam finds out that his teacher is the brother of the "deceased" and his opponent. Despite his military training and the new skills, the brother easily beats Cam and pretends to kill him.
- In Stargate Atlantis, John Sheppard finally kills off Acastus Kolya with a quick draw, after Kolya refuses to surrender.
- In an episode of the re-imagined Flash Gordon series, Flash is enamoured with Princess Aura under the influence of a Love Potion. Barin, the leader of a local tribe, whom Ming wants to marry Aura (despite both being unwilling) happens upon Flash and Aura. Right at this moment, Ming walks in and sees the three of them. Gleefuly, he forces them both to publicly duel to the death for Aura's hand using poisoned flail-like weapons. The problem is that Barin is a warrior and has been trained to use the weapon, while Flash is a marathon runner from Earth with few hand-to-hand combat skills. Quickly disarming Flash, Barin prepares to finish him off, but can't. Instead, he throws the weapon at Ming, who goes down from the poison. Aura then reveals that she has replaced the poison in the weapons with a fast-acting sedative meant to simulate death and that Ming will be very angry when he wakes up.
- Interestingly, Ming was angry at Aura not for replacing the poison with a sedative but for not finishing him off when she had the chance, implying that only a Klingon Promotion could make her worthy to rule in his stead.
- Deconstructed in a Castle episode, where the victim of the week was found with a musket ball in his chest. Of course, Castle immediately spun off a theory about a time-traveling pirate. When the apparently murder weapon, an antique pistol, was found, Beckett and Castle proceeded to test it at the firing range, before realizing that there's no way to hit a specific target at range with it (even steadying the weapon and using a laser sight). It turns out that the victim and his friend specifically used two antique pistol to settle their dispute because they didn't want to hurt each other but wanted to keep their honor. Unfortunately, a rival of the victim's found out and shot him with a rifle loaded with a musket ball.
- The inaccuracy of dueling pistols was grossly exaggerated for that episode. The reason that specially crafted sets of weapons were used for duels is that they were carefully engineered to be as accurate as possible, and the majority of 19th Century dueling pistols could put a half-dozen shots in a three-inch ring at 20 paces. Doesn't keep that montage from being hilarious though.
- Parodied in the Red Dwarf X episode "The Beginning", which opens with a rogue simulant claiming that Lister has killed his brother, and challenging him to a duel across space and time. It turns out that "Hoagey the Roguey" has been challenging the crew to duels across space and time on a regular basis, and they're getting sick of it. Evidently, they're not actually to the death.
Hoagey: You say I'm obsessed with duels across time and space? You insult my honour! I challenge you to a duel across time and space!
- JAG: In "Dog Robber (Part 1)", Mac deals with two Naval Academy pledges (fictional descendants of Burr & Hamilton) who staged a failed duel.
- Hornblower, episode "The Even Chance" AKA "The Duel": Horatio challenges Simpson because he accused him of cheating in cards. The real reason was to either kill their bully or to die, not having to face his torture any more. His friend Clayton clubs him and fights Simpson in his stead. Unfortunately, poor Clayton is shot. However, when Simpson and Hornblower meet later, they are to face each other yet again. Simpson fires early and claims it was a misfire, giving Horatio a free shot. Being the Dirty Coward he is, he begs for his life and Horatio fires into the air, saying he's not worth the powder. Humiliated and furious, he tries to stab Horatio In the Back. Captain Pellew shoots him dead, exhibiting some fine Improbable Aiming Skills.
- By The Sword Divided features two of these, both involving Cavalier officer Tom Lacey. In the first series he fights a fellow Cavalier to defend his sister, Anne. In the second, he deliberately provokes the Roundhead Major General Horton into challenging him to a duel at dawn.
- In The Musketeers, this happens quite often. The first episode has D'Artagnan seeking out Athos and challenging him to a duel because he mistakenly believed that Athos had murdered his father.
- In one skit on The Muppet Show, a knight named "Sir Avery of Macho" (portrayed by Special Guest Avery Schreiber) challenges the Monster of the Moors (portrayed by Sweetums) to a duel of insults, while Kermit in his reporter attire watches and comments on it. Avery eventually loses, but manages to claim that it wasn't the Monster's insult that got him - it was his breath.
- An episode of Sliders has them end up in a world where the Republic of Texas never became part of the US and takes up most of the former Mexican states. As such, duels (of the quick draw variety) are a common way of settling disputes, and there are professional duelists frequently hired by businessmen to remove rivals and conduct hostile takeovers. Quinn is challenged by one but drops his gun, refusing to participate. Not being a complete monster, the professional duelist can't bring himself to shoot an unarmed man.
- Legends of Tomorrow
- The team travels to The Wild West to hide from the Time Masters but happens upon a gang terrorizing a town. They manage to capture the leader of the gang, but the gang takes one of theirs prisoner as well. Jonah Hex suggests someone duel the gang leader at high noon. Ray, having been named the town sheriff, volunteers, despite having no experience with a revolver, but Rip decides to go himself, being a crack shot (and his own blaster is even shaped like a revolver). Rip ends up winning, and the remaining members of the gang release Jefferson and flee the town, abiding by the terms of the duel.
- Earlier, Ray, Kendra, and Sara are accidentally left behind in 1958. After a while, Sara leaves the couple and goes to Nanda Parbat to (re)join the League of Assassins. By the time the rest of the team return, Sara's mind has mostly forgotten her origins, and she has become a true member of the League. An attempt to rescue her goes awry, and everyone is captured. Knowing the rules of the League, Rip challenges Ra's al Ghul to a duel for the fate of the prisoners. Presumably, Rip has no intention of actually killing Ra's decades before his fated death at Oliver's hands, but he probably assumes that Ra's can be healed in the Lazarus Pit. However, unknown to Rip, both he and Ra's are able to choose a challenger to take their place. Ra's chooses Sara. Reworking his plan, Rip chooses Kendra, Sara's friend and frequent sparring partner, hoping that Kendra can reach Sara during the fight. It works. Sara bests Kendra but snaps back before dealing the killing blow. Then Chronos attacks, and the duel is forgotten.
- Several ancien regime-style duels are featured in the video to Wolf Parade's "I'll Believe in Anything." The final duel involves cannons (possibly inspired by the one Kaiser Wilhelm II was involved in; both the officer in Wilhelm's case and the challenged guy clearly think of the whole duel thing as ridiculous).
- Norse Mythology:
- An interesting mash up between this and Talking the Monster to Death is found in Norse Mythology and the tradition of a Riddle Game... to the DEATH! This is a favorite tactic of Odin and was also taken whole-cloth by Tolkien for the deadly riddle contest of Bilbo and Gollum, including the unanswerable question at the end.
- The Prose Edda tells how after Hrungnir, the strongest of the giants, has insulted and threatened the Aesir, Thor and Hrungnir settle the score by fighting each other in single combat. Hrungnir is specified to be the first (which possibly implies, the only) opponent to actually challenge Thor to a duel.
- This is the premise of Black Knight
- Warhammer 40,000.
- Common among the Imperium, Chaos, and Dark Eldar in Extremely common, if informal, among the Orks.
- "Informal" in this case roughly translates to "only when shooting them in the back with your favourite gun doesn't kill them instantly".
- This was given an explicit rule, "Challenge", in Sixth edition: if two squads each have an upgraded/attached unit such as a sergeant, or if one squad is an independent character all on their own, then when they close for melee combat the attackers can issue a challenge to the defenders. If the challenge is accepted, each duelist can ONLY affect the other (useful when one tends to make a lot of attacks per round and could wipe out a squad); if rejected, the defending champion can't take part in that round of combat (still potentially useful, in cases where one unit can't take out the attacking character but the whole squad can).
- Lucius the Eternal tends to only fight to his full ability when he's called one of these. With a sword and whip. Likely against someone with a big gun.
- Ogres combine this with an Eating Contest; the winner gets to eat the loser. The ogres will gladly take similar challenges from non-ogres, except trolls, whose Hollywood Acid digestive system is a Game Breaker even by ogre standards.
- Warhammer Fantasy isn't too far behind, with Empire, Dark Elves, Orcs, Chaos and Ogres all engaging in this to some extent.
- Ogres in particularly are big believers in it; leadership of a tribe only changes with the death of the current Tyrant. Sometimes this is of fairly natural causes (the legendary Tyrant Olflab Stonecruncher Fatgut Deathcheater choking to death on his great-grandson's skull after ruling for over 90 years, for example). Most commonly, a "guts out pit-fight", where two ogres fight to the death with their bare hands and the winner eats the loser, is what determines a change of power.
- Rokugan's culture favors contests of iaijutsu when it comes down to two bushi having a personal clash. That said, the parties involved require special dispensation from their lords in order to fully realize this trope—their lives are not for themselves to choose to throw away, after all. Normally, such duels are thus merely to first blood.
- A deeply rooted part of Clan warrior culture in the BattleTech universe. Not only is it fairly common to settle disagreements with duels (not always to the death, but few Clanners blink an eye if it happens as long as nobody cheated), but it also constitutes the appeals process in the courts, is essential to the promotion process, and is mandatory to participate in the political process, where earning the right to vote requires you to be the winner of a 24-man dueling tournament. The attitude goes so far that ganging up on a single enemy in actual combat is considered a breach of the rules of warfare, to the point where an odd man out will wait until his comrade is killed, and then engage the now "free" enemy. In essence, a properly fought Clan v Clan war is the sum total of numerous individual duels.
- Chaosium's Stormbringer! supplement Stealer of Souls. After 4 merchants have Elric of Melniboné kill Nikorn, one way for Nikorn's daughter Freya to get revenge is to challenge each of the merchants to a duel. If she takes too long dealing with them, one of the merchants will seek her out for a duel. In the sequel Black Sword, Freya can duel Elric himself.
- Traveller: Several versions. Notably Aslan who fight duels with claws. As each one has a claw long enough to serve as a dagger It Makes Sense in Context.
- Car Wars features these, both with and without cars being involved.
- In Rocket Age the Silthuri sometimes use duels to settle matters, usually hiring a champion. Most duels aren't usually to the death, but there are exceptions.
- In Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution two telekinetics or two psychokinetics with near-to-equal talent levels and a bone to pick can initiate psychic duels. They are highly dangerous for both parties and anyone else nearby.
- In Shakespeare's Henry IV part 1, Prince Hal challenges Hotspur to single combat in lieu of their two armies meeting. The offer is more or less rejected, the armies fight, but Hal and Hotspur eventually have their duel, which becomes the "this town ain't big enough for the two of us" version.
Hal: Two stars keep not their motion in one sphere, Nor can England brook a double reign of Harry Percy and the Prince of Wales.
- Averted Trope in Zemsta - the challenge is issued, but the challenger forgets about it. There was a lot going on.
- There are three duels in Hamilton, two of which are to the death. The first only ends in injury, the second takes the life of Hamilton's son Phillip, and the third, of course, kills Hamilton.
- Some of the games in the Gundam Vs Series use the concept of the Duel to the Death for Mission Mode stages. Alliance vs ZAFT 2 Plus has a literal duel with Andrew Waltfeld, where both he and the player start back-to-back with one hit point, meaning first blood wins. Gundam vs Gundam Next Plus has a particularly annoying variation where you and an ally fight two enemies at the same time, again so low on health that one hit means death...except both enemies have a "second chance" ability that sacrifices a nonessential limb for extra health, meaning whomever you kill last needs to be killed three times. And the whole fight takes place on a stone platform in the middle of a volcano, so if you miss your jump...
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker has this with Ganondorf as the battlefield is being flooded by the entire ocean.
- Per the above BattleTech example, a memorable mission in Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries has the player square off with the leaders of a Clan Jade Falcon invasion force to settle the matter like true badasses. It's not one on one (the Clanners 'bid' a Binary (10 mechs), and the PC answers with an eight mech bid and tells them to bring it) but otherwise plays "pistols at dawn" very straight, taking place at first light on a deserted beach.
- The best part, of course, being that it isn't to the death (unless you lose, of course)- after winning the challenge you cite Clan law to force the enemy commander to become your bondsman and join your company with the callsign Falcon. She's one of the best pilots available too.
- In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind the arena is used for settling matters of honor rather than prizefighting, as it is in Oblivion. Becoming leader of the Mages' Guild and/or Imperial Legion involves duelling the current one, and there are some duels involving lesser NPCs as well.
- In Dragon Age: Origins, the player character can be challenged to a one-on-one duel by a knight who believes they are responsible for the death of the king. The player can agree to fight him fairly, send their entire party after him, talk him out of the fight, or force the fight to a draw by retreating into the market, causing the knight to call off the fight and swear vengeance later.
- You also get to fight Loghain in a duel to the death, though you can choose a champion in that duel.
- In Dragon Age II, if you have Fenris in your party and/or if Isabela comes back at the end of chapter 2 you get the option to resolve the qunari uprising by fighting the Arishok alone in a duel to the death. (Whether or not you'll want to is another question entirely.)
- Towards the end of the level The Ark of Halo 3, the Master Chief runs into a pack of brutes, led by a hammer-wielding Chieftain. Unlike most engagements with Brutes, where the player has to contend with the mooks first, in this encounter, the bodyguards form a semicircle while the Chief engages the Chieftain.
- World of Warcraft has the "Mak'Gora". This is a challenge to the Warchief of the Horde. The two fight each other without any armor and one single weapon. If the challenger wins the duel, he becomes the new Warchief. During Thrall's reign, the Mak'Gora wasn't fought to the death, but Garrosh re-established the rule "Lok'tar Ogar", Victory or Death. There have been two Mak'Gora known to players:
- Garrosh challenges Thrall: the fight wasn't finished because the Scourge attacked the city, but Garrosh would probably have won.
- Cairne challenges Garrosh: While it doesn't happen in-game it's widely referenced in-game. Garrosh's weapon was poisoned by a Evil Chancellor, so Cairne was paralyzed as soon as Garrosh barely scratched him. He was then killed by Garrosh. He would likely have lost anyway, as his weapon was destroyed.
- During War Crimes, which chronicles Garrosh Hellscream's trial after he goes off the deep end and is subsequently defeated by the Alliance and a Horde uprising, Saurfang, a seasoned orc veteran, expresses distaste that Hellscream is being tried by foreigners in a foreign land, and that if it were up to him, he would have challenged Hellscream to a mak'gora. Saurfang, despite his age, would most likely have won this duel easily.
- In Warlords of Draenor, Thrall challenges Garrosh. Garrosh gains the upper hand at first, but then Thrall unleashes his shaman magic. Thrall wins, and Garrosh loses his life. This has consequences in Legion. Since shaman magic invokes the power of the Elemental spirits, Thrall essentially cheated by calling on their power to win. The spirits themselves disapproved and have cut off Thrall in response.
- In Empire: Total War, a Western faction's gentleman character can challenge or be challenged to duel another character (not necessarily another gentleman). The cutscene shows a duel either using swords or pistols. Interestingly, the duel is not always lethal, meaning both character can survive with their honor satisfied. The cuscene will then show both character walking past each other (one of them bandaged), nodding in respect.
- The intro to Total War: Shogun 2 shows a Combat by Champion between a samurai from an army besieging a city with the city's champion. The invading samurai wins. As he walks away towards his general triumphantly, he falls dead revealing that his back is now a pincushion from arrows fired by city guards.
- This is the final boss fight in Metal Gear Solid 4, between Solid Snake and Liquid Ocelot.
- Most Metal Gear games in general end with a one-on-one duel. There are more bosses who don't bring mooks to back them up than there are that do.
- Generally speaking, any boss battle in video games will usually be this.
- In Sinfest,
- In Escape from Terra duels are legal on anarcho-capitalist Ceres, but most of the residents are sensible enough not to do them. Unfortunately when Guy's Napoleon-obsessed cousin Pierre arrives on the asteroid he challenges someone who gropes his butt at a gay bar. Guy and the other guy's second conspire to set up a series of conditions to make Pierre withdraw.
- In The Gamer's Alliance, plenty of duels to the death have taken place when heroes have faced villains. Most notable ones include Arawn vs. Leon, Amano vs. Ax, and Leraje vs. Ismail.
- Three words: Ryan. Versus. Dorkman.
- Fate/Nuovo Guerra has developed a system allowing for "Servant Skirmishes", i.e. battles where it's possible for both combatants to get out alive, and "Servant Duels", which are this trope. The former allows for typical Play-by-Post Game free-form roleplaying, while the latter uses a dice to determine the winner while minimizing accusations of God Modding.
- Skippy's List has examples:
86. May not challenge anyone in my chain of command to the "field of honor".188. May not challenge officers to "Meet me on the field of honor, at dawn".
- The Death Battle web series takes two similar characters and pit them against each other, analyzing their respective strengths and weaknesses to see who would win a... Duel to the Death. (Indeed, the rules stated say that it is necessary for the loser to be killed, and should the character have any pacifist qualities that would prevent the situation, those are removed and not alluded to in the dialogue.)
- Sword duels are a standard piece of Imperium Nova, over insults or for money. Whether the loser survives or merely suffers injuries depends on their skill and fighting style.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Agni Kai among Firebenders. Not necessarily an automatic Duel to the Death, but given that Firebenders are temperamental and frequently portrayed as aggressive, arrogant and violent...
- Zuko vs. Fire Lord Ozai - how Zuko got his scar. Rare occasion of a villain showing mercy...but not really, given what comes after.
- Zuko vs. Zhao: Zuko wins, but refuses the Kill Shot. Zhao, disgusted at being defeated by someone he considers inferior, attempts to take a kill shot on Zuko, but Iroh steps in and shoves him across the arena with a casual flick of the wrist.
Iroh: Even in exile, my nephew has more honor than you.
- Zuko vs. Azula: Azula wins, but only by cheating. And both Zuko and Katara show her mercy, even though she's gone nuts by this point.
- Ozai vs. Aang: Ozai plans to kill Aang. Aang knows he's supposed to kill Ozai, but he finds another way.
- After a fashion, the Earthbender battle arena also counts, but death is not intentionally a consideration, as it's done for showmanship and entertainment.
- In various Looney Tunes cartoons taking place in a Western setting, Bugs Bunny is challenged to a duel, usually by Yosemite Sam. Needless to say, Bugs doesn't play fair.
- The Chuck Jones-directed Tom and Jerry short "Duel Personality" centers around one of these between the title characters.
- Futurama, "Why Must I be a Crustacean in Love?": Zoidberg challenges Fry to Claw-Plagh after catching him with the woman he was trying to mate with in a spoof of the "Amok Time" episode of Star Trek.
- In one episode of The Simpsons, Homer goes around slapping people with his glove and challenging them to a duel. Nobody accepts the challenge, so Homer keeps doing it just for the hell of it. Soon enough, someone (a Southern Gentleman, natch) accepts, so Homer skips town with the family, thus starting the main story. After that runs its course and the Simpsons return, Homer asks why they ever left in the first place. Sure enough, the man is still there, waiting to duel. "D'oh!"
- During the same episode, Homer runs into Jimmy Carter. The encounter swiftly goes sour thanks to Homer's rudeness, and Jimmy Carter tries to challenge Homer to a duel. Homer freaks out and drives away before Carter can slap him with a glove.
- The entire premise of A Gentleman's Duel. Two gentlemen come courting the same lady at the same time, naturally something is going to go down. With giant steam-powered kung-fu robots. Of course.
- Storm's duel with Calisto was adapted and Bowdlerised for the X-Men cartoon. (They used energy batons instead of knives.
- Samurai Jack; Jack gets into a few of these throughout his travels. Once, Aku came up to him and challenged Jack to a final duel (Aku says he won't use his magic if Jack doesn't use his sword), but they both cheat and Aku runs away before Jack has a chance at killing him.
- Brick fights. It's a duel that cannot be refused in which each person hits the other on the head with a brick until someone dies.
- Dueling (of the type we think of today) originates from the time period when a squabble between two men could easily and rapidly blow up into a huge, ruinous family feud (no, not that kind). Dueling contained the dispute between two/four men, and kept collateral damage to a minimum. Further rules included men of superior social status being able to refuse challenges by lesser men, as well as a social stigma around forcing one's inferiors into accepting challenges. The practice died out around the end of the 19th century, as societies began getting tired of their most educated and powerful men killing each other off.
- It's worth noting that duels to the death have always been relatively rare. First blood, or in the case of pistols, one-shot, duels have always been more common. Even in a place as notoriously rough-and-tumble as 17th century Venice, only one in forty duels ended in the death of either combatant, and even then deaths were more the result of unlucky first cuts than anything else.
- American history has the Alexander Hamilton vs. Aaron Burr duel. This one is so steeped in personal enmity and political rivalry, and is of such importance to the history of the United States, it gets its own article on The Other Wiki. Executive summary: Hamilton and Burr were competing for influence in New York, with Hamilton being a Federalist, the former Secretary of the Treasury, and a bit of a snobby prick, and Burr being a Democratic-Republican and the Vice President of the United States, but such slimeball that even the President, Thomas Jefferson, allied with Hamilton against him. They hated each others' guts, too. Eventually there was some kind of personal-political kerfluffle that led to Burr challenging Hamilton to a duel. Hamilton accepts. They get on boats to New Jersey to duel (in the classic "pistols at dawn" manner; they picked New Jersey because though dueling was illegal in both New York and New Jersey, it was more aggressively prosecuted in New York). Under confused circumstances, Hamilton shoots in the air (it's not clear why); Burr retaliates by shooting Hamilton in the chest. Hamilton dies, and Burr, after being indicted for murder in both New York and New Jersey, flees first to South Carolina and then to Washington, DC (to serve out his last months as Veep), before traveling west to engage in some harebrained scheme to establish a new country out there (or something like that), leading to a treason trial that got nowhere because the government couldn't provide the Constitutionally required two witnesses.note
- Abraham Lincoln was also challenged to a duel at one point. He thought that the idea of dueling was absurd and initially chose cow pies as the weapon. When the challenger told him to take the challenge seriously, Lincoln then requested that it be fought in a pit with cavalry broadswords. Lincoln particularly insisted that the pit have a plank across the middle that neither man could cross. Then, just before the duel, Lincoln cleared some branches with his sword. Realizing that Lincoln had at least six inches' greater reach, his opponent ended up chickening out.
- Andrew Jackson was involved in several duels and carried multiple bullets inside him for many years. In one particular duel, Jackson knew his opponent was a better shot, and let him fire first. The bullet lodged in his chest, but was not fatal. Because pistols back then could only be fired once before reloading, Jackson had all the time in the world to aim his shot.
- British history has the duel between Castlereagh and Canning (1809, two cabinet ministers, fighting over military strategy) and between the Duke of Wellington and the Earl of Winchilsea (1829, the Duke was Prime Minister at the time, and they were fighting over the emanicpation of Catholics).
- Endemic in most of Europe for quite a while, roughly from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century.
- A particularly famous 16th century French duel was waged after the young, minor nobleman Guy de Chabot, Baron of Jarnac, quarrelled with the Dauphin (the heir apparent to the throne). Because the Dauphin was too important to duel himself, the veteran soldier and highly skilled duellist François Vivonne stood in his place. Knowing that he had little hope of defeating Vivonne, Jarnac hired the services of the Italian fencing master Captain Caize, who trained him to perfect a little-used cut to the back of the knee. On the day of the duel, Jarnac quickly landed two blows on Vivonne's legs, crippling him. The enraged king ended the duel immediately. Vivonne refused medical attention and eventually bled to death. The duel shocked the French court due to the unexpected result, the ease at which Jarnac seemed to win, and the bad implication it had on the royal family. Dueling was quickly outlawed in France thereafter. To this day, a Coup de Jarnac is a tricky or unexpected attack.
- In his youth as acting editor of the New York Sunday Mercury, Mark Twain challenged the editor of a rival newspaper to a duel. The duel itself was narrowly averted after Twain's second exaggerated his marksmanship, prompted the rival's second to advise him to call off the duel.
- Ridley Scott's The Duellists was based on a true story - in France, 1794; a young officer named Dupont was ordered to deliver an insulting message to Fournier, a fellow officer. Fournier took out his rage over the letter by challenging Dupont to a duel, which ended without a clear victor, as did the next, and the next and so on. They fought thirty duels over the next nineteen years. Eventually Dupont grew so irritated at repeatedly being challenged that he refused to fire in a pistol duel, instead telling Fournier (who had fired and missed twice) than if he ever challenged him again he would first fire his two reserved shots.
- Fournier was a violent and quarrelsome fellow, so his life was full of other duels with countless other people. The Spaniards didn't call him El Demonio for nothing.
- Mathematician Évariste Galois died in a duel at the age of twenty, leaving behind writings that provided much of the foundation of group theory.
- The great Russian poet and writer Alexander Pushkin was very touchy about his own honor, but rather disrespectful about others. As a result he fought a great number of duels. He was eventually killed by Natalya's brother-in-law Georges d'Anthes, over rumors that d'Anthes was having an affair with Natalya.
- A few years later, another Russian poet, Mikhail Lermontov, met his end when, while serving in the Army, one of his fellow soldiers didn't like a joke he had told. They dueled, and Lermontov was shortly dead.
- The last recorded judicial duel in France was fought in 1386. Interestingly it was allowed, not because The Government at the time thought it appropriate practice but simply because they hadn't bothered to take it off the books! A French noblewoman conceived while her husband was away at war. She claimed it was rape by a political rival of her husband's. Her husband appeared as plaintiff and slew the defendant.
- In 1818, an Englishman was accused of murder and claimed the right to trial by combat. To everyone's surprise, the law granting him that right was still valid, and he was acquitted when his accuser declined to appear on the "field of honor." Trial by combat was abolished the next year.
- Germany's last Kaiser, Wilhellm II, was a very temperamental that often challenged people to duels. One of the main ways his opponents avoided them was by setting very strange rules. One rather intelligent army officer proposed a duel using field artillery, at 30 meters.
- Otto von Bismark once challenged Rudolf Virchow to a duel over a political dispute. Allegedly, Virchow chose sausages as his weapon: One was infected with deadly botulism, one was not. The Chancellor decided that he didn't want to risk eating a toxic sausage and withdrew the challenge.
- Two rather famous hunters once challenged each other to a duel at 400 meters with rifles with each fighter at the other end of a cliff split by a deep river. The duel lasted over a month since each would carefully camoflauge themselves after firing.
- Preston Brooks gained
fameinfamy for bludgeoning Senator Charles Sumner half to death on the floor of the Senate after deciding that the man was not his social equal and did not deserve to be called out to a duel. Another congressman, Anson Burlingame of New York, accused Brooks of cowardice for his actions and received a prompt challenge by Brooks. Burlingame, a marksman, accepted the duel and chose rifles. To avoid anti-dueling laws, he demanded that the duel be held in Canada. Brooks claimed that he did not want to go into "hostile territory" to reach Canada, so he withdrew the challenge. The North mocked him for a coward for the rest of his life.
- Frederick The Great's father once almost challenged the King of England to a duel, commenting that it was a personal quarrel that should be handled personally rather then risking the lives of their respective subjects.It was unseemly-a bit of Common Sense which very few monarchs seem to have for some reason. The diplomats scotched that plan.
- Master Swordsman and Olympic fencer Aldo Nadi engaged in a legitimate and very illegal duel with a rival in his youth, sometime in the 1920s. Both participants were wounded several times, and Nadi refused repeated requests from his friends to end the duel. Finally his opponent simply lowered his sword and walked forward with arm extended, as you would at the end of a fencing match, to bring the episode to a close before someone got seriously injured.
- Two Frenchmen once fought a duel in hot air balloons over Paris. The winner punctured his opponent's balloon, causing the loser and his second to fall to their deaths.
- Two other Frenchmen fought a duel in which they threw billiard balls at each other. The outcome of the duel is unfortunately, unknown.
- In 1967 Gaston Differre mayor of Marseilles and R. Ribbere majority leader met on the field of honor over a political insult with swords to first blood. To avoid having the police spoil the fun, Deferre was smuggled in the trunk of a car.
- At one time in his career Theodore Herzl the founder of the Zionist movement wanted dueling to be legal in the new state to emphasize that Israelis could be as, well, Badass as any Proud Warrior Race around.
- A variation of this was once used by warriors in India to avoid the shame of dying in their beds. A lord would pick one of his retinue to give him Suicide by Cop.
- The Yanomami of South America have a dueling code of their own which has been commented on by anthropologists. It is as elaborate as the various European versions with gradations of danger according to the seriousness of the affront. Similar regulated combats are in fact not unknown among low-tech peoples and are perhaps the source of the hyperbolic of such peoples as only having ritualized warfare.
- Dueling note is specifically forbidden in the United States armed forces, per Article 114 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Turns out, your soldiers shooting each other over personal feuds is considered detrimental to discipline and combat effectiveness. A soldier can be put before a court martial under this Article not only for having an active part in the duel, but also for knowing about it and failing to report it to the authorities.
- In post-World War II France, an American intelligence officer was challenged by a member of the French aristocracy. His reputation meant he had to accept, but the American ambassador heard of this and threatened to fire him if he did. He resolved the dilemma by naming tanks as his choice of weapon.
- Still happens today. A duel between two British Army officers - in July 2016 - using flares in lieu of pistols resulted in burning down the Officers' Mess at their base in Dorset.