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Mugging the Monster
Hey! The guy on the right started it.

(Looks at small switchblade) "That's not a knife." (draws massive bowie knife) "That's a knife!"
Mick "Crocodile" Dundee (to a would-be mugger), Crocodile Dundee

So Fingers McStealy is lurking in an alleyway waiting for a victim. Ah, here comes someone, and that fetching hat and coat look expensive. He's smiling too, so maybe he just came into money? Ooo, he even has something shiny under his coat. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Basically this is when some random crook, and occasionally a pretty stupid one at that, has the misfortune of targeting someone much more powerful than he anticipated. When the monster/alien assassin/robot/ sorcerer from the future/other world/space appears, the criminal acts as an Acceptable Target for them to begin their massacre. Alternatively, The Hero is held up while going about their business. If they have a Secret Identity, then it can lead to a Bruce Wayne Held Hostage scenario, but if the criminal attacked them in costume or the hero is just some Badass Walking the Earth, then it typically just serves as an introduction. Bonus points if the would be victim looks particularly vulnerable.

When an assailant targets a crowd of people not knowing that Everyone Is Armed, you get this trope with strength of numbers replacing individual dangerousness.

Tends to make a good Establishing Character Moment, depending on how (and how easily) the crooks are dealt with. Occasionally this can lead to them recruiting a sidekick or other ally. Can be deeply satisfying. When the person looks vulnerable due to chronological endowment, it's Never Mess with Granny.

When a Video Game character does this, it's often due to Suicidal Overconfidence. See also Dude, Where's My Respect? when this keeps happening with no signs of anyone figuring out the pattern. Compare Colliding Criminal Conspiracies and Unintentionally Notorious Crime. Supertrope of Robbing The Mob Bank.

Please note: the trope need not include actual mugging (though it is a popular method). As long as the provoker or provokers intentionally and excessively antagonize someone much more powerful than they are without knowing beforehand what they are screwing with, and the provoker or provokers are thrashed because of it, then it's Mugging The Monster.

Compare:
  • Bullying a Dragon: Messing with a powerful entity that you know can destroy you.
    • A Mugging the Monster situation can evolve into this if the attacker doesn't have the sense to back down and retreat after finding out what they're up against.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Showing defiance to something you know is about to kill you.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: If they immediately stomp you into a pancake.
  • Fearless Fool: The character routinely gets into these situations because he's just too dumb to know better.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • One of those bewilderingly insane Arinamin V commercials starring Arnold Schwarzenegger has two punks come up to Arnold —who is cleverly disguised as a nerd— and start harassing him and his lady friend. Arnold nips off to chug a bottle of Arinamin, and one "Daijo BUI!!" later, well, just look. Could even count as Bullying a Dragon, since according to the simple formula provided here, Arnold Schwarzenegger + Nerd Glasses = still Arnold Schwarzenegger.
  • A Ford Icon commercial has a guy in a bear mascot costume is standing outside of an air conditioner store when four punks walk up and start harassing him, like kicking him in the butt or generally mocking him. He then puts one of his paws on the 'leader' of the group, and another of them slaps the head of the costume off... Revealing a real bear. They quickly loose any sense of mirth at this revelation, and three of the four run in terror, leaving the 'leader' staring down the bear.Has to be seen to be believed.

    Card Games 

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • 3 Slytherin Marauders—anyone who picks a fight with Tom.
  • In Afraid of The Darkness Lucius Malfoy attempts to bully a muggle hitman into doing his dirty work unaware that Jackie Estacado is not an ordinary muggle nor someone he should be messing with.
  • In the Frasier story Dark Horse of the Moons, three Seattle muggers try to shake down Daphne Moon and her brother Tim. Big mistake. A girl growing up in Collyhurst, Manchester, with eight brothers, soon learns how to fight. And when one of her brothers is an off-duty Royal Marine taking a leave in Seattle... Niles Crane gibbers as he watches mayhem ensue.
  • In Deadpan Love, some small crook tries to mug a pair of scrawny kids kissing on a bench. At hearing his threats, the two start laughing... the guy was unlucky enough to stumble across Raven and Beast Boy during their first date.
  • A gang of thugs tries to mug The Doctor. The Third Doctor. He proceeds to Pressure Point them into unconsciousness.
  • In Exodus of Stars, batarians attempt to capture a Star Covenant transport with boarding teams smuggled aboard, as well as an ambush by three warships. Not only does the ship crew gets wind of the boarders and easily takes them out, but there is also the fact that the batarians have no idea about the armament of a Carrack class transport.
  • The Hill of Swords. Louise summons a version of Emiya Shirou who's well along the path to becoming Archer. Then, of course, Guiche challenges him to a duel.
  • In Mass Foundations: Redemption in the Stars, a batarian thug tries to rob the Courier, who has just arrived into Mass Effect universe, but is still armed and wearing Power Armor, albeit those are vastly outdated. In the end, he doesn't even need them.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
    • In the Ponies Of Olympus series, Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo at one point go to Storm Alley to visit Dash's old mentor Amber Spark, and are harassed by some thugs who want to have some "fun" with them. Since both mares in question are Action Girls, they easily kick ass.
    • Played interestingly in Princess Celestia Gets Mugged: while wandering around Canterlot in her civillian guise Sunny Skies, Princess Celestia is ambushed, mugged and subsequently kidnapped and held to ransom. Despite being able to escape at any time, Celestia plays along with it out of amusement.
    • In Progress, two stallions flirt with the incognito Luna and try to get her Unsuspectingly Soused. When she catches on, arse-kicking ensues.
    • Interesting variation where the mugging goes both ways in Shepard's R&R. Pinkie Pie shoots a party cannon at Grunt, the diplomats think they're under attack, and Luna restrains them before they could respond. Luna and Shepard almost come to blows while demanding the other to back down. Shepard doesn't realize he's confronting an actual Physical God who could kill him with a thought, while Luna doesn't realize that she's threatening a galactic legend whose death would draw the wrath of all the other races, and her promises "to send him to the moon" are very ineffectual against someone whose people willingly live on moons.
  • In Of Love and Bunnies, a mugger tries to take Kimberly's purse. He is promptly decked by Tommy. This has a lot of ramifications on the plot, since the mugger was one of their old classmates, and it gets to the point that the world believes that Tommy was the original Black Ranger. They eventually have to send in TJ to ensure that the mugger changes his story.
  • In Respect, a trio of bullies goes after their favorite target, timid crybaby artist Yayoi Kise, not knowing that she's just made a contract with Kyubey specifically to get them to stop... needless to say, it doesn't end well.
  • In Unfamiliar, a bunch of muggers attack a young noble and her scruffy, grumpy, hood-wearing servant wandering down a blind alley after dusk. They become aware of their grievous error in judgement shortly before the servant messily kills and eats them. It's a crossover with Prototype; said servant is Alex Mercer.
  • The Yellow Wings learned the hard way that Cid and Ensei are way out of their league in The Tainted Grimoire.
  • From the Star Trek fic That Was A Good Fight a shapeshifting alien salt-vampire thingy attacks the crew of the Enterprise and mocks Kirk after knocking out Spock, assuming him to be just another pathetic human: "What a feast. Your Doctor, your Commander, now you. This whole ship will sustain me. You aren't going to cry? I want to taste your tears." But what the creature doesn't know is that Kirk has been struggling against his new Super-Powered Evil Side courtesy of Khan's blood. Now one must pity the poor ensign who has clean up what remains of the alien out of the floor tiles.
  • In Time Braid, this is invoked by Hinata when she and Sakura propose to go undercover as missing-nin and infiltrate Akatsuki. Hinata quotes the standard chestnut along the lines of "meet interesting new people, and kill them"; when Sakura chastises her for violence of outlook, she points out that, being two thirteen-year-old girls travelling alone, one carrying the Byakugan, all sorts of people are bound to attack them who the world would be better off without anyway. Later, dialogue notes that "eventually, the attacks stopped".
  • In Zero vs Kira the Britannian soldiers who unknowingly capture Kira in a world-breaching experiment Gone Horribly Right. "Damn uppity Eleven, you think you're somebody because you can speak English and wear a suit." Light Yagami asks if he may at least know the names of his executioners. Later there's the instance where some Britannian thugs pick a fight with Suzaku. Suzaku, naturally, wipes the floor with them.
  • At the beginning of Fate Stay Night: Ultimate Master, Lancer attacks Ben Tennyson while looking for souls to feed on. He is suitably surprised when what he assumed to be a harmless teenager turns into a hulking armored being with heat vision.
  • In First Try Series Sakura, who is still an Academy student, tries to pick a fight with Naruto, who was almost Chunin, and learns the hard way that he did't drop out. Her mother, Barako tries to destroy Tetsuo's reputation and an old secretary fired, not knowing they are Danzo's grandson and Danzo himself.
  • Forms part of the backstory in Red Fire, Red Planet. Norigom, a Nausicaan just conscripted onto the IKS mupwI's command crew from Rura Penthe, apparently decided his first order of business should be getting laid for probably the first time since the Klingon-Gorn War. And what better target for his affections than the 147 cm, 43 kilo Orion he thought was probably ship's "entertainment"?
    "Norigom came to half an hour later with four cracked ribs, two broken metatarsals and a nose that was somewhat flatter than it had been when hed entered the room."
  • In Kitsune no Ken: Fist of the Fox, Mizuki's gang's first encounter with Naruto results in this. After initially meeting him at Ino's family store and dismissing him as a weakling, gang members Dosu, Zaku and Kin happen upon Naruto later in the evening and decide it'll be a good idea to make a game out of beating him up. Only problem is, Naruto happens to be one of the infamous Nine Terrors, people who could destroy cities with ease in the back-story; the end result is that the entire gang winds up with broken bones and their motorcycles smashed to pieces. Much later, it veers into Bullying a Dragon territory when Mizuki takes more of his gang to confront Naruto, Naruto beats up several of them single-handedly and then reveals who he is...and Mizuki decides to take him on anyway, with not-too-surprising results.
  • A flashback in the original Shadowchasers reveals that this is how Vincent and Albert Schumer first met the illithiid crime boss Lois DaPen, by trying to shake him down for money when he was alone in Satellite. Unlike most examples of this Trope, it ended well for them; while he could have easily killed them, he instead offered them jobs as his bodyguards, eventually earing their Undying Loyalty.
  • Webwork: Jade, now a Jorogumo but disguised as a human via glamour, is mistaken by a mugger for a hooker and is threatened at knifepoint for some "fun" in an alley. She proceeds to slam his head against the alley wall repeatedly, barely noticing as she does so.

    Films — Animation 
  • Superman/Batman: Apocalypse features a naked Kara Zor-El wandering confused into an alley just after arriving on Earth and being spotted by three workers. One decides to play Lothario and gets his ass kicked. The second tries to help his friend. The third wisely proclaims he's not with the other two and offers her his coat.

    Gamebooks 
  • In Appointment with F.E.A.R., the main character (who is a superhero) is approached by criminals who want to mug him/her. If you fight them, you out yourself and have to give up your career as a superhero, which leads to a bad ending (albeit one that's quite a bit less dark than the other bad endings); only by letting them mug you can you continue playing.
  • In the Lone Wolf series, when in "civilized" parts of the world rather than evil fortresses or the wilderness, various rogues trying to mug the hero is a common type of fight encounter. It rarely ends well for them. In later books, some of those fights aren't even played out — there is just an off-hand mention of Lone Wolf leaving a few dead brigands behind.

    Music 
  • The premise of the song "Earth's Fire Breathing Daughter" by Leslie Fish. The title sort-of-demigoddess entity buys a house in California with her coven and start enacting pagan rites. Neighbors complain and send the police after them on false drug charges. She triggers an earthquake and mudslide that kill the entire police force and destroy all the surrounding houses, while of course leaving hers entirely intact. (They deserve it.)
  • The music video for Skrillex's "First of the Year (Equinox)" is about a pedophile choosing the absolute worst victim possible.
  • Joe Bethancourt's "I'll See Your Six" recounts just such a situation. In this case, the "monster" was a young lady who's not only carrying a broadsword, but knew how to use it, and was wearing chain armor. (See Real Life section for details - yes, it happened.)
  • Mercedes Lackey wrote a song called "Threes" about the trope, then reworked it and used it in the novel "Oathbound".
  • In the Big L song "Lifestylez Ov Da Poor and Dangerous", he boasts that "once a burglar broke into my house, and I robbed him!".

    Myths & Religion 
  • Older Than Feudalism: This happened to Odysseus a few times in The Odyssey.
  • Theseus basically started his heroic career by dealing with a series of robbers on his way to Athens.
  • Contrast with Oedipus, who was much the same, only it was people who cut him off in traffic instead of robbers.
  • In Roman mythology an Etruscan prince took it into his head to rape a respectable Roman woman. Guess what happened next?
  • Greek Mythology:
    • Hm, who is this impossibly beautiful woman surrounded by several almost as beautiful women, in the middle of the forest, bathing? Oh who cares, let's peep on them some more. It's not like they're an impossibly powerful goddess and her followers who could turn me into a stag and set my own hounds on me because she's incredibly protective of her chastity....
    • Dionysus was seized by pirates, who took him for a young nobleman and planned to either ransom him or sell him as a slave. However, one of the crewmen recognized him as a god and begged his companions to set him free. Unfortunately for them, they refused to listen and soon found their oars bound by ivy and themselves attacked by panthers and lions. To save themselves, they jumped out of the ship and were changed into dolphins. The only one spared was Acoetes, the one man who argued for freeing Dionysus. When they got back to shore, Acoetes become one of Dionysus' priests.

    New Media 
  • Not Always Right
    • Rude customers periodically find out that the employees they are harassing are not to be messed with.
    • Still others apply for jobs and then discover that the employee they were rude to earlier is from human resources... or the manager.
    • A naval lieutenant decides to throw his weight around in a civilian restaurant and makes the mistake of antagonizing another diner... who happens to be a Rear Admiral stationed at the same base.
    Well, Im HIS superior, and as soon as Im out of here, Ill make sure he lights your a** up.
    • Similarly, lousy employees often discover that they've been acting like a Jerkass in front of a secret shopper or an upper-level manager.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A little forgivable if some conditions are present in Exalted. There are a few charms that allow the characters to keep their weapons and armor Elsewhere, and as a result bandits might not discover that the short, blonde, small-framed teenaged girl they are trying to mug/capture to sell as a slave/etc., is actually a Demi-God wielding a six feet giant golden sword capable of completely eradicating them (and the floor they are standing on) until it's too late. That said, any Exalt ought to be able to warn off most moderately sensible muggers simply by flaring their Caste Mark. Jury is still out as to whether or not it's more satisfying than simply beating the stuffing out of them.
  • Also can happen in Old World of Darkness.
    • In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, most Garou look like normal human beings while in homid form and normal wolves is lupus form; however, an attacker will get a nasty surprise when their would-be victim transforms into an eight-foot-tall clawed killing machine. Variants of this apply to all fera save perhaps the Kitsune (werefoxes) who find it more effective to just start tossing spells.
    • In Vampire: The Masquerade it's very satisfying to, after your Ventrue businessman has been stopped in transit by robbers with shotguns, take their blast in the chest, get up without any visible effect and rip them into shreds. This is noted to be one of the main reasons why Ventrue take Fortitude.note 
  • Considering how ultra-antagonistic gangs are in-universe, Shadowrun's random encounters for new players is pretty much all about this. The Halloweeners are this trope invoked for even the squishiest of mage or decker.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Metallic dragons intentionally invoke this trope. One of their favorite tricks in combating evil is to use their Shapeshifting ability (many metallics have this upon birth) to turn into something that seems weak. When some evil idiot takes the bait, they don't have very long to live. It's actually a part of their mythology: one story involves an apparently harmless old man who would entertain travelers with his seven trained canaries. Then a band of ogres, led by an ogre mage, started down the road to kill or rob all the folks on it... and found that the old man was the metallic dragon god Bahamut, and those canaries were all great wyrm gold dragons in disguise.
    • Al-Qadim has a tale about "why dragons so rarely appear over the place". A big red from North flew in only to immediately get himself into troubles with the local populace. Until he was reduced to telling his woes to the next creature he met. The "child" heard the story, gently told the dragon those people did in fact go easy on him because he doesn't know better and there's folk whom they obey without question — and helped the poor battered, hungry and tired lizard, returning him to the sweet home. On an intercontinental guided whirlwind. The moral, of course, is "try not to annoy genies, or just in case, anyone."
    • Forgotten Realms. On top of "usual" dangers (such as archmages going about their private business in magical disguise or creatures that would send townpeople into screaming run if they didn't resort to mimicry) has people well aware of their world's trends and holding a lot of power while not caring at all to advertise it.
    ''If you accost a barefoot laborer digging in the mud of a turnip field and stained glass golems suddenly lurch out of nearby sheds or the columns of a barn come to life, and gemstones float out of the man's pockets to circle his head and spit lightning at you — well, you've found one of those fabled jewelers of Irl...
    • There's also a possibility of Urban Encounters with Muggers all being 4 to 6 levels below the party.
  • The 4th edition of GURPS Magic introduces the chapter on fire magic with a story about a wizard in a modern setting having a knife put on her throat in a mugging. Unfortunately for the mugger, she can breathe fire.
  • Warhammer 40,000
    • In the RPG Dark Heresy, this is actually the PCs job. And it has the expected results until you figure out that flipping off a Daemon is a Bad Plan and maybe you should try shooting the guy that just summoned it in the head. From over there. Waaay over there.
    • A more human example, the fluff sometimes makes notes of many former Imperial Guardsmen settling down on planets they conquered. This led to some robbers finding out the hard way that a bar called The 127th is named after a certain platoon, that the grumpy old men are veterans of battles against unimaginable horrors and that the lasgun above the bar is not a replica.
  • In Traveller Vargr hardly ever raid Zhodani. The reason why is that when they do they know that the Zhodani will take years tracking down the perps. Then when they do this their retribution, will be sure, whether it takes the form of Death from Above or the more frightening form of kidnapping Vargr and brainwashing them.
  • In any of the Star Wars RPGs, a Jedi can look like anything. Keep that in mind when the off-world stranger you're harassing in a bar says, "You REALLY don't want to do this." It only gets more fun if the hapless dopes tick off a disguised Sith instead.
  • In the world of In Nomine, an angel or demon's abilities remain the same regardless of what their earthly Vessel happens to look like — which means that 9-year-old girl on the playground you just tried to abduct could actually be a 700-year-old Malakite warrior angel who considers you practice. At best.
    • This becomes even more so with Kyriotates and Shedim, who possess ordinary mortals, using their celestial abilities through a host. So that 90-year-old grandpa who really WAS so sweet and helpless five minutes ago is now anything but when a Shedite of Death is in the driver's seat ....

    Urban Legends 
  • Speaking of pirates, as late as 1630 there were two recorded villages in England that had the skin of a captured raider nailed to their church door. At least one of those villages wouldn't actually count as this trope since a few years ago someone decided to run some tests on a fragment that had survived around one of the nail and found that it was actually de-haired calf skin. It was probably nailed to the door and the rumour spread around as a form of psychological warfare against potential raiders.
  • Paul Hager, a pro-gun Libertarian from Indiana related this anecdote:
    The most interesting — or bizarre, take your pick — story was told by an acquaintance with whom I took a defensive pistol course. Late one evening he got onto an elevator in a parking garage to go to his car. A man who had been waiting in the shadows quickly got on the elevator behind him. Just as soon as the doors closed, the man pulled a knife. Before the man had time to say anything, my acquaintance pulled his own pistol. There ensued the proverbial pregnant pause. The man then said, "Do you want to buy a knife?" A moment later, with nothing else being said, the doors opened and the man got off.
  • There is also a famous story under Aikikai (practitioners of Aikido) that one of Osensei's original students was nearly robbed in the Paris subway... emphasis on the "nearly." Imagine a seventy-something year old Japanese sitting alone in the subway, when three would-be muggers showed up with knifes, demanding his money. Then imagine the old frail man simply snapping their wrists in precise, efficent motions.
  • The U.S. military holds very large areas of desert in the southwest that are used for training exercises. The areas are bigger than they really need, so some parts are used rarely. Meth labs sometimes move in. And fight small-scale gang wars. Until they accidentally fire on real soldiers, and then they learn about things like indirect mortar fire, and air support.
  • Ever wonder why you so seldom hear about Russian diplomats being kidnapped? According to tales it is because when that happens, the Russians simply abduct terrorists and or their relations-and start mailing fingers to the terrorists who claim responsibility. You do not want to mess with Mother Russia. You wouldn't like her when she's angry.
  • One story that's made the rounds on the internet is as follows; a group of Ku Klux Klansmen in Texas heard that some Pagans were holding a ritual out in the woods somewhere and decided to go and harass them. Finding the spot where the other vehicles were parked, they donned their hoods, assembled a cross and strode off into the woods, confident that they'd scare any remaining pants off the fluffybunny Pagans. To their surprise they ended up staring down the business end of at least two spears, a couple of swords, assorted knives, and more than one firearm. They'd crashed an Asatru blot, and didn't realize that not all Pagans are pacifists. From somewhere behind the hardware, a voice called out: "If that cross goes up, you're getting nailed to it. I've got my hammer right here..."
    The Klansmen left in a bit of a hurry, it's said.
    • The Ku Klux Klan ended up at the receiving end of something much more unexpected in 1933, when they tried to run Italian immigrants out of from Vineland (New Jersey). Until then, Italian immigrants in the US had taken discrimination and lynching with little resistance, because they were outnumbered by a too much large margin. This time, however, the Klan took on 20% of Vineland's population, and the Italians ran the Klan out. The Klan's influence in Vineland disappeared overnight.
  • This story is presumably the pacifist equivalent — using legal knowledge instead of fighting prowess.
  • There is a story popular in the SCA about a female member who was walking home from an event in Central Park in the 1980s. She hadn't taken off her armor, just wrapped a cloak around herself and put her helmet in her bag. She was accosted by a disreputable sort wielding a switchblade and making threats. She said "A six-inch knife?", opened her cloak and drew her sword. "I'll see your six and raise you thirty."

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 
  • ASDF Movie 4, to the mugger's confusion.
  • In RWBY, One of the mobsters attempts to rob Ruby Rose. After a brief conversation, the mook is flung across the store.
    Ruby: Are you... robbing me?
    Mook: Yes.
    Ruby: (Grinning) Ohhhhh.
    • Note that they really layered the hints about Ruby being a badass thick. Beyond the Dramatic Wind indoors, we have:
      The Music on Ruby's Headphones: They see you as small and helpless, they see you as just a child. Surprise when they find out that a warrior will soon run wild.
      Front page of the Magazine Ruby's Reading: Weapons.

    Web Original 
  • In the Whateley Universe, this happens from time to time:
    • A mugger tries to rob Jade and Jinn. The knock him unconscious, destroy his gun, and steal his wallet.
    • A pair of stick-up artists bump into Chou "Bladedancer" Lee while attempting to rob a diner.
    • A third-rate punk is silly enough to call Jadis "She-Beast" Diabolik a "little skank".
  • In Darwin's Soldiers, some punks tried to pick a fight with Aimee. She looks completely harmless as she is missing both arms and has them replaced with prosthetic limbs. They found out the hard way (IE death) that not only is she a skilled fighter, her artificial arms give her enough strength to crush the barrel of a pistol with almost no effort.
  • The trio of bullies that torment Taylor in Worm would probably reconsider what they're doing if they knew that she was secretly a supervillain with a reputation for ruthlessness. Well, two of them would.
  • In the French MP3 saga Reflets d'Acide, a bunch of thieves attempt to ambush a beautiful young woman on the road. The woman turns out to actually be the Evil Black Dragon Alia-Aenor in human form, who mercilessly kills them.
  • In the first chapter of Ra, four muggers attempt to kill Laura Ferno, a drunk but very talented mage. Only about two and a half of them survive.


Minored in AsskickingHidden BadassNerd Action Hero
The Morality/Mortality EquationCharacterization TropesMuggle Born of Mages
Motive RantCrime and Punishment TropesMurderer P.O.V.
Hollywood TacticsIdiot BallFailed a Spot Check
Crocodile DundeeImageSource/Live-Action FilmsCrying Freeman
Muck MonsterAdded Alliterative AppealMulder Moment
Moving the GoalpostsExample as a ThesisMundane Wish

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