Palate Propping

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The monster with More Teeth than the Osmond Family is about to chomp on The Hero, who has only a stick/bone/pole for a weapon. What to do? Why, shove it into the roof of the oncoming mouth to prop those slathering jaws open! If the hero's really lucky, this might jab its palate hard enough to fatally penetrate the skull; at worst, it'll leave it gagging for a moment, then piss it off even more.

Especially unlucky protagonists (particularly in Western Animation) may have no poles on hand, and will have to resort to using their own bodies to keep the beast's jaws open. Often by pulling off wince-inducing splits.

A common subversion is for the monster or animal to have jaw muscles that are powerful enough to snap bones or wooden planks in half, allowing it to break the item lodged between its jaws with ease.

This trope can also be applied to a metal-toothed Bear Trap or similar toothed booby traps, despite its lack of a palate.


Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • In a holiday-season commercial for Planters Peanuts, Mr. Peanut uses his cane to prop open the jaws of a nutcracker that tries to chomp on him.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Early on in YuYu Hakusho, Yuusuke uses a piece of wood to hold open the villain Gouki's mouth so he can Attack Its Weak Point.
  • Bleach anime:
    • Episode 10. While Ichigo is fighting the frog!Hollow, Don Kanonji saves him from being bitten by using his staff to prop open the Hollow's mouth.
    • Episode 312. While Lieutenant Omaeda is fighting a hollow, he stuffs the ball of his flail (his zanpakuto Gegetsuburi in its shikai form) into the mouth of an attacking hollow to prevent it from eating him.

    Comic Books 
  • In Tintin in the Congo, Tintin uses his rifle to prop open a crocodile's mouth when out of bullets.
  • Rahan. The title character once manages this while offered with hands and feet bound in sacrifice to a big prehistoric crocodile. He catches a branch between his feet and wedges it between the croc's jaws, who then swims away rather miffed.

    Films — Animation 
  • On the Wallace & Gromit short "A Matter of Loaf and Death", Wallace props open a crocodile's mouth with a French baguette.
  • Yellow Submarine. When the giant Glove is about to bite down on John Lennon, he sticks the word "Nothing" into its mouth, forcing its mouth open.
  • In The Sword in the Stone, Wart (in fish form) does this to the pike in the moat with a broken-off piece of spear. Merlin compliments him for using his head.
  • In Meet the Robinsons, Lewis uses a shovel to prop open the tyrannosaur's jaws.
  • In The Land Before Time, (or one of its sequels, at least) the protagonist Littlefoot uses a stick to prop up a seemingly-dead Allosaurus's mouth, but abandons the effort when it starts breathing.
  • Occurs in Ice Age 2 when a prehistoric crocodilian creature leaps at Manny and gets its jaws caught around his tusks, before being thrown back into the water.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Return of the Jedi, Luke braces the Rancor's jaws open with a large bone from the floor of its pit. This buys him a few seconds, but not much, as the Rancor's bite is powerful enough to snap it in two.
  • Subverted in the Doom movie: when one of the monsters gets its Palate Propped by a metal rod, it just clamps its jaws so hard that the rod pierces its muzzle and is forced out the roof of its maw, freeing it to go on attacking.
  • In Dragonheart, this trope leads to a Mexican stand-off, with the hero literally crouched inside Draco's mouth, his sword's point braced against the dragon's palate.
  • In Men in Black 3, a fish-creature tries to bite J's legs off, but J sticks a metal tray between his thighs and it can't close its jaws far enough.
  • In the 2001 TV-movie adaptation of The Lost World, this is done to a rampaging Allosaurus. It only incommodes it for a few moments, though, before it snaps the piece of wood between its jaws.

    Literature 
  • Happened in The Cormyr Saga of Forgotten Realms during the duel of Iliphar Nelnueve and Thauglorimorgorus (the "Purple Dragon" who ended up as Cormyr's symbol), with a twist. Dragon breath easily removed the obstacle, but the destruction of a magic staff almost got his head blown off.
  • A variant in How the Whale Got His Throat, one of Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories: the protagonist stops the whale from devouring pretty much everything by turning his raft into a grate and sticking it in the whale's throat.
  • The Surprising Adventures, Great and Imminent Dangers, Miraculous Escapes, and Wonderful Travels of Baron Munchausen tells of the Baron getting swallowed by a giant whale along with his ship. During the council of all the people the whale ever swallowed on how to get out, Munchausen relates: "I was chosen chairman, and the first thing I did was to propose splicing two main-masts together, and the next time he opened his mouth to be ready to wedge them in, so as to prevent his shutting it." After they get out, they leave the masts there to prevent the whale from swallowing more ships.
  • Discworld:
    • The first time Rincewind takes something out of the Luggage, in The Colour of Magic, he uses a piece of wood to prop its lid open. Once he's removed some food and water bottles, the Luggage very slowly closes its lid anyway, grinding the wood to splinters, just to show it's able to subvert this trope any time it likes.
    • In The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, Sardines does a hat-and-stick dance and then dashes into a rat hole, only to run into a trap. There's a loud snap, and then he's heard calling for help, because the stick he's braced the trap open with is starting to give way.
  • During Dinoverse, Mr. London manages to balk a Microvenator this way. The Microvenator gets the stick out on its own and has bits of wood in its mouth after, but this did buy time.
  • In Neverwhere, Hunter recalls having used this tactic when she fought a giant weasel beneath Bangkok, shoving her leather shield in its open mouth to deflect its attack while she struck it with a war club.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Used against at least one snappy prehistoric beast on Primeval.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Hole Delver's Catalog. One of the many items in the catalog is the Wonder Widget, which looks a lot like a crowbar. When one of the characters was fighting an alligator he put the Wonder Widget inside its mouth to prop it open, thus saving his life.

    Video Games 
  • A variant form in Hidden Expedition: The Uncharted Islands (casual computer game/IHOG) — the gator has an item you need in its mouth, you need to find a jack to hold its mouth open long enough for you to grab the item.
  • In the first Simon the Sorcerer, Simon uses a stick to jam the jaws of a slavering Chest Monster.
  • Used twice in the casual game League of Light: Wicked Harvest: once with a large statue of a head with a snapping mouth, and again with the snaggle-toothed skull of a dragon-like creature. In the latter case, it's also inverted, as the skull's jaws are used to crack the ice encasing a needed item when the prop is removed.
  • Sunless Sea has one of the most massive examples in fiction in the underwater city of Nook, founded inside the mouth of a beast big enough to swallow an actual city. To keep the monster's maw open, the founders installed gigantic Heartmetal girders inside, and they've held out for quite a long time despite its attempts at slamming its mouth shut with every inhabitant inside it.

    Western Animation 
  • This was used in the Mr. Bogus episode "Bogus Private Eye". Bogus, with help from Kevin the family bulldog, tries to stop a thief that somehow invades the house. Kevin tries to bite the thief, but the thief whips out a bone and sticks it between Kevin's jaws.
  • An episode of G.I. Joe had Gung-Ho pull this move in order to avoid getting chomped on by an alligator.
  • Young Samson & Goliath episode "The Lost City of the Dragon Men". Samson rips a tree trunk out of the ground and sticks it into the mouth of an attacking crocodile to prevent it from attacking him.
  • Miraculous Ladybug:
    • In episode "Animan", the shapeshifting Villain of the Week turns into a Tyrannosaurus rex. After entangling its legs with her yo-yo, Ladybug uses the car jack provided by her Lucky Charm to pry open the T. rex's jaws and keep its huge maw locked open, making it harmless (as they have little to fear of its small arms).
    • Attempted in episode "Guitar Villain" on a dragon by Cat Noir with his Telescoping Staff, but the beast manage to dislodge it pretty quickly.
  • Used in one episode of George of the Jungle when the king of the jungle needed to get some teeth from a crocodile. Unfortunately, it's revealed that every crocodile is savvy to this trope by now and carries a stick removal tool for such situations.

    Real Life 
  • This trope is actually averted for the crocodile, which has extremely powerful muscles for biting down, which can exert as much as 5000 pounds of force. Inversely, a crocodile has extremely weak muscles for opening its mouth, which means that once a crocodile has bit down, its mouth can be held shut with a simple rubber band.
  • There's a version of this that's used for giving anesthetic to an animal. A round tube with a hole is used to prop open the jaws and allow passage of the breathing tube down into the airway. The prop is sometimes removed once the tube is in place — just pass it backward off of the tube. Alternately, it may be left in and the jaw secured from the outside, just in case the animal happens to start to come around at any time, so it can't sever the tube.
  • There are form-fitted oral braces used for dental surgery, which prevent a patient's jaws from moving by reflex in mid-operation.
  • There exist photographs of dead predators with their mouths propped open, usually to show the detail of the animal's jaws. A particularly interesting example would be this photo of the so-called "Moscow Monster" (which later turned out to be the severely decomposed corpse of a beluga whale and inspired SCP-682).

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