A Sub-Trope of Improvised Weapon and closely related to the Powerful Pick, shovels are primarily used for excavation but can instantly become a weapon if the need arises. The handle gives the weapon a good reach while the head provides a weight allowing it to function as an oddly-shaped mace. With proper sharpening of the blade, the shovel can even work as an oddly-balanced polearm. Especially dexterous individuals can even use the flat of the shovel as a shield, which can be quite comedic if the blocked blow was a punch.
Can alternately be used as an easy way to render an enemy unconscious or as a lethal weapon depending on the user and media. Not to mention, it carries the advantage of being something inconspicuous in any home and useful if you need to get rid of a body. Indeed, if a gravedigger is presented as a combatant, he usually uses a shovel this way.
Truth in Television: after studying the infantry dynamics of the World Wars, most modern military forces have been giving their entrenching tools a semi-sharp tool edge that can easily be honed further before a battle to increase its cutting power. Plus, it takes training to become proficient with bayonet, knife or sword combat - but practically every male and most females on Earth have used shovels sometime in their lives.
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Anime and Manga
Chiri Kitsu of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei uses a shovel as one of her preferred ways of inflicting violence (although she sometimes goes for knives instead). She also uses it to bury her kills, and "to bury" is one implication of her Meaningful Name.
Pumpkin Scissors is set shortly after a Fantasy Counterpart Culture version of World War I, and one of the heroes scares some would-be terrorists into backing down by mentioning that shovels (like the one he's holding) killed more people in the trenches than guns or knives did.
MÄR designated plant user Jack wields the Battle Scoop as his main weapon, given to him by his father, who, like Jack, was a farmer.
Dalton in One Piece wields a large weapon that can only be described as a "Battle Shovel": that means the handle of a shovel and a large, flat blade similar to a sword.
In the 4Kids version, Bellemere also infamously used a shovel instead of a shotgun to threaten Arlong during Nami's flashback in the Arlong arc.
Leaky-Eye Luka uses a shovel as his weapon of choice in the Vento Aureo segment of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. He winds up killing himself when he tries to slam a frog with it. Reason? The frog was a creation of Gold Experience—meaning that any injuries it would have suffered are instead sustained by the attacker...
"I've got two Uzis and a shovel. Which, I suppose, means I can shoot things and bury them afterwards". A short time later she's attacked by a bunch of samurai robots.
"Samurai robots beat guns. No question. So it's just me and a shovel." *Badass pose* "Rock."
Bobby Brunswick, the first Hack Slash villain, used a shovel as his main weapon.
Roderick "Digger" Krupp used a shovel as a weapon after he stopped being a Horror Host for Marvel's horror comics, and became a villain.
In a story set during the Clone Saga, a mercenary villain called the Pro forced Peter (who was suffering from a temporary loss of his powers) to unearth the skeleton of another clone (long story) and specifically warned him not to try this against him. However, when he got what he wanted, Ben Reilly (who was currently Spider-Man) jumped in, and after a free-for-all battle with a mob of other third-rate villains, the Pro was the only one left standing, pointing a gun at the now-exhausted Ben... At which point Peter let him have it with the shovel from behind, who then said, "I've been waiting for that all day, pal..."
In the Discworld, the Assassins' Guild School teaches a strictly optional module in Unorthodox Combat Techniques, stressing that it deals with ungentlemanly and certainly unladylike techniques of grappling, brawling, and proletarian street fighting. It is taught by somebody who has lots of combat experience and who has never claimed to be a lady. Whilst unarmed combat that makes krav maga look like a playground slap-fight is taught, the instructress asserts that Rule One of unarmed combat is what it always was - first make sure you find a weapon. And that anything will serve if handled correctly. The Guild School's botany teacher has indeed used rakes, trowels, a specially sharpened dibbler - and a spade - as her combat weapons of first choice. As she points out, she teaches gardening - for Assassins.
Film - Animated
At the end of Monsters, Inc., Randall is beaten with a shovel offscreen.
Trailer Son: Mama, another gator got in the house!
Trailer Mom: Another gator? Gimme that shovel!
Film - Live Action
Mystery Men. The Shoveler. He hits people with shovels. He hits people with shovels very well. He also has a smaller trowel in case he gets disarmed. In the original comic, he used a magical singing shovel.
Blazing Saddles: Taggart gets clobbered by a shovel-wielding Bart near the beginning of the movie.
Taggart: Send a wire to the main office, and tell them I said... [CLONG] OW!
Lyle: "Send wire, main office, tell them I said 'ow'." Gotcha!
All Quiet on the Western Front is set in the trenches of WWI. Kat, Paul's mentor tells him not to use a knife during trench raids since they often get stuck; in the time it takes to kick the enemy hard enough to free the knife he'd be dead. He is told to instead use a sharpened entrenching tool between neck and shoulder: faster, cleaner and safer for him. Truth in Television, disturbingly enough.
In Home Alone, when the burglars finally catch Kevin, Old Man Marley saves him by beating them senseless with his snow shovel.
Ash, the hero of The Evil Dead, takes a mighty swipe at his possessed girlfriend, Linda, with a shovel and manages to knock her head clean off.
That Man From Rio - Adrian faces off against a huge mook, trying to smack him with a shovel - but the mook easily dodges it before grabbing it and snapping it in two.
Albert Dupontel's Bernie: the mother "rescue" scene.
Hitchcock opens with serial killer Ed Gein beginning his life of crime by whacking his brother over the head with a shovel.
V for Vendetta: A montage showing the Norsefire regime beginning to collapse has a Fingerman shoot a preteen girl dead for graffitiing V's symbol. He then gets surrounded by angry townsfolk who could give a crap about his badge and gun. Cue Gory Discretion Shot as one particularly burly man swings a shovel at his head.
In The Lone Ranger when Tonto is about to finish off Butch, Reid knocks him out with a shovel to do things by the book and let the court handle things.
In the made-for-TV movie Dark Night of the Scarecrow, small-town bully Otis and his cronies dish out vigilante justice to a retarded Gentle Giant who turns out to be innocent - the posse later start dying horribly one by one. When Otis's last friend freaks out and is ready to turn himself in, Otis soothes him — and then brains him with a shovel from behind.
In Codex Alera, a young Knight Terra (really, really strong when he needs to be) prefers using his shovel over a heavy mace because he grew up on a farm and that's what he knows. He even sharpens the edge and lines it with salt to take out wind furies.
Several times in Lisey's Story, Lisey uses a commemorative shovel of her late husband's as a weapon. At one point it's referred to as 'Little Lisey's Trusty Maniac Swatter, Copyright 1988, Patent Pending, All Rights Reserved.'
All Quiet on the Western Front references entrenching spades, as mentioned under Real Life. The protagonists sharpen the edges of the spades, and even use them as a defense against attacks on their own trench, because however cruddy they may be, the standard German bayonets are even worse at close range.
World War Z has the U.S. Marines making use of this trope via their standard-issue entrenching shovels, as they are credited with creating "the Lobotomizer": sharpened along the edge, the shovels made great battle axes for lopping off zombie heads. Surprisingly effective, and rather common by the end of the war, thanks of their ease of production and utility. The before-mentioned Monk's spade is also used by a old blind man to great effect in defending himself.
The novels by Sven Hassel also sing the praises of the entrenching tool. You can use it to dig foxholes against artillery, to shit on when you're inside a tank, and with the edge sharpened it's great for hand-to-hand combat.
In Dracula, Jonathan Harker strikes The Count with a workman's shovel while he is in his coffin. This prove ineffective at slaying the vampire, merely creating a large scar on Dracula's forehead.
In Raising Steam, Lord Vetinari assumes an alias to take part in a short, bitter, war. He may have encountered the Assassins' School's unorthodox combat tutor, or at the least read her course syllabus, as he poses as a railway stoker and wields a shovel to deadly effect.
Live Action TV
In the Pushing Daisies episode "Girth," Emerson knocks out the Murderer of the Week with a shovel. And then tells the shovel that he loves it.
On Deadliest Warrior, the US Army Green Berets used their entrenching tool (a folding shovel) as their melee weapon vs. the Russian Spetznaz' spring-loaded ballistic knife. The knife won that particular showdown.
In the first episode of Garth Marenghis Darkplace, Dr. Rick Dagless, M.D. euthanizes his former friend's disembodied head after he explodes, by hitting him with a shovel. This is viewed as highly unorthodox medical practice.
The opening tag to one episode of The X-Files showed a guy burying the man he had just killed. He then walks into the kitchen, sees the same man standing at the sink, and promptly takes a swing with the shovel killing his wife; the episode dealt with hallucination-inducing subliminal messages.
In "Mr. Monk vs. the Cobra," gravedigger Chris Downey knocks Monk out with a shovel before putting him in a coffin and burying him alive.
In "Mr. Monk Can't See a Thing," Eddie Murdoch walks into a firehouse to steal a firefighter's coat and helmet. As he is grabbing it, a firefighter named Rusty comes around the parked fire engine to confront him. Murdoch responds by grabbing a shovel and striking Rusty over the head, killing him. Seconds later, Monk comes around investigating the audible clang caused by the first hit, and Murdoch swings the shovel at him, though Monk dodges a would-be-lethal blow so that it hits him over the back. There is a struggle, and Monk grabs the shovel, but before he can swing it at Murdoch, Murdoch throws a container of acid in his face, blinding him. Monk drops the shovel and staggers backwards against the fire engine screaming in pain.
In Eugene O'Neill's play The Emperor Jones, Brutus Jones escaped from a chain gang after killing the overseer who struck him with a whip by bringing down his work shovel on his head. When Jones returns to the chain gang in a hallucination, he relives the incident until realizing that he doesn't have a shovel.
The melee weapon for the Germans in Day Of Defeat is this.
A certain polearm-class weapon in World of Warcraft is called "The Shoveler." No points for guessing its model.
No More Heroes: Holly Summers uses a shovel as a weapon, and probably also used it to dig all the holes on the beach where you fight her.
Team Fortress 2: the Soldier's default melee weapon is a folding trench Shovel. In "Meet the Soldier" he's seen backhanding an enemy Spy with it, and in game you can earn an achievement for getting revenge with it. In a tactical sense, the Shovel is more a formality to fall back on if you don't have time to reload your rocket launcher and shotgun. Due to the class' stats and other weapons, the Soldier is probably tied with the Pyro and Heavy as the least likely to use his default melee weapon, and thus most likely to replace it with an unlockable weapon with a special effect.
In the Yuri's Revenge expansion to Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, Yuri's mining vehicle is a mobile refinery which collects ore by sending unarmored slaves out to dig it up with shovels. Destroying the miner frees the slaves, who join the other side and attack with their shovels, though they are extremely weak (then again, nobody said shovel versus tank was a good idea.
The champion Yorick in League of Legends uses an ancestral shovel as his weapon (his family were grave diggers and attendants of a cemetery for generations).
The Flash MMO DOFUS has shovels as one of its base weapon types, being the preferred class weapon of the Enutrof utility loot-finding class, and occasionally used by other classes with Water builds.
An accidental example, but Mike is hit in the head by Scott in season five, freeing his evil Split Personality Mal.
In the Looney Tunes cartoon "The Bee-Deviled Bruin", Junyer Bear takes care of a bee on his pop's nose by hitting it with a shovel - hard enough to leave a face-shaped imprint in the blade. Pop sets the dead bee on Junyer's nose, takes the shovel, and lets him have it. And Pop gets it again at the very end.
In the "Die Fly, Die!" episode of Beavis And Butthead, Beavis accidently hits Butt-head with a shovel while trying to kill the fly.
When a wereskunk tries to beat up Rigby in an episode of Regular Show, Mordecai gets him to back off by threatening him with a shovel.
Soldiers during WWI trench raids used what worked: knives and makeshift weapons over guns since they were much quieter. In particular sharpened entrenching tools could be swung, and more often thrusted with considerable force in cramped spaces. They were capable of killing instantly as opposed to the slow death of bayonet strikes. This discovery was made over and over again in urban combat throughout the early-to-mid twentieth century, such as at Shanghai ('37) and Stalingrad ('42)note The heart is a surprisingly small target and lung strikes that kill in sixty seconds just aren't good enough.
According to The Other Wiki, the short-handled trench spade made such an effective weapon that Soviet Spetsnaz carried them even though they were generally never called upon to dig trenches.
Soviet military equipment often had an extra, and usually unexpected purpose. Behold not just a sharp-edged combat tool, but the Mortarshovel◊.
A video of Russian soldiers practicing with military shovels (with broken English narration).
Winnipeg has seen a spate of cases where shovels were the preferred weapon for assaults.
In any Real Life case, shovels do have a primary advantage over other weapons, ie, you can't dig a grave with a gun. Well, you can try, but it probably wouldn't work very well.
The U.S. Army Combatives Field Manual actually advocates the use of the entrenching tool as a field-expedient weapon when better alternatives are unavailable.
This video is a clip of U.S. Army training with the e-tool. According to the video info, it was filmed in 1997.
In Swedish military parlance the entrenching tool is referred to (even in fairly official contexts) as the "short light assault shovel"
This trope may be Older Than Feudalism. The kunai of ninja fame was a multiple-use tool that could be used for, amongst other things, a trowel for gardening purposes, yet it's famed as an improvised weapon.
During the 2011 riots in Britain, the sales of folding shovels from Amazon rose by 284,100%. A coincidence, surely.