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Victory by First Blood

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A duel's victor is the person who causes the first injury.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
Willbyr on Sep 10th 2018 at 10:00:04 AM
Last Edited By:
Willbyr on Sep 19th 2018 at 8:52:18 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

Some duels or similar combats are meant to end when one of the participants causes the other to bleed or be otherwise injured. Whether or not this actually happens often depends on circumstances, but this is a stated stipulation or assumption of at least one participant.

Compare:

  • First Blood, when a combatant having blood drawn on them indicates that the fight is more serious than first thought.
  • Single-Stroke Battle, where a swordfight ends with one participant killed by the other on their first swing.

Contrast Duel to the Death.


Examples:

Comic Books

  • Played with in De cape et de crocs. While on the Moon, Armand is challenged to a local form of dueling called rixme, a portmanteau of rixe (brawl) and rime (rhyme) where the loser is the first to lose his flow. It's essentially an Enlightenment-era rap battle.
    Armand: Until first blood?
    Adynaton: Until the last word.

Film

  • Die Another Day: While James Bond and Gustav Graves are fencing at the Blades club, Bond proposes a bet over a diamond marked with the insignia of Graves' company (which also happens to be an African conflict diamond). Graves accepts, then takes a pair of decorative swords off the wall.
    Graves: Since we're upping the wager, let's up the weapons, shall we? We'll do this the old-fashioned way, first blood drawn from the torso!
  • An interesting exploitation of this trope happens in Rob Roy. At the very start of the film Rob and company track down and capture a group of men who had stolen a herd of cattle from a Scottish lord, and Rob kills the leader in a duel. Later in the film Will Guthrie, a friend of the leader of the thieves, comes up to Rob in an inn with his sword drawn, challenging Rob to a duel for revenge. Rob gets Guthrie to agree that the duel be to first blood only, then immediately reaches out, cuts his hand on Guthrie's drawn sword, and "congratulates" the other man on his victory. This handily (no pun intended) satisfies honor and leaves Guthrie no recourse for further revenge while also removing the chances of anyone dying in a duel, either via Rob accidentally killing Guthrie or Guthrie "accidentally" killing Rob by scoring a lethal first wound and then later pretending that he never intended to kill Rob.
  • The Duellists: Feraud's first duel against a mayor's nephew is considered over after Feraud stabs the man through the chest, drawing blood and humiliating him, but it's later said that he will survive. Averted by Feraud and d'Hubert's subsequent many, many duels, which are often plenty bloody, but are always interrupted before they can finish each other off.

Literature

  • In Dune, when Paul cuts Jamis during their duel, he asks if Jamis wishes to end the fight. This draws anger and disgust from the other Fremen until Jessica explains that Paul was trained to fight to first blood. He then learns that among the Fremen, such duels are to the death.
  • In the Honor Harrington books, duels on Manticore have two protocols, one for "first blood" (although death is still possible) and one for "until one is dead or both are out of ammo".
  • Exaggerated in The Man Who Was Thursday, when a duel that's meant as a distraction is stipulated to go to first serious injury to make sure the distraction lasts long enough.
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 novel Chapter War, Eumenes challenges Sarpedon in the opening, with Sarpedon insisting on the fight being to first blood. They fight again in the climax, this time to the death.
  • Subverted in Reflections of Eterna (Winter Break), when Richard Oakdell challenges Valentine Pridd over a perceived insult and Valentine chooses to duel until first blood, but their respective seconds don't manage to stop the duel before both have wounded each other.

Professional Wrestling

  • Some hardcore wrestling leagues have "first blood" matches, where the first wrestler that bleeds loses the match. TNA had a variant called Sadistic Madness, in which a wrestler couldn't be pinned until they had been made to bleed.

Tabletop Games

  • In Legend of the Five Rings, iajutsu duels are a common way for rival bushi in Rokugan to settle differences, with first blood usually being the winning stipulation as the swordsmen's lives are too valuable to waste.

Video Games

  • The Dwarven Provings in Dragon Age: Origins are to first blood. Companion Oghren is banned from Provings or even carrying weapons in Orzammar due to accidentally killing an opponent.
  • Solatorobo: On the Duel Ship, Red will occasionally find himself in a Self-Imposed Challenge where he declares that he'll win without taking a single hit, making it a duel to the first blood for his opponent, while Red still has to defeat them the normal way.

Western Animation


Feedback: 35 replies

Sep 10th 2018 at 10:10:46 AM

I've seen a lot of "first blood"-related tropes and TLP concepts, but nothing that clearly addresses this particular thing. I know there's got to be more examples of this out there.

Sep 10th 2018 at 10:22:32 AM

  • The Dwarven Provings in Dragon Age Origins are to first blood. Companion Oghren is banned from Provings or even carrying weapons in Orzammar due to accidentally killing an opponent.

Sep 10th 2018 at 10:31:16 AM

  • Die Another Day: James Bond and Gustav Graves are fencing at the Blades club, when Bond proposes a bet over a diamond marked with the insignia of Graves' company (which also happens to be an African conflict diamond). Graves accepts, then takes a pair of decorative swords off the wall: "If we're upping the stakes, let's up the wager. We'll do this the old-fashioned way, first blood drawn from the torso!"

Sep 10th 2018 at 11:57:50 AM

How about Duel To First Blood, to contrast the existing Duel To The Death.

Historically, duels to first blood were more common than duels to the death, but with the state of pre-modern medicine they often resulted in fatalities anyways.

Sep 10th 2018 at 12:38:51 PM

^ Hmmmm...that's not a bad idea, although some examples may not be from actual duels; I'm about to add one such example. Let's see if further comments gain consensus for one name or the other.

Was that second part meant to be a Real Life example for the TLP?

Sep 10th 2018 at 12:49:09 PM

There might be a separate trope for that, I feel like I've seen this elsewhere, but in that case it's definitely a related trope.

Sep 10th 2018 at 12:54:09 PM

^ That feels like something else...I'll add it if it gets some consensus.

Sep 10th 2018 at 1:25:07 PM

Does this count?

  • In the Artemis Fowl short story "LEPRecon", Root places a special condition on Holly during her final field exam to join LEP; if she lands a shot on him with her tracer pistol before he gets one on her, she automatically passes no questions asked. Holly performs poorly in the exam due to her Cowboy Cop tendencies, only to shoot Root during the post-exam debrief and claim a pass via Loophole Abuse.

Sep 10th 2018 at 1:24:41 PM

^ I'm not sure if that would fit better here or here.

Sep 10th 2018 at 10:26:15 PM

  • De Cape Et De Crocs: While on the Moon, Armand is challenged to a local form of duelling called rixme, a portmanteau of rixe (brawl) and rime (rhyme) where the loser is the first to lose his flow. It's essentially an Enlightenment-era rap battle.
    Armand: Until first blood?
    Adynaton: Until the last word.
  • Solatorobo: On the Duel Ship, Red will ocasionnally find himself in a Self Imposed Challenge where he declares that he'll win without taking a single hit, making it a duel to the first blood for his opponent, while Red still has to defeat them the normal way.

Sep 10th 2018 at 4:00:00 PM

Slight amendment to the Die Another Day example: the first part of the quote should be "Since we're upping the wager, let's up the weapons, shall we?"

Sep 10th 2018 at 7:00:41 PM

"Declaration" means it counts the announcer from DOTA shouting "first blood" for the first hero being killed.

"Victory by First Blood" sounds better in my opinion.

Sep 11th 2018 at 2:04:31 AM

The title format "'Stock Phrase' Statement" is one of my pet peeves, because it's basically just a new stock phrase but dressed up. As such, I do agree with the others that the title should be about the contest, rather than the wording of its conditions.

Victory By First Blood sounds best to me so far.

Sep 11th 2018 at 3:13:59 AM

In the Dune example, "Tamis" should be "Jamis".

From The Other Wiki

Sep 11th 2018 at 4:31:23 AM

^^ I knew that didn't seem right, thanks for catching that.

^^^, ^ That's a good idea...I'll work on that and the new examples later on today.

Sep 11th 2018 at 6:53:39 AM

  • Subverted in Reflections Of Eterna (Winter Break), when Richard Oakdell challenges Valentine Pridd over a perceived insult and Valentine chooses to duel until first blood, but their respective seconds don't manage to stop the duel before both have wounded each other.

Sep 11th 2018 at 6:06:47 AM

Echoing that it should be about the duel, not the declaration of the duel. Duel To The First Blood or even just To First Blood would work.

Sep 11th 2018 at 6:33:52 AM

  • Heric from Xcalibur once had to fight in such a duel (with his father, IIRC). Since he was not only a mage apprentice, but also a Bare Fisted Monk, all it took was a kick in the face.

Sep 11th 2018 at 7:49:29 AM

I've added the most recent suggestions. How do you go about hooking a names crowner to a TLP? I've never done that before and I don't know if the mods' crowner creator tool is set up to handle TL Ps.

Sep 11th 2018 at 7:52:33 AM

It's pretty simple if you know how, just follow the instructions on How Crowners Work

Sep 11th 2018 at 7:53:50 AM

(don't bother waiting for suggestions like I did, you can just add them later)

Sep 11th 2018 at 8:19:09 AM

Ah, it's that simple. Cool; that's done and the link is in the description and here: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/crowner.php/AlternativeTitles/FirstBloodDeclaration

Sep 11th 2018 at 11:15:33 AM

I would recommend changing the name to one of the others people have suggested, the current tittle sounds like its when videogames announce the first kill of a match.

Sep 11th 2018 at 1:05:41 PM

^ That's why the crowner's there...although it could stand to be announced in the title.

Sep 12th 2018 at 1:31:29 PM

Bumping to get some more votes on the crowner and hopefully some more examples.

Sep 16th 2018 at 7:53:56 PM

The crowner will be a week old tomorrow and there's a clear winner, so the TLP has been retitled.

Any other suggestions?

Sep 18th 2018 at 8:19:36 AM

  • An interesting exploitation pf this trope happens in Rob Roy. At the very start of the film Rob and company track down and capture a group of men who had stolen a heard of cattle from a Scottish lord, and Rob kills the leader in a duel. Later in the film Will Guthrie, a friend of the leader of the thieves, comes up to Rob in an inn with his sword drawn, challenging Rob to a duel for revenge. Rob gets Guthrie to agree that the duel be to first blood only, then immediately reaches out, cuts his hand on Guthrie's drawn sword, and "congratulates" the other man on his victory. This handily (no pun intended) satisfies honor and leaves Guthrie no recourse for further revenge while also removing the chances of anyone dying in a duel, either via Rob accidentally killing Guthrie or Guthrie "accidentally" killing Rob by scoring a lethal first wound and then later pretending that he never intended to kill Rob.

Sep 18th 2018 at 10:27:33 AM

^^ Thanks!

^ That's added, thanks!

Sep 18th 2018 at 10:36:31 AM

I feel like the sport of Fencing works on this concept. The object is to hit your opponent before they can, thus drawing first blood. I know the sport is more complex than that though.

Sep 19th 2018 at 1:29:21 AM

  • The Duellists: Feraud's first duel against a mayor's nephew is considered over after Feraud stabs the man through the chest, drawing blood and humiliating him, but it's later said that he will survive. Averted by Feraud and d'Hubert's subsequent many, many duels, which are often plenty bloody, but are always interrupted before they can finish each other off.

Sep 19th 2018 at 2:38:05 AM

Sep 19th 2018 at 3:51:30 AM

^^, ^ Those are added, thanks!

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