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Breaching the Wall

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"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!"
King Henry, Henry V

What should you do when the infamous "barbarians" flee from a greater evil? Build a wall or barrier wide enough to keep them at bay. You know, it should be strong enough to withstand the bigger baddies as well. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Well, it is still possible to exploit a natural breach to weaken and bring it down with Siege Engines. Perhaps because the enemy utilized a Fantastic Nuke, or perhaps through a regular old Battering Ram. After all, a defense is only as strong as its weakest point.

Sometimes, it's quite common to imagine the baddies would have solved much of their problems by bypassing the actual obstacle. Anyway, the countless hordes of the incoming threat can trigger the story plot by this mere action. May lead to a Seal the Breach plot in response.

The final result of The Siege. Compare it to Storming the Castle and Running the Blockade. It is also a big Oh, Crap!, Flat "What" and This Is Gonna Suck moment amongst the defenders.

Compare Barrier-Busting Blow, which is at a much smaller scale; There Was a Door, when a single person bursts through a less fortified, often interior barrier; and "Open!" Says Me, when a burly character uses force to break through a locked door.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Happens twice early on in Attack on Titan, where the Colossal Titan and Armored Titan breach Wall Maria, and then, just a few years later, the Colossal Titan breaches the gates of the Trost District, letting the lesser Titans into humanity's last refuge. Plugging the hole in the Trost walls is the main goal of the following arc, while finding a way to close the Wall Maria breach and to retake the land from the Titans is pretty much the Myth Arc of the manga.
  • In Eikou no Napoleon - Eroica Napoleon has to attack Acre without his siege artillery, that was on ships the British captured, forcing him to wait until replacements arrive. The guns are then able to utterly demolish the city's recently repaired medieval walls... But not the much newer ones Antoine de Phélippeaux had built just inside, as those ones were built with more modern criteria to resist siege artillery and are defended by the same siege guns previously captured.
    • Napoleon later does breach the wall by having his troops dig a tunnel beneath it and then set off a bomb. Much to his chagrin, British and Ottoman reinforcements arrive in time to repel the attack, and Napoleon is later forced to lift the siege.
  • Inverted in the manga of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind: defenders in a besieged fortress decide to try for a bust-out. Rather than simply go through the front entrance, they blow a hole in the fortress's outer wall, in order to subvert the siege lines which have been built in front of the obvious exit.

    Comic Strips 
  • Viking invaders from Prince Valiant lay siege to Camelot, and use a known and proven method of breaching heavy walls: they raise an armored roof over a crew of tunnelers, who dig beneath the wall. Once enough earth has been cleared away, the support beams are set alight, causing them to buckle. This in turn causes the wall to collapse from its own weight, creating a sizable rift that the Vikings clamber through to capture Camelot.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Night Unfurls, this is what happens to a Leaping Lizard stronghold in Chapter 20, where the Good Hunter unleashes A Call Beyond to create a breach for his company to charge through.
    • Vault has this in mind regarding his schemes for victory against the Seven Shields. Unfortunately, it never comes to pass as a result of the fanfic being discontinued.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Avengers: Infinity War: During the Battle of Wakanda, the Outriders try to Zerg Rush the Wakanda barrier. Due to their sheer numbers and speed, at least a few of them manage to tear holes in the barrier and pass quick enough before it regenerates and turns some unlucky troops into Ludicrous Gibs. After the Outriders start to fan out along the barrier, which would allow them to breach multiple fronts, T'challa orders to create a slight opening in the barrier so that the enemy forces go through there, creating a bottleneck situation. From there, he, his army and his fellow superheroes start to charge at the incoming Outriders.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: When Voldemort's Death Eaters attack Hogwarts, the professors conjure up an impenetrable protective bubble around the castle that incinerates anyone who tries to breach it. It only gives the Hogwarts crowd a brief reprieve before Voldemort shows up in person with the Elder Wand and singlehandedly destroys the shield spell. However, it's obvious that Voldemort overtaxed the Elder Wand in the process, which begins to show visible cracks.
  • The Ko-Dan Armada from The Last Starfighter has been kept beyond the frontier of the civilized galaxy by an energy wall generated by thousands of satellites in a grid formation. That is, until the Ko-Dan laser-bore a hole in this wall, through which they launch meteors at Star Base. The damage created by these meteors disables the satellites, so the frontier wall dissipates, allowing the armada free go at the galaxy.
  • In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the first part of the battle at Helm's Deep has Rohan's army easily keeping Saruman's Uruk-hais at bay. Unfortunately, no one's aware Saruman has found out the fortress wall can be destroyed by placing a bomb on a sewage drain nearby. Guess what happens a few minutes later...
  • In Pacific Rim, the Humongous Mecha were set to be decommissioned after a huge wall was built around the pacific ocean to keep the giant alien monsters out. It took a kaiju about an hour of sustained bashing to get through, demonstrating how useless it is as a long-term solution.

  • In the The Belgariad sequel novel Guardians of the West:
    • When The Hero Belgarion leads an assault on a fortified city that's been taken over by Bear-Cult rebels, he uses sorcery to break down the city gates. He forgets that he's holding the Orb of Aldur, a tremendously powerful Amplifier Artifact that's quite enthusiastic about helping him, so the spell instead vaporizes the gates and sends chunks of gate tower flying miles away.
    • Having learned a bit of subtlety, the next time Belgarion goes up against a Bear-Cult stronghold, he uses his sorcery to breach an aquifer under the city and raise the water table. After a night, the walls anticlimactically fall over in a minor mudslide and his forces march in.
  • Paul's attack at the end of Dune has him nuking a hole through the Shield Wall: a whole mountain range protecting (and enabling the existence of) the most hospitable area of Arrakis. Using nuclear weapons in war is taboo, but Paul declares he broke no laws because he didn’t blow up any people — the mountains were his only target.
  • In the Sword of Truth series, there were two cases of magical barriers put up in order to stop a war. The first is broken by the Big Bad of the first book in order to have an easier time conquering and looking for the McGuffins, the second is deactivated by the protagonist so that he can stop The Keeper from breaching the barrier between life and death, destroying everyone.
  • In David Gemmell's Legend, the fortress of Dros Delnoch protects a vital mountain pass that is the only practical way for an army to invade the lands of the Drenai from the Nadir Steppes. The fortress is composed of seven walls that span the pass with each wall representing a stage of The Siege. The first two walls are the least defensible and are assumed to fall if assaulted by an army of sufficient size and competence. Walls three and four are the ones where the most brutal fighting takes place as both the attackers and defenders have been bloodied and hardened by the fighting on the earlier walls. If the first four walls are breached then it is likely that the fortress will fall without outside intervention. Walls five and six represent the bravest and most determined defenders performing Heroic Sacrifices so their comrades can retreat. Wall seven is where the Last Stand will take place.
  • Sharpe: As an officer in Wellington's army during The Napoleonic Wars (and slightly beforehand, in India), Richard Sharpe participates in several major sieges and personally charges through a gap in the walls created by artillery or sappers on at least two occasions.
  • The Wildlings from A Song of Ice and Fire repeatedly attack the eponymous Wall in order to travel south. Much to their grief, the Night's Watch makes their efforts a living hell, to say nothing of the fact that it's a 700-foot-tall expanse of enchanted ice. A few of them (including Osha) are clever enough to bypass it and reach Winterfell, though. It is implied in the books the White Walkers have the power to destroy it and march on Westeros.

    Live-Action TV 

    Myths & Religion 
  • According to the Book of Joshua (6:14 and 6:15), the Israelites sundered the ancient walls of Jericho, by chanting at it and blowing rams' horns. Archaeologists have dated the foundations of Jericho's walls to the middle Bronze Age, and discern where it underwent many repairs, rebuilds and upgrades in its history.
  • The Achaean (Greek) armies had laid The Siege to the city of Ileum in Virgil's The Aeneid for several years, plundering the surrounding province of Troy, but not getting past the walls of the city proper. That is, not until the Trojan Horse ploy that installed thirty or so Elite Mooks behind Ileum's walls, where they unbarred the gates, allowing the Achaean army access.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition opens with the Hidden Villain breaching a massive hole in the Veil that separates the Spirit World from the material plane. With demons now pouring from the Breach in droves, finding a way to close it is the first major objective of the game.
  • The results are seen after the fact in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Mehrunes Dagon's forces attacked Kvatch with a Daedric Siege Crawler that blasted open the city's walls. They attempt it again at Bruma later in the story, but the Player Character closes the Oblivion gate on the Crawler, destroying it before it can reach Bruma. The whole game is actually predicated on this trope, as the assassination of The Emperor Uriel Septim VII and his heirs allows the Daedric armies to breach the mystical barrier between their native Oblivion and the material plane of Nirn and to stage an invasion through hundreds of Oblivion Gates that opened across Tamriel as a result. The main quest of the game revolves around finding a way to mend the veil between Nirn and Oblivion and thus to prevent any more Gates from opening.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn: Aloy helps her War Chief track the people who attacked her tribe back to their base. She sneaks in and blows up thier stockpile of explosives taking down a wall and allowing the Nora to bypass the fortified main entrance.
  • Horizon Forbidden West: Aloy gets sent to visit the Tenakth Sky Clan due to them not having answered the summons by the Tenakth war chief. The Sky Clan leader arrogantly informs her that he'll send no delegates to answer the summons so long as the wall protecting the Sky Clan's capital is intact. Naturally, Aloy quickly locates a weak spot that she's able to destroy with salvaged machine weaponry and bring the wall down, forcing the Sky Clan leader to send his delegation.
  • During the assault on the Last Judgement's compound in Rebuild, the attackers blast a hole in their walls letting them contend with zombies in addition to the humans.
  • Total War has this happening in every single game: Because having to prosecute a siege realistically would not make for good gameplay, practically every game from Shogun onward features Siege Engines capable of blowing through defensive walls in minutes to allow the attacker to Storm The Castle.
  • The Soviet campaign of World in Conflict: Soviet Assault starts with you demolishing a part of the Berlin Wall with precision artillery strikes, so Soviet tanks can squeeze through and mount an attack. This is mostly a symbolic action, however, since the Soviets also mount simultaneous attacks elsewhere along the Iron Curtain.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • A Scotsman in Egypt: Happens repeatedly over the course of the many, many sieges the Scots lay to their enemies: their catapults/cannon concentrate fire on the gate or a wall section, and the Scottish hordes pour into the enemy. That is, when their spies haven't infiltrated the city to open the gates for them.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has the Earth Kingdom capital of Ba Sing Se, meaning "Impenetrable City" thanks to its massive Outer Wall and an equally tough Inner Wall, ones that lack the weak spot of wooden gates, as they're instead made out of stone and opened and closed by teams of Earthbenders. Of course the trope is used multiple times:
    • In the backstory, the warlord Chin the Conqueror managed to overrun all of the Earth Kingdom save for the city and the peninsula where Avatar Kyoshi lived, then took a look at the Outer Wall and decided it was easier to try his luck against the Avatar. He had a quick and embarrassing death.
    • Iroh became famous for being the first in history to breach the Outer Wall, though he gave up on the siege soon after when his son died in battle.
    • In the series proper, the Fire Nation builds a giant armored drill to bore through the Walls. Fortunately for the Earth Kingdom, the Gaang arrives at the city right at that time and are able to disable it, but not before it goes all the way through the Outer Wall. The breach is quickly patched up and then repaired.
    • Both Walls are breached when Azula conquers Ba Sing Se for the Fire Nation. It's mostly a symbolic action: she had already conquered the city through subterfuge by taking over the Dai Li (the Earth Kingdom's Secret Police), and having them open a path in the walls to let the Fire Nation army through was how she informed the citizens of the change in management. Only the Outer Wall is later restored.
    • It happens again in the series finale, where Iroh, having long changed sides and his Firebending amped up by Sozin's Comet, is able to breach the Outer Wall in a single attack and let the Order of the White Lotus through.

    Real Life 
  • Needless to say this trope is Truth in Television, though probably much less so than historical fiction and video games would have you believe. In truth, up until the invention of advanced gunpowder weapons, most siege weapons simply lacked the oomph to breach a defensive wall outright; breaking down a wall gradually could take sustained bombardment and the defenders would often be able to Seal the Breach (often using the same masonry that was just knocked loose) faster than the attackers could tear them down again. More often, this bombardment would simply make the wall too damaged to effectively defend in case of an escalade. The explosive shell proved to be the death of this trope in a literal sense, simply because it made 'walls' an ineffective mode of fortification; even if it couldn't outright breach the wall, it would kill anyone standing on or behind it and make it easy to storm. Modern-day defences depend more on layers of impediments in depth to protect territory, which are more difficult to 'breach' below the operational level.