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Cave Mouth

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Kidnapper: We'll be fine. Trolls run from fire.
Rincewind: Yes, but... this one can't, you see.
Kidnapper: And why's that?
Rincewind: Well, because... you've lit it on his tongue.
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There's a good reason the entrance to any underground cavern is called a "mouth".

Consider that the mouth is a breeding ground for bacterianote ; it's dark, and damp, too, and has a lot of sharp objects lining its roof and floor.

Now consider a typical cave: Dark, possibly damp, a breeding ground for all sorts of unsavory creatures, with stalagmites on the floor and sharp (and occasionally falling) stalactites lining the ceiling...

So is it any wonder that sometimes authors can't resist making a Visual Pun out of the "mouth" to a cave?

See also Beware the Skull Base, which often features this trope with the mouth being the dead jaws of a giant creature, and Poorly Lit Pareidolia. Sometimes this goes beyond the visual metaphor and actually becomes a plot-relevant — perhaps That's No Cave.

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Examples:

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    Card Games 

    Comic Books 
  • One comic of Conan the Barbarian has a rather literal example of this. In his efforts to steal two strangely eye-like (yet angled) gems from a greedy merchant, Conan and the merchant both go chasing after the gems when they start flying through the air, leading them through a strangely mouth-like cave (with irregular sets of "teeth" set the whole way through) to a large central chamber that is covered with deep piles of gemstones. The merchant immediately dives into the mixed array of rubies, diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and other gems, noting that it's extremely strange to see so many different types of gem in the same place, but too blinded by greed to care. Conan is more cautious, and thusly he survives when it turns out they're in the stomach/throat of some kind of mountainous earth elemental. The merchant is devoured.
  • Tales of Telguuth: A brother and sister who are about to be offered as the final sacrifices required to resurrect an evil god run away from the priests and take shelter in a cave in the desert. When the brother climbs out it turns out that the cave was really the mouth of the god, who eats the sister so it can rise from its slumber and lay waste to the world.

    Comic Strips 
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    Films — Animation 
  • In Aladdin, the Cave of Wonders' opening is a big tiger's mouth with sharp teeth. It also talks. ("Who disturbs my slumber?")
  • In Disney's The Little Mermaid (1989), the front door of Ursula's lair is the mouth of a sea-dragon skeleton.
  • Monstro's mouth in Pinocchio.
  • The Cave of the Beast in The Twelve Tasks of Asterix. Bonus points for closing after they enter.
  • In The Brave Little Toaster, the gang of appliances is seeking shelter and Lampy discovers a hollow tree. He hops in, calls to his friends, then turns on his light. From the outside, the illumination creates a scary face like a jack-o'-lantern, and everyone else screams and vanishes into the bushes. Lampy can't see it because he's inside the tree itself, once he figures it out, hilarity ensues.
  • In The Pagemaster, our heroes find a cave, which is full of stalagmites and stalactites. When Adventure accidentally breaks one, it's revealed that the "cave" is actually the mouth of a dragon.
  • Drake's island from The Pebble and the Penguin, which for some reason looks like it should've suited Frankenberry more than an evil penguin.
  • Pooh's Grand Adventure is about Pooh and friends going on a quest to rescue Christopher Robin from the eye of Skull, a skull-shaped rock formation. The eyes are too high to climb up to, so they go into the mouth, which leads into a maze of caverns that eventually leads to the eye.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The villaniness' lair from the fantasy-action kung-fu film, The Devils Mirror.
  • The Empire Strikes Back have the crew of the Millennium Falcon confuse a Space Slug's mouth with an asteroid cave.
  • In The Goonies, there is a skull-shaped cave entrance.
  • The cave of Princess Dragon Mom in The Super Inframan, which is modeled after a dragon skeleton.
  • In Wild America, the cave where the bears sleep is shaped like a mouth, with icicles like fangs.

    Gamebooks 
  • In the eleventh Give Yourself Goosebumps book, Deep in the Jungle of Doom, one path has you entering a cave that is strangely damp, with soft pink walls. It turns out you're in the mouth of a giant rock monster, and your friend let it eat you in exchange for her own life. Naturally, this is a Bad Ending, and ends with you being Swallowed Whole and waiting for death as you plunge towards the stomach...
  • Fighting Fantasy often features caves resembling the maws of giant monsters, for instance the Mouth of Glund in Spectral Stalkers.
    • The very first book, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, references this trope in its very first page, where you enter the warlock's domain through a cave that "resembles the giant mouth of some infernal beast".
    • In another book, Armies of Death, you're given the choice of entering three different cave mouths as part of a trial to seek the Oracle. If you chose the wrong mouth (obtainable from a clue earlier during your adventure in Zengis), it will lead to a dead end, and as you retreat the mouth will seal itself shut behind you, leading to a Non Standard Game Over of being permanently trapped.

    Literature 
  • In The Catastrophe of the Emerald Queen. The entrance to The Shores.
  • In The Light Fantastic Twoflower's kidnappers inadvertently settle in the mouth of an enormous troll, mistaking it for a cave. They probably would have been fine if they hadn't lit a fire inside it, ironically to ward off trolls.
  • In The Seventh Tower cavernmouths look like regular caves... except for gleaming red dots. These are tonsils, and if you stray too close to the "entrance"... the jaws come out.
  • The gate to the Colony in the Tunnels books is called the Skull Gate, because it rests below an enormous stone skull.
  • In the The Spriggan Mirror, the castle- presumably Derathon's- was said to have the only entrance carved like a gaping mouth.
  • In the Warrior Cats series, the cats call a certain cave "Mothermouth" because it resembles a mouth.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The 10th Kingdom, the cave entrance is not just shaped like a dragon's head, it's an actual dragon's head. A dead, fossilized dragon (hence the name "Dragon Mountain"). This introduces a bit of Squick when the cast must take mining sleds down along the spine and ribs toward the actual mine and get tossed out the other end.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Apple", you've got the mouth of Vaal, a cave mouth shaped like a dragon's head, complete with glowing eyes.
  • The Cave of the Golden Rose from Fantaghirò is actually a monster's mouth, and the rose is its uvula. The cave even gave its name to most translations.
  • The Goodies go caving. They find a remarkable Cave Mouth. They note the curving rows of stalagmites and stalactites and treat the odd red thing note  like a punching bag. The giant dinosaur, naturally, closes its mouth on them.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Face of Evil", a giant face of the Doctor has been carved into the cliff by the mad computer. The Doctor indignantly rejects the idea that they enter the cave by climbing up "his" nostrils. "It's up over the tongue and down the throat."
    • Similarly, the Eighth Doctor encounters a creature who was a mountain, and its many cave entrances part of him.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu supplement Fragments of Fear, adventure "Valley of the Four Shrines". The entrance to the cave that leads to the valley has been carved in the likeness of Cthulhu's head.

    Theme Parks 
  • The Storybook Land boat ride at Disneyland begins by entering Monstro the whale from Pinocchio. The Disneyland Paris version of the ride swaps Monstro for the tiger-shaped Cave of Wonders from Aladdin.
  • The queue line for Skull Island: Reign of Kong at Universal's Islands of Adventure goes through several cave caverns, which have mouth-like archways scattered throughout.
  • Great America's roller coaster The Demon has featured a high-speed plummet into a Cave Mouth since its theming in 1980.

    Toys 

    Video Games 
  • Brütal Legend: The entrance to the Sea of Black Tears is shaped like a giant skull.
  • Chrono Trigger: The Tyrano Lair features doors styled after theropod maws which open and close depending on switch configuration.
  • Dark Fall: Lost Souls: Amy's creepy drawing of Dowerton Station depicts the entrance to the train tunnels like this.
  • Desperados: El Diablo's cave resembles a skull.
  • Final Fantasy Adventure: The entrance to a cave not only looks like a mouth, but has a sense of taste as well and will spit you back out if your armor isn't tasty enough (it likes silver).
  • Golden Axe II: One level takes place in "the cavern called Dragon's Throat". Guess what the entrance looks like?
  • Hero Core: Two entrances to the Annihilator Factory have a mouth design.

    Web Animation 
  • Mystery Skulls Animated: The cave in which Lewis was murdered has an eerie mouth like opening with four holes above it that looked like nostrils and glowing eyes due to the green entity in the cave.
  • Robosan And Wanchan: When Robo-san is in a high up mountain looking for Wan-chan, he enters a cave with a very foreboding-looking entrance.

    Web Comics 
  • Pictured above, in Erfworld, the entrance to the caves leading to Gobwin Knob has a sinister resemblance to a mouth.
  • Invoked in Looking for Group; the party comes across a secret door that expands and contracts; Richard mistakes it for "A mountain that eats people".

    Web Original 
  • Felarya is another fictional setting where it is rarely wise to explore such cavern mouths, since the ambush predators tend to be of sufficient size.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • A chamber in Virginia's Luray Caverns has an entrance like this.
  • Some ambush predators can do this to smaller, not-too-clever prey such as bait fish (For example, the alligator snapping turtle for one thing).
  • The museum in Copan, Honduras (a major Mayan site) has an artificial mask-style carving of a head for an entrance.
  • Be honest, this is how you ate Teddy Grahams or Goldfish as a kid.
  • The old Sri Lankan royal fortress was called the Lion's Mouth, because it could only be accessed through a gate that was carved to look like the gaping mouth of a lion. Enormous paws were carved below the gate. These paws still stand today, while the mouth is gone.
  • The entryway to Gatorland in Florida is meant to look like a giant alligator mouth.
  • One defunct restaurant chain called "Coon Chicken Inn" (which got a namedrop in C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America) designed its entrances to resemble the mouth of a smiling African American porter, represented in stereotypical blackface style.
  • The original entrance to the MGM Grand Las Vegas was a giant, gold-colored lion's head (representing MGM's iconic mascot). It was replaced during a later renovation, partly because — to Asian visitors — entering a lion's mouth is considered very bad luck.
  • The Orcus, the symbol of the 16th century Park of the Monsters in Bomarzo, Italy. Inside the mouth there's a stone table and seating, so that people could eat while being eaten.

 
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Video Example(s):

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Sandy, SpongeBob, and the Worm

Sandy arrives at a cave and ends up defeating what looks to be the Alaskan Bull Worm, only for SpongeBob to inform her that that was just its tongue...and that the supposed "cave" is actually the worm itself.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (19 votes)

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