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Cutlass Between the Teeth

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"Yes, this lad'd seen the idea in a book, and he swung across into the other ship's rigging with his cutlass clenched, as you say, between his teeth. ... 'Topless Harry', we wrote on his coffin. ... I don't know if you've ever seen a soft-boiled egg after you've picked up your knife and sliced?"

Taking disregard for the old saying "Don't run with scissors" to a whole new level, the Cutlass Between the Teeth is the tendency for particularly badass characters to run around with the handle (or blade, if they're feeling really tough) of a sword or knife clenched between their teeth. Can have its uses—at most earning a free hand—but its true purpose is to make the character doing it look even cooler. One would think you'd only attempt this on something whose blade has an edge on just one side…

A frequent tactic of fictional Pirates, who often need their hands free for swimming, climbing the rigging or swinging a rope for a Boarding Party.

Obviously not Truth in Television (anymore, anyway). As you can imagine, biting down on a hard and thin piece of metal is not very comfortable on your teeth. Not to mention you'd have to worry about dropping the damn thing while running and jumping around in combat — a hard object (tooth) holding a hard object (blade) gives a poor grip. Oh, and slicing the edges of your mouth comes to mind too, if the blade is double-edged. It's marginally better (although just as useless) to hold the hilt this way, provided it's not too big (forget about it if it's a cutlass).

Compare Now That's Using Your Teeth! and Handy Mouth. Not to be confused with Metal Muncher, which refers to creatures that feed on metal.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Assassination Classroom, Nagisa does this with a combat knife while he limbers up before facing Takaoka. It's become one of his trademark poses, both within the show's art and fan art.
  • Attack on Titan probably gives a very gruesome take on this trope, as the Rogue Titan bites the neck of another Titan and uses it to attack other Titans in the vicinity.
  • Guts from Berserk is not only big on using his teeth to stop enemy attacks, but he also uses them so that he may use his own weapons when his own two hands are incapable of doing so. Also just a reminder, the handle of the weapon he's biting his teeth down on just to swing around? It's the DRAGONSLAYER.
  • Roberta from Black Lagoon. What makes it so awesome is that she caught someone ELSE'S thrown knife between her teeth, then bit it in two.
  • In the 70s series of Cutey Honey, Honey does this from time to time when she needs her hands free. Naturally, she does it in the one episode where she takes on the form of a pirate.
  • Dante in the first episode of Devil May Cry: The Animated Series has Ivory, one of his guns, in his mouth. Justified, as one hand was shooting with Ebony (his other gun), the other hand was filleting with his sword, and he's half-devil.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Wrath gets his arms blasted off and his sword broken into pieces, but still manages to catch the weapon's blade between his teeth and stab his enemy in the stomach with it before collapsing.
    • Ling also does this while picking up an injured Lan Fan, and later on while helping the Elric brothers capture Gluttony.
  • Full Metal Panic! has the protagonist's Humongous Mecha Arbalest, which has a spare dagger stored on its "mouth", specifically designed to be evocative of a ninja holding a scroll between his teeth. Rather than a sheathe, however, the dagger is held by a pair of clamps which pop open when Sosuke needs it.
  • Gunslinger Girl. Triela does this with her sword bayonet while climbing a rope in Season One's "Gelato". In the anime Il Teatrino during the fight with Pinocchio, she does it again for a brief moment so she can have both hands free to reload her pistol. And in the manga during the battle of the New Turin Power Plant, Triela loses An Arm and a Leg and uses her teeth to hold a shotgun shell so she can reload her shotgun with her remaining hand.
  • Hellsing
    • Psychotic priest Alexander Anderson does this, though not by choice as he had previously gotten both of his arms blown off by Alucard.
    • Alucard himself does this with one of his guns, using his teeth to rack the slide. Just before putting down the Hound of Baskerville, which has been taken over by Walter, in a Shout-Out to the first anime.
  • Kurojaki, head of the Koga dog clan from Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin, wields a sickle with his jaws and uses it against other dogs. Picking a fight with Gin results in him gouging out an eye with his own sickle.
  • The five lions of GoLion (aka the Lion Voltron) all carried their swords in their mouth since, well, where else is a lion gonna carry a sword?
  • Ray, of Infinite Dendrogram, does this once with Nemesis, a massive Greatsword, to finish off an opponent. However, it was only possible because the weapon was weightless for him.
  • Saruhiko Fushimi of K does this in the first season opening with his actual sword while jumping from street light to street light. It is only in the opening though and he never does it in the Anime proper.
    • In the second season, he does this with one of his throwing knives in his JUNGLE profile picture.
  • In Maiden Rose, Klaus does this with his knife during the nighttime training exercise, presumably to free up his hands for something else.
  • Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam combines this with Barehanded Blade Block and Humongous Mecha. The final duel between Kincaid and Zabine starts with their beam zanbers and, as they damage each others' weapons ends up with their heat daggers. In the final clash, Kincaid catches Zabine's knife in the X-1's "mouth"note , while his own knife goes right into the X-2's cockpit. Bonus points, of course, for being a pirate-themed series.
  • Just about every other promotional image for Naruto features the title character posing with a kunai in his mouth. Laughed at in this fanart.
    • A more extreme example takes place in the series' Land of Waves arc climax. Deprived of the use of his arms, a really pissed off Zabuza is able to plow through a bridge full of armed criminals to get at the Big Bad who tried to double cross him while armed with just a single kunai held in his mouth, whipping it around with his tongue whenever he needed to change direction. In the manga he even cut his target's head off.
    • Similarly, the mouth is just one of the improbably places Killer Bee holds his 7 swords. Note that none of the seven are actually in his hands.
    • Deidara does this as well. Though like Zabuza, he was forced to since his arms were torn off.
  • Kotarou of Negima! Magister Negi Magi does this with Asuna's BFS in the Magic World tournament. Not that he had much of a choice since he had transformed into his monster wolf form.
  • The pirate-themed anime One Piece takes this to extremes. Roronoa Zoro, a bounty hunter who eventually becomes Luffy's swordsman, utilizes the powerful techniques of Santôryû, a fictional fighting style that involves wielding three swords, one in each hand and one in the mouth. Somehow, he can even talk while doing this: the creator said that it is his heart that allows him to speak.
    • Although in the Funimation dub, his voice is muffled (albeit still quite coherent) when using it.
      • However in the original Japanese voiceover he amusingly rolls his R's like a yankee while his sword is still clenched in his teeth. Now that's talent.
  • Kyuzo does this twice in Samurai 7. With two swords, it's easy to run out of hands.
  • Samurai Champloo: Mugen puts his samurai sword between his teeth when climbing a cliff in Episode 16.
  • In Tekken: The Motion Picture, Heihachi Mishima catches an axe flung at his face by Michelle Chang by biting onto the blade with such force it shatters. He then leaps down from the balcony to confront her, spits out a shard of metal, and tells her that if she wants revenge on him, she'll have to fight her way successfully through his tournament.
  • In the manga of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Jounouchi challenged in a fight with a bully with knives in both of their mouths in a narrow alley after the bully beat up Yugi and took his puzzle after losing to an arcade game against him.

    Comic Books 
  • Lampshaded in one of the Commando stories. A unit of British Commandos shows up to help a conventional infantry unit. One soldier jokes, "I thought you guys were supposed to have your faces painted black and knives between your teeth."
  • Parodied in MAD: Tarzan swings in to save Jane from a crocodile, with a knife in his teeth. Later we see him in a doctor's office, with the knife embedded in his cheeks.
  • A similar joke was used in the Italian comic Sturmtruppen with a paratrooper ending up with the knife like that.
  • Done out of necessity in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW) Issue 13 to 14 since the ponies lack hands.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 
  • Buck from Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs carries his carnosaur-tooth knife in his mouth occasionally. Granted, weasels are probably more used to carrying things by mouth than humans are.
  • In Peter Pan, one of the pirates does this more or less all the time. After receiving a cannonball to the head during the battle aboard the ship courtesy of Michael and his teddy bear, he bites through it.
  • Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas has the rare occurrence of it being someone else's sword. During the opening fight, a soldier attacks Sinbad's first mate Kale, who catches the blade in his teeth, then uses it to fling the man overboard.
  • In Tangled, Maximus takes this to the next level by fighting Flynn with a sword held thusly (in fairness, he doesn't have thumbs anyway) and giving a better account than all of the human guards put together.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Aftermath (2021): Otto puts a syringe between his teeth before going out to kill Kevin.
  • Jack Burton does this a few times in Big Trouble in Little China.
  • In Breakheart Pass, Carlos clenches his knife between his teeth when climbs up on top of the train to pursue after Deakin.
  • In Chai Lai Angels: Dangerous Flowers, Lotus clutches a knife between her teeth as she swims off the island after the boat containing the pearl. She draws the knife and throws it, burying it in the back of one of Dragon's mooks.
  • In the climax of Tod Browning's Freaks, the limbless Randian is seen wiggling through the mud after the antagonist with a knife in his teeth. In all fairness, how else could the man carry a knife?
  • In The Goonies, Chunk holds a knife in his teeth during the scene where he and Sloth appear on One-Eye Willy's ship to rescue the team from the Fratellis.
  • James Bond
    • A modern variation in You Only Live Twice during the assault on Blofeld's base. Some ninjas can be seen holding grenades in their teeth—not for Pin-Pulling Teeth but just to keep their hands free for climbing and Fast-Roping.
    • In the climax of Octopussy, Gobinda has to go outside Kamal's private jet in mid-air to attack Bond, who is sabotaging the airplane. He briefly holds his curved dagger in his teeth to leave both hands free while he's climbing out the hatch onto the wing.
  • In Lethal Weapon 4, Riggs climbs up ropes onto a smugglers' ship with his pistol held between his teeth.
  • Muppet Treasure Island: Arrow when delivering Smollett's sword, because his hands are occupied by his own weapon and the rope he's swinging out with.
  • During the climactic battle against the Kraken in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Will Turner does this with a knife so he can climb up rigging. He takes the time to make sure the sharp edge is pointed away from his mouth while he does it, too.
    • Koleniko (the puffer fish guy) is holding a full-sized cutlass in his mouth when the Flying Dutchman's crew teleport over to the Black Pearl.
  • In The Unknown, knife-thrower Alonzo the Armless (who throws knives with his feet) is compelled by his condition (faked at first, but later genuine when he has his arms amputated) to sometimes hold his knives in his teeth.
  • Moon has a knife clutched between his teeth when he clambers on board the Spanish galleon in Yellowbeard.

  • Discussed in one of the later Amelia Peabody stories. Despite her skepticism, Amelia later expressed regret that she couldn't have a cutlass between her teeth when she boarded a hostile vessel ... but, "Ah, well, one cannot have everything."
    "That has always struck me as an impractical procedure," I said. "One would have to have extremely hard teeth and strong jaw muscles, and even then an involuntary movement might easily result in the loss of teeth and jaw."
  • The Bible: Jesus in The book of Revelation is described as having a sword coming out of his mouth. It's likely the most mundane part of John's description. One interpretation of the passage as that the returning Christ will merely speak the Word to kill his foes, since another passage says "The Word of God is sharper than any double-edged sword."
  • Referred to in Cheaper by the Dozen in the chapter about what it was like when a baby was born into the Gilbreth household.
    So when Anne was born, in New York, Dad was not the least bit disappointed, because he'd known all along she would be a girl. It is doubtful if any father was ever more insane about an offspring. It was just as well that Anne was a girl. If she had been a boy, Dad might have toppled completely off the deep end, and run amok with a kris in his teeth.
  • Averted with a background Viking named Sven Swordeater in Everworld. He got the matching scars on his cheeks when someone pushed a sword through them, not because he was holding it there.
  • Referenced in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas when Raoul Duke describes a particularly bad trip in which you might see your grandmother climbing up your pantleg with a knife between her teeth.
  • In Will Eisner's book Graphic Storytelling, he points out that the way certain elements are drawn are ways of visual storytelling. He has a diagram that says "the way a knife is held is storytelling," with several small illustrations of people holding knives in different ways. One of the illustrations is of a pirate holding a knife with his teeth.
  • In one Horatio Hornblower book, one of Captain Hornblower's midshipman climbs the netting of a ship with a dirk between his teeth specifically because that's how it's done in all the swashbuckling tales, but he doesn't injure himself in doing so.
  • Parodied in Jingo, in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, when Commander Vimes suggests this trope for boarding an enemy vessel. The captain responds with the story of the last guy he saw try this, who was posthumously nicknamed "Topless Harry".
  • Also parodied in Good Omens with a rebel leader:
    "I glaim gis oteg in der gaing og der—" he paused. He took the knife out of his teeth and began again.
  • There's a famous magazine cover by Kelly Freas for Murray Leinster's story "The Pirates of Ersatz" depicting a Space Pirate climbing aboard a rocket with a slide rule in his teeth. See it here.
  • Shows up in The Pyrates, of course. Most of the characters are too smart to actually try it, except for Firebeard. Fortunately for him, he gets distracted trying to remember whether the sharp edge is supposed to face in or out.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Kamen Rider Kiva features a particularly extreme example, with the eponymous hero's werewolf-themed Fragile Speedster form uses a fire-elemental Cutlass Between the Teeth slash as its Finishing Move. If that doesn't sound too extreme, you should also know that Kamen Rider costumes consist of full helmets, meaning Kiva's mask has to sprout a mouth just to perform its finisher.
  • In the Lost episode "All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues", Kate climbs a tree with a knife between her teeth in order to cut Charlie down.
  • Will Ferrell teaming up with Bear Grylls in Man vs. Wild puts his knife between his teeth for showing off while "watching the perimeter".
  • Whodunnit? (UK): In "Final Trumpet", the fortuneteller Madame Fey describes seeing the aerialist Aerolita climbing the ladder to the trapeze with a knife between her teeth.

  • Black Rose shows a crewmate doing this on the backglass.

    Professional Wrestling 

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Conan d20 Role Playing Game gives this as a class ability to the Barbarian and - naturally - the Pirate.
  • Dungeons & Dragons has a weapon property called Mouthpick. It allows a creature with a bite attack to wield the weapon in its jaws instead of with its (possibly nonexistent) hands. As if beholders and dragons weren't bad enough, now they can stab you with their tongue.
  • An earlier edition of GURPS had a separate skill for "Fast-Draw Knife from Teeth". Martial Arts for 4e, meanwhile, uses standard Fast-Draw, but gives an extremely harsh penalty for fast-drawing this way, with a Critical Failure making you cut up your face.
  • Given that they attempt to exhibit every single Pirate trope under the sun, it is not at all surprising that one of the miniatures for Warhammer's Long Drong's Slayer Pirates regiment is doing this with a dagger, while brandishing two pistols with his hands.

  • A 1980s Broadway production of The Pirates of Penzance, available on DVD (and YouTube), parodies this: During his excellent "I Am" Song, the Pirate King (Kevin Kline) steals the conductor's baton and carries it onstage between his teeth. Other flashy-if-dangerously-stupid tricks are mocked by having the King implicitly cut his hand on his own blade...or maybe that's just to show he's not a very good pirate.

    Video Games 
  • Asura from Asura's Wrath does this with his Master Augus's blade, Wailing Dark. and then proceeds to use it to fight a Gohma with an impurity level of '''47,000!''' As for why he didn't use his hands instead, he didn't have any at the moment.
  • Vella does this in Broken Age after freeing herself from Mog Chothra's maiden feast, flying away on a bird.
  • Great Gray Wolf Sif in Dark Souls wields the greatsword of his dead companion, Artorias the Abysswalker, in his jaws when fought by the player character. He is also a dog.
  • Hearthstone: The Cutthroat Buccaneer is a Ghost Pirate who is depicted holding a cutlass between his teeth.
  • Sora in Kingdom Hearts II wields the Keyblade in his mouth while in his Lion form in the Pridelands.
  • Like a Dragon:
    • One of the random "Majima Everywhere" encounters in Yakuza Kiwami. Has him randomly enter a street fight, making his presence known with a very badass and stylish intro which ends with him throwing his demonfire dagger up in the air and catching it between his teeth, before wielding it.
    • One of the HEAT moves in Kenzan and Ishin, has Miyamoto Musashi/Ryoma Sakomoto putting their tanto between their teeth and waiting for a mook to attack them, counterattacking with a grapple and then finishing the move by pulling out the tanto then stabbing the mook.
  • Metal Gear:
  • Koromaru in Persona 3 wields a sword in his jaws during battle, due to being a dog, and attacks enemies by somersaulting into his enemies with said sword.
  • In Phantom Brave, four-legged phantoms (called beasts) use this in a non-badass way because they have no arms to hold items with.
  • Zacian, the mascot of Pokémon Sword, wields a golden sword between its teeth, similar to the above canine examples.
  • Sengoku Basara 3 character Mitsunari actually shows the more practical side of this. He holds his sheathed sword in his mouth while traveling by zipline, and the sheath alone when using his Basara Attack, presumably to keep his arms free. He also does this while using his third Super Skill "Reverence", in which he abandons the use of his sword altogether.
  • Also used in Shinobi (the PS2 remake); one variety of enemy is essentially an armored ninja dog that holds a two-bladed sword in its mouth.
  • Sly Cooper holds his cane between his teeth when he's climbing a rope or pipe, presumably because Thiefnet doesn't sell a Sticks to the Back upgrade.
  • Pikachu does this in Super Smash Bros. when picking up a beam sword (or anything else, for that matter), since he runs on all fours (walking is done upright). Though he and the others who do this are at least smart enough to hold onto the handle instead of the blade itself.
    • Brawl changes things a bit. The forepaws have use as a grip for held weapons; swinging with the Homerun Bat and firing with the Super Scope, for example. Pikachu is even forced to carry the Cracker Launcher outside of its jaws, it's that damn big.
    • Ditto with Ivysaur and Squirtle in Brawl.
    • Even Wario uses his mouth with the Homerun Bat.
  • Repede in Tales of Vesperia can wield weapons by holding them in his jaws. He is also a dog.
  • Shinogi from Tenchu: Fatal Shadows; An assassin for the Kuroya, Shinogi fights with three swords, one of which is in his mouth.
  • In Tsukihime, Shiki does it during Ciel's route. The writer probably didn't do this to try to be cool; Shiki probably realizes that doing that is completely impractical and just plain dumb. However, since he lost both his arms and the situation really called for him to do something, it was do it or die.
  • In World of Warcraft, Cracklefang, a large wolf, wields a two-handed sword this way, and is a reference to the Dark Souls example.
  • Faust from Guilty Gear somehow does this with his weapon during his odd running animation, despite the facts that said weapon is a seven-foot scalpel and Faust's mouth is always covered by his Brown Bag Mask.


    Western Animation 
  • Similarly, in the first appearance of the Freedom Fighters on Avatar: The Last Airbender, Smellerbee is seen with one stolen sword in each hand and her own kuhkri in her mouth.
  • Facing off against Bugs Bunny ("Wet Hare"), Blacque Jacque Shellacque uses this tactic. And confronts a shark.
  • In Ren & Stimpy, when the titular characters are Fire Dogs in the episode of the same name, an incredibly obese woman does this not to a sword but to Ren, to climb or rather slide down a fire-truck ladder from a high skyscraper window.
  • In a Samurai Jack episode featuring a group of kids collectively making up their own story about how Jack would beat Aku, this is attributed to him as he climbs Aku's tower. The Rule of Cool is all but explicitly invoked.
    • During Season Four there's an episode where he emerges from fighting underwater carrying a rescued woman in his arms and grasping his sword in his teeth.
  • In Voltron: Legendary Defender, the Black Lion can form a small dual-bladed variant of these to use at close range, so it has a stronger cutting force than its jaws or claws. Season 2 reveals that all the Lions can do this, too.

    Real Life 
  • From 1976-96, the helmet logo of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was a red-and-orange pirate with a dagger between his teeth. (Not to mention a really fabulous cavalier's hat with a big feather, a dashing pencil mustache and a big gold earring. What was their win-loss record during those years again?)note 
  • The MIT Museum has the Kelly Freas art mentioned in Literature above.
  • Impatient for action against the Nazis at a time when Britain was entirely on the defensive, Winston Churchill called for an attack on the tiny Italian island of Pantellaria "by 300 determined men, with blackened faces, knives between their teeth and revolvers under their tails." He was overruled by his chiefs of staff, who had a more pragmatic view of war.
  • An infamous 1919 French political poster portrays a communist militant as a scary-looking, disheveled, and drooling man with a knife between the teethTranslation . In the context of interwar anti-communism in France, the phrase "the man with a knife between his teeth" acually is a periphrasis for "communist".

Alternative Title(s): Sword In Mouth