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Human Knot

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His hands are tied. Along with everything else.
"As I foretold, you have annoyed me." Moments later, my arms and legs were tied up in knots. Square knots, to boot. I hate square knots—they're not natural to the human anatomy.

Victims getting abused by tying their limbs and other body parts into knots are usually demonstrating the strength of their abuser. A popular tactic in art styles that use Rubber Hose Limbs, it can be used in other mediums as well. In Real Life, the bones usually prevent the limbs from bending the way they would need to for this trope.

Knotty Tentacles is a subtrope, covering examples of prehensile tentacles, snakes, and characters with stretching superpowers. Both tropes are subtrope of Bound and Gagged, which covers all examples of characters getting tied up (albeit usually in a less literal fashion).

Compare with Barehanded Bar Bending, where the strong character does this same thing to a nonliving object, usually something made of metal. This trope, in contrast, is usually Played for Laughs as a subset of Amusing Injuries.


May be used as a part of Curb-Stomp Battle.

Not to be confused with Knotty Tentacles.

Compare: Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh..., Rubber Hose Limbs, Accordion Man, Squashed Flat and Be the Ball for other victims of Amusing Injuries.


Comic Books

  • A non-comical example in 52: Ralph Dibny knocks out a demon, pumps him full of gingold (a substance that makes a body super-elastic), then ties him up in a giant knot. By the time the demon regains consciousness, the gingold already begins to wear out (with all the nasty consequences of a regular body being tied into a knot), and Ralph offers another portion for the information he needs from the demon.
  • Plastic Man sometimes ends up this way too. (In a "Marvel What The" crossover parody, he gets even knot together with Elastic Man.)
  • Demons in Clean Room can reshape flesh of the bodies they possess. One result is breaking all of one man's bones to tie him into one of these as an excruciating execution.
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  • In Runaways, Nico once tried to cure a zombie epidemic with a very simple spell - "Zombie Not!" - but the Staff of One decided to be a Literal Genie that day, and thus, instead of curing all of the zombies in range, it turned them into a literal zombie knot.

Comic Strips

  • Happens to Beetle Bailey sometimes when Sarge beats him up, on those occasions when Sarge doesn't just leave Bailey lying in a heap on the ground after stomping on him.
  • One Thimble Theater Sunday stripe had Popeye in a novelty match against a wrestler. Rather than try to overpower the sailor like past foes, the wrestler just picks Popeye up and twists his body into a knot so the sailor can't move, this winning the match.

Film - Animated


  • In the Joe's World books, Greyboar the strangler is renowned for tying enemies into knots, especially their necks, and takes a professional pride in making each knot a different one. He also sometimes ties his foster brother and agent, Ignace.
    "As I foretold, you have annoyed me." Moments later, my arms and legs were tied up in knots. Square knots, to boot. I hate square knots—they're not natural to the human anatomy.
  • The Matador Series has Spasm, a chemical that causes every muscle in your body to contract at once, tying you up in knots, and leaves you stuck that way for six months or so.
  • In Callahan's Lady, the Dumb Muscle gangster Tony Donuts mentions that he once discovered by accident that breaking someone's arms in the right place allows them to be tied into a knot.
  • In Elianto, the second secret technique of the Cloud Warriors, the "Geisha Cravat", involves tying the opponent in a human knot by grabbing his right arm in one hand and his left leg in the other. The only victim on page can only mutter a faint "Help" before literally splitting in three pieces for the tension.
  • In Martin Gardner's short story "No-Sided Professor", mathematician Dr. Slapenarski claims to have gone one better than the one-sided Mobius strip by discovering a geometric figure with zero sides. He takes a piece of paper, gives it a series of complicated twists and folds, and it vanishes. When an onlooker says it's just a parlor trick and calls him a fraud, in a rage he folds the skeptic into the same shape. When he vanishes too (into a higher dimension, according to Dr. Slapenarski), the doctor is overcome with remorse and has his friends help him to fold himself so he can follow his victim.

Live-Action TV

  • In the live action Batman (1966) TV series Batman, Robin and Batgirl are tied in a "Siamese Human Knot" by Nora Clavicle.
    "The slightest move by any one of you will only draw the Human Knot tighter, crush your bones and strangle you!"
  • Bull does this to Dan Fielding in an episode of Night Court when Dan tries to stop him from leaving Harry's office. (Bull told him to move aside or he'd "create the human pretzel", but Dan wouldn't move; to his regret, Bull wasn't bluffing.)
  • On the old Seattle variety show Almost Live!, there was a series of kung fu parody shorts called "Mind Your Manners with Billy Quan". In one of them, "Fumes of Fury", Quan jumps on the shoulders of his nemesis to choke him with his thighs, but his nemesis ties his legs in a knot.

Print Media

  • One cover of MAD from 1999 has Steve Austin doing this to Alfred E. Neuman.

Western Animation

  • Mr. Bogus:
    • This happens in the second act of the episode "Meet Mr. Bogus" during a wrestling match on TV that Bogus has engaged in. The behemoth that Bogus is fighting against just easily grabs him by the arms and ties him up before using a belly flop on him.
    • In the first act of the episode "Babysitting Bogus", the baby does this to Bogus at the start of the match when Bogus tries to pull off some karate moves against the baby. This leads to Bogus getting tied up to one of the crib's bars.
  • Tom and Jerry:
    • Slightly inverted example (it's a small character pulling a Curb-Stomp Battle on a big one and tying him up into a pretzel): Jerry pulls this off on Tom in the Gene Deitch short "The Tom and Jerry Cartoon Kit" to show off his new "Judo for Mice" skills. To add more insult to injury, Jerry does it with just one hand.
    • In another cartoon, "Puttin' on the Dog", Tom Cat disguises himself as a dog to infiltrate a dog pound. When Tom is ultimately unmasked, he climbs to the top of a flagpole, and ties his own limbs into knots to keep himself anchored there, beyond the dogs' reach.
    • Another cartoon, "Sufferin' Cats!", has Jerry being chased by Tom and another cat; by running around both of them, Jerry managed to tie both of them into a knot.
  • Happens to Taz in an episode of Taz-Mania, courtesy of visiting wrestler Rex the Wrecker.
  • Adventure Time: In Lady & Peebles, Ricardio shows off his new body by twisting Lady Rainicorn in a knot and throwing her to the side.
  • While appearing in a charity wrestling event, Darkwing Duck faced a huge wrestler specializing in molding opponents' bodies like balloon sculptures. Darkwing falls to his grip, and gets reshaped into a show poodle. Launchpad and Goslyn call Darkwing away on a case just in time: The wrestler's next intended sculpture was octopus.
  • Another use of the "cat tied into a pretzel" gag occurs in the Pixie, Dixie and Mr. Jinks short "Judo Jack", when Jack applies his pretzel hold to Mr. Jinks.
  • In the Looney Tunes short Muscle Tough ("Muscle Tussle"), Daffy Duck gets his arms tied up in a bow when he attempts some Barehanded Bar Bending with a fishing pole.
  • Sabrina and The Groovie Goolies had one: the monster rugby "wound up in a tie". And since the show ran on Hurricane of Puns, of course cue this trope.
  • Olive Oyl was naturally prone to this in the Popeye cartoons - in one she ends up tied to a tree.
  • The Loud House: Lori has threatened to turn Lincoln into a "human pretzel" more than once.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy:
    • In "My Fair Ed", Kevin ties Edd's hat into a bow and threatens to do the same to his legs if he doesn't keep his friends under control.
    • In "A Twist of Ed", Marie tackles Edd from behind and twists his entire body into a knot before dropping him to the ground. This leaves him unable to move as she leans in to kiss him.


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