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Invisible Bowstring

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Nope, it's not visible even against the sun.

Probably everyone knows how bows and arrows work - you hold the wooden part of the bow, you attach the arrow's non-pointy end to the bow's string, you pull the arrow while stretching the bow and its string, you aim, and then you release the arrow, letting the physics catapult it in the desired direction.

It's a no-brainer that a string is strictly necessary in a bow. It's not very thick, but it's there, and you can clearly see it. This trope, however, applies to a situation where the string in a bow is clearly missing, and yet the bow is still being used as if it actually was there.

In video games with 3D graphics, the creators can sometimes decide to cut corners that way when creating models of bows, often due to technical limitations, time and money issues, simple oversights, unforeseen bugs, etc. Depending on how obvious this practice is, it can result in the players' loss of their Willing Suspension of Disbelief when they look at the characters pulling the arrows on air, with no reasonable explanation. This is also an occupational hazard with toys or miniatures, which tend to have trouble getting a good bowstring (especially if they want to actually do an archery pose). Can be considered justified in the case of a magical weapon (whether or not it's an Energy Bow). Presumably there is a magical "string" or force field or something that is providing the potential energy. Theoretically, could also be applied in the case of sufficiently advanced technology: since while one needs something to transfer the energy into the arrow, it needn't be a physical object.

Can be a subtrope of Lazy Artist, unless justified. Can overlap with Energy Bows, which lack strings sometimes. See also Hitscan for another weapon trope brought about by technical limitations.



  • The essential problem is Older Than Dirt, as artists in Ancient Egypt had the problem of representing archers firing bows without the strings obscuring their faces. (As some of the people being depicted were pharaohs, not showing their faces clearly might have been considered dangerously impolite.) One solution was to draw the string passing behind the userís head, although of course in reality that would mean that the string would smack the back of the archerís head and the arrow wouldnít go anywhere.


  • Actually justified for Shaft from Youngblood. His bow is based upon alien anti-gravity technology, therefore nullifying the need for a string. Presumably, the point of this is making it easier to store and maintain.

Tabletop Games

  • Bow-wielding models for tabletop wargames, from old-school historical games to Warhammer, typically don't have strings on their bows since the scale of the models would make sculpting them pretty much impossible. One solution is to glue a length of fine thread into place to represent the string before painting the figure.


Video Games

  • In Clock Tower 3, Alyssa uses a bow without a string. Justified in that she is shooting energy arrows from an energy bow.
  • Bows in Disgaea games don't have strings. This allows for cooler, more impractical designs, though. Especially with Magichange system.
  • Dragon Age series:
    • Dragon Age: Origins: Your character looks like they're pulling the string back and firing, but there is nothing to grab.
    • Dragon Age II also has this problem, but it's much more obvious since your character does some pretty dramatic poses while firing.
  • In Gods: Lands of Infinity, every single bow is devoid of a string, which of course doesn't stop the characters from shooting from them regardless.
  • Kid Icarus features a curious example: Pit's bows do have strings, but only when he is shooting an arrow. They disappear when not in use — they seem to be made of light or something like that. Of course, his bows can also be taken apart and used as swords, so the string would have to be done away with in that event anyway.
  • The first Neverwinter Nights. Curiously enough, when a bow is enchanted, the magical glow outlines where the string should be.
  • Shana and Miranda's bow in The Legend of Dragoon follows this trope, understandable for a PS1 game.
  • Guild Wars plays this trope straight, while its sequel inverts it with visible bowstrings and invisible arrows (while aiming).
  • None of Rena's bows in Elsword have bowstrings, not even the crossbow used in her Wind Sneaker class. Possibly justified in that she's firing magic arrows made of nature energy.
  • The bows in Fire Emblem Heroes don't have strings due to the fact that they'd be impractical to animate on the puppet-like sprites, but most of the accompanying artwork for the archer heroes have proper bowstrings.
  • Subverted in Warcraft III, in that the bowstring is visible... it's just a very wide one with no thickness. Heroic archers even have their hero glow effect along the bowstring. Interestingly, this is true even in the case of Energy Bows

Western Animation

  • Hank the Ranger's bow in Dungeons & Dragons (1983) has no string — unless Hank readies an arrow, in which case a magical one appears. His arrows are the same, in that they only show up when he mimes nocking one.