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"It's not unlike a long-range kebab."
Javelin description, Dungeons Of Dredmor
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One of the oldest weapons of all humanity, along with the wooden club, is the javelin. Short, light spears that can be simply sharp sticks (though really, a hard point makes them much more effective), javelins can be used in melee at a pinch, but are usually thrown. They differ from the Blade on a Stick in various ways: usually, while heavy spears and lances are melee weapons associated with guards, knights, and cool-headed, calm individuals, javelins are associated with speed, as they're lighter to carry than a spear, and provide hit-and-run skirmishers with the cheapest and simplest effective option. But there are important exceptions, most notably the Roman legions, who developed formidable heavy infantry tactics based on close-range use of heavy javelins followed up with sword and shield.

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Javelins are thus favored by light cavalry and skirmishing infantry, who can use them instead of bows and arrows — javelins are more economical to make and easier to use, and can be thrown one-handed while the other hand holds a shield, though they lack the bow's range. (A well-equipped Horse Archer might also carry a couple of javelins, for closer-range work and as a backup to the bow.) The javelin is a very old weapon as well as being quite simple, so it's often associated with wild, primitive-looking cultures (though, again, the Romans provide a major counterexample). If a story takes place in a maritime setting then you may see its nautical cousin, the harpoon. In some stories, javelins will be coated in venom.

Sometimes certain powerful characters won't be satisfied with mere short spears and will show off by tossing very large spears around. In Video Games, there'll often be the trick of javelins returning to the thrower or magically respawning/reappearing in his or her hand. In mythology, javelins are often associated with lightning, with thunder gods throwing lightning bolts around as their human devotees throw javelins.

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There is a weapon/device itself known as the javelin-thrower, spear-thrower, or atlatl, which uses leverage to increase the power and range of a thrown spear; users of these are also covered by this trope.

See also Blade on a Stick and Prongs of Poseidon, and Harpoon Gun for a high-tech version with aquatic associations.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dabura the Demon King from Dragon Ball Z can summon and shoot spears at his enemies.
  • Crocus from One Piece is seen using harpoons with great skill.
  • In Fairy Tail, Erza's Giant Armor is made for boosting her throwing skills and equipped with an evil-banishing spear, which she throws at Galuna's moon in order to end the curse.
  • One Elite Mook in Berserk uses javelins, though given his size they're more like harpoons. In a lightless tunnel, he's lethal... unfortunately, he's up against Guts.
  • Near the end of Toriko, Teppei and a mutated Mohyan Shaishai exchange blows in the form of, essentially, javelins against each other: the former uses his Green Thumb powers to launch wooden spears, while the latter, who's basically a spiked Giant Spider, spits javelins made of hardened silk.

    Arts 
  • Prehistoric cave paintings have been discovered which appear to depict humans or hunted animals which have been wounded by thrown spears, making this trope Older Than Dirt — which is hardly surprising, as javelins are certainly that old.

    Comic Books 
  • The DC Comics villain Javelin is an Olympic javelin thrower who decided to turn to crime one day.
  • The Judge Dredd villain Judge Fire uses a fiery trident, which can be used both as a ranged weapon and for one-off throws. He's a very good thrower, possibly because of Super Strength.
  • As Wonder Woman (1987)'s reimagined Amazons are all some of the oldest people on Earth it's unsurprising that most of the contestants in "The Contest" carried javelins as their Weapon of Choice and that javelin throwing is shown to be a popular hobby on Themyscira.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Wonder Woman (1974): The renegade Amazon Ahnjayla uses her javelin-throwing skills to trick George into losing a couple of sucker bets. When Wonder Woman shows up riding the burro Ahnjayla tries to skewer her with a javelin but Wonder Woman catches it and throws it back.
  • One of the favored competitors in The Hunger Games is Marvel, whose Weapon of Choice is the javelin, with which he scores one of the film's relatively few on-screen kills of a named character.
  • The '80s Slasher Movie Fatal Games features a javelin-wielding murderer killing athletes.
  • Slaughter High, another '80s Slasher Movie, also features deadly javelin usage.
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou?: The one-eyed Klansman is nearly killed by a metal pole flying at him, but he catches it midair. The giant burning cross that falls on him, however, is not so easily stopped.
  • During her final showdown with Sunny in Fair Game, Jessica demonstrates some amazing skill in being able to use star pickets as javelins.
  • In Terror in a Texas Town, the hero George Hanson is a whaler, who uses his father's harpoon in a Showdown at High Noon against a gunslinger.
  • In Savaged, Zoe kills Cody by throwing an Apache war lance throw the windscreen of his speeding car, and then ducking under the car as it flips and crashes.

    Literature 
  • Javelins are often used by horsemen in the Deverry series, although the author's notes point out that they're very short javelins (three feet) and an alternate translation of the Deverrian word might be "war dart".
  • In The Elenium, the Peloi, especially those from Daresia, use javelins in battle.
  • Heroes in The Iliad are frequently described making mighty javelin throws in battle, and javelin-throwing is also mentioned as a sporting contest.
  • Lord of Light: The minor "god" Tak wields the Bright Spear, a throwing weapon augmented by super-technology so that, after each use, it vibrates itself clean and then returns to the thrower's hand.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, a Nazgûl uses a javelin to almost-mortally wound Faramir.
  • Moby-Dick has Captain Ahab and most of the Peqod's crew using harpoons. Justified by the setting.
  • In the Nibelungenlied One of the tests necessary to won over Brunild's hand is a spear throwing contest between her and a Siegfried-aided Gunther. Said spear is so big that several men are required to carry it around, while Brunild herself can use it with only one hand.
  • The MacGuffin from the first book of The Prism Pentad is the Heartwood Spear, a magical spear that can even kill a Sorcerer King. Judging from its description it's supposed to be a javelin.
  • Javelins are iconic weapons of otters and hares in Redwall (as are slings) and are deadly when hurled in volleys.
  • Sranul from Shadowkeep is a javelin user. Being a Kangaroo Man, he can throw his spears from great heights.
  • Have Space Suit – Will Travel. Centurion Iunio shows his contempt for the aliens who judging humanity by throwing his javelin at them. They're in an Unnecessarily Large Interior so he misses, but the protagonist is still impressed, claiming that Iunio must have broken several Olympic records.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Game of Thrones, the Night King hurls a very deadly ice javelin which is used to One-Hit Kill Viserion, one of Daenerys' beloved dragons. He almost succeeds in killing Drogon as well.
  • Kung Fu
    • The opening sequence includes Kwai Chang Caine dodging and striking aside spears being thrown at him by other monks.
    • The pilot episode. After the Royal Nephew shoots and mortally wounds Master Po, he hides behind his chair to reload. Kwai Chang Caine kills him by throwing a guard's spear through the chair.
  • In the 2008 Poirot adaptation of Cat Among the Pigeons, Ann Shapland is discovered trying to steal Prince Ali Yusef's crown jewels by Miss Grace Springer, a games teacher, so Ann has to silence her by tossing a sports javelin through her chest.
  • Midsomer Murders: In "Written in the Stars", the second Victim of the Week is done in with a thrown spear using a stolen Bronze Age spearhead; which is unusual even for Midsomer.
  • Doctor Who: "The Five Doctors" features the Raston Warrior Robot, a guardian android that fights by throwing metal javelins. And it is extremely deadly, devastating a dozen of Cybermen all by itself within seconds.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Cu Chulain's spear Gae Bulg. It was also said to spread a thousand of shards inside the enemy wound.
  • In Norse Mythology, Baldr was finally slain by a javelin (or arrow) made of mistletoe. Odin's spear Gungnir was also known for never missing what you threw it at. There's also a myth of Odin throwing a spear into the enemy army in the Aesir-Vanir War, which the Norse would do likewise before starting a battle. To explain the use of the term "spear" despite the trope name, it's believed the Norse used technically-only-intended-to-be-thrown javelins infrequently and a "spear" intended for both was much more common.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Javelins are a (rare) weapon choice for certain troops in Warhammer Fantasy. Having short range and the Quick to Fire rules, they're most commonly seen in the hands of Skinks and Chaos Horse Marauders; most factions lack the option to take them entirely.

    Video Games 
  • In Age of Empires II Skirmishers are javelin-wielding ranged infantry who are strong against other archers, despite the informational text clearly stating that actual skirmishers were used to harry heavier infantry. Oddly enough, they have a minimum range and thus are unable to strike enemies who are too close to them, unlike how actual skirmishers would doubtlessly just stab at the enemy with their javelins if forced to (though the Inca's unique technology fixes that). African Kingdoms adds the Berbers and their Genitour, which is essentially a mounted Skirmisher which can be trained even by players allied with the Berbers. Finally, the Vietnamese and their allies in Rise of Rajahs can upgrade Elite Skirmisher to Imperial Skirmisher.
  • In Age of Mythology Peltast soldiers are javelineers who arestrong against archers, while the heroine Regenlief use her long spear as a throwing weapon. The expansion has the Turma, Atlantean horsemen who attack by throwing spears. Satyrs can throw multiple javelins as a special attack (but are also notoriously weak).
  • Some units from The Battle For Wesnoth can use javelins, the most noticeable being the Javelineer.
  • Kratos in God of War: Ghost of Sparta can use the spear from the Arms of Sparta as a javelin. Said spear can magically respawn in his hand after being tossed.
  • The Avernum series has javelins as one of the possible weapons. They look like Roman pila.
  • In The Legend of Dragoon, rogue knight Greham can make javelins out of light in his magic attack.
  • Fire Emblem has the Javelin, Spear and Short Spear weapons. Along with magic and Hand Axes, they are the only weapons to have the benefit of having a 1-2 attack range, meaning that they can attack both up close and at a distance. However, aside from this fact, these weapons (save for magic) are some of the least efficient weapons in the series, combining scrappy damage, scrappy accuracy and overweight.
  • In Diablo II the Amazon can specialize in javelins. Said character would return much later in Heroes of the Storm. Oddly enough, her unique Maiden Javelins have a curved, glaive-like blade seemingly unfit for a throwing weapon.
  • The Qunari from Dragon Age II use javelins.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, Caesar's Legion uses small throwing spears similar to javelins, mimicking the historical Roman pilum. The Gun Runners' Arsenal DLC adds a challenge known as "Even A God-King Can Bleed" that rewards you if you kill Caesar with a throwing spear to the head. Spears used by the player can also have poison applied.
  • Lizardmen in Master of Magic got Javelineers with ranged attack strength 3 like Longbowmen, but not long-range. They also move fast and are tough in melee.
  • In Age of Wonders, the Wizard's Throne and Shadow Magic "Throw Spear" ability allows a single rather strong ranged attack. Nomads basic infantry unit Spearman has it, as well as some heroes.
  • The Bandana Waddle Dee from Kirby's Return to Dream Land wields a spear that he uses for this purpose, and Kirby can, as well. Both just pull new spears out of nowhere when throwing them.
  • Arthur from Ghosts 'n Goblinsdoes this with his Jousting Lances.
  • In Mount & Blade, throwing spears and axes are a common weapon type.
  • In Tales of Legendia, this is the weapon of choice for Moses. Like some other examples, he generates new javelins to throw out of nowhere.
  • Age Of Chivalry, a medieval combat-themed Half-Life 2 Game Mod, features the javelineer as one of the three ranged classes, along with the longbow-wielding archer and the crossbowman. Of some note is the fact that he's the only ranged class with any notable close combat abilities, using a longspear and shield as his melee weapons
  • Its Spiritual Successor Chivalry: Medieval Warfare combines the three classes, giving the Archer class the option to wield a javelin — and adding the ability to throw it while sprinting, increasing its damage dramatically. A javelineer can also now use his javelin in melee combat, doing away with the need to change weapons to defend yourself in close quarters.
  • Dungeon Fighter Online has the Crusader subclass, who can use his Spear of Victory skill to throw a spear of light.
  • In Final Fantasy XIII-2 Noel can combine his swords into a javelin to attack unreachable enemies. His Limit Break lets him throw a rapid barrage of javelins from the air.
  • Despite the weapon class being named Spear, this is what any character armed with one will do in Guild Wars.
  • Wardens in Lord of the Rings Online specialize in spears, shields and javelins, and are very good at tanking.
  • Nordein Hunters in Shaiya use the javelin in place of the Crossbow wielded by Elven Archers of the Light side.
  • Wen Yang in Dynasty Warriors uses a javelin, and likes to both throw and strike with it.
  • Ryse: Son of Rome has Roman pila being used as the primary ranged weapon for Marius.
  • In the Total War series, javelinmen are a core component of most early armies; a cheap, short-distance but high piercing unit that won't last long in any direct melee combat.
    • In Total War: Rome II, most melee units in the game carry javelins as well as their normal weapons which they'll throw just before charging the enemy or being charged. This is in addition to other specialized javelinmen and cavalry javelinmen units. Total War: Attila has the javelin be very powerful in damage output, ensuring they'll quickly tear apart even the most armored units if thrown from an unshielded side but are low in range and total ammunition. They are much more uncommon in Total War: Warhammer, limited to being in the hands a few Chaos and Norsca ranged units. In the Shogun series and Empire: Total War, javelins are entirely absent.
  • In Medievil one of the weapons you can obtain in the Hall of Heroes is a throwing spear given to you by an amazon queen. It has only 30 projectiles, but it's far more powerful than the longbow and the crossbow.
  • In Broforce, one of the characters (based on certain alien hunter) uses throwing spears as his primary weapon.
  • Empire Earth has javelin throwers (and later pilum throwers and Persian cavalry ) as a shorter-ranged, higher-damage alternative to the archer and is useful for reversing the Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors. In the expansion's Roman campaign, the Legionary can throw two pila at full charge, making them remarkably good at turning enemies into pincushions.
  • Warcraft III: Troll Headhunters (and, rather uniquely, their upgraded version Troll Berserkers) throw spears and have the least range of all the factions' basic ranged units, while human bandits use poisoned spears.
  • Dark Souls III: This is the weapon art of the Follower Javelin, one of the weapons introduced in the Ashes of Ariandel DLC. The description states that you're not throwing the spear itself, but rather an illusion of a spear that assumes temporary form.
  • Throne of Darkness has the Nage-yari (throwing spear) as the strongest throwing weapon avaible, dealing much more damage than other knives, darts or shurikens.
  • Hades: Zagreus' spear can be thrown as a javelin as a special attck, complete with a return mechanic. Theseus fights using one as well, and like Zagreus' his returns to his hand after a short delay.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Pyrrha Nikos wields a weapon that acts as a javelin — or at least it does part of the time. With this being RWBY, it transforms into a short sword and rifle.

    Web Comics 
  • Chief's weapon of choice in Goblins is a magical javelin that splits into multiple projectiles when thrown and teleports back into his hand once it finds its target.
  • Tower of God: The entire point of the Spear Bearers. Special notice goes to Rak, who wields a 5 meter long spear, which he also uses in hand-to-hand combat.

    Western Animation 
  • G.I. Joe: The character Lady Jaye uses them, and they have multi-purpose heads, which get her and her friends out of numerous problems.

    Real Life 
  • Most ancient cultures west of India made heavy use of javelins because they're easier to produce than the bow, the javelin's greater weight made it more effective against men wearing armor than most of the bows available, and javelins don't require nearly as much skill to use effectively, specially at short ranges.
    • Peltasts were the javelin-throwers of the classical era. Light troops used to pester the enemy, slowly bleeding it off while rapidly retreating from danger. So effective they were, being armed for maximum speed only with their javelins and light shields called pelta, after which they were named, that they smashed entire corps of powerful, heavily armed hoplites without as much as a scratch, removing them from their pedestal of battlefield dominance in the Mediterranean.
    • The Persian Palta were short, heavy cornel-wood spears, made to be hard and durable so they fared equally well as ranged or melee weapons. The most basic load-out for Persian horsemen was two of these, one for throwing and one for hand-to-hand, and they were often the weapon used in duels among mounted Persian noblemen. When engaging the Greeks, this gave Persian cavalry an edge, as the longer, more fragile Greek spears were more difficult to handle and tended to break first.
    • Roman soldiers went to battle armed with pila (singular pilum): each was a heavy wood shaft joined to a pyramidal iron point by a fairly thin shank of softer iron. At least for some weapons at some times, the shanks would bend at impact, making it difficult for the enemy to pick them up and throw them back. (For others, the whole thing was of hardened iron.) Pila were dangerous in great part because they could penetrate a shield to strike the holder; failing that, a shield impaled with a pilum became hard to use.
  • The African Assegai was widely and effectively employed.
  • Javelins were also widely used in the Americas. Spear-throwers (the device, as discussed above) were quite widespread, at their most basic as a stick with a hook or cup at the back that held a projectile usually as long as a short spear.
    • In Mesoamerica, atlatl was the Náhuatl name for the spear-thrower. It was considered very difficult to master, and so was a symbol of distinction and skill; Aztec gods were very commonly depicted wielding one. It was said to be able to punch through any armor, quilted, leather or chainmail — but not the Spanish steel plate of the invasion period.
    • Likewise in South America, the Muisca of the central highlands of Colombia held the spear-thrower, or kysky as it was called, in very high regard. It was a standard warrior weapon, their main tactic consisting of using the kysky while the enemy approached and then finishing them off in melee, apparently disregarding bows altogether. The army's archers were prisoners from other peoples, mostly of Carib stock, such as their arch-enemies the Panche, leaving the core Muisca army with their hands free to throw the deadly projectiles, said by the Spaniards to be able to go through an unarmoured man entirely, and through any shield or armour the native peoples had. As symbol of prestige and warrior pride, the kysky is usually seen in the hands of their iconic gold figures of El Dorado fame, making clear those represented are men of battle-prowess and power.
  • The spear-thrower is known in Australia by the aboriginal word woomera, and is a prominent weapon in native combat, along with almost every throwing weapon ever conceived.

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