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Matchstick Weapon

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Bring the marshmallows, 'cuz Dante's bringing the fire.

Since the dawn of time, man has used fire, and he has used sticks. And sometimes he has used both at the same time.

A burning torch isn't just useful for finding your way in the dark; it can also be used as a weapon too. Granted, this is not a very effective weapon in real life given the number of ways to put out a flame. To say nothing of the risk of burning yourself. Therefore, this weapon is more useful for intimidation or to set something else on fire, like a puddle of oil your opponent is drowning in. Of course if the flame is generated by supernatural means, this won't be an issue.

This trope comes in three categories:

  • Torches or burning pieces of wood: This one is often featured in Torches and Pitchforks mobs. It is also very common in video games. It is quite an improbable weapon but is also useful as a source of light. If the torch is magical, it will likely shoot fire as well.

  • Burning stick/club weapons: Flaming staffs, batons and clubs. They can either be set ablaze by an external source or burn as one of their features.

  • Fire-blasting sticks: Fantasy works will have this as a Magic Staff or Magic Wand that shoots fire. Science Fantasy works will have this as a staff-shaped flame thrower.

A Sister Trope to Flaming Sword and Hot Blade. A Sub-Trope of Elemental Weapon and Kill It with Fire. See also Improvised Weapon and Improbable Weapon User. Compare Molotov Cocktail and Flaming Arrows.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Justice Society of America: The villain Shiv uses a staff with a dragon head that shoots fire.
  • The Man: When John threatens to call the authorities to have The Man taken into care, The Man counters this threat by holding up a match, threatening to burn the house down at night.
  • Morgyn the Mighty: The eponymous character is a Tarzan Expy who had a "boy's own" adventure strip appearing in British Comics in the early to mid twentieth century. In one story he fought off a gorilla that attacked him in a cave by grabbing a nearby torch and smashing it into the gorilla's face.
  • Vengeance of Vampirella (2019): In issue #14, Nyx has a dream in which she fights her father Chaos, who shows disapproval of her relationship with Vampirella. During the fight, Nyx grabs a burning log from the fireplace and strikes Chaos with it.

    Films — Animated 
  • A Bug's Life: A literal example with P.T. Flea who sets the mechanical bird on fire using a matchstick and a pack of lighter fluid.
  • Cinderella: During the climactic battle between the mice and Lucifer, three mice roll a lit candle toward him while his back is turned. When he sees the flame, he nonchalantly blows it out.
  • The Jungle Book (1967): Mowgli defeats Shere Khan by tying a burning branch to his tail.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Quasimodo waves a torch at Phobeus when he thinks the captain of the guards has come to arrest Esmeralda.
  • Shrek: The opening sequence has a mob of villagers armed with Torches and Pitchforks going into the swamp to capture Shrek for reward money. They get intimidated by him when they actually confront him but one man gathers enough courage to wave a torch in the ogre's face. Shrek simply snuffs out the torch with wetted fingers and scares them off.
  • The Swan Princess: The Mystery of the Enchanted Treasure: Zelda's Magic Wand creates green Fireballs. These fireballs don't cause physical damage and instead are used to seek out and capture targets. After Zelda gains the power to destroy, the wand is able to create a red variation of her fireballs which kills Odette. Fortunately, she is returned after Derek destroys Zelda's notes.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Avatar: Jake gets stranded in the Pandoran jungle. He finds himself surrounded by viperwolves and tries fighting them off with a torch.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Similar to the scene in the book (see below), Aragorn fights off the Ringwraiths on Weathertop but using a flaming torch and a sword rather than two torches.
  • Shaolin Prince: One of Lord Iron Fingers' Co-Dragons is the Fire Master who uses a giant matchstick-shaped mace with both ends burning. He uses it to kill an unfortunate redshirt by setting him ablaze.
  • The Spirit of the Sword: The Fire Demon God wields a bronze serpent-shaped staff shaped which can shoot flames from its mouth.
  • The Wizard of Oz: As in the book, the only thing the Scarecrow is afraid of is a lighted match. The Wicked Witch uses her broom as a torch, to set him on fire.
  • Zorro (1975): The climax has the titular hero and his nemesis, Colonel Huerta, dueling each other in a Sword Fight that leads both combatants into a dark room full of gears. Both men grab torches on nearby walls and use them simultaneously with their swords.

  • The Heroes of Olympus: During the First Giant War, Hecate fought and defeated her giant opponent Clytius by setting him alight with her torches. In House of Hades, she once again uses the torches to immolate Clytius, this time with help from the Seven.
  • In the climax of The Howling (1977), Karyn creates a makeshift torch by taping lighter fluid-soaked towels around a shower brush and lighting it; she and Chris use it to hold the werewolves at bay while they try to get to a car, as fire is one of the only things that can kill a werewolf. Once they make it to the car, Chris flings the torch into dried grass in the middle of the werewolves, starting a huge fire that spreads through the town.
  • The Lord of the Rings: On Weathertop when the Ringwraiths attack the hobbits and wound Frodo, Aragorn is seen from Frodo's perspective just before he blacks out from his wound as charging the Ringwraiths holding "a flaming brand of wood in either hand" as his sword Narsil is still broken at this point.
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: Having no brain, the only thing the Scarecrow is afraid of is a lighted match, as it would burn him to a cinder very quickly.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • "When She Was Bad": In the climactic fight, Buffy kills two vampires using a broken torch. She burns one with the flaming end and impales the other with the sharp, broken end.
    • "Passions": Giles attacks Angelus with a flaming wooden bat after the latter kills Jenny Calendar.
  • Mahou Sentai Magiranger/Power Rangers Mystic Force:
    • Each Ranger has a Magic Wand that can fire attacks for their respective elements. The Red Ranger has command over fire and can use his wand to shoot flames.
    • The Rangers have a Super Mode which grants them a Magic Staff that can generate stronger versions of their elemental attacks, allowing the Red Ranger to use more powerful fire attacks.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • The Basic D&D version written by Tom Moldvay. An insect swarm (created by the spell Insect Swarm) and the monster known as yellow mold take 1-4 Hit Points of damage from a lit torch.
    • 1st Edition Advanced D&D. A mummy is vulnerable to fire attacks. A blow by a lit torch inflicts 1-3 Hit Points of damage on them.
    • 2nd Edition Advanced D&D, BATTLESYSTEM Miniatures Rules. A lit torch can be used as a melee weapon to inflict fire damage on opponents.
    • 3rd Edition: A torch is treated as an improvised weapon doing the same damage as a gauntlet of the same size. For a normal human, it's a medium weapon and inflicts 1-3 points of damage, +1 point of fire damage if the target is susceptible.

  • Firebringer: Key point in the play, where the tribe learns how good aggressive mammoths taste when burnt to death, plus when Zazzalil creates fire to protect the tribe against Snarl. Parodied when Emberly and Grunt use painted fire in an attempt to intimidate Snarl. It fails miserably.

    Video Games 
  • Bloodborne: The basic Torch and Hunter's Torch can be used as melee weapons that deal fire damage (though only the latter is viable against all but the weakest foes because it can be upgraded), provide light in darker levels, and make the beasts of the Old Yharnam area cower in fear whenever they see it. Early on, they're nearly the only damaging ability that scales with the Arcane stat.
  • Darkest Dungeon: The Brigand Pounder boss is accompanied by a Matchman that lights it up if left able to take action in a turn, and that will be re-summoned as reinforcements if killed. Should the Pounder be destroyed and the Matchman left alive, he will use "Hot Shot", bonking the entire party with his giant match. This only deals minor damage, but can bring weakened heroes to Death's Door or kill them if they're already on it.
  • Devil May Cry 5: After beating King Cerberus, Dante gains a new Devil Arm aptly named "King Cerberus", a much stronger version of his old "Cerberus" Devil Arm from Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening. Not only does it have the good ol' triple-handed nunchaku that has the element of ice, but it's also a Morph Weapon that can access three forms with their own elements (Ice, fire, and lightning, which each head of King Cerberus respectively had). One of these forms is a metal bo staff that imbued with the power of hellfire.
  • Dicey Dungeons: Matchsticks are one of the weapons the player character can find. They can be used to burn the enemy's dice.
  • Don't Starve: A torch can be used as both a weapon and a light source. If a lit torch is swung at a mob, the creature will be set on fire and take a bit of damage.
  • Dragon's Crown: Torches can often be found in dark areas and provide light to explore by. The light instantly kills any ghosts that get too close. On the other hand, players should be careful swinging them around spilt oil.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Torches can be used to block (albeit considerably less effectively than an actual shield). The torch's equivalent of a Shield Bash inflicts a small amount of fire damage to the enemy.
  • Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem: Some characters can find torches that can be used as both a bludgeon and a light source. While ineffective against most minions of the Ancients, it's a One-Hit Kill against Mantorok and Xel'otath's zombies.
  • Fatal Fury/The King of Fighters: Billy Kane can set his staff ablaze for extra damage. He can also use this power to create a ring-shaped fire projectile.
  • Ghosts 'n Goblins: The torch is a weapon that appears frequently throughout the series, usually as a throwing weapon.
    • In the first game the torch burns briefly in a single large flame if it hits the ground, but not if it hits an enemy directly. The flame lasts for nearly a second. Only two torches (or their ground fires) can be on the screen at a time, which can cause severe delays in firing if both torches reach the ground.
    • Super Ghosts 'n Ghouls: The player can throw up to two torches forward. When it hits a surface, it makes three small flames in a row. More torches cannot be thrown until the flames are extinguished. With the Bronze Armor or Golden Armor, the Torch is upgraded into the "Magic Fireball" or "Fireball Torch". In this form, the torch becomes a series of spinning flames.
    • Ghosts 'n Goblins: Gold Knights: Arthur can throw up to two torches in an arc that creates flames in the ground. With the powerful armor, the torches become bigger and he can use its magic, which creates a pillar of light in front of him.
  • Guild Wars 2: Torches can be used as an offhand (secondary) weapon by many character classes, in combination with a dagger, sword, or pistol. They work primarily as weapons and can't set inanimate objects on fire or light your way through darkness. They also never go out.
  • It Takes Two: In Chapter 2, "The Tree," the Drillbazzer X200 that May wields is a gun that uses matchsticks as ammunition, which combust upon impact. It is most effective when combined with Cody's Tree Sap Habschaiki 57, igniting the sap to cause bigger explosions.
  • Killer Instinct: Kim Wu fights with flaming nunchucks.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: During the segments where Link is trapped in wolf form and is unable to use his lantern, he can carry burning sticks in his mouth. These are useful for lighting torches and smoking out Twilit Bugs.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild:
      • Torches can be used as weapons, either from hits with the handle itself or to light an enemy on fire, but they are extremely weak and fragile.
      • All wooden weapons, including clubs and a wooden sword, can be set ablaze by swinging them through a source of flame. This increases their damage output but any weapon burning for one consecutive minute is destroyed. Enemies are aware of the damage increase, and will deliberately light their weapon on a nearby campfire if they spot Link.
  • Medievil: Certain areas have burning torches that Daniel can use to set his large club ablaze, allowing it to inflict extra damage to certain enemies and set things on fire.
  • Medievil 2: Daniel gets a torch to replace the club from the previous game. It has a weak melee attack but can be ignited and used to burn enemies in certain areas.
  • Monster Hunter (PC): Torches are the go-to weapon for killing Frankenstein's Monster enemies, although it takes two to successfully finish them off. Upon getting burnt alive the first time, the monster will then crawl back to its spawner to recharge itself, and the Hunter must collect a second torch as soon as possible and torch the monster again, otherwise it regenerates itself back to full health.
  • Mortal Kombat:
  • Ori and the Will of the Wisps: When Ori first arrives in Niwen, you don't go too far before you find a torch, which shortly becomes useful in fending off Howl. Ori ends up abandoning the torch later when you have to jump through waterfall which, naturally, douses it.
  • Scarlet Nexus: Hanabi Ichijo wields a staff called "Torch" which she set ablaze with her Pyrokinesis powers.
  • Shadow of the Colossus: The eleventh colossus, commonly nicknamed 'Celosia', is terrified of fire; an important part of its boss battle is waving a blazing torch in its face to scare it into a position where you can actually damage it.
  • Titan Quest: One of the weapons found in the first area are torches that deal fire damage.
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon: It's possible to construct a flaming board as a weapon for Ichiban at the Romance Workshop. It's one of the better options for him early in the game, as many enemies at that point are weak to fire damage. Certain enemy types also wield flaming boards as well.

    Web Animation 

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: In "Aaughh!! Wilderness!!", Jimmy, Carl and Sheen are cornered by a grizzly bear, and Jimmy tells his dad to use some stones to create a fire to scare it away. While he's nervous about it, since he'd never successfully made fire before, Hugh finally manages to light the torch... only for the bear to swat it out of his hand when he's distracted by a moment of hubris.
    Hugh: Back! Back! Give way! For I, Hugh Neutron, have made fire!
    Jimmy: Dad, you did it!
    Hugh: Behold, bear! I am man, the pointy tip of the food chain! Gaze upon my opposable thumbs and tremble! (aside) Yeah, they hate it when you mention the thumbs.
  • Blood of Zeus: The first episode has Heron using a burning torch to fend off a demon.
  • Class of the Titans: Hecate uses a pair of magical torches that shoot purple flames.
  • Di-Gata Defenders: The twins in "Ms. Fortune" have a spell that shoots batons alight with green fire.
  • Mighty Max: In "Dawn of the Conqueror", Norman's second battle with the Conqueror has the latter using a staff with both ends aflame. It can also serve as a Fire-Breathing Weapon of considerable range, leaving Norman at a considerable disadvantage with his sword until he finds a set of magical bellows to put out the flames.
  • Skull Island (2023): In "Terms of Endearment", Charlie fights off some creatures called Nightboys using a burning torch.
  • Total Drama: Courtney wields a flaming staff in the All-Stars intro.

    Real Life 
  • Taking this trope to its most literal conclusion, there exists a subset of improvised firearms called matchstick guns. There are several with several videos around the internet showing how they can be created most of them from wood. There are also a few made out of metal.