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Palate Propping

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The monster with More Teeth than the Osmond Family is about to chomp on The Hero, who has only a stick/bone/pole for a weapon. What to do? Why, shove it into the roof of the oncoming mouth to prop those slavering jaws open! If the hero's really lucky, this might jab its palate hard enough to fatally penetrate the skull; at worst, it'll leave it gagging for a moment, then piss it off even more.

Especially unlucky protagonists (particularly in Western Animation) may have no poles on hand, and will have to resort to using their own bodies to keep the beast's jaws open, often by pulling off wince-inducing splits. Considering the jaw power of most monsters and real life alligators, this is definitely a case of Super Strength.

A common subversion is for the monster or animal to have jaw muscles that are powerful enough to snap bones or wooden planks in half, allowing it to break the item lodged between its jaws with ease.


This trope can also be applied to a Bear Trap, Clam Trap, or similar snap-closing booby traps, despite their lack of a palate.


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  • In a holiday-season commercial for Planters Peanuts, Mr. Peanut uses his cane to prop open the jaws of a nutcracker that tries to chomp on him.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Early on in Yu Yu Hakusho, Yuusuke uses a piece of wood to hold open the villain Gouki's mouth so he can Attack Its Weak Point.
  • Bleach anime:
    • Episode 10. While Ichigo is fighting the frog Hollow, Don Kanonji saves him from being bitten by using his staff to prop open the Hollow's mouth.
    • Episode 312. While Lieutenant Omaeda is fighting a Hollow, he stuffs the ball of his flail (his zanpakuto Gegetsuburi in its shikai form) into the mouth of an attacking Hollow to prevent it from eating him.
  • In the Gold/Silver/Crystal arc of Pokémon Adventures, Gold manages to lock Lugia's mouth open with his pool cue. One that's built to collapse down for storage, no less.

    Comic Books 
  • In Tintin in the Congo, Tintin uses his rifle to prop open a crocodile's mouth when out of bullets.
  • Rahan. The title character once manages this while bound hands and feet, when offered in sacrifice to a big prehistoric crocodile. He catches a branch between his feet and wedges it between the croc's jaws, who then swims away rather miffed.
  • "Jawbreaker", a piece of promotional art for Frank Cho's Jungle Girl, depicts the title character using her body to prop open the jaws of a hungry dinosaur.

    Eastern Animation 
  • In the Korean animated movie Super Kid, Gokdari jams his magic staff between the jaws of an alien to keep it from eating him, and then expands the staff until the alien's jaws are stretched so far apart that its teeth shatter when it tries to close its mouth again.

    Films — Animation 
  • On the Wallace & Gromit short "A Matter of Loaf and Death", Wallace props open a crocodile's mouth with a French baguette.
  • Yellow Submarine. When the giant Glove is about to bite down on John Lennon, he sticks the word "Nothing" into its mouth, forcing its mouth open.
  • In The Sword in the Stone, Wart (in fish form) does this to the pike in the moat with a broken-off piece of spear. Merlin compliments him for using his head.
  • In Meet the Robinsons, Lewis uses a shovel to prop open the tyrannosaur's jaws.
  • In The Land Before Time VI: The Secret of Saurus Rock, Littlefoot uses a stick to prop up a seemingly-dead Allosaurus's mouth, but abandons the effort when it starts breathing.
  • Occurs in Ice Age 2: The Meltdown when a prehistoric crocodilian creature leaps at Manny and gets its jaws caught around his tusks, before being thrown back into the water.
  • In Moana, Maui performs the "full body" version of this, standing on a gigantic monster's lower teeth with his hands on the upper jaw in a desperate attempt to avoid being eaten.
  • Fred tries this trope on the fish-monster in Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare, propping its crocodile-like maw open with the net gun. It hinders the creature's snapping jaws, but only for a matter of seconds until it breaks the prop.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Return of the Jedi, Luke braces the Rancor's jaws open with a large bone from the floor of its pit. This buys him a few seconds, but not much, as the Rancor's bite is powerful enough to snap it in two.
  • Subverted in the Doom movie: when one of the monsters gets its Palate Propped by a metal rod, it just clamps its jaws so hard that the rod pierces its muzzle and is forced out the roof of its maw, freeing it to go on attacking.
  • In Dragonheart, this trope leads to a Mexican stand-off, with the hero literally crouched inside Draco's mouth, his sword's point braced against the dragon's palate.
  • In Men in Black 3, a fish-creature tries to bite J's legs off, but J sticks a metal tray between his thighs and it can't close its jaws far enough.
  • In Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Larry props open the mouth of an animated snake-demon statue with his trusty flashlight when it tries to eat his hand. Less effective than most examples, as the snake-demon in question has plenty of other hungry heads.
  • In the animated Framing Device for Creepshow 2, the leader of the bullies manages to hold open the maw of the giant Venus flytrap that's attempting to devour him. But only for a short while.
  • The heroine of Jurassic Galaxy holds off a raptor attack by holding two stone daggers, points facing oppositely, in her clenched fists and bracing the creature's jaws open with them. As with the Dragonheart example above, it's more the potential for self-injury than the sturdiness of the prop that discourages it from snapping its maw shut on her wrists.

  • Happens in The Cormyr Saga of Forgotten Realms during the duel of Iliphar Nelnueve and Thauglorimorgorus (the "Purple Dragon" who ends up as Cormyr's symbol), with a twist. Dragon breath easily removes the obstacle, but the destruction of a magic staff almost gets his head blown off.
  • A variant in How the Whale Got His Throat, one of Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories: the protagonist stops the whale from devouring pretty much everything by turning his raft into a grate and sticking it in the whale's throat.
  • The Surprising Adventures, Great and Imminent Dangers, Miraculous Escapes, and Wonderful Travels of Baron Munchausen tells of the Baron getting swallowed by a giant whale along with his ship. During the council of all the people the whale ever swallowed on how to get out, Munchausen relates: "I was chosen chairman, and the first thing I did was to propose splicing two main-masts together, and the next time he opened his mouth to be ready to wedge them in, so as to prevent his shutting it." After they get out, they leave the masts there to prevent the whale from swallowing more ships.
  • Discworld:
    • The first time Rincewind takes something out of the Luggage, in The Colour of Magic, he uses a piece of wood to prop its lid open. Once he's removed some food and water bottles, the Luggage very slowly closes its lid anyway, grinding the wood to splinters, just to show it's able to subvert this trope any time it likes.
    • In The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, Sardines does a hat-and-stick dance and then dashes into a rat hole, only to run into a trap. There's a loud snap, and then he's heard calling for help, because the stick he's braced the trap open with is starting to give way.
  • During Dinoverse, Mr. London manages to balk a Microvenator this way. The Microvenator gets the stick out on its own and has bits of wood in its mouth after, but this did buy time.
  • In Neverwhere, Hunter recalls having used this tactic when she fought a giant weasel beneath Bangkok, shoving her leather shield in its open mouth to deflect its attack while she struck it with a war club.
  • Recognizing that Laird Duncan's luggage is magically booby-trapped, Lord Darcy's aide Master Sean places a heavy stone doorstop on its rim to serve this purpose before reaching into it. The trap is triggered and the trunk's lid swings down as if to sever Sean's hand at the wrist, but is blocked by the doorstop.
  • The Sherlock Holmes story "The Musgrave Ritual" uses this as the murder method: A butler finds a secret vault under a cellar flagstone, propping it up with a piece of wood with the help of his ex-mistress. He goes down into the vault, hands her the contents of a chest he found inside, and the ex- part comes in when she kicks the prop away, leaving him to die of suffocation. Or so Holmes works out, as the girl is never found, having dumped the treasure in a lake before disappearing.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the 2001 TV miniseries adaptation of The Lost World, this is done to a rampaging Allosaurus. It only incommodes it for a few moments, though, before it snaps the piece of wood between its jaws.
  • Used against at least one snappy prehistoric beast on Primeval.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • The Hole Delver's Catalog. One of the many items in the catalog is the Wonder Widget, which looks a lot like a crowbar. When one of the characters was fighting an alligator he put the Wonder Widget inside its mouth to prop it open, thus saving his life.
    • One possible tactic for foiling the attack of the tunnelmouth dweller, a monster from Dragon magazine #267, is to prop its gaping maw open with a polearm or 10' pole.
    • Dungeon magazine #58 adventure "Challenge of Champions". One way to defeat the purple worm in scenario 2 is to wedge a spear into the worm's mouth to keep the mouth open. The fighter can then enter the worm's stomach and get the medallion which the object of the scenario.

    Video Games 
  • A variant form in Hidden Expedition: The Uncharted Islands (casual computer game/IHOG) — the gator has an item you need in its mouth, you need to find a jack to hold its mouth open long enough for you to grab the item.
  • In the first Simon the Sorcerer, Simon uses a stick to jam the jaws of a slavering Chest Monster.
  • Used twice in the casual game League of Light: Wicked Harvest: once with a large statue of a head with a snapping mouth, and again with the snaggle-toothed skull of a dragon-like creature. In the latter case, it's also inverted, as the skull's jaws are used to crack the ice encasing a needed item when the prop is removed.
  • Sunless Sea has one of the most massive examples in fiction in the underwater city of Nook, founded inside the mouth of a beast big enough to swallow an actual city. To keep the monster's maw open, the founders installed gigantic Heartmetal girders inside, and they've held out for quite a long time despite its attempts at slamming its mouth shut with every inhabitant inside it.
  • In Kingdom Hearts II, a reaction command lets Sora jam open Cerberus' mouth with his Keyblade. Of course, Cerberus has two other heads, so he has to move quickly.
  • The Wolf Among Us: During the final fight with Bloody Mary and her duplicates Bigby (who is in his true form) goes after one of the copies who then places a metal pipe in his jaws, which only troubles him for two seconds before he closes his jaws and crushes it then he smashes the Mary clone with his teeth.

    Web Original 
  • In the Dumbland episode "Get The Stick", a man unexplainedly has a stick caught in his mouth this way, propping it open. At the insistence of his son, Randy tries to remove the stick, but since Randy is only capable of stupidity and rage, all he's able to do is break the guy's neck and poke his eyes out.
    Fucker never even said thank you.
  • Girl Genius: Aldin Hoffmann demonstrates the "use your whole body" variant against a giant snake clank (whose teeth look like venom injectors) as part of "Heroic Freestyle" combat with his brother.

    Western Animation 
  • This was used in the Mr. Bogus episode "Bogus Private Eye". Bogus, with help from Kevin the family bulldog, tries to stop a thief that somehow invades the house. Kevin tries to bite the thief, but the thief whips out a bone and sticks it between Kevin's jaws.
  • An episode of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero has Gung-Ho pull this move in order to avoid getting chomped on by an alligator.
  • Young Samson & Goliath episode "The Lost City of the Dragon Men". Samson rips a tree trunk out of the ground and sticks it into the mouth of an attacking crocodile to prevent it from attacking him.
  • Miraculous Ladybug:
    • In the episode "Animan", the shapeshifting Villain of the Week turns into a Tyrannosaurus rex. After entangling its legs with her yo-yo, Ladybug uses the car jack provided by her Lucky Charm to pry open the T. rex's jaws and keep its huge maw locked open, making it harmless (as they have little to fear from its small arms).
    • Attempted in the episode "Guitar Villain" on a dragon by Cat Noir with his Telescoping Staff, but the beast manages to dislodge it pretty quickly.
  • Used in one episode of George of the Jungle, when the king of the jungle needs to get some teeth from a crocodile. Unfortunately, it's revealed that every crocodile now carries a stick-removal tool for such situations.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Rock Solid Friendship", Pinkie Pie pulls a jack out of Hammerspace and jams it between the jaws of a giant quarray eel to force its mouth open and get her sister Maud out of the beast's maw.
  • Jonny Quest episode "Treasure of the Temple". While engaged in underwater combat with a crocodile, Race Bannon sticks part of a broken paddle into its mouth to prevent it from biting him.
  • The Silly Symphonies short "Peculiar Penguins" zig-zags this trope. The penguin props open a killer shark's mouth with a stick — so the shark just swims after him with his mouth wide open, swallowing the penguin whole, and an entire school of fish with him. Then the shark stops swimming as he tries close his jaws again, but before he can break the stick, the penguin and all the fish just swim out his mouth to freedom.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Diana uses her telescopic staff to prevent a dragon/dinosaur that caught her in its claw from eating her. The beast manages to snap the staff in two after some struggle, but it doesn't matter much since the magic weapon can self-repair anyway.
  • On Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, when a snarling bulldog contests Scooby's claim upon a very large bone, Scooby jams it upright into the bulldog's mouth to hinder it while he makes his escape. The bulldog shatters the bone by sheer jaw strength, but does this too late to catch Scooby.
  • A very silly example in Fangface, when the title character uses a car-jack to prop open the mouth of a Threatening Shark.
  • On Dragons: Defenders of Berk, Stoick shoves a round Viking shield into the equally-round mouth of one of the Whispering Death hatchlings. The shield doesn't last for long, thanks to the Whispering Death's rotating rock-borer teeth, but it holds up until Stoick can make his next move.

    Real Life 
  • This trope is actually averted for the crocodile, which has extremely powerful muscles for biting down, which can exert as much as 5000 pounds of force. Inversely, a crocodile has extremely weak muscles for opening its mouth, which means that once a crocodile has bit down, its mouth can be held shut with a hug (Not recommended since they can throw you off) or duct tape.
  • There's a version of this that's used for giving anesthetic to an animal. A round tube with a hole is used to prop open the jaws and allow passage of the breathing tube down into the airway. The prop is sometimes removed once the tube is in place — just pass it backward off of the tube. Alternately, it may be left in and the jaw secured from the outside, just in case the animal happens to start to come around at any time, so it can't sever the tube.
  • There are form-fitted oral braces used for dental surgery, which prevent a patient's jaws from moving by reflex in mid-operation.
  • There exist photographs of dead predators with their mouths propped open, usually to show the detail of the animal's jaws. A particularly interesting example would be this photo of the so-called "Moscow Monster" (which later turned out to be the severely decomposed corpse of a beluga whale and inspired SCP-682).


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