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Palate Propping

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"Hey dad, there's a man with a stick caught in his mouth! Hey dad, there's a man with a stick caught in his mouth! Hey dad, there's a man with a stick caught in his mouth!"
Randy's Son, Dumbland

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.

  • 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.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan: In a moment of Heroic Resolve, Eren saves Armin by yanking him out of a titan’s mouth all the while propping it open with his own arm.
  • 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.
  • Bofuri: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense.: This tends to happen to giant monsters that try to eat Maple.
  • 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.
  • The☆Ultraman has the monster, Gamiba, whose Volumetric Mouth can devour anything, resulting in Ultraman Joneus using himself to prop the monster's jaws open for a short while so that Joneus can fire his Planium Beam into Gamiba's throat.
  • Early on in YuYu Hakusho, Yuusuke uses a piece of wood to hold open the villain Gouki's mouth so he can Attack Its Weak Point.

    Comic Books 
  • "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.
  • 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.
  • In Tintin in the Congo, Tintin uses his rifle to prop open a crocodile's mouth when out of bullets.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): During the Yonaguni battle in Chapter 13, the Many's Mind Hive forms a gigantic flytrap-like set of jaws on itself which Monster X is forced to hold open with its hands to avoid getting caught in it — Monster X relents and temporarily loses an arm to the jaws. Later, this trope is inverted when Methuselah locks Keizer Ghidorah's right head's jaws shut by impaling his horn upward through the head's jaw and skull; forcing the head to eventually tear its own jawbone getting free.
  • Gone Batty: In addition to the instance from the Silverwing cartoon canon, Goth does this to Throbb again when the Vampyrum and their captives end up spending the night in a cave in a deviation from the show's course of events, until Melody removes the stick in an act of kindness.

    Films — Animation 
  • Chicken Run: While trying to escape the massive pie machine, Ginger props open the descending oven door with a wrench to save Rocky.
  • Ferdinand: Valiente uses a metal post to prop apart the giant crushing plates of the slaughterhouse assembly line.
  • Ice Age: The Meltdown: Occurs when the prehistoric crocodilian creature known as Cretaceous leaps at Manny and gets its jaws caught around his tusks, before being thrown back into the water.
  • 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.
  • Meet the Robinsons: Lewis uses a shovel to prop open the tyrannosaur's jaws.
  • Moana: Maui performs the "full body" version of this, standing on Tamatoa's lower teeth with his hands on the upper jaw in a desperate attempt to avoid being eaten.
  • Scooby-Doo: Camp Scare: Fred tries this trope on the fish-monster, 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.
  • 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.
  • Wallace & Gromit: In the short "A Matter of Loaf and Death", Gromit 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Aquaman, Arthur uses the Trident of Atlan to prop open the jaws of Orm's tylosaur steed when Orm chases him to the surface for their final duel.
  • 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.
  • 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 Standoff, with the dragonslayer Bowen literally crouched inside Draco's mouth, his sword's point braced against the dragon's palate. Neither can make the finishing move without killing themself, so Snark-to-Snark Combat occurs instead, especially after Bowen finds the remains of a previous dragonslayer stuck between Draco's teeth.
    Bowen: Good Lord! Sir Egglemore!
    Draco: Oh, thank you very much, that's been stuck down there for months. Could you get your buttocks off my tongue?
    Bowen: Why should you be comfortable? My armor is rusting in your drool and your breath is absolutely foul.
    Draco: Well, what did you expect with an old knight rotting between my molars?
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves: Edgin tries to hinder the animated drake statue by using Holga's axe to wedge it inside its maw. Unfortunately the axe's haft is collapsible and so it only works for a few seconds.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Seeding of a Ghost: As the demon fetus gains a One-Winged Angel form resembling a giant skinless crocodile and goes on a rampage, it is temporarily stopped when Dr. Wang shoves a barbell vertically into its mouth just as it's about to chomp on a woman. This also allows a few moments of vulnerability, for the fetus' sole weakness is its head, hidden inside its throat, so propping its mouth open allows Wong to grab a nearby shotgun and blast it dead.
  • Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over: Upon seeing Carmen about to get eaten by a giant robot monkey, Gary flies in between its jaws, catches its teeth as they come down, and forces the mouth to open until the jaw dislocates.
  • Star Wars: 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Lord Darcy: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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 is fighting an alligator, he puts 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 is the object of the scenario.

    Video Games 
  • Bayonetta, who loves to interrupt her enemies' speeches violently, interrupts the oceanic angel Sapientia this way, throwing an airplane's mast right into the angel's mouth to stop his blather for a few seconds, after which Sapientia just crushes the mast in annoyance.
  • In Botanica, propping a snapdragon-like plant's mobile blossom open with a stick allows you to collect its seeds. Downplayed in that the bloom in question isn't dangerous, just uncooperative.
  • Dusty Revenge sees the titular badass rabbit using himself to hold the jaws of a gigantic snake mecha in place in one of the boss battles.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Zniw Adventure: The sleeping Deinosuchus has a chunk of meat in its teeth that Zniw needs. In order to get it, she can try propping its mouth open with a stick or a large log. However, it doesn't work, and the Deinosuchus just spits out the stick or log before going back to sleep. Using the stick, log, and "croc-away" on the Deinosuchus gets you an achievement.

    Web Animation 
  • 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."

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin: Professor Gimmick was able to throw a number of sticks to stop the many bounders during the first episode. Later in the same episode, he accidentally stuck the treasure map in L.B.'s mouth, which was somehow rigid enough to work — and allowed Tweeg to replace it with a Fool's Map.
  • Aladdin: The Series: In "Shark Treatment", after Aladdin is changed into a shark, Genie conjures up a giant toothbrush to prop his jaws open and avoid being attacked.
    Genie: Now that you have row after row of razor-sharp teeth, regular brushing is a must!
    [Shark Aladdin snaps the brush with his jaws and bites after Genie]
    Genie: WHOA! I'm not even gonna mention that he needs mouthwash.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: In the episode "Eeny, Meeny, Miney Ed", Ed mistakes the toothpaste foam around Edd's mouth for some version of rabies (Eddy had tricked him into thinking that Edd was an alien in disguise) and, egged on by Eddy, shoves a hand mirror into Edd's mouth to prevent being bitten.
  • Fangface: A very silly example when the title character uses a car-jack to prop open the mouth of a Threatening Shark.
  • George of the Jungle: Used in one episode 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.
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: One episode has Gung-Ho pull this move in order to avoid getting chomped on by an alligator.
  • Jonny Quest: "Treasure of the Temple" episode. 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.
  • 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.
  • Mr. Bogus: Used in the 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Silly Symphonies: The 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.
  • Silverwing: Goth at one point inflicts this on Throbb to keep him from eating Shade or Marina whilst they're the duo's captives.
  • Teen Titans: The second Red X pulls this one on Beast Boy's ape form, jamming a large X-shaped prop into his mouth. After failing to pry it loose by hand, Beast Boy transforms into a hippo and opens his now-larger jaws sufficiently to discard the prop.
  • What's New, Scooby-Doo?: Briefly used by Velma against the "Large Dragon At Large", using a spear grabbed from a display in the castle.
  • Young Samson and Goliath: Used in the 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.

    Real Life 
  • Unless you have a really sturdy object, this is inverted for many species of crocodilians. They have extremely powerful muscles for biting down, which can exert as much as 5000 pounds of force...but they also have extremely weak muscles for opening their mouths. This means that once a crocodilian has bit down, their 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).
  • The Goitacás, a (now extinct) native Brazilian tribe, regularly did this to sharks, specially as part of a coming-of-age ceremony: young Goitacá males would jump in the water and wait until a shark came near or tried to bite them, at which point they'd place any stick-like object in the shark's mouth to prevent it from closing, jam their arm down the shark's throat and pull out their organs, turning them inside out; they'd then make necklaces out of their teeth, as proof of completion.
  • Lasiochalcidia igiliensis, a species of chalcid wasp, hunts antlion larva. When it finds an antlion pit, it jumps down and uses its strong legs to hold the jaws open and immobilize it, then stings and lays an egg in the antlion that will hatch and devour it.


Video Example(s):


Hercules' Hydra

Hercules faces the iconic multi-headed serpent early in his hero career. Its face is rather disturbingly humanoid and it drags its bulky body with its only two birdlike talons. The creature starts out with only one head, but ''three'' new ones grow in the place of each cranium lost.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / OurHydrasAreDifferent

Media sources: