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Primitive Clubs

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A makeshift stone club as ugly as it is effective. Primitive and heavy, it demands of its wielder a strong arm and a suitably barbaric disposition.
Barbarian's Cudgel description, Salt and Sanctuary
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Clubs are not, generally speaking, the most sophisticated of tools. At their simplest, they can be nothing more than a stick torn from a tree and swung as a weapon. Clubs of this sort requires very little work to be made — there's no metalworking or complex manufacture involved, or any alteration save perhaps stripping off twigs. Thus, they're often seen and treated as the most primitive sort of weapon, and archetypally as the characteristic weapon of people and beings too primitive and barbaric to craft anything better.

Consequently, the typical fictional club is a fairly simple and crude affair, and is often little more than a simple, knotty branch or log. Often, however, it will be uncannily conveniently shaped to serve as a weapon, with a thin piece to serve as a handle flaring out into a bulkier head. The crudest examples still have leafy twigs and side branches attached; this may often overlap with Improvised Weapon when a character just rips off or picks up a branch to use as a club. The more elaborate ones may be enhanced with bones, worked stone heads or other simple, easily foraged-for materials to give them greater strength and hitting power. If more modern materials are available, it's not uncommon to see metallic objects jammed into a club as well. Some may just be giant femur bones with no additional embellishments.

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The use of a club is often as simple and primitive as its manufacture. Clubs, being blunt objects, rely on sheer force of impact to damage opponents. They are also typically too poorly balanced, crudely made and awkwardly shaped to make use of any complex techniques or skilled wielding; a club isn't something with which you'll be landing trick shots or doing clever things with. Thus, club-wielding fighters are usually portrayed as fighting with crude, powerful blows whose immense strength belies their simplicity and contrast with the more deliberate and skilled use of other weapons; this typically extends to the club-wielders as well, who tend to be sorts with lots of strength and little intelligence or skill, reinforcing the association between clubs and primitives.

This trope is most commonly associated with, and often all but inseparable from, traditional portrayals of primitives of the prehistoric variety. Big, wooden clubs and crude stone maces are the archetypal weapon of the Hollywood caveman and the Frazetta Man alike. They aren't a rare sight among fantasy barbarians either, and are especially common as the weapons of choice of giants, trolls, ogres, cyclopes, and similar big, powerful and stupid humanoids. In these cases, it's fairly common for their clubs to be entire uprooted trees, sometimes just pulled up mid-fight to serve as improvised weapons. It should be noted that in real life, the oldest known man-made weapons were actually spears, not clubs, but spears have very different connotations in fiction (though to be fair, a random stick that was used to bludgeon a cave lion at one point is pretty hard to distinguish from one that wasn't).

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In modern and futuristic settings, a nominally high-tech variant of this can occur in the form of primitive, thuggish or otherwise neo-barbaric characters fighting with whatever blunt objects can be scavenged for and used as improvised weaponry. Lead pipes and baseball bats are a classic mainstay, while uprooted street signs or fire hydrants turn up fairly often for the larger types.

Subtrope of Carry a Big Stick. Compare Dumb Muscle and Fantastic Race Weapon Affinity. Due to this association of strength and simplicity, clubs are also the favored weapon of the Smash Mook. Compare Boulder Bludgeon, which carries similar connotations but also has an element of pragmatism or desperation. Savage Spiked Weapons, where spiked clubs, mauls, morningstars and the like are used to communicate that a character is violent, savage and evil, is a sister trope.


Examples:

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    Comic Strips 
  • Alley Oop: The title caveman's favorite weapon is a simple stone mace. Parodied when a "Faraweek cage" disables all advanced technology in the area, including Alley's "Super Club 2000" — despite it being just a wooden stick with two, instead one, stone heads.
  • B.C. has its characters living as primitives: dwelling in caves, using campfires for warmth, hunting dinosaurs, etcetera. Their main weapon is the stone club, and when they try other weapons such as spears or the bow-and-arrow, it usually causes more harm to the user than to the target. The Fat Broad (her actual name) routinely wields a stone club to pound snakes into mush.
  • The Far Side: The strip's cavemen often wield these in comedic ways:
    • A guy is about to brain an opponent, when his club "jams" on him.
    • Another caveman prepares "poison clubs" by tying small venomous frogs to them before battle.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey: When apes exposed to the Monolith start developing intelligence, the first thing they do is figure out how to use a large bone as a bludgeon. At the end of this segment, a shot of the bone being flung in the air is followed by a shot of a similarly shaped space station, suggesting that all of Man's technological achievements started with the club.
  • Birdemic 2: The Resurrection: Rick's resurrected caveman ancestor carries around a large bone which he uses as a club. He spends the movie either having sex with his girlfriend or attacking the protagonists with the club.
  • Ella Enchanted: The ogres, who have been driven out of their land and have to resort to anthropophagy and banditry to survive, fight with nailed clubs.
  • Excalibur: During the final battle, Lancelot uses a spiked club as his main weapon. While he isn't an actually barbaric character, he looks the part after spending years in exile, and getting a more stereotypically brutish and primitive-looking weapon like a spiked club rather than a more stereotypically refined and elegant-looking weapon like the sword he previously emphasizes his fall from grace.
  • Star Wars: A double-ended metal club called the gaderffii is the Weapon of Choice for the Tusken Raiders — technologically limited Desert Bandits who attack most outsiders on sight. The most prized gaderffii are made of durasteel scavenged from spaceship wrecks.

    Folklore 
  • The medieval European woodwose, a primitive human living in the wilderness where the Christian civilization ends, is typically depicted carrying a big, rough club that, due to its stooped posture, also serves as a cane.

    Literature 
  • Discworld: The club is the cultural weapon of the trolls, ranging from a simple lump of wood (sometimes with a nail in it) to an uprooted tree, depending on the size of the troll.
  • The Elenium: Most trolls are armed with clubs, since they lack the metalworking necessary to manufacture swords, and their arms aren't shaped right for stabbing with a spear.
  • Fengshen Yanyi: the wild giant Wu Wenhua is a colossal, hairy humanoid who uses a gigantic wooden club as his sole weapon of choice, made effective by his size.
  • Harry Potter: Trolls, depicted in the series as ugly and barely sapient, are always shown carrying clubs. Giants are also shown carrying clubs, and they, too, are shown to be unintelligent and brutal.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: The giants, shaggy primitive colossi who live in the northern wilderness, wield huge, crude clubs as their only weapons.

    Live-Action TV 
  • iCarly: An in-universe sketch about the first tantrum features a young cavegirl screaming and bashing everything with a big club because her parents won't let her get a pet dinosaur.

    Music 
  • Cole Porter: "Find Me a Primitive Man" compares men who belong to clubs (as in associations) with the kind sought for in the song, an actual primitive with a physical club.
    I don't mean the kind that belongs to a club,
    But the kind that has a club that belongs to him.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Typically, when large barbaric humanoids such as ogres and hill giants are shown using any weapons at all, these tend to be giant clubs made from tree limbs or entire trees, sometimes enhanced with metal spikes and similar touches, which make good use of their wielder's immense strength without being held back by their general lack of intelligence.
  • Warhammer:
    • Matching their primitive natures, lack of sophistication and aggressively direct approach to warfare, giants and trolls typically fight with crude but powerful clubs. The giants' in particular usually consist of a simple uprooted tree, often with human-sized weapons rammed into it to give it extra piercing power.
    • The Ogres' most common weapons are giant clubs, going from bare tree stumps for the impoverished to ones covered in metal and spikes or topped with giant stones for added impact, which take full advantage of their owners' immense strength without requiring training or dexterity that Ogres have neither skill nor patience for.
    • Kroxigors, dim-witted colossi used as builders and shock troops by the Lizardmen, fight almost exclusively with sweeping blows of huge bronze or stone mauls that maximize their immense strength without being held back by their lack of finesse, training or agility.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Aberrants and Abominants are mutant Genestealer hybrids characterized by immense strength, aggression and stupidity, and tend to fight with mining equipment and uprooted street signs used as improvised mauls.
    • Played with with the Ogryns' enormous Ripper shotguns, which are technically projectile weapons but which are specifically designed to be used as clubs by their brutal wielders. Some even have monstrous electrified bayonets attached to them for extra damage.
  • World Tree RPG: The Khtsoyis, floating octopus-like creatures who would have been monsters if not for an accident in timing on their creator god's part and who remain the most primitive and thuggish of the Prime species, traditionally fight with big wooden clubs, sometimes with nails in them, triple-wielded in their tentacles.

    Toys 
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The original action figures for the caveman-esque Slash and borderline feral Tokka include primitive-looking spiky maces as accessories.

    Video Games 
  • 7 Days to Die features the wooden club as the first melee weapons you craft as long as you follow the tutorial missions, and the easiest craftable after you respawn in case you die and lose all your inventory. It's not particularly powerful and anything you find by scavenging will outclass it, but it has acceptable swing speed and knockdown power against small numbers of zombies, so it's useful until you find a better melee weapon .
  • Age of Empires has the Clubman, a Stone Age Barracks unit which uses a club in order to attack opponents.
  • Bug Fables:
    • Cenn, a butterfly who impersonates an explorer together with Pisci, uses a stick as a weapon, signifying his reliance on a brute force and lack of actual combat experience. However, his attacks hit hard and become ever stronger if Pisci falls in battle.
    • Leafbug Clubbers are members of the wild, primitive Leafbug tribes who wield clubs in battle.
  • Chrono Trigger: The prehistoric party member Ayla is depicted with a club in concept and promotional art, although her actual fighting style is that of a Bare-Fisted Monk.
  • Civilization: The first military unit in the Tech Tree is the warrior, which from Civilization IV onwards is depicted with a simple club.
  • Darkest Dungeon: The Corrupted Giant, a Veteran-level enemy in the Weald, carries a tree as a dual-handed club. His main attack with it, Treebranch Smackdown, deals a lot of damage, can one-shot even sturdier heroes down to Death's Door on a Critical Hit, and also has the potential to knock the target one position back.
  • Dynasty Warriors: While this is mostly averted by the tribal characters not using clubs, the Gentle Giant Xu Zhu uses a giant stone mace and is very primitive and simple-minded.
  • The Elder Scrolls: Massive clubs are the favored weapons of the giants. Some have a large rock tied to the end, turning them into primitive warhammers, while others have spikes of stone or bone, turning them into primitive battleaxes.
  • Empire Earth: The Prehistoric era's melee unit is a caveman with a wooden club who speaks in grunts.
  • Fallout: Super Mutant Behemoths are extremely large, extremely strong and extremely stupid mutants who lack the intelligence to either manufacture tools or use ranged weaponry, and typically use uprooted fire hydrants as crude melee weapons.
  • Far Cry Primal: Fitting the game's Stone Age setting, clubs are a common and powerful weapon type that can be upgraded from a knapped stone lashed to a stick to a jagged mace made of bone, rock, and wood, with one-handed and two-handed versions.
  • Genshin Impact: The Hilichurls, a race of goblin-like masked humanoids, mostly wield blunt clubs as weapons to show that their technological level is below that of humans. They can be made out of wood (Dendro), stone (Geo), and ice (Cryo) for those who live in the Dragonspine mountain. While Hilichurls are also seen using more advanced weapons like crossbows and battle axes, it's implied that they didn't make them themselves, and either looted them from humans or received them from the Abyss Order.
  • League of Legends: Trundle the ice troll wields a massive club made out of true ice, a type of ice that is so cold that it can freeze anyone but Iceborn solid. He's also Dumb Muscle when compared to the other characters, but is considered smarter than other trolls.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild:
    • Due to their primitive and barbaric natures, all of the Moblins and Bokoblins' weapons are simple, crudely made and based on wood, and their primary gear consists of one- and two-handed clubs, although crude spears made by sharpening long sticks are also in their arsenal. Their basic variants are simple, crudely-shaped tree branches; stronger variants are reinforced with bones, fangs and fossils to give them extra strength.
    • Hinox, gigantic boar-like cyclopes, will break off whole trees to use as weapons. They use shorter trees as clubs and longer trees as polearms, and will toss them horizontally toward you if you're far away.
  • MORDHAU: The Heavy Branch and Club both simple branches of one-handed and two-handed size, respectively, available only to Peasant builds. They are more effective than one'd think, and some players enjoy making full-on caveman builds dressed in the most ragged clothing available beat armored knights into submission.
  • NetHack: The Caveman role starts with high strength, low intelligence and primitive weapons such as rocks and a club.
  • Salt and Sanctuary: Certain skeletons called Primitive Bones wield a crude stone club (called Barbarian's Cudgel) against you, which you can obtain by transmuting their remains. It's decent, but there's better weapons available anyhow.
  • Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time: Sly's neanderthal ancestor uses a giant bone club as his melee weapon.
  • Soul Series: The Barbarian Hero Nathaniel William "Rock" Adams has fought with a large mace since Soul Calibur III.
  • Warcraft III has quite a few examples to go around. For the Night Elf's their Mountain giants can rip trees out of the ground and use them as clubsnote , and for the Creeps side most ogres also use large wooden or metal clubs.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • Jreg: Anarcho-Primitivism, who thinks that technological advance should've stopped at some time during the Stone Age and behaves like a stereotypical caveman, is always seen wielding either a large wooden club or a "comically-oversized dinosaur bone".

    Western Animation 
  • Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels: Subverted with Cavey's club. While he is a caveman, his club is a Swiss Army Weapon which contains numerous tools that can be deployed to get him and the Teen Angels out of a jam.
  • Dungeons & Dragons (1983): Bobby, the party's barbarian, wields a club as his magical artifact that lets him send much, much bigger opponents flying or cause localized earthquakes despite his being a rather scrawny 10-year-old boy.
  • The Flintstones: One episode has Fred Flintstone relaxing at home, watching a televised fight. The two opponents stand in a boxing ring, taking turns whonking each other on the noggin with a club. Each man gets three whonks before Wilma calls Fred away from the set. They built guys sturdier in those days.
  • Primal (2019): While the caveman Spear lives up to his name by mainly using... well, a spear, he sometimes makes use a club in close quarters.
  • Wacky Races: The Slag Brothers, Rock and Gravel, are a pair of shaggy cavemen always seen wielding big wooden clubs, which also serve as their main way of powering up their car (by hitting it to make it move) and to make replacements (by hitting rocks with their clubs until they're roughly car-shaped).

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