Follow TV Tropes


Splitting the Arrow

Go To

"I step into the room, split an arrow with an arrow!"
Aesop Rock, "Jazz Hands"

Archery is all about precision. The standard archery contest (in both fiction and real life) involves a marked target and points based on how close to the center (or bull's eye) the archer can place his arrow.

A common dramatic situation is one where The Rival shoots first and hits the target right in the center. It looks like The Hero has lost the competition until he shoots his arrow at the opponent's and splits it in half lengthwise.

A downplayed version of this is Truth in Television. It's not unusual for hollow-shafted aluminum arrows to "telescope" — one stuck in the end of another. Most archery ranges that have been open any length of time will have some examples mounted on the wall, though it's considered more of a funny fluke than a feat of skill: It doesn't earn you any additional points, and after the first time it's mostly just annoying that your arrows get damaged. However, in order to really count as this trope, the second arrow has to split the first from nock to tip. This normally requires everyone (or at least the first archer) to be using wooden arrow shafts. Traditional arrows often have a horn nock that would deflect the second arrow unless it was removed, and in practice, most hardwood arrows don't have such a straight grain that they would reliably split all the way down instead of breaking somewhere in the middle. The second arrow has to be made of something like hollow bamboo and specially prepared in order for the trick to work.

In the field, this is known as a shaft shot, sometimes called Robin Hooding, since of course the feat was made famous by you-know-who.

This is a subtrope of Improbable Aiming Skills, and a Sister Trope to Shoot the Bullet. It is often used to characterize someone as a Master Archer. Compare to William Telling and Shooting At Your Own Projectiles.


    open/close all folders 

  • One of Dos Equis' beer commercials show their new Most Interesting Man In The World doing this with thrown knives.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Drifters: Nasu Suketaka Yoichi is capable of splitting arrows in the bullseye multiple times without fail while showing off to the elves.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: Kaguya did this in the anime when Karen and Erika interviewed her.

    Comic Books 
  • Archie Comics: Combined with Accidental Aiming Skills in Life With Archie #144 where Robbing Hood (Archie) is in an archery contest against the Sheriff of Nuttingham (Reggie). Archie's awkward disguise causes him to face the opposite direction to the target. His arrow bounces off a tree, a shield and a spear before hitting the centre of the target: splitting Reggie's arrow.
  • In Green Arrow #18, bad guy archer Komodo is shown effortlessly doing this during practice to illustrate what a superlative archer he is.
    • In the Longbow Hunters mini-series, Ollie meets the stunt archer for The Adventures of Robin Hood who says it wasn't as impressive as it seems since he made the shot directly off camera.
  • Robyn does this in Grimm Fairy Tales Presents: Robyn Hood #7 while she is practicing so she does not become overly reliant on her magical bow Scarlet.
  • Thorgal has been known to do this, as he's an expert archer. A variation happens during an archery duel, when a rival archer fires at Thorgal and he fires two arrows simultaneously back - one arrow deflects the rival's arrow, the other hits him in the chest.
  • In Tomahawk #40, Tomahawk wins a marksmanship contest against a giant Indian warrior by splitting the brave's arrow with a musket ball.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1987): In "The Contest'' Artemis (the Amazon) casually splits an arrow Diana just shot into a target with her own arrow during their first meeting.
    • Wonder Woman (2011): Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, has been seen shooting an arrow at a target, and then splitting it with the subsequent shot while plotting with her brother Apollo.

    Comic Strips 
  • Prince Valiant (Jan. 6-13, 2013) takes it over the top, with the challenger splitting everyone of her opponent's arrows, no matter where on the target they are. Making an impression is apparently more important than winning the tournament, or else she would consider aiming for the center of the bulls-eye.
  • The Wizard of Id: In one strip, Sir Rodney puts an arrow in the bulls-eye during a tournament. The King asks him if he can do it again. Rodney responds by splitting the arrow. When the King congratulates him, Rodney mutters that he had been aiming at the apple in the King's hand.

    Fan Works 
  • Café of the Round: Courtesy of Jay, the reincarnation of the Trope Maker; and much the ire of Shirou and Tristan, since he did so in the middle of their archery contest.
  • The Pirate Pegasus: Korsan fires his prototype crossbow that shoots metal bolts at Thieves' Hold. The first bolt hits the bullseyes and the second splits the first bolt.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Brave, this is how Merida wins the archery contest to avoid an Arranged Marriage. Not only does her arrow split the other arrow, but it also goes straight through the target and hits the stand behind it!
  • In Kubo and the Two Strings, Beetle shows off his skills by splitting an arrow, then splitting the splitting arrow, then splitting the splitter splitting arrow, then splitting the splitter-splitting splitting arrow in rapid succession. This is foreshadowing that he is Hanzo, who Kubo's mother noted was an incredible archer.
  • Robin Hood (1973) has the title character shoot one of his own arrows mid-flight to change its course, resulting in it hitting dead center and splitting the sheriff's arrow.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Trope Codifier is the 1938 version of The Adventures of Robin Hood, where Robin defeats the Sir Guy's captain of archers in the archery tournament by splitting the captain's shaft which is lodged in the dead centre of the target. the stunt was done in one take by professional archer Howard Hill, who also played the captain of archers, so Hill was actually splitting his own arrow.
  • Robin's daughter Gwyn in Princess of Thieves; splits an opponent's arrow at 100 yards to win the tournament.
  • Playfully subverted in Robin Hood (1991). In the archery contest, the first archer's arrow hits just to the side of the target (a slim wooden wand), a very respectable shot. Then Robin shoots his arrow and hits the wooden wand dead on— splitting the target in two.
  • Robin Hood: Men in Tights:
    • Played with in the archery contest scene, where Lucky Luca does this to Robin's arrow.
      Villager: He split Robin Hood's arrow in twain! (whereupon one of his teeth flies off)
    • Robin's Patriot Arrow flies wildly around, before slamming into the target utterly destroying the other arrows.
  • In the 1952 The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, Robin and his father, Hugh Fitzooth, compete against one of the Sheriff's men. First, the Sheriff's man tries and is short of the mark. Then Robin beats him with a perfect bulls-eye, and then Hugh Fitzooth splits his arrow. Subverted in that, though he is offered the prize, Hugh gives it to his son, whose aim "was no less true than mine."

  • Tobias does this during his archery demonstration in Grimm Tales.
  • In Ivanhoe, Locksley splits the arrow of Hubert, whose grandfather shot at Hastings. However, this only ties the contest. Locksley wins the tiebreaker when his shot splits the willow reed that is being used as a target.
  • In the second book of the Sword of Truth series, Kahlan mentions her Home Guard gives ribbons for such shots (called shaft shots). A few had half a dozen ribbons, one had ten. She herself manages such a shot after some training by Richard... who, due to his magical powers awakening, ruined a hundred arrows in a single session.
  • The Time Wars novel The Ivanhoe Gambit has a scene where one of the time-traveling heroes, standing in for Robin Hood, pulls off this feat using a high-tech arrow with a built-in guidance computer.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Both Alfred and the villain known as The Archer in Batman (1966) were both so good that they agreed that the first one to fail to split the other's arrow would lose.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Robots of Sherwood", Robin Hood and the Doctor keep splitting one another's arrows in the famous archery contest. Though the Doctor later confesses to cheating with homing arrows.
  • Clint Barton and Kate Bishop discuss this in Hawkeye (2021), with Clint confirming it can be done as long as the first arrow is made of wood. The trick is accomplished in the season finale, with Clint intentionally splitting an arrow to drive the main arrow and the split halves into three different targets.
  • Discussed in an episode of in the Danish series, Hjerteafdelingen (The Cardiology Ward). The doctors have arranged for a wise Indian guru to visit the patients in order to give them life advice and answer their innermost questions. One of the patients asks the guru about the classic Robin Hood example (he had recently read the story), questioning exactly why doing this stunt allowed Robin to win the shooting contest. The guru ruminates over the question for a long time and but is unable to come up with an answer, something that frustrates him so much that he eventually suffers a heart attack from the stress of it.
  • Done with darts in the Lois & Clark episode "When Irish Eyes Are Killing". As Clark catches wind of a robbery and tries to come up with an excuse to leave a game of darts against the villain of the week, who had just gotten a bull's-eye, the latter goads Clark, who responds by doing this with his last dart.
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E.:
    • "The Virtue Affair" contains a contest of escalating trick archery, including splitting an arrow.
    • In "The Gazebo in the Maze Affair," Napoleon does this with darts in a British pub.
  • Mission: Impossible: In "The Golden Serpent (Part 1)", the Bodyguard Babe of one of the villains is shown doing this while practicing with her pistol crossbow; to show how deadly she is.
  • The MythBusters took on the Errol Flynn scene twice, and busted it both times. They suspect the arrow Flynn (or archery adviser Howard Hill) shot at had been tampered with — their guest archer pulled the split off on the first try when shooting at a hollow bamboo arrow.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Trope Maker is Robin Hood. While participating in the finals of an archery contest, Robin Hood's opponent (typically the Sheriff of Nottingham, but there have been others) shoots an arrow into the dead center of the bullseye. Not to be outdone, Robin Hood fires his own arrow and splits his opponent's arrow in half down the middle. Most people will be most familiar with the scene from Errol Flynn's The Adventures of Robin Hood, but the story has been traced back to the 17th-century ballad "Robin Hood and Queen Catherin". It became a popular part of the legend when Walter Scott used it in Ivanhoe.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Dungeons & Dragons supplement Complete Warrior has rules for an archery contest that naturally include rules for splitting an opponent's arrow.
  • The Forgotten Realms supplement Aurora's Whole Realms Catalog references this trope, suggesting that bowmen purchase the mail-order dealership's line of archery targets so that even dead shots can learn to do this.
  • GURPS: Robin Hood includes Robin Hood style characters for different settings. The Wild West version is a White Man Going Native whose native name 'Splits Arrow' comes from performing this feat.

    Video Games 
  • In Overwatch, Hanzo's Summer Games event highlight opening shows him not only doing this but splitting the entire target as well.
    • In the Dragons Cinematic. Genji slices an arrow heading for him shot by Hanzo using his sword and the split arrow sticks on a wall.

    Web Comics 
  • Gunnerkrigg Court had Janet and Willy doing this "fancy shooting", resulting in a draw on the last shot of a competition. It looks like they cooperated and rehearsed this "accident", of course.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Arthur: A similar outcome in "The Return of the King" when Mr. Ratburn's class go on a field trip to a medieval fair competing against his former teacher's class in medieval-themed competitions. Francine lands a bullseye in suction cup arrow archery. Her competitor licks the suction cup, aims above Francine's arrow causing it to slide down taking the bullseye.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Near the beginning of "The Blue Spirit" episode, the Yu-Yan Archers are shown at a firing range. One of them splits an arrow, then splits that arrow, and finally the third arrow in succession, so each is embedded in the other.
  • An episode of Dave the Barbarian has Dave's girlfriend for the episode doing this during their Falling-in-Love Montage, at which point they're doing underwater archery.
  • Looney Tunes: The opening credits of Robin Hood Daffy have an arrow flying into the center of a target, followed by a series of arrows each flying into the end of the one before it. The camera then pulls back to reveal that Daffy is shooting each arrow from less than an inch away.
  • Parodied in a Robot Chicken sketch where Robin Hood does this to the Sheriff of Nottingham's arrow and the Sheriff argues that this shouldn't mean an automatic win. (In its use in Ivanhoe it actually just means a tie; hitting a tiny target from a range is the real tiebreaker which Robin Hood wins.)
  • In В яранге горит огонь, the boy fires an arrow across a precipice, then another arrow that embeds in the first one, then another... until he's built a (flimsy) bridge out of arrows and proceeds to balance across.


Video Example(s):


Disney's Robin Hood

Disney's Robin Hood, pulls off his iconic move during the tournament.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / SplittingTheArrow

Media sources: