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Trojan Horse

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Beware of... my hooves.

James Hacker: I don't intend to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: I put it to you, Minister, that you are looking a Trojan horse in the mouth!
James Hacker: If we look closely at this gift horse, we'll find it full of Trojans?
Bernard Woolley: If you had looked a Trojan horse in the mouth, Minister, you'd have found Greeks inside. Well the point is, it was the Greeks who gave the Trojan horse to the Trojans, so technically, it wasn't a Trojan horse at all, it was a Greek horse.
Yes, Minister: Bed of Nails

Beware of gifts bearing Greeks.

Ever since Odysseus ended ten years of futile war with a spot of carpentry, this has been one of the favourite tactics of clever characters faced with impregnable defenses.

In the simplest version, the Greeks simply hide inside an object which they know the Trojans will be unable to resist picking up and taking inside their defenses. If the Trojans aren't complete idiots, subterfuge will be used to get them to accept the object — anything from disguising it as a Trojan vehicle up to a full-blown Gambit Roulette. Common variations include hiding a well-trained animal inside the Trojan Horse, or a computer program. In Speculative Fiction the Horse itself might be a robot or shape shifter.

Whatever the details, the net result is the same. The Greeks get some of their agents inside the Trojans' walls, without the Trojans knowing they are there, which leaves the Greeks free to commit sabotage, assassinate the Trojan leader, or simply open the gate and let the rest of their friends in.

This contrasts with such tropes as Trojan Prisoner, I Surrender, Suckers, and the nailfile-in-the-cake trick, because in those cases the Trojans do know the Greeks are there, and are trying, however sloppily, to guard them. Thus, the Greeks don't usually have the degree of free rein the Trojan Horse gambit gives them.

It also contrasts with using similar tricks to smuggle inanimate objects inside the Trojan lines, typically poisons and explosives, since such objects can't make decisions. A Greek soldier, or even a well trained monkey, is adaptable. They can change plans in mid-stream, taking advantage of unexpected opportunities. Poison can't do that. Thus, a Trojan Horse allows many more narrative possibilities than do inanimate objects.

Compare and Contrast A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing. Subtrope of False Flag Operation and Cargo Concealment Caper. Sister trope to Won't Get Fooled Again.


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  • Mechamato: In "Block World", Amato, Pian, Deep and MechaBot construct a large wooden horse to hide in and infiltrate King Boxel's castle. However, Amato's poor drawing skills while drawing out its construction plan makes it look more like a giraffe.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Naruto combined this with Sealed Evil in a Can. The Hidden Mist sealed the Sanbi into Rin's body, knowing that she would be rescued and return to Konoha. The seal would eventually break and the Sanbi would be free to rampage. She managed to ruin the plan by getting killed far from the village.
  • Outlaw Star: In the episode Law and Lawlessness, a beat up civilian ship is used to invade the private security stronghold.
  • In Snow White with the Red Hair a group of bandits give the Raxd fortress enough firewood for the whole winter while posing as a farming family moving out of the area. The wood was laced with a toxin to make them ill when burned, with repeated exposure leading to comas. Once almost all of the guards are down with the remaining one severely ill they emptied the armory.
  • Transformers Victory: On one occasion, in order to investigate the suspicious disappearances of spaceships Autobot leader Star Saber disguises himself under a false shell to make him resemble a human spacecraft. The ruse almost fails when the Decepticon Leozack notes that the "spaceship" is very finely made... almost too good to be made by human hands, in fact. Luckily, he's called away before he's able to investigate further.
  • In Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-, Fei Wang wishes to make use of Syaoran's soul for one of his plans. His underling, the cloned Syaoran, pretends to kill him and give him the body. Just as the Fei Wang is about to receive the body, Syaoran proceeds to impale him with the underling's weapon.
  • World Trigger: The Bug Neighbors known as Rads were hidden inside the Bamster deployed to Earth in Chapter 1. After the Bamster is destroyed by Yuuma, the Rads crawl out undetected and scatter across the city, allowing them to interfere with the Border Induction Device.

    Comic Books 
  • In Dark Avengers: Ares, the title character's men do this with the bodies of two demonic horses they killed. The twist is that Travis hides in one, while the other is stuffed with explosives, so when enemies try to attack it, before another foe emerges, they get themselves blown up.
  • Attempted multiple times by the Beagle Boys and Magica against Scrooge's Money Bin in the Disney Ducks Comic Universe. The most successful instance, however, is pulled by Donald Duck's namesake great-grandfather during the Civil War: a Union soldier, he was supposed to deliver a wagon full of ammunition to the Union troops besieging Duckburg, but a fight with a Confederate officer led to the wagon entering the Confederate-held Fort Duckburg... While on fire. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for basically winning the battle by himself.
  • Hunter's Hellcats: In Our Fighting Forces #110, the Hellcats are sent out into the English Channel is fishing boat with secret double hull which is packed full of high explosive. Their mission is get themselves capture so that they and the boat will be taken back to the German submarine ens. Once there, Hunter will activate the timer and the Hellcats have two hours to find a way out before the boat explodes and takes down the otherwise impenetrable sub pens.
  • Subverted in La Ribambelle: A Tatane's scheme involves offering a caiman's hide to La Ribambelle, while Tatane remain hidden inside it. Tatane didn't count on the fact that a caiman lying on streets will cause a commotion and the authorities will be alerted. He end up in a zoo with real caimans for companions.
  • Mortadelo y Filemón: In 'Los Mercenarios' ("The Mercenaries"), Mortadelo and Filemón attempt this to access the titular mercenaries' camp. Needless to say, the mercenaries use the horse to practice shooting.
  • The Fiendship series of the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic comics has Queen Chrysalis and the Changlings use this tactic to ransack a kingdom.
  • Red Hulk used that tactic in Planet Red Hulk. He even jokes that his opponents fell for one of the oldest tricks in the book.
  • The Scrameustache: The Kromoks' successful hijack of a Galaxian ship is the result of this trope. In another story, Scrameustache makes use of this trope against the Kromoks who in turn fell for it.
  • Handy creates one of a sort in The Smurfs story "You Don't Smurf Progress", when he builds a female robot companion for King Trash, but fills it with termites which end up eating their way out of her and proceed to destroy the other robot servants under King Trash's control.
  • Star Wars Legends: In Dark Empire II, Lando and a Rebel team get to Byss (the Imperial stronghold) by hiding in war droids that the Empire had ordered.
  • In Superman storyline Who Took the Super out of Superman?, Intergang smuggle a killer robot into Clark Kent's apartment inside a big crate. Thinking nothing of the shipment, the doorman lets the delivery men into the building. Later, when Clark returns home, the robot bursts out of the crate and attempts to murder him.
  • Sensation Comics: Wonder Woman creates a wooden horse to trick Steve Trevor's current captors, who follow a woman claiming to be the descendant of Helen of Troy. They bring it in and set it alight thinking someone's hidden in it but Di was using it as a decoy while she broke the prisoners free.
  • Spy vs. Spy: One Spy leaves a statue of himself outside the gate of the castle the other Spy is guarding. The guard-Spy blows up the statue, leaving only the wheeled base, which he pulls into the castle. It turns out the attacker was hiding the base, and ambushes the guard.

    Fan Works 
  • In Avengers: Infinite Wars, thanks to advice from Anakin Skywalker, Scott Lang/Ant-Man is able to shrink down and essentially take control of a droid soldier by placing himself in its CPU.
  • "Covenant: A Stars Ablaze Story" is part of a Star Trek/Star Wars series where the Federation has acquired hyperdrive thanks to information provided by R2-D2. When Kirk's Enterprise visits the Gamma Quadrant, they encounter a Dominion fleet led by Weyoun, who naturally tries to claim the plans for hyperdrive for himself. Scotty and Artoo are able to trick Weyoun into giving them sufficient computer access that Artoo can plant a virus in the ship's communications systems that will completely shut down all Dominion ships in their fleet, the astromech confident that the only way to get rid of the virus would require the Dominion to build a new fleet with a new network.
  • Used in Interventions to kill Arthur Petrelli; Illyria (in her disguise as Fred) comes to the Company claiming to be an evolved human whose abilities recently restored her ability to walk, but, once in the same room as Arthur, she kills his guard, assumes her true appearance, and rips out Arthur's spine.
  • Juleka vs. the Forces of the Universe: In order to reveal evidence of how Chat Noir treats Ladybug, Juleka submits a fanvid to Side-by-Side's call for 'Best Ladybug and Chat Noir moments'. The video starts with several pictures of the superheroes together, properly credited to the Ladyblog - much to Alya's delight - before abruptly segueing into a recording of Chat Noir harassing his partner with his insistence that they're meant to be together regardless of her feelings on the matter.
  • Little Rebellions: Light Purple Pearl sneaks several rebels into an important reunion by hiding their poofed gemstones in the presents her master sent to Benitoite.
  • In Renegade, the Scrin assault and mind-control a turian cruiser while it is isolated in the Widow nebula in order to get close enough to the Citadel to teleport troops into the GDI embassy to kill Tali and Shepard.
  • A Thing of Vikings: The plan the Hooligans concocted to rescue Heather's parents was for Heather to bring a box supposedly full of dragon eggs, but instead filled with Viking warriors and their dragons.

    Films — Animation 
  • Despicable Me used this in a weird form: making orphaned girl scouts sell robot cookies to a villain so they can help ANOTHER villain get inside and steal a Shrink Ray.
  • In Frozen II, the dam is thought to be a gift from King Runeard to the Northuldra. It's later revealed that he knew it would weaken their land because he hates magic.
  • Mr. Peabody & Sherman has Peabody use a miniature Trojan horse to get inside the original Trojan horse. The Greeks fall hook, line and sinker for their own trick.
  • In Sky Blue, the Diggers hijack a weapons truck to sneak into Ecoban.
  • At the beginning of Transformers: The Movie, when Optimus Prime sends a shuttle to Autobot City to pick up a supply of energon cubes in preparation for their attempt to retake Cybertron, Megatron and the Decepticons attack the ship, massacring the crew and commandeering it so that they could slip past Autobot City's early warning systems and destroy it from the inside, depriving the Autobots' of their best source of energon. The only problem with the plan was the big gaping hole the Decepticons had torn into the shuttle's side when they boarded, which helped Daniel and Hot Rod realize something was wrong, thus causing Megatron's ploy to be exposed before the ship got over the city's walls and allowing the Autobots to mount a defensive long enough for reinforcements to arrive.

  • It doesn't actually happen in The Iliad. It's mentioned in The Odyssey, but the actual event isn't depicted in either poem, but rather in the other, lost epics of The Trojan Cycle. It is described in flashback in The Aeneid by Vergil, though, and that is why the line "Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes" is Latin.
    The original is far more flattering to both sides than the simple version usually taught in elementary schools. In the original, the Greeks simply cannot take Troy, try as they might, because Poseidon has placed over the city a protective veil. So they construct a great wooden image of a horse, the sacred animal of Poseidon, then except for the few men concealed within the image, withdraw from the city, beyond any range from which they could attack, with a message placed before the image that reads, "For the honour of Troy and the glory of Poseidon." The Trojans are then forced either to reject the gift, which will likely offend Poseidon who will then withdraw his protection from the city, or bring it inside, which will require them to partly dismantle the gate and thus rend the veil. Either way, the veil is down and the Greeks have at least a fighting chance to take the city.
    A different version has the Greek soldier Sinon tell the Trojans that Athena had abandoned the Greeks because of Odysseus and Diomedes having stolen her sacred Palladium (a wooden statue of her) from Troy, and that the Greeks had initially planned to sacrifice Sinon to her in the hope of forgiveness. When he escaped, they built the horse and left that as a sacrifice to her, while secretly hoping that the Trojans would desecrate it and earn her wrath instead (in reality, Athena had sent a vision to one of the Greeks, which Odysseus interpreted and so had the horse built). When Cassandra and another Trojan both predict that it's full of soldiers, Cassandra is ignored because of her curse, while the other naysayer and his sons are promptly strangled by snakes, which prompts the other Trojans to immediately bring the horse into the city.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Semi-inverted, but with the same intent in the Battle of Luthien during BattleTech's Clan invasion. A group of Industrial 'Mechs were armed with long range weapons and armor to disguise them as actual BattleMechs, but were actually ActionBombs, set to go off when the Clan forces closed in to get inside the minimum range of the decoys.
    Shin Yodama: A new variant on the old Trojan horse strategy. Instead of letting them take the horse into their castle, we had to lure them into the herd, but it worked nonetheless.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • In the adventure X12 "Skarda's Mirror", the bandit warlord Skarda uses the title magical mirror to act out this trope, selling or giving it to his enemies so that the thousands of troops in the adjoining Pocket Dimension can bypass their defenses.
    • In module OA2 Night of the Seven Swords, the Michimori counselor Kaijitsu hides inside an empty sake barrel to infiltrate a gathering of oni (ogre mages). After he jumps out of the barrel he defeats all of the oni.
  • In Exalted, one of the Deathlords, the Lover Clad in the Raiment of Tears, constructed a noble warstrider for the sole purpose of allowing the government of Lookshy to capture it and take it to their capital. Apparently, it contains a booby trap that, when triggered, will turn most of the country into a shadowland, allowing her legions to swoop in and conquer the whole place with hardly a shot fired. She hasn't triggered it yet, though, because she's Brilliant, but Lazy.
  • Magic: The Gathering: Akroan Horse. You gift it to an opponent when it's played and, in turn, it gives soldiers to their opponents. Loads of fun in multiplayer games.

    Web Original 
  • Decker: One of Decker's missions involve him using the band Dekkar (actor Tim's OnCinema band) as a cover to get into a party where a terrorist group is attending.
  • The Trojan Reindeer weapon from Dragon Cave's Snow Wars 2 is an extremely obvious parody of this.
  • Fate/Nuovo Guerra has Odysseus as one of the Servants participating in the Holy Grail War. Naturally, his ultimate Noble Phantasm is the Trojan Horse.
  • Kitset by Glenn Jones: order your fast-assembled trojan horse today!
  • Star Wars Downunder. The evil Darth Drongo is trying to steal all the beer on the planet, so our heroes hide themselves in barrels of Amber Fluid so they can be smuggled into his fortified brewery.
  • SuperThings:
    • In the episode "Ron-Ron’s Birthday", the heroes' Monster Roller is wrapped up and given as a present to Mr. King's pet dog… with the heroes inside waiting.
    • In the episode "A Very Villainous Present", the villains leave a giant metal horse out in the middle of the town, with preparations for the ones hiding inside to escape at night and villainize the town. Unfortunately for them, the plan fails due to one of the members being Dark Spicy, with another being Caulipower, who brings up how this plan doesn't require him to shower.
  • Team Neighborhood: In the episode Pool Fools, the BLU Soldier, Scout, Pyro and Medic hide in a crate labeled "pool toys" to sneak past RED's sentry nest... but since they forgot to add airholes, a Surprisingly Realistic Outcome occurs and they die from heatstroke.

    Real Life 
  • In computing, a "Trojan horse" or more simply "trojan" is a virus that disguises itself as an innocuous program and sneaks past anti-virus programs to infect computers. They don't self-replicate, but are harder to spot and can royally mess up infected computers.
  • Real viruses also qualify, as they trick the cells they invade into taking them inside, using features on their surfaces that resemble nutrients the cell requires.
  • A hilarious case of Unfortunate Names: Trojan Condoms. Either they're named for the city, which had its defenses fall, or it refers to the horse, which got the city to open their defenses so they could be ravaged. Upon that last thought, perhaps Fridge Brilliance rears its head...note 
  • The American Civil War: In his memoirs, General William Tecumseh Sherman mentions an occasion shortly after the fall of Atlanta where Confederate sympathisers managed to smuggle out badly needed supplies to nearby Confederate forces by hiding them in a coffin and putting on a show of taking a loved one out for burial. Sherman observed that it was a clever trick... and added after that incident the Union insisted on all coffins being opened and searched before being allowed to pass between lines.
  • During The Eighty Years' War, the Spanish-occupied city of Breda was taken by the Dutch and English forces through a Trojan Horse style tactic; despite the siege, a barge loaded of winter fuel, in this case peat, was still allowed to enter and leave the city, and none of the Spanish garrison checked the barge. So, hidden under the piles of peat, a group of soldiers led by Charles de Heraugiere had themselves smuggled into the city and took the Spanish forces inside by surprise. The attackers killed forty defenders without any loss, and by dawn Sunday March 4 the men of Heraugiere had already taken control of most the city.


Video Example(s):


You Forgot To Add Air Holes!

Fed up with the intense heat and that the RED House managed to get a pool to beat the heat, BLU Soldier plans to use a crate labeled "Pool Toys" so several of them can sneak inside and destroy RED Engineers' Sentries so they could get inside easier.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / TrojanHorse

Media sources: