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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 a 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. Sister trope to Won't Get Fooled Again.



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    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.

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Art of the Steal, Crunch's original plan (as shown in an Imagine Spot) involves smuggling Francie into the warehouse inside some kind of container, with him getting out with three minutes oxygen to spare. Nicky shoots this plan down, but does implement a Trojan horse in an altered form: getting Canadian Customs to bring the forged Gospel into the warehouse by concealing it in a 4 ft. sculpture of a vagina.
  • In Buffalo Soldiers a rival army faction sneaks into a defended base during a war game by hiding in trucks delivering breakfast.
  • In The Dark Knight, Joker smuggles himself into the headquarters of Gambol (a rival mobster who's placed a bounty on Joker's head) by wrapping himself in trash bags, then playing dead while his mooks carry him in claiming they've killed him and want to claim the bounty.
  • Den of Thieves: The crew smuggle Donnie into the Federal Reserve counting room by hiding him inside a currency box, concealed by bundles of cash.
  • Hudson Hawk. The title character smuggles himself inside the Vatican inside a large mailed crate.
  • In the Hellboy movie, Kroenen combines this with My Death Is Just the Beginning. He shuts off his heart, then BPRD carries him back to their headquarters. Then Kroenen revives on the examining table.
  • The final ploy of the heroes of Independence Day was to send two of their men to The Mothership in a captured alien fighter to upload a virus. Went well, up until they tried to leave...
  • In Iron Man 3 an Elite Mook gains access to Air Force One by wearing the Iron Patriot suit to disguise his identity. The film even refers to this move as a Trojan Horse.
  • Mom and Dad Save the World uses a giant bust of the Big Bad. The Big Bad, being an idiot like everyone else on the planet only thinks that the bust got his face wrong, and has it brought in just so people can tell the difference. This particular Trojan Horse scheme hits a little snag since the native rebels forgot to include a way out of the bust after sealing themselves inside it (again, planet of idiots).
  • In Money Movers, Eric, Brian and Ed build a fake armoured car, paint it Darcys colours and deck it out with Darcys livery, then copy a number plate from one of Darcys legitimate trucks to allow them to drive into the counting house.
  • In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Sir Bedevere devises a slight variation to infiltrate the French castle, involving a wooden rabbit. He only gets one little detail wrong — he forgets that there should be somebody inside it. Just as well, since the French just catapult it back out.
    Bedevere: Um, l-look, if we built this large, wooden badger...
  • Ocean's Eleven
    • They smuggle the acrobat into the vault inside one of the cash boxes. And then smuggle most of the team both in and out in the SWAT vehicle.
    • Used twice in Thirteen. First to sneak a camera and computer connection into the baddy's office and later to get a magnetron into the computer core.
  • Our Man Flint. After Flint is trapped inside an air-tight chamber by Galaxy, he uses his ability to place himself in suspended animation to appear to be dead. Galaxy buys it and takes his body to its Island Base. After he wakes up, he infiltrates their secret headquarters.
  • Payment in Blood: Used by the mob as means to get rid of the protagonist and his family, after said protagonist becomes a witness to a series of mob killings. The beautifully-wrapped present box is filled with deadly snakes.
    • It begs the question how the wife managed to open the box without hearing the sound of hissing, though.
  • In Return of the Jedi, the strike team that lands on Endor to deactivate the Death Star's defense shield uses a stolen Imperial shuttle to get past the security. Turns out that Darth Vader knew what they were up to, but allowed them to land because he wanted Luke alive.
  • Serenity film. The title ship was disguised while running the gauntlet through the Reaver ships.
  • The Silence (2019): The Cult sends a little girl to the protagonists' hideout, knowing that they'll take her in out of pity, and strap phones under her clothes that are set to activate their alarms not long after the family brings her in, sending the movie's sound-sensitive monsters swarming towards the protagonists.
  • In Star Trek Into Darkness, Spock does beam over the 72 torpedoes, but Khan's crew are no longer in them and the warheads are active.
  • In The Thomas Crown Affair (1999), thieves sneak into a museum inside a Greek statue of a horse (though, it isn't wooden). It's delivered as an upcoming exhibit. For bonus points, it was actually a Greco-Roman horse.
  • White Heat has Cody Jarrett and his gang using an empty tanker truck to smuggle themselves into a chemical plant so they can rob its payroll office. Cody lampshades this by mentioning that he got the idea from a story his mother had told him:
    Cody: Way back there was a whole army tryin' to knock over a place called Troy and gettin' nowhere fast. Couldn't even put a dent in the walls. And, uh, one mornin', one mornin' the people of Troy wake up, look over the walls and the attackin' army's disappeared. Men, boats, the works. Taken the powder. But they left one thing after them: a great big wooden horse. And, according to Ma...
  • Who Am I (2014): A digital variant. The hero hacker plants a Trojan inside a Trojan in order to uncover the antagonist's identity. But the plan fails as the latter looks through the trick and rejects the program.
  • A 2006 Australian film of Macbeth updates the setting to a Melbourne crime family. Some hitmen smuggle themselves past Macbeth's security by hiding inside a truck hauling lumber. The lumber company is, of course, called Birnam Wood.

  • In the novel Beyond Varallan by S.L. Veihl, the protagonist hides warriors onboard shuttles that were supposed to be carrying refugees away from the titular planet in order to take over the enemy vessel and hand them over to the other enemy vessels in order to save their world.
  • Parodied twice over in the Discworld series:
    • In Eric, the Tsorteans immediately see through the ruse and surround the wooden horse with soldiers. It turns out that the Ephebian commander expected that to happen, and merely intended the horse to distract the defenders while he and his men got into the city another way.
    • In Pyramids, war breaks out again between Ephebe and Tsort. Both the Ephebian and Tsortean armies build several giant wooden horses. Facing each other. The Tsortean officers get one with rockers.
      Ephebian Sergeant: Look, soldier, anyone bloody stupid enough to think we're going to drag a lot of horses full of soldiers back to our city is certainly daft enough to drag ours all the way back to theirs. QED.
    • Played straight in Carpe Jugulum, when Agnes and Oats sneak into the castle by hiding in two vacant coffins that are being delivered there.
  • In The Divine Comedy, three different people are damned to the Eighth Circle for the Ur-Example Trojan Horse that fooled the Trojans into their demise. Ulysses/Odysseus and Diomedes burn with the false counselors in the Circle's eighth ditch for their fraud to the Trojans while Sinon suffers from excruciating disease at the very last ditch of deceit for his falsification of words.
  • Nathanael West's 1931 novel The Dream Life of Balso Snell has its protagonist encountering a variety of characters inside the actual Trojan Horse.
  • Invoked Trope by Octavian in The Heroes of Olympus, who uses the "beware Greeks bearing gifts" line to try and incite conflict with the Greek demigods and so maintain his own power. It's not exactly a horse though, and nor is that actually the plan.
  • In the Perry Rhodan reboot Perry Rhodan Neo, the nearly immortal Atlan hints that he was one of the men inside the horse.
  • Red Storm Rising features this tactic with the Soviet invasion of Iceland in which they disguise an invasion ship as an American flag cargo vessel. It manages to work until they start launching hovercraft.
  • Briefly mentioned in Skulduggery Pleasant, in which the eponymous detective says "never to look a gift horse in the mouth, unless it's made of wood."
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • In Wraith Squadron, the titular squadron uses a captured pocket carrier to ambush a Star Destroyer.
    • In Heir to the Empire, Thrawn uses one in a clever application of a cloaking device. The (realistic) weakness of cloaking devices in his stories is that they are double blind and therefore difficult to use properly in conventional combat. He comes up with a clever solution: cloak the cargo bay and fill it with TIE fighters. Scanners would show the bay is empty and once they got into range the fighters could launch inside the enemy shipyard. It is only partially successful thanks to the timely intervention of Wedge and Rogue Squadron as well and Han, Luke and Lando.
  • In David Gemmell's Troy Series, the Trojan Horse is actually an elite unit of Trojan cavalry led by prince Hector. In the final book, the unit is wiped out in an ambush and the Greeks dress up in the distinct armor worn by the cavalrymen. They then fool the Trojan defenders into thinking that survivors of the Trojan Horse are retreating toward the city and a gate is opened to let them in. The gate defenders are slaughtered and before reinforcements can close the gate, the rest of the Greek army storms in and sacks the city.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel: How the Circle of the Black Thorn are defeated. Angel manages to fake a Face–Heel Turn convincingly enough for the Circle to let him join; in so doing, he's able to identify their members, and arrange for them to be assassinated separately by different members of his own team.
  • The A-Team once used a Trojan Whiskey Delivery Truck to get inside a convent that had been taken over by South American Guerrillas (who had just run out of booze).
  • Better Call Saul: In "Sabrosito", Jimmy and Kim need to get pictures of Chuck's house to document his state of living for their case at the bar hearing. To do so, Kim secretly cancels an appointment Chuck has made to get his door repaired, and Jimmy sends Mike Ehrmantraut to the house at the time of the originally scheduled appointment. Mike then breaks out a drill, which is enough to cause the electromagnetically sensitive Chuck to panic and hide upstairs, but not to the point of shooing Mike away. Chuck had just exploited his own illness to get at Jimmy, and Jimmy is now acting in kind.
  • In The Bill criminals have been mugging doctors sent to treat patients in-house for the drugs they are carrying. Reg Hollis comes up with an idea he got from "this Greek chap". Next time the doctor is attacked, there are two policeman hidden in her car waiting to arrest the muggers.
  • Blake's 7.
    • In "The Harvest of Kairos", the Liberator is captured this way while robbing a transporter of its cargo of valuable crystals. To avoid an Obvious Trap, The Dragon sacrifices three advanced Federation cruisers and has an ambush waiting inside the transporter. Having defeated what appear to be vigorous attempts to defend the cargo, our heroes trundle the cargo containers on board the Liberator without a second thought, not knowing there are more soldiers hidden inside.
    • In "Moloch", our heroes have to land on a planet covered by a highly advanced defense screen. Since they can't teleport through, they just teleport Tarrant and Vila onto a transport on its way to the planet.
    • Averted in "Stardrive" when the Scorpio hugs close to a rogue asteroid to sneak past a planet's detection grid. Surprisingly Realistic Outcome when they collide with the asteroid and have to spend hours fixing the damage.
  • The Chaser's War on Everything attempted towing a literal Trojan horse (containing Chas dressed as a Greek soldier) into a number of secure locations. They got into a surprising number. Except for, hilariously enough, the Turkish embassy in Sydney. Troy was in what is now Turkey.
  • In episode 33 of Chouriki Sentai Ohranger, "The Five Robos' Great Riot", the Ohrangers trick Bacchus Wrath into bringing the new secretly-constructed Blocker Robos inside his base by disguising them as powerful, jewel-decked blocks and presenting these as a gift. Once inside, the Ohrangers activate the robos and trash the place.
  • Investigating the casino robbery in "Suckers", the CSI crew soon discover that a thief had been hiding inside a replica suit of antique Japanese armor, which was placed in the secure room with other valuables. Subverted in that the casino's owner had actually arranged the theft himself, so only acted like he'd been fooled by the Trojan Horse tactic.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Myth Makers", the Doctor is actually the one to suggest the idea of a giant wooden horse (after his earlier suggestion of catapults to fling the soldiers over the walls is rejected) after being captured by Odyessus during the Siege of Troy.
    • The Axonite given to Earth by the Axons in "The Claws of Axos".
    • Also deliberately invoked in "Underworld" and "The Armageddon Factor".
    • Not to mention the several occasions on which the TARDIS (with occupants) has been hauled into the stronghold of the opposition, either as a valuable piece of technology or merely a curiosity.
    • "The End of the World": As part of the villain's plan, the other guests on Platform One are given gifts (the soiree includes the exchanging of "gifts of peace") with spider-robots hidden inside, which the guests than carry into their suites past all the security systems. The robots can then go out and wreak havoc on the station's systems.
  • Part of The Caper in the Farscape episode "Liars, Guns and Money" involves hiding Rygel in a cargo container, then depositing the container in the bank they are intending to rob.
  • The final episode of Leverage features a trojan murder investigation: the team fakes their own deaths, then attaches themselves to the investigation leading to said deaths (which allows them free access to a room they were unable to break into on their own). Sterling references this explicitly, calling himself a trojan horse after realizing he'd been duped into unlocking that room and letting them in.
    • An earlier episode featured a variation. When Hardison is captured, the villainous executive assumes that there is no possible way that the incriminating files he had just finished deleting could now get out. While Hardison and his hard drive had no way out that didn't apply to the executive and his cell phone, which Hardison had just finished downloading the files to before he was captured. Parker manages to lift the phone after Hardison convinces him to go outside. There was also the fact that while the incriminating files were the original objective, they weren't the most valuable thing on those servers, that would be the food patents that the company owned. Nate is able to use those to leverage the executive into turning himself in.
  • The Magician: In "The Illusion of the Fatal Arrow", a hitman uses scuba gear to hide inside a fuel tanker in order to infiltrate a high security research facility.
  • The Mission: Impossible team uses tricks like this to get people or equipment into or out of the area they are operating in, regularly.
  • The NCIS episode "Trojan Horse". A guy gets into the evidence locker to tamper with evidence by hiding in the stuffing of a seat of a taxi made to look like a crime scene.
  • On NUMB3RS, a group of criminals plan to kill a prisoner who is about to turn state's evidence. Their plot involves an overly complicated scheme that first involves killing power to sections of LA to cause the prison to run their generators out of fuel. As more fuel is required, the criminals hide inside the fuel truck to plan their entry into the prison. However Fridge Logic kicks in when you realize that the tanker was empty. Apparently the prison guards fail to check the inside of the truck or even tap the side to see it is empty.
  • Odd Squad:
    • In the second part of the Season 2 finale, "Odds and Ends", Oona bakes a three-layer cake big enough to fit Oprah and Otis inside, so that she and Olympia can smuggle them into Precinct 13579's Headquarters. It ends up working, with no one suspecting them, and despite the interior being made of wood, it's perfectly edible.
    • In "Orla's Birthday", Oswald tells Omar about Odd Squad's Great Cake Wars back in ancient times, which Orla fought in and lived through. The illustration presented during his explanation depicts a bunch of bakers jumping out of a cake, targeting the Sprinkle Queen.
  • In the Grand Finale of Sense8 this is how the main characters sneak into the building where Whispers is being hidden. Most of the characters (save the ones acting as technical support) disguise themselves as a tour group who "accidentally" drive their bus into the building's courtyard where the engine conveniently stops working (actually a rigged smoke bomb meant to look like the engine's broken). The characters go as far as taking selfies with the guards to really sell the "clueless tourist" angle.
  • Sharpe and the Chosen Men did this at least twice. Once with the youngest of their number groaning on a stretcher while the French-speaker shouted about cholera, once with Harper covered in blood from a pulled tooth and pretending to be mortally wounded until the time came to attack.
  • Spartacus: Blood and Sand:
    • In "Balance", the rebels kidnap Glaber's wife and offer to trade her back in exchange for a wagon full of supplies. Instead, Glaber sends a wagon full of mercenaries, and the rebels barely escape.
    • In "Blood Brothers", the rebels had formed an alliance with the pirate Heracleo who regularly sends ships filled with supplies. Eventually, he betrays them by sending a ship filled with Roman soldiers.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In the pilot episode, Quark generously provides a bag to some Cardassians so they can take their gambling winnings back to their spaceship. The bag turns out to be Odo, a shapeshifting alien. Odo uses this trick a number of times during the series, including as a means of keeping an eye on Quark.
  • One story on Urban Legends featured a midget thief who robbed bus passengers by hiding in a large duffel bag, which an accomplice set out with other riders' luggage for the driver to stash in the cargo bins.
  • Vikings: How the third raid on Paris is successful, with Ragnar using himself as the Trojan Horse.
  • The Wire has a few examples.
    • Lieutenant Charles Marimow. When the Major Crimes Unit is causing problems for Rawls, Rawls has Marimow take over command and disrupt the unit from within. Marimow forces the unit to focus on "street rips," which is the exact thing the unit was created to get away from, rendering the MCU useless. Rawls even calls him "Marimow, my Trojan Horse," making clear that he uses Marimow to break up any unit causing problems for him.
    • In "All Due Respect", Omar Little gets into a Barksdale stash house disguised as an old man in a wheelchair, claiming to be related to the home's owner. He even has the guards carry him up the stairs before he pulls out his gun.
      Stash Guard: Hey, yo, Omar. Yo, all due respect, but this, right here? This a Barksdale joint, man.
      Omar Little: [Glasses Pull] Do tell.
    • In season 3, the Major Crimes Unit is trying to track the burner phones used by Avon Barksdale's gang, but it's impossible to get a tap on them because they replace them every two weeks, and the wireless company's turnaround time for responding to wiretap requests is a week. McNulty and Greggs find out that Bernard, the runner assigned to make the pickup runs, is buying them in packs of two at each store to avoid suspicion, which is much to his girlfriend Squeak's annoyance. The unit has Bubbles (who doesn't know Bernard, but used to know Squeak) approach Squeak claiming that he can hook them up with a black market cellphone salesman who can cheaply sell them burner phones in bulk for a low discount. Said "black market cellphone salesman" is actually an undercover Lester Freamon, who smoothly convinces Bernard and Squeak to bulk-buy pre-tapped phones from him.
  • The Yes, Minister episode "Bed of Nails" uses the term for a task that would mean political suicide for the clueless minister James Hacker, who has been duped into accepting the position. This leads to this page's opening quote. Next, he becomes confused with Ancient Grome (since he did not attend Oxbridge).
    Bernard Woolley: Hence the tag "Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes", which you'll recall, is usually and somewhat inaccurately translated as "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts". Or doubtless you would have recalled had you not attended the LSE.
    James Hacker: Greek tags are all very well, but can we stick to the point?
    Bernard Woolley: No, the point is, Minister, just as the Trojan horse was Greek, what you call a Greek tag is, in fact, Latin. It's obvious, really: The Greeks would never suggest bewaring of themselves, if one can use such a participle, and it's clearly Latin not because "Timeo" ends in "o", as the Greek first person also ends in "o". No, there is a Greek word "Timao" meaning "I honour", but the "os" ending is a nominative singular termination of a second declension in Greek and an accusative plural in Latin, though actually Danaos is not only the Greek for Greek, it's also the Latin for Greek.

  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • A ploy like this is responsible for the continued existence of video games as a medium. After The Great Video Game Crash of 1983, stores were reluctant to sell consoles, or even anything that looked like a console because everybody was sick of them, and people wouldn't buy what they were sick of. Then along came Nintendo, marketing the Robotic Operating Buddy as a conventional toy and allegedly providing the NES as a bonus instead of the other way around. While the R.O.B unit itself was nothing special, the ruse allowed the NES to enter everyone's homes and made people realize that the medium was, in fact, not so dead after all. This is listed as #5 on Game Spy's Top 25 Smartest Moments in Interactive Entertainment.
  • Facebook game Backyard Monsters has wild monsters deliver such a horse outside your base. Monsters will come out of it and attack you whether you accept or reject the proposed 'truce'.
  • In Discworld Noir, Lewton sneaks on board the Milka by hiding in a crate that's being taken on board, and later discovers that a killer snuck into the Patrician's Palace by hiding in a wine barrel that was delivered there.
  • In Fallout 3, if you arrange for the Ghouls to live in Tenpenny Tower, they slaughter the residents after two weeks.
  • Fate/Grand Order features Odysseus and the titular Trojan Horse... except in this continuity, the Trojan Horse is basically a Humongous Mecha that defaulted into a horse form and then turns into a humanoid form complete with a Chest Blaster. It was of no wonder Troy fell at that time, no one can resist the awesomeness of a giant robot, especially if it takes form of a shiny big metallic horse.
    • Hektor has zero angst at the fate of Troy, evidenced by his White Day gift to you being a model of the original Trojan Horse itself. He insists that were he alive at the time, he would have prevented his people accepting the supposed statue, but since he wasn't, he couldn't, so there's no point in dwelling on it.
  • In the Halo: Reach mission "Long Night of Solace", you hijack a Covenant Corvette, plant a slipspace drive turned bomb on board, and send it to dock with a Supercarrier. However, Jorge is forced to sacrifice himself to manually detonate the bomb, and the whole mission is rendered moot when the rest of the Covenant fleet shows up.
  • In the Lupin III game Treasure of the Sorcerer King, Lupin manages to get himself on a train by hiding inside a statue that his partner delivers onto one of the cars.
  • New Super Mario Bros. Wii. the Koopa Kids kidnap Princess Peach by sneaking into her castle inside a giant cake during her birthday party.
  • In Nemu’s route of Shining Song Starnova, she overhears her mother and Corrupt Corporate Executive Kamijou discussing their plans to ruin Starnova’s reputation by exposing their newest recruit Kaori’s illicit relationship with an older man once she’s been officially accepted into the unit. Ultimately the trope is Subverted: Nemu hallucinated that entire conversation and the plot isn't real.
  • In Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, the heroes storm the Dominion weapon research facility and steal a Super Prototype of a Humongous Mecha scheduled to be shipped to the Dominion capital world to lead a parade. They then have one of their own pilot the mecha and ship it to the destination, where it is used to launch a surprise attack in the middle of the parade.
  • Starcom: Nexus features a unique type of Trojan Horse technology. It is a gigantic array of transmitters and solar panels found on an otherwise empty planet, whose purpose is to propagate itself while destroying nearby industrial-era civilizations. It works by broadcasting a signal that industrial civilizations should be able to receive and interpret fairly easily. The signal walks its recipient civilization through basic, and then advanced concepts in engineering and science, to the point where the recipient should eventually be able to build a planet-sized AI network with automated worker bots and fabricators that would make their world a paradise. However once this new AI realizes that the civilization it is running is sufficiently dependent on its manufacturing and control, it is programmed to annihilate its host civilization and exploit all of its resources to cover the planet with a new transmitter array identical to the original, thus targeting new civilizations in its area. Fortunately, only one such array is found during the game, meaning that it never got the chance to spread very far.
  • Evil Genius 2 has a literal Trojan Horse as a loot item. When you finally steal it and place it in your base, a large group of ANVIL soldiers will jump out of it. After you defeat them, you can use the Horse in lucrative heists around the world.

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Angry Birds Toons episode "Trojan Egg", Chef Pig builds a huge wooden egg and put King Pig in it to steal the birds eggs. The birds are not fooled, but the pigs are when they send it back. Chef Pig even attempts to usurp the throne in the King Pig’s absence.
  • Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers. The Rescue Rangers have an Easter basket that turns into a tank. And since Everything's Better With Pineapples, they use a hollowed-out one to spy on Fat Cat.
  • This is attempted in the Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation: C.A.K.E.D.-F.I.V.E." with Sector V hiding in a wooden cake, to sneak in the birthday party of the Delightful Children from Down the Lane. However, most of the team is diverted by the main plot of the episode, leaving only Numbuh Four inside, who eventually goes crazy from not eating anything as he waits all day for the Delightful Children to check the front gate.
  • The title characters of Ed, Edd n Eddy use one in the form of a giant, fake pull-string doll to sneak back into Ed's house after being kicked out by Sarah and Jimmy. Not surprisingly, it's not convincing enough to fool Sarah and instead of going back into the house, the Eds end up at the top of a lamppost.
    Jimmy: A talking dolly!
    Eddy: (from inside) Say something, stupid!
    Ed: My head is snoring! Make it stop!
    Jimmy: AAAHH! Sarah! Boogeyman!
  • In one episode of Hercules that depicts the Trojan War as a prank war between schools, the Greeks use this as their last trick. Surprisingly, the Trojans in this incarnation managed to see through the ruse and pushed the horse over a cliff.
  • An episode of Hey Arnold! sees Arnold and his friends attempting this inside a giant pig after losing Abner in a war reenactment competition. One of the members of the other side recognizes the trick and tries to point it out, but their leader, Rex Smythe Higgins refuses to listen and makes him open the gate. As soon as the group pops out, the member gives Higgins a look that clearly says I Warned You.
  • Jonny Quest TOS episodes. In "The Robot Spy" Dr. Zin tricks Dr. Quest into taking the title device inside a military base.
  • A Mighty Mouse cartoon acts this out with mice as the Trojans and cats at the Greeks.
  • In one episode of Muppet Babies (1984) that parodies Greek Mythology, after seeing the myth of this, Piggy constructs a trojan chicken to get at Gonzo who is barricaded in the closet.
  • In one episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Twilight and Fluttershy try to settle a feud between two families called the Hooffields and the McColts. One attempt was for Twilight to convince the leader of the Hooffields to give the McColts a cake as a piece offering. Unfortunately, the leader thought that Twilight meant for it to be a ploy, as she had hidden members of her clan who popped out and attacked the unsuspecting McColts inside the cake, much to Twilight's dismay.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • In the episode "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted", Candace and Jeremy build Trojan statues of themselves in an attempt to get the boys out of the military school they're being held prisoner in. When the sergeant running the place doesn't buy it, they instead make a statue of the sergeant, The sergeant didn't bring it inside since he already had a ton of wooden statues of himself in his yard.
    • Another episode shows them reenacting the Trojan War. At its culmination, Buford has Irving get into a trojan platypus. Phineas doesn't fall for it, but it proves to be a decoy as the war takes a turn into Out-of-Genre Experience territory when Buford and Ferb appear with a Trojan T-Rex armed with modern day weapons that stomps on the platypus. Irving questions why Buford had him get in the platypus if they were going to destroy it.
  • Popeye tells Swee'Pea a rather fractured rendition of the Trojan Horse. Within the story taking place during the battle between the Greeks and the Trojans, Brutus comes face to lip with the Horse asking what it is. Popeye emerges and socks Brutus with a flippant "Never look a gift horse in the mouth!"
  • ReBoot: Big Bad Megabyte once hid himself in a fake upgrade during one of his bids to take control of Mainframe's Principal Office. Oddly enough, he actually becomes a Trojan Horse virus in the last season granting him shapeshifting abilities.
  • Happened once in Recess, with TJ's gang trying to recapture their fort from Lawson, by hiding in a home-made submarine.
    Bully: Didn't somebody once say beware of geeks bearing gifts?
  • Rick and Morty: The Statue of Liberty is actually hiding a giant killer steampunk robot built by the French that Morty accidentally unleashes by destroying the outer copper shell. It ends up conquering New York City in the name of France offscreen.
  • SheZow had Guy Hamdon hiding inside a giant Coldfinger statue to trick his archnemesis into giving it to himself prior to rescuing Kelly (his big sister) from a active volcano (while using his pink lightsaber).
  • The Simpsons, "Lemon of Troy": To get a stolen lemon tree from a Shelbyville impound lot, Homer and others park Ned Flanders' RV in front of a hospital and wait for it to be hauled away. After the plan works, Homer comments that no one in history has ever had such a brilliant idea.
  • Invoked in at least two episodes of The Smurfs: one where Gargamel hides inside a giant hollow state of Papa Smurf so that the Smurfs would be lured into bringing him into the village, and another where the Smurfs themselves hide inside a hobbyhorse in order to rescue Smurfette from a spoiled little girl during their time travels.
  • Played with in the South Park episode "Child Abduction Is Not Funny": Tuong Lu Kim has been constantly bested by Mongolians who keep tearing down his city wall. He comes up with a master plan to stop them for good: pouring hot, sticky Sweet-and-Sour Pork on their heads. The Mongolians roll a "Trojan Mongolian Horse" to the gate. Lu Kim sees that it's an obvious trap, so he takes an axe with him, opens the trap door...and is immobilized by Sweet-and-Sour Pork, allowing the Mongolians to break another hole in the city wall.
  • Speedy Gonzalez: Sylvester is trying to keep Speedy out of the cheese factory. At one point Sylvester braces himself to catch Speedy, only to have a baseball thrown at him instead. An irritated Sylvester then flings the baseball into the cheese factory. Speedy is inside the hollowed-out baseball.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Pursuit of Peace", sabotage droids are delivered to Coruscant disguised as cleaning droids.
  • Star Wars Rebels: In "Homecoming", a rebel strike team gets onboard an Imperial carrier via a stolen TIE bomber and a staged attack by two A-Wings.
  • Happens in The Super Mario Bros Super Show! episode "Trojan Koopa". Instead of a horse, Mario, Luigi and Toad build a giant wooden statue of King Koopa himself, banking on his ego to take the bait. Adding to the trick is that earlier they grabbed two of his Troopas and sent them out to sea with a dummy to make it look like they were giving up.
  • In Time Squad, the Squad go back to the time of the original Trojan Horse, only to find that the Greeks filled the horse with candy. After a little coaching, they send in a wooden giraffe... full of little chocolate soldiers. Finally, the Greeks send over a giant wooden soldier full of horses... which run wild and wreck Troy.
  • The Underdog sideshow Go Go Gophers has a short titled "Trojan Totem" where the Coyotes receive a totem pole from the Gopher Indians, and at night, the Gophers inside sneak out and sabotage the fort.
  • In "Castle Caper" on Wallykazam!, Wally sends his dragon Norville inside a cake as a trojan horse to the castle that Bobgoblin has taken over. He, however, makes the mistake of posing as a delivery guy in a Paper-Thin Disguise and telling him that he has the cake that ordered, allowing Bobgoblin to get into an Argument of Contradictions with him about whether or not he ordered a cake until finally Norville makes noise and gives himself away.
  • Done in Xiaolin Showdown, but with a twist; Jack Spicer sends the heroes a giant statue of him holding a fruit basket, but the Dragons, citing this trope, break apart the statue. However, Jack wasn't in the statue- he was hiding in the fruit basket!

    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 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 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / TrojanHorse

Media sources:

Main / TrojanHorse