I’m looking for examples from myth or folklore of a monster being defeated by things such as getting it to jump into lava or off a cliff or even into a larger monster that eats it. Basically stuff that’s not “Hero stabs or punches it to death”. I’m not interested in consumer media examples but either classical myth (from anywhere in the world) or folklore such as Arthurian tales, Paul Bunyan/Pecos Bill type stories, etc. Any ideas?
I was joking with a friend about cheesing a boss fight in a video game by luring it off a cliff. I said “There’s probably a proud tradition in heroic myth where they call the guy clever!” but couldn’t actually think of an example. Closest I got was Perseus using Medusa’s head to kill Cetus which isn’t a very satisfying defense of my methods since he was still directly using a magic item/power to kill it. I’m just asking out of curiosity though and a general sense of “There MUST be…”
Gandalf vs. the trolls, in The Hobbit. He uses ventriloquism, probably just a cantrip, to goad the trolls into fighting each other, and delays them until the dawn comes and stones them.
There’s also the tale (I think from the Arabian Nights) of putting the genie back into the bottle: Some poor sod has accidentally released a malevolent djinn, but expresses incredulity that such a large djinn could possibly have fit in such a small bottle. The djinn re-enters the bottle to prove that it can, and the poor sod then promptly re-corks it.
And from real life, and close to your precise situation, there’s a native hunting site in Alberta called “Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump”. Guess how it got its name?
The giant Zipacna was attracted to a decoy fake giant crab. It was set up so that when tried to grab it, the crab slipped into a magic lake. Knowing that the magic water would turn him into stone but very hungry for crab, Zipacna reached too far. He was turned to stone.
His sibling, Cabracan couldn’t turn his head with his eyes open. The twin heroes (I forget which twin heroes from which land and culture) hid on opposite sides of the giant and took turns shooting arrows into his gums. Then, they convinced him that his teeth were bad and he needed new ones. They removed his teeth and gave him news ones made of (IIRC) pack corn meal (which would make these the Sun Twins of Meso America I think). The new teeth disintegrated and Cabracan starved.
And Anansi the spider did all kinds of heroic things through trickery. NINJA’d!
There’s also a Jewish folktalke of a group of witches who lived in a cave and would terrorize a nearby town on nights when the moon was full and the sky cloudless. They died/melted/whatever in water and would stay in the cave on rainy nights. A wandering sage/rabbi tricks the witches and destroys them.
In Rumplestiltskin, the princess guesses the dwarf’s riddle by sneaking up on him the night before and overhearing him say his name out loud. Rumplestiltskin gets so angry he stamps his foot into the ground and tears himself in half.
Lots and lots of tricksters, but I’m having a little trouble thinking of tricksters who got a monster to kill itself.
Here’s a decent one, though: Bellerophon killed the Chimera by shoving a lump of lead into its throat. When it breathed fire, the lead melted, poured down its throat, and it died.
Oh, and a fun one that’s the exact opposite of your request. Sisyphus dies and goes to Tartarus. Thanatos is like, “hey man, here are some chains that I’m going to bind you in for eternity.” Sisyphus says there’s no way those chains are that strong, and convinces Thanatos to demonstrate their use on himself. Sisyphus traps Thanatos in the chains, escapes from hell, and nobody dies until he’s later freed.
Interesting stories, thanks! I appreciate all responses but I was especially unfamiliar with these so neat to read
I’m content to go with any antagonist who isn’t a garden variety human. So anything between witches or evil gnomes up through double-headed gorilla dragons. I’m not super picky. Though bonus points if it’s something you’d expect to be defeated by beating it up (typical mythological beasts)
Was expecting someone to say “You’ve forgotten the story of…” and talk about how some sly hero buttered a hillside and got the monster to slide down face first into the Steel-Thorn Trees but I guess it’s less common than I thought.
This shows up in relatively recent depictions of the myth (as in the wannabe-Fantasia animated Metamorphosis/Winds of Change), but you won’t find it in any ancient source. In classical Greece and Rome, Medusa is invariably beheaded. (And then, although this is never depicted today, the winged horse Pegaus and the warrior Chrysaor burst from the stump of her neck).
According to Hesiod’s Theogeny, t he Titan Kronos was tricked by his wife Rhea into swallowing a stone wrapped in cloth, thinking it was Zeus (Kronos famously ate his children in an effort to keep from being deposed). Zeus grew up, liberated his siblings, and killed Kronos.
And as Tolkien was well familiar with the Norse Eddas, that chapter is likely inspired by the Alvíssmál, in which Thor challenges a dwarf seeking his daughter’s hand in marriage to answer a series of riddles, thereby stalling for time until the sun comes up and the dwarf turns to stone.