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Time and again while wandering deep through Mordor, the heroes come upon a strangely well-appointed city/mansion/hotel/derelict/etcetera with nobody there. They will often discover an elaborate banquet laid out on a table, saunas to bathe in, clothing to dress in, and rooms to sleep in. Without any curiosity as to what it is and who owns it or the slightest hesitation, our heroes will then stay the night there like the original Goldilocks (while it often does turn out to be a booby trap set by the villain, if it isn't, the heroes will leave the next day and think absolutely nothing of it).

Not to be confused with the quite similar Lotus Eater Machine. Has nothing to do with Eat Me. (Or "Drink Me", which is a separate trope) and no specific requirement to involve food or eating at all, title aside; compare Schmuck Bait.

See also Food Chains, Eldritch Location, Exploring the Evil Lair, No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine. If the hero tarries a really long time, compare Year Outside, Hour Inside. If the actual owner is on his (its) way home, compare Curiosity Killed the Cast.

Examples of Schmuck Banquet include:


Anime

  • Princess Tutu references "Hansel and Gretel" in the third episode, when Mytho and Ahiru stumble upon a restaurant in a wooded area and are immediately ushered in by a woman and fed huge amount of (chillingly cold) dishes, even though they were only looking for some water. Ahiru immediately recognizes the similarities to Hansel and Gretel and tells Mytho the fairytale to try to subtly warn him, but he completely misses the point. In the end, it turns out the woman wasn't fattening them up to eat, but was actually possessed by Mytho's heartshard of Loneliness and desperate to keep people in her restaurant, which had fallen on hard times after her husband's death.
  • Digimon features many examples.
    • An abandoned mansion in the middle of a dark forest in episode 8, and a cruise ship plowing through the middle of a desert in episode 17. Both were traps.
    • The kids find a refrigerator filled to the brim with eggs. This trope can be subverted. But the real reason that they didn't question the fridge, the boat, or the mansion was because they had long since established that they are not in Kansas anymore. For example, they found the random refrigerator full of perfectly safe and delicious eggs long before falling into any of the traps.
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann the crew spends a night at a traditional Japanese inn (commented on by one character as being entirely too convenient and probably a trap), complete with banquet (that the same person comments on as smelling horrible and likely being poisoned) and hot springs (okay, now they're just asking for it)
  • Dragonball Z: Goku finds a hot spring halfway across Snake Way, which proves to be illusory; it's really a giant snake's gullet.
  • Spirited Away: Happens near the start, with tragic results. It certainly looked like a restaurant (and it was, just not for humans, which they couldn't have been expected to guess) and as the father pointed out, he had cash and credit cards on hand. It definitely wasn't perfectly kosher, they could have been setting up for a private party for example, but its hardly as bad as many of the examples here.
  • Negima: Used a great many times. The gang, unless undergoing Training From Hell, will almost certainly encounter conveniences while trapped for an extended period of time in some deserted island or underground cavern or magically-sealed area. Its generally quite obvious which wizard did it once that particular arc is over, however.
  • The Tower of Druaga has one of these in the form of a mansion that gives the visitors cherished things they have lost in the past, from childhood toys to bringing back their lost True Companions from the dead. The goal being to trap the heroes in the illusion so they do not continue on with their quest. Unlike most examples the "inhabitants" admit it isn't real. In fact one of the illusionary dead people prove enormously helpful.
  • Averted in Inuyasha, the Kitsune Inn is marked with a sign, so anyone entering understands that it is the annual kitsune magic test, and outsiders are going to be test subjects for kitsune illusions. Kagome proves to be very hard to ruffle, but consider what she's been through, besides traveling with Shippo for months.
  • In Gintama, an alien sets a trap for Gintoki, Kagura and Shinpachi of a sumptuous banquet, then drops a cage on them to lock them in. Shinpachi, ever the straight man, provides the requisite banter with the villain while Gintoki and Kagura chow down.

Film

  • In Pans Labyrinth, Ophelia comes across a banquet table, with the catch that eating anything will awaken the nearby monster. She had been warned not to touch any of the food, but she just can't resist grabbing the Idiot Grape. [1]

Folk Tales

  • "Hansel and Gretel": A classic example is the fairytale, in which two children lost in the woods stumble upon a house made of gingerbread and begin to eat on it. It belongs to a witch that eats children. Oops.
  • The original "Goldilocks" tale is an Unbuilt Trope, since versions differ as to Goldilocks' motivations, although it didn't end well in most versions. While the food wasn't specifically put out for passing humans, the bears were quite distressed when they returned home to find her testing out beds in the house.
  • The Korean folk tale "The Pheasant and the Gong": a woodcutter on a long journey gets lost in the forest. Tired and hungry, he stumbles upon a mansion, whose only occupant is a beautiful, charming, helpful young woman. It turns out she is the spirit of a snake he'd killed earlier in the story who now wants revenge for having killed her.
  • In the novelization of the ballad "Thomas the Rhymer" the Fairy Queen makes a point of only serving Thomas food made in human world, always specifying where it's from, since she intends to release him after several years of service, and if he ate the native food of the Fairyland he would be stuck there for good, and even she would have no power to help him.
  • "Beauty's Father" stumbles into one of these when he takes shelter in the Beast's castle. In the original fairy tale it wasn't accepting the offered hospitality that caused the problem, though -- it was picking a rose as he left in the morning.
  • Persephone in Greek mythology. Kidnapped by Hades, she eats a few pomegranate seeds and bam -- we've got winter. She has to stay down there for a few months every year and her mother angsts.

Literature

  • One Dungeons and Dragons-based Choose Your Own Adventure novel features a table filled with self-serving food in an otherwise abandoned castle. It's a trap, Have a Nice Death!
  • Rober E Howard's Xuthal of the Dusk starts off like this, after Conan the Barbarian and his Girl of the Week are attacked by what seems to be a dead man. Natala fears this trope when she sees a meal laid out. Conan tells her she's a fool since they are starving, but once he has eaten it does occur to him that it could be poisoned.
  • CS Lewis subverts this in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, with a banquet that appears to have put several people to sleep for years. Despite seeing the victims still sitting at the table, some of the crew are tempted to dig in, though the more Genre Savvy among them shoot that idea down. Later it turns out that the banquet is perfectly all right -- the victims fell asleep because during a heated argument, one of them grabbed the stone knife the White Witch used to kill Aslan, and they all dropped asleep as soon as he touched it.
  • The Dark Tower: A disturbing example occurs where Susannah's demon counterpart (it's a long story) wakes up in an abandoned castle on the edge of the mountains between Thunderclap and End-World, and encounters a lavish banquet table in an otherwise deserted castle full of rumbling machinery and torture chambers. The food is not what it looks like in her dream.
  • In 'Warrior Cats, the cats try to invoke this: they leave out some freshly-killed prey stuffed with highly poisonous berries in the hope that this unexpected meal will look appealing to the local mountain lion, who they hope will eat it and die of the poison. It doesn't work; he merely swipes it aside and continues into the cave to attack the cats.


Theatre

  • Happens in III, iii of The Tempest. Prospero's magic lays out a beautiful banquet, which the shipwrecked King and attendants find, then when they try to eat, Ariel shows up as a giant harpy and scares the crap out of them. This is most likely based on King Phineas' banquet in The Argonautica.

Traditional Games

  • At least two old Dungeons and Dragons modules had inviting feasts laid out: I6 Ravenloft and X2 Castle Amber. The Ravenloft meal was perfectly safe, but the Castle Amber one was dangerous: some items were beneficial, some baneful and some had mixed effects. The rub was that the courses were served in order by ghostly servants and the effects only became apparent after each player had decided whether or not their character would eat the particular course, it had been consumed by the brave/foolish adventurers or spurned by the wise/cowardly characters, and the dishes taken away to prepare for the next course!

    The feast in Castle Ravenloft is specifically set out for adventurers. Strahd von Zarovich doesn't want his "guests" to die on an empty stomach.
  • As Changeling: The Lost is about fairy tales from Hell, you'd imagine there'd be a few places in the Hedge that take advantage of this. One such place is a sumptuous underground manse, accessible only by ladder, filled with beautiful decor and giant marionette handservants that offer you the finest refreshments. And then you try to leave, and find that the ladder's disappeared, and the walls up are covered with an extremely slippery substance. And if you stay in that manse, you'll slowly become one of those genderless automatons, dedicated only to pleasing your "guests."

Video Games

  • In Avernum 3, the backwater town of Erox is suspiciously empty except for one guy hanging out in the common area of the tavern, who tells the player's party that they can help themselves to any of the food, drink, or rooms there. It's a trap laid by a group of human-eating Rakshasa.

Notes

  1. You've got to hand it to her, if only because there are certain practical difficulties in handing anything to the monster.
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