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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 fires his arrow at the opponent's and splits it in half lengthwise.
To some extent, this is Truth in Television. It's not unusual for 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. However, for this trope to be active, 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 arrowshafts.
Trope Maker: Robin Hood. 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.
- In Brave this is how Merida wins the archery contest to avoid an Arranged Marriage.
- Played with in the archery contest scene in Robin Hood Men in Tights, where Filthy Luca does this to Robin's arrow.
Villager: He split Robin Hood's arrow in twain! (whereupon one of his teeth flies off)
- 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-travelling heroes, standing in for Robin Hood, pulls off this feat using a high-tech arrow with a built-in guidance computer.
Live Action Television
- Both Alfred and the villain known as The Archer did this several times in Batman
- The Myth Busters took on the Errol Flynn scene twice, and busted it both times. They suspect the arrow Flynn (or archery advisor Howard Hill) shot at had been tampered with -- their guest archer pulled the split off on the first try when firing at a hollow bamboo arrow.
- GURPS: Robin Hood includes Robin Hood style characters for different settings. The Wild West version is a White Man Gone Native whose native name 'Splits Arrow' comes from performing this feat.
- 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.
- 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 embeded in the other.