Bootstrapped Theme

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Sometimes, a tune previously a theme of a specific character, setting or otherwise, will become so popular and synonymous with the series itself that it becomes the accepted Theme Tune of the series. At this point, the theme will increasingly become prominent in anything related to the source, and, if there is already a theme for it, that theme may be replaced with the popular one.

This is a kind of Recurring Riff that becomes a straight up theme. If there is already a theme in place that is not as remembered as the Bootstrapped Theme, it can become a form of Title Confusion or I Am Not Shazam.

If you're wondering about the name, "bootstrapping" refers to an old story in which a man pulls himself and his horse out of a swamp by literally pulling himself up by his own bootstraps (or his own hair, it depends on the version); this is a term that also appears elsewhere, such as in statistics. Thus, these are songs that have taken center stage through their own merits, not because any creator really wanted it to be thus.

Compare Bootstrapped Leitmotif, where the Recurring Riff becomes a Leitmotif rather than a Theme Tune. See also Level 1 Music Represents, where the Leitmotif is derived from the music of a video game's first stage.

Examples of Bootstrapped Theme include:

Advertising[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Non-media example: The Amiga is often associated with the red and white checkered sphere from its first public demonstration, but its actual logo was a rainbow-colored check mark. The sphere would end up becoming the official logo.

Anime and Manga[edit | hide]

Film[edit | hide]

  • Warner Bros. had a theme for their logo, but it never caught on as the 20th Century Fox theme did. Now they have "As Time Goes By" from Casablanca.
    • The original theme had a short comeback in the early 1980s, when Warners ditched the 1970s abstract logo and brought back the shield. It was also the Warner Home Video theme for a while.
    • Warner Animation used the last four notes of the Animaniacs theme ("Those are the facts!"), but switched to the last notes of "Merrily We Roll Along" in 2009.
  • Casablanca itself is an example, too. The filmmakers wrote a song, specifically to be featured in the movie, which they were absolutely certain would become wildly popular, top all the charts, and become synonymous with the film. And that song was... "Knock on Wood." Seriously.
  • The main theme from Star Wars was actually Luke's theme. John Williams originally wanted to write a new main theme for the prequel trilogy, but Luke's theme was so well-associated with the franchise that they kept it during the opening crawl (and maybe once or twice in the underscore of The Phantom Menace).
    • To a lesser degree, what started out as Obi-Wan's theme in the original movie became the generic Force theme in each of the later movies (Revenge of the Sith kind of switched back and forth with the associations).
    • Even in the original movie, however, the Force theme was not exclusively associated with Obi-Wan. In fact, its two most prominent uses in the film are probably for the binary sunset and for the throne room ceremony, neither of which directly involves Obi-Wan.

Sunset: "George asked for Ben's theme there once he had heard it. I had originally scored that scene with Luke's theme, but when he heard the other, he said 'Could you put Ben's theme in there?' He liked it for some reason or other better for that scene. It is contemplative and reflective, and it works really very well. I think I have to say in the end he was very right."
Throne Room: "The entrance to the throne room has a big fanfare as they come in, and Ben's theme is used in a kind of parade way. In this sense it represents the triumph of the values of the Old Republic."

  • In Pirates of the Caribbean, you have to mention that Jack Sparrow's theme and "He's A Pirate," both of which became the extremely recognizable parts of the series - the first within it, the second outside of it.
    • It's starting to supplant the Indiana Jones theme as the quintessential adventure theme. It was used in a commercial for a History channel special or some such about ancient Greece.
    • Epic races too. Top Gear used it for a car-verses-ice kayak race.
  • What is recognized as the "Harry Potter theme" is actually called "Hedwig's Theme".
    • Alexandre Desplat, who scored Parts 1 and 2 of Deathly Hallows, has stated that he decided to associate the theme with the innocence of the early installments, which (to his own regret) meant that it couldn't be used very much. The music is heard and then cuts off abruptly when Hedwig dies, giving it the double association of the death of Hedwig herself and the end of Harry's innocence. In Hallows, Part 2, it is played when Harry returns to Hogwarts and when Hogwarts is saved from Snape's reign.
  • "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory.
  • Although Batman's theme in The Dark Knight Trilogy didn't fully develop until The Dark Knight, the track "Molossus" from Batman Begins seems to have become the main theme of the Nolan movies. It was heavily featured in the trailers for TDK, and the movie itself uses the five-note brass motif in key scenes.
  • From 28 Days Later, "In the House, In a Heartbeat," which is used once in the climax of the movie, is frequently treated as the movie's theme. Twenty Eight Weeks Later carries on with this and runs the song into the ground.
  • Rocky composer Bill Conti had already written a quieter, sadder sounding piano theme for Rocky's character in the contemplative moments of the movie. Director John Avidson then asked Conti to write something inspiring for the training montage. Conti just started off with the fanfare that opens the movie, took the sad theme he had already written and added a beat and some lyrics and it became "Gonna Fly Now" which became Rocky's theme.
  • Many consider The Rainbow Connection to be the theme for the Muppets as a whole. It was even played on the organ at the beginning of Jim Henson's memorial service.
  • Although the cast and crew hated the song, "Talk to the Animals," when they made the film Doctor Dolittle, it is now inseparable with the title character.
  • In Madagascar, Sacha Baron Cohen's improvising the words for a cover of "I Like to Move It," changed the song from an one off joke for his character to the de facto theme song of the film series.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The famous Mission: Impossible theme was originally written by Lalo Schifrin for a chase scene at the end of the pilot. Creator/producer Bruce Geller zeroed in on it as exactly the sort of thing he wanted for the opening credits.
  • The Final Jeopardy! music (a piece titled "Think!") overshadowed the actual theme tune to the Art Fleming version, and became the main theme when the show was brought back with Alex Trebek.
  • Bob James' instrumental Taxi theme, "Angela", was originally written for a single scene involving a character of that name in the first-season episode "Blind Date". But the producers liked the piece so much they decided to make it the title theme for the whole series.
  • The first season of The Twilight Zone used a different theme tune, which was composed by by Bernard Herrmann. For the second season on, the now-familiar theme was produced by splicing together two cues by Marius Constant named "Etrange 3" and "Milieu 2," written for the show but not intended to be used as theme music.
  • Lexx's Brunnen-G battle hymn became the show's most popular piece of music, and was used in the opening credits starting with Season 3.
  • In Andromeda, the motif that was originally Dylan Hunt's theme (by series composer Matthew McCauley) became the main title theme from the second season on, replacing the first-season theme, "The March of the High Guard" (by Alex Lifeson of Rush).
  • The "Requiem for the Line" from Babylon 5 originally appeared in flashbacks to a key moment of the backstory in the first season. It was bootstrapped into the title sequence for the third season.
  • Eight Is Enough had a instrumental theme tune in the first two seasons. On the second season episode "Who's On First" eldest son David sings a song with lyrics called "Eight Is Enough" at a school talent show. It became the show's theme song the following season.
  • Johnny Pearson's "Heavy Action" is now widely thought of as the Monday Night Football theme, but it was originally composed for a BBC sports series (Superstars), and even on MNF itself it was originally just used as background music for halftime highlights, not becoming the opening theme until several years later.
  • Supernatural has no real theme song. However, "Carry on Wayward Son" by Kansas has frequently been used for recap montages. Between that and the fact that it sums up the two main characters pretty damn well, it's become something of a unofficial theme for the show.

Theater[edit | hide]

  • Not quite a Theme Tune, but worth mentioning: the Act One finale of the musical Strike Up The Band, Jim and Joan (the principal couple) quarrel and split (until they reconcile in the second act), and her musical denunciation of him included four strangely lyrical bars. Although it was common in musicals of the 1920s for the Act One finale to include reprises of earlier numbers, with or without new lyrics, these four bars were not a reprise of any number in the version of Strike Up The Band which played Philadelphia in 1927. This version of the show failed to reach New York, but a few years later, a revised version of the show ran successfully on Broadway. In this version, Jim and Joan's love duet was a new song called "Soon," which George and Ira Gershwin developed out of those four bars mentioned above.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Many Bootstrapped themes in the video games, including most of examples below, are a result of specific case of First Installment Wins where the themes in question are heard at the first stage of the game or the equivalent of it and are usually one of the better themes of the soundtrack in order to make the good first impression, like the first level of Contra.
  • World 1-1 of Super Mario Bros., the first Overworld tune of the series, and pretty soon after the franchise song, and possibly widest known video game song of all time. Only Korobeiniki (the Tetris song) comes close to it in terms of notoriety.
    • A lesser known but recurring example is the music from World 1-2. Different remixes can be heard in Super Mario 64 (the Hazy Maze Cave level) and Mario Party.
      • There's a joke that goes "What's Mario's favorite kind of pants? "Denim Denim Denim" (Say it out loud if you don't quite get it).
    • And Super Mario Sunshine, in the bits where Shadow Mario takes FLUDD away from you.
    • And Super Mario Galaxy. They did World 1-1 too. And Super Smash Bros. used them both for its knock-off of the original Super Mario Bros.
      • Super Mario Galaxy also contains a redone version of the music for World 1-2 from Super Mario Bros 3. The CD that comes with the Wii version of Super Mario All-Stars, which contains one song each from multiple Mario platformers, contains the original version of that song.
    • Nobuo Uematsu once said in an interview that Japan should use this music as its National Anthem.
    • The "Water World" theme is used for the Title Theme Tune of Super Mario Bros. 2 US, as well as for all the titles in Super Mario Allstars.
    • The Gusty Garden Galaxy theme has become more or less the main theme for the Super Mario Galaxy series. Portions of it appeared in other areas of the first game (Purple Coin levels, the end credits). By the time of Galaxy 2's announcement, it was used in the trailer-specific composition, and made a few more appearances in the game itself.
  • If the song has shown up as a remake in Super Smash Bros.. Brawl, there is a good chance it's is one of those. World 1-1, the Zelda Overworld, and Korobeiniki (Tetris A) are all present.
  • It's worth it to mention that Korobeiniki was not in either NES version of Tetris. Its first appearance was in the Game Boy version.
  • Zelda presents a song that is BOTH a Bootstrapped Theme AND a Bootstrapped Leitmotif: the all-time classic Game Title/Overworld from the first game. In The Legend of Zelda a Link To T He Past it became the series' Main Theme, and in The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker it also got the function of Link's Leitmotif.
  • Kirby has never really had a main theme, except maybe the one to which Kirby dances after every stage. Somehow, thanks to catchiness and the Super Smash Bros. games, people have associated the game with... several different songs, but mostly Green Greens, Dedede's Theme or the Gourmet Race theme.
    • The Castle Lololo theme from the first game has somehow become bootstrapped to Dyna Blade, as was the case in Kirby Air Ride and Kirby Super Star Ultra.
    • Green Greens became Kirby's theme long before Super Smash Bros. Play almost any level in any of Super Star's games and a snippet of Green Greens will be played somewhere in the music, with very few exceptions.
  • The Mute City music is now taken to be the F-Zero "theme". It's the first course in F-Zero and F-Zero X, so it's the one that literally everyone who's played the games knows, which is one reason it's in Super Smash Bros., and is also the reason why it was resampled in F-Zero GX. Big Blue's music is also instantly recognizable.
  • The Hell March of Command & Conquer: Red Alert became the series's theme. Speaking of CnC, we also have "Act on Instinct" (the most known music of Tiberian Dawn), and Renegade had "Got a Present for Ya," which was presented as "Havoc's theme".
  • "DK Island Swing" from Jungle Hijinx in Donkey Kong Country eventually became the tune most associated with the franchise, and has appeared in every game since (though the original Donkey Kong theme also makes appearances in most games).
  • The intro music to the first maze of Pac-Man is only played when you hit Start, but since it's the very first thing you hear when you play it, it's currently an icon of the entire series. 20th Anniversary Pac-Man World, in fact, plays a remix of this theme as soon as you enter a maze.
    • A full-length remix alongside various 'wakkawakkawakka' sounds made up the background loop for the Sky Digital version of Pac-Man.
    • The intermission music has also gotten its share of remixes.
  • Pollyanna was originally just one of the four overworld themes in MOTHER. Its ongoing employment at significant points in EarthBound, Mother 3 and Super Smash Bros. came to make it emblematic of the MOTHER trilogy overall, and it remains one of the most popular songs when it comes to fan remixes and one of the first examples of Crowning Music of Awesome from the series that fans will invariably cite if asked.
    • Another example from MOTHER is "Eight Melodies (Queen Mary's Lullabye)", which also made remixed appearances in each subsequent game as well as, again, being part of one of the MOTHER remixes for Super Smash Bros..
  • The Brinstar theme from the original Metroid seems to have turned into one of these, according to Super Smash Bros. It also appears in Metroid Prime.
    • Also the save jingle, which now tends to be played whenever Samus makes an entrance.
      • They played with that one in Metroid: Zero Mission—in it, the item/save tunes are versions that sound far closer to the original game's, which has a different melodic focus than the versions that came from Super Metroid and on that gamers tend to be more familiar with. This is used to great effect when Samus gets her power suit back after being shot down by the Space Pirates, causing the modified later-game jingle to sound out, reorchestrated, in full force.
    • The Prologue and Credits theme of Super Metroid has become "Theme of Samus Aran, Space Warrior".
    • Super Metroid had a couple different boss battle themes that played for multiple bosses. The one that just happened to play during encounters with Ridley (and the escape sequences) has been permanently branded as the "Theme of Ridley". Being the most recognizable recurring boss of the series, each new Metroid game brings with it a new remix of the theme whenever he appears. Funnily enough, Metroid Fusion had two different remixes of this theme, the second of which was used as an escape theme. Super Smash Bros. Brawl also had two remixes of this same track for two different versions of Ridley, one of which was lifted straight from Metroid Prime.
  • Castlevania has three of these: if people don't remember "Vampire Killer" (the stage 1 theme from the first game), then they'll remember "Bloody Tears" (the daylight theme from Simon's Quest) or The Beginning (intro stage of the third game).
  • The title theme from Mega Man 2 has more or less become the title character's theme tune, being reused by several games in the main series & also as his theme when he appears in crossovers such as Marvel vs. Capcom.
    • A (barely) less popular version is the Mega Man 3 title theme. Anniversary Collection uses both of them for its intro.
    • Many of the subsequent Mega Men have gotten this treatment. Mega Man Zero has Clover, the theme song from the second MMZ game, particularily the fast-paced version that serves as the BGM for the intro stage. It's strange, because before he got his series, back in the Mega Man X series he actually got a completely new Leitmotif for every game (except in X5 and X6) he was in, though the one from X1 reappears in Z1's intro stage.
      • Not only that, but in X1, after Zero saves X from Vile in the intro stage, the music that plays during their conversation is called 'Variant X', and was intended to be X's theme. Guess who adopted it in its two later appearances in the series...
      • It could be argued that in all the games where X and Zero are both fully playable, their respective intro stage themes serves as their leitmotifs, especially in X4.
    • Mega Man Trigger has also gotten this treatment. The Flutter vs. the Gesellschaft battle theme from the first game has been remixed for every single cameo of the Legends characters in Namco X Capcom, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom and Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
  • The "Orc War Room" theme from Warcraft II plays in the game's main menu, and is thus considered its main theme. Some fans even think of it as the entire series' motif.
  • The main theme to Age of Empires started as an ordinary soundtrack in the first game.
  • Most people outside Russia think of Korobeiniki as the Tetris theme... unless you grew up playing it on the NES, in which case you probably think of Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
  • Officially, the theme song of the Final Fantasy series is "Final Fantasy" (It's also known as "Prologue," because that's what it was called in Final Fantasy IV). Unofficially, while it is recognizable, it shares the title of "theme of the series" with three other pieces: the "Prelude" or "Crystal Theme," the "Chocobo Theme", and probably most of all, the "Victory Fanfare".
  • Partial example: Fire Emblem has a well-known theme song, but a lot of people in the west associate it with the encounter/recruitment theme known as "Together, We Ride", due to Marth's late debut.
    • Oddly enough, the song used in Super Smash Bros. contains the theme proper in its latter half, though the "Together, We Ride" part definitely overshadows it.
  • "Theme of Adol" from the Ys series, although there is at least one game in which it doesn't appear(The Ark of Napishtim). Also, "Feena" from I and II, and the Recurring Riff that appears several times in both IV and VI.
  • KISS FOR GEESE. It doesn't matter what game he's in, guaranteed, Geese Howard will have this music track coming with him. Its almost impossible to imagine an SNK game starring Geese where this tune ISN'T heard. The only time he hasn't had it with him are Wild Ambition, wherein he gets a suitable substitute theme called "The Battle", Neowave which featured a new track called Speed Hucker, and Neogeo Battle Coliseum...and the SNK vs. Capcom series, but yeah.
  • Similarly, the first Art of Fighting had the theme for Ryuhaku Todoh, the very first opponent that's fought. The song has essentially become synonymous with both the series and the characters, especially main character Ryo Sakazaki. Any time Ryo shows up, you can be almost guaranteed that this song will tag along with all but of two the themes for the Art of Fighting team in the King of Fighters series being either a remix of this song or at least very heavily inspired by it; "Kamikirimushi" from '96 and "Fight to the Limit" from 2001 being the only real exceptions.
  • "Techno Syndrome" from a Mortal Kombat tie-in album, immortalized in The Movie.
  • The title Theme Tune to the first Twisted Metal is "Twisted Theme", but the more common Recurring Riff in the game is that of "Asphalt Assault".
  • The Wild ARMs series is six games strong at this point, but probably its most famous piece of music is the very first one series fans heard: "Into the Wilderness", the intro theme of the first game. It has been remixed and sampled several times throughout the series since, and should you ever meet a Wild ARMs fan one day, feel free to revoke their title if they don't instantly recognize that song.
  • Lucca's Theme from Chrono Trigger became the battle victory music in Chrono Cross.
    • There are rumors that the tune was intended as Chrono Trigger's battle victory theme, but was repurposed as Lucca's Theme when CT's battle victory theme was phased out along with some other musical ideas left on the cutting room floor. It still counts as a bootstrapped theme, though.
  • E1M1 for Doom.
  • Super Robot Wars: "Everywhere You Go", theme of Ryusei Date has become the theme song of Banpresto, the company that makes the games. Whenever you see their logo, expect the first few notes to play.
  • Rocket Knight Adventures has Stage 1-1's theme.
  • "Velvet Room," originally an incidental piece in Megami Ibunroku Persona and Persona 2, was elevated to this status by its use as "The Poem For Everyone's Souls" in Persona 3, to the point it even became that game's Final Battle theme.
  • "I Wanna Take You For a Ride", the character select screen music from Marvel vs. Capcom 2, a game infamous for its Soundtrack Dissonance. This song is the only piece of music that's fondly remembered among fans. It was sampled for a song called "Take U 4 Ryde" by Talib Kweli and Oh No for the Marvel vs. Capcom 2 mixtape and the latest Marvel vs. Capcom 3 trailer has a remix of the song playing at the end of the trailer.
  • In The Empire Strikes Back, the track "Hyperspace" is looped over the scene of the snowspeeders searching for Han and Luke toward the beginning, and In the Star Wars tie-in game Rogue Squadron, the arrangement of this piece is called the "Snowspeeder Theme" in the sound test.
  • The music for Areas 1, 3, 4, and 7 in Bionic Commando (and Stage 2 in the arcade version) is usually considered the main theme.
  • The title theme for Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped was reused in several later titles in the series. Marc Baril, composer for the later games, favored making a more original soundtrack, but even he couldn't resist making a rendition of his own.
  • For Starfy-standards playing his old games prior to Legendary Starfy (known as Stafy 5 in Japan), it's Lobber's Cave, the first world featuring the titular old lobber man teaching Starfy to spin in means of attack. The theme got spun around in different styles for first four titles.
  • Silent Hill 2 has "Theme of Laura", which is considered the theme for the game, if not the entire series, rather than just Laura herself.
    • The opening theme to Silent Hill 1 may also be considered the series theme, as the melody in the second half is reused in most of the subsequent games, and a version With Lyrics is used for the credits of Silent Hill 3.
  • Stage 1's theme is this for Blaster Master.
  • The main theme of Kid Icarus is largely overshadowed by Underworld at this point, even being used in Uprising's trailer. Though this may be because very few people ever got past that level.
  • Halo: Reach does not have a piece explicitly stated to be the main theme, but because "Unreconciled" is so awesome and contains a reprise of the original Halo theme, many consider it to be the main theme. Also, Halo 3: ODST also has no explicit main theme, but Orbital Drop Shock Trooper is widely considered to be the main theme, both because of its awesomeness and because of its title.
  • The Sun Rises for Okami. What was used as a final boss theme eventually became the game's theme, if Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 is anything to go by.
  • If you're a Street Fighter character who appeared in Street Fighter II or anything thereafter, your first theme will be linked to you forever, to the point that you're lucky if you get anything but arranged versions of it for all your future appearances even outside SF media. That's how dedicated the composers are to first impressions for your music.
    • On a more trope-consistent basis, Street Fighter IV's secondary theme, used in two versions for the (of course) second half of the opening and for the "Volcanic Rim" stage, has been adapted into main menu music for Super SFIV and even rearranged four times over for Street Fighter X Tekken, whereas the original opening theme "Indestructible" has been all but abandoned.
  • Though Final Fantasy XIII does have its own quite well-known theme, it's just as often assosiated with its main battle theme: Blinded By Light.
  • While the individual Rance games may have it's own theme, the Leitmotif of the protagonist, My Glorious Days, has been associated with the series as a whole.

Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • In Homestuck, the song Sburban Jungle was initially only used as the installation theme for the game Sburb. It quickly more or less become the main theme of the comic, featuring in both the Act 3 and Act 4 closers.
    • Considering that the game of Sburb is the source of all the conflict in the series in the first place, it's still pretty appropriate.
      • Sburb itself basically is the story; the only real reason the author went with "Homestuck" over "Sburb" as the comic's title is because Sburb would be prone to being misspelled and wasn't very distinctive.
    • The song itself is actually largely unused, it's mostly the Recurring Riff that is so popular. At this point finding a new song without the riff is becoming difficult.
      • Defied later; the riff does not appear a single time in the End of Act 5 song, Cascade.
        • Actually, the riff does appear in the End of Act 5 flash itself, in the final song Black Hole/Green Sun; though only as a brief callback of about six seconds.
    • Upward Movement, ostensibly one of Dave Strider's Leitmotifs, has also seen a fair amount of reuse in the same way, most prominently as the base "foundation" and most recurring riff in the Act 4 closing animation's theme; it helps that it very much ties in with one of the series' Arc Words, "ascend".
    • Homestuck, a song that was specifically supposed to be a theme tune, has managed to turn the tide lately and gain more widespread recognition.
    • Chorale for Jaspers was originally Jaspers' Leitmotif, but it has since been bootstrapped into becoming one of Rose's themes. This is most prominent in At The Price Of Oblivion.
    • Likewise, Doctor was originally a theme for LOWAS, which stayed valid when its remix Savior of the Waking World was used for John's ascension, but after Savior of the Dreaming Dead was used for Jade's, it sort of became a theme for ascensions.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Possibly the best example of this is "Linus and Lucy" of Peanuts/Charlie Brown, which went from character theme to theme of the whole series. Complicated by the fact that there was already a tune, also composed by Vince Guaraldi, called "Charlie Brown Theme", which is damn near impossible to find since everyone calls "Linus and Lucy" the Charlie Brown Theme anyway. Listen to possibly the only video example of it on YouTube here.
    • Here is the official version.
    • The first "Charlie Brown theme" is played during the credits of "It's Christmastime, Charlie Brown".
  • "When You Wish Upon A Star" was just the opening theme to Pinocchio, but now it is nothing short of THE song associated with all Disney theatrical productions, eventually becoming the song that plays with the logo before all its films.
  • Raymond Scott's "Powerhouse" is associated with Cartoon Network's on-air look from 1997 to 2004.
  • Aeon Flux's theme tune was originally just a Suspiciously Similar Song version of the theme from Indiana Jones, as her debut short was a deconstruction of action movies. It was later remixed from a goofy, mock-triumphant, psuedo-orchestral sound into something more exotic & techno-ish for the later short Gravity & this version then became her leitmotif in the TV series. The "Breen National Anthem", leitmotif of Aeon's main antagonists has a similar story, as it was originally created as the theme for a single Breen character, Vaarsche Lockney, intended to sound like a Richard Wagner piece due to the character's Germanic looks, but it fit Bregna's authoritarian bent so well that the tune managed to outlast Lockney himself, who was spitted by an enemy swordsman a half-minute into his first & only appearance, by a good margin.