Since the very first image of Jason Momoa in Justice League was released, there has been one question on everyone’s lips: What’s going on with Aquaman’s trident?
Giving Aquaman's trident 5 points instead of 3—making it more Xtreme but NOT A TRIDENT—sums up Zack Snyder's DC Cinematic Universe in 1 prop pic.twitter.com/Fbs00kiarS— Sean T. Collins (@theseantcollins) April 25, 2017
DCEU Aquaman's trident needs more prongs. Three wasn't enough. Five wasn't enough. I say twenty prongs. Go to twenty.— John D. Serpico (@JohnSerpico) June 9, 2017
The word trident, of course, comes from the Latin words "three" (tri) and "teeth" (dentes), but Momoa’s weapon in the movie has five prongs. It’s such a point of contention that Momoa has fielded questions about it, as he did during an interview with WSVN-TV in Miami after being asked about trident grammar police.
Momoa: I didn’t call it a trident.
Chris Van Vliet: What do you call it?
Momoa: It’s a quindent, but we don’t call it that in the movie, and when you watch Aquaman you’re going to see him go for the trident, so everyone’s just got to stay tuned for a hot minute.
Van Vliet: Oh, so you’re saying there’s a different one.
Momoa: Well, yeah, he’s not the king yet. He looks to Mera and he goes “I need to borrow something. I need you to do me a favor,” so that’s when she gives him the equipment.
In that snippet, Momoa seems to explain away the five-pronged spear in Justice League by pointing out that while it is a weapon, it’s not the weapon, meaning it’s not the famous trident that Aquaman wields in the comics. Momoa is right, in a way. The Aquaman in Justice League is not yet fully equipped; in fact, when we first meet the man known as Arthur Curry in the film, he’s way more into chunky knitwear than weaponry. But when an alien attack jeopardizes the entire planet, Aquaman returns to Atlantis, where Mera has been holding down the fort in his absence. He’s too late to help out under the sea, but before he returns to the surface, he tells her, “I’m gonna need something from you.”
The next time we see Aquaman, he’s carrying a massive, silver trident borrowed from Mera that looks about seven feet tall and has five long prongs. He totes it around with him and uses it to spear alien-bugs, to hold back a wall of water, and, at one point, to try to break the skin of a being with unbreakable skin. (It doesn’t work.)
It’s definitely not the trident that Aquaman wields in the comics, but Momoa’s explanation, that the trident has five prongs because it’s not the real trident, simply does not hold water. It’s true that Aquaman’s trident in the most recent incarnation of the comics looks very different from the one in the movie—it’s gold and has more intricate metalwork around the root—and that it has a different origin story. But that trident also has five prongs. So what gives?
True to his seafaring roots, Aquaman has wielded various tridents throughout his long history, from the classic Trident of Neptune, which was forged by the Cyclops out of adamantine and Neptune’s own essence, to the Trident of Poseidon, “a talisman of the sea god’s favor,” according to the DC Comics Encyclopedia. Both tridents come with their own powers, including control over the weather and, of course, the sea. They’ve also been known to also give him the ability to materialize items and project force fields. Different artists have put their own stamp on the tridents, but the Trident of Poseidon in particular has been depicted with the traditional three prongs, with three large prongs flanked by two smaller, winged prongs, and with the full five prongs used today.
To determine when Aquaman started using the trident we associate with him today, I called on the wisdom of the D.C. Comics archivist, who explained that Aquaman probably first acquired it in 1998, in Aquaman #46. But the trident only really became Aquaman’s standard weapon in 2011, when D.C. Comics revamped their monthly line of comic books; in that version, the trident is one of the seven powerful Atlantean relics forged by Atlantis’ first king. That’s the same golden, five-pronged trident I’d expect to see in the standalone Aquaman movie—unless Momoa’s point about a “quindent” being different from a trident was a clue that the D.C. cinematic universe will go with an old-school, three-pronged trident.
Either way, we should probably get the language figured out first. If you want to use the Latin prefix quin- and call the five-pronged weapon a quindent, like Momoa, that’s cool. As an alternative, you might want to honor Poseidon by considering the Greek prefix penta-, giving us a pentadent. Or, in the spirit of the weapon’s history, you can continue to call it a trident and simply risk the wrath of pedants.
Or, you can borrow this line from Justice League, which Batman says to Aquaman while the two are trading barbs: “I’m not the one who brought a pitchfork.”