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Merida's shortbow is first seen when King Fergus presented it to her as a birthday present, much to her Queen Elinor's disapproval. Merida, while being instructed by her father, tries firing arrows with her new bow (missing every shot) untill the last arrow goes into the forest and Elinor tells Merida to go fatch the lost arrow. While she is gone Elinor scolds Fergus for giving Merida, whom she calls a proper lady.
Ten years later on one of the every once in a while days when there are no lessons, she goes riding on her horse Angus. She uses her bow to shoots arrows at targets she sets up in the forest (hitting them all showing that her archery skills have greatly improved, and just explores. She even climbs the Crone's Tooth and drinks from the Fire Falls in joy. Merida returns home to join her family for dinner.
On the day the sutiors are presented to the princess. Elinor proclaims that only the firstborn of the great leaders may compete in the games, which gives Merida an idea of how to get out of the marriage: she declares that she chooses archery for the Highland Games.
When the competition begins, Merida sneaks her bow and arrows behind her throne. As the suitors shoot at the targets, she chats with Fergus about each of them until Wee Dingwall wins by accident, striking a bulls-eye. She sneaks off and appears on the field, declaring she will shoot for her own hand. Ignoring Elinor's protests, she strikes the bull's-eye of the first two suitors' targets. When she shoots an arrow through the full length of Wee Dingwall's arrow and through the target, she smiles... until she sees her furious mother. Elinor drags and throws Merida into the tapestry room as they have a heated argument with each other about Merida's actions, with Elinor calling her a child and Merida calling her a beast for trying to ruin her life. Merida then throws a huge tantrum and slices the family tapestry between the pictures of herself and Elinor in a fit of rage, and Elinor throws Merida's bow into the fire out of anger. Merida tearfully runs away from the castle as Elinor quickly fishes the bow from the fire, feeling horribly guilty and she too begins to cry.