Created By: Nocturna on August 29, 2012 Last Edited By: StarSword on June 9, 2013
Troped

Fire Keeps It Dead

Burning the corpse to make sure it stays dead.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
This is one of the many fire-related tropes that were identified as part of the Kill It with Fire TRS thread. Name suggestions and description/definition refinement suggestions are welcome and encouraged.

Rolling Updates

In some worlds, or for some creatures, death is not permanent. For instance, vampires can respawn or sorcerors can resurrect the dead.

So what if you've killed someone or something and you want to make sure it stays dead?

Burn the body.

This is the reason why bodies of believed witches, vampires, and the like are burned after being killed (if they weren't killed by burning in the first place): the fire purifies the taint of evil, preventing resurrection or respawning. This variety will often show up in stories, where bodies will be burnt to prevent them from (potentially) being resurrected or from coming back to life.

This practice is generally connected to the idea behind Fire Purifies and Kill It with Fire.

See also Burn The Undead. Compare to Viking Funeral, where the body is burned for religious or ceremonial reasons.


Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
  • In the first chapter of InuYasha the shrine maiden Kikyo is burned with the Shikon Jewel so that she can take it with her to the afterlife where demons can't get to it, but the plan backfires when she is reincarnated as the Japanese school girl Kagome.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
  • Night of the Living Dead (1990). At the end, after the locals have gained control of the situation they burn the bodies of killed humans so they can't rise as zombies and "killed" zombies so they can't rise again.
  • The Thing (1982). A person killed by a Thing will become one unless their body is destroyed by fire. After Windows was killed by the Palmer!Thing, MacReady had to burn him with a flamethrower.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
  • A subversion: In H.P. Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, a repeated theme and instruction is to refrain from killing the necromancer villain with fire, as he can be resurrected from the ashes. Instead, the protagonist is instructed to dissolve the body in acid.
  • H.P. Lovecraft's short story "The Festival" has an appropriate quote.
    Wisely did Ibn Schacabao say, that happy is the tomb where no wizard hath lain, and happy the town at night whose wizards are all ashes.
  • In Garth Nix's Sabriel, undead are so serious a problem for the Old Kingdom that the spell to burn dead bodies is one of the first ones every Charter Mage learns.
  • Wildings in A Song of Ice and Fire burn their dead so they don't come back as Wights.
  • The Zombie Survival Guide recommends burning corpses during a zombie attack to make sure they don't resurrect, as well as diminishing the health hazard posed by decomposing flesh. Fire is the only way to safely dispose of a Solanium-infected corpse. All traces of the infection will be wiped out once the fire brings them down.
  • In Twilight the only way to get rid of a vampire permanently is, to quote Edward in the first book, to "tear him apart and burn the pieces." By Word of God they can even survive a nuclear detonation. (Somebody should probably explain to Stephanie Meyer how much heat a nuke releases...)
  • In Discworld, zombies are very strong, immortal and able to sew themselves back together if need be. However, the older they get, the drier they get, and so they're understandably nervous around fire.
  • In Three Hearts and Three Lions (the book which inspired Dungeons & Dragons' trolls), Holger and friends are fighting a troll, which keeps regenerating until they finally figure out to burn the bits they chop off.
  • Ciaphas Cain, being set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe) references the practice of burning orks several times. In ''Death or Glory", Cain is rather confused at how insistent Jurgen is that they burn the corpses of the orks they kill. The Valhallans have a particular hatred for and extensive knowledge of orks and discovered by accident during a lengthy ork invasion of their homeworld that doing so limits the reinfestation rate.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
  • Doctor Who:
    • This occurs to the Doctor and does it work? Course not. It's probably to convince the audience that he might be dead.
  • In the second season of Legend of the Seeker, the heroes have to burn the bodies of their foes so they don't return as Banelings, who serve the Keeper by killing more innocents. Banelings themselves can come back to unlife unless you burn the body. Zedd's Wizard's Fire gets a lot of use out of this.
  • Supernatural:
    • This is the main reasoning behind a "hunter's funeral." Hunters burn the bodies of other hunters killed on the job so that they can't be turned into zombies, resurrected as vengeful spirits, animated by demons, or tampered with by some other supernatural means.
    • "Salt and burn the body" is the standard solution to malevolent spirits and such. If the body's already been cremated, the boys need to find an alternate solution. Sometimes this means finding the little bit of the body that wasn't burned and setting fire to it.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • 3.5 has a spell that burns a corpse in a special way so that there is a 50% chance even the most powerful (at least non-epic) resurrection spell won't bring it back.
    • If a person is killed by a corporeal undead creature, they may become an undead of the same type a certain amount of time later. One way to prevent this from happening is to burn their body to ashes before the deadline.
    • And of course, trolls, which will eventually regenerate from any damage, even apparent death, unless burned with fire or acid.
  • In Exalted, the Zenith Caste of the Solar Exalted have an innate ability to burn dead bodies with Holy Solar Flames, specifically to prevent them from rising as the undead.[[note]]Since the Zenith were created before the Underworld or undeath existed, one might wonder why they got this ability in the first place...[[/note]]
  • Warhammer 40,000: Orks have more in common with fungi than animals physiologically, so when they die they release spores that eventually mature into more orks, guaranteeing that any world visited by orks will continue to be infested by them. However, burning the bodies tends to greatly reduce this, and in some cases completely prevent reinfestation. This process was discovered more or less by accident, as Imperial forces are quite flamer-happy.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
  • After defeating the demon Melzas in battle, Alundra finally kills him by destroying his body with fire.
  • In Assassin's Creed: Revelations, this was the only way Altair could prove that he actually killed Al Mualim instead of just a dupe created by the Piece of Eden. Needless to say, Abbas was displeased with this action.
  • The trolls in Baldur's Gate II will get up again after being taken down with non-fiery means, unless hit with one (or an acid arrow) while they are down.
  • Diablo III has them starting to burn the dead, since New Tristam is starting to be attacked by undead. Again.
  • Halo: In Halo 2, an Elite will lament that they did not bring weapons to burn the bodies when the Flood breaks out. In Halo 3, you finally do get a flamethrower. Of course...
  • If a zombie in Nox is killed by a non-fiery weapon/spell, the only way to prevent it from resurrecting a few seconds later is to immediately hit its corpse with a fire spell (even the weakest one will do).
  • In the Resident Evil "REmake", normal zombies have a chance of turning into Crimson Head zombies after dying and leaving their corpses behind. The best way to make sure they don't is carrying around a flask of kerosene and a lighter to burn bodies. However, your kerosene is limited.
  • Several factions in the Warcraft franchise do this when fighting the Scourge, both to their own dead and to the undead they just killed again. It's enough to prevent lesser necromancers from raising the bodies, but not the Lich King. This is first seen in a cutscene in III after Arthas has an entire city purged to stop the Scourge, then made common practice in World of Warcraft.
  • In Heroes of Might and Magic V, the necromancer Markal is cremated after his death because the heroes are worried he might try to restore himself to life as a lich.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Webcomics]]
  • Kria from Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures points out that fire is useful for making sure something you've killed in another way stays dead.
    Kria: "The (resurrection) ritual requires a full body. And someone seems to keep putting one in the ground. Cremation, Daniel. It works wonders."
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Real Life]]
  • Many cultures historically responded to pestilence by cremating everyone killed by the disease, even if they would normally dispose of the bodies some other way. However as far as we know, religious texts notwithstanding it's impossible for bodies to come back to life.
  • By some reports witch-burning arose because cremation was believed to destroy the soul, thereby preventing Satan from returning the witches to life.
[[/folder]]

Indices: Resurrection Tropes, This Index Is On Fire, Undead Index

Community Feedback Replies: 51
  • August 30, 2012
    Rognik
    Diablo III has them starting to burn the dead, since New Tristam is starting to be attacked by undead. Again.
  • August 30, 2012
    Koveras
    • If a zombie in Nox is killed by a non-fiery weapon/spell, the only way to prevent it from resurrecting a few seconds later is to immediately hit its corpse with a fire spell (even the weakest one will do).
    • Likewises, the trolls in Baldurs Gate II will get up again after being taken down with non-fiery means, unless hit with one (or an acid arrow) while they are down.
  • August 30, 2012
    Arivne
    Film
    • Night Of The Living Dead (1990). At the end, after the locals have gained control of the situation they burn the bodies of killed humans so they can't rise as zombies and "killed" zombies so they can't rise again.
    • The Thing (1982). A person killed by a Thing will become one unless their body is destroyed by fire. After Windows was killed by the Palmer!Thing, MacReady had to burn him with a flamethrower.

    Literature
    • HP Lovecraft's short story "The Festival" has an appropriate quote.
    Wisely did Ibn Schacabao say, that happy is the tomb where no wizard hath lain, and happy the town at night whose wizards are all ashes.
  • August 30, 2012
    Astaroth
    @ Koveras: The troll thing applies to trolls in most Dungeons And Dragons settings. There's overlap with Weak to fire
  • August 30, 2012
    KTera
  • August 30, 2012
    Astaroth
    The Zombie Survival Guide recommends burning corpses during a zombie attack to make sure they don't resurrect, as well as diminishing the health hazard posed by decomposing flesh.
  • August 30, 2012
    NightNymph
    Live Action Television
    • This is the main reasoning behind a "hunter's funeral" in Supernatural. Hunters burn the bodies of other hunters killed on the job so that they can't be turned into a zombie, resurrected as a vengeful spirit, animated by a demon, or be tampered with by some supernatural means.
  • August 30, 2012
    MrRuano
  • August 30, 2012
    randomsurfer
    ^^Also in Supernatural a common solution to the Monster Of The Week, if it's a ghost or other formerly-alive being, is to find and burn its corpse and/or bones, which utterly destroys it on this plane.
  • September 18, 2012
    elwoz
    Literature
    • In Garth Nix's Sabriel, undead are so serious a problem for the Old Kingdom that the spell to burn dead bodies is one of the first ones every Charter Mage learns.

    Real Life
    • Many cultures historically responded to pestilence by cremating everyone killed by the disease, even if they would normally dispose of the bodies some other way.
  • September 18, 2012
    captainsandwich
    3.5 Dungeons And Dragons has a spell that burns a corpse a special way so that there is a 50% chance even the most powerful (at least non-epic) resurrection spell won't bring it back
  • September 18, 2012
    KingZeal
    In the Resident Evil "REmake", normal zombies have a chance of turning into Crimson Head zombies after dying and leaving their corpses behind. The best way to make sure they don't is carrying around a flask of kerosene and a lighter to burn bodies. However, your kerosene is limited.
  • September 18, 2012
    PapercutChainsaw
    Should there be a separate trope for funeral pyres that aren't related to the undead? Fiery Funeral, perhaps?
  • September 18, 2012
    Nocturna
    ^ This isn't just for undead. This is for any situation where a dead body is burned to keep the person/creature from coming back in any form. That can include preventing "mundane" magical resurrection.
  • September 18, 2012
    Jordacar
    [[folder:Live-Action TV]]
    • In the second season of Legend Of The Seeker, the heroes have to burn the bodies of their foes so they don't return as Bainlings, who serve the Keeper by killing more innocents.
  • September 19, 2012
    wotnoplot
    This occurs to The Doctor ([[Doctor Who]]) and does it work? Course not. It's probably to convince the audience that he might be dead.
  • September 21, 2012
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Dungeons And Dragons
      • If a person is killed by a corporeal undead creature, they may become an undead of the same type a certain amount of time later. One way to prevent this from happening is to burn their body to ashes before the deadline.
  • September 21, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    • Halo: In Halo 2, an Elite will lament that they did not bring weapons to burn the bodies when the Flood breaks out. In Halo 3, you finally do get a flamethrower. Of course...
  • September 21, 2012
    captainsandwich
    @Arivne, some undead spawn abilitites result in the creation of a different undead, but if they are not the exact same type, it is usually something that is both weaker and similar.
  • October 15, 2012
    ArcadesSabboth
    I think you should merge Sandbox.Kill It With Fire into this, and rename it Burn It With Fire. That way whether you killed the monster with fire to make sure it was dead, burned the body with fire to make sure it stayed dead, or killed the undead monster to make sure it was really dead and stayed that way, they're all the same trope. It would also cover burning Orks to prevent them from reproducing, and burninating an Artifact Of Doom to make sure it's destroyed for good.
  • October 15, 2012
    StarSword
    Under Live Action TV:

    • In Legend Of The Seeker, banelings can come back to unlife unless you burn the body. Zedd's Wizard's Fire gets a lot of use out of this.
  • October 15, 2012
    ArcadesSabboth
    In Exalted, the Zenith Caste of the Solar Exalted have an innate ability to burn dead bodies with Holy Solar Flames, specifically to prevent them from rising as the undead.[[note]]Since the Zenith were created before the Underworld or undeath existed, one might wonder why they got this ability in the first place...[[/note]]
  • October 15, 2012
    Tomodachi
    Real Life: Cremation.
  • October 16, 2012
    Nithael
    Several factions in World Of Warcraft do this when fighting the Scourge, both to their own dead and to the undead they just killed again. It's enough to prevent lesser necromancers from raising the bodies, but not the Lich King.
  • October 16, 2012
    NightNymph
    ^X5 Arcades Sabboth: Burn It With Fire is adequate (even if, for me, it seems a bit redundant), but for me isn't very descriptive of what's going on here (not emphasizing the "making sure it stays dead" Part). How about Finish It With Fire? It has a little alliterative appeal and points out the "making sure" part?
  • January 18, 2013
    elwoz
    Bump for hats.
  • January 18, 2013
    TheAnswer
    Film
    • In Star Wars Luke burns the body of Darth Vader, most likely to symbolize the true death of the Sith lord.
      • As a form of Call Forward, they Burn Qui-Gon's body at the end of episode 1.

    Western Animation
    • The Firebenders particularly fond of doing this to their royalty.
  • January 20, 2013
    KingZeal
    Anime & Manga
    • In Blade Of The Immortal, the kessen-chu ("Bloodworms") are shape-shifting parasites which takes the place of any destroyed flesh just so long as there is enough of it left to patch or reconnect. This allows the eponymous immortals to regenerate indefinitely. In-universe, there are only a few ways to get around this: dismemberment, freezing, suffocation, and fire. Any one of those four will kill an immortal for good.
  • January 21, 2013
    Chabal2
    • Warhammer 40 K: When orks die, they release spores that eventually mature into more orks, guaranteeing that any world visited by orks will continue to be infested by them. However, burning the bodies tends to greatly reduce this, and in some cases completely prevent reinfestation. This process was discovered more or less by accident, as Imperial forces are quite flamer-happy.
    • In Discworld, zombies are very strong, immortal and able to sew themselves back together if need be. However, the older they get, the drier they get, and so they're understandably nervous around fire.
  • February 18, 2013
    StarSword
    @The Answer: You want Call Forward, not Call Back. Also, the EU establishes that it's more a case of Due To The Dead: cremation is standard funeral practice for the Jedi.
  • February 20, 2013
    IsaacSapphire
    In Doctor Who, this is done to The Master's body after he's dead of other causes. He is a time lord though...
  • February 20, 2013
    Xtifr
    Literature:
  • February 20, 2013
    aurora369
    It's also heavily implied that what Luke burns is just empty armor and cyborg parts.
  • February 21, 2013
    Nithael
    ^In any case, it wasn't done to prevent a zombie Vader, so it's not this trope. Same thing for the Avatar The Last Airbender example.
  • February 21, 2013
    randomsurfer
    The non-Zombie version is Viking Funeral, so a "compare to..." line would probably be appropriate.
  • February 22, 2013
    Bisected8
    • Ciaphas Cain (being set in the Warhammer 40 K universe) references the practice of burning Orks several times. In "Death or Glory", Cain is rather confused at how insistent Jurgon is that they burn the corpses of the Orks they kill.
  • February 22, 2013
    GuyIncog
    It seems like there'sa bit of a gap here - neither this nor Viking Funeral currently cover burning bodies for criminal purposes, i.e. to destroy evidence.
  • March 23, 2013
    Xtifr
    ^Destroying The Evidence should be a trope on its own, and I don't think that burning as one specific method is worth making into a separate trope. When it comes to corpses, dissolving them in caustic chemicals is surely just as common.

    I'm not sure if we have that trope--I would expect so, but if you can't find it, Lost & Found is the place to go. In any case, it's not this trope, which, if it's really up for grabs, I'll be glad to adopt.
  • March 23, 2013
    Nocturna
    It's kinda up for grabs. It really would be better if all the fire tropes for Kill It With Fire were launched at once, because they're so interrelated, but I haven't had time to shepherd the YKTTWs. If you're willing to work on all of them, though, that would be great.
  • March 23, 2013
    xanderiskander
    I think Burn The Body is a good name for what this trope describes. But you could just as easily call it "Cremation", and nobody would know the difference. And if you did it could double as a funeral trope, since the article already describes some true history about cremation, and why people do it.

  • March 23, 2013
    maxwellsilver
    If it's explicitely about preventing something or someone from returning from the grave, I don't think funeral pyres and cremation are examples, unless they're doning it for that reason.
  • March 24, 2013
    StarSword
  • March 24, 2013
    ArcadesSabboth
    Yeah, a generic name like Cremation would not help keep the trope on focus.
  • March 26, 2013
    MokonaZero
    The only way to kill a vampire in Twilight is this.
  • May 29, 2013
    Synchronicity
    In A Song Of Ice And Fire, characters end up having to do this in case the dead bodies become reanimated as wights, servants of the Others.
  • May 29, 2013
    herbides
    Anime/Manga
    • In the first episode of Inu Yasha the shrine maiden Kikiyo is burned with the sacred jewel of macguffin so that she can take it with her to the afterlife where demons can't get to it, but the plan backfires when she is reincarnated as the Japanese school girl Kagomi. Both Kill it with Fire and Burn the Body are frequently rehashed in this show as Inu Yasha and Kagomi go traipsing about fighting demons.
  • May 29, 2013
    ginsengaddict
    I'm surprised no one has mentioned Game Of Thrones. Yeah, A So Ia F is already on the list, but they are still separate works, even though Go T is an adaptation.
  • May 29, 2013
    StarSword
    This still needs a replacement name to prevent misuse for cremation in general. Hat withdrawn until that's taken care of.

    And to expand on Mokona Zero's example:
    • Vampires in the Twilight series can only be permanently killed by tearing them apart and incinerating the pieces.
  • May 29, 2013
    Astaroth
    In the Doctor Who example, the Master was cremated after his apparent death at the end of the third series of the revival, though he found a way back from the dead.

    • In Heroes Of Might And Magic V, the necromancer Markal is cremated after his death because the heroes are worried he might try to restore himself to life as a lich.
  • June 8, 2013
    StarSword
    I'm gonna take this over and rename it to Fire Keeps It Dead.
  • June 9, 2013
    StarSword
    Launching.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

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