Created By: Ardiente on June 10, 2011 Last Edited By: klop422 on October 4, 2017

Mutilate The Body (was The Osiris Treatment)

Dismembering a corpse before disposing of it, often by dispersing the bits.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
A subtrope of Desecrating the Dead, this comes into play when a corpse is deliberately dismembered post-mortem. The reason can vary; sometimes it's the only way to make sure the corpse stays dead, other times this is part of a judicial sentence, and a pragmatic killer may have noticed that it's easier to hide the body if it's in smaller chunks. Let's not forget those occasions when the person/people doing the dismembering are just that angry at the late whomever. May not work if the deceased was capable of Pulling Themselves Together.

Falls solidly into Older Than Dirt territory, as one of the earliest known examples comes from the myth of Set's murder of Osiris (see the Mythology section below).

For this trope to be in effect, the body must end up in at least two pieces (more is fine). Simply stabbing/hitting a corpse isn't sufficient, those examples should go under Pummeling the Corpse.


Examples:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

Film
  • Seymour does this to his rival, in order to feed Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors, before the plant is big enough to devour people whole.

Literature
  • Discworld
    • Stoneface Vimes, The Kingslayer, was given this treatment after his execution.
    • In Discworld, golems must be destroyed this way as removing their 'chem' (the scroll that powers them) only switches them off. Though you can just destroy that (so long as another is not made).
    • Granny Weatherwax threatens a vampire (vampyre) with this treatment in Carpe Jugulum. Since vampires are immortal, it won't actually kill him, but being staked, burned to dust, scattered to the winds and left as a cloud of atoms floating through space for billions of years is close enough for the townsfolk.
  • Justified in Dracula, where after Lucy Westenra dies, Van Helsing stabs her in the heart and cuts her head off so she stops being a vampire. Somewhat downplayed, as it is seems with Dracula's death that the head does not need to be completely severed i.e. the body could remain mostly intact.
  • In Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart, the Villain Protagonist dismembers his victim's body and hides it under the floorboards. This does not stop him from imagining(?) the corpse's heart beating while the police are visiting, driving him to expose his own crime.
  • In Jumanji, after Alan Parrish's disappearance into the titular otherworld, one nasty rumor that started flying around was that his father chopped him up into little pieces and hid them throughout the house.
  • The Outskirters in The Steerswoman books bury all their dead this way. It's because they're terraforming the planet; the wider they spread the body, the larger the area they're exposing to Earth-based biochemistry.
  • This is standard procedure for powerful vampires in Anita Blake Vampire Hunter. After being 'killed', the head and heart are taken from the body and all burned separately and then the ashes scattered over different bodies of water.
  • The novel The Skinner by Neal Asher has the titular character existing mostly as a severed head, the rest of his bits being scattered everywhere. He's still an "i accidentally the whole planet" big bad even with this handicap.
  • Happened in the Erast Fandorin homage to Edgar Allan Poe (short story Table-Talk, 1882): Fandorin solves the mystery of what happened to a murdered girl's body by deducing that she was dismembered and smuggled out of her home in small boxes.
  • Twilight: Standard procedure for werewolves who have just killed a vampire is to rip the vampire into pieces, then burn the pieces.
  • The Saga of the Noble Dead: Vampires are beheaded and burned to prevent their return as just staking and burning them is quickly discovered not to keep 'em down.
  • In one of the Judge Dee novels, this trope was granted as mercy. The letter of the law called for the criminal in question to be cut to pieces while still alive, but due to a posthumous plea by his father (a noted court official) the criminal was allowed a quick death with the dismemberment coming afterwards.

Live Action TV
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • The gang had to separate the parts of at least one demon to prevent it coming back.
    • The Judge had had this done to him in the past, and Angelus put him back together again by reuniting all the pieces. Then Buffy blew him away with a missile launcher.
  • This often turns up in CSI and its spinoffs as a method of disposing of a body, but there have been a few instances where it was ritualistic or for intimidation (for example a guy in CSI: Miami who did it based on a song to try and look cool).
  • There was a variant in an episode of Jonathan Creek. The masked villain carried the unconscious victim into an old garage and was surrounded by witnesses as he closed the garage door. When the door was reopened after the police showed up, the victim lay passed out on the floor with the killer nowhere to be found. Turns out the victim was the masked villain. She (in her mask) carried a foam dummy into the garage and, while the door was closed, she cut the dummy into pieces and hid them (along with the mask and costume) in empty paint cans left in the garage, then pretended to lay down, knocked out.

Music
  • Voltaire sings about doing this to his ex-girlfriend's new lover in the song "Ex-Lover's Lover", and mailing each body part to another city around the world.

Mythology and Religion
  • Egyptian Mythology: Set tried disposing of Osiris' corpse by throwing it (sealed in its casket) into the Nile. When the casket washed ashore, Set called upon this trope as Plan B and tore the body apart, scattering the pieces across Egypt. While Isis was able to collect most of the bits, her inability to find everything meant Osiris could only come back as the ruler of the dead.
  • Happens in The Bible. In Judges 19, a gang rape/murder victim is dismembered, and a part of her body is sent to each of the twelve tribes to send a message about the depravity of the crime. The tribes are appropriately outraged.
  • Greek Mythology: When Jason and his crew were fleeing king Aetes (who wanted to reclaim the Golden Fleece and his daughter Medea) on the Argo, Medea murdered her brother Apsyrtus and started dismembering him, throwing the chunks overboard one at a time. As she'd expected, her horrified father slowed down to pick up the pieces, letting the Argonauts escape.

Radio

Tabletop RPG
  • Dungeons & Dragons.
    • Dismembering a body and scattering the pieces made bringing back the person with a Raise Dead or Resurrection spell impossible. It was still possible to do so (e.g. with a Wish) but much more difficult.
    • One way to permanently destroy a vampire involved cutting off its head.
  • In Warhammer when the great necromancer Nagash was slain, the skaven not only dismembered him but burned his remains with warpfire and then sent bits of ash in separate packages for their agents in different parts of the world to scatter. And the bastard still came back.

Video Games
  • Castlevania: After Dracula's defeat, his corpse was separated into five pieces and scattered across the land. In Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Simon Belmont has to reunite the pieces and destroy Dracula in a ritual meant to undo a curse the vampire cast.

Visual Novels
  • In Higurashi: When They Cry, Rena does this in one arc. After killing her father's cruel girlfriend and her yakuza lover, she dismembers their corpses and tries to hide them. Her friends catch her in the act. Luckily, Mion herself is yakuza related and thus was able to help hide the bodies for Rena.

Web Original

Western Animation
  • Rasputin in Anastasia . And he came back too. - Zero-Context Example
  • Taken Up to Eleven in a Robot Chicken sketch where a warrior defeats a werewolf and goes so far as to divide, cook, snort, and excrete him. It turns out to be one kid explaining to another how his role-playing game character shouldn't be able to revive itself.

Real Life
  • A person sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered was facing this trope. The last word should be taken literally — after everything else was done, the now-headless corpse would be cut into four pieces. Normally those pieces (and the head) would be put on display at various places around the country as an example of the fate awaiting anyone who committed treason. While the linked article only talks about drawing and quartering in England, the sentence itself was passed in many other countries as well.

Community Feedback Replies: 69
  • June 10, 2011
    Mozgwsloiku
  • June 10, 2011
    EEplayer
    Nah, this deserves its own article.
  • June 10, 2011
    Hadashi
    It's probably best not to include what she wanted the body for.
  • June 10, 2011
    Ryusui
    Why not just call it Mutilate The Body? (Which really calls for using the Munchkin card as a trope picture.)

    And in addition to chopping up a foe for fear of their revival or simply desecrating the corpse of an egregious lawbreaker in gratuitous fashion, don't forget the idea that a body in pieces is easier to hide.

    • In Jumanji, after Alan Parrish's disappearance into the titular otherworld, one nasty rumor that started flying around was that his father chopped him up into little pieces and hid them throughout the house.
    • In Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell Tale Heart, the Villain Protagonist dismembers his victim's body and hides it under the floorboards. This does not stop him from imagining(?) the corpse's heart beating while the police are visiting, driving him to expose his own crime.
  • June 10, 2011
    Ardiente
    ^ I thought he had buried her into the wall?
  • June 10, 2011
    Ryusui
  • June 10, 2011
    Hadashi
    • In Buffy The Vampire Slayer the gang had to separate the parts of at least one demon to prevent it coming back.
    • In Discworld Golems must be destroyed this way as removing their 'chem' (the scroll that powers them) only switches them off. Though you can just destroy that (so long as another is not made).

  • June 10, 2011
    Jeduthun
    - Happens in The Bible. In Judges 19, a gang rape/murder victim is dismembered, and a part of her body is sent to each of the twelve tribes to send a message about the depravity of the crime. The tribes are appropriately outraged.
  • June 10, 2011
    Generality
    • In the Malloreon, Urgit mentions that after his depraved and reviled father was killed, he slit his throat and buried him 17 feet deep, head down, just to be safe.

    Decapitation is one of the standard remedies for vampires for this very reason. In some parts of the world, it was common to cut off a corpse's head, or pin them to the coffin with a wooden stake, to ensure they would not rise again.
  • June 10, 2011
    Earnest
    This trope gets extra fun if the dismembered character is fond of Pulling Himself Together.
  • June 10, 2011
    Ardiente
    If the bits are buried at different places, that might be a little inconvenient.
  • June 10, 2011
    Aspie
    Not sure if this is an example but:

    • In Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Buffy destroys The Master's corpse by smashing his bones in with a sledgehammer. Justified by the fact that The Anointed One was attempting to resurrect him.
  • June 10, 2011
    Generality
    I think this needs a better title, but I can't begin to think of one.
  • June 10, 2011
    Earnest
  • June 10, 2011
    Micah
    Another borderline example (because the reason behind it is totally different):
    • The Outskirters in the Steerswoman books bury all their dead this way. It's because they're terraforming the planet; the wider they spread the body, the larger the area they're exposing to Earth-based biochemistry.
  • June 10, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    • This is standard procedure for powerful vampires in Anita Blake Vampire Hunter. After being 'killed', the head and heart are taken from the body and all burned separately and then the ashes scattered over different bodies of water.
  • June 10, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Yet another Buffy example: the Judge had had this done to him in the past, and Angelus put him back together again by reuniting all the pieces. Then Buffy blew him away with a missle launcher.
  • June 10, 2011
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Dungeons And Dragons.
      • Dismembering a body and scattering the pieces made bringing back the person with a Raise Dead or Resurrection spell impossible. It was still possible to do so (e.g. with a Wish) but much more difficult.
      • One way to destroy a vampire involved cutting off its head.
  • June 12, 2011
    thegrenekni3t
  • June 12, 2011
    Bisected8
    • This often turns up in CSI and its spinoffs as a method of disposing of a body, but there have been a few instances where it was ritualistic or for intimidation (for example a guy in CSI Miami who did it based on a song to try and look cool).
    • The Ghost In The Shell Stand Alone Complex epsidoe "Jungle Run" featured a serial killer who did this to his victims.
  • June 12, 2011
    cocoy0
    Common enough (in Real Life history) to merit a page. I think it is better if we apply a contrast with cooking the remains.
  • June 13, 2011
    jaytee
    There was a variant in an episode of Jonathan Creek. The masked villain carried the unconscious victim into an old garage and was surrounded by witnesses as he closed the garage door. When the door was reopened after the police showed up, the victim lay passed out on the floor with the killer nowhere to be found. Turns out the victim was the masked villain. She (in her mask) carried a foam dummy into the garage and, while the door was closed, she cut the dummy into pieces and hid them (along with the maska nd costume) in empty paint cans left in the garage, then pretended to lay down, knocked out.
  • June 13, 2011
    Surenity
    Voltaire sings about doing this to his ex-girlfriend's new lover in the song "Ex-Lover's Lover", and mailing each body part to another city around the world.
  • June 14, 2011
    TooBah
    Seymour does this to his rival, in order to feed Audrey II in Little Shop Of Horrors, before the plant is big enough to devour people whole.
  • June 14, 2011
    Mozgwsloiku
    I believe several people in the history of Great Britain were quartered and then sent to differnt towns as a "don't mess with the king" message to the people... I don't remember the names though (William Wallace probably?)
  • June 14, 2011
    jaytee
    ^Is "quartering" someone Exactly What It Says On The Tin? I had no idea.
  • June 14, 2011
    Pseudonym
    The song by Voltaire "Ex Lover's Lover"
  • June 14, 2011
    randomsurfer
    .
  • June 15, 2011
    Ardiente
    ^?
  • June 15, 2011
    randomsurfer
    ^I made a comment, then decided to remove it. Since you can't 100% delete a comment on ykttw the next closest thing is putting a period (or just a space) in.
  • June 17, 2011
    Ardiente
    Okay, c'm on folks, a few more examples and we launch

  • June 17, 2011
    Ardiente
    bump
  • June 17, 2011
    Rolf
    Theres decent examples list. just need some index ideas and better writeup.
  • June 17, 2011
    genewitch
    • The novel "The Skinner" by Neal Asher has the titular character existing mostly as a severed head, the rest of his bits being scattered everywhere. He's still an "i accidentally the whole planet" big bad even with this handicap.

    Someone else will have to be my memory for the names of the following
    • In the Sandman comics there's a severed head of some mythical character's son that is really important to a few stories, he was also dismembered.
    • on the SCP there's a dismembered evil that came together in the boxes it was stored in once.

  • June 19, 2011
    EEplayer
    Rasputin in Anastasia . And he came back too.
  • June 23, 2011
    Ardiente
    ^WTF? For real? bump
  • June 24, 2011
    Koveras
    Happened in the Erast Fandorin homage to Edgar Allan Poe (short story Table-Talk, 1882): Fandorin solves the mystery of what happened to a murdered girl's body by deducing that she was dismembered and smuggled out of her home in small boxes.
  • June 24, 2011
    Mozgwsloiku
    In Warhammer, when the great necromancer Nagash was slain, the skaven not only dismembered him but burned his remains with warpfire and then sent bits of ash in separate packeges for their agents in different parts of the world to scatter. And the bastard still came back.
  • June 24, 2011
    Ardiente
    ^ Wait, what? ''How?'
  • June 24, 2011
    hevendor717
    Taken Up To Eleven in a Robot Chicken sketch where a warrior defeats a werewolf and goes so far as to divide, cook, snort, and excrete him. It turns out to be one kid explaining to another how his role-playing game character shouldn't be able to revive itself.
  • June 24, 2011
    Sheora
    I'm noticing some confusion between the description and the examples. Is this just to avoid the resurrection of the deceased? Or does it include any dismemberment and disbursement of a corpse, such as a simple attempt to hide the crime?
  • June 25, 2011
    Deboss
    I think we've got something similar to this having to do with Rasputian Death or some such related to Rasputin.
  • June 25, 2011
    Micah
    ^Rasputinian Death.

    I think this is different, though. Rasputinian Death is about how the character dies; this is about what happens afterward.
  • June 25, 2011
    Ardiente
    Also Rasputinian Death is usually about a character who just. won't. fucking. die. The sort Shirou Emiya is okay with not being.

    In fact, a character may have had a very clean death, and then have their body mutilated/destroyed afterwards.
  • June 27, 2011
    TheFifthWall
    Granny Weatherwax threatens a vampire (vampyre) with this treatment in Carpe Jugulum. Since vampires are immortal, it won't actually kill him, but being staked, burned to dust, scattered to the winds and left as a cloud of atoms floating through space for billions of years is close enough for the townsfolk.
  • September 14, 2017
    Larkmarn
    Throwing in a bomb because this is not ready for launch.

    The name is a bad case of Trope Namer Syndrome, the laconic doesn't mention the Deader Than Dead part, and almost every example is a ZCE or explicitly doesn't fit (like people who dismember a corpse to make it easier to dispose of, that's not the same as dismembering a corpse to make sure they're Deader Than Dead).

    This is NOT ready to launch.
  • September 14, 2017
    darkemyst
    Unless this is altered to fit the laconic's description instead of staying with the current write up at least 8 of the examples do not fit.
  • September 15, 2017
    Arivne

    Zero Context Examples have been marked as such. They need more information to show how they fit the trope. Please don't remove the marking unless you add enough context.
  • September 15, 2017
    LavonPapillon1
    After Dracula's defeat in the first game, Dracula's corpse was separated into five pieces and scattered across the land. In Castlevania II Simons Quest, Simon Belmont has to reunite the pieces and destroy Dracula in a ritual meant to undo a curse the vampire casted.
  • September 15, 2017
    Snicka
    As people said above, the name is a case of Trope Namer Syndrome. I think both Quarter The Corpse and Kill Quarter Scatter would be good names.
  • September 16, 2017
    PistolsAtDawn
    This is standark procedure for werewolves killing a vampire in Twilight. Rip 'em into pieces and burn the pieces.
  • September 27, 2017
    darkemyst
    Literature
    • In the The Saga Of The Noble Dead Vampires are beheaded and burned to prevent their return as just stalking and burning them is quickly discovered not to keep 'em down.
  • September 27, 2017
    Chabal2
    Greek Mythology: When Jason and his crew were fleeing king Aetes (intending to reclaim the Golden Fleece and his daughter Medea) on the Argo, Medea murdered her brother Apsyrtus and started dismembering him, throwing the chunks overboard one at a time. As she'd expected, her horrified father slowed down to pick up the pieces, letting the Argonauts escape.

  • September 28, 2017
    Antigone3
    The Malloreon example doesn't fit — Taur Urgas was still in one piece when he was buried in an unmarked grave. (Urgit says he slit his father's throat, not that he cut his father's head off.)
  • September 29, 2017
    Antigone3
    There's a suggestion upthread of calling this Mutilate The Body. That sounds like a clear and easy to type title to me.

    Suggested rewrite of the trope description:

    A subtrope of Desecrating The Dead, this comes into play when a corpse is deliberately dismembered post-mortem. The reason can vary; sometimes it's the only way to make sure the corpse stays dead, other times this is part of a judicial sentence, and let's not forget those occasions when the person/people doing the dismembering are just that angry at the late whomever.

    For this trope to be in effect, the body must end up in at least two pieces (more is fine). Simply stabbing/hitting a corpse isn't sufficient, those examples should go under Pummeling The Corpse.
  • September 29, 2017
    Pichu-kun
  • September 29, 2017
    Badger96
    If this title stays, the writeup should probably explain that it comes from the Egyptian myth of Osiris being killed by Set, since its not readily apparent. Maybe leave out the penis part though.

    ^Antigone 3's rewrite is great.
  • September 29, 2017
    Arivne
  • September 30, 2017
    KZN02
    Toys
    • BIONICLE: Icarax is killed when he decides to forgo Teridax's plan, forcing Gorast to use her Mask Power to disrupt Icarax's teleportation, followed up by an energy blast by Vamprah, causing Icarax's atoms to scatter in all directions.
  • September 30, 2017
    Pichu-kun
    • In Gotham, the future Riddler cuts up his first victims, liquidates their bodies, and pours them down the drain.
  • September 30, 2017
    klop422
    • Justified in Dracula, where after Lucy Westenra dies, Van Helsing stabs her in the heart and cuts her head off so she stops being a vampire. Somewhat downplayed, as it is seems with Dracula's death that the head does not need to be completely severed i.e. the body could remain mostly intact.
  • September 30, 2017
    klop422
    • Justified in Dracula, where after Lucy Westenra dies, Van Helsing stabs her in the heart and cuts her head off so she stops being a vampire. Somewhat downplayed, as it is seems with Dracula's death that the head does not need to be completely severed i.e. the body could remain mostly intact.
  • September 30, 2017
    Generality
    This may not count, as he was arguably alive throughout the process, but:

    Related to Battle Trophy, is a body part is kept rather than dispensed with.

    Also, I don't think the Discworld example with Golems counts: golems can be repaired as long as any part of their original body remains.
  • September 30, 2017
    Snowy66
    The new title is much better ^^

    • In Futurama, during a "What If" episode. One story has Leela being impulsive which leads her to go on an inpulsive killing spree. The way she kills Hermes is hacking his body up with an axe and flushing him down the drain.
  • October 2, 2017
    GirlofMassDeconstruction
    If I remember correctly...
  • October 3, 2017
    Omeganian
    • In the fourth book of Tales Of The Magic Land, Urfin Jus, in order to motivate his army, claims that a garrison they left in a conquered province was slaughtered, with the bodies cut apart and fed to pigs. As soon as the army enters the province, they see their supposedly dead comrades alive and playing volleyball with the "murderers", causing Urfin's reign to collapse within about three minutes.
    • In the Sword Of Truth series, the only way to reliably stop a screeling (a demonic/undead assassin sent by The Keeper) is to hack it apart.
  • October 3, 2017
    foxley
    • In Very Bad Things, Boyd uses a chainsaw to cut up the bodies of the stripper and the security guard in the hotel bathroom. This makes it easier to transport the bodies to the desert where they are buried.
  • October 4, 2017
    Chabal2
    Warcraft III: Corpses that have been targeted by the Cannibalize ability can't be targeted by resurrection or Raise Dead spells.
  • October 4, 2017
    longWriter
    • Betrayal At Krondor: There is a type of enemy called a Black Slayer, who has sworn a special oath that essentially makes them immune to death unless their bodies are hacked to pieces and the pieces burned. Though there's a spell that can permanently destroy their corpses, too.

    • Red Vs Blue: Agent Washington destroyed Agent South Dakota's body thoroughly with multiple explosives and a flamethrower, though in theory at least, he was doing this to destroy all armor and equipment on the body to keep it from falling into the wrong hands.
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