Created By: Omeganian on October 23, 2012 Last Edited By: jormis29 on July 24, 2014

Blood For Mortar

The building will hold... but you need HumanResources.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
A custom, a prophecy, a lie, or there is simply a shortage of anything else... in short, in order for it to hold, you'll need to add some human blood or an entire human somewhere.

Can be a form of Sadistic Choice. Also a form of Powered by a Forsaken Child


Film
  • Invoked in 300: a Persian emissary sees that the Spartans have stacked up the bodies of the Persian soldiers, and they tell him their blood served as mortar.

Literature
  • In Dark Apostle, the Ghethsemenacht is a tower made of recycled Imperial buildings and glued together with human puree, built as a monument to the Chaos Gods. One of the slaves working on it discovers this when he finds a human tooth in the mortar.
  • In The Left Hand of Darkness, an Earthman notices all the bridges in Karhide have keystones set with pinkish mortar. Turns out they believe an arch will fall without a bloodbond. They used to mix the mortar with human blood and bones, but these days, animal substitutes are used.

Live-Action TV
  • An example from No Man of Woman Born: In the Merlin-1998 mini-series, Vortigern consults a soothsayer to find out why his castle keeps falling. The Soothsayer (taking false information from Mab) tells him to mix the blood of a man with no mortal father into his mortar and the castle will stand. Merlin, who was the only candidate found, knows that there's a spring under the castle, so he's basically building on water.

Tabletop Games
  • In the Ravenloft D&D setting, the House of Lament became cursed when a former owner had a young woman buried alive in its foundation, ostensibly because it was required (but in truth because he was a sadistic creep).

Video Games
  • In God of War, the temple that contains Pandora's Box also contains the tombs of its architect and his family- apparently the gods required their sacrifice for the temple's construction. Some of the puzzles found within require the family members' skulls as keys.
  • Eternal Darkness: The Pillar Of Flesh is constructed by The Ancients to facilitate their entry into our world. It is built of people smothered with concrete.
  • In The Secret World, the headmaster of Innsmouth Academy refutes the rumor that the school has a skeleton in every closet, he proudly declares that the skeletons are bricked into the walls. The school installs the corpses of mages into the walls and foundations to bolster its magical defenses and the power they have to work with.

Other
  • "London Bridge" Build it up with blood and bone, blood and bone, blood and bone, build it up with blood and bone, my fair lady.

Real Life
  • Research has proven that blood really does make good mortar. Specifically, it makes cement stronger and lighter. (United States Patent 4203674).
  • An old Chinese legend contains a variation. It tells about a bell which did not come out right during the casting. The ruler said the person making it will be killed if there will be one more failure. His daughter was foretold a young maiden's blood needs to be added. She jumped into the molten metal. It worked.
  • There is a bunch of myths about The Great Wall Of China. Some says that both animal and human bones was mixed into the mortar, other says that the people who died building it got buried inside the wall and used as a filler.


Community Feedback Replies: 25
  • October 23, 2012
    Astaroth
  • October 23, 2012
    rolranx
    I don't know, is this common enough in literature to justify a trope? I can't really think of it cumming up often.

    That being said I know there are urban legends to this effect that could be included on the list. I can't recall them off the top of my head, but they are pretty common so I'm sure you can look them up.
  • October 23, 2012
    Rotpar
    Is this specifically about humans being used for construction to properly create it or just humans being used for construction? Because I have two examples of humans used for building that would apply if the sacrifice isn't explicitly correcting some flaw.
  • October 23, 2012
    TheHandle
    Human Foundations as a good snowlcone to Human Resources.
  • October 23, 2012
    nitrokitty
    ^ "Good" is relative. I vote for just Blood For Mortar, it sounds more sinister and avoids the snowclone.

    • Eternal Darkness: The Pillar Of Flesh is constructed by The Ancients to facilitate their entry into our world. It is built of people smothered with concrete.
  • October 23, 2012
    zarpaulus
    I think I read a variation of Arthurian Legend where the Soothsayers were simply making stuff up and didn't expect Vortigern to find a child with no mortal father, unfortunately the ignorant villagers thought young Merlin was demon-spawn after he successfully predicted an eclipse. And the cause of the tower falling was a pair of hibernating dragons (one red, one white) buried within the mountain.
  • October 23, 2012
    Rotpar
    Sadly, snowclones are always wrong now.

    The Eternal Darkness example was one I was to suggest.

    • In The Secret World, the headmaster of Innsmouth Academy refutes the rumor that the school has a skeleton in every closet, he proudly declares that the skeletons are bricked into the walls. The school installs the corpses of mages into the walls and foundations to bolster its magical defenses and the power they have to work with.
  • October 23, 2012
    SharleeD
    • In the Ravenloft D&D setting, the House of Lament became cursed when a former owner had a young woman buried alive in its foundation, ostensibly because of this trope (but in truth because he was a sadistic creep).
  • October 23, 2012
    SKJAM
    • "London Bridge" Build it up with blood and bone, blood and bone, blood and bone, build it up with blood and bone, my fair lady.
  • October 23, 2012
    Chabal2
    Invoked in {{300}}: a Persian emissary sees that the Spartans have stacked up the bodies of the Persian soldiers, and they tell him their blood served as mortar.
  • October 23, 2012
    dvorak
    In Dark Apostle (a WarHammer40000 novel dealing with the Word Bearers Chaos Marines chapter), the Ghethsemenacht is a tower made of recycled Imperial buildings and glued together with human puree, built as a monument to the Chaos Gods. one of the slaves working on it discovers this when he finds a human tooth in the mortar.
  • October 24, 2012
    Kellor
    In God Of War, the temple that contains Pandora's Box also contains the tombs of its architect and his family- apparently the gods required their sacrifice for the temple's construction. Some of the puzzles found within require the family members' skulls as keys.

  • October 24, 2012
    m8e
    There is a bunch of myths about the Great Wall Of China. Some says that both animal and human bones was mixed into the mortar, other says that the people who died building it got buried inside the wall and used as a filler.
  • October 24, 2012
    TheHandle
    Obviously, related to Human Resources and Powered By A Forsaken Child. The underlying theme is that, somehow, deep down, something that's based on the suffering of others is what's best for us.
  • October 25, 2012
    AgProv
    Real life: there is a story that during the construction of a prestige cinema and theatre centre in Manila, several thousand gallons of concrete were accidentally poured into an area where men were working. This entombed forty or fifty men in the setting concrete, some of whom and been either drowned or crushed, others , more unlucky, buried to the waist. Urgent attempts were made to rescue the trapped men, but this stopped progress on the site. Dictator Ferdinand Marcos demanded to know why construction had stopped. It is unknown who was responsible for the order - some sources pin it on Imelda Marcos - but by express order the rescue attempt was abandoned and the few trapped men who remained alive (but partially buried) were abandoned at the will of the dictator. Nightmare Fuel?
  • December 31, 2012
    randomsurfer
    A similar Urban Legend surrounds the building of the Hoover Dam. Basically, when they were pouring concrete men would fall in, and because if they stopped the pouring it would create a fault in the concrete so they just kept pouring. In reality it's the exact opposite; a body in the concrete would make it weak and prone to a break. Here's Snopes version.

    In an episode of NYPD Blue a retired detective had died and per his will he wanted half of his ashes stored at the precinct house. The Lieutenant refused to allow it because of regulations, but Sipowicz gets the man who is fixing the restroom/lockerroom area to stir the ashes into the mortar, fulfilling the dead man's request.
  • May 20, 2014
    DAN004
    Laconic should be "this building is partially built with human body/blood".
  • May 20, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    Real Life
    • At times when burial space was sparce (like when The Black Death killed 30 to 60% of Europe's total population), bodies were often buried in ossuaries. First the bodies were placed in temporary graves to get the flesh off the bones, after which they were contained in chests, boxes, or buildings. Sometimes, like in the case of Sedlec Ossuary of The Czech Republic, the bones were used as building material for the ossuary itself.
  • May 20, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
  • May 20, 2014
    Lakija
    I just heard about this somewhere... it was about people being ... wait I remember:

    • In the book "Eat Pray Love'' Liz travels to Sicily where a citizen tells her that the mob is responsible for some large unsightly concrete apartment complexes there. The man comments that the buildings are sturdy because the concrete is reinforced with the bodies of dead people. Those who slighted the mob apparently ended up as building material.

    Please please please no more Snowclones. I beg of you. The current title is better than a snow clone.
  • May 20, 2014
    Chabal2
    • The Chinese legend already mentioned sees use in Ushio And Tora, where it is used to forge the Beast Spear.
    • Warhammer 40 K: The God Emperor of Mankind requires thousands of psykers to be "fed" to him daily (he doesn't eat them, but their psychic powers are needed to fuel the Astronomican, a psychic beacon that makes interstellar travel possible.
    • Final Fantasy X: Every few years a giant monster called Sin terrorizes the world, a Summoner needs to bring out their Final Aeon to seal it away. The Final Aeon needs to be made from a person with a strong bond with the Summoner, i.e. one of their traveling companions is sacrificed. Unbeknownst to the Summonners, the Final Aeon then becomes the next Sin.
  • July 24, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    Bump
  • July 24, 2014
    Elfkaiser
    Anime and Manga

    • In Full Metal Alchemist, to create a perfect Philosopher Stone requires a large amount of human souls have to be sacrificed via the Rules of Equivalent Exchange. It's what happened to the populace of Xerxes in the past and is the main plan of the Homunculi and the Amestris Military. Lt. General Raven reveals this plan to Major General Olivier Armstrong, saying that the weak would be the foundation for the strong. Disgusted by what he had to say, Armstrong in response later kills Raven and pushes him into some cement to serve as the foundation for her base of Bad Ass troops.
  • July 24, 2014
    AgProv
    @randomsurfer: the source for the Manila film theatre story was the London Observer, which reported on this gruesome event at the time of the fall of the Marcos regime. The Observer has occasionally been spoofed, but most of the time it's a reputable source.
  • July 24, 2014
    AgProv
    errrm.... we've all heard the Aesop about "you can't get blood out of a stone". This idea is really Putting The Blood Into The Stone....

    Also, I think it was maverick Fortean biologist Lyall Watson who noted that the Romans and their Latin descendents (or at least those who remembered the secret) made a stronger stone by adding blood to the concrete mix. He speculatively linked this to those statues of the Virgin Mary and Catholic saints that have allegedly been seen to weep tears of blood. As so much of this happens on Latin countries where the French, Spanish, Italians, et c might have remembered about adding blood to plaster, concrete, cement, et c, he wondered if this was just the blood finding its way out again... a nutty idea, but compelling!

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

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