Created By: Glucharina on May 31, 2011 Last Edited By: Glucharina on October 5, 2011

Trial By Ordeal

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Trope
We have Trial by Combat, where in turn Trial By Ordeal is mentioned, but we don't have it.

Trial By Ordeal is using some sort of ritual to determinate whether or not person is guilty. Basically, sort of divination.

Examples

Comic Books
  • The Phantom once had a story arc featuring an African tribe with a stricter version of the Trial by Hot Metal: if you were innocent, the hot metal wouldn't burn you at all. It turned out the trials were rigged by the tribe's Witch Doctor using a flesh-colored leaf from a local plant that made a good heat insulator.

Live-Action TV

Literature
  • Marauders of Gor takes place in Fantasy Counterpart Culture to Vikings, and Trial by Hot Metal comes up briefly as they tour a fair.
    We passed one fellow, whom we noted seized up two bars of red hot metal and ran some twenty feet, and then threw them from him.
    "What is he doing?" I asked.
    "He is proving that he has told the truth," said the Forkbeard.

Western Animation
Community Feedback Replies: 12
  • May 31, 2011
    dalek955
    The Vikings had a few such rituals, including Trial by Hot Metal, which involved burning oneself and seeing whether the scar heals by a deadline, and Trial by Cake, where you say "If I am guilty, may this cake choke me". (Gee, which one of these would you choose?)
  • May 31, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Note though that you have to weigh her against a duck; sure, you could try to build a bridge out of her but that might result in a false-positive since you can also make bridges out of stone.
    • Marauders of Gor takes place in Fantasy Counterpart Culture to Vikings, and Trial by Hot Metal comes up briefly as they tour a fair.
      We passed one fellow, whom we noted seized up two bars of red hot metal and ran some twenty feet, and then threw them from him.
      "What is he doing?" I asked.
      "He is proving that he has told the truth," said the Forkbeard.
    • The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror VIII": anyone suspected of being a witch is thrown off a cliff; if the witch is really a witch it will fly to safety on a broom, after which it's expected to fly back to be punished.
  • May 31, 2011
    PaulA
    • The Phantom once had a story arc featuring an African tribe with a stricter version of the Trial by Hot Metal: if you were innocent, the hot metal wouldn't burn you at all. It turned out the trials were rigged by the tribe's Witch Doctor using a flesh-colored leaf from a local plant that made a good heat insulator.
  • June 1, 2011
    randomsurfer
    • My Name Is Earl: Earl is forced to go through three trials to determine whether or not he's worthy of marrying Catalina for a Citizenship Marriage, but is trying to lose so Randy can marry her instead. Each time he misses they give him another chance.
  • June 1, 2011
    Generality
    Often takes the form of a Fetch Quest. Alternately, the accused has to endure some kind of painful or otherwise unpleasant experience, which can quickly turn into How Much More Can He Take. The below is a less mystical use of the latter:

    • The Gom Jabbar test from Dune, administered by the Bene Gesserit to determine if one is human: a "true" human can endure intense agony without flinching because they know that doing so will cause their death.
  • June 1, 2011
    PaulA
    The examples seem to be drifting away from "ordeal to determine guilt" toward "ordeal to prove worthiness", which I think is probably a separate trope.

    In case it isn't, though, another example:

    • In The Court Jester, candidates of knighthood have to undergo three ordeals to prove worthiness. At one point, a candidate is being rushed through for political reasons, and is given much easier versions of the ordeals; for instance, "capture a wild boar with your bare hands" becomes "see this piglet here..?"
  • June 1, 2011
    ladygem
    In the Middle Ages there was the whole "If a woman sinks to the bottom of a lake (and possibly drowns) she's innocent, but if she floats, she's a witch" test,

    @dalek Are you sure trial by cake was a thing? It sounds too Eddie Izzard for me to take seriously and a google search turned up nothing relevant on the first page. I do remember hearing about the trial by hot metal though.
  • June 2, 2011
    TonyG
    • Adventure Time: after breaking a royal promise, Finn has to go through Trial by Math. "2+2. Solve it or die."
  • June 2, 2011
    IronLion
    @ladygem: I think he was referring to corsned, which involves barley bread and cheese instead of cake, but is otherwise as he describes.
  • October 4, 2011
    feotakahari
    I'd like to bump this, since there's no other trope to describe the trial in Bastion. (It's currently listed under Trial By Combat, but the accused fights against monsters rather than the accuser.)
  • October 5, 2011
    LordGro
    About dalek955's post: I suspect his source is a certain Horrible Histories skit. It were the Anglo-Saxons, though, not the Vikings.
  • October 5, 2011
    silvercat
    Hellblazer: Another trial by hot metal. Constantine used magic to hide that he horribly burned his hand.

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