Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie
"Lay my soul, lay my pride, where my people fought and died. Bury me 'neath the killing fields."Alice dies, having expressed some sort of wish about the disposal of her body to Bob. For reasons that Alice usually wouldn't have been able to foresee, Bob finds these wishes difficult to carry out. Often, this requires Alice's body taken to a specific location for burial. This is frequently used as a way to justify giving Bob an Idiot Ball: Due to the Dead demands Honor Before Reason. Compare The Fun in Funeral. Can sometimes overlap with On One Condition, and less frequently with Of Corpse He's Alive.
—Roma Di Luna, Bury Me 'Neath the Killing Fields
As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
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- A commercial for an SUV shows two guys driving up a mountain to scatter their Uncle Fred's ashes at the peak. Because the ride is so rugged, the urn ends up spilling. If you're careful you'll notice that the standard disclaimer ("Professional driver on closed course") in this case reads "Drive like this and you could wind up like Uncle Fred."
Anime & Manga
- The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is about a group who do just this. Doesn't matter if you're dead either — you can still speak to their resident itako. In one chapter, they take a body all the way to Iraq.
- Martian Successor Nadesico has fun with this trope in an early episode. Employees of Nergal who die on the job are entitled to whatever peculiar funeral they want. When a company space station explodes a few episodes in, the only official nearby to perform all the funerals is the captain of the namesake ship. After the mass funerals for Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist, and shooting-star-teddy-bear religion employees, there are still hundreds of unique funerals to perform.
- In Wonder Woman, when Diana's one time publicist Myndi Mayer's video will is played, she includes a large sum of money for Diana as an incentive to have her cremation ashes spread around the Amazons' Themyscira so she can be a part of that place. Diana's only complaint is that she was upset that Minda felt she was so shallow that she needed to be paid to do something she would have immediately done for nothing. Regardless, Diana immediately gets back to the island to fulfill Mayner's wishes.
- After the X-Men adversary Destiny died, she left her leman Mystique detailed instructions on where and when she wanted her ashes scattered into the sea. Precognition + Sense of Humor = Win. "I'll make you laugh if it's the last thing I do" indeed...
- Specifically, Destiny had worked out the timing so that at the moment Mystique poured out the ashes, the wind would blow them back into Mystique's face.
- In the movie Last Orders, Jack wishes to have his ashes scattered off Margate Pier.
- This is the entire plot of the The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada, in which the protagonist steals his friend's corpse and sneaks into Mexico to bury him in his hometown.
- In the movie S.O.B., the central characters decide their friend deserves better than a Hollywood funeral full of phonies, so they steal his body from the funeral home and give him a Viking burial (put on a burning boat and sent out to sea).
- This is also the plot of the German movie Die Oma Ist Tot. Grandma wants to be buried next to her husband in Poland, but dies on a family visit in Germany. As the transport costs are too high, the family tries to smuggle her across the border... in a surfboard box.
- This is a MacGuffin in the movie Stealing Home. Mrs. Robinson figure Katie (played by Jodie Foster) commits suicide and leaves her ashes to Billy, played by Mark Harmon. Her vague instructions that "he will know what to do" with her remains set a Vision Quest in motion, as Billy reminisces about their relationship, his youth, and his lost potential as a ballplayer and a human being. He finally scatters her ashes off the diving horse pier in Atlantic City, where Katie had often fantasized about flying to a faraway land.
- In Edge of Darkness 2010, Mel Gibson's character Tom Craven scatters his daughter's ashes on a beach where he'd taken her for outings when she was little.
- At the end of Family Business, Jesse has a rooftop wake where Adam and Vito mend fences. They scatter Jesse's cremains on the edge of the building's parapet to let the wind take them where it may, while the rest of Jesse's old friends from the neighborhood call, "So long!" and "See you on the other side, Jesse!"
- The entire plot of As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner is driven by Anse Bundren's attempt to return his wife's body to her family graveyard, through a rainstorm.
- Before the beginning of Redemption Ark by Alastair Reynolds, Antoinette Bax's father had said he wanted to have his ashes scattered in the atmosphere of a gas giant. At the time that he dies, all the gas giants in the system where she lives are in the middle of a war zone. This doesn't stop her from personally dropping his body off in the atmosphere of a gas giant while it's still in the contested volume.
- Later, in "Galactic North", a character requests "burial at C"—that is, to accelerate the ship as close to the speed of light as it will reasonably go, then fire her coffin ahead of it. She notes that it's only a pun in a language almost no one remembers.
- In The Bible, Joseph makes the Israelites swear that they would take his body with them when they left Egypt. He was eventually reburied in Israel, meaning that they must have carried his coffin through the desert for forty years. This causes complications along the way, because the people carrying his coffin are therefore ritually impure and can't offer the Passover sacrifice. A "make-up" date for the sacrifice one month later is instituted due to this and other reasons, which means that complications as a result of a will are Older Than Feudalism.
- The Mary Gloster by Rudyard Kipling is a poem entirely consisting of the narrator's instructions to his son as to how he is to be buried (at sea, and it's going to be a BIG chore).
- Another poetic example: The Cremation of Sam McGee. Except he sort of gets better.
- In The Ballad of the White Horse by G. K. Chesterton, there's a scene just before the big battle where each of Alfred's lieutenants explains how he wants to be buried should he fall. Eldred wants to be buried on his farm, Colan wants to be buried near the sacred trees of the Old Ways, and finally Marcus, the last Roman, gives his request.
"Dig for me where I die," he said"If first or last I fall-Dead on the fell at the first charge,Or dead by Wantage wall;Lift not my head from bloody ground,Bear not my body home,For all the earth is Roman earthAnd I shall die in Rome.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's Time Enough for Love, Lazarus Long tries to give Libby the cremation he requested, by letting him burn up de-orbiting into Earth. Problem is, he dies on the other side of the galaxy, but thankfully corpses keep well in space. Long sets up the body in an orbit around the planet where Libby died, knowing he can always come back later when it's possible to get to Earth and retrieve the body. Oddly enough someone steals it before he can come back, and even odder it turns out to be Lazarus himself. (Time Travel is fun like that). However, in The Number Of The Beast readers discover that he steals Libby's corpse a second time so they can recapture his DNA and memories and clone him, this time as a woman.
- In Lonesome Dove Woodrow Call brings Gus MacCrae's body across the country so he can be buried in his favourite orchard.
- In Polidori's The Vampyre, Lord Ruthven invokes this trope to ensure his corpse will be exposed to moonlight, which he knows will revive him in undeath.
- Early on in The Warrior's Apprentice, Sergeant Bothari tells Miles that if he dies he doesn't want to be buried in space, but to be returned to Barrayar, where he has been promised a place in the Vorkosigan family cemetery, at the feet of the place reserved for Miles' mother. Needless to say, this turns out to be foreshadowing, or maybe Chekhov's dying wish.
- Played with in Amy Tan's Saving Fish from Drowning. Narrator Bibi Chen laments that her joke about wanting to be buried in a particular antique Chinese coffin (she was an art dealer) was taken seriously by her friends. She goes on to say that her actual wish was to be cremated, her ashes put into several valuable containers, and each container given to a different friend, the idea being that the friends would take her ashes somewhere interesting and scatter them, then keep the boxes as a memento.
- In Cold Sassy Tree, Rucker Blakeslee leaves behind specific instructions regarding the disposal of his remains: he wants to be buried immediately, in a plain pine box lined in burlap, without a church service or any clergymen present, though he asks that his grandson recite some Scripture. Then, a bit later, he wants a party "like them Irishmen have." Since the book takes place in Georgia (the US state) in 1906, these directions are extremely contrary to the norm, and cause a lot of heartache for his family. They do it anyway.
- A theme in George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. In the backstory, Ned Stark supposedly fulfilled a final request of his sister Lyanna's by carrying her body 3000 miles across Westeros from Dorne to Winterfell in the North. However, as noted by The Resenter Barbrey Dustin in A Dance with Dragons he did not extend the same courtesy to other True Companions who died in his skirmish with the Kingsguard at the Tower of Joy.
- In Tales of Dunk and Egg, Dunk has no choice but to bury his former master, Ser Arlan of Pennytree on the lone prairie. The reasons for this is practical. Dunk has no idea where Pennytree is and Ser Arlan has no known next of kin to turn to. So he buries him on a hedge and then when he becomes a Knight, takes that hedge as his sigil.
- Kaspar and company use this as their cover story in Exile's Return by Raymond E. Feist. They are trying to bring a magical set of armour back home for the wizards to study. To avoid attracting the attention of thieves, they put it in a coffin and claim that the coffin contains the body of their deceased leader, which they are bringing home for burial.
- Hanfkopf, one of the scholars mentioned in the footnotes from Robert Anton Wilson's The Widow's Son note requests that his ashes be thrown into the face of a rival expert. Sadly, his executors don't got through with it.
- John Carter of Mars: After faking his death (he actually astral projected back to Barsoom, leaving his body on Earth behind in a comatose state), John Carter requests for his nephew Edgar Rice Burroughs to bury his body in a mausoleum of his own design. The mausoleum is well ventilated and can only be opened from the inside to make sure that John's body on Earth will not be disturbed while he is living on Barsoom.
- In Jack Schaefer's The Canyon, a Cheyenne goes on a dangerous journey deep into enemy country to retrieve the bones of his intended's father, which he plans to present to her brother instead of the traditional bride price.
- In A Brother's Price, they find a man who was buried on the lone prairie, together with his kidnappers, who were apparently killed by their employers. The man's corpse is dug up and sent to be buried with his family, the bandits are just left where they are.
- Towards the end of The Dragon Knight, Sir Giles dies and requests that he be buried at sea (Because as a selkie, he can come back from the dead if this happens). Unfortunately, before any effort can be made to do this, the nobles in command of the armies whose fighting caused his death agreed that to seal the truce, everyone who died on that battlefield must be buried in a communal grave.
Live Action TV
- In Slings and Arrows, Oliver wants his skull to be removed and used in all future productions of Hamlet. Nobody wants anything to do with it except Geoffrey, who has to carry Oliver's head around in a cooler until he can find a sufficiently disreputable taxidermist.
- Frequently used on Six Feet Under.
- Season 4 starts with Nate fooling his dead wife's parents so that he can steal her body and bury it in nature, as per her wishes.
- Or the gay set-designer who wanted to turn the funeral parlour into the set of his dead lover's favorite opera, therefore paying three times the usual fare. Ah, the crazy shit people do out of love.
- The Firefly episode "The Message" looks as though it's going to be of this form, until the corpse in question wakes up... And in the end, they double-subvert it after shooting him a few times because he spends most of his time holding Kaylee hostage and shooting a gun at people and generally not listening. He does get his body taken home to his family like he wanted, though.
- An episode of Northern Exposure revolves around Maurice and Holling trying to do this for a deceased hunting buddy of theirs.
- On The George Lopez Show, there was an episode where his mother-in-law, Emelina, dies. Emelina is buried in a burial plot next to where Angie and George had bought theirs. Unfortunately, George only bought one extra plot, so Angie would have no place to go.
- Averted on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Miss Olive's will specifically states that her body actually be buried on the lone prairie rather than carted hither and yon.
- In the QI episode "Gothic", certain Ghanaian funeral customs involving customized coffins are discussed in these terms.
- In the Only Fools and Horses episode "Ashes to Ashes", Del Boy and Rodney spend the entire episode trying to find an appropriate way to dispose of the ashes of Trigger's grandfather (so they can flog off the urn he is in). After all of their attempts are thwarted, the ashes are accidentally sucked up by a road sweeper. They decide this is appropriate as Trigger's grandfather had been a street sweeper.
Joan: Did they say you needed permission?Freddie: Nah, they said he should have been cremated.
- In the Prequel, Rock and Chips, Freddie the Frog tells Joan about a friend of his whose dying wish was to be scattered on his favourite football pitch, and how this got them in trouble with the authorities.
- In Supernatural, when Dean returns from the dead in "Lazarus Rising", he expresses surprise at being buried instead of cremated (as that is the norm for hunters). Turns out Sam refused to burn his corpse because he'd need a body when Sam got him back somehow.
- One episode of The Drew Carey Show centres around Drew's great-uncle Alfred dying and his last wish to be buried in Drew's backyard.
- On Cougartown, Bobby's father requested that his ashes be scattered on a roller-coaster. Problem is, Bobby's afraid of roller-coasters. He finally goes through with it by having his friends ride with him for support. Unfortunately for them, Bobby sits on the front of the car.
- CSI: NY: In "Misconceptions", Flack discovers a letter from his father expressing his wishes to have his ashes scattered on the diamond at Yankee Stadium. He spends most of the episode persuading his sister to help him do this.
- The Trope Namer is a famous cowboy folk song, with a dying cowboy making this plea. But...
"Oh, bury me not", and his voice failed thereBut we took no heed to his dying prayerIn a shallow grave, just six by threeWe buried him there, on the lone prairie
- The Eraserheads, with their song "Poorman's Grave":
Oh, Honey when I dieDress me up in a coat and tieGive my feet a pair of shoes that I haven't worn for a long timePut me in a golden boxNot a cross on a pile of rocksBury me where the grass is greenAnd the gates are shining
- Flogging Molly came up with a way around this in "Cruel Mistress":
Next time out to seaBring enough soil to bury meFor I don't want my final jigIn the belly of a squid
- The Fugs, with "Bury Me in an Apple Orchard":
Do not surround me with wreaths of flowersOr place upon my body the signs of a fetishOr crescent, cross, phallus or sunBut bury me in an apple orchardThat I may touch your lips again.
- "Where The Rose Is Sown" by Big Country:
If I die in a combat zoneBox me up and ship me home.If I die and still come homeLay me where the rose is sown
- The plot of the video to "Kingdom of Rust" by Doves is a man driving to Blackpool to scatter his father's ashes on the beach.
- Averted, played straight and just generally messed with in Violent Femmes' "I Hear The Rain".
- "If I Die Young," by The Band Perry:
If I die young, bury me in satinLay me down on a bed of rosesSink me in the river at dawnSend me away with the words of a love song
- Todd in the Shadows had a lot of fun trying to figure out the logistics of this funeral arrangement.
- The entirety of the Rolf Harris song "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" is the stockman's dying wishes, and concludes with the immortal lines:
Tan me hide when I'm dead, Fred; tan me hide when I'm dead...So we tanned his hide when he died, Clyde, and that's it hanging on the shed.
Tan me hide when it comes, boys; tan me hide when it comes...So we tanned his hide when he died, boys, and now Ringo's got it on his drums!
- In The Beatles BBC sessions, they end it:
- In "Birthday Song," 2 Chainz wants to be buried in SIX places when he dies:
When I die, bury me inside the Gucci storeWhen I die, bury me inside the Louie storeWhen I die, bury me inside the jewelry storeWhen I die, bury me inside the Truey storeWhen I die, bury me next to two bitchesWhen I die, bury me inside the booty club
- Like his fellow That Guy With The Glasses.com reviewer on The Band Perry's song, The Rap Critic has fun considering the funeral arrangements.
- John Prine:
When I die don't bury me down in the cold cold groundI'd rather have them cut me up and pass me all around...
- Big And Rich, "Deadwood Mountain"
You can bury me on Deadwood MountainBy my brother wild Bill and sister calamity JaneDon't bring me no flowersJust a six gun smokinPut me eight feet downWhen you bury meAnd cover me a little extra deepCause that's the only way I'm gonna rest in peace
Space 1889 There is an adventure about it in Challenge 38 called A Journey to Oblivion.
- King of the Hill:
- Cotton's will demands that his ashes be flushed down a specific toilet on a specific diner, apparently because General Patton used it once. Hank has to get around the diner owner, who's fed up with soldiers having the same request. Apparently ashes are bad for the plumbing
- One of Cotton's dying requests was actually for Hank to cut off his corpse's head and mail it the Emperor of Japan. When Cotton finally passes, Hank is distraught at the prospect but hesitant to deny his father's final wishes. Fortunately, Peggy lies and convinces him that Cotton took back the thing about his head right before the end when she was alone with him.
- In one episode of The Simpsons, Homer's mother dies, and she wants her ashes to be thrown at a specific place at a specific time. It turned out it was all to disrupt one of Mr. Burns' anti-environmental plans.
- In one episode of Mad Jack The Pirate, the titular character's Uncle Mortimer died and expressed his wish to be buried at the Island of Hanna-Barbarian. In fact, Mad Jack had to take Uncle Mortimer's corpse (and his dog) there to be allowed to claim his inheritance.
- Singer Gram Parsons requested he be cremated at the Joshua Tree National Monument. His manager stole his corpse from the morgue to do so.
- There's James Doohan, Scotty from Star Trek, who requested his ashes be sent into space. It took them 2 years to take his remains up even on a temporary trip. On the rocket that was going to bring his ashes (with several others) into space, the launch was halted at T-0.5 seconds because the rockets were malfunctioning. It launched properly a few days later. Somehow, a malfunctioning spacecraft seems more appropriate for the man behind Scotty than one where everything goes smoothly.
- Other people's ashes have been taken into space as well, most notably Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and astronaut Gordon Cooper.
- A bit of the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto, are on the New Horizons spacecraft, currently on its way to Pluto. Hence the joke that Pluto was downgraded from a planet status in order to make Tombaugh turn in his grave and thus power the New Horizons probe...
- Gene Shoemaker wins this trope. His ashes were buried on the Moon.
- Sometime in the mid-'90s, Ann Landers got a letter from a person whose deceased relative had requested a Viking funeral (i.e., set adrift in a wooden boat which is then set ablaze) and was having trouble finding a jurisdiction where it would be legal to do so. The verdict? It's not technically legal to do so anywhere in the United States, unfortunately.
- Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland from 1306 to 1329, asked for his heart to be buried in the Holy Land. It was put in a lead coffer and taken on crusade. When his knights got into a tussle with some Moors in Spain, one of them threw the king's heart behind Moorish lines, forcing the others to hack through the Moors to get it back. Then they played their bagpipes over the fallen enemy. The heart was taken back to Scotland and buried in Melrose Abbey, where it was unearthed during construction work in 1996.
- Hunter S. Thompson, whose life contains about every trope in existence, had the best funeral in history. His ashes were shot out of a cannon shaped like a giant sword, the hilt of which was shaped like the Gonzo logo. The man in charge of getting all of this (and the frankly amazing party) together? Johnny Depp. The best part? His ashes were mixed into fireworks. Yeah.
- Christopher Titus' dad. His last wishes included being buried in a cardboard box, charging for attendance to his funeral (except for the ladies), allow everyone who he ever pissed off in his life to step up and piss on his body (to the tune of "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" by Willie Nelson), and after cremation wished to have his ashes put into a douche bottle (hot water bottle) find a hooker and "run me through one last time." In the end, he is put in a rental coffin with a cardboard box lining, made about $2,200 at the door, Titus is the only one to claim to have peed on him and while they found a hooker, they couldn't quite go through with the last act so they spread his ashes around a casino floor at Lake Tahoe and various Victoria Secret's dressing rooms.
- There is a widespread story that the paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope wished to have himself designated the type specimen of Homo sapiens. Sadly, it isn't true. Cope did donate his remains to science, though.
- Del Close, the great improv comedy actor/teacher, wanted his skull to go to the Goodman Theatre in Chicago so that he could play Yorick (or any spooky-scene-setting Cow Tools) into eternity. On his deathbed he made a friend promise to make it happen, but he didn't put anything in writing, and in the end she had to substitute one she'd bought from an anatomical supply company. His real skull was cremated along with the rest of him.
- Pianist Andre Tchaikowski donated his body to medical research, and asked that his skull be used in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Hamlet. Actors were at first squeamish at the idea of using a real skull, but finally, in 2008, Tchaikowski played Yorick opposite David Tennant.
- Frederick The Great of Prussia stipulated that he be buried in a simple grave at Sanssouci palace, next to his dogs. His successor decided that this was not on and had him buried in the vault of the Garnisonkirche in Potsdam. At the end of World War 2, the coffin was taken to Hohenzollern castle in Baden-Württemberg. He was finally buried where he wanted after the reunification of Germany.
- An unusual but fitting tribute: before he died, Marvel Comics writer Mark Gruenwald made arrangements to have his ashes mixed with the printing ink for the initial run of a trade paperback collection of his groundbreaking mini-series Squadron Supreme.
- Taras Shevchenko, who is considered to be the founder of Ukrainian literature, famously wrote a poem called Testament (Zapovit), where he stipulates what to do with his body. Slightly subverted in that he died almost 16 years after writing the poem. However, his friends still followed the poem's instructions as if it was his last will and testament. Translated first part of the poem:
When I am dead, bury meIn my beloved Ukraine,My tomb upon a grave mound highAmid the spreading plain,So that the fields, the boundless steppes,The Dnieper's plunging shoreMy eyes could see, my ears could hearThe mighty river roar.
- In his will, the Marquis de Sade requested that he be buried in an unmarked grave and that acorns be sowed above him, so that trees would hide his resting place and the world would forget him. This request was not honored, sad to say: his skull was later removed from his grave so the phrenologists could have a good look at it, and the world has not exactly forgotten him either.
- There are two designated areas within British territorial waters where someone who has specifically requested a Burial at Sea but died on land may be laid to rest. On one occasion a body wasn't weighted down properly and washed up ashore, prompting a murder investigation.