Classic outcome at local mall on a Black Friday
"All dead... all rotten. Elves and men and orcses. A great battle, long ago. The Dead Marshes... yes, that is their name."
When a great battle, massacre, or terrible cataclysm occurs, the people involved may someday forget, but in some cases the land doesn't. Sometimes a place becomes contaminated, or possessed, by the misery that transpired there. Vegetation fails to grow, beasts and birds become sick or mad. The land is cursed, forbidden and dangerous.
A Corpse Land is called this mostly because the bodies of the dead are ever present. No matter how many are buried, more seem to just appear, still bloody and disease-ridden, attracting scavengers that become puppets of the ghosts that haunt the place. In fantasy stories, Necromancers
are drawn to such locations, and no matter how noble the armies involved may have been, they become twisted and malevolent, even attempting to re-enact their final moments with travelers who pass by.
A hidden form of this may be a Field of Blades
. See also Atop a Mountain of Corpses
, Nothing but Skulls
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Anime and Manga
- A town in the movie Ninja Scroll had this. It was a place that was littered with diseased corpses.
- An early story of the Berserk manga has Guts passing through the remains of an old battlefield with a priest and his family on pilgrimage and having to fight demon-possessed skeletons and other undead because of the Brand he bears.
- No6: The main characters have to climb a mountain of dead bodies.
- Jason's dreamscape from Freddy vs. Jason, as it's filled with the bodies of all his victims.
- Cybertron in Michael Bay's Transformers is depicted as this while Optimus narrates the history of the Great War to Sam and Mikaela. The only thing moving is a lone Autobot limping to safety... before being impaled by Megatron's spear.
- The Dead Marshes in Lord of the Rings, a foul bog stretching miles across Middle Earth filled with corpses from the first war with Sauron. Spirits of the men, elves, and orcs that were buried there try to lure travelers into the marshes to add to the body count. Tolkien scholars speculate that the terrain was inspired by the author's experiences in the waterlogged trenches of World War One.
- The Belgariad includes the horrible realization by Garion that the strangely shaped mounds of moss in the Arendish forest are corpses from their centuries-long blood feuds.
Live Action TV
- A lot of Civil War battlefields along the Mason-Dixon line in Deadlands are like this, especially Gettysburg. What makes them even worse is that the piles of heaped bodies can experience Demonic Possession and become unique Undead called "Gloms" — which are, as you might expect, heaps of animated corpses fused together by a single animating Manitou, which keep growing bigger and bigger as they absorb more corpses into their mass.
- "Battle of Bones" area in Forgotten Realms, named after an event that changed it forever. Due to drought and expanding Anauroch desert, a lot of goblinoids (more than a quarter million combatants) had to migrate, humans and allies (more than half of that) were determined to stop them in a convenient pass and much slaughter ensued.
- The Mournland from Eberron, which used to be the nation of Cyre until it was destroyed by a magical disaster called the Day of Mourning.
- Exalted has the shadowlands, which are created whenever there's a massive act of slaughter in a concentrated area. They're half-open gates to the Underworld that open all the way when night falls, and are often populated by hungry ghosts and zombies.
- The Underworld itself is a Corpse Land in a very literal sense, as it's the perpetually decaying bodies of the creators of the world.
- In Magic: The Gathering the plane of Grixis is inhabited by dead things, undead things, demons, and the occasional desperate necromancer. Due to a lack of green or white mana it's incapable of producing new life.
- Black-aligned lands usually have this theme.
- Warhammer has its share.
- The Empire's province of Sylvania reached its current state after being hard-hit by The Plague. Since suffering attracts evil magic, the place subsequently got hit with a Zombie Apocalypse. Then the vampire lords moved in...
- At the center of Ulthuan's inland sea is the Isle of the Dead, the nexus of a great spell woven by ancient High Elf mages to bend the Winds of Magic into their current configuration, and where the Sword of Khaine is kept. As a result of this localized Time Crash, the island is covered with the corpses of elves who fell during the ancient war against Chaos, their millennia-old bodies just as bloody as the day they fell.
- A game mechanic in Warcraft 3: Undead structures can only be built on Blight, ashen, bone-studded terrain generated by their Ziggurats or headquarters building.
- In the World of Warcraft, Deadwind Pass is a stretch of gray, barren mountains inhabited solely by giant spiders, vultures, and an ogre tribe. Everything else is either dead or left long ago.
- In Northrend, the Dragonblight is an ancient dragon graveyard littered with the skeletons of wyrms and other creatures. Icecrown Citadel appears to be a glacier at first, but on closer examination you can find corpses frozen in the ice, including Frost Wyrms being excavated by Scourge forces.
- In Outland, Hellfire Peninsula is a shattered, dusty battlefield whose wildlife is universally violent, predatory and often demonically possessed. Flames erupt from hellish chasms, undead soldiers roam the ruins of their fortresses, the only water available is from swamps of mutated poison slimes, and one of the major local landmarks is the Path of Glory, a road the Horde made from the bones of slain Draenei.
- The Bone Wastes of Terokkar Forest are covered with the remains of Draenei once entombed in Auchindoun.
- In Halo before you encounter The Flood you'll come across areas filled with ravaged covenant corpses.
- Left 4 Dead had areas where bodies where stacked in piles or covered with sheets. Other places had barricades that have been overrun.
- Pools of the Ancient Dead in MediEvil is a barren, swampy area where the dead from a long ago battle still roam.
- In Dwarf Fortress, Evil Biomes are filled with mutated plants that resemble clusters of eyeballs or fingers, murky water, and undead monsters, and any dead monster not quickly incinerated or processed into supplies zombify. There are also dust storms that carry "Forgotten Beast Syndrome," which may involve anything from everyone's eyes rotting away to turning them into undead Demonic Spiders known as Husks. It says a lot when one hopes the cloud of fog that's enveloped your subjects is merely poisonous...
- An ASCII-based form of this graced the exterior of the infamous Boatmurdered after its residents resorted to magma-cannoning all their troubles away, since no one bothered to clean up the remains. Fanart tends to go a little overboard, depicting a massive wasteland of trashed goblin equipment and elephant bones.
- The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings has some, complete with skeletons and evil spirits.
- The Gears of War series has Char "The Ultimate Sin of the COG", the area where the Hammer of Dawn was used on the Locust to halt their attacks, roughly 75% of Sera. In a disturbing mirror of Pompeii, there are ashen remain of every man, woman and child who were unable to reach the safe zone.
- Dead Space uses this as its primary setting, aboard the Ishimura. While an artificial environment, a good bit of the ship seems to have "gone wrong," with most of the safeguards on dangerous areas disabled and the whole ship being a great deal more of a death trap than usual. Also, you know, the roving horde of space zombies that now call the place home.
- Dead Space 2 manages to both display this trope and imply it. Titan Station is in pretty much the same shape as the Ishimura from the first game. The Ishimura herself appears about 2/3 of the way through the game, but this time is most of the way through a sanitation process. The swathes of blood and gore have been neatly cleaned up, or hidden behind tarps neatly taped to the walls. An NPC even explicitly states that Isaac knows what's beneath all those tarps, invoking this trope implicitly.
- In NetHack, the Valley of the Dead is strewn with corpses of "previous" adventurers the first time the player arrives there.
- Crysis 2 involves a deadly alien disease that is ravaging New York City. In the game the player is consantly walking past quarantine zones filled with grotesque corpses.
- In Mass Effect 3, when Shepard goes onto the Reaper-hijacked Citadel, he ends up in a long hallway piled with corpses on either side.
- Happens several times in Spec Ops: The Line. Once, when the player drops into a pit containing at least several hundred executed corpses. Another time when the player comes upon the aftermath of an ill-conceived charge by unarmed "insurgents" into a narrow passageway defended by American soldiers with automatic weapons.
- The end result of Darkspawn assaults in Dragon Age: Origins are barren wastelands called "Blightlands" that can take centuries to recover. Corpses left in these regions won't even rot as all insects and even bacteria are already dead.
- In Path of Exile, the entire continent of Wraeclast is essentially this. Zombies endlessly roam the coastline and one of the characters even remarks that nothing stays dead for long in Wraeclast.
- The island of Poveglia in Venice harbor was used as a leper colony/plague pit from 1793 to 1814 and again from sometime in the early 1900's to 1922. A major portion of the islands mass is now dead human bodies. Fishermen avoid it for valid fear of getting corpses caught in their nets.
- The aftermath of D-Day.
- At the battle of Antietam in the Civil War, over 23,000 American troops became casualties on one day of fighting. It remains the single bloodiest day in American history. There was a certain cornfield, for which Union and Confederate soldiers battled all morning. By day's end, almost 15,000 men had been killed or wounded there. A union soldier said of the 12-acre cornfield, "You could walk from one end to the other without ever touching the ground."
- Germany and the Soviet Union fought so many battles like this in World War II. Stalingrad, Kiev (twice!), Berlin, Kursk, Riga, Rostov... You get the point. The battle of Stalingrad, however, is the most famous and became the byword for senseless and merciless slaughter that is modern warfare.
- The front-line trenches and no-man's-land in World War I, especially since this was Tolkien's inspiration for the Dead Marshes.
- The whole Western Front was pretty foul, but the battleground around Ypres and east to Passchendaele is probably the archetype. The Germans called it a martyrdom.
- After the first day of the Battle of the Somme, No Mans Land surely resembled this trope. Around 58,000 thousand men lay dead or dying, making it one of the bloodiest single days in the history of the British Military.
- This would have been taken to the extreme on ancient battlefields, as the corpses would be densely packed due to the close proximity of the fighters. It sets it apart from wars in the eras of ranged weapons, because the corpses are a lot less spread out.
- Just like the tabletop example above, many Civil War battlefields were like this long enough for there to be photos.
- In almost any war, battlefields after the fight but before the cleanup were like this.
- Vlad the Impaler's border decorations; this has sometimes been poetically referred to as a "Forest of the Dead."
- The many (many!) Sieges of Jerusalem may left the city streets littered with the corpses of its dead inhabitants, and literal rivers of blood. You can blame the Romans and the Crusaders for that.
- The destruction of Carthage at the hands of the Roman legions. After a grueling three year siege, the Romans at last breached the walls and razed the city around them, putting thousands to the sword and selling even more thousands into slavery. The site remained desolate for a century, the ruins of Carthage standing as a mute testament to Rome's unlimited greed and ambition.
- The Roman commander, after surveying all his efforts had wrought, openly wept, for he saw the fate of his own city in the fall of Carthage.
- The Romans certainly got this treatment at Cannae from Carthaginian forces a few years earlier. Anywhere from 50,000 to 72,000 Romans may have died in a relatively small area.
- The history, culture, and even the native tongue itself was completely obliterated by Rome's final solution to the Carthaginian question. Everything we know about Carthage comes from Greek and Roman sources, and recently, modern archaeology.
- Nineteenth century historians, fired by the Romantic movement, turned it up to eleven by claiming that the Romans sowed the land around the ruins of Carthage with salt so that no living thing might ever flourish there again. It makes a good story, but it is almost certainly untrue.
- British casualties from the 1814 Battle of New Orleans were simply buried in the very damp area where they fell. During Hurricane Katrina, some skeletons surfaced as the ground washed away.