When William Shakespeare
put Juliet into a death-like state in Romeo and Juliet
, he was probably using a trope that was already lying around. He may have grabbed it from an old Celtic precursor
of Sleeping Beauty
Anyway, this one has some years on it
In this trope, people who are not dead appear to be dead and, like Human Popsicles
, do not age. Because they look like that, all kinds of ugly stuff happens, either to them or to the ones they love, up to and including being kissed by princes.
When intentional, it's a kind of Faking the Dead
. If someone is merely sleeping the sleep of the dead, but life can be discerned, see Deep Sleep
Supertrope of King in the Mountain
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Anime and Manga
- Zabuza Momochi in Naruto. Also Faking the Dead, because Haku used this trope to protect Zabuza from Kakashi and his squad.
- Griffith of Berserk blackmails Foss, the leader of the conspiracy to kill him, into placing a drug that does this into his goblet instead of the poison the conspiracy intended to be placed as part of his masterful Batman Gambit that ultimately leads to the Queen and her nobles being locked inside a burning castle to die.
- After Wolfram's heart is stopped in Kyou Kara Maou, his body is put in a nice little magical life-support box until his fiancÚ, Yuuri, can defeat the Big Bad and get him going again. It's kind of up to interpretation if he was actually at any point dead or not, but Yuuri certainly has a strong opinion that he wasn't.
- The origin story of The Spirit.
- Was used to bring Batman's butler Alfred back from the dead after he was supposedly Killed Off for Real in the Silver Age. It turned out he was actually in a deathlike trance before being tranformed into the supervillainous Outsider.
- Deconstructed in Neil Gaiman's Snow, Glass, Apples, a Grimmified Perspective Flip where Snow White is a bloodthirsty vampire, the evil queen is a benevolent ruler who put Snow White into a deep sleep to protect the populace, and the prince who accidentally woke her is a necrophiliac.
- The Count of Monte Cristo: in fact, that entire romantic subplot between Maximilian and Valentine was a rather obvious Shout-Out to Romeo and Juliet. Except it had a happy ending... sort of.
- Happens to poor Frodo in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (or Return of the King in the Jackson-films) when Shelob stings him. His death-like state is convincing enough for Sam, at least, until the point when the Orcs take Frodo and explain that he's still alive within Sam's earshot, at which point Sam decides to follow them to get his Big Damn Hero on.
- In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novels, Roboute Guilliman is seen in his stasis tomb, and we are told of legends that he is healing from his wound and will arise again.
- A state that Granny Weatherwax enters in Discworld whenever she's Borrowing. It had caused her enough unnecessary embarrassments (being a very old woman who lives alone) that she now wears a small cardboard sign with the words "I Aten't Dead".
- Little, Big draws on the legends that German emperor Friedrich Barbarossa is asleep under a mountain by having him wake up.
- In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Master Mind of Mars, Ras Thavas does this to preserve the bodies he swaps (or swaps parts of). When Valla Dia is in danger, Ulysses Paxton resorts to it as the only way to hide her safely.
- In the Disney movie John uses puffer fish tetrodotoxin to lure a Thern spy out of hiding so he can steal his medallion and use it to return to Mars.
- In Arthur Conan Doyle's The Poison Belt, people start dropping like flies as the Earth passes through the poison belt. Professor Challenger uses bottled oxygen to keep himself and the other protagonists conscious for a few hours so that they can observe the death of humanity before joining it in death; they're all very surprised to wake up and find that they're alive. And even more surprised to find, some twelve hours later, that everyone else wakes up too! (Well, except for the ones who'd been killed in the accidents and fires that occurred when everyone first passed out.)
- In Robert E. Howard's "The Devil in Iron" Conan the Barbarian finds a castle appearing where he knew there had been a ruin, and inside, a woman who has just waking up, thinking that historical events were just last night.
- The immortals of The Madness Season have a technique that allows them to impersonate a walking corpse. The most skilled ones are able to temporarily stop their metabolic functions. The hero's father ultimately died when he went too far in his corpse transformation. Daetrin himself almost wound up doing the same.
- A number of characters in stories by Edgar Allan Poe were prone to catalepsy (see Real Life, below), such as Madeline in The Fall of the House of Usher.
- In Ruth Frances Long's The Treachery of Beautiful Things, when the nix steals her soul, Jenny. The forest folk lay her out on a bier, like Sleeping Beauty.
Live Action TV
- Juliet, of course. She woke up to a dead boyfriend. That she liked. Bummer.
- Husband, by that time. For one night or so. Ouch. There goes the honeymoon.
- Tessa of S.S.D.D was once mistaken for dead after being shot with a tranquilizer-coated bullet due to her artificial heart not having a pulse.
- In Roomies Codrus tried to get his former superiors in the Fox Empire off his back by faking his death with a potion. Unfortunately it temporarily turned him into a zombie when he revived early.
- Truth in Television: The right amount of puffer fish toxins can cause a person to appear to be dead to even doctors. There have been several cases where people have been declared dead and returned, especially in Jamaica, where this method factors heavily into local Zombie Lore.
- Same with the toxin of an Australian blue-ringed octopus, which paralyzes the victim and stops their breathing (and sometimes causes temporary blindness and deafness as well) but doesn't kill immediately and does wear off eventually. If somebody has the sense to perform rescue breathing until the paramedics arrive with mechanical assistance, the victim can make a complete recovery. If not...
- Fun fact: the toxin of puffer fish and blue-ring octopus is one and the same, known as tetradotoxin; both groups of creatures obtain the substance through commensal bacteria.
- Even after the heart stops beating and the lungs stop breathing, the brain is still functional for a few minutes. That's why CPR sometimes works — not often, well below 5% according to some assessments, but there's still a chance if you try.
- A person can survive 40 minutes or longer in freezing water, because everything slows down. They appear quite dead and frozen, but if they can be pulled out, oxygen gotten to the brain, and the effects of hypothermia counteracted, they can still be revived sometimes.
- This is why the phrase 'No one is dead until they are WARM and dead' is common in rescue circles.
- Catalepsy is a medical condition in which the sufferer will sometimes enter a rigor mortis-like state in which they appear to be dead.