"Now tho' you'd have said that head was dead
(For its owner dead was he),
It stood on its neck, with a smile well-bred,
And bowed three times to me!"
can be a messy and extremely painful thing to see, let alone experience. While it's been said that, theoretically (It's understandably hard to confirm), consciousness may continue for a few seconds after decapitation, it seems to last much longer in speculative fiction in what has to be the weirdest possible case of a Fake Arm Disarm
. It has been shown that random brain activity can continue for many minutes, ending in a flurry of activity reminiscent of a brain seizure
It may be justified for robots, who may have some power source in the skull that keeps them going after being separated from their shoulders
, or might not have their core processor in their head anyway. The Undead
may also exhibit this ability to have a functioning head and separate functioning body.
The head generally possesses the ability to audibly speak despite the lack of lungs. Robots could probably have their entire vocal system in their head, but anything else should only be able to mouth words. May or may not be capable of independent movement by either bouncing, rolling or levitating. Sometimes the body will still be functional and capable of independent movement, resulting in the head trying to tell it to pick it up and reattach it
When multiple heads/brains/souls/CPUs/etc. are removed and then reinstalled in working order at the same time this will always result in them being "returned" to the wrong bodies, giving a "Freaky Friday" Flip
See: Alas, Poor Yorick
, Brain in a Jar
, Helping Hands
, Your Head A Splode
, Cranial Processing Unit
, Detachment Combat
, Oracular Head
Related: Headless Horseman
, Pulling Themselves Together
, Appendage Assimilation
, and Having a Heart
Contrast Decapitation Required
, when it's the only
way to kill them successfully. For decapitation in general, see Off with His Head!
open/close all folders
- A TV advertisement for Gusto, a European snack food resembling shoestring potatoes, has a man's severed head lying on the floor, still talking, as his body stumbles around aimlessly.
- A banner ad for Treximet, a prescription headache remedy, has a woman who says, "My migraines are so excruciating, I just want to take my head off."
- A Dentyne Ice commercial plus Human Popsicle
- Gary The Robot suffers this cruel fate in an ad for Pillsbury Pizza Pops.
- In an advert for VO5 hair products a teenager removes his own head in order to style his hair. He then procedes to flirt with a woman holding her head in her hands.
- An interesting case turned up in a commercial for Fruit Gushers that had a space theme. Toward the end of the commercial, some kid's head turns into a flying saucer. At the end of the commercial, we see the kid's Flying Saucer head fly away, leaving his headless body behind.
- Could also have some Fridge Horror if you consider the fact that the kid's head might not come back, leaving his body without a head.
- In a similar vein, the ad for Gushers Magic Pieces ended with a girl making a candy "disappear," only for her head to vanish in a puff of smoke. Her voice says, "Hey, where'd I go?" suggesting that the head has turned invisible or gone somewhere else. 'Cause, y'know, it's magic.
- A terrifying PSA circa 1970 from the Presidential Council on Fitness (?) posited a future where, due to physical inactivity, a man of the time was reduced to a head in a box, carted around by a humanoid robot. In the ad, the power goes off, leading the head to anxiously cry out "Hello? Is anyone there??"
Anime and Manga
- This trope appears in the diamond suit in John Littleboy's Bag of Bones playing cards, published in 2008.
- The Amazing Screw-On Head is built on this trope.
- An early issue of Transformers did this, with Optimus Prime's head held captive and his body under the Decepticons' remote control.
- The comic book series Wildguard had a character named Segmented Man who could segment his body parts. He demonstrates with his head.
- MF Enterprises had a character named "Captain Marvel" with similar powers.
- Preacher had vampire sidekick Cassidy, who gets his head cut off in one book and can still talk and such just fine.
- Healing was difficult. Scarves were employed.
- X-Men villain Cameron Hodge survived beheading due to a Deal with the Devil that had made him immortal.
- Bloodpool had Rubble (who is indeed made of rubble), who liked to take off his head and throw it. In one issue, his head is blown to bits during this attack, and he still retains consciousness, channeling his dialogue through a telepathic teammate.
- The villain Cyberface from The Savage Dragon survived as a disembodied head. Justified, in one aspect, that his power was interact with machinery.
- Mr. Gone from The Maxx was somehow beheaded by an out-of-shape woman wielding a knife-length tooth of one of his henchmonsters, but that didn't stop him from continuing to play mind games with the heroes. Eventually he finds a chiropractor to reattach his head.
- Numerous characters in Fables do this. including the Wooden Soldiers, Bright Day and Frankenstein's Monster.
- The Mayor was able to posses dead bodies after his own death and eventually settled in a "patchwork" monster built by the Initiative with such an ability in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer tie-in comic.
- Mysterio projects an illusion of himself performing such an ability in various Spider-Man comics.
- Green Lantern. Abin Sur, the man who gave Hal Jordan his ring, has an evil son. Sur Jr. gets his head chopped off. It's later revealed, his race (he's an alien) doesn't quite need their heads and he regrows it (slowly) and returns. Only to get shredded after killing some kids. No luck there.
- Dimitri from the Sonic the Hedgehog Archie comic is a cyborg head in a floating fishbowl.
- The Puzzler from Superman.
- In the 1990s, this became Metallo's power - his head couldn't just operate without a body, it could seize control of any machinery and turn it into a body. In the absence of convenient machines, it scuttled around on spider-legs.
- In the early 1990s Sleepwalker comics, Rick Sheridan ends up trapped in Sleepwalker's body and becomes trapped in the Mindscape, where he faces several different demons, including one that knocked his/Sleepwalker's head off. Cobweb points out that since Rick is in the Mindscape, the normal laws of nature don't apply, and it's also implied that the whole thing was just an illusion dreamt up by Cobweb to convince Rick that Sleepwalker's race actually planned to invade Earth.
- Hellboy: The short story "Heads" is based on this trope. These heads reappear in Hellboy's Animated Adaptation "Sword of the Storms".
- Also in the story "King Vold", the King in question carries his decapitated head at arms length.
- A Variant cover for Marvel Zombies features the Undead X-Men with Cyclops carrying his head in his hands continuing to fire optic blasts at Magneto.
- Also in Marvel Zombie, Zombie Hawkeye is a disembodied head who talks.
- Brick of the Doom's IV.
- The Scarecrow demonstrates in the cover of the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz #7
- Niles Caulder of the Doom Patrol has spent time as a disembodied head in a jar. Hard to say if this is still true as of the latest retcon, though.
- New Adventures of Superboy #25◊
- Strange Adventures #136◊
- Orpheus from The Sandman is beheaded but unable to die due to a deal with Death he made while in the throes of grief.
- Brazilian comic Penadinho/Bug-a-booo's Stock Monsters include Cranicola/Skully, a disembodied skull who lies atop a stone (though he jumps from time to time) and sometimes misses his body.
- Dick Grayson in The Dark Knight Strikes Again believe it or not.
- Invoked by the Monkey King in American Born Chinese, who continues speaking uninterrupted even after being beheaded.
- Played straight by Deadpool. Wolverine cuts his head off, and comments that even with regeneration he may still die from it. Unless his head get reattached soon afterwards. It does, and Deadpool himself comments that his mouth is dry and that he hadn't spoken for awhile. And later Zombie-Deadpool, reduced to nothing but a hungry head.
- In Death's Head's first encounter against Iron Man 2020, Iron Man decapitates Death's Head in battle. Annoyed, Death's Head used his headless body to beat up Iron Man and work off his aggression.
- In the Robo-Hunter reboot, Sam has been reduced to this, forcing his granddaughter to take over running the business.
- Thanks to magical precautions, Loki can survive decapitation, and his body can pick up his head and reattach it.
- In The Wicked And The Divine, Baphomet decapitates The Morrigan. She was still able to talk and sing his praises. And it was a fake anyway, so ultimately averted.
- In the Harry Potter fic Can't Have It Both Ways, Nearly-Headless Nick stretched his head up by the hair so that Harry could cut it off properly with the Sword of Gryffindor. This resulted in the head shooting across the room while his body stumbled about blindly.
- In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, a Sniper Joe in episode 9 has its head cut off by Metal Man, but just picks it up and wanders off. He loses it again later on, with the same reaction.
- In the ''Dick Figures" fanfic "Giving Pink Head", Red steals a katana sword ends up chopping off Pink's head with it, though she still survives. Later, Red steals said sword later on and cuts off Stacy's head with it. You can imagine how that ended up.
Films — Animated
- The Nightmare Before Christmas: And since I am dead, I can take off my head/To recite Shakespearean quotations!"
- Corpse Bride: Paul the "Head Waiter" He can't move under his own power very efficiently, so he is carried on the backs of cockroaches.
- This happened to soldier ant Barbados in Antz during a battle; he survived for a while longer, which made for a pretty bizarre death scene.
- Robots: Rodney Copperbottom's second meeting with Cloud Cuckoo Lander and load, Fender, results in the latter temporarely losing his head. Much hilarity ensues:
Fender: [Lug is holding his head] Why, I'd, I'd smack you if I had a hand.
[his body comes bouncing off buildings]
Fender: Wow, speak of the devil... here I come.
[the body falls on the floor]
Fender: Owww! Daddy!
- In Mulan, the spirit of the last ancestor Mushu tried acting as guardian to is shown holding his severed head. In the closing scene when the ghosts start partying he throws it off and sends it crowd-surfing.
- Olaf from Frozen manages to flip this one on its head when his head constantly looses its body.
- In The Book of Life, Luis' head gets temporarily separated from the rest of his skeletal body during his journey alongside Manolo. Cures his arthritis for the duration though.
Films — Live-Action
- In the live-action Transformers, when Frenzy's head is severed with a sawzall, the head is capable of scuttling around on its trailing components, and also turning into Sam's cell phone.
- Mars Attacks!. Donald and Natalie's heads are severed, but survive on hanging wires and attached to her pet chihuahua respectively.
- For bonus points, Natalie's body is now inhabited by the chihuahua's head.
- In Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, the Sultan cuts off the Treasurer's head, which flies through the air, lands in one of the harem baths, and winks at one of the Sultan's wives. And then there are the King and Queen of the Moon, who have detachable heads, but that's not quite the same thing.
- Re-Animator has his rival's head in a jar and tells him, "You're a no-body!"
- And the severed head still got more booty than him.
- The Thing That Couldn't Die (a movie that later appeared on MST3K) featured the disembodied head of an evil hypnotist, cursed to a Fate Worse Than Death back in the 1500's. It was dug up centuries later by a bunch of dim-witted ranchers and was able to manipulate anyone it made eye contact with. Only after it had been reattached to its body could it be destroyed. Tom Servo showed during the host segment of this film that he too possessed such a talent.
- Also on MST3K: The Brain That Wouldn't Die, where a scientist keeps his fiancée's head alive in a pan until he can retrieve a new body for her.
- And in yet another episode, Tormented: although the deceased girlfriend was not beheaded or otherwise dismembered, she can send selected bits of herself to vex her unfaithful beau. Her detatched head is quite sarcastic.
- In the horror-comedy movie Idle Hands, Elden Henson's character Pnub is decapitated by a thrown circular saw blade, and as his head bounces down a flight of stairs, he looks up at the killer and says "Whoa, cool."
- C-3PO in Attack of the Clones, resulting in a horrifyingly cringe-inducing Hurricane of Puns.
- In Revenge of the Sith, General Grievous's bodyguard robots can continue fighting after decapitation due to having a backup brain and optical receptors in their chests.
- The evil robots at the beginning of Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey play hoops with their heads.
- In The Last Starfighter, the android Beta removes his own head to repair it.
- In Cyborg 2, Angelina Jolie's character has her head removed when being interrogated.
- The Borg Queen , first introduced in Star Trek: First Contact, displayed the ability again in Voyager.
- While not completely decapitated, Ash in Alien and The Terminator in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines are able to operate with only a few wires keeping their heads on their shoulders.
- Bishop from Aliens is torn in half in that film, but in Alien³, after his ship crashes only his head (and part of the chest) "survives". Ripley does have to plug his remains into various pieces of hardware in oder to turn him back on/re-activate/bring back to life. She offers to keep him running in the hope of repair but he declines the offer and chooses to die/get turned off/de-re-activated.
- After the femmebot in Jason X is decapitated by Jason, her head is retrieved by her creator and hooked up to the ship's computer.
- Decapitating the monster in The Thing (1982) doesn't work—in one instance the head pulls itself off to avoid being burned with the rest of the body, grows legs, and walks away.
- In Aguirre, the Wrath of God, a member of the party who displeases Aguirre is decapitated from behind — the head says one more word before expiring.
- In the film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Humma Kavula takes one of Zaphod Beeblebrox's heads as collateral while they retrieved the POV gun. He mounted it on a hula girl bobblehead and put a sign that read "Idiot". (No, he's not bitter about losing the election to Zaphod. Why'd you ask?)
- Alsatia in Toys. She's a robot, and does wind up needing a fair amount of repair work as a result of her decapitation.
- In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, In one of The Stingers Deadpool's severed head wakes up before shushing to the audience and fading to black.
- The two friends in Nothing eventually wish away everything around each other in an argument until they're both down to just their heads... which they find they can't bring themselves to wish away because they still like each other after all. Awwwwww.
- The film poster of◊ Beetlejuice.
- In the movie Barbara decapitates Adam to scare the living folks out of their house - unfortunately the two of them are Invisible to Normals except Lydia.
- The Mayor's Daughter from Cemetery Man.
- They Saved Hitler's Brain - Hitler's head in a jar pretty much has to have inspired the folks at Futurama.
- Inverted in Tank Girl, where Kesslee suffers a terrible facial injury from the Rippers, so has his own head cut off deliberately and his consciousness downloaded into a hologram-projecting computer, installed in his neck. No telling how he eats and breathes and perceives his surroundings thereafter, but it generates a 3-D image of his head that moves in synch with a voice synthesizer.
- The ending of Freddy vs. Jason. Where Jason comes out of Crystal lake with Freddy's head, and he smiles and winks at the camera.
- Prince of Darkness. The woman who becomes The Chosen One of Satan has her head cut off. She picks up her head and puts it back on her neck, where it re-attaches itself.
- The first shark attack in Jaws 3D is on a large grouper, the head of which is left floating in a cloud of blood. Its mouth is still moving.
- The movie version of Sin City has one of the protagonists imagining that a dead body is talking to him. At one point, the dead body loses a head. The main character later imagines the decapitated head trying to talk with him briefly.
- Ghostbusters II discussed this trope when detailing the fate of Vigo the Carpathian. Just before his head died, he uttered a prophetic statement that he would return.
- An example near the end of Wolfen has a character's throat torn out by a wolf, resulting in his head ending up separate from his body. When it's obvious from the attempted mouthing of words and blinking that the head is still functional, a colleague shoots the car he's next to, putting him out of his misery.
- R.L. Stine's Mostly Ghostly: Who Let the Ghosts Out?. The live action movie version of "Mostly Ghostly" has this happen to the ghost boy called Nicky when listening to a portal in the wall to an evil dimension. A hand comes out of the wall and grabs him by the hair. His sister grabs his ankles and pulls to stop him from getting dragged in. The hand tugs hard enough that his head comes off and his headless body aimlessly wanders away until his sister stops him. She tries to pull his head free from the hand with no avail, so she tells his body to help her pull him free from the hand. The hand lets go and his head falls on the floor. His sister reattaches his head to his body, only she apparently put his head on backwards so he rotates his head back to normal.
- Harris from Severance wonders what it is like to be beheaded. He gets his wish, and the last sight of his body stumbling around raises a smile.
- In an old The Three Stooges short, a Mad Scientist is looking for a human head for his monster. In one scene Larry pokes his head through the underside of an open-leaf table. Moe enters, sees just Larry's head poking through the hole, and assumes the worst. Cue scream and faint.
- Nakano clings to life after being beheaded by Kane in Highlander III: The Sorcerer long enough to trap him in the cave they are in.
- Played for Black Comedy during an Imagine Spot in Eight Heads In A Duffle Bag, when Joe Pesci's hitman character has a nightmare of the titular heads lined up and singing a parody of "Mr. Sandman."
- Several people are quite headless by the end of The Wolfman (2010).
- Georges Méliès takes off his head a surprising number of times. An identical one almost always reappears on his shoulders immediately, however, allowing him to pull off all sorts of multi-head stunts: just take a look at his films The Four Troublesome Heads and The Melomaniac.
- In the short film Robot Bastard, the Tin-Can Robot hero escapes the Big Bad by shoving his head in the space station's waste disposal unit and pulling the lever, severing his head and sending it down a chute into outer space. The body then self-destructs, destroying the station.
- Skulduggery Pleasant's real skull was stolen by goblins. The one on his neck now is an entirely different on, which he won in a poker game. After the third book, the original skull becomes the MacGuffin.
- Princess Langwidere, a character in L. Frank Baum's Oz novel Ozma of Oz. She has 30 different heads that she can place on her neck. Her heads come in a variety of hair, eye, and skin colors.
- The inspiration for Mombi in the adaptation (see Film), and given a chilling treatment in the Scissor Sisters song "Return to Oz," though Mombi and Langwidere were two separate villains in Baum.
- In The Tin Woodman of Oz, the Tin Woodman returns to the (now empty) tinworker's house and finds his original, flesh-and-blood head. They have a conversation and find they don't like each other.
- Worzel Gummidge only has three heads — swede, mangel-wurzel, and turnip — "for different occasions".
- Ant heads remain alive for some time in Bernard Werber's Empire of the Ants novels (only the first was translated to English), and this is at times a crucial plot point.
- The Headless Horseman in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
- The Denizens of the House in Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom series have the ability to survive being decapitated, so of course one bad guy announces himself by flinging talking severed heads at the main character's feet.
- The heads in jars of Orson Scott Card's Wyrms. They are kept alive by bio-engineered alien worms, and are chemically conditioned to never lie. The king keeps them as advisors, and many of them openly hate him, and were his enemies in their former lives. They can't speak unless someone pumps the bellows that push air through their vocal cords.
- In John C. Wright's The Orphans Of Chaos, Orpheus appears a headless man who carries about his head separately. On the other hand, he is dead and just coming from Hades, (and they are about to make him Psychopomp).
- In many of Alastair Reynolds novels the technology exists to reattach severed heads or even regrow whole bodies. Spacesuits are equipped with built-in head-severing equipment as a last-resort survival mechanism, though in at least one novel a character opts for a prosthetic body instead.
- Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks. Special Circumstances operative Cheradenine Zakalwe crash-lands on a primitive planet and is sacrificed by the natives through decapitation. Fortunately his colleages zoom in just in time to snatch back his head, but not before he's had a horrified moment to realise exactly what just happened. Later Zakalwe is in hospital waiting for a new body to be grown (they gave him the choice of remaining unconscious but he'd rather watch television) when the artificially-intelligent drone Skaffen-Amtiskaw (who doesn't like Zakalwe much, and has a twisted sense of humor) sends him a present. A hat.
- In the same author's (non-Culture) novel Against a Dark Background Feril ends up decapitated. The severed head is still able to talk and even move his also-severed arm, since Feril is an android.
- Urza in the Magic: The Gathering tie-in novels to the "Invasion" block. Planeswalkers being energy beings, this is understandable.
- Vampires in the Discworld have to be staked as well as decapitated to kill - Otto loses his head in The Truth and merely has to put it back on the stump. They find it embarrassing to reattach their heads in public (he compares it to using the facilities in front of people).
- Likewise, zombies on the Discworld can survive almost any dismemberment.
- Unseen Academicals mentions a long-ago game of street football in which a fallen player's severed head was mistaken for the ball, and wound up being used to score the winning goal. The victim was posthumously credited for the victory.
- Invoking this trope on King Lorenzo the Kind (who wasn't) made "Old Stoneface" Vimes infamous in Anhk-Morpork's history. No one else would dare to wield the ax.
- In The Last Continent, this is mentioned as an occasional side effect of the hangman's not adjusting the length of the rope properly.
- Averted in Michael Slade's Headhunter. When the POV of a just-decapitated woman is shown, she can only think, not speak or breathe, and remains conscious only briefly.
- In the Dragonlance novel The Legend of Huma, Huma has to fight the immortal warlord Crynus. After running him through the neck and the stomach barely slow him down, Huma gets his hands on Crynus' battle axe and knocks off his head with one blow. Then Crynus's body stands up again and starts to stumble single-mindedly towards his severed head. He almost reaches it before the silver dragon arrives and disintegrates him with dragonfire.
- In That Hideous Strength, the title of Head of the N.I.C.E. turns out to be horribly literal. The villains are taking orders from a guillotined criminal's head, which they've kept alive by supplying it with artificial blood. And yes, Lewis was well aware that it wouldn't really work — that's a plot point.
- Thalassa in the Warhammer 40,000 novel Dark Adeptus remains able to talk after decapitation due to Chaos sorcery.
- In Stephen King's The Breathing Method, a woman who's about to give birth is decapitated in a car accident in front of the hospital. She remains alive and conscious for several minutes, from sheer willpower, until she gives birth to her son.
- The baddies in Richard K. Morgan's The Steel Remains cut off their victims' heads and do really terrible things to them, by way of an object lesson to anyone who tries to work against them.
- In A Spell for Chameleon, Trent beheads the mortally wounded Herman at his request. Herman's severed head thanks him for a quick and clean death.
- Averted in Charles de Lint's Svaha: A minor character who's just been beheaded by a ninja sent by the Yakuza maintains consciousness only long enough to see his body collapse.
- The giant Bolloggs from Walter Moers Zamonia novels are unique in Zamonia in that they can survive without their heads; once they reach a certain height they tend to discard their heads — and then go off on wanderings looking for the same heads they just discarded. (Bolloggs aren't very bright, especially not after losing their heards.) In The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear, one of the many obstacles the titular character has to face is a huge, discarded Bollogg head.
- Larry Niven's Known Space:
- In Ringworld, Nessus, a Pierson's Puppeteer, is decapitated. Luckily, not only does his species have two heads, but neither of them are where Puppeteers keep their brain. It's at most an inconvenience until he can get a new head attached.
- The short story "Procrustes" starts off with Beowulf Schaefer stepping out of an autodoc. It's later revealed that he was in it because he had been beheaded, and was regrown from the removed head.
- In The Black Company
- This happens to The Dominator for a short time (less than an hour), up until his soul was imprisoned inside of a silver nail, and his head grounded and incinerated into ashes.
- In the same battle that the Dominator was slain, The Limper's head was lost. And then found by the demon, Toad-Killer Dog, whom extorts tribes of savages and their shamans to construct a whicker body for the wizard who's name currently grosely overstates his mobility (i.e. The Limper).
- For a time period spanning half the series Soulcatcher, would travel with her disembodied head that she would carry in a black box. Her state of head-not-being-on-top-of-her-shoulders ended when Croaker sewed it back on.
- Early in Sandman Slim, Stark cuts off the head of Kasabian, the hardest-luck member of the circle that sent him to Hell. He did so with an enchanted knife that only kills when he orders it to, so Kasabian's head sits in his closet for most of the book, bitching about its state. Near the end, it dies outright, only to get sent back by Lucifer as part of a job deal. Between the first book and Kill The Dead, Stark gets it an animated table with articulated legs so that it can move by itself.
- In the Conan the Barbarian story "Scarlet Citadel," Tsotha-lanti tells Conan that "if you hack me in pieces, the bits of flesh and bone will reunite and haunt you to your doom!" The next moment, Conan cuts off his head. The head remained alive, and the body attempted to recover it. Fortunately, a friendly sorcerer took away the head, the body ran after him, and the king was rid of the need to find a solution.
- One of the historical stories from The Zombie Survival Guide had a tale told to a Jesuit Missionary in Feudal Japan. The story goes that Japan had a secret society whose function was to hunt down and eliminate zombies, and the finial initiation was for an acolyte to spend a full night sitting in a room full of moaning zombie heads that had been cut off and preserved in jars. The "editor" of these historical stories does note that this would be impossible because of the Fridge Logic about the zombies needing lungs to moan, thus either meaning the tale is false, exaggerated, or the moans are the product of the terror felt by the acolytes.
- The book also contains several other cases of zombie heads kept in jars, either as part of ancient science experiments or as oddities in various courts.
- In a poem by Shel Silverstein, the protagonist complained about losing their head and about the fact that they couldn't look for it ("'cause my eyes are on it"), call to it ("'cause my ears are on it") or even think about it ("'cause my brain is in it") - "so I guess I'll sit down on this rock/and rest for just a minute." (Three guesses what the "rock" was.)
- Sacha and Wyan from The Prism Pentad. They were decapitated for not siding against Rajaat, and were turned into zombie heads by Kalak. They serves as mentors for King Tithian during the series. Oh, they also have a desire for human flesh and blood.
- Discussed (in a way) in Saga of the Jomsvikings, when a captured viking facing execution suggests he will hold up his knife if he still can after being beheaded.
- According to 1066 and All That, Charles I was so little affected by his beheading that he continued to walk and talk for half an hour afterwards. This angered Cromwell.
- Robert Olen Butler's Severance is a short story collection in which each short story is told from the point of view of a beheading victim in their last minute or so of life.
- In Veniss Underground, the genetically engineered assassin-class meerkats produced by Quin are capable of surviving for several days as just a head. Shadrach decapitates the meerkat Salvador in order to render him harmless and portable, and renames him "John the Baptist".
- Revelation Space has space suits designed to deliberately decapitate and then freeze the user's head in the event of an emergency (such as a suit breach). Once the head is recovered, they can be installed on a robotic body and be pretty much none the worse for wear.
- BIONICLE examples, none of which are canon:
- Very early storyboards for a planned promo animation of Tahu reassembling himself on the Ta-Wahi beach show him attaching his fallen-off head first.
- In the game BIONICLE: Heroes, it's a recurring theme, and every boss you defeat (apart from the final boss) is left as just a head at the end of the fight. Rule of Funny applies. There's also an Idle Animation where your character starts playing keepie uppie with its head.
- A gag-video released on-line had Hahli Mahri's head popping off due to a rough submarine ride. It falls on her foot, causing much pain.
- Horace Graevsyte in Non Sequitur.
- Jeremy's head has popped off his body and went about it's own way as a part of many visual gags in Zits.
- Connie's head also floats away like a balloon to depict her "airheaded-ness".
- A headless swamp monster doesn't scare Garfield more than his dish bowl being empty.
- Bone Busters has Ol' One-Eye, a disembodied skull who throws quips and jokes at the player.
- Similarly, there's Skull the Bone Head in No Fear: Dangerous Sports, who's strictly for the snark.
Religion and Myth
- Older Than Feudalism: Orpheus, according to Roman writer Ovid: his severed head continued to sing for a while after his murder.
- The Christian martyrology has Saint Denis (Bishop of Paris, executed by pagan Romans during the Imperial prosecutions) and Saint Solange (Mysterious Waif murdered by a nobelman who tried to abduct her). Both were beheaded, then their dead bodies just took their heads in their hands and walked away, praising the Lord until they reached the nearest towns and dropped dead there. In fact, Saint Denis is always represented in media with his severed head in his own hands◊.
- The Welsh have Saint Winefride, who was decapitated by a jealous suitor when she announced her intention to become a nun. Her head is said to have rolled down a hill, with a healing spring bursting forth where it stopped. If that's not enough, Winefride's uncle, Saint Beuno, then picked up the head and attached it to the body, bringing her back to life.
- Saint Quitteria was beheaded and thrown in the ocean. She is often depicted walking back out of the ocean with her head under her arm.
- It's probably not a coincidence if many of cephalophoric saints (like the three aforementioned) come from celtic or formerly celtic lands like Gaul and Britain: celtic myths have several examples of gods, heroes or giants whose head continue to talk, drink or recite poems after habing been severed.
- As for Hinduism and Buddhism, there's the deity Chhinnamasta who severed her own head with her own sword just to feed her two attendants with her blood. Now that's hardcore.
- Brazilian folklore has the headless mule, which has fire coming out of the stump - though it's described as "coming out of its nose"... and that it has a bridle tied to its mouth. A few versions reduce the Fridge Logic by saying the fire covers its head, not replaces it.
- The Arabian Nights story of King Yunan and Duban the Sage. Duban the Sage comes to the king's court when the king is very ill, and manages to save the king's life. However, an Evil Chancellor convinces the king to distrust the sage, and the sage is put to death. His head is able to speak after being cut off, reprimanding the king and eventually leading to the king's death also.
- Mimir in Norse Mythology, as the wisest god. He was beheaded in the Aesir-Vanir War, but Odin used magic to preserve and revive the head, and it serves as his advisor.
- From Egyptian Mythology, the sorcerer Naneferkaptah had to face a serpent both immune to magic and who had this ability as the Final Boss guarding the Book of Thoth. When standard freezing spells didn't work, Nefrekeptah went for the direct approach and cut off the serpent's head, and threw it far into the river. However, the head came back almost instantly and blocked his path again. Nefrekeptah again cut off its head, threw it into the river, and this time put sand on the neck before the head could come back. The head couldn't reattach, and though the serpent couldn't die, it just lay there, helpless.
- In Japanese folklore there are monsters called Nukekubi; they seem like normal humans during the day, but in the night their head detaches from their bodies and starts to float around and search for a human victim to devour.
- Similar monsters are recorded in a number of East Asian countries, with perhaps the best-known being the Malaysian penanggalan.
- Baba Deep Singh. The legend says that his head was cut completely or almost completely off and still was able to fight.
- In the medieval Dutch ballad "Het lied van heer Halewijn" (the song of lord Halewijn), the evil Halewijn's head keeps talking after the heroine chops it off, asking her to blow on his horn to summon his friends, and to rub salve on his neck (the heroine refuses). Possibly justified because Halewijn is hinted not to be quite human.
- The Deadlands incarnation of Joaquin Murrieta died. He came back. Then, he got beheaded. Now, his (understandably insane) body's looking for his head, and is more than happy to "borrow" yours until he finds it. The best part? Undead Joachin Murrieta can only be stopped if you destroy his head. Happy hunting!
- In Deadlands in general, this is what happens when you decapitate a Harrowed. The head is unfazed by the loss of the body and stays fully conscious, but helpless because of not having any arms or legs. A Harrowed can recover from this condition if someone kindly sews the head back on and feeds them some meat.
- Trolls in Dungeons & Dragons; anything cut off them, including heads, can live and will either reattach itself or regenerate.
- One of the Mystara supplements described trollish games, some of which involve using the head of one of the participants as a living football. Which tries to bite the feet that kick it.
- Unsurprisingly, the Ravenloft setting plays with this trope. Jacqueline Montarri is a headless NPC villain who steals the heads of women to wear, and has an enormous collection of decapitated and still conscious female heads in her basement. (This is a curse, which she can only undo by finding her real head, which she has been looking for ever since she was executed by beheading centuries ago. To be blunt, as she will tell you horrid fates like this will often befall those who cheat and murder members of the Vistani.) Lebendtod, a zombie-like undead template, can remove their heads and limbs at will.
- In earlier editions iron golems could continue to function after losing their heads, including breathing out poison gas.
- Exalted has an odd version of this from the dangerously powerful Charcoal March of Spiders supernatural martial art. The user delivers a punch so ludicrously hard that the head not only explodes, but the person whose head did explode has several seconds thereafter to think and react because they, and reality itself, haven't caught up to the fact just yet.
- In GURPS 3rd Edition, one of the supplements full of fantasy magic spells had a spell called Decapitate, which did exactly what its name says. Not only that, both the head and body were still alive, and since the head was still magically able to speak, if it knew any spells, it could still cast them! Of course, without the head, the body could not eat or drink, and would eventually die of dehydration or starvation. But this was not a problem either! Another spell allowed you to turn everything BUT the head into stone... and THEN you could decapitate him.
- The Orks of Warhammer 40,000 are so tough that their decapitated heads can survive for up to an hour, more than enough time for a Mad Dok to easily attach it to a new body or just staple it back on.
- In Pippin, Pippin has a poignant conversation with the head of a fallen Visigoth soldier. In a later scene, after Pippin has been crowned king, a headless man comes up to him and asks for his head to be reattached.
- In a Ravenloft skit performed at GenCon 1999, "One Piece At A Time", a lady surgeon attempts to bring her fiancee back to life after he dies in a tragic accident. The title says it all, but early scenes correspond to this trope.
Became a Crowning Moment of Funny when Sean Reynolds, playing the fiancee with his head stuck through a hole in a covered table, couldn't see the page of lines lying beside him. "I can't even hold a script!"
- Jenova was decapitated in the events leading to Final Fantasy VII. Sephiroth, realizing the jig is up (and unable to take the entire body with him), removed his "mother's" head on his way out of the Nibelheim mako reactor. However, he was waylaid by pre-amnesiac Cloud Strife and thrown from the connecting bridge, sinking into the pool of mako. The headless body of Jenova continues to live on - albeit in cryogenic suspension - waiting to be "reunited" with its missing parts.
- In Primal, the Wraith can apparently survive being decapitated. A group of severed heads in Raum's torture chamber (all of whom hate each other) eventually take time out from arguing to help the PCs. One, however, calls the guards, simply to antagonize the rest.
- Other severed heads are scattered almost randomly throughout the upper mansion, giving comments, advice, and encouragement. One somehow knows Scree's name.
- In Chrono Cross one skeleton character, which you have to assemble, starts off as a talking skull.
- In Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, when you fight Nemesis in the Treatment Room. Douse him with a remarkable strong acid two times and his head will come off. But rather than die like the zombies, he continues attacking, albiet blind.
- Killer7 has Susie, a severed head you tend to meet in very enclosed spaces (the first one being a washing machine). She always has a ring in her mouth when you find her. She's also a ghost. She's also completely loopy.
- Murray the Talking Skull in The Curse of Monkey Island. Justified in that he was actually dead and re-animated by spooky voodoo magic well before he became a disembodied skull.
- In Animamundi Dark Alchemist: The hero's little sister was beheaded, but still survived. Granted, by the game's universe rules, it was part of a "Test" - only witches can survive beheading.
- A head in a jar is a "work of art" that you can purchase in the console version of The Sims.
- Boomer in Ballz throws his head as a special attack.
- Tekken 6 has Alisa Boskonovitch who can remove her head and have it explode in front of her opponent. Of course, a new one emerges shortly after.
- Kangaxx from Baldur's Gate II, when you first meet him was just a skull. Helps he's a lich who had been disassembled and this game was based on Dungeons & Dragons.
- Kratos in the God of War games not only is able to tear off the head of the Gorgons, but proceed to use their (apparently still living) heads as weapons, petrifying enemies with their eye-beams. In the third game he does the same for the god Helios, using him as a Lantern.
- Super Mario Bros.:
- The Recapitator (skeleton enemies) in Wario Land The Shake Dimension have their sole attack being to detach and throw their head at Wario like a boomerang, catching it afterwards. They also come back to life when killed like the Dry Bones in the main Mario games, and can only permanently be killed by destroying their body while their head is in mid air. Or, if you're feeling saucy, destroy the head and leave the body hanging for awhile before it collapses into a heap.
- Broque Monsieur of the Mario & Luigi games is shown in Bowser's Inside Story and Dream Team to be able to flip his head in the air◊ in order to, of all things, change his facial expression.
- PS1 RPG Shadow Madness had a disembodied telekinetic head by the name of Xero von Moon. He was kept alive (and presumably afloat and able to speak) by a thin metal ring at his neck, and fought primarily with kinetic bolts (though he could resort to a headbutt).
- In the first episode of Xenosaga, the functionally immortal Dragon Albedo is left in charge of a young hostage. So he rips off his own head, throws it at her feet, then spends a while like that mocking her fear (and making creepily suggestive puns in French) before stomping it into paste. Just to pass the time.
- Morte, a floating skull and the resident Deadpan Snarker of Planescape: Torment.
- Morte didn't lose his head; it's right here. He also didn't lose his body, it's where he left it.
- Serious Sam has beheaded rocketeers, beheaded bombers, beheaded firecrackers and beheaded kamikazes. Former three carry their head with one hand while the latter doesn't have a head at all.
- Despite not having a head, the Beheaded Kamikazes can still scream. The scream of a kamikaze is one of the most recognizable (and feared) sounds in the game.
- Dr. Nefarious in robot mode gets his head knocked off by Qwark in one of the vid-comic sections in Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal. Horrible punning ensues.
- Although very loosely, Dynamite Headdy surely counts as the main character throws his head around and switches it with power-ups. Not to mention it explodes when he dies and it gets replaced with a game over sign.
- The main character of Never Dead, a game about an immortal gunslinger fighting a demonic invasion. Even if dismembered, he can put himself back together again. He loses his head (both figuratively and literally) in the first trailer. "My story was just getting interesting too!"
- In Vampire Savior, Jedah has a move called Spregio that has him doing this to himself and blasting the opponent with the resulting rush of blood!
- This is the entire plot and gameplay gimmick of Dead Head Fred.
- Some enemies in Unreal will feel for their head for moment after decapitation.
- Several enemies from Dead Space can remove Isaac's head, one will take over his body after his death. Instant decapitation results in Isaac feeling for his missing head for a second.
- In Avernum 3, you can get a talking skull, which will shout random phrases at random times. One of the most hilarious ones is: "Aragorn! Boromir! Come quick... Oh, never mind."
- Runescape's "A Clockwork Syringe" quest features a severed zombie pirate head, which the Player Character has to torture for information.
- The original Kung Fu Master has the Black Magician: any mid/high attack would result in his head falling off, and him teleporting back to reappear complete and unharmed.
- In Chariot: Adventures Through the Sky, Final Boss Lar loses his entire body halfway through the Boss Fight, but he's got no problem keeping up with the Bullet Hell as a disemboweled head.
- In the extremely bizarre Samurai Zombie Nation, you control the detached (and giant) head of the samurai Namakubi as you use Eye Beams and acid spit on zombies. Really.
- Yet another Shoot 'em Up example: Tripod Sardine from G-Darius. Once it takes enough damage, its head gets blown off. It still survives, though.
- A straighter example would be the Final Boss of Darius Force, Galst Vic (a Terminator-esque robot). When his first form is defeated, you have to escape the exploding base... and then his head comes to attack you! Strangely enough, his head can grow◊ and shrink◊ in size.
- The player character in The Incredible Crash Dummies can lose his head, resulting in reversed controls until you find a spare head.
- In Disneys Villains Revenge, Alice (of Alice in Wonderland fame) actually gets beheaded and you have to travel a maze to find her head.
- The boss Echizen in Death Crimson OX has a head that I can only describe as an egg with a pair of giant red lips. Part one of the boss fight is fighting his kung-fu kicking body as his head continuously inflates. Part two involves his head floating off of his body, then splitting into six individual floating heads that then proceed to ram into you and shoot lasers at you.
- While inversions are also more common, in The Binding of Isaac, Pestilence and sometimes Gapers and Mr. Maws continue moving after losing their head.
- Pictured above is a scene from a Team Fortress 2 promotional video. The head of the BLU Spy, which the RED Medic keeps in his fridge, is being sustained by some eldritch and surely illegal medical technique involving dry-cell batteries.
- Skullgirls has Ms. Fortune, an undead catgirl who was chopped up into pieces by the mob after stealing and swallowing a gem that made her body undying. Her fighting style revolves around extending, detaching, and reattaching her limbs — most notably her head, which functions not only as a weapon but is capable of propelling itself around and attacking independently of her body.
- Jet Headstrong had this power on Defenders of Dynatron City.
- In Lollipop Chainsaw, after Nick is bitten by a zombie Juliet decides to save him by chopping off his head and preserving it with a magic ritual of some sort. He's not exactly happy about the situation but Juliet thinks that it is just awesome that her boyfriend is now a talking head.
- In the "Test Your Luck" game in Mortal Kombat 9, one of the results causes both fighters to fight the next match headless. The worst thing about this is, neither player can use X-Ray moves; exactly how bad it is otherwise depends on what fighter you're using. (For many, it's not much else, but for a few, it can be very hindering. It's the most debilitating for Kung-Lao, seeing as half his moves and almost all his Fatalities require his hat.)
- A Good Bad Bug in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim sometimes causes enemies beheaded mid-sentence to continue a taunt after decapitation. The game doesn't stop the sound file when the enemy dies, resulting in a disembodied voice for a second or so.
- In the PC-98 version of Madou Monogatari 2note , after Arle defeats Schezo, his head gets up and starts fighting on its own.
- The Skelterwild Dream Eater in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance has a tendency to do this whenever it receives a hit strong enough to make it stagger. This is by no means a good thing (Unless it's your friend), as it causes the head and body to attack in tandem by using ice breath and by ramming respectively.
- In Grim Fandango, Salvador Limones gets reduced to a talking skull. Sure, he was Dead to Begin With, but the rest of the skeleton, which you have to find later, is not animated, implying that the head is still the part that holds one's consciousness, even after death. Even as a skull, Sal manages to perform a Heroic Sacrifice by spitting Sproutella into the face of a character who betrayed him, thus rendering both of them Deader Than Dead.
- The Witch Doctor in Adventure Island loses his head each time you defeat him, only to have it replaced by an uglier mug.
- Sekibanki of Touhou, a Rokurokubi with some Dullahan motifs mixed in. She has the ability to make her head fly off independently from her body. ZUN mentioned in his music notes for her theme music that he wasn't sure if the Rokurokubi was the Youkai that could stretch their neck or if it was the youkai that could detach their head (a possible Shout-Out to Lafcadio Hearn who mentioned in his book that people misidentify the Nukekubi for a Rokurokubi), so he gave her both powers.
- Some zombies in Doom 3 have lost their heads.
- Played for Laughs in LEGO Island. The island's inhabitants, being made of LEGOs, can easily survive decapitation:
- The opening cinematic has the ambulance have a tow truck crash into it, and the patient's head gets knocked off into the road. The ambulance driver just picks up the head, chucks it into the back of the ambulance, and gets back behind the wheel.
- An encounter in the residential area has a character get his head knocked off by a passing truck. The head starts directing the body to try and pick it up.
"Hey, I'm over here! To my left! Er, your left! Er, our left!" (body walks towards head) "Right." (body goes right) "Not 'go right,' 'correct'!" (body kicks head) "It's not a soccer game! Use your brain! Oh, I guess ... that's over here." (body kicks head again) "Ow! Just bend down slowly and—" (body kicks head high into the air and it lands on the neck) "He shoots, he scores! OW!"
- In Ogre Battle, you can recruit Pumpkins (men with pumpkins for heads) into your army, who attack by tearing off their own heads, kicking them into the air, whereupon they grow to huge size and land on an enemy, halving their HP (or killing undead units outright) unless they miss. If you upgrade them to a Hallowe'en, they can do it twice a fight!
- In Office Zombie, you can cut the Zombie's head off with a couple of items. When you throw it back, he'll stick it back on his neck and be good as new.
- Vengarl of Forossa from Dark Souls II was a brutish, bloodthirsty mercenary until he got decapitated in a fierce battle... and woke up as a disembodied undead head. Ironically, he learned to enjoy his newfound peace, spending his time watching the forest, thinking and occasionally talking with random travellers. His only concern is that his headless body still is rampaging somewhere else.
- Earthen Peak area is populated mostly by some sort of headless undead ninjas. The boss of said area, Mytha, is a half-woman-half-snake, also beheaded, who carries her head in left hand and uses it as the sorcery catalyst and occasionally as a magic grenade.
- Chivalry Medieval Warfare's "Black Knight" Game Mod makes decapitations (and other severed bits and pieces) non-lethal, allowing for a headless, armless knight to run around kicking people to death.
- Happened in Bite Me! via guillotine; her head was later located by the main character being asked to list head puns (in a room full of severed heads) until she groaned loudly enough to be found.
- An entire storyline of Narbonic revolves around how Dave's disembodied head is forgotten on the bus.
- Happens to Xykon in The Order of the Stick.
- And also to the Eye of Fear and Flame, which was kept by Belkar until it decided death was better than living (well, undying) as an immobile skull with Belkar as a master.
- In No Rest for the Wicked, Red severs the witch's head. The witch sticks it back on, grumbling.
- Daisy Is Dead has two instances.
- Probably the single most infamous comic from Sexy Losers involved Shiunji, a necrophiliac, a corpse whose head fell off, and what he did to its neck. The comic's subtitle read "I am certain that at some point in the future, I will be prosecuted for this comic in a court of law."
- In Sluggy Freelance, Torg invented the "Zombie-Head-On-A-Stick." It's Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- To say nothing of the time Riff managed to disconnect his own head (and trap Torg and Gwynn's upper halves in another dimension) by thinking with portals.
- Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures : "You would be amazed how difficult it is to aim when your head is in a box across the room."
- In Looking for Group, one of the men in Richard's village. Justified because he's not exactly human...
- Also, Richard is beheaded but still able to maintain his normal levels of awesome.
- Stubble Trouble features the decapitated characters of Gynette the spidertaur and Lilith the Headless Goth Vixen. Gynette's boyfriend really seems to like her ability and her friends are unfazed as she often takes her head off. Lilith the Headless Goth Vixen was a former model who was famous for her decapitation.
- Done in Fanboys in a very nightmarish fashion.
- Done in Khatru, where Healing Factor powered Ranger unwittingly agrees to test one of Gadgeteer Genius Kira's medical scanning devices. She tries everything to fix him, but in the end, he recovers all on his own.
- Girl Genius:
- Tinka's head continues to talk after being sliced off.
- Castle Heterodyne while its mind was stored in the body of Otilia.
- Doctor Sun keeps Selnikov's head in a jar, preserved and conscious for interrogation.
- In the Girls in Space storyline The Protoype, Fergus Macrumble punches the Henchbot's head off.
- Runcible Spoon in Dominic Deegan is known for sending his own head flying. Also once happened to Quilt, including the "hey, body, over here" routine.
- Nostrom in Jack has a habit of switching his head between a bunch of bodies after he goes to hell. And he keeps his bodies' original heads in a jar where they're constantly begging people to kill them.
- Hector in No Songs For The Dead got his head punched off by Romeo, after which Hector taunted Romeo, saying "You punch like a girl."
- In Rusty and Co., decapitation does not work on the vampires.
- In Commander Kitty, CK ends up in pieces after a Teleporter Accident, with his still-talking head landing inside a toolbox. Fortunately for him, it seems he just needs someone to snap him back together like a LEGO minifig.
- Questionable Content had an Imagine Spot featuring Penelope vomiting a rainbow mixed with Cheshire Cat Grin.
- Rick of Umlaut House is cybernetic below the neck, and his head can detach and walk around on mechanical spider legs.
- Dragon Ball Multiverse: Cell does this to himself to avoid being petrified by Dabura.
Web Serial Novel
- GR-210 is reduced to just a head in Statless And Tactless when he horrifically fails an attack roll and the GM is feeling vindictive. However, being a robot he's still alive as a head and gets carried around in a backpack.
- A series of controversial experiments (sorry, we can't tell you when, where or by whom) showed that it is possible to transplant a monkey's head onto a different monkey's body, although establishing spinal communication between the two was not possible. Originally proposed by the surgeon as a means of prolonging the lives of quadraplegics whose own bodies are failing, this technique has been soundly rejected by bioethicists ... not because it's gruesome, but because donor organs can save more lives if they're distributed among many transplant patients, rather than the whole body being used to aid one.
- Mike the headless chicken.
- Cockroaches can live for weeks after decapitation. They will eventually starve to death because they can't eat without their mouth.
- Back in the days where Losing Your Head was a punny way of saying "capital punishment", some curious people (again, we can't tell you who or when) did a series of experiments which basically consisted of waiting until the next execution, then shouting at the head to see whether and for how long they could keep its attention. The head can stay conscious for 10 seconds or so, though most lost consciousness instantly due to shock. We can thank the French for this information, since they kept using the guillotine for executions until the 20th century.
- Internal decapitation, in which the skull is forcibly separated from the spinal column but the soft tissues of the neck remain intact, can be survivable if the injured person receives artificial respiration and other care. If the spinal cord isn't broken, a full recovery is also possible.
- A male preying mantis can survive for a short time after decapitation. The female has a tendency to bite his head off, and this feature allows the male to finish mating before he dies.
- Some snakes, particularly rattlesnakes, can react to their surroundings and bite up to an hour after decapitation.