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Shrine to the Fallen

Whether it's your dead little brother, your child that passed on after an illness, your lost love or just that one person you couldn't save, some characters are so attached to a deceased loved one that they have a hard time letting go. A shrine to the dearly departed is often a good way to inform the viewers of this connection, especially if the shrine is to someone who kicked the bucket before the show even started. In fiction, showing a child or bereaved spouse praying at such a shrine is a visual shorthand for the Disappeared Dad or Missing Mom.

These are typically created with a photograph and a number of votive candles or incense, but traditions vary from culture to culture. In Asian cultures, shrines to the dead are a traditional part of the mourning ritual and are placed either in a prominent position in the home or, if the household is wealthy, a place can be purchased/rented at the local temple. There are even shrines for the anonymous dead or women who died unmarried (so they don't come back as a Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl).

The main Western variant of the "shrine" is for the family of a deceased person (especially parents for children) to keep the deceased's bedroom exactly how it was when they were alive, and not using it for anything else because it would be the final admittance that the deceased is never coming back. Sometimes they will leave a chair for the deceased; this is especially noteworthy if said chair was the deceased's favorite.

Compare and contrast Stalker Shrine in which this idea takes on a much more sinister note, and Shrine to Self when you just love yourself that much. Compare The Dead Have Names, another way to commemorate the fallen.

As this is a trope about deaths, there may be some spoilers.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Bleach:
    • Isshin keeps a wall-sized poster of his deceased wife and often makes a show of crying to her over his children.
    • Byakuya also has one for his dead wife, Hisana.
    • Orihime's brother, unconventional as it may be.
    • It's eventually revealed on the anniversary of her death that Ryuuken keeps a discrete one for his wife on his desk at work.
  • Played for Laughs in Ranma ½, where a seemingly crazy widow treats a shrine to her dead husband almost like an imaginary friend.
  • In one mystery on Case Closed, Conan deduces that the name placard of such a shrine is the hiding place of a valuable stamp.
    • In another, Heiji and Kazuha almost fall to their deaths investigating a memorial rock that has incense placed on it.
    • In yet another, a similar rock commemorating the drowning of a young boy is the plot point to the mystery.
  • Sano finds out about what happened to his mother this way in Rurouni Kenshin (he prays to it under the guise of wanting to eat dinner faster)
  • In The Kindaichi Case Files, the body of one of the victims is found under such a memorial, and Kindaichi takes that to be a sign that the murderer wasn't the monster he claimed to be.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid, the "Yagami Family" keeps a small shrine to the first Reinforce in their house, shown with a picture and a food offering.
  • Pegasus from Yu-Gi-Oh! has a tower room and portrait dedicated to his dead fiancée.
  • In Ouran High School Host Club, the Fujioka family has a photo of Haruhi's mother in their living room.
  • The first chapter of Sangatsu no Lion features a standard family shrine in the Kawamoto home, with Hina offering some of the curry she and her sisters made to their deceased mother and grandmother.
  • In Naruto, Kakashi has a small shrine to his fallen friends, which is a small rock with their names scribbled on it.

    Comic Books 
  • There was a public one for Vita in Transmetropolitan.
  • Batman kept Jason Todd's Robin costume on display in the Batcave.
  • In Nth Man: The Ultimate Ninja , Dr. Yagyu kept his son's room locked and intact after he died from pneumonia. He eventually opens the room and passes on his son's possessions after adopting John.
  • In Y: The Last Man, the Washington Monument becomes a shrine to men, all of whom but one died in the Gendercide that kicks off the plot. It's lampshaded that this is because of the monument's phallic interpretations.

    Film - Live Action 

    Film - Western Animation 
  • In Mulan the Fa family shrine is the home of the ancestral spirits.
  • In An American Tail the Mousekewitz family keep a shrine to Fievel, whom they believe is dead.

    Literature 
  • Alluded to in Phoenix and Ashes. When Reggie Fenyx comes home on medical leave, he finds that his mother preserved his room as it was when he left for World War I (though at least it got cleaned regularly). He muses that had he died in France, the room would have become his memorial.
  • In Timothy Zahn's "Conqueror's" trilogy, the alien Zhirrzh have many of these. Each contains a large number of ceramic cages, each of which contains what appears to be a small sausage. While these are clearly shrines to the fallen, the humans quickly find out they aren't exactly passive...
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it's revealed that there is a large statue in Godric's Hollow that basically functions as a shrine to Harry's parents. Various witches and wizards have carved messages on the statue. It's a variant on the trope because the messages are all really for Harry, who is still alive.

    Live Action TV 

    Video Games 
  • In The World Ends with You, there's one for Beat and Rhyme, after they died in a car accident.
  • In World of Warcraft there are a couple of in-game places that commemorate deceased Blizzard employees or their relatives. One of them is even called similarly to this trope's name.
  • An Easter Egg in Max Payne 2 is a hidden shrine for a deceased programmer, consisting of a room with just a photo, his name, and birth and death dates. As well as some creepy music.
  • Earth And Beyond had a sector with space monuments to space exploration. There were monuments to the dead astronauts of Apollo 1 and Challenger. When the shuttle Columbia was destroyed on reentry a new monument was added to the game to honor the astronauts who died in the disaster.
  • In Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 5: Rise of the Pirate God, Club 41 becomes a shrine to Guybrush, whose Martyrdom Culture is due to his Heroic (or rather Stupid) Sacrifice for saving the entire Gulf of Melange from the Pox of LeChuck. The Club even has barrels of Grog, Banang, and root beer, along with votive candles, Guybrush's commemorative photo, and a wreath to be used as kindling next to Guybrush's corpse for cremation... unless his spirit can repossess his body in time, that is.
  • In Dragon Age II, after Leandra's murder, Hawke refuses to touch anything in their mother's room.
  • In Mass Effect 3, the Normandy SR-2 has a wall that bears the names of all the crewmembers who have died over the course of the series. Depending on your actions, it can become a very crowded memorial...
  • In the "Harley Quinn's Revenge" DLC of Batman: Arkham City, in two weeks the Steel Mill has turned into a shrine to the Joker, who has died of Titan poisoning. The exterior of the former funhouse has been renamed as "Harley's Funland", with statues of Harley guarding the gates and banners bearing the Joker's pictures and writings such as "R.I.P. Joker" and "Joker Forever". The interior is redecorated a little bit, while the centerpiece of the final room is transformed into a chapel interior, with lots of lit up white votive candles surrounding the altar and the monument of the Joker holding a glass globe, with Batman encased inside it.
  • In XCOM: Enemy Unknown there is a memorial wall for every soldier that has died during the game. In the background you can see pictures taped to the wall, with shot glasses in front. As the casualties rise, the number of photographs and shot glasses increase.

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, when Iroh returns to Ba Sing Se incognito six years after failing to conquer it, he creates a shrine to his son, with a picture, incense, and food, at the place where he fell in the battle.

    Real Life 
  • Celebrities often get massive shrines outside their homes (or somewhere associated with them) after they pass on. Princess Diana and Michael Jackson are two pretty good examples; the shrine outside Buckingham's gates was so massive that it actually started to block foot traffic.
  • This also seems to happen for victims of drive-by shootings and car accidents, especially if the victim was very young.
  • The fictional character Ianto Jones from Torchwood received this in the real world after he died in Children of Earth.
  • Like the above example, after the final episode of One Foot in the Grave, many people left flowers and tributes at the filming location where the fictional protagonist, Victor Meldrew, was killed in a hit and run.
  • Can often happen at the sites of major disasters or terrorist attacks, where people leave ad hoc collections of notes and mementos to remember the dead.
  • When Audie Murphy, the highly decorated WWII veteran and former movie star, died in a plane crash in 1971, near the top of a mountain in Virginia, the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars decided to build a memorial as close to the site as they could. They cleared and expanded the nearest mountain trail, and built a small stone monument with a plaque in 1974. Over the years, hikers have built a small wall or cairn around it, just by adding one stone per person to the existing pile. They occasionally leave other items as well. The informal add-ons are more impressive when you realize that most hikers tackle this trail because it is a relatively easy one, and have only vaguely heard of Murphy before they reach the monument.
  • In Britain, the government is bringing in punitive rules (under the guise of saving money on the welfare bill) to prevent low-income families claiming rent relief on houses thought to be too big for them. This is being called the "bedroom tax", in that a family with two children can only claim the full rate of rent relief on a three-bedroomed house: if and when the children move out and a bedroom becomes vacant, they will then lose a proportion of housing benefit and although the rent remains the same, they then only receive rent relief based on a two-bedroomed house. In at least two areas, this situation has arisen. A family with an only child saw their daughter murdered. They have maintained the daughter's bedroom as a shrine to her memory. But the cut in rent relief still applies to them because they have a theoretically empty room. The parents are, not unreasonably, asking for time and space to work out their grief and do not see why they should be penalised financially on top of losing their child so tragically. Opinion on both sides is vocal and divided.
    • It's worth pointing out that the current government has only introduced these rules for (state-owned) council housing. Those renting from private landlords had the same rules imposed on them 5 years earlier under the last government, and the party of that government (which is now the opposition) didn't exactly make any exceptions for these circumstances at the time.
  • Queen Victoria had a form of this after the death of her beloved husband, Prince Albert. For the rest of her life, the servants would lay out his clothes and toiletries every morning exactly as he would have used them in life, as though he was going to wake up at any moment and get ready for the day.
  • Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo became the great stumbling block of Japanese-Asian relations because the priests there decided to commemorate the Second World War by enshrining the kami (spirit) of everyone who died fighting for Japan; this includes a few thousand war criminals and thousands of foreign nationals who were forcibly conscripted to fight (or perform slave labor) for Japan. Needlessly to say, no one's happy about this. Even today, various Asian families are still petitioning the priests to remove the spirits of their ancestors from those who got them killed.


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