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Familial Cannibalism Surprise

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When Alice kills Bob's child (or other relation) and serves them to Bob.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
nedlum on May 23rd 2016 at 7:48:02 PM
Last Edited By:
AHI-3000 on Nov 9th 2017 at 9:49:19 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

You have bent your enemy to your will. As a show of obedience, he is now hosting you at a lavish feast in your honor. Only too late do you begin to wonder where your son is, and what exactly what is in the stew.

A Sub-Trope of I Ate WHAT?! and I'm a Humanitarian, and usually also Revenge Is a Dish Best Served.


Examples:

Comic Books

  • The Punisher:
    • Psycho for Hire Barracuda recounts how an African warlord once killed his brother and had him cooked up to test his mercenaries' reactions. They all started vomiting as soon as they learned what they were eating... except Barracuda, who asked for seconds.
    • A Triad leader is unimpressed with Nicky Cavella's threats (he keeps eating during the meeting), saying he has three grown sons to take over the business even if Nicky has him killed. Nicky tells him he's eating one of them, before gunning down the other two standing behind him.
  • In The Sandman Fiddler's Green relates a version of Little Red Riding Hood in which the wolf carved up Granny and poured her blood into a wine bottle, then tricked Red into having a bite and a drink before killing her as well.

Fan Works

  • In the oneshot Cinderella Dark Fic Consumed, Cinderella enacts revenge on her abusive step-mother and step-sisters in this manner. She orders Anastasia to be assassinated, gets her fed to her mother and sister, then frames them for murder and cannibalism.

Folklore

  • The Juniper Tree, a fairy tale by The Brothers Grimm, tells of a Wicked Stepmother who kills her stepson, then cuts him up and serves him as a stew to her husband / the child's father.

Film

  • In The Rocky Horror Picture Show after Dr. Scott says that Eddie was his nephew Dr. Frank-N-Furter reveals that they've been eating "Eddie under glass".

Literature

  • A Song of Ice and Fire
    • The legendary Rat Cook is said to have served a prince to his father, over an unknown slight by the King.
    • In more recent times, it is implied that Lord Wyman Manderly served three Frey's as pies at the wedding of Ramsay Bolton.

Live Action TV

  • In Game of Thrones Arya Stark kills and feeds Walder Frey's sons to him instead of Lord Manderly
  • In Gotham, Oswald Cobblepot kills Elijah's stepchildren then feeds them to her before killing her. They were using him as a servant and had poisoned his father.
  • CSI: This maybe stretching the definition of filial, but in the "Last Supper", the murderer cuts up the Victim of the Week, cooks him, and serves him to the contestants on a cooking show as a palate test. The victim had raped and murdered her sister together with his 'frat brother', who is one of the contestants. The butchering and cooking scene is an obvious tip of the hat to Titus Andronicus.

Music

  • Professor Tom Lehrer composed the novelty song The Irish Ballad which has a deranged Irish lassie murder her family members one by one, the last victim being her baby brother. After killing him, she cooked his flesh as a stew, and invited the neighbors to have some.
    One day when she had nothing to do,
    Sing rickety-tickety-tin,
    One day when she had nothing to do,
    She cut her baby brother in two,
    And served him up as an irish stew,
    And invited the neighbors in, -bors in,
    Invited the neighbors in.

Mythology

  • Classical Mythology:
    • When King Atreus of Mycenae learns that his brother Thyestes has committed adultery with Atreus' wife Aerope, he kills Thyestes' sons and has them cooked and served to their father. When Thyestes has finished his meal, Atreus reveals the truth and shows him the children's hand and feet. Then he banishes Thyestes from Mycenae for eating human flesh.
    • According to Greek Mythology, king Tereus raped his wife's sister, cut out her tongue, and held her captive until she managed to smuggle out a message to her sister. The sister killed their son and fed him to Tereus. Titus Andronicus borrows heavily from the story.
    • Herodotus claims that's how Cyrus the Great came to rule. His grandfather, Astyages, had a vision that his grandson will take the throne from him. He decided to kill him, but the man ordered to do so, Harpagus, disobeyed. Upon learning of it years later, Astyages killed Harpagus' son and fed the body to him. Later, when Cyrus revolted against him, he put Harpagus in charge of the army.
    • An inversion: Tantalus wanted to test the omniscience of the gods, so he invited them to a banquet where the main course was his own son Pelops, cut up in a stew. The gods were horrified and didn't eat any, except for Demeter, who was distracted by her daughter's recent kidnapping and didn't pay attention to what she was eating. The gods then resurrected the son, giving him an ivory shoulder to replace the one Demeter had eaten, while Tantalus was sentenced to always have food and drink just out of reach during an eternity in Tartarus.
    • Similarly to Tantalus, another king named Lycaon served the meat of his own son Nyctimus to Zeus, to test his omniscience. Zeus resurrected Nyctimus and punished Lycaon by turning him into a wolf.
    • Classical Mythology inverted this when Kronos, wanting to eat his children so they couldn't overthrow him, unknowingly ate a rock disguised as the baby Zeus.
  • Norse Mythology: After King Atli has killed Gunnar and Hogni, the brothers of his wife Gudrun, he offers he will make it up to his wife by holding a funeral feast for the brothers. Gudrun cuts the throats of the two small sons she has with Atli and serves their roasted hearts to their father, together with wine mixed with the children's blood in drinking cups made from their skulls (Poetic Edda, Prose Edda, Volsunga Saga).

Theatre

  • In Titus Andronicus, as revenge for the rape and mutilation of his daughter, Titus kills the sons of Tamora, Queen of the Goths, bakes them into pies and then tricks her into eating them.

Western Animation

  • In the South Park episode "Scott Tenorman Must Die", Cartman kills Scott's parents, cooks them into chili and tricks him into eating it, mocking him in an homage of Titus Andronicus.
  • A Robot Chicken sketch has a vengeful fish killing a man's wife and serving her to him.

Index: I'm a Humanitarian

Feedback: 57 replies

May 23rd 2016 at 8:14:39 PM

The Zeroth Law Of Trope Examples: As part of an extremely convoluted (and bloody) revenge scheme, Titus serves Tamora her two sons Demitrius and Chiron backed into a pie in Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare. many later examples are homages to (or otherwise reference) Shakespeare's play.

May 23rd 2016 at 8:44:39 PM

  • In Ultima VII you can bake bread with the blood of a murdered man and then feed it to his son.

May 23rd 2016 at 11:02:23 PM

I am pretty sure this happens in the Classical Mythology, but I don't remember the specifics.

May 23rd 2016 at 11:50:48 PM

  • According to Greek Mythology, king Tereus raped his wife's sister, cut out her tongue, and held her captive until she managed to smuggle out a message to her sister. The sister killed their son and fed him to Tereus. Titus Andronicus borrows heavily from the story.
  • Herodotus claims that's how Cyrus the Great came to rule. His grandfather, Astyages, had a vision that his grandson will take the throne from him. He decided to kill him, but the man ordered to do so, Harpagus, disobeyed. Upon learning of it years later, Astyages killed Harpagus' son and fed the body to him. Later, when Cyrus revolted against him, he put Harpagus in charge of the army.

May 23rd 2016 at 11:11:55 PM

  • A Robot Chicken sketch has a vengeful fish killing a man's wife and serving her to him.

May 24th 2016 at 1:32:41 AM

I'm just surprised this is a thing.

May 24th 2016 at 2:24:01 AM

May 24th 2016 at 8:09:59 PM

Music

  • Professor Tom Lehrer composed the novelty song The Irish Ballad which has a deranged Irish lassie murder her family members one by one, the last victim being her baby brother. After killing him, she cooked his flesh as a stew, and invited the neighbors to have some.
    One day when she had nothing to do,
    Sing rickety-tickety-tin,
    One day when she had nothing to do,
    She cut her baby brother in two,
    And served him up as an irish stew,
    And invited the neighbors in, -bors in,
    Invited the neighbors in.

May 24th 2016 at 8:54:24 PM

^ I'm not sure that counts, since it's not about getting revenge and there's no family connection between the eaters and the eaten.

While we're discussing not-quite-examples, Greek Myth also has the story of King Tantalus, who tested the omniscience of the gods by inviting them to a banquet where the main course was the flesh of his own son. (That earned him a famous Ironic Hell when he died, where he was always hungry and thirsty and surrounded by food and drink that moved so that it was always just out of reach — hence our word "tantalizing".)

May 25th 2016 at 12:06:58 AM

  • Inverted in South Park when Eric Cartman gets revenge on Scott Tenorman (for swindling Eric out of $16.12) by having Scott's parents killed and cooking them in a pot of chili that is served to him at a cook-off.

May 25th 2016 at 12:07:27 AM

South Park: Cartman's ultimate revenge on Scott Tenorman in ''Scott Tenorman Must Die" is to orchestrate the deaths of Scott's parents and then serve up their remains to Scott as chili during a chili cookoff.

May 30th 2016 at 6:38:14 PM

  • In Bowsers Kingdom, Kamek tells Jeff and Hal feed Wart one of his kids so they can get a 1-Up mushroom. Jeff comments that Kamek probably did so just to mess with Wart.

Jul 16th 2016 at 3:11:18 AM

This is how Arya takes vengeance upon Walder Frey in the sixth season finale of Game Of Thrones, just before killing him once and for all.

Jul 16th 2016 at 6:28:16 AM

  • An inversion from Greek Myth: Tantalus wanted to test the omniscience of the gods, so he invited them to a banquet where the main course was his own son, cut up in a stew. The gods were horrified and didn't eat any, except for Demeter, who was distracted by her daughter's recent kidnapping and didn't pay attention to what she was eating. The gods then ressurected the son, giving him and ivory shoulder to replace the one Demeter had eaten, while Tantalus was sentenced to always have food and drink just out of reach for eternity.
  • The Punisher:
    • Psycho For Hire Barracuda recounts how an African warlord once killed his brother and had him cooked up to test his mercenaries' reactions. They all started vomiting as soon as they learned what they were eating... except Barracuda, who asked for seconds.
    • A Triad leader is unimpressed with Nicky Cavella's threats (he keeps eating during the meeting), saying he has three grown sons to take over the business even if Nicky has him killed. Nicky tells him he's eating one of them, before gunning down the other two standing behind him.

Jul 16th 2016 at 8:09:54 AM

  • In the oneshot Cinderella Dark Fic Consumed, Cinderella enacts revenge on her abusive step-mother and step-sisters in this manner. She orders Anastasia to be assassinated, gets her fed to her mother and sister, then frames them for murder and cannibalism.
  • In Gotham, the Penguin kills Elijah's stepchildren then feeds them to her before killing her. They had killed his father and were using him as their servant.

Jul 16th 2016 at 11:50:10 AM

Speaking of Greek Mythology, I think there's another story about cannibalism. If I'm not mistaken, there was a King Lycaon who served the flesh of his own son Nyctimus to Zeus. Zeus turned Lycaon into a wolf as punishment.

Sep 11th 2016 at 1:47:31 PM

Mythology

  • Classical Mythology: When King Atreus of Mycenae learns that his brother Thyestes has committed adultery with Atreus' wife Aerope, he kills Thyestes' sons and has them cooked and served to their father. When Thyestes has finished his meal, Atreus reveals the truth and shows him the children's hand and feet. Then he banishes Thyestes from Mycenae for eating human flesh.
  • Norse Mythology: After King Atli has killed Gunnar and Hogni, the brothers of his wife Gudrun, he offers he will make it up to his wife by holding a funeral feast for the brothers. Gudrun cuts the throats of the two small sons she has with Atli and serves their roasted hearts to their father, together with wine mixed with the children's blood in drinking cups made from their skulls (Poetic Edda, Prose Edda, Volsunga Saga).

The title is incomprehensible. "Filial Cannibal" suggests a son who is a cannibal.

The classical examples is Atreus' revenge on his brother Thyestes in Classical Mythology. So the name could be "Revenge Of Atreus". But maybe the trope is not only about revenge. In "The Juniper Tree" by the Brothers Grimm, a Wicked Stepmother kills her stepson and serves him to his father; but not out of revenge, she just wants to get rid of the boy. As mentioned above, Tantalus does not act in revenge either, and neither does Lycaon.

Sep 11th 2016 at 3:03:25 PM

^ Indeed, this draft could use a different title. What should it be?

Sep 11th 2016 at 3:49:07 PM

I like Titus's Family Recipe, but I know character names are frowned upon. We could also do something like with Im A Humanitarian, like Literal Family Dinner.

Sep 11th 2016 at 6:30:38 PM

I like "Literal Family Dinner".

Sep 15th 2016 at 9:09:34 PM

^ I stand by Literal Family Dinner, but neither of our titles indicate that the cannibal is unknowing.

  • Classical Mythology inverted this when Kronos, wanting to eat his children so they couldn't overthrow him, unknowingly ate a rock disguised as the baby Zeus.

Sep 16th 2016 at 2:48:17 PM

^Revenge Is A Dish Best Served is a supertrope to this one, as it is broader and covers all forms of tampering with someone's food as revenge.

Sep 17th 2016 at 12:25:58 PM

The concept goes "revenge by making your enemy unknowingly eat your relative".

That sure sounds hard to make a short name for.

But more importantly:

  1. cases where someone unknowingly eats their relative's flesh may happen outside of revenge reasons. I can only think of "punishment", though.
  2. cases of someone making someone else eating their relative's flesh as revenge may have the second guy knowing what they eat, but they're forced to do it by the first guy. Which makes it even more depressing.

So...?

Sep 17th 2016 at 12:51:47 PM

Should it be noted how this is an oddly recurring plot device in Greco-Roman folklore?

Sep 17th 2016 at 1:24:17 PM

^ It's not that recurring. There's Thyestes and Atreus, Tereus and his wife, and (if you count Herodotus) Astyages and Harpagus.

But Tantalus and Lycaon served their own sons to Zeus/the Gods, and it had nothing to do with revenge. I don't think it is an inversion either; I suppose the story is actually about forbidden Human Sacrifice. Kronos intentionally and knowingly ate his own children.

Sep 17th 2016 at 4:17:54 PM

Someone suggested changing the title because not all of these cases involved revenge.

Sep 18th 2016 at 12:07:37 AM

The motive is not the only distinction between the examples that were named here. I think we have the following options of what the trope should be:

  1. Taking revenge on someone by serving them the flesh of their own children, for them to eat it unkowingly, but with the intent of revealing the deed later. This is obviously what the OP was thinking of.
  2. Serving someone the flesh of their own child(ren), so they eat it unknowingly. But motive does not matter, and it is also not necessary that the deed is revealed later. This would cover an example like "The Juniper Tree", in which the bad stepmother just wants to get rid of her stepson and disposes of the body in a practical way, and has no intention of ever telling the boy's father.
  3. The act of eating your children (intentionally or not, knowingly or unknowingly, for whatever motive). This covers both 1) and 2), but is much broader and covers, for example, Kronos who ate his own children (uncooked) because it was prophecied that his own children would overthrow him.

In either case, the trope is NOT serving human flesh to someone (for whatever reason) who eats it unknowingly (Tantalus, Lycaon, Sweeney Todd, ...). This is a supertrope to 1) and 2), but it occurs often without someone eating specifically their own children. *Serving* your own children is something much different from *eating* them.

Sep 18th 2016 at 7:59:23 AM

In short, is this about "seving your own children" or "being served your own children"?

Sep 19th 2016 at 1:06:57 PM

The trope name is still bad, and several examples do not fit (the Tom Lehrer ballad, Tantalus, and Lycaon). Tantalus is not an "inversion", it's something completely different.

The obvious pun would be Eating Your Own Flesh And Blood.

Sep 19th 2016 at 1:17:22 PM

^ That title sounds very tropeworthy.

Sep 19th 2016 at 5:51:15 PM

^^ that sounds okay, but I don't know why you think Filial Cannibalism doesn't work.

Sep 19th 2016 at 5:56:35 PM

^ "filial" is too specific; not all the examples are parents eating their own children.

Sep 22nd 2016 at 10:37:54 AM

@Filial Cannibalism: It implies eating your son, not eating a relative. It's too narrow.

Sep 22nd 2016 at 9:05:33 PM

I believe any case of eating your relative should count here, and not just for surprise, like in Kronos example.

Sep 23rd 2016 at 5:32:49 PM

If it's not too late, can I propose Filal Mignon ?

Also are we doing the No Real Life Examples here? The case seems specific enough not to, but I feel like it may be exploitive.

Sep 26th 2016 at 8:11:21 PM

  • In Gotham, Oswald Cobblepot, having learned his stepmother intended to the poison for him that instead killed his father, kills her children and has them served to her.

Oct 8th 2016 at 10:35:26 AM

@sigh824: I don't see why we can't have any real life examples if they exist.

Oct 21st 2016 at 2:16:42 PM

Bump.

I personally think this should be limited to the following circumstances: 1) Someone is eating their own relative 2) A third party engineered this situation on purpose, for revenge or their own twisted reasons

This specific situation is common enough, due in part to the Classical Mythology examples, to be its own trope. The Tom Lehrer example fails point 1, the Kronos example fails point 2. The first Punisher example and the Tantalus and Lycaon examples are either not examples, because they are someone intentionally feeding their own relative to other people, or they are inversions.

Oct 22nd 2016 at 12:41:31 PM

Is this only for when people kill their enemies and serve them as dinner for the enemies' relatives? The only example I can think of involves eating relatives, but not as an act of serving them to their enemies:

  • An episode of Tales From The Darkside has a couple who live out in the woods whose children no longer live with them. It turns out at the end of the episode that they ate their own children.

Oct 23rd 2016 at 7:16:42 AM

  • In The Sandman Fiddler's Green relates a version of Little Red Riding Hood in which the wolf carved up Granny and poured her blood into a wine bottle, then tricked Red into having a bite and a drink before killing her as well.

  • In The Rocky Horror Picture Show after Dr. Scott says that Eddie was his nephew Dr. Frank-N-Furter reveals that they've been eating "Eddie under glass".

Jan 30th 2017 at 3:59:48 PM

CSI: This maybe stretching the definition of filial, but in the "Last Supper", the murderer cuts up the Victim Of The Week, cooks him, and serves him to the contestants on a cooking show as a palate test. The victim had raped and murdered her sister together with his 'frat brother', who is one of the contestants. The butchering and cooking scene is an obvious tip of the hat to Titus Andronicus.

Jan 30th 2017 at 4:02:06 PM

The image has to be from Rocky Horror, with the caption "Not Meat Loaf again!"

Mar 31st 2017 at 10:00:55 PM

Subverted by Cronus from Greek Mythology. He willingly ate his own children to remain the top God around, until Zeus overthrew him. (He had been tricked into eating a rock instead of Zeus) Apparently babies taste like rocks. Who'd have thought it?

Apr 20th 2017 at 3:27:48 PM

Apr 20th 2017 at 6:24:15 PM

Magazines

  • One issue of Mad has a Don Martin comic featuring a primitive cave-dwelling family. The mother brings in a large hunk of cooked meat, and sets it on the ground, while father and son drool with delight. Eating begins, and resembles a feeding frenzy complete with a Big Ball Of Violence dust cloud. The meal is soon reduced to a pile of bones while father and mother pat their rounded tummies. The last panel has the couple notice that junior has vanished. Played For Laughs, and overlaps with I Ate What.

Oct 29th 2017 at 2:10:44 PM

Does anyone else think we should change this to Familial Cannibalism?

Oct 30th 2017 at 10:46:39 AM

This one isn't about a secret meal where the eaters don't know, but I thought it was worth a quick mention to see if it counts as a variation.

  • The Walking Dead features a very short arc where the main characters are being stalked by a group of cannibals called "The Hunters", who intend to hunt them down one by one and eat them. During an attempted parley with the Hunters, their leader reveals that before they started hunting other groups of survivors, they began by eating their own children in desperation to avoid starvation.

Oct 30th 2017 at 12:28:32 PM

Folklore

  • The Juniper Tree, a fairy tale by The Brothers Grimm, tells of a Wicked Stepmother who kills her stepson, then cuts him up and serves him as a stew to her husband / the child's father.

Nov 9th 2017 at 9:49:01 PM

@Getta: I think that title is most fitting for this trope.

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