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Dishonored Dead

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"The queen, the courtiers: who is that they follow?
And with such maimed rites? This doth betoken
The corse they follow did with desperate hand
Fordo its own life: 'twas of some estate.
Couch we awhile and mark."
Hamlet, Act V, Scene I

This trope is where, due to some crime or sin a deceased person committed in life, they are denied some or all of the funerary rites that are normally Due to the Dead.

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As a punishment that transcends even death itself, condemning someone's body to such a fate is usually reserved for the worst of the worst among a society, but the reasoning behind it varies. It could simply be a form of Last Disrespects, where the deceased's crimes are just so heinous that they're deemed unworthy of the fond farewell and remembrance of a traditional funeral. Or worse yet, unworthy of any remembrance at all. If a culture considers its traditional rites important to a soul's safe passage to the beyond, then they can withhold the rites to ensure the wicked soul's damnation, or leave them Barred from the Afterlife entirely (which would be blasphemous itself, trying to rob God(s) out of the choice). Finally, if they know how the latter can backfire, they can opt for the other extreme and render them Deader Than Dead, disposing of the body in a way that ensures they won't return and continue to torment the living.

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The methods also vary. Perhaps their bodies are buried in an isolated location away from those of the rest of their community, or their graves are left unmarked. Maybe a culture that usually preserves their dead will instead destroy the corpse of a wicked person. Often bodies are publicly exhibited to Make an Example of Them to show someone else down the line the price they will pay for messing with the wrong people. Or they could simply leave the body to rot or get eaten by the local wildlife. Whatever the case, they treat the bodies of bad people differently than those of everyone else.

Compare Desecrating the Dead.


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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Akagami no Shirayukihime the sentence for those who betray and try to kill members of the royal family is execution and burial in an unmarked grave at an undisclosed location. When Zen's first "friend" turned out to be part of a plot to kill him to get back at his brother for something the elder prince had done even he didn't know where the traitor was buried and couldn't pay his respects, though Mitsuhide did retrieve an ornament from the young man's bow to give to Zen.

    Comics 
  • In the French comic Les Ombres du Styx, the inquisitor gets the mortally wounded serial killer to reveal his latest victim's location by swearing before Jupiter that his corpse will be prepared according to Egyptian rites (the killer had been raping and murdering little boys and mummifying them to serve him in the afterlife). The murderer gives the location... then the father of a previous victim informs the murderer that after the corpse is prepared, he'll make sure it doesn't end up buried according to the rites but thrown to the dogs, dooming his soul to an eternity of torment. The murderer dies begging for mercy, and the inquisitor goes off to find the boy, musing that there are now two promises to fulfill.

     Film-Animation 
  • Coco:
    • Due to his abandoning of the family, Miguel's great-great-grandfather doesn't have a presence on the Rivera family's ofrenda. The one family picture of his great-great-grandparents has his face torn out. Miguel's great-great-grandfather is eventually revealed to be Héctor.
    • After the truth comes out about Héctor and Ernesto de la Cruz, the memorial dedicated to Ernesto appears to be condemned one year later. A bust of him is shown to be covered by a sign that says "FORGET YOU."

    Film-Live Action 
  • In the Expanded Universe of the Predator franchise, Predators who break their rules of honor (such as those who hunt defenseless beings) are hunted down, have their bodies dismembered and desecrated, and have their heads simply disposed of rather than being kept as a trophy like they do with most of their kills.

    Literature 
  • The Tale of Einar Sokkason: After Einar has killed Ozur in a feud on the orders of bishop Arnald in the immediate vicinity of the church, the bishop prevents the proper rites, such as washing and laying out the corpse, taking place until he has finished his dinner at his leisure. Only when Einar chides the bishop for not treating Ozur's corpse with respect, the bishop gives permission to bury the body within a churchyard, but still delays the customary prayers until after the due time. The bishop's behavior contributes to the further escalation of the feud.
  • In The Mountains of Mourning an elderly woman who murdered her "mutant" (actually just suffering a harelip) granddaughter is sentenced to death. But in deference to her age she is merely stripped of all her property, made a ward of her daughter, and finally denied the customary funeral rite of burning a memorial offering at her grave. This last is what finally hammers the sentence home to her.
  • The Lost Fleet: An officer who led a mutiny against Captain Geary's command, attempting to destroy his flagship and succeeding in destroying a heavy cruiser whose captain backed out of the plot, has her body unceremoniously jettisoned while in jump-space. Geary himself is more than a little shocked when he hears that this is a normal part of the penalty for treason, because superstition has it that anyone whose mortal remains cannot be returned to normal space for proper burial is Barred from the Afterlife. He doesn't overrule it, though: The apropriately-named Captain Kila tried to do the very same thing to himself and everyone onboard the flagship by remotely sabotaging their jump-drive.
  • In Warrior Cats, if a dead Clan cat has committed a grave crime, they may be denied the traditional funeral rites of sharing tonguesnote  and their Clanmates sitting the night vigil by the body. When Clawface, a ShadowClan warrior turned rogue who murdered Spottedleaf and kidnapped a litter of ThunderClan kits, is killed on a raid on the ThunderClan camp, his body is buried without any ceremony as punishment for his crimes.
  • Safehold: Under the rules of the Church of God Awaiting, traitors cannot be buried in consecrated ground. After Admiral Manthyr and his men are captured by Dohlar, the Inquisition takes this to the point of throwing the bodies of dead POWs into the bay like garbage, instead of allowing them any burial.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the second season of The Musketeers, the Queen prevents anyone from respectfully closing the eyes of the dead Count Rochefort, who among a whole lot of other evil things attempted to rape her.
  • In the Star Trek franchise, this is the fate of Klingons who die as cowards, meaning that they can't ascend to Sto-Vo-Kor.
  • Rome. Gaia makes a Deathbed Confession that she murdered Pullo's wife Eirene to be with him. Pullo, who up to that point had been distraught that Gaia was dying as well, strangles her to death in a rage and then dumps her body in the river. To the Ancient Romans this was a way of damning someone. Without proper funeral rites, their soul would be unable to enter the underworld and they would be stuck in limbo for all eternity.

    Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • This happens to a few kings of Judah in Book Of Chronicles. Most kings were buried in rock tombs near their ancestors. Jehoram is not buried with the other kings due to being rather nasty, and Azariah/Uzziah is buried in a field due to being a leper.
    • For the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14:19-20:
      All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory,
      each one in his own tomb;
      but you are cast out of your grave
      like an abominable branch
      and clothed with those who are slain,
      thrust through with a sword,
      who go down to the stones of the pit
      as a corpse trodden underfoot.
      You shall not be joined with them in burial
      because you have destroyed your land
      and slain your people.

    Roleplay 
  • In the roleplay Tamrielic Adventures, after Hodor and his group of Nords attack Kelessa, Rosa, and the shipwreck survivors, Hodor's dead body is beheaded by Kelessa, and they do not bury him or his allies.

    Theater 
  • In Hamlet, a good portion of Act V, Scene I consists of debate over whether Ophelia, who most likely drowned herself, deserves a full Christian burial (as Christianity considers killing oneself just as sinful as killing someone else). The scene starts with two gravediggers arguing over it. During the actual burial, when her brother Laertes, disappointed with the sparseness of the proceedings, asks "What ceremony else?" the priest replies that she's only getting a cemetery plot at all because the king ordered it.
  • In Antigone, King Creon orders that the body of Polyneices (who had attacked the city to claim kingship) should be left unburied.
  • In Giulio Cesare in Egitto by George Frederic Handel, the body of Achillas, the Egyptian commander, is thrown by Sextus into the sea. Achillas did work for the Romans' enemy before and especially take part in the murder of Sextus' father, but Sextus completely ignores the fact that he had defected to the good side and had just given him, Sextus, the commander's sigil which is the only means to save his mother.

    Video Games 
  • In Conquests of the Longbow, Robin and his men will usually bury anyone they kill and have Friar Tuck perform the funeral rites. The only exception is the guard who attempts to rape a peasant woman for non-payment of her taxes; if you kill him, Robin will order his body to be left out for the wolves and ravens.
  • In Crusader Kings II, a pope who dies with the "Wicked Priest" trait will trigger an event where his corpse is put on trial for his crimes. This was inspired by the real-life Cadavar Synod, described below.

    Real Life 
  • In the United Kingdom, there was once a tradition of burying executed criminals, and people who had committed suicidenote , at a crossroads instead of in consecrated ground in a cemetery. The idea being that this would prevent their spirit from finding their way home and haunting the living. This also lead to superstitions that crossroads were cursed or haunted, by the lost spirits of such people.
  • In medieval England, criminals were sometimes hung, drawn and quartered, after which their body parts would be displayed as a deterrent to others, rather than receiving a proper burial. Most infamously, this was the intended fate of Guy Fawkes for his part in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, re-enacted (with dummies known as "guys", obviously) in the British isles every 5th of November.
  • In pre-industrial Europe, actors were denied burial in church grounds.
  • Plot E of Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in France contains the bodies of American servicemen who were executed for rape, murder, or both. They're officially referred to as "the dishonored dead". Plot E is across the street from the main cemetery, hidden behind hedges and thick forest, and is not included in any official maps or guidebooks. No American flags are permitted to fly there. The graves themselves have tiny numbered grave markers with no names and it's supposed to be impossible to determine who is buried where.
  • The Cadaver Synod of Pope Formosus by Pope Stephen VI. The late Pope Formosus was exhumed, put on trial for perjury and illegally serving as a bishop while a layman, buried in a graveyard for foreigners. Then exhumed again and, with weights tied around his corpse, threw it into the Tiber. This backfired on Stephen, who was eventually deposed, imprisoned and assassinated. The Synod was eventually overturned, the body recovered and returned to its proper place.
  • Back in the days when the Catholic Church had far more influence than they do now, and when church and state were largely indistinguishable, being excommunicated was Serious Business. Someone who had broken a Church law was not allowed to receive Communion (and in many cases, not allowed to worship, and ostracized from even the secular community), not allowed to marry in the Church, and not allowed to have a Catholic funeral or even be buried in a Catholic cemetery (which at the time, may have been the only cemetery around). It was also believed that they could not get into Heaven.
  • Right up through World War One, "prone burials" were used as a final Take That! against someone who wasn't liked, or had done something wrong. Although it was done to men and children, it was most often done to women. Sometimes for actual wrongdoing, other times for their reputation, and sometimes for the heinous crime of aging naturally and dying of old age instead of in the prime of life and physical beauty.
  • Child rapist and Moors Murderer Ian Brady was so hated for both his crimes and his continued torment of the mother of one of his victims by not revealing the location of his body that when he finally did the decent thing and kicked the bucket, no undertaker was remotely interested in accepting his body for disposal, and the local councils of the areas he had been associated with in life blanched at the prospect of his body or ashes finding their final resting place in their borders. His will stated he wanted to have his ashes scattered on the moors where he disposed of the bodies of his victims, an appalling prospect for reasons that should be blindingly obvious. In the end the courts had to rule that it was acceptable to deny him a funeral and dump his ashes in the sea, once they found a crematorium willing to take on the task of getting rid of him. The judge even ruled that Brady's choice of musical send-off should not be played at any point during the disposal of the body.
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