Follow TV Tropes


Due to the Dead

Go To
"The meeting between ignorance and knowledge, between brutality and culture — it begins in the dignity with which we treat our dead."

Funeral rites are the last honor given to the physical remains of the dead, or sometimes if no body is available, the memory of the remains. Funeral rites are regarded as something that is due to the dead and have for a long time. Indeed, since burials leave archeological evidence, we know that they occurred as many as 300,000 years ago, as a practice among the Neanderthals.

These rites have been incorporated in art as a trope, as a mark of character, and is Older Than Dirt, with funeral rites in art from ancient civilizations. In some cases, you can tell whether a group or species is Always Chaotic Evil or Always Lawful Good based on how how they mourn their dead. Evil characters will "mourn" their dead via violating proper treatment of a corpse by mutilating, reanimating, or even eating the dead, though Due to the Dead is one of the most common standards villains maintain. Good characters will (rarely!) do the same to a dead Complete Monster or the like, but usually are marked by their proper respect for the dead, down to even letting Revenge end when the villain is dead; if they have to destroy bodies to contain a plague, or display it to prove that he is really dead, they will often find it Dirty Business. Granting proper due can also be show of respect symbolic of a formerly-evil character's redemption; especially when Redemption Equals Death.

Even when you put The "Fun" in "Funeral", the humor tends to be dark and the characters nasty.

A wide variety of practices are possible, as in Real Life. Cremation and burial are the most common, but such practices as exposing the dead to vultures and other unusual methods can be done in fiction as in life. Even slicing up the body — usually regarded as mutilation and proof of evil — has been done in Real Life as a means to free the soul from the body and has featured so in fiction. In a similar vein of Values Dissonance, even the above-mentioned eating of the dead has been a common funeral rite done in real life as a means to allow the dead to live on in their loved ones. Still other cultures have even Zig-Zagged this trope, regarding the corpse itself as an irrelevant lump of flesh now that it no longer houses a spirit, regardless of whatever rites they may or may not perform to commemorate the spirit that left it. Preserving parts (usually bones) of the dead can be the mark of a Necromancer or of respect, depending on how used; see the Sub-Trope of Dead Guy on Display.

One funeral practice, however, will put the characters on the evil side, no matter how respectfully they carry it out: Human Sacrifice.

Note that some dead are due more than others. The Heroic Sacrifice calls for a well-attended funeral, making The Hero Famed In-Story, and perhaps even a monument. Sometimes to mitigate the effect of Dying Alone; What You Are in the Dark may threaten that the hero will die unmourned. Conversely, some are due less than most; the Complete Monster, the Dirty Coward, etc. may be dumped in an unmarked grave with minimal ceremony.

On the other hand, some of the living owe the dead more than others. Family and friends have a duty to carry this out, often through a Shrine to the Fallen. Strangers who perform such things for the dead are acting out of generosity; a Good Shepherd may perform such rites. Indeed, some ghosts manifest in order to properly reward a total stranger who arranged for the burial.

Other ways in which this trope might present itself: closing the eyes of someone who Dies Wide Open; sorting through the deceased's belongings (may result in Personal Effects Reveal); responding with Manly Tears or Tender Tears; a Meaningful Funeral, when most characters show due respect; a Lonely Funeral, when few; Libation for the Dead; Hats Off to the Dead; Dead Guy Junior; a Morality Chain continuing to bind postmortem; a determination to carry on the deceased character's work or Last Request; people wearing The Poppy; a heroic soldier being given a Deathbed Promotion; and Never Speak Ill of the Dead. Avenging the dead is also common, though it's viewed as less "good" than the other options.

However, no matter how beloved the dead, Excessive Mourning may be decried. Ghosts may complain that it is keeping them from peace, or characters may be criticized for neglecting their duties to the living.

Sometimes, usually For Laughs, a person's cremated remains (cremains) will be put in anything but a real funeral urn, maybe because they don't have the means to shell out for a proper urn, or are misers.

Observing this may be necessary to prevent the deceased from being Barred from the Afterlife and coming back as a ghost or other form of The Undead — which may take the form of an Indian Burial Ground.

To discuss actual funeral practices, see Funerals. See also In Memoriam.

Of course, this being a Death Trope, expect huge SPOILERS.

Example Subpages

Other Examples


    open/close all folders 

  • In some variants of the Child Ballad The Famous Flower of Serving Men, the heroine must dig her husband and child's grave. When the magical ending is used, a milk-white hind leads the king to the grave, where a bird laments how his love had become a serving man, and explains to the king how they had been murdered by the heroine's mother.
    They left me naught to dig his grave but the bloody sword that slew my babe
    All alone the grave I made, and all alone the tears I shed
    And all alone the bell I rang, and all alone the psalm I sang
  • In the Child Ballad The Unquiet Grave, the true love is mourned for A Year and a Day — though after that time, the dead have a new demand:
    The twelvemonth and a day being up,
    The dead began to speak:
    "Oh who sits weeping on my grave,
    And will not let me sleep?"

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering gives us cards like "Remember the Fallen", which grant the player either recursion or a bonus for each card in the graveyard. On the evil side, "Phyrexian" cards on these mechanics tend to be flavored as cannibalism or the like.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Gravekeepers protect tombs.

    Fairy Tales 

  • Book 8 of the Lone Wolf series, The Jungle of Horrors, has a few examples.
    • If you take the Barge to Tharro at the beginning of the book you get to witness both sides of this trope. The Necromancer that you fight and kill on the barge has his corpse weighted with rocks and tossed overboard like so much garbage. On the other hand, the friendly NPC that was killed by that necromancer is laid to rest in a casket and given a respectful burial in the river.
    • If you take the Great North Road, you might end up at an abbey. The monks of said abbey are actually undead Vordaks that murdered the real monks and took their place. After dealing with the Vordaks, Lone Wolf discovers the bodies of the real monks and takes the time to bury them.

  • This is what Belly song "Feed the Tree" is about, namely, paying respects to a grave where a tree is growing.
    "Take your hat off, when you're talking to me/And be there when I feed the tree"
  • The strangely upbeat song Revel, or Stand to your glasses steady:
    So stand to your glasses steady
    this world is a world full of lies
    Quaff a cup for the dead already
    and hooray for the next man who dies!
  • The country classic Big Bad John honors his Heroic Sacrifice thusly:
    Now they never re-opened that worthless pit,
    They just placed a marble stand in front of it.
    These few words are written on that stand,
    'At the bottom of this mine, lies a big, big man,
    Big John'.
    —>—Big Bad John, Jimmy Dean and Roy Acuff
  • Averted in Emmy Lou Harris' "All My Tears", where the singer/narrator says they don't care where they're buried since it won't have any effect on their conciousness after death.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • One of the few things Jesus' followers could do for him was give him an expensive, peaceful tomb. (Not that he was in it for long.) In a preceding scene, Pontius Pilate- coerced into abandoning the innocent man to a mob- insists that Jesus' cross be marked with "the King of the Jews" instead of "this man claimed to be King of the Jews".
    • Books of Samuel: In 2 Samuel 21, seven men are executed to atone for the attempted genocide of the Gibeonites under Saul. The bodies are left exposed, but Rizpah, the mother of two of the men, stands guard for months and keeps the animals off. When King David learns of this, he gives them a proper burial.
  • Classical Mythology:
    • Admetus is holding a funeral for his wife when Hercules visits. Sacred Hospitality requires Admetus to put Hercules up in his house, whereupon Hercules makes a royal ass of himself. Eventually someone explains to Hercules that Admetus is in mourning, and Hercules is incredibly embarrassed with himself for his behavior. So he hunts down Death, kicks the crap out of him, and brings Admetus's wife back to him as repayment for how he acted in a house of mourning.
    • The conflict of the last book of The Thebaid centers around the women of Argos trying to bury their husbands despite King Creon making that a capital crime. Just like in Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus rebels against Creon in order to bury her brother, but unlike in that play, Theseus and the army of Athens arrive to set Creon straight.
    • In Homer's The Iliad, Achilles abuses and mangles the corpse of Hector after killing him, in revenge for the death of his friend Patroclus. Achilles' attempt to mutilate Hector's corpse by dragging it behind his chariot three laps around the city was stopped by the Greek Gods themselves, who used their powers to keep the body untouched. They don't agree on much else, but proper treatment of the honorable dead is very high on their standards of behavior.
  • In Norse Mythology: Skald or Scef drifted ashore as a child and became king. When he died many years later, his people sent back to sea on a ship laden with treasure — described as not less than he had been sent with.

  • One surviving work of the Roman poet Catullus records his journey from Rome to Anatolia to make sacrifices at his brother's grave. The description of how he feels at the tomb are heart-wrenching.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The three most common ways of showing dues to the dead are the moment of silence (such as the one All Pro Wrestling had in 2011 for Gulf Coast's Bob Liddil), the "final ten count" (ten rings of the bell adopted from boxing, used for example to open Welcome To The Combat Zone in 2016) and the minute of applause (such as for Flor De Loto in LLF).
  • The most famous in pro wrestling was when officials from Japan, North and South Korea gathered together with Antonio Inoki to pay their respects at the grave of Rikidozan. This transitioned into a joint New Japan WCW show that drew the largest crowd on record.
  • Video tribute packages for the recently deceased are also fairly common, the World Wrestling League doing so for both important figures in their history like Perro Aguayo Jr. and even those who never worked for them like Hayabusa and Chyna.
  • After Jon Huber, known in All Elite Wrestling as Mr. Brodie Lee, died in December 2020, AEW ran an acclaimed memorial show, and kept him on the active roster listing it keeps on its website. He's still listed there to this day, with his win/loss record frozen at his 2020 mark of 11–3, and it's highly likely he'll stay there as long as AEW exists.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Ars Magica: Religion Is Right in the medieval European setting, so bodies that are buried by Church ceremony can't be affected by Necromancy. Jewish and Islamic funeral rites grant the same protection, as do some other faiths.
  • Champions 4th Edition: Not a burial place, but the "San Angelo" setting has the Liberty Square plaza. Memorials to several fallen heroes, including the WWII-era team the Liberty Corps, are placed here. Most supers in San Angelo, regardless of where they fall on the hero-villain scale, refuse to fight here out of respect to the dead.
  • Changeling: The Lost: Enforced by the Bargain of Winter. While the Ashen Court reigns, any of the Gentry or their servants who kill a changeling must mourn their victim's death in some fashion before they can resume fighting. It's mentioned that the rare full battle fought under Winter is a truly surreal sight, especially as most Keepers have no concept of grief or mourning and have to guess at appropriate acts of sorrow.
  • Exalted presents a strong incentive to give proper Due to the Dead, since failure to provide proper rites will usually anger the corpse's Hungry Ghost (one of the person's souls that remains behind to protect the body) and send it on a rampage. In certain areas, it's also possible to encounter a person's other ghost, who will also likely be pissed off if they didn't receive a proper funeral. Consequently, lavish funeral ceremonies are very widespread and it's common practice to give them even to defeated enemies, for pragmatism if nothing else — giving your slain foes a sumptuous funeral helps ensure that their ghosts won't come back for another round.
    • The reason non-hungry ghosts value funerals being that even the most basic rites allow one to "live" like a king in the Underworld (paper and wooden effigies carry over as luxurious and possibly magical treasures, food items become never ending, sacrificed animals will be loyal and virtually indestructible sources of food, fur, and labour and so on).
    • The grand funerals given by the Dragon-Blooded to appease the ghosts of the Solars after the Usurpation actually saved the Underworld, if not all of Creation. All of the death and destruction associated with the Usurpation caused the Neverborn to rise from beneath the Underworld with their spectre armies, but since the Solars had their panoplies from life as grave goods, they were able to drive the invasion back.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse contains card art of the funeral of Baron Blade, a long-time villain who teamed up with the heroes to defeat the universe-destroying OblivAeon. Legacy, the universe's preeminent hero, is delivering a eulogy.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Space Marines go to great lengths to recover their dead brothers, and the individual chapters have additional and often elaborate practices to remember their dead. However, the body itself is not really important, the important things are the progenoid glands, that generate and store the geneseed necessary to create new Space Marines, and the expensive and in some cases outright irreplaceable weapons and armor. The exception in regards to the body is if the Space Marine died a particularly heroic death; with some surgery and ancient machinery, they can be interred into a Dreadnought sarcophagus so they may continue to fight and lend wisdom to the Chapter long after death.
    • The Craftworld Eldar often risk their own lives to recover the soulstones of the fallen. Good thing, too, as if a soulstone is damaged, the soul is claimed by the evil Chaos God Slaanesh, which is a Fate Worse than Death. The Eldar even have a career path dedicated to expressing the other Eldar's collective grief at the Craftworld's losses.
    • The Kroot ritualistically consume the bodies of their fallen brethren and of worthy foes. Since they absorb genetic traits from what they eat, consumption is an act of respect in their culture, as it's their primary way of showing admiration for the deceased and allows them to live on through them in a way. The greatest dishonor to an enemy is to be "left on the side of the plate," as it were.
    • The heroic variant was once used to display Abaddon the Despoiler's respect for a Worthy Opponent. The Black Legion and the Blood Angels fought on a planet called Mackan, with the Blood Angels suffering catastrophic losses. One of the few survivors, Reclusiarch Jorus, survived in the wilderness with his Death Company, before launching a surprise attack on Abaddon's camp where he slaughtered Abaddon's honor guard and got into combat with the Despoiler himself. When the Black Legion left Mackan, they desecrated the bodies of hundreds of Blood Angels, with one exception: the bodies of Reclusiarch Jorus and the Death Company were unharmed, seated upon thrones made from the armor of the Black Legion troops they had slain that night.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Priests of the God of the Dead Morr are obligated to conduct funeral rites for the dead, most commonly a blessing and burial, to ensure they reach the peace of the afterlife rather than linger as a ghost or be waylaid by the Ruinous Powers. If the priest is powerful enough to wield Morr's magic, the blessing also prevents the body from ever becoming undead.

    Visual Novels 
  • One potential ending of the Screaming Author case in Spirit Hunter: NG has Ban host a short memorial for the child spirit. This is revealed to be because he lost his own child to a spirit, and so the mourning serves as sympathetic characterisation for him.

    Web Animation 
  • In DEATH BATTLE!, after Goku gets his brain disintegrated thanks to Heat Vision and powers down to normal form from SSGSS at the end of the rematch, his neck is let go and he begins falling towards the ground, Kal-El accompanies the falling corpse before grabbing the Saiyan's body and cradling it as he flies towards the ground, choosing and preferring to prevent Goku's body from landing in an undignified crumpled heap.
  • RWBY:
    • At the end of "Downfall," after Vernal uses her Last Breath Bullet to distract Cinder long enough for Raven to finish her off, Raven takes the time to close her eyes and thank her for her service.
    • When RWBY arrive in the city of Argus and one of their companions goes missing, the entire group goes in search of him. Jaune, while searching the city, comes across a statue memorializing Pyrrha, who died at the climax of Volume 3, proclaiming her a hero.


    Web Original 
  • Critical Role:
    • Campaign Two: When Mollymauk, a member of the Mighty Nein, is killed in battle in the wilderness, his friends bury him nearby, sharing a Libation for the Dead and marking the grave with his signature coat. Because Molly came back from the dead before through unknown means, Caleb slips a note in his pocket with directions on how to find them if needed. The Nein later try to revive him, but while they manage to bring him back to life, he lost so many memories in the process that his old personality is pretty much gone, leaving someone new in his place. Kingsley, as he dubs himself, chooses to think of Molly as a brother, and eventually names his pirate ship "The Mollymauk" in his honor.
    • Campaign Three: When the adventuring party kills The Mole Bor'Dor Dog'Son, they give him the standard adventurer's funeral (i.e., taking his valuables), but bury him with sentimental keepsakes like his family portrait and heirloom dagger.
  • When the group leaves for the Northern Crater after Aerith's death in the season 3 finale of Final Fantasy VII: Machinabridged, Tifa briefly returns and leaves behind a bouquet of flowers.
  • Even though The Nostalgia Critic didn't leave a body behind in To Boldly Flee, the TGWTG crew still gave him a funeral in honor of him saving the world. When he comes back, he mocks them for it.
  • After the first battle of the Tower in We're Alive, those who were killed were given a funeral complete with the reading of their names.


  • The painting of Albert Edelfelt: Duke Karl Insulting the Corpse of Klas Fleming. It is depicting a probably fictional episode of the Swedish Civil War when the Regent Karl burst into the room where the body of his enemy, Admiral Klas Fleming's body lay, pulled on his beard and insulted him in front of her widow.

    Comic Strips 
  • In early episodes of Bloom County, the Bloom Picayune would often engage in Malicious Slander. however:
    Milo (typing}: And thereby, our conclusion is that Councilman Hunzinker is a pin-headed old demagogue.
    Opus: Excuse me, sir, I thought you'd like to know that Councilman Hunzinker just kicked the bucket.
    (Beat Panel as Milo crosses out what he typed.)
    Milo (typing again}: Councilman Hunzinker was a sharp-witted elder statesman.

    Fairy Tales 

    Tabletop Games 
  • The typical reaction to the death of an ally or honored friend by the players of any table top game? Strip the dead of anything and everything of any remote value. Even, and especially, if they were a fellow PC. A necromantically-inclined PC may even reanimate their body as an undead meatshield.
    • Any class-specific items belonging to a dead PC will likely be handed over to the next person of that class the heroes come across. From a metagaming standpoint, this makes perfect sense (since it's the dead PC's player's new character); in-character, though, it's pretty weird.
  • Violating graves or desecrating corpses are among the many offenses that can be grounds for a Powers check in a Ravenloft game. Not that this stops a hell of a lot of necromancers, golem-crafters, ghouls, and other baddies from doing it... For religions that place special emphasis on the sanctity of the dead, defiling a tomb is in fact considered an Act of Ultimate Darkness that always gets the Dark Powers attention.
  • In Warhammer (the fantasy version), the necromancer Heinrich Kemmler seems to really get a kick out of desecrating tombs and playing around with corpses. There was this one time when he re-animated a bunch of zombies and then merged them together into a spider-like creature just to see if he could do it.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Both Orks and Chaos forces use corpses and heads as trophies. The Orks in particular only do it to enemies they considered worthy of it — think of it as Values Dissonance.
    • The Necrons have the Flayed Ones, who wear their enemy's flesh as a hide (they are batshit insane due to a virus in their coding making them think they're still flesh and blood Necrontyr, and so wear dead people's skins to show off that they are still living).

    Web Animation 
  • In RWBY, the usual alignment expectations are subverted. After Vernal's murder by Cinder and Cinder's subsequent Disney Villain Death, Raven takes a moment to close Vernal's eyes and thank her for her service to the tribe. The characters in question are members of a ruthless Bandit Clan, but they're very much loyal to each other.

  • In Kill Six Billion Demons, Meti was killed by her first student, Incubus, who chopped her body into pieces and fed it to the dogs outside the city. What makes this more complex is that Meti had remarked that she wanted her body disposed of this way when she died, being The Cynic (in the philosophical sense). Hence, her student might have done this as a mark of respect for Meti, though her second student (and only actual apprentice) disagrees heavily on that point.
  • Tsukiko in The Order of the Stick reanimates plenty of corpses to serve as guards for the newly-captured Azure City. Far later on, Malack reanimates the corpse of Durkon after being forced to kill him. Although he partially did it because he didn't want to lose a dear friend.
  • In Our Little Adventure, Angelika thinks bringing on Emily so soon after Pauline's death is disrespectful. Really. Not jealousy at all.


Shining Lights, Even In Death

Rather than simply scatter his lost soldiers' ashes to see, Big Boss makes a request for a better way to honor the fallen.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / DueToTheDead

Media sources: