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El Cid Ploy

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"Give me your armor to put on my shoulders;
The Trojans might suppose I was you,
Hold back, and give the Acheans' sons a breather,
For breathing spells in war are very few."
Patroclus, The Iliad

Whether for good or for the moment, a major leader has died or gone into 10-Minute Retirement. He's likely to be a Supporting Leader or the Big Good / Big Bad — someone highly visible, whose presence alone could turn the tide of the battle. If he's gone, it would crush the morale of the Redshirt Army. So his team pretends he's still around, by creating the visual effect of his presence— dressing someone in his armor, finding someone that looks a bit like him, even toting his corpse around and treating it like it's alive. The ploy doesn't necessarily have to be performed for a battle— any instance of faking the image of a leader or champion to maintain order counts.

The Trope Namer is the Spanish national hero El Cid Campeador, real name Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, a soldier of fortune who worked with both Christian and Muslim forces in medieval Spain, ultimately becoming prince of the Taifa of Valencia in 1094 and keeping a beef with the Almoravid Empire. He passed away in Valencia in 1099, among unceasing Almoravis attempts to take the city. According to legend, his wife had his corpse fitted with his armor and mounted on his horse as a morale booster for the Valencian army, with some stories suggesting that he (was) charged into battle in this state.

There are two twists on this that sometimes show up. Often, the person pretending to be El Cid will get himself killed, having an even more demoralizing effect. Less commonly, the fake El Cid may try to assume the real one's identity, in which case this overlaps with Dead Person Impersonation (and if he does an especially good job, Becoming the Mask).

Compare Of Corpse He's Alive, which this overlaps with if it is played for laughs. Do not confuse with Dead Person Impersonation, which involves assuming someone's identity instead of their image. Compare Emergency Impersonation. Contrast Death Faked for You and Faking the Dead.

As a Death Trope, all spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Death Note the Kira investigation team do this to L after Light finally manages to off him. Of course they didn't know that L had some apprentices.
  • In the backstory of Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, the initial response to Shogun Tokeguwa Iemitsu's death from the RedFaced Pox was to hide his death until a male heir could be sired upon his bastard daughter. The deception lasted around a decade before said daughter took the reins and presented herself as Shogun Iemetsu.
  • Although numerous people have worn Zero's trademark outfit in Code Geass, this is played with in the finale. Lelouch Lamperouge originally created the masked persona Zero so that he could lead the Japanese rebels to victory over Britannia without letting either side realize he was a Britannian prince. When his rebel organization the Black Knights learned about this, they tried to assassinate him and then declared Zero dead to cut Lelouch off from any Japanese support. Lelouch went on to use underhanded tactics to claim the Britannian throne anyway, then essentially took over the world, ruling it with an iron fist. Suzaku, Lelouch's best friend, was declared KIA during the last major battle, as part of a ploy devised by him and Lelouch. Right before the public execution of the leaders of the Black Knights, Suzaku became the new Zero in order to publicly assassinate Lelouch, who had deliberately focused the entire world's hatred on himself so that his death would unite the many countries that had long been locked in war.
  • In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Marcello Jarti, a charismatic "hero of the revolution" of the People's Democracy of Jenoma in South America has a strange reputation for surviving assassination attempts; all the people killed looked exactly like him, leading the experts to conclude that he has a ton of body-doubles. In fact, the guy did die, and his Japanese partners-in-crime have been continually replicating him with imitation clones so that nobody will figure out he's dead. And even better is that the original died because he had to be used as a template for the clones to be created in the first place. This was his choice. All the clones of him were also "concluded to be the real Marcello Jarti" because they technically were- the cloning process accurately copied the original's soul, making the clones literally the exact same as the original, with the only differences being the individual memories that each one obtained only after they were born.
  • This is the case of Full Frontal of Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn - he's a Cyber-Newtype who resembles the late Char Aznable and has Char's memories implanted into him via Psychoframe.
  • The same could be said of Meer Campbell of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny - she was turned into a Body Double of the missing idol Lacus Clyne and used by Durandal to appease the citizens of the PLANTs and ZAFT soldiers, telling Meer (who is strongly implied to be a mentally-broken war orphan) that she would help keep the peace stable. It kinda works until Lacus not only decides to strike back but to appear in public from now on.
  • The first season of Black Butler ends with Queen Victoria giving a speech, except this is actually a double to keep the peace and the real one is dead by this point. Slightly complicated by the fact that the real Victoria had been given a Fountain of Youth treatment that made her appear much younger but that she covered up by wearing a veil in public, while the double looks the correct age.
  • In the second season of Aldnoah.Zero, Princess Asseylum is seen in a wheelchair and giving speeches to support the Martian Empire's cause, which is weird since she was supposedly shot to death at the end of the first season and she is an Actual Pacifist... Except this girl is not Asseylum but her half-sister and the local ill girl, Princess Lemrina, who's using a holographic disguise; the real one is still alive but she's comatose and kept inside a huge capsule, probably either due to her injuries or to keep her away from the Martian Empire's plans. (If not both.) She doesn't wake up from the coma until much later in the plot.

    Comic Books 
  • The ending of V for Vendetta, in which Evie takes up V's mask and continues his crusade after V himself is killed.
  • Done by Nightwing while Batman was "dead." Since it was Batman the villains feared, it had to look like the real thing was never gone, rather than a Legacy Character, so the costume was identical to (an earlier iteration of) the Batsuit, and even other heroes who knew Bats' identity thought Dick was Bruce. Not helping matters is that the villain Hush at the same time got plastic surgery and began impersonating Bruce Wayne, so even those who knew Batman was Bruce wouldn't have thought it unusual since "Bruce" was still running around. It's fortunate that Batman operates mostly in the shadows, though, because Dick Grayson is shorter and lighter than Bruce Wayne.
  • In Astro City, sidekick Altar Boy takes up the mantle after The Confessor is killed. Since he was revealed to be a vampire at the same time he was killed, the bad guys facing off against the new Confessor think that they know what they're in for. They don't.
  • The Mighty Thor: During Walter Simonson's tenure, there's a period when Thor's friends need to pretend that he is fine (when he's been turned into a frog). They get another Asgardian who looks like Thor to dress up and give him a fake Mjölnir to wield. This backfires when Loki figures out what's going on, and borrows Mjolnir in front of an assembly of Asgardians, thus "proving" he's turned over a new leaf.
  • In the first Batman Beyond storyline after DC Rebirth, a large band of Jokerz rally behind Terminal, who promises to resurrect their idol and namesake, The Joker, revealed to be in a catatonic state under Terminal's care. However, Terminal doesn't really have any intention of reviving the Joker, he just wants the rest of the Jokerz to believe him so that they'll permanently accept him as leader. Then there's the matter of the comatose body: it's not even the Joker at all, but rather the missing Bruce Wayne. And Terminal knows this, since he has bigger plans that involve the Wayne Industries CEO.
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye has a long-running one in which after the death of Ultra Magnus early into the war a suit of armour was fashioned in his likeness and several Autobots over time wore it, taking on the persona of Ultra Magnus, creating the image of an Immortal Lawman. When this is revealed it is also revealed that the modern Ultra Magnus is in fact an all-new character called Minimus Ambus.
  • The Adventures of Superman Vol 1 Annual 6 is the continuation of a 2 part Elseworlds story (starting in Superboy Annual 1) where Earth has been overrun by an alien horde that has ruled the planet for ten years. Most superheroes have been killed or fled the planet. Jimmy Olsen and Lex Luthor (in Metallo's body) lead a resistance that recruits the seven remaining heroes for a final fight to overthrow the horde. The heroes include both Superman and an alternate version of Superboy. During the final fight while the humans are rebelling in the streets the heroes are able to kill the alien warlord but only at the Cost of Superman's life. Lex realizes that Superman's death will dispirit the rebels and rally the horde so instead he cuts Superboy's hair to match that of Superman and puts him in Superman's costume. Disguised as Superman, Superboy then emerges and throws down the warlord's body which has the desired effect on the horde and the people of Earth are able to prevail. It helped that Superboy was flying high enough that he couldn't be seen clearly and nobody had actually seen Superman in over ten years.
  • The Spirit once had the titular hero meet a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Adolf Hitler and convince them that all this fascism and totalitarianism stuff was a bad idea. However, when der Fuhrer returned home and started trying to change policies, their seconds-in-command promptly assassinated them for this ideological betrayal, and replaced them with a lookalike who could serve as their Puppet King.
  • Judge Dredd does this with the corpse of Spikes Harvey Rotten towards the end of "The Cursed Earth". Spikes, having just died fighting Bad Bob Booth's robot army, is dressed in a judge uniform by Dredd, strapped to a bike, and driven off to distract the robots so Dredd can proceed to Mega City Two with a vital vaccine the city requires.

    Fan Works 
  • Played With in Delenda Est. After Harry and Bellatrix go forward in time Voldemort starts getting haunted by the Ghost of Ashworth, but no one can tell if Harry's actually dead or not. On the one hand, he shows up incorporeal, but on the other hand, his magic still words and his mental connection with Voldemort still exists. Many people believe that Harry Ashworth is dead and that Bellatrix uses magic to project his image in order to keep Voldemort and the Death Eaters off balance. In actuality, Harry is very much alive.
  • Fate: Sword Order: During the Roman Singularity, Nero Claudius is wounded and bedridden. Since Nero needs to be active on the battlefield to keep morale up, the Chaldea crew gets Saber Alter to substitute for her. Saber Alter is miserable the whole time because she had to wear Nero's skimpy outfit and pad her bra. The Roman troops apparently liked her more than the real Nero due to thinking Nero finally matured mentally and emotionally, but Julius Caesar sees through the disguise immediately. Fortunately, she gets to stop when Shirou heals Nero with Avalon.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Trope Namer is El Cid, the 1961 Hollywood epic about a Spanish national hero from the late eleventh century. After taking a mortal wound on the eve of a decisive battle against invading Moors at the city of Valencia, he makes his wife swear that she will make sure he rides into battle the next morning no matter what. At dawn, his body is dressed in his armor and strapped onto his horse, and as the narrator puts it, El Cid "rode out of the gates of history into legend." This is taken straight from the medieval myths.
  • The Heroic bloodshed film, A Hero Never Dies features the friendship between two rival mobsters, until one of them died. The survivor then avenges his friend's demise by putting the corpse on a wheelchair and pushing it to their common enemy's hideout, propping the body in a corner while he kills everyone in a final shootout so that even though his friend is dead, he can still be physically and spiritually present in the finale.
  • Implied at the end of Hitler, Dead or Alive: the heroes successfully assassinated Adolf Hitler, but the world doesn't notice, as Nazi Germany keeps chugging along, with one of Hitler's many Body Doubles making the same inflammatory speeches the real Hitler did.
  • The Akira Kurosawa movie Kagemusha is this trope gone full-time for Takeda Shingen's body double.
  • This is how A Knight's Tale gets started. The servants' empty stomachs and a lifelong dream on his part see William posing as his dead master to win the tourney's prize.
  • This is the plot of the movie Dave. An actor who resembles the president remarkably well is talked into taking his place because "the vice president can't be trusted", though that turns out to be a lie and he secretly defers the position when realizing the VP is in fact sane and a capable leader.
  • A discarded plot for Terminator Salvation would've had John Connor killed but Marcus (an allied Terminator) wearing his skin on his frame to impersonate him. Massive fan outcry when the script was leaked led to it being discarded because it would've invalidated the entire franchise by revealing Skynet had been after the wrong John Connor the entire time.
  • Inverted in Vantage Point: When the Secret Service gets intelligence about an assassination attempt in an upcoming summit, they have the U.S. president replaced by a body double, who is then murdered on camera for all the world to see. However, the terrorists are also counting on that and use it to abduct the real president from his "safe" location.

  • Robert A. Heinlein's novel Double Star. When politician John Joseph Bonforte is kidnapped by his political opponents, a lookalike actor is chosen to stand in for him to keep his coalition together and prevent the kidnappers from winning by default.
  • In Brisingr the Varden use a magically created illusion to stand in for Eragon while he's busy with dwarfish politics, to prevent the Empire from attacking them while they're riderless.
  • In the Young Jedi Knights book series, Emperor Palpatine has apparently been resurrected (yet again) to lead the Second Imperium. He appears through holograms to address his subjects, but near the end of the series, you find that he was Dead All Along, and was actually being "HoloShopped" by his bodyguards from Return of the Jedi out of Stock Footage from when he was alive and ruling.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian novel The Hour of the Dragon, King Conan is struck down by sorcery before a battle and his advisers pull an El Cid Ploy. Which fails, because the stand-in doesn't have Conan's battle experience and falls for a trap. (Conan himself asked them to strap him into his saddle so he could still lead the charge.)
  • At the end of book four of the Guardians of the Flame series, the (literally) big hero Karl Cullinane is caught in a No One Could Survive That! explosion after foiling one more slaver operation and rescuing his son into the bargain. But friend and foe alike are soon startled to see several MORE strikes against the slavers, this time with a signature of “The Warrior Lives” … strikes that are actually being carried off by two of Karl’s closest friends who are faking his survival to dismay the enemy.
  • The Hand of Thrawn duology: The books have a Big Bad Triumvirate working to make it look like Grand Admiral Thrawn, who'd been dead for ten years, had come Back from the Dead. This really does combine this trope and Dead Person Impersonation. Hilariously enough, they shouldn't have bothered, as Thrawn's own plan for coming Back from the Dead would have started a few weeks later, and it ended up being foiled because of them.
  • The Lloyd Alexander novel The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha has La Résistance perpetuate the myth that their greatest king is alive and fighting to frighten their oppressors. In reality, his daughter is in charge, and arguably accomplishing more than her father actually did.
  • In Book Five of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Silena Beauregard disguises herself as Clarisse in order to make the Ares cabin fight. It's pretty much a direct reference to the classic example of Patroclus from the Iliad, down to Silena dying in the process and Clarisse going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge once she realises.
  • In the Chinese classic, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, during the final battle between the forces of Shu and the forces of Wei, Shu Prime Minister and strategic mastermind Zhuge Liang dies from pneumonia. His long-time rival, Wei's Sima Yi, is emboldened by these news, and orders a full assault. However, Zhuge Liang had known he was dying for a long time and left plans for the contingency in the hands of his deputy, Jiang Wei. His body was propped up on a chariot, his trademark battle-fan in hand, and wheeled out at the forefront of a counterattack. Seeing Zhuge Liang take the field, Sima Yi assumed that he had yet AGAIN walked into one of Zhuge's stratagems, and immediately ordered a full retreat. The Wei army fell back in disarray, and Shu won the day. Thus, it is said that "A dead Zhuge Liang beat a living Sima Yi."
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • In the climactic scene in the second book of the saga, the tide of battle turns with the arrival of a combined Lannister-Tyrell army headed by Renly Baratheon (who was killed earlier in the book). Turns out that he really was Garlan Tyrell dressed in Renly's distinctive antlered armour, and they pulled the ploy in order to demoralize Stannis' host, which was mostly made of Renly's former allies.
    • In the fifth book the corpse of King Cleon the Butcher is put into armor, strapped to a horse, and sent out to lead the charge against the Yunkai. This looks like it might actually work against the incompetent Yunkaii commanders until one of their sellswords charges and "kills" Cleon. After this, that sellsword is nicknamed "Corpsekiller", but people only use the nickname when he's out of earshot.
  • Near the beginning of the second book of Codex Alera, First Lord Gaius Sextus collapses from working himself nearly to death. Since word of this level of infirmity would give Lord Aquitaine and Lord Kalarus exactly the chance they're looking for to try to take over, Tavi and company have to disguise the fact that he's in a coma by having Max shapeshift into Gaius. Hilarity Ensues, especially when Max gets arrested and they have to break him out of jail to continue the ruse.
  • Happens to the eponymous protagonist at least twice in Perry Rhodan. In both cases, his disappearance leaves the post of head of state of the Solar Empire suddenly vacant, so his close friends and assistants employ doubles to fool the public and hold the Empire together. The main problem with this kind of plot here is that the Empire is otherwise always depicted as a genuine representative democracy...only with a small clique at the top deciding to deceive the constituency about the sudden loss of their elected leader in both these cases and essentially getting away with it.
  • At the end of Shadow Games, Murgen puts on the Widowmaker Armor after Croaker falls, to rally the troops at the battle of Dejagore.
  • Older Than Feudalism: While Achilles is off having a sulk in The Iliad, his best friend, Patroclus, pretends to be him to rally the Greeks. When Patroclus gets killed by Hector, it demoralizes the Greeks but brings Achilles back into the fight.
  • The Iliad example is re-used in the Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri novelization Centauri Dawn by Michael Ely (one of the game's designers). Basically, the Spartans are conducting a bloody siege of the United Nations HQ, the home base of the Peacekeepers. Similar to Achilles, Colonel Corazon Santiago spends much of the siege in her tent. The defenders are being led by Jahn Lal, Commissioner Pravin Lal's son. While the Spartans are initially winning due to their superior training and firepower, the tide is seemingly turned as a mass of mindworms suddenly appears and attacks the Spartan forces (later revealed to have been sent by the Gaians). Realizing that their forces are about to rout, Santiago's son Victor (born weak and only survived The Spartan Way because of his mother's position) goes into her tent and demands that she give him her blood-red armor (something she promised earlier in the novel). Reluctant, Corazon agrees. Donning the armor, Victor rallies the troops, who assume he is his mother (his face is hidden by the helmet), and the lack of fear helps push the mindworms away. Seeing this, Jahn Lal leads a charge on the disorganized Spartans and kills Victor with a shredder to the chest at point-blank range. Jahn takes the armor and later wears it himself in order to further demoralize the Spartans. This works, but the enraged Santiago then leads a charge of her elite Myrmidon troops into the city, finds Jahn, and kills him with a Neck Snap in front of his father, taking the body and the armor. After the battle, Pravin sneaks into Santiago's tent and asks for the body of his son. Santiago agrees and leaves the city largely intact but no longer able to defend itself.
  • In The Lost Regiment, going Straight for the Commander is the commonly-used tactic of the Merki Horde. During the frequently-referenced Battle of Orki, when the smaller Tugar Horde routed the larger Merki, both the Qar Qarth (chief of all clans) of the Tugars and the Qar Qarth of the Merki were killed (one by a blade, another by an arrow). Their Number Twos tied the corpses to their mounts in order to keep the battle going. Partly, this was to avoid demoralizing the warriors. Partly, it was to avoid starting the 30-day mourning period until the battle was over.
  • At the end of Days of Blood and Starlight, Thiago and Ten have both been killed by Karou and those loyal to her, Thiago in self-defense after he tried to rape her and Ten afterwards so she wouldn't catch on that her boss wasn't actually himself. Their bodies are inhabited by the souls of two people loyal to Karou who have to act like the originals so as not to arouse suspicion because most of their army is still loyal to Thiago (because his father was their former leader) and while the magic in the setting means that they could very well bring the real Thiago back he's both too dangerous and too much of a bastard for Karou to bear the thought of it. Over the course of the next book in the series both of them die again, but no one outside a select few is even aware a switch occurred.
  • Sword at Sunset: King Arthur, wounded in a narrow victory, suppresses the news that he's definitely dying and puts his successor in charge of his demoralised troops "until I return", inadvertently giving rise to the legend of the once and future king.
  • A variant gets pulled at the end of the Dresden Files book Blood Rites, and spans several of the following books. As far as the world at large (and particularly the other Vampire Courts) are concerned, the White King still sits on his throne. In truth, however, he's a powerless marionette, dead in all by name, and being used as a hand-puppet by his daughter, Lara Raith. The deception loses importance over time, as Lara builds her own power-base and gains the respect of the vampiric community through ruthless competency, but for a while, the only thing stopping the other families from pouncing on the perceived weakness of the Raith-clan was the illusion of Lord Raith's continued reign.
  • In the RuneScape novel Betrayal at Falador, Bhuler, valet of White Knight commander Sir Amik Varze, dons his master's armor and leads the Saradominist forces to victory in the Siege of Falador.
  • In the Star Trek Expanded Universe novel Time for Yesterday by A.C. Crispin, Spock's son Zarnote  has become the leader of a medieval tech-level civilization, although because of his Vulcan features he's reputed to be the offspring of a demon by his enemies. In a climactic battle against an invading army, he takes a blow to the head that leaves him badly concussed and unable to lead his army. It occurs to Spock and Zar's wife that, at a distance, they will look similar enough to fool people, so Spock gets dressed in Zar's armor and presents himself to the combatants. When enough people have noticed him, he takes his helmet off so people can see his ears, raises Zar's sword, and screams "VICTORY!", which utterly breaks the enemy's morale and sends them fleeing in terror.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a robot duplicate stands in for Buffy while she's temporarily dead so that the Slayer's reputation will still scare demons away.
    • In an episode of Angel, Wesley has to impersonate Angel when some thugs turn up at the hotel while the real Angel is off on a retreat.
  • Game of Thrones: Loras Tyrell pretends to be King Renly's ghost to sow terror and confusion among his enemies.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess:
    • Gabrielle disguises herself as the temporarily incapacitated Xena to use her reputation to try and drive off a warlord.
    • Inverted when Xena arranges ruler Ming T'ien's corpse on his throne so that Gabrielle will not know Xena has killed him.
  • On an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Quark and some Ferengi Recurrers took the body of a dead Dominion representative (whom they'd accidentally killed) and used neurostimulators to reanimate him to make him appear to be alive.
    • In another episode, it is revealed that the mirror universe version of Sisko has been killed. Mirror-O'Brien borrows "our" Sisko to impersonate him for a while on the resistance's next mission.
  • On The Sentinel the body of a dead hitman was put on a radio-controlled motorized wheelchair to make his twin brother (also a hitman) think he was still alive but injured.
  • Played with in Season 2 of Boardwalk Empire; many of the Commadore's potential allies during his coup attempt suspect this to be happening when the old man suddenly stops appearing for meetings and his closest allies continuously assure them that he's fine, but they can't see him. In actual fact, he really is alive, but is partially paralysed from a stroke. However, he is actually recovering fairly well, so the various allies' denials that anything is wrong might well have been more damaging to their efforts than telling the truth.
  • Frontier Circus: In "Naomi Champagne", Ben hoists the dead body of Bandito leader Don Diego over his shoulders and holds a gun to his head. He threatens to 'kill' him in an attempt to bluff his way past Don Diego's men.
  • Wanted: Dead or Alive: In "The Passing of Shawnee Bill", Josh ties the body of Bill to the saddle of his horse and sends it galloping out of the box canyon where he is trapped. Dalt, the man who has been stalking them, assumes Bill is making a break for it and fires several shots into the body, giving Josh time to get behind him and get the drop on him.
  • In The Ministry of Time, the main characters travel to 1099 Valencia and discover that the real El Cid was accidentally killed in the 1070s and replaced by another agent of the Ministry. This second El Cid is also struck down before a decisive battle, forcing Alonso to use his armor, sword, and horse in order to keep the army's morale up.

    Music Videos 
  • The music video for Foster The People's song, "Houdini", features this. The band is killed by a falling light truss and gets "reanimated" thanks to Japanese puppeteers. Later, electronics are added to them to make their lips move.

    Myths & Religion 
  • El Cid:
    • Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, better known as El Cid, is the Trope Namer. The tradition goes that whilst defending his city-state of Valencia from attackers, he was hit by a poisoned arrow and forced to retreat from the battlefield. He died of his wounds, but his men knew that while the people of Valencia believed El Cid was alive, they would fight to the death to defend him. So they bolted him into his armour, and then into his saddle. It worked, and the attackers were successfully repelled. The people, on learning of El Cid's death, mourned the loss of their legendary leader, and it is said that his preserved body was seated on the throne of Valencia for a year before they finally buried him.
    • Another version has him literally stabbed in the back with a poison dagger, through the wall of his tent, while resting. He dies before morning, and the ploy is pulled to great success.
    • The tale was spun-off from the historical evacuation of Valencia in 1102, in which the leaving army took with them the body of El Cid, who had died in 1099. Someone may have joked that the evacuation was untroubled because the Moors didn't dare attack when they saw El Cid again after three years dead, which then morphed into the Moors being present and fleeing at his sight and drowning on the sea, which later on morphed into the tale of him being deliberately set up so his own men thought he was alive. The legend likely incorporated elements from the Battle of Qart (1094), in which the very-much-alive El Cid fell over the Moorish camp at night and caused a chaotic stampede in which many Moors drowned on the Turia river.
  • When Cú Chulainn was mortally wounded in the middle of battle, he tied himself to a standing stone so he died on his feet. His enemies still believed he was alive until a crow landed on him. Probably not intended on his part, but still worked.
  • In the same vein as above, Musashibo Benkei, in a Last Stand to give his master Minamoto no Yoshitsune enough time to commit seppuku, stood firm and swiftly killed anyone who tried to get pass. He kept on doing this even as he was riddled by dozens of arrows. Hours after his opponents tired, they tried to approach him, only to discover that he has Died Standing Up. By then, Yoshitsune has successfully self-terminated.
  • A dark twist on the trope is the legendary story of Spanish national hero Bernardo del Carpio. The king Alfonso relied on Bernardo's military assistance against his foes, but kept Bernardo's father imprisoned (presumably to better control him). When the king, having defeated external enemies, finally decided to move against Bernardo del Carpio's residence fortress (which was, unsurprisingly, named Carpio), he didn't want to risk the open battle and offered Bernardo to voluntarily surrender the castle in exchange for his father's freedom. Bernardo readily agreed. He rode from the castle towards his released father, who was also on horseback, dressed in finery. Only when Bernardo rode close, did he notice with shudder that the man on the horseback was indeed his father, but he had been dead for days... Unusually for these stories, Bernardo didn't try to take any revenge - he just fled Spain (some said never to return again).

    Tabletop Games 
  • The War Camp expansion for Duel of Ages includes El Cid as a character. One of his special abilities allows him to continue playing for three rounds after he's killed.
  • It's an actual rule in Tattered Banners, a supplement for Beasts and Barbarians Savage Worlds setting.
  • Warhammer 40,000; during renewed fighting against the T'au Empire in the Damocles Gulf, the Imperium sent an Assassination team to kill Ethereal Aun'va, the spiritual and political head of the T'au. Only the Culexus made it through the T'au defenses, but it was enough to do the job and the Ethereal and his retinue were torn to shreds. Rather than risk morale going through the floor with news of Aun'va's death, T'au high command made a hologram of him to act in his stead and continue to lead the T'au into battle against the Imperium.
  • In the backstory of Battletech, Stefan Amaris assassinated Richard Cameron, the last First Lord of the Star League, and had his entire family wiped out... then piled the bodies in the throne room, locked the door, and claimed Cameron was still alive and giving him orders. It wasn't until after Amaris the Usurper was overthrown that anyone managed to break into the throne room and see what had actually happened to the Camerons.
    • This seemed to be a common tactic for Amaris, as he also did the same with some Kurita nobles in order to keep the Draconis Combine from helping Kerensky during his counterattack on Amaris' forces. Not that the Kurita family needed much motivation, due to their bad blood with the Star League.

    Video Games 
  • Mega Man
  • The entire plot of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is one of these. After Big Boss was wounded in an explosion, one of his combat medics who was also injured shielding him from the blast is set up by Zero to become the Boss' Body Double and undergo facial reconstruction and brainwashing to make him truly believe he's Big Boss while the real one went into hiding.
  • In Infinite Undiscovery, you play as an unassuming and cowardly young lad named Capell... who just so happens to be a dead ringer for Sigmund, the Great Hero of the People. Sigmund's combat prowess and charisma has caused much of the world to rally behind his efforts to stop The Order Of Chains and their plans, so when he dies in battle, things look bleak. Even with most of the forces intact, without Sigmund, they'd lose the support of the kingdoms... so, of course, Capell has to take up the mantle of Sigmund, pretending to be him at least long enough to finish the fight!
  • In the first Suikoden game, the leader of La Résistance, Odessa, is killed by imperials while protecting a pair of children. Your party shows up seconds later and kills the imperials. With her dying breath, she admits to being "A woman first, a rebel second", and asks you to dump her body in the nearby waterway, concealing her death so as not to demoralize La Résistance. Nobody really impersonates her, but you keep pretending that she's just off somewhere else being busy at undermining the empire, for quite a long time. The hero meanwhile pretends that he's relaying Odessa's orders until he's already established himself as a capable successor, and only then is the truth revealed to the army as a whole.
    • Also alluded to in one of Suikoden V's Bad Ends: if Roy defeats the Prince in their duel, he takes his place as leader while the Prince is comatose. Roy then gets himself killed, their base captured, and their forces scattered, and there's no indication the real Prince is going to wake up anytime soon...
  • In Wild ARMs XF, the drifter Clarissa reluctantly pretends to be the missing-and-presumed-dead princess Alexia to lead a revolution against the corrupt government.
    • with the twist that they may have switched places while very young. Thus unknowingly Alexia was actually pretending to be herself.
      • And further twisted if they turn out to have been distantly related. Yeah, it's a Mind Screw.
  • In Age of Empires II, you get to play the trope-naming scenario in the expansion's Spanish campaign. If the enemy reaches the immobile El Cid mounted on his horse, you lose the battle instantlynote .
  • In Ace Attorney Investigations 2, the Body Double of the President of Zheng Fa, conspiring with Blaise Debeste, Patricia Roland, and Sirhan Dogen, kills the true president and takes his place. The truth is not discovered until the imposter is dead - 12 years after the real president's death.
  • Horrifically subverted in Jeanne d'Arc. After Jeanne plummets down a ravine and is presumed dead, the French military strongarm her childhood friend and companion Lianne into posing as the Maid of Orleans, in order to bolster the army's morale and to diminish their enemies' resolve. It is at this point that the English capture her and burn her at the stake, despite Lianne's horrified screaming and pleading. At that point an exhausted and wounded Jeanne reappears, finds herself too late to rescue Lianne, and she understandably does NOT take her friend's execution well.
  • In The Elder Scrolls: Legends, Emperor Titus Mede II's camp is ambushed by Aldmeri forces. Now too injured to fight but knowing that he has to be there to rally his soldiers, the emperor orders the player character to impersonate him and lead his troops in retaking the Imperial City. The hero never receives any credit for this, which is why lore-wise, they are appropriately known as "The Forgotten Hero".
  • At the conclusion of Final Fantasy XII, Noah fon Rosenburg, also known as Judge Magister Gabranth, lies wounded and dying. Knowing that his young master Larsa Solidor has many enemies, even within the Archadian government and in House Solidor, he entrusts his protection to his twin brother Basch fon Rosenburg. Since Basch himself was presumed dead, he takes on the mantle of Gabranth and assumes his identity in the Archadian Empire, giving up his life as Basch to protect the tenuous peace between Dalmasca and Archades. Of course, it helps that the armor and helm of a Judge Magister are all-concealing, and the denouement shows how he cut his hair in his brother's style to further the deception.
  • Both used and discussed in Radiant Historia. At one point, Eruca nixes a plan to assassinate her stepmother because she knows other officials will just announce that her health prevents her from appearing and do whatever they want. Later, it's revealed that this is exactly what General Hugo has been doing with Noah's proclamations for some time.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 1: As royalty, Melia's place of duty is leading the High Entia in a time of crisis. She is torn between her loyalty to her duties and her desire to continue the adventure with Shulk's party. She chooses to stay and lead her people, but her brother allows her to go, saying he will lead in her absence. The public will never know Melia is gone because he chooses a lookalike to make public appearances for Melia, and since she always wore a ceremonial mask in her public appearances anyway, nobody knows what her real face looks like, so she can rub elbows with the commoners.
  • Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones: Used for a major twist in the game. When Emperor Vigarde succumbed to his illness, his son Prince Lyon orders that everyone is kept Locked Out of the Loop until he finds the way to resurrect him, since he doesn't feel he can live up to his father and take the throne. He succeeds in bringing him back as a zombie, and the ruse is kept for over a year with nobody being the wiser.
  • This forms one of the core plot points in Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth where the hero Haku has to take on the identity of the recently deceased Pillar General Oshtor due to the brewing civil war, with both the people and the princess of Yamato needing some sort of anchor to keep them from falling into despair. Having to constantly pretend to be another person is extremely mentally and emotionally taxing, eventually causing him to end up refusing to stop the act even when in private exclusively with people he knows know the truth. Fortunately, having someone recognized publicly as Oshtor is enough and the fact that he only superficially behaves like the man ends up convenient: His enemies are trying to outthink Oshtor, a rather by the book honorable warrior but not much of a strategist. Haku, by contrast, has a surprisingly pragmatic side to him and is a far better diplomat, causing his enemies to make bad predictions of what he'll do.

    Web Comics 
  • Happens in Sluggy Freelance when Torg is forced to take the place of Identical Stranger Lord Torgamous de Saxones, who is currently too sick to lead his army into battle.
  • Drowtales has Val'Sharess Diva'ratrika, who was secretly overthrown by her three daughters in a coup. Rather than broadcast news of her death (which would destabilize the Empire), they pretend she is still alive, and eventually resort to dressing someone up as the Empress and parading her through the city. As of the 15-year timeskip, at least one daughter has dropped the act and publicly declared that her mother is dead, though obviously not under the real circumstances, and many people suspect that this has taken place. There have also been several attempts on the double(s) by the Sharen's enemies who want to kill the fake Empress and expose the deception. Snadhya'rune Vel'Sharen ultimately betrays her sisters and assassinates the Body Double herself through a Vloz'ress proxy in order to destabilize the Empire and create a power vacuum she aims to fill.

    Western Animation 
  • In Batman: The Animated Series, this is Batgirl's origin: dressing up as Batman in an effort to add the Bat's support to Commissioner Gordon's innocence.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983): In "Teela's Triumph", the forces of evil attempt to attack Castle Greyskull when the Sorceress goes missing. Teela attempts to scare them away by dressing as the Sorceress and imitating her voice. It only works for less than a minute, as Skeletor notices something is off and asks her a question about magic that she is unable to answer.
  • Smithers and Homer do this in an episode of The Simpsons since Burns needed to make a speech himself at an investor's meeting and had almost died due to Homer's bungling. They literally string him up like a dummy, ala Weekend at Bernie's, and read his speech from backstage while making his arms flail. The audience bought it completely, and surprisingly, Burns turned out to be still alive, with all the movement from being jostled around getting his internal systems jump-started. Smithers even lampshades it, claiming it's quite common in the corporate sphere:
    Michael Eisner's been dead for five years, Ted Turner's just a hologram!
  • In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Jar Jar briefly does this to cover for an injured Boss Lyonie, who is rumored to have died. By pretending to be Lyonie, Jar Jar proves that Lyonie is in fact not dead, emboldening his subjects and forcing his enemies to change their plans. Though this does have some repercussions for Jar Jar, his incompetence (and, to a lesser extent, fast thinking) saves him from any serious harm until Lyonie recovers and is able to resume the mantle of leader.
  • Superman: The Animated Series, "Knight Time"; Batman goes missing (Bruce Wayne is mind-controlled by Braniac) so Superman wears his costume for a while. He made no attempt to hide his own superpowers. Bane — the Bat-villain relying on enhanced strength — was not a happy camper.

    Real Life 
  • As said above, legend claims this was done with El Cid Campeador's corpse to boost the morale of his men and break one of the last Almoravid sieges of Valencia. This is considered unlikely today, not only due to the fact that no serious chronicle mentions the ploy (it rather seems he died during peace time), but also due to the stunt's rather farfetched nature — it would have been easier and safer to dress someone in El Cid's attire and helm to pretend to be him, instead of trying to steer around a dead body and risk it to fall in the hands of the Almoravids.
  • An accidental example happened during the Battle of Pavia, when the forces of Charles V rumpled the army of Francis I of France. Francis' Italian bodyguard Galeazzo Sanseverino was killed on his horse, but as his corpse remained erect on the saddle and the horse kept running around, he looked still alive, making the increasingly bewildered Spanish arquebusiers shoot him over and over wondering why he did not die. Only after receiving dozens of shots (legend claims one hundred, although this is unlikely) he fell and they realized they had been pouring ammo on a dead body.
  • Allegedly Robert the Bruce was once too sick with what was incorrectly diagnosed as leprosy to lead his army against the English. His lieutenants strapped the incoherent king onto his horse anyway. The English, seeing the by-then Legendary Bruce riding against them panicked and retreated.
  • In the 16th century, famous Korean admiral Yi Sun-Sin was on the verge of beating the Japanese navy under Toyotomi Hideyoshi (for about the 23rd time) when he was struck by a single bullet. Realizing that he was dying but also that Korea was on the verge of winning not only the battle but the entire war, he told his son and nephew to fight on but not announce his death to the others until the battle was over. They did so and won, with the nephew donning the admiral's armor and beating the war drum for the rest of the fight to keep the masquerade. Yi's death was only revealed when Chen Lin (admiral of the Chinese fleet that had come to Korea's aid) came aboard after the victory to thank Yi for saving his life during the battle. Chen broke down in tears upon realizing that his friend was already dead.
  • During the Russo-Japanese War, the Russian Baltic Fleet was dispatched to the Pacific, becoming the Second Pacific Squadron, after the Japanese had mostly neutralized the First Pacific Squadron. The second-in-command of the Russian force, Baron Dmitry Gustavovich von Fölkersahm, was Secretly Dying of cancer, and succumbed three days before they finally met the Japanese at the climactic Battle of Tsushima. To maintain morale, his body was hidden in his ship's cold store and the crew and the rest of the fleet were told that he was confined to his cabin. This didn't work at all, as the battle became the most crushing naval defeat of Russia. Ironically, since Russians also left the Admiral's Flag flying, the Japanese concentrated their fire on his ship and it was the first to sink, taking his body down with it.
  • During the height of The Beatles' career, rumors claimed that Paul McCartney was dead and replaced with a lookalike. The rumors became so prevalent that fans began hyper-analyzing everything from the Beatles' lyrics played backwards to their cover art in the hope of finding more clues that McCartney was indeed dead. Even the Beatles' press rebutting the rumor twice and Paul himself denying it any number of times wasn't enough to convince the fans for years.
  • When Fidel Castro was having health problems, some people thought that he had actually died and the Cuban government had pulled one of these. He eventually went on television to deny it - even Lampshading the fact with the line "Do I look dead? They've said I'm dead so many times, that when I'll die for real, nobody will believe it!"
    • Spoofed in the Spanish version of Les Guignols de l'Info:
      Fidel Castro: Now, I am dead! (closes eyes and crossed arms over himself) Now, I am not!
  • Francisco Franco might have done something like this (unwittingly). It has been claimed that he actually died on November 19th, 1975 but was kept connected to the machines for another day so his official death would coincide with the anniversary of José Antonio Primo de Rivera's death, November 20th, since Rivera's figure was lionized by his regime.
  • There was a Russian joke that Leonid Brezhnev's slowness was a result of him being dead and replaced by a remote-controlled dummy.
  • Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States from 1913-1921 and guided the nation through World War I. In 1919 he suffered a debilitating stroke that left him alive but mentally and physically unable to carry out presidential duties. His wife Edith Bolling Wilson rose to the occasion, caring for her disabled husband and managing all meetings between him and the rest of the government. For the sake of national morale she carefully maintained the illusion that Woodrow Wilson was in good health. In truth she took over most of his duties and, for the last year-and-a-half of his term in office, she was the de-facto President.
  • At least one incident in the Society for Creative Anachronism's yearly "Pennsics" war is a deliberate invocation of this trope. A new young fighter needed some loaner armor, so his knight, who was recovering from a hangover, deliberately lent him his own and placed him at the center of the shield wall. Needless to say, the enemy concentrated their attacks on him, allowing the better fighters to maneuver around and win the battle.