This is not quite Never Found the Body—it's found, all right. More specifically, bits and pieces are found. Usually refers to a very violent death, as either only a few measly fragments of a body are found, or it's been so destroyed you need a mop to clean it up and a bucket (not a body bag) to carry it in.
The inevitable result of Turbine Blender, frequent result of Ludicrous Gibs, and often a consequence of the Chunky Salsa Rule. Note that this doesn't preclude what's left of the person being buried, although sometimes alternate arrangements may be made.
This is sometimes used to trick the audience or characters into believing that someone is dead who is still alive, as they never found the rest of the body. Said character may later show up with a prosthesis in the place of the missing body part, or a new outfit or weapon, if all that was found was their mangled accessories.
This is often used for those who die in explosions or burning buildings. Albeit it is typically used implausibly since, with the exception of nuclear explosions, neither usually possess the power to completely atomize a human body.
As this is a death trope, beware unmarked spoilers!
- In the Naruto anime at least one of Orochimaru's test subjects dissolved into nothing. Based on his expression at the time, Orochimaru had seen it enough for it to be a common occurrence.
- Dominators in Psycho-Pass, when in Eliminator (lethal) mode, pretty thoroughly destroys whatever they hit. A person hit in the body by one will pretty much be reduced to a puddle of blood with maybe one limb left intact. Decomposer mode, which is designed for use against machines, won't even leave blood.
- Zenigata invokes this trope in episode 75 of Lupin III (Red Jacket), when he laments the (seeming) demise of Lupin in a fiery explosion. He puts up a brief fight with a dog over a scrap of bone, before concluding that it doesn't belong to his late Friendly Enemy.
- When Vanilla Ice kills Muhammed Avdol in Jojos Bizarre Adventure, only Avdol's arms remain, only to be promptly eaten by Ice's Stand.
- A declaration that Kenshiro often makes to evildoers in Fist of the North Star is that not so much as a hair of them will remain in the world. Due to the way the series' titular Hokuto Shinken works, it's not an idle threat either; sometimes people don't merely explode so much as disintegrate when he hits them, such as the Colonel of Godland.
- In the first chapter of Attack on Titan, a woman runs up to the returning Redshirt Army and begs them to tell her where her son is. The commanding officer gives her a small bundle which turns out to contain a severed hand — that's all that was left of him after the Titans got him. Apparently this is very, very common for the Survey Corps (if they can even find body parts).
- YuYu Hakusho: Hiei's Dragon of the Darkness Flame technique DISINTEGRATES Zeru. All that's left of him is a Hiroshima-esque shadow on the wall.
- Part way through the Commando story "Sky Tiger", the main character is given command of a fighter squadron. His predecessor died when his fighter dived into the ground from fifteen thousand feet. In the words of the squadron's adjutant, there wasn't enough left to fill a jam jar.
- In Archie Comics Sonic The Hedgehog Issue #169, Tommy Turtle, who was possessed by the last remaining nanites of the A.D.A.M. AI, resisted control just long enough to get himself vaporized by Dr. Eggman's latest weapon. His ashes were scattered by the wind before Sonic could get to him.
- In Alan Moore's Watchmen Jon Osterman gets vaporised in an "intrinsic field"note . He later reassembles himself on an atomic level and becomes Dr. Manhattan.
Dr. Manhattan: A token funeral service is being held. There's nothing to bury.
- In My Little Pony Vs..., this is what happens to Pikachu after Rainbow Dash is through with it, though this certainly wasn't her intention.
- In the Girls und Panzer fanfic In Strange Waters, Lucius, part of the Canadian school Vimy Ridge's tankery team, recounts an incident in which an artillery shell struck a Hummel's ammunition compartment, leading to the deaths of everyone inside and a ban on open-topped vehicles in sensha-do, among other things.
Lucius: We were told that…a piece of charred remain of someone's skin about 1.5cm across was the biggest human remain they found.
- Tends to be seen a lot in war movies. In scenes showing the aftermath of some type of heavy bombardment, at least one casualty is likely to be found like this - the trope will frequently be invoked word-for-word by the person who found him. May serve as a means of avoiding a teen-unfriendly rating while still conveying War Is Hell. Sadly Truth in Television.
- The Fifth Element: all that was left of the Supreme Being after her starship crashed was her right hand. That was enough to re-assemble her.
- This is the Running Gag when it comes to Steve Buscemi roles in The Coen Brothers movies. He has died in nearly every movie he has been in (Barton Fink, Fargo, and The Big Lebowski) with fewer and fewer pieces of himself remaining each time.
- Happens at least once in Predator
Dutch: Did you find Hawkins?
Poncho: I... can't tell.
- In Jurassic Park Ellie and Muldoon arrive at the scene of a T-Rex attack:
Muldoon: I think this was Gennaro.
Ellie: (about fifteen feet away) I think this was too.
- Happens to Dieter Stark in The Lost World: Jurassic Park—after he's attacked by compies, Roland's team finds "only the parts they didn't like."
- In The Crimson Rivers, this is said of the young victim of a traffic accident. All that was left to identify her by was her index finger. Subverted in that the finger actually came from another girl. She did get a grave, though.
- In Batman: The Movie, the film based on the Batman series starring Adam West, several goons are dehydrated into dust, to later be rehydrated by the Penguin inside the Batcave. They attack the Dynamic Duo, but the Penguin handled the procedure incorrectly, making them very unstable. When hit, they instantly vanish into antimatter.
- Goodspeed lies about this in The Rock to help Mason get his freedom, claiming he was "disintegrated" in an explosion.
- This was used in Starfighter, about a widow who was suing a government contractor after her husband, an Air Force test pilot, was killed flying a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. A lawyer tries to accuse her husband of taking drugs. She says there was no trace of drugs in his system. He points out that it was impossible to determine given the 'limited material' available for testing. She demands to know what he means, and is later shown saying in fury to a friend, "I buried his hands!"
- Played for laughs in Casino Royale (1967) - Sir James Bond survives a mortar bombardment of his home but M doesn't. He visits M's widow carrying a small box containing all that's left of him.
Sir James: ...Should it be given a Christian burial? Just how personal is a toupee?
Lady Fiona: It can only be regarded as a heirloom.
- Played for very dark laughs in Lake Placid, when Hector and Sheriff Hank find the remains of one of the crocodile's victims:
Hector: (holding up a decayed toe) Is this the man that was killed?
Hank: He seemed... taller.
- In Cabin Fever, Marcy is annihilated by a rabid dog, to the point where the only remains found later are bloodstains and a foot.
- All that's left of Bluddbeak from the Redwall novel Triss after taking on a trio of adders is scattered feathers.
- In Discworld:
- It is said that if someone is affected by the blowfish poison, you don't need to hold a funeral — just repaint the walls.
- Also from Discworld, some of the learning opportunities in the Unseen University have led to unfortunates being returned to the grieving parents as gloop in a bucket, with a note saying "we did warn him".
- A few characters in Raising Steam underestimate the power of experimental steam engines and end up as superheated red mist, sometimes pattering down over a large new clearing in the forest.
- Harry Potter:
- In the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, it's said that the largest piece of Peter Pettigrew that was ever found after he was killed by Sirius Black was his finger. He was actually a traitor and cut off the finger to simultaneously fake his death and frame Black for his crimes.
- Invoked in the second book as well, where Snape comments that whoever faces Neville Longbottom in a practice duel will likely be sent to the infirmary in a matchbox. (In the movie, it's Ron's malfunctioning wand that earns the quip.)
- Subverted in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Barty Crouch Jr. murders Barty Crouch Sr. and transfigures his corpse into a small bone...before burying the bone in the Forbidden Forest.
- In the seventh book, "Mad-Eye" Moody's body was never recovered. It wasn't until Harry recovered his eponymous magical eye that he got any sort of burial at all.
- In The Grimnoir Chronicles, the Gravity Master protagonist is seen altering gravity in order to smash people a few times, and it's implied many more times.
"The learned gentlemen from the university have asked me if I relied on Einstein's General Theory of Relativity or if I used the simpler rules of Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation on the evening in question when I accidentally took Sheriff Johnson's life . Shit. I don't know. I just got angry and squished the fucker. But I've gotten better at running things and I promise not to do it no more."Jake Sullivan, Parole Hearing, Rockville State Penitentiary 1928
- From The Hunger Games, Primrose Everdeen.
- Also happened with Katniss' father.
- And an unnamed female tribute who dropped her district token, a wooden ball, onto the landmine-filled floor at the beginning of her Games. According to Katniss, "they literally had to scrape bits of her off the ground."
- Referenced in Heinlein's To Sail Beyond the Sunset: Maureen says of her own apparent death that when a person her size is hit by a semitruck, "they pick up the remains with blotting paper."
- In the Russian The Silmarillion parody, The Zwirmarillion, this is what happened to Finrod. They buried "several of the largest pieces of him they could find".
- This is an ""attacked by a predator" example in the Real Life section below, since Finrod died wrestling a werewolf in the original.
- Happens to Jesmin Ackbar in Wraith Squadron when her X-Wing is disabled and crash-lands at full speed (it doesn't explode, it shreds instantly on impact from kinetic shock). A torpedo is therefore substituted for her corpse during her burial in space.
- Pulser darts, from the Honor Harrington novels, don't so much tear through their victims as they do shred them. And then there's kinetic weapons, which vaporize anything in range into very small pieces. 'Small' as in 'subatomic'. Graphically illustrated after the fall of the Masadan theocracy; domestic violence rates skyrocketed, as abused wives frequently murdered their husbands. Some of them got... creative.
They never did find all of Elder Simonds.
- In Derek Robinson's black comedies of the Royal Air Force, after really bad crashes or flamers, it was often the case that bodies were not available for burial. A particularly egregious example happens in A Piece Of Cake where a grieving relative, innocent of the nature of his nephew's death (he burnt to death in a flamer from a mile up) wants to open the coffin to see poor Maurice's face one last time.... as only deep-fried fragments of the body were retrieved, the rest of the coffin was ballasted by sandbags, to approximate the weight of a full corpse. This is Truth in Television. Similar expedients were used for tank troopers killed in brew-ups or men killed in catastrophic explosions.This has been long-standing practice for a long time and may still happen today, although military authorities are naturally reticent.
- In Hammer's Slammers given how the titular PMCs pilot Hover Tanks with Plasma Cannons and often fight in wars where nukes aren't off the table, it's once mentioned that many relatives of dead Slammers get a sealed casket full of 70 kilos of sand.
- Stephen King's story The Mangler features a scene where one of the workers get caught in the folder apparatus of the haunted laundry machine. The result is not described in the narration, but in the words of a traumatized witness, "they took her away in a basket".
- In Smallville, Gone, Lex tells Clark that there is nothing left of Chloe after the huge explosion in Covenant. Of course, he is lying.
- On NCIS three American soldiers in Afghanistan were blown up by a bomb and only pieces of their bodies were recovered. And if that wasn't enough, as they were being shipped back to the States to be officially identified, the plane that was carrying them crashed, damaging the remains to the point where most ways of identifying them would be useless. The remains turn out to be those of only two of the soldiers since the third was instead captured by terrorists and held captive.
- NYPD Blue: the Medavoy subplot of one episode involved a Hasidic Jewish girl who had been killed and butchered and partially eaten by animals, leaving not much body left. At the end of the episode after they caught the guy that did it, Medavoy gave the girl's father some crime scene dirt which had some of her blood in it; in the Hassidem(sp) circle you have to bury the whole body, and Medavoy wanted to give the father as much of the remains as there were available.
- In the first episode of Torchwood: Children of Earth, the villains blow up Jack with a bomb inside his stomach. In the next episode, they only find small pieces of his body remaining, from which he still manages to regenerate. Unfortunately, he wakes up loooooong before he's done healing. He screams. A lot. Shudder.
- Implied in ''Casualty after the death of Paramedic Jeff Collier in a car explosion. His wife, ranting at colleagues who are celebrating Jeff's life instead of mourning his death, mentions that he was blown to pieces and there was nothing to celebrate. Pan round to Jamie Collier standing behind her, asking if it's true.
- The Cat Came Back states that "20 pieces of the man was all they ever found."
- 'Ten Finger Johnny' has the eponymous character blowing himself to successively smaller and smaller bits.
- In The Bible, Jezebel's body is devoured by a pack of feral dogs after she is defenestrated, leaving only her head and her two hands (as predicted by Elijah.)
- At least seven widely scattered places in Britain are claimed as the final resting place of King Arthur. In France and Denmark, similar myths exist concerning fabulous legendary heroes Roland and Holger Dansk.
- In Call of Cthulhu the companions of a dhole's victims can find enough to bury with a successful Luck roll. In the Shadows of Yog Sothoth adventure supplement, during the climax the Keeper (referee) is advised not to let a certain symbol protect the characters, except possibly by allowing a piece of a body the size of the symbol to survive destruction.
- Discussed several times in the various BattleTech source books and quite a few Battle Tech Expanded Universe stories, and with good reason. A lot of people die in ways that preclude having something to bury, most often involving cockpit hits or reactor/ammo explosions, or sometimes 'Mech-scale weapons being used on people. One particular instance in "Double Blind" has a mercenary unit trying to bury one of their fallen, only to examine the 'Mech and find little more than intermingled bits of charred bone and metal fragments in the ruined cockpit, intermixed and vaporized by a PPC shot to the 'Mech's head. They treat these remains as their comrade's ashes and spread them from the air.
- The urban legend of the JATO car. Only fragments of the driver were found.
- Something between this and Never Found the Body happens in Chrono Trigger. After the rest of the party has been wiped out, Crono tries to confront Lavos on his own, but is completely obliterated by Lavos's attack, with his body visibly disintegrating in the energy blast. However, this is a Time Travel story, and using the titular Chrono Trigger, a life-sized doll of Crono, and a bit of time travel, the party manages to go back in time, freeze time, and swap out Crono for the doll, allowing him to survive. Interestingly, this is the first time in the entire plot that the party actually manages to meaningfully change history - but it won't be the last.
- Happens to the unlucky FBI agent who gets thrown in a ore-grinder in Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth.
- This is the unfortunate fate of Molly Schultz in Grand Theft Auto V after she runs in front of a jet turbine and gets reduced to nothing more than a hand and a chunky red mess.
- Both enemy aliens and your own soldiers in Xenonauts can be "overkilled" if enough damage is done by the killing shot, totally destroying the body and any equipment it might have been carrying. Obviously, this is most noticeable when using explosives.
- In Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time, this is the fate of a zombie that gets blown up by a Potato Mine or Primal Potato Mine. Their body instantly vanishes and all that's left is their head dropping to the ground. In the original game, Potato Mines completely disintegrated the body, head and all.
- In Brothers in Arms, this is the fate of Doyle, after encountering a German armored unit. Just as he and Hartsock's squad are about to continue moving through the city of St. Sauveur, a Panzer IV blasts him and he virtually disintegrates, leaving nothing but his weapon and uniform patch.
- Code Name: Hunter has an investigator look over a cursed set of drums. The next morning, all that's left is a pile of ash.
- Discussed in-universe in this Wondermark strip.
- Subverted in It's Walky! After a hard landing in a danger zone, the SEMME team can only find Allen's ear. However, he turns up in a later arc, unharmed, with no explanation. It's eventually revealed he's a Mobile-Suit Human.
- Happy Tree Friends: Very often, and Played for Laughs.
- In Beast Wars, when Dinobot makes his stand against the Predacons and calls for Maximal backup, Rattrap half-jokes: "Dinobot versus six Preds ... there won't be enough of him left to make a toaster!" They do actually find Dinobot in one piece, though the damage he took is still fatal.
- In the pilot of Futurama, Professor Farnsworth hires the protagonists as his new delivery crew and gives them their career chips, which he pours from an envelope labeled "Contents of Space Wasp Stomach".
Farnsworth: Oh, how awful. Did he at least die painlessly? *beat* To shreds, you say, tsk tsk tsk. Well, how's his wife holding up? *beat* To shreds, you say...
- A background joke continues this theme with one half of a phone conversation:
- This was sometimes what happened to Manfredi and Johnson, Those Two Guys often mentioned on The Penguins of Madagascar (although they never die the same way twice). On one occasion they were eaten by flying piranha and what was left was buried with a teaspoon. In another, their remains fit in a manila envelope.
- A humorous G-rated variant occurred in Rugrats, after Suzie becomes a doctor for toys.
Suzie: Which toy is the brokenest?
Phil: Jelly Bear.
Suzie: Where is he?
Lil: (pointing in various directions) Over there and over there and over there.
- One way of disposing of a body is reducing it to this. Cremation is a widespread and (generally) more formal and respectful way of doing so.
- When someone is attacked by a predator, very often, there's not a lot left. Many predators will even eat bones for the calcium.
- Nominally the Verdun campaign of February-December 1916 took place over an area 10km deep and 30km wide, within which more than 400,000 men were wounded and 250,000 died (high-intensity combat even by WWI standards). Actually, the bulk of the fighting took place over an area just 5km deep and 10km wide - where Fort Douamont offered the artillery-spotters a commanding view of the battlefield. More than 12 million artillery shells landed within that area. The remains of 130,000 men were too fragmentary to be distinguished by side, and so were interred together at the Franco-German Douamont Ossuary. Although they are distinguished by (likely) bone type for the most part, there are also chambers for the indeterminable.
- In one of the initial attacks which sparked the The War On Terror, the one on the World Trade Center complex in New York, many victims were never identified - there just wasn't enough left after the skyscrapers collapsed under and over them.
- For that matter, most victims of high-speed airplane crashes.
- Also happens in the case of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. The shuttle blew up over Texas and various body parts were found scattered on the ground there.
- In 2016 a college graduate intending to take a dip in one of the "hot springs" at Yellowstone park slipped into what turned out to be a highly acidic boiling geyser. By the time recovery workers were able to reach him the next day, there was literally nothing left that could be identified as human.
- When Charles Stephens went over Niagara Falls in a barrel, he strapped himself into the barrel, and strapped a anvil to his feet to stabilize himself. When the barrel finally floated to shore, the only sign anyone had been in it was a right arm. That's what went into his grave, as the rest of Mr. Stephens was never found.
- Horrifically subverted in the case of the Soyuz 1 incident, which caused the death of cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov. Even though little more than a hunk of burnt flesh was all that was left of his body, he was given the open casket funeral he'd demanded—he knew he would die, and insisted on such a funeral so the higher-ups in the Soviet space program would be forced to look on what they'd done.
- Happened to murdered Welsh schoolgirl April Jones. Despite an extensive search, all that has been found of her to date is a few fragments of bone found at the home of Mark Bridger, the man later jailed for her murder.
- Common for burning tanks, especially when a tank explodes. Occasionally happily subverted, when a crew member managed to escape shortly before the explosion, ended up as an unrecognised wounded in a hospital and was mistakenly reported dead. There was a Soviet WW2 tank commander who had as many as five empty graves and was still alive by the mid-1990s.
- Helle Crafts was murdered by her husband Richard in 1986 and had her body fed through a wood chipper into a river, and all that was recovered was around 3 ounces of remains (mostly hair, bone fragments and a fragment of her jaw with an intact tooth that allowed her to be identified). Richard became the first person charged in Connecticut for murder without a full body being present.
- Two instances are mentioned in memoirs of one of the test pilots for Me-163. In the first the fuel tank ruptured into cabin and a pilot literally melted and in second one of the technicians accidentally mixed both fuel components and it blew up to the point that half of a jawbone was the biggest piece they could find.
- John George Haigh, the Acid Bath Murderer, dissolved his victims in sulphuric acid. All that was found of his last victim was "28 pounds of human body fat, part of a human foot, human gallstones and part of a denture." That was enough to identify her and convict him.