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Reduced to Dust

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“For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Dust is a collection of particles shed from just about everything and distributed through everyday movement. That is, it's effectively a waste product of excess and so not easily formed from whole objects or people. Beyond incineration to turn something into ash, the only real way to make whole things into dust is some form of disintegration. This isn't all that common in real life.

However, in media it's quite a fun way of destroying something utterly. Early low-budget special effects techniques were able to create this sort of image, and it has been a popular visual since. When you're shooting a beam at a large block, you would expect it to turn to rubble or some lava-esque state; it will instead collapse into a pile of dust. Such conversions often will happen to parts of the object which are far away from the beam at the same instant as the spot the beam is actually hitting. It's also one way to present what seems like a very final death or even a kid-friendly, body-less death, or may be what is due to alien biology. If you enjoy Gallows Humor, someone nearby might call out "don't sneeze".

For living creatures, this may occur as a result of a Disintegrator Ray, or as a result of No Immortal Inertia and Rapid Aging. Another possible cause is "dehydration" (see Instant People: Just Add Water!). If done to human beings, can result in Empty Piles of Clothing. Compare Fading Away, where the disappeared character or thing fades away completely. Will often result in Sweeping Ashes.


Examples

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    Advertising 
  • Almost every Will It Blend? video involves grinding something to dust, and the host telling the audience not to breathe it in.

    Anime & Manga 
  • This happens to any Youma hit by Moon Tiara Action in Sailor Moon. It didn't happen to some Youma, however- one was shattered to pieces after being hit instead.
  • Any time a Digimon is destroyed, it usually either spontaneously bursts or slowly disintegrates, in this case, the "dust" actually being computer data.
  • In the Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics version of Beauty and the Beast, Maria gets so sad while staying with the Beast that her emotions turn things such as dinner and flowers, into dust.

    Comic Books 
  • Watchmen: As the heroes approach Ozymandias' hideout, Dr. Manhattan is caught in a trap: an intrinsic field remover that reduces him to atoms. This doesn't stop him in the least, as he explains after reforming himself a few seconds later, since experimenting with his intrinsic field was the first thing he did after the accident that gave him his powers.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: An early Donald Duck story by Carl Barks, entitled In Ancient Persian saw Donald and his nephews discovering a lost Persia city whose nobility had used a special radium compound to turn themselves into fine dust — on purpose, as the dust could be regenerated back into a living body at any time in the future. The story's main antagonist, an Omnicidal Maniac Mad Scientist is trying to seize control of the dehydrating formula to spread it throughout the planet and destroy the reviving formulas, thus becoming the last man on Earth. (Eventually, he suffers a Karmic Death of being dried-up himself, with his dust quickly getting mingled with the sand.)
  • This happens to Black Adam in both his first appearance and his first New 52 appearance - the Shazam family trick him into saying the magic word, and since Teth-Adam is thousands of years old, he crumbles to dust. He gets better.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin is playing with Dad's binoculars when he drops them and breaks them. When Hobbes asks how bad the damage was, Calvin reveals a box of dust.

    Fan Works 
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: Vampires turn to ashes when they truly die, or at least, when killed with lightning.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Villain from Disney's Tangled is Really 700 Years Old, and seems about to suffer a Disney Villain Death. However, bereft of her source of vitality, she undergoes No Immortal Inertia to the point that impact with the ground results in a billowy dust cloud and Empty Piles of Clothing.
  • As Princess Anastasia begins crushing the Artifact of Doom beneath her heel, The Villain Rasputin falls to the pavement and begins aging rapidly, until his skin and flesh crumble to ashes that blow away on the wind. This leaves only his jittering skeleton, which with one last crushing stomp by the plucky heroine, likewise dissolves into calcium salts that disappear completely in the wind. "Dasvidaniya," indeed.
  • Coco: Victims of the Final Death disintegrate into dust, which then drifts off into the wind.
  • The Minions decide to throw a birthday party for their Bad Boss, Count Dracula. They open his casket and awaken him. Groggily, Dracula sits upright. Then the goofballs cheer in unison, and throw open the sash to highlight their 357th birthday cake. Poor Drac screams and flails as direct sunlight shines upon his vampire self. In seconds, he's solidified into an ashen statue. Goes From Bad to Worse as one minion tries blowing on him, completing the disintegration.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Sanderson Witches in Hocus Pocus die this way when the power of the Black Flame Candle runs out.
  • Batman: The Movie: Commodore Schmidlapp's "instant whiskeymaker" can be used to remove all of the water from living creatures, reducing them to dust.
  • Night of the Comet: When the Earth passes through the tail of a comet, all of the living creatures fully exposed to the comet chemicals are reduced to a red dust.
  • Life Force. If a zombie can't quickly drain more Life Energy after waking up, it explodes into dust.
  • Constantine. After Constantine blasts Balthazar with Dragonsbreath and reduced him to pieces, the Big Bad reduces him to dust and blows him away, resulting in an Empty Pile Of Clothing.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Professor Quinirus Quirrell dies this way in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. After revealing he's carrying Voldemort and try to kill Harry, the latter notices his touch burns Quirrell's skin, so Harry grabs the Professor's face with his hands and he starts to burn at the point of being turned into ashes. This was due to the protective charm Harry's mother left in him when she died for him.
    • As the final battle of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows draws to its end, a defeated Voldemort gradually dissolves into ashes that rise skyward along with his final scream.
  • In both movie versions of The Time Machine, books are so ancient by 802701 AD that they easily collapse into dust.
  • A common form of death is seen in the Indiana Jones movies, in which the villains (Nazi leaders) finally take the treasures they're looking for and end up dead, usually being converted into dust.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Avengers: Infinity War: Though in the original comic book they simply disappeared, the popular movie adaptation has half the population of the universe disappear by fading into dust, including about half of the heroes, with some taken to memetic levels.
    • Ant-Man and the Wasp can be considered a relatively light-hearted Breather Episode following the events of Infinity War, but The Stinger at the end reveals it takes place during the same time. Janet Van Dyne, Hope Van Dyne, and Hank Pym are all turned to dust due to Thanos's Badass Fingersnap, leaving Ant-Man himself stranded inside the Quantum Realm with nobody to help him get out.
  • According to Star Trek: Nemesis, exposure to thalaron radiation somehow converts liquid water in a living body to a solid. Double Agent Romulan Senator Tal-aura leaves a thalaron generator behind in the Senate chamber, where it looses its thalaron particles. Praetor Hiren is seen solidifying where he stands, his face crumbling to dust in patches. A similar fate may be construed for his fellow Senators during this coup d'état.
  • Done in the film version of I Am Number Four with all alien people and creatures, presumably to not leave lots of dead bodies lying everywhere, especially with an expanded audience including younger people.
  • Done constantly and violently in TRON: Legacy whenever a program is killed, resulting in "de-rezzing". However, instead of dust, dead programs disintegrate into bits of code.
  • In the 2005 War of the Worlds, the alien rays blast people into clouds of dust with their clothes torn off.

    Literature 
  • This is Dracula's ultimate fate in the novel of the same name, as well as in many of its subsequent adaptations and their sequels.
  • In Labyrinths of Echo, this is Shurf Lonli-Lokli's specialty. He owns an artifact that instantly dustifies anything it touches (except specifically designed Phlebotinum-Handling Equipment) and can also shoot disintegration beams up to a certain range.
  • A bubble of evil does this to a city block in The Wheel of Time.
  • Monsters in Percy Jackson and the Olympians turn to sand when they die, although they'll eventually reform.
  • In Inheritance, the final book of Inheritance Cycle, this is the grim fate of the enemy magician who fights the magician Carn who accompanies Roran to capture the city of Aroughs. Both kill each other via magic at the same time, Carn's corpse left blackened and withered. Carn, however, kills the enemy magician with an especially grim spell that drains all of the water from his body, leaving nothing but a fine grey dust which settles over the water.
  • In keeping with the ease in which movie Draculas keep returning, being reduced to dust is a common fate for Discworld vampires, but not necessarily a fatal one. Although if you get their remains mixed up with other dust before dropping some blood on them Hammer Horror-style, Hilarity Ensues. (In The Truth, Otto Chriek's suit becomes the same pattern as the carpet his remains were found on.)
  • In John French’s Thousand Sons novel Ahriman: Exile, Villain Protagonist Ahriman kills his enemy Amon by casting the Rubric on him, turning him to dust within his armour.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Aging to dust happens at least twice in the original Twilight Zone series:
    • A columnist loses his youth, then his life to a ageless beauty queen with a magical scarab ring in "Queen of the Nile".
    • In "Long Live Walter Jameson", a charismatic and deeply knowledgeable history professor proposes to marry one of his students, but her father (a colleague on the faculty) objects to the match. It turns out that the professor lectures from experience, as he's been alive for centuries. One of his past wives shoots him fatally, and he ages rapidly as he dies, leaving his clothing full of dust.
  • In the Buffyverse vampires explode to dust when they get staked. Makes a certain amount of sense for old vamps like the Master; but even fresh vampires, like those who just came out of the ground after being turned, turn to dust upon slayage. In Real Life it was designed that way so they wouldn't hae to deal with dead bodies lying all over the place.
  • This Jerry Seinfield quote:
    Men hang on to underwear until each individual underwear molecule is so strained it can barely retain the properties of a solid. It actually becomes underwear vapor. We don't even throw it out. We just open a window and it goes out like dandelion spores.
  • Heroes: When Adam Monroe (who has Immortality as his special ability) gets his ability stolen by Arthur Petrelli he turns to dust, then crumbles.
  • The Power Rangers in Space finale "Countdown to Destruction" has Zordon's energy wave reduce all the villains in the franchise up to that pointnote  into piles of sand.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the story "Nightmare of Eden", the monsters disintegrate into piles of dust when they're killed. This turns out to be an important plot point.
    • In the first episode of Series 1 Finale, "Bad Wolf", humans are part of a futuristic and deadly version of The Weakest Link, in which "the weakest link" is turned into dust by a Disintegrator Ray. The good news is it isn't really disintegrated but teleported and alive, the bad news... is teleported into a Dalek ship to be processed.
    • Happens to Sara Kingdom at the end of The Daleks' Master Plan, where the Time Destructor ages her to death, then causes her to crumble to dust.
  • seaQuest DSV: The episode "By Any Other Name" has the crew arrive at an underwater research station where the crew has seemingly vanished, but they find strange piles of dust all over the place. Throughout, people keep disappearing, leaving more piles of dust. The culprit is eventually found to be some genetically engineered plant that suck the water out of people, leaving just dried piles of dust. It's about as silly as it sounds.
  • In Red Dwarf, the radiation leak that kills the entire crew reduces them to piles of dust.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Book of Genesis:
    • Just as God created Adam out of dust in Genesis 2, He foretells in Genesis 3 that Adam will be returned to dust due to his eating of the apple. The disintegration imagery here is a foretelling of humanity's newfound mortality that will result in decomposition.
    • An old and odd variation in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, where Lot's wife is reduced to salt particles after seeing the divine destruction of the cities.

    Podcasts 
  • In Sequinox, Sargas crumbles into rock dust when defeated.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Magic: The Gathering card "All Is Dust".
  • Warhammer 40,000: The backstory behind the Thousand Sons chapter is that the sorcerer Ahriman cast a spell that would protect the Chapter from mutation, which worked perfectly (From a Certain Point of View, as incinerated piles of dust are no longer susceptible to mutation). The vast majority of the Thousand Sons chapter now consists of Rubric Marines, who are suits of Animated Power Armor with the powdered remain of the former Marine inside and his soul bound to the armor.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • This is the result of a Disintegrate spell being cast on a creature that fails its save against it (3.0 or older editions) or killed by the damage dealt (3.5 and later editions).
    • 1st Edition ''Dungeon Master's Guide". The section covering the creation of magical potions mentions that when spectres and vampires are destroyed, they are reduced to dust.
    • Undead that fail their saving throw after being struck with a magic weapon with the Disruption property or killed by the Sunbeam or Sunray spells are reduced to dust.
    • White Dwarf magazine
      • Issue #24 adventure "The Lair of Maldred the Mighty". A metal trunk has Mort (a Glyph of Warding that causes destruction) laid on it. Anyone who touches the trunk without saying the glyph's name will set it off. Anyone affected by the glyph is turned to dust.
      • Issue #26 article "Treasure Chest". The Dagger of the Dunedain kills any undead it hits and turns it into dust.
      • Issue #72 adventure "The Necklace of Brisingamen". One of the mummies the Player Characters encounter is Arun-al-Cosack. He has placed his heart in a Glassteeled container to protect it. If the Player Characters can break through the protection, the heart will explode and Arun-al-Cosack will wither and turn to dust.

    Video Games 
  • In Devil May Cry 3, the demon mooks dissolves into sand upon defeat. Justified as they're indeed using sands as a conduit.
  • In Undertale, monsters don't leave corpses when they die. Instead their body disintegrates into dust.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: After defeating Beast Ganon, Midna teleports Link and Zelda away before transforming into some kind of demonic glowing octopus-thing again. We then cut to Link and Zelda in the field, watching explosions rocking the castle. Then Ganondorf shows up on horseback, holding the Fused Shadow that Midna had been using as a hat the whole game.... and disintegrates it. Cue the second phase of the boss battle.
  • When a character defeats Jinpachi Mishima in Tekken 5, he dissolves to dust, due to the fact that the evil spirit that possessed him engulfed him in flames.
  • Crash Bandicoot: flame obstacles and attacks will burn Crash and turn him into a pile of ash.
  • Blazblue Cross Tag Battle: Blake's Astral Heat ends with the opponent turning to dust that flies away upon the final hit.
  • In Earthworm Jim games, when you lose a life, the Powered Armor implodes and usually Jim is turned to dust.
  • In the Fallout series from 3 onwards, a critical hit with an laser or alien weapon will reduce an enemy to a pile of dust.

    Web Animation 
  • In Cyanide & Happiness short "Grandpa's Story", this is the fate of Grandpa's storybook when he blows dust off of it, followed by Grandpa himself.
  • RWBY: Cinder's Semblance allows her to convert particles (such as sand or dust) to glass. With the Maiden powers, she has the ability to do the opposite. When she chooses, she can touch something and incinerate it to dust as she demonstrates during the Volume 3 finale. During the Battle of Beacon in the Volume 3 climax, Pyrrha attempts to protect Beacon Tower by fighting Cinder, even though she knows Cinder has obtained the Fall Maiden's full power. Cinder kills her by firing a burning arrow into Pyrrha's chest. The arrow dissipates into tiny glowing embers. As Pyrrha takes her last breath, Cinder gently touches her head and Pyrrha's body dissolves into ash embers that billow gently away on the breeze. The only thing left behind is Pyrrha's circlet.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In Lioden's "Rise of the Serpent" event, the Chthonic Snakes that the player encounters while exploring crumple to dust if the player binds their essence to the Ankh. Interestingly, they do not turn to dust if the player fights and defeats them in battle.

    Western Animation 
  • Duck Dodgers in the 24˝th Century:
    • Marvin the Martian fires his A-1 Disintegrating Pistol at Duck Dodgers, reducing him to dust. Luckily Dodgers' assistant has a Acme Integrating Pistol and returns him to normal.
    • Duck Dodgers fires his disintegrator pistol at Marvin.
      Duck Dodgers: And brother, when it disintegrates, it disintegrates! [fires pistol — pistol disintegrates to dust] Well what do you know... it disintegrated.
  • Mickey Mouse in the 1995 short cartoon Runaway Brain finds himself in a Shackle Seat Trap while Mad Scientist Doctor Frankenollie throws the Big Electric Switch. This results in the mind of Mickey Mouse being transferred to the body of a hulking, brutish monster, and vice versa. The monster-minded Mickey Mouse bursts his bonds and goes running around loose. The Mickey-minded monster seizes the Mad Scientist by his lapels, and demands that he reverse the process. At this point, the fiend's body falls to ashes out of his lab coat, thoroughly fried by his No OSHA Compliance device.
  • In the Ed, Edd n Eddy episode, "Take This Ed and Shove It", while attempting to extract three jawbreakers from Nazz's desk drawer when Nazz attempts to become a dentist under the Eds' advice, Eddy gets knocked out and has a dream where he and all the other Cul-de-sac Kids have aged by 90 years. When Eddy finally gets his hands on the desk drawer and the jawbreakers inside, it disintegrates into a pile of dust, which Edd points out has happened because it aged for 90 years.
  • Bunnicula is reduced to a pile of ashes after being exposed to direct sunlight. Fortunately, since Bunnicula's eyeballs remain intact, he's still alive, just inert. Exposure to moonlight restores him to normal.
  • Seen a lot in Looney Tunes classic shorts in which the character has Ash Face and the objects around are reduced to dust if an explosion occurs close to the character. Mostly seen in Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner series, in which Wile E. happened this because of some of the ACME Products he used to catch Road Runner.
  • For extension, also happens with his student Calamity Coyote in Tiny Toon Adventures as well other characters who're exposed to explosions, having Ash Face and the objects are reduced to dust.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: In "Action Packed", after Timmy wishes the world were like an action movie, Jorgen, playing the villain, drains Cosmo and Wanda's magic to fuel his own, causing them to grow older and turn to dust.
    Cosmo: Man, I was almost allergic to myself.
  • In the Johnny Bravo episode "Bootman", when Johnny gets superpowers from wearing the boots of a superhero that got crushed by a meteorite, he shows off his Super Strength to some women by grabbing their jewelry and crushing it to dust.
  • In The Transformers episode "Cosmic Rust", the Autobots look up footage from the planet Antilla to learn more about the titular disease they have recently contracted, seeing Cybertronians literally crumble to dust from the infection.

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