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Remember the Dead

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To speak the name of the dead is to make them live again.
— Inscribed on an Ancient Egyptian tomb

This is a type of afterlife where people only exist as long as they're remembered. What happens when someone fades varies but it most commonly means the Cessation of Existence.

Sister trope to Clap Your Hands If You Believe, where things or beings stop existing when there's no one left who believes in them. Compare to God Needs Prayer Badly where a deity only exists as long as they have followers; Immortality Through Memory, which is the more metaphorical case of this trope; and Ancestor Veneration, when the ancestors gain power through remembrance.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Bleach anime episode #3. After her brother Sora dies, Orihime Inoue regularly prays for him, which gives him peace in the afterlife. After a year she starts to pray for him less and less and begins to forget about him. After she enters high school, she stops praying for him altogether. His sadness and loneliness cause him to not pass on to the Soul Society, which leaves him vulnerable to being converted into a Hollow.
  • To Your Eternity: When someone dies who is important to Fushi, he—who himself is a physical manifestation of Immortality Through Memory—earns a vessel that allows him to assume their shape and abilities at the time he last saw them and effectively grants them immortality through this trope.

    Fan Works 
  • This is weaponized in Tell me about your Ancestors. ShadowClan cats believe that cats reincarnate once their names are no longer spoken. Evil cats become legendary so that their name is still spoken and they can't reincarnate.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Book of Life, people go to the permanent party that is the Land of the Remembered after they die. Once they're forgotten, they're transferred to the much gloomier Land of the Forgotten, to eventually fade away entirely.
  • In Coco the dead are only allowed to visit the land of the living on the Day of the Dead if someone has left their photo in an ofrenda, family shrine. And if they are completely forgotten by the living, they die the Final Death and fade away, like what happened to Chicharron. It's unknown what happens afterwards but it's implied they cease to exist. The film particularly contrasts the luxurious afterlife of Ernesto, who was a famous singer and actor and is still the idol of many, with the desperate circumstances of Hector, who is remembered clearly only by his daughter, now a very old woman whose memory is failing.

    Films — Live Action 
  • In the Dutch film Wings of Fame, Heaven is presented as a hotel, where people are assigned rooms based on how well known they still are on Earth. Celebrities thus get spacious, luxurious rooms, while lesser known people get more sober accomodiations. People are forced to change rooms if their status on Earth changes (those who are slowly forgotten get downgraded to more sober rooms, while those who gain fame after their deaths are upgraded to higher quality rooms), and those unfortunately enough to be completely forgotten are cast out into the sea surrounding the hotel.

    Fairy Tales 
  • The Cowtail Switch features this trope as an Aesop. The setting is Africa. A father goes out hunting and never comes home. His wife, (Who was pregnant at the time) gives birth to yet another son. When he grew old enough to speak he asked "Where is my father?". This prompts the older boys to search for him. They find his bones and one of them opts to put them back together. Another found his flesh and sinews. The third breathes life back into him. Overjoyed, they all return home and the father says he will reward the son who had the biggest hand in bringing him back to life with a Cowtail Switch. The older boys quarrel among themselves only to stop when their father gives the switch to his youngest son. They knew that his judgement was correct because a man is only truly dead when he is forgotten.

  • A variant in the Divine Comedy, many of the damned in Hell ask Dante to tell their stories when he goes back to the world of the living so they can be prayed for.
  • In the 2002 Russian novel Light in the Window by Svyatoslav Loginov, everything in the Afterlife revolves around memories of the living. For each time a living person remembers the dead one, they receive a coin: golden one the living knew them personally, silver one otherwise. Coins can be used up to fulfill any kind of wishes, with a complex Rule Magic system based around wish fulfillment. If you run out of coins, you disappear forever.
  • In Seeker Bears, grizzly bears believe that souls flow in the river after death. They flow into the sea once they're forgotten.
  • The second volume of Spirit Hunters (based loosely on Japanese mythology) has a ghost who is barely more than an indistinct cloud due to his name being stricken from all records. The Hunters are compelled to find some trace of the name so he can be properly put to rest.
  • Implied to be the case on the planet Barrayar in the Vorkosigan Saga. When a woman who has been convicted of murder is given a sentence which includes the stipulation that "no one...shall make a burning for her when she goes into the ground at last" it's noted that at least the more literal-minded traditionalists will see this as "literally lethal".
  • In Warrior Cats, cats that live in Clans (feral colonies) join StarClan after they die if they lived a honorable life. If they didn't follow the warrior code, then they end up in the Dark Forest. Spirits stay in StarClan until they become completely forgotten by all other cats (dead or alive). Once they're forgotten, they fade. What happens when they fade is uncertain. The authors have suggested at different points that they may turn into stars and live peacefully by themselves from thereon, become part of a second StarClan, or stop existing period.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • The Ancient Egyptians believed that a person's name, or "Ren", was one of the six components of the soul. A large part of the reason for their infamous monuments was to ensure that one's name would be remembered.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted has one of the lighter examples, surprisingly. When mortals die their soul is drawn to the Lethe where their memories are erased prior to Reincarnation, but they can resist the Lethe's pull with Essence that can be imparted by worship (like any other supernatural being in Creation) or stolen vampirically.

  • In Liliom, this is told to the title character after he dies:
    "Your name is still spoken. Your face is still remembered. And what you said, and what you did, and what you failed to do—these are still remembered. Remembered, too, are the manner of your glance, the ring of your voice, the clasp of your hand and how your step sounded—as long as one is left who remembers you, so long is the matter unended. Before the end there is much to be undone. Until you are quite forgotten, my son, you will not be finished with the earth—even though you are dead."

    Video Games 
  • Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly: When fairies die, so do their memories, so they rely on other beings to remember them to continue their existence after death. This is why in Episode 2, the gnomes running Gnome Noms vandalized the cars parked near the spot where the dead hawthorn tree used to be. The tree, which was the "body" of their friend who was killed by a drunk driver in 1959, was uprooted in January 2023, breaking the promise of the previous mayor to keep it in remembrance.
  • Final Fantasy X. There's a special location called the Farplane where the local spirits can bring back an image of the dead, people usually do this to clear out any bad feelings "face-to-face".