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Soul Jar

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Frodo: But he was destroyed. Sauron was destroyed.
Gandalf: No, Frodo. The spirit of Sauron endured. His life force is bound to the Ring, and the Ring survived. Sauron has returned.

A container or object which holds all or part of a person's soul (or life, or heart) outside of their body; this makes that person immortal and/or invulnerable. The only flaw is that the Soul Jar is now their Achilles' Heel (assuming that the jar isn't itself Made of Indestructium). Usually, they make sure it is very well protected (the word phylactery, the common name for this kind of container from Dungeons & Dragons fame, actually comes from Ancient Greek phylacterion, form of phylássein, [φυλάσσειν] meaning "to guard, protect"; it has historically been used for a variety of objects, including amulets and reliquaries, but is not in common use in modern English).

Typically, Soul Jars work in one of two ways:

  • 1) The person whose soul is jarred cannot be physically killed (or in some cases even injured) as long as the jar is intact. This one has two sub-categories:
    • 1a) Destroying the jar kills the entity whose soul was jarred. (See the Yura of the Hair example below.)
    • 1b) Destroying the jar makes it possible to kill the entity whose soul was jarred. (Voldemort's horcruxes are of this type, same for The Giant Who Had No Heart in His Body, and similar fairy tales.)
  • 2) The person can be physically killed while the jar is intact, but they don't stay dead, in which case it doubles as a form of Resurrective Immortality. They can only be completely killed by destroying both the jar and the current body. This comes in three flavors:
    • 2a) The jar grows a replacement body for the one that was killed.
    • 2b) The jarred soul can reach out from the jar to hijack someone else's body. Over time, the possessed person may change to resemble the soul's original body.
    • 2c) The jarred soul needs an external help to resuscitate/obtain a replacement body.

The Trope Namer is Might and Magic, where necromancers and evil wizards transfer their souls into literal jars during the spell to transform themselves into liches.

The trope itself, however, is Older Than Dirt — it appears in the ancient Egyptian Tale of Two Brothers, where one of the brothers survives his death by hiding his heart on a tree for the other to restore later.

Of course despite the name it's not necessarily a jar; common examples are paintings, gems and still beating hearts; and in mythology and fairy tales, eggs or trees. It does not necessarily host a soul, either; sometimes an object is tied to a character's immortality, but does not actually contain the character's soul. The device is usually used by liches, and is invariably associated with them in folklore.

Tends to overlap with Synchronization whenever two or more people's lives are linked to each other.

A subtrope of Ghost in the Machine and Immortality Inducer. If the owner's body is destroyed, the Soul Jar may become Sealed Evil (or Good, or Badass) In A Can. If the owner of the Soul Jar is evil, then there's a good chance the Soul Jar is an Artifact of Doom. If the Soul Jar gives a special power but using it can be hazardous, it may also be an Amulet of Dependency. If the Soul Jar has to be inside the body for the character to "live", it's a Heart Drive.

Compare Brain in a Jar and Brain Uploading for science fiction equivalents. See also Fighting a Shadow, Animating Artifact and Fantastic Fragility. Not to be confused with Crystal Prison, where a person is trapped in a gem. When this takes the form of a literal jar (or bottle or tank or whatever else) with a soul in it, see also Jar of the Bizarre.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In 3×3 Eyes, a "Wu" is the formerly-human servant of a member of the mystical, three-eyed Sanjiyan race. The Sanjiyan holds onto the Wu's soul, meaning that, as long as the Sanjiyan survives, the Wu will just regenerate from all damage. The main character Yakumo Fujii is a newly created Wu, bonded to the Sanjiyan Pai, and he learns just how immortal he is the hard way — many, many times. To the point where the series could be summarized as "Yakumo is coughing up blood AGAIN."
  • The requisite Wham for Code Geass R2 episode 20 reveals that one character (Empress Marianne) had cheated death by turning another one (Anya Alstreim) into a living, breathing Soul Jar.
  • In Dragon Knights, Rath is a living version; it's basically his role in the plot and why the villains want him so badly. He gets most of the extra souls he never asked for extracted from him eventually and they're resurrected. This seems to happen especially when he kills someone himself, but it's not required.
  • Durarara!!: Although Celty lives separately from her head, she worries that if it's destroyed, it might also kill her. Whether or not that's actually true has yet to be seen, but trying to kill her the normal way definitely doesn't work.
  • The alchemic circle written in blood that binds Alphonse's soul to his armor in Fullmetal Alchemist. Similar circles bind the Slicer brothers and Barry to their armors. Their physical bodies are still alive but lack a mind to guide them. Because their souls naturally reject such an unnatural state, the connection will gradually deteriorate.
  • In Hell Girl: The Cauldron of Three, Yuzuki Mikage becomes Enma Ai's Soul Jar through Demonic Possession
  • Hellsing Alucard's coffin is implied to act as this for him. He appears to require a certain proximity to it in order to access his higher powers (as evidenced by his needing to take it with him on missions where he is expected to use his greater powers), and it appears to be an extension of himself in some manner (such as when it sprouted limbs and eyes during Hellsing: The Dawn and carried him away from battle when he came under threat). He is also highly protective of it. Plus, it contains his army of familiars, which are the basis of his Nigh-Invulnerability; as long as they are in the coffin, he possesses their collective life force making him extremely difficult to kill, and even when they are out of it he can defer his own injuries to them (at the cost of gradually destroying them). Whether this is the case for all higher level vampires or was a part of the measures Hellsing initiated in order to keep him under control is unclear.
  • Inuyasha:
    • Naraku, Big Bad in the series, treats InuYasha as little more than an annoyance early in the series. However, as InuYasha gains power and becomes a real threat, Naraku — who is an amalgamation of hundreds of demons — splits off his heart in the form of an infant, which he hides away under the protection of another of his incarnations, making him effectively immortal. The Soul Jar actually decides to take advantage of this and tries to kill him with a super-powerful demon he made. This backfires, as Naraku reabsorbs him and his henchmen so he is no longer immortal, he'll just have to be satisfied with having a body made of diamond and harder-then-diamond plates.
    • Likewise, Yura of the Hair, the first enemy that Inuyasha and Kagome fight after their quest begins, has her soul in a comb. None of the horrible wounds InuYasha inflicts on her are more than a mild inconvenience — until Kagome destroys the comb (which Yura inexplicably led her to), at which point she dissolves.
  • In Magical Girl Apocalypse, the magical girls can regenerate from any damage, even losing their heads, but if their magic wands are destroyed, they crumble to dust.
  • Naruto:
    • Kakuzu collects people's hearts and incorporates them into his body. He can also use them to animate minions for him. Whether they are inside or outside his body, he can't die unless they are all destroyed (on one occasion, all but one of his hearts vacate his body. When that one is destroyed, the others return to his body and reanimate him).
    • The Curse Marks that Orochimaru bestows on certain people actually carry his will, meaning that he can be potentially reborn from the seal of anyone he has given one to.
    • Filler villain Fuuka keeps her soul in her long hair since her body's chakra capacity was too low, and switches between five identical bodies in battle. Hence, she goes from flirting with Naruto to screaming in anger when Naruto manages to cut some of her hair during their fight, shortly before paralyzing him to stop playing around and steal his chakra and soul with her Reaper Kiss.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion has two different implementations:
    • Kaworu claims in the director's cut of Episode 24 that he and Rei are soul jars for a couple of Eldritch Abominations codenamed Adam and Lillith
    • Units 01 and 02 are implied to contain the souls of their pilots' mothers, while anyone's best guess for Unit 00 is that it's a jar for a fragment of Lilith's soul, as there are several implications that Rei/Lilith's soul have been split into at least two fragments.
  • Omamori Himari: Lizlet's teacup is her true body. The "human" one is effectively indestructible, as well as incredibly strong.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica
    • Witches hatch from their Grief Seed, and they leave it behind when they are killed. Magical girls use the Grief Seeds from defeated witches to recharge their powers, although it's stated that too much use of a Grief Seed can revive the witch. Which is why Kyubey eats "used-up" Grief Seeds.
    • Later, we find that a magical girl's 'Soul Gem' is an entirely literal name — upon making the contract with Kyubey, a magical girl's soul is placed inside the gem, which becomes her new "body" which controls her original one, which essentially turns her into a lich. It can be used to affect her original body by means of stimulating it. It cannot be more than 100 meters from its owner or else the original body will lose consciousness and enter an Empty Shell state until the Soul Gem is brought back — and if the body goes too long without the gem, it starts to decompose just like a corpse. Finally, as long as the gem is intact, the magical girl will eventually recover from any wounds her original body takes, but if the gem is ever destroyed, as happens several times in the series, the magical girl will immediately — and irrevocably — die. Much later, we find out that Soul Gems will eventually become Grief Seeds, and Magical Girls will eventually become Witches.
  • Karla, the Grey Witch in Record of Lodoss War. Her soul is actually housed in a circlet with two red eyes embedded in it. The exact circumstances by which she ended up in this state are unclear, but she can possess anyone wearing the circlet, and she does seem able to move alone to some limited degree so as to possess someone else, such as when she was forced off Leylia and had to switch over to Woodchuck. In the manga, Karla's circlet is apparently unable to move at all. Woodchuck takes up the circlet willingly out of self-loathing.
  • One character Julian is a god's Soul Jar (Poseidon) in Saint Seiya.
    • In the OAV, it happens again. Same two characters.
    • Similarly, and to everyone's dismay, a main character (Shun) was used as a Soul Jar for a different god (Hades) by Pandora since infancy.
  • In Seven Mortal Sins, Lucifer extracts Maria Totsuka's heart and stores it in a jar. As long as nothing happens to the heart, Maria can't die and won't age. This doesn't please Maria at all, since she didn't want to be immortal and she has no choice but to obey Lucifer. To demonstrate what happens if she defies her, Lucifer squeezes the heart, crippling Maria with pain.
  • Slayers Next has the Pledge Stone, a contract between a human and a Mazoku. As long as the Pledge Stone is intact the human is immortal.
    • Try has a more literal interpretation of this trope; one episode revolves around Lina and Filia being stuck on a haunted ship created to torment a man named Jarlov, whose soul is trapped in an actual jar.
    • Revolution and Evolution-R have Rezo the Red Priest return via a soul jar, as well as Naga the Serpent, whose soul has somehow been removed from her body by a malfunctioning soul jar and then given form in a suit of animate armour. This time the Soul Jars are, again, really jars.
  • Type Moon example: Zouken Matou is a worm-user whose body is made completely of (you guessed it) worms. So long as he keeps his worms fed and the master worm containing his soul is safe, killing his apparent body does nothing, as it can be replaced with more worms, though by this time in Fate/stay night his magic is reaching its limit, and he will eventually be unable to sustain the amount of humans he needs to consume to stay alive. His mind and soul have also decayed to the point where he doesn't even remember why he wants to be immortal.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, Maria's diary serves as a type of Soul Jar (at least in theory). Although she died twelve years ago, Ange is able to communicate with her by opening the diary.
  • Yugi Mutou in Yu-Gi-Oh! is the wielder of the Millennium Puzzle and is the living Soul Jar for his other personality ("Dark Yugi", "King of Games" Pharoah Atem's spirit). Likewise, Ryou Bakura is a living Soul Jar for his own alternate personality from the Millennium Ring (Dark Bakura, spirit of Thief King Bakura). Dark Bakura himself specializes in producing Soul Jars with his Millennium Ring in order to spread his power as needed, and is ultimately revealed to be a Soul Jar himself (for Zorc).
    • In the Duelist Kingdom arc, Pegasus J. Crawford uses a version of this as a Penalty Game by transferring Sugoroku Mutou's, Mokuba's and Kaiba's souls into inanimate objects. Sugoroku's Soul Jar was a video tape and the Kaiba brothers' Soul Jars were blank playing cards known as 'Soul Prisons' (in the anime, all three were put into Soul Prison cards because Card Games). By doing so, the trapped characters lose all personality and appear to be within a catatonic state. It is unknown completely what happens if the inanimate objects are destroyed or damaged in some way, but it is generally acknowledged that it can't be good.
    • In the sixth volume of the original manga, there is a one-shot villain who finds a cursed card game called Dragon Cards that seals the loser's soul in a jar. He steals the Millennium Puzzle from Yugi and forces him into a battle. Yugi loses, but manages to get his hands on the puzzle before losing his soul, and Dark Yugi is able to come out and win a rematch.
    • The idea of characters weaponising the soul jar trope seems to be common in various Yu-Gi-Oh series as it is revisited in Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V when at least one faction manages to create technology that can turn people defeated in duels into cards (A process known as carding). One of the antagonists, Yuri, finds pleasure in carding others.
    • Then in Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS it happens twice. Once with the Tower of Hanoi and again via the Neuron Link. Where the conciousness goes in each of those cases may be unknown. Fortunately, when each is broken, the souls/conciousnesses return to their bodies.

    Comic Books 
  • In Angel & Faith, Angel is using himself as a Soul Jar for pieces of Giles' soul, as a prelude to resurrecting him.
  • Arawn: The Cauldron of Blood serves as one for the demon residing inside it. He can regenerate from any other attack, but the cauldron is his weak point. Sure enough, once Owen figures this out, he destroys the Cauldron with Math's Sun Axe to ensure that the demon will be vanquished for good.
  • In Blackest Night, Nekron embodies the cosmic void that predates life. As an incarnation of nothingness, his mere existence is an impossibility. And indeed it is impossible without an anchor of sorts tying him to the physical plane. That anchor happens to be the first Black Lantern, Black Hand. Reviving Black Hand with the White Light of Life sends Nekron back to the void.
  • JLA: A League of One: Dragons like Drakul are stated to be invincible unless their heart, which they can remove and hide, is destroyed.
  • In Loki: Agent of Asgard Verity Willis' soul (well, technically story) got forcibly transferred into a gem on Loki's bracelet. Her body died in the process but she gained an intangible/indestructible ghostly form. This happened because the universe was ending, she was more portable that way and Loki had strange thought processes and consent issues.
  • In Lost at Sea, Raleigh believes that her mother sold Raleigh's soul to The Devil in exchange for career success and that The Devil placed her soul inside a cat.
  • Stabbity Bunny: Stabbity, who at the end of Issue #1, has Larry trapped inside his left eye, banging against it to try and escape.
  • Vampirella: The villain Von Kreist lost most of his soul to a demon in a card game but left a piece of it in a deck of cards. He had his descendant Schuld transfer that piece into Vampirella's friend Sofia.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): Circe ties the soul of the dead Amazon hero Artemis to her own reanimated skeleton through Artemis' sword. Her undead form cannot be destroyed and will put itself back together so long as she is in possession of the sword but if she get far enough from it she'll lose her connection to the world of the living and die a final death.
    • The Legend of Wonder Woman (2016): The "Titan" was brought down by breaking off a piece of its gem like "heart", which is actually a container for the souls of a dying world which have become twisted over time in their unnatural confinement.

    Fairy Tales and fables 
  • In Russian fairy tales like Tsarevich Petr and the Wizard or The Death of Koschei the Deathless, Koschei the Immortal (resp. Koschei the Deathless) hid his death in the eye of a needle, hid the needle inside an egg, hid the egg inside a duck, hid the duck inside a hare, then locked the hare in an iron box and buried the box under a tree on the vanishing island of Buyan. The tree, hare and duck are destroyed with the help of a few Androcles Lions. Other variants of this include "The Giant Who Had No Heart in His Body", "The Young King Of Easaidh Ruadh," and "What Came Of Picking Flowers."
  • Played with in the Swahili folktale "The Heart of a Monkey," a trickster story about a monkey captured by a shark who wants to take the monkey's heart. The monkey says he keeps his heart up in a tree, so the shark lets the monkey go to get his heart from the tree. Once up there, the monkey tells the shark to get lost.
    • A similar story is found in the Indian folktale collection Panchatantra in which the monkey similarly tricks a crocodile.

    Fan Works 
  • Antipodes: Tantalus stored the soul of his current body inside a crystal, which the sequel explicitly calls a phylactery. He cannot be killed permanently as long as the crystal is intact, as he will simply reform even if utterly annihilated, but if the crystal is broken he will die instantly.
  • The Arithmancer: In addition to the canon Potterverse Horcrux, an attempted ritual to remove the Horcrux from Harry's scar ends up with Harry and Ginny as White Magic Horcruces (later dubbed Miracruces) for each other. This links them spiritually and mentally, gives them splitting headaches if they spend too long apart and (though this was never tested) would in theory allow one of them to persist beyond and return from death as long as the other lives.
  • Ash's Just Reward: Yveltal implies this after he turns Ash's body and soul into an anchor so he can bring Latios and Lucario back to life:
    Yveltal: Death is like a river, and it flows in one direction only, carrying the rocks cast into it downstream. But sometimes, if you have something to keep them from falling back in, you can retrieve some of these stones.
  • Being Dead Ain't Easy, Joey can potentially escape ceasing to exist by having his soul fused to an object. They end up using the Red-Eyes Black Dragon card.
  • The Bridge (MLP): Enjin has a core, resembling a large bead, in his chest. As long as it remains intact, he can regenerate from any damage, even if every part of him but the core is incinerated. The core is very durable, but once it is destroyed, Enjin's body evaporates like smoke.
  • The Commander Of Shepherds: Celestia and Luna will regenerate from the Sun or the Moon respectively, as these are the sources of their power. The same is true for Twilight and the Element of Magic — Word of God goes as far as calling her a lich.
  • Courtney and the Violin of Despair: The titular violin houses the embittered spirit of a former owner. Although that former owner’s body is long since dust, the spirit remains and enforces the curse on the violin. Destroying the violin enables the spirit to rest in peace.
  • Dangerverse has three different variants.
    • The Horcrux Letifera, or "Deathly Horcrux", is the Horcrux of Potterverse canon: a fragment of a soul torn free by intentional murder, bound to an item by Black Magic, and used to keep its master alive beyond death. It can be healed by remorse, by acknowledging your sins as sins and repenting of your crimes.
    • It is also possible to accidentally tear your soul by obsessing over your guilt for a death for which you believe yourself responsible. If not reintegrated by self-forgiveness, the soul fragment may bond to an item which you spend a lot of time around, or one which is in some way connected to the death for which you feel guilt. Accidental Horcruxes can be healed (even after death) by forgiving yourself for the death that created the tear, and laying aside your guilt over it.
    • Finally, we have the Horcrux Viviens, or "Living External Soul". This is created when two beings whose souls have been freshly wounded by grief and loss meet and form a bond of love, allowing their damaged souls to heal together. Each then acts as an anchor to the other, allowing one of them to pull the other back from death as long as the bond between them remains intact.
  • Death Note Equestria eventually reveals that Pinkie Pie managed to do this prior to her death... with a bag of potato chips.
  • Fallout: Equestria:
    • The zebra Black Book contains spells to manipulate souls. Rarity owned it before the apocalypse, and she discovered that putting even a small slice of a soul in an object rendered the object indestructible. She had the idea to put souls in armor to create invincible soldiers, but Applejack put her hoof down. In addition to the moral question of messing with souls, if it were that easy wouldn't the zebras already be doing it? Applejack asked Rarity to destroy the book and never speak of it again. Rarity did try to destroy the book, but failed; still, she didn't pursue the soul armor project. Unfortunately, the zebras thought she was still working on it. It was part of the reason they launched their final offensive.
    • The Black Book itself turns out to be the soul jar for the zebra who wrote it, explaining why it's so hard to destroy. Littlepip eventually drops it next to a megaspell that was about to explode. It's never confirmed that this truly destroyed it, but it doesn't show up again in the story.
    • The Ministry Mare statuettes are a weird example. Rarity split her soul into forty-three pieces, a process that was said to "redefine torture", and put one slice in each of the forty-two statuettes (she kept the last piece of her soul in her own body). She then used a different spell to take "pictures" of her friend's souls and enchanted the statuettes to express these pictures. Touching the statuettes grants a little bit of power based on what each mare found most important, and having all six lets them manifest to Littlepip when she is unconscious and save her from the Black Book. As Littlepip puts it, the statuettes are essentially Rarity doing perfect impressions of her friends.
    • Cottage Cheese, one of the Steel Ranger Elders, decides to upload his mind to a Crusader Maneframe, and use the Black Book to upload his soul as well. While he fails, it turns out Princess Celestia herself already did something similar, uploading herself to the Crusader Maneframe that was supposed to control the Single Pegasus Project. With it, she would have been able to control the weather and repair the Wasteland following the apocalypse. Unfortunately, she was unaware that all the control interfaces had been disconnected (since Rainbow Dash didn't want an AI in charge of the SPP), leaving Celestia trapped, able only to watch. Thankfully, she gets better.
  • Freakin Gensokyo: An ancient gohei containing a copy of Sendai Hakurei no Miko is found under the Hakurei Shrine.
  • The Reveal in Heart of the Forest is that the Emblem of Anqa is one of six magical artefacts that an ancient being known as Harmony placed a piece of her soul into.
  • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail: In order to make Alain the Dreams component of the Cage of Flauros, part of his soul was trapped in his Honor of Kalos medal which Alex Shepherd is wearing. Once the medal is put in contact with Alain, his soul returns...albeit, he temporarily refuses to wake up. In Infinity Train: Seeker of Crocus, the medal still contains Alain's soul but now if Alex places it near Alain's comatose body, Alain temporarily awakens. Moreover, if Alain's soul feels strong emotions — like hearing Professor Sycamore on the train — he can temporarily possess Alex.
  • Last Child of Krypton: When she arrives in Tokyo-3 Asuka hears rumors that Unit 01 is “haunted”. Asuka dismisses them as silly superstitions, but later she learns that there’re human souls locked inside the Evas.
  • In the Friday the 13th fan film Never Hike Alone 2, Tommy Jarvis speculates that Pamela Voorhees' severed head somehow became one of these for Jason through some undetermined supernatural means, explaining why he first came back the night she died. However, since the final shot of the movie is Jason's own decapitated head breathing underwater even after his mother's skull was destroyed, it's possible this is a subversion.
  • The Palaververse: The post on immortals references immortality by storing the soul:
    In the depths of the most secretive arcane circles, theories abound that some [dark magic] rituals could bring about a form of perfect immortality if conducted with enough vigour, by [...] separating the spirit from flesh and binding its permanence to something else.
  • Pony POV Series has the Chaos Six have this in Dark World thanks to the Elements of Chaos that Discord replaced their hearts with. So long as the Elements aren't destroyed (not an easy task) or removed while they're still whole, they have Complete Immortality and will heal from any wound they receive, including being reduced to their Element. Thankfully, those that pull a Heel–Face Turn retain it, though it's not a Game-Breaker since their enemies include the remaining three Chaos Six, the Valeyard (who has since upgraded his Regenerations into full Resurrective Immortality via a Soul Jar of his own in the form of a regeneration template), and Discord and his little sister Rancor.
  • Principal Celestia Hunts the Undead: Sombra has a literal one, and as long as it remains safe he always gets better no matter how many times his body's been destroyed. After he refuses to serve Abacus Cinch, she smashes the jar, killing him for good.
  • RWBY: Reckoning has a bit of a puzzling case: the MacGuffin of the story, the Fragment of Arcadia, is stated to contain an entire race of souls. But if they just so happened to be freed, the Creatures of Grimm are liable to provide their bodies. And they're dangerous enough already...
  • A RWBY Zanpakuto: Aizen claims he was created by the Hogyoku and remains immortal as long as it exists. When Ichigo and Blake figure out how to destroy it, he disintegrates.
  • Super Smash Brothers: Guardians Arise!: This forms the crux of the story's premise. The cast of the Super Smash Bros. games have their bodies taken over by Tabuu and must now find humans who act like these to temporarily hold their souls and inherit their powers until they can return to their bodies.
  • Thousand Shinji: Shinji keeps four canopic jars that store the souls of four Rubric Marines and fragments of the spirits of the Warhammer 40,000 gods.
    Atop a small wooden table he laid out a blue cloth embroidered with the Star of Chaos and the Eye of Tzeentch, and then set down the canopic jars that held the dust of his undying guardians.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Stitchpunks in 9 are animate and almost literal example.
    • And there is a very literal example, too: the talisman.
  • In The Admiral and the Princess, the evil Court Mage Lord Warrick has the Blood Crystal, which he uses to control the titular Admiral to kill the King, but failed due to his love for the Princess breaking the spell. Warrick then transform the Admiral into a heron as "punishment" for his betrayal. The titular couple destroy it, killing Warrick, but without it, the Admiral remains a heron forever.
  • In The Return of Jafar, Iago destroys Jafar by kicking his lamp into the lava. While it doesn't contain a genie's soul per se, a genie's life is bound to the lamp.
  • In All Dogs Go to Heaven, a person's life (or, at least, a dog's) is measured by a timepiece. Charlie steals his after death and winds it back up again, returning to life. This has the downside of meaning he'll go to Hell when he finally kicks it again, but he's not too concerned, since as long as the watch keeps ticking he's effectively immortal. It eventually stops working due to extensive water damage, condemning Charlie to Hell. But he gets saved later because he risked his own life to save Anne Marie.
  • Anastasia: Rasputin sells his soul to the underworld in return for the demonic powers to enact his curse on the Romanov family. His body can still die, but he just ends up undead in limbo. He can only move into the afterlife if his curse is complete. What's bizarre about this, is he literally sold his soul for the MacGuffin. If his reliquary is destroyed, he ceases to exist. Trying to analyze this, or explain how a person's soul can be both simultaneously transplanted and substituted, for something that's not a soul, causes an ontological nightmare.
  • Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas: Forte's keyboard turns out to be his life source, as pointed out by Fife during the final battle. Once Beast rips it away and destroys it, Forte can no longer play music and comes crashing to his death.
  • The Black Cauldron has the titular Artifact of Doom, which gained its power because the soul of the most evil man who ever lived, Evil Sorcerer Arawn, was imprisoned in the lead it's made of.
  • In Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July, the evil wizard Winterbolt's ice scepter ended up being the source of his life as well as his power. Once it was shattered and his powers destroyed, he ended up turning into a tree.
  • In Turning Red, this is zigzaged with the talismans Mei's female relatives wear. The talismans contain their panda spirits, not their own souls. The panda spirits enter the womens' bodies around the age of puberty, but they then typically undergo a ritual to seal them away. Once the ritual is done, the aunties & cousins cannot transform into giant red pandas unless their talismans are broken, an act which returns the panda spirit to the body. The ritual can be performed again under the right conditions to reseal the panda spirits.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Beyond Sherwood Forest, the Sheriff of Nottingham removes Alina's heart from her body and holds it hostage in order to ensure her compliance.
  • Bit: Vlad's heart it appears is his. He can still mind control people from it, and later regenerates after he's freed into his full body.
  • Both sequels to Candyman features at least one of these that's keeping the spirit of the eponymous villain alive:
    • Annie in Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh comes to learn that before Daniel Robitaille died and became the urban legend Candyman, his soul transferred into a mirror that was being held by his lover Caroline. That mirror must be destroyed in order to defeat him.
    • In Candyman: Day of the Dead, it turns out that only Candyman's evil side has been vanquished, and his good side is held within a set of paintings, notably his own, and as everybody knows evil can't exist without good, so the paintings have to be destroyed to permanently kill him.
  • In Captain Sindbad, Evil Overlord El Kerim is functionally immortal (or at least unkillable) because his heart has been removed and entombed in a block of ice, which he keeps in an Evil Tower of Ominousness in the jungle, guarded by a Giant Hand of Doom. In order to kill Kerim and avert the execution of Princess Jana, Sindbad must climb the tower and stab the heart to kill the villain. In a subversion, it's actually the comedic wizard Galgo who ends up disposing of the heart by chucking it out of the tower.
  • Charles Lee Ray in Child's Play uses Hollywood Voodoo to transfer his soul into a doll after he is fatally shot by the police.
  • This is pretty much the whole point of the film Cold Souls. Paul Giamatti (played by himself) stores his soul in a literal jar in order to play Uncle Vanya. Hilarity Ensues.
  • The title birds of The Crow film series act as these for Eric Draven, Ashe Corven and everyone else brought back by them. As long as they remain alive, these revenants can regenerate any wound dealt to them, but if they should die, the people they were bound to become mortal again.
  • In Dragonheart Draco serves as Einon's soul jar. By Draco giving him part of his heart, Einon regenerates all wounds he suffers unless Draco himself is killed.
  • In Dragonslayer, Ulrich places his spirit (and, apparently, also his body) in a magic amulet that enables the holder to make use of magic to a degree. He does this so that his young apprentice can do the traveling for him and get revived to slay the dragon later.
  • In Eragon, the Dragon Riders themselves are Soul Jars for their dragons. A Rider can live on if their dragon is killed, but if a rider dies, so does their dragon. Because of this trope, Saphira goes to a lot of lengths to save Eragon.
    Durza: They say as a Rider draws his last breath, he can hear the dying screams of his Dragon.
    I think it's the other way around, actually - dragons 'imbue' their riders with a part of their soul, to enable riders to both use magic, and become immortal, like dragons. So, a rider being able to survive, doesn't make the dragon their soul jar, otherwise the dragons would be 'unkillable' if the rider lived. Rather, the dragons are made vulenrable as part of their life force, that they can't live without, is now in the rider.
  • From Beyond the Grave: In "The Door", Sir Michael's soul is mystically connected to the door he enchanted to allow him to reach across centuries and take others souls in order to live forever. Seaton realises that the only way to defeat Sir Michael is to destroy the door, and when Rosemary hacks at the carved face on the door with an axe, the same cuts appear on Sir Michael's face.
  • Horcruxes in the Harry Potter series serve as this; pieces of the user's soul stored in objects of some kind. More detail under the Literature section.
  • From Joe Versus the Volcano: "What is that, a teddy bear?" "No. It is my soul."
  • In the 1974 film Phantom of the Paradise (which is a fusion pastiche of Dorian Gray, The Phantom of the Opera, Faust and several other stories), evil record producer/promoter Swan (played by Paul Williams) keeps a videotape of himself making a Deal with the Devil; his image on the tape ages, but he does not. The tape also represents the physical contract of that deal; both he and the titular Phantom (whom he tricks into making a deal of his own) are immortal while their contracts are intact. At the climax, the Phantom finds the tape as well as the contracts Swan forced him and the other musicians to sign. He burns the lot of them, killing Swan — but unfortunately killing himself in the process.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
    • In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, the titular "Dead Man's Chest" holds the heart of Davy Jones. After being scorned by his love, Jones ripped his heart out and sealed it away, which apparently granted him his incredible powers and immortality.
    • In Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, it's revealed that putting your heart in the chest is actually a requirement for being captain of the Flying Dutchman. The captain certainly needs the immortality to be able to seek out and ferry the souls of the dead to the afterlife.
    • Jones probably started the tradition — the real reason he tore out his heart and put it in the chest was that so he wouldn't have to feel anymore, because he was supposed to ferry the souls of the dead for ten years and then be released when he returned to his lover; when his lover wasn't there, dooming him to at least ten more years and possibly eternity until his own death, he was so heartbroken he did the heart thing. The immortality was probably an unforeseen side effect, although now any poor schlub who takes the job has to do it.
    • And for a while it actually was in a jar. A jar of dirt, to be exact.
  • Putting the souls of their dead in a jar is apparently SOP for Vulcans.
  • In Suicide Squad, the Enchantress's heart is kept seperate from her body. It's destruction will kill her.

  • In the Apprentice Adept series, the harmonica Stile first summons to use for his magic turns out to be the one created by his doppelganger, Adept Blue. We find out later, it stores Blue's soul (Blue arranged to put his soul there after allowing Red's booby trapped amulet to strangle him). Later still, Adept Brown builds a flesh golem for Blue's soul to inhabit... which Stile ends up in at the end of the Phaze/Photon-saving scheme (Don't worry, this is actually a good thing).
  • J R Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood is a good example: when the Omega creates a lesser, the heart is removed and placed in a ceramic jar. For some reason, the brotherhood attempts to find and store these each time a lesser is killed.
  • The Book of Lost Things has a literal example; the Crooked Man's life is sustained via the soul of a child that he keeps in a jar.
  • In The Boy Who Couldn't Die, an evil monster puts its own soul into a "jar" and becomes effectively immortal. The main character seeks to duplicate this.
  • In Barry Hughart's Chinese fantasy novel Bridge of Birds, the Duke of Ch'in (a pastiche of the historical Qin Shihuangdi) is revealed to have had his heart removed by the wisest man in the world, who implies that he was the one who did the same to Koschei the Deathless.
  • In Taran Wanderer, the second to last book of Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain, Taran fights a sorcerer named Morda who poured his life force into his little finger, cut it off, and then put the finger bone in a box in a tree in the middle of nowhere. Taran just happened across it before he coincidentally happened across Morda. Carrying the finger gives Taran the added benefit of being immune to Morda's magic.
  • In PC Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath, some members of the not-quite-human Kencyr have the ability to hold onto another's soul for a time. The one without a soul is nearly immortal, but lacks a conscience and casts no shadow. The one carrying an extra soul casts two shadows.
  • Doehring Cowert, in Coiling Dragon, was killed 5000 years before the story began but managed to store his spirit in the eponymous ring right at the end. After Linley bonded the ring to himself, Doehring could appear to the boy and started teaching him magic.
  • In The Death Gate Cycle, Haplo manages to expel his soul from his body and turn it into a dog — entirely by accident. There's probably some deep philosophical implication to the fact that whenever Haplo neglected his soul for too long, it would sneak off and pilfer sausages, but it was never investigated within the story.
  • Undead serial killers resurrected be Demons in the Demon Road trilogy will be invincible but will die if a certain object they have is destroyed.
  • Lifetimers in the Discworld. In Soul Music, Albert carries his around with him while searching around in the world for the missing Death — a mistake, as he gets mugged and the hourglass shatters. Fortunately for Albert, Death manages to save thirty-eight seconds' worth of time and pour it into a bottle to prevent him from dying (again).
    • And there's a reverse example in Hogfather, where the Hogfather's lifetimer shatters in response to Teatime's plan to stop children believing in him, thus "killing" him.note 
    • Also, in Carpe Jugulum the heart in a hidden jar variation is mentioned to be used by magicians in Howondaland so they can't be killed.
    • There is a literal example of the Soul Jar in Going Postal. Apparently wizards can take a sabbatical year and be temporarily Dead. A pantry just off the kitchen has been adapted into a repository for literal Soul Jars. These are apparently old jam-jars scrounged from the nearby kitchen, each labelled with the name of the temporarily dead Wizard and storing his essence. Mrs. Whitlow, the housekeeper, has insisted each jar now carries a small fetish doll of a wizard to prevent misunderstandings, as apparently a cook in a hurry scrounged what he thought was an empty jar to decant peanut butter into. The fate of that Wizard is un-known but may have included toast.
    • A non-Lifetimer, non-soul example in Making Money, when Igor moves Owlswick Jenkins's bad memories and anxieties into a turnip, which becomes rotten and partly alive, rolling around its glass enclosure.
  • In Dragaera, part of the process of becoming a wizard includes learning to keep your soul elsewhere; one of the characters- Morollan- is even the Court Wizard. Despite this (and even having an Empathic Weapon that would presumably try its hardest to defend him), he's been killed. Twice.
  • Eastern sorcerers like Drink Bara in The Elric Saga hide their souls inside cats for protection and will be sent to Hell if someone kills it.
  • Demons in Fred Saberhagen's Empire of the East and Books of Swords universe suffer from this. That is, their "lives" are bound to an inanimate object. While there are other ways of killing them, destroying their lives requires no special skill and is by far the easiest.
  • Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series featured one villainous sorcerer who took his soul and hid it in an egg in a magical castle.
  • Mercedes Lackey's Firebird adapts elements of Russian folk tales, including Koschei the Deathless. The sorcerer Katschei's heart is encased in diamond. And hidden inside a magic duck. Which is hidden inside a magic rabbit. Which is sealed in a stout chest, bound with bronze. Which is on top of a magically tall tree. Which is guarded by a never-sleeping, never-eating magical dragon. And even once acquired, the diamond must be smashed at his feet to kill him.
  • De Griezelbus: Onnoval's book is tied to his lifeforce. One of the heroes figures this out at the end of the second book and lights it on fire, causing the vampiric Onnoval to burst into flames.
  • In Robin Jarvis' Hagwood trilogy, the evil High Lady of Hollow Hill, Rhiannon, has removed her heart from her body and placed it in an enchanted casket. The only way to kill her is to unlock the casket with the key specially made for it and then stab the heart.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Considered the darkest art of dark magic, Horcruxes are objects, living or inanimate, that a witch or wizard can use to tie themselves to life. In the Potterverse, murder rips one's soul apart since it's the most extreme act of evil, and using that and a specific spell, a witch or wizard can sever a piece of their soul and encase it into something else, creating a Horcrux. As long as that Horcrux exists, even if the body dies, the soul will remain alive, and depending upon the enchantments that the user bewitches the Horcrux with, it can become as much a weapon as a safeguard. It takes a special kind of evil for someone to be willing to make one, as noted by a past Card-Carrying Villain who wrote a book on dark magic but refused to give any instruction on Horcruxes. Even among those willing to make one, none had ever tried to make more than one...until Voldemort, who deliberately made six, causing his soul to grow increasingly unstable in multiple ways as a result, which led to Harry becoming an unintentional seventh Horcrux when Voldemort's soul simply broke apart after his ill-fated attempt to kill Harry as a baby. However, maiming one's soul to such an extent has dire consequences: when Voldemort is finally killed for good, the remaining portion of his soul is left horrifically maimed and trapped in Limbo, unable to move on to the other side.
    • The Tales of Beedle the Bard gives us "The Warlock's Hairy Heart". A young warlock cuts out his own heart and stores it in a case so he might not ever feel such pesky things as emotion, rather than immortality. Dumbledore's notes draw the comparison to Horcruxes and state that it would be impossible outside of a fairy tale.
  • The Big Bad of the Heralds of Valdemar series builds himself a pocket dimension in the Void Between the Worlds, to which his soul returns every time his body dies. Then he waits until a descendant of his develops a magical gift and takes over their body.
  • In Howl's Moving Castle (the original book), two characters have made deals with fire demons wherein the fire demon gets the mortal's heart, letting the fire demon live, and greatly extending the mortal's life and giving them access to the fire demon's power. This ties the two together (one dies, both die), so it's not as useful as a normal Soul Jar, but the heart does act as a Soul Jar, in that you destroy it, you destroy them.
  • The Inheritance Cycle pulls this out near the end of the third book, where it's revealed that dragons possess an internal organ called an Eldunari that they can regurgitate to become their Soul Jar. Their soul is transferred to the Eldunari as they spit it up, but it remains linked to their body, allowing them to control it remotely while staying in contact with whoever they'd entrusted the gem to. Unfortunately, those gemstones are a source of great magical power and a favorite collectible for bad guys to hoard (the older the dragon was when the gem was spat up, the bigger and more powerful it is). They also don't actually increase the natural lifespan of the dragon, since they're already immortal; the Eldunari simply acts as a backup if the original dies. Not a very desirable one either; upon death the dragon seems to be put in a state of virtually absolute isolation and impotence, retaining only the ability to communicate via telepathy.
  • An unusual and almost literal variation of this occurs towards the end of I Sit Behind The Eyes. The titular Entity is essentially a soul without a mind or body. During a pseudo-scientific ritual, it is sucked inside a flask and trapped there. It is released when the flask smashes.
  • A particularly twisted example in Kraken, with villainous duo Goss and his "son" Subby. Subby is actually a mindless Artificial Human and Goss's Soul Jar.
  • Legacy of the Dragokin: Kthonia's soul exists in a crystal and searching for it is the first step in her knights' Evil Plan.
  • In the Malazan Book of the Fallen, a so-called Finnest is an object used as a repository of power (and occasionally actual souls) by the Jaghut, although some non-Jaghut have taken up the practise as well. The most often seen use for this in the series has been to store the power/soul of someone dangerously powerful and vicious in a Finnest in order to be able to imprison them, as such beings tend to be nigh unkillable if not outright immortal, and the Jaghut prefer to take care of their own homegrown problems. Objects used for the purpose can be as varied as an acorn or a dagger.
  • In Mistborn: The Original Trilogy, the Lord Ruler's bracers hold his youth and vitality, making him into an immortal Implacable Man. These are an interesting example, though, as they must be in physical contact with him at all times for him to benefit from the stored energy. When Vin yanks them off during the final battle, the Lord Ruler instantly collapses and begins to age into a withered old man. He's dead in minutes.
  • Mother of Learning includes an ancient lich, Quatach-Ichl, with a fairly straightforward setup: a phylactery hidden away and guarded on a distant continent, while he inhabits a resilient but ultimately expendable puppet body. He's all set up with extra bodies, too, so if one is destroyed, he'll be able to possess a new one and be back in action within a day — and he'll be rather annoyed with whoever did it, especially if they loot the crown from his body.
  • In the book and series Neverwhere, the Marquis de Carabas keeps "a piece of his life" in a box in case he is ever killed. He is.
  • Old Kingdom:
    • In Sabriel, Kerrigor uses his original mortal body as his anchor in the world of the living (he usually exists either as pure spirit or uses a magically created vessel), and so long as it exists he can never fully be banished from the world. Kerrigor retakes his body at the climax in order to keep Sabriel from destroying it, and is shortly after bound to eternal slumber while still inside it, leading to its destruction as it shreds against the binding ring.
    • Goldenhand reveals that Chlorr of the Mask, another Free Magic sorcerer/necromancer-turned-Greater Dead Adept, also used this means, hiding her original body in the Eldritch Location beyond the Great Rift in the far north. In fact, as she is centuries older than Kerrigor, it's implied she may have taught him the trick in the first place.
  • In John Barnes's One for the Morning Glory, they deduce that Waldo must have done this by the magical powers he gains from it; with the aid of the Riddling Beast, they track it down and destroy it.
  • In Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian Gray's wish for eternal youth is granted. His portrait, which has just been painted, starts to age instead. Has a twist, in that rather than being defeated by a hero who discovers the source of his immortality, Dorian fends off all threats but is eventually destroyed by his own self-loathing. The twist was discarded for the oft-maligned movie version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; in the film, Dorian Gray is forbidden to ever look at the painting as part of his end of the deal... and of course, in the end it's used to kill him.
  • In Raise Some Hell this is used quite literally when the group goes to Hell and finds that their souls are being kept in tiny glass balls.
  • A type 2 in A Practical Guide to Evil: Akua has transferred her soul into an onyx cylinder at the age of 12 — so that when she is slain, she can possess a child that is in possession of her phylactery.
  • The Reynard Cycle: It's implied several times that the gem of Zosia may be one of these.
  • In The Riftwar Cycle, Leso Varen has one. In a moment of Lampshade Hanging, Pug remarks that it could be any object, not just a jar; it turns out to be a jar. In subsequent books, it is revealed that Varen has multiple Soul Jars in a number of locations across Midkemia and Kelewan.
  • In the Secret Histories series by Simon R. Green, it is customary for witches to magically separate their hearts from their bodies and hide them in order to make themselves very hard to kill. The spell can also be applied to someone else without their knowledge.
  • Septimus Heap: The painting of Queen Etheldredda, while not being a literal Soul Jar, serves this purpose for her and its destruction in the BoneFyre causes her ghost to disappear.
  • In Skate the Thief, Belamy is a lich, and the Ink is out for his soul tether as a way to compel him into eternal service. Skate and the Ink suspect that a statuette of his dead daughter is his tether, but it turns out to be more of a wayfinding tool for bringing Belamy back after his death. Where his jar is — or even what object it might be — is unknown by the end of the book.
  • Tales of Elethiya has a type of demon, or dark angel, called the roahn-ami who has on its body silver skull canisters which they use to hold the souls they steal. In the first book of the series, Rigo is able to grab a set of skulls off a roahn-ami while he's in battle with it. The heroes are then faced with the question of what to do with the souls inside.
  • Tales of Kolmar has the Demonlord survive via the spell of the Distant Heart. His heart was removed, turned to stone, and hidden under a mountain by demons. His soul went to the demons. As long as heart, body, and soul were not all in one he couldn't really be killed, and even then only by something that had dragon and human blood both.
    • There's also the soulgems of dragons. They each have a gem in their forehead; after death it's collected and a Kin-Summoner can make them glow steadily and call the deceased back to speak through them for a time, but otherwise the dragons are truly dead and believed to have some kind of afterlife. Soulgems of the Lost, those struck down by the Demonlord, can't be used to summon and flicker with a faint and constant light. When they're restored in Redeeming the Lost we see that some of them were asleep, some came in and out of consciousness, some were awake the whole time.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • The One Ring in The Lord of the Rings. It wasn't actually created for this purpose — the Dark Lord Sauron was already an immortal spirit able to take any form he wished. He created it as an Amplifier Artifact that would make his already formidable Mind Control powers strong enough to take over the other rings (and through them, their wearers). But in making the Ring strong enough to control the other rings he had to put so much of his Life Energy into it that as long as the Ring survives he cannot be completely destroyed either.
    • In The Silmarillion, Morgoth did the same thing with the entire physical universe. Every last atom contains a minuscule fragment of his spirit. Hence why evil endures even though Morgoth was thrust out into the Outer Dark by the Valar: "the whole world is Morgoth's Ring."
    • Also in the Silmarillion, the eponymous jewels contain a piece of Fëanor's soul that he invested during their creation. This is likely a major part of the reason he's so adamant that he couldn't just give them up and went near insane in his quest to retrieve them from Morgoth. Unlike most examples, due to the way death works for Elves he likely can't actually use them to come back to life.
  • The Fairy Tale example above is deconstructed in Tsar Gorokh's Detective Agency. When Nikita needs a way to defeat Koschei, he decides to give the old fairy tale a go. He travels to where the oak is supposed to be located... only to find a whole forest of similar-looking oaks. Each oak has an identical chest hanging on it. Koschei isn't a moron. He also originally used to constantly monitor the correct tree with his Magic Mirror, but has since given up out of boredom, as no hero has managed to do it successfully. Plus, all broken fakes are periodically replaced, so a process of elimination won't work. It's also damn difficult to catch all those animals. And, as Koschei indicates, even if one has managed to get one's hands on the needle with his death... the requirement to kill him is to break off the tip. Breaking the needle in half won't do. Good luck trying to break off just the tip without any tools.
  • In Void City, every Emperor Vampire has a memento mori, an artifact which contains some of their magical essence. Until it is destroyed, they can resurrect from any form of death, even if nothing remains of their body.
  • The Wheel of Time: Inverted in that the "mindtraps" are a vulnerability rather than a strength, and are created as a punishment or blackmail tool — the victim isn't protected in any way, but is left an Empty Shell if the gem containing their essence is crushed. They can only be created in the Eldritch Location of Shayol Ghul, and Moridin holds two of these from members of the Forsaken that really screwed up.
  • In Holly Lisle's World Gates series, the evil Rrôn keep Soul Jar amulets inside their bodies, capable of regenerating them from any organic material available, such as their own corpse. Of course, it's only reasonable to have more than one of these amulets, in case one gets destroyed by a lucky shot from some intrepid hero, and interestingly, it turns out that if you separate the amulets from each-other, each one will regenerate a separate copy of its owner, convinced that *they* are the true original...
  • Xanadu (Storyverse): In "Far Indeed From Sherwood Forest", a Kestagian mage is a lich-like undead who keeps his soul inside an enchanted diamond call an Aelpa. He is entirely immortal as long as the Aelpa is intact, but if someone seizes control of it then it can be used to magically control the mage. An Aelpa can only be destroyed with magic, but if it can be placed within his body then his soul will rejoin with it and he will become mortal again.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel:
    • In one episode, a vampire has his heart surgically removed so that Angel can't stake him. Unusually for this trope, he is eventually defeated not by locating and destroying his heart, but by waiting until the time limit was up.
    • There's also the literal jar where Angel's soul is sealed to bring Angelus out temporarily.
  • Babylon 5 has Soul Hunters, beings who seek to preserve knowledge and wisdom by capturing and maintaining the souls of the dying. This causes serious issues with the Minbari, who believe that their souls are reincarnated in the bodies of later generations of Minbari (and there is some evidence — although not perfect evidence — to believe that this is literally true), and that the Soul Hunters' preservation process prevents that reincarnation.
  • Doctor Who: In "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood", the Doctor's consciousness and Time Lord nature are stored inside a device called a Chameleon Arch which looks like a pocket watch.
  • In The Dresden Files, a condemned wizard known as Bob is imprisoned in his own skull after performing magic to raise the dead. In the original books, he's an air spirit bound to a skull.
  • Kamen Rider Ghost has Transformation Trinkets called Eyecons, which contain the souls of legendary heroes that the Riders can channel. One of these Eyecons belongs to and hosts the soul of the main character himself, who had the unfortunate case of dying in the first episode; if it's destroyed, he becomes Deader than Dead. Ganma Eyecons also work as Soul Jars with a twist: the Eyecon can manifest the person a new body and as long as their original body is fine, destroying the Eyecon will just send the soul back to the person, and thus they can put the soul into another Eyecon. However, if the person's real body is destroyed, they will either die or be stuck in the Eyecon.
  • Legends of Tomorrow:
    • After Ray's body is possessed by Neron, Nora and Constantine manage to rescue his soul from Hell. However, since Neron is still residing in Ray's body, the only form Ray's soul can take in the material world is as one of the coins demons use to barter souls back and forth.
    • In Season 5, the Encores make a more traditional use of the concept. Having returned to Earth from Hell, they can't be killed (at least, not with traditional weapons) so long as their Soul Coins are still safely in Hell's vault.
  • The Monster of the Week in an episode of Lost Girl is a Hate Plague-inducing spider whose indestructibility stems from having implanted its heart into its owner.
  • Nos4a 2: The ornaments near the entry to Christmasland turn out to hold the souls of the children Manx has taken. Only by smashing them will they be freed.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • Several sorcerers are able to remove people's hearts and keep them. They can use the hearts to control their owners or crush them to kill them instantly. Cora, the Queen of Hearts and one of the Arc Villains of the show, removed her own heart and keeps it in a concealed box. Doing so is actually the reason she is so relentlessly evil.
    • Regina nearly does this in the second half of Season 3, believing it will be easier to live without a heart than with her broken one, but is convinced otherwise. She ends up going through with it anyways, but only to prevent the current Arc Villain, the Wicked Witch of the West, from obtaining it in the aforementioned method.
  • The Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Return to Tomorrow" has some of these in which the alien survivors of an apocalyptic war remain, and then swap consciousnesses with members of the Enterprise crew, trapping Kirk and Spock in the jars.
  • Star Trek: Voyager has an interesting case with The Doctor and his mobile emitter. As a hologram, he is physically invulnerable, so villains must therefore target the mobile emitter he wears on his arm in order to exist outside of sickbay/holodeck. Stealing or deactivating it is a common way to incapacitate him.
  • For most ghosts in Supernatural, this is just their bones or remains, but some ghosts are attached to an item like a hook, a penny, or a flask. This also applies to demons: As Bobby put it, they're just ghosts with an ego and more powers. So far, all but Knights of Hell seem to be able to be killed this way, including Crowley, the King of Hell, who unlike other demons, has become so different from them that he has a unique smoke cloud, as opposed to the normal black (his is red).
    • For a more specific example, the Season 12 episode "The One You've Been Waiting For" reveals that the Thule Society stuck Hitler's soul into a pocket watch right before his death, so that he could be resurrected at a later date by transferring his soul into a descendent.
  • In Tin Man, Azkedellia attempts to pass off an artifact to DG as one of these, complete with their mother's voice calling out for DG. Subverted in that DG doesn't buy it for a second and smashes it to bits, using the resulting distraction to try and escape.
  • Warehouse 13: Some of the artifacts contain more of their original owner's personality than others.
    • First shown in the Pilot, Lucrezia Borgia's hair comb channels Lucrezia's personality, desires, and her gifts of influence into its wearer.
    • Lewis Carroll's mirror, the inspiration of Through the Looking Glass, is more of a soul prison: Alice Liddell is trapped inside and can only escape by imprisoning someone else in her place. And in an unusual case for this trope, shattering the mirror doesn't seem to result in any ill effects for whoever's trapped inside.
    • A coin with the image of the Roman God Janus erases the memories of anyone who holds it, storing them like data on a computer disc. Holding the coin again reverses the effects. Near the end of Season 3, it's revealed that this is how the Regents punished H.G. Wells, giving her body a false identity while using a special projector to access her consciousness.
    • The most traditional example is Johann Maelzel's metronome. By going through a life-threatening ritual, a person can use it to bring a deceased person back to life and make them unable to die or feel pain so long as the metronome keeps ticking. Aside from the obvious weakness that stopping the metronome kills them in less than a minute, whoever used the metronome feels all the pain that the revived person was supposed to. It's not completely clear exactly how breaking the spell works, but the key component is a mother's love.

  • Fighting! Pretty Foxgirl!: The Princes are this due to their curse. Or at least Prince Xue, who is able to talk to her lady wife's soul via dreaming.


  • A Mi'kmaq Native American myth about a dispute between the god Glooskap and a giant who had hidden his soul in a pinecone, and hidden that on the top of an unclimbable mountain.
  • The example given in Literature, from Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, is taken from an Indian myth. This story (and others like it) arguably form the ur-examples of the concept of the Lich in popular culture (see the D&D examples and others, below).
  • In Irish Mythology, the legendary sorcerer-king Cú Roí Mac Dáire had stored his soul inside the belly of a salmon, which he then hid on an island. As long as the soul remained intact, Cú Roí could not die. Cú Chulainn, his former-friend-turned-rival however, later tracked down and destroyed his soul relying on the intel of Bláthnat, the traitorous lover of the king.
  • Russian Mythology and Tales gave us Koshchei the Immortal, the Ur-Example of a lich, whose death/mortality was hidden in a needle on a remote magical island.
  • In the ancient Egyptian Tale of Two Brothers, Bata puts his heart in a pinecone atop the tallest tree in the Valley of the Cedars. Type 1a in that chopping it down kills him, but he can be revived if his heart is returned.

  • No Greater Dream has Mary, a scientist who is terminally ill with leukemia. Together with her fellow scientist John, they attempt to preserve her soul in a vial placed next to her coffin.

  • Pops up in The Bible, specifically the first chapter of Ezekiel. As part of a long description of what angels REALLY look like, it's mentioned that the angels contain their "spirits" in wheel machines made of Alien Geometries and Extra Eyes.
  • In Shintoism, this comes in the form of a shintai: any object used to house (or at the very least represent) an enshrined Kami.
    • A more literal example from Japanese tradition are haniwa: clay figures and effigies made to house the spirits of the dead (and to act as retaining structures for burial mounds.)

    Tabletop Games 
  • Ars Magica supplement Lion of the North.
    • One of the gruagach Virtues is External Soul, which allows the user to extract his soul from his body and place it in an object, which is then placed in a safe place. While this is in effect they cannot be killed unless the object is destroyed first.
    • The giants known as famhairan a'falach are the original source of gruagachan magic. They can remove their hearts (which contain their souls) from their chests and hide them in a safe place, with the same benefit as above (can't be killed unless the heart is destroyed).
  • Call of Cthulhu campaign Shadows of Yog-Sothoth, adventure "Devil's Canyon". The spectral hunters cannot move than 1 mile away from their kachina dolls, which hold their souls. If a specific chant is conducted over a spectral hunter's doll, it is destroyed.
  • In the Conan the Barbarian RPG, one of the abilities available to the Sorcerer class is the Picture of Corruption, and it's basically one great big Shout-Out to The Picture of Dorian Gray. The picture takes damage and "Corruption" for the sorcerer, but the sorcerer constantly has to check the picture. If it's destroyed, they immediately age to however old they ought to be, and take all the damage stored in the painting.
  • Dragons from Dragon: The Embers have the ability to remove their Heart. In their case, it makes them immortal, as whatever happens to their physical form, they will be able to reform from wherever the Heart is. The downside is that they will die instantly if something happens to it, and more importantly, eating a Dragon's Heart is how a mortal can become a dragon of his own. This causes Dragons to frequently sink into paranoia, knowing that all it would take for their immortal life to end is a mortal finding and eating their Heart.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • This can be done in limited fashion as early as 1st Edition using the magic jar spell. The caster enters a gem or whatever, then swaps with (possesses) someone in range.
    • AD&D 2nd Edition Al-Qadim
      • Arabian Adventures sourcebook. The Lifeproof spell allows the caster to remove part of his life force (called the "Shadow of the Heart") and put it in a glass container or crystal. While it's stored there, the caster cannot die from taking Hit Points of damage. If they drop below zero Hit Points while under the spell's effect they become progressively more ugly (lose Charisma).
      • The "City of Delights" boxed set has the "Hide Heart" spell, which allows the hide-your-heart-in-a-jar stunt for partial immortality... and if cast on someone else, ensures they not only are more likely to survive the mission, but will want to return.
    • 1E adventure C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan. In one room there was a werejaguar who could turn into a statue at will. His heart had been removed and stored in the head of a stuffed tiger nearby. He will apparently die if he takes enough damage, but will be reborn in one day's time unless his heart is destroyed.
    • The 1E adventure I3 Pharaoh has an Evil high priest named Munafik who magically removed his heart and stored it in a glass jar. The only way to kill him is to destroy the heart.
    • "Heart of Stone" from Player's Options, where the heart is replaced with a stone duplicate, turning the caster for a year into a not-quite-living being, resistant to any weapons but having problems with healing. Codifies what was done years earlier by the Big Bad in an Expert D&D module The Curse Of Xanathon.
    • 3rd Edition includes the "Hide Life" spell, which has much the same effects, but is written to duplicate the Prydain variant.
    • Amulet of Life Protection — stored the user's soul for a week after death to ease the resurrection, protected from magic jar and suchlike. The Locket of the Great Kingdom from Greyhawk did much the same, but the dead user could use magic jar and raise a basic, mindless undead creature that would be easy to possess.
    • Powerful spellcasters can undergo a dark ritual to become mighty undead known as Liches by storing their soul in a phylactery. If their body is destroyed but the phylactery isn't, they eventually reanimate. Well-illustrated in the D&D parody webcomic The Order of the Stick, where the Big Bad, Xykon, is a pretty standard lich who does indeed regenerate from a phylactery — body part by body part over quite a few strips. A more advanced and ancient form of liches exist known as demiliches, whose bodies have disintegrated away to a single part of the skeleton (usually a hand or skull) embedded with "soul gems" that give them additional powers. Both the phylactery and the soul gems must be destroyed to keep the lich dead, though the latter is fairly trivial. In some sources the Demilich itself is said to be a Soul Jar, the actual lich having evolved into a spirit that spends most of its time on the Astral Plane; it's just a Soul Jar that wakes up and kills you if you mess with it. However, Liches must feed souls to their phylactery in order to maintain their existence. If they don't, they become a different kind of Demilich that's much weaker than the lich was due to having lost their mind and spellcasting. Their phylactery still needs destroyed to put them down for good, however.
    • A mummy lord's heart works similar to a lich's phylactery, but since mummy lords were generally high priests of evil gods in life, they usually wield divine magic rather than arcane magic. Said hearts are also capable of regrowing the mummy lord's body and immune to anything except fire damage.
    • Among Ravenloft darklords, Soul Jars are possessed not only by Azalin the lich, but also Stezen D'Polarno, whose soul is bound to a painting, and Hazlik, whose Soul Jar works like a Horcrux. They're not the only darklords who won't stay dead easily, mind: they're just ones who happen to use Jars to come back. In some cases, a Ravenloft domain is, itself, a Soul Jar for its darklord.
    • Forgotten Realms sourcebooks and novels featured a few spellcasting or magic-manipulating items powered by the trapped spirits of wizards. So a Wizard Wand doesn't just release pre-set charges on a command until it's dry, it can memorize (after a rest) spells from a spellbook or a scroll to cast when requested, at the trapped wizard's level. Magisters upon death or retirement (usually it's the same) may choose to have their spirits placed into magic items, turning these into borderline artefacts.
    • Dungeon magazine #50 adventure "The Object of Desire". In the Back Story, the evil wizard Nazir Al-Azrad turned his daughter to stone and put his heart inside her statue. This makes him invulnerable to damage unless his heart is returned to his body or the statue is destroyed.
    • White Dwarf magazine #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 with a magical Force Field to protect it. If the Player Characters can break through the protection, the heart will explode and Arun-al-Cosack will be Reduced to Dust.
  • Everway supplement Spherewalker Sourcebook. The Red Merchants have their souls removed by their ruler, Queen Sunset the Undying, and placed in a receptacle. This basically causes them to become a form of vampire: immune to aging and vulnerable to only certain types of harm.
  • Exalted:
    • The Monstrance of Celestial Portion is a variant on the concept. If a deathknight is killed, his Exaltation — the part that makes him an Exalt — returns to the Monstrance, from which it can be transferred to a new mortal host chosen by the deathknight's master. Without the Monstrance, the shard would wander freely and choose its new host itself. Destroying the Monstrance won't kill the deathknight, but instead free him from his master's control; the trick is that not all of them know this, and may believe it would kill them.
    • The fetich souls of Primordials also serve as a form of this. The fetich embodies the identity of the Primordial; should it be killed, the Primordial will undergo a major redefinition, which may wind up creating an entity who is entirely different (for all intents and purposes killing the original). Fetich death was feared by the Primordials as the only way of "killing" them (even though another being with certain of their traits will result) until the Solars came along and developed powers that could actually kill them (which, incidentally, had nothing to do with their fetiches).
    • In the first edition of Exalted, there is also a Solar circle spell which uses a complicated ritual to allow a powerful Exalted sorcerer to store his soul in an artifact.
    • The Heart Grace of a Shaped Raksh is somewhere between this and a Heart Drive. Like many things about them, it's a bit hard to tell the difference.
    • The Soulgems that are attached to the forehead of every mortal and Exalted in Autochthonia is a variant that captures the soul upon death, so they can be recycled in a new body. They do this for everyone because their realm has a limited amount of souls available and each city would prefer to keep their population stable. For an Alchemical Exalted to be successfully created, a soulgem containing a heroic soul is needed, so they gather proof of that quality by tracking outstanding deeds across the soul's many lifetimes. Reusing an Alchemical's soul gem straight away is also possible, but not recommended as it may leave them detached from humanity they are supposed to be champions and supporters of.
  • GURPS 4th Edition has three variants of this: Soul Stones, which make the wizard immortal so long as the stone is intact; Soul Jars, which allow the wizard to move their consciousness to the jar if their body dies, and Soul Golem, which allows the wizard to put their soul into the body of a magical Humongous Mecha. Note that these Soul Jars comprise a "2b" version of the trope: killing the jarred character does destroy their body, and they can't automatically come back. However, the Soul Jar does house their spirit, leaving open the possibility that they or someone else can use another power to bring them back.
  • In Legend of the Five Rings, the Bloodspeaker Iuchiban achieved immortality by cutting out his own heart and hiding it away in a box, but is eventually defeated when Isawa Sezaru destroys the heart. Later, a servant of Big Bad Daigotsu was forced to undergo the same procedure. This "Ceremony of the Hidden Heart" was originally developed by foreign sorcerers of the Burning Sands. The big drawback is, of course, that if someone gets a hold of your heart-box they can kill you as easily as they would cut up a steak. A great deal of the intrigue in the city of Medinat al-Salaam involved finding, stealing, or destroying these hidden hearts.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • The Lich's Mastery card essentially becomes one's Soul Jar type 1-1 a: The user cannot lose the game as long as Lich's Mastery remains on the field. The main weaknesses to this card are as fallows: 1: The opponent can still win the game; 2: If Lich's Mastery leaves the field, the user loses; and 3: losing life means exiling cards from the user's hand, graveyard, and/or side of the field for life point lost, and eventually, Lich's Mastery itself which will result in the user's defeat.
    • Lich and Lich's Tomb are your Soul Jars, while Nefarious Lich and Immortal Coil stash your life in your graveyard.
    • The Phylactery Lich turns one of your artifacts into a Soul Jar, and dies if the artifact is destroyed.
    • Platinum Angel is a Type 1b Soul Jar, albeit a very vulnerable one (she is both an artifact and a creature, and every single color in the game has a method of destroying one or the other fairly easily). Abyssal Persecutor is the inverse of Platinum Angel, in that it's effectively a Soul Jar for your opponent as a way to counter the card's otherwise excessive strengths. Since Persecutor is so powerful, it will likely become a Type 1a Soul Jar very quickly, forcing your opponent to protect your card just to ensure his survival. Playing both cards means the game is effectively halted until one of them dies.
    • The dark wizard Mairsil managed to survive his death by hiding his consciousness within a ring, within which he endured for another two thousand years.
  • The New World of Darkness has the Eternals, immortals who have bound their lives (or more properly their deaths) into an object.
  • Pathfinder has the traditional Liches and Demiliches of D&D, as well as a martial-focused variant known as a Graveknight. Rather than a fancy gem or other valuable item, though, their Soul Jar is the armor that the Graveknight was wearing at the time of their transformation into an undead horror. If the Graveknight is slain and the armor isn't suitably cleansed of its evil magic (far from an easy task, since the exact requirements to cleanse the armor varies between individual Graveknights), it will reform within a few days, even killing any poor sap who happens to be wearing the armor at the time.
  • The Rifts book Mystic Russia has a demon race called Koschei, based on the legend mentioned in Mythology above. A Koschei can be physcially destroyed, but it will always come back unless you destroy its soul, which is contained inside a chicken egg (an abbreviated version of the actual legend).
  • RuneQuest, Avalon Hill's Heroes magazine article "New Spells for RuneQuest 3". The Invulnerability spell allows the caster to remove his own heart without dying and hide it away somewhere. As long as the heart is undamaged the rest of the caster's body is immune to physical damage. If the heart is destroyed the caster will turn to dust.
  • Shadowrun
    • Supplement The Grimoire. Free Spirits can have the power called Hidden Life. It allows the spirit to hide its Life Energy in a place or thing. As long as this is the case, the spirit cannot be permanently banished or destroyed (even if an opponent knows its True Name) and its physical form gains the power of Regeneration.
    • Supplement ''Mob War!". The sorcerer Su Cheng is a vampire who has used his Hidden Life power to hide his soul in an ancient Chinese vase. The PC's task is to steal the vase from the Triads and return it to Su Cheng so he can be free of their control.
  • Stars Without Number: Revised Edition:
    • True AI is housed in a super advanced computer core known as a phylactery. The phylactery could split off a backup piece the True AI's consciousness would shift to after being destroyed. The phylactery would then regrow and be able to be split again.
    • Transhuman characters can also have a soulstone that downloads their consciousness after they die so they can be put back into a fresh body afterwards.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade allows a character with five dots in Serpentis to perform a ritual to remove and conceal their heart, preventing it from getting staked. With eight dots and Clanbook Followers of Set, you can do this to someone else and hold their heart for ransom.
  • Warhammer Fantasy has the Crown, Hand and Black Pyramid of Nagash. Interestingly the Crown and Hand were never intended to act as soul jars, but were taken from Nagash during his defeat by Alcadizzar and remained intact while the rest of his body was burned. Nagash reformed in the Black Pyramid over 1,000 years, but was considerably weakened without the other two items, which had been busy corrupting mortals during his absence.
    • It's also debatable, and changes from edition to edition, as to whether Nagash resurrects "naturally" or whether he actually needs his jars to do so. During the End Times series it was revealed that Nagash's earlier resurrections had been mere shadows of the original in thought and power. Nagash's servants manage to complete a full resurrection, using every item in the lore ever associated with Nagash, and raise the Great Necromancer as an undead god.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Eldar race carry soul stones on their persons, to avoid their souls being consumed by Slannesh, the Great Devourer, upon their deaths. These soul stones are then transferred to the Infinity Circuit upon the death of the eldar carrying it where their soul is released. This helps, among other things, guide the younger eldar, and power their Craftworld. In times of great need these souls can be called back from the Infinity Circuit and placed into artificial constructs; most are placed into Wraithguard, only slightly larger than living eldar, but particularly powerful souls are used to animate the huge Wraithlords and those of psychics are placed into the rare and powerful Wraithseers. The construct bodies can be destroyed but, as long as the soul stone is intact, so is the soul.
    • The Necrons an entire army of soul jars, each Necron unit containing the soul of a Necron. Unfortunately, that means every time a Necron is damaged and repaired it loses a fragment of its soul.
  • In Warmachine, the Cryx Empire is able to make Soul Cages. The Iron Liche, Asyphyxious actually cages his own soul, and replaces all but his Skull with a steam and magic powered body. As long as his Soul Cage is intact, he is not really dead.
    • The Dragons also have a Soul Jar in the form of their Anthanc. The Anthanc contains the essence of the Dragon, and though it can't be stored separately from the dragon's body, even if the rest of the dragon is destroyed, it will live on and eventually regenerate the dragon's body. In addition, an Anthanc is all but indestructible and if it is broken will result in in another dragon forming from the shard (Thought Everblight has found a way to break off parts of his Anthanc and still have it be part of him and not become a separate dragon.) The only known way of permanently killing a dragon is for his Anthanc to be consumed by another dragon.
    • The Skorne have no afterlife and must instead trap the souls of their dead in enchanted stones if they do not want to lose them to the void. These stones can then be used to animate statues or grant special qualities to objects.
  • Witch Hunter: The Invisible World.
    • The Bennu Sacrament rite allows a sorcerer to have his heart removed and stored in a canopic jar. This makes the sorcerer immune to poison, fatigue, blood loss and most diseases, and grants high resistance to weapons and other physical traumas. If his body is destroyed by fire or chopped into bits it will eventually regenerate. If the heart is taken from the jar or damaged in any way the sorcerer dies.
    • The Mystical Price called Soul Outside causes a creature to have a vital part of its soul stored in another location. The soul part must be kept in a container. If it is ever destroyed, the creature is completely vanquished and may not return
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Trap Card Relay Soul is a version of this. It lets the activator Summon any monster from their hand, and nullifies all damage while they control that monster. But if that monster leaves the Field, its controller automatically loses the Duel.


    Video Games 
  • Astra Hunter Zosma: The companion eats special gems near the end of each stratum in order to gain new powers and Astra skills. It turns out these gems are pieces of Zosma's soul, which he needs in order to get home, and the blob's purpose is to contain the pieces until they can all be gathered.
  • In the Baldur's Gate II's expansion Throne of Bhaal, one of the main antagonists, the Fire Giant Yaga-Shura, is made invincible by a ritual removing his heart and protecting it.
  • BlazBlue:
    • The Susano'o Unit serves as this for multiple people. The unit is a mechanical suit of armor that requires whoever enters into it have their soul installed into it, not their body. Terumi was an A.I. within the unit then gained sentience, but he ejected himself from it long before the Dark War, becoming a literal ghost. Later on, the storyline shows that a dying Jin was transferred into the unit by Rachel, becoming the future member of the Six Heroes Hakumen. The reason Terumi chose not to stay within the Susano'o unit was that he was trying to destroy Amaterasu, and remaining within it would bind him to the very Master Unit he was antagonizing.
    • The soul of one of the other Six Heroes, Trinity, is contained in her Nox Nyctores.
    • As a ghost, Terumi's existence is not stable by itself and he has to rely on a series of living vessels to inhabit. His current vessel at the time the plot starts is named Hazama, although other media in the franchise has shown other vessels such as Kazuma during the Dark War. Separated from his vessels, Terumi would not live very long — long enough, though.
  • Bloons Tower Defense has the Boss Bloon Gravelord Lych. Every 25% percent of its health (12.5% in its Elite mode), it becomes invulnerable and spawns a special blimp called Lych-Soul along with a host of other blimps. It will drain lives every few seconds and must be killed along with all its brethren to allow Lych to be damaged again.
  • Cave Story has an inversion with the Demon Crown — the Demon Crown contains part of Ballos's soul, but rather than having to destroy the Crown to defeat Ballos, you have to defeat Ballos to prevent the Crown from reforming.
  • Ebenezer Von Clutch's Black Heart Power Gem in Crash Tag Team Racing.
  • The first encounter with Seath the Scaleless in Dark Souls is a Hopeless Boss Fight thanks to the Primordial Crystal which grants him complete immortality. Any damage you do to him will instantly heal. After making your way through the dungeon, you eventually find the Crystal, at which point Seath shows up to defend it, initiating the real boss fight. Shattering the Crystal renders Seath vulnerable. Tricking Seath into shattering it himself leaves him stunned by his own stupidity and lets you get in a few free hits.
  • Zig-Zagged in The Darkness II: According to Johnny Powell, there is no known working phylactery for regular mortals to be found in the secret histories. Doesn't stop people from trying, and ONE phylactery made for an Eldritch Abomination succeeded, but the Darkness is already immortal and the Siphon failed to seal it long-term. Foreshadowing appears when it turns out that the phylactery meant for the Angelus actually failed...
  • In Demon's Souls, the player character carries a crystal that collects the souls of recently fallen nearby corpses (enemies that the player has killed). Played with, in that this is anything other than safe for the soul inside; it's just stored in it.
  • In Destiny:
    • Oryx, the Taken King of the Hive, is already a form of lich who cannot be killed in the real world. In order to defeat him you have to first rebuke him and drive him back to his "throne world," which is the reality where his actual soul is held, and then fight through that to kill him for good. Even then, Oryx prepared for this eventuality, laying plans to create a weapon known as the Touch of Malice, a rifle that contains a portion of Oryx's soul, and offers whoever slays Oryx great power... but will eventually merge Oryx's soul with that of his killer so that they become one being.
    • Oryx's son Crota devised an "oversoul" — a manifestation separate of his body that stored his soul and prevented him from being killed directly. He stores it safely in his throne world, and his disciples are able to summon a physical manifestation of him from his throne world to wreak havoc on the real world. The Guardians prevent his soul from being brought back tot he real world, and then journeyed into his throne world to slay him face-to-face.
    • Two of Oryx's daughters, Ir Halak and Ir Anuk, turned each other into their Soul Jars, hiding their "deaths" in each other's body. Killing one but not the other will result in the dead twin resurrecting in a few seconds.
    • Ghosts serve as this role for Guardians, who are virtually liches themselves in the sense that they are resurrected bodies refilled with the Ghost's own Light. As long as the Ghost remains intact and neither the Guardian nor the Ghost's reserves of Light are drained, the Ghost can keep resurrecting the Guardian indefinitely.
  • In the finale of Deus Ex: Invisible War JC Denton is backed up by a Universal Constructar that will continiusly reassemble his body when you kill him.
  • In Diablo II, the only way to ensure that the three Prime Evils never return to the mortal world is to destroy their Soulstones. Of course, the only reason the Soulstones exist to begin with is because the Evils somehow convinced the world that using them would do this. Bad Evils! Or, if Izual is to be believed, it's actually a gambit on the part of good manipulating evil, not evil manipulating good. The original plan was to imprison the Evils in the Soulstones so that they would not return to Hell upon death. But Izual betrayed Heaven by filling in the Evils on how to corrupt the Soulstones and helped the Prime Evils mastermind their own exile into Sanctuary, setting up the events of the series proper.
  • In Diablo III, the Black Soulstone becomes the Soul Jar of all seven Great Evils thus making it the Soul Jar of the original Prime Evil Tathamet, and is used to resurrect Diablo as the new Prime Evil.
  • Diablo IV:
    • Donan used a soulstone to contain Astaroth after his rampage. Lilith releases him in exchange for a favor. The soulstone is later used to seal Mephisto's essence before Lilith can usurp it.
    • Elias has achieved a form of immortality by storing his life essence in a severed finger hidden in a safe place.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: Some, but not all, undead have soul jars; the character is resurrected whenever their body is destroyed, but dies instantly if the soul jar is destroyed. The Player Character can also consume the trapped soul for Source points. It's implied to be an unpleasant existence; if she reclaims her soul from its jar, Gratiana is overjoyed to be able to feel water on her face for the first time in centuries.
  • Dragon Age has examples, such as the Life Gem with the trapped Arcane Warrior's soul and the Black Vials holding the souls of the six Revenants scattered across Ferelden. Also, as revealed in Dragon Age II, this is how Flemeth survives her (optional) death at the Warden's hands: during the destruction of Lothering, she rescues the Hawke family from Darkspawn and gives them an amulet to deliver to Sundermount. If the Warden kills her afterwards, she is reborn from the amulet a year later thanks to Hawke. If the Warden doesn't, she simply uses the amulet as a teleportation beacon to travel to Sundermount undetected.
  • In Duel Savior Destiny Nanashi is the soul jar of the legendary hero Rubinas, who died a thousand years ago. Perhaps somewhat unusually for this trope Nanashi is actually Rubinas' soul itself while what is called Rubinas is more akin to her will or memories, though still certainly alive.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • While the series' has liches throughout, they differ from most fantasy depictions by not requiring soul jars. The most popular way of becoming a lich is to consume a magical potion made of extremely rare ingredients. The background lore (and one instance in Oblivion, see below) does mention liches having "phylacteries" which act as soul jars, but they do not seem to serve the typical "bound to them" purpose.
    • In Daggerfall, the Underking's soul is bound to the Mantella, a soul gem used to control the reality warping Humongous Mecha, the Numidium. As long as the Mantella exists, so will the Underking. Subverted in that The Underking is looking for the Mantella to destroy it — he wants to die, and does not care about the Numidium, which the other powers in the game seek to awaken for their own purposes. (He was the one who tried to destroy it in the first place.)
    • In Morrowind, The Heart of Lorkhan acts as a Soul Jar for the Tribunal and Dagoth Ur. Unbinding it renders them all mortal, as the heart is what gave them their divinity in the first place, and it also means they will eventually die naturally, but they are already mortal and can be killed. In fact, the expansion Tribunal reveals that one of them is already dead and culminates with you killing another. (You can also kill the third one in the vanilla game if you choose, though this he was left alive canonically in series' lore, disappearing several years after the events of the game.)
    • Oblivion offers an exception to the "liches not needing soul jars" that is present in the rest of the series and in background lore. One quest has you attempting to kill a necromancer who is (slowly) transforming into a lich. You can do so by destroying his soul jar, though it is made clear that the soul jar is only necessary for his particular form of transformation, and after the transformation, it will no longer be needed.
    • In Skyrim, the insane necromancer Malyn Varen successfully managed to pervert Azura's Star into housing his soul, in his quest to live forever. Cleansing the star of his soul is a part of Azura's Daedric quest.
  • In Fable, Jack of Blades essence is held in his mask. If you destroy the mask, you defeat Jack for good. If you wear it, you become Jack of Blades.
  • In Fall from Heaven the wizard Tebryn Arbandi created one out of Abashi the Black Dragon: the 3rd most powerful being in existance. One of those is a god.
  • In Fear & Hunger Soul stones can be found whilst exploring the dungeon. The player can harvest souls from fallen enemies and party members which bestows special effects upon the stones.
  • The Dark Elf in Final Fantasy IV was doing this with the Crystal of Earth. As long as the Crystal is on his pedestal and not the usual one, he could regenerate. (He comes back again in Final Fantasy IV: The After Years.)
  • The souls of Homunculi in GrimGrimoire are contained in flasks. Amoretta has an elf break hers to save Lillet from one of the Big Bads. Twice.
  • In Guild Wars, Kurzic Juggernauts are linked to Forever Trees and can be reborn from them if the trees are intact.
  • Hearthstone:
    • After being resurrected as a Forsaken undead, Tamsin Roame began dabbling in necromancy. She created a phylactery out of a perfume bottle and stored her soul in it, allowing her to resurrect herself as a lich when she was killed by her sister Cariel. The phylactery appears as a collectible Warlock spell that Discovers a Deathrattle minion that died this game and adds it to your hand while also granting its Deathrattle effect to your other minions.
    • Halkias is a Rogue legendary that stores his soul in one of your Secrets whenever he dies. When the Secret is triggered, he resummons himself. This gives him Resurrective Immortality so long as you can keep fueling him with fresh soul jars.
  • Heroes of the Storm:
    • Murky's Spawn Egg is a sort of these. He can lay it anywhere on the map, and quickly respawns from it whenever he dies unless the egg is killed first. It's kept intentionally vague, but the egg is implied to be magical in some way — and potentially very powerful.
    • Kel'Thuzad, being a lich, has one in the form of the Urn of Kings, where his corpse was preserved before his resurrection. In-game, it appears as an early-game talent that can be charged by collecting 12 Regen Globes; once charged it gives Kel'Thuzad a Life Drain effect on his spells, and it can be activated on death to instantly respawn at the cost of needing to charge it up again.
  • In the freeware platformer Hurrican, the Big Bad is reduced to a floating robot skull after the penultimate boss fight, which soon attaches itself to a giant killing machine for the real final battle. To win, you have to reveal his organic heart, kept behind a reinforced steel wall, and smash it.
  • Ib: The roses carried by the main characters, which also act as a Life Meter in the top corner of the screen; whenever a petal is plucked, wounds open up on the owner's body. This example is also an interesting inversion, as when the human characters are damaged, the rose wilts too. Mary is a straighter example; also has a rose, but it's fake. Her painting is her true Soul Jar; as a painting, she's immortal, but she's reduced to ashes when you burn it.
  • The "shards" used to power the terracotta army in Jade Empire.
  • One can fight many liche lihc in Kingdom of Loathing but you can only find one phylactery for a Mid-Boss version. You could "kill" it without the item, but destroying the phylactery results in an instant kill.
  • Downplayed in Last Train Outta' Worm Town. When a Pardner dies for the first time, they leave behind their heart in a jar, which can then be taken to the Church grounds in order to resurrect them. However, this only works once; should they die again, they're stuck as a ghost.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Majesty: Skeleton warlords Styx and Stones provide a unique twist on this old chestnut. It is said that "as long as one lives the other cannot truly die." Meaning that to be permanently defeated they must both be killed simultaneously.
  • Subverted by Makai Kingdom: Badass Freaking Overlord Zetta is forced to use a book for an impromptu soul jar to save both himself and it when everything else in his Netherworld, including his original body, is destroyed. This essentially leaves him a sentient tome whose lack of arms, legs and a Netherworld is a significant step-down from his previous situation — and to make matters worse, he has no way of returning things to normal on his own. He still has all the Mana he did when he had his body though.
  • The Trope Namer is Might and Magic 7, 8, and 9, where necromancers and evil wizards actually need an item called a Soul Jar to contain their souls and transform into Liches. Notably, in 8 the Soul Jar is implied to be temporary. You put the soul back into the person after the transformation. Corak's Soul in Might and Magic 2 qualifies as well.
  • Mystery Case Files: In a variation, Charles Dalimar in the Return to Ravenhearst casual game uses a Soul Jar consisting of other people's souls, plus his own disembodied heart. This has evidently allowed him to remain in the world for generations, long after he should have died of old age. Charles apparently learned this trick from his father Alister; in Fate's Carnival we learn that Alister can only be killed by destroying a specific book.
  • In Paper Mario, the boss Tubba Blubba was made invincible by removing his heart and hiding it. Mario finds the heart and tries to destroy it, only to prompt Tubba to reunite with his heart... which costs him his invincibility, and allows Mario to (very easily) defeat him.
  • Phantasy Star Online: Dark Falz can use the player characters as soul jars. While bound to a character, any damage dealt to Falz will be inflicted to the character instead (even if said character is under the status of "invincible"). The players can either wait for the binding to wear off before continuing their attack, or just let the bound character die to break the link and make Falz vulnerable to damage immediately.
  • Pokémon:
    • The Soul Dew is a unique item that is stated to contain the soul of a deceased Latios.
    • Spiritomb is made up of Mystical 108 malevolent spirits bound to a stone. Also, being Ghost/Dark type, it only has one elemental weaknesses in the form of Fairy-type moves.note 
  • In Rise of the Tomb Raider, the main macguffin everyone is looking for is the Divine Source, a large blue crystal that removes/stores the souls of anyone who looks directly at it, curing them of all physical ailments, granting them eternal youth and resurrective immortality, as such being both a soul jar and immortality inducer. It was used to make the entire Army of Kitezh immortal, implying that it can hold an infinite number of souls. Inevitably Lara Croft destroys the Source with the justification of the it not being meant for the world of humans, causing those who stored their souls in it to disintegrate into dust.
  • SALVATOR: All the asteroids in the game have souls trapped in them. SALVATOR has to destroy them to release the souls within.
  • Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew: At the Isle of Penance, souls of deceased prisoners are kept in jars to complete their sentence. Some have been driven mad by being held imprisoned without a body for over a century.
  • In Shivers (1995), each Ixupi is bound to a jar closed with a talisman. When one is reassembled, it will seal it away.
  • The Sims Medieval has the spell "Soul Theft," which allows you to steal a person's soul fragment.
  • In Nippon Ichi's Soul Nomad & the World Eaters, ex-Big Bad Gig has his soul trapped in a sword, and is later trapped in the body of the Hero after the sword is given to him/her by Layna.
  • String Tyrant: You at one point meet a talking journal. It turns out to be holding the soul of the person who wrote the journal.
  • In System Shock 2 you face Psi Reavers — huge flying jellyfish who are a perfect blend of flesh and psi energy and as such will keep resurrecting until you destroy their brain which is hidden somewhere nearby in a secluded corner.
  • One of the tasks in Tak and the Power of Juju is collecting Lok's Soul Balloon so he can be resurrected. He's all squeezed up in there; tough balloon.
  • In the very first Ultima game, Mondain the Evil Wizard has done this with his Black Gem. When you finally fight him, you see him in the process of making it. You can continually "kill" him, but it won't count and he keeps getting back until you've done so after destroying the Gem. Similarly, in Ultima V, the Shadowlords who were born from the shards of that Gem cannot be permanently killed unless their individual shard is destroyed at the same time they're immersed in the Flame of the opposite Principle of Virtue.
  • In the old 8-bit action-adventure game "The Valley", you could create one of these (of type 2) for yourself by finding the six stones of the Amulet Of Alarian. The drawback was that this was single-use only; if you got killed, you were resurrected but the Stones were scattered, so if you wanted to be immortal once more you had to find them again.
  • In White Knight Chronicles, the five Knights each contain pieces of Emperor Madoras' soul, the biggest fragment residing within Wizel the White Knight.
  • Wizard101: After Shane von Shane's unrequited love, Tatyana, was Driven to Suicide by Shane's actions (which included killing off her entire family), Shane trapped her spirit in a phylactery to prevent her from going to the afterlife and leaving him.
  • The Warlock class from World of Warcraft can create "Soul Stones" that store the target's soul, granting them an instantaneous resurrection should they be killed while the buff is in place. They can only be made if you have "Soul Shards," which is basically the extracted soul of an enemy after it's death.
    • Liches also sometimes have these, held in some hidden or well-guarded locations. Except for Kel'Thuzad, who carries his with him, possibly because it would be difficult to find a better guard for it than he himself. Or they could just give them all to Arthas, meaning that their enemies would have to win the whole war to kill any of his liches. But Arthas seems to have some strange compulsion to get all his servants killed. This later turns out to be an odd compulsion of human Arthas's pride, trying to train new champions to corrupt.
    • Arthas' sword, Frostmourne, is a soul jar plus. When Tirion Fordring shatters Frostmourne, it releases the souls of every being it's absorbed, including Arthas' father. Its destruction also leaves Arthas vulnerable to a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown by the raid attacking him as Arthas' soul was bound to the blade from the moment he first picked it up.
  • The Monado in Xenoblade Chronicles 1. It contains Zanza, who gives Shulk "visions" to push him in his desired direction, all while whispering advice to take out his vengeance on Egil and the Mechon.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Sacred Urn in the Ace Attorney series is said to contain the soul of Ama Fey, founder of the Fey clan and inventor of the Kurain Channeling Technique, and that the clan's spiritual powers will last for as long as the soul is inside the jar. That said, Mia Fey refers to this as a "fairy tale" and considering that there's at least three confirmed cases of the jar being smashed to pieces and sloppily reassembled, with no apparent ill-effects on the clan's ability to channel spirits, it's heavily implied she's right.
  • First Kiss at a Spooky Soiree has a variation. Vinegar is deathly ill and wanted to separate her soul from her body in order to be free from her illness as a ghost. However, completely removing her soul would kill her, so she had to leave half of her soul in her body in order for the other half to continue existing. So essentially, Vinegar's ghost half is treating her own body as a soul jar.
  • In Fleuret Blanc, the judges believe prized possessions to be this if the attachment is great enough, which is why they kill members. There's no indication that this is anything more than a delusion, however.

  • Lich in 8-Bit Theater has the inspiration of hiding his soul within the Earth Orb — which can't be destroyed without ending the world. Thief counters this by managing to steal his soul from the orb.
  • In Breakfast of the Gods, Cookie Jarvis uses a most unexpected item as his soul jar.
  • Cardinal in Finder's Keepers (2008) has his kept in a compass.
  • In Guttersnipe, Lil' Ragamuffin survives being shot in the head and tossed in an incinerator, claiming that urchins don't need brains or bodies 'cause they're all heart, then shrugs off a shot in the chest because she keeps her heart in a bowl in a shack on top of an unclimbable trash heap.
  • Homestuck fans should hope that Aranea's account of Cronus' Potter-style encounter with Lord English is true in explaining that the Jujus are essentially LE's horcruxes. One of which is Lil' Cal, which explains a lot.
  • Xykon in The Order of the Stick, is a lich, and naturally has a phylactery; his Dragon Redcloak's holy symbol. The phylactery is protected by so many spells he doesn't "even remember what half of them do". Another notable thing: Xykon's soul isn't in the phylactery except when his undead body is destroyed as noted in the prequel book Start of Darkness; Redcloak tries to ransom the lich by threatening to break it, and Xykon scoffs it off by saying he can make a new one to house his soul in any case. (By the letter of the rules in D&D this is true. For a lich to be killed you must destroy both the phylactery and the body.)
  • The Shufflers: The cloth attached to Hiddenite’s staff acts as this. It’s shown that prolonged distance from the staff hurts him and leaves him feeling weak. His mother, who appears to him in a vision, describes it as his lifeline.

    Web Original 
  • Phylacteries in Angel of Death. Every lich keeps their soul in a Phylactery, which can be anything from a Rubick's Cube to a book to a piece of jewelry.
  • In the Anti-Cliché and Mary-Sue Elimination Society, Tash, Valerie, Michael, Aster, and Zero for Adrian.
  • Kamimura does this to his former pupil Goku in the first chapter of Broken Saints, with the fragment of Goku resting in Kami's own mind. This is how he receives the message that starts him on his quest. Goku is in a coma until Kamimura's mind is cleansed in the Grand Finale.
  • Dreamscape:
    • Vladmare is the sword. The demon wielding it is simply a vessel used to transport and utilize it.
    • The Master of the Dammed's own scythe is his. Break it, and he dies in an instant.
  • Dream SMP:
    • Skeppy serves as a Type 2 to his friend BadBoyHalo, who has infinite canon lives as long as Skeppy is alive (i.e. has at least one canon life).
    • Roses seem to serve as Type 1a to Hannah, who feels stronger and healthier when she has them on her person, and falls ill when the Blood Vines contaminate the flowers near her home, even from several thousand blocks away. This is later justified by her being a fairy who derives her power and likely life force from nature.
  • In the Hitherby Dragons story "Unclean Legacy", Francescu magically transfers all his life into one of his fingers, and then cuts it off to keep it safe. When his brother Tomas snaps the finger he realises that a finger contains several bones. In The Fable Of The Lamb Sebastien the Hero mentions that he can survive a shotgun blast because he keeps his heart in a box
  • The strange steel balls in Pretending to Be People contain a human consciousness, which they can implant into a human being by ripping out their spinal cord and inhabiting their hollowed-out nervous system.
  • In the Questden Nice Save, evil necromancer Letiel tries to rip out and absorb the soul of protagonist Glinp. It fails, and Glinp retorts that he knows better than keep his soul in his body.note 
  • Theo's Game Cartridge becomes this in Meta Runner when Tari inadvertently pulled him out of his game of Ultra Jump Mania. However, due to him being separated from his game; Theo ran the risk of being erased unless he was put back into his original cartridge again. By the Season 1 Finale, Lucks winds up destroying Theos' Cartridge and keeping the Motherboard: where Theos' "Soul" is kept at, to be used as Collateral to keep Tari under his control.
  • The SCP Foundation has SCP-963, a 2b-type amulet that copies the wearer's soul to it upon death and allows them to possess the body of anyone who wears it. Its current user is Dr. Jack Bright, who had the misfortune to be carrying it when he was killed by a rampaging SCP-076-2 and has since led him to possess the bodies of several other people and even inhuman creatures. Fortunately (or unfortunately), 963 is apparently indestructible.
    • One point to note is that binding your soul to it requires you to be killed by outside circumstances; the original owner tried to do so via suicide, which didn't really take.
  • Phylacteries serve as these for liches in Void Domain.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers has a villainous example with the Psychocrystals. The Queen sucks the life from her victims through an alchemical machine, puts that Life Energy into little red crystals, and uses them to power her highest-end Mooks.
  • The Fight King in Adventure Time has an enormous golden sword as his. Finn tricks him into thinking he's under his control and just wants the sword to kill Jake, then smashes it.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Princess Yue is the Moon Spirit's Soul Jar, after he granted her a portion of his essence to keep her alive. However, the Spirit also turned Yue into an emergency backup drive in case the Spirit was ever killed, which happened. Thus Yue had to pay the Spirit back.
  • Code Lyoko
    • Main villain XANA is an informatic version of this: since he is an A.I., he requires a computer storing his data to survive, meaning he will disappear if the computer is shut down. He solves the problem in Season 4 by infecting hundreds of supercomputers all over the world to store his data.
    • Later extends this to the Lyoko Warriors themselves in Code Lyoko: Evolution.
  • In Gargoyles, Demona and Macbeth act as Soul Jars to each other thanks to the Weird Sisters' spell. As long as one lives, so too does the other. The only way they can die is if they kill each other.
  • In Over the Garden Wall, the Beast put the Woodsman's daughter's soul in the Dark Lantern, and it will be lost if the Woodsman doesn't continually keep it lit with Edelwood oil. Since Edelwood trees are made from lost travelers whom the Beast either kills or pushes past the Despair Event Horizon, the Woodsman is understandably torn between obsessively keeping the Lantern lit and trying to help the Beast's chosen victims. The Lantern actually holds the Beast's own soul, and once the Woodsman realizes this, he snuffs it out and destroys him.
  • In The Penguins of Madagascar, the baboons use "backwoods magic" to steal King Julien's "groove" and seal it in a jar until he gives them an apology for throwing a skunk into their pen. Julien, of course, refuses, and a fight for the jar ensues. It falls and breaks at Skipper's feet, who has remained skeptical about the whole "groove in a jar" thing until he starts dancing uncontrollably.
  • In The Venture Bros., Dr. Orpheus attempts to resurrect Hank and Dean but learns that Dr. Venture kept clones of them and used a device to record their memory synapses and download their minds to clone bodies, which ended up housing their souls as well.

Alternative Title(s): Phylactery


Bad Spark

Megatron cuts out part of Protoform X's indestructible spark and puts it in a cage.

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Main / YourSoulIsMine

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