Corpse Land

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Classic outcome at local mall on a Black Friday


"All dead... all rotten. Elves and men and orcses. A great battle, long ago. The Dead Marshes... yes, that is their name."
Gollum, Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers

When a great battle, massacre, or terrible cataclysm occurs, sometimes the race involved forgets, but then again, sometimes the land doesn't, and becomes possessed by the misery of the departed.

A Corpse Land is called this mostly because the bodies of the dead are ever present. No matter how many are buried, more seem to just appear, still gored and disease ridden, attracting scavengers that become manipulated puppets to the ghosts that haunt the place. In fantasy stories, necromancers are common to find around such places, and no matter how noble the armies involved may have been, they become twisted and malevolent, even attempting to relive their final events with the bodies of travelers who pass by.

Vegetation fails to grow. Beasts and birds become sick or mad. The land is cursed, forbidden and dangerous.

A hidden form of this may be a Field of Blades.

Examples of Corpse Land include:


Anime and Manga

  • A town in the movie Ninja Scroll had this. It was a place that was littered with diseased corpses.
  • An early story of the Berserk manga has Guts passing through the remains of an old battlefield with a priest and his family on pilgrimage and having to fight demon-possessed skeletons and other undead because of the Brand he bears.

Literature

  • The Dead Marshes in Lord of the Rings, a foul bog stretching miles across Middle Earth filled with corpses from the first war with Sauron. Spirits of the men, elves, and orcs that were buried there try to lure travelers into the marshes to add to the body count. Truth in Television since the marshes were directly inspired by Tolkien's experiences in the trenches of World War I.

Live Action TV

  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Doctor's Wife", where the Doctor sees a scrap yard, the TARDIS sees a Corpse Land:

The TARDIS: My sisters are all dead, and we're looking at their corpses.

Tabletop Games

  • A lot of Civil War battlefields along the Mason-Dixon line in Deadlands are like this. Especially Gettysburg.
  • "Battle of Bones" area in Forgotten Realms, named after an event that changed it forever. Due to drought and expanding Anauroch desert, a lot of goblinoids (more than a quarter million combatants) had to migrate, humans and allies (more than half of that) were determined to stop them in a convenient pass and much slaughter ensued.
  • The Mournland from Eberron, which used to be the nation of Cyre until it was destroyed by a magical disaster called the Day of Mourning.
  • Exalted has the shadowlands, which are created whenever there's a massive act of slaughter in a concentrated area. They're half-open gates to the Underworld that open all the way when night falls, and are often populated by hungry ghosts and zombies.
  • In Magic: The Gathering the plane of Grixis is inhabited by dead things, undead things, demons, and the occasional desperate necromancer. Due to a lack of green or white mana it's incapable of producing new life.
    • Black-aligned lands usually have this theme.
  • In Warhammer Fantasy Battle the island holding the Sword of Khaine is covered in the bodies and battle gear of the elves who've fought over it, and bodies thousands of years old can be seen fresh.

Video Games

  • Hellfire Peninsula in World of Warcraft seems to fit the bill. The land is shattered and almost devoid of plantlife, what few animals survive are violent, predatory, and often demon-possessed. Flames erupt from hellish chasms, ghosts of slain soldiers roam the ruins of their fortresses and the bones of the fallen litter the road, and there doesn't seem to be any sources of clean water; the only water available is from swamps full of mutated, poisonous slime monsters and demons.
    • There's also Deadwind Pass. The only things living there are giant spiders, vultures, and a clan of ogres. Everything else is either dead or left long ago.
  • In Halo before you encounter The Flood you'll come across areas filled with ravaged covenant corpses.
  • Left 4 Dead had areas where bodies where stacked in piles or covered with sheets. Other places had barricades that have been overrun.
  • Pools of the Ancient Dead in Medievil is a barren, swampy area where the dead from a long ago battle still roam.
  • An ASCII-based form of this graces the exterior of Boatmurdered once they start magma-cannoning all their troubles away, since no one bothers to clean up the remains. Fanart tends to go a little overboard, depicting a massive wasteland of trashed goblin equipment and elephant bones.
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings has some, complete with skeletons and evil spirits.
  • The Gears of War series has Char "The Ultimate Sin of the COG", the area where the Hammer of Dawn was used on the Locust to halt their attacks, roughly 75% of Sera. In a disturbing mirror of Pompeii, there are ashen remain of every man, woman and child who were unable to reach the safe zone.

Religion

  • The Bible delivers on this trope in the Book of Nahum:

Many casualties,
piles of dead,
bodies without number,
people stumbling over the corpses...

Real Life

  • The island of Poveglia in Venice harbor was used as a leper colony/plague pit from 1793 to 1814 and again from sometime in the early 1900's to 1922. A major portion of the islands mass is now dead human bodies. Fishermen avoid it for valid fear of getting corpses caught in their nets.
  • The aftermath of D-Day.
  • The field of Prokhorovka during the battle of Kursk. Over 700 German and Soviet tanks were wrecked on the battlefield.
  • Germany and the Soviet Union fought so many battles like this in World War II. Stalingrad, Kiev (twice!), Berlin, Kursk, Riga, Rostov... You get the point.
  • The front-line trenches and no-man's-land in World War I, especially since this was Tolkien's inspiration for the Dead Marshes.
    • The whole Western Front was pretty foul, but the battleground around Ypres and east to Passchendaele is probably the archetype. The Germans called it a martyrdom.
  • Just like the tabletop example above, many Civil War battlefields were like this long enough fir there to be photos.
  • In almost any war, battlefields after the fight but before the cleanup were like this.
  • Vlad the Impaler's border decorations; this has sometimes been poetically referred to as a "Forest of the Dead."
  • The many (many!) Sieges of Jerusalem may left the city streets littered with the corpses of its dead inhabitants, and literal rivers of blood. You can blame the Romans and the Crusaders for that.
  • British casualties from the 1814 Battle of New Orleans were simply buried in the very damp area where they fell. During Hurricane Katrina, some skeletons surfaced as the ground washed away.