Why would fantasy worlds bury their dead when zombies and undeath is a thing?

One thought on “Why would fantasy worlds bury their dead when zombies and undeath is a thing?

  1. D. Walker says:

    Cmon, Ed – don’t give us a cop out.

    People may be illogical, but that doesn’t mean they lack motivations for their actions – just that their motivations are sometimes irrational.

    In the real world, we bury our dead for religious reasons, but that originated in large part from the fact that corpses decay. By sticking a corpse in the ground, you get to retain possession of it and go visit it for emotional and cultural purposes, without having to deal with the related issues of decomposition in the open air.

    If we lived in a world where buried corpses posed a potential threat due to undeath, we’d be strongly inclined to cremate the dead, or at least dismember them and ensure they decompse rapidly – such as in the Tibetan tradition of “Sky Burials”.

    Now, if you want to have burial be the primary way of handling corpses in the Realms, obviously you’re the boss and you make the rules. But at least give it the most minor of justifications.

    You could simply say that people bury their dead because the Gods prefer them to do so. Why do they care whether you bury or burn your dead? Who knows? The gods are weird and aloof, after all, and they frequently refuse to explain their will or whims. Why should this be any different?

    There’s even already precedent for this, via the doctrines and churches of Jergal, Kelemvor, et cetera. Death is largely supposed to be orderly in The Realms.

    Or… maybe the Gods don’t actually particularly care. Maybe it’s something else.

    Maybe instead it’s just a weird cultural quirk. Maybe it’s just a particularly powerful taboo that developed countless ages ago. Maybe people view destroying a body to prevent the possibility of undeath as something cowardly or obscene.

    Maybe it’s a simple matter of pride. Maybe burning corpses is seen as caving to the forces of evil and fear, and insisting on burying them intact instead is seen as an act of bravery and defiance – a refusal to accept or tolerate undeath, and a symbolic drawing of a line in the sand.

    There has to be SOME justification, even if it’s not a very rational one.

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