Cannibalism

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Chaos star.jpg This article contains something widely considered by /tg/ to be absolutely disgusting, like pedophilia, rape porn, or any other disturbing topic, like bathing in your allies' blood.
Reason: eating humans wtf

"No doubt the first man that ever murdered an ox was regarded as a murderer; perhaps he was hung; and if he had been put on his trial by oxen, he certainly would have been; and he certainly deserved it if any murderer does. Go to the meat-market of a Saturday night and see the crowds of live bipeds staring up at the long rows of dead quadrupeds. Does not that sight take a tooth out of the cannibal's jaw? Cannibals? who is not a cannibal? I tell you it will be more tolerable for the Fejee that salted down a lean missionary in his cellar against a coming famine; it will be more tolerable for that provident Fejee, I say, in the day of judgment, than for thee, civilized and enlightened gourmand, who nailest geese to the ground and feastest on their bloated livers in thy pate-de-foie-gras."

– Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Usually defined as "eating your own species" or "eating a creature who, when alive, could carry on a conversation"[1], cannibalism is an occasional feature of /tg/-related media.


/tg/ Applicability[edit]

Given how disgusting this topic is, and a history of racism associated with talking about cannibalism, you'd expect tabletop games writers (and writers in general) to avoid focusing on cannibalism in their works, even in very grim settings. And they generally do.

But some don't! Exceptions include:

  • Always Chaotic Evil races or monsters practicing cannibalism on the species, cultural, or tribal scale.
  • Alternately, a well-trodden cannibalism plot point is human (or demihuman) flesh being passed off as some other meat, perpetrated by some malevolent industry insiders or especially callous authorities.
  • The other main group of exceptions are "horrific magic" situations, where the myth of "gaining the power of what you eat" is played upon, near-universally with the caveat that doing so is a very evil act.
  • The smallest class of exceptions just involves cannibalism as part of a horrific murder. Basically, there's nothing cultural or mystical about cannibalism here. The person in question is just a sick fuck.

There are a few scenarios that blur the line:

  • Some of the darker Furry settings where carnivorous animals never stopped eating sapient flesh. But that's Furries.
  • Toon has quite a few scenarios modelled after "chase" cartoons like Roadrunner and Tom and Jerry.

Specific /tg/ examples[edit]

As a Tribal/Cultural/Species practice:

  • In mythology (and thus freely used by tabletop games):
    • Ogres are categorically man-eaters (with a preference for eating babies), as well as giants on many occasions.
    • Vampires (both classical blood-drinkers and proto-zombie flesh-eaters) might also be classed as cannibals, though since they are undead, we tend to think of them as no longer being human to begin with.
    • Ghouls are fairly straightforward examples originally taken from Arabic mythology; their main identity is "graveyard dwelling man-eaters".
  • In keeping with it's edgelord sensibilities, Warhammer 40k has a lot of examples. Here's just a few:
    • The Dark Eldar feed their slaves with processed corpses of dead slaves, among other things. The Dark Eldar themselves may also indulge in the cannibalism of other species if they feel like it, sometimes with their meal still alive and conscious so that they can additionally savor their agony.
    • The Kroot need to eat sentient beings in order to remain intelligent and regularly eats certain individuals to evolve specific traits.
    • The entire orkoid race is one big food chain in itself, and bigger/complex life forms will eat the smaller/less-abled ones below them if needed/they feel like it. A special mention however, goes to the eating squig, an simple orkoid life form that is solely made for the orks to cultivate, harvest, and eat.
    • Most orkoid species will also eat other beings if it fancies them, especially the orks themselves and larger combat squig species.
    • The Imperium feed people Corpse Starch (made from processed human bodies). While it could be an extreme example of waste not want not (as this typically happens in Hive Worlds, where resources are stretched thin as it is), it is a bit grimderp too, and the poor sods operating the equipment tend to get a bit loopy. The Juvenat treatments used by high-ranking imperial nobility and officers are made out of human fetuses, so we guess that's unavoidable if one wishes to live longer.
    • Uncivilized Feral Worlds may have cannibalistic rituals within the tribes, especially if they're tainted by Chaos. Even if they're brought under the heel of the Imperium and the Imperial Creed is spread, this does not 100% guarantee that feral worlders will shrug off cannibalism completely.
    • Due to their Omophagea, Space Marines can consume the the brains of fallen enemies to take in their knowledge. Some astartes chapters also incorporate cannibalism into their chapter rituals in some way (such as the Blood Angels' blood drinking rituals, or the aptly-named Flesh Eaters). The Sons of Malice chapter is one notable example, except they were declared a heretic as a result (reasonable since they having been consume a lot of chaos worshipers corpses during their services around the pinky hole of all obvious evil). This makes one wonder the point of giving Spess Muhreens such an ability, given most of their enemies would be likely to corrupt via eating them. On the other hand, having the ability to sustain on any being's flesh while fighting far away without supply for a long time is a convenient but situational ability for survival, truly just how the Emperor intended.
    • The forces of Chaos regularly indulge in various forms of cannibalism (Nurgle's followers for example, brew the corpses of defeated enemies into a variety of concoctions for consumption, and Khorne regularly involves the consumption of blood and other bloody gibs to worship him). Fluff however, tends not to not mention them too often, or in too much in detail when they occur. Let's not forget the Emperor's Children breaking down slaves into drugs both recreational and military, and we're assuming they aren't above dining on their spoils of war either.
    • The Tyranids are a race of ravenous consumers and will eat anything and everything, including themselves if needed. Hell, some of their weapons fire living projectiles that attempt to devour their target within their short lifespan. Although since they are not sentient creatures, hell, they are not even individuals, it is hardly cannibalism and can be likened to predatory behavior. In Retribution, there's a scene where the Hive Tyrant let itself be consumed by the Digestion Pools in order for its mind to reappear somewhere else in the sector, so the swarm will even use cannibalism as a form of long-range transport.
  • Similar to 40k, Warhammer Fantasy (and by extension Age of Sigmar) uses the concept of cannibalism to add extra grimdark.
    • Orcs & Goblins are as cannibalistic as their 40k counterparts, as are the Trolls that occasionally appear in their forces.
    • Ghouls are former humans who have been deformed into monsters by the act of cannibalism. In AoS they're part the Flesh-Eater Courts, who have the added distinction of being deluded into believing they're being gallant knights when they devour people.
    • The Mourngul is another monster created from men driven to cannibalism, because for some reason the setting really needed two monsters with the same gimmick.
    • The Ogres are a race whose most distinctive feature is their constant hunger. Given that Ogres generally don't have a concept of morals, let alone what is or is not edible, cannibalism is common amongst them. That said, nomming on Gnoblars is only done as a last resort.
    • The human worshippers of Khorne in Age of Sigmar are often shown as being cannibals. Survivors of Khornate attacks partake in a cannibalistic feast, either joining in and transforming into a Bloodreaver or refusing and being added to the menu.
    • Cannibalism is a big part of the Skaven. To them life is cheap, food is expensive and often someone can serve you better as lunch than as a wounded slave or as a backstabber. Of course, they will gladly feast-dine on any non-Skaven they can get their grubby paws on.
  • Dungeons and Dragons have many "true omnivores"; we won't count them unless they are intelligent.
    • Xanxost the Slaad, a frequent narrator in various Planescape books, would usually discuss the taste of some of the (sentient) species he was discussing. Usually as a punchline.
    • The "Flinds", a tribe or subspecies of Gnoll that eats other Gnolls, along with just about all the other races.
    • The halflings of Dark Sun eat only other races; but they're called "cannibals" anyway.
  • Paranoia has a few scenarios centering either around it, or the implication that Friend Computer's Food Processors use deceased Citizens of Alpha Complex as an input.
  • Lamentations of the Flame Princess's author had a particular fondness for including cannibalism in his works.
  • Being in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, the Fallout series contains several examples of cannibalism.
    • Despite the setting, cannibalism is generally frowned upon, or outright hated, in the wasteland by "civilized" folk.
    • The protagonist has the option of becoming a cannibal by taking the appropriate perk, which allows them to devour slain human enemies for health and nutrition. One can be an unwitting cannibal aswell by eating human flesh or strange foodstuffs found in the world.
    • Feral ghouls and some less-civilized ghouls, partake in cannibalism. The former due to being completely insane, the latter because they simply don't care about civil norms or morality anymore (and may also just be insane).
    • Mentally unhinged raider gangs, such as The Fiends in the Mojave, will occasionally eat their targets
    • Majority of super mutants are cannibals, especially those living in brutal communities and were mentally stunted by the FEV transformation, although this is not always the case.
    • A number of seemingly-normal communities throughout post-war America may have devolved into cannibalism and has normalized it, for a variety of reasons. Some do it as a necessity for survival, some see it as a mark of true prestige, and some have just gone completely bonkers.

As a "Horrific Magic":

Standard Cannibalism Jokes[edit]

There are a few standard jokes associated with cannibalism:

  • The name "Long Pig" or "Long pork", from the semi-euphemistic description of the dish by certain Polynesian tribes.
    • On that note, "tastes like chicken" has been used, in keeping with the joke that just about everything tastes like chicken.
  • "Soylent Green" is the other favorite name for processed human flesh, after the movie of the same name, where it is discovered that the titular food product is made using human corpses due to food shortages caused by overpopulation and environmental collapse. [2]
  • LOOKS LIKE MEAT'S BACK ON THE MENU BOYS!
  • If the main target of the cannibals are brains, expect a joke along the lines "well you're safe then" to the dumbest member of the group.
  • "To Serve Man" ... "IT'S A COOKBOOK!"

The Reasons It's A Touchy Subject[edit]

There are five main reasons why most modern media either avoids cannibalism, or downplays it:

  1. Most mammals (that includes you!) are instinctively predisposed to avoid cannibalism (barring severe stress such as starvation), since, as mentioned above, cannibalism is a really great way to spread disease, as well as prion diseases.
  2. Eating people generally involves human corpses, which begs the question of where the corpses came from. Most people find the idea of someone being murdered to be eaten highly disturbing.
  3. Native tribes were frequently accused of being cannibals or portrayed as being cannibals when they weren't. Many tribes who did practice cannibalism were mis-attributed as to when they practiced it. Given the subsequent abuse of the accusation by blatant racists to dehumanize natives, most modern works try to avoid the subject entirely to not be accused (even by double proxy) of propagating racist stereotypes.
  4. There are some already rather disturbing people who find cannibalism a quite arousing subject. Any sane author who knows about this wants to keep a great deal of distance between their works and said people.
  5. That shit's disgusting, yo.

History & Biology[edit]

Multiple cultures throughout history have practiced cannibalism, more for mystic/cultural reasons than out of necessity. The most common notion behind ritual cannibalism is that by consuming an enemy's flesh, a person would gain their strength. That being said, the practice was near-universally banned by nearly every group that had enough food (read: protein) to go around, for fairly obvious ethical, moral and hygienic reasons.

Eating your own species is a really great way to spread disease, and not a very polite thing to do to a stranger. While we do also get diseases from animal meat, a lot of them are rendered moot by cooking and the fact that they're incompatible with a human's complex physiology, so they just get digested and pass through the body. That isn't so much the case with eating someone else of your own specie. Its also not very pragmatic either. Human meat, even under the best conditions, has poor calorific content, meaning you're not getting a lot of energy from consuming it compared to the ones you'd get from eating livestock or game. So really there's no good reason for people to eat other people, save for some very, very, dire circumstances where things like morality, health, and nutritional needs are becoming more of a suggestion than rule.

A prominent example of a disease spread by cannibalism is Kuru, a prion-based neurodegenerative disease which affected the Fore people of Papua New Guinea through their tradition of consuming their dead as part of the funeral rite (it was thought to free the spirit of the deceased). Symptoms include muscle tremors, loss of coordination leading to the inability to walk or even sit without support, emotional instability, and certain death. Things like this probably helped lead to the idea of ghouls and other such degraded man eaters.

More common is cannibalism by desperation. If fields burned before harvest lie under snow, storehouses plundered by passing armies, what little escaped pillage is either locked away in hordes or rationed out in sub-subsistence portions, game (including sparrows and rats) is running thin and people will kill each other for a sack of turnips, turning the remains of a dead enemy patrol into warrior-burgers and knight-steaks so you might make it to till the land again beats an otherwise assured miserable death. This sort of thing, while still unpleasant, is not so much evil as tragic.

Further, cannibalism was enough of an occasional feature of nautical life (almost always in fairly extreme circumstances involving a lack of food) to be somewhat regularly discussed when the subject came up. This side of the subject is probably beyond the nature of this article, save to note that it kept "civilized" people from being too high-and-mighty about the practice.

Also of particular interest, as it gets cited in /tg/ related discussions of the subject: the mating habits of certain insects, the females of which may eat the males after mating--although, by most biologists' accounts, many such species do so only rarely, except when in captivity.

  1. And sometimes referred to as "The other kind of humanitarianism"
  2. The name came from the book "Make Room! Make Room!" which the movie was based on, though the "Soylent Green is people!" twist was something the movie added.