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I'll have a cut of Johnson's leg, please.

We're out of food. Now what? That guy in the bucket hat is looking pretty tasty. Why don't we Just Eat Gilligan? Literally?

This trope is the ugly side of exploration. The characters are out of food, and resort to cannibalism not because they like it, but because they have no other choice. It's that or starve.

Named for the famous example of the Donner Party, who ate the bodies of their comrades who had died of hunger.

Compare Eat the Dog, Reduced to Ratburgers. Contrast I'm a Humanitarian, where the eater truly enjoys eating human.

Examples of No Party Like a Donner Party include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Shaman King, Tokagero states his mother had given him "her own flesh" so he would survive. A little bit later on the story, we find out he really meant it.
  • During Sanji's flashback in the One Piece manga, after surviving a month of being stranded, young Sanji discovers the pirate chef has been forced to eat his own foot after secretly giving Sanji all the food to keep the boy alive. It's a horrifying reveal for the boy and pretty clearly illustrates why he stays with the "old crap-geezer". In the anime adaption, the chef cuts off his foot in his attempt to save Sanji because it was trapped.
  • In one episode of Kino's Journey, Kino encounters some snowed-in traders. Almost starving to death, they had eaten their cargo. Turns out they were slavers. Connect the dots...
  • It's heavily implied by a flashback in Mobile Suit Gundam 00 that Allelujah engaged in this as a boy, during an early appearance of his evil split personality, Hallelujah. Allejuah was trapped on a ship with his fellow tykebombs, and they had no food and were starving to death. Cut to a grinning Hallejuah with blood dripping down his shirt.

Comic Books

  • "Casket Canyon" in Jonah Hex #66. A town cut off by a blizzard resorts to cannibalism. Some of the inhabitants quickly descend into I'm a Humanitarian territory.


  • Who can forget Ravenous, which was a take on the wendigo where anyone who eats people gains power and life force? Spawning possibly the best closing line of any movie: As the two men are caught in a bear trap, the villain says "If you die first, I am definitely going to eat you. The question is, if I die first... what are YOU going to do?"
  • Cannibal! The Musical, a musical based on Alfred Packer's journey brought to you by the creators of South Park with all of their usual good taste.
  • In the movie Gulag, when the prisoners are planning their escape, it is suggested that they take a 'sandwich' with them; that is, someone weak who will probably die on the ice so they will be able to eat him.
  • The Peter Jackson take on The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers has a horde of Uruk-Hai who, after days of cross-country running, powered by moldy bread, start eyeing their Hobbit cargo. They end up settling for one of their own. This does not suppose that the Uruk-Hai have anything remotely resembling refined tastes in cuisine.
    • By this point the warband is composed of both Uruk-Hai and regular orcs, the ones that look more scrawny and hunch over. The orcs want to carve up the Hobbits but the scene plays up the discipline of the Uruk-Hai since Saruman ordered them to bring them back "alive and unspoiled". Of course, an orc being an orc, he draws his blade on the much stronger Uruk-Hai and gets gutted. Looks like meat's back on the menu, boys!
  • In the original My Bloody Valentine it's revealed Harry Warden ate his companions while trapped in the collapsed mine. The remake downgrades this into killing them to conserve oxygen.
  • The film Alive is a Truth in Television tale about a team of rugby players whose plane crashed high in the Andes. In the bitter cold at altitude, with no vegetation or animals, the survivors eventually resort to eating the remains of the deceased.
  • Done for laughs at the beginning of Road To Morocco, where Geoffrey (Bing Crosby) and Oliver (Bob Hope) are stranded at sea.
  • Subverted heavily in Wagons East! As the ex-pioneers grow increasingly worried when they think their guide led the historical Donner party, a blizzard hits and the guide prepares a mysterious roast. Then, just as the lead ex-pioneer is in the middle of being horrified that they're eating the missing member of their party, the assumed roast walks up and asks if anyone's seen his cow. Resume feasting.
  • Monty Python and The Holy Grail

 In the frozen land of Nador, they were forced to eat Robin's minstrels, And There Was Much Rejoicing.

  • In Patch Adams the titular character plays with a skeleton, waving its hands around and gives a shout out to this trope along the lines of "Donner! Donner! Party of 15 over here! Donner! Donner!"
  • Brought up in The Way Back. Seven men have escaped a gulag, and one asks the group's leader who he thinks will die first. The leader is confused and then horrified when the other guy says he assumed they'd brought so many people so they'd have something to eat. Fortunately it never gets that far.
  • In The Remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, there's a Start of Darkness flashback that shows the (already inbred and rather... unconventional) family figuring out how they're going to eat during a time of financial hardship, and eventually - but hesitantly - agreeing it's unavoidable. The fact that this became the norm for them, as well as hunting and killing random passers-by, was what brought it into Complete Monster territory.
  • The cast of Temptation Island throws one shortly before rescue. Roast Joshua is the main course. Singing is the entertainment.


  • Another really old example on tabooification of cannibalism, the Algonquian myth of the Wendigo, says that a human being that commits cannibalism can become a human-eating monster.
  • The Areas of My Expertise promises a cash reward to anyone who can find the Donner Party. If you can eat them all by yourself, you get double the prize!
  • In Monstrous Regiment soldiers of Borogravia are often forced to eat each other's legs when their rations run out during winter warfare. "Well, it's not done to eat your own leg, is it? You'd go blind."
  • The John Wyndham short story Survival is about a group of people marooned for a year on a space station. As their desperation increases, they resort first to drawing lots, then to cannibalizing the losers' frozen bodies. When rescuers finally arrive, the one demented survivor sees them only as food.
    • The last survivor having escaped the lottery for being eaten by claiming 'there are two people in me' - she was a pregnant woman. The last line is when rescue arrives is nicely chilling -- "Look baby, food".
  • In The Road by Cormac McCarthy, an unnamed calamity has pretty much blocked out the sun and killed most of the life on Earth. Human survivors resort to eating each other, keeping captives as food stores and amputating their limbs, presumably to keep the rest of the meat fresh. This also brings new meaning to referring to a pregnant woman as having a "bun in the oven".
  • Stephen King has a couple of works that feature this"
    • The short story Survivor Type (in the Skeleton Crew collection) involves a surgeon/drug mule who gets shipwrecked on a small rocky island. After running out of food, he eventually has to resort to cannibalism...on himself. Fortunately, he has plenty of heroin with which to dull the pain when he starts cutting bits off himself to eat...

  "lady fingers they taste like lady fingers"

    • In The Stand, Lloyd, who's locked up in jail when the superflu hits, winds up dining on the guy in the next cell before he's rescued.
  • World War Z mentions some people who resort to cannibalism when their supplies run out in the Canadian winter.
  • In Lord Byron's Narrative Poem Don Juan, the heroes are lost at sea and forced to eat some of their crewmembers, including Juan's beloved teacher and his dog. The grim scene is handled with touches of Dead Baby Comedy -- one man avoids being eaten because he has a special "present" given to him by some prostitutes.
  • The somewhat obscure fantasy novel The Warrior's Return (?) memorably averts this in a scene where a group of snowed-in and starving soldiers, faced with their first dead comrade, decide (with a little prompting from their protagonist commanding officer) not to do this because they're all too aware of the possible consequences of starting to think of each other as food and instead give the deceased as decent a funeral as they can manage.
  • Hannibal Rising has the title character's Dead Little Sister getting eaten by Nazis. One of the many reasons that fans of the series pretend this book never happened.
  • Succumbing (sort of) to a classic military-mindset trope in Grunts!, the orc leader decrees that they don't leave their wounded behind: they're field rations.
  • WS Gilbert (of - and Sullivan fame), of all people, wrote a little poem called "The Yarn of the 'Nancy Bell'":

 And then we murdered the bo'sun tight,

And he much resembled pig;

Then we wittled free, did the cook and me,

On the crew of the captain's gig.

  • Mark Twain wrote a classic subversion of the trope, "Cannibalism in the Cars" in which a group of congressmen are snowed in, and naturally establish a sub-commitee to select the juiciest candidates.
  • Richard Olson's historical novel The Ungodly, about (yes) the Donner Party.
  • In Haunted 2005 by Chuck Palahniuk, the writers stuck in Mr. Whittier's retreat have to resort to this...but really, it's their own damn fault. Once they realized they were stuck in a building for three months, each writer began sabotaging all the dried food to make the experience more marketable. Sure enough, eventually they ran out. When people began dying they had to resort to cannibalism , although it's implied that in at least one case the process was "sped up." The worst case is the first case:

  "You fed me my own ass?"

  • In the ~Gaunt's Ghosts~ novel His Last Command, Gaunt discovers that the cooks of Fortis Binary's units have been taking meat from corpses to be used in the cooking.
  • The protagonist of Robert A. Heinlein's The Cat Who Walks Through Walls is a veteran of a squad that ate their commanding officer during the war (He was already dead, and they were dying of starvation). This dark bit of his history jump-starts the plot, then is removed by Time Travel (someone went back in time and hid emergency rations under the body).
  • In Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, the heroes are lost at sea, and after first refusing human meat when they happen upon another ship that has suffered the same fate, they eventually resort to drawing lots and killing and eating one of their own. Fittingly, the victim is the same man who suggested cannibalism in the first place.
    • A similar event is subverted in the opening chapter of The Island of Doctor Moreau, in which Prendick and two others are adrift in a dingey. They draw lots to determine who'll be eaten, but the loser fights back and both of the other men fall overboard and sink like stones, leaving Prendick alone.
  • In one of the Master and Commander novels by Patrick O'Brian, the heroes and some crewmembers are stranded in a lifeboat for an extended period of time. One man dies, and the next morning there has been an obvious bite taken out of his leg, but everyone politely refrains from mentioning it. (They are rescued before things get much worse.)
  • The Sten series has the crew of the ill-fated starship Discovery I, which suffered severe damage in an accident. First the survivors ate the dead. When they realized that wouldn't be enough to last them to the nearest inhabited planet, everyone very quickly came up with a reason they were vital to the ship's continued operation. Those who didn't come up with a reason quickly enough ended up in the soup.
  • In Dreams of Joy, Joy goes to visit her friends on the commune she lives on in 1950s China. She returns to see her husband and his family staring at something on the table. It's another woman's baby, which is close to death. She takes the baby back to the other woman's house and finds them at the table staring at her baby. The practice was called Swap Child, Make Food, when families would trade babies (presumably no one wants to eat their own baby) that are close to death and eat them.
  • A recurring element in A Song of Ice and Fire when food runs out. When Stannis' army is snowed in, several soldiers kill and eat another and are executed for it, while in Astapor even its rulers were accused of it as the city starved. There's also suspicion about exactly what kinds of meat go into the bowls of "brown" (cheap stew) they sell in King's Landing, short on food due to the war. And winter has only just started.

  Euron Crow's Eye: They refused to eat of their friend’s flesh at first, but when they grew hungry enough they had a change of heart. Men are meat.

    • Ser Alliser Thorne of the Night's Watch claimed to have been forced to resort to cannibalism when his patrol got stuck beyond the Wall for months. Given that he's master-at-arms, it's likely that the Night's Watch considers this something of an occupational hazard.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe Galaxy of Fear book "The Hunger." The main characters hide out on Dagobah where they encounter a small tribe that calls themselves The Children. The Children take in one of the main party's wounded red shirts for healing and claim they were forced to amputate one of his limbs. That night, everyone shares a tasty dinner. Later one, the wounded man is found to have several limbs missing and other red shirts die mysteriously. It turns out that the Children are the last remains of a stranded survey team - when the team members were hit with starvation, the desperate parents fed the toddler kids the flesh of the dead until no adults were left. The children managed to survive by living from this example and still remember the yummy taste their parents used to give them. The tribe's My God, What Have I Done? moment only serves to increase the horror. You know, for kids!
  • In Lucifers Hammer, the remnants of a National Guard unit start off only killing and eating people because they have a hard time finding anything to eat. Later, they descend into I'm a Humanitarian territory, and use forced-cannibalism ("You can eat it, or you can be eaten. Your choice.") as a sadistic recruiting tool, since cannibalism "indelibly marks a person, on their soul", making said persons permanently pariah with any "decent" folk.
    • Pretty much the exact same thing happens in the first Emberverse novel, Dies the Fire, where the sudden collapse of infrastructure (including the end of guns) leaves most people with no stockpiles of food and no ability to hunt food. Well, most food except for a certain large animal that has two legs and is easily caught... After the "Eaters" descend into active hunting, they are pretty much killed on sight and shown no quarter, even by the titular good factions.
  • In Piers Anthony's Bio of a Space Tyrant series, the titular space tyrant's journey to Jupiter as a refugee from Callisto is chronicled in Refugee, in which the space bubble he and his family are on is attacked multiple times by roving gangs of Space Pirates who seldom leave without murdering or raping anyone (and sometimes they commit rape and murder). It eventually gets to the point where every adult male has been murdered, the only ones left to pilot the bubble are inept women, and their food supplies are running low. Eventually, they decide upon eating the corpses of the men "buried" on the hull for food.
  • In Gene Wolfe's Book of the Short Sun, it is heavily implied that the Vironese ate each other on the landers leaving the Whorl since they on weren't equipped with proper supplies.
  • In a Jules Verne novel The Survivors Of The Chancellor some of the surviving passengers and crew of the titular ship, wrecked in the mid-Atlantic, resort to eating some of their dead to survive.
  • In Life of Pi, this is the nature of the alternate story Pi tells after being found. It also comes up in the narrative proper when he crosses paths with another stranded shipwreck victim, who pretends to be friendly just to get him to come close and then tries to kill and eat him. The tiger's name, Richard Parker, is a reference to the coincidence that multiple people with that name have happened to be involved in real cases of mutiny, shipwrecking and/or cannibalism.

Live Action TV

  • Naturally, Monty Python's Flying Circus approached the topic with its usual levels of taste and restraint -- twice in one episode (#26, "The Queen Will Be Watching"): first in the Lifeboat Sketch, followed by the infamous Undertaker's Sketch, which was so outrageous that the execs at the BBC actually demanded a rewrite showing the studio audience storming the stage in disgust.
    • In Monty Python and The Holy Grail, there is one animated sequence narrating when King Arthur and his knights were forced to eat Sir Robin's minstrels. And There Was Much Rejoicing.
    • There is a sort of Bilingual Bonus here - in the UK, 'Minstrels' are chocolate drops.
    • On one of the albums, the Lifeboat Sketch is followed by an irate phone call from a Royal Navy officer who objects to the suggestion of cannibalism in the Navy, on the grounds that "the Navy now has the problem relatively under control," and it's now apparently the R.A.F which has a cannibalism-related problem. See also: the Real Life section of this page concerning cannibalism and British sailors.
  • One episode of Medium opens with two men, one clean and in a suit, the other disheveled, eating in a fancy dining room. The disheveled man keeps asking what the great tasting meat dish is and the other finally says "It's you. More specifically, it's your right leg. Go on, take a look." At this point, the man looks down to see his right leg amputated and Allison wakes up. Later on, it's revealed that both men were part of a group of Vietnam POWs who ate another soldier who was dying so they could survive.
  • Played for laughs on The Colbert Report during a story about a food shortage - Colbert predicts that his 2012 presidential campaign will be sponsored by 'Sour Cream And Man' flavored Doritos, sees his stage manager in Meat-O-Vision, and ends the show by apparently eating him (the manager having 'tendered' his resignation).
    • A recent episode had him coming back as a ghost, a la A Christmas Carol. At the end of the show, Stephen Colbert eats his ghost.
  • Invoked in this little exchange from Simon and River's playtime flashback during the Firefly episode "Safe." To put things in perspective, they're playing a wargame involving dinosaurs.

 Young River: We got outflanked by the Independent squad, and we're never gonna make it back to our platoon. We need to resort to cannibalism.

Young Simon: That was fast. Don't we have rations or anything?

  • An episode of CSI: Miami had three guys trapped on a raft after escaping a ship attacked by pirates. One of them kills another (who was already dying) via salt water so he and his friend can eat him.
  • When the house of The Young Ones is isolated by a flood, Butt Monkey Neil is very nearly eaten by the other three. When Mr. Bulowski turns into an ax-wielding homicidal maniac and busts into the room, Neil quickly suggests that the others eat him instead.
  • Invoked in season 2 of Lost when Sawyer, Jin, and Michael are captured by the survivors from the tail of the plane, who are discussing what to do with them:

 Sawyer: I think they're talking about whether or not they should eat us.

  • In The Goodies episode "The End", after the Goodies are sealed inside their office building, Tim and Graeme plan to kill and eat Bill. The plan is abandoned after Bill suggests eating the furniture.
    • If I remember correctly, the conversation went like this:

 Graeme: There isn't enough food here for three of us to survive for long. But there might be enough...for two.

Tim: Graeme! You don't mean --

Graeme: Yes...!

Tim: To eat...you?

Graeme: What? No! ...I'm doing the sauce. (points to Bill, making beheading motion)

  • Ruth-Anne on Northern Exposure shuns Holling for a while when she finds out his grandfather ate hers.
  • "Petrov, Yelyena and me, lost but happy at sea. Petrov and Yelyena say to me "Shouldn't we have something to eat?" I say there are plenty of fish in the sea, but all they can see is me".
  • Discussed in an episode of Red Dwarf by Rimmer during his rant about Captain Oates.
  • This trope is the catalyst of the storyline on the Hong Kong drama When Heaven Burns, when four young men are lost on a mountaineering trip and forced to murder one of their own to survive. The drama then explores the implications and trauma that the incident had on them.
  • Parodied in a Mitchell and Webb sketch about Antarctic explorers, where they're on the brink of starvation, but the idea of starting on the hamper of Christmas food before it's actually Christmas is treated like this trope. "We are Englishmen, not animals!" Eventually the captain gives in to despair after it transpires that his men have already eaten the advent calendar and the carrot he was saving for the nose of his snowman.


  • 'Timothy' by The Buoys is a song about three miners trapped in a cave-in, and only two of them are eventually rescued. The third miner, the titular 'Timothy' is missing. In the second verse, the narrator says that he's 'hungry as hell, no food to eat' and that his colleague Joe said he'd 'sell his soul for just a piece of meat'. The third verse describes how the narrator blacks out, and awakens when he's rescued, saying that his 'stomach was full as it could be and nobody ever got around to finding Timothy'. It's implied that the narrator and Joe ate Timothy before they were rescued.
    • One explanation has been offered that Timothy was a mule, not a person. That would explain why nobody seemed to care about finding him.
      • But not, unfortunately, why the singer is so very tormented by Tim's mysterious absence. Unless he really, really liked that mule.
      • Anyone with half a heart would be upset about having to eat their pet.
    • It's a well-known fact that Timothy was a duck.
  • 'Petrov, Yelyena, and Me' by Flight of the Conchords.
  • Little Boy Billee, by Ralph Steadman, deals with this: Guzzling Jack, Gorging Jimmy, and the title character all go sailing, but Jack and Jimmy eat all the food, and then decide to eat Billee. He just barely manages to dodge this fate because Big Damn Lord Nelson shows up at the last minute, hangs Jack and Jimmy, and makes Billee an admiral.
  • The somewhat obscure band Giant Squid have a song called Throwing a Donner Party, which is also Crowning Music of Awesome.
  • 'A Tale They Won't Believe' by Weddings Parties Anything is based on Alexander Pearce (in the Real Life section.) Every second verse or so sees another member in the group dispatched.
  • "The Donner Party", by Rasputina.

Newspaper Comics

  • Parodied in Dilbert. The incompetent pilot of Dilbert's flight crashes into a mountain -- the same one that he previously crashed into three times. In order to avoid frostbite, the pilot tells the passengers to beat themselves with meat tenderizers and to apply liberal amounts of Worcestershire sauce. The one person who realizes what's going on (Dogbert of course) saves them all by sending the pilot to get help from the village at the base of the mountain, via a snowball to the face.
  • Parodied in Pearls Before Swine, when Pig thinks the Donner Party was an actual party. Goat tries to explain it to him:

 Goat: Pig...they ate each other.

Pig: I would not re-hire that caterer.


Religion and Mythology

  • During one of the Biblical sieges of Israel, King Ahaziah was asked for help by a distressed woman who had made a pact with their neighbor to boil and eat their sons. Her problem? The neighbor had hidden her son away. Possibly a Real Life example, depending on what one thinks of Scripture of this vintage.

Tabletop Games

Video Games

  • In his Twisted Metal: Black backstory, Mr. Grimm was forced to eat a fellow soldier while in Vietnam. He then kept the man's skull and wore it as a mask. If he wins the tournament however, Calypso offers him a mano-a-mano with the officer who put him in the situation to begin with... and Grimm realizes he acquired a taste for long pork. No explanation needed for what comes next.
  • An early level in The Suffering: Ties That Bind features a small Great Depression-era soup kitchen. According to the backstory and various hallucinations, the priest that ran the kitchen was so desperate to feed his starving congregation that he resorted to cooking up human corpses. Even worse, the always-hungry monsters inspired by the event now roam the area in the present.
  • Max speaks of his morbid fantasy in the Sam and Max game The Penal Zone:

 Max: Awwww. I was hoping we'd teleport under a pile of immovable rubble and debris. Trapped for weeks, we'll be forced to resort to cannibalism just to survive.

Sam: You keep coming up with creepy disaster scenarios that always end up with you eating me, Max. It's getting annoying.

Max: If you don't like it, then stop looking so damn tasty!

  • In Oregon Trail II, if you choose if you take the California Trail (and more specifically the Hastings Cut-Off if you're playing on higher difficulties) in 1846, you encounter the same snowstorm that the Donner Party got stuck in. The game also allows you to butcher a draft animal if you run out of food, although you don't get to cannibalize your wagonmates. The Dev Team Thinks of Everything!
    • The Donner Party is actually discussed in the 5th version. Talking about everything that happened to them except what they're most infamous for. When it gets to that part the narrator simply says "They did things to survive that I don't want to talk about." One of the kids says "I heard that they --" before being told to be quiet. They are mentioned briefly in the second version also.
    • In the iPod version of the game the leader of the Donner Party shows up in a town and gives your party food, insisting that they've got more than enough to spare. ...Yeah
  • In Tekken, Bruce Irvin's backstory includes him being reduced to this as the sole survivor as a plane crash, at least until some of Kazuya's forces find him.
  • At one point in Operation Raccoon City, the Umbrella Security Service run into a group of zombies feasting on each other. Spectre suggest not to judge them before you've survived a Soviet winter.

Web Comics

Web Original

Western Animation

  • In one episode of The Simpsons, Homer is climbing a mountain. He finds the frozen corpse of Abe's mountaineer partner, whom Abe had tried to eat when they were snowed in back when he tried to climb the mountain.
    • In their version of the Johnny Appleseed tale, starring Lisa as Connie Appleseed, the settlers decide to eat Homer once they run out of buffalo. Luckily, Connie saves the day by bringing them nutritious apples to eat.
    • Used again in one of the Treehouse of Horror episodes, where Burns decides to start Hunting the Most Dangerous Game. Homer resorts to cannibalism after being chased for barely an hour.

 Lenny: And there's bananas in that tree up there!

Homer: Uh, they look a little green.

  • An episode of Mutant League had the players stranded in the mountains after a plane crash, as Bones set off to find help, the other players started to turn on the reptilian Razor Kid as, apparently, lizards are high in protein. Thanks to his agent, however, Razor only has to give up his tail (which can grow back).
  • An episode of South Park had the residents resorting to cannibalism from being locked in a building and eating an entire film crew... Only it hadn't even been for a single night, they were just hungry.
    • No one but the mayor feels guilty over it. I guess because it's the camera crew's fault for trapping them there.
  • One seafaring episode of Family Guy features Peter, Cleveland, Quagmire, and Joe clinging to a makeshift life raft made from inflatable sex dolls. (No prize for guessing the identity of their owner.) While one of the others complains of hunger, Peter covertly munches on something with his back turned. The paraplegic Joe notices this and wrests the food away, only to discover that Peter has devoured his (Joe's) useless and unfelt legs, leaving bloody stumps. Joe freaks out, of course.
    • And in the Y2K-bug apocalypse episode, Tom Tucker and Diane Simmons eat their news-crew colleague, Tricia Takanawa.
  • On an episode of American Dad, the family and a tour guide are shipwrecked on an island inhabited by a bunch of guys who want to hunt them for sport. While fleeing from the hunters, the tour guide is crushed in a cave in, trapping the family within. Francine, Steve, and Haley all decide that they should eat her since she has died, but Stan holds out on moral grounds until he finds out she is an organ donor on her drivers license. After they get through eating her, the hunters dig them out, and it is revealed that it was just a "Most Dangerous Game Theme Park", and they weren't in any danger. The Smiths agree to never speak of this again. To the goo!
  • Pinky and The Brain's Christmas Episode:

 Pinky: Look, Brain. The reindeers are inviting elves to join them for a party at Donner’s house.

Brain: Hmm. Somehow the idea of joining the Donner Party is unappealing.

  • Played with in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "To Save a Squirrel."
  • Played with on Kick Buttowski where all the school children on the bus got caught in a snow storm, they all had food with them... but when Jackie eats it all in one sitting, they start going for the seats - of course class President Kendall will not have them ruin school property, so they go for her instead... even Jackie, who seemed more adamant about eating Kendall than anyone else, despite not starving.

Real Life

  • As mentioned above, the Trope Namer is the Donner Party, a group of 1840s pioneers who took a shortcut that turned out to be a longcut, which left them in the position of trying to cross the Sierra Nevada mountain range during a very harsh winter: they got snowed in by October. While most everybody chose to wait it out, a party of messengers set out to seek help; they reached civilization in January. It took four rescue parties to evacuate the remaining survivors, the last of whom did not reach shelter until nearly May.
  • The case of R v. Dudley and Stephens, where three shipwrecked sailors in a lifeboat murdered a fourth, started eating him and were rescued less than a week later. It's often taught in law-related classes, both because it established the important historical precedent that necessity is not grounds for justifiable homicide and because the teachers probably figure that at least it's one case the students are sure to remember.
  • The other well-known case of cannibalism at sea occurred in one of the boats from the whale-hunter Essex (which was rammed and sunk by a whale; Melville didn't make that up!). After the survivors were rescued, the officers in charge of the boat went back to sea and had little difficulty filling their crews, which is usually taken as a sign that their actions were accepted as necessary.
    • In fact resorting to cannibalism was prevalent enough that in England it was given the Unusual Euphemism of "The Custom of the Sea."
  • The members of a rugby team stranded in the Andes were forced to eat their dead while awaiting rescue. Their plight was later made into a movie, Alive!
  • Popular in Russia after Red October. It happened during the Siege of Leningrad, when Leningrad was cut off by the Germans in the fall of 1941 and the city was completely unprepared to spend a winter under siege. During the Russian Civil War, there were many reports of starving villages (their crops having been taken by the Red and White armies) eating their dead or even selling salted body parts.
    • Also happened in the Ukraine during the horrific famine caused by Stalin's forced collectivization policy. By some accounts it was so common that signs were posted reading, "Eating Dead Children Is Barbaric".
    • Under Tsarist Russia, the Famine of 1601-1603 (partially caused by a volcanic eruption in Peru), and the Famine of 1891-1892 (caused by weather and Alexander III's incompentant and oppressive government), had this effect in some areas.
  • Popular in Stalin's USSR and concentration camps. When criminal prisoners decided to escape a forced labour camp, they usually took one political prisoner with them, as a "porker", promising him freedom. In the midst of the taiga he was killed and rationed amongst the criminal prisoners, who then had enough food to survive to the nearest inhabitation.
  • Alferd or Alfred Packer was an incompetent guide who was forced to eat the party who were snowed up in the Rockies due to his bad organization.
    • Fun aside, the student canteen at the University of Colorado (Boulder) is the Alferd Packer Grill, motto: "Have a friend for lunch."
  • Believed to have been done by the doomed members of the Franklin Expedition, who got lost in the North. Borne out by the saw marks on the recovered bones.
  • Alexander Pearce, an Irish convict, was hanged in 1824 for cannibalism and murder, having eaten his comrades after they escaped from a Penal Colony in Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania). Twice.
  • When the French frigate Medusa ran aground in 1816, the upperclass passengers were loaded into the lifeboats, while the remaining 150 sailors, traders and labourers were forced onto a makeshift raft. Fearful that the desperate survivors would slow them down, the lifeboat passengers soon cut the tow ropes and set the raft adrift in the open ocean. Violence, mayhem and cannibalism soon overran the helpless raft, and only 15 people survived to be rescued.
  • There's widespread evidence that cannibalism against the wealthy and educated was practiced in China's Guangxi province during the hilarious and whimsical decade-long japefest of the Cultural Revolution. It's vehemently denied by the Chinese government (naturally), but cheerfully acknowledged by (some) residents of the province.
  • Defectors from North Korea have said that cannibalism was practiced during a 1996 famine. It's also been alleged to have happened during other periods of famine in the last several decades.
  • Believed to have happened to the native inhabitants of Rapa Nui (Easter Island).
  • In one famous shipwreck (name forgotten) several boats of survivors got away. The boat crew in best condition when they landed after several weeks without food didn't eat their dead comrade but cut him up and used him as bait to catch fresh fish. People who have died of starvation are not very nourishing, having burnt up their body's food value themselves. Those who ate them arrived much nearer death than the fish-eaters (Who also gained by the fresh water contained in the fish flesh.)
  • Horrifyingly prevalent in the Thirty Years War. The crops and food were all stolen by soldiers, leaving all of Germany in a state of famine.

 In Alsace the bodies of criminals were torn from the gallows and devoured; in the whole Rhineland they watched the graveyards against marauders who sold the flesh of the newly buried for food; at Zweibrucken a woman confessed to having eater her child. In Fulda and Coburg and near Frankfort and the great refugee camp, men went in terror of being killed and eaten by those maddened by hunger.

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