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"Those who did not deserve to rule, who would not sacrifice themselves...as they asked others to do on their behalf, would escape the fire. The sacrifice of the one who remained...who believed so much in his caste that he would lay down his life for them...that would determine which caste would be dominant among us."
Delenn, Babylon 5
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When a character sets himself on fire to kill themself in a blaze of glory. May be done as an act of political protest.

Compare Man On Fire, Murder by Cremation and Wreathed in Flames.

Examples of Self-Immolation include:


Comic Books


Film

  • Parodied (of course) in Airplane!, where Ted's boring stories cause people to want to kill themselves. A turbaned man douses himself with some flammable liquid, and lights a match, but just then Ted finishes his story and leaves. The man puts out the match, sighs... and Whooomph!.
  • In the movie Angels and Demons, Carlo Ventresca, after it's discovered that he murdered the Pope, planted the bomb and murdered the four Cardinals, runs St. Peter's basillica, pours candle oil on himself and lights it.
  • The main character in the film Dagon attempts to kill himself by this method after learning that his family hailed from to the town of Imboca. It doesn't take, however, as he is pushed into a nearby pool to douse the flames.
  • In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Elizabeth does this after seeing how Victor had brought her back from the dead as a hideous mangled monster sewn together with pieces of her best friend's corpse.
  • Jerome Eugene Morrow's suicide in Gattaca.

Literature

  • Denethor in Lord of the Rings. "Bring wood and oil." In the original book he burns in the tomb where he's built his pyre, but in Peter Jackson's film version he runs out of the tomb and across the courtyard while still burning so that he can throw himself off the front of the rock prow overlooking the battlefield. Director's commentary made note of the distance but admitted he really wanted the shot of Denethor falling from the pinnacle.
  • In Orson Scott Card's Xenocide, Han Fei-tzu builds a pyre for himself and his wife when she dies.
  • The tutor in A City in Winter sets himself on fire and throws himself off a tower to signal the start of the revolution.
  • Plays a big part in David Marusek's novel Counting Heads. One subplot includes a woman who becomes the unofficial patron saint of self-immolation after burning herself alive as a protest.
  • In The Black Company monks do this to protest The Protector of Taglios while also using the slogan Rajadharma meaning The Duty of Kings.
  • Subverted in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged where Hank Rearden points out to a committee that wants to basically confiscate his wealth by creating a Steel Unification Plan in which all steel producers put all their earnings into a common pool and getting the returns using a formula based on number of furnaces rather than on steel produced (basically making Rearden subsidize Rearden's biggest competitor), that they'd be asking him to submit his company to total immolation (and bankruptcy), because he's being asked to operate at a loss. When told that it's only temporary, he says, "There is no such thing as a temporary suicide."

Live Action TV

  • Once on M*A*S*H, Klinger threatened to do this to himself unless he was given a Section 8, going so far as to douse himself with gas (aka petrol). Potter called Klinger into his office, at which time he and Radar noticed that the "gasoline" was really water. After Potter didn't give in to Klinger's demands, Klinger went back out and doused himself some more, this time (unbeknownst to him) with real gas.
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 "Who put gasoline in my gasoline?!"

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  • John Safran tried his hand at this in his failed TV Pilot Media Tycoon to protest an Australian Football player being reported for striking another player.
  • The Minbari Starfire Wheel in Babylon 5.
  • In Stargate SG-1, Gerak is convinced to do a Heel Face Turn after being turned into an Ori prior. Knowing full well that he will die if he defies the Ori by curing the plague sent to eradicate Earth's population, he does it anyway... and then gets incinerated in a matter of seconds.

Theatre

  • In Götterdämmerung, Brünnhilde burns herself and her horse on Siegfried's funeral pyre, so she can end the Ring's curse with fire and have the Rhinemaidens recover their gold from her ashes.
  • Defied by the title character of Pippin, who is supposed to do this for the show's finale.

Video Games

  • The Death Gate Adventure Game has you learn a spell called "Self-Immolation". Casting it yourself proves nothing but you being Too Dumb to Live. It does prove useful, however, in tricking a doppelganger of yourself into casting it.
  • A qunari mage performs this in Dragon Age II, after being freed by the player.
  • World of Warcraft has Warlocks. Just to prove how much some warlocks like fire, there's the Hellfire spell. It not only does it do Area-of-Effect damage centered directly on you, but it also deals damage to you. Young warlocks generally kill themselves with it at least once.
  • Felicia's sister Flora commits suicide like this in the Birthright path of Fire Emblem Fates, completely shattered after her father's execution and having been Forced Into Evil.
    • In Revelations, Saizo tries a mix of this and Murder-Suicide on the Avatar after he, Orochi and Yukimura lose against them. He's stopped by Princess Sakura and his twin brother Kaze.

Western Animation

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 Chef: In the 1960's there was a monk who set himself on fire to protest! You have left me no choice! To protest your lack of humanity, I will now do the same thing!

raises a portable gas tank and a lighter, then pours the gasoline on a Japanese monk and sets him on fire

Monk: in flames Huh! Haaaaaaaaaaaah! dies

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  • This is why the Burning Man in Waking Life is called the Burning Man.

Real Life

  • Thich Quang Duc, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, set himself alight to protest against the government of the time. A very famous photo was taken of the incident, winning the photographer and the journalist who wrote the accompanying article Pulitzer prizes. The photo has featured in a number of places, including the cover of a Rage Against the Machine album. Several other protesters followed his example (see The Other Wiki's list of political self-immolations).
    • Also notable because the man remained perfectly calm and in a state of deep concentration while he effectively killed himself.
  • Jan Palach, a Czech student, who committed suicide by self-immolation 1968 as a protest to Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia.
  • The government protests in Tunisia -- which, in turn, inspired similar protests in Egypt and other Arab states -- all began with one man lighting himself on fire.
  • The practice of Sati/Suttee in India though it was often more forced immolation
    • According to one tale some Rajputs were besieged by Marathas. One Rajput warrior deciding victory was hopeless left his post to see to the safety of his wife. When he arrived he saw his wife had set herself on fire to drive him back to his post by making it clear he had nothing left to lose.
  • Due to recent unrest in Tibet, many young monks and nuns are committing self-immolation to protest Chinese occupation. Most of them have been under 35.
  • Was once videly spread in Russia among the Old Believers. The Old Believers appeared as a result of the Great Schizm of Russian Orthodox Church (The Russian Reformation).
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