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Top 10 – Effigies

I have travelled far and wide to find the object, the one object that will destroy my arch-nemesis. But I really never imagined the effigy that I must destroy would be… A plushie? Well, effigies come in all shapes and sizes, along with varying degrees of strangeness. Nevertheless today we’re going to look at our Top 10 Effigies that are in film, TV, video games, anime and more.


Top 10

10) Joss Paper

Not a geek-culture thing so much but it’s obscure and interesting enough that’s it’s worth mentioning. Among the many funeral rites that have as a species, most seem to be concerned with ensuring a better afterlife, things like blessings to allow passage into the beyond, coin to pay your way in, or enshrining the body with objects that they can take with them after death. Whoever said “You can’t take it with you” never told the ancient Egyptians. But for Joss Paper we look to China.

Joss paper, gold paper, paper money, or Netherworld paper – which is obviously the coolest name – is a form of sacrificial analogue of wealth that is destroyed as part of a funeral so that the deceased will be richer on the other side. Papier mache items are made to add luxuries to the afterlife, cars, electronic goods, and houses, although those apparently got so out of hand that laws had to be put in place. Apparently they also made papier mache slaves were also made… can’t just bury them with the pharaoh any more.

9) Phylactery Lich – Magic: the Gathering

Phylactery Lich is a really simple card, but the premise is that of a typical lich. If you know anything about the classic fantasy form of a lich, then you’d probably be aware that they typically have a Phylactery. This item is effectively a vessel where, upon their deaths, they can retreat as a part of their soul is stored within the phylactery. This object can be just about anything they pour their souls into.

It’s with this in mind, Magic: the Gathering had a fun premise behind a Phylactery – It could be any artifact you were willing to put the Phylactery counter on. You choose an artifact and put the counter on that – And only when there are no Phylactery counters on your side of the field would the lich be destroyed.

A novel idea for a card, pretty fun execution too… But certainly wouldn’t turn many heads in an actual game of Magic.

8) Burning of King Olaf – Skyrim

Oh how nice it would have been to have a bard’s guild that relied upon performance, conversation, and the study of lore. Instead one ends up feeling like something of a good, recruited for our propensity for going into places too dangerous for the fragile minstrels, and helping them become popular again by bringing back a festival that got banned. You fumble your way through a dungeon to find a book with some pages missing, you get to make some stuff up about a king whose corpse you recently had to put down, filling in the gaps so that you can convince the Jarl to let you hold a good old fashioned straw-man burning.

And while the quests that lead to the Burning of King Olaf are pretty tragic, there’s something satisfying about seeing and end-of-dungeon monster burned in effigy, a haunting affair, with the straw Olaf having a sickening grin, demonic eyes, and a crown clearly made of a broken bucket. The audience clap in unison as Viarmo tells everyone how wonderful you are, and declares that the festival will take place weekly, to commemorate the soldiers dying in the civil war.

7) Flame Legion Effigies – Guild Wars 2

Ok, so this one popped up in research and is not one we’re too familiar with, but there’s a definite appeal to what we’ve learned. Among the High Legions of the Char, the Flame Legion have previously held the greatest dominance, and among the legion there are a host of constructs called effigies that tower over the battlefield, pillars of fire scarcely held together by metal and whatever dark fuel continues to burn within the beast.

There’s a timed event in GW2 that’s specific to the culture that requires a group light braziers in a path up to an decidedly inanimate and non-violent effigy which everyone has to burn down by dealing it damage (not that you’re doing this unscathed, just the effigy doesn’t fight back) to represent burning the woes of the past and advancing into the future. It’s an interesting looking relay-race event, something that certainly requires the help of friends, and it lends a cultural depth to a faction that could otherwise be a big burning monster-factory.

6) Voodoo Doll – Monkey Island

Lower on this list than you may expect, the Voodoo Doll is given to Guybrush in Monkey Island 2. Amusingly, the concept of the Voodoo Doll cropped up a few times, which solved various problems. Even the main antagonist, the Zombie Pirate LeChuck, was known for using a Voodoo Doll to try and solve his problems – I.E Guybrush Threepwood himself. These dolls were filled with Voodoo and were able to cause extreme pain.

There are just four ingredients required to make a Voodoo Doll in the world of Monkey Island:

Something of the Thread

Something of the Head

Something of the Body

Something of the Dead

Naturally, to then go on to fight LeChuck, a lot of this is easy to obtain. The guy himself is dead after all, so getting all of these items was fairly easy for Guybrush who then goes on to save the day!

There’s also a funny scene in Monkey Island 3 involving a Voodoo Doll, where you’re effectively pricking a guy who doesn’t even know what’s going on.

5) Phylactery – Dungeons & Dragons

Oh sure, no Lich wants their phylactery broken, but it’s very hard to form a deep emotional bond with a large diamond or an entire mountain, and if you’ve invited the kind of enemies that you can’t simply dismiss with a wave of your staggeringly powerful hand, then they may find that diamond or mountain far easier to destroy than you’d like.

For context, Liches are undead mages who sacrifice a part of their soul to an object that will resurrect them if they are slain or discorporated or otherwise inconvenienced by total bodily obliteration. And if that sounds familiar… we’ll get to them, and yes, they are a kind of phylactery. For other examples, find the Sword of Kas, the weapon that plucked Vecna’s hand from his wrist, or Rasputin’s reliquary from Anastasia.

In most forms of lore, the object a Lich chooses as their phylactery must be something with which it has an intense bond, something that is in some way tethered to their soul already, and will “accept” a fragment of it as part of the ritual.

4) Aang – Avatar, the Last Airbender

Immortality via serial reincarnation causes issues long-term, especially as history does strange things to stories when they’re passed from generation to generation, and not even the Avatar of life, balance, and the spirit of the world is immune to bad press. In some ways it helps soften the blow when we see the propaganda play in the Fire Nation, but when Aang sees himself and his former-selves burned in effigy he is horrified, confused, and refuses to accept that any past-self of his could have been a villain.

As it turns out, the festival of burning the Avatar was based on a story told from the perspective of the villain, a tiny tyrant who tried to seize control of a territory by force, so the Avatar at the time severed it from the mainland and drew it out to sea. He sets the record straight and is redeemed in the eyes of the people – pretty quick turnaround but it’s easy when you can summon ghosts to tell stories for you – and the people decide to stop burning effigies… or even bake the Avatar cookies.

3) Szayel’s Dolls – Bleach

Szayelapporo Granz, the eighth Espada, the super-powerful hollows granted the powers of the Shinigami by… y’know what, I’m not going down this road, it’s long, it’s complicated, and their’s a few too many filler arcs. Suffice to say that Szayel is a villain of truly horrifying calibre, and his key ability is among the most twisted among his kin. His “wings” can swallow a human whole for a short while, but it’s once you’re free that the horror begins.

After you’ve been spat out, a little doll follows soon after, a doll filled with delicious trinkets. Each is an imperfect approximation of a person’s internal organs, but close enough to the real thing that smashing them smashes the real thing with it. The Espada might snap your achilles tendon like a twiglet, pop your kidneys like bubblewrap, or crush your heart like it was made of sugar, and had a sappy message printed on it. As he destroys the organs of the doll, he watches you writhe in agony, as piece by piece he tears you apart, and he barely has to lift a finger.

2) The Horcruxes – Harry Potter

A novel approach to the idea of an effigy, the Horcruxes represent a terrible crime that was committed. In the series, Horcruxes are mostly associated with Lord Voldemort, or He Who Must Not Be Named, if you’re superstitious in the Wizarding World. Nevertheless, each terrible act carried out by the Dark Lord would manifest itself as a Horcrux, each Horcrux containing a piece of the soul of the person who created it.

In the Harry Potter series of books, these Horcruxes are one of the major focal points of the series. Harry has to seek out and destroy these Horcruxes as best he can, but he of course can’t do that easily – because they had to figure out what each of the Horcruxes were. One by one, Harry and co had to find and destroy them, before Voldemort could attain immortality and become the most powerful wizard to ever live.

And the Neville happened, but we won’t get into the power of Neville.

1) The Wicker Man

To not put The Wicker Man in this list would have been a crime; but to not put it at number one may have been a bigger crime. The Pagans of Summerisle would probably not be very happy with me, but neither would their gods. You know what would happen if they weren’t happy with me? They’d burn a Wicker Man, but before they set that on fire, they’d have put me inside of that fire, along with animals.

Not quite true, for they’d look for a few specific requirements. For one, it had to be an outsider that came to the island of their own free will. Then it had to be someone with the power of a king (or in the case of the film, the law). The personal also had to be a virgin and a fool, so they were some strict requirements. All this happened because Howie wanted to save the young girl, Rowan. As the Pagans of Summerisle light the Wicker Man, with Howie stuffed inside of it, the film ends with a serious eeriness about it. 

A genuine horror through and through and highly underrated in this day and age.


Honourable Mentions

Alas, we’ve not destroyed our frightful foe yet! We’ve yet to find what we can destroy to represent our foe. But fear not, Sir Not-So-Kind will be all out of options soon, as we’re about to destroy these last objects… It’d be a shame to destroy the first ones, but the latter we have no idea what it actually looks like. This could take a while.

Viva Piñata

This adorable title was first released in 2006 on the Xbox 360. A colourful game which came out smack-bang in the middle of the Xboxes constant stream of brown and grey shooters, Viva Piñata is genuinely a breath of fresh air. Amusingly, even though we all think of Piñatas as something to be destroyed (and indeed that’s what you’d normally do with one), Viva Piñata takes on a different path.

Instead of destroying the Piñatas, this is a game about cultivating and bringing them to life. What was originally created to be a gardening game, turned into a game of cute, colourful fun and frivolity. True, perhaps you couldn’t call this an effigy as they are not destroyed, but we all know what a Piñata is… So perhaps, just this time, we’ll have to ignore the elephant in the room and let these effigies live in peace and candy. 

Lots of candy.

Guy Fawkes

Relegated to honourables, even though Bonfire Night wouldn’t be a thing without this fellow, Guy Fawkes legacy is legendary in the United Kingdom. A phrase was coined to “Burn a Guy on the Bonfire”, which isn’t to mean to literally throw a person into a heap of fire. No, instead it’s to burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes onto a bonfire, representing the Gunpowder Plot, when Robert Catesby failed to blow up parliament.

But we don’t really burn this effigy as a representation of hatred towards the guy, but rather a symbol of what happened. It’s a strange tradition that’ll continue for many-a-year, but the principle is to create an effigy that represents Robert, which we call Guy Fawkes. We throw the Guy onto our bonfire – and that’s exactly why it’s an honourable on our list… We typically have different examples and representations of what Guy Fawkes should look like.

We all know he has a cool hat, but that’s about it.


Finally, the evil Sir Not-So-Kind has been defeated. We destroyed this effigy in his name, bringing him down. Oh trust me, it wasn’t easy finding the right object to call his effigy, but we found a plush teddy that had his name on it. Literally! Nevertheless, we’re not out of the woods yet, because much like a good effigy, we must now destroy the guessing process of next week’s Top 10.

Ah yes, you chose wisely. We will make sure to destroy only the greatest article for you next week. But I wonder, what did you think of this week’s list? Did we happen to get the right effigies onto the list, or did we forget an important effigy all together? Did we get the order right, or would you have put it way differently? As ever, share your thoughts in the comments below, or on Facebook and Twitter.

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