The Walking Dead: Burning bodies vs. burying them

Paul "Jesus" Rovia (Tom Payne) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) in Episode 5
Paul "Jesus" Rovia (Tom Payne) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) in Episode 5 /

Gregory revealed that it is the custom of HIlltop to burn the bodies of the dead. The Walking Dead has dealt with the issue of burning and burying before.

The apocalypse brings about practical problems relating to every day issues that we take for granted in our normal daily lives and culture. Customs surrounding death and saying goodbye to our dead is one of those practical issues.

If we take religion out of the equation, we have other things to consider. The walkers themselves present problems. They are so large in number. If we were to have burial grounds for all of the walkers or all of our dead, we would expose ourselves to danger while digging.

That’s how one of Glenn’s new apocalyptic cultural norms came about in his eyes, that we bury the ones we love and we burn the rest. Andrea reinforced this custom at the farm when the barn was cleared and there were so many bodies to address.

Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) in Episode 5 Photo by Gene Page/AMC
Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) in Episode 5Photo by Gene Page/AMC /

Practicality comes into play as far as tools and energy as well. They need to be alert and save their energy for chores that contribute to their safety and their future. They can’t spend every ounce of energy and resources constantly burying bodies.

Then there’s the issue of respect. Is it more respectful to bury the bodies of their loved ones? If so, why is that? If it’s because they want to remember them and have a place to go to visit them, that means they plan to stay in one place. If they are moving from place to place, does burying become less important?

Maggie asked Jesus why they burn their dead. Jesus said the idea was to just keep going. Maggie asked him how they remember them. Jesus said “Us.” At the end of the episode, Maggie gave Enid Glenn’s watch that she was going to put on Glenn’s grave. She told Enid that they didn’t need anything to remember him by. They had “Us”.

More from Undead Walking

Perhaps the idea at Hilltop was that in this apocalyptic era the practical thing was to get rid of reminders that would keep you in the past. The world was harsh enough and the losses piled up so fast that the physical reminders would be too much. Burning the bodies and getting rid of the physical evidence might outweigh any measure of respect or reminder benefit that the graves had.

Maybe that energy would be better spent in planting crops and working to build the walls or making weapons. Or doing other practical chores that would move them forward instead of keeping them in the past.

That doesn’t mean that they are being disrespectful. They are being practical. It’s the difference between sensitivity and sentimentality. Neither is more correct. They are just different. I am an extremely sensitive person, but I am not sentimental at all. I don’t place any emotional attachment to places or things the way some people do.

Next: 5 questions answered in 705

As a community during the apocalypse, there might need to be some compromise between burying and burning, practicality and sentimentality. The walkers might force the practicality and the sentimentality might have to be attached to very small things that can travel inside of us.