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192. If a son of a paramour or a prostitute say to his adoptive father or mother: "You are not my father, or my mother," his tongue shall be cut off.

193. If the son of a paramour or a prostitute desire his father's house, and desert his adoptive father and adoptive mother, and goes to his father's house, then shall his eye be put out.

194. If a man give his child to a nurse and the child die in her hands, but the nurse unbeknown to the father and mother nurse another child, then they shall convict her of having nursed another child without the knowledge of the father and mother and her breasts shall be cut off.

195. If a son strike his father, his hands shall be hewn off.

196. If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out.

197. If he break another man's bone, his bone shall be broken.

(from) Codex Hammurabi (Trsl. L.W. King)

Basic Information

Mutilation is the process of permanent disfigurement or damage - in this context, inflicted as a form of punishment.

As part of the lex talionis (Lat. "law of retaliation") - and its ancestors - this punishment ranks amongst the oldest known to humanity: "an eye for an eye" as the saying goes1, punishing an offender with the same harm they inflicted on their victim.

Non-equilibrating thematic punishments have also been common throughout human history - castrating rapists, slashing (off) the tongues of liars or slanderers, removing the hands of thieves… and the powerful removing those parts used to offend them. This can also include mutilating people to remove them from contention from various roles - many cultures blinded or castrated unsuccessful pretenders to their thrones to prevent them from trying again. Cutting off thumbs could also leave a defeated enemy unable to bear arms and the classic British two-fingered gesture is said to result from a French pledge to cut the bowfingers from captured archers.

Mutilation may also be used for social signalling - this has often included removing ears and noses or branding on the hand or face to identify someone as a malefactor.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Good for values dissonance.
  • Always fun when you have accidentally acquired a mutilation that looks like a judicial one.
  • Likely to annoy players when their character is "gimped" by losing body parts … even if they earned it by criminal behaviour.

“When you tear out a man's tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you're only telling the world that you fear what he might say.”

Tyrion Lannister (George R. R. Martin) A Clash of Kings

As Adoni-bezek fled, they pursued him, seized him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes. Then Adoni-bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have gathered the scraps under my table. As I have done, so God has repaid me.” And they brought him to Jerusalem, where he died.


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