One central group of artifacts of Diablo is the soul stones, in which the Grand Evils' souls are imprisoned to keep them from reincarnating in Hell.

In the Elder Scrolls universe (the earliest I know is Morrowind), there are also soul gems which trap souls, but they are much more common, being used to enchant items and recharge enchanted items.

Common to these two is the theme of a stone that is used to trap a soul without the victims consent. In that they are different to, for example, a Lich's phylactery in D&D.

Do these two share a common origin? Did Diablo influence TES here? What is the origin of "stone/crystal used to trap a soul"?

  • Soul stones were present in the Elder Scrolls well before Morrowind. Probably back to the original but my mind is fuzzy on details of that game now.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 16:51
  • Daggerfall certainly had them.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 18:05
  • 1
    I doubt it's the earliest, but surprised you mention the D&D lich phylactery and not this: d20srd.org/srd/spells/trapTheSoul.htm
    – tardigrade
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 22:17
  • I assume its a variation on the old trope of trapping souls in general. TvTropes has a list, though it isn't restricted to just stones: tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SoulJar
    – shufly
    Commented Sep 25, 2020 at 0:59
  • 2
    The most famous early appearances of soul jars are in the Russian folktales about Koschei the Immortal, a recurring villain whose life force was contained in an egg (or a needle inside the egg). However, the story pattern is more general; it appears as story type AT 302 ("the giant with no heart") in the Aarne–Thompson categorization of folktale plots.
    – Buzz
    Commented Sep 25, 2020 at 1:32

1 Answer 1


"soul gems" and imprisoning beings inside them comes from the adventures of Adam Warlock, which Jim Starlin wrote and drew for Marvel Comics. Starlin's comics specifically use the term "soul gem".


Adam gets rid of his arch-nemesis, named Magus (alias Adam's future self), by trapping the latter in a soul gem which the former wears on his forehead.

  • 2
    Since the answers to this question are likely going to end up competing for the title of "earliest," could you give a date for the comic issues in which the "soul gem" is featured?
    – jwodder
    Commented Sep 25, 2020 at 19:51
  • @jwodder: the Magus storyline concluded in mid-1975.
    – Ria Byss
    Commented Sep 26, 2020 at 20:09
  • Good answer, as the question hasn't gotten any attention in several months, I will accept it. Especially since it nicely fits the Diablo "soul gem on forehead" image.
    – kutschkem
    Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 15:27

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