Created By: Desertopa on January 8, 2012 Last Edited By: troacctid on May 9, 2012

Lava Pot Volcano

Classic image of volcanoes in fiction which does not resemble any real volcanoes.

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Volcanoes are some of the most impressive and dramatic setting devices in fiction. You've got the constant threat of eruption and the brilliant and deadly rivers of molten rock, a perfect place to set a climactic encounter. In fact, the journey up a towering mountain, which may be bursting with blasts of steam and explosive rock, to reach the top, where the ground is stripped away to reveal the glowing blood of the earth is practically an entire dramatic structure unto itself.

Except... we don't have any places like that on earth. The sorts of volcanoes which continually exude flowing lava are almost all shield volcanoes over active hotspots, such as the ones in the Hawaiian islands, which are wide and flat, and do not loom impressively in the background. And the only time volcanoes actually expose a core of molten lava at their peak is during or shortly after their eruption, after which the lava quickly cools and solidifies. In fact, successive explosive eruptions will often blast through different sections of a volcano each time. Rather than being open wounds in the earth, stratovolcanoes, the looming, explosive volcanoes that feature most heavily in fiction, are more like crusted over scabs, being essentially solid mountains on top of tectonic subduction zones.

However, since realistic volcanoes are insufficiently dramatic, and perhaps also because the most popular pictures of volcanoes are taken during eruptions, volcanoes in fiction tend to portrayed as full time seething lava pots.

Related to Appease the Volcano God, which invariably takes place in this type of volcano.


Examples

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[[folder:Film - Animated]]
  • Justified with the Rite of Spring segment of Fantasia: the volcanoes seen erupting do so during a period of massive geological upheaval.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film - Live-Action]] [[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
  • Played With in Larry Niven's Ringworld. The surface feature known as "Fist Of God" looks like a stereotypical volcano, but inside there's no lava. Instead, it's a tear in the Ringworld itself.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Tabletop Games]] [[/folder]]

[[folder:Videogames]]
  • Curse of Monkey Island features one of these which is worshiped by vegetarian cannibals.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has Eldin Volcano, which only erupts the third time you visit it. The rest of the time it's a Lethal Lava Land with rivers of molten rock.
  • Both the Wilderness Volcano and the Karamja Volcano in RuneScape.
  • The Volcano spell in Arcanists summons one of these underneath an enemy.
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[[folder:Western Animation]]
  • The mountain where the Panda Lily grows in Avatar: The Last Airbender: "The Fortuneteller" is a seething pot of lava. But apparently not all the time. Aang recognizes that it's near an eruption because it's a seething pot of lava.
  • There's a deep lava pool in The Secret Saturdays. Drew and Argost go swimming in it.
  • The Simpsons subverts this in the episode where they go to Japan and have to compete on a game show in order to win airline tickets back to the US. The tickets are on a Rope Bridge over an active volcano that looks like this - which turns out to be just a prop (unknown to the family).
  • The volcano in the middle of Keepaway Island in Spliced!.
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Community Feedback Replies: 30
  • January 8, 2012
    Auxdarastrix
    Good concept, but I think it would be better to list examples that to list aversions.
  • January 8, 2012
    Lyendith
  • January 8, 2012
    surgoshan
  • January 8, 2012
    Stratadrake
    To expand the stated analogy, real world volcanoes are less open wounds and more crusted-over scabs. (...ew)
  • January 8, 2012
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    • The mountain where the Panda Lily grows in Avatar The Last Airbender: "The Fortuneteller" is a seething pot of lava. But apparently not all the time. Aang recognizes that it's near an eruption because it's a seething pot of lava.
    • There's a deep lava pool in The Secret Saturdays. Drew and Argost go swiming in it.

  • January 8, 2012
    randomsurfer
    The Simpsons subverts this in the episode where they go to Japan and have to compete on a game show in order to win airline tickets back to the US. The tickets are on a Rope Bridge over an active volcano that looks like this - which turns out to be just a prop (unknown to the family).
  • January 8, 2012
    jate88
    If Volcano Lair, Lethal Lava Land, or Battle Amongst The Flames is present this trope might be present.
  • January 9, 2012
    aurora369
    Averted with the Red Mountain in Morrowind. First, it doesn't look like an ominous towering mountain, it's a relatively short and wide (the entire island of Vvardenfell is actually it) shield volcano, and the name Vvardenfell even means "shield-something". Second, it doesn't have a large lava pot at its crater. Most of the crater is simply a big pit where the Big Bad's lair is built, and the lava lake is relatively small. Actually, more lava is exposed through the cracks at Molag Amur (the most unstable slope of said volcano) than in the crater itself.
  • January 9, 2012
    Chabal2
    Skyward Sword has Eldin Volcano, which only erupts the third time you visit it. The rest of the time it's a Lethal Lava Land with rivers of molten rock.

    Justified with the Rite of Spring segment of Fantasia: the volcanoes seen erupting do so during a period of massive geological upheaval.

  • January 11, 2012
    JobanGrayskull
    One of the levels in (what this troper considers to be an underrated and sadly little known game) Cold Shadow takes place inside a seething volcano.
  • January 11, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    I am not sure, but as far as my geology knowledge goes, lava lakes on stratovolcanoes do exist, as do continually erupting volcanoes - only not that large.
  • January 11, 2012
    Desertopa
    There are constantly "erupting" volcanoes, listed here, but even continually active volcanoes such as Mt. Stromboli do not usually expose liquid lava. Lava lakes do exist (there are four volcanoes that have maintained near continuous lava lakes for decades, the longest being Erta Ale at about 106 years, and three others that have been known to feature occasional lava lakes,) but even these are usually mostly solidified over. The world's single best example of a volcano resembling the ones in fiction is probably Mount Nyiragongo, whose crater is pictured here. Note that volcanoes are usually photographed at their most spectacular, not their most typical.

    As an aside, the practice of throwing sacrifices into the caldera of a volcano has existed in real life, but the sacrifices were thrown into the water that had filled it.
  • January 12, 2012
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    Film:

    Literature:
  • January 13, 2012
    aurora369
    Played straight in Real Life (sometimes) with mud volcanoes. These tiny, Ugly Cute volcanoes often look like small hills with pots perpetually filled with mud on the top.
  • January 13, 2012
    foxley
    The volcano in the middle of Keepaway Island in Spliced!.
  • January 13, 2012
    Generality
    ^^^ Mount Doom is only one of these in the films. In the book, there is a magma reservoir, but it is underground, accessed by the Cracks of Doom, and not exposed. (Which is why they couldn't catapult or drop the ring into it)
  • January 14, 2012
    troacctid
  • January 25, 2012
    IanWhoWas
    This comic from The Perry Bible Fellowship seems to utilize it in some way. Maybe it's just a big fire pit, I can't be certain.
  • January 26, 2012
    FearlessSon
    • Because of the way volcanos are generated in Dwarf Fortress, they almost always have this appearance when they break the surface. Typically, their "pool" will simply be the top of a very tall lava-pipe extending down to the magma sea deep underground. This can actually be a great boon to a fortress focused on metalworking, or to a very crafty fortress planner, a ready means of Killing Invaders With Magma.
  • April 13, 2012
    aurora369
    Bumpity bump!
  • April 13, 2012
    fulltimeD
    Live Action Television

    • Land Of The Lost (90's remake), episode "Kevin Vs. The Volcano" featured an unrealistic volcano like this.
  • April 13, 2012
    chicagomel
    Stark Mountain in PokemonDiamondAndPearl /Platinum has open lava pits and lots of ash. it's a wonder no one gets silicosis from these types btw. (video games)

    The Land Before Time'', rather predictably,to add to the prehistoric atmosphere. (film or western animation)
  • April 14, 2012
    captainsandwich
    I don't like the "on earth" thing. there are volcanos that aren't on earth. Venus is virtually covered with volcanic formations, (including at least one type that isn't found on earth, it looks kind of like a pancake). there are other planetary bodies that we know have signs of volcanos, some, like the moon Io, even still have active volcanos.
  • April 15, 2012
    aurora369
    But yet the only volcanoes accessible to human explorers and thus familiar to readers/viewers of fiction are ones from Earth. Stuff that can only be explored by robots and telescopes does not usually end up in Fictionland unless it's diamond hard sci-fi.
  • May 7, 2012
    troacctid
    This needs an image, by the way.
  • May 7, 2012
    captainsandwich
    if it is any setting besides earth one some volcanic formations not found on earth but found elsewhere in Real Life should be reasonable (depending on other factors, like does the planet have multiple tectonic plates).
  • May 8, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Subverted in You Only Live Twice (the film) where Blofeld's Elaborate Underground Base is hidden inside a fake Lava Pot Volcano. The Lava Pot portion slides away to reveal the entrance.
  • May 8, 2012
    Arivne
    ^ The volcano in the You Only Live Twice film was not a fake Lava Pot. It appeared to have a lake in its center.

    You can watch the scene where Bond overflies it in Little Nellie here. Bond gets a close-up look here
  • May 8, 2012
    randomsurfer
    ^True, it appeared to have a lake in the center when Bond flies over it. But when he goes down on foot he finds it's a fake made of metal, and it opens while he's standing on it.
  • May 9, 2012
    Arivne
    ^ Sorry, I meant that it wasn't a fake Lava Pot Volcano because it didn't appear to have any lava in it.
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