Created By: BlueIceTea on October 6, 2012 Last Edited By: eroock on May 19, 2014
Nuked

The Great Wall

A barrier of unusual length to protect a large area, usually from a specific threat.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope

This trope actually exists already, but the original YKTTW bears scant resemblance to the current page, which contains no examples and needs to be indexed. So I'm bringing it back here for some work.

Current Page, Former YKTTW


Suppose the Big Bad has a very definite territory he calls his own, from where his hordes of darkness spawn. It's good because you always know where the baddies come from, but what do you do if you don't have the necessary manpower to end them once and for all?

Simple: Just put a wall between you and them. The bigger, the better.

The Great Wall is what happens when you try to get your enemies not only out of your city but of your county, state or country, resorting to the simple mechanism of building a wall that will (one hopes) keep them out.

It's similar to The Wall Around the World, except that this is more about separating two realms from each other, whereas The Wall Around the World is about separating one realm from everything else. The most famous Real Life example is, of course, The Great Wall of China. It may have been the inspiration for many fictional Great Walls, although the Berlin Wall and Hadrian's Wall have also been influential.

May be an Absurdly Ineffective Barricade if it doesn't work. Compare Insurmountable Waisthigh Fence. Invisible Wall works like that.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • The Gate Wall in Darker Than Black used to ward off the negative effects of the Hell's Gate.

Comic Books
  • In Infinite Crisis, the Green Lantern Corps erect a 7-mile thick wall to hold back Super-boy Prime. It fails.

Film
  • In The Last Starfighter, the Star League created The Frontier, a force field barrier generated by a pattern of fixed devices. It was designed to keep out the Ko-Dan Armada, the starfleet of the Ko-Dan Empire.
  • The Coastal Defense Wall featured in Pacific Rim was built to keep out the Kaiju. Fails.

Literature
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the aptly named "The Wall" protects the seven kingdoms' northern territories from the Wildlings. It was actually constructed to keep out something far worse...
  • In Codex Alera, a giant wall protects the Realm from the Icemen.

Tabletop Games
  • Legend of the Five Rings has the Kaiu Wall between the Shadowlands and Rokugan, where the Crab Clan spend their lives protecting the rest of the Empire from the demonic forces. It is a point of both pride and annoyance for the Crabs that no other clan knows of how hard their duty is.

Video Games
  • World of Warcraft: The Serpent's Spine in Pandaria was built by the pandaren to protect their empire from mantid raids.
  • Guild Wars had a Great Wall in Ascalon, which kept the charr in the northern lands. Its penetration is what started the initial game's plot. Many parts of it still stand come the sequel.
  • In Grandia, there's a gargantuan mile-high wall that bifurcates an entire continent.
  • In Civilization IV, the Great Wall improvement prevents barbarians from landing on the entire continent it is built on. In Civilization V, it doesn't stop enemies from entering your territory, but it does slow them down.

Western Animation
  • In Avatar universe, Ba-Sing-Se, the biggest city of the Earth Kingdom has a massive outer wall, and many inner walls used to divide the people of different social classes.

Real Life
  • In Ancient China, The Great Wall divided the kingdom from the Mongol horde. When it was built, there was no Horde nor any development to this end yet, only mentions of prices on slaves dropping. And once there was the Horde, the wall didn't slow it down much. Not that one overstretched and undermanned fortification line could be reasonably expected to do this anyway.
  • In Australia, the Dingo fence protects southeast Australia from dingos.
  • The Maginot Line, built by the French in the 1930s to defend against a German invasion. Unfortunately it only covered part of the border, allowing the Germans to invade through the uncovered part. The money the French spent on it limited the amount they could spend on their armed forces, contributing to their defeat in World War II.
  • The Berlin Wall, which both literally subdivided the city of Berlin, and became a symbol of the proverbial Iron Curtain dividing the communist and capitalist worlds.
  • The US-Mexico fence.
  • Hadrian's Wall and the other limes walls of Ancient Rome, built for keeping Celtic and Germanic tribes at bay.


Removed Examples:

(I think these are a better fit for Wall Around the World.)

  • In Haibane Remnei A giant wall surrounds the town and surrounding countryside, forbidding anyone to enter or leave except under special circumstances.
  • In Xanth, during the isolationist period, a lethal magical barrier prevented anyone from leaving or entering Xanth.
  • The citie of Houryou, in the Kingdom of En, from The Twelve Kingdoms also has many layers of walls, but in this case, is because of the constnat popluation growth, as more people migrate to En from other kingdoms, the city consantly needs to expand more to acomodate them, and since the walls are needed to protect them from the monsters, they have to constantly be build with the expanding city
  • South Park: In one episode, the kids' parents become so afraid of child molesters that they have a wall built around the town. It gets repeatedly destroyed by Mongols.
  • The Little Mermaid II: To keep her daughter from endangering herself in the sea, Ariel has an enormous wall built around the palace to separate them from it. However, Melody by 14 has learned a way through it: a loose bar on one of the gratings allows her to squeeze through.

Community Feedback Replies: 63
  • October 6, 2012
    Boston
    How about the Galactic Barrier from Star Trek TOS ("Where No Man Has Gone Before") or the other Great Barrier from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier?
  • October 6, 2012
    Omeganian
  • October 6, 2012
    spacemarine50
    US-Mexico fence. Also, are castle/fortress walls examples?
  • October 7, 2012
    mdulwich
    The Iron Curtain. Admittedly not a single wall, but it was a physical boundary.
  • October 7, 2012
    TBeholder
    Aren't all of them expy of the Chinese wall? Which was, quite obviously, a proto-Iron Curtain. Because when it was built, there was no Horde nor any development to this end yet, only mentions of prices on slaves dropping. And once there was the Horde, the wall didn't slow it down much. Not that one overstretched and undermanned fortification line could be reasonably expected to do this anyway.
  • October 7, 2012
    Arivne
    ^^^^^ This trope is about artificial barriers. The Star Trek examples are naturally occurring barriers, so they don't count.

    ^^^^ To expand on The Last Starfighter example.

    Film
    • In The Last Starfighter the Star League created The Frontier, a force field barrier generated by a pattern of fixed devices. It was designed to keep out the Ko-Dan Armada, the starfleet of the Ko-Dan Empire.

    Real Life
    • The Maginot Line, built by the French in the 1930s to defend against a German invasion. Unfortunately it only covered part of the border, allowing the Germans to invade through the uncovered part. The money the French spent on it limited the amount they could spend on their armed forces, contributing to their defeat in World War II.
  • October 7, 2012
    Damr1990
    • Omashu and Ba-Sing-Se, the biggest cities of the Earth Kingdom on Avatar universe have this,however, while omashu only has one outer wall used to defend themselves agaisnt the attacks of the fire nation(and maybe from internal fights within the earh kingdom), Ba Sing Se also has many inner walls, used to divide the people of different social classes
    • The citie of Houryou, in the Kingdom of En, from The Twelve Kingdoms also has many layers of walls, but in this case, is because of the constnat popluation growth, as more people migrate to En from other kingdoms, the city consantly needs to expand more to acomodate them, and since the walls are needed to protect them from the monsters, they have to constantly be build with the expanding city
  • October 7, 2012
    Nithael
    World Of Warcraft: The Serpent's Spine in Pandaria was built by the pandaren to protect their empire from mantid raids.

    South Park: In one episode, the kids' parents become so afraid of child molesters that they have a wall built around the town. It gets repeatedly destroyed by Mongols.
  • October 7, 2012
    Rognik
    • Guild Wars had a Great Wall in Ascalon, which kept the charr in the northern lands. Its penetration is what started the initial game's plot. Many parts of it still stand come the sequel.
  • October 7, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    • The Little Mermaid II: To keep her daughter from endangering herself in the sea, Ariel has an enormous wall built around the palace to separate them from it. However, Melody by 14 has learned a way through it: a loose bar on one of the gratings allows her to squeeze through.
  • October 7, 2012
    Generality
    • In Video Game/Grandia, there's a gargantuan mile-high wall that bifurcates an entire continent.

    • The Great Wall of China is an available Wonder in some Civilization games.
  • October 7, 2012
    Khantalas
    Legend of the Five Rings has the Kaiu Wall between the Shadowlands and Rokugan, where the Crab Clan spend their lives protecting the rest of the Empire from the demonic forces. It is a point of both pride and annoyance for the Crabs that no other clan knows of how hard their duty is.
  • October 7, 2012
    Boston
    The Berlin Wall, for another real life example.
  • October 13, 2012
    Koveras
    ^^^ Though, of course, not only the Chinese can build that wall in Civ.
  • October 13, 2012
    BlueIceTea
    ^^^^ I don't think the Great Wall in Civilization can count unless it actually performs the function of a Great Wall within the game.

    Also, I don't think fortress walls in general can count. If transit across them is rare, they might count as Wall Around The World, but I don't think they'd fit this trope.
  • October 13, 2012
    Koveras
    ^ In the Civ I and II, Great Wall forced all other civilization to make peace with you. In Civ IV, it instead prevents barbarians from landing on the entire continent it is built on, so I think at least this fits the description. In Civ V, it slows down all enemy units on your territory.
  • October 13, 2012
    TBeholder
    still looks like The Chinese Great Wall IN SPACE. So why bother dancing around this in the definition?
  • October 13, 2012
    BlueIceTea
    I don't know that you can trace all of these directly back to the Great Wall of China. There've been plenty of other great walls in history. The Berlin Wall and Hadrian's Wall probably played at least as big a role in inspiring fictional walls. And Great Walls in fiction tend to be much bigger and more effective than those built in real life.
  • October 13, 2012
    LobsterMagnus
    ^ As mentioned above in passing by Blue Ice Tea, a further example are...
    • Hadrian's Wall and the other limes walls of Ancient Rome, built for keeping Celtic and Germanic tribes at bay.
  • October 13, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    The Ur Example is listed twice.
  • October 14, 2012
    Jallen
    Like the Dingo fence Australia also has the Rabbit-Proof-Fence designed to keep the invasive rabbits from spreading to Western Australia destroying crops, ruining the ecology and breeding like, well, rabbits.
  • October 14, 2012
    fulltimeD
    The Antimatter Mine Field surrounding the galaxy in Blake's 7; it was put in place to protect the Milky Way from invasion by the Andromeda Galaxy.
  • October 14, 2012
    Dawnwing
    EDIT: Whoops, I looked for Xanth but didn't see it, and turns out it was removed anyway.
  • November 5, 2012
    Stripeycat
    The Maginot line did work as intended - it was meant to funnel the German attack through Belgium, and it did. The problem was in assuming that the Germans would come through the bits of Belgium that were flat and had good roads, which was where the French were planning to stop them. They didn't: they sent their tanks through forested hill-country that no-one had bothered to defend, and completely bypassed the trap.
  • November 5, 2012
    robinjohnson
    On the Discworld, the Agatean Empire, a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to medieval China, has a wall running all the way round it, even the coastline. It's ostensibly to keep foreign invaders out, but really it's there to keep the Agateans in.
  • November 5, 2012
    Specialist290
    Literature
    • The Pelennor Fields outside Minas Tirith in The Lord Of The Rings were surrounded by a defensive wall. Note that this wall is not one of the famous seven walls that secure the city itself.

    Real Life
    • The Long Walls of Attica, which in classical times linked the city of Athens to its port at Piraeus and protected them both.
    • Offa's Dyke, built to protect the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Mercia from Welsh invaders from the west.
    • The Pale of Ireland was a district surrounding Dublin, so named because parts of it were fenced off by stakes. We get the English phrase "beyond the pale" (meaning "something unusual or outlandish") from this.
    • The Korean Demilitarized Zone is probably the most heavily-fortified border on earth in modern times. Rumor has it that South Korea built a concrete wall along its length on their side, disguised by gently-sloping earth so as to be invisible from the southern side, but the government in Seoul has denied that such a wall exists.
    • Wikipedia has an article on separation barriers that provides a few additional examples.
  • November 10, 2012
    Lavalyte
    The Great Wall has too many connotations with the Chinese Great Wall... Call if The Big Barrier or something instead.
  • November 10, 2012
    robinjohnson
    Why are connotations with the Chinese Great Wall a bad thing? It's the clearest real-life example.
  • November 10, 2012
    BlueIceTea
    Yeah, I think The Great Wall is a much more recognisable name than The Big Barrier. It's not like the Chinese have the name copyrighted, is it?
  • November 10, 2012
    TBeholder
    The only question is, what fits under this? So that we won't end up with every other castle wall here. Like city-to-port example above.
  • November 10, 2012
    BlueIceTea
    Well, city and castle walls wouldn't fit here anyway, since they're designed to surround a particular area, rather than keep two areas separate. They're a better fit for The Wall Around The World, though I agree that most of them wouldn't really go there, either.

    I've re-written the description slightly to make the distinction from The Wall Around The World clearer (I hope) and include references to influential real life Great Walls.
  • December 9, 2012
    Koveras
    I am not sure whether this counts as this or The Wall Around The World, since in this case, the wall both separates two realms and separates one realm from everything else:

    • As revealed in Cold Days, The Dresden Files universe has a giant wall of ice surrounding the Spirit World of Faerie to keep the Outsiders from invading both Faerie and the mortal world. It is manned by millions of Winter Fae under Queen Mab's command who have been defending it for aeons.
  • December 9, 2012
    MaxWest
    In the 1976 version of King Kong, the explorers to Kong's island notice the very big wall the natives have built and one even comments that it must be intended to protect said islanders...namely from the titular ape.
  • December 10, 2012
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Dungeons And Dragons module WG6 Isle of the Ape. On the island where the adventure takes place there's a huge wall that separates the area where the Kawibusas live from the area where the giant ape Oonga lives. This protects the Kawibusas from being attacked by Oonga.
  • December 10, 2012
    troacctid

    You should drop the Example As A Thesis. This trope has nothing to do with Big Bads.
  • February 1, 2013
    Chabal2
    The Fantasy Counterpart Culture of China builds such a wall in Dark Dawn, but once the Grave Eclipse rolls around there's no one left alive to man it.

  • February 1, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Film-Animated
    • Final Fantasy The Spirits Within has the major cities of Earth covered by enormous energy domes to shield the citizens within from the deadly alien ghosts outside.
  • February 23, 2013
    Specialist290
    Considering that North Korea is literally a closed society and "beyond the pale" implies a dividing line between "the usual" and "the exotic" in a metaphorical sense (and specifically referred to the dividing line between "civilized" Anglo-Norman settlements and "barbarian" Irish Celts), I really think those examples are legitimate.
  • February 23, 2013
    jatay3
    A common variation is to have a long line of fortified outposts within communication of each other and blocking major roads. An invading army has to reduce at least enough of them to clear a path for it's logistics train, while a raiding party will probably trip an alert and have an ambush waiting on it's return.
  • February 24, 2013
    spacemarine50
    Another real life: Isreal has a wall separating it and the West Bank.
  • April 10, 2013
    spacemarine50
  • May 28, 2013
    Abodos
    The Longfort from Fire Emblem Awakening.
  • May 28, 2013
    LordGro
    No trope description ever should begin with the phrase Exactly What It Says On The Tin.

    Also, the reference to a Big Bad and "hordes of darkness" is too narrow. For two realms to be hostile to each other you don't need any "hordes of darkness". And who the Big Bad is is totally irrelevant to the trope. Villains can build Great Walls too.

    Also, walls can be built for more reasons than to keep enemies out. One may wish to keep one's own subjects in, or to keep The Plague out, etc. If this trope is to supposed to be specifically about defensive walls, a more specific name may be preferable (Great Bulwark or something like that).

    We also should get an agreement whether this is about walls proper or about any other barrier. The Iron Curtain and the North Korean borders are barriers, but not actual walls. If it's not about walls proper, the title should be Great Barrier rather.
  • May 29, 2013
    maxwellsilver
    The examples need help.

    Also, the part of the border the Maginot Line didn't cover was Belgium. The Germans went through Belgium, just like they did in World War One.
  • May 29, 2013
    maxwellsilver
    But, why not open a Trope Repair Shop thread for The Great Wall?
  • May 30, 2013
    SeptimusHeap
    Assuming you aren't doing a redefinition, you can run it here. The sort of problems the page you want to fix has can't be fixed in TRS, anyhow.
  • June 9, 2013
    Melkior
    • In the allegorical Jungle Doctor's Fables, a wall appears suddenly right across the jungle, separating the animals from the best and most abundant food and water. Various animals try to go over, under or around the wall and a couple even try to push through the wall, but they all fail to find a way to the other side. Since this is an allegory, the wall's name should be easy to guess. The wall's name is SIN because sin separates people from God just as the wall separated the animals from good things.
  • June 9, 2013
    sunlitgarden
    Literature:

    • In the Kingmaker Kingbreaker books, the country of Lur is protected from the Big Bad and his minions by a giant magical barrier called Barl's Wall.
  • June 23, 2013
    Omeganian
    In the Hexen II manual, it is stated that the universe is surrounded by a crystal barrier, beyond which there is a darkness inhabited by demons. The Serpent Riders are merely the three who slipped through a tiny hole which was sealed almost immediately.
  • June 23, 2013
    Prfnoff
    I sorted the example section better, fixed a few formatting issues, and removed the reference to Exactly What It Says On The Tin.
  • July 14, 2013
    calvin235
    Added Pacific Rim and Darker Than Black. Also removed Omashu from Avatar The Last Airbender; from what I remember it was basically just a walled city (ubiquitous trope). The scale of Ba-Sing-Se's wall basically puts Omashu's to shame anyway.
  • July 14, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    ^ Yep, there's nothing special about the wall of Omashu.

    EDIT: And since I couldn't come up with anything more important to say, have a hat.
  • July 14, 2013
    DAN004
    IDK if this counts, but:
    • The practices of limiting internet privileges in China has been joked as "The Great Firewall of China".
  • July 15, 2013
    Koveras
  • July 15, 2013
    OlafMerchant
    Videogames

    • Morrowind: Dagoth Ur's lair on Red Mountain has been surrounded by the Ghost Fence, created by the Tribunal Gods to contain Dagoth Ur the Blight. However, since Blighted Cliff Racers could simply fly over it and ash storms carried the Blight on the winds, it was not very effective at containing the Blight.
  • July 15, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Added the missing asterisk before the Darker Than Black example, that messed up the example listing.
  • July 15, 2013
    jatay3
    Uh actually there were plenty of "developments to that end" when the wall was built. Steepe nomads were always raiding and once in awhile would come in force. At about the same time as Atilla was busy in Rome his cousins were busy in China. Ghengis Khan wasn't the only steepe warlord that had predatory impulses.
  • May 19, 2014
    jormis29
    • Ancelstierre is divided from the Old Kingdom by the simply named, the Wall. The Wall stops both the undead and magic from coming over, making Ancelstierre similar to 1920's England while the Old Kingdom is a fantasy feudal kingdom.
  • May 19, 2014
    Koveras
    • In Attack On Titan, the three great walls surrounding the remains of human civilization protect it from the human-devouring giants beyond. The plot kicks off after the outermost of these walls is breached by the titans.
  • May 19, 2014
    DAN004
    Uh, so this is just to gather examples for The Great Wall, right?
  • May 19, 2014
    Chabal2
    • The Endless Wall in Golden Sun Dark Dawn protects the China-equivalent, though by the time you get to explore it it's swarming with monsters.
    • The Greymane Wall in World Of Warcraft. While it protected the kingdom of Gilneas from the plague of undeath, it also trapped them when the worgen curse hit.
  • May 19, 2014
    eroock
    Film:
    • In Doomsday, an unknown killer virus has infected Scotland, turning people into savage animals and killing the host. The UK government cannot quarantine the virus because they have neither cure nor vaccine, and they decide to build a 60-foot containment wall over the border with Scotland, isolating it from the rest of Britain.
  • May 19, 2014
    jormis29
    • Warhammer: The first Dragon Emperor of Cathay had a massive wall built along it's northern border to protect it from the Chaos Wastes, called the Great Bastion. It extends hundreds of miles in length and its great size requires a garrison of tens of thousands to man it.
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