Created By: Pichu-kun on November 11, 2017 Last Edited By: AHI-3000 on 1 hour ago

Humans Are Not The Dominant Species

An alternate Earth where humans aren't dominant, instead another species is.

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" On that day, mankind received a grim reminder. We lived in fear of the Titans and were disgraced to live in these cages we called walls."

For the last several thousand years, humans have been the dominant species on Earth. They've only gotten more dominant with time.

This trope occurs when that's not the case. Humans exist, yes, but they live under the rule of another species. One common way this trope occurs is in Earth All Along works where animals evolve to the point where they challenge humanity for the dominant species.

Examples only count of this trope if: A. It's on a relatively realistic Earth or Earth-like planet and B. It doesn't take place in prehistoric times before humans became the dominant animal.

Compare to Vichy Earth, where alien invaders conquer Earth, and Mistook the Dominant Lifeform.


Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • Attack on Titan: Humans have been nearly extinct for over 1000 years, driven inside cities surrounded by massive walls that protect them from huge cannibalistic humanoids they call Titans. The main goal of the protagonists is to reclaim the world that has been overrun by these monstrocities. Only that's not the case at all. The people inside the city have all been brainwashed and then conditioned to believe that the rest of the world has been destroyed. In reality, the Titans were a weapon deployed in an ancient war and the rest of the world outside of the main setting is relatively fine. In fact, later on, the Titans on the entire island nation they inhabit are exterminated and the story becomes a battle between rival nations.

Comic Books
  • In Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog, hundreds of years ago a species of aliens sent DNA bombs to kill all of humanity while saving the other species. Instead, the DNA bombs made humans "de-evolve" into crueler, four-fingered species while animals evolved into Funny Animals and Petting Zoo Persons. Over the years, Mobians have become the dominant species while Outlanders and humans live in seclusion.
  • In the 3rd volume of The Sandman, a housecat discovers that cats were once the dominant species on planet Earth, growing to enormous sizes while humans served their needs. But the humans grew resentful and, collectively dreaming together, created a world where humans are the dominant species and cats are their pets. A group of housecats now roams the Earth, spreading this gospel of their former glory and implore all cats who hear them to dream back the old world.

Film — Animation
  • The Good Dinosaur: The film's premise is that the dinosaurs never became extinct, and formed a primitive farming society. Humans are still animalistic, behaving mostly like dogs.
  • The 1973 French feature Fantastic Planet has humans living in a Mouse World amid the giant blue-skinned, red-eyed Draags. Humans are called Oms (homme being French for man), and they are teased, tormented and killed by the Draags mostly For the Evulz. Young Draag Tiwa makes a housepet out of an Om named Terr, who also narrates parts of the story.
  • After the alien Drej from Titan A.E. destroy the world with an Earth-Shattering Kaboom, humanity is reduced to surviving mostly in drifter colonies: assorted spacecraft knit together into habitable biomes. The Hero is found doing grunt work in a salvage yard, until he gets the Call to Adventure. This triggers the Drej into hunting him down, to preclude Cale from finding the Titan spacecraft and activating it, since for the Drej, the Titan is an Artifact of Doom.

Film — Live Action
  • The central premise of the whole Planet of the Apes series. The first film depicted a world where humans were reduced to the state of animals, with civilized apes ruling the world and hunting humans for sport. The infamous Twist Ending reveals this planet is actually Earth in the far future. The various sequels/prequels and the reboot showed how the fall of human society allowed apes to ascend to dominance.

Literature
  • Played with in Tailchaser's Song. According to the cat Creation Myth (which true), the world was created by a cat for cats. After one of the first cats children made a Hell Hound to kill his siblings, their God created other species. Since then, humans have become the dominant species.
  • Wings of Fire takes place in a world where dragons rule over the lands. Humans, or "scavengers" as dragons call them, are considered an endangered species and only live in a few select areas. Originally, humans were more dominant however that changed when dragon began creating kingdoms and living under queens. Dragons look down upon humans and see them as weird, dumb, and mostly good for food or blood sports.
  • Planet of the Apes has the astronauts Ulysses and Antelle explore a planet where humans live like animals, and civilized apes hunt them for sport or conduct medical experiments on them. The Twist Ending is different from the more famous film adaptation: the planet, Soror, is completely separate from Earth. But when Ulysses escapes and returns to Earth, he finds that apes have conquered humanity while he was away.
  • In The Pendragon Adventure series, the planet Eelong is populated by two species, the Klee and the Gar (humans). The Klee are Cat Folk who rule the planet and keep humans as either pets or slaves, seeing them as no more than animals. The plot of Black Water involves the secret human city of Black Water, where free humans are secretly gathering and preparing to rebel against their Klee overlords.
  • In The Silmarillion, the first Ages or so was largely dominated by the Elves. This was largely because they were the Firstborn of Eru, the first sapient race in Arda to awaken. Their dominance lasted thanks to their long life and grace even after the Arrival of Men. It was only after the Thrid Age, in which most Elves left Middle Earth did Men come to dominate.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy universe we are merely unknowing experimental test subjects being monitored and controlled by otherdimensional beings who assume the forms of white mice. A more profound question is how the dolphins got here and left, since they are also superior to us.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Discworld series humans are mostly the dominant lifeform except in Überwald where, according to The Fifth Elephant, humans are little more than "background noise" and very much second place to the Undead, the Dwarfs, and Trolls.
  • Colin Wilson's Spider World series is set in a post-apocalyptic world where telepathic giant spiders and various insects are the dominant species'.

Live-Action TV
  • Dinosaurs: The show takes place in an inverted 1 Million B.C., when Earth was dominated by civilized dinosaurs with jobs and families, using electronic appliances. Humans appear in the show as primitive, dumb savages.

Tabletop Games
  • The Space Opera Tabletop RPG FAITH is set in a future where humanity has lost its homeworld and joins a galactic community of alien species all of whom are generally more advanced and well-established than humans, who are, by-and-large, viewed as semi-barbaric mercenaries without any special standing.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The setting Council of Wyrms is set on an extensive island chain known as the Io's Blood islands. These are entirely ruled by dragon clans, and while various species of humanoids also live on the islands they do so as vassals and servants of the dragons, who are also the playable characters in this setting. Other lands beyond the seas exist in the background and are known to be inhabited and ruled by humanoids such as humans and giants, but the focus of the setting remains first and foremost on the Io's Blood islands and their dragon rulers.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • This is played to different degrees in the two incarnations of the plane of Tarkir.
      • In the original timeline, four of the five clans that ruled the plane were dominated by humans, with Tarkir's numerous other species — djinn and efreeti, the elephantine loxodon, goblins, the doglike ainok, orcs, ogres and the aven Bird People — being secondary in influence, importance and numbers to them. The exception to this was the Sultai Brood, a clan of necromancers, merchants and sorcerers who ruled the swamps and lowland jungles. The Sultai were firmly ruled by the serpent-like nagas and the rakshasa tiger-demons, who made up the clan's ruling class and chief sorcerers — the queen of the Sultai, Sidisi, was a naga herself. Within the Sultai, humans were strictly second-class citizens at best and chattel at worst.
      • In the new timeline, the clans were destroyed and replaced by the five dragon broods. In the wake of that, the dragons became the plane's undisputed and tyrannical rulers, while Tarkir's many humanoid races were all relegated to being the subjects and soldiers of the warring dragon clans. The one exception to this were, again, the rakshasas, whose unpredictable nature and sorcerous power allowed them to maintain a degree of power and independence that the other humanoid races couldn't.
    • Naya, the jungle-covered shard of the plane of Alara that embodies Green mana, is inhabited by three intelligent races — humans, elves and the nacatl Cat Folk — in addition to an assortment of building-sized animals collectively referred to as the Gargantuans. In the distant past, the nacatl of the Empire of the Clouds were the undisputed rulers of the plane, with the elves becoming Naya's dominant power after the Empire's fall. In a very real sense, it can also be said that the true rulers of the plane are the Gargantuans, who travel the jungle as they please, trampling their way through any building or city they come across and with the intelligent races having very little ability to do anything about this. However and whenever one looks at it, however, humans have always been a rather unimportant race in Naya.

Video Games
  • Primal Rage: After a meteor strikes the Earth and causes a massive cataclysm, ancient deities (mostly resembling dinosaurs and giant primates) arise from an ancient slumber and conquer the world. Humankind regresses into tribes which serve these deities and becomes so primitive that they now refer to their planet as "Urth".

Visual Novels
  • Hatoful Boyfriend is set in a post-apocalyptic future where a pandemic of a deadly form of bird flu nearly wiped out humanity. In response to this, the humans developed a counter-virus in an attempt to kill the birds that carried the disease. However, this new virus ended up giving the birds it infected human-like intelligence rather than killing them, leading to them becoming the dominant creatures on Earth as more and more humans died from the bird flu. The surviving humans, who developed a resistance to the disease, are forced to live apart from civilisation as hunter-gatherers.

Web Original
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-1000 are The Remnant of a nocturnal hominid species with incredible Organic Technology and nuclear weapons. At some point humans not only fought back against their domination (70% of the population died in one day as they slept), they managed to purge that they'd ever existed from human memory. They're better known to muggles as Bigfoot.

Western Animation
  • Subverted in Rick and Morty's second episode, "Lawnmower Dog." The viewer is lead to believe that cyborg dogs have taken over the earth, usurping humans as the dominant species. Nope.

Community Feedback Replies: 39
  • November 11, 2017
    KTera
    Vichy Earth covers Earths run by alien invaders.
  • November 11, 2017
    Chabal2
    SCP Foundation: SCP-1000 are The Remnant of a nocturnal hominid species with incredible Organic Technology and nuclear weapons. At some point humans not only fought back against their domination (70% of the population died in one day as they slept), they managed to purge that they'd ever existed from human memory. They're better known to muggles as Bigfoot.

  • November 12, 2017
    Koveras
    • The Space Opera Tabletop RPG FAITH is set in a future where humanity has lost its homeworld and joins a galactic community of alien species all of whom are generally more advanced and well-established than humans, who are, by-and-large, viewed as semi-barbaric mercenaries without any special standing.
  • November 12, 2017
    MetaFour
  • November 12, 2017
    Orbiting
    • In The Pendragon Adventure series, the planet Eelong is populated by two species, the Klee and the Gar (humans). The Klee are Cat Folk who rule the planet and keep humans as either pets or slaves, seeing them as no more than animals. The plot of Black Water involves the secret human city of Black Water, where free humans are secretly gathering and preparing to rebel against their Klee overlords.
  • November 12, 2017
    MetaFour
    Literature:
    • Planet Of The Apes has the astronauts Ulysses and Antelle explore a planet where humans live like animals, and civilized apes hunt them for sport or conduct medical experiments on them. The Twist Ending is different from the more famous film adaptation: the planet, Soror, is completely separate from Earth. But when Ulysses escapes and returns to Earth, he finds that apes have conquered humanity while he was away.

    Film:
    • The central premise of the whole Planet Of The Apes series. The first film depicted a world where humans were reduced to the state of animals, with civilized apes ruling the world and hunting humans for sport. The infamous Twist Ending reveals this planet is actually Earth in the far future. The various sequels/prequels and the reboot showed how the fall of human society allowed apes to ascend to dominance.
  • November 12, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    • Dungeons And Dragons: The setting Council of Wyrms is set on an extensive island chain known as the Io's Blood islands. These are entirely ruled by dragon clans, and while various species of humanoids also live on the islands they do so as vassals and servants of the dragons, who are also the playable characters in this setting. Other lands beyond the seas exist in the background and are known to be inhabited and ruled by humanoids such as humans and giants, but the focus of the setting remains first and foremost on the Io's Blood islands and their dragon rulers.
  • November 13, 2017
    WildKatGirl
    • Hatoful Boyfriend is set in a post-apocalyptic future where a pandemic of a deadly form of bird flu nearly wiped out humanity. In response to this, the humans developed a counter-virus in an attempt to kill the birds that carried the disease. However, this new virus ended up giving the birds it infected human-like intelligence rather than killing them, leading to them becoming the dominant creatures on Earth as more and more humans died from the bird flu. The surviving humans, who developed a resistance to the disease, are forced to live apart from civilisation as hunter-gatherers.
  • November 13, 2017
    NubianSatyress
    • Attack On Titan: Humans have been nearly extinct for over 1000 years, driven inside cities surrounded by massive walls that protect them from huge cannibalistic humanoids they call Titans. The main goal of the protagonists is to reclaim the world that has been overrun by these monstrocities. Only that's not the case at all. The people inside the city have all been brainwashed and then conditioned to believe that the rest of the world has been destroyed. In reality, the Titans were a weapon deployed in an ancient war and the rest of the world outside of the main setting is relatively fine. In fact, later on, the Titans on the entire island nation they inhabit are exterminated and the story becomes a battle between rival nations.

    Possible page quote:

    “On that day, mankind received a grim reminder. We lived in fear of the Titans and were disgraced to live in these cages we called walls.”
  • November 13, 2017
    Snicka
    • Dinosaurs: the show takes place in an inverted One Million BC, when Earth was dominated by civilized dinosaurs with jobs and families, using electronic appliances. Humans appear in the show as primitive, dumb savages.
    • The Good Dinosaur: The film's premise is that the dinosaurs never became extinct, and formed a primitive farming society. Humans are still animalistic, behaving mostly like dogs.
  • November 13, 2017
    Gatomon41
    Literature

    • In The Silmarillion, the first Ages or so was largely dominated by the Elves. This was largely because they were the Firstborn of Eru, the first sapient race in Arda to awaken. Their dominance lasted thanks to their long life and grace even after the Arrival of Men. It was only after the Thrid Age, in which most Elves left Middle Earth did Men come to dominate.
  • November 13, 2017
    NubianSatyress
    Primal Rage: After a meteor strikes the Earth and causes a massive cataclysm, ancient deities (mostly resembling dinosaurs and giant primates) arise from an ancient slumber and conquer the world. Humankind regresses into tribes which serve these deities and becomes so primitive that they now refer to their planet as "Urth".
  • November 14, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    Film Animated
    • The 1973 French feature Fantastic Planet has humans living in a Mouse World amid the giant blue-skinned, red-eyed Draags. Humans are called Oms (homme being French for man), and they are teased, tormented and killed by the Draags mostly For The Evuls. Young Draag Tiwa makes a housepet out of an Om named Terr, who also narrates parts of the story.
  • November 14, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    Bulleted the video game section.
  • November 14, 2017
    intastiel
    • In Dragaera, the elf-like Dragaerans and their eponymous empire have been the dominant political and magical power on the planet for almost 200 000 years (aside from a 247-year interregnum); "Easterners" have a few kingdoms of their own and are generally seen as second-class citizens within the Empire. Both species call themselves human, although the Dragaerans are the result of magical experimentation by the Jenoine Abusive Precursors.
  • November 14, 2017
    NubianSatyress
    Fixed the quote.
  • November 15, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    While there's no longer an Earth in this instance, I believe this nonetheless qualifies as an example.

    Film Animated
    • After the alien Drej from Titan AE destroy the world with an Earth Shattering Kaboom, humanity is reduced to surviving mostly in drifter colonies: assorted spacecraft knit together into habitable biomes. The Hero is found doing grunt work in a salvage yard, until he gets the Call To Adventure. This triggers the Drej into hunting him down, to preclude Cale from finding the Titan spacecraft and activating it, since for the Drej, the Titan is an Artifact Of Doom.
  • November 23, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    Card Games
    • Magic The Gathering: This is played to different degrees in the two incarnations of the plane of Tarkir.
      • In the old timeline, four of the five clans that ruled the plane were dominated by humans, with Tarkir's numerous other species — djinn and efreeti, the elephantine loxodon, goblins, the doglike ainok, orcs, ogres and the aven Bird People — being secondary in influence, importance and numbers to them. The exception to this was the Sutai Brood, a clan of necromancers, merchants and sorcerers who ruled the swamps and lowland jungles. The Sultai were firmly ruled by the serpent-like nagas and the rakshasa tiger-demons, who mad up the clan's ruling class and chief sorcerers — the queen of the Sultai, Sidisi, was a naga herself. Within the Sultai, humans were strictly second-class citizens at best and chattel at worst.
      • In the new timeline, the clans were destroyed and replaced by the five dragon broods. In the wake of that, the dragons became the plane's undisputed and tyrannical rulers, while Tarkir's many humanoid races were all relegated to being the subjects and soldiers of the warring dragon clans. The one exception to this were, again, the rakshasas, whose unpredictable nature and sorcerous power allowed them to maintain a degree of power and independence that the other humanoid races couldn't.
  • November 24, 2017
    thewriter
    • Subverted in "Rick And Morty"'s second episode, "Lawnmower Dog." The viewer is lead to believe that cyborg dogs have taken over the earth, usurping humans as the dominant species. Nope.
  • November 28, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    • Magic The Gathering: Naya, the jungle-covered shard of the plane of Alara that embodies Green mana, is inhabited by three intelligent races — humans, elves and the nacatl Cat Folk — in addition to an assortment of building-sized animals collectively referred to as the Gargantuans. In the distant past, the nacatl of the Empire of the Clouds were the undisputed rulers of the plane, with the elves becoming Naya's dominant power after the Empire's fall. In a very real sense, it can also be said that the true rulers of the plane are the Gargantuans, who travel the jungle as they please, trampling their way through any building or city they come across and with the intelligent races having very little ability to do anything about this. However and whenever one looks at it, however, humans have always been a rather unimportant race in Naya.
  • November 29, 2017
    Snicka
    ^^ As far as I remember the episode, at least part of the dog-takeover really happened; it's just Morty being sick and Snuffles/Snowball feeling remorse for him that happened in Snowball's dream. The dream convinced Snowball to not Take Over The World, and instead leave Earth with his fellow mecha-suit dogs. Considering the whole Mind Screw nature of the episode it's a bit confusing though.
  • December 2, 2017
    Tuckerscreator
    In the 3rd volume of The Sandman, a housecat discovers that cars were once the dominant species on planet Earth, growing to enormous sizes while humans served their needs. But the humans grew resentful and, collectively dreaming together, created a world where humans are the dominant species and cats are their pets. A group of housecats now roams the Earth, spreading this gospel of their former glory and implore all cats who hear them to dream back the old world.
  • December 2, 2017
    CrypticMirror
    In Terry Pratchett's Discworld series humans are mostly the dominant lifeform except in Uberwald where, according to The Fifth Elephant, humans are little more than "background noise" and very much second place to the Undead, the Dwarfs, and Trolls.
  • December 2, 2017
    Omeganian
    Colin Wilson's Spider World series.
  • December 5, 2017
    Pichu-kun
    ^ More info please.
  • December 6, 2017
    Omeganian
    The Giant Spider page describes the novels as "set in a post-apocalyptic future in which telepathic giant spiders (and various insects) are the dominant species ruling over mankind. "
  • December 6, 2017
    NateTheGreat
    In the Hitchhiker's Guide universe we are merely unknowing experimental test subjects being monitored and controlled by otherdimensional beings who assume the forms of white mice. A more profound question is how the dolphins got here and left, since they are also superior to us.
  • December 11, 2017
    Theharbo
    Does sci-fi works where humanity is an underdog on the interstellar stage fit into this trope?
  • December 12, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    Compare with AI Is A Crapshoot for cases where it's machines that ascend mastery over humanity, such as Film.The Matrix or Franchise.Terminator.
  • December 12, 2017
    zarpaulus
    ^ I think that would be Robot War actually
  • December 12, 2017
    Starbug
    In Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom Saga, John Carter is the only human in a world of red-skinned humanoid Martians, and the infamous Green Martians.
  • December 12, 2017
    NateTheGreat
    Shouldn't the Hitchhiker's example go on the Franchise page, not the Literature page?
  • December 12, 2017
    Snicka
    A human among a number of fantastical creatures can be a Token Human.
  • 23 hours ago
    Theriocephalus
    Did some minor indenting and spelling fixes in the Magic The Gathering example.
  • 4 hours ago
    StarSword
    Literature:
    • Destroyermen takes place in an alternate universe where the K-T extinction event never happened. As a consequence, the world is dominated by three or four other intelligent species, mainly the Lemurians (semi-humanoid primates, but descended from Madagascar lemurs instead of the great apes) and Grik (descended from therapod dinosaurs). The only humans in the setting are those that have crossed from our timeline over the centuries due to a recurring Negative Space Wedgie, or descendants of same.
  • 23 hours ago
    StarSword
    Literature:
    • In The Laundry Series, humans are still the most populous species on the Earth, but are only the third-most powerful after the Deep Ones (who live in the depths of the oceans) and Chthonians (who live in Earth's mantle).
  • 20 hours ago
    Xtifr
    Lit:
    • In Tooth And Claw, Dragons and Humans share the planet—not always happily, but they've achieved an uneasy peace. Both have civilizations which have reached steam-powered technology and the basics of an industrial revolution. Neither one could reasonably be described as dominant—though the dragons certainly considered themselves superior and more civilized. The book doesn't really explore what humans might think of all this.
  • 14 hours ago
    Chabal2
    • Kabaneri Of The Iron Fortress: Similarly to Attack On Titan, humanity hides from the kabane (zombies that develop iron-hard bones and transmit the infection by biting) within vast fortified cities, with armored trains providing the only means of transport and communication between cities. Unfortunately, the walls are by no means efficient at keeping the kabane out, so more than one city ends up falling to them. The Kabaneri are humans that have survived infection and have greatly increased physical abilities but now feed on blood, leading to justified mistrust from humans.
    • In Sim Earth, it's possible to decide which kind of lifeform will become the dominant one (birds, reptiles, dinosaurs...).
    • Warhammer 40 K:
      • In terms of numbers, the dominant species are either orks or the Tyranids (although whichever one wins the Octarius war will undoubtedy become the single worst threat in the galaxy), despite human armed forces numbering in the trillions and actual population even higher, not counting those who've fallen to Chaos. There is no single force that can truly be said to dominate the galaxy (hard to keep the Forever War going if that were the case), but they all do a good job of keeping humanity miserable.
      • Among Chaos forces (human and Was Once A Man), the power of each Chaos god waxes and wanes as their followers gain influence, both in a natural cycle and because they constantly war on each other to prevent one gaining the upper hand for too long. However, the one most frequently in Top God position is Khorne, due to the perpetual strife in the galaxy: every sentient being that feels rage empowers him (the others are fueled by desire, hope, and despair and/or love).
      • The ork were the dominant species at one point, becoming so powerful their War For Fun And Profit aspect gradually fading away to become a nightmarishly efficient, professional, and numerous army. To give an idea of how numerous they were, orks grow bigger as they have more orks to command, with The Beast somewhere around 30 feet tall (the size of their smaller Humongous Mecha).
  • 4 hours ago
    Xtifr
    ^ I thought Warhammer 40k was interplanetary in scope, as opposed to being limited to Earth, which is what this trope is about. (Other species being dominant in the galaxy is not at all the same thing.) Your other examples look great, but...
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=k1w3zacz48rdaj06zme8rc33