Created By: SilverWings on January 7, 2012 Last Edited By: SilverWings on January 9, 2012

The Cataclysm

An event that took place before the start of the series that is related to many of the events that occur in-series.

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Long ago in the kingdom of Troperia, a great disaster swept through the land. Many lives were lost and, to this day, no one knows what caused the event that has come to be known only as The Cataclysm. Some say that the members of an ancient society with mysterious, unknown goals were behimd it. Others say that the powers that govern the people are hiding something. No one is completely sure how or why The Cataclysm came to pass, but (almost) all can agree: the world would be better off if The Cataclysm never came to repeat itself...

...A typical use of the The Cataclysm trope.

Often used in fantasy works, The Cataclysm is a trope that can easily set up the events of a story, or possibly the entire setting itself. The Cataclysm can be used in many different ways. It can sometimes provide a touch of mystery to a story, only being mentioned every now and then and possibly kept unexplained until much later in the story (if it's ever explained at all.) If done well, The Cataclysm in question will be deeply tied in with the events of she story and explained in detail. If done poorly, it will bew used as an easy way of filling any given Plot Hole, (ie: Where did that Humongous Mecha come from? It was revealed in The Cataclysm.)

Contrast First-Episode Spoiler.


Anime and Manga
  • Guilty Crown has Lost Chrsitmas, a well-done case where the Apocalypse Virus was released. The first two minutes after the opening of episode one are used to explain how Lost Christmas caused Japan to clamor for help from outside governments in order to keep the virus under control, sacrificing their independence in exchange for stability and setting up the events of the main series ten years later. It goes a lot deeper than that, though. Eisode 11 reveals that a small group of people intentionally released the virus.

  • The Seven Realms books gives us The Breaking. At first kept very ambiguous, its eventually explained (in much detail) that many millennia ago, The Demon King kidnapped princess Hanalea and subsequently performed an act of dark magic that caused a series of natural disasters to sweep the whole of the Seven Realms. Unluckily for him, Hanalea was a Badass Princess that eventually brought him down. Or so the people come to believe... Anyway, fast forward ten thousand years, and street rat Han Alister gets ahold of the Demon King's amulet.

Community Feedback Replies: 9
  • January 7, 2012
    Surely this is just After The End?
  • January 7, 2012
    Wasn't there something about Rayquaza being on a rampage in Pokemon Special ?
  • January 7, 2012
    In Mercedes Lackey's various novels set in the world of Velgarth, the entire world is still undergoing repercussions millennia later from the magical equivalent of a nuclear war. For example, the Dhorisha Plains are a hundred-mile wide former blast crater.

  • January 8, 2012
  • January 8, 2012
    Cataclysm Backstory works better, since it restricts the trope to influential disasters that occurred in the world's history which the current title does not.
  • January 8, 2012
    Dystopia fiction almost always has this in one form or another, as something has to occur that would result in the shitty conditions that define the setting:
    • The Hunger Games: "A war" is about as specific as it gets to explain why the districts are divided as they are, and why the Games even exist.
    • Divergent: Of the "no one knows" variety, something has caused Chicago to isolate itself from the rest of the world, turning the society into the five virtue-based factions in the story.
  • January 8, 2012
    Warcraft's Sundering is this, although the more recent event that is actually called the Cataclysm is not.
  • January 9, 2012
    Anime and Manga
    • Demon City Shinjuku. Rebi Ra kills his opponent Genichirou and causes an earthquake, devastating the Shinjuku area of Tokyo and leaving it a demon-haunted ruin. Ten years later Genichirou's son must enter Shinjuku and stop Rebi Ra from performing a ritual that will allow demons to conquer the Earth.
    • The Big O. Forty years earlier an unknown disaster wiped out human civilization. Only Paradigm City was left, a city full of people who couldn't remember what had happened.
  • January 9, 2012
    The Sixty Minute War in Mortal Engines.