Created By: lu127 on December 7, 2012 Last Edited By: lu127 on December 16, 2012

Capital City

The central city of a nation/world

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Yes, there's a page called Capital City. No, it is not this trope.

In this thread we're looking to see if there's a setting trope of this sort.
The central city of a nation. The centre of power wealth and politics, this city is the heart of the country and vital to its survival. The greatest minds of the world will gather here to lend their services to the government, and in times of peace, trade and tourism will flourish.

Due to its importance, it will invariably be a strategic location and a frequent target for opposing factions, nations or just villains. Its destruction or invasion guarantees the downfall of the nation.

Multiple capital cities can be found within a work, especially if it's set during the war. Hub City is a video game specific subtrope.

[[folder:Film]]
  • The planet Coruscant in Star Wars serves as the capital first for the Old Republic, then for the Empire, and finally for the New Republic. The entire planet is one large sprawling city going down so deep that it's rare anyone sees the ground. It is a centre of commerce and political power for the entire galaxy.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
  • In the Foreigner series, Shejidan is the capital of the Western Alliance, and control of it and its roads and train lines are the frequent focus of clans who want to overthrow Tabini-aiji and his Taisigi clan.
  • In Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, the planet-wide city of Trantor at the center of the galaxy is the capital of the first galactic empire.
  • In The Heralds Of Valdemar, Haven is the capital of Valdemar and serves as the home not just to the palace and a large portion of the kingdom's inhabitants, but also the Colligium, the home base of the Heralds, the Healers, and the Bard's Guild.
  • In The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Luna City, where most of the action takes place, ends up becoming the new capital when the Moon wins its independence from Earth. This decision is kept secret for as long as possible to avoid offending the inhabitants of Hong Kong Luna.
[[/folder]]
Community Feedback Replies: 25
  • December 7, 2012
    StarSword
    Video Games:
  • December 7, 2012
    Xtifr
    Aren't there a bunch of misused examples from the old trope that could easily be migrated over?

    Literature:
    • In Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, the planet-wide city of Trantor at the center of the galaxy is the capital of the first galactic empire.
    • In the Foreigner series, Shejidan is the capital of the Western Alliance, and control of it and its roads and train lines are the frequent focus of clans who want to overthrow Tabini-aiji and his Taisigi clan.
    • In The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, Luna City, where most of the action takes place, ends up becoming the new capital when the Moon wins its independence from Earth. This decision is kept secret for as long as possible to avoid offending the inhabitants of Hong Kong Luna.
  • December 7, 2012
    Xtifr
    BTW, I wonder if we want to make this Fantastic Capital City, or something like that, so that we don't get endless examples from every work set in London or Washington D.C. or Paris, etc.
  • December 7, 2012
    shimaspawn
    ^ That implies that it's a fantasy or sci-fi trope only and that there's something supernatural or unrealistic about the capital, when it can occur in very realistic works.
  • December 7, 2012
    serlingfemme
    Kaitan, Salusa Secundas and Arrakis of Frank Herbert's Dune universe could fit this trpoe in literature.
  • December 7, 2012
    shimaspawn
    ^ Good to hear. Can you write us an example of how they do?
  • December 7, 2012
    StarSword
    @Xtifr: No, but a No Real Life Examples Please flag would work just as well, with a note that, if you want Real Life capital cities, wander over to The Other Wiki.

    EDIT: Or on second thought, try Fictional Capital City.
  • December 7, 2012
    shimaspawn
    Is there a reason why we should exclude works set in real capital cities? They're the same trope. They serve the same narrative purpose. I admit a list of capital cities is useless, but a list of their use in fiction on the other hand...

    We should specify for Real Life works that it's important the city is the capitol and not just that it's a big city.
  • December 7, 2012
    zarpaulus
    • Dune: When the Empire was founded after the Butlerian Jihad the capital was Salusa Secundus, but 8000 years before the first book Salusa was nuked by a rogue house and the Corrino Emperors moved to Kaitan. After Paul seized the throne at the end of the original book the Atreides ruled from Arrakis until Leto II engineered the dissolution of the Empire.
  • December 7, 2012
    WaxingName
    Video Games
    • Toad Town for the Mushroom Kingdom in Super Mario Bros.
    • Hyrule Castle Town for Hyrule in The Legend Of Zelda.
    • Similar to Coruscant, Corneria serves this purpose as a capital planet for the Lylat System in Star Fox. It also has its own capital city in Corneria City.
  • December 8, 2012
    Koveras
    Compare Holy City.
  • December 8, 2012
    Xtifr
    I was just asking about the real-city thing, not advocating. It makes a difference to what examples I might consider offering. Like, would Sherlock Holmes (based in London) count?

    For that matter, what about DC? Unlike (say) London or Paris, it's far from being the US's biggest or most important city. But it is the capital. Bones is set in DC, but I'm not sure whether it would count or not.
  • December 8, 2012
    StarValkyrie
    I don't think "the city this story is set in is a capital city" is actually tropeworthy. Trivia, maybe, but not a trope. If the fact that its a capital city is the defining characteristic, then it's picture perfect People Sit On Chairs - just look at the second paragraph of the description.

    Compare to any of the other City tropes: Merchant City, Holy City, Not So Safe Harbor, Land Of One City, Shining City, and Wretched Hive. All of them have very specific archetypes associated with that type of city which Capital City doesn't. The city setting in question could be any type of city, so long as its got a star on the map.

    The old Capital City trope was renamed Hub City to relate with Hub Level and some examples were moved, I guess, but I'm not convinced that is actually a solution since the definition doesn't say how it's different from Hub Level and while the examples are mostly games (like Hub Level), the wicks are mostly not so there's clearly still a big problem.

    I did the wick check for the remaining Capital City examples and the majority were the star-on-the-map type potholes where the fact its the capital doesn't actually tell you anything about the city in question (compare Ulaanbataar with Paris with Tokyo with Beirut, for example).

    From the examples in the wick check, if we do want to find an archetype of capital cities, I think the best bet is to figure out something for spy/political thrillers which is the government equivalent of Not So Safe Harbor (which is a city full of pirates, drinking dens and ladies of negotiable affection) - where the city is full of government officials, government offices, FBI types, embassies, etc as a backdrop/playground for spies and political conspiracies. However, there aren't presently any examples of works with that archetype to copy over from Capital City so I'm not sure we actually need this one either.
  • December 8, 2012
    shimaspawn
    The Capital City archetype is one of a seat of power. The focus of the setting needs to be on the fact that it's the centre of things. Not always politics. Sometimes it's military, or the seat of the nobility, but it is always the seat of Power.

    Sherlock Holmes is a good example where it's largely set in London, but the fact that London is a seat of power generally doesn't matter. The fact that London is the capital doesn't matter.

    Coruscant on the other hand in Star Wars has it's narrative purpose centre around the fact that it's the seat of power.

    There's no need for it to be about Spy Thrillers. It isn't the people in the city that matter. It's what the city itself represents.
  • December 8, 2012
    Xtifr
    There's a few Holmes stories where London being the capital does matter ("A Scandal in Bohemia", for example), but for the most part, I agree, it's irrelevant in that canon.

    Bones is another case where it usually doesn't matter that they're in the capital, but it does come up every once in a while, as with the case where the Secret Service descends, locks down the Jeffersonian, and has the team investigate the skeleton of a man murdered in 1963 by a bullet to the head....

    Basically, I think we need to pin down this trope a little more precisely, because I'm still not entirely sure what might count and what shouldn't. Though I'm getting closer.
  • December 8, 2012
    Bisected8
    • The Elder Scrolls usually has at least one per game;
      • Oblivion had the Imperial City, where the player is imprisoned at the start of the game.
      • Skyrim had two, one for each faction; Solitude for the Empire and Windhelm for the Stomcloaks. After the civil war storyline is resolved the faction you sided with's capital city becomes this for the whole country.
  • December 9, 2012
    lu127
    And this is tagged as better name because capital city is a class A ticket to Trope Decay. We'll need a better name so you're free to think on it.
  • December 9, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    ^Trope Decay to what?
  • December 9, 2012
    Random888
    I think this is just a People Sit On Chairs trope.
  • December 9, 2012
    Ironeye
    Actual capitals. Though the capital may count...it also may not.

    For example, in the Tabletop Game/Eberron campaign setting for Dungeons and Dragons, the actual capital city--and the home of king and parliament--of Breland is Wroat, but the center of power is Sharn. Between being the largest city on the continent and the main port in the region--including being one of the few ports of departure for the wild continent to the south, it attracts enough attention that:
    • Every major multinational organization has at least a token representation present, if not a formal enclave.
    • Several nations have embassies present, despite it not being the capital of Breland.
    • Members of Parliament live there despite representing other regions and actually working in Wroat.
    • It's home to one of the main universities in the world.
    • At least one world-threatening organization has set it as one of their primary targets on the continent.
    In fact, Sharn fits for the entire continent, not just the country of Breland.

    Based on the title, Wroat should be the example from Breland. Based on the description, Sharn is the only example in Breland.
  • December 9, 2012
    shimaspawn
    Then "A Scandal in Bohemia" should be listed as an example but "A Study in Red" should not.

    Not all of the other setting tropes are used in every single instalment of a series if it runs long enough.

    For example Anhk-Morpork in the Discworld series is a Merchant City, but that trope doesn't show up in every book that features the city.

    Sometimes different aspects of a setting are focused on. Write the examples about when the trope is the focus.
  • December 9, 2012
    Xtifr
    The Capital Is The Center Of Power? Probably too long, but maybe closer to what we want.
  • December 15, 2012
    shimaspawn
    ^^^ Sharn's more akin to New York. Yeah, it has some of everything there because it's a huge city, but it's still not really the seat of power and where the big decisions are made.

    Breland doesn't have an example because it split the trope between two cities. One being the cultural centre. One being the heart of government.
  • December 16, 2012
    Xtifr
    Literature:

    • Melinower, in John Moore's The Unhandsome Prince, where Caroline travels with the unsatisfactory prince she rescued from frog-hood, in search of better prospects, only to find that the capital is full of more intrigue and danger than a girl from a small village could have guessed.
  • December 16, 2012
    KZN02
    Not sure if this counts, but ...

    BIONICLE: Metru Nui isn't so much the heart of the Matoran Universe as it is Mata Nui's brain.
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