But the princes, putting the words of their wise men to naught, thought each to himself: If I but strike quickly enough, and in secret, I shall destroy those others in their sleep, and there will be none to fight back; the earth shall be mine. Such was the folly of princes, and there followed the Flame Deluge.
Hundreds of years After the End
, the apocalyptic event that caused the current state of the region/world/universe has become myth and integrated into local beliefs. The surviving version of the tale can be twisted and fragmented
, but remains comprehensible to the viewer (or the time-traveler)
who knows of the events when they are recited by the Wasteland Elder
. More often than not, the time that ended was ours
. If done badly, it often hits the audience over the head
with the premise. If done well, it can be one of the coolest things ever.
A subtrope of All Myths Are True
. Cousin to Earth All Along
, but a premise or a plot twist rather than a Twist Ending
This has actually happened, on a smaller scale, with Mount Mazama
(nowadays called Crater Lake) in North America, and the capital of the wealthy Minoan civilization, which they built on a convenient horseshoe shaped island in the Mediterranean. Which turned out to be the crater atop a (temporarily) dormant volcano
. Some researchers suspect the same of Estonian folktales and a prehistoric meteorite.
Compare with Future Imperfect
, Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair!
, Humanity's Wake
, and We Have Become Complacent
. See also Lost Technology
and Pointless Doomsday Device
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Anime and Manga
- Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind opens with a vaguely medieval tapestry showing the hubris and fall of man.
- But later on implies that their records of of the industrial past are basically intact, if a bit threadbare (heh). After all, the society still has advanced technology, even if its resources are stretched so thin it can't afford to use it much.
- The use of the God Soldiers in war, however, definitely counts—it resulted in the Seven Days of Fire, a planetary Apocalypse How on the societal disruption scale.
- Similarly, Castle in the Sky opens with a montage of gradually advancing aeronautic devices culminating with the eponymous Castle before disaster strikes and thin streams of people can be seen evacuating the ruins and returning to life on the ground.
- The anime Scrapped Princess makes use of this trope: it is revealed in the end that the medieval world that the characters live in was an artificial enclave for humanity built on a section of a planet's crust elevated from the rest of the world. From the shots of the whole world, it is implied that this planet is Earth. Mauser, the deity of the world as well as other mythological characters are actually individuals who lived and fought in the era when humanity was robbed of most of its technology, ostensibly after losing a war against an alien race.
- It is unclear how much of the vague, over-the-top legendary backstory of Mai-Otome is true and how much is just an ignorant dramatization of the real events. The Administar, for example, is definitely something the locals have no idea about (given what Miyu does to it in the end), which doesn't stop them from reciting symbolic poems devoted to the "guiding blue star", supposedly written by the Ancient Astronauts from Earth.
- Sora No Woto: There was a giant winged creature that fell near Seize on the distant past, but the main religions on the show don't agree on what the creature was and what happened; they only agree on the point that the Fire Maidens saved the day. It is, however, implied to be related to whatever went down in the semi-apocalyptic war against "Them."
- In the Magic: The Gathering storyline, the Thran peoples, the makers of many of the world's most powerful artifacts, were mere legend by the time Urza and Mishra showed up. And then Urza himself was a mere legend (though still alive as a planeswalker) by the time the Weatherlight Saga began.
- The storyline for the Zendikar block is much the same. In antiquity, the fearsome Eldrazi ravaged the plane and nearly ended it in the process, before being sealed away. Millenia later, they are only remembered as the Kor and Merfolk pantheon of Gods and are, ironically, worshiped as lifegivers of the plane.
- The Order of the Ebon Hand bred Thrulls for many purposes, such as sacrifices, armor, and laborers. Things began to go seriously wrong after they started breeding intelligent ones to help with those sacrifices...
- This happened twice in Divine Blood. First was the tanar with the KT event being theorized by the silthine. Then it was the war between silthine and tanar that destroyed civilization a second time. Then humans develop and rename the two races Demons (tanar) and Gods (silthine). Current hopes include avoiding a third civilization ending event.
- In The North Remembers, Braavos sinks to the bottom of the sea after a great tsunami hits the city. Arya, after regaining her memories and watching the city's destruction, believes that this trope will happen in effect later on in history.
- The cavemen of Battlefield Earth have forgotten that aliens invaded Earth and destroyed Earth 1000 years ago, instead believing that demons came down from the sky because the gods were angry.
- In Mad Max II - The Road Warrior, the introductory narrative by the Feral Kid. A similar intro-narrative can be found to a lesser extent in The Salute Of The Jugger.
For reasons long forgotten, two mighty warrior tribes went to war and touched off a blaze which engulfed them all. Without fuel, they were nothing. They'd built a house of straw. The thundering machines sputtered and stopped. Their leaders talked and talked and talked. But nothing could stem the avalanche. Their world crumbled. The cities exploded. A whirlwind of looting, a firestorm of fear. Men began to feed on men.
- Planet of the Apes has two variations on this: the Sacred Scrolls that told of the downfall of mankind, which Zira and Cornelius had access to but most apes didn't (they were taught that apes evolved from man), and the story of Caesar's rise told by the Lawgiver in Battle for the Planet of the Apes. The two have similarities, and editing tried to make them seem the same, but the original story had Aldo saying "no" first-This could have been some sort of later change in the story over the years, if the 'closed circle' timeline is believed, or it could imply that Caesar changed history somewhat from the original timeline.
- The story of the Nķmenoreans from the works of Tolkien is this to a T.
- A Canticle for Leibowitz, a book by Walter Miller, makes massive use of the trope, including references to great metal catapults that threw fire and a Catholic prayer against the curse of the Fallout (believed by a main character to be a horrible incubus).
- "By the Waters of Babylon" by Stephen Vincent Benet, a short story about a priest on a journey to a place of the dead gods who were lost in the Great Burning. Notable in that it was written in 1937.
- In Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, the ultimate fate of Earth, largely abandoned after massive irradiation 20,000 years earlier, is the subject of dozens of myths in various parts of the galaxy. (Donald Kingsbury had even more fun with this in his Foundation-with-the-serial-numbers-filed-off novel Psychohistorical Crisis.)
- This is one of the main themes of The Wheel of Time books by Robert Jordan. One of the characters is forced out of limbo by a servant of the Big Bad and is astonished by how little the legends about her resemble what really happened.
- Stephen King's The Dark Tower series is set in a world that has 'moved on', as the residents term it. The "Great Old Ones" of Midworld stood at a technological level that 21st-Century Earthlings can only dream of, but they killed themselves off about five thousand years earlier while experimenting with the fabric of time and space, leading to the gradual unraveling of the reality of Midworld - a slow process, but one that has sped up during Roland's lifetime.
- The world has moved so far back, in fact, that when Roland is told of some of the Great Old Ones' lesser accomplishments like walking on the moon and making babies in test tubes, he flatly refuses to believe such patently impossible things.
- It's unclear if they did the former. There are some indications that despite of all their accomplishments they were never interested in heavier than air flight.
- Terry Brooks' Shannara books are set in a post-apocalyptic world, but it rarely directly impacts the story. It does inform characters' ethos and directs at least one organization. Still, they're being properly connected in a new trilogy.
- The exact nature of "The Tribulation" in The Chrysalids is never specified, but it's implied to be a nuclear disaster of some kind and believed by the characters to have been a punishment from God.
- The Young Adult fantasy novel Runemarks has this, with bonus Norse Gods.
- The reason Tally's dystopian world is necessary in Uglies is because the Rusties did some totally bogus and brain-missing stuff in the past that culminated in environmental and technological menaces they engineered destroying their society.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's novella "Universe" (expanded into the book Orphans Of The Sky), passengers aboard a Generation Ship built by the Jordan Foundation remember:
In the Beginning there was Jordan, thinking his lonely thoughts alone.
In the Beginning there was darkness, formless, dead, and Man unknown.
Out of the loneness came a longing, out of the longing came a vision,
Out of the dream there came a planning, out of the plan there came decision—
Jordan's hand was lifted and the Ship was born!
- Gary Paulsen's young adult novel "The Transall Saga" does this quite effectively at the novel's halfway point.
- The myths that grow up around Ardneh from Empire of the East by the time of the First Book of Swords would certainly qualify. Interestingly, Ardneh brought about the proverbial "end" by making nuclear war impossible.
- The people of Pern were amazed to discover that their ancestors had arrived from another planet.
- Though by that time, it wasn't even a myth, it was completely forgotten.
- The Prologue to Mark S. Geston's Lords of the Starship menions an ancient Golden Age in which everybody was incredibly contented with their lot and confident in the future. When their utopia started to break down they entered a state of massive collective denial, until things had descended into complete chaos from which the world never fully recovered..
- Parodied in the Harry Turtledove story "Secret Names". The only thing people 2000 years After the End know about how their ancestors went back to the hunter-gathering tribal stage is that "Old Time" ended with something called "The Big Oops". And that's all.
- Given an interesting treatment in the Mortal Engines quartet. In the original series, it's referred to as the Sixty Minute War and is known to be the devastating conflict in which the Ancients (us) wiped themselves out, but in the prequels starting with Fever Crumb, the same event is called the Downsizing and is believed by many to be the act of the gods smiting arrogant humans and their technology.
- Zig-Zagged in The Hunger Games. Technology in the Capitol, After the End, far exceeds what we're capable of now, but the lower Districts are like third world countries. Likewise, some Capitolites are well-educated enough to know about the history of the world Before The Dark Times, but Katniss only has a very vague idea of the Dark Days and the world before Panem.
- In Rush's Rock Opera 2112, the Priests of Syrinx cite the pride and frivolity of "the elder race", as exemplified by rock music, as the cause of its destruction. In contrast, the protagonist (and by extension Neil Peart) argues that human pride is to be celebrated, and envisions the eventual triumphant return of the elder race to free mankind from a life of enforced mundanity.
- Are you quite certain? Is that the voice of the Elder Race, or of the computers that fill the Priests' halls?
- Much of the Dragonlance world setting in Dungeons & Dragons is predicated on discovering the truth behind the legends of such a catastrophe which occurred hundreds of years earlier.
- In Warhammer 40,000. human history up until and through the war with the Iron Men that destroyed the first great era of human civilization lingers as myth, cultural superstitions, and the occasional archeotech weapon.
- And Humans got off LIGHTLY. The Eldar literally created the god of excess and destroyed their galactic empire, with those killed tortured for all eternity as the god's playthings.
- And of course there's the Horus Heresy where the super soldiers the Emperor made to be the perfect weapons of war got fed up with their post for a variety of reasons then fully half of them turned to chaos and set about trying to destroy or conquer everything in their path.
- Making things worse, Humans still believe themselves superior in every way and go on throwing their weight around. The only reason they aren't on track for another, even worse fall is because something even more dangerous than their pride is scheduled to kill them first.
- Exalted has at least 3 apocalyptic events. In the first, the Exalted helped the Gods overthrow the Primordials; in the second the Sidereals used the Dragonblooded to overthrow the Solars; and in the third the Deathlords spread a plague that allowed the Fair Folk to invade - this one would have destroyed the world if not for the not-yet Empress. The first two apocalypses have been relegated to rather inaccurate legends, partly through the efforts of the Sidereals to cover up the truth.
- The New World of Darkness RPG setting posits that an unknown number of thousands of years ago, the magic-wielding residents of Atlantis decided to build a ladder to heaven; their failure produced the new World of Darkness. Whether the fact that one of the "heroic" factions of mages (known as the Silver Ladder) holds the whole concept of 'hubris' up as a false flaw is an aversion or subversion is left for the players to decide...
- Rifts takes place on Earth in the late 24th century, nearly 300 years after an event known as The Great Cataclysm or The Coming of the Rifts. The Cataclysm occurred after a minor nuclear exchange in South America during a rare conjunction of supernatural events which caused a psychic backlash that nearly wiped out all humanity. During the period where the game is set, Humanity has only recently begun regaining a place for itself in the world, and the world before the apocalypse is almost entirely unknown, refered to as the Time Before Rifts, the Golden Age of Humanity, or simply the Time of Man.
- Averted by the Coalition States, who insist that humanity is blameless, and the Great Cataclysm was caused by magic and the eponymous Rifts. They're half right, though not in the way they think.
- Considering they have access to the Great Chi-Town Library, possibly the largest repository of Pre-Rifts knowledge in the world, they could very well be one of the few groups with any knowledge at all of what really happened. Of course, being the Coalition and all, it would be perfectly in-character to suppress such knowledge and spread propaganda that makes it look like magic and D-Bees are to blame.
- 2nd and 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons had an "And Elves Grew Proud" variation in the generic setting background (AKA, Greyhawk-lite), on the introduction of the Far Realm to the setting. An ancient elven society, at the height of its magical power, began constructing magical gates to other worlds. Eventually they got bored with local reality and built the greatest gate yet, called the Vast Gate, and opened it up as far as it could reach... and it basically punched a hole outside reality. Strange and alien things have been entering the universe ever since. That's right, elves are responsible for the Cthulhu Mythos being part of the D&D multiverse. This was first described in "The Gates of Firestorm Peak," an adventure by Bruce R. Cordell.
- BIONICLE has two examples: The Great Cataclysm and The Shattering.
- The Great Cataclysm refers to the devastation that the Matoran Universe went through when Mata Nui fell into a coma. This however was deliberately invoked by the Turaga, who feared that the Matoran would not accept the truth well.
- The Shattering refers to when the planet Spherus Magna shattered into the three smaller planets: Bara Magna, Aqua Magna, and Bota Magna. This is a genuine example of this trope, as few people remember what really happened.
- The Space Sim Descent: Freespace has several cryptic cutscenes telling of the fall of an ancient civilization in the style of an oral history — paralleling the assault on humanity by the game's Big Bad. The sequel's opening cinematic retells the apocalyptic events of the first game, and their consequences, in the same way.
I remember stories of a glorious civilization... of people with myths of humanity everlasting... and they hurled themselves into the void of space with no fear.
- War... war never changes...
- In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, the Light Spirit Lanayru explains to Link how, long ago, some of the people of Hyrule covered a dark magic, which was taken from them and the perpetrators sealed in a parallel dimension from which they could not escape. The events of that rebellion directly affect the events of the game, as that parallel dimension wasn't as inescapable as advertised.
- In Wind Waker the record of Hyrule's existence and its destruction by flooding is left mostly intact, but it's seen as more of a legend than a historical fact.
- Skyward Sword also plays with this. It's generally explained that humans used to live beneath the clouds before a war that was so severe the Goddess had to lift them on floating islands into the sky. Later in the game Link is tracing an old song that tells where the Plot Coupons are hiding, and Fi corrects the village elder on the inaccuracies in his oral history.
- The introduction to the adventure game Inherit the Earth takes the form of a series of cave paintings, with the narrator explaining how Humans created the various races of Morph - giving them "thinking minds, feeling hearts, speaking mouths, and reaching hands." Before they could teach the Morph the secret of happiness, however, some terrible calamity befell them. Now the Humans have gone - where, no Morph knows - and their furry children can only wonder at the strange things they left behind.
- In the backstory of Tales of Symphonia, the hubris of man and use of magitechnology to wage war wipes out the World Tree; narrowly averted in Tales of Symphonia proper where they use the very same technology, with the very same hubris, to try and revive the tree. It... doesn't work. Thousands die, although they narrowly avert total global destruction.
- Done again thousands of years later (in-story, anyway) in the backstory of Tales of Phantasia, where the hubris of man and use of magitechnology leaves the populace too weak to stop a meteor collision, then again in the actual Tales of Phantasia game, where hubris of man and use of magitechnology to wage war kills the new World Tree, which would have caused another instance of this trope, averted at the last minute by the heroes (and the villain, who has read his history and is SICK of this sort of thing by now).
- In Chrono Trigger, the first time the party reaches the End Of Time, they hear about a great, long dead civilization that could wield magic, but fell due to its own arrogance. Then they travel to the Kingdom of Zeal, 12,000 BC, and see it actually happen.
- Final Fantasy VI's War of the Magi utterly destroyed (what appeared to be) an advanced civilization with powerful magic, Humongous Mecha, and great magical beasts. One thousand years later, mankind has only just rediscovered steam, and people are extremely wary about anything magical. Some scholars still remember the ancient kingdoms and beasts of war, though. Not that it stops The Empire's Magitek research...
- Final Fantasy X's world is based off of ancient Zanarkand, and Final Fantasy X-2 explores this even more.
- The plot of Radiata Stories. Humanity is regularly wiped off the face of the earth by dragons because 'their arrogance pollutes the world'. Scraps of previous civilizations remain and become shrouded in myth
- The war and subsequent apocalypse in Odin Sphere wipes out practically every person alive at the time. It is read about in what appears to be a series of fairytales by a little girl. The little girl turns out to be the descendant of the few survivors.
- This is the Sand People's motivation for attacking everyone else (who they consider to be 'separating themselves from the soil' with technology), as translated from their oral traditions, in Knights of the Old Republic. They had just started their space-faring era when the Rakatans found them. They enslaved Tattooine, stripping it of resources, and "seeding the stars with penitent, complacent slaves." The slaves revolted, and sabotaged the machines, retreating into underground caves. The Rakata responded by blasting the planet to glass ...which ground into the vast oceans of sand we all know and love from the films.
- Judging by many pieces of concept art (depicting ruins vaguely resembling heavily decayed skyscrapers and highways), this seems to be the implied backstory for the setting of Wolfire Game's Overgrowth (the sequel to their earlier Lugaru).
- Skies of Arcadia had numerous civilizations 1000 years prior to the games events that were destroyed because the Silvites decided that man's creation of the Gigas was far too destructive. So what happens? They destroy basically everything, and 1000 years later, civilization is getting along pretty well. Of course, the Valuans say "Hey, we could use these things to conquer the world!" We all know where that leads...
- In the Dragon Age setting, the Magister Lords of the Tevinter Imperium learned it was a very bad idea to try to storm the Golden City and try to usurp the Maker's power. It might not necessarily be a true story, as it is from Chantry lore, but Tevinters are exactly the kind of people who'd invoke this trope.
- A Dragon Age II DLC reveals that the story is at least partly true, as they meet an ancient Darkspawn who claims to be one of the Magisters to attempt this and get punished for it.
- In World of Warcraft, this has happened more than once on the same planet. Ten thousand years before the present day, the Night Elves grew proud, began using so much magic that it summoned the Burning Legion to Azeroth, and the resulting war split one continent into four. At some point or another the troll empire(s) grew proud, but various prideful acts, including in some cases cannibalizing their gods, has reduced their cities to ruins and tribes to rural bands cannibalizing each other. And one thousand years before the present day, this trope was used by a people who were bad guys to start: the Qiraji, who tried to conquer the world for their evil god, but were defeated and locked away for a thousand years.
- Homeworld. It fits this trope to a T. And when they violate the ban... Apocalypse Wow.
- It's not evident in the first game that the Hiigarans were actually not much better than the Taiidani. The second game reveals that both were expansionist interstellar empires, with the exception that the Hiigarans had one of the original Hyperspace Cores, allowing them to move entire fleets vast distances, which they used to ambush the Taiidani and bombard their homeworld from orbit. After the Bentusi forcibly took the Core away for this (and wiped out a large chunk of the Hiigaran fleet in the process), the Hiigarans were defenseless when the Taiidani returned with a vengeance. The reason they drove the Hiigarans off was to take Hiigara for themselves, considering what happened to their own homeworld. The Taiidani then became even worse by continuing the conquest.
- The intro of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door talks of this, of old Rogueport as a thriving city of peace and a golden age until a cataclysm struck, as can be viewed here. It turns out the event was due to the actions of the Final Boss.
- The arcade game Gaiapolis reveals this as a plot twist in a late stage. The game takes place After the End (which can be reasonably guessed given the game's map). The stage in question reveals the story as part of the plot since Lost Technology was left behind and the players are tasked with stopping the enemy trying to use it so as to avoid a repeat performance.
- This is part of the backstory to the game Secret of Mana; it led to the creation of Mana Fortress and an Apocalypse How. But, as the opening narration comments, "time flows like a river, and history repeats." The majority of the game's plot is given over to attempting to prevent a second apocalypse.
- Played with in these two Sluggy Freelance strips.
- Averted in Nodwick. Some schmuck developed a time travel device to see how advanced society would come a few centuries later and inadvertently wound up destroying his high tech society. Only one person one of the villains, who pulled a Face-Heel Turn after the blast survived. Averted because no stories are told nor does anyone particularly care.
- In Forest Hill, various religions have formed around the expectation that mankind will return.
- Erich von Dšniken claims Ancient Astronauts have been here, but there's a theory which tops him: Atlantis and Lemuria were real, highly advanced, and blew themselves to smithereens in a nuclear war or whatnot some ten or twelve thousand years ago. Why does all of this seem somewhat familiar?note
- Theories exist that the Great Flood story, ubiquitous in the ancient Middle East, was derived from age-old memories of from either the flooding of the Persian Gulf 8000 years ago or the sudden and catastrophic birth of the Black Sea. Before changes in sea level at the end of the last Ice Age flooded it with salt water, this area had housed a freshwater lake with an associated human population that was displaced by the sea's influx.
- Others argue that the myths do not describe one or two particular historical events, but are the result of virtually every early human settlement being located close to water and/or on flood plains. Latter-day attempts tying floods to real historical events are fruitless, because they aren't related; it is an example of people trying to tie history to mythology, and most such myths (such as the great flood and Atlantis) were recorded only millennia after their purported origins.
- It is also important to note that while catastrophic flood myths are common in almost all cultures, these floods always resemble extreme, once-in-a-century/millennium versions of typical floods for that area: flood plain dwellers get floods caused by abnormal rains, islanders get freak tides or tsunamis, etc.
- It is also notable that in the case of Egypt, the disaster was not a flood but its absence. The annual Nile flood deposits fertile mud on the fields of Egypt, and if it didn't come there would be a famine. (In fact, the prosperity of Egypt in any year was directly related to the height of the last flood, so a special measuring stone was set up so the height of the flood could be accurately read and recorded for planning how to get through the year.)