"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. Despite the name, does not require anyone to succumb to excess pride. In many cases, the cataclysm happens completely on its own; of course, back in those times, most people would see such a horrendous event as Laser-Guided Karma of some sort on the poor recipients. 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.note 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.
— Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz
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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 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.
- Sound of the Sky: 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 Kumo Desu Ga, Nani Ka? the ancient civilization was nearly destroyed in an apocalyptic war with the Dragons, resulting in the world's energy being stolen and the System created. The Goddess Religion has the most accurate retelling of those events, but even that has been warped.
- 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.
- 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.
- Played with and Discussed in Power Rangers GPX; the ancient, 10,000-year-old war that helped set the plot in motion is well-known to elves, but humans have forgotten it. But it's believed that the myth turned into Atlantis.
- 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 2: 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.
- In Plato's Symposium, the character Aristophanes recounts a myth about how people once had four arms, legs and eyes, but due to some misbehavior the gods grew angry and Zeus split them in two with thunderbolts—thus separating people from their soulmates or their "other half." The myth is retold almost exactly in a song called "The Origin of Love" in Hedwig and the Angry Inch
- In Dragon Bones, the time when there were dragons in Hurog is shrouded in myth. It comes as a shock to Ward to find out that one of his ancestors, too proud to lose Hurog to invaders, killed a dragon, to gain power to defeat the invaders. He did succeed at keeping Hurog, but the dragons left, and Hurog has had bad luck ever since, with salt polluting the once fertile fields, and the magic of the place being tainted ... and the dwarves, who had been friendly with the Hurog family beforehand, left, and with them, their wealth left, too.
- 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.
- In Stephen King's The Dark Tower, when Roland is told of some of the Great Old Ones' 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.
- 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 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!
- 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.
- Figures in Riddley Walker, where the "Eusa Story"—society's main cultural and religious ritual—is a garbled version of humanity's nuclear-assisted downfall in the "1 Big 1".
- Babylon 5
- In "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars," the fourth-season Flash Forward episode, a thousand years in the future (from the mid-2200s the show is set in, not from now) a nuclear-or-better war has reduced the Earth to a medieval-at-best culture; holy books refer to the main characters and the events of the show, and of the "Great Burn" which devastated the planet. J. Michael Straczynski has mentioned that he knows Canticle well, and while he wasn't directly ripping from it, the situation was too perfect.
- "Thirdspace" has the Vorlons doing this in the backstory. They left a warning message should the Artifact of Doom be rediscovered, explaining that "...we committed the First Error, the Error from which all other Error flows: The Error of Pride."
- Doctor Who:
- Played for laughs in the serial "The Mysterious Planet", in which an underground colony of survivors on a far-future Earth renamed Ravalox which has been ravaged by a fireball refer to three sacred texts that are the only few surviving books they have, which govern their lives and their views of the world before the apocalypse, and which are trusted to learned scholars to unpack their meanings. They are, however, Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies, and a guide to the UK Habitats of the Canadian Goose by 'HM Stationery Office', which is apparently the most mysterious. The Doctor is not impressed.
- Not played for laughs in the framing story, The Trial of a Time Lord, that contains the above. He rips into the entire basis of Time Lord society for its arrogance and greed in "putting an ancient culture like Earth to the sword to protect a few paltry secrets."
- Also played for laughs in a recurring That Mitchell and Webb Look sketch: two years after "The Event" (never specified), most of human knowledge seems to have been wiped out, painfully evident every week when "The Quiz Broadcast" is shown on TV.
Host: Question one: Books say that the human body is 90% water. What was water?
Contestant: Was it an animal?
Host: Which of Shakespeare's three plays are now thought to be prophetic of The Event?
- Battlestar Galactica (2003), the evacuation of the "original" homeworld of Kobol, which occured some 3-4,000 years in the past due to a civil war between the humans and an earlier group of proto-Cylons who went on to colonize Earth is vaguely recalled in Colonial history as having happened due to a war between the gods.
- In the Flash Gordon TV series, planet Mongo used to be a lush, Earth-like world. The current people of Mongo only have vague details of what caused the Sorrow. Their culture was advanced in those days, but they used up their natural resources. So they turned to their moon and found a large supply of a previously-unknown rich mineral. The supply was so vast, they built two new moons as processing stations. Then the mineral supply blew up, with all that stuff raining down on the planet, contaminating it. Only a few million people managed to survive by hiding on one of the artificial moons. After a century, they came down to find a toxic world. By chance, an underground water supply was found in one place, where they built their city.
- Parodied in the Community episode "Geothermal Escapism", when one of the characters ominously tells the tale of the arrival of the "Now-Now Time", a post-apocalyptic warzone of warriors and bandits that befell the community after the coming of the "Burny-Touch" which made the floors lethal to touch. To put this in perspective, however, what they're actually discussing is the society they've created a couple of hours into a game of Hot Lava which has overtaken a community college, and the world they live in is merely the result of the characters taking a children's game way too seriously. Then again, the characters of Greendale Community College have a tendency to treat everything as Serious Business.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Considering the Coalition States has 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.
- In Pugmire, the ancient race of Man is long gone, leaving the various Petting Zoo People of the setting with a variety of legends and theories of what it was actually like and what happened to it. The dogs of Pugmire tend to favour the version where Man Ascended To A Higher Plane Of Existence, leaving the dogs as their natural heirs if they can only prove themselves worthy by piecing together the advanced technology they left behind. The Cat People of the Monarchies of Mau, on the other hand, tell a story of a race of favoured servants who treacherously abandoned their feline masters without telling them where the can opener was...
- 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.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- 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.
- Breath of the Wild plays this twice, with the two moments being interwoven with each other. At first, the Sheikah are explained as having created amazingly advanced technology that kept Hyrule safe from any danger. But one King of Hyrule eventually became scared of its advancement and banned it from being used again, leading to most of the Sheikah's few technology to be millenia old. At the same time, there is the threat of Calamity Ganon, which was driven back with the help of the Sheikah's advanced technology 10,000 years ago and sealed by the Princess' divine powers with the chosen Hero's help. When Calamity Ganon's return seemed imminent, King Rhoam decided to have the ancient, forbidden Sheikah creations excavated and be used against him again. It ended badly for Hyrule.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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. 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.
- 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 human populace of Stella Glow was cursed to no longer be able to sing as punishment for defying their god, leaving both songs and magic in the hands of Witches only.
- The common folk of Crystalis have only vague accounts of the end of modern civilization and the subsequent rise of magic and monsters. A few elders and rulers of The Empire, however, know that mankind engaged in a nuclear war that wiped out most of the cities and technology on the planet.
- Splatoon has a world inhabited by a large variety of humanoid sea creatures, mostly invertebrates. The last batch of Sunken Scrolls found during the single player campaign reveal how this world came to be: Splatoon takes place over 12,000 years after humanity goes extinct as a result of global warming and rising sea levels. Various sea creatures evolve following the death of mankind and most surface species, inhabiting the remaining landmass and rebuilding various human cities. The game's hub world of Inkopolis is most likely a renovated Toyko, more specifically the ward of Shibuya. The character Judd the Cat is one of the last remnants of human society, having been cryogenically frozen by his owner and thawed out about 2,000 years before the beginning of the game.
- Mario & Luigi: Dream Team: Mention is made early on of the cataclysm that caused the Pi'illo Kingdom to vanish far in the past, and that it's still not known exactly what happened. Prince Dreambert provides more details about this once you meet him.
- The Elder Scrolls series has this present with the Dwemer (Deep Elves or "Dwarves") of northern Tamriel. Haughty, egotistic, and very cruel at times, they made mechanical devices, metaphysical theorem, and buildings using technologies and materials centuries more advanced than anything seen since. The Dwemer were very Naytheistic, acknowledging the "gods" that the other races worshiped, but not considering them to be beings truly worthy of worship. (It's said that they would intentionally summon Daedra, even Daedric Princes, just to test their divinity.) They went so far as to try and make themselves gods, and managed to vanish completely, the whole race, every one of them. No one, still living, really knows what happened to them, but one prominnent theory is that they eventually became so powerful and arrogant that they became skeptical of reality itself, and tried to use the heart of a "dead" god to break themselves down into the base elements and then reforge themselves into ascended beings, and either succeeded or got the reforging step wrong. In either case, all that remains of the Dwemer is the ruins of their old civilization, for adventurers, scholars, and looters to pick through. Several cities seen throughout the series are built on top of ancient Dwemer cities (Mournhold) and/or incorporate parts of the Dwemer cities (Markarth).
- 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 FaceĖHeel 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 humanity will return.
- Erich von Däniken 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, the sudden and catastrophic birth of the Black Sea, and/or the breaking of the Gibraltar "natural dam" causing the Mediterranean basin to rapidly refill. 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. 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.)