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Deserted Island
A smallish island, off the shipping lanes. It is completely uninhabited, and hence devoid of Story, until the protagonists arrive.

These islands come in five main varieties.

  • "Far Side" Island: A circular island approximately ten feet in diameter, with a single palm tree situated near the center — the stock setting for many cartoons, with many comedic uses (including Meat-O-Vision). As this is a subtrope, examples of it go on its own page.
  • Castaway Island: A larger island with enough flora and fauna for Robinson Crusoe and his marooned imitators to strut their stuff.
  • Treasure Island: the favourite spot for Pirates to bury their treasure, usually found by means of following a map. Yarrr!
  • Monster Island: The abode of monsters. If it's a Lost World, the heroes might escape with a dinosaur to show off; if it's covered in Eldritch Ruins, they'll be lucky to escape with their sanity intact.note 
  • Island of Mystery: An island containing combinations of monsters, mad scientists, castaways, ancient temples and other mysterious phenomena.

The typical Desert Island is full of Jungle Japes, involving bamboo devices, coconuts and parrots.

Often found on The Spanish Main, spectacularly uncharted as it is.

In past centuries such islands could be found in every ocean, but these days it takes load of Phlebotinum to keep them hidden. In Science Fiction, a deserted moon or planet makes an acceptable substitute. Leaving these closed circles is often made difficult.

Grammatical note: these are more classically referred to as desert islands (see definition 2). This does not, in fact, imply that they are dry places, although the misinterpretation means they are sometimes depicted as such.note 


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga  

  • Battle Royale, and therefore Survival of the Fittest, take place on deserted islands where classes of high school students are dumped with explosive collars and forced to kill each other until only one is left. Two still survive in Battle Royale, but nobody has escaped a game yet in Survival of the Fittest.
  • In Axis Powers Hetalia, the Deserted Island scenes are pleasant enough to be Beach Episodes. One time ("We're Shipwrecked") is the Axis Powers just there in no rush to be rescued, another time ("We're Shipwrecked Too") has America and England having a difficult time trying to deal with the island and each other. The Drama CD version has the entire up-until-then cast, in a combination of the two strips.
  • This is where the characters of Lets Lagoon end up though it's not so much spatially as temporally displaced from the main ship routes.

    Comics 

     Fan Fic  

    Film 

    Literature 
  • In the novel Beyond this is subverted. The island they encounter is populated by castaways.
  • Ibn Tufail's Arabic novel Hayy ibn Yaqzan (also known as Philosophus Autodidactus) from the 12th century is possibly the Ur Example, about a boy abandoned on a deserted island and raised by an animal.
    • A spiritual successor was Ibn al-Nafis' Arabic novel Theologus Autodidactus from the 13th century.
  • Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.
  • Baby Sitters Club Super Special 4: Baby-sitters' Island Adventure. The island was somewhere off the coast of Connecticut.
  • In Jim Butcher's Small Favor and Turn Coat, we have the island that Harry Dresden names "Demonreach". It was not only abandoned decades ago, but removed from government records, and Harry says he'd bet that no flight lanes pass within 5 miles of the place. This island, to be clear, is on Lake Michigan, within relatively easy reach of Chicago if you know how to avoid rocky shoals or something. Its desertedness is justified by magic, namely the fact it's a Genius Loci and isn't very friendly.
    • Cold Days establishes that the Genius Loci psychically broadcasts an inexplicable feeling of overwhelming dread that increases the closer you get to the island, effectively causing anyone who might stumble across the island to steer well clear of it without ever knowing that they're doing so, or why.
  • Johann Wyss' The Swiss Family Robinson, explicitly named after Robinson Crusoe, takes place on a rather lush and serviceable desert island.
  • The setting for the first part of Walter Farley's The Black Stallion. Only the boy and the horse inhabit this Castaway Island.
  • Lord of the Flies
  • lampshaded quite cleverly in The End, final book of A Series of Unfortunate Events, which takes place on an island where "everything eventually washes up on the shores"(its coastal shelf is very cluttered), including a whole band of castaways with names alluding to stories of this genre.
  • HP Lovecraft: R'lyeh, when above water.
  • Mono Island in the Discworld novel The Last Continent.
  • R.L. Stevenson's Treasure Island.
  • Jules Verne's Mysterious Island appears to be deserted, but the resident castaways eventually learn that Captain Nemo has retired there.
  • The Invention of Morel, by Adolfo Bioy Casares, in which a nameless narrator falls in love with a holographic woman on a deserted island and is slowly driven mad by the machinery that is creating the holograms. Supposedly one of the inspirations for LOST.
  • Justified in the Harry Potter stories, as islands populated by magical creatures are sometimes made Unplottable as part of The Masquerade.
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins. The protagonist is accidentally left behind on her home island after the rest of her people emigrate.
  • A princess and an ambassador flee to an island in the fairy tale "The Princess Mayblossom. The island is full of plants and animals that offer food to the princess. However, the ambassador is desperate to get food - and the princess must keep her food gifts away from him. But when she does, the ambassador decides to eat the princess, which results in the princess murdering him in self-defense. She does get off the island and gets her Happily Ever After. Unlike most examples, this island seems to be in a temperate climate.
  • The titular Nim's Island. It's portrayed as a kid-friendly paradise. Most of the time.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Monster Men, Professor Maxon chooses one to restart his experiments. (Conveniently away from the law.)
    • Burroughs reused the trick with Ras Thavas, who lives on a solid patch of land in the Great Toolnolian Swamp in the Barsoom novels The Master Mind Of Mars and Synthetic Men Of Mars. Guess what he's doing in the latter (or, more accurately, just before the latter actually starts).
  • The Isles of Syren in Septimus Heap, which also double as Islands with a Dark Secret.
  • In Bryan Miranda's The Journey to Atlantis, the main characters end up on one when their ship sinks. It's actually not deserted, in two fashions. There is one other human that they meet, a boy who has been living there for three years. And also Loki, a malicious deity in the form of a red wolf, who scours the island causing trouble for Mickello, and also the others when they arrive.
  • Dr Franklins Island appears to be this when the protagonists get to shore. They call each other "prisoners in paradise" and struggle to survive. As the title suggests, though, it does belong to someone, who waits until people stop looking for them.
  • The island in Enid's Blyton series The Famous Five.

     Live Action TV  

  • LOST takes place on a "deserted" island that's about as deserted as New York City.
  • Gilligan's Island
  • Rough Science, a British television special where five scientists from different fields are stranded in a hostile environment and are required to make advanced devices out of natural materials and miscellaneous scrap, has several episodes take place on deserted islands.
  • Parodied in Saturday Night Live (of course), a Christmas special with guest star Paul Simon
  • Kids in the Hall - the flamboyant Buddy Cole, musing on his three 'desert island picks', finds himself on one with his favorite book, record, and person - Oscar Wilde, who quickly gets shunned when his wit isn't up to scratch.
  • Many seasons of the Reality Show Survivor have used this setting, and it has come to be associated with the series.
  • MythBusters had an episode ("Duct Tape Island") which used this plot as a setting to test various survival methods using Duct Tape for Everything. (The episode itself had several obvious signs that the island was far from deserted; these were lampshaded by the hosts. As they admitted in their Aftershow—and as could be deduced by depictions of the island in their animated 'blueprint drawings'—the actual setting was a beach on the island of Oahu, the most populated island in the Hawaiian chain. They also admitted that most of their nights, they'd slept in a hotel. The builds themselves were all real, though.)
  • Good Eats has a special on tropical cuisine in which Alton Brown is stranded on a deserted island. He's in Hawaii and stumbles across a pineapple farm among other signs of life, until finally running into a surfer on vacation.

    Music 

    Radio 
  • Though not technically a fictional series, Desert Island Discs uses the hypothetical scenario of the guest (some notable person) being stranded on a desert island and being asked, if they were allowed to take so many records with them (along with other items like a book and a luxury) which they would pick. (It's meant as a way of them describing themselves and their life.)

    Theater 

  • In Philoctetes, the eponymous character was stranded by Odysseus on one of these for years. Others did anchor off of it from time to time, but no one would take Philoctetes off the island in spite and because of the fact that he was crippled.

     Video Games  

  • The first game in the Geneforge series. The island's also a Forbidden Zone—since it's not that near anywhere, it was used for scientific research until something went horribly wrong and the entire place was abandoned. Naturally, you're about to find out why it was abandoned.
  • Pokémon Emerald has Faraway Island, a deserted island in the middle of the ocean that has nothing of interest, except for Mew.
  • All of these are present in the Monkey Island series.
  • The Sims 2 has a spin-off called Castaways revolving round the player's sim getting stranded in such an island. The mobile phone version is essentially the same.
  • Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness has your character stranded there with a few other survivors. In a bit of a subversion, other ships DO find them, and there are, in fact, at least two other people already living on the island. The main point of the game is to fix the island up so that it can become populated.
  • Myst V:End Of Ages has one on the Age of Laki'ahn, which once served as a Treasure Island to the Age's inhabitants, according to Esher, and now holds part of the Bahro Keep.

     Web Comics  

  • Parodied in Adventurers; after Khrima accidentally shatters the Crystal of the Kildracks, Ardam and Karn end up on one of these. Ardam mentions that he'd often thought about being on a deserted island, but he always hoped it would be one without Karn. He also makes a fishing rod to give Karn something to do, but Karn sees it as a minigame and nearly covers the island in fish. But soon enough it turns out it wasn't an island, just a movie set of an island, but the movie set part was Behind the Black, which just ticks Ardam off.

     Western Animation  

  • Done in the Woody Woodpecker short Fair Weather Fiends.
  • The Simpsons has the episode of Das Bus, which has Bart, Lisa, Milhouse, Nelson, Martin and others stranded on a deserted island. It's a takeoff on Lord of the Flies, of course.
  • The Dethklok Home for Wayward Kittens is populated only by handicapped mutants. "RELEASE THE KITTENS!"
  • Originally Dinobot Island in Transformers Animated, to give the Dinobots somewhere to live away from civilization. By season 3 it's gotten rather crowded, now home to Meltdown's labs, Blackarachnia until she teleported somewhere, and Scrapper. The other Constructicons are probably around somewhere too.
  • On The Wild Thornberrys, the family gets stranded on an uncharted island after Nigel accidentally locks them out of the Comvee with a security system he designed.
  • Jimmy Neutron used this plot for shipping between Jimmy and Cindy. The pair argue wether there is an actual line around the equator or not, so they go to check in the hover car... cue falling off of it and ending up on a deserted island and growing closer to each other. By the end of the episode Cindy didn't even want to leave the island and suggested she and Jimmy stay there forever.
  • An episode of Family Guy has Peter, Joe, Cleveland, and Quagmire become stranded on a lone island after being shipwrecked, causing their friends and family back home to believe they had died in the storm. The guys pass the time by playing the "who would you rather do" game and at one point, try to start an orgy to satisfy their sexual urges. Naturally, a cruise liner passes by when this happens and everyone stops to take a look as if it was part of the tour.
  • The Gerry Anderson's New Captain Scarlet episode "Fallen Angels" saw Destiny and two other pilots Die Hard on a Deserted Island after being shot down.
  • One shows up in the Jem episode "Island of Deception".
  • In the Superman: The Animated Series episode "Where There's Smoke", after Volcana is defeated, Superman decides a normal prison wouldn't be able to hold her, so he strands her on an island instead. He regularly visits and gives provisions. She is grateful and treats it like a Gilded Cage. Later, she manages to escape.
  • The 101 Dalmatians: The Series episode "Shipwrecked" has Lucky and Scorch end up on one after falling overboard on a cruise.

     Real Life  

  • These can often be found. Unlike fictional islands, the climate of desert islands can vary since some of them can be found near the polar regions.
    • And survival on a deserted island is generally even more problematic than it is made out. Most islands that people can survive on, have people living on them.
      • Perhaps becoming less true with development however. Places where a living can be made, but it's HARD, are increasingly abandoned by the younger generation.
  • Rottumerplaat is a tiny island off the coast of the Netherlands - off limits to the general public. In 1971, two authors stayed on the island one week each (the island has a small living quarter). Each day they had a short contact by radio with the main land (this contact was broadcasted). One author, Jan Wolkers, absolutely loved it. The other, Godfried Bomans, went almost mad. The stay may have contributed to the decline of his health; Godfried Bomans passed away less than half a year later, aged 58. (Jan Wolkers would live on for another 36 years, reaching the age of 81).
  • The Galapagos Islands were never permanently settled by Pacific or South American peoples, and qualified as this trope until the 16th century. Today, some of the smaller isles have been declared off-limits to everyone except the occasional researcher, to protect their unique native species.
  • The largest uninhabited island is Devon Island, as it is so close to the North Pole.


Cool BoatTropes At SeaThe Drunken Sailor
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Desert TropesSettingsDomed Hometown

alternative title(s): Desert Island
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