Fantasy Americana

The wilderness of North America makes for an effective fantasy setting. Its huge swaths of uninhabited land might contain all manner of strange and terrible creatures, or robbers and bandits, ready to prey on unsuspecting travelers. Ancient ruins lie scattered about the landscape, built by a people long gone, and out beyond the bounds of civilization, the average Muggle works the land, having either no ability or no desire to confront the dangers that lurk in the wilderness just beyond the treeline.

And though this might sound a lot like a Standard Fantasy Setting, there are a number of traits that set Fantasy Americana apart. Rather than villages built around a castle or keep, you're more likely to find isolated homesteads or quaint small towns. Magical Native Americans replace wizards and oracles, and creatures like Bigfoot or Mothman take the place of classical creatures like dragons or unicorns. And in place of the towering figures of Classical Mythology, there are Tall Tale folk heroes like Paul Bunyan, John Henry, Davy Crockett, and Johnny Appleseed, some of whom really existed.

Fantasy Americana can even take place in modern times, with the weirdness and supernatural stuff happening alongside modern technology and culture, because there are still enormous areas of America where virtually no one lives. And even if people do live there, they are often several hours' travel from civilization. In fact, the disconnect between rural and urban America is often a prominent theme in modern Fantasy Americana.

Sister Trope to Ghibli Hills, Weird West

See also: Lovecraft Country and Southern Gothic, which use specific slices of Americana as the backdrop for horror instead of fantasy.


Examples:

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     Comic Books  

  • Marvel 1602. Neil Gaiman invokes various American legends, such as the mysterious Sargasso Sea and the colony of Roanoke, to flesh out the comic's world.
  • The Valley setting of Bone is primarily based on the forests of Ohio, the home state of author Jeff Smith, with an animal population mostly consisting of American wildlife, including a dragon-sized mountain lion living along the eastern borders.
  • Arrowsmith starts in a Divided States of America populated by humans and various fantasy creatures such as trolls and gnomes, who are regarded as second-class citizens.

     Films — Animated  

     Films — Live-Action  

     Literature  

  • In A Brother's Price, the protagonists, the Whistler family, live on a lone farm, surrounded by wilderness, with the only neighbours living quite far away. Horses are the main means of transport, guns are the preferred weapon, and everyone defends their own house. Bandits and robbers are everywhere. It all seems very much like the Wild West - that is, before the princesses are mentioned. Cooking ingredients such as maple syrup imply that the setting is somewhere in North America, and the male Gender Rarity Value (brought about by decreased fertility and stillbirths) could mean it takes place somewhen in the future after mankind wrecked the environment, rebuilt civilisation, and forgot about it.
  • The Manitou series horror-fantasy stories of Graham Masterton draw on North American native folklore.
  • The Sharing Knife series takes place on a fantasy analogue of the Mississippi, complete with keelboats, settlers in dangerous and inhospitable lands, and conflict with the people who already live there.
  • The Soldier Son series is set on a frontier where a pseudo-British culture wars against the magical natives.
  • Neil Gaiman's American Gods is about the new gods and new versions of old gods who make their way in America.
  • The Stand features this heavily and makes the American landscape even more devoid of people thanks to a bio-engineered disease killing 99% of the population. It's explicitly noted in the book that magic works better when people are wandering through the wilderness or down empty highways, and that it stops working when people gather together into cities.
  • The Emberverse books take place in an After the End world where technology no longer works, and the US has splintered into several more-or-less medieval kingdoms. The main characters even end up travelling from Oregon to Nantucket on a quest for a magical sword.
  • The Tales of Alvin Maker is set in an Alternate History early 19th Century United States and has a backdrop of various magical talents and "knacks".
  • Manly Wade Wellman's "Silver John" stories are set in the Appalachian backwoods and feature fantastic events based on the folklore of the region.
  • Many books by Sid Fleischman are set in this version of pioneer times with varying degrees of historical accuracy, from nearly straightforward Historical Fiction such as By The Great Horn Spoon to outright Tall Tales such as the McBroom series.
  • In Liliana Bodoc's "The Saga of the Borderlands" is a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of all America. From Alaska to Argentina.

     Live Action TV  

  • In The Big Bang Theory, there is an In-Universe fantasy card game called Wild West And Witches which exploits this trope. The boys look with disbelief at this new mixing of universes, ask who's going to fall for such an obvious sales ploy, and then buy three sets. The cards - modeled on Magic: The Gathering - have names like Creepy Tepee, Annie Ogre-way and other bad puns.
  • Sleepy Hollow stars the reanimated Ichabod Crane and Lieutenant Abbie Mills of the Sleepy Hollow police force as they try to unravel the mystery of the Headless Horseman, while dealing with other supernatural happenings in and around the titular town. Strangely enough, it appears to be taking place in the same universe as the scientifically-minded Bones.

     Tabletop Games  

  • The sequel settings to Deadlands, particularly Deadlands: Hell on Earth. The original setting is explicitly Weird West, but Hell on Earth is a fantasy post-apocalypse with the Four Riders, armies of undead, magical mutants... and American folklore, same as in the original Western setting.

     Video Games  

  • Kentucky Route Zero takes the protagonist Conway though rural Kentucky. His journey is littered with supernatural events inspired by midwestern ghost stories. His goal is to deliver a package to Dogwood Drive, which doesn't appear on any map.
  • The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. Occult Detective Paul Prospero heads to Red Creek Valley, an abandoned mining town somewhere in Appalachia, in an attempt to solve the murder of the titular child.
  • The Secret World operates on the assumption that All Myths Are True, and mixes in elements of American folklore like Wendigos and Bigfoot with the standard eldritch horrors from beyond reality. Additionally, the first major area of the game is deep in Lovecraft Country.
  • Never Alone is an adaptation of a traditional Inuit story called Kunuuksaayuka, in which a little girl named Nuna and her arctic fox friend must brave an endless Arctic blizzard that has left her people unable to hunt and on the verge of starvation.
  • While After the End: A Crusader Kings II Mod is set squarely in a post-apocalyptic America, a number of event chains are inspired by various bits of regional folk tales in keeping with the Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane theme of the original game. One memorable sequence in particular involves a Deal with the Devil plot based on the song "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," with variations depending on the skill involved.
  • The Fallout series has its fair share of supernatural creepiness (mainly of the Lovecraftian nature) despite being set in the post-apocalyptic ruins of an alternate Raygun Gothic USA.
    • In Fallout 3, the Dunwich Building seem like an ordinary ruined office building...until the flashbacks to the past begin. Cryptic holotapes belonging to a previous explorer can be found, searching for a mysterious Tome of Eldritch Lore. Finally, deep in a cave beneath the building, a mysterious pillar worshiped by feral ghouls can be found. This building is later integrated into a quest in the Point Lookout DLC.
    • In Fallout 4, one of the locations is a quarry owned by the company Dunwich Borers. Like the Dunwich building in 3, flashbacks occur intermittently. The final flashback shows a human sacrifice in progress. Diving into the pool in the final room reveals part of a massive statue buried beneath the stone, as well as a sacrificial altar upon which a mysterious blade is placed.

     Web Original  

  • A good portion of The Slender Man Mythos fits within this. In many works, Slendy is just as content to stalk the wilderness as he does in urban settings. Old abandoned structures, often covered in odd symbols, are a common sight in the woods.

     Western Animation  

  • Gravity Falls. Set in a small town in the middle of the Oregon wilderness, twins Dipper and Mabel deal with supernatural events in the woods surrounding the titular town.
  • Over the Garden Wall. Brothers Wirt and Greg must travel a fantasy realm inspired by Antebellum America in order to find their way home.
  • The third season of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) contains some aspects of Fantasy Americana. You've got the isolated cabin in the middle of the woods, heroes fighting monsters that lurk just beyond the edges of the unknown, and Bigfoot makes an appearance. Not a mutant they name Bigfoot, but the honest-to-goodness legendary creature.
  • The Scooby-Doo Franchise draws on Fantasy Americana a lot, having the villains impersonate well-known monsters and often taking place in Everytown, America.
  • The Lone Ranger. Taking place in the largely uninhabited American desert, the 1960s animated series had the Ranger and Tonto to meet fantastical characters and creatures. Could veer closer to Weird West.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FantasyAmericana