Fantasy Conflict Counterpart

This trope deals with a story that features some sort of analogue of a real-world historical conflict in a fantasy or science fiction context in a different world from ours. This is especially popular in Japan, since it allows them to tell stories utilizing the era of World War II without actively mentioning the war.

See also Recycled IN SPACE!, Fantasy Counterpart Culture, and Does This Remind You of Anything?. Supertrope to Space Cold War. Compare and contrast Weird Historical War in that it depicts Real Life historical war, but with added fantastical elements.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • It's only seen through flashback, but the war between Thracia and Persia in Pluto is heavily based on the Iraq War (with robots). The United States of Thracia accuses the Middle East nation of Persia of making Robots of Mass Destruction, but before other countries can complete their investigation into whether it's true, Thracia sends troops in and starts a horrific, wasteful war that devastates the country. And this is all just a ploy to make Thracia the world's main superpower.
  • In One Piece, the New Fishman Pirates threaten the people of Fishman Island to commit Fumi-e on the late Queen Otohime's image, to shed out their loyalty to Queen Otohime (who has the exact opposite view of the Big Bad Hody Jones') which is a reference on feudal Japan's practice of purging Christians (they have their people step on a Christian imagery to prove that they're not Christian).
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, the persecution of the Ishvallan people is said to be a parallel to the Japanese treatment of the Ainu. The author was familiar with this conflict due to growing up in Hokkaido, where most of the Ainu people live.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In-Universe example in Argo: A group of American diplomats pretend to be a Canadian film crew to escape Iran. When questioned about the (fake) movie by the Revolutionary Guard at the airport, they describe the plot as the Iranian Revolution as a space opera.

  • Older Than Radio: In The Begum's Millions by Jules Verne, two competing cities are expies for France and Germany. Verne made no bones on where his sympathies were.
  • Books by Harry Turtledove:
  • The second duology of Arcia Chronicles is a fantasy retelling of the Wars of the Roses, dubbed "War of the Daffodils".
  • A Song of Ice and Fire is based heavily on various Scottish and English internal wars of the Middle Ages.
    • The names of the Feuding Families Stark and Lannister (York and Lancaster) are less than subtle clues to inspiration from the Wars of the Roses. Even more directly, brief mentions are made of the Red and Green "Apple" Fossoways, who appear to have their own squabbles over titles and are two branches of a house. The symbol of House Tyrell, one of the major power players in the series, is depicted in the TV adaptation Game of Thrones as a dead ringer for the Tudor double rose.
    • The civil war between Aegon and Rhaenyra, is very similar - except for the dragons, of course - to the conflict between Stephen of Blois and Empress Matilda, cousins who vied over the English throne in the 12th century. Aegon is even persuaded to take the throne by his wife and mother, much as Stephen was. The Purple Wedding was also inspired by the death of Eustace (Stephen de Blois' son) at the the end of the Anarchy. Like the result of the Anarchy, Rhaenyra's claim is vindicated by her son Aegon III.
    • Likewise, The Red Wedding is based on real-life violations of Sacred Hospitality such as the Glencoe Massacre and the Black Dinner.
    • Cersei's (who is also inspired by Isabelle of France) convoluted "Fawlty Towers" Plot to frame Margaery for adultery was inspired by the Tour de Nesle affair, were the daughters-in-law of King Philip the Fair allegedly committed adultery;
    • The Blackfyre Rebellion is a reworking of the Jacobite Rebellion.
    • Some aspects of the War of the Five Kings, namely the Brave Companions pillaging the countryside, the religious frenzy and the burning of whole villages as part of a terror campaign comes from The Hundred Years War.
  • Discworld has a few of these:
    • The historical wars between Ephebe and Tsort resemble the mythical Trojan War. In Pyramids, when there's a threat of the war re-erupting, both sides build wooden horses along the border.
    • Jingo combines elements of the Gulf War (the enemy is the Arabian Fantasy Counterpart Culture, it's mentioned that Ankh-Morpork (i.e. the West) actually sold the Klatchians their weapons for use in "pacifying" their own people, and jingoism leads to racism against Klatchian-Morporkians) and the Falklands War (the conflict is over an island that is of no real significance except that the other lot aren't getting their hands on it).
    • In the later novels, the terrorist actions of the fundamentalist "deep dwarfs" (who cover themselves from head to foot because they consider it a sin to look on sunlight) are reminiscent of The War on Terror.
  • The Nilfgaard Empire's conquest of the Aedirn Kingdom in The Witcher series, is intended by author Andrzej Sapkowski as a parallel to the Nazi invasion of Poland that led to World War II. Nilfgaard itself is a totalitarian state with visions of world domination and disdain for any nation it regards as less civilised, and tactics it employs against Aedirn include False Flag Operations, Blitzkrieg raids deep into the heart of their territory (with cavalry instead of tanks), and forming pacts with Aedirn's old allies, who betray it in exchange for a share of the conquered lands. Ironically, the Polish Sapkowski's Czech fans reportedly tend to interpret the same events as the Nazis' annexation of the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia, with Poland getting Silesia in the similar secret deal (both real situations were similar, so this is not surprising).
  • The Honor Harrington series draws a lot of inspiration for its setting and events from The Napoleonic Wars, but with the land battles ported to Space Navy battles. The comparison goes Off the Rails around book nine.
  • Tanya Huff admitted in the afterword of Valor's Choice that she based the book's major battle on Rorke's Drift. The fight involves hordes of adolescent Silsviss (standing in for the Zulus) trying to kill a small force of Confederation Marines (standing in for the Brits) in a dug-in position, with the battle finally being won by the Marines because the Silsviss leader was killed by his second-in-command, who then withdrew after offering a show of respect (mirroring the Zulus quitting the field).
  • Some claim that Fred Saberhagen's Berserker Fury - where our heroes recover from the sneak attack on Port Diamond to win the battle of 50/50 - was somehow influenced by real World War II events. Apart from all the places and ships being thesaurus equivalents, and the battle tactics being exactly those of the Battle of Midway, it's difficult to see why that is.
  • In Second Apocalypse, the Holy War has very clear parallels to the Crusades, with the Inrithi as the Christians, the Fanim as the Muslims, and the holy city of Shimeh as Jerusalem.
  • Short story "Lynortis Reprise" from Kane series is set in a fantasy equivalent of World War I Western front - complete with trench warfare, (magical) poisonous gases and tragic fate of numerous young men crippled in combat.
  • RCN:
    • Like a certain other long-running space opera, the novels are loosely based on the Napoleonic Wars, with the literary inspiration being the Aubrey-Maturin novels instead of Horatio Hornblower. The Republic of Cinnabar stands in for Britain (with bits of the Roman Republic thrown in), both good and bad (it's noted they favor dictatorships to democracies for their client states because they only have to control one guy, not the whole population), while the Alliance of Free Stars stands in for Napoleonic France, with elements of Prussia and the Soviet Union. Unlike the Napoleonic Wars, however, the Cinnabar-Alliance War ends in a negotiated peace after book seven, as both countries, by far the most powerful human states in The Verse, were on the verge of complete economic collapse after roughly forty years of fighting and would probably take most of human civilization with them.
    • David Drake's foreword to When the Tide Rises states he based the book's conflicts, both military and political, on Lord Cochrane's memoirs from his time serving as commander of the Chilean Navy during its war of independence, and the major battle on the 1811 Battle of Lissa (not to be confused with the 1866 Battle of Lissa, which Drake comments was so farcical you couldn't use it as a basis for fiction: the Italians somehow forgot to load shells in their cannons and spent the entire battle shooting blanks).
  • Alexis Carew:
    • Despite the Horatio Hornblower IN SPACE! stylings of the series, the main conflict between New London and Hanover is more reminiscent of World War II than the Napoleonic Wars, with culturally British and trade-oriented New London opposing the culturally German and militarily expansionist Republic of Hanover mostly by itself for an extended period, and trying to get friendly but militarily neutral powers into the war on their side.
    • The mutiny in Mutineer is based on the historical mutiny aboard HMS Hermione, down to the name of the ship.
    • The Little Ships takes its name from the evacuation of Dunkirk. New London lands an army on Giron in the Berry March and for a while nothing happens (the so-called "Sitzkrieg"). Then Hanover draws away the fleet and counter-lands a much larger army that begins to Rape, Pillage, and Burn. Midshipman Artley marshals a small fleet of civilian ships to get the troops and as many civilians as can be carried back off of Giron (Dunkirk). The author furthers the homage by naming several of the civilian ships after real-life ones that took part in the operation.
  • Defied by The Lord of the Rings. Shortly after the novel's original release, audiences began drawing parallels between it and World War II. J. R. R. Tolkien disliked this interpretation strongly enough that subsequent releases included a foreword that discusses at length all the ways in which the War of the Ring is not like World War II.
  • The annexation of Cadiz by the Commonwealth in Angel in the Whirlwind is a very disparaging allegory to the American occupation of Iraq in the 2000s: a politically controversial long-running occupation of a neutral power begun for reasons of realpolitik, that has by now become mired in a bloody and expensive insurgency and is riven with corruption and incompetence on the part of the occupiers.
  • Into The Hinterlands and its sequel Into the Maelstrom by David Drake and John Lambshead is the wars of early America IN SPACE!, with viewpoint character Allen Allenson standing in for George Washington in respectively the French and Indian War (Brasilian colonies versus Terran soldiers and "Riders") and the American Revolution (Brasilian colonies seeking independence from Brasilia).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Firefly was partially inspired by journals of Confederate soldiers on the frontier from The American Civil War, and the Unification War and aftermath has its similarities (Alliance occupation troops in the series' present = Union occupation troops during Reconstruction, for instance). However the comparison isn't perfect, as the Independent Faction started out independent instead of trying to secede and failing, and while it's left vague exactly what freedoms the independents were fighting to protect, it pretty obviously wasn't the freedom to own slaves.
  • Dinosaurs: The two-parter "Nuts to War", filmed shortly after the first Gulf War, had the two-legged dinosaurs go to war with the four-leggers over pistachio nuts in "Operation We Are Right."
  • Game of Thrones: The War of Five Kings is loosely inspired by the Wars of the Roses, Aegon's Conquest has obvious parallels to the Norman Conquest of England and the historical period the dance of the dragons was clearly based on the English Anarchy of 1135-1154.
  • Late battles in Space: Above and Beyond are directly based on parts of the Pacific and Normandy campaigns in World War II, with the similarities directly called out in the episodes.
    • "Stardust" = a disinformation op in the leadup to D-Day. Also referenced are the code talkers, with the Marines using missives written in Navajo and attached to corpses to mislead the Chigs.
    • "Sugar Dirt" = Guadalcanal, with a landing force scoring an initial easy victory, then being abandoned to fend for themselves in the face of superior forces for months in favor of taking advantage of a more strategic position elsewhere (New Guinea in real life, the planet Ixion near the Chig homeworld in the episode). Complete with a Vanity Plate dedicating the episode to Guadalcanal veterans.
    • Round Hammer itself is inspired by the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands. But unlike the real one that never happened because the Japanese surrendered after the American nuclear attacks, Round Hammer is called off in the finale because the Wild Cards screw up and give away the battle plan to the Chigs,note  who offer to open peace negotiations instead of taking advantage. The negotiations go badly awry and the war restarts, but the UN has lost the initiative.
  • The Occupation of Bajor as portrayed in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine drew most of its cues from the Nazi occupation of Europe in World War II (and to a lesser extent the Japanese occupation of Pacific nations in the same period), with the Cardassians using concentration camps, forced labor, and sex slavery on the native Bajorans and pillaging their art and cultural resources, while the Bajorans themselves had both La Résistance and Les Collaborateurs. However, the Cardassians withdraw right before the series mostly due to their own internal politics.

    Video Games 
  • The developers of the FreeSpace 2 mod Blue Planet: War in Heaven have stated that the war between the United Earth Federation and the Galactic Terran-Vasudan Alliance is meant to be the Vietnam War in space. In both cases we have one side being far more powerful than the other but forced to fight a limited and conservative war due to political divisions and murky objectives while the much less powerful but more ideologically convinced side is simply trying to hold its own and ultimately push the other side out by costing them enough blood. Similarly to the Vietnam War, there is no clear-cut good guy.
  • The Wing Commander series was conceived as a sci-fi version of World War II aircraft carrier operations in the Pacific Theatre (with some Top Gun mixed in).
  • Ace Combat:
  • Gemfire, by KOEI, is best described as Romance of the Three Kingdoms in a Standard Fantasy Setting version of the Wars of the Roses," down to the king being from House Lankshire. And Ishmeria being shaped like England and Wales (including the Isle of Man) and the king's bastard heading up House Tudoria.
  • You can't get any more obvious when your title is Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, with even a black lion and white lion standing in for the red rose and white rose. And there's even a 2-for-1 special in that the major event that shaped the game's backstory was the Fifty Years' War, an obvious analogue of the real life Hundred Years' War.
  • Tactics Ogre, written by the same mind behind Final Fantasy Tactics, features the nation of Valeria torn apart between three ethnic groups after the last great unifier died. It's a huge analogue of The Yugoslav Wars, even moreso given that the game originally released in 1995 when the wars were in full swing. It also qualifies as a Space Cold War, given that the conflict on Valeria is being influenced by agents from Xenobia (analagous to CIA operatives) and the Holy Lodis Empire is supporting one of the factions with a significant military presence (analogous to Soviet "advisers" propping up a local friendly government).
  • Mount & Blade mod The Red Wars is set in the 20th century equivalent of the original gamenote  and is inspired by World War 2 (with some World War 1 and Russian Civil War elements in it), three of the major factions involved being obvious expies of URSS, Nazi Germany, and Sweden/Finland.
  • Pillars of Eternity:
    • Broken Stone War, War of Black Trees and really the whole relationship between Aedyr (and later, Dyrwood) and Glanfathans resembles both Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain and European colonization of North America.
    • War of Defiance, where now Free Palatinate of Dyrwood gained independence from Aedyr Empire, is The American Revolution.
    • Saint's War is a more ambiguous example, but has some notable familiarities with The American Civil War: agrarian, traditionalist Readceras and industrial, more liberal Dyrwood resemble the sides pretty well, though the reasons for war were different.
  • Valkyria Chronicles:
    • The First Europan War appears to be based on World War I, as it was started by the assassination of the crown prince of the East Europan Imperial Alliance, featured the first use of tanks, and became bogged down in trench warfare. However, with no equivalent to America in the setting, the trench warfare became so inconclusive that the Empire and the Atlantic Federation basically gave up and signed a ceasefire.
    • In contrast, the Second Europan War that forms the backdrop to the game bears only a passing resemblance to World War II's European theatre. It started twenty years after the first one and features the Empire steamrolling its enemies for the first stage of the war, but the similarities pretty much end there as at no point in World War II did Nazi Germany invade Switzerland (for which Gallia is a Fantasy Counterpart Culture).
  • The Game Within a Game of The Writer Will Do Something is like this, though no one wants to admit it; creative director Josh insists on referring to an "early, self-consciously studied war-is-bad desert battle — the second major combat encounter — as 'Afghanistan' so indefatigably that a panicked PR flack made him undergo emergency deprogramming right before E3 last year, lest he slip and actually say such a thing out loud to the press."
  • Star Trek Online has a fantasy postwar counterpart in the Cardassians, whose treaty with the Federation following the Dominion War reduced their military to a defensive organization of considerably smaller size, rather like what happened to Japan after World War II. The rest of the picture looks like post-invasion Iraq, with many former Cardassian Guard officers joining the True Way, a reactionary terrorist organization.

    Western Animation 
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Over a Barrel" deals with a scenario much like early America's Indian Wars, settlers taking over the natives' ancestral land for their own purposes, without native consent, which in turn cranks off the natives. Due to the nature of the show, things get resolved before they... escalate too far. Specifically, it's a Lighter and Softer fantasy version of the Black Hills conflict, wherein the Lakota regarded the area as Sacred Ground (in the episode, a Buffalo Stampede Trail) whereas the settlers found a big mess of precious minerals (in the episode, the only place a farm could be planted).