I am a time traveler from five centuries ago! I used a device to bring myself forward in time to see the wonders of your epoch! What progress has come to pass? Nodwick:
Virtually none... Magic has supplanted technology, and the secretive nature of its practitioners has resulted in most knowledge becoming lost. We're a feudal society, wars are common, and there's the monster problem. Plus, constant conflicts between the gods
ensure that little philosophical progress is ever made
You people must drink a lot. Nodwick:
It helps ease the downward spiral, yeah.
— German for "Twilight of the Gods"
The term was popularized by Richard Wagner
in his Der Ring des Nibelungen
opera cycle. This is a German translation of the Old Norse "Ragnarökkr
" ("twilight of the gods"), which was itself a poetic alternate name for the Norse
: The "ragna" part (nominative: regin
) means "gods" or "the powers" and "rök" has several meanings like "fate," "development," "relation," "cause," and, surprisingly, "origin."
Ragnarok was the story of how most of the Aesirnote
and the greatest Jotuns
died in a battle against each other. Similarly, this trope refers to when the gods or sufficiently advanced Precursors
of a story (and possibly their enemies) either die (if they are mortal) or are Sealed In A Can
(if they are immortal
), usually in a large battle or some other sudden event. Frequently, this is the end result of a war between gods
Contrast Death of the Old Gods
, where the gods are either slowly disappearing or losing popularity/being replaced over a period of time, essentially going out with a whisper instead of a bang. Also, compare The Magic Goes Away
. See also End of an Age
/ Dawn of an Era
, which this trope may end up leading to.
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Anime & Manga
- In the backstory of the Macross series, the entire galaxy was part of a Golden Age under the Protoculture Stellar Republic before a civil war destroyed them, leaving only their giant humanoid armies to roam the galaxy and continue fighting.
- Wanted shows the superhero version of this; once, superheroes walked the Earth, but a great battle between them and the supervillains destroyed them, allowing the villains to rewrite the world into their image and turn it into a bleaker, more cynical place closer to our world.
- This is basically the premise of Jack Kirby's New Gods metaseries, which opens rather bluntly with the words: "There came a time when the Old Gods DIED!"
- Alan Moore's proposed title, Twilight of the Superheroes, would've dealt with this, but in reference to heroes, instead of actual gods. It was designed to give a sort of definitive end to all the heroes, as The Dark Knight Returns did for Batman. Though according to Moore, the intent was to finally raise comic book stories to the status of legends, since without an ending it did not become a true legend:
"An essential quality of a legend is that the events in it are clearly defined in time; Robin Hood is driven to become an outlaw by the injustices of King John and his minions. That is his origin. He meets Little John, Friar Tuck and all the rest and forms the merry men. He wins the tournament in disguise, he falls in love with Maid Marian and thwarts the Sheriff of Nottingham. That is his career, including love interest, Major Villains and the formation of a superhero group that he is part of. He lives to see the return of Good King Richard and is finally killed by a woman, firing a last arrow to mark the place where he shall be buried. That is his resolution—you can apply the same paradigm to King Arthur, Davy Crockett or Sherlock Holmes with equal success. You cannot apply it to most comic book characters because, in order to meet the commercial demands of a continuing series, they can never have a resolution. Indeed, they find it difficult to embrace any of the changes in life that the passage of time brings about for these very same reasons, making them finally less than fully human as well as falling far short of true myth."
- The Last Days Of The Justice Society, a one-shot released right after Crisis on Infinite Earths, showed the Justice Society of America ready to retire when they are called for one last mission: to prevent Adolf Hitler from linking the fate of the actual Norse gods' Ragnarok to that of the universe circa 1945. By merging with the Norse gods themselves, the Justice Society succeeded in changing the outcome, only to find themselves repeating the same battle over and over until Waverider around the time of Armageddon: Inferno swapped out the Justice Society for Abraxis' "daemen", allowing the heroes to return to Earth.
- The galaxy of Niven's Known Space was once ruled by a foolish, simpleminded race of creatures whose only notable attribute was the ability to utterly dominate the minds of others. When the inevitable rebellion happened after thousands of years, their final, technologically amplified command was for everything advanced enough to receive their commands to commit suicide.
- In the Deep Space Nine novel Fallen Heroes, Dax, the member of a species comprising a small symbiote inside a standard humanoid, thinks of the Trill version of Ragnarok where a race of dumb giants and a race of smaller intelligent beings fought a war that ended with a single member of each surviving and mating to create the Trill race. There is endless speculation as to which was which gender.
- Whilst it hasn't actually happened yet, the Discworld name for this is "The Teatime of The Gods".
- This is in some sense the plot of The Lord of the Rings, which is not surprising since, while Tolkien was not inspired by Wagner's Ring Cycle, he was drawing on much the same source material. In any case, the story of the War of the Ring is that of the destruction or self-imposed exile of the supernatural beings who had dominated Middle-Earth for millennia, leaving mortal men in control.
- The legendarium also prophesies of a more literal end/renewal of the world, when Morgoth will finally escape the Great Void into which he was cast at the end of the First Age and destroy the Sun and the Moon, but Eärendil will cast him down to Earth, where the armies of Ar-Pharazôn the Golden will reawaken to do battle against Morgoth. Finally Túrin Turambar will slay him once and for all and the Children of Húrin will finallb be avenged. In the tumult of battle the lost Silmarils will be cast out of the Earth and Water and Fëanor will return them to the Valar, who will use them to rekindle the Two Trees and the World will be recreated anew.
- The theme of John Hodgman's book "That is All" is centered on the end days, the return of the elder gods, and ultimately the total destruction of the earth. It gets rather meta. The end of the book is a page-a-day calender outlining the events of Ragnarok ("it will happen today in Ragnarok!").
- A variant appears in the first trilogy for Dragonlance; the gods of old are gone, and with them all their magic, but not because of any war. They devastated the world with a terrible Cataclysm, stole away all of their healing magic, and then turned their back on mortals because mortals would not accept that they were to blame for all this. A lot of readers sympathise with the viewpoint that the gods can go screw themselves. The first trilogy ends with the gods coming back. Though actual Gotterdammerungs are the focus of later trilogies, as well.
Live Action TV
- Between the old and new series of Doctor Who, an offscreen conflict called the Last Great Time War occurred between the Time Lords and the Daleks, with a horde of various Eldritch Abominations emerging from the crossfire. It ended with the Doctor somehow erasing both sides from the universe. It later turned out that several million Daleks survived in a prison ship called the Genesis Ark, but that's still a fraction of the ten million ship fleet that fought the Time Lords. Later, Rassilon and the Time Lords attempt to escape - in a way that would unleash the aforementioned abominations and eventually destroy the universe, forcing the Doctor to stop them all over again. The few surviving Daleks built mini-empires that were defeated one by one, until one small group actually won an encounter with The Doctor and rebuilt into a galactic power.
- In Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Old Gods were overthrown long ago and supplanted by humanity. It's really driven home when an Old God returns in Angel only to find her armies long dead and crumbling to dust while her own replacement body can't withstand her own power. The sight of a Lovecraftian horror beaten down by time, trapped in a human shell with only a fraction of her former power, and utterly alone without a purpose in life is rather sad.
- Babylon 5's Myth Arc involved a cyclic conflict between the two oldest and greatest powers in the galaxy, the Vorlons and the Shadows, along with their younger proxies. Partway into the fourth season, this conflict is resolved, with the Vorlons and Shadows traveling Beyond the Rim to live with the First Ones, most of whom had previously done the same millions of years earlier. The remaining two seasons of the show center on the younger races' efforts to grow on their own and deal with their own issues. The producer, J. Michael Straczynski, likened it to a family having Parental Issues on a galactic level.
- Amon Amarth live on this trope. See their songs Twilight of the Thunder God, Destroyer of the Universe, The Last Stand of Frej, Death in Fire, ...And Soon the World Will Cease to Be.. Basically telling this tale from everybody's perspective throughout their discography. And there are still people left in the myth...
- Nile's album Ithyphallic has a song called "Even the Gods Must Die," which discusses the idea of this trope on a historical level; namely that all legends and myths fade with time, and with the decline of the worship of the Gods, so too go the Gods...
- The Trope Namer is of course Götterdämmerung, the final installment of Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle of operas. With Wotan's spear, upon which was inscribed all the bargains he had made for power, broken by his grandson Siegfried, and with Wotan's plot to get hold of the titular ring without invoking its curse having failed, Wotan orders the branches cut from the World-Tree Yggdrasil and piled around Valhalla. Then the gods retire to Valhalla and are consumed in flames at the end.
- Pepe Deluxé's album Queen of the Wave is an ode to the passing of Atlantis. There's a whirlwind tour of the spiritual enlightenment and Sufficiently Advanced Bamboo Technology the Atlanteans possessed—then they fall to moral decay, and the great city sinks into the ocean in the final song.
- The Flaming Lips have the song Pompeii am Götterdämmerung, which actually refers to the destruction of Pompeii by the volcano Vesuvius, but nevertheless uses the term.
- The song Prime Mover by the Swedish punk band The Leather Nun is about this, the second verse refering directly to events of Ragnarök.
- A composer by the name of Andrew Boysen composed a piece for wind ensemble called "Twilight of the Gods", which portrays this event. When premiered by the Cuesta College Wind Ensemble in May 12, 2010, and when performed by some other bands, it was done in sync to visuals designed by Erik Evensen that depicted the story on a screen.
- In Norse Mythology, two people, Líf and Lífþrasir, will survive Ragnarök (the Norse version of the apocalypse, the final climactic battle of the gods with the giants and monsters which will end the world as we know it) and will presumably live on to create the next generation of humans after the fall of the gods.
- Ironically, some researcher suggests that Ragnarök is a much later introduction to the mythology under Christian influence, and may not have been part of the original cosmology at all. Others belive it to be a sign of the cyclical time-view of the germanic pagans. As far as we know, both can be true. The return of Nidhögg could be a paralell to Satan's supposed return but could also represnt the notion that evil will never disapper. The old german poem Muspilli is theorised to be a straight Christianized version of Ragnarök with Surtr replaced by the Antichrist whom Elias – replacing Thor – fights, Loki by the old fiend. Since the end of that poem has been lost and the last remaining part is kind of a Gainax Ending, it is hard to tell if it is indeed a Christianized or a straight Christian poem, but as the battle in the poem is decribed as a "battle without victory" one can assume it does not end well.
- The fact that the Old World of Darkness's Changeling The Dreaming is basically this under a coating of glitter is what led to its Audience-Alienating Premise. The whole plot of the game is that Imagination is fading from reality under the assault of "Banality", and with it all of the mystical and magical beings of fae are dying out. The present era is the time of Autumn... and Winter, the total destruction of the fae, is inevitable.
- Referenced, though not actually depicted, in Girl Genius, where Klaus Wulfenbach uses "Göterdämmerung" as an expletive.