Nature Is Not Nice

"The arrogance of man is thinking nature is in our control... and not the other way around."

You've found yourself alone in the woods. No big deal, nature is a perfectly fine place to spend some time, wandering around. But now you can't see the edge of the forest anymore. And you realize that you can't see the sun, either, so you can't tell which direction to go in to get out. Let's add some scary strange noises. Watch yourself randomly running in some direction, looking for a way out, screaming for help, as the sun goes down and afternoon turns into dusk, which turns into a moonless night. You are so screwed.

The truth is, nature isn't cruel; it just doesn't care about you. The forest is a big scary place in which you can get lost, or killed by disease or wild and ferocious animals. The desert has only about a hundred ways for you to be injured or die. The jungle is even worse. Even a lake or a river is a dangerous place for a person who isn't prepared.

This trope comes into play when a work's creator chooses to use that fact, that nature is a dog-eat-dog environment full of disease, natural disasters, parasites, predatory animals, killing and other ghastly things, rather than romanticizing it or portraying nature as harmonious or maternal. The focus is on the horror, danger, amorality, and ruthlessness of untamed nature.

This is why Appeal to Nature is a Logical Fallacy. Compare Death World. Contrast Ghibli Hills; inversely related to All-Natural Snake Oil.


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    Comic Books 
  • In the New 52 DC Universe, Alec Holland gave up trying to replicate the formula that gave him his powers because of this. The plant world is dangerous, and submersing Earth in it would be a disaster.
  • In Sin City, Marv has an Internal Monologue commenting on perceptions of nature. He notes that most people consider nature something beautiful and friendly, and remarks that they have probably never spent a night tied to a tree in the woods. Marv is one of the most violent, dangerous men in a series entirely filled with violence and danger, and he is terrified of the woods.

    Fan Works 

  • In We Are All Pokémon Trainers:
    • Discussed by Tagg and Fool when they share their mutual experiences as a field researcher and someone who was Raised By Animals and is often invoked in both of their thoughts about the subject.
    • When Helios rescues Algira in the alternate timeline, by knocking the Swellow hunting her and her friends into a lake, they chatter happily while the Swellow is suggested to be being eaten in the background. Helios invokes the trope by name.
    • Kirk learns this firsthand when he ends up in Kalos and gets his meal stolen by a Hydreigon, who mocks him about being a weak "pet" unfit for wild life.

  • Werner Herzog appears to be of this opinion, as can be seen in several of his films. His ending narration to Grizzly Man perhaps puts it best.
  • While it's not abundantly clear in the film itself, this trope was one of the main inspirations behind Lars von Trier's Antichrist. Von Trier has stated in interviews that he was moved by a nature documentary he once watched which treated the animal world as a kind of barbaric, earthly hell, in stark contrast to the more idyllic portrayal common to fiction. Which brought us gems like a stillborn fawn, demonic forest animals, and ominous lines like, "The forest is the devil's church."
  • Blackfish seems to make a point to contrast the sugary family-friendly SeaWorld TV commercials with orcas performing tricks and being petted by trainers to the terrifying footage of orcas attacking the trainers and sometimes each other. Although the film also presents the whale's natural environment as being a relatively harmonious one.
  • The film Honey I Shrunk the Kids, a scorpion nearly consumes the children who take refuge inside a Lego brick.
  • The book and film Into the Wild, which chronicles the experiences of Christopher McCandless, a young and idealistic college graduate who abandons everything for attempting to live off the Alaskan wilderness. Christopher slowly realizes this trope's truth as his supplies dwindle and it becomes evident that he was very poorly prepared for his adventure, ending up starving to death.
  • The Grey follows a group of plane crash survivors lost in the Alaskan wilderness. The freezing weather, lack of food, and presence of wolves are all treated as completely impersonal rather than actively malicious, and the main character's Rage Against the Heavens moment makes his helpless fury in the face of such indifference very clear.
  • Godzilla. See the page quote, and it's not just in the 2014 movie. Godzilla frequently either attacks humans for violating nature, or shows an indifference towards the fact that his passing by causes thousands of deaths.
    "History shows again and again, how nature points out the folly of man!" - Blue Öyster Cult Go Go Godzilla!
  • The live-action version of Wind In The Willows uses this for the Wild Woods, the home of the Weasels. This is the Weasels life philosophy, as described in their Villain Song Secret Of Survival (In a Very Nasty World).

  • In The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, the only real enemy the protagonist faces is the cruelty of nature. Or it could be an evil forest spirit.
  • To Build a Fire is a particularly poignant Jack London short story about a man desperately seeking to make the eponymous fire in subzero weather. He fails.
  • The Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. Nature is the antagonist here as the protagonist has only the titular hatchet to avoid dying in the Canadian wilderness after an airplane crash.
  • Into Thin Air, both book and film versions. This is about a guided tour of Mount Everest gone terribly wrong. The book is nonfiction, the film was based on it.
  • Cassie from Animorphs learns this in The Secret. Disappointingly, the lesson doesn't stick.
    • After she is nearly killed by the indigenous life in the rainforest, Rachel goes on a tirade screaming that the rainforest that so many environmentalists want to save is nothing but a den of horrors. As far she's concerned, everyone would be better off if the entire rainforest was paved over with shopping malls. However, after morphing into a jaguar and seeing how much life there is on it, she admits that it is beautiful and she doesn't want the rainforest to be paved anymore... if only because now as an apex predator she has nothing to fear from the jungle.
  • In Micro: this trope is driven home in many ways including a former scientist getting torn apart by ants.
  • Rainbow Six: The Horizon Executive plans to wipe out humanity with a virus, so he and a selected few would be left to inherit the Earth. When Rainbow Six tracks them down in South America and destroys their compound, they are left in the jungle without clothes or tools. According to the epilogue they didn't last long, which goes to show that nature doesn't care if you have its "best interest" in mind when choosing who survives or dies.
  • A common theme in Carl Hiaasen's novels are antagonists so used to modern convenience and so woefully ignorant of nature that they can't set one foot in the Everglades without getting instantly lost, injured, or eaten.
  • This trope is a central theme of State of Fear.
  • Exploited in Daughter of the Lioness when Nawat Crow and his band get rid of some people by stripping them naked and putting them in the middle of the jungle.
  • In the Discworld book Unseen Academicals, Lord Vetinari uses this concept to make a point.
    “I have told this to few people, gentlemen, and I suspect I never will again, but one day when I was a young boy on holiday in Uberwald I was walking along the bank of a stream when I saw a mother otter with her cubs. A very endearing sight, I’m sure you will agree, and even as I watched, the mother otter dived into the water and came up with a plump salmon, which she subdued and dragged on to a half-submerged log. As she ate it, while of course it was still alive, the body split and I remember to this day the sweet pinkness of its roes as they spilled out, much to the delight of the baby otters who scrambled over themselves to feed on the delicacy. One of nature’s wonders, gentlemen: mother and children dining upon mother and children. And that’s when I first learned about evil. It is built into the very nature of the universe. Every world spins in pain. If there is any kind of supreme being, I told myself, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior.”

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams uses this trope as a primary source for action, as Adams and his friends often have to rescue visitors who learn the hard way that the wilderness is a dangerous place to be in if you don't know what you're doing.

  • Berstuk, the evil god of the forest from Slavic Mythology.
  • As a general rule, in Norse Mythology natural phenomena are personified as giants (Jotnar). Fire, ice, and time are examples of this. Meanwhile, the gods usually represent man-made concepts like war, sailing, wisdom, and song. Norse mythology can thus be seen as a representation of a war between man and nature, where nature is decidedly evil.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Early in Dilbert, a personified Mother Nature made a few appearances, each time doing something rather nasty without shame.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is the reason Green magic in Magic: The Gathering isn't a "good" color. There are many cards that reflect the life-giving and nurturing facet of Mother Nature. There are also many cards that reflect Mother Nature's brutality.
  • The Thyrsus from Mage: The Awakening embody both nature's beauty and its brutality.

    Video Games 
  • In some ways, this is the heart of early gameplay in Minecraft. There is no real enemy or driving plot; it's just your struggle to survive in a hostile wilderness where the wild animals happen to be monsters.
  • The Spriggans from The Elder Scrolls are aggressive nature spirits that attack anyone who disturbs their groves. Another example from the same series is the Daedric Prince Namira, who represents the darker aspects of nature.
  • E.V.O.: Search for Eden has a more active example of not-nice nature, where Life, a strange and rapidly-evolving creature, routinely finishes off an era by committing genocide against certain species to pave the way for other species to grow and thrive. Evolution in this world is an extremely harsh mistress.
  • Half the point of Shelter. You play a mother badger leading her five cubs on a journey to a new home. Starvation, rushing rapids, or predators can very easily claim them, quickly and totally unceremoniously.
  • Somewhat the point of The Long Dark. You play as a poor soul who is lost and stranded in the Canadian wilderness due to a geomagnetic event that has rendered all modern technology useless and consequently thrown humanity off the top of the food chain. If you don't freeze, or starve, or die of illness, you'll likely be torn to shreds by a wolf or a bear.
  • Morrigan of Dragon Age: Origins is this trope personified. She grew up in the wilds and, lacking any human contact besides her Humanoid Abomination mother Flemeth, would often shape-shift into various animals to live among them. Rather than a kindly Friend to All Living Things like most Nature Heroes, she's a borderline sociopath who has little compassion for anybody and doesn't hesitate to resort to violence or even murder to get what she wants.
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising: Viridi, Goddess of Nature, though unlike most examples where nature/its personifications are apathetic about humanity, Viridi despises humans and is extremely vocal about her beliefs that Humans Are the Real Monsters. To that end, she aspires to Kill 'em All using Reset Bombs designed to both wipe out humanity and restore the local natural order by creating massive forests.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles centers around the battle between two gods: the Bionis, representing nature and organic beings, and Mechonis, representing technology. It starts out like most RPG plots, where the heroes are defending the world of the good nature god from the evil technology god. But then it's flipped entirely on its head. Mayneth, the technology god, was Good All Along and was out to save the world from the Bionis, or rather Zanza, who turns out to be the true Big Bad of the game. Far from a benevolent deity, Zanza is a complete sociopath who sees all the living beings he created as nothing more than a food source, regularly commiting genocide with his own personal army of monsters (horrifically transformed from a race he created solely to become them) whenever life becomes capable of space travel so they don't leave him and deprive him of energy. While Mayneth genuinely loves her subjects, Zanza cares for no-one but himself and is only concerned with preserving his power.

    Western Animation 
  • The Everfree Forest from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, filled with dangerous animals such as the wooden Timberwolves, fits the role of "real" nature in a setting where the ponies themselves have a direct and semi-magical role in running most of their world's ecosystems and do so in the stereotypical harmonious way.
  • Zarm from Captain Planet and the Planeteers. He's a spirit of the Earth, like Gaia, but the two fought eons ago and he went to colonize another planet, which subsequently destroyed itself. He represents the "dark" side of nature, i.e., ruthless competition and natural selection; his main tactic seems to be supporting dictatorships and spreading conflict.
  • In the Futurama episode "Naturama", the characters appear as different animals in three segments of a nature documentary show. They either die, or their efforts prove to be pointless, or both. The narrator draws the lesson: "For in the end, nature is horrific, and teaches us nothing."
  • The episode "Rainforest Shmainforest" of South Park in which the kids get lost in the rainforests of Costa Rica, and they are attacked by big bugs, wild animals and hostile tribesmen, until they are saved by the "good" loggers who are clearing the forest.
  • In Family Guy, a clip from a nature documentary is shown narrated by a stereotypical black guy. It shows a cheetah hunting down some prey:
    Damn, lookat dat sumbitch go! He haulin' ass! Dat thing come by my house, I killit! That little rat-lookin' thing just got ate! DAMN NATURE, YOU SCARY!