Not So Extinct

"Dinosaurs are extinct, so you never can tell where you'll find them."
— Hadji in "The Sea Haunt", Jonny Quest

Everyone knows that dragons (or elves, or fairies, or Prehistoric Monsters, or whatever race it may be) have been extinct for thousands of years...but if they're all gone, why is this story taking such pains to mention them? It's a safe bet that they aren't extinct at all, and that you'll meet one by the end of the story (if not sooner).

Also applies if the creature in question is thought to be a myth. A form of Chekhov's Gun. May involve an Egg MacGuffin.

This is generally a fantasy trope. If it happens in the real world, or if the story revolves around an extinct creature being discovered, it's Species Lost and Found. If they actually were extinct but are now coming back, see The Dragons Come Back.

Examples:

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     Anime  

  • In Negima!?, Asuna spends 24 out of 26 episodes looking the Chupacabra which everyone says doesn't exist; they create a Chupacabra school club and order T-shirts and other items. At the end of the series, she finds one (which she quickly puts to work signing T-shirts.)

     Comic Books  

  • Several DC Universe characters have believed Kryptonians were extinct until they met Superman.

     Literature  

  • Downplayed in Harry Potter. Word of God states that while none of the creatures Luna "Looney" Lovegood claims exist actually exist, the fact that she accepts their existence helped her in discovering many real magical creatures that were previously unknown.
  • In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Dodos are actually magical creatures who used their powers to avoid Muggles after the Muggles started hunting them. Only the Muggles still believe they are extinct.
  • In The Hollows, it's widely believed that elves were wiped out in the Turn, but a few survived, including Trent, Jonathan, and Quen.
  • On the Discworld a lot of standard fantasy creatures are extinct, though that's often synonymous with "trapped in a parallel dimension."
    • Giant, flying, fire-breathing dragons are shunted off in a dimension of their own. Their improbable biology requires magic to sustain, and the Discworld generally doesn't have enough magical energy around for them to exist anymore. There are exceptions, small pockets of high magic where dragons survive, and individual dragons can be summoned if enough magical energy is pumped into them.
    • Elves are similarly stuck in their own dimension(s), although there are weak points where travel is possible - lots of them in the Ramtop mountains.
    • Orcs were the foot soldiers of the defunct Evil Empire, and it's revealed in Unseen Academicals that the people of Uberwald have been exterminating the few survivors. They haven't been entirely successful.
  • Animorphs does this with the Venber in The Extreme. Though they're actually hybrids of Venber and humans brought back by the Yeerks.
  • In the Ravenloft novel Scholar of Decay, a wizard exploring some underground passages in Richemulot has a brief encounter with a black pudding, a D&D monster not at all typical of the Gothic Horror-style Land of Mists. He avoids it, then pauses to marvel at its presence, as they're considered to be extinct.
  • In Tamora Pierce's The Immortals, all sorts of species of magical creatures are coming back from exile in the Divine Realms where they had been locked by human mages so long ago that people had started to think they were just myths. The stories show the humans learning to deal with the chaos that ensues.
  • In China Miéville's The Scar, the discovery that Bas-Lag's ancient race of anophelii (mosquito-folk) aren't extinct comes as a shock to many in Armada. Soon enough, an Armadan diplomatic party goes to visit them, and brings one back with them.
  • In the Conan the Barbarian story "The Devil In Iron", Conan ventures into a mysterious city on an island that'd previously held only ruins. His suspicion that something has brought the long-dead settlement back to life is supported when he finds the intact pelt of a golden leopard in a bedchamber, and recognizes it as an animal that went extinct a thousand years ago. He later fights a giant snake, also of a species known to be extinct.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, nobody has seen a living dragon for several hundred years at least. Their eggs (of which Daenerys receives three as a wedding gift) are seen as valuable fossils, and people who make a serious effort to hatch them are generally considered crazy dreamers. Naturally, despite the low-magic setting, no reader believes this for a second. Daenerys hatches the eggs at the end of the first book.
  • The Malazan Book of the Fallen has numerous examples of species that are thought to be extinct/myth but keep popping up. Examples include:
    • Dragons, or Eleint, as they are called in the setting, and especially the pure-blooded ones are thought to have disappeared from the world. Naturally, they turn up for the big finale.
    • The so-called four Founding Races, said to be extinct by the start of the series, all turn out to still be around in some corner of the world. The T'lan Imass, the setting's version of Neanderthals, have turned their whole species undead, the Jaghut have never been very numerous and prefer solitary existence in remote places, the Forkrul Assail have hatched plans to remake the world in their image and are working on that behind the scenes and the K'Chain Che'Malle, bipedal lizard-folk, have retired to a remote corner of the world after a particularly nasty civil war.
    • Among the Tiste peoples, only the Tiste Andii are more or less known to be around, but their cousins the Tiste Liosan and Tiste Edur are supposed to be lost to myth. Turns out the Liosan have retreated to their home-world and the Edur have settled on a remote continent and garbled their origin myths quite thoroughly.
    • On the besties side of things, there are the Enkar'al of Seven Sities, huge winged lizards thought to have been hunted into extinction, but Kalam Mekhar still manages to bump into one in Deadhouse Gates.

     Live-Action TV  

  • Game of Thrones has two explicit examples of creatures widely believed to be extinct at the start, namely dragons and the White Walkers. People are... less sure by the end of the first season on the second count, with the first count being deliberately proven false in the first season finale. In the second season finale, implications are proven to be completely correct on the second count, with an undead army finally seen amassing for an eventual assault on the South. Giants and the Children of the Forest are also believed to be extinct by most of Westoros. By the end of Season 6, both of them might be.
  • Supernatural:
    • The attack pattern of the Monster of the Week points to a dragon, but dragons aren't real... This might sound like Arbitrary Skepticism given what the Winchesters do for a living, but enormous flying reptiles that breathe fire are a bit harder to miss than Wendigos, vampires and so on so maybe it's justified... However, it turns out that dragons are shapeshifters, and throughout the episode only appear in their human forms.
    • When they first appear, vampires are said to be all but extinct, but they have quite a few appearances through out the series.
    • The Knights of Hell were thought to be extinct until Abaddon shows up. Still, she's the Last of Her Kind, all her fellow knights were destroyed by their ex-leader Cain.
  • Stargate SG-1's first-season episode "Thor's Hammer" has the Unas, the first species taken as hosts by the Goa'uld. Upon their first encounter with the Unas in the labyrinth, Teal'c tells it, "You do not exist." He was wrong about Goa'uld-infested Unas' ability to regenerate from massive amounts of injury, too.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Curse Of Peladon", the heraldic beast Aggedor is reputed to be extinct, but at least one secretly survives in the tunnels under the city.
    • The new series started with the Doctor believing the Daleks were extinct, then he runs into a survivor that doesn't last to the end of the episode, then later an entire army that is similarly wiped out, then more survivors...
  • On The 100, people on the Ark believe that Earth-based humanity was completely killed off by nuclear fallout. Turns out, there are still people on Earth, and they don't much care for the Ark people showing up.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In a very early Dilbert strip, Dilbert worked out that Dinosaurs couldn't possibly be extinct, at which point Bob (who had been hiding behind the couch) revealed himself.

     Video Games  

  • The Dragon Age series takes its name from the fact that dragons were believed to be extinct for the last several centuries (not counting the Archdemons, who take the form of dragons). They reappeared at the start of the current age.
    • Griffons, once ridden by the Grey Wardens, were thought to have gone extinct after the Fourth Blight, but the spin-off novel Last Flight revealed that thirteen untainted griffon eggs survived and hatched in the present day.
  • In Firan MUX, it was largely believed that griffons, one of the favoured creatures of Zutiv, were merely mythological creatures. Then the Shamibelians invaded from griffonback. As of the start of the game, they're so common they almost replace horses as a cavalry unit.
  • In Touhou, it's widely believed that there are no oni in Gensokyo despite otherwise being a Fantasy Kitchen Sink. And then of course they immediately meet one. In fact, it's not even mentioned until they meet her and it comes up in their conversation with her as Arbitrary Skepticism.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • Subverted and Averted in different senses with the series' dragons, who were rumored to be extinct for thousands of years before they began to return during the events of Skyrim. To note:
      • Subverted in that, while it was commonly believed in Tamriel that the dragons had been rendered extinct in the late 1st Era by the Akaviri Dragonguard and the Blades, many dragons still survived. Nafaalilargus was spared as a known ally of mortals and would later serve Tiber Septim as a secret weapon. Paarthurnax continued to live atop the Throat of the World, serving as the master of the Greybeards, though his case is likely excused because his existence was kept secret to all outside of the Greybeards. Others managed to survive in remote wilderness areas (such as the Forgotten Vale) or deep beneath the earth (such as in the Dwemer city of Blackreach).
      • Averted in that the vast majority of dragons were actually slain, and the ones who appear in the 4th Era are being resurrected. These dragons were dead (but not truly killed), and are now being brought back to life with the return of Alduin, the World Eater and "first born" of the dragons.
    • Skyrim also reveals that this is the case for the Snow Elves, who have degenerated into the Falmer after being displaced by the Nords and sheltered by the Dwemer, who proceeded to blind, mutate and enslave them. The Falmer themselves were thought to just be a myth for years until they began raiding the surface again, and then there are two original, non-mutated Snow Elves who you meet during the Dawnguard DLC.

     Web Comics  

  • In Skin Deep sphinxes and dragons are believed to have wiped each other out centuries ago. Then Michelle turns out to be a sphinx, and a dragon shows up too.
  • In Dominic Deegan Klo Tark, Dominic's sorcerer-psion mentor and good friend, was one of the Eld, presumed wiped out when Eldariat was destroyed by their failed attempt to harness the heart of magic. They fled to the Elemental Plane of Air instead, but return home in the final arc.

     Western Animation  
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • On Avatar: The Last Airbender, Zuko notes that Firebenders originally learned their craft from dragons, but that they were hunted to extinction in the last century—in fact, his uncle Iroh killed the last one. Naturally, he and Aang go on a quest and wind up discovering at least two still in existence, which Iroh had lied about having killed.
    • In the Sequel Series, The Legend of Korra, we discover that Appa was not actually the last Sky Bison, though he seems to have been the last of his particularly subspecies.
  • Star Wars Rebels: The population of Zeb's homeworld of Lasan was massacred by the Empire using starship disruptors, and he thinks he's the last Lasat left. In "Legends of the Lasat", he meets two other survivors of the massacre. And on top of that, it turns out that Lasan was only a colony world: the true Lasat homeworld, Lirasan, is still out there in Wild Space with a thriving population.


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