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Sometimes, disasters happen. And sometimes those disasters are so large that they destroy an entire race, culture, or people group. However, small groups of refugees sometimes escape, fleeing to other lands and settling there. These refugees establish themselves in their new home, but they pass down to their children the memory of the homeland they had to leave, who pass those memories on to their children.
These descendents are a Racial Remnant. They are part of and yet separate from the main culture of the land they inhabit. They have known no other home, yet they carry the culture of a "homeland" which no longer exists. They will often still view themselves as displaced refugees, even generations after their ancestors had to flee.
Note that this is not about the remains of a once proud race who have been degraded. In order for a race to qualify for this trope, the race must be descended from a group that survived the annihilation of the members of their original culture, and those survivors must have passed down significant aspects of their original culture to their descendents.
Racial Remnants are most frequently found in Speculative Fiction
If only one person survives the catastrophe, then it's Last of His Kind
. Contrast Dying Race
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- In Superman, Braniac shrunk and bottled the city of Kandor prior to Krypton's destruction, and the city was later rescued by Superman. In some continuities, they escape the bottle and find a different planet to inhabit, as Earth doesn't seem keen on sharing their planet with tens of thousands of people with the same powers as Superman.
- In the Firebird Trilogy, the planet Ehret was destroyed by civil war. Two groups fled the conflict. One group settled on an already populated planet and integrated into the existing structure, while still passing down Ehretan culture; they became the Sentinels. The other group settled on a previously barren world, creating a new culture that became known as the Shuhr.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, the Targaryen family are refugees from the Doom of Valyrian and are the last remnant of the Valyrian dragonlords, the ruling class of the Valyrian Freehold. They're easily identifiable by their distinct white hair and practice incestuous marriages to preserve their bloodline.
- The Tedrel Mercenaries from the Heralds of Valdemar series are the survivors of nation of people. They became mercenaries and tried to get enough money to create a new homeland.
- The Lord of the Rings
- The Dúnedain Rangers are a remnant of the men of Arnor (destroyed in the Third Age by the Witch-King), who themselves (along with the men of Gondor) are a remnant of the Númenóreans (sunk by Eru in the Second Age), who themselves are a remnant of the Edain of Beleriand (sunk during the War of Wrath in the First Age). The Rangers have held on to their heritage through the years, passing down the stories and carrying out their protective role even when their lands had been ruined.
- The elves of Rivendell and Lothlórien are a remnant of the Elves of Eregion (destroyed by Sauron in the Second Age), who (along with some of the Woodland Elves) are a remnant of the Elves of Beleriand. It is a major plot point that these places are trying as best they can to sustain the essence of years past.
- In the Talislanta game, the Xambrian wizard-hunters are a Racial Remnant of a culture that was wiped out by evil sorcerers. The few survivors' descendents spend their entire lived tracking down and executing the ever-reincarnating culprits, over and over again.
- The Deep Imaskari of the Forgotten Realms were this in 3.5E to 4E. They are the descendants of Imaskari that fled the great slave rebellion for an outpost deep underground; Deep Imaskar endured for millenia in secrecy. Then a series of events led to Imaskar rising again. There was also another group of Imaskar-descendants that endured, but less is known of just what they did the past few millenia (the Deep Imaskari were introduced as this trope; the other group was introduced as part of the events that led to Imaskar's partial rebirth).
- The Craftworld Eldar of Warhammer 40,000. The descendants of the original Eldar civilization, who fled on planetoid-sized Generation Ships called Craftworlds from The Fall, a great calamity that gave birth to an Eldritch Abomination who subsequently killed nearly all of their gods barring three and most of their species, as well as creating a tear in reality that consumed most of their interstellar empire. Now they just drift around space as scattered survivors, clinging to survival and trying to keep their race and culture from dying out. At any cost to the other races of the galaxy.
- 288 years before the events of Mass Effect, the Quarian race lost their home planet to the Geth, forcing the survivors of the war to flee. At the heart of their culture is a strong sense of loyalty and a deep attachment to their home world, beliefs passed down by their ancestors. For this reason, almost every Quarian you encounter is devoted to finding a way to take back their home world from the Geth, despite the fact that no current living Quarian has ever stepped foot on the home world, as well as the fact that the Geth aren't actually as hostile as they think. In Mass Effect 3, the Quarians stop being this trope if they regain their home-world, through reconciliation with (or the destruction of) the Geth.
- The Dalish Elves in Dragon Age are the last of the Elvhenan, nomadic wanderers who pride themselves on maintaining the culture that has passed down to them since the days of Ancient Arlathan, through its destruction and their enslavement, the founding of their second homeland in the Dales and its later destruction once again at the hands of humanity.
While other Elves do exist throughout Thedas, they are second class citizens who live in poverty and squalour; the Dalish Elves consider them nothing more than slaves who have adopted so many human ways that they are little different from their "Shemlen masters".
- The Helghast in Killzone became this after their homeworld was rendered uninhabitable during the final days of the war. The surviving population was granted asylum on Vekta by the ISA and kept in check by a massive fortified wall while Helghast extremist groups have been committing acts of terrorism aimed at disrupting the fragile peace.
- Jews have been (and possibly still are) a real-world example of this. There've been multiple diasporas, during which the Jewish people have maintained a religious, cultural, and to some extent racial identity. Some would argue that even with the State of Israel there's a diaspora now, hence the possibility that this applies currently. Plus, there's a ton of "promised land" references in the Hebrew Bible and other, more recent Jewish literature.
- Copts consider themselves to be the descendants of the Ancient Egyptians. They are a minority in the mostly Muslim Egypt, but the reality is kind of complicated:
- On one hand, it is true without question that modern Muslim Egyptians are also descended predominantly from Ancient Egyptians, although it is true that they are more likely to have Arab and other non-Egyptian ancestry (e.g. Turkish).
- On the other hand, it is also true that although all Egyptians speak Arabic as their native language, Muslim Egyptians are much more comfortable with their cultural connections to the other Arabic-speaking peoples and even with identifying themselves as Arab. Copts, on the other hand, prefer an exclusively Egyptian identity and associate themselves with Ancient Egyptian culture (which was Christian for over 300 years under Roman/Byzantine rule) and preserve the last form of the ancient Egyptian language as Coptic (which serves as their liturgical language).
- In pre-contact North America it was common for different cultures to adopt/absorb slaves or war prisoners into their captor's communities. This practice continued into the global era with some cultures, such as the Huron in central Ontario, dying out as a separate people (becoming absorbed into the Six Nations in the case of the Huron). Many cultural elements such as basket or clothing designs are carried on by their descendants, despite them now considering themselves members of the newer culture.
- The Armenians were basically this after the Turks eliminated them from Turkey (much of modern day Eastern Turkey was their traditional homeland, now populated mostly by Kurds) and the Soviet Union absorbed what was left. That is until the Soviet Union collapsed and they became independent for the first time in nearly a millennium (barring a short two-year stint in the 1920s). The diaspora is still scattered all over the world though. Within Turkey itself there is still a small remnant, mostly in Istanbul and a couple sparsely populated villages elsewhere.