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The Dark Times
At least King Sombra had good health care.

Man rules now where They ruled once; They shall soon rule where man rules now. After summer is winter, and after winter summer. They wait patient and potent, for here shall They reign again.
The Necronomicon

In the beginning, when the world was first formed out of dust and ice, before mankind came to dominance, the world was ruled by dark forces, evils beyond imagination, ancient tyrants. Or at least that's what some horror and fantasy stories want you to believe, that before man arrived (and even sometimes after) there were creatures that ruled this world that are now gone.

Most often, this is important to the Back Story of a series, giving writers room to introduce remnants of those old evils sealed in a can. Sometimes The Dark Times become The Time of Myths and then lead to Götterdämmerung. Alternatively, the creatures that populated The Dark Times are merely waiting Beneath the Earth until they regain their strength.

Examples

Anime and Manga
  • In One Piece, the past has been completely censored by the World Government. The ability to read the hieroglyphs that the ancients wrote is enough to make the World Government use the most powerful attack known to mankind to completely wipe an island off the map.
    • Although considering how ruthlessly amoral the World Government is on so many levels, it's anybody's guess if these times were any worse than present times.
    • An alternate fan theory is that the World Government IS the terrible enemy spoken of in the ancient texts and which potentially world-destroying weapons were created to fight.
  • Devilman's backstory involves demons returning after having been dormant since around the ice age.
  • The world of Naruto was besieged by the near-almighty Ten-Tailed Beast centuries ago, until it was sealed and imprisoned by The Sage of Six Paths.

Comic Books
  • Hellboy gives glimpses into such Times, with its Lovecraftian overtones. One of the centrals plot threads is that Hellboy was supposed to make the Dark Times return, but didn't want to.

Fanfiction

Film
  • Star Wars frequently referred to the war between the Jedi and Sith, which lead to the dominance of the Jedi, and the threat of the prequel trilogy is solely the return of the Sith.
    • The gap between Episode III and Episode IV are referred to as "The Dark Times", in-universe. Specifically by Obi-Wan in A New Hope when giving Luke the short version of the Jedi Purge and his father's death.
  • In Thor: The Dark World, the Dark World of the title is the home of the Dark Elves, a race from before the current universe who wish to return all that exists to this state of non-existence.

Literature
  • Midkemia of The Riftwar Cycle was ruled for an untold amount of time by the Valheru, beings who arose long before the coming of the younger races and even the gods. They were enormously powerful and, at the time, not so much consciously evil as totally amoral. They lived out their time by sporadically killing one another, enslaving entire races, and periodically riding out to slaughter and sack entire worlds. Their conflict with the newly created gods and their expulsion after their defeat is a vital backstory point.
  • Most H.P. Lovecraft stories, where Eldritch Abominations are just waiting until the right stars align to return. There is nothing humans can do about it beyond slightly delaying the inevitable.
  • Middle-Earth has cycled through various dark times when Morgoth and/or Sauron were the dominant forces in the world (perhaps the most notable being when Melkor/Morgoth ruled the all of the world except for Valinor completely unchallenged- it was only the coming of the elves that inspired the Valar to act against him). The plot of The Lord of the Rings basically consists of Sauron trying to start up new dark times.
  • The Cal Leandros series includes as part of its distant past a time when the world was ruled by various monsters like the Auphe.
  • A Star Trek crossover event, Invasion! introduced the Furies, a coalition of species that once ruled Federation-and-neighboring space. All the local cultures remember at least one Fury species as their "demons". The Furies were overthrown by the Unclean, who require three things from other species: power cores, DNA, and BRAINS! Unfortunately, each novel's author had a slightly different take on the Furies.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has the Long Night, occurring 8000+ years before the main storyline begins, with the emergence of the Others and their legions of wights.

Live-Action TV
  • This idea actually evolved through Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel - in early Buffy, the Old Ones were implied to be merely waiting for a chance to come back and continue their reign, but by the time we came to late Angel and actually met one (Illyria), they were shown to have mostly killed one another and now are sealed away in specially-designed sarcophagi.
  • Doctor Who has the "Dark Times," in the beginning of the universe, a time of "blood and magic" with the Carrionites, the Racnoss, and the Great Vampires. The Weeping Angels are also implied to have originated during this era.
    • There are "the Dark Times" of Gallifreyan history when Gallifrey was ruled by the Pythia before she was overthrown by the triumvirate of Rassilon, Omega, and the Other.
  • Many of the races on Babylon 5 had legends concerning the last war with the Shadows 1,000 years ago: most of the Narn telepaths followed G'Quan to war and never returned; the Minbari almost lost the war until the timely arrival of Valen and a replacement base of operations; the Markab spoke of the "great darkness" defeated long ago several episodes before they were conveniently wiped out by a plague.

Mythology and Religion
  • A fairly common trope in European mythologies:
    • the Norse have the frost-giants ruling over a frigid, misty world in the time before Odin and his brothers slew Ymir.
    • In Greek Mythology, there are the first generation of Gaia's offspring- the titans and the altogether stranger Giants, Hekatonkhires, and Cyclopes.
      • Although this varies depending on the source; some claim that time was a Golden Age (this is where the term originated, in fact).
    • Irish mythology has the island originally inhabited by the monstrous Fomorians, before they're ousted during an extremely complicated series of invasions.
  • In The Bible, it's implied that during the time when the Earth was formless in the first chapter of Genesis, Satan's Rebellion was in progress. While Adam and Eve were initially spared from experiencing this conflict, it all went to pot when they were tempted to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, kicking off a period when humans became increasingly more wicked and started producing giant offspring with angels. Things got so bad that God had to destroy the old world in The Great Flood minus everyone and everything in the Ark.

Real Life
  • Until around 65 million years ago the Earth was ruled by enormous, scaly beasts. It's pretty unlikely that they'll ever come back, though. Unless, of course, we tamper in God's Domain....
    • Also, according to the RNA World hypothesis, before DNA based life appeared, the world was once dominated by things which were basically viruses, although modern viruses may not have any connection to them.
    • Prior to the emergence and spread of cyanobacteria, Earth's atmosphere was anaerobic, and deadly to nearly everything alive today. Earlier still, it was so hot that the surface was molten, and vaporized rock was a component of the air.
    • And, well, the nature of whatever space the universe would eventually occupy right before the Big Bang is totally unknown to us.

Tabletop Games

Toys
  • BIONICLE had its own Dark Time, and it was called just that, but it wasn't ancient. That is, it wasn't for most people, save for the tribes on the Mata Nui island, whose memories had been wiped. The era started with the Great Cataclysm 1000 years ago and ended directly before the main plot began — but it only lasted for 999 years on the island of Mata Nui, because the Big Bad agreed to give the islanders one spare year to build their villages that he later wanted to besiege. The rest of the Universe wasn't as lucky.

Video Games

Web Animation
  • The backstory of RWBY is about how mankind was nearly killed by evil creatures called Grimm, whom they managed to drive back by harnessing an energy source called Dust and channeling their Auras for fight capacity. The inhabitants of that world are at least smart enough to prepare for the Grimm's inevitable return.

Web Original
  • Hinted at in the Creepy Pasta "Genetic Memory".
    What happened, deep in the hidden eras before history began, that could affect the entire human race so evenly as to give the entire species a deep, instinctual, and lasting fear of pale beings with dark, sunken eyes, razor sharp teeth, and elongated faces?

Western Animation
    Hollywood HistoryOne Million BC
Cold WarSettingsDay of the Jackboot
Cucumber FacialImageSource/Western AnimationWestern Animation
Closed CircleCosmic Horror StoryDiabolus ex Machina

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