The Great Wall

Suppose the Big Bad has a very definite territory he calls his own, from where his hordes of darkness spawn. It's good because you always know where the baddies come from, but what do you do if you don't have the necessary manpower to end them once and for all?

Simply: just put a wall between you and them. The bigger, the better.

The Great Wall is what happens when you try to get your enemies not only out of your city but of your county, state or country, resorting to the simple mechanism of building a wall that will (one hopes) keep them out. There's usually only one of these : in most cases, no one bothers to make several walls to fall back in case the first one is breached, or, for that matter, any contingency plan or line of defense more complicated than this.

It's similar to The Wall Around the World, except that this is more about separating two realms from each other, whereas The Wall Around the World is about separating one realm from everything else. The most famous Real Life example is, of course, The Great Wall of China, which may have been the inspiration for many fictional Great Walls, although the Berlin Wall and Hadrian's Wall have also been influential.

May be an Absurdly Ineffective Barricade if it doesn't work. Compare Insurmountable Waisthigh Fence. Invisible Wall works like that.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan has the last known human city hiding behind three nested circular walls. Both the fact that it works as a prison and that it won't keep out the titans forever are acknowledged by the story, although various characters are in denial of both. The outermost wall is breached in the first chapter.
  • The Gate Wall in Darker Than Black used to ward off the negative effects of the Hell's Gate.

    Comic Books 
  • In Infinite Crisis, the Green Lantern Corps erect a 7-mile thick wall to hold back Super-boy Prime. It fails.

  • One of the main features of Skull Island is a wall built by the human inhabitants to keep Kong and the dinosaurs out of their village. Pity they included such a huge gate...
  • In Doomsday, an unknown killer virus has infected Scotland, turning people into savage animals and killing the host. The UK government cannot quarantine the virus because they have neither cure nor vaccine, and they decide to build a 60-foot containment wall over the border with Scotland, isolating it from the rest of Britain.
  • In Pacific Rim, mankind begins building walls as a last-ditch effort to keep the Kaiju out. It's clear from the outset that it won't work.
  • In The Last Starfighter, the Star League created The Frontier, a force field barrier generated by a pattern of fixed devices. It was designed to keep out the Ko-Dan Armada, the starfleet of the Ko-Dan Empire.

  • A Song of Ice and Fire Westeros has a massive (as in 800 foot-high) Wall built of ice blocks in the far north, stretching from the continent's east coast to the west. The Wall was built to keep out the Others, "demons made of ice", and is manned by the Night's Watch. The books explore the logistics of the idea :
    • While it's (supposedly) pretty efficient at its first purpose (since the hordes of zombies it's supposed to repel can't climb), the Seven Kingdoms end up relying too much on it, which is why the Night's Watch slowly degrade into an Army of Thieves and Whores.
    • Due to the sheer size of the thing, Watch is thinned out and unable to stop the wildlings who try to climb it or dig through it. Well, they can, but only when they catch them.
    • The Wall is punctuated with "forts" (more like barracks) sheltering the Watch and defending the Wall's gates. However, most of them were closed and their gates plugged, because of the Watch's depleting ranks.
    • They are also unable to prevent the forest from spreading and reaching the Wall, concealing the ground in front of it, except in front of their forts, by sending axemen cut the threes regularly.
    • Since the top is pretty high, in a land of never-ending winter, they have to cover it with gravel on a daily basis to prevent it from becoming an ice rink.
  • In Codex Alera, a giant wall protects the Realm from the Icemen. By the end of the series, it protects the Icemen from the Realm. Same end result, but a different perspective from the people involved.
  • The one located in the town of Wall in Neil Gaiman's Stardust.
  • There's one of these in Garth Nix's Old Kingdom books, separating the nonmagical land of Ancelstierre from the Old Kingdom, where there's necromancy and other magic. It's actually an artefact containing one of the five Cosmic Keystones that keeps the Charter together and is designed to keep anything nasty inside the Old Kingdom where people know how to deal with it. It's only moderately successful, hence the massive trench and bunker network on the Ancelstierran side.
  • Chattergy's Wall from Haroun and the Sea of Stories separates the perpetual daylight of Gup from the benighted land of Chup.
  • In Rudyard Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill, Centurion Parnesius is Reassigned to Antarctica on Hadrian's Wall.
  • Hadrian's Wall and the Antonine Wall loom large in Rosemary Sutcliff's stories of Roman Britain, notably The Eagle of the Ninth, The Mark of the Horse Lord, Frontier Wolf, and The Capricorn Bracelet, whose protagonists either have to build them, garrison them, cross them, or get Chased by Angry Natives back to them.
  • In Discworld, the Agatean Empire has a Great Wall, supposedly to keep out the invisible vampire ghosts but actually to keep the Agateans in. The Wall stretches to the Rim Ocean, and then continues on the Empire's islands, even though that doesn't really block anything, since it's the idea of the Wall that's important.
  • The Union at Expedition Z has a Westerly Wall at its Western border made of scrap metal and wood stretching for 1,300 miles that blocks off intruders and (formerly) zombies.
  • In The Rogue King there are two walls that hem in the continent's desert, which is designed to keep out the natives.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Legend of the Five Rings has the Kaiu Wall between the Shadowlands and Rokugan, where the Crab Clan spend their lives protecting the rest of the Empire from the demonic forces. It is a point of both pride and annoyance for the Crabs that no other clan knows of how hard their duty is.
  • Warhammer: The first Dragon Emperor of Cathay had a massive wall built along it's northern border to protect it from the Chaos Wastes, called the Great Bastion. It extends hundreds of miles in length and its great size requires a garrison of tens of thousands to man it.

    Video Games 
  • In Civilization IV, the Great Wall improvement prevents barbarians from landing on the entire continent it is built on. In Civilization V, it doesn't stop enemies from entering your territory, but it does slow them down.
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind: Dagoth Ur's lair on Red Mountain has been surrounded by the Ghost Fence, created by the Tribunal Gods to contain Dagoth Ur the Blight. However, since Blighted Cliff Racers could simply fly over it and ash storms carried the Blight on the winds, it was not very effective at containing the Blight.
  • In Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, the Endless Wall protects the China-equivalent, though by the time you get to explore it it's swarming with monsters.
  • In Grandia, there's a gargantuan mile-high wall that bifurcates an entire continent.
  • Guild Wars had a Great Wall in Ascalon, which kept the charr in the northern lands. Its penetration is what started the initial game's plot. Many parts of it still stand come the sequel.
  • World of Warcraft has:
    • The Serpent's Spine, a very exact copy of The Great Wall of China cutting a large western sector off the rest of Pandaria - erected by the Mogu emperors to keep out the periodic Mantid swarms.
    • The Greymane Wall. While it protected the kingdom of Gilneas from the plague of undeath, it also trapped them when the worgen curse hit.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar universe, Ba-Sing-Se, the biggest city of the Earth Kingdom has a massive outer wall, and many inner walls used to divide the people of different social classes.

    Real Life 
  • In many Chinese Empires, and some of the smaller nation-states and kingdoms, series of observation posts in militarised zones (such as the 'Great Walls') helped keep marauding tribes from the Steppes from raiding too deeply or extensively in one's lands when used to inform a fast response by cavalry to intercept them. This was only enough to keep them at bay in peacetime, however, and the Steppe Tribes knew this - they usually waited until the Chinese nations bordering them were at war with one another before they tried anything too raid-y. The big exception to this rule would be The Empire of the Song in the 11th century, which lost its capital to a lightning campaign by a semi-nomadic Steppe nation (the Jurchen) which had subjugated most of the tribes in modern Mongolia and Manchuria while they'd been the Song's ally. This was only possible because of the suddeness of the betrayal, which caught the army largely de-mobilised and with the Wall's garrisons being at their peacetime strengths at best. The ultimate result was that the entire north of the Empire, with a third of its people (and thus a similar share of its wealth) was lost to the Jurchens. After this, the ('Southern') Empire of the Song waged a hundred-year war to defend its remaining subjects. The Wall was not used again until the Empire of the Ming managed to conquer all the former Song Empire's lands from south-to-north three centuries later.
  • The Berlin Wall, which both literally subdivided the city of Berlin, and became a symbol of the proverbial Iron Curtain dividing the communist and capitalist worlds.
  • Hadrian's Wall and the other limes walls of Ancient Rome, built for keeping Celtic and Germanic tribes at bay. In a subversion, George Macdonald Fraser believes that their real purpose was not to keep raiders from getting out but from getting back. It may not be much trouble for a reasonably strong war party to get through but they have to take all their stolen cattle, and of course if they abandon them there is not much point in going on a raid in the first place.
  • The US-Mexico fence. Said "fence" can be anything from wooden posts a few feet apart on the coasts, metal walls (popular in areas with towns right on the border), to the occasional motion sensor and border guard.
  • In Australia, the Dingo fence protects southeast Australia from dingos.
  • The Maginot Line, built slightly behind the Franco-German border by the French in the 1930s to economise on manpower in the event of a Franco-German war (that part of the front line could be extremely lightly defended, and the men saved could be deployed elsewhere), encourage Germany to invade Belgium in the event of such a war, encourage Belgium to remain allied with France because of the risk of being invaded by Germany, and encourage Germany to face French forces on the plains of Belgium or (if the Germans held back) western Germany where France's massive superiority in troops and artillery and tanks would be the most telling (the hills and forest of the Franco-German border and southern Belgium being sub-optimal for making this advantage count).
  • The Great Wall of Gorgan protected the various Persian empires from invaders from the north by closing the gap between the mountains and the Caspian Sea, and was the second-longest defensive wall in recorder history after the Great Wall of China. Made doubly impressive by being built entirely of brick.
  • Saudi Arabia is currently building a wall along its border with Iraq to keep out ISIS militants.