It's time for the second TV Tropes Halloween Avatar Contest, theme: cute monsters! Details and voting here.
The Wall Around the World
When neighbors from another continent get too noisy.
All around where you grew up is a barrier. No one knows what lies on the other side
. Or if they do, they're not telling. It could be Here There Be Dragons
, or your ancient enemies, or it could be that you and everyone you know is Sealed Good in a Can
, who knows?). Passage through will be difficult if not impossible, for what good is a barrier if anyone can walk on through?
The wall can surround a single village, a town, a continent, a world, or even an entire galaxy
. Or it could seemingly surround nothing, and simply mark a barrier between one world and the next. Surprisingly common in Soviet era SF. Think about it.
Note that, despite the name, the barrier does not have to be a literal wall.
If the barrier surrounds a community, it is an isolated Small Secluded World
or City in a Bottle
or possibly a Domed Hometown
. Contrast with The Great Wall
, which bisects the world, dividing it into two separate parts, and The Outside World
, what lies outside the walls.
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Anime & Manga
- The wall around the town in Haibane Renmei. (We never do find out what lies beyond, though considering that the walls are death...)
- In the first and second seasons of Slayers, the world Lina could explore (and put craters into) was restricted by a magical barrier that went down after the Big Bad powering it was killed.
- The wall in Princess Tutu is both literal and metaphorical, keeping reality from intervening in the narrative-controlled Gold Crown Town. Most people don't even realize it exists, since the story prevents them from wanting to leave. (This doesn't stop people from suddenly appearing inside the town gates, but it's ambiguous whether they're capable of leaving.)
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has the human villages deep underground. The planet's surface is overrun with monsters, and humanity has hidden away for so long that most of the people in Kamina's village question whether the surface actually exists.
- In the oneshot manga Island, by Komi Naoshi, the town the main characters live in is surrounded by a huge wall, much like a well. When the islanders turn 14, they are shown the truth- outside their island is nothing but a vast sea. The islanders believe that all the land in the world sunk and thus all other countries were drowned, making it useless to go outside the island. It turns out that only the island sank, probably because of land subsidence and earthquakes.
- Tokyo Jupiter in RahXephon, encasing Tokyo (and looking like Jupiter).
- A variety occurs in Angel Beats!. There's no literal wall, but the world around the high school complex just disappears into a thick fog once you travel beyond the hills.
- The "spiritual barrier" around the village in From the New World. The humans inside the barrier are told never to cross it, because the outside world is full of horrific monsters. They are taught this so that their subconscious telekinesis will only create said monsters outside the barrier. The barrier keeps bad things out and imprisons the characters, by necessity.
- In Attack on Titan, the remnants of humanity live inside an area protected by three absolutely massive ring walls. All the lands outside are claimed by man-eating giants that have hunted humanity to near extinction. The plot of the series is kicked off when the walls begin to fail...
- There's also a kind of layered example in how each wall has a quartet of towns situated just outside of it (surrounded by an extended semicircle), serving partially as a waystation in the major gates of the walls, but mostly as a cost reducing factor by baiting the Titans into easily monitored concentrations just outside the towns (the walls there being thinner than the rest). Although there are government incentives to settle such towns, it's offset by needing to live with the constant visual reminder of their enclosure. At least before the first one falls.
- The city of Houryou, in the Kingdom of En, from The Twelve Kingdoms also has many layers of walls, but in this case, is because of the constant population growth, as more people migrate to En from other kingdoms, the city constantly needs to expand more to acommodate them, and since the walls are needed to protect them from the monsters, they have to constantly be build with the expanding city
- The Incredible Hulk occasionally visited the Keystone Quadrant in his old comic-book series... basically a solar-system (possibly more than one) which was somehow 'walled off' from the rest of the universe, it could only be entered and exited through various types of teleportation. It was basically a Sugar Bowl without the sugar - populated by funny talking animals and hilariously incompetent Keystone Kops... and caught up in a long war between a Mad Scientist tortoise and his cybernetically-enhanced Black Bunny Brigade (not to mention a small army of robotic Monster Clowns), and the heroic Animal Resistance, led by a fast-talking Raccoon space-captain.
- The Source Wall is a wall around the entire DCU, which...well, who fucking knows. It makes no sense. Either 2D Space is in full effect or it lines the entire interior of the universe, in which case the universe it both finite and shaped in a way where that makes sense. Also, there are powerful cosmic beings embedded in the wall, and The Source (which may or may not be God) is on the other side.
- As to the powerful cosmic beings embedded in it: if you try to breach it and fail you wind up eternally trapped but alive. There are some powerful creatures who couldn't make it through. By now the wall is so covered with those trapped by it that it looks like a wall made entirely of screaming faces as far as the eye can see.
- In the Age Of X X-Men storyline, there's a massive barrier keeping the bad guys out. Kitty phases through it once and finds out there's nothing beyond it. It turns out the world isn't real, but made by a Reality Warper who is only good enough at this point to make a world that's only so big.
- In Fables, a queen was punished for her infidelity to her wizard-king husband by being transformed into a tortoise and having the archipelago on which she was born shrunk and put into a teacup she must constantly balance on her back. We briefly see the inhabitants of the archipelago, who have various myths and semi-scientific theories relating to the colossal white wall (the rim of the cup) surrounding their world. Several of their stories have elements of truth to them, though by and large the people simply accept the wall as a fact of life, and barely features in their lives beyond having a rite-of-passage where a boy must touch it to become a man.
- The forest containing The Village is closed off from the outside world by a wall. Turns out there's a reason for that.
- The desert that surrounds the Maitlands's house in Beetlejuice.
- The walls of Truman's enclosed world in The Truman Show.
- The broken bridge in Dellamorte Dellamore, aka Cemetery Man.
- In Dark City, John Murdoch tries to reach Shell Beach; instead he finds a wall at the edge of the city.
- In the film version of Æon Flux the survivors of the "industrial virus" (biological apocalypse) have lived in the walled city of Brenga for generations. The outer perimeter of the wall is periodically sprayed with some sort of poison to keep the outside world at bay.
- A (probably apocryphal) story about Harlan Ellison's pitch for the first Star Trek film claims that Ellison met with Paramount executives and provided an outline for an epic story which ended with the crew of the Enterprise traveling to the edge of the universe, encountering a massive wall there, blasting a hole through it with their phasers, and seeing the eye of God staring back at them. Studio heads, however, were unimpressed, claiming that the premise wasn't "big enough", at which point Ellison stormed out of the meeting.
- In The Last Starfighter, the entire civilized-good-guys portion of the galaxy is surrounded by an enormous force field called the Frontier. The evil Ko-Dan Armada lies outside the Frontier, but they've found a way to drill through it. (Cue Musical Sting.)
- In The Thirteenth Floor the world has no physical wall around it but it does have an edge where the simulated nature is visible to the naked eye. People with in the simulated world are just programmed to never think about going anywhere near that edge (of course there are exceptions...)
- Monsters (2010) has a huge wall being built at the Mexican border to prevent giant aliens from entering the US, though it's proving not to be very successful. Those living in the Infected Zone joke that the giant wall erected around them by the US government will eventually be built around the world.
- In Pacific Rim, the government decides to shut down the Jäger program in favor of building a wall to keep the Kaiju at bay and the cities safe. A lone Kaiju rips the wall open in a matter of hours.
- The Little Mermaid II: To keep her daughter from endangering herself in the sea, Ariel has an enormous wall built around the palace to separate them from it. However, Melody by 14 has learned a way through it: a loose bar on one of the gratings allows her to squeeze through.
- In Sex Mission the survivors of Depopulation Bomb — only women (reproducing artificially) — live in a deep mine and are afraid to venture outside, because all their periscope shows is a grey wasteland. There is a literal wall around the periscope and the surface gate. With very convincing grey wasteland painted on it.
- The impenetrable FAYZ Wall which surrounds the area in Gone.
- The Trope Namer is a short story by Theodore R. Cogswell in which it separated a magic-dominated half of the world with a science-dominated one.
- In The Sword of Truth / Legend of the Seeker, there is a (almost impenetrable) great barrier around a region called "The Midlands", which is the central geography of the story.
- That barrier is also re-used in Naked Empire of the same series, to close off a group of people from the rest of the world.
- Ian Mc Donald's Out on Blue Six—the city is surrounded by a giant Wall, and the protagonists explore to see what's on the other side. Turns out—nothing but toxic waste.
- In Damon Knight's Hell's Pavement, people in Connecticut (200 years in the future) know nothing of the people in New York, who know nothing of the people in Ohio, and so on. They believe people in the other places are literally monstrous and inhuman. (There are walls between zones.) This happened because supermarket chains used brilliant new brainwashing techniques to make people totally loyal to their brands, and the adherents of different brands formed different zones.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
- The planet Krikkit in Life, the Universe and Everything was surrounded by a thick fog such that they never saw outside their world. This was done by the remnants of the supercomputer Hactar, making the Krikkiters into an Omnicidal Maniac race once they saw the universe. He did this so they would use the universe-destroying bomb he had invented, thus fulfilling a duty he welched on long ago and geting rid of his long-standing guilt.
- In So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, Wonko the Sane builds an inside-out house he calls "the Asylum" to fence in the rest of the world (he, naturally, lives "outside the Asylum", which is inside the house). He'd decided the entire world had gone insane when he came upon a pack of toothpicks with instructions.
- In the novel Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, the End of the World sections take place in a town which has a wall around it, and once you come to the town you can't go outside the wall.
- If you only follow the first book, Oz would seem rather like this. The endless deadly desert surrounds Oz on all sides, isolating it rather nicely. Too bad later books place other magical kingdoms on the other side of a desert that seems rather more like a moat. Eventually, all the magic-users in Oz gather their power to put a wall of invisibility, thus more permanently sealing off Oz.
- There's a short story by Arthur C. Clarke called "The Wall of Darkness" about a planet with a wall that divides it in half. The protagonist spends many years (and most of his wealth) building a staircase to climb the wall to see what's on the other side. Turns out there is no other side, and the planet is essentially a 3D Möbius strip. The wall has been created in the distant past to prevent people from trying to go to the other side, which tends to drive people mad.
- The Void in Peter F. Hamilton's Void Trilogy, arguably.
- A global glacier surrounds the only habitable continent on all of Darkover, literally called The Wall Around the World by the inhabitants.
- In The Singer of All Songs, the order of priestesses known as the Daughters of Taris live surrounded by a giant wall of ice. They are the only people who can use ice magic, so they control who can come in and out.
- The great Agatean Wall in Interesting Times in more to keep everyone inside, rather than other people out. According to the leaders, there is nothing but ghost and vampire filled wasteland outside it.
- In The Dosadi Experiment the whole planet is encased inside "God Wall" barrier as a part of said experiment. Not that it's completely impassable, but for most people inside it is.
- The Land of Elyon, a children's series by Patrick Carman, has walls surrounding the inhabited cities and the roads that link them. The main character finds a way out of the walls, despite the fear of many of the other characters about what is beyond the walls.
- The Green Wall in Yevgeni Zamyatin's We, separating the civilization of the One State from the forests around it, which in turn separate them from the rest of the world. We are given few and conflicting clues as to what actually may exist beyond the forest.
- Ted Chiang's "Tower of Babylon" is a speculative fiction short story where it's more of a ceiling or floor. The vault of heaven is a literal stone roof to the universe, and the Babylonians have built a tower to talk to God, who they believe resides above it. One of them makes it, only to emerge from a cavern deep in the Earth, back where he started—somewhat similar to the Clarke example above, the world loops back on itself.
- Marlen Haushofer's "The Wall" is about a woman one day waking up in a mountain valley with the whole valley suddenly surrounded by an invisible, impenetrable wall. With all life outside the wall apparently dead, the book deals with her trying to survive inside the valley. Wondering if she is the last human alive, she speculates about the origin of the wall, which in the end is never revealed. She often thinks about trying to leave the valley, but never can't bring herself to risk it. What happens with her in the end is left open to the reader.
- The Reynard Cycle: Deconstructed by the Muraille, a series of fortresses connected by a wall meant to serve as the eastern border of Arcasia. Unfortunately, the finished product was Awesome, but Impractical: It could never be fully manned, and has been breached so many times that the whole thing has been abandoned.
- Perry Rhodan uses this on a number of occasions (including a 'wall' around the entire Milky Way Galaxy that the protagonists had to deal with after losing a few hundred years in an unexpected stasis field while outside, once). There's also a more literal example in Wardall, a tide-locked planet with a wall running around its entire circumference following the terminator. The planet's former natives apparently lived inside said wall rather than on either side of it, not surprising considering the conditions there; by the time the issue set on the world opens, though, its only inhabitants are the surviving crew members of a crashed pirate vessel and their descendants.
- The wall separating Experiment House property from Narnia in The Silver Chair.
- A literal example is the spherical Walls of the World from J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, which are only specifically described in The History of Middle-earth although their existence is implied in The Silmarillion. The walls separate the world from the empty void of the Outer Dark, and are only pierced by a single Door of Night, created by the Valar to thrust Morgoth out until The End of the World as We Know It.
- A large portion of the plot in Orson Scott Card's Pathfinder revolves around one of these. It's revealed decently early on that there are actually 19 "worlds" with Walls.
- In The Legends of Ethshar, the world of Ethshar is a Flat World, being the end-cap of a cylinder. The edge of the end-cap is marked by a "noxious yellow gas".
- The wall (or "Barrier") in Lee Arthur Chane's Magebane was created long ago by mages as a defense against a commoner uprising. It's assumed that it will last for another two hundred years. This is a bit of an overestimate.
- There aren't any literal walls in City of Ember, but there might as well be — the only light comes from the city, as does all of the food and other necessities, making it impossible to leave. Nobody in the city knows what might exist outside of it, if there's anything there at all. It turns out that the entire city is actually underground. The original builders included instructions for leaving the city to be used after a certain amount of time had passed, but they were lost and forgotten before they could be used, leaving the citizens trapped in a city with dwindling food and power supplies, and no way of knowing that escape was necessary or possible.
- Natives of the planet Lookout in Jack Mc Devitt's "Omega" live on an isthmus (narrow strip between continents - like Panama), with basically-impassable terrain on both ends. They pretty much believe they're on an island amidst an infinity of ocean.
- The prologue to Forbidden Borders series by Michael Gear tells how Sufficiently Advanced Aliens tried to teach humans "reasonable" non-violent behaviour since they considered extermination unethical. They trapped a score of human colonies inside "gravitic bottle", which humans dubbed Forbidden Borders and dropped an asteroid on Earth. First they tried to guide humans via a telepathic supercomputer. They managed to slow technological progress and make them forget Earth, but humans contacting the computer ended up forming a cult and keeping its knowledge to themselves. When the aliens tried to force the cult to share their knowledge, the cult just abandoned the computer. As of the series start the aliens were expecting humans to exterminate themselves in the upcoming war of attrition.
- The planet Saraksh in Prisoners of Power by Strugatsky Brothers has an atmosphere with very high refraction, which leads its inhabitants to beleive that they live not on the outer surface of the globe, but on the inner one. They can see the surface around them curving upward, as far as dense low clouds allow to see. The idea that they live on an outer surface ("mas-saraksh", "inside-out world") is well known, damned by all religions, commonly used as an expletive, but gives surprisingly accurate results for plotting trajectories of ICBMs. Only insane believe in existence of other worlds, and a crash-landed alien is considered a mutant.
Live Action TV
- The barrier around the galaxy in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before".
- Another old series show, "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky", where the world is a hollow asteroid.
- In the Doctor Who story "Inferno", the Doctor pushes through a barrier in time and ends up in a Mirror Universe.
- Also used in the DWM comics, most notably in "Oblivion".
- On The Prisoner, the mysterious Village is surrounded by unclimbable mountains to the north, and the sea to the south. On several occasions, the eponymous Prisoner attempts to escape by boat, but he always ends up getting caught.
- In the fourth season of "Heroes", Sylar is imprisoned in a section of abandoned Manhattan with a wall around it. Since this is a psychic prison imposed on him by a telepath, there is actually NO "outside".
- Pink Floyd's The Wall, which isolates the protagonist from... the world in general, but especially his fans.
Myth, Religion, and Legend
- Jericho, from The Bible, is now synonymous with its absurdly strong fortifications. Tends to happen when it takes God Himself to bring them down.
- There is also reference to a the sky being a firmament, a literal wall around the entire world. This is slightly different than the usual application of this trope, as there is pretty much nothing outside of the area enclosed by the firmament, which exists to hold back the waters that are the source of rain. Although the Book of Isaiah does describe Yahweh as having his throne on top of the firmament.
- A pre-Islamic Turkic myth has the Turkic people fleeing into a valley surrounded by mountains of iron to survive an onslaught. Their point of entry collapses, effectively sealing them from their enemies and letting them stay there for generations. When they decide to leave, they do so by melting the iron mountain.
- In The Qur'an itself, there's a story of Iskandar Zulkarnaen (may or may not be the same as Alexander the Great) being asked to protect a people from their enemy, the Ya'juj and the Ma'juj (maybe Gog and Magog). He does so by building exceedingly tall wall entirely made of iron, with a massive iron gate that's difficult to open.
- There's also a 'wall' (more metaphorical than literal) between this world and the realm of the dead, that absolutely no one can pass. The wall is the reason why there are few (if any) ghost stories in the Islamic world.
- The borders between the physical realm and the spirit worlds in the Old World of Darkness RPG line (the Gauntlet and the Shroud) qualify. Most humans have no idea that the spirit realms are real.
- The Gauntlet still stands in the New World of Darkness, cutting off the Shadow from the material. There's also the Abyss, which severs the Supernal from the Fallen.
- The NWOD is full of these, and generally for the better. Gauntlet is the border between real world and Spirit world. The Hedge is the border between real world and Arcadia. It takes the form of thick thorny bush that hurts the soul of anyone passing through it. There's also an unnamed wall that prevents interaction between real world and Inferno.
- Dungeons & Dragons, as always:
- The Misty Border in the Ravenloft setting cuts it off from the rest of the multiverse. You can check in, but you never check out. Darklords can do this at will (with few thematically-appropriate exceptions) to isolate their own domains.
- The town of Barovia has its own permanent version of its domain's closed border; only the Vistani know how to make a secret antidote that allows safe passage.
- Spelljammer has a borderline case: crystal shells. Oh, it can have many thousands of portals... spread over the whole surface of a star system, that is. It's not easy to find one without knowing where it is, and they don't always stand still forever. Thus the proper magic is the best way to locate a portal or even open temporary one — for those who have it.
- The Weirding Wall in Nobilis which encloses the whole universe.
- Paranoia is set in Alpha Complex, a domed city. The existence of "Outdoors Sector" is acknowledged, but information about it is limited, especially at low security clearances.
- Faxai-on-the-Caul, the only Realm city on the Lunar-controlled island of the Caul, is surrounded by massive walls; not only are they a major reason the city hasn't fallen, they're also partially why the Realm wants to keep a presence there (as legends state they were made by a venerated figure). The lands beyond are largely unknown.
- Custom Robo (the Gamecube version) has the humans live inside a domed city that isolates them from the post-apocalyptic world. The outside world is kept secret except to a select few. But when you beat Rahu III, the final boss, it is revealed to everyone.
- In Grandia, an entire continent was divided by an enormous wall about a mile high. No one ever tried to explain why.
- Could have something to do with Gaia killing almost everything in its path, as it's only encountered on that side of the wall until it got on an airship.
- Grandia II had something similar, a huge nigh-uncrossable canyon, though its existence was explained: it was basically caused by God crashing into the earth.
- In Wild ARMs 4, your first indication that Ciel is not a typical RPG hamlet is when fighter craft shatter the barrier surrounding it that was disguised as sky. The outside world is quite a bit different.
- City of Heroes has the War Walls, justified as barrier against alien invasion, but really there as a level separation.
- Palm Brinks in Dark Cloud 2 was sealed off from the rest of the world via a titanic wall, far too tall to scale. This was done by the Mayor, to protect the citizens from the incredible devastation taking place in the outside world —but now that the land is healing (and with the heroes having escaped via an underground sewer/aqueduct,) many of Palm Brink's inhabitants dream of exploring and building new cities.
- Star Control 2 has slave shields — barriers around homeworlds of defeated races who don't want to fight on Ur-Quan side.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: The Great Sea has no physical barrier to keep you from leaving the map. However, your boat tells you that it's dangerous to leave and turns you around.
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has an impenetrable cloud cover that separates the residents of Skyloft from the surface. As far as the people of Skyloft are concerned, the "surface" is a mythical place, rumored to be filled with monsters.
- In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Hyrule is a valley bordered on all sides by impassable mountains. No one knows or even speculates on what's beyond. Considering that it's landlocked, it makes you wonder where Link boarded the ship from the intro to The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening.
- Speaking of which, Koholint Island in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is an island in a vast ocean. Its inhabitants have not attempted to build any sailing vessel more advanced than a rivergoing raft, and most express surprise and disbelief at the notion that there is a world outside their island. This is because the island and everyone and everything in it exist only in the dream of the Wind Fish.
- Gensokyo, the setting of the Touhou games, is walled off from the Outside World by the Great Hakurei Barrier to preserve Youkai, though people and objects occasionally slip through (particularly things the outside world has stopped believing in).
- There's no actual wall on Hillys in Beyond Good & Evil, but if the player strays too close to the edge of the map, a series of pillars will rise up out of the water and warn the player that they're leaving territorial waters. Trying to get past them will just lead to them shooting non-lethal lasers at the player's vehicle to turn it around.
- Lusternia is comprised of the Basin of Life, which is entirely isolated from the rest of the world by mountains. Nobody can get out, but there have been cases where denizens have come in from/gone out to some place on the outside.
- In Fallout 3, Vault 101 was intended to never open its door. The line is, "No one ever enters, and no one ever leaves." Neither are true: your dad is from Rivet City, and you and he both leave.
- The Hexen II manual states that the universe is surrounded by a crystal barrier, beyond which there is a darkness inhabited by demons. The Serpent Riders are merely the three who slipped through a tiny hole which was sealed almost immediately.
- The area known as The States in White Noise is surrounded by a gigantic wall and poison gas filled moat. No one is allowed in or out except for bounty hunters, and residents hate and fear those who live beyond it.
- In Sluggy Freelance the "Punyverse" turned out to be surrounded by a giant solid sphere, the inhabitants mostly didn't know that and thought it was an endless void inhabited by "void ghosts" that occasionally attacked (it was really wild shots reflecting off the sphere). Also their entire universe was artificial
- Our whole universe in Fine Structure is 'walled'. Nothing gets in or out. It's actually a prison designed to keep Oul inside.
- The Simpsons
- The glass dome enclosing Springfield in The Movie.
- And the wall made of garbage separating Springfield from New Springfield.
- In Futurama, the Planet Express crew visits the Edge of the Universe, which has a convenient viewing platform. They are able to look through binoculars at the Universe Next Door, (which is apparently cowboy-themed).
Fry: Wow. So there's an infinite number of parallel universes?
Professor Farnsworth: No, just the two.
- In South Park episode "Pinewood Derby", Earth and the Moon are sealed off by a cube-shaped force field after the humans fail the Space Cash Test.
- Also, in the episode Child Abduction is Not Funny, the paranoid parents in South Park had Mr. Lu Kim build a huge wall around the town to keep kidnappers out. It was ordered to be demolished again at the end of the episode.
- The Duckman episode Exile in Guyville had a wall being built down the middle of America, dividing the sexes with Women on the East and Men on the West.
- Ba Sing Se, the Earth Kingdom capital in Avatar: The Last Airbender, is surrounded by two giant walls. People within the city are generally encouraged not to even think about the world outside the walls.
- Phineas and Ferb: in "Escape from Phineas Tower", the titular tower traps Phineas and Ferb and their friends in a dome. To escape, they make the tower realize they have friends in multiple places, causing the tower to encast larger and larger areas into its dome, untill eventually the dome ends up surrounding the entire milky way galaxy.
- Fairly OddParents: episode Love Struck, Timmy wishes for the worlds population to be divided by gender, causing the Earth to be split up in a men's half and a womans half, seperated by a large wall circumnavigating the Earth at the poles.