The Ur Example is the oldest known example of a given trope. "Ur-" is just a German prefix meaning "proto-, primitive, or original."
Typically, an Ur Example doubles as the Trope Maker
— but not always, and far less often with ancient tropes
, which often evolved over a long period of time rather than suddenly bursting forth from someone's head, fully formed. When they're distinct, a Trope Maker
differs from an Ur Example in that the latter becomes an example of that trope only in retrospect.
For instance, one of the pivotal Trope Makers
of the Detective Story
is Edgar Allan Poe
's collection of Dupin stories; before Dupin, there is no story genre
of fictional detectives going about the business of solving crimes. Nevertheless, while you may or may not know Poe's Dupin stories, you've probably encountered
a certain Danish Prince named Hamlet
, who not only sets about to ensnare his uncle King Claudius
, but even incorporates into his plans a play-within-a-play
he dubs "The Mousetrap
." And half a millennium earlier still, "The Tale of the Three Apples" is a proto-Detective Story
from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights
— which makes "The Tale of the Three Apples" the Ur Example of the Detective Story
, or at least a possible candidate. However, Oedipus Rex
, first performed in 429 BCE, depicts Oedipus investigating the cause of the plague that has struck his realm.
Wherever a trope has evolved gradually, determining the Ur Example can be a complicated and contentious business. In many cases a trope has more than one Ur Example, because determining the "earliest use of the trope" depends on subjective choices as to which aspects of the trope are its defining qualities.
Ur Examples are unfortunately highly susceptible to the Seinfeld Is Unfunny
trope - not only because they dreamed up conventions that have been around practically forever but because, since at the time they were
so new, the creators didn't really appreciate what they were making
and thus didn't conform to the standards of an aesthetic or gimmick that hadn't even existed yet. See Unbuilt Trope
and Beam Me Up, Scotty!
for more on this.
Notable Ur Examples:
open/close all folders
- The Bible: The Book of Job, if it was written before the Pentateuch, is probably the Ur Example of Rage Against the Heavens.
- The Epic of Gilgamesh provides a possible Ur Example of the Femme Fatale, Ishtar — and a hero who is somehow Genre Savvy enough to recognize her as such!
- Where was the first use of By Wall That Is Holey? Not in Buster Keaton films, not in animated shorts, but in an ancient Pima story of creation perhaps millennia before the creation of film, in which the creator god Juhwertamahkai twice destroys the world by letting the sky fall to crush everybody, while avoiding such a fate himself by breaking a hole in the sky with his staff.
- Time Travel is yet another of those very murky tropes that it's impossible to give one single Ur Example to.
- Stories in which people are thrust forward long periods of time trace back to Mahabharata, in the eighth century B.C, the Ur Example of Year Outside, Hour Inside. Similar ancient tales about traveling forward in time include the story of Honi HaM'agel in the Talmud (by way of Rip Van Winkle) and the Japanese tale of Urashima Taro (another Year Outside, Hour Inside).
- An early story with hints of backwards Time Travel is Memoirs of the Twentieth Century (1733) by Samuel Madden.
- "Missing One's Coach: An Anachronism", written for the Dublin Literary Magazine by an anonymous author in 1838, is a very early quasi-Time Travel story.
- In Charles Dickens' 1843 book A Christmas Carol, we follow Ebenezer Scrooge into his own past and then back to the present. However, he is only able to view the past and unable to interact with it.
- A clearer example of time travel is found in the popular 1861 book Paris avant les hommes (or Paris before Men) by the French botanist and geologist Pierre Boitard. In this story the main character is transported into the prehistoric past by the magic of a "lame demon" (a French pun on Boitard's name), where he encounters such extinct animals as a Plesiosaur, as well as Boitard's imagined version of an apelike human ancestor, and is able to actively interact with some of them.
- The 1881 short story "The Clock That Went Backward", by an anonymous author later identified as Edward Page Mitchell, is almost forgotten today. A broken clock sends a few men to the past.
- The first story to feature Time Travel by means of a time machine was Enrique Gaspar y Rimbau's 1887 book El Anacronópete.
- One year later, in 1888, H. G. Wells published the first story to feature Time Travel by means of a time machine which allowed its operator to navigate through time purposefully and selectively: "The Chronic Argonauts".
- Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889), in which the protagonist finds himself in the time of King Arthur after a fight in which he is hit with a sledge hammer, was another early time travel story which helped bring the concept to a wide audience, and was also one of the first stories to show history being changed by the time traveler's actions.
- H. G. Wells also coined the term "time machine," which was popularized (and eventually universalized) through his story The Time Machine (1895).
- The origin of the phrase Eat the Rich dates back to around the time of The French Revolution, when Jean-Jacques Rousseau reportedly said, "When the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich."
- Sobekneferu, who reigned in the 12th dynasty of Egypt, around 1800 years BC, is the first known case of She Is the King – though it is possible a handful of female pharoahs predated even her... by up to a thousand years or more.
- While the legends of Elizabeth Bathory are widely considered to be the Trope Maker for the Blood Bath, the story of Siegfried from the Nibelungenlied bathing in the blood of the slain dragon to become invulnerable predate Bathory's ties to the trope by at least 500 years.
- Godwin's Law: William Jennings Bryan, an opponent of the theory of evolution in the 1920s, argued that it would lead to social Darwinism like in Imperial Germany. Arguably a use of Godwin's law that predates the Nazis themselves.
- Typhon from Classical Mythology is likely the Ur Example of a Hero Killer, driving the gods from Olympus by himself, and defeating Zeus in their first encounter, ripping out his sinews, and leaving him to rot. He covers all the requirements for the trope and is easily Older Than Feudalism.
- The unidentified assassin of Pharaoh Amenemhat I from Papyrus Millingen, believe it or not, is the Ur Example of a Ninja.
- I Am Legend is the Ur Example of a Zombie Apocalypse. The novel contains most if not all of the hallmarks of a modern Zombie Apocalypse. George Romero's Night of the Living Dead was based on this novel.
- Return of the Living Dead is considered to be the Ur Example of Brain Food in zombie films.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey, with its clean, monochromatic technological design, is the Ur Example of Everything Is an iPod in the Future. In fact, the Apple iPod is named after the film's space shuttles of the same name.
Anime and Manga
- Despite technically being predated in publication by Superman, the Ur Example for the Flying Brick in superhero comics would be Namor the Sub-Mariner. Superman couldn't fly until the forties (he could just jump really high or a really long way — "able to leap tall buildings in a single bound", remember?), but Namor was airborne from day one.
- The Tomb of Dracula contained the first Vampire Detective Series, following Hannibal King.
- Popeye the Sailor is the Ur example of the comic book superhero. He's heroic only to Olive Oyl however, many others (sometimes including innocent bystanders) are often brutally killed.
- As mentioned in Trope Makers, The Clock was the first costumed crimefighter in comics, making him the Ur Example of comicbook superheroes. Additionally, he had a female teenage Side Kick named Butch, creating the Ur example of the superhero sidekick. It's generally accepted that Robin is the Trope Maker since he was a more traditional superhero sidekick.
- Also, it is often believed that Spider-Man is the creator of a non-sidekick teen superhero. While Spider-Man is certainly the Trope Codifier and his creation led to many of the popular tropes that concept usually entails, the first non-sidekick teenage superhero was the Star Spangled Kid who first appeared in 1941. Ironically enough, he had an adult sidekick named Stripesy who was probably the originator for that particular trope.
- John Constantine the Hellblazer started the urban blue collar, supernatural Trenchcoat Brigadier. Many characters were influenced by him or were just analogues for simple reasons.
- While Fan Fiction as such is only as old as the concept of copyright, The Aeneid can be considered the oldest explicitly derivative written work of fiction (as in, it's the first clearly documented case where one author wrote a work entirely based on the setting and characters of another author's work). It even features such things as an OC Stand In (Aeneas himself), a Satellite Love Interest (Dido), a case of Aliens Made Them Do It, and loads of Alternate Character Interpretation. It's even technically the world's oldest Dead Fic, as Vergil came down with a bad case of Author Existence Failure before finishing it (the plot's complete, but a few lines are left half-finished in places that imply he was going to come back and finish them later).
Films — Live-Action
- Contrary to common belief, the original 1903 The Great Train Robbery was not the first film, but it was probably the Ur Example of the action western. Not a bad one, either.
- It could be seen as an Ur Example of modern films, as it was one of the first motion pictures to contain a plot. A lot of film before that was fairly banal stuff like trains pulling out of stations or horses galloping.
- One film—the Harold Lloyd silent classic The Freshman, in which Harold goes off to college and strives to become popular—might well be the Ur Example for Big Game, Big Man on Campus, Dean Bitterman, and Put Me In, Coach!.
- Psycho is considered to be the Ur Example of the Slasher Movie, although it doesn't actually have many of the tropes associated with more modern slasher films, being more of a classic serial-killer movie.
- Another possible candidate for the Ur Example of the Slasher Movie would be the 1932 film Thirteen Women, which predates the classic proto-slashers Psycho (1960) and Peeping Tom (also 1960) by twenty-eight years. Thirteen Women codifies the genre as follows: 1) all the deaths are brought about (even if indirectly) by one individual; 2) the film sets up the victims and then kills them off one by one; 3) all the major characters die, except for a lone, innocent Final Girl.
- It's most likely that the Ur Example of the Gorn genre is one of the Grand Guignol films made in the 1920's, using original screenplays but staying true to the horrific themes and special effects that had made the theatre (in)famous. (The director of the theatre judged the success of a show by how many people passed out from shock each night. The average was two faintings a night.)
- Eugène Pirou's 1896 movie Le Coucher de la Marie is generally considered to be the Ur Example of soft-core pornography. The first hard-core porn was either El Satario or A L'Ecu d'Or ou la bonne auberge, both around 1908.
- Nanook Of The North is considered the Ur Example of the Nature Documentary, as well as the first major documentary film ever released. It allegedly documented the life of an Inuit tribesman living close to the Arctic circle. It was also one of the first examples of Kayfabe; Many of the most famous scenes were staged (mainly ones where they were confused by or didn't use modern technology), and Nanook wasn't even his real name — it was Allakariallak.
- Fritz Lang's M is commonly considered the Ur Example of the police procedural genre in film, as well as the Ur Example of the modern serial killer in cinema (the fact that M is still a complex, realistic, and somewhat sympathetic portrayal despite having been made in 1931 is what makes it a good candidate for Trope Maker as well).
- It's also the Ur Example of a leitmotif in film.
- The Howling is probably the Ur Example of anthropomorphic werewolves (as distinguished from Wolf Men) in cinema.
- The very first instance of what we now call DVD Commentary appeared on the Criterion Collection's 1984 laserdisc for King Kong (their second ever release). On the track, Ronald Haver (the film scholar with the honor of being the first commentator) calls the audio a "lecture track" as opposed to a commentary.
- Woody Allen's directorial debut Whats Up Tiger Lily? was the Ur Example of a Gag Dub. He bought the rights to a Japanese spy thriller and dubbed over the audio with a brand new story. The trope was so new that the film starts with Allen explaining the concept to a straight man.
- The first ever Gangster Picture was the 1927 silent film Underworld.
- Escape from New York: Snake Plissken was a Darker and Edgier Nineties Anti-Hero in 1981! That the film is itself is set in 1997 is somewhat Hilarious in Hindsight.
- Metropolis was the first ever Cyber Punk film, before Cyber Punk even became a genre. In fact, it used a lot of tropes before they became popular.
- Ur Example of the X-rated film? A Free Ride (1915). Not only was it genuine porn, but it even had a Seventies-sounding title!
- Contested; A Free Ride's actual year of creation is subject to debate, with some scholars thinking it was created later than 1915. Additionally, two other early porn films (El Satario and Am Abend) were supposedly created earlier, although exact dates for those two films are fuzzy as well.
- Don Juan (1926) was the first ever feature-length film to be released with a prerecorded soundtrack (no dialogue, but synchronized music and sound effects).
- The Jazz Singer (1927) was the first ever feature-length film to be released with synchronized recorded dialogue.
- Nightmare City (1980) was the first zombie film to feature zombies that move as fast as living humans (as opposed to classic, lumbering zombies).
Games (all kinds)
- Senet is the Ur Example of the Board Game. There probably existed others before, but this is the oldest known. Ironically, there is a game called "The Royal Game of Ur", and while it is very old, Senet still predates it by about 900 years or so.
- Wikipedia lists several candidates for first video game. Depends on how one defines "video game".
- The Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device is an electronic game from 1947. Might count as a "video game" even though it is not a computer program and has no digital logic. Only a few prototypes were built.
- OXO seems to be the first video game to use a digital graphics display. OXO implemented Tic Tac Toe (Noughts and Crosses) in a computer program for the EDSAC. It never had many players, because the only EDSAC was at the University of Cambridge.
- Pitfall II: Lost Caverns was the Ur Example of Metroidvania.
- Probably the first roleplaying video game was Colossal Cave Adventure, though it's difficult to determine, since Dungeon (a D&D like game) came out around the same year (1975). This genre grew out of pencil and paper rpgs, making it a gradual progression and difficult to pin down.
- The Ur-First-Person Shooter is the 1973 game Maze War. (Wolfenstein 3D is the Trope Maker and Doom the Trope Codifier.)
- Pokémon may be responsible for popularizing the monster catching craze worldwide. However both it and the Trope Maker Megami Tensei grew out of an Edo period Older than Television Collectible Card Game called Obake Karuta ("Monster Cards"). In the game, a set of cards with depictions of various monsters from Japanese Mythology would be placed on a table. Each round, players would be given a clue, and attempt to grab the card of a monster who met that clue before their opponents could. At the end of the game, the player with the most cards won.
- Bungie's Marathon is the Ur Example for the 'mouselook' control scheme, where instead of only using a keyboard to control an FPS character, you control the view with a mouse as well. Terminator Future Shock is the Trope Maker, but due to Marathon being on the apple platform, and Terminator Future Shock just not being popular, it took until Quake and it's innovative online multiplayer before the mouselook feature became codified.
- Easter Eggs are a common trend in video games of the modern era, and the Ur Example thereof is probably Adventure, a game for the Atari 2600. Atari refused to credit programmers for their work - but Warren Robinett rebelled, providing a well-hidden credits screen partway through the game. While the term Easter Egg is now used to refer to any hidden content within a work, it started with programmers getting recognition for their efforts.
- Adventure is also the Ur Example of the Wide Open Sandbox gameplay style.
- The Orion Conspiracy, realeased in 1995, is the Ur Example of the Coming-Out Story in Video Games. There have been reports of games containing Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transsexual dating back to the 1980s, but The Orion Conspiracy is one of the first, if not the first, games to break the gay taboo.
- Vib Ribbon, released in 1999 for the Playstation, was the first game to generate levels in real-time based on the music on a CD supplied by the player. This genre became popular years later when technology had advanced enough to make the games more visually appealing. However, Monster Rancher, a game in which monsters are generated through the music (or other data) on a CD supplied by the player, predates Vib Ribbon by two years.
- Recca, an NES game made in 1992, is the Ur Example of Bullet Hell.
- Akalabeth: World of Doom, released in 1980, marked the beginning of the Computer Western Role-Playing Game.
- The Space Marine trope: Warhammer40000 was the table top game Ur Example, DOOM the videogame version.
- While Rogue is the Trope Maker and Trope Namer for the Roguelike genre, the genre has its Ur Example a bit earlier: Dnd features all the elements that would later be associated with Roguelikes - except random dungeon generation, which is one of the most important features of the genre today.
- Populous is the first example of the God Sim.
- Vette was the first true 3D open-world driving game.
- I, Robot was the first video game to use filled polygon graphics (as opposed to vectors).
- Berzerk was the first survival horror game.
- Gottlieb's Caveman is the Ur Example of a Video Mode in Pinball games. It was a pinball/video arcade game hybrid with the screen embedded in the pinball playfield. When the player shot a ball into either side of the screen, a Maze Game would start, whereupon the player can move the caveman with a joystick to hunt dinosaurs. The player could return to the pinball game if he exited the maze, but getting eaten by a T. rex would drain the ball.
- Pinball Construction Set is the Ur Example and Trope Maker for Game Makers.
- Battle Zone 1980 is the Ur Example of both simulation games and of military training software, with The Bradley Trainer (modified from the Battlezone arcade cabinet) being commissioned by the U.S. Army.
- The Epic of Gilgamesh, being among the first recorded stories known to man, is the Ur Example, or at least one of the very earliest Trope Codifiers, of the heroic epic poem and a lot of the related tropes. That Gilgamesh was the king of Uruk, not far from Ur, just makes it sweeter. One could even say that this is the Ur Example of the Ur Example.
- The Iliad, sub-titled The Wrath of Achilles. Achilles and Patroclus have an insane amount of Ho Yay. Of course, it's Ancient Greece, so Everyone Is Bi. May represent the Ur Example of Shipping and a Fan-Preferred Couple, as debates go as far back as the Classical period (i.e. almost 2,500 years) as to whether or not the two were actually lovers and people still argue over it in the present day! The main sticking point, at least for the Classical Greeks, having been more that Achilles and Patroclus were about the same age, rather than fitting the age structured homosexual relationships favored in that later era.
- Marking the first novel is a rather ambiguous and arbitrary endeavor given the long evolution of literary tradition that eventually becomes what we now define as novels. The Roman novel The Golden Ass, by Lucius Apuleius Platonicus in 160 AD is perhaps the oldest work that could be considered a novel. Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji (1010) is the oldest that is universally accepted as a novel. Don Quixote is widely considered to be the first modern novel, divided into chapters and two parts.
- The character Dante in The Divine Comedy might be the Ur Example of Author Avatar.
- As might Lucius, the protagonist of Lucius Apuleius Platonicus's novel The Golden Ass, written more than a millennium earlier.
- You could consider Socrates/Plato of The Republic to be the Ur Example. Just don't get hung up on who the author was.
- The Ur Example of the Detective Story might be "The Tale of the Three Apples," from The Book of the One Thousand and One Nights (Arabic: كتاب ألف ليلة وليلة - kitāb 'alf layla wa-layla; Persian: هزار و یک شب - Hezār-o yek shab). While it's difficult to say exactly how ancient the roots of the story go, we can say it probably dates back at least to the fourteenth century A.D., since that's when The Book of One Thousand and One Nights was compiled.
- The One Thousand and One Nights has at least one other detective story (of the Reverse Whodunnit variety), "Ali Khwajah and the Merchant of Baghdad" where a thief is caught with the help of logic and olive experts.
- The deuterocanonical (or apocryphal, according to Protestants) extended Book of Daniel has a story where Daniel figures out a locked room mystery. Essentially a Detective Story in the way that it's played out.
- The True History by Lucian of Samosota, written at some point in second-century Greece, is sometimes considered the Ur Example of Science Fiction, as well as the Tall Tale. Discussing whether or not it counts is Serious Business for academia. Also, it ends with a To Be Continued.
- George Chesney's story The Battle of Dorking (1871) can be considered the Ur Example of military science fiction.
- The Lensman Series gave us power armor and space marines.
- Several of Lord Dunsany's stories provide the Ur Examples of the Sword and Sorcery fantasy subgenre. To give one example, one story concerns the gods Chu-bu and Sheemish and the names and personalities of these gods are quite similar to those that turn up in Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and in Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. The story itself is an example of Gods Need Prayer Badly which turns up in similar ways in a lot of later fantasy.
- The Stars My Destination and to a lesser extent The Demolished Man and The Caves of Steel prefigures cyberpunk- you have mega corps, dark anti-heroes, and every thing you'd expect from the genre.
- Charles Dickens' Bleak House is possibly the first instance of Spontaneous Human Combustion showing up in a work of fiction; however, several stories of this phenomenon "really happening" in Real Life predate Bleak House, the oldest dating back to 1654 in the book Historiarum Anatomicarum Rariorum by Thomas H. Bartholin, which provides a report of such an incident that is dated from the late 1400's.
- Childhood's End for Ominous Floating Spaceship
- The fin-de-siècle Viennese writer Arthur Schnitzler is usually credited with pioneering the stream-of-consciousness, internal monologue, 1st-person style with his short story "Leutnant Gustl".
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote Christabel, a poem involving a lesbian vampire, in the 1790s. Joseph Le Fanu's Carmilla borrowed from Coleridge this aspect.
- In a strange example of a Ur Example switching media, the Scarlet Pimpernel is probably the Ur Example of a Super Hero or at least a costumed crimefighter using a Secret Identity.
- Andre Norton's Quag Keep (1978) was the world's first Dungeons & Dragons novel (it's set in the world of Greyhawk and dedicated to Gary Gygax), before D&D novels were a thing. It was also probably the first story to use the plot "gamers get magically transported to the supposedly-fictional world of the game they play".
- Edgar Allan Poe's only full length novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, provides the Ur Example of Cosmic Horror, in its final chapters, where the titular Arthur Gordon Pym and two other men sail through the surreal Antarctic waters.
Live Action TV
- New York Undercover was the first American Police Procedural to feature two people of color in the starring roles.
- Upscale, urban sitcoms featuring Jewish - or Ambiguously Jewish - characters have become so run-of-the-mill nowadays that it's easy to forget how uncommon they were as recently as The Eighties. That's why Seinfeld was such a hit (and also arguably why it is "unfunny"). But the very first Jewish sitcom? The Goldbergs, which came along in the late 1940s.
- The Ur Example of the reality-TV show? If you consider game shows to be reality shows, you can go back all the way to television's beginnings in the 1940s. But the first reality show in the modern sense, with a camera voyeuristically following people around, was Cops, in 1988. The writers' strike in Hollywood that year forced the Fox network to come up with something really impromptu, and in the process an entire genre of entertainment was born.
- For teen protagonists you can go back to the adventures of Andy Hardy, which started in 1937 when Mickey Rooney was 17 and Judy Garland was 15.
- The first pop-music star of any kind? Bernart de Ventadorn (1135?-1195?) is as good a candidate as any. He was a troubador from the town of Correze in France, and composed love poems set to music in the Occitan language (a dialect that sounds like French and Spanish mixed together). Not only was Ventadorn popular throughout France and widely imitated during the medieval period, he is one of the earliest composers of Western secular music (not to mention instrumental music) for whom we still have transcripts of written compositions. Even more striking, Ventadorn's songs sound remarkably contemporary to the modern ear, at least if one is familiar with 1960s folk-rockers like Buffalo Springfield and Led Zeppelin, who often sound as if they were trying to ape Ventadorn (and may in fact have done so).
- Venom's Black Metal album is considered the Ur Example of Black Metal. They never intended to create a sub-genre of metal, they just thought it was a cool name for an album.
- The first modern Music Video is often (though not universally) considered to be this thing for Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues," produced in 1965. That depends on how one defines "modern," as the music videos of The Beatles (among others) predate this. So-called "illustrated songs" — early precursors of the music video — date back to the beginning of the 20th century, and "musical shorts" were hugely popular by 1926, before the official end of the "silent" era of film.
- Ougenweide was the first band to play Medieval Rock
- The Velvet Underground has often been considered the very first Alternative Rock artist to have existed, though one could argue that Scott Walker, who began his solo career at around the same time as the Velvet Underground began their career, was another early "alternative" artist.
- The early 1960s hit "Runaway" by Del Shannon was the first popular song to use what was essentially a proto-synthesizer as an instrument. The first instance of an actual synthesizer used in popular music was 1967's Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. by The Monkees.
- Technically, the Hammond B3 and C3 organs were additive synthesizers (this is why organ is one of the easiest sounds to synthesize), and had already appeared on many recordings by the early 1960s.
- This is one of those discussions that can get rather involved... An electronic synthesiser generates its tones with entirely electronic oscillators. The Hammond organs are electromechanical, the tones being generated by magnetic tone wheels being rotated next to pickup coils. Both can be considered "tonal synthesisers", though the name tended to be applied more to electronic synthesisers after Dr. Moog's equipment became established in the public mind, the Hammonds and other similar keyboards retaining the name "organ" because that is how they were marketed and most commonly used. As for Ur Examples, well... prior to Moog's synthesiser (itself a customisable collection of modules that you had to know how to connect together) a great many people had combined musicality and electronics expertise to cook up their own electronic synthesisers. The first electronic synthesiser to be patented and manufactured was Leon Theremin's contactless wonder (the oscillator was controlled by capacitative proximity sensing), invented in 1919. The first Hammond organ appeared in 1934, though the tone wheel concept was first patented in 1897. Like I said, it can get involved.
- Toni Fisher's "The Big Hurt" used an electronic phaser as early as 1959 - over a decade before progressive rock made it popular.
- 60s garage rock was sometimes known as Punk Rock. The name didn't catch on, but those 60s garage rock bands went on to inspire what is now known as punk rock.
- The earliest punk-rock song of any type could be said to be "Black Leather Trousers and Motorcycle Boots" by The Cheers in 1955. Although it was quickly and sadly Covered Up by Vaughan Monroe in a very vanilla, Fifties-pop style, the song in its original form not only was about a literal punk, but was played at what was a blazing tempo for 1955 (even with some punk-style drumming) and was probably the first pop song in which the lyrics were shouted more than they were sung and the vocalists sounded tough and angry.
- Perhaps the Ur Example of Speed Metal is Queen's 1974 song "Stone Cold Crazy", which has all the trademarks, just in rather primitive form. An even earlier candidate is "7 Screaming Diz-Busters", which was performed by Blue Öyster Cult on their 1973 Tyranny & Mutation album. Although "7 Screaming Diz-Busters" clearly owes more of a debt to psychedelic and folk-rock, toward the end of the song there is an insanely fast guitar riff that sounds a lot like what Metallica would be doing a decade later.
- Black Sabbath or Judas Priest usually get credit for having the first thrash metal songs with "Symptom of the Universe" and "Dissident Aggressor," respectively. Before either of those songs was the 1974 surprise hit "Parasite" by Kiss (yes, that Kiss). It was later covered by Anthrax.
- Judas Priest is also often cited as the Ur Example for both Speed Metal and The New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Rainbow sometimes also gets some credit.
- The Ur Example of Heavy Metal is much debated, but honors go to (among others): Link Wray's "Rumble," The Kinks' "You Really Got Me," The Beatles' "Helter Skelter," Blue Cheer's cover of "Summertime Blues," Iron Butterfly's "Inna Gadda Da Vida," and Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild."
- The Ur Example of Hair Metal? Alice Cooper and Aerosmith are good candidates, since they more or less invented or at least trademarked many of the conventions (showmanship being as important as the music itself, Silly Love Songs done in a heavy style, etc.), and also because they were still growing strong when the hair genre actually went mainstream in The Eighties, releasing new songs right alongside the bands they had inspired. Several Kiss songs from the mid-to-late 1970s anticipate the "hair-band" style, "Flaming Youth" and "See You in Your Dreams" in particular. But the best candidate is probably Van Halen, since they started late enough in The Seventies (1978) to still be current when the hair scene officially kicked off in 1983 with Quiet Riot and Mötley Crüe. Bands that attained fame in the hair subgenre prior to 1983 include the Scorpions (who were already playing Eighties-style metal in the mid-'70s), Def Leppard, and Judas Priest (during their 1980-1981 "pop" phase).
- Very first example of Heavy Mithril? Was it Rainbow? Black Sabbath? Led Zeppelin? The Doors? Perhaps the hippie folk-rockers of The Sixties? No, no, no, no, and no. Before all of those guys came American pop songwriter and musician Jimmie Rodgers (not the country-music singer), who recorded two songs with medieval/mystical themes - "Make Me a Miracle" and "The Wizard" - in 1958.
- Franz Liszt's Faust Symphony opens with a theme consisting of all the 12 notes of the chromatic scale, each appearing only once. The theme returns at various points during the symphony. The rest of the work is tonal and there are no permutations, but it's still the progenitor of the twelve-tone technique. He also wrote the progenitor of atonal music in general, the Bagatelle sans tonalité.
- Rock Opera is a hard concept to define, but two of the candidates for the Ur Example seem to be The Story of Simon Simopath by Nirvana and S.F. Sorrow by The Pretty Things, depending on the line between Rock Opera and Concept Album. Both of these are predated by "A Quick One While He's Away" which was a Rock Opera in all but length.
- Killing Joke are the first example of Industrial Metal and are cited as an influence by Ministry, God Flesh, Nine Inch Nails, and Marilyn Manson.
- The Ur Example of Grindcore is usually considered to be either Hardcore Punk band Siege's Drop Dead EP or Death Metal band Repulsion's Horrified album.
- Kraftwerk just might be the Ur Example of new wave/synthpop.
- "Sampling" is most commonly associated with 1990s rap and hip-hop, but it traces its lineage back to 1956, when Bill Buchanan and Dickie Goodman recorded "The Flying Saucer," which was less an original work than a clever splicing of numerous pop songs from the era - "Long Tall Sally", "Heartbreak Hotel", "Tutti Frutti" and "Blue Suede Shoes" among them - with a humorous "radio announcement" of an invasion by aliens delivered by Buchanan and Goodman. (Goodman had another radio hit 19 years later with "Mr. Jaws", a similar comedic sampling parodying the first Jaws movie.)
- If the Arabian Nights contained the first Detective Story, then Oedipus Rex by Sophocles could be considered the first Reverse Whodunnit. The myth of Oedipus would have been very well known among the audiences, which explains the almost ridiculous amount of Dramatic Irony. (In universe, it can be considered a "straight" detective story, with Oedipus investigating the cause of the plague and trying to discover the murderer of Laius.)
- In an inversion of The Zeroth Law of Trope Examples, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) is the Ur Example of The Abridged Series. It predates the Trope Maker (Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series) by 19 years and has the same basic concept, as well as many Abridged Series Tropes.
- And playing Zeroth Law straight, Shakepseare's Hamlet is possibly based on a previous play by another author, since lost, which is referred to by theater historians as Ur-Hamlet.
- Bye Bye Birdie was one of the first, if not the first, work to unabashedly portray The Fifties nostalgically.
- The '50s were barely over (and in cultural terms, you could argue they weren't over yet) when the play was written (1960), so this might not be an example.
- The concept of being an Ur Example and leaving deep impression in the collective psyche of humanity is Conversed in Fate/stay night. Basically, the older the legend and the better it is known, the more powerful the heroes and villains of that legend are when brought into reality. Gilgamesh, being the oldest hero in recorded history, is the strongest of Heroic Spirits and bears the title "King of Heroes".
- Gilgamesh also possesses "prototypes" of all legendary weapons that were created throughout history, each being the Ur example of weapons that share a certain core trait. The example highlighted is Merodach, the original "sword stuck in stone that chooses the king" which acted as the template for Gram and Caliburn. Merodach is superior to Gram and Caliburn because its status as an Ur example gives it a stronger legend.
- Accounts of the history of Webcomics mention some online comics from before the web.
- Witches in Stiches takes the claim of "first online comic", because it appeared on CompuServe in 1985. It was not an internet comic, because CompuServe was not part of the internet back then. This comic has since disappeared into obscurity.
- Where The Buffalo Roam (link) calls itself "The Internet's First Comic Strip". It launched in 1991 in its Usenet group alt.comics.buffalo-roam, had regular updates, and later moved to the web (though Doctor Fun got there first).
- Doctor Fun (link) is the first webcomic. It launched in 1993, after web browsers learned how to display images.
- Neglected Mario Characters is the first Sprite Comic. It launched with "The EVIL-Luigi Story", Part 1, from September 6, 1998.
- Many academic disciplines have one work that's considered to clearly be the first "proper" example of its type.
- The Histories by Herodotus; which recounts the Persian Wars in a way most people today would still recognize as a "history textbook" (and is one of the original sources.)
- The Peloponnesian Wars, by Thucydides, is generally considered the first "proper" history, since it's the first history of any scale to use logic and reasoning rather than anecdotes. He even states that these words aren't what people said, but what they ought to have said (for the following events to occur.)
- Followed by Xenophon's Anabasis, in which Xenophon wrote about history that he himself actually experienced, making him the Ur war correspondent.
- Edward Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, published in 1776, is the first modern historical work, and largely codified the principles of historical research — most notably, the use of primary sources.
- Plutarch's Parallel Lives, written in the late 1st century, is the first set of biographies, and made a point of focusing less on grand historical events and more on small happenings that give insight into the individual's character.
- Note that all of the above dates only hold true in the West; in China, the Shiji (Records of the Grand Historian) by Sima Qian was completed in 91 BC; 102 out of 120 volumes were biographies of notables in China. (The other 18 were timelines, histories and treatise).
- Agesilaus by Xenophon is likely the first text to solely cover the events of a single historical figure's life. However, this was a very short work of little historical importance. As such, people tend to focus on the more thorough and influential works of Plutarch.
- The Muqaddimah (Introduction) of Ibn Khaldun, published in 1377, was the first attempt to treat politics, economics, and history in a scientific manner, thus more or less inventing the social sciences (it is often said to be the first book on sociology). This approach informed Machiavelli's Prince and Discourses on Livy a hundred years later, as well as the aforementioned Decline and Fall and Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations in 1776.
- Aristotle gave some thoughts to economics in his Politics, too.
- Socrates was the first philosopher in our modern sense of the term. Greece had "philosophers" before him, but they were essentially studying science, or debate. Socrates was the first to turn philosophy into a study of morality, logic, and the like. Then Plato wrote Socrates' thought down, with his own additions, and the rest is history.
- Gottlob Frege is the Ur Example of an analytic philosopher, with Bertrand Russell as the Trope Maker.
- In Germany, Archaeopteryx is known as the Urvogel (first bird), though Archeopteryx's status as the Ur Bird has since fallen under dispute.
- The primitive Argentinian theropod Herrarasaurus from the Late Triassic Period could be considered one of the Ur Example of dinosauria.
- In taxonomy, the Ur Example of a newly-classified species is called a "type specimen". It retains this special status permanently, even if other specimens are subsequently collected which are of better quality; many long-extinct species have fragmentary pieces for their type specimens, even though complete fossils have since been found.
- The city of Ur comes quite close to being the Ur Example of civilization itself. This is a coincidence, however; the prefix "Ur-" comes from German, and has nothing to do with the Sumerian city.
- Jack the Ripper is commonly considered the Ur Example of the modern serial killer; before that it was all people who were just bloodthirsty and had excuses for getting away with it like being at war, or being a person in a position of power who liked to watch people die.
- It may be simply that there weren't newspapers around to report them. Some of the earlier examples became werewolf legends.
- More likely newspapers and quicker forms of communication like the telegraph, without which news would possibly take days to circulate. The Times had been around for a century by the time Jack the Ripper came along.
- Psychopathia Sexualis is considered to be the first study of sex. The first study of sex to not call other people perverts, though, is probably Havelock Ellis' Studies in the Psychology of Sex. But that's irrelevant; the first American study of sex was the infamous Kinsey Report.
- The first recorded medical circumcision was Lewis Sayre using it to cure a paraplegic.
- The Ur Example of macroeconomics is Hume's Of the Balance Trade, which argued that international trade ... balances. This undermined the Gotta Catch 'Em All ideas of the mercantilists. The Trope Maker is Adam Smith and Trope Codifier probably Walras.
- The Ur Example of a modern computer would be the Analytical Engine, designed by the engineer Charles Babbage in the 1800's. While it wasn't ever actually builtnote , the design was later shown to be Turing-complete - that is, it could, in theory, compute any function a modern computer could.
- The Ur Example of the shopping mall could be anything, depending on whom you ask — some argue that the overall concept dates back to markets in ancient Rome, and many towns had "shopping arcades" in the 19th century, which consisted of enclosed walkways lined with stores. Another early example is Lake View Store in Morgan Park, Minnesota, which had the overall idea of "stores on an enclosed walkway" in 1915. But the first mall that really resembled a modern one, in terms of having an enclosed walkway ending in an anchor store, was Valley Fair in Appleton, Wisconsin in 1955. Many early suburban shopping centers also claim to be the "first mall" (such as Northland Center in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, or Bellevue Square in Bellevue, Washington), but they were open-air and did not become enclosed until later. The first suburban mega-mall that was enclosed from the get-go was Southdale Center in Edina, Minnesota in 1956.
- The first food court opened at Plymouth Meeting Mall in Pennsylvania in 1971, but it was a small, cramped thing with few restaurants and never took off. The same developer tried again with one at Paramus Park in New Jersey, and it's still there. (Plymouth Meeting has since gotten a more successful food court.)
- First outlet mall: VF Outlets in Reading, Pennsylvania, 1974. Still there.
- The first dead mall? Fans of The Blues Brothers and mall geeks may go for Dixie Square Mall in the Chicago suburb of Harvey, which closed in 1978, had fake storefronts set up for the "cop car through the mall" scene in that film, and remained abandoned until it was finally demolished in 2013. But Bayside Mall in Boston beats it by two years — it closed in 1976 and was gutted in 1983 for an exposition center.
- The first mall to be portrayed in motion pictures? Many would say the Sherman Oaks Galleria in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), but there are plenty of prior examples (such as the aforementioned Dixie Square above, although that one is contingent on whether or not a real, abandoned mall with fake storefronts counts). Dawn of the Dead had a mall as its primary setting as early as 1978.
- The first multiplex theaters (one in Ontario, one in Los Angeles) began in the 1940s when the theater owner opened a second theater in an adjacent storefront and decided to show different movies on it. The first one that was purpose-built as a multiplex was AMC's Parkway Twin at Ward Parkway Center in Kansas City; it resulted from a sort of Throw It In because the structure could not support one large screen, so two smaller ones were made instead, and the owner quickly realized he could make better profits by showing different movies at the same time.
- Egyptian wrestling (dating back to 2300 BC) is the oldest recorded martial art. However, it should be noted that there is no single grandfather of martial arts; while some historians claim that Egyptian wrestling is the root of Eastern martial arts, that wrestling was developed by the Egyptians, later adopted by the Greeks (as pankration) and eventually spread to Asia by Alexander The Great, where it was finally developed into Asian martial arts, this theory does not take into account the historical fact of simultaneous contrivance of fighting systems in many cultures which predated the Indo-Aryan migrations. While it would be nice to draw a straight line from Egypt to Greece to India to China and beyond, a more accurate assessment would be all the aforementioned cultures created their own indigenous martial arts, then later, when cultural exchanges took place between them, pankration influenced the continued development of Asian martial arts.