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End Of An Age / Literature

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  • Marcel Proust's A la recherche de temps perdu is set against the backdrop of the decline of the French aristocracy and the corresponding rise of the middle class between the 1870s and 1920s.
  • The Banned and the Banished sets one of these up, then argues that it's actually a good thing, because What Measure Is a Non-Super? is no longer in effect.
  • According to J. R. R. Tolkien, this is the entire point of Beowulf: after the age of heroes comes to an end, the Geats face a dark and uncertain future.
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  • Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End follows this form, with two twists: the setting is science fiction, not fantasy and the present-day real-world is construed to be the Golden Age, relative to a (future) alien invasion.
  • David Wingrove's Chung Kuo series takes place in the last years of the world-spanning Han Empire. One of the main protagonists has made it his life's calling to forestall the end.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories, ancient civilizations (such as Atlantis) had risen and fallen. Evil Sorcerers frequently find their magic from olden days.
  • The Dark Tower: "The world moved on."
    • All-World, where Roland lives and most of the action takes place, was once dominated by magic, which was used to power the twelve Beams which hold the world together. The setting's Precursors eventually replaced the magic with technology, and when they died out in nuclear war, the machines began to break down, causing the world to fall apart at the seams, both literally and metaphysically.
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  • John's reign is the downfall of the immortal land Pentexore in Dirge for Prester John.
  • Discworld,
    • Sourcery might be considered the last gasp of the age of, well, sourcery. Magic, and the humans who wield it, have been considerably scaled down since then, making things less wondrous but a hell of a lot safer. The events of Sourcery also killed off many of the most powerful and dangerous wizards which lead to Ridcully becoming Archchancellor and ending the age of Klingon Promotion among the wizards. The wizards become more laid back, less aggressive and more scholarly wizards were able to rise to positions of power.
    • Men at Arms started the transformation of the City Watch into a modern police force and ended the age of the police being marginalized by the guilds, palace guards or the army. Old school coppers like Colon and Nobby don't really fit into it anymore and are nostalgic about how things used to be.
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    • Interesting Times features the last gasp of Cohen the Barbarian and his band of geriatric barbarian heroes - a literally dying breed of men on the Disc whose days are soon to be ended by encroaching civilization, and the fact that they've been pretty much everywhere on the Disc anyway. The Silver Horde elect to go out with a very big bang, first here and in the loose "sequel", The Last Hero.
    • Jingo and Going Postal: as incidental detail in both books, the ferocious and savage non-human species called the Gnolls, who like rogue Apache Indians terrorised the overland trade routes through the wilderness in Equal Rites, are seen to capitulate to realpolitik and give themselves up to encroaching civilization, like reservation Indians in 1890. Jingo sees their debased remnant entering Ankh-Morpork to take up the bottom rung on the social ladder, as scavengers and rubbish-pickers. In Going Postal there is a strong hint, from the coachmen who are relieved the former hunting grounds of the Gnolls are suddenly so empty, that the last wild gnolls were victims of a sudden and mysterious genocide akin to the defeat of the Native Americans.
      And we never knew what caused it, Mr Lipwig.
    • Unseen Academicals ended the old, very brutal way of playing football and many of the old movers-and-shakers are not happy with it.
    • The short story "Troll Bridge" is basically about Cohen and Chert being the last gasps of bold warriors who kill things without asking many questions, and trolls who live under bridges and eat people until the aforementioned bold warrior kills them. The Disc is mostly about what happens to a Heroic Fantasy world afterwards.
  • In Dragonlance this actually happens twice. Once after the Cataclysm, when all of the gods(except for the Gods of Magic) withdraw their presence from Krynn, taking with them Priestly magic. Wizardly magic is still around, but Wizards try and keep a low-profile due to persecution. All of Krynn enters a dark age that takes three centuries to recover from. The gods return during the War of the Lance. It happens again after the Chaos War, with the gods going away except for Takhisis due to her stealing away the world. All magic is gone from the world this time around, but it only takes about five years for Mysticism(which is akin to Priestly magic, except it relies on the casters faith in themselves) to be discovered and Primal Sorcery(actually the oldest type of magic, akin to Wizardly magic) is re-discovered fifteen years or so later.
  • Fred Saberhagen's Empire of the East and Book of Swords trilogies both end this way. At the end of Empire, Ardneh undoes the Change, restoring the power of science and technology, and sending the power of magic into a (very) slow retreat. At the end of the Book of Swords, the gods die.
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas ruminates on the twilight of the optimism of the 1960s in America. See: the famous "Wave Speech."
  • In The Gods Are Bastards, the end of the Age of Adventures — and the various characters' and organizations' reactions to it — is a running theme of the story and a driving force behind much of the plot.
  • The book Gone with the Wind deals with this directly. Ashley tells Scarlett that following the collapse of the Confederacy, the former cottonbelt aristocrats are living a day-to-day götterdämmerung.
  • In A Harvest of War firearms make their first appearance in Draeze, the urban setting of the novel, ending the pre-gunpowder era.
  • In How to Train Your Dragon it's hinted by the older Hiccup narrating that the end of the the time of Viking heroes, as well as the disappearance of the dragons, will be brought on by his younger self.
    • Later revealed that Hiccup had to end the age of dragons because humans were becoming too dangerous to coexist with, even though he himself loved dragons. Thus,after becoming king he strikes a pact that states that after his death, if humanity has not changed, the dragons will go into hiding until humanity is ready to coexist witht hem without enslaving and killing them. Hiccup is, as of such, the last great viking hero.
  • Julian takes place as the old Hellenistic paganism dies out, to be replaced by Christianity despite the best efforts of Julian and later Libanius.
  • At least half the stories relating to Arthurian mythology, including the musical Camelot and T.H. White's book The Once and Future King, focus on how swell the age of Camelot was and how much it sucks that it's over.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • The Lord of the Rings is literally set at the end of the Third Age, with the last of the High Elves leaving for the land of the godlike archangels (Valar). This is an ongoing process, with unnumbered years where the Valar coexisted directly with Middle-Earth, three Ages of ascendance for the elves, and then a slow dimming away, with Middle-Earth eventually becoming the world we know today. These are called the Ages of the Children of Ilúvatar, and the Fourth Age is the first Age of Man. As such it is both Götterdämmerung (for the First and Second Ages) and The Magic Goes Away (for the Third).
    • This trope is the heart and soul of The Silmarillion, which details the history of Tolkien's universe from the beginning of time up until the events of Lord of the Rings. Each Age of the world ended with the irretrievable loss of some precious entity or artifact and the overall image is of a world that "grows ever colder" (in Gandalf's words). So for example, the First Age ended with the War of Wrath where Morgoth was defeated in a titanic battle and finally imprisoned by the Valar, but not before most of Beleriand is destroyed and two of the three Silmarils, the last unpoisoned light on Earth, were lost forever.
    • The Gondorians suffered from this after the time of the "Ship-Kings." Their great, mighty nation dwindled away as a kingless state. Arnor on the other hand never recovered from their losses in the War of the Last Alliance, and Isildur's death a few years later.
  • Guy Gavriel Kay does this twice, in both The Lions Of Al Rassan, and The Last Light Of The Sun. The former deals with the end of Moorish Spain, and the latter with the last Viking raids on England. Both are very nostalgically written, and capture the uncertainty and sadness that comes with the end of something grand, be it good or bad.
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon laments the gradual inaccessibility of Avalon - the spiritual center of pagan Britain — as the Goddess-worshipping religion is superseded by Christianity within the lifetime of its last priestess, Morgaine.
  • Part of C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia is that only children may enter it, so as the cast ages they become excluded from coming back.
  • Jack Kerouac's On The Road uses this trope symbolically when Sal finally settles with his wife and leads a peaceful life, leaving Dean, the embodiment of his reckless youth, to wander behind.
  • The Revelation Space universe created by Alastair Reynolds had the Belle Epoque which came to an abrupt end with the Melding Plague which destroyed all nanotechnology. In one moving scene the protagonist is traveling in a train to Chasm City when an automated holographic display activates, showing the city in its former glory. The local residents just stare straight ahead, doing their best to ignore it.
  • The novelization of Revenge of the Sith brings up the concept in its introduction, which gives brief rundown on the situation of the Republic as it stands, how important Anakin and Obi-Wan are to it, and then finishes with a single sentence:
    Though this is the end of the age of heroes, it has saved its best for last.
  • Shannara has this. First came the age of the faeries, featuring various magical nature spirits, which ended in apocalypse. Second was the modern, technological age, which also ended in apocalypse. The third, current age is one mainly of magic, although the lost technology from the past shows up occasionally, and the most recent books have solar powered airships. That is, sailing ships that use sunlight focused through crystals to levitate and billow the sail.
  • Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series includes an effectively infinite number of these, including one explicitly described, and a second implied at the end. The series also combines this with the Dawn of an Era: new Talents of the Power are being discovered, lost ones are being found anew, vast advances in technology are being made. The present Age is ending; a new one is beginning. One character even lampshades it upon seeing a demonstration of the world's first firearm, saying: "The world just changed in a very big way."
  • Orkneyinga Saga: The summer after the death of Svein Asleifarson on what was supposed to be his last viking expedition, his sons Olaf and Andres set up partition walls in Svein's great drinking hall at Gairsay. This marks the end of Viking Age customs, as people other than kings and jarls do no longer go raiding and have no longer need of drinking halls.
  • In Wolf Hall, Cromwell contemplates the end of England's age of chivalry, which he doesn't consider to be such a bad thing. He himself has argued against costly wars where the King leads his army, the banking houses of Florence and Antwerp are starting to be the ones with real power in Europe, and most displays of chivalry are now confined to tourneys and the tilting yard. This is particularly evident when the Earl of Northumberland says he can do what he likes because of his army; Cromwell threatens to take that army right from under him by having the man's creditors call in his debts all at once, and the threat works.
  • The first book of The Traitor Son Cycle definitely has this feel - the Wild, once far beyond the Wall, is now commonplace within Man-controlled territories, the the once-powerful Morean Empire is growing bankrupt, and the battle of Lissen Carak, which would be little more than a skirmish just twenty years ago, is considered the most important conflict of this generation. Over time, however, as the heroes make progress, it becomes less of an end of an era, and more a beginning of a new, possibly better one.
  • Wet Desert: Tracking Down a Terrorist on the Colorado River: Upon having his proposal for a dam on the Snake River rejected by the bureau, Grant realized that the era of dam building in the United States was over and no new dam projects would be built.
  • Kings of the Wyld: With the monster population down and the world safe, gone are the days where a few strong fighters could wander into a nearby forest, kill a bunch of monsters, and get a name for themselves. Now most of the fighting is done in arenas, and the pageantry of the mercenaries has been cranked up until the knob falls off. Gabe's Rousing Speech at the end points out that the world is obviously not saved, since there's a giant horde attacking Castia.
  • The The Supervillainy Saga has the Age of Superheroes coming to an end. The Age of Superheroes began in the 1930s with the rise of Ultragod (Superman), the Nightwalker (Batman), and Guinevere (Wonder Woman). Now, two out of the three are dead and the public has grown sick of superpowered beings duking it out. Gary Karkofsky a.k.a Merciless is trying to preserve the Age for as long as he can but unwittingly hastens it by killing several archvillains.
  • Halfway through the Hell of The Divine Comedy, the decline of humanity throughout the ages is visualized by a giant statue of crying old man. The tears are not water, but blood, and they don't come from the statue's eyes, but from it's many cracks. Looking at the statue's golden head, one would hardly be able to notice the tears, but looking down, the cracks in the statue become more and more pervasive as the statue's gold turns to silver, which turns to bronze, and then to iron, and finally to broken clay. From the tears of this crumbling monument to civilization comes the four rivers of Hell, which come together at the Devil's pit.
  • In the Sir Apropos of Nothing book The Woad to Wuin, part of Hecate's We Can Rule Together offer is the threat that if she fails, the world will sink from an age of magic, heroes, gods, and destiny into an age that's nothing but mundane. Since Apropos is a Cosmic Plaything who's suffered a lot of pain from all those things, he turns her down in the hope that a mundane world will be safer all around.
  • Eurico the Presbyter is set on the dying days of the Visigothic Kingdom of Hispania just before being conquered by the Umayyad Caliphate. The realm is marked by social and moral decline where corruption is rampant and petty kings and nobles squabble among themselves.

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