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Chekhov's Volcano

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Mountain see, mountain boom.
"And to top it all off,
The volcano erupts!"
Trouble In Tahiti, describing a tropical Cliché Storm

If ever a volcano appears in a work of fiction, it's going to erupt. The existence of a volcano is, in itself, a Chekhov's Gun. There's no sense in having it around unless it explodes, because otherwise the story is robbed of a clear dramatic conflict. (Unless you're just planning to have an awesome climax fight over the roiling magma which all dormant volcanoes are filled with. Or, if Mt. Fuji is involved.)

This is especially to be expected if a volcano is explicitly not supposed to erupt, thereby surprising everyone and driving them into a panic. The likelihood goes up further still whenever someone asks whether or not the volcano will explode, and is weakly comforted by the other person saying "Oh, it's not going to erupt. It's inactive. Do you have any idea how unlikely an eruption would be?"

Obviously Truth in Television. Volcanoes (even dormant ones — there's a reason they're called dormant and not dead) are very dangerous things and can go off without warning, which is why most governments monitor active volcanoes within their territory.

Mount Fuji, a national symbol of Japan, is a notable exception; since nobody ever makes a big deal about Mt. Fuji being a volcano, it's rarely a plot point. The same goes for stories set in Hawaii, with the volcanoes as major identifiers to the setting and rarely anything more than that. Let's just hope they never address the existence of a certain lake in Indonesia or a certain national park in Wyoming...

Not to Be Confused with Appease the Volcano God.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Code Geass is an exception to the "Mount Fuji never erupts" rule, as Lelouch deliberately sets it off near the end.
  • Used gloriously in the climax of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 2. The final battle takes place near a volcano. Cars has achieved godhood and is completely impervious to anything Joseph throws at him. So what does Joseph do? Infuse said volcano with Hamon energy so it erupts and sends Cars flying into space, where he aimlessly drifts around as a frozen block of ice and eventually goes insane from loneliness.
  • Mount Fuji figures rather prominently in the second arc of Kaze no Stigma, and the mission is to prevent a demon from making it erupt. But that would be boring. Cue the cataclysmic final confrontation in a lava-field!
  • Averted in Magic Knight Rayearth, in which the volcano that Rayearth resides in, although active and spewing out a thick column of smoke, is never seen erupting violently.
  • Mazinger Z: The Photon Atomic Research Institute is located on the base of Mount Fuji. And unlike other shows, this series remembers it IS a volcano. Cue battles over or around the crater, the villains plotting set off an eruption in one episode and dunking The Hero and his Humongous Mecha in the volcano in another one.
  • An episode of Pokémon: The Original Series has Ash battling Blaine in his in-volcano Gym. It threatens to erupt on the following episode due to the Team Rocket trio. Around half of the episode is spent trying to prevent the eruption.
  • In the Striker -world exist several stoneplates, that are parts of the mappa mundis, a macguffin, that show specific points of the world, where you can erupt Firesnakes thing. One of those places is of course, Mt. Fuji
  • Seen in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, where it proves that the planet, like everything else in the series, is Hot-Blooded. Several characters explicitly compare Kamina to a volcano.
    • Also used as a sort of Book Ends, in that during Kamina's final battle, simply combining Gurren and Lagann causes a volcano to explode, and during Super-Galaxy Team Dai-Gurren's final battle in Lagann-Hen, they create a giant volcano several times bigger than the galaxy they're standing on out of sheer badassness, for the sole purpose of making it explode.
  • Averted in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. Though a volcano exists and it's the site of several duels, it never erupts.

    Comic Books 
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: Carl Barks manages to pull one in a story set in Volcanovia... a country where even most back yards have active volcanoes. Volcanovians are so used to eruptions they no longer even pay attention to them, and only fear the huge Old Ferocio will awaken. And by the end of the story...
  • ElfQuest: Subverted. The volcano near Sorrow's End doesn't blow its top, it just rumbles very loudly. The rumbling triggers a stampede that the Wolfriders have to deal with. And then played straight in a much later storyline when the first major eruption in centuries coincides with an invasion.
  • The Losers: Lampshaded.
    Jensen: "Of course, it shoulda been obvious! I mean, what else, right...? Moment we set foot on an island with a volcano, of course it's gonna blow...!"
  • Superman:
    • In Kryptonite Nevermore, Superman flies to an island to tame a volcano before it erupts and kills the islanders.
    • The Plague of the Antibiotic Man: When Superman takes his battle against Nam-Ek to a Caribbean Island, a volcano can be seen in the background. Naturally, it does not take long for it erupting.
  • Tintin: In "Flight 714", the island of Pulau-Pulau Bompa.

    Fan Works 
  • J-WITCH Series: It's mentioned early in the chapter "Divide and Conquer - Chaos and Hilarity" that Mount Heatherfield is a dormant volcano. Later, the Monkey King attempts to activate it with a spell, only to end up being short of three pounds of wood for one of the ingredients. After he's turned back into a puppet by Daolon Wong, Cedric gets the idea to activate the spell by using the puppet, in an effort to get rid of the heroes. Of course, just like in canon, the lava is actually harmless cherry gelatin.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Atlantis: The Lost Empire, the main characters and their group of explorers fall through a cave into a dormant volcano. When they assume that it could blow at any minute, the geology expert of the bunch says that it shouldn't be possible without a huge explosive force. However, at the end of the movie it turns out the an exploding hot air balloon will do just fine and the whole thing goes up anyway.
  • The Incredibles had a variation. The volcano on Syndrome's island never erupts, but the rocket that Syndrome launches from inside the dormant cone is certainly reminiscent of an eruption, and it menaces Dash and Violet in much the same way.
  • The volcano in The Land Before Time II: The Great Valley Adventure erupts, naturally.
    • As does the one in the seventh movie, though in this case it's saved for the climax of the movie.
  • Comically subverted in The Road to El Dorado. The volcano starts to erupt when it suddenly stops rumbling and burps out a single puff of smoke. That Tulio just happened to shout "Stop!" at that precise instant is what convinces the natives that he and Miguel were gods.
  • In The Wild, the main characters were wondering why the animals were being evacuated from the island they ended up until one of them pointed at the volcano soon to erupt.
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, Vanellope takes Ralph to her hideaway inside Diet Cola Mountain, which contains the Diet Cola Springs, which will get aggravated by falling Mentos. Ralph kills the movie's Big Bad by sending ALL of the Mentos into the Springs, causing a massive surge to rocket into the sky.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 2012: The main characters get to outrun lava and pyroclastic flow during the apocalyptic eruption of Yellowstone Caldera. Presumably, volcanoes around the world experience this too. In real life, such events would effectively blacken out Earth's atmosphere for years to come (Tambora's 1812 explosion had 90% less ejecta than Yellowstone and that caused a year-long famine in the Northern Hemisphere), but apparently, humans come out fine not even a few weeks later.
  • In Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the Chipmunks, David Seville, the Chipettes, and Ian Hawke are all accidentally marooned on a tropical island. Later on, Jeanette notices that the volcano on the island is about to erupt, and the climax of the film involved all of the them trying to get off the island before it does so.
  • As an update of the Jungle Opera trope, Congo naturally had one erupt at the end.
  • Dante's Peak: The eponymous community is built on a mountain with a large dormant volcano underground. The main character is part of a seismic research team who comes to investigate the possibility of an eruption, which most people think is absurd because it's been quiet for hundreds of years. Right before they're set to leave, they discover that they were right all along and the volcano is preparing to erupt. Surprisingly well-researched, despite some Artistic License.
  • Mt. Fuji actually does erupt in Akira Kurosawa's Dreams. It is, "just a dream."
  • In the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice, the SPECTRE base is in an extinct volcano. At the end the Self-Destruct Mechanism causes an eruption.
  • Joe Versus the Volcano: The titular volcano that Joe has to encounter goes off in the end. This is how Joe is saved from being sacrificed to it.
  • An example that crosses over with Dies Differently in Adaptation: Early in the Jurassic Park novel it's mentioned that Isla Nublar is a dormant volcano, which is why the island uses thermal generation (this is not mentioned in the first movie, but it's a minor detail mentioned in The Lost World to justify why the electronics at the abandoned Site B compound are still working). A central plot point of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is that the volcano is finally becoming active again and is about to go "kaboom", taking Isla Nublar with it... and it sure does, wiping out the park forever in the second act.
  • Averted in the film Lady Hamilton (1941), in which the smoking presence of Mount Vesuvius is used simply to establish the locale in Naples.
  • In The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Mount Doom erupts spectacularly after Gollum falls into it with the Ring. The original idea was to have the eruption cause the destruction of Barad-dûr, but that was dropped. In the subsequent Coronation scene in Minas Tirith, the volcanic cloud over Mordor is gone, implying that Mount Doom is now extinct.
  • Supervolcano contains an exaggerated example. The eponymous volcano is none other than Yellowstone, a 4400 km^2 volcano whose historic eruptions have had massive effects that were felt worldwide. When it erupts, it obliterates everything within dozens of miles from the caldera, covers most of North America in feet of ash, and covers the globe in layers of volcanic gases.
  • Subverted by Volcano: The movie is about a volcano suddenly emerging from the La Brea tar pits, so it doesn't get to loom threateningly in the background.
  • Averted in the comedy Water (1985). There's constant talk of the island's volcano erupting, but it never does.
  • When Time Ran Out..., Irwin Allen's last Disaster Movie, is about this.
  • Played straight in the 1923 silent film The White Sister, which is also set in Naples. Mount Vesuvius does indeed erupt during the film's climax. They didn't spend the beginning of the film talking about Mount Vesuvius for nothing.

  • In Neal Stephenson's Anathem the volcano in question doesn't really erupt. At least not until after a super dense rod is dropped from orbit into its caldera.
  • Ashfall, and its sequel, Ashen Winter, center on the Yellowstone volcano erupting and majorly screwing up civilization, at least in North America.
  • The Astounding, the Amazing and the Unknown by Paul Malmont. During World War II, several famous sci-fi writers are seeking a device invented by Nikola Tesla — either a transmitter, a new source of power, or a weapon of mass destruction. L. Ron Hubbard is sent to a volcanic island where he finds one of the devices which does transmit voices (unknown to Hubbard, from his colleagues who have just found the control device). In what may or may not be a coincidence, at that point the volcano happens to erupt destroying the device, though Hubbard escapes. Hubbard is sick with a fever the entire time, and it's implied he developed the beliefs behind Scientology from all the bizarre events.
  • Book I of the Cambridge Latin Course was set in Pompeii, and guess which historical event occurs at its climax?
  • Invoked in Codex Alera.
    • High Lord Kalare rigs a local volcano to erupt when he dies, but the First Lord deliberately forces said volcano to erupt prematurely, in order to stop a massive Taking You with Me when the First Lord's armies reach Kalare's city.
    • Later the First Lord sets off another volcano under the capital in a You Shall Not Pass! moment to destroy an army to a tithe of its original amount and destroy their chance to take control of one of the most dangerous furies in existence.
  • Averted in the Coldfire Trilogy, which takes place on a very seismically active world that has lots and lots of volcanoes. There's at least one visited in each book: 1) in Black Sun Rising, they visit a pirate base located in a caldera, which doesn't erupt; 2) in When True Night Falls, the main villain builds his base on a volcanic plain, but actually uses magic to make sure that the volcano is always venting, thus keeping pressure from building up; and 3) in Crown of Shadows, the series climax is set on a plotfully important volcano, which also does not explode.
  • Congo by Michael Crichton. The protagonists actually set off the volcano when they detonate a series of explosive charges that generate a resonant shock. In the film it just erupts naturally.
  • Dragonriders of Pern plays with this trope. In the (chronologically) first book, the site of Landing, the colonists' first settlement on Pern, is on a plateau between three volcanic cones, two of which are thought to be extinct and one dormant. Sure enough, a few decades after arriving they start seeing signs that the dormant volcano is getting ready to blow. Surprisingly they actually begin plans to evacuate Landing and move the majority of the population to the more geologically stable northern continent. Unfortunately all the schedules for moving equipment supplies was based on the dormant volcano being the one to blow, so stuff nearest to that was given priority, and that's what they were watching for signs of how long they had left. Cue the actual eruption coming from one of the supposedly extinct ones a lot closer to the town, and a mad scramble to get the last loads of supplies and people out of the way. Averted in all the other books in that every single Weyr on the northern continent is specifically stated to be inside a volcanic crater but not a single one of them ever proves to NOT really be extinct.
  • Played with in Freya. While you never see an actual volcano to start, Pele mentions creating them is her favorite skill, and it actually gets used as part of Freya's plan to destroy Impulse Station.
  • In Alan Dean Foster's Icerigger, the Place-Where-The-Earth's-Blood-Burns conveniently waits to blow itself to pieces until the protagonists just happen to arrive there.
    • Averted in Icerigger's sequel, Mission to Moulokin: the volcanic caldera in which the city of Poyolavomaar is located does not erupt, although Williams does point it out to explain the locale's defensively-convenient geography.
  • In the Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, the aforementioned certain national park in Wyoming starts rumbling across MULTIPLE parallel Earths. At the beginning of The Long Mars, the sequel, it erupts on Datum Earth, causing worldwide climate change and near-universal evacuation to nearby parallel Earths. This particular example is so blatant that the foreshadowing underscores several major themes throughout the book: in particular, the survival of humanity in the face of world-ending disaster.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Mount Doom after the Ring is destroyed. In fact, Mount Doom all the time.
  • A Nancy Drew Files book was set in Hawaii. Is it any wonder that the requisite life-and-death climax took place over a volcano?
  • The Secrets of Vesuvius: Mount Vesuvius's eruption, resulting in the destruction of Pompeii. Based on Real Life.
  • Jules Verne really likes writing about volcanoes, so this trope pops up from time to time in his books.
    • Subverted in Journey to the Center of the Earth: the volcano our heroes descend in remains dormant, or the book would be rather short. The protagonists then get erupted out of another volcano, but since this one isn't introduced earlier (it only gets in the novel when it erupts) it's hardly an example of this trope.
    • Subverted a different way in In Search of the Castaways: The volcano doesn't erupt of its own volition, but because the fugitive heroes in the book deliberately rig one so they can escape in the confusion.
    • The Mysterious Island: The titular island has a dormant volcano on it. Naturally, this becomes a major plot point.
    • Robur the Conqueror: A memorable scene involves Robur's aircraft flying between Mount Erebus and Mount Terror, both of which (thanks to considerable artistic license in geography) just "happen" to be in mid-eruption.
  • The NightWings live on a volcanic island in Wings of Fire. Though Mastermind claims it will not erupt in a few years, it ends up erupting by the end of The Dark Secret possibly due to the arrival of a comet that was noted to have caused earthquakes and awoken Darkstalker.
  • Subverted in Autobiography of Red. There are two volcanoes, neither of which erupts (though one of them figures into the climax in another way).
  • Played with in Myth-Taken Identity: there's an active volcano under The Volcano, a clothing store, but thanks to protective magic it never erupts. Rather, it's used to destroy the story's Artifact of Doom... which is the natural Chekhov's Gun role for a volcano in a fantasy novel, especially a tongue-in-cheek one.
  • Appears in the seventh book of the Brotherband Chronicles, appropriately named The Caldera.
  • The Sacred Mountain of Eddis in The Queen's Thief is a volcano. This is mentioned all the way in the first book, where it doesn't erupt but is a convenient place to dispose of a sacred MacGuffin that would otherwise cause political problems. In the second book, however, the queen of Eddis mentions that she has been having prophetic dreams of the volcano erupting and destroying most of her country. She also notes that the dream indicates that the eruption is unlikely to happen in her own lifetime, but if the people of Eddis are to survive, she has to start moving the population out of the mountains now.
  • In I'm In Love With the Villainess, the eruption of Sassal Volcano was so catastrophic, it defined an entire period of the Bauer Kingdom's history. It's bound to erupt again during the commoner revolution, a fact protagonist Rei knows all too well, and spends much of her time and the penultimate story arc planning for.
  • The Wheel of Time has a variant in Dragonmount, the gigantic volcanic mountain created by The Chosen One's suicide at the end of The Time of Myths. In the Last Battle, a Magic Knight draws on all his compatriots' power to open a vast Gateway to the heart of the mountain, annihilating a Trolloc army in a tide of lava.
  • The undersea volcano in Beyond The Poseidon Adventure. One of the salvage pirates does a Heel–Face Turn Heroic Sacrifice to get to the surface and warn everyone despite killing herself with decompression sickness, and it does erupt in the end, destroying the ship and some of the illegal salvagers.
  • Subverted in the Vorkosigan Saga book Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. Despite Kareenburg being built on the side of a volcano that is known to be a geological time bomb, and despite Cordelia's insistence that the planetary capital move to somewhere safer, it does not go off during the book. (The capital gets moved anyway — and Kayburg suffers some strong tremblors during the epilogue, hinting that the mountain is getting ready to blow sometime in the near future.)
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Volcanic eruption was one of the factors causing the Doom of Valyria. Valyria had a lot of volcanoes, which were the places where Valyrians hatched dragons in the first place. During the doom, however, the volcanoes erupted at once, destroying the land and filling the sky with so much toxic air even the dragons died. The rumored demons who live in the land now are still associated with volcanic fire. A Targaryen princess who went there came back slowly boiling alive, with hot worm-like creatures bursting open from her skin and dying on impact with cold water.
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon uses a massive shield volcano to justify the dangers of the forest - it expels poison gas and jets of fire at unpredictable intervals and locations. The story reveals that the volcano began erupting five hundred years ago but was paused by magic intervention. That pause ends at the climax.
  • A plot point in The Twenty One Balloons, where we know what's going to happen from the moment someone says "Krakatoa" (a fact lampshaded in the book, where Professor Sherman's audience gasps when he says the name). From then on, it's a ticking time bomb.
  • In The Years Of M, the Donovans go on holiday to Tanzania to meet the youngest brother Mick's in-laws. Naturally, Kilimanjaro erupts while they're there, leading to a desperate Busman's Holiday for most of them. It's set off deliberately by a terrorist group of terrakinetics.

    Live-Action TV 

  • Doctor Who has the eruption at Pompeii. This, of course, has the benefit of being an eruption that everyone should know is going to happen. Well, aside from the Pompeiians, anyway.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has one of the most popular fictional volcanos in all media finally erupting. Orodruin become the Mount Doom, blanketing the Southlands in its pyroclastic flow that blots out the Sun.
  • Lost subverts this trope in a strange way. The Island is of the volcanic nature and said volcano was very non-gently namedropped in Season 3, with hints of its future importance from producers. However, it has never been brought back again since and even though the Final Episode features a certain location resembling an active volcano crater, it definitely isn't one.
    • This subversion turned out to have happened by accident, as the volcano was intended to feature in the finale at some point, but by the time they got there, they realized they didn't have the budget for it.
  • The novel Flip-Flopped features a vulcanologist whose dormant Hawaiian volcano flares up again.
  • The Secrets of Vesuvius (TV adaption): Mount Vesuvius's eruption, resulting in the destruction of Pompeii. Based on Real Life.
  • Forever Knight also has the Pompeii eruption. 'A More Permanent Hell' depicted Lacroix's backstory, showing General Lucius partying with his pals after returning from Gaul. Unfortunately, he lived in Pompeii, and the result was his daughter siring him to prevent him dying in the eruption.
  • Supervolcano is a docudrama about an eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano.
  • Subverted in the Russell T. Davies series Casanova. The volcano doesn't erupt, but everyone in its shadow lives as if it's about to - using this as an excuse for insane levels of decadence.
  • The "Basics" two-parter of Star Trek: Voyager has the Voyager crew marooned on an alien planet with a conspicuous volcano...
  • Helen Wells attempts to Invoke this in the Season 2 finale of Warehouse 13 by taking the Minoan Trident to the Yellowstone caldera. Fortunately, she is talked down.
  • Tales of the Gold Monkey: Set on the volcanic island of Boragorra, the volcano remains dormant, until the penultimate episode of the series.

  • Frank Ticheli's Vesuvius. An orchestrated piece about the title volcano. Does one NOT expect the song to suddenly get loud and vicious?
    • Said loud atmosphere is what actually makes it a difficult piece to perform, since amateur musicians choose incorrect places to "erupt."
  • Bob Dylan's "Black Diamond Bay", which spends several verses setting up a bunch of characters only to have a volcano erupt and kill everyone.
  • Gorillaz song "Fire Coming Out of a Monkey's Head." To be clear, 'Monkey' is the name of a mountain. Or so it seems. This is more clear in the music video.
  • Jimmy Buffett's "Volcano", based off the Soufrière Hills volcano on the island of Montserrat, where the song was recorded. At the time the song was written (1979), the volcano had been dormant for centuries, though the song treats it as a given that it eventually would erupt. The volcano activated in 1995 and is still active now.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons adventure "In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords." The city of Suderham lies in the caldera of an extinct volcano. Guess what happens by the end of the module?
    • The entire campaign of "The Shackled City Adventure Path" is based on the bad guys trying to cause a dormant volcano that has a city built into its crater to erupt in order to fuel their demonic artifact. Possibly averted in that the characters have the ability to stop it (though are not required to for the completion of the campaign). Even if the PCs succeed in preventing an all-out eruption, the tremors still do quite a number on the town.
  • In the Forgotten Realms, the city-state of Neverwinter is located near Mount Hotenow, a dormant volcano inhabited by fire elementals which is one of the reasons the city is called Neverwinter (because the river is heated by the fire elementals and never freezes in winter). After the Spellplague in 4th Edition Mount Hotenow erupted, devastating Neverwinter and killing the heirs of its 3E ruler Lord Nasher Alagondar.
  • The board game The Downfall of Pompeii (Pompeii for short) is based around the eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79. There's even a volcano prop included in the game.

    Video Games 
  • Battlezone (1980) - Enforced. The volcano within the game was originally not going to erupt, but Ed Rotberg (the programmer of the game) was pestered by his coworker Owen Rubin into making it active. After Ed finally suggested that Owen write the code himself, it was found lying on Ed's desk the next day.
  • Mt. Zublo in Breath of Fire III erupts, blocking passage around it and an entire section of the game is dedicated to getting around it. Even having to inevitably go through it.
  • Bug has one in Arachnia's background. Bug pushes Queen Cadavra into it when he beats her, causing it to erupt.
  • The volcano in Bugsnax erupts during the game's climax, where it's triggered by the Bugsnax that make up the island finally rising up to attack the characters. Before this, lava constantly flows from said volcano into Boiling Bay, and it's possible to go Bugsnak-hunting in its lava tubes (and set yourself on fire multiple times).
  • Averted in Cadillacs and Dinosaurs . Throughout the game the volcano is smoking away in the background, and though the characters keep thinking it's going to blow, it's actually the smoke from the factory concealed within.
  • One of the levels in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, a game in a series well known for its extremely dramatic setpiece battles and shocking disasters with thousands or millions of death, is set on the small Greek island Santorini. It was the sight of the most devastating volcanic eruption in European history that led to the collapse of all mediterranean Bronze Age empires except the Egyptians, and possibly the source of the Atlantis Myth, and is on the list of the 17 most dangerous volcanoes in the world. It's also a game about futuristic superweapons. Yet the giant underwater volcano, on whose crater rim the level takes place, doesn't get either mentioned or does any kind of exploding.
  • The Volcano Weather Forecast in Carto says there won't be an eruption today, which surely means there won't be an eruption. (There's an eruption.)
  • The Curse of Monkey Island features a lactose-intolerant volcano. Worshiped by vegetarian cannibals. It doesn't go off unless you trigger it.
    Lemon-head Cannibalnote : You fool! You've given cheese to a lactose intolerant Volcano God! Do you know what that means? You've brought about the Coming of the Divine Dysentery! Run for your lives!
    Guybrush: Wow! That was even more spectacular than I had hoped!
  • The Civilization VI expansion Gathering Storm uses this trope as a game mechanic. Active and dormant volcanoes can be found scattered around the map and much in real life, erupt on an unpredictable basis. There is a risk-reward calculus to settling cities and building improvements near them, as eruptions can create fertile land and proximity to the volcano can boost faith or science, but of course the eruptions can also destroy anything nearby. The game lampshades this with several humorous messages if you decide to settle close to one.
  • The second Dark Sun game, Wake of the Ravager, had a volcano level; if you took too long to complete it, the volcano would blow and you'd get a Nonstandard Game Over. Unfortunately for those playing on modern computers, the game clock seems to run on processor speed, so unless you know how to adjust the proper settings, it is impossible to complete the level and, by extension, the game, before the volcano blows.
    • Not quite inevitable nor an eruption anymore; since there are no bottomless pits and volcanoes don't naturally erupt, any lava/magma flooding is engineered by the player, due to shortsighted or deliberate design. Knowing that magma is present in every map leaves abusing it as the only dwarfy thing to do, volcanoes simply open up options much sooner.
  • Dino Strike Wii have you crashing on an island where dinosaurs are not yet extinct, with a volcano emitting flames in it's center. Halfway into the game, your Mission Control informs you it's going to erupt, and the Final Boss battle against a T-Rex is a Time-Limit Boss where you delay the dinosaur from attacking long enough as you make your escape, ending with the volcano finally erupting and drowning the T-Rex.
  • Possibly in the making for Dragon Age. A codex entry found in Dragon Age: Origins mentions the Fereldan mountain of Dragon's Peak, a dormant volcano; according to the codex, there is a legend which states that the volcano will return to life after the last true King of Ferelden dies. One of the companions in Origins turns out to be the last known member of the royal family.
  • Dragon Quest III is the first Dragon Quest to feature a volcano. Naturally, you make it erupt for the purposes of getting a magic MacGuffin. The quest to make it erupt takes fully a quarter of the game. Said volcano also plays a key role in the backstory — and the Attract Mode cutscene.
  • Dragon Quest VII plays with this: the very first thing you see upon arriving is the volcano erupting! ...In a vision, anyway, which you then have to prevent.
  • Inevitable in Dwarf Fortress: If there's lava somewhere on the map, it will eventually be pumped onto the surface by the player. There's a bug where if a volcano is spawned overlapping a bottomless pit on a local map, the result is an instantaneous eruption, forest fire, and death.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • Morrowind itself averts the trope when it comes to Red Mountain, the central volcano of Vvardenfell (the game's setting) island. Red Mountain only belches smoke and red dust throughout the game, but does house the Volcano Lair of the Big Bad (which was formerly the capital of the long-extinct Dwemer).
    • Following the events of Oblivion and a nearby Colony Drop (all part of an epic Trauma Conga Line for Morrowind), Red Mountain erupts during the Time Skip prior to Skyrim. As a result, Vvardenfell's settlements were destroyed and much of mainland Morrowind was left under a choking cloud of dust. (These events are known as the "Red Year".) Many of the Dunmer (Dark Elf) people were forced to flee, both due to those events and the subsequent Argonian invasion, with many settling in Skyrim and Solstheim.
  • Final Fantasy Mystic Quest: The volcano erupts at the end of the Lava Dome stage. That's right, while you're inside it. And the lava flow cools quickly to make a new path you can walk along. Convection, Schmonvection.
  • There is a volcano in Grow Island but it have a twist. In the game's last turn instead of erupting a creature will emerge from it and pour lava out of its head-tentacle.
  • The last three missions of Guild Wars: Prophecies take place on or directly adjacent to a massive volcano, with two climactic battles in its active crater. It explodes at the very end of the campaign.
  • The Stable Time Loop in Icewind Dale II in Dragon's Eye.
  • King's Quest VII has an interesting variation. The volcano is active, but some Steampunk-type machinery in use by the trolls keep it from blowing. However, Malicia would like to use it to get revenge on Etheria, the Fairy Kingdom, even if everything else is turned to slag in the process. It's up to Valanice and Rosella to prevent this.
  • Kingdom of Loathing: A volcano plays an important part in the Nemesis Quest, containing a puzzle that requires using constantly-shifting chunks of rock floating in magma as stepping stones in order to reach the final showdown with your nemesis, with the volcano erupting if you win. Lampshaded as it becomes clear that the underground tunnels you chase your nemesis through are leading into the volcano: "On reflection, this was inevitable, really. I mean, you can't just have a Final Boss Battle near a volcano. It would be like having a car chase in which the fruit cart doesn't get knocked over. Or fighting crime in a giant robot and never using Rocket Punch."
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, to fulfill the requirements of a completely different trope. The only one that actually erupts is in The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages. Ocarina's Death Mountain does erupt just enough to rain flaming boulders on you whenever you get near the summit. It also lets out a shockwave when Volvagia is defeated, but the only effect is to clear the skies, knock that guy on the Kakariko rooftop flat on his back and get ash trapped in a nearby Goron's eyes. Another one erupts in Oracle of Seasons when Link deliberately uses bombs to set it off.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: Death Mountain is shown to be spewing ash and rocks when Link first arrives.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: While Death Mountain is indeed erupting due to Divine Beast Vah Rudania's influence, the real threat when scaling the mountain comes from the fiery cannonballs Vah Rudania shoots at trespassers.
  • Lighthouse: The Dark Being: Played with. The Dark Being's Volcano Lair in the endgame looks like it might erupt, but the dark fumes coming out of it are actually fumes from the huge mining system inside it, and the volcano itself is stable enough to run a steam system that powers said machines. If the player collects enough items, however, they can make it explode anyway using a Time Bomb.
  • Outpost 2: If there's a volcano on the map, it will always eventually erupt.
  • Pokémon
    • In Pokémon Ruby/Emerald, one group is actively trying to cause the volcano to erupt, while you and the other group have to prevent it.
    • Cinnabar Island erupts between the events of Red/Green/Blue/Yellow/FireRed/LeafGreen and the events of Gold/Silver/Crystal/HeartGold/SoulSilver, even though no volcano was visible in the former games.
    • Averted in Pokémon Sun and Moon: Mount Hokulani and Mount Lanakila are both volcanoes (the Pokémon world's analogue to Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, respectively) but never go off throughout the course of the story, and both appear to have been dormant for a long time. Neither does an unnamed active volcano on another island, though the Fire-type Island Trial is held there.
  • In Romancing SaGa 2, there is one. If you let it explode, you can get Shadow magic; but lose the Salamander class character in exchange.
  • Sam & Max: The plot of Season 2 episode "Moai Better Blues" features stopping a volcano as the main goal for Sam & Max. While they couldn't stop the volcano from errupting in time, utilization of another time-and-space Bermuda Triangle portal blocked the volcano to prevent the erruption destroying Easter Island. The erruption of lava comes into play again by The Stinger of the final episode, resulting in the Soda Poppers trapped in the lava pit getting fried immediately after they declared they'll return.
  • The Super Mario Bros. series has a few examples:
    • In Paper Mario 64, Mt. Lavalava erupts after Mario and his team have defeated Lava Piranha for the fifth Star Spirit, Misstar. Before the chapter officially ends, Mario and his team and Kolorado have to escape before they are swallowed in the eruption.
    • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars features a volcano that does not erupt, although one NPC does comment it looks like there's a lot of activity around it. The level doesn't count as much of a Lethal Lava Land either. Neither of these points, however, detracts from the dragon boss fight.
    • Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time features Thwomp Volcano, which does blow up after the Boss Battle.
    • Averted and played straight in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. Averted with 'real world' Mount Pajamaja, which despite being temporary base to the Big Bad and a key part of the plot, doesn't erupt at any point during the story. Played straight with the dream version, which does (because you actually try to get it to blow up to open the portal again). Also, the dream one is... a sentient being which tries to kill the Mario brothers, so it turns out the whole eruption idea wasn't the best one.
    • Super Mario Sunshine plays with the trope, as Isle Delfino's Corona Mountain doesn't explode, but Bowser does use it as a hideout (and it's accessed when the city in front of the volcano is flooded; the cause behind it is unrelated to the volcano itself).
    • Mario Kart: Super Circuit: Lakeside Park, the first track of the Special Cup, features a volcano in the background that starts erupting in the second lap, dropping debris and flaming rocks on the track.
  • Averted and possibly justified with Mt. Zaleho in Tales of the Abyss. Auldrant's crust has been raised some several kilometers above the planet's mantle for the past two thousand years or so, reducing Mt. Zaleho's activity. While its volcanic activity increases significantly after the land is lowered, it still doesn't seem to pose any significant danger to Daath.
  • In Transformers (2004), the Decepticons have a Volcano Lair on an Island Base in the final earth level. The Final Boss is fought on a platform suspended over the lava. As you stand and Megatron falls, the volcano decides to erupt, seemingly taking Megatron with it.
  • Trials of Mana: The heroes are shipwrecked on a remote volcano island that's slated to go off at any moment (the screen even shakes from time to time with pre-eruption tremors), but of course it doesn't go off until you've accomplished all that you're supposed to and you have a way off the island. (Hooray for conveniently passing by turtles!)
  • Lampshaded, but ultimately averted and defied with the volcano in Uncharted 4's Madagascar level:
    Nate: So with our luck, what are the odds this volcano is gonna erupt on us?
    Sully: Zero. It's extinct. Trust me, that's the first thing I looked up when we said we were heading for a volcano.
  • In World of Warcraft's Cataclysm Expansion, in the Goblin starting zone, there is a volcano- and inside it is a giant turtle called the "Volcanoth". You have to kill that turtle with a bunch of missiles- the death of the Volcanoth and the explosion from the missiles... triggers this trope.

  • Lampshaded in Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures, in the spy novel Wildy wrote.
    Jyrras: "Oh, of course! Nothing quite says "intelligent" like having 70 billion dollars worth of equipment next to an unstable volcano!"
  • In Erfworld, the city of Gobwin Knob is situated inside the caldera of a dead volcano, the walls of which provide natural defense... At the end of the first book, having run out of any other options, Parson has Maggie mentally link Sizemore the Dirtamancer and Wanda the Croakamancer together so they can deliberately uncroak the dead volcano. The results, both immediate and long-term, are pretty spectacular and completely predictable.
  • In Homestuck, one of the four human children lives on a dormant volcano. Naturally, it erupts about the same time they were dawdling too much in leaving Earth for the Medium.

    Web Original 
  • Pirates SMP: The main island of the Faction Isles, i.e. the one inhabited by the four pirate factions, is located on top of a volcano. Martyn finds the L.O.O.T. Shard of the SMP world that he was searching for in the magma chamber on Day 132, and the Sun God's destruction of it at his request causes an eruption.
  • The island of Karedonia in the Whateley Universe is two-thirds volcano, and it's been mentioned more than once that the supervillain who runs Karedonia, Gizmatic, has the ability to blow the volcano if he needs to. So no one dares attack him or try to unseat him. In "Saks and Violence", when he threatens to disinherit his child Jobe, She-Beast plays the Chekhov's Volcano card, threatening Gizmatic because Jobe also knows how to unleash the volcano. (Gizmatic is unimpressed. He's a supervillain, after all.)

    Western Animation 
  • The Batman: The Animated Series episode "Day of the Samurai" uses this trope, as the location of the final duel between Batman and Kyodai Ken.
    Batman: This was a poor choice for a battleground, Kyodai. The volcano may claim us all!
    Kyodai: It does not matter! Ninja do not fear death!
  • The Superman: The Animated Series episode "Action Figures" features Brain Uploading Cyborg Metallo washing up on one. A research and excavation team are also there, noting that the volcano will erupt soon. Naturally, it does by the time Superman shows up so he and Metallo can fight and immerse each other in the lava.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • "The Fortuneteller" has Aang and Sokka discover a volcano is ready to explode while hiking up there for other reasons. Apparently the townspeople used to monitor it, but stopped doing so once a fortune teller moved in and they figured she'd just tell them if the volcano erupted. To Sokka's great annoyance, her fortune was still technically correct because she only predicted that the town would not be destroyed — she didn't say whether or not the volcano would actually erupt.
    • Zigzagged with the volcanoes of the Fire Nation. Being a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Japan, the country has a lot of volcanoes hogging the background in many episodes (especially in Book Three, which is mainly set in the Fire Nation). The capital is located on top of a volcano and the Boiling Rock prison is similarly also located on top of the boiling hot water of a volcanic crater, but they are not shown to explode. However, there is one case where it is played straight: the volcanic island where Roku spent the last years of his life (horrifyingly, the volcano became the end of him when it erupted suddenly. His attempt to bend it away ended up creating a second volcano, which would have overwhelmed him even if Sozin did not betray him).
  • The Legend of Tarzan, in the episode "Tarzan and the Volcanic Diamond Mine".
  • The plot of Garfield in Paradise involved one.
  • Subverted in Jackie Chan Adventures, where the Monkey King makes a Hawaiian volcano erupt... with lava made out of gelatin.
  • At the beginning of The Transformers, the Transformers crash into a volcano and go into stasis, where they remain until an eruption reactivates the ship four million years later.
  • Subverted in the Super Friends episode, "Volcano." Here, the volcano never erupts considering that the alien ship that crashes into its magma pool and the superheroes trying to rescue it have enough to deal with as it is.
  • X-Men: Evolution had one. It erupts twice.
  • Adventures of the Gummi Bears: The "My Gummi Lies Over the Ocean" episode.
  • The volcano at Hawaii in the finale of Total Drama World Tour.
  • The very third episode of South Park is called Volcano and naturally is about a Volcano eruption near the town. In more than 200 episodes since that Volcano was never mentioned again.
  • Averted in Beast Wars. The volcano under the Predacon base never erupts, despite the ever molten lava. Also the volcano the Maximals move into doesn't erupt either, because they know it doesn't erupt until 1984.
  • In the Pinky and the Brain episode "Brainania", the Brain attempts to establish his own country on a volcanic island. Smart move.
  • The episode of The Simpsons where Homer actually becomes a missionary on a tropical island as an attempt for him to escape an angry mob of PBS staff ends with Homer and "Lisa Jr." accidentally causing a volcano to erupt by ringing a church bell too loudly.
  • In Young Justice, Professor T.O. Morrow's android Red Volcano attempted to destroy Earth by setting off a dormant volcano in Yellowstone National Park.
  • Double subverted in an episode of Totally Spies!, where the spies are "captured" and dangled over an apparent Lava Pit, but it turns out to just be a training exercise. Then the real volcano starts erupting.
  • The volcano in the Goofy cartoon "Hello Aloha".
  • Ivor The Engine featured an extinct volcano called Smoke Hill which in one episode was seen smoking. Subverted, in that the actual cause of the smoke was a dragon's egg in the crater.
  • In Dinotrux, a volcano eruption starts off the plot, ruining the main character's home and forcing him to find a new home, which also happens to have a volcano. When it threatens to erupt too, this time he stands with his friends to work and stop it.
  • The Sumatran volcano Dethklok performs at in Metalocalypse ends up erupting, burning their body doubles just as they were trying to fulfill their mission for the Tribunal and steal Dethklok's Duncan Hills contracts.
  • In the second part of Hey Arnold! episode The Journal, the parents of soon-to-be Arnold travel with Eduardo to a small hospital near the mountain. Eduardo points out that the mountain is a volcano, but insists that volcanoes always smoke and that's all this one will do. It erupts at the very next second, and the trio quickly searches for a safe path to the hospital.
  • Mike, Lu & Og: The episode "Whole Lotta Shakin'" has the island's towering volcano, Mt. Henry, becoming active and erupting.
  • In The Land Before Time “The Canyon of Shiny Stones”, the gang goes to the titular canyon and it’s near a volcano. Petrie thinks he’s making the mountain mad, but when the eruption happens, he has to get past being afraid and fly over it so he can go get the adults to rescue the others.
  • In The Lion Guard, Kion causes the volcano to erupt when he uses the roar of the elders in anger and Makini’s staff is tossed into it. It results in Scar’s spirit being summoned.
  • A Thousand and One... Americas: In the third episode, Chris dreams of visiting the town of Cuicuilco, south of which the Xitle volcano resides. He learns about the local civilization, as well as their tributes to the gods of earth (including the Lord of Fire). Guess what happens to the volcano near the end of the episode (this also doubles as Foregone Conclusion, since the volcano's eruption did extinguish the town in Real Life).

    Real Life 
  • Italy is the only volcanically active region in Europe. Since its history is long, erupting volcanoes are very well-documented.
    • Vesuvius, which turned the entire city of Pompeii to ashes. It erupted in late 1943 with enough force to provoke an effective local ceasefire in WW2, as both the Germans and the Allies struggled with the practicalities of staying alive in what threatened to become a disaster area. Spike Milligan related that his artillery unit was tasked with evacuating Italian civilians from threatened areas, as humanitarian relief took precedence over fighting the Germans. (who apparently used the respite to regroup a safe distance away and prepare new defences).
    • Also in Naples, and in a sense far more worrying than Vesuvius, are the Phlegraean Fields, a very large volcano that shows signs of a possible eruption in the not too distant future.
    • Sicily has Etna, which erupts frequently, and Stromboli off the coast is in a nearly constant state of eruption.
  • In the United States:
    • Mount Rainier is feared to be this. Largest Volcano in the lower 48, one of the broadest in the world in terms of glaciers and crags and area. Tacoma and Seattle, with about 3.5 million people, lie nearly entirely on old mudflows from the volcano that are less than 200 years old.
    • In the same volcanic neighbourhood as Mount Rainer is Mount St. Helens, which practically became a unit of measurement in the severity of volcanic eruptions after it went off in 1980 and killed 57 people.
    • The volcanoes of the Hawaiian islands erupt (well, ooze) frequently, meaning the islands are slowly growing bigger (and volcanoes that are now underwater may someday reach the surface, as more lava builds up higher). To complete the frequent comparisons with Hawaii, the French island of La Réunion has the Piton de la Fournaise volcano. It's easily accessible, erupts on average once a year, and its average level of danger is exemplified by how the first reaction of locals and tourists when an eruption is announced is to organize eruption-sighting tours.
    • The geysers, hot springs, and "paint pots" of Yellowstone National Park are all caused by geologic activity from a massive caldera that spans the whole region. Pray it never, ever explodes.note 
    • The Yellowstone hot spot is located in Wyoming. The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory is based out of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, some 250-plus miles to the south. It is just the latest in a long line of hot spots extending back to the Southwest over several states. The North American plate moves and the hot spot gradually shifts.
  • Although many supervolcanoes or megacalderas are extinct now, there are still some active ones, not just Yellowstone. Taupo in New Zealand is another still active one.
  • According to the documentary The Last Day of the Dinosaurs, the asteroid that caused the mass extinctions at the end of the Cretaceous period possibly caused this. Allegedly, the seismic catastrophes created by the impact may well have caused long-extinct volcanoes to erupt again.
  • The leading contender for the cause of the Permian-Triassic Mass Extinction (also known as The Great Dying and an event that puts the Cretaceous-Tertiary Mass Extinction to shame) is the eruption of the Siberian Flood Basalts, the largest volcanic event known to have occurred on Earth.
  • In Indonesia:
    • The Toba catastrophe theory, which not only reduced humanity to a few thousand individuals (fortunately, that wasn't enough back then), but may also have been the true cause of the last ice age, or at least hastened its arrival, which it was coincidentally followed by. In fact all supervolcanic eruptions can lead to an ice age.
    • Krakatoa is still feared to be this, or more precisely Anak Krakatau, 'Child of Krakatoa'. After the original volcano blew itself apart in 1883, a new volcano started growing out of the caldera the old one left. These fears proved to be valid when Anak Krakatau erupted on December 22, 2018, causing the volcano to collapse to a small caldera barely above sea level, and producing a deadly tsunami.
    • Tambora, which spewed so much dust into the atmosphere that it lowered temperatures for several years and made 1816 'The Year Without a Summer'.
  • Inverted with permafrost. Due to its involvement in climate change, it is not really permanent at all, and it contains a huge amount of carbon dioxide and methane (both greenhouse gases) frozen within it, assuming if the above was true.
  • The Thera eruption, which wiped out the Minoan settlements on Santorini some 3600 years ago, and possibly caused a tsunami that destroyed coastal communities and agricultural areas on Crete 200 km away. This eruption might have been the basis for the Atlantis myth.
  • The largest volcano known to mankind, Olympus Mons, poses no threat to anyone but possible future Mars explorers. Estimates for how long it's been inactive range from 2 million years ago to back in Jurassic times; astrogeologists suspect that its activity cycle is much less regular than that of Earth's volcanoes, as Mars has no plate tectonics to dictate when pressures build up within its magma chamber. Hence, if and when it does erupt, there won't be much prior seismic activity to give an advance warning.
  • Last but not least Io, the innermost of the four Jupiter's largest moons. Despite being just a bit larger than our Moon, it contains around 400 active volcanoes and each space probe that has imaged it has found something volcanic going on there.

Alternative Title(s): Inevitable Eruption