Follow TV Tropes

Following

Circle of Standing Stones

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/standingstones.jpg
The land runs out into the sea
It's a narrow neck of land
Where weird and grim the standing stones
In a circle there they stand.
— "The Standing Stones o' Stenness", Orkney folk song
Advertisement:

Stone Circles are rings of large stones erected by stone-age cultures. Their purpose is often unknown, though there are many theories, owing to humanity's ongoing fascination with things it doesn't understand. They are also visually distinctive, tending to command attention wherever they appear, and the circular arrangement is easily identified, simple in appearance, but clearly not natural.

Perhaps this is why whenever a circle of standing stones appear in fiction they wind up being significant somehow. The mysterious nature of these places causes writers to associate them with magic, and have them be a Place of Power. Or it might be left ambiguous whether the stones are magical or just stones. Others will portray them as a sacred place for whatever culture built them, and may beg the question, are they still around? At times they are simply used as a dramatic backdrop, their imposing presence lending weight, literally at times, to the events that are taking place.

Advertisement:

Subtrope of Landmark of Lore. When one appears in a work expect strange occurrences, alien encounters, The Reveal, a Plot Twist, or The Climax to occur in or around the circle. If it is used as a portal of some kind it overlaps with Cool Gate.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Films — Animation 
  • Seen in Brave as a place where Merida keeps being drawn to, and where the curse on Elinor and Mor'du is broken. The appearance of the circle itself seems to be loosely inspired by the real-life Callanish Stones on the Isle of Lewis.
  • The magical trolls of Frozen live in such an area. In a twist, they actually are stones themselves.
  • In The Secret of Kells, the first meeting of Brendan and the fairy Aisling takes place inside a stone circle.
Advertisement:

    Films — Live-Action 
  • At the beginning of The Scorpion King, the leaders of the free nations gather at a ring of inscribed standing stones.
  • In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, the meeting with "God" takes place in a circle of stones that rise up out of the ground as Kirk and company approach.
  • Tess: Being an adaptation of Tess of the d'Urbervilles, it ends with Tess, a fugitive after murdering her abusive rapist lover, being arrested at Stonehenge.
  • In This is Spın̈al Tap the band does a song based on the mysterious giant megaliths of Stonehenge. Owing to Nigel confusing the difference between feet and inches, the "giant" megalith produced is small enough to get tripped over by someone playing one of the Little People note .

    Literature 
  • In "Angel Down, Sussex", Angel Field has a long history of strange events attributed to angels, The Fair Folk, or similar beings. For most of its history, the field had a stone circle in it that was associated with the phenomena, but in 1872 the farmer who owned the field demolished it after his daughter disappeared from inside the circle.
  • In the Arthurian novel The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart, Stonehenge has long stood in disrepair, its use forgotten. Merlin spruces it up to make a grave for his father Ambrosius, king of all Britain. He also takes a stone from Ireland, reputed to be the Heart of Ireland, to place it in Stonehenge to show his father's conquest of the island.
  • Discworld has several examples.
    • In Lords and Ladies, the Dancers are a circle of stones around a point with a Thin Dimensional Barrier, protecting Lancre from a Pocket Dimension full of elves. They're made of magnetic Thunderbolt Iron, which messes with the elves' Bizarre Alien Senses and keeps them from crossing over.
    • The druids of Discworld use stone circles as computers, flying them into place (the metaphor is extended by them having to build new ones every few months because the old ones are now obsolete). This causes some friction with trolls (who are giant sentient rocks), who are often picked and dropped off miles away from where they were living.
  • The novel Dragonsword by Gael Baudino has "The Circle", a replica of Stonehenge with mystical powers.
  • These are a fairly common sight in the writings of H. P. Lovecraft and his compatriots, such as The Dunwich Horror.
  • Forest Kingdom: Book 2 (Blood and Honor) states that there used to be a magical one around Barrowmeer, the mound where Bloody Bones was buried, in order to keep him dormant. Unfortunately, it's since been dismantled for use as building material elsewhere, which allows Bloody Bones to be reawakened.
  • Gravity Falls: Journal 3: Stonehenge is described as "either a spell-amplification center or a place for the druids to play hide-and-seek".
  • Stephen King's Just After Sunset short story "N" has one of these in a field which the eponymous "N.", a man with a crippling case of OCD thinks is a gateway to another world, and an Elder God is on the other side. The question is, whether or not he's wrong. Probably not.
  • Next to the doomed town in the League of Magi story "Stillwater." It's a place where a mage can draw raw power from the earth.
  • Geoffrey of Monmouth's Life of Merlin tells us that King Arthur's uncle, along with Arthur's father and Merlin, led an army into Ireland to steal stones with magical healing powers which were used to build Stonehenge. Anachronism Stew is very much in play since Stonehenge is a lot older than the dates he gives for the lives of Arthur's pops.
  • In The Long Earth standing stones were (and may still be) used to repel species from parallel earths described as "elves" and "trolls".
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • Many of the heights on the Barrow-downs in Fellowship of the Ring are crowned by rings of standing stones, lending to the ominous atmosphere of the downs. There is also a single standing stone that the Hobbits fall asleep under, which leads to their capture by Barrow-wights, and a pair of stones creating a gateway which the ponies refuse to pass.
    • In Return of the King Aragorn and the Grey Company make for the Stone of Erech to secure the aid of the Dead Men of Dunharrow. The stone is a large globe of black stone brought from the foundering of Númenor and placed there by Isildur, but by the end of the Third Age had gained an evil reputation by those who have forgotten its origins.
  • The Nantucket Trilogy features Stonehenge in all its Bronze Age glory. It's a sacred site for the Fiernan Bohulugi, who call it the Wisdom.
  • In the Outlander series, Claire Beachamp Randall uses stone circles to travel between the 20th and 18th centuries. She's not the only one that can do it, either.
  • Over Sea, Under Stone. The Standing Stones at the end of Kemare Head are 3,000 years old and are landmarks used in the search for the Grail. Simon and Jane go out to them at night and are almost captured by the forces of the Dark.
  • The climax of Peter and the Shadow Thieves takes place at the most famous circle, Stonehenge, where the heroes intend to send the starstuff back into space.
  • In "Sorcerer Conjurer Wizard Witch", an Extranormal Prison is built in a meteor crater surrounded by a circle of standing stones, which the narration describes as "the Neolithic equivalent of the 'Danger—Keep Out' signs put up at the site of a bad fire or a subsidence in the road".
  • Subverted in the Village Tales series. Wiltshire or no, there are relatively few henge-and-cursus monuments in the District, and those few are the subject only of proper archaeological interest. In fact, the archaeological team led by Professor Den Farnaby and Professor Millicent the Baroness Lacy is engaged in looking for places where more might once have been.
  • The Walking Stones by Mollie Hunter revolves around a stone circle in Scotland and a legend that once a century the stones walk down to the river for a drink.
  • Stonehenge — known within the story as "The Stones" — plays a small part in Bernard Cornwell's Warlord trilogy. Arthur and Derfel visit them to meet and do a secret deal with Aelle, and Arthur says that that was where Merlin gave him Excalibur.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Children of the Stones takes place in a fictionalized version of Avebury, where the stones are part of a mystical time-loop phenomenon.
  • Doctor Who, "The Stones of Blood" takes place in and around a stone circle in which is one of the fragments of the Key to Time. This was filmed at the Rollright Stones, located just off the A3400 on the Oxfordshire-Warwickshire border.
  • Earth: Final Conflict: stone circles are revealed to have been put there by the ancients as a result of Companions visiting Earth long ago.
  • In the Father Brown episode "The Standing Stones", one such circle is the scene of a murder. Folk custom in the region holds that the stones have ancient healing powers, which some villagers hope to invoke to end a polio epidemic through Human Sacrifice on the summer solstice.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • The Night's Watch ventures beyond The Wall on a recon mission, and make camp at a circle of standing stones called the Fist of the First Men.
    • Ned Stark executes Will the ranger within one during "Winter is Coming".
    • The White Walkers turn Craster's last son into one of them within a version made of ice in "First of His Name."
  • In one episode of Midsomer Murders, the (first) Victim of the Week is found in a stone circle. A local Druid sect that uses it as a holy place is quickly suspected.
  • Mystery Hunters: There is an episode where both Araya and Christina try to investigate who built the Stonehenge and what its purpose might have been.
  • In the final episode of Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue the demon queen, Bansheera, attempts to complete a ritual that will bring a horde of demons and a literal Hell to Earth, but the ritual requires a solar eclipse, and, you guessed it, a circle of standing stones surrounding her palace, which is in the center of the city. Out of monsters at this point, her second-in-command steals one of the Power Ranger's megazords to put the large stones in place. Despite the Power Rangers succeeding in destroying the renegade megazord, the last stone that it was holding is dropped, and the circle is completed.
  • In the fourth Quatermass serial (also released in re-edited form as a movie, and variously called The Quatermass Conclusion or just Quatermass), young people are drawn to stone circles and apparently ascended to a higher plane. But all is not as it seems. It is eventually revealed that standing stones and other ancient sites are warning markers at places where an alien device killed people in the past — and is doing so again.
  • Robin of Sherwood has several important scenes taking place around a circle of standing stones, particularly the first and last episodes.
  • Power Rangers Dino Fury has Dinohenge, a ring of six dinosaur-shaped sculptures that's rumoured to be haunted. Ollie and Amelia discover in the series premier, "Destination Dinohenge", that they're actually the petrified bodies of dinosaurs who partnered with alien knights from Rafkon. Their spirits were merged with their dinosaur partners to become Power Rangers.

    Music 
  • Ayreon has a song on Universal Migrator Part 1 called "And the Druids Turn to Stone" giving a rather bizarre take on how Stonehenge came to be.
  • "The Standing Stones o' Stenness" (recorded by Loreena McKennitt as "Standing Stones") is a folk Murder Ballad about a tragic young couple who pledge their love at a circle of standing stones in the Orkney Islands.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Dark Crystal has these set up as part of a ward that protects the Valley of the Mystics.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Shadowrun. After the return of magic to the world, the stone circles (and other places of power) regained their mystic potency, including being able to boost the power of magicians who knew how to use them.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In the BD&D module "B4: The Lost City", the island at the center of the underground lake has a ring of standing stones on it.
    • In the AD&D 2e module "Die Vecna Die!", Tovag Baragu is a gigantic site with five concentric rings of stone obelisks and archways, the latter of which transport people to Alternate Universe versions of itself. These range from somewhat normal, to inhospitable, to Reality Is Out to Lunch, to immediately lethal.
    • Some of these ancient monuments exist in Barovia, which is part of the Ravenloft setting. Their origins are lost to history.
  • Games Workshop games:
    • The Beastmen of Warhammer and its sequel Warhammer: Age of Sigmar erect herdstones in isolated places. These monolithic standing stones act as gathering points for the Beastmen herds and focuses for their debased religious rites.
    • In Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, the Tzaangor rise monolithic herdstones in the same way as the other species of Beastmen. Known as flux-cairns, these stone circles are erected in locations rich in magic where they leach this energy from the surrounding landscape. If a flux-cairn remains in place for long enough they becoming great repositories of magic and hideously warp the surrounding landscape.

    Theatre 
  • Children of Eden uses one for both a plot twist and the setting of the Act One climax.

    Video Games 
  • In Age of Empires, there are the so called ruins. These are circles of standing stones that the players can take control of. Once one player controls all the ruins, a countdown starts at 2000 years (five minutes in real time) after which the player automatically wins.
  • Arcanum: The Ring of Brodgar stands at the point where Arronax the Destroyer was banished by Nasrudin, the Messiah figure of the Panarii.
  • Assassin's Creed:
    • In Assassin's Creed Origins, Bayek can visit twelve stone circle locations around Egypt and complete stargazing mini-games that will help him gain access to the Isu Armor.
    • Assassin's Creed: Valhalla has this again with Eivor discovering a variety of each henge around England where they're marked by the travels of Brendan of Clonfert, who speaks of the Isu, or as he calls them, the Nephililm. His final journey goes all the way out to Vinland, aka North America. The gameplay for each stone involves using Odin Vision to make the runes visible, then moving yourself and the camera until the rune is aligned, giving yourself a new experience point.
  • Atlantis: The Lost Tales: There's one where the Hidden Knowledge is. A ritual unearths it as a metal Oracular Head.
  • Barrow Hill: A stone circle in Cornwall has been breached by an archaeological dig, and the player must re-sanctify the circle to placate its guardian.
  • Black & White:
    • In the first game, one of the first quests you can do involves building a stone circle. If completed, the stones begin 'singing' a magical song and create a miracle generator that you can use to create food for your village.
    • In the first game, Celtic villages can construct one of these as a Wonder, which boosts the power of its patron god's nature-related Miracles.
    • In the second game, the Norse version of the Temple building consists of a henge. Worshipers gather there to offer prayers that boost the god's Mana.
  • Civilization V: "Stone circles" is an available pantheon belief, which offers faith for every quarry. Stonehenge is also an available Wonder.
  • Clive Barker's Undying has a set of standing stones where an occult ritual unleashed a curse upon those who performed it. And that's just the start.
  • Conquests of Camelot has a set of five stones set in a semicircle that emit a force field between them. In order to pass, you have to solve the riddle that each stone will ask. Some of the riddles are fiendishly difficult.
  • In Dark Cloud 2, Kazarov Stonehenge is a large formation of stones that have slots for some key items to go in.
  • Diablo II has one of five stones that must be hit in a certain order to open a portal to Tristram so that you can rescue Deckard Cain.
  • In Dragontorc on the ZX Spectrum, the stone circles, once activated with the Leyrod spell, form a Portal Network that transports the player between different areas of the game.
  • EarthBound has a "Stonehenge", and... would you look at that? There's an alien base beneath it.
  • The Elder Scrolls: Various types of magical stone formations dot the landscapes of Tamriel, bestowing different blessings upon those who seek them out. Some, such as the Doom Stones in Oblivion, have specific requirements like only being usable at night or after a certain amount of renown is acquired. Skyrim's Standing Stones bestow various birthsign powers on those who activate them, but only one can be active at a time. (Two with a unique artifact.) Most of the Standing Stones in Skyrim will also have their own circle of stones around them, as do the All-Maker's stones on Solstheim in the Dragonborn expansion.
  • Empire Earth: The Temple building is a Stonehenge-inspired ring of stones with cave paintings until its replacement in the Iron Age by a Parthenon-looking building. It prevents disasters such as plague, volcanoes, and earthquakes from being cast nearby.
  • Eternal Darkness: Five stones form the entrance to the Forbidden City. One of the stones is inscribed with the runes for the three Ancients, Chattur'gha, Ulyaoth, and Xel'lotath.
  • In EverQuest, stone rings are teleportation locations for Druids. Wizards use other iconic structures.
  • Goat Simulator features "Goatstone Henge". Which you can promptly ruin for points and an achievement. If it sounds silly, it's because... it is. That's the point.
  • In Guenevere, the title character marries King Arthur in the center of one of these. Even within the setting of the game, the origin of it is shrouded in mystery and mysticism - Guen speculates it was made by a wizard or perhaps some artistic giants.
  • Kingdom Hearts III reveals that the new Organization XIII has one of these in the Keyblade Graveyard. It serves as a gathering place for members in lieu of Where Nothing Gathers, the round room in The Castle That Never Was which hosted a throne for each of member of the original Organization.
  • Metroid Prime: The Chozo cipher that contains the titular Metroid Prime is shown as a series of stone monoliths in two rings. Until Meta-Ridley starts breaking them.
  • The Omega Stone: Surprisingly underplayed. while there's plenty of creepy going on in the British segment of the game, all the mystical aspects happen at Bathelwaite's estate or the mysterious swamp; Stonehenge itself only offers a few (mundane) clues and a single ancient scroll that's not entirely crucial to the mission.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon X and Y has one of these at Geosenge town. They turn out to be standing on top of The Ultimate Weapon. As Kalos is based on France, these correspond to the real-life site of Carnac.
    • Galar from Pokémon Sword and Shield is based on the UK and, as a result, makes several references to this phenomena. The pokémon Stonjourner is effectively a living segment of Stonehenge and its Dex entries allude to the theory that Stonehenge was built to align with the sun. The Lake of Outrage section of the Wild Area has a large circle of stones each of which spawns an evolution stone.
  • Riven: Jungle Island is home to a circle of stones with animal symbols on them, which must be pushed into the ground in a specific order to access the Age of the Moiety, Tay.
  • Shadow of the Comet: There is one in the forest which is both an ancient Indian Burial Ground and the cultists' main area of worship.
  • Startopia uses these as the walls of a Zedem Temple built on the station's Biodeck after the initial obelisk is summoned, 12 hired Monks are necessary to summon all of the stones and any that quit or are fired will cause that stone to disappear. VAL also makes reference to Terra's Stonehenge saying that the indigenous fauna built it for him when he visited the planet but caused part of it to collapse as he left, pity.
  • Ultima has Moongates, a circle of standing stones that create a magic gateway when a pebble is dropped in them.

    Webcomics 
  • Elven travel platforms in Errant Story are disguised as these, although Sarine thinks it won't be long until humans discover the ruse. Despite having a friend get married in one (his bride wanted to feel like an "elven princess"), Jon is unimpressed.
  • The Girl Genius version of the United Kingdom has Queen's Henge, a glowing pretzel of standing stones, that can't be seen unless you approach it from exactly the right angle. It is almost as ancient as the immortal Queen Albia, being her first great work after she "broke through" the second time.
  • In Tales of the Questor, the Racconan homeland of Antillia is littered with stonehenges, which were built essentially as magical incinerators. The ring of lux-proof granite acts as a containment field when destroying dangerous or unstable artifacts, as well as spell testing and other violent magical tasks.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-526 "Valhalla Gate" is a ring of nine rune-covered standing stones on a hill in Norway. Each morning at sunrise a group of what appear to be Einherjar (spirits of fallen warriors, from Norse Mythology) appear on the hill and either dig in or move off the hill and attack anyone they find.

    Western Animation 
  • The Dragon Prince: The Moonhenge, once an edifice that was a nexus to a realm beyond life and death, but now all that's left are bases the full structure was built on.
  • In one episode of DuckTales, some druids were found to have a bone to pick with the McDuck clan, since one of Scrooge's ancestors had built his castle on their land. Why? Because there was a ring of large stone pillars already there, which made building it faster...and cheaper. It runs in the family.
  • Such stones often indicate a Banshee outpost in Roswell Conspiracies: Aliens, Myths and Legends, which they use as teleportation hubs.
  • In one SpongeBob SquarePants episode, SpongeBob creates a stone statue of himself, complete with holes, to distract the jellyfishes who are attracted to the sound coming from SB's holes when the wind blows through them (it's a very windy day). Turns out that one small statue doesn't work, and then SB creates more, bigger ones and arranges them in a circle. It works very well, with the stones even creating music. The other half of the cliche is then invoked as we cut to thousands of years later and "Sponge Henge" is a tourist attraction and total mystery to the people of the future.
  • Lothal, Ezra's homeworld from Star Wars Rebels, has a few of these along with other stone formations. Supplementary material reveals that no-one knows where they came from, and the Empire has shut down all study of them. At least one conceals a long-forgotten Jedi temple, and underneath that is an even older temple with petroglyphs depicting ancient Lothal.
  • Transformers: Some are found in Beast Wars in the first episode, indicating the Maximals and Predecons are not the first advanced races to visit this world. The aliens in question are eventually identified as the Vok.

    Real Life 
  • The Trope Codifier is, of course, Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. Not only is the true purpose of the structure a complete mystery, but also the construction techniques used to transport the huge stones in their location (some of them were brought all the way from Wales) are shrouded in myth. And when it comes to the purpose of Stonehenge, The Other Wiki has a whole article on theories about Stonehenge. Oddly enough, fictional versions of Stonehenge only use the visible stone rings (and usually in their modern restored state). Archeology has found that it's only the centerpiece of a much larger complex.
    • To wit, the stones aren't even the actual henge, by modern archaeological definition. Weirder still, even the henge at Stonehenge - the place the term derives from - isn't a 'true' henge.
  • While Stonehenge is the most famous, there are hundreds of stone circles of varying sizes throughout the British Isles. Some other famous ones include Avebury, not far from Stonehenge and the biggest-diameter stone circle in the world, the Callanish Stones on the Isle of Lewis, which loosely inspired the appearance of the standing stones in both Brave and Outlander, and the Ring of Brodgar in Orkney, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Britain's most northerly circle henge.
  • In southeastern Turkey, there's a hill called Göbekli Tepe, which has more than one circles of standing stones. The fact that they were made between 10th-8th millennium BCE makes this the Ur-Example of the trope and makes this trope much Older Than Dirt. Unlike Stonehenge or other examples, the monoliths were carved with pictures of animals and linked to each other with walls, so it was both older and more sophisticated than the other examples.
  • Karahunj, or Zorats Karer, is a structure similar to Stonehenge located in Armenia, thought to have been used as an ancient observatory. It has been dated at least to the Bronze Age. It was featured in an episode of Ancient Aliens, which of course tried to link it to aliens.
  • Ale's Stones on Öland, Sweden. It dates to about AD 550 and are in the shape of a ship. The exact nature of the monument is unknown.
  • Behold Carhenge, the crowning glory of Alliance, Nebraska. Built by a fellow named Jim Reinders in 1987. In 2017 it was in the path of a solar eclipse, and the governor of Nebraska was among the crowd that came there to see.

Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report