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Departure Means Death

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Many stories include alternate planes of existence. A magical world, a fairy land, an alternate dimension or an Enchanted Forest may all have their own inhabitants. Sometimes the residents may be lucky and be able to travel through them safely, if not easily. For others, there's a different problem: They die if they leave their home.

Apparently, there's just something special about them and their home. Maybe there's magic in the air that they need to breathe, or their existence is tied to a certain location or something has been done to the people to limit where they can live. Whatever it may be, if they leave their home they will usually get sick and die.

However, it's not entirely hopeless. There may be a special magical artifact or piece of phlebotinum that stops the process, counteracts the effects enough to allow continued living or at least slows it down. After all, if two worlds are truly incompatible, it limits the amount of stories you can tell.

Do note that this doesn't really apply to aliens or deep sea denizens or the like. Those are issues of different atmospheres or pressure differences, whereas this is generally more supernatural in nature. This trope is not about humans being unable to live on Venus or polar bears dying in the desert.

Contrast Possessive Paradise, for cases in which a person can't leave because the place won't let them.


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    Comic Books 
  • Originally Aquaman and his fellow Atlanteans could not stay out of water for more than an hour without dying.
  • Similar to Byrne's Kryptonians, The Daxamite race is confined to their home planet due to a severe allergy to lead. Even the trace atmospheric amounts on a planet like Earth is enough to kill them in a matter of hours. There are exceptions, but they all have some sort of counteragent to the lead: Mon-El takes an antidote created by Braniac-5. Sodam Yat is protected by his Green Lantern Ring.
  • One Hulk story had him conflict with a secret deep sea colony of humans developed by a mad scientist who adapted to the ocean depths. When they overthrew the scientist and the allies that Hulk made went to the surface, they violently exploded from the difference in pressure (apparently suffering no ill effects on the way up, just when they got to the surface).
  • In the House of Mystery tale "Sno'Fun" an Antarctic explorer finds an ancient city beneath the ice, lit by strange radioactive rocks. The strange beings within are unable to leave without dying, and refuse to let him leave as well, but one day he persuades one of the guards that no harm will come to him on the surface. They escape—and the guard immediately begins melting in agony. As for the explorer, he's incredibly dehydrated (without apparent effect), and his temperature is abnormally low, but he seems otherwise fine...until one night...
  • Warren Ellis' run on Stormwatch had Jack Hawksmoor, whose Weaksauce Weakness was that he couldn't spend more than a few hours outside a city. It made all-hands meetings on the team's space station base awkward.
  • During the John Byrne reboot of Superman (mid 1980's — late 1990's), Kryptonians had been trapped on their planet because they got sick and died if they left (this was before Krypton blew up, of course). Jor-El corrected this defect in baby Kal-El before shooting him into space.
  • In Thorgal, the three sisters live in a secret valley inside a glacier. The valley is a time anomaly that has allowed them to live for centuries, but they cannot leave for fear of time "catching up to them".
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): The Amazons are only immortal while on their home island(s), if they leave they will age and die like any other mortal, though the royal family is sometimes exempt from this rule due to various things.
    • Wonder Woman (1987) & Wonder Woman (2006): The Olympians who haven't adapted with the times to pull power from humans participating in and reveling in the things in their portfolios, like love and war, or whose portfolios reflect things the modern world no longer values will lose their immortality and become human if they leave Olympus.

  • In the Lone Wolf gamebooks and associated novels, the Darklords of Helgedad cannot survive outside the polluted atmosphere of the Darklands without special apparati, which can be magical, but can also include special breathing tanks. Of course, they are attempting to expand the Darklands through conquest.

    Film — Live Action 
  • In Field of Dreams, if any of the ghost ballplayers who play at the field leave it, it turns out that he can no longer return to the mortal world afterwards. What happens if he decides to just not go back to the spirit world isn't explored.
  • In Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, Dulcea will return to her thousands-of-years-old true age and die if she leaves... hence her not being able to solve the whole plot without the Rangers' help. Similarly, in the movieverse, Zordon is a guy actually physically in the tube and being sustained by it, not broadcasting from another dimension. The Big Bad breaking the tube means it's a race against time to save him.

  • In Anne McCaffrey's Crystal Singer trilogy, once you've been infected with the symbiotic organism that allows you to live on the planet where they harvest crystals that allow warp-travel, you can't leave for very long, or you start going insane and then die. Some can leave for two or three years, others as little as a few months.
  • The things that come from the Buick's trunk in From a Buick 8 generally die almost immediately followed by impossibly quick and revolting decay. It's even faster if they come into contact with things. One creature does not, however. It's speculated that it may be something in the air that does it, but no one's ever quite sure.
  • In the multi-verse of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials, people who live outside their own universe slowly sicken and die. Although it takes a decade or so.
  • Similarly, in McCaffrey's Petaybee series, any native of the titular planet over a certain age cannot leave the planet's surface (due to adaptations that allow them to live comfortably in the planet's sub-arctic climate). Organ shutdown and death will occur within a matter of days.
  • Songs of Earth and Power: Creatures from Earth brought into the Realm usually die after a short period of time.
  • If a star leaves Faerie in Stardust, it reverts into a meteorite and thus dies.
  • In The Talisman, Wolf slowly sickens and loses all liveliness on Earth. Jack is rather frantic to get him home before it's too late. He eventually dies of unrelated causes, but being stuck on Earth definitely didn't help.
  • In The Wheel of Time, after the "Breaking of the World", the Ogier find themselves incapable of being away from their Stedding for any extended period of time; death results if they remain away for too long.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Once Upon a Time "bad things" happen to those who try to leave the town of Storybrooke due to the curse the Evil Queen put on its inhabitants.
  • In WandaVision, Wanda creates a new version of Vision, her lost love, and together they have twin boys. However, Wanda’s family cannot exist outside the world she creates in Westview. When Vision tries to leave, he begins to disintegrate, and when Wanda finally ends her spell over Westview, her family disappears as well.

    Manga and Anime 
  • Magic World natives in Negima! Magister Negi Magi apparently cannot survive on Earth unless they are descended exclusively from Earth natives.

  • Folk/world artist Erutan has a song titled "The Willow Maid" which details various young men seeking the hand of a fairy and ends by invoking this trope.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A Spectral Hunter in Call of Cthulhu must stay within 1 mile of the doll that was used in its creation.
  • Changeling: The Lost: The True Fae can only spend a few hours outside the Land of Faerie before the mundane world starts to smother them, and a few hours more before they're destroyed completely. They can adapt by becoming "Charlatans", albeit at the cost of their memories, power, and what passes for their sanity.
  • Dungeons & Dragons' dryads must stay within a limited radius of their tree. If they pass beyond that radius, they will weaken and die.

  • The townsfolk in Brigadoon are unable to cross the borders of their town, lest the entire village disappear.

    Video Games 
  • Spirits can't survive on Earth for long in Aselia the Eternal - The Spirit of Eternity Sword. There's not enough mana in the air for them. However, on other worlds with mana as thick as Phantasmorgia they seem to do well enough.
  • Elves cannot survive outside the forest or Shinjuku in Big Bang Age. If you keep the elf Sonnet outside of Forestland or Shinjuku for too long, she really will die. It also factors into the character clear of Sparn.
  • Yoshiyuki in Da Capo II is an example of the artifact type and is unable to leave the island without either Sakura along or a pendant she made that apparently houses the power of the cherry blossoms. Without them a slow fade into nonexistence would presumably occur like it does when the great cherry tree dies.
  • Angel trainees in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness apparently don't have the strength to last long in the Netherworld by themselves, so Flonne carries a pendant that allows her to stay. Naturally, it's stolen at one point, making it an artifact type.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: The dragon Durnheviir in the Dawnguard DLC was trapped in the Soul Cairn by a Deal with the Devil, and his body is now so attuned to the Soul Cairn's magic that trying to return to his home in Tamriel and live there permanently would eventually kill him. He can, however, survive being summoned to Tamriel for short periods of time.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: The Kokiri are said to die if they ever leave the Lost Woods. However, it's not actually explained whether it is due to some actual magical dependency, or if the Deku Tree's powers are simply unable to defend them in the dangerous outside world. This becomes important when Link leaves the forest for the first time, because he is accepting death (both the Deku Tree's recent death and his own mortality) as part of his Coming of Age Story. The Kokiri, however, seem perfectly fine during the big dance party at the end at Lon Lon Ranch.

  • The Fairie Realm in Code Name: Hunter is this for mortals that either eat or drink food of the Realm or remain there longer than a day.