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Fantasy Americana

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The wilderness of North America (especially the United States) makes for an effective fantasy setting. Its huge swaths of uninhabited land might contain all manner of strange and terrible creatures, or robbers and bandits, ready to prey on unsuspecting travelers. Ancient ruins lie scattered about the landscape, built by a people long gone, and out beyond the bounds of civilization, the average Muggle works the land, having either no ability or no desire to confront the dangers that lurk in the wilderness just beyond the treeline.

And though this might sound a lot like a Standard Fantasy Setting, there are a number of traits that set Fantasy Americana apart. Rather than villages built around a castle or keep, you're more likely to find isolated homesteads or quaint small towns. If there are castles, they probably look more like wooden frontier forts. Magical Native Americans replace wizards, oracles, and elves, and Fearsome Critters of American Folklore and cryptids like Bigfoot or Mothman take the place of classical creatures like dragons or unicorns. And in place of the towering figures of Classical Mythology or Knights in Shining Armor, there are Tall Tale folk heroes like Paul Bunyan, John Henry, Davy Crockett, and Johnny Appleseed, some of whom really existed.

Fantasy Americana can even take place in modern times, with the weirdness and supernatural stuff happening alongside modern technology and culture, because there are still enormous areas of America where virtually no one lives. And even if people do live there, they are often several hours' travel from civilization. The disconnect between rural and urban America is often a prominent theme in modern Fantasy Americana.

Sister Trope to Ghibli Hills, Weird West.

See also: Lovecraft Country, Sinister Southwest, and Southern Gothic, which use specific slices of Americana as the backdrop for horror instead of fantasy, though the two can overlap. Compare Salem Is Witch Country and Roswell That Ends Well, which similarly have America as the setting for unusual goings-on but utilize more local legends (witches and aliens, respectively).


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    Comic Books 
  • Arrowsmith starts in a Divided States of America populated by humans and various fantasy creatures such as trolls and gnomes, who are regarded as second-class citizens.
  • The Valley setting of Bone is primarily based on the forests of Ohio, the home state of author Jeff Smith, with an animal population mostly consisting of American wildlife, including a dragon-sized mountain lion living along the eastern borders.
  • Captain America: in a 1993 celebratory issue, Captain America tracks a man named Father Time, who leads him to a portal. After he enters, Cap appears in a place he calls "America's mythic past", where he meets Johnny Appleseed, Pecos Bill, John Henry, Paul Bunyan and even an incarnation of Uncle Sam. Bunyan tells Cap he is in the "Heart of America". The issue ends with Cap pondering if the trip was All Just a Dream or not.
  • East of West is, effectively, this trope applied to a Cyberpunk version of America. Flying cars, robots, and laser beams mix with Native American mythology and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
  • The Goon, Hillbilly's sorta-sister series, takes a Fantasy Kitchen Sink approach, with Voodoo Zombies, kaiju, Rodents of Unusual Size, Mad Science, a Cannibal Tribe of hobos, and more, all pitted against a pair of mobsters who look like they stepped out of a 1950s crime comic, and the overall tone is kind of a supermarket tabloid version of Two-Fisted Tales.
  • Hillbilly pretty overtly models its tone on Conan the Barbarian, but the world itself is based mostly on rural Appalachia, as the title implies.
  • Lumberjanes features Fearsome Critters and American cryptids at an all-girls' summer camp, along with other things.
  • Marvel 1602. Neil Gaiman invokes various American legends, such as the mysterious Sargasso Sea and The Lost Colony of Roanoke, to flesh out the comic's world.
  • Middlewest magics up the Midwestern region specifically, a Midwest with storm-spirits, wizards, animal companions and heroic journeys.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 

  • World Fantasy and Nebula award-winning author Cat Rambo's collection of Steampunk and Cattle Punk stories, Altered America, includes several Fantasy Americana stories.
  • Neil Gaiman's American Gods is about the new gods (of technology, of media, of cars...) and new versions of old gods (brought by the people who came to America from all over the world), making their way in modern-day America.
  • In A Brother's Price, the protagonists, the Whistler family, live on a lone farm, surrounded by wilderness, with the only neighbours living quite far away. Horses are the main means of transport, guns are the preferred weapon, and everyone defends their own house. Bandits and robbers are everywhere. It all seems very much like the Wild West - that is, before the princesses are mentioned. Cooking ingredients such as maple syrup imply that the setting is somewhere in North America, and the male Gender Rarity Value (brought about by decreased fertility and stillbirths) could mean it takes place somewhen in the future after mankind wrecked the environment, rebuilt civilisation, and forgot about it.
  • Many books by Sid Fleischman are set in this version of pioneer times with varying degrees of historical accuracy, from nearly straightforward Historical Fiction such as By The Great Horn Spoon to outright Tall Tales such as the McBroom series.
  • The Emberverse books take place in an After the End world where technology no longer works, and the US has splintered into several more-or-less medieval kingdoms. The main characters even end up travelling from Oregon to Nantucket on a quest for a magical sword.
  • Diane Morrison also edited and published an anthology, Gunsmoke & Dragonfire, featuring Weird West, Cattle Punk, Space Western and Fantasy Americana Western stories, including Riders of the Rainbow Ridge by Diana L. Paxson, and the seventh of her own Wyrd West Chronicles stories.
  • InCryptid features the protagonists traveling all over the US, dealing with cryptids, ghosts, sorcerers and witches, and an Eldritch Abomination as they go. The first two books are mostly a normal Urban Fantasy set in New York City, but later books go from Ohio to LA to Oregon to Florida to Maine, with some adventures taking place in the Land Down Under or in England.
    • The related Ghost Roads series, set in the same universe, explores the ghosts and mages of North America and the routes they travel, with some entities even claiming to be gods like Hades and Persephone.
  • The Manitou series horror-fantasy stories of Graham Masterton draw on North American native folklore.
  • Liliana Bodoc's Saga of the Borderlands is a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of all America, from Alaska to Argentina.
  • The Sharing Knife series takes place on a fantasy analogue of the Mississippi, complete with keelboats, settlers in dangerous and inhospitable lands, and conflict with the people who already live there.
  • Manly Wade Wellman's "Silver John" stories are set in the Appalachian backwoods and feature fantastic events based on the folklore of the region.
    • Other "Appalachian Fantasy" series include Alex Bledsoe's Tales of the Tufa, which focuses on The Fair Folk as Appalachians knew them, and D. J. Butler's Witchy War, an alternate Antebellum America with working folk magic, similar to Alvin Maker above.
  • The Soldier Son series is set on a frontier where a pseudo-British culture wars against the magical natives.
  • The Stand features this heavily and makes the American landscape even more devoid of people thanks to a bio-engineered disease killing 99% of the population. It's explicitly noted in the book that magic works better when people are wandering through the wilderness or down empty highways, and that it stops working when people gather together into cities.
  • The Tales of Alvin Maker is set in an Alternate History early 19th Century United States and has a backdrop of various magical talents and "knacks".
  • To Shape a Dragon's Breath takes place in a version of 1840s New England whose primary colonizers were Norse and has the presence of dragons (as does the rest of the world).
  • The Wyrd West Chronicles are a Weird West and Fantasy Americana serial by Diane Morrison that takes place in Western Canada After the End, following a magical World-Wrecking Wave. There are also elements of Cattle Punk and Schizo Tech, and The Gunslinger trope features prominently. The first six stories were later published as a novel Once Upon a Time in the Wyrd West through a Kickstarter, which received good critical reviews.

    Live Action TV 
  • American Gods has the transplanted gods of old world religion in small town America.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, there is an In-Universe fantasy card game called Wild West And Witches which exploits this trope. The boys look with disbelief at this new mixing of universes, ask who's going to fall for such an obvious sales ploy, and then buy three sets. The cards - modeled on Magic: The Gathering - have names like Creepy Tepee, Annie Ogre-way and other bad puns.
  • Carnivāle sets a cosmic battle between good and evil in the Dust Bowl.
  • Sleepy Hollow stars the reanimated Ichabod Crane and Lieutenant Abbie Mills of the Sleepy Hollow police force as they try to unravel the mystery of the Headless Horseman, while dealing with other supernatural happenings in and around the titular town. Strangely enough, it appears to be taking place in the same universe as the scientifically-minded Bones.
  • Supernatural combines a contemporary Fantasy Americana setting with a Monster of the Week procedural, a road movie, and a family drama. While the monsters, curses, and other threats are taken from mythology from all over the world, American folklore is spotlighted. For example, making a Deal with the Devil is a not-infrequent occurence on the show, but it's stipulated that such deals must always occur At the Crossroads, and the episode introducing this theme delves heavily into the Robert Johnson story. Other episodes have featured the Bloody Mary, hitchhiking ghosts, the Hook Hand urban legend, and the ghost of American Serial Killer H.H. Holmes.
  • Twin Peaks is one of the defining examples, spinning a simple murder mystery in the Pacific Northwest into a cosmic battle between good and evil featuring prophetic dreams, alternate dimensions, Demonic Possession, and more than a bit of Time Travel, all while maintaining the facade of a folksy, small town soap opera.

  • The Adventure Zone has examples of this trope as the basis for two of its campaigns.
    • The Adventure Zone: Dust is a murder mystery set in the Weird West, where everyone is fully aware of the existence of ghosts and werewolves.
    • The Adventure Zone: Amnesty is set in contemporary West Virginia. The Appalachian setting features cryptids peacefully living in a ski resort, The Mothman hiding out in a trailer park, and monsters running around the Monongahela National Forest.

  • Hadestown takes the Greek tragedy of Orpheus and transplants the characters and mythology into a post-apocalyptic setting based on 1930s America, where the underworld is a factory and the way to there is an old railroad track.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Anchôromé is an unusual variant of this trope in that it combines the Standard Fantasy Setting with Pre-Columbian Central & Northern America, being set in the "America" region of the Forgotten Realms. Literal Magical Native Americans, Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and Yeti, nomadic elves, desert-dwelling dwarves and various American beastfolk are the order of the day here, with tomahawks and buckskins replacing longswords and chainmail.
  • The roleplaying game Colonial Gothic involves the dark and dreary weirdness that roams the woods of Colonial America and threatens (in many ways) to influence The American Revolution for the worse. One of the expansion booklets for the game is even rules in how to add the Headless Horseman and Sleepy Hollow into a campaign.
  • The sequel settings to Deadlands, particularly Deadlands: Hell on Earth. The original setting is explicitly Weird West, but Hell on Earth is a fantasy post-apocalypse with the Four Riders, armies of undead, magical mutants... and American folklore, same as in the original Western setting.
  • The default setting of classical Dungeons & Dragons, as described by Gygax, has more traits in common with the pioneer mentality of The Wild West than medieval Europe.
  • The art of Larry Elmore, one of the most prominent artists in the haydays of TSR, often pictures gorgeous landscapes inspired by the Rocky Mountains, and his character's clothing is often described as a mix of Celtic and Native American design.
  • Pathfinder's default setting has a continent called Arcadia that is clearly a counterpart to North America, though there hasn't been much published material about it yet. However, its Europe stand-in continent, Avistan, has a bit of this trope in it anyway: the Shoanti tribes have a bit of Magical Native American in them, the democratic nation of Andoren has a fair bit in common with the early United States (or rather, the United States as they should have been, since Andoren is vigorously opposed to slavery), and the River Kingdoms have a bit of a Great Lakes regional flavour to them.
    • Pathfinder is also well set up to run this kind of story outside of its default setting, since the rules take a Fantasy Kitchen Sink approach to real-world mythologies, and many creatures from North American folklore - both Native and settler - turn up in the Bestiaries.
  • Root looks like Medieval European Fantasy at first, but actually fits here. The Forest is very North American looking, and the members of the Eyrie Dynasties are all birds native to North America, while the Marquise is invading from a faraway France counterpart with the intent to colonize for resources. One of the factions is a trading company of Voyageur counterpart beavers that plies the rivers in canoes à la the Hudson Bay Company. Also, since the Woodland Alliance of oppressed commonfolk is fighting both a pseudo-European invader and a decadent monarchy, they can be read as either Native Americans or the United States, as one prefers, or both. Of course, it's mostly Low Fantasy except perhaps when dealing with the Lizard Cult.
  • Shadowrun goes into this territory at times, with Fearsome Critters of American Folklore and Magical Native Americans all over the place.
  • Spellslinger is literally a Wild West setting for Dungeons & Dragons, in that it is set in the American West analogue to a Standard Fantasy Setting after The Magic Goes Away and technology advances to the degree that rifles, shotguns and pistols are the defacto ranged weapons of choice, whilst mention is made of trains in the background.
  • Kenneth Hite's Suppressed Transmission column in Pyramid magazine had a recurring bit where he'd describe an aspect of American folklore — usually a Folk Hero — in game terms, and also as a counterpart to something in Classical Mythology. These included "American Hercules: John Henry", "American Phaëthon: Casey Jones", "American Dionysus: Johnny Appleseed" and "American Arcadia: The Big Rock-Candy Mountain". He also wrote columns on Fantasy Americana that didn't tie into this theme, including Paul Bunyan and John the Conqueror.

    Video Games 
  • While After the End: A Post-Apocalyptic America is set squarely in a post-apocalyptic North America, a number of event chains are inspired by various bits of regional folk tales in keeping with the Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane theme of the original game. One memorable sequence in particular involves a Deal with the Devil plot based on the song "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," with variations depending on the skill involved.
  • For the most part, Arcanum is set in a Medieval European Fantasy undergoing an Industrial Revolution. However, at the beginning of the game you can help an expy of Doc Holliday foil a bank robbery using swords, magic or even your own six-shooters.
  • The Fallout series has its fair share of supernatural creepiness (mainly of the Lovecraftian nature) despite being set in the post-apocalyptic ruins of an alternate Raygun Gothic USA.
    • In Fallout 3, the Dunwich Building seem like an ordinary ruined office building...until the flashbacks to the past begin. Cryptic holotapes belonging to a previous explorer can be found, searching for a mysterious Tome of Eldritch Lore. Finally, deep in a cave beneath the building, a mysterious pillar worshiped by feral ghouls can be found. This building is later integrated into a quest in the Point Lookout DLC.
    • In Fallout 4, one of the locations is a quarry owned by the company Dunwich Borers. Like the Dunwich building in 3, flashbacks occur intermittently. The final flashback shows a human sacrifice in progress. Diving into the pool in the final room reveals part of a massive statue buried beneath the stone, as well as a sacrificial altar upon which a mysterious blade is placed.
  • Greedfall is set in a Constructed World version of colonial era America, with heavy influence from indigenous mythology early American history.
  • Kentucky Route Zero takes the protagonist Conway though rural Kentucky. His journey is littered with supernatural events inspired by midwestern ghost stories. His goal is to deliver a package to Dogwood Drive, which doesn't appear on any map.
  • Never Alone is an adaptation of a traditional Inuit story called Kunuuksaayuka, in which a little girl named Nuna and her arctic fox friend must brave an endless Arctic blizzard that has left her people unable to hunt and on the verge of starvation.
  • Norco features robots, rogue artificial intelligence, unidentified flying objects, and figures from Christian mysticism manipulating events in Greater New Orleans.
  • Dyrwood from Pillars of Eternity is very much a North American-based fantasy-world, complete with colonist settlements (formerly of the overseas Aedyr Empire), pioneers, magical natives (Glanfathan tribes), ancient precursor ruins (Engwithan), and weird creatures and monsters.
  • The Secret World operates on the assumption that All Myths Are True, and mixes in elements of American folklore like Wendigos and Bigfoot with the standard eldritch horrors from beyond reality. Additionally, the first major area of the game is deep in Lovecraft Country.
  • Spirits of Anglerwood Forest: The world of the game is inspired by late 19th/early 20th century rural America with various supernatural elements being the focus.
  • The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. Occult Detective Paul Prospero heads to Red Creek Valley, an abandoned mining town somewhere in Appalachia, in an attempt to solve the murder of the titular child.
  • In The Sims 3: Supernatural expansion pack, the Moonlight Falls neighborhood seems to be an Urban Fantasy version of a small town in the Pacific Northwest, full of witches, vampires, werewolves, and fairies.
  • Where the Water Tastes Like Wine takes place in this setting.


    Web Original 
  • THE MONUMENT MYTHOS is set in a bizarre alternate version of the United States where many famous monuments like the Statue of Liberty, the Washington Monument, and Mount Rushmore either are or contain some kind of Eldritch Abomination, and where the government is involved in many nefarious and supernaturals dealings.
  • In the continuation of Harry Turtledove's Timeline-191 series, there is a post-Second Great War literary, film and game genre that becomes known as "American Fantasy". Works in the genre are all rooted in fantastical Americana, often with social commentary or subtext by the works' allohistorical authors.
  • A good portion of The Slender Man Mythos fits within this. In many works, Slendy is just as content to stalk the wilderness as he does in urban settings. Old abandoned structures, often covered in odd symbols, are a common sight in the woods.

    Western Animation 
  • Gravity Falls. Set in a small town in the middle of the Oregon wilderness, twins Dipper and Mabel deal with supernatural events in the woods surrounding the titular town.
  • The Lone Ranger (1966): Taking place in the largely uninhabited American desert, the 1960s animated series had the Ranger and Tonto to meet fantastical characters and creatures. Could veer closer to Weird West.
  • Over the Garden Wall. Brothers Wirt and Greg must travel a fantasy realm inspired by Antebellum America in order to find their way home.
  • The Scooby-Doo Franchise draws on Fantasy Americana a lot, having the villains impersonate well-known monsters and often taking place in Everytown, America.
  • The third season of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) contains some aspects of Fantasy Americana. You've got the isolated cabin in the middle of the woods, heroes fighting monsters that lurk just beyond the edges of the unknown, and Bigfoot makes an appearance. Not a mutant they name Bigfoot, but the honest-to-goodness legendary creature.