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"Far Side" Island

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A comedic Deserted Islandnote  that is circular with a radius of two meters or so and a single palm, coconut, banana or pineapple treenote  in the center. Usually has a single inhabitant. If there's more than one, they'll either be constantly arguing or one will be slowly driving the other insane in a comedic manner (Meat-O-Vision may also occur). Often features a Message in a Bottle. If the stranded are really unlucky, there will be a pack of sharks circling the island.

Should not be confused with those larger, seemingly-deserted islands with a resort on the side far from where the characters landed.

Please don't think about where the lone inhabitant is getting enough food and fresh water to live long enough to grow that spectacular beard. Or even how they survive high tide.

For another common island design, see Crescent Moon Island.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Master Roshi of Dragon Ball lives on such an island. It's big enough to hold his small house, but that's it. The house also manages to have running water and electricity.
  • In Heavy Object the climax of Volume 15 occurs on this type of island at the center of the Bermuda Triangle. Aside from the tree, there is also a beat-up refrigerator which houses the "breaker" for the Capulet AI system.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, DIO has such an island in the basement of his mansion. It's an illusion cast by one of his minions.

    Comic Books 
  • MAD's Don Martin often used this trope in his comics. As does Frank Jacobs.
  • Nero: Nero often strands on islands like these, where he meets strange creatures like mermaids or talking monkeys, who always disappear when the Deus ex Machina appears. When he tells them what he saw they refuse to believe him.
  • Suske en Wiske: Near the end of Het Eiland Amoras, some time after he was believed to have been killed when blowing up the ship of the Big Bad, Suske is found alive and well on such an island.
  • Desert Island Dick from The Topper was a whole comic strip about this trope: one guy lives on a deserted island by himself and never escapes but never starves either. He is friends with the wildlife though. This trope has also been occasionally used in The Topper's better-known stablemates The Beano and The Dandy.

    Comic Strips 
  • B.C.'s Peter ended up on one while trying to circumnavigate the Earth on a raft. He eventually noticed that he could walk home during low tide.
  • Bizarro features many of the island's inhabitants in a comic of its own.
  • A number of Caldwell strips take place on one of these.
    • One man and a mailbox consisting of a post topped by a bottle with a red flag in a hole on its side.
    • Two men and a bunch of stones that spell out "H_LP". The first man asks to buy a vowel.
    • One man and several oysters spitting pearls at him.
    • A tiny palm tree and one man reading a book called The Art of Bonsai.
    • One man in a business suit with a briefcase on a coffee table-sized island in a reception room.
    • One man and the periscope of a sub that ran aground.
    • A leafless palm tree and one disgruntled-looking man holding a rake.
    • Two men using dynamite to get coconuts from a palm tree.
    • Two men and a portrait hanging from a palm tree. The second accuses the first of keeping all the coconuts in a hidden safe.
    • One man who wore a trench around the island while trying to fly a kite.
    • Two men, the second of whom is wearing a crown.
      It may not be much of a kingdom, but show me one with a bigger moat!
  • The Trope Namer is Gary Larson's The Far Side, which often includes these islands.
    • One lacked the tree, because it was actually a Sea Monster's eyeball.
    • And another with a Sea Monster, with its stalk eye disguised as the tree.
    • One had a duck taunting a scientist who'd just escaped a sinking ship.
      Duck: So, Professor Jenkins! My old nemesis! We meet again, but this time, the advantage is mine! Ha! Ha! Ha!
    • One had a man find a crate that floated ashore... only to find a plastic island intended for pet turtles.
    • One had two men, a tree, and a printing press, one man reading the headline "NED IS A WHINER".
      Hot off the press, the first edition of the Desert Island Times caused the newspaper to quickly fold.
    • One had a tree, two men and an armchair, with one of the men berating the other for taking the first man's favorite chair.
    • One had a tree, two men, and a woman, with one man horrified that the woman had fallen for what's-his-name.
    • One had two men and a tree covered in graffiti reading "Al is a Jerk" and "Bob is a moron".
    • One had a shipwrecked man wash up on an island, which was already occupied by another man and his ventriloquist's dummy. The dummy warns the newcomer that the other man is a cannibal, before being told to shut up.
    • One had a tree, two men, a telephone booth... and one of the men yelling "For the hundredth time in as many days, I HAVEN'T GOT A QUARTER!"
    • One had two men, one yelling to the other that they'd been spotted... and the island is in the middle of a pond in a public park.
    • One had a tree, a man, and a flying saucer coming down... and then leaving, having rescued the tree-shaped alien.
    • Two islands side by side, one occupied by a man, the other by a chicken, who is loudly commenting on how many sharks there are swimming in the channel between the two.
  • Grin And Bear It features these a lot.
  • Hägar the Horrible regularly gets stranded on tiny islands with Lucky Eddie that have a palm tree. In one of the comic strips, Hägar asks why is there always just one tree on desert island.
  • They're frequent in the work of Spanish cartoonist Forges, who prefers the two-character format.
  • Madam & Eve: One story arc has Madam, Eve, and Mother abruptly stranded on a small island and find themselves trying to cope with the lack of resources. At the end of the week, a frustrated Mother walks off the island, revealing it to be in the middle of a city park.
  • One of Tom Gauld's comic strips in New Scientist shows a ragged figure on such an island, receiving a Message in a Bottle from The Journal of Palm Tree Studies, rejecting his paper because the sample size was too small.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
    • Jack and Elizabeth in the first film are stranded on an island that looks like this, but is quite a bit larger.
      • It also wasn't always deserted; rumrunners used it as a secret cache before the Royal Navy cracked down on them.
    • However, in the third film one of these islands (sans the palm tree) is used as a quick meeting place for the heroes and villains to negotiate.
  • At the very end of Superman Returns, Lex Luthor and Kitty are shown to be stranded on a Far Side Island because they ran out of fuel for the helicopter.

  • In The Archonate setting, the Commons, humanity's collective unconscious, is well-stocked with tropes including this one:
    ... a quiet Landscape that consisted of little more than a tiny patch of sand-colored rock, set in an endless ocean and shaded by a single Sincere/Approximate palm tree. No idiomat ever came there, and Bandar had often wondered what role the simple setting could have played in human history.
  • Rincewind from the Discworld series enjoyed his time on one of these (between Eric and Interesting Times). It was boring and the Luggage kept itself entertained by fighting sharks.
  • While The Mysterious Island isn't an example, containing everything needed for resourceful castaways to build a successful colony, it becomes this after the volcano explodes, leaving all the humans stuck on a tiny rock barely big enough to hold all of them.
  • The narrator in Terry Pratchett's Nation points out that in the alternative universe world, a type of palm tree exists that poisons all other palms on its island, "making all those cartoons botanically accurate".
  • John Sladek once wrote a short story lampooning cartoon stereotypes, and of course saved this one for last.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: Each book ends with the usual author/illustrator info, including a humorous self-portrait of Brett Helquist having something to do with the plot of the book. In The End, which takes place on a faraway island, Helquist draws a stereotypical portrayal of this trope.
  • Played completely straight (and not for comedy, for once) in the Stephen King story Survivor Type. An unscrupulous, sociopathic surgeon is stranded on a tiny island with no supplies other than some water and a large amount of heroin he had been smuggling. A self-described "survivor type", he tries to keep himself alive first by catching seagulls, and after accidentally breaking his foot, cannibalizing parts of his own body. His last diary entries suggest he's eaten everything below his waist.
  • In The Coral Island, the titular island is surrounded by a lagoon that contains many tiny islets, some of which have one or two coconut trees growing on them. The castaways visit some of the islets after they build a boat for themselves.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The third series of Eyewitness features one island like this in its intro; this island itself was the central figure of the titular episode on islands.
  • A sketch on The Muppet Show had Cloris Leachman stranded on an island with Sweetums. They are later joined by Doglion.
  • In a rare example where neither occupant seem to care much, Sesame Street's Count von Count and Harry Belafonte are stranded on a tiny island. But as long as The Count has a plethora of coconuts, he's good to go, and Harry seems content to sing about him.
  • On WandaVision, the "Yo-Magic" commercial features a man stranded on an island like this without any food, before a Totally Radical '90s surfer shark arrives and offers him a Yo-Magic yogurt. Given that this is WandaVision, a show built around a mix of Affectionate Parody and subversion of classic television tropes, it doesn't go well.
  • New Zealand kids' show What Now? parodied this by having the cast marooned on a traffic island.

  • Gahan Wilson did a bunch of tragic 'stock cartoons' for the National Lampoon, including a little desert island with a bleached skeleton on it.
  • Regularly featured in The New Yorker cartoons, such as one that has the palm tree replaced by a wind turbine and one castaway saying to another, "I miss the palm tree too, but at least we can have a refrigerator."
  • Private Eye did one once complying with gender, race, religion and disability discrimination laws, the comic in question featuring a woman in a burhka and a wheelchair on a desert island reading a message in a bottle rendered entirely in As Long As It Looks Foreign script.

    New Media 
  • The Onion in Our Dumb World had a wonderful section lampshading this, referring to the islands of Kiribati as "An island, a palm tree, and one guy" going through all the clichés of these types of cartoons.

  • The Castaway Bill Screensaver features a lone man wandering about one of these.
  • As did Sierra On-Line's Windows 3.x screensaver Johnny Castaway, featuring the titular shipwrecked character carrying out increasingly wackier plans to escape.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Unsurprisingly, in the Pokémon Trading Card Game the card known as "Castaway" depicts a man on such an island, although it is just off the coast of a larger one. The illustration hints that he has not been able to get back to the larger island.

    Video Games 
  • At the end of 102 Dalmatians: Puppies to the Rescue, Horace, Jasper and LePelt hide in a crate about to be shipped out, in an attempt to ditch Cruella DeVil. They end up on an island just like this...for some unexplained reason.
    Horace: Boy, I sure hopes one of you brought sunscreen.
  • Some perfect examples of Far Side islands (minus the weird colors) appear in the background to the side of the island with the crystal tower in King's Quest II: Romancing the Throne. Another Far Side island becomes an actual walkable terrain and part of the story in King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella.
  • In zOMG!, Sandblast and his Elite Mooks can only be battled by taking a canoe from Gold Beach to one of these.
  • Island Wars features tiny islands with a rotating cannon and few palm trees. The trees act as your Video-Game Lives, and your job in Invasion Mode is to defend them with your cannon. In the VS mode, one player uses a plane to attack their opponent's palm trees.
  • MacBat 64: Journey of a Nice Chap has a level made up of multiple little islands.
  • Not unusual in Minecraft ocean biomes — though they do break the monotony of the endless stretch of sea and provide a brief bit of solid land to set a bed to sleep. Woe betide the player who spawns here — "Survival island" maps invoke this trope as a starting point, challenging the player to work with extremely limited resources.
  • Most of the islands in Raft are only slightly bigger than your raft, with room enough for some flowers, fruit, and a few small palm trees. Later in the game you can encounter "large islands" which have more resources but also aggressive wildlife like boars, bears, and Screechers.
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Tales of Monkey Island has a few of these, especially in Episode 2. When Guybrush encounters one of these for the first time, he lampshades this with his remark "I didn't know tiny islands like this really existed." He also comments that he's glad he's not stranded there (he got there by sailing to it after choosing the destination from the ship's map) or else he'd have to worry about having something to read.

    Web Animation 
  • The Happy Tree Friends episode "Happy Trails Pt. 2: Jumping the Shark" has this as the main plot. Somehow, the school bus crashes onto a deserted island after falling off a cliff in the previous part, followed by the survivors' subsequent attempts to escape.
  • One of these shows up in a few Homestar Runner cartoons:
    • One Strong Bad Email has a viewer asking Strong Bad what it would be like if he and Homestar were stranded on such an island. Strong Bad first mentioned the usual tropes for such a situation, but figured the reality would actually be more dull and unpleasant.
    • In the cartoon "Weclome Back", Bubs remarks that he spend the month-and-a-half hiatus trying to sell baloney sandwiches "at the beach". Cut to Bubs by himself on a tiny island that's almost too small for his truck.
    Bubs: C'mon, people! C'mon, palm tree! I'm tryin'-ta-sell-a-baloney-sammich!
    • In the email "the paper", we see a flashback of Strong Bad being saved by The Paper from a sinking version of one.
      Strong Bad: Why is this island sinking?! I didn't even kill any end bosses!
  • Robotbox And Cactus: In "The Meaning of Life", Cactus gets teleported to a tiny desert island with nothing but a palm tree and another already-dead cactus.
  • A Chinese animation called See Through revolves around two fighter pilots from opposing armies becoming friends and forming an Ambiguously Gay relationship on one such island after downing each other in the middle of combat.

  • Adventurers!: Karn and Ardam somehow wind up on one of these after the Big Bad accidentally causes The End of the World as We Know It. It turns out to be a movie set, somehow.
  • Existential Comics: Strip 5 features two shipwrecked sailors stranded on a small sandy islet, adorned by a single coconut tree, and philosophizing about the nature and origin of knowledge and whether anything can truly be known for certain. The comic ends with one wondering whether the world is anything but a dream or mad delusion of the other, and the second replies that, now that he thinks about it, they've been subsisting off of the occasional coconut and no water for a suspiciously long time.
  • Li'l Gotham: The Joker and Harley Quinn end up stranded on one after the Joker sinks Greenbeard's ship #8. It turns out this was the one time Harley hadn't packed her escape balloon, because she needed to make room for all her shoes.

    Western Animation 
  • One of these showed up on American Dad!. Originally it was a quite spacious desert island with many luxuries installed, until a tidal wave submerged something like 95% of the island underwater. Stan and Roger survive by eating mostly seagulls. They attempt to escape with a raft made from seagull carcasses which immediately sinks, but then discover that Rogers body is bouyant enough to function as a makeshift flotation device.
  • Beavis And Butthead: In "B&B Island", Beavis and Butthead end up stuck on an ornamental Far Side Island in the middle of the mall fountain after the janitor turns the water back on while the duo were looting the emptied fountain for coins. They're trapped on the island for three days because they don't realize the water is shallow enough to just walk out.
  • The trope maker may be Ostrov, a 1973 Russian cartoon in which a little man with a thick beard sits on a Gary Larson-style Far Side Island, barely big enough for him and one palm tree. Some pointed satire ensues as all sorts of people cruise by the island and harass or take advantage of the man, or just ignore him, but no one ever bothers to help him until another castaway, floating by on a chunk of driftwood, offers to help the man off what's left of his island.
  • Private Snafu: Snafu and a Japanese sailor find themselves stranded on one in "No Buddy Atoll".
  • Rocko's Modern Life:
    • At the end of "Cabin Fever", it's shown the rocket Ed used to escape landed him on a tiny island with two shipwrecked guys, who are passing the time waiting for rescue by playing Charades (badly).
    • In "Schnitheads", Heffer joins a sausage cult, but is sentenced to work the sauerkraut fields after tiring of sausage. Rocko and Filburt try to rescue their friend, but are caught. Just as the three are about to be punished, Really Really Big Man shows up disguised as The Most Supreme and Mighty King Of Wieners. He claims he will take his faithful servants home but instead drops them on a deserted island.
  • In an animated Sesame Street sequence, the letters H, E, L, and P are stranded on an island and miss two opportunities to be rescued by being in the wrong order.
    Man in blimp: I wonder what "PLEH" means...
    Other man in blimp: It doesn't mean anything to me!
  • One of these is seen regularly on Spongebob Squarepants (to the point of literally being featured in the title sequence) as an establishing shot for the city Bikini Bottom. The cast even went there in the episode "Pressure".
    • Sponge Out Of Water revealed that the island is actually much bigger than it looks. It has a dense jungle that's dwarfed by three giant palm trees.
  • Showed up in an episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes. The only inhabitant was a weavil Lucius had imprisoned there.
  • Taz-Mania: Taz and Wendal are stranded on one in "Taz-Manian Theatre".
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998): In "Sun Scream", the Powerpuff Girls get sunburns so the mere touch of the villains causes pain. When a pair of bad guys later surrender, instead of taking them to jail, the girls strand them on an island to suffer the same fate. The girls left them sunscreen, but they deem it to be "for nerds" and prefer to burn in the sun.
  • The Spanish variety/sketch show ¿Pero Esto Que Es? featured a regular animated segment called Las Vacaciones de Vicky, starring the show's rabbit mascot Vicky and an anthropomorphic carrot named Zanahorio, who have somehow become stranded on one of these (despite the title, although they do seem to be making the best of it).

    Real Life 
  • Tiny, sandy islands like a "Far Side" island are impossible, as they obviously can't withstand waves and tide. The closest thing in nature are tiny rocky islands. While there certainly are sandy islets which resemble this trope, they're actually just raised parts of a much bigger atoll that's visibly cut off from the main part by shallow water.
    • Rockall is perhaps the best real life example, although it is a single large rock jutting out of the North Atlantic, 162 miles away from the nearest landmass and sporting no palm trees. Most useful as a means to claim exclusive economic rights in the surrounding ocean, Rockall is normally uninhabited, but claimed by the UK, Ireland, Iceland and Denmark. Longest duration anyone has spent on the island is 42 days.
    • Fairway Rock, in the Bering Strait southeast of Little Diomede Island. Slightly larger than Rockall, at 0.3 square kilometers, but basically the same thing, a tiny rock far out at sea lacking either sand or palm tree.
    • The world's smallest inhabited island is Just Room Enough Island in the Thousand Islands of New York. About 3,300 square feet (310 m2), it consists solely of a house, a tree, some shrubs, and a small beach.
    • Of course, many islands are extremely small, but most this size are within swimming distance of larger landmasses.
    • Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas (part of Florida) is practically built on a Real Life version. It's closer to 100 meters wide rather than just one, but the public non-fort area which allows overnight camping would fit the bill. ETA: It's about fifty miles west of Key West, making it one of the most remote spots in the continental USA.
  • A Cay is the term for a small, flat island that forms around coral reefs, when sediments pile up in one spot on the reef.
  • Can be an exaggerated Truth in Television for many of the countless coral atolls scattered around the globe. Atolls form from the remains of old undersea volcanoes which result in a ring shaped series of coral islands around where the mountain previously emerged from the sea. A single Atoll can be comprised of many small islands, some remarkably similar to the trope in its most literal sense, but even where the islands are large they are still small by any land-based means of comparison. Atolls are found mainly in tropical and subtropical Indian and Pacific Oceans, because they are sustained by corals that grow only in warm areas.
    • Kiribati, the Maldives, and Marshall Islands, are the three countries in the world whose territories are entirely made up of atolls. (The word "atoll" itself originated from the Maldivian language.) The area of Kiribati's islands average in the double digits km2, while those in the Maldives and Marshall Islands are even smaller, in the single digit km2. On the small uninhabited islands, the only things they have are a bunch of trees and maybe some sand dunes.
    • Nauru is a small atoll country. While other countries consist of hundreds or thousands of coral islands, Nauru has just one island, measuring 21 km2 in area. You can get around the country in under five hours on foot, and probably see all it has to offer in a day.
    • In World War II, thousands of soldiers would fight over strategic coral islands - often just barely big enough to build a functional airfield on - the size of a good sized city park.

Alternative Title(s): One Palmtree Island