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First Time in the Sun

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You have a person or, more likely, a large group of people, who have been raised somewhere bleak and cruel, usually Beneath the Earth, a City in a Bottle, or in some overgrown urban or industrial setting in which no beauty remains among the cold architecture and pollution. Striving to escape their hellish lives, these protagonists go through a harrowing adventure in order to find the lush and growing world they know is out there somewhere. Finally finding themselves on the alien surface, they look around, stunned and uncertain, and...

Cue the Sun. Its power and majesty enhanced through unaccustomed eyes, all who behold it find themselves full of wonder and hope. (Even if Day Hurts Dark-Adjusted Eyes, and they find it difficult to endure.)

This is a moment in which is the beauty of nature is expressed in order to indicate what the characters have gained from their struggle, as well as to promise that they'll be happy in their new environment, even if Fridge Logic would imply that they will have trouble surviving in an unfamiliar world. Note that though the sun is the most common symbol used in this moment, it is not necessary, and could be replaced by the moon, a sweeping hillside, or any celestial body or grand vista, or even something small and microcosmic.

A variant happens just before the climax, during the Darkest Hour: the characters are on the verge of giving up, when this symbol of potential fulfillment appears, reminding them that they have something worth fighting for and giving the strength for a Heroic Second Wind. The apparition is especially common for one who is dying or about to die, particularly from Heroic Sacrifice, as if to show them that their death is not in vain.

Sub-Trope of The Outside World and The World Is Just Awesome.

Be Warned. As an Ending Trope, there will be spoilers.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Due to Power Incontinence, Juvia Loxar from Fairy Tail lived in constant rain. When Gray defeats her in battle, she becomes so tired that the rain finally stops. She says the sun is beautiful.
  • Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Battle Tendency has a rare villainous example when the sun rises the moment after Kars becomes the Ultimate Life Form, overcoming his kind's weakness to sunlight. He certainly experiences the positive aspect of this trope; everyone else, not so much.
  • While Goku from Saiyuki could see the sun from his mountain prison, part of the reason he refers to Sanzo as his sun is that he had never actually stood in the sun until Sanzo reached out to him. An interesting case though, as they skip the scene where he first steps out, cutting off as Sanzo reaches out. But due to the somewhat out of order nature of Saiyuki's storytelling, this doesn't mean we will never get to see Goku take his first steps out of the cave.
  • The first episode of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Kamina, Simon, and Yoko emerge from their underground village and soar high into the air, seeing the earth laid out before them and the sun and moon whirling around in an unrealistic but highly symbolic manner.

    Comic Books 
  • In Seven Soldiers, Klarion Bleak, who's spent his whole life in a small, dark, and perpetually rainy town beneath the earth, is forced to flee to the surface, and finds himself in modern-day Manhattan, in the daylight. He's awed.
    "Oh, Heaven..."

    Fan Works 
  • In the Portal fanfic Blue Sky, Wheatley (a robot who has spent his entire existence indoors or in space)'s first reaction to the sun is "AAAHHH! Aaahh ahgodwhat'sthat it burns!" He then realizes it isn't quite as dangerous as he initially thought.
  • In Mutant, the ponies encounter this in... Less than ideal circumstances.
  • Brony Dance Party's PMV for Awoken has this happen to H8_Seed's OC after his escape from the Rainbow Factory. Soon after, A Blue Skittle's OC appears, they share a hug!
  • Fallout: Equestria: Averted, as the first thing Littlepip sees upon emerging from the stable is the sky, eternally covered by clouds. Much later in the book, the entire Wasteland sees the sun for the first time when a hole is blown open in the cloud cover, giving the general population the hope to begin fighting back against Red Eye.

    Films — Animation 
  • Arlo the Alligator Boy: After Arlo is released from Edmée's care and leaves the swamp, he is astounded by his new human world surroundings and spends half the day checking them out.
  • The Brave Little Toaster, when the appliances first leave the cabin.
    Radio: Look, Lampie. From here you can see the really big lamp.
    Lampie: Wow! I wonder where the switch is?
  • Corpse Bride, when Emily enters the World of the Living for the first time since her death. Played with in that it's nighttime, but there's a huge full moon for her to enjoy in place of the sun.
  • Invoked in Hotel Transylvania, when Johnny shows Mavis a sunrise for the first time. Being a vampire, she can't survive in direct sunlight, so Johnny shields her with the castle chimney.
  • Happens to Quasimodo at the end of The Hunchback of Notre Dame when Phoebus and Esmeralda lead him out of the cathedral after Frollo is dead. While he has been outside before, this time Quasimodo openly reveals himself to the people of Paris. They accept him with open arms.
  • Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox: alt. baby Clark's capsule crashed in Metropolis, and he's been kept there under red light every since. That's until he's rescued by Flash and co.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas: The inhabitants of Halloween Town are overcome with astonishment and wonder when they see snow in their town for the first time.
  • Disney's Tangled: Rapunzel has always seen the outdoors through the windows of her tower, but going out in it for the first time fills her with wonder and joy.
  • In the finale of WALL•E, the Axiom finally returns to earth and its passengers disembark. But the awe of the moment is undercut by WALL•E's peril. The image would have been weakened in any case because the film uses The World Is Just Awesome moments from the word go.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Frankenstein (1931), the doctor opens a skylight over the monster, who embraces the sunbeam. He seems rather put out when the skylight is closed.
  • Goliath Awaits ends with Lea (who was born in a community trapped beneath the ocean) taking in the sunlight for the first time and marveling at its beauty.
  • In Logan's Run, when the protagonists see the sun for the first time, they don't even know what it is.
  • Near the end of The Matrix Revolutions, Neo and Trinity, in their scrambling battle to reach the Machine City, manage to break above the omnipresent cloud layer and see the sky, glorious in sunshine and pink clouds, becoming the first humans to do so in centuries. Trinity in particular is impressed, and this event gives balance to her death soon after.
  • In These Are the Damned, children resistant to fallout are held in a secret bunker, to be released after nuclear war breaks out to ensure the survival of the human race. When they escape for a short time, they stare in amazement at the sun they've never seen, until soldiers in hazmat suits drag them screaming back to their bunker.
  • At the end of THX 1138, the protagonist emerges from the underground city to find himself on the surface of the Earth for the first time, just as the sun is setting. We don't see much of what the surface is like, however, nor his reaction to seeing it because he's only seen from behind. (Plus, it's getting dark, and who knows what dangers might be lurking in the night...)
  • The denouement of TRON: Legacy involves Quorra's first glimpse of the sunrise after leaving The Grid.

  • Invoked by Plato's famous "Allegory of the Cave", which uses the likely negative reaction of the lifelong cave dweller to being forcibly taken out of the cave and into the sun as a metaphor for the resistance to the truth.
  • Most of the characters in "All Summer in a Day" are children who live on a perpetually wet, cloudy Venus (before it was realized that the planet was inhospitable to life) where the sun only comes out for one hour every seven years.
  • Isaac Asimov:
  • Deconstructed in The Belgariad. Zealous cave-dweller Relg, commanded by his god to go with the party onto the surface, has to keep his eyes bound so that the sunlight does not hurt him, is terrified by the prospect of leaving his homeland, and immediately develops agoraphobia after seeing the sky.
  • The Books of Ember: At the end of The City of Ember, the main characters come out from the underground city... to a wholly dark sky. They start doubting their whole trip, believing that what they were told about the dead world outside is true. Then the dawn comes...
  • In The City and the Stars, it's implied that the sun is somewhat filtered from the city, therefore only outside, where only Alvin goes, can it truly be seen.
  • Averted in George MacDonald's fairy tale The Day-Boy and the Night-Girl. When Nycteris, who has lived all her life in a cave, ventures outside and sees the Sun for the first time, she is temporarily blinded and thinks she and the entire world are burning alive. She hates the Sun for years. As you might have guessed from the title, inverted by Photogen.
  • In The Giver, among the memories Jonas gets from the Receiver is one of the sun, suggesting it's somehow filtered out.
  • Humanx Commonwealth: In Midworld, Born's people are descendants of a lost human space colony, who've adapted to life in the third ecological level of an incredibly deadly Jungle World with miles-high vegetation. Born is considered an impressively brave and agile, but also foolhardy, explorer of the forest, because he's climbed to the even deadlier "upper Hell" of the canopy-top and seen the sun three times in his life. In the sequel, Mid-Flinx, a foraging party is enthralled to discover a gap in the forest where a gargantuan tree has fallen from old age, that allows them to see the open sky for the first time in the children's lives.
  • Played with in The Legend of Drizzt. He first sees the sun not at the end, but at the middle of Homeland. It's noteworthy that the other drow with him flinch back away from the light, and he stays in it until he's told the demonstration of the awfulness of the sun is done.
  • This happens in Geraldine MacDonald Wallis' now-forgotten classic fantasy Legend of Lost Earth — exactly as described in the intro on this page, except the people had a few hours on Earth at night, letting them gradually get used to it.
  • Mistborn:
    • In her climactic fight against a dozen Steel Inquisitors at the end of The Hero of Ages, Vin engages a Steelpush so powerful it rockets her into the atmosphere, above the everpresent mist, to become the first person to see the naked stars in at least a thousand years. Shortly after, she Ascends to a Higher Plane of Existence.
    • Also, shortly after that, after the Big Bad is dead, the survivors that had fled underground to escape a total obliteration of life on the surface, get their first look at a clear blue sky, and a sun not reddened by ash and smoke.
  • Played straight and then horrifically subverted in The Outsider (1926). The unnamed narrator has lived his entire life alone in an ancient, desolate castle and has never even seen the sun or the moon because the dense, dark forest outside blocks the sky, and he only knows about the outside world from the books that line the walls. Finally, he can't take his miserable existence anymore, and makes a dangerous climb up the half-ruined tower that stretches above the treeline, and finally reaches a strange room. There, a gate allows passage to the outside, and he sees the moonlit night sky for the first time in his life, and it's just as magnificent as he had always imagined... except the gate doesn't open up into empty air as he expects, but ground-level to another world. Namely, a cemetery. At this point, the reader has probably already guessed the twist, but it takes the narrator some more exploration to realize it, and from that point on, the sky just functions as a reminder of what he is and how he can never rejoin the living world, consigned forever to the shadows with other shambling half-lives like himself.
  • In The Silmarillion, Varda creates the constellations just in time for the Elves to awaken, so that their first sight upon coming into existence is the night sky vibrant with stars. Similarly, the race of Men awaken just after the Sun is made and sent into the sky.
  • The Silver Chair:
    • Inverted with Prince Rilian. When he sees the Deep Lands for the first time, he longs to go and explore the pits of lava and mine the living gems, becoming the first person to reach the bottom of the world. Eustace and Jill stop him, however. Likewise, deep enough underground, the expedition meets natives who have only heard that if you go high enough eventually there are no more ceilings, "just a horrid emptiness called Sky".
    • Played straight when the protagonists see Rilian tied to the chair, as the brainwashing spell wears off of him. Before he notices other people in the room with him, he sadly remembers the surface world, before he'd been kidnapped.
  • Played with in Silverwing. The whole plot of the first book is set in motion when Shade dares to stay up long enough to see the sun (which, as a bat, he is not allowed to do). When the owls burn down his home as punishment, he decides to give the sun back to all bats. Later he and his friend Marina fly in bright daylight and they are amazed about how different the world looks and how warm the sun is. However, they do have some problems. Also, the darkness is not shown as something horrible and Shade is described as a creature of the night and he is happy with it. Other bats even question the necessity of seeing the sun and the young ones are afraid the sun will blind them or turn them into dust.
  • Played with in Thumbelina. The titular tiny woman laments how winter has killed everything and it's all dark. But when the fairy prince comes for her, and spring returns, it's all like she's seeing it for the first time.
  • In The Wizard, The Witch, and Two Girls from Jersey, the land of Galma has been in unending twilight for less than the characters' lifetimes (and Veronica and Heather just arrived there anyway) so they've all seen daylight before, but it's still a joyful moment when their journey takes them over a mountaintop where there's real sunlight.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel has this in the first season episode "In the Dark". Angel's been a vampire for so long that he's really awed when he puts on the Gem of Amarra and goes out in the sun. He's also very happy in the second season episode "Over the Rainbow" that the sun in the alternate dimension Pylea doesn't burn him.
  • In a variant, the first time Vincent from Beauty and the Beast remembers going above ground, he saw the moon and found it beautiful.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Dalek in "Dalek". There is something so pitiful about it opening its tank and reaching a tentacle into the sunlight.
    • In "Gridlock", after spending their lives on an underground motorway, the inhabitants of New New New (etc.) York are enthralled when the Doctor fixes the transport system so that they can fly up into the sky and city for the first time.
    • In the Big Finish Doctor Who episode I, Davros, a squad of Kaled commandos climb a mountain while infiltrating enemy lines, and one of them says that he's never seen the stars before, as he's spent his life beneath a smog of chemical clouds from their Forever War.
  • In a deleted scene from Kings, Andrew Cross' first act as the King's new favorite after Jonathan's disgrace is to set free Silas' deposed predecessor, Vesper Abaddon, from indefinite solitary confinement (as he himself spent ten years there). Being free to walk out of his prison and be not only dazzled by the sudden sunlight but by the open air and his natural surroundings almost reduces even Abaddon to tears.
  • Frankie Boyle made a joke based on this on Mock the Week, involving Scottish people going on holiday to the Mediterranean and being astonished by the bright thing in the sky. If anyone has the exact quote that would be helpful!
  • Night Gallery: In "Eyes", a Rich Bitch who's been blind her whole life (played by Joan Crawford) pays an indebted man a pathetically small amount of money for his retinas, even though this operation will only allow her to see for about 12 hours before reverting to blindness. Her time is cut short when it coincides with a major blackout that leaves her in darkness for almost the entire period, and allows her only a brief glimpse of the rising sun the next morning, only for her vision to fade as she marvels at the sight.
  • One episode of Stargate SG-1 featured a world in which one caste of people were forced to work underground running huge machines in order to keep their world habitable. While they believed the surface was frozen over, a higher caste lived above in a sparkling city, enjoying the fruits of their labours. At the end of the episode, Jack shoots out a convenient skylight, exposing the truth.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. Kes finds a way out of the Underground City of the Ocampa, and is not in the least deterred that the surface of her world is a desert roamed by hostile Kazon sects who torture her for information on where she came from.
    Toscat: You defied the Caretaker by going to the surface, Kes. Learn from the experience. Follow the path he has set for us.
    Kes: I've learned very well, Toscat. I saw the sunlight! I can't believe that our Caretaker would forbid us to open our eyes and see the sky.
  • In the pilot episode of The Starlost, the three protagonists who have been raised on a Generation Ship without realising it make their way to The Bridge and stare in awe at the vast spacecraft moving through outer space. Then the ship apparently changes direction slightly as a sun appears to 'rise' over the hull, aweing them with its beauty. That sun is a plot point actually, as the spaceship is on a collision course with it.
  • In the pilot episode of Terra Nova, just before the characters walk out into the purer world of 85 million years ago, the PA system can be heard warning them that their eyes may not be used to unfiltered sunlight.

  • In The BBC series Earthsearch, the Angel computers attempt to dissuade their human crew (who have spent their entire lives on a Sleeper Starship) from settling on Paradise by claiming the seas are poisonous and the Northern Lights are a sign of high radiation levels. They steal a shuttle and land anyway, though their initial sense of wonder is hampered by a subsequent storm.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Emo Phillips, in spite of his parents' warnings never to go near the cellar door, had to find out what was on the other side if it killed him.
    Emo: I saw amazing things I'd never seen before like...trees! Grass! The sun...that was nice...the sun.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • Averted for most player-characters in Paranoia — unless he's a Sierra Clubber, the average citizen of Alpha Complex who finds himself Outside will freak out.
  • Daughter of the Drow had a scene with Liriel seeing her first sunrise. She's not the most photophobic down here — as the author points out, drow wizards don't try to read a spellbook by the heat of its own body, to say nothing of lightning bolts.

    Video Games 
  • Aquaria has a moment when Naija pierces "The Veil" (i.e. goes above the surface of the water) for the first time she can remember. Interestingly, Naija doesn't ever go to live above the surface, being a Fish Girl and all, but she does get a sense of how much larger the world is than she previously knew. Plus, she meets somebody special shortly thereafter...
  • BioShock
    • The Little Sisters that Jack brings to the surface in the good ending of BioShock.
    • BioShock 2 has Eleanor Lamb who, in the good ending, specifically notes that she's "curious about the sun" before escaping to the surface.
  • Durathor from Boktai 2, like all of the Immortals, has never seen the sun before since it's fatal to her. When you defeat her and expose her to the sun to kill her, even though she's burning alive she's glad to have seen it even once.
    Durathor: So this is... the sun... It's warm...
  • After all the hardship Ryu, Nina, and Lin have to go through in Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, they're rewarded by finally escaping the underground city and stepping onto a sunlit, grassy plain. It only took Ryu nearly dying defeating Chetyre and using his body to break the seal.
  • Exile 3 and Avernum 3 has your party exploring the surface world after living in the underground caves for most or all of their lives.
  • The protagonists of Fallout and of Fallout 3 have both lived in underground 'vaults' for as long as they can remember. The moment that the character first steps into the sunlight is pivotal in both. However, it may also be considered a subversion as the world that greets the protagonist afterwards is even more of a Crapsack World than the one they saw in the vault.
    • Fallout 2: In the intro movie, Vault-Tec actually foresaw that this would be an issue for people leaving the Vaults for the first time, and made sure to instruct them to wear protective eyewear when they prepared to leave upon being given the all-clear. Too bad for the inhabitants of Vault 13 that the people giving the signal were The Enclave...
  • Little Busters!: Although she hasn't lived there all her life, Kud fully intends to die in the grimy cave she's chained up in near the end of her route. So the moment where she escapes from it, affirming her desire to live, and sees the sun rise as she spreads her arms and watches it forms the most dramatic moment of her storyline.
  • In Phantasy Star IV Artificial Human Rika is first taken out of the underground lab she spent her first year of life in, she is amazed at how blue the sky is (which, thanks to the series's comic panel cutscenes, is actually shown despite being a top-down 16 bit jRPG).
  • Played with in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky. The future that the story revolves around is frozen in time. The characters have seen nature before, but when they first see the sun rise, and feel the wind blow, they are overwhelmed by it's beauty.
    • This is also part of the backstory of Grovyle and Dusknoir, as well as part of Sky's fifth Special Episode.
  • Portal 2: After GLaDOS releases her from the testing chambers, Chell takes a long elevator ride to the surface, emerging into a world with a bright blue sky and golden wheat fields.
  • This happens to much of Tokyo in the Neutral Ending of Shin Megami Tensei IV. To protect the city from an incoming ICBM, local deity Masakado formed a layer of bedrock with his body, which became known as the Firmament. He stayed there for twenty five years to the people inside, while more than fifteen centuries passed outside. It is removed once both Lucifer and Merkabah have been defeated, finally raising the barrier and flooding the long-darkened streets of Tokyo with sunlight as the citizens and even the demons can only watch in awe. While there are many citizens of Tokyo old enough to have been around before the Firmament was formed, there's also many who were born during Tokyo's encapsulation, and thus had never seen sunlight before.
  • This trope is downplayed for drama in Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, in which the Divine Powers' Dragon (figuratively and literally) Shesha pierces through the bedrock ceiling to make its introduction. People stare in awe at Tokyo's first exposure to sunlight in 25 yearsnote , though the joy doesn't last long since the forces of Merkabah and Lucifer are still at large and Shesha is capable of striking anywhere it pleases.
  • In the True Pacifist Ending of Undertale, the six boss monsters you befriended along the way enjoy the sun for the first time after a lifetime in the Underworld.


    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series: One episode features the Sewer King, who forces orphans to commit crime and controls them by conditioning them to fear light and locking them in a brightly lit room if they misbehave. At the end, after the Sewer King is captured, the kids are brought up to the surface in time for sunrise, and quickly forget their conditioning to glory in the dawn light.
  • Gargoyles: Subverted in "The Mirror". The clan had been turned into humans earlier in the episode, but are back in their true forms by the end. As the sun starts to rise Hudson laments he would have liked to have seen the sun, just once. And then played straight. The episode ends with Demona seeing/feeling the sun for the first time and rejoicing in how good it feels... before she realizes that she's now human (in the day at least).
  • Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts: In "Burrow Girl", Kipo's first exposure to the sun after a life spent inside an Underground City has her rolling around in agony for a few minutes while convinced that she's been blinded.
  • Mighty Max: The Big Bad has been trapped underground in the center of the earth for thousands of years. He will often speak of how nice it would be to see the sun again. When he finally does escape he has a genuine moment of happiness at seeing the sun again. Then he summons a dragon and begins trying to Take Over the World.
  • Young Justice (2010): In "Independence Day" / "Fireworks", Superboy's first sight of the outside world is a huge full moon. Lampshaded earlier in the story, as Robin tempts him with seeing the sun; Kid Flash points out that it's night by now but hastily adds that they can show him the moon, anyway.

    Real Life 
  • This video of former research lab Beagles encountering sun and grass for the first time.
  • Donkeys from Arizona are transported to California and encounter grass for the first time,
  • Sadly this trope is in effect when people that were born and raised in captivity are freed.
  • Even though it was nighttime when they were released, the so-called basement children of Elisabeth Fritzl (three others had been taken upstairs by their father/grandfather) had this reaction upon being outside for the first time and indeed when daylight came.


Video Example(s):


Arlo in the human world

Arlo is excited upon leaving the swamp for the outside world, and explores his new surroundings.

How well does it match the trope?

3.75 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / FirstTimeInTheSun

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