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Giant Corpse World

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"From Ymir's flesh the world was made,
and from his blood, the sea,
mountains from his bones, trees from his hair,
and from his skull, the sky."
Grímnir, "Grimnir's Sayings", Poetic Edda

Land made out of a huge corpse. The dead body of a creature or giant so immense, people can live, grow crops, and build houses on it. Sometimes it will be a literal, fleshy corpse, while other times its remnants will be transformed after death into more familiar substances such as stone and soil. Or maybe it consisted of those substances to begin with.

While these worlds are usually the regular, inert sort of dead, you may occasionally find undead corpse worlds, which can cross over with tropes such as Genius Loci and are more likely to be treated as inherently horrible places than other examples of this trope.

This trope is Older Than Dirt as numerous mythologies thought the world was made from the corpse of some primal god or monster.

A landscape made of just the skeleton would probably be a Monster-Shaped Mountain — a stone mountain either shaped like a creature or made out of a creature. Typically a far less squicky variety.

For the still-living version, see Genius Loci, Turtle Island, Undead Abomination, or Womb Level. See also Ribcage Ridge, which may overlap with this trope if the ridge is sufficiently big and inhabited. They may occasionally involve Body Horror and Squick. Not the same as Corpse Land, a land full of corpses.


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    Comic Books 
  • Inverted in The Authority: There is a giant (God, sort of) and there are things living in it (alien tapeworms having lived in his guts for so long they've evolved a civilization with cities), but the giant is very much alive. Instead, the team has to kill it (or rather make it brain-dead so as not to wipe out the aforementioned tapeworms) as it wants to de-terraform Earth into the Mordor-looking landscape that it intended Earth to have when it created the planet.
  • Beautiful Darkness is about a community of fairies living in the corpse of a little girl who got lost in the woods and died.
  • DIE: In their quest to find the core of Die, the party travels to the sole island in the middle of a vast ocean. Traveling underwater, they learn that this large island is merely the fingertip of a massive human corpse reaching up from under the waves, with the party traveling to an air pocket in the cavern that is its nostril. Comparisons to Lovecraft are discussed at the implications of this revelation — all before the party meets Lovecraft himself, as the Master of this place, physically identical to the corpse they're inside.
  • DC Comics: Terra's backstory is retconned into her being an engineered super-soldier from a subterranean civilization that evolved in the body of a massive space alien that crashed on Earth. The spacesuit that protected it from the rigors of space travel kept its body intact as the DNA and Mutagenic Goo of its body diverged evolution within it from that of all other life on Earth.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: In Guardians of the Galaxy (2008), the team were based in Knowhere, a Celestial skull at the edge of spacetime where a city had been built to observe the end of the universe.
  • Secret Identities has the Front Line's base in the body of a giant alien they killed on their first mission as a team. When newcomer Crosswind joins, the giant's antibodies have to be calibrated so they don't attack him. The end of the comic has other aliens showing up to avenge their fallen.
  • X-Men: The 1980s Brood storyline. The Death World surrounding one of the alien bases is in fact the semi-decomposed corpse of one of the Space Whales they had enslaved as Living Ships. To give an idea of the scale, the tips of the ribs poke out of the planetary atmosphere.
  • As of 2018, the headquarters for The Avengers is Avengers Mountain, the body of a Celestial who fell to Earth some several billion years ago.

    Fan Works 
  • The City That Breathes: The Dragon Lands formed over the remains of something huge, implied by the text to have been some colossal, spacegoing creature, that fell to earth and died. It carried smaller organisms within its body, implied to be ancestors of modern dragons, and the volcanism of the Dragon Lands is formed from a ruptured, fiery organ within the beast. Most of the creature's body is buried deep within the earth, but its immense spine, shoulder blades and wings form much of the geography of the modern Dragon Lands.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): The mining colony of Knowhere is built in the decapitated head of an ancient celestial being. Due to the nature of the planetoid it inhabits, the main resource it mines is actually the celestial being's cerebral fluid.
  • The Bone Slums in Pacific Rim are shanty towns built in and around the colossal remains of a Kaiju.

  • Angel Notes: The protagonist lives in a city built in and around the corpse of the Ultimate Life Form of Venus, which came to Earth to punish humanity for destroying Earth's spirit, Gaia, and with it, Earth's capacity to support life. Humans managed to kill it, however, and discovered that while Earth cannot support agriculture anymore, Venus still can, so they settled the alien's corpse and grow crops on it in order to survive.
  • Bas-Lag Cycle: The stories heavily feature the city of New Crobuzon, built in the shadow of the ribcage of a giant dead... something.
  • The Elder Empire: Nakothi, the Dead Mother, slowly transformed the island where she was buried into a massive corpse, with flesh for ground, a recognizable ribcage, and even tendons stretching throughout the structure. One person theorizes that she was trying to build herself a new body.
  • Ender's Game: Ender accidentally creates one of these, with the corpse of a giant he killed in a video game eventually becoming a village. Due to the Buggers having a telepathic link with him, they end up building a recreation of this on a colony planet.
  • Alan Dean Foster: Played with in the short story "Gift of a Useless Man", in which a space traveller who crashes on an alien planet and is left almost completely paralyzed enters a symbiotic relationship with a telepathic, sentient insect colony, which could have been played for Body Horror but ends up sweet.
  • Jacek Dukaj: In "Linia Oporu", an in-universe MMO game is set inside a corpse of a colossal dragon, with whole cities in its guts.
  • Lucius Shepard has a series of stories about people living in towns on and around the body of a gigantic dragon — who isn't entirely dead.
  • In Raven of the Inner Palace, the in-universe creation myth states that the continent it's set on was created from the torso of "a god who sinned", with the surrounding island coming from his severed limbs. Jiujiu mentions that she was hesitant to step on the ground for some time after first hearing the story.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Farscape: "Home on the Remains" is set in a space "mining" colony that is actually looking for valuable substances in the corpse of an asteroid-sized Space Whale.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In Aztec Mythology, Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl created all dry land from the body of the primeval sea monster Cipactli.
  • In Chinese Mythology, after the death of Pan-gu, his body was made into the earth, his blood the sea, his eyes the sun and moon, and the lice on his body were turned into people.
  • In the mythology of Kiribati, the god Na Atibu allowed his own child Nareau to kill him and use his body to create the world. His right eye became the sun, his left eye the moon, his brains became the stars, and his bones and flesh became the islands and trees.
  • In Mesopotamian Mythology, the god Marduk slew the goddess Tiamat, and he created the world from her corpse.
  • Norse Mythology: According to a myth mentioned in various sources, Odin and his brothers, after killing the primal giant Ymir, made the whole world from his dead body: Ymir's flesh became the earth, his bones mountains, his blood the sea, and his skull the dome of the sky. "Grímnismál" in the Poetic Edda and "Gylfaginning" in the Prose Edda additionally mention the gods making Ymir's hair into trees, his brains into clouds, and his eyelashes into the fortification of Midgard, which separates the world of men from the world of the giants.
  • In Costa Rica's Talamancan mythology, all non-human life was created from the blood of a little girl, and the oceans and all life in it were created from a fetus-turned-tree and the birds that dwelled in it.
  • The concept of Pandeism is that God died and became the universe, making the universe his corpse.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • One of the setting's nastier eldritch abominations is Atropus, the world born dead, a planet crawling with undead whose arrival in a system heralds disaster and that only leaves dead worlds in its wake. It's fairly consistent that it's the remains of something huge and (un)dead, but its exact nature varies — sometimes it's an enormous atropal (the undead corpse of a stillborn god), while other times it's the head of a colossal primordial being.
    • In late 3rd Edition, the sixth layer of Hell, Malbolge, was renovated using the corpse of its former ruler, Malagard the Hag Countess. Its mountains, for instance, used to be the Hag Countess' bones, and there was a tunnel that used to be her throat that still contracted and expanded rhythmically. This was ignored in subsequent editions, which reverted Malbolge to a rocky layer of boulders rolling down slopes.
    • Generally the closest a god can get to being truly dead is when nobody worships them any longer. What remains of a god at this point is an enormous physical corpse drifting in the Void Between the Worlds of the Astral Plane. The githyanki capital of Tu'narath is a metropolis built on — and into — the colossal, petrified corpse of a forgotten god. However, none of these gods are ever completely dead, and could be restored to life by sufficient numbers worshiping them again.
    • In Spelljammer, kindori are Space Whales large enough to generate their own air envelopes and support communities on their backs, though they'll go berserk if someone tries to install a spelljammer helm for rapid travel between the spheres. This isn't the case with dead kindori, however, and since their skeletons never deteriorate after their deaths, kindori corpses can be converted into macabre spelljamming vessels.
  • Exalted:
    • Malfeas is an entire dimension made from the body of the former ruler of everything in Creation, Theion, now known as Malfeas. It's not quite a corpse world, however, as Malfeas is still alive, but that really only makes it worse, given the brutality involved in turning him into Creation's version of Hell — he was forced into a contract in a moment of weakness that prevents him from using a Cosmic Retcon to undo his defeat at the hands of the Exalted, and then his body was effectively castrated, disemboweled, flipped inside-out, and then had all of his organs stuffed back into his inverted skin alongside all of the other still-living Primordials (now the Yozi) before being stitched back together, turning him into a bloody, fleshy world that can do nothing more than wriggle in self-loathing.
    • Autocthonia is also bordering the edge of being a corpse world or not, as fleeing the war against the Primordials into Elsewhere sealed himself off from the Wyld, which means that he's unable to feed off of Wyld essence, and is constantly on the edge of death.
  • Warhammer 40,000: In the kroot creation myth, their homeworld Pech was formed from the body of the goddess Vawk after she was fatally injured in a battle with another deity. Knowing that she was dying, she singled out a world central to her plans for creation and spread her wings across it, transforming her bones into mountains and her feathers into forests. With her final breath, she released a vast flock of eagles from which the kroot would one day descend.

  • BIONICLE: In "The Kingdom" alternate dimension, Mata Nui, who is usually a Genius Loci, dies after Matoro fails to revive him. This causes a large exodus of nearly every being inside him to the island above due to the Pit Mutagen flooding most domes inside.

    Video Games 
  • Brütal Legend is set in a world created from the remains of the Eternal Firebeast Ormagoden, who was killed by the primordial First Ones and whose flesh/bones and blood became the landmasses and the oceans of the world, respectively.
  • Doshin the Giant: When Doshin dies trying to stop the Tower of Babel, his corpse turns into an island. The player then has to play on the island that was their own body.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • The series has the twin moons Masser and Secunda. They are not typical sub-planetoids, but are in fact said to be the decaying remains ("flesh divinity") of the long-"dead" creator god, Lorkhan, symbolizing how he was sundered during the creation of Mundus, the mortal plane. They, like the rest of the cosmos in the Elder Scrolls series, are implied to look like as they do because it is the best mortal minds can do to interpret it. The two moons go through technically impossible phases; stars are visible behind the dark parts when they're not full, and they are unaffected by the series' occasional Reality Warping Time Crashes, which allow their cycles to be used to determine the passage of time when linear time is otherwise not applying.
    • The Daedric Planes of Oblivion are the realms of the Daedric Princes, which are theorized to also be part of their very beings. When a Prince is weakened through one means or another, it is said that his Daedric Plane literally shrinks. According to Oblivion's main villain, Mankar Camoran, Mundus (the mortal realm) itself was originally the Daedric realm of the aforementioned "dead" god, Lorkhan. Very few other sources agree with Camoran, but he does offer a few valid points supporting his theory, such as Lorkhan being a being of chaos like the Daedra rather than a being of order, like the Aedra (who he convinced/tricked into creating Mundus).
  • Fallen London:
    • The game is in "the Neath", which, if the story can be believed, is inside the skull of a dead god. It's not really true, it's just an otherwise normal cavern that the Judgements — the gods of the setting — literally cannot see, which let the laws of reality start drifting. Though it does contain the angry thoughts of a dead god called Storm, jostling around in the upper air and causing the weather.
    • Sunless Sea features two comparatively smaller examples, the Chelonate and the Gant Pole; the former is the corpse of a giant turtle large enough to be an island in its own right, with an entire town built in its rotting shell, while the latter is the submerged, petrified heart of something colossal, easily the size of most surface islands, and likewise hosting a settlement within itself.
  • Fate/Grand Order: In Lostbelt 6: Avalon le Fae, the entirety of Lostbelt Britain is built on the corpses of the fallen, as the original landmass (and indeed, the rest of the planet) was wiped out into an endless ocean by the White Titan Sefar. The southern half of the island is built on the corpse of the Celtic god Cernunnos after he was poisoned to death by the Six Fairies, and the landmass grew as the faeries killed each other and their bodies became one with the land. All those fae who are born of it will inevitably decay into Mors as a result of being descendants of traitors born from a cursed land. The northern half of the island has a similar origin and growth, but its point of origin is the fallen body of the primordial dragon Albion. As a result, the fairies born from this land were far less likely to fall into Mors corruption...but the southern faeries didn't like this and invaded the northern half to kill all of them, taking the land for themselves and continuing the process of making more land from their corpses and accumulating the curses of the fallen.
  • Frackin' Universe, a megamod of Starbound, adds Atropus worlds, planets with landmasses made of rotting flesh, bone and brains, and oceans of blood and pus. These planets are... alive, or possibly undead, sapient, and stark raving mad. Just setting down on the surface will drive you into temporary insanity unless you have certain protection. (Not to mention, everything else about the planet, including the wildlife, is very very dangerous, and disturbingly visceral.)
  • In the Gold Box game Pools of Darkness, one of the planes that the player party has to travel to is the corpse of the dead god Moander.
  • Grime is set in the massive, headless corpse of a stone giant known as the Worldparent. Nearly all life in it is also made of stone.
  • Hollow Knight: There are three notable examples:
    • The corpse of the enormous Wyrm that was the Pale King's original form rests in Kingdom's Edge, its decay covering the landscape in white ash.
    • The corpse or shell of a giant creature now serves as the exterior of the Colosseum of Fools.
    • The Temple of the Black Egg's entrance looks awfully like a giant fossil of a six-horned bug.
  • Knights Of The Crystallion is set in a city built in the skeleton of a gigantic creature.
  • Monster Hunter: World:
    • The Rotten Vale is a region where elder dragons go to die, and is formed from the corpses of two immense serpentine dragons known as Dalamadur. They're so huge that even centuries (or possibly millennia) after their deaths, their bodies are still decomposing.
    • The endgame area of the Iceborne expansion, the Guiding Lands, is heavily implied to stand upon the corpse of a Zorah Magdaros, a titanic volcano dragon; when one such dragon was previously encountered in the original story, it was speculated that the vast stores of bioenergy it was set to release upon its death would be enough to birth an entire new ecosystem.
  • Sacrifice: The floating islands the world of Sacrifice is set in are leftover pieces of the corpse of the creator god.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles:
    • Xenoblade Chronicles 1 takes place on the corpses of two gods the size of continents, the Bionis and the Mechonis, on which biological and mechanical life respectively developed over time. Of course, both giants turn out to be not dead, but in a deep slumber. Nasty things start happening when they begin to wake up.
    • In Xenoblade Chronicles 2, the region known as the Cliffs of Morytha is said to be the remnants of a Titan that died long ago, but miraculously hasn't sunk into the Cloud Sea yet as most Titans do when they die. Aside from some Nopon merchants, the only trace of civilization remaining are those of an ancient temple ruin. You later get to explore a small part of the Titan that was once the kingdom of Torna, now a barren, fossilized husk, having reached its final resting place far beneath the Cloud Sea 500 years ago. The Temperantia Titan meanwhile isn't quite a corpse yet, but it's in its dying stages as it floats on the Cloud Sea due to horrific damage it suffered during battles in the Aegis War and is a barren rocky wasteland where only hardy high-level wildlife survives and armed garrisons from Uraya and Mor Ardain remain stationed per its role as a demilitarized zone.
    • Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has large parts of the Aionios landscape being made out of Titans from the second game or parts of the Bionis and Mechonis from the first game. Most obvious is the Urayan Mountains, which are very clearly the corpse of the Uraya Titan.

  • 1/0: In the beginning, the webcomic consists of an infinite blank white void. Then Teddy Weddy (a bear from Sluggy Freelance) falls out of the sky, and dies. The rest of the story focuses on the strange, tiny creatures who find him and build a village on his corpse.
  • Aurora (2019): The world is made of the fused corpses of six elemental Primordials — Stone, Fire, Lightning, Water, Wind, and Life. Stone's corpse, with stony flesh, metal nerves and crystal bones, became the bulk of the material world; Water's instead formed the oceans, and Wind's the atmosphere. The other elementals' remains became distributed through the resulting mass.
  • Awful Hospital: The "Corpse World" story arc is to initial appearances a "Fantastic Voyage" Plot, but it's eventually explained that Fern wasn't actually shrunk, but rather transported to a universe modeled after her own decomposing corpse, complete with Mega-Microbes citizenry and scavenger worms going about the business of decomposing it.
  • The Dreamland Chronicles: A minor example. In Alexander's flashback, he and his Dreamland friends fight a giant cyclops, who ends up tripping and falling over a cliff into the ocean below. He's knocked out by his own falling club and never gets up. When Alexander returns to Dreamland after an eight-year absence, he revisits that area and finds out that grass and palm trees have grown the parts of the cyclops that remained above water, notably his butt. The nearby villagers use the butt islands as a vacation spot.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: The heaven-turned-Wretched Hive of Throne is filled with the titanic corpses of the gods, which have been hollowed out and converted into things like seedy high-rises called Hells or just regular apartment buildings.
  • Tower of God: The Tower's 43rd floor, "the Floor of Death", is made up of the rotting corpse of the floor's Administrator. It wasn't always this way, however, and the Administrator's body is mentioned as being "put to sleep".
  • Unsounded: The continent of Kasslyne is made up of a pile of ogre corpses.

    Western Animation 
  • The Owl House is set in the Boiling Isles, an archipelago formed from the rotting remains of an absolutely humongous creature in the middle of a vast ocean. The Titan's carcass is the source of the Isles' Background Magic Field, and its bodily fluids are packed with immeasurable magical power and make travel between universes possible. The ancestors of the local races of demons are even said to have arisen from its decomposing muck. It seems to be something of a religious figure, as Emperor Belos claims it's still alive and tells him how to rule, despite being dead. The first part is true, the last part is not—the barely-living Titan is doing his best to thwart Belos.

    Real Life 
  • When a large sea creature like a whale dies, the body sinks to the ocean floor and hundreds of organisms ranging from bacteria, worms to octopus and sharks arrive to feast. These are most commonly known as whalefalls and they can last for many years.


Video Example(s):


The Bones of the Isles

After Luz gets tricked by a scammer, Eda cheers her up by showing her the full beauty of the Boiling Isles while giving her a lesson about how people don't need a destiny to accomplish great things.

How well does it match the trope?

4.64 (22 votes)

Example of:

Main / GiantCorpseWorld

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