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"Where its cold, and ice hits your skin
Few can stomach how harsh it is
In the woods lies a Great Old One
Who'll tear the flesh right off your bones..."

When the Evil Overlord rises to gather his armies and bring destruction upon the lands of men, elves, dwarves, and the race of funny Little People, he often does this from a stronghold built in the most icy, dark, frigid, remote, frigid, cold, benighted corner of the wasteland that in most cases is simply called "the North".note 

This trope may stem from how generally inhospitable the North often is to human (and other) life (at least in the Northern hemisphere). While a gentle cover of snow can imply romance, and snow can often be used to create an incredibly beautiful and peaceful otherworldly air, when taken to blizzard-level extremes it becomes an icy hell. And its blustery wind is usually a degree worse than that which comes from the other cardinal directions to the point that it's frequently portrayed in a rather humanoid form with a mind of his own. As many forms of Always Chaotic Evil creatures are somehow protected from extreme cold — for example, The Undead simply don't care about temperatures — the North is an environment where the Forces of Good are often at a disadvantage. Savage tribes draped in Pelts of the Barbarian often swarm down on the peaceful neighboring lands, and primordial beasts such as mammoths, Savage Wolves, and possibly even Snowy Sabertooths and Yetis stalk the snowy peaks and forests.

It might also have its roots in Medieval history, as the Vikings would often come from Scandinavia to the European coastlines to Rape, Pillage, and Burn. Even before that, one of the constant threats to the Roman Empire were the Celtic and Germanic barbarians to its north. History repeats the pattern elsewhere; in Asia, the Mongol hordes were from the frigid steppes and the surprisingly cold Gobi Desert, north of China proper. In Africa, the colonial invaders of the 17th-20th centuries were mysterious pale people from a land far to the north. In the Cold War, the enemy that represented the greatest threat to your way of life was so far north that they were over the pole and on the other side, a bit of geography that's true for American and Soviet alike! (However, in reality the Soviets always imagined America as "in the West").

Northern wastelands being what they are, now and then some ancient civilization or other figures out such an inhospitable place would be perfect for preserving the Sealed Evil in a Can.

It is interesting to note that while it is true that people living up north on a standard-shaped planet don't get all that much sun in the winter and tend to be a bit gloomy, people seem to forget that they also don't have a proper night in the summer (assuming an axial tilt). They also tend to forget that the temperature difference has less to do with being Northerly than it does with the distance from the equator. After all, the only reason we Earthlings consider North to be synonymous with cold is that the planet's inhabited continents extend northward to cold parts of the Northern Hemisphere and, on average, very little south of Tropic of Capricorn. The only iced-over landmass of the Southern Hemisphere, Antarctica, is isolated by distance and scarcely habitable.

The roots of this trope could also lie in the fact that most major religions originated in warm locations: the Abrahamic ones in Mesopotamia and the Levant (Judaism and Christianity) and the Arabian Peninsula (Islam); the Dharmic ones (chiefly Hinduism and Buddhism) in India; Taoism, Confucianism, and Chinese folk religion in mostly-temperate China; and Shintoism in temperate Japan. These were all locations where cold weather was associated with winter and its connotations of the "death" stage of the seasonal cycle rather than being the simple fact of life it becomes when actually living Up North.

On the other hand, people in those climates tend to portray very bad places — such as Hell — as hot. It is the people who live in the North who insist that Hell is cold.

Santa Claus is unrelated... usually. See also Mysterious Antarctica. Grim Up North is the frigid sister trope of The Savage South. Strictly, this trope requires a warmer region for the North to contrast with; if an entire planet is frozen, it's an Ice World. Might also be a case of North Is Cold, South Is Hot. Contrast Fire and Brimstone Hell where the forces of Evil inhabit a land or dimension of extremely hot temperatures.

The Trope Namer appears to be the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu song "It's Grim Up North", which contains a list of Northern English cities. That said, this trope is not to be confused with Oop North — although they can overlap, seeing as Northern England isn't exactly a barrel of laughs either (Self-Deprecation aside, but at least it's not Luton). For that matter, should you dare venture a wee bit north of Oop North, beware the Violent Glaswegian.

For cultures often portrayed this way, see Mother Russia Makes You Strong and Horny Vikings. The Swedish conception of svårmod ("black mood") — an existentially gloomy Scandinavian mindset, which in popular cliché predisposes Swedes to suicide, alcoholism and depression as they go farther North into endless nights and sub-zero temperatures — belongs here too, and explains a lot about Nordic Noir and the darker sort of Canadian Western.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Spade Kingdom in Black Clover. It is shown to be the northernmost country in the continent on the map. Its army favors thick, furred clothing, the country is the largest of the kingdoms with lots of cold and fog, houses an ancient evil, and is ruled by the Dark Triad, a trio of cruel tyrants.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, the fortress of Briggs is the furthest northern outpost of Amestris, defending against the hordes of Drachma. Up North, it's always snowing, and General Olivier Armstrong and her troops are always vigilant and deadly serious because they hold the responsibility of defending the nation with their lives.
  • In an arc of Saint Seiya and Saint Seiya: Soul of Gold, the action takes place in Asgard, a Scandinavian-like country far North of Europe.
  • Tales of Wedding Rings has Vanna, the domain of the Abyss King. Located far to the north of the other nations, it is a barren, desolate place where only the hardiest of people can survive, and it is crawling with the demonic creatures of the Abyss.

    Comic Books 
  • 30 Days of Night was about a remote town in Alaska attacked by vampires during its long "winter night". Subsequent miniseries in the same setting returned there a few times.
  • Muktuk Wolfsbreath, Hard-Boiled Shaman takes place in the snow-bound Siberian taiga and uses the grimness of the setting to achieve the same effect that Film Noir does with rain-soaked cities.
  • In Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, the ancient temple to the Ogdru Jahad was somewhere in the Arctic circle. This is due to the region being the resting place of the ancient Hyperborean civilization, which was inhabited by a previous "race of Man" destroyed by the depredations of said Ogdru Jahad and their Ogdru Hem spawn.

    Fairy Tales 
  • "The Snow Queen" has the titular villain's castle very far north. That being said, Gerda does acquire help in Lapland and Finland. While the Queen may be an antagonist, her motives are ambiguous enough that she may not be actually evil; Gerda just has to rescue Kai from her palace.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Ghidorah's remains (which later re-form Ghidorah) and the Many are mainly located in the frigid reaches of the Ural Mountains in Russia, whilst every other region Monster X has so far visited since escaping its imprisonment has been located south of there and within a warmer climate.
  • The Bridge: The main villain was sealed away inside Attu Island, an uninhabited island in the Bering Sea, 77,000 years ago. It came at the cost of every single Mothra and Battra on the planet save one of each and a global extinction event that left the world largely devoid of magic. The island was peaceful enough, if remote, until it started to awaken. What followed was a parade of nightmares to any who came near it, freak storms, and mass animal die off relating to its Land, Sea, Sky Aspects with thousands of sea birds, fish and marine mammals, and then the sole remaining human expiring during fits of pure panic as the monster broke free.
  • Divine Jealousy and The Voice of Reason: The northern frontier of the Old Empire was a frigid wasteland menaced by snow-griffons, ice-orcs, windigoes and the frost giants, and was inhabited by hardy, shaggy ponies who had remained there as the world cooled from its tropical age and the ice crept over the north.
  • Double the Trouble: Bleak, one of the most dangerous minions of Big Bad KAOS, is a snowman who lives on the snow-capped summit on the highest mountain in the K3 range, the northernmost region of the Northern Kremisphere.
  • Guardian: Lulu is shown to come from a forgotten, snowy island in the north of Spira where life is difficult both because of Sin and because their temple lost its fayth. It also explains Lulu's unusual mode of dress.''
  • Hindsight: The Saiyans live in the brutal, far northern kingdom of Vegeta. Ironically, it serves as a sanctuary for Princess Bulma.
  • The Life and Times of a Winning Pony: Northmarch, a collective name for the lands north of Equestria, hits most of this trope's points: it's a mountainous land of bitter cold, extreme winters and often ice-choked seas where the temperatures regularly plunge to life-threatening lows, and there is little in the way of organized government or infrastructure. It's mostly home to cold-adapted species such as yaks and caribou, but it's also home to a variety of dangerous monsters — wargs and trolls are common threats.
    "We have a name for what Freeport calls winter," Sigil answered dryly. "We call it summer."
  • Lost Cities: North of Equestria are cold lands, empty save for an ancient, abandoned pegasus city. Beyond that are barren mountains, home to the griffon tribes. Beyond that nobody lives, and there is only a vast wilderness of snowy forests haunted by ghosts and spirits, and then a vast glacier at the top of the world, holding the ruins of the first city in its depths.
  • Played With in The Night Unfurls. Northern locations are not tundras or snowy mountains, but their environments are still harsher than southern ones.
    • The region to the north of Eostia is Garan. A desolate wasteland, as well as the place where Olga, the Dark Queen of the Black Fortress, gathers her Always Chaotic Evil orcs plus other fantasy monsters to make incursions into the borders of Eostia. Unfortunately, the kingdom cannot retaliate by invading the North due to its harsh conditions providing an excellent natural defence, a bane to any army. It is only due to the advent of the Good Hunter that Celestine finds an invasion to the Black Fortress a viable option. Said harsh conditions also apply to places near or within Garan, like The Badlands and The Dead Marshesnote . The atmosphere of the Badlands is said to flip between dry heat and clammy cold, which precipitates the possibility of disease, while the Dead Marshes is a wet and cold marshland, so it's obviously not good due to Swamps Are Evil.
    • Scathlocke is located north of the Fortress City of Ken and serves as a buffer between Garan (see above) and Eostia. Again, rather than a snowy place, it is filled with hilly plains, drizzling rain, and mud, a lot worse in winter. Not the best environment for an army that needs to keep dry and warm.
  • Under the Northern Lights: Tarandroland is populated by dour and violent reindeer, one of whom describes the climate as ice four fifths of the year, with the fifth part being mosquitos. While the ponies of Equestria may have to actively wrap up winter every spring, the reindeer have to fight winter to make it go away. The story kicks off when reindeer in dragonships get back into their old habit of plundering northern Equestria.

    Films — Animated 
  • Fire and Ice (1983): The main villain, Nekron, makes his home up north in the frozen waste of Icepeak.
  • Frozen (2013): Being a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to the Nordic Countries, Arendelle from is very cold but it's a Played With example — it's a pretty positive portrayal. That being said, when Elsa runs away and starts causing her Endless Winter, her fortress is on the North mountain.
  • Frozen II continues this, with the mystical Ahtohollan north of the Enchanted Forest — with the lullaby even describing it as "where the north wind meets the sea". It's an Eldritch Location containing all the memories of the world. Elsa herself is frozen when she reaches it, but it's ultimately proved to be a benevolent place — with the revelation she found out being the reason she froze.
  • How to Train Your Dragon: The Barbaric Archipelago (Berk in particular) is constantly mentioned by Hiccup — in his usually snarky way — as being cold, semi-inhospitable and (until Hiccup changed things) infested with fire-breathing monsters that outnumber the humans that live there ten to one. The only reason why the inhabitants have not migrated away is because they are vikings, who are famously stubborn.
    Hiccup: This... is Berk. It snows nine months of the year... and hails the other three. Any food that grows here is tough and tasteless. The people that grow here are even more so.
  • Kung Fu Panda: The forbidding, snow-wreathed mountains that house Chorh Gom prison, very appropriately found in Mongolia.
  • The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea: Inverted. The villainess Morgana (Ursula's twin sister) actually makes her home underneath Antarctica.
  • Pooh's Grand Adventure: Owl's map sends the others off northwards through a progression of increasingly large woods, the forest of thorns, and eventually "the forbidden mountains" in "the far north" in order to reach the skull-shaped mountain where the the Skullasaurus purportedly lives.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 30 Days of Night is set in Barrow, Alaska (the northernmost town in the U.S., well above the Arctic Circle), where the sky is completely dark for thirty days in the middle of winter, allowing the vampires to thrive on those residents who stay through this dark period rather than take the only flight south for the duration.
  • Speaking of Hadrian's Wall, the movies Centurion and The Eagle (2011) have rather bad things happening north of it as well.
  • The Conquest of the Pole (1912) by Georges Méliès. The North Pole is a desolate area with sharp ice stalagmites and there's a scary ice giant who eats the explorers who dared venturing on his lands.
  • In Doomsday, Scotland is sealed off from the rest of the UK (and the world) to contain a zombie-creating plague, and a 50-foot high version of Hadrian's Wall made of steel-reinforced concrete and lined with machineguns and spotlights. A British commando team is sent in years later to investigate after satellite images show signs of life. Hilarity Ensues.
  • The Swedish horror-comedy Frostbite has a similar premise: another town, but much larger, located well above the Arctic Circle with a month long period of darkness. The difference? The vampire have been there all the time...
  • Hold the Dark is set in a small fictional town in Alaska, where the residents are mostly bleak, poor Native Americans who hold a grudge against local law enforcement. Civilization is so sparse that wolves carrying off children is a real threat. Medora Slone, a resident of the town, says that Anchorage isn't the "real Alaska."
  • The Last Winter (2006): Who knows what spiritual forces may be lurking in Alaska's permafrost?
  • In The Last Witch Hunter, the Witch Queen's "nest", the Plague Tree, is situated in some cold and snowy place that's a far cry from Kaulder's clearly warmer home.
  • In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the Sheriff of Nottingham hires thugs from the north — Celts (during the Third Crusade), who drink the blood of their dead, and seem to share the Sheriff's (evil) god.


  • Durham's Acacia has villains heading from the north.
  • Nuryevet in A Conspiracy of Truths is described as cold, gray and inhospitable multiple times by Chant, and its people are described the same way. Despite this, and despite it containing a horrifying strain of magic, this is subverted — multiple characters over the course of the book are amiable towards Chant, and the grim mood in Nuryevet is due to their society failing them, not the weather.
  • In The Arts of Dark and Light, the Wolf Islands is a tough place, rougher and more primitive than even the borderlands in Savondir, as well as cold and inhospitable in winter. And lately, it's also seen growing populations of werewolves. Naturally, the Dalarn characters who grew up there Had to Be Sharp.
  • Sara Douglass' Axis and The Wayfarer Redemption Trilogies played up with this trope.
  • The Ballad of the White Horse: Referenced for atmosphere several times, first in the description of the "apocalypse" in the first book, then with Ogier as a sort of personification of it. "For the ice of the north is broken, and the blood of the north is free!"
  • The blighted wasteland and Dark Tower of the Big Bad Torak in The Belgariad are in the far north... east, close enough.
  • In C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, Narnia was often at war with the evil giants that live in the Wild Waste Lands of the North. (Some of the Northern giants do seem friendly and civilized, until...) The north is also where the White Witch built up her power and where the Lady of the Green Kirtle lived and held Prince Rilian hostage. Interestingly, the Calormenes in The Savage South tend to describe Narnia as a sinister northern region full of barbarians, monsters, and terrifying demonic lions.
  • Conan the Barbarian:
    • In "The Phoenix on the Sword", this is how Conan describes his native Cimmeria:
      "Perhaps it's the land they live in," answered the king. "A gloomier land never was — all of hills, darkly wooded, under skies nearly always gray, with winds moaning drearily down the valleys."
      "Little wonder men grow moody there," quoth Prospero with a shrug of his shoulders, thinking of the smiling sun-washed plains and blue lazy rivers of Poitain, Aquilonia's southernmost province.
      "They have no hope here or hereafter," answered Conan. "Their gods are Crom and his dark race, who rule over a sunless place of everlasting mist, which is the world of the dead. Mitra! The ways of the Aesir were more to my liking."
    • The lands even more to the North than Cimmeria aren't very pleasant places either: Vanir and Asgard are still mostly glacier-covered, home to things like mammoths, saber-toothed tigers and giants (and the human locals are particularly warlike Horny Vikings), and Hyperborea is home to a mysterious, savage culture both barbaric and sinisterly sorcerous.
  • Conqueror: The evil Tartars live in northern Mongolia, where the winters are even harsher than the south.
  • Dark Shores: Derin, where the Seventh god is worshipped, is the northernmost part of the Northern Continent of the West. It's a cold, unpleasant and very remote place, practically unreachable if not for xenthiers.
  • A Day of Fallen Night has Hróth, an analogue for Scandanavian cultures. Until the current king unified it, it was a land of clan warfare, filled with ice and snow. The "midnight sun" aspect of high latitudes is noted alongside the cold and dark—and some people get "sun folly" from it, becoming irritable and poorly-judging from the interruption to their circadian rhthym.
  • In Dragon Bones, castle Hurog was built by an Evil Sorcerer in the northern lands, because up there, no one would get in his way. Recent Hurog heir Ward is a nice person, but many of his ancestors ... not so much. The native inhabitants of the country are still known as those barbarians from the north in other countries. There also seems to be a problem with undead creatures in the area, though that is not dwelt on much.
  • In Michael Stackpole's The Dragon Crown War, Chytrine's empire of Aurolan is located in the frozen wastes far to the north, and is populated chiefly by nonhuman creatures capable of enduring its harsh conditions. Underneath Aurolan lies the prison of the Oromise, who fuel Chytrine's wars of conquest with magic and lost knowledge in return for her promise to pop them lose once she amasses the power to do so.
  • While the plot of Barbara Hambly's Dragonsbane is situated in the south, the north it starts in is incredibly grim.
  • The Dresden Files: The Never-Never is formed by the subconscious myths and legends of humanity, meaning that the Winter Queen's realm there almost IS this trope.
  • In The Dwarves, the Perished Land approaches from the north.
  • The only thing that keeps the North in The First Law from being a straight example is that it's grim everywhere else too.
  • Frankenstein: The darkest, most evil parts of the story occur in the land simply referred to as "The North." While Walton may see the frozen lands as a prospect of opportunity, they are shown to be nothing but complete wastelands to which Victor chases his monster away from the civilized world. As is commonly believed among scholars of the Romantic period, this land is likely used as a symbol for the desolation caused by Victor's blind obsession with progress. While he may have intended to bring warmth to the world by raising the dead, all he brings are a cold and bitter death to himself and his monstrous progeny and what he finds is loneliness and desolation.
  • Her Crown of Fire: Northerners, like Phoenix and Craige, are borderline superhuman in their physical abilities. They are much stronger and more resilient than the Lotherians. It is implied that the tough conditions in the north breed the people there different.
  • The Heroes of Olympus: The lands northward, specifically Alaska, are beyond the gods' power. This is where Alcyoneus makes his base, holding Thanatos captive and waiting for demigods foolish enough to try to rescue him.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas!: The Grinch actually lives just north of Whoville.
  • In The Iron Teeth web serial the North is considered one of the most dangerous and uncivilized places to live. It is here that the big bad Myagnoir the Greatest Enemy of Man lives as well.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars books, the north pole of Barsoom is overrun with apts — six-limbed monsters that resemble some combination of a gorilla and a hippopotamus. Worse still, they are capable of hunting their prey for 30 days straight. And up until John Carter invaded the region to rescue Dejah Thoris, it was not safe to travel there by aircraft, as the locals, the yellow-skinned Okarians, used powerful magnets to draw in and capture aircraft.
  • Even in the Finnish national epic The Kalevala, the northerners are the bad guys. Well, from the contemporary viewpoint. Most of the bad things they do are in retaliation to the bad things done by the protagonists. They're just the enemies, because they're foreigners. This probably was an echo of the conflicts that the Finns had with the indigenous Sami-folk who they robbed much of their lands from, forcing them to retreat to the northernmost reaches of the land.
  • The Licanius Trilogy features Talan Gol, a desolate wasteland where survivors reside only in military installations, to the north of the continent. It's the home of the series Big Bad, unsurprisingly.
  • Jack London's stories about Alaska come from his personal experience, so no ice giants or other supernatural nasties, but grim it is.
  • The hagiographic Martyrdom of St. Edmund by Abbo of Fleury (late 10th century) suggests the 869 Viking invasion of East Anglia is the fulfillment of the biblical prophecy of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38), according to which the end of the world will be preceded by a great army from "the North" attacking the worshippers of God. He also affirms that all the "races of the north" are cruel and barbaric, so as to be incapable of feeling compassion by nature, and that the Danes are instigated to their raids by Satan himself who apparently resides in the North.
  • In Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, while there are the sympathetic Rimmersmen and Qanuc civilizations in the north, go a bit further and you start running into the deeply unpleasant Black Rimmersmen — and further than that you come to Stormspike, mountain citadel of the Norns (the Always Chaotic Evil variant of the Fair Folk) and base of operations for the Storm King. Not a nice place.
  • In the Norwegian fantasy Phenomena the Greater-Scope Villain lives here. It's never described in much detail and he even has a stronghold in Aldra, the country he wants to overtake.
  • In A Practical Guide to Evil the North of the continent of Calernia is home to the ancient and dreaded Kingdom of the Dead (Keter) and the Chain of Hunger — barely sentinent but very numerous Rat Men who periodically come South to quench their Horror Hunger.
  • The Purple Cloud: During the expedition to the North Pole, the unbearable cold and the blank whiteness of the environment cause many members to fall into depression. It's especially bad during the polar night.
    Ah me, none but those who have felt it could dream of one half the mental depression of that long Arctic night; how the soul takes on the hue of the world; and without and within is nothing but gloom, gloom, and the reign of the Power of Darkness.
  • Many, many of the villains in Redwall originally came from here. Allusions to the North being war-torn are made in most of the early books, and the later books that take place up there... In Rakkety Tam, we see a shipload of Northerners, cannibals all. A number of the vermin hordes come from there, not surprisingly. However, so did the (chronologically) first hero of the stories, Martin the Warrior.
  • The Reynard Cycle: Calvaria is so inhospitable during the winter that its people live underground, and have developed into a genocidal race of Blood Knights just to survive. They don't welcome tourists.
  • In The Riftwar Cycle by Raymond Feist, the (sort-of) Always Chaotic Evil race of moredhel (dark elves) reside in the frozen Northlands. Justified, however. Firstly, the Northlands have many places that were frequented by the Valheru in times of old, and are sought out by the moredhel as places of power. Secondly, and more importantly, the moredhel had earlier occupied more hospitable territory, but have been at war with the humans for centuries, and due to inferior numbers (read: slower breeding rate) have been forced back to the Northlands where the land is simply too cold and barren for the humans to even want to press on.
  • Second Apocalypse: The Ancient North, which consists of the northern half of Eärwa, was once just as civilized as the south, but is now a blasted wasteland left inhabited almost exclusively by millions upon millions of Sranc. The headquarters of the evil Ancient Conspiracy are at the northern edge of that.
  • In Shannara, the Warlock Lord is based in the North, at Skull Mountain, but in the sequels, the threats come successively from the West, the East, and the South.
    • The Back Story and prologue actually begin the base of evil in the Center of the world. That moved North, then East, but while the East was still unpacking a Sealed Evil in a Can in the West popped open, which lead to the East now being ready to be evil, which jumps back to the West who migrates to the South to be Evil and from there it reaches out to the Far-far West, other worlds, etc.
  • Clark Ashton Smith:
  • The kingdom of Gorhaut from A Song for Arbonne is cold, harsh, and warlike, in stark contrast to the titular, Mediterranean Arbonne. It is also the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of France, which might be the first time France serves as the grim northern land.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • The North is a vast, sparsely populated region of Westeros where life is hard, and the farther north you go, the harsher it gets. Westeros' years-long winters are felt to a greater degree than in the south, and months of howling blizzards and massive fields of snowbanks that can lock cities and castles shut and grind the march of armies to a halt are considered the prelude to the real winter. The culture of the North is plainer and less decadent than in the richer, more sophisticated South, and preserves the culture and religion of the ancient First Men and their nameless gods to a greater degree. Ironically enough the rulers of the North, the Starks of Winterfell, are among the most straightforwardly-heroic characters in the series. However this is contrasted with the Boltons of the Dreadfort, who are known for their practice of flaying their enemies (their coat of arms is even a flayed man). Things become worse when Roose Bolton murders Robb Stark and takes control of the North, and Roose's bastard Ramsay Snow/Bolton goes around committing atrocities.
    • The Wall protects the people of the North from attacks of savage wildling raiders who reside beyond it amidst endless snow-bound forests and frozen mountains. The forests beyond the wall are also home to creatures long extinct in the south, including direwolves, mammoths and apelike giants. The wildlings are themselves plagued by frozen demons called the Others, as well as by the wights, the animated corpses of their victims (when the series begins the Others haven't been seen in thousands of years, but are waking up again). The northernmost land is called the Land of Always Winter. It is a dark and mysterious place, and so unknown the northernmost part doesn't even appear on the map.
    • The Shivering Sea, a cold ocean east of Westeros and north of Essos, is a marine version of this. Its waters are home to leviathans, and legends have it as haunted by ghosts of the drowned, vicious black-scaled mermaids that drag sailors to watery graves, and banks of blue mists that freeze any ship they pass over. To its north is the ice of the White Waste, with places like Cannibal Bay, full of ships trapped forever in the ice and home to the cannibalistic descendants of the crews trapped there, and supposed to be home to great ice dragons.
  • JV Jones' Sword of Shadows. The whole series takes place in what the rest of the world would consider to be the grim north, though even beyond that you get to "the Great Want", frozen Mordor and Eldritch Location par excellence.
  • The baddies of Tailchaser's Song set up their little hell-on-earth in the northern forest of Rootwood.
  • The Thebaid: Where else could the God of War sit but the dark north? In fact, Mars' fortress in Thrace is so far north that Mercury starts his journey from the North Pole to get to him in a timely manner. If the latitude and barrenness wasn't enough, the very presence of Mars dims the Sun, so his home will always look suitably deadly.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • As noted in The Hobbit, the Grey Mountains are rife with "orcs, goblins and hobgoblins", and the Withered Heath in particular is the home of many vile dragons, including Smaug himself before he relocated to the Lonely Mountain. Durin's Folk used to live in the North after being driven from Moria, but left after their King was killed by a cold-drake with his middle son.
    • The Lord of the Rings:
      • Angmar, the former realm of the Witch-king, lay in the far north of the world. However Tolkien placed Mordor in the South to deliberately avert the trope.
      • Averted with Mordor itself, which is in Middle Earth's southeast.
    • In The Silmarillion, Morgoth's fortress of Angband is in the north extreme of Beleriand (the North-West of Middle-Earth). Similarly, his first fortress, Utumno, was in the north of Middle Earth.
    • Beren and Lúthien: Beren's Man tribe is wiped out by Sauron's army of orcs and fell beasts coming down from the North and invading Dorthonion. Later, during the Quest of the Silmaril, the party must travel northward, sneak past Sauron's fortress "the Isle of Weverwolves" and continue further north to reach Angband, the fortress of Morgoth.
  • In the Tortall Universe, Tortall's northern neighbor Scanra is treated like this. The nation is modeled on Scandinavia, with fur-clad warriors (accompanied by occasional berserkers) and "wolfships" that prey on the northern seas. The last book of the Protector of the Small quartet is set in the border region during a war between Scanra and Tortall. It's made clear how harsh and unforgiving conditions are for both northern Tortallans and Scanrans, with a river that "keeps what it takes" serving as the border and Scanran soldiers being motivated by promises of riches from the southern lands should they win. The Scanrans who Kel meets are noticeably quite flinty and cynical about life.
  • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The Snowbound North is a harsh, inhospitable place, home to Northern Barbarians and often where the Dark Lord lives (or at least he's placed a bunch of Mutant Nasties, whose presence poisons the rest of the continent). Tourists will have to be there at some point, and surely have an unpleasant time, having the kind of weather expected along with any Mutant Nasties or Barbarians opposing them.
  • In the Warrior Cats series, ShadowClan, the Clan that produces the most evil cats and that is normally thought to always be plotting something, lives in the northernmost territory. There's even a saying in ThunderClan that the cold north wind blows over every ShadowClan cat and chills their heart.
  • In The Wheel of Time, The Blight is a huge northern land, home of the Dark One and full of evil creatures and desolation. It's separated from the rest of Randland by the "Mountains of Dhoom" and incursions of evil forces are buffered by the border nations.
    • Interestingly, a map of the world provided in an encyclopaedia for the series showed that the Blight eventually gives way to the polar ice cap, which isn't considered interesting by anyone at all.
    • Subverted in that the Blight proper is a steamy jungle, although the Blasted Lands beyond it are pretty cold.
  • In The Wild Boy, the Lindauzi cities are all in the north. Justified, because they can't survive the warmer tropical latitudes.
  • In The Witcher series, Witchers from the School of the Bear had their headquarters Haern Caduch in such a locale; it is so cold that aspiring Witchers had to either sleep near hearths or under layer upon layer of furs to survive...and that's before you get to the never-ending battle to get snow off the fortress courtyard. This would produce Witchers with very strong endurance, allowing them to make use of heavy armor and weapons, thus making the Bears the Mighty Glacier among the Witcher schools.
  • Inverted in The Wizard of Oz, where the North and South are home to good witches and the East and West are terrorized by Wicked Witches.
  • In World War Z and the worldwide Zombie Apocalypse, the Arctic Circle actually fares better than most areas as zombies freeze solid in the winter. "Better than most" still means that most evacuees are completely unprepared for winter survival and die anyway. Those who do survive and set up fortifications are able to scavenge unimpeded during the winter and hole up during the summer.
    • Later it makes the cleanup process far more difficult than in the south however, as the zombies freeze for winter, and are easily overlooked under the snow. Finland is shown still to be struggling to make itself habitable, while Iceland is one of the worst White Zones (areas completely overrun) on the map.

    Live Action TV 
  • In the Doctor Who serial "The Ribos Operation", the locals on the planet Ribos assume that aliens, with their advanced technology, are from The Great North. A local heretic who holds the unpopular belief that the stars are not ice crystals but other worlds scoffs at this, as he's travelled to the north and knows there's no mighty empire there.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • The North is colder, harsher, and less populated than the south and this trope is what most southerners would tell you about the North. The Northmen still love it though, much to the bewilderment of the South.
      • House Stark has this reputation. They live in the largest region, the aforementioned North, with harsh climate and subsequently harsh people. They are also the last great house of First Men's line and one of the last who worships the Old Gods and keeps the Good Old Ways, which is a bit looked down by the opulent South. Despite being from the North, Ned Stark is still the only unambiguously good guy in the setting. Played straight however in that he's still hard, cold and stoic.
    • The lands of the wildlings beyond the Wall are even worse as there is little vegetation or arable land, along with a number of dangerous animals, and beyond that is the wintry abode of the White Walkers: the Lands of Always Winter, which is just as treacherous as it sounds.
    • While not in The North, the Iron Islands have this vibe, being grey and dreary due to their location, and the people are not much better. They're still well north of most of the rest of Westeros, though. In universe, most scholars agree that the Ironborn and Northmen are two branches of the same tribe.
  • In Helix, the story is set in the blistering cold of the Arctic. "Big pharma" company Arctic Biosystems hosts over a hundred Morally Ambiguous Doctorates in its Elaborate Underground Base, where researchers go to work without interference from regulatory agencies. Then a Synthetic Plague they're developing gets loose, leading to an outbreak of The Virus as it makes the jump to a human researcher.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power opens up with Galadriel and several Elves led by her searching for Sauron in the Forodwaith, the Northern Waste. The Forodwaith Mountains are shown to be completely inhabitable because of their geography and strong blizzards, a perfect place to build a secret fortress. Galadriel manages to find one of Sauron's fortresses, which is so tainted by evil that fire cannot warm anything. Only snow-trolls can survive there.
  • Downplayed in Pistvakt, which takes place in the fictional Svartlien somewhere in the northernmost parts of Sweden. The temperatures are so low outside that one of the protagonists expresses confusion when the thermometer shows plus degreesnote , they live more or less isolated from the outside world, and you can get killed by anything from avalanches to bears... However, they still make enough money to get by from tourists who enjoy the beautiful landscapes and skiing.
  • Shadow and Bone: Ravka is already based on Russia, but the closer the characters get to the northern Scandinavian-ish country of Fjerda, the more it snows. The Fjerdans also seem to be a hardy folk who look down on Ravkans.

  • The genre of Black Metal, owing to its origins in Norway, has a fondness for imagery involving the cold north. A particularly notable example is the band Immortal, whose song titles include Grim and Frostbitten Kingdoms, Sons of Northern Darkness and In My Kingdom Cold.
    • Parodied by the "acoustic black metal" joke band Impaled Northern Moonforest, with songs like Grim and Frostbitten Moongoats of the North and Lustfully Worshipping the Inverted Moongoat While Skiing down the Inverted Necromountain of Necrodeathmortum. They even have an Impaled Northern Moonforest song title generator that lets you create your own grim and frostbitten song titles.
    • Subverted by Swedish metal band Sister Sin's Sail North and the music video for 24/7, which is "yes, it's grim up here, but we're inviting you to come up anyway and party like a Viking" and "We're snowed in, so we're going to party as hard as we can," respectively.
  • Inverted in the Emerald Sword saga by Rhapsody of Fire, where the main character is called the "Warrior of Ice" or "Nordic Warrior", who calls the forces of winter against the Legions of Hell.
  • Many songs by the Swedish band Kent are about the coldness (both literally and figuratively) of Sweden.
  • Finnish national composer Jean Sibelius set parts of the national Kallevala mythology to music. One of the most gloomily evocative pieces is The Swan of Tuonela, depicting the black swan representing Death swimming on Tuonela, the black lake of Death which is portal to the Afterlife. Needless to say the icy cold lake of Death and its totemic swan are in the Far North.
  • Black swans from the North are also harbingers of doom in Irish mythology; the Horslips use this theme in the song Shadows on our Skin
    I see the last black swan/Fly past the sun...

    Myths & Religion 
  • Norse Mythology: Germanic mythology placed the realm of the giants, the monstrous enemies of gods and men, in the far North-East. This is attested as early as c. 100 AD by Tacitus in his ethnographical work Germania.
  • Classical Mythology:
    • In many of the "Alexander Romances" — legends and folkloric embellishments of the life and exploits of Alexander the Great — a land beset by "unclean" nations to the north is encountered by Alexander during his conquests. Recognizing their need, Alexander has his army construct the "Gates of Alexander" across the mountain pass which served as the border between the peaceful southern tribes and their warlike neighbors to the north; these nigh-impenetrable gates, often said to be constructed of the mythical substance "adamantium", effectively severed the north's capacity to reach the south, therefore preserving the southerners' safety and way of life.
    • Numerous writings describe how the more north one travels the more dangerous that everything becomes. Monsters like griffins, vicious bear-human hybrids, and lawless centaurs make their homes in great numbers. And the land is filled with nomadic tribes of raiders like the human-eating Athrophages, the one eyed race of horse mounted warriors called Arimaspians, and the Kimmerioi who lived in eternal night, among others, all making war amongst each other and outsiders alike. And passed all that was believed to be a desolate land of eternal winter called Pterophoros. However, survive all that and it becomes a subversion with the land of Hyperborea, a beautiful paradise populated with peaceful, kind-hearted frost giants.
  • Finnish Mythology: In The Kalevala, Pohjola ("northplace") is the enemy land ruled by the witch Louhi and the place where all evil comes from. The Sámi people have always lived north of Finns and were the natural enemy for a long time until the arrival of Swedes from the west and Russians from the east.
  • Just like Poles have the Tartars, the Swedes have Finns — a saying of the 17th century. Not that Sweden is a warm place itself.
  • Idän ilmat ilkehimmät, Pohjan pakkaset pahimmat — another Finnish proverb. "Eastern weathers most vicious, northern frosts the worst". Truth in Television here: when wind blows from East, it means a cyclone is about to pass over the observer; when wind blows from North, it means there is a massive high pressure area at North Pole, where the air is especially cold.
  • Native American Mythology: In Navajo culture, North is the direction of death and evil, symbolized by night and the color black.
  • Irish Mythology: Of the five Irish provinces, "Ulster in the north is the seat of battle valour, of haughtiness, strife, boasting; the men of Ulster are the fiercest warriors of all Ireland, and the queens and goddesses of Ulster are associated with battle and death."
  • The Bible: Throughout the Old Testament and some in the New Testament, north was seen as Israel's weak side. Oppression giants became fewer in The Savage South (Egypt) and more plentiful in the north (Assyria, Scythia, etc.) as time progressed.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dishonored Roleplaying Game: The northernmost island in the empire is Tyvia, a largely-uninhabited land of harsh wilderness, snowy tundra, and icy mountains.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Dragonlance: Inverted in Krynn, as Ansalon, the main continent of the setting, is in the southern hemisphere. The northernmost land, Nordmaar, is a tropical jungle. Icewall is to the south of Ansalon.
    • Eberron has both a straight example in the Frostfell (a far-northern nightmare continent of endless ice that is the prison for Dral Khatuur, a fiendish overlord who embodies the killing cold) and a subversion in Karrnath, which despite being a northern region with long winters, frequent use of undead, a fatalistic temperament and a Lawful Evil vampire king, is not, on the whole, that much worse than the rest of the Five Nations and was actually one of the loudest voices for peace during the talks that ended the Last War.
    • In Forgotten Realms, the land of Vaasa in the north of Faerun is where the Witch-King Zhengyi created his Castle Perilous and launched an invasion of the neighboring country of Damara. The region known as the North (actually to the Northwest) isn't much better (with the exception of the Silver Marches), what with the rugged terrain, Viking-like raiders on the coast and islands, barbarian tribes inland, and the periodic threat of gigantic Orc invasions from their strongholds in the Spine of the World mountains. This is also the region where Icewind Dale is, which isn't a barrel of warm happy sunshine either. Moving progressively east one will encounter the anomalous Anauroch desert (created by the lifedraining magics of the Phaerimm), then the Moonsea region and its grim, rapacious and warlike city-states (and the home turf of the Zhentarim Black Network, one of Faerun's premier evil organizations, now fully under the thumb of the Church of Bane) and the badlands of the Thar (home to hordes of evil humanoids that have been known to unite under ogre warlords to threaten the Moonsea and beyond), then the aforementioned land of Vaasa, the Great Glacier (whose Ice Dwarf inhabitants are reasonable enough, but good luck getting to one of their villages without the environmment killing you) and the plains of Narfell (for whose human inhabitants becoming warlike horse barbarians was actually a step up — their ancestors ruled an Evil Empire based on demon summoning), and the evil Red Wizards certainly think that Rashemen (a cold land of forest, mountain and cold steppe peopled by berserkers, witches, and plenty of monsters and elemental and nature spirits) is this trope; further east one leaves Faerun and enters the Endless Waste, also known as the Hordelands, land of the Turco-Mongol-like Tuigan.
    • The Frostburn supplement details adventures set in glacial lands, referred to as the Frostfell (although this term refers to any intensely cold, desolate lands, including high mountains, frozen dungeons and other unnaturally cold places, and extraplanar environments such as the Elemental Plane of Ice, the default assumption is that it refers to polar lands). It describes hazards posed by natural and supernatural cold, the peoples found in these lands (including both specialized cultures of humans, elves, and others and unique species such as polar fey and neanderthals), unique resources, weapons and magic items (most notably the major iceheart, whose presence can turn even tropical lands into miniature Grim Up Norths), and a great variety of arctic monsters.
    • Greyhawk: The northern bits of the Flanaess aren't exactly the most welcoming either, even without taking into account the frigid climate; from West to East, they are: the lands of the Bakluni Turkic-like Tiger and Wolf Nomads (the latter are proud and wary of strangers, but reasonable enough if propitiated, while the former are generally assholes); the dreary, swampy (and possible resting place of incredibly ancient, powerful and dangerous Magitek) archbarony of Blackmoor; The Empire of Iuz the Old, a spectacularly depraved cambion turned demigod and his hordes of minions, worshippers, and demons; the Barrens and the Bandit Lands, both inhospitable mostly-conquered wildernesses home to a few desperate groups still attempting to resist Iuz's sadistic grip (the Rovers in particular, a nearly-pure Flan culture of Barrens nomads, have been brought to the edge of extinction); the Hold of Stonefist, a realm of barbaric marauders whose main pastime/economic activity is Rape, Pillage, and Burn; and the Thillronian Peninsula, home of three different flavors of Suel-descended Horny Vikings. And to the north of the Nomads' lands, at the northernmost tip of the Flanaess, lies the Land of Black Ice, a mysterious expanse about which virtually nothing is known apart from the dark ice its inland glacier is made of and being the abode of many strange arctic monsters.
    • Midnight (2003): The evil god who was cast down from the Heavens retreats to the North to gather his strength and from there launches his campaign of conquest.
    • Mystara: Denagoth, a suitably-grim northern realm with a spooky history and imperialistic intentions, was added to the setting purely to play this trope as straight as possible. The rest of the northern lands of the Known World aren't exactly pleasant either for the most part.
    • Nentir Vale: The goddess of death has her citadel in the grim north, where all souls now pass when they die. The darkness and grimness of her frost-bound fortress even bleeds over to the real world from her home dimension, because reality is thin up there. Mildly subverted in that the Raven Queen is not evil, but then again she is definitely not nice, and quite grim.
    • Ravenloft: Averted, as the Demiplane of Dread is a literal Patchwork Map setting. While one of the coldest regions of the Core (Lamordia) is in the northwest, it's only 200 miles from a tropical island (Markovia) that's even farther northwest. An even colder island, Todstein, is in the southeast corner of the Core. Neither it nor Lamordia really fit this trope; the closest Ravenloft has to a Grim Up North is Vorostokov, which is too underpopulated and isolated by the Mists to invade anybody.
  • The elves of the Iron Kingdoms sealed the heart of the dragon Everblight on the top of the highest mountain they could find. Guess which direction a horde of monstrous Body Horror dragonspawn is pouring out from?
  • Most of the Ironlands in Ironsworn is cold and grim, but the northernmost region, the Shattered Waste, are the grimmest and coldest of all. No Ironlander inhabit the Wastes, and the few that travel there and survive to return talk about the cold and things (horrors) underneath the ice.
  • Legend of the Five Rings inverts this trope. While the Jurchen inspired Yobanjin are rather barbaric compared to the Rokugani to their south, they mostly ignore each other, and many Rokugani lords even (illegally) hire the Yobanjin as expendable mercenaries. It is the vast Shadowlands to the Emerald Empire's south that are its true fear. Created by the fallen kami Fu Leng it is the source of the taint and the entire Crab Clan is dedicated to manning or supporting the giant Kaiu Wall to prevent its tainted host from destroying all of Rokugan. The importance of their duty is so significant that even the Scorpion Clan do not distract them with the petty wars and palace intrigues so popular among the samurai class.
  • Pathfinder: Golarion has a number of... interesting places in the northernmost reaches of Avistan, its Fantasy Counterpart Europe. The three main countries in its furthest north all present their own particular variation on the theme of the hostile, frigid northlands, although they all share bitterly cold weather, massive stretches of trackless forests, and regular trouble with tribes of barbaric frost giants, ice-breathing white dragons, trolls, huge wolves, saber-toothed cats and cruel winter fey.
    • The Lands of the Linnorm Kings, on the western shores of Avistan's north, are home to the Ulfen, a pseudo-Norse people fond of sailing, raiding, fighting and drinking, and to the linnorms that give them their name, enormous snakelike dragons that prospective Ulfen kings have to kill in single combat. In the south, the Linnorm Kingdoms are known mostly as the homeland of fierce berserkers, axe-wielding Warrior Poets, dragons and longships piled with raiders.
    • Further east is Irrisen, founded by none other than Baba Yaga and ruled by the daughters she installs as queens every one hundred years and their numerous descendants. The relationship between the ruling class and the peasants combines the The Magocracy and The Dung Ages — the witches rule tyrannically and the peasants are little better than slaves subject to their every cruel whim. On top of everything else, the country has been locked in Endless Winter since its conquest, which spreads to newly conquered lands and retreats if Irrisen is pushed back, and the monsters of the north walk both the wilderness and most major cities as the witches' open allies.
    • On Irrisen's other side lies the Realm of the Mammoth Lords. There are no permanent settlements here, and most of the land is untamed tundra and boreal forest home to nomadic Kellid tribes eking out a harsh existence on the icy plains, Ice Age megafauna and tribes of giants in the mountains who regularly war against the Kellids. The Kellids live in a state of constant siege, having the witches of Irrisen on one side and the Worldwound and its demons on the other, and when not fighting off these two threats their lives are hard and short, ended most often by a rampaging beast, a frost giant's axe or the unforgiving cold.
    • North of all of these is the icy Crown of the World. Past frozen mountains separating it from Avistan and Tian Xia, one first reaches the Outer Rim, a vast stretch of taiga and tundra home to herds of megafauna, tribes of trolls and giants, Wendigos, sadistic bear-like monsters and other ice-loving beings. Past that there's a solid mass of barren glaciers called the High Ice, and beyond that is the cold desert of the Boral Expanse around the North Pole, inhabited chiefly by elementals of ice and air. Despite its harshness, the Crown does contain cultures of its own — the reclusive Snowcaster elves, the hardy Erutaki people, the occasional Ulfen settlements clinging to the coasts and an isolated dwarven hold — but these are often far between, and for the most part the Crown remains a thinly populated, icy wilderness.
    • Then you have the planet Triaxus, in the same solar system as Golarion of the main setting. Triaxus has an odd elliptical orbit which, while still habitable the whole way, takes the world so far from the sun that the resulting wintry season lasts for generations before it swings back around for an equally long summer. To invoke the trope, both Pathfinder and it's Science Fantasy counterpart Starfinder are both set when Triaxus is in its Winter phase.
  • Talislanta has Narandu, a vast realm of ice and snow populated by the Ice Giants.
  • Warhammer: Things grow progressively harsher and more savage as ones heads north. Past the merely inhospitable Kislev, you get from west to east to the lands of the Norscans (evil Vikings), the Kurgans (evil Mongols) and the Hung (breathtakingly depraved evil Huns), the closest of all the realms of men to the Powers of Chaos and universally marauder tribes that form the core of the Legions of Hell and the Champions of Chaos who lead the hordes of Chaos in war. In particular, the Norscans are the vanguard of those hordes as they are fanatically devoted to the Chaos Gods and are perhaps the cruelest and most vicious warriors to stalk the Old World, with a hatred of the South, in particular the Empire, which dates back several thousand years to the age of Sigmar. Further north, through the Chaos Wastes (daemon-infested black deserts where reality is wearing pretty damn thin), you eventually reach the Realm of Chaos, which is Hell. All of these (except Kislev) regularly spew out The Legions of Hell to lay waste to the Old World (although the Hung, who live half a world away from the main setting, mostly ride out against the empire of Cathay and the Dark Elves instead).
    • Even Canada — here called Naggaroth — is a Grim Up North, being covered in snow or horrible creatures and populated by Dark Elves, who regularly launch raids for plunder and slaves on civilized lands.
    • In true Warhammer fashion, there's another wide-open portal to the Realm of Chaos in the South pole of the Old World that nobody's doing anything about. It's only a matter of time until the world is overwhelmed by The Legions of Hell from both sides (fortunately, Beastmen can't swim). (Well, the Lizardmen might since it's their job.)
  • Warhammer 40,000's Fenris is a Grim Up North Single-Biome Planet. It's where the Space Wolves recruit the local tribesmen who become their Viking Super Soldiers.
    • Valhalla is likewise a single-biome frost world. The inhabitants here "only" get to be Imperial Guard badasses, though. Valhalla itself is noted to have an even grimmer Up North, where the climate goes from "unforgiving" to "completely uninhabitable" and worse.
    • In fact, 40K makes the decision to blow up Fantasy's Left-Justified Fantasy Map to fit a galaxy, with the Segmentum Obscurus (the bits "north" of Earth) including Fenris, Valhalla, and its own Chaos-Wastes-In-Space, the Eye of Terror.

  • BIONICLE's Bara Magna arc has the villainous Skrall tribe coming from the mountainous north to conquer the planet, though they themselves were driven south by an even nastier group of shapeshifting warriors.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed Rogue is the northernmost a game went in the series, with the final act taking place at a Precursors site somewhere in the Arctic North of Canada. Templar protagonist Shay Patrick Cormac has to defeat some of the most powerful ships in the game that can tear his ship to shreds on the ocean, and once he lands he must go through a Death Course made of Precursor laser walls and rays that can disintegrate him.
  • Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy plays with this. The "Northern Lands" are a desolate, barren location, but they're not a frozen tundra like one would expect - Rather, it's actually a desert highly reminiscent of the Southwestern United States, complete with large rock formations and cacti.
  • Inverted in the Command & Conquer for the Tiberium timeline: The element Tiberium, with its extreme mutagenic and toxic properties, has its growth stymied by the cold. Therefore, it is the Good Guys that strike from the North.
  • The first level of Demon Skin is set in a wintry wasteland, and you'll often have blizzards and winds obscuring your character. Also, a Hair-Trigger Avalanche serving as an Advancing Wall of Doom.
  • Lord of Destruction, the Expansion Pack to Diablo II, adds a fifth act which sets the barbarian homeland way up in the snowy mountain peaks of Arreat. Subverted as their entire culture is dedicated to battling evil, and Baal invaded their space rather than controlling it from the get-go.
  • MMORPG Dofus has a continent called Frigost. Oddly, it's not particularly far north, instead being situated in the middle of the ocean far to the west of the normal world. It was originally not particularly grim at all, until the ruler of the island decided it would be a good idea to try and create an eternal summer for the island's farmers. This did not go down well with the demon who controls December, and provoked him into freezing the island for the past century.
  • Donkey Kong:
  • The Korcari Wilds in Ferelden in Dragon Age: Origins are actually Grim Down South, due to the continent of Thedas being located on the planet's southern hemisphere. They are dangerous swamp-lands, home to Chasind Wilders, fearsome Witches and more recently, the location where the Darkspawn horde came to the surface during the Fifth Blight.
  • Dragon Quest II: Hargon's base of operations is located on Rhone, a high, snowy plateau surrounded by an impassable range of mountains, and the game's only ice-themed location.
  • Dune:
    • The sinister House Ordos is based on Sigma Draconis IV, an ice world.
    • Played with in the first Dune game: the evil House Harkonnen's main fortress is near the north pole of Arrakis. Dune being what it is, that's still not exactly a cold place...
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Atmora, the northernmost continent on Nirn, likely was a "grim North" to the races of Mer (Elves) during the 1st Era Man-Mer hostility in Skyrim, as Atmoran Men kept emigrating over and supplementing the Mannish manpower. However, it is now too cold: the last reliable reports indicate that it is frozen over and uninhabited. Expeditions to Atmora in the 2nd and 3rd Eras found no signs of intelligent life. According to the Dunmeri Physical God Vivec in his Lessons of Vivec book series, he traveled there with Lord Nerevar and "found nothing but frozen bearded kings".
    • The northernmost territory of the continent of Akavir is referred to as "Snow Hell" and is home of the Kamal, Mongol-inspired "snow demons" who freeze every winter and thaw out every spring to attack the Tang Mo "monkey folk" in a Vicious Cycle.
    • Morrowind:
      • The Sheogorad region is the northernmost part of Vvardenfell, and short of Red Mountain itself, is one of the most untamed and lawless regions in the land. It has only one major settlement (Dagon Fel, a small Imperial settlement populated mostly by Nords,) but has many bandit caves, ancestral tombs, and necromancer lairs dotting its scattered islands.
      • The Bloodmoon expansion adds the island of Solstheim, a mostly frozen and barren hunk of rock inhabited only by the Noble Savage Skaal, treacherous Reiklings, and lots of dangerous wildlife. Only after ebony deposits were discovered there did the Empire start caring about it. The soldiers stationed at Fort Frostmoth and the miners at Raven Rock frequently point out just how miserable it is there.
    • Skyrim:
      • About half of Skyrim fits. The city of Windhelm wins the award for grimness, being plagued with Fantastic Racism, slums, and a serial killer in the streets. The further north you go, the more dangerous things become, with the wilderness around Dawnstar and Winterhold best being described as an endless parade of irate polar bears, hungry frost trolls, pissed-off horkers, and terminally idiotic bandits. However, the northernmost city in the game, Solitude, is actually fairly nice and not snowy at all, apparently due to warm water currents in coming through the northern sea. Its grim enough that Nord culture has the Fourth-Date Marriage as the norm. Skyrim is such a harsh and dangerous land even within the civilized areas that Nord culture in general frowns on lengthy courtships, so if you care about someone enough to love them or want to marry them, you wear an Amulet of Mara and just tell them, and if they're favorably inclined they'll accept, you get married, and then everyone can go back to keeping the bear, vampires, trolls, bandits, and dragons at bay.
      • Solstheim makes a return in the Dragonborn DLC, and seems to be even more grim than it was in Bloodmoon. Raven Rock was abandoned and is now a massive refugee city for the Dunmer who were forced to flee Morrowind following the Red Year. The southern end of the island is blasted with ash from Red Mountain's eruption and the northern parts are still full of Reiklings and dangerous wildlife. The Skaal still survive, but the return of the dragons has brought even greater threats to Solstheim.
  • Fallen London:
    • There's something mysterious but incredibly ominous situated in the North. Dreamers and lunatics are driven in that direction by forces unknown. Going North as part of the Seeking Mr. Eaten's Name quest is (quite reasonably) considered to be a Violation of Common Sense by both the narration and parts of the playerbase, and does not end well. Due to the secretive nature of the game's ending, the mystery of just what lies up North and simple Schmuck Bait... people do it anyway.
      We must go North! We hunger so!
    • Sunless Sea reveals some of the stuff up North, and none of it is especially pleasant. In the northern reaches of the Zee, one can find: an incredibly creepy church full of cannibals. A gateway to outer space at the utmost north (Sunless Sea is set underground) which is constantly, absolutely still and will always be in front of you when you travel to the northern edge of the map, no matter your east-west location. A magical ice castle slash Eldritch Location that imprisons fears that you may or may not hallucinate entering. A city that exists(/existed/will exist) partially outside time. The only warm place is an active volcano full of old devils. While up north, you share the seas with snow flurries that slow your ship down, "lifebergs", which are essentially homicidal living icebergs, and Mt. Nomad, the hardest monster in the game.
    • And in Fallen London you should never, ever go NORTH.
  • Parodied in South Park: The Stick of Truth, where Canada is portrayed as the mysterious frozen kingdom of the north where people speak a strange dialect (French) and is filled with Dire variations of beasts and diseases (most notably Dire AIDS) that are simply described as "Like (X) but Dire". You can even find a set of Skyrim-style barbarian armor while adventuring there.
  • The Skyrim Game Mod Falskaar has this in the backstory for the titular island/mini-continent. When the first Nord explorers arrived in Falskaar it was inhospitable and cold (to put this in perspective, the Nords live in the utterly freezing Skyrim, with many of them still freezing to death in Falskaar) and what wildlife was there savaged their numbers considerably. Thankfully, Ahkrinviing, an aspect of Shor, cut out his heart and gave it to the Nord leader Olav, who used it to transform the southern end of Falskaar into a beautiful area, ripe with vegetation and trees. The northern end is still meant to be frozen and dangerous (fitting this trope), but as of the latest update is presently inaccessible.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Subverted with Narshe in Final Fantasy VI, at least in the World of Balance. Once all misunderstandings are cleared, Narshe becomes the closest thing to an HQ that the heroes have. Played straight in the World of Ruin, where Narshe has become an abandoned ghost town.
    • The grand finale of both the original, un-expanded Final Fantasy XI and the Wings of the Goddess expansion is in the frozen wastes of Xarcabard, where the Shadow Lord masses his armies.
    • The finale of Final Fantasy VII, as well as the pivotal turning point of the story, takes place in the Northern Crater. There's a hidden cut scene where it is explained that the Northern Continent stays cold year round because the Planet is still gathering spirit energy to heal the wound cause by an ancient meteor strike (Jenova's arrival some 2,000+ years before).
    • Final Fantasy XI has the Forbidden Land of Xarcabard, a frigid wasteland that, at game's release, was one of the highest level zones in the game and filled with dangerous creatures, mainly demons and undead. The Shadow Lord's castle, Castle Zvahl, is also located here.
    • Final Fantasy XIV has Coerthas, which is stuck in a nuclear winter since the Calamity compared to the rest of the world. The snow is bitter, blizzards come and go, and then there's the fact that the Holy See of Ishgard has been in a Forever War with the dragons of Dravania for a thousand years.
    • Final Fantasy XIII replaces the snow in the northern village of Oerba with crystal dust.
  • Fire Emblem
    • Silesse in Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War. Historically, it's actually hewed more to the "peaceful snowy winter" type of place, as its patron Crusader was a Martial Pacifist. But recently, the former king's brothers despise their nephew Lewyn because he's the heir and they aren't — and when he returns as part of Sigurd's group, the uncles start a civil war. That event is grim, as it results in the death of a beloved Mauve Shirt and a potential slaughter of civilians if the player isn't quick enough to rescue them.
    • Ilia in Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade is located in the far north of the Elibe continent. It's so snowy and barren that most of its population supports itself by hiring out as mercenaries in other countries. The pegasus knights are the most famous Ilian corps of mercenaries, but they also have conventional cavalry too (the player can recruit a Battle Couple consisting of a paladin husband and his falcon knight wife). Ilian mercenaries appear in the prequel, Blazing Blade, as well.
  • Act Three of Ghost of Tsushima opens up in Kamiagata, the snowy, freezing-cold northern region of Tsushima Island. It also happens to be when the story has taken a turn for the worse, as Jin Sakai has been declared a criminal by the shogun's men, and his horse has also just gotten killed while helping him escape from imprisonment, leaving him at his lowest since the beginning of the game after burying his companion. It also happens to have some very grim Main Story and Side missions, especially concerning the questlines of Norio and Lady Masako.
  • Golden Sun:
    • The final dungeon of Golden Sun: The Lost Age is located on the blizzard-ridden northern continent. Amusingly enough, it's a fire-based dungeon covered in ice, demonstrating that the northern reaches weren't always so cold.
    • Golden Sun also subverts it with the Proxians; the story establishes that the villain's race come from the frozen north long before you can go there, but when you actually do you find that the Proxians are a fairly decent people; the thing that makes the north grim is that it is slowly crumbling away into an abyss (the villainous characters were just a bit overzealous about saving their home).
  • The final stage of Guitar Hero: Metallica takes place in the Arctic, in the underground lair of an Eldritch Abomination. This finale song is "The Thing That Should Not Be", for obvious reasons.
  • Subverted in the MUD Imperian, where the north is home to two different groups: Kinsarmar, magic-users who fight demons, and Ithaqua, forest-dwelling barbarians that fight demons and magic-users.
  • In the first Jak and Daxter, the Green Sage tells Daxter that the only person who will be able to reverse his case of Forced Transformation will be no easy matter to reach because he lives to the north — "far, far to the north." He turns out to be the one of the Big Bads and the reason the protagonists go there ends up being to bring down his evil lair.
  • Online adventure game Kingdom of Loathing has a character class which "hail from the frigid Northlands, because one character class always hails from the frigid Northlands." The class? Seal Clubbers, appropriately enough. Didn't you notice the Seal Clubber is the only player character figure that's frowning? That's 'cause it's grim where he's from.
  • In Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders, the Sealed Evil in a Can is found on in the far north of the map... and boy, what a can that was.
  • The North in King of the Castle is depicted as a Viking-inspired culture whose home is an icy tundra, with ice giants a legitimate threat (or ally, depending on their scheme).
  • In the first game in The Legend of Zelda series, Death Mountain, the dungeon home of the Big Bad, is located at the northernmost portion of the map, but the terrain isn't snowy, and Death Mountain is a Lethal Lava Land in later games. Played straight in A Link Between Worlds with its Lorule equivalent, which is covered in perpetual blizzard, is swarming with Lynels, and is home to the Treacherous Tower, a lengthy monster gauntlet.
  • Majesty is set in a fantasy kingdom, but the the Expansion Pack, called the "Northern Expansion," moves the setting furthur north, where it is cold and snowy.
  • In Mega Man X2, the X-Hunters' Lair lies at the North Pole.
  • Judging by the map in Mega Man Zero 4 and the Point Galapagos map in Mega Man X8, Neo Arcadia is apparently on the north side of South America; while the sometimes-frozen underground sea in Zero 1 gives away the Resistance Base's location well as the trope-subversive climate (what with being in the Southern Hemisphere). If the Derelict Spacecraft serves as a base for Omega and Weil in Zero 3, that would actually be Grim Down South, judging from the above.
  • In Metal Gear Solid, Snake must infiltrate an Alaskan fortress that resides on an island with sub-zero temperatures and snowfall.
  • Might and Magic: The northern reaches of the land of Enroth, as seen in Heroes of Might and Magic I, II and Might and Magic VI, is dominated by the Frozen Highlands, an inhospitable region with hostile barbarian tribes lurking about (and various aggressive monsters, but that's everywhere), and in VI the north side of the map is on average more hostile and dangerous than the middle and south (though in one region this is explictly a recent change from what up to a few years ago was a pleasant, peaceful area).
  • Minion Masters: The members of the Stoutheart-Faction live in snowy mountains.
  • In Monster Girl Quest!, monsters tend to be stronger the further north you go. This trend culminates in the northern continent of Hellgondo, where the most powerful monsters including the Monster Lord dwell. And in addition to its dangerous population, Hellgondo is an island surrounded by mountains (making both land and sea travel there impossible, the only options are flight and teleportation) which is mostly barren wasteland.
  • In Ōkami, the source of all the monsters and lair of Yami, Lord of Darkness lies to the far north.
  • Played straight in Ori and the Will of the Wisps, where the Slippy-Slidey Ice World of Baur's Reach is the northernmost region of Niwen, but inverted in its predecessor, Ori and the Blind Forest, where the frozen Forlorn Ruins are to the southwest, while Mount Horu to the north is a Lethal Lava Land.
  • Pillars of Eternity inverts the trope with the continent known as "The White that Wends", which is essentially the Grim Down South.
  • Runescape uses this too many times to count. Whenever ancient evils are let out of the can they inevitably depart for 'the North'. This is eventually revealed to be an ancient, snow-covered ritual site, where members of a quasi-immortal race gather every 500 years to rejuvenate their powers by sacrificing the weakest one. Players who go north — at least from older parts of the map — are greeted with the Wilderness, a place filled with ruin, hideous monsters, and other players with murderous intent that gets worse the further North you go. This is revealed to be the battleground of an ancient war fought over the domain of the God-Emperor Zaros when he was betrayed by Zamorak. Three other gods allied and cornered Zamorak, who in desperation blasted the whole empire, leaving it a scorched and cursed wasteland. The ritual site and Wilderness are on the main continent of Gielinor. The antagonist penguin race hails from even further north, possibly from the as-yet unvisited ice-covered continent of Archeron, which is too cold even for the Fremennik people.
  • In Skies of Arcadia, The Empire is headquartered on a perpetually grim and stormy Floating Continent north of most of the rest of civilization. The actual arctic ice cap isn't so bad, though; it just has one dungeon and a couple of Optional Bosses, no worse than the rest of the world. Given that lazy programming makes Arcadia look like a torus according to the map, it's impossible to tell whether this dungeon is the north pole or the south pole.
  • In Tales of Phantasia, Dhaos and his demonic minions are headquartered on a frigid peninsula northeast of Midgard, reached by travelling through snowy Valhalla Plains.
  • Since Too Human is a retelling of Norse myths with science fiction, it comes as no surprise that the whole game takes place during the fimbul winter under heavy snowfall.
  • Trails features North Ambria, a nation that lost a significant chunk of its land long before the events of the game to a bizarre multiple selgenote  tall pillar that turned everything around it into salt. After democratization resulting from Prince Balmund fleeing the country during what was dubbed the Salt Pale disaster, it became reliant on the Northern Jaegers to have some semblance of a functioning economy, and people who don't want to become a jaeger (or become disillusioned with the jaeger lifestyle like Sara did) tend to end up emigrating to other countries, chiefly Erebonia and Calvard due to their proximity. The former nobility is hated because of the grand duke's abandonment of the country, with Prince Balmund's family being called "devils" because of his selfish actions, and the once-beautiful country is largely a saline wasteland, with vegetation extremely difficult to grow due to the salty soil. The economy's reliance on jaegers ultimately dooms the state when Northern Jaegers take part in Duke Albarea's attack on Celdic — an atrocity that ultimately ends up costing the Noble Alliance the war, since they're forced to cede Bareahard to the Reformists in an attempt to salvage some sort of moral authority. Following the annexation of Crossbell, the Northern Jaegers overthrow the government during negotiations with Erebonia regarding their complicity in the Celdic attack, resulting in a war that Erebonia wins within a month. With the Northern Jaegers disbanded, North Ambria is forced to submit to Erebonian rule. Independence talks after Crossbell's liberation are implied to have gone nowhere because, as opposed to Crossbell — which had been flourishing prior to Mayor Crois' idiotic decision to declare complete independence and provoke Erebonia and Calvard — Erebonian rule legitimately improved North Ambrians' quality of life.
  • Valheim: Averted (as of 2022), oddly enough: The Deep North biome is freezing and desolate but doesn't contain any particularly hostile creatures (except for pockets of Mountain biome). Down South, on the other hand, is the Ashland biome, which is also devoid of resources but filled with evil burning fire elementals.
  • The Lich King of the Warcraft fame, whose realm of Northrend lies in the far north of the world.
    • Minor subversion in that some areas of Northrend are quite beautiful, and in the case of Sholozar Basin, practically tropical (it's kept that way by magic). Played razor straight in the Lich King's main base, Icecrown Glacier, where it seems that the only things that are alive are Vrykul seeking to become the Lich King's undead servants, and soldiers of the Horde, Alliance, and the Argent Crusade who seek to destroy him.
      • The practical reason for this is that the designers thought it would be pretty boring to have an expansion covered with snow, so they didn't. The two northernmost areas of the northern continent though both follow this trope in slightly different ways. The aforementioned Undead/Vikings/Undead Vikings in Icecrown, and both Precursor ruins and a Sealed Evil in a Can in the Storm Peaks.
    • The northern reaches of the Eastern Kingdoms are also rather grim, having the second largest amount of undead behind Northrend. Northern Kalimdor is dreary and covered in perpetual twilight, but it's not "grim" as such.
  • Wargroove has another inversion — Felheim, from whence hail the undead and very evil Felheim Legion, is a cold and snowy land which just so happens to lie directly to the south of Cherrystone.
  • The tundra biome in Wolf (DOS) is difficult to survive in due to the extreme cold. In compensation, you'll have fewer cattle ranchers to deal with, but hunters will still brave the cold (or hitch a ride in a plane) to put a bullet in your hide.

  • Far to the North: The setting is this for anyone who isn't Rethuii. Some time ago they cut a deal with the dragons for protection from Southern slave raids. So now on top of the freezing cold, visitors also have to watch out for dragons and their goblin minions. This causes problems for mixed families as well, since the goblins consider any male with dark hair to be a valid target. Including children.
  • Snow By Night portrays Winter as a humanoid who makes an annual journey down from what is presumably Corthis' equivalent of the Arctic Circle.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent is actually an inversion: in the post-Illness world, frigid Scandinavia is the only known place where humans still survive, because the mutated "trolls" have a lower cold tolerance than properly equipped humans. The North European winter provides a respite from troll attacks, and allows ground to be retaken by burning down troll nests and leaving the survivors to freeze.
  • Unsounded: Alderode is a frozen Surveillance state that doesn't hide its violence under a veneer of civility like its southern neighbors, and deals with constant rebellions. It treats it as a way of life to have a pit in the middle of town where dissenters are publicly tortured to death.

    Web Original 
  • Cracked: In 6 Real Historic Battles Decided by Divine Intervention, the narration alludes to the British Isles being like this:
    "Redcoats didn't fear bullets. A grave is way warmer than the English winter."
  • Serina: The Great Tundra Ring of the Ultimocene is a harsh environment stretching from its borders with the steppes and towertree taigae to the south, to the southernmost extent of the ice sheets to the north, whose winters last for eight months with generally poor conditions. The tundra gravediggers, a subspecies of the gravedigger adapted to the harsher conditions, are far more aggressive and much more willing to personally dispatch their prey instead of relying on traps. The harshness of their environment also means they generally live only half as long as their southern cousins.
  • Taerel Setting: The Shauren Iceplains is a large barrein ice plain ruled by the cruel and savage Vytheri kin'toni fits this trope. It is never stated if it is in the north though, but implied by the description of the seasons to be so.Also, the Loremdra Kin'toni Clan are from the North, but never stated where exactly, but due to the ice age, marched south.
  • RWBY: The continent of Solitas, northernmost continent of Remnant and home to the Kingdom of Atlas, is a frozen wasteland, with little in the way of natural resources. However it does have one advantage over the rest of Remnant: it's so cold and inhospitable that even the Grimm struggle to survive there. The Grimm that do adapt to the cold have a noticeable ice age aesthetic, with hordes of Sabyrs backed up by lumbering Megoliaths as Teryx swoop overhead. As a result of the harsh conditions, the Atlesians developed more advanced technology at a much faster pace than the other Kingdoms, since that was the only way to survive the environment. However, they are still infamous as a militaristic and anti-faunus nation, and while the City of Atlas may be a Floating Continent surrounded by Hard Light shields and policed by Mecha-Mooks, the City of Mantle below it barely has enough power to keep out the Grimm and stay warm.

    Western Animation 
  • Korgoth of Barbaria mentions offhandedly that the savage Korgoth is from "out of the frozen north."
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: The northern region of Equestria is shown to be a dark, frigid place where the weather consists primarily of dangerous, deadly blizzards entirely outside the control of pony magic. The exception would be the Crystal Empire, which is pretty bright, shiny, happy and warm behind its shield. When it's not being ground under the shadowy hooves of King Sombra. Even further north, there's a range of high, frozen mountains home to pony-eating yetis and with the ramshackle village of the yaks as its only settlement of any sort.


Video Example(s):


The Army of the White Walkers

Beyond the Seven Kingdoms, the Wall, and even the Wildlings, in the northernmost parts of the world, the White Walkers summon an army of the dead to bring winter to the south.

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Example of:

Main / GrimUpNorth

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