Once upon a time, there was magic. Kings had wizards as courtiers. Knights and saints slew dragons. Shame those days have gone by, huh?
Here There Were Dragons is the idea that the past was a time when magic was everywhere, as opposed to our boring old mundane present. This isn't a case where magic went underground or adopted some Masquerade to avoid yet another Witch Hunt; no, this is a case where magic has disappeared almost entirely. But, who knows? It could always come back around again or at least the dragons could, if there were actual dragons...
Compare with Death of the Old Gods and Götterdämmerung, where it's the gods that have left or died (respectively). See also The Time of Myths. If told in the opening minutes of the work, likely a Myth Prologue. If the story is about the magic going away it's, well, The Magic Goes Away. See also End of an Age. Not to be confused with Here There Be Dragons; there never were any real dragons in that trope.
- Inuyasha: Seems like you couldn't go anywhere in Sengoku-period Japan without tripping over a demon. Five hundred years later, though, there's nary a one to be found, or any evidence that they had ever existed. A bit odd in that the characters have run into one of the show's Plot Coupons in the present (although it was being guarded by a sealed demon). However, they once saw the soul piper in the modern day, so there are exceptions. This is actually keeping in with Japanese mythology — youkai and lesser spirits are said to dislike electricity, and power lines create electromagnetic fields that repulse them.
- Fairy Musketeers takes place in two worlds, the world of technology and the world of magic. The two worlds were once one, however were split into two by God after a single human proved just how terrifyingly much potential humanity had if they were given access to both technology AND magic.
- In Outlaw Star the Caster Gun used by Gene is rumored to either have been forgotten technology or magical in nature. It's eventually revealed that the 'old magic' of the universe was fading and the last masters of said magic encapsulated what remained of it into caster shells so that they could still use it. Note that old magic did fade away but Tao Magic, presumably based on an inner persons capabilities, is still around and effective.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Egypt was ruled using magical artifacts and monsters and such. There was even a magician in the Pharaoh's court. The Pharaoh then locked the magic away. This lasted about 5,000 years.
- All fiction is true in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, meaning there are a bunch of fantastic lands and creatures out there. By the time of Century: 2009, however, they've mostly been destroyed or forgotten about (usually interpreted as Moore's Author Tract about the quality of modern fiction). Volume 4 continues this theme, but shows all those forgotten places and people still left a mark on the world. And in Tempest they return, at the cost of human civilization.
- Child of the Storm: Played with. This happened to the casual eye, with magical creatures and magical humans having been driven underground by the rise of humanity, leading to the formal and informal introduction of the Masquerade centuries ago — even the Gods were effectively banned from Earth about a millennium ago by the Celestials, primarily to let humanity develop in relative peace. While they still visited from time to time, they weren't allowed to do anything that would throw off human development. However, part of the premise of the story is that the events of The Avengers (2012), and more broadly, humanity's technological development (showing that they are "ready for a higher form of war", as Thor canonically puts it) and biological development, with the emergence of mutantkind, have meant that The Magic Comes Back, beginning a new age of heroes. This is treated as something of a mixed blessing — while Earth is now once more a world of wonders and marvels, it's also a lot more dangerous.
- The Three Kings: Hunt: The author has said that at the time of Camelot around three in ten humans had some form of magical power. Needless to say this is no longer the case due to the genocide against the mages. These days the mage population is probably in the hundreds of thousands, with the wizard population in the low millions and the non-magicals outnumbering both by a lot.
- The Bridge: Over 70,000 years ago on Terra, magic was quite common and fantastic races existed as a result of ambient mana changing mundane species. Fae folk and humanoid yokai like rakshasa or elves were subspecies of humans and dragons were likewise for crocodilians and large snakes. But when mana levels plummeted after Bagan caused the Toba mass extinction event, almost everything magical lost it overtime; becoming mundane humans and animals again. Fae still survive to the modern day, such as Mothra's faeries, but are extremely rare and faded to myth.
- The Flight of Dragons deals with the transition between the magical world and the world of science, framed by the wizard Carolinus as 'mankind faces an epic choice'. In the finale, when the protagonist uses logic and mathematical formulas to literally will the Big Bad out of existence, the world of magic is sealed away from mankind forever.
- The entire premise of Onward is based on the idea of a magical fantasy world losing its magic and becoming an urban fantasy over time due to laziness and technology.
- Dragonslayer is all about the transition from a magical world to this. Galen, a sorcerer's apprentice, isn't happy about magic fading from the world. Some of the villagers, though, are quite happy they won't have to be worrying about random dragon attacks anymore. In the end all the magic disappears... or has it?
- The Djinn in Wishmaster discusses how the magic and spells of the past are now forgotten, and there is nothing left to stop him with.
- Subverted in Dragonskin Slippers. Creel is convinced that dragons have been extinct for decades, as no one has seen one in living memory. Because of this, she's not too troubled by her aunt "sacrificing" her to a dragon, as it means she can go off to seek her fortune... until she's promptly carried away. Oops.
- Robert E. Howard's original Conan the Barbarian stories are said to have taken place in Earth's prehistory, when magic, monsters and godlike beings were still active forces in the world.
- Tolkien's Legendarium:
- One of the main themes in J. R. R. Tolkien's works, although it's most obvious in The Silmarillion. In fact, it is implied in some of Tolkien's letters that Middle Earth is our own world (specifically Europe and northern Africa) in the very distant past, with the implication being that all the fantastic creatures and magic were lost over time.
- This effect is still quite visible within The Lord of the Rings; at the time of the War of the Ring magic has almost completely faded from the world. The current dark lord, for example, (though enormously powerful and terrifying) is only a pale imitation of the old one, who was an order of magnitude stronger than he is, and his Ringwraiths are only shadows of the terror of his master's Balrogs, which used to be a much more powerful force in the world than the one survivor squatting under the mountains seen in the books.
- Tolkien retconned the purpose of the quest in The Hobbit to be Gandalf's move to deny Sauron a weapon of mass destruction by making this literally true. Smaug was the last great dragon left in Middle Earth (a number of weaker, lesser serpents survived in the far north), more akin to something from the First Age than the Third.
- This is very much in effect for the side of good, as well. Elven and dwarven civilization has been in steady decline for a long time, due to the elves leaving Middle Earth for the Undying Lands and the dwarves dwindling due to their race's low fertility, and their races' old empires, achievements and glories are lost and won't be regained. The once widespread ents have likewise almost completely faded from the world after the loss of their women, with only a small doomed remnant remaining in Fangorn Forest. Middle-Earth is a fantastic and magic-filled land by our standards, but by its own it is a drab, grey and mundane world when compared to its ancient past.
- Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell opens with Britain's rich history of magic having faded away by the Regency Era. Then it slowly trickles back... this trope is well summed up by a book written by a man who found spells he had once been able to cast becoming ineffective, titled A Faire Wood Withering.
- The Dark Tower has the Prim, a magic that was lost when the Old Ones brought in science.
- Larry Niven's The Magic Goes Away setting posits that magic is powered by something called Mana which is very much like other natural resources. When it was plentiful on Earth, wizards cast mighty spells and great gods ruled the Earth, but as foolish and wasteful uses drained Earth's irreplaceable mana supply, magical creatures became mundane and gods withered away into "myth", leaving nothing of the great magical civilization but confounded savages standing in crumbling empires.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- In the opening of the series, dragons have been extinct for over a century, and magic has faded to such a degree that some people think that it doesn't exist. As the series progresses, however: dragons return to the world, causing magic return to its previous potency.
- In the fourth book, it's actually hinted that the Maesters are actively trying to get rid of magic.
- The Age of Misrule plays this ramrod-straight. The only possible subversion is that, then, it starts to come back. And then gets sealed away again, but that's another story...
- The Shannara series has this with a long gone and nearly forgotten age of mythical creatures before the advent of man. The only remnants of it are the elves, Elfstones, and a magic tree that keeps demons sealed within another dimension.
- In the Liveship Traders series, people use a funky kind of magical wood found in the Rain Wild for all sorts of things, such as building ships that come alive and birth control. They eventually find out that (a) dragons used to exist (they find this out when they find a survivor), and (b) the wood was essentially dragons in utero and they killed a bunch of dragons in order to create things.
- The trilogy The New Heroes is set in a world where superheroes existed, but twenty years prior to the first book, they all disappeared for a reason unknown. The reason is later revealed, along with the fallout. And of course, given the title, The Heroes Come Back.
- In The Death Gate Cycle, Earth was full of magical beings up until about The Renaissance, then they faded out, only coming back After the End for the series.
- In The Unicorn Chronicles series, unicorns and dragons once lived on earth but human persecution forced them to migrate to Another Dimension.
- The whole premise of Terry Pratchett's Guards! Guards! novel. Big dragons can no longer exist, right...?
- The first two Discworld books exhibit this in general. In The Colour of Magic Rincewind encounters dryads in a tree and says he thought that The Fair Folk were all extinct (which they are shortly afterwards). They encounter dragons later in that same book, but they are imaginary and can only exist inside the Wyrmburg's magical field. In The Light Fantastic it's implied that trolls are also on their way out, many of them having already become immobile. Later books drop this, save for the case of Cohen the Barbarian and his Silver Horde, who are the last of the Barbarian Heroes and somewhere in their 80s.
- The dying out of barbarian heroes is less a shift from a magical world to a mundane one, and more a shift from a Heroic Fantasy world to a Dungeon Punk one. In other words, in the later books it's less that trolls are dying out, and more that they've stopped living under bridges and eating people, and started living in Ankh-Morpork and joining organised crime or the Watch. This is discussed in the short story "Troll Bridge" — Cohen the Barbarian encounters a traditionalist troll under a bridge who's still attacking travellers, and moans that his wife is nagging him to get a modern job instead.
- Played with in The First Law Trilogy. There WAS an Age of Wonder, where demons walked amongst men, monsters roamed, and great magic was wrought by the Magi... but that was a long time ago, and as far as the 'civilized' people of the Union know, it may well just be myth and legend. And indeed, they're not entirely wrong — according to Bayaz, First of the Magi, the magic is literally leaking out of the world — and even those that remain of the Magi of old are slowly growing weaker and weaker. Still, more remains of the old world than most people realize... which could come back to bite a lot of people in the ass. And the rest of their anatomy, for that matter. Ultimately, most of the problems that appear have to be solved through mundane means — politics, money, violence, or a combination of these. Attempts to call upon ancient magics or find forgotten artifacts of power tend to either backfire badly, or just fail outright.
- In Dragon Bones there is magic, but it is rumoured to have been much more powerful in the past, when there were dragons. Hurog is named after the dragons that once lived there. When the dragons left, the dwarves left, too, and while powerful magic still exists (but is hard to come by), there hasn't been a magic user born in bloodline of Hurog in a couple of centuries. It is strongly implied that this has, somehow, to do with the lack of dragons.
- The Empirium Trilogy: Godsbeasts were powerful, ancient creatures who were more in-tune to the empirium than most elementals. By Eliana's time, it's believed that they became extent or were never even real in the first place.
- Our world in The Talisman is a place where there used to be a lot more magic. Wolf can only detect the dying remnants when he makes some medicine for Jack out of weeds.
- Whether the magic has gone away, many of those associated with its practice are said to have done so. Traditionally, they left in the sixteenth century. This is the subject of the poem "Farewell, rewards and fairies" by the seventeenth-century Anglican bishop, Richard Corbet:
Witness those rings and roundelays
Of theirs which yet remain
Were footed in Queen Mary's days
On many a grassy plain.
But since of late Elizabeth,
And later James came in,
Are never seen on any heath
As when the time hath been.
- Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill, in which Corbet's poem is quoted and then Puck says:
"It's some time since I heard that sung, but there's no good beating about the bush: it's true. The People of the Hills have all left. I saw them come into Old England and I saw them go. Giants, trolls, kelpies, brownies, goblins imps; wood, tree, mound, and water spirits; heath-people, hill-watchers, treasure-guards, good people, little people, pishogues, leprechauns, night-riders, pixies, nixies, gnomes and the rest — gone, all gone! I came into England with Oak, Ash, and Thorn, and when Oak, Ash, and Thorn are gone I shall go too."
- A later chapter, "Dymchurch Flit", in the same book tells the story of how they left.
- Elantris opens with the line: "Elantris was beautiful, once." The whole prologue is about how magnificent the city was, how its very walls shone with magic, how its inhabitants were immortal and could be worshipped for eternity...
- Science and Sorcery by Christopher Nuttall reveals the old myths had a firm basis in reality when magic returns in the modern day, along with magical creatures like werewolves. People struggle to deal with this, especially when a grave threat of ancient evil sorcerers breaking free from their prison to wreak havoc also emerges.
- Dad, Are You the Tooth Fairy? asserts that centuries ago, magic existed and there were creatures like unicorns, fairies, and mermaids, but that they had to leave "because of technology".
- In The Farthest-Away Mountain, it's explained that the world used to be filled with a lot more magic and supernatural creatures, but one of the only remnants of this age is the titular mountain.
- In The Secrets of Droon, it's implied that the Upper World (Earth) used to have as much magic as Droon (and several of Droon's most powerful magic users, like Galen and Sparr were born there. It's only due to Salamandra's actions that the modern day is largely mundane.
- In Enchanted Pony Academy, humans used to have magic, but all the contradictory spells flying around (if one guy casts a spell for rain and another guy casts a spell for clear skies, what happens?), as well as the massive amounts of power used to fight off the dragons, kind of...shorted out the Background Magic Field. Now they're dependent on Bond Creatures to get anything magical done, and even then the animals have only a fraction of the power they did before.
- Mentioned occasionally in The Witcher franchise. Monsters just aren't as common as they used to be (at least the non-human kind), and thus the witchers who were specially created to hunt them are becoming obsolete.
- In The Dark Gods, the five realms were connected and had a golden age thanks to the power of quintessence. But when the four younger gods killed their older brother, they destroyed his realm and the connections between them. By the time the series starts, centuries later the four remaining realms have begun to decay and most have forgotten a fifth god ever existed. This is really bad depending on the realm. Crops are dying and the dead can't move on in the realm of life. In the realm of shadows a star and black hole are about to collide and push the entire realm into the void. Meanwhile the gods either don't care or are too weak to stop it.
- In The Dragon DelaSangre, the human race came to rule the earth and lost their fear of dragons, knowing the monsters could be killed if enough humans attacked at once. "By the time of the beginning of recorded history, only a few dozen of our families were left."
- A rare example that sets the modern era in the "age of magic" is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. According to the spin-off comic, Fray, at some point in the future the magic gets sealed away. At present, it appears that this point in the future is the end of Buffy Season 8.
- The opening narration to the first episode of Carnivàle says that man "forever traded wonder for reason" on the day of the A-bomb test at Trinity.
- Game of Thrones: The Targaryens once ruled Westeros from the backs of their dragons, but by the start of the series dragons have been extinct for over a century. Their skulls are kept as heirlooms, their bones are used in things like dagger hilts, and their fossilized eggs are priceless curiosities. That is, until Daenerys hatches three dragons at the end of Season 1.
- The opening narration of Merlin "In a land of myth, in a time of magic..." seems to indicate this.
- Implied in all mythologies. The big Elephant in the Living Room, back when those myths were believed, was that in the past you had heroes and magic and gods running around, but by the time of those telling the story, all such things had vanished with no explanation. This is Double Subverted in medieval European chronicles themselves, where they took The Time of Myths to be when the early parts of The Bible were set, and then there were about 1500 years of no supernatural things (with one exception) occurring during Ancient Rome.
- Earthdawn and Shadowrun are two roleplaying games that take place in a world where magic ebbs and flows over the eons. The term "Worlds" is used to distinguish a period when the mana levels are high enough to support magic or nearly nonexistent. Earthdawn takes place in the Fourth World, when the Standard Fantasy Races are commonplace and magic is a steady trade. The Fifth World is the present day (well, an Alternate History version of "the present day" that splits off around 1999), when magic is nearly nonexistent. The Sixth World of Shadowrun begins in 2012, with the return of dragons, magic, and the old races.
- GURPS Technomancer: Since the magic came back, most people assume the legendary past was actually high mana, even though there's no evidence to support this.
- GURPS Thaumatology: Age of Gold: The setting is a 1930's pulp reality with magic on the way back. The triggering event was the discovery of the Philosopher's Stone in ancient tombs — apparently common enough in the distant past, its rediscovery is leading to a renaissance of magic research and even the emergence of magically-powered super-heroes.
- Although Mage: The Ascension is more a The Magic Goes Away narrative (or more "The magic is driven underground by careful curtailing of the collective unconscious"), elements of this filter through with the Bygones. Some supernatural creatures with ties to humanity will always be part of the Consensus on some level, and while the Technocracy can try to keep them in check, they can't get humanity to just stop thinking of ghosts, vampires, or werewolves. However, creatures such as dragons, unicorns, and gryphons always existed half in myth. Nowadays, trying to exist in static reality is painful, if not fatal, to Bygones, and they can only exist in the Umbra or in places where the Consensus is bent enough to allow the existence of fantastic creatures.
- Magic: The Gathering: The plane of Tarkir is unique in that there are no dragons present. There were dragons once, but they have been extinct for a long time. The plane's people still revere the dragons' memory, with each faction's philosophy based on whatever trait of the dragons they believed was the best one. Interestingly, The Magic Comes Back here is carried out by changing the past such that it never actually went away.
- In Nomine: Uriel's Purity Crusade resulted in the near-total extermination of Earth's mythical creatures. Some managed to survive by fleeing into the Deep Marches, but others were utterly wiped out. Dragons are a particularly notable examples; Uriel and his servants were very thorough in eradicating all the ones they found on Earth and then destroying all the ones in the Marches, and something seems to be preventing any new dragons from arising — any spirit that embodies or comes to resemble a draconic Image will quickly fade away.
- Rifts: Earth was once a magical place, until the sealing of Atlantis also took most of the magic away, too. It came back in a big way: the reemergence of magic and the opening of several (hundred/thousand) interdimensional portals was caused by the mystical aftershocks of millions of lives being simultaneously wiped out by atomic bombs being used on population centers... at noon on the winter solstice during a total eclipse of the sun and at least one planetary alignment, effectively a mass human sacrifice at the worst possible time, when mystic energy was more or less under a 100x multiplier. Unfortunately, planets use things like Earthquakes, volcanoes, and hurricanes as magic pressure release valves...
- Warhammer 40,000: Replacing magic with technology, you have the Dark/Golden Age of Technology, when Mankind had access to unbelievably awesome technology. Nowadays finding the tiniest scrap of it makes a man rich beyond his wildest dreams.
- Warhammer Fantasy: The world, while still plentifully enmagicked, has lost a lot of it since the olden days because of the elves creating the Vortex on the Isle of the Dead, greatly decreasing magical potency and also preventing daemons from rampaging across the world. Incidentally, this may have caused the dragons themselves to fall asleep as well.
- Dwarf Fortress randomly generates a world history for each new game, and divides it into Ages. Some are defined specifically by the fading of wondrous creatures from the world:
- If the world history includes the death of most Forgotten Beasts and Megabeasts and humanity has become a dominant civilization, the game enters the Age of Twilight.
- If magical creatures in general — elves, dwarves, monsters and so on — make up less than 10% of the world population, the world enters the Age of Fairy Tales.
- If there are no magical creatures at all, the world enters the Age of Civilization.
- God of War seems to have an interesting explanation as to why there are no Greek gods or monsters anymore: Kratos killed the lot of them.
- Chrono Trigger:
- There once was the Kingdom of Zeal, a Floating Continent whose existence was based around the use of magic. There are almost no clues of its existence in any other eras (although Lost Technology and a few refugees make appearances here and there), and, this being a Time Travel story, you eventually find out why.
- Inverted: you go back far enough, you come out to before there was magic (this is why the party member from that time, Ayla, can never learn it). Psionics, on the other hand, exist... and are used by the Reptite dinosaur-people. The only reason humanity survives to reach the age of magic as opposed to the more advanced Reptite civilization? Sheer luck — Lavos took out the Reptite capitol when it hit Earth and the Ice Age killed the rest. This is a (very confusing) plot point in Chrono Cross.
- In The Longest Journey, magic was integral part of our world... ca. twelve thousand years ago. But since Man Grew Proud, all magic and magic wielders had to be exiled into Another Dimension called Arcadia to prevent humanity from destroying itself. The Earth as we know it (which is called Stark to differentiate between it and the real Earth) became the world of science and the onset of the game sees Arcadia starting to "leak back" into Stark.
- Dreamfall: The Longest Journey has the Barrier restored to full strength, cutting off magic from Stark. However, this results in the Collapse, with most advanced technology (e.g. Anti-Gravity, Faster-Than-Light Travel) simply ceasing to work. Many fans speculate that this means that these technologies are impossible through pure science and that humans in Stark were using magic without knowing it. This would partly explain the alarming frequency of Anti-Gravity accidents, as magic is inherently unstable.
- By that same token, Arcadia in the sequel is much different. Magic and magical creates were everywhere in the first game. However, in-between the games, a horde has devastated the land, leaving it vulnerable to the magic-hating Azadi Empire, who chase away the horde but refuse to leave afterwards. All magic-users and magical creates are herded into ghettos. This is despite the fact that all Azadi "inventions" are, obviously, Magitek due to the fact that laws of physics are in constant flux in Arcadia, thus necessitating the use of magic to stabilize them enough for things like steam engines to work.
- In Tales of Symphonia, the world of Sylvarant goes through this repeatedly. An evil organization known as the Desians prey on the world's mana and slowly makes magic weaker. Each time the situation becomes sufficiently dire, The Chosen One is born to perform a pact with the goddess Martel that seals away the Desians and fully restores the mana to the world — for a time. They always return eventually, neccessitating the birth of a new Chosen. A series of plot twists eventually reveal the whole truth behind this situation, and suffice it to say it's far more complex than how it's initially presented.
- Golden Sun: The premise is that the power of Alchemy was sealed away in the distant past. Among the select few who know about the seal, conflict arises between those who want to remove the seal and those who want to maintain it. The second game explains that because Alchemy was sealed, not only was the majority of magic also sealed, but the lot of ancient technology and the methods to create things from it also went away. The sealing of Alchemy causes the world to regress to the point where there's only small towns and villages across the world and everyone doesn't understand the purpose the ancient structures like the elemental lighthouses or the elemetal rocks/mountains. On top of this, the sealing of Alchemy changed the world to become a Flat World and is slowly crumbling away. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn brings Alchemy back and reveals some ancient ruins and technology that were buried underground.
- Overlord: While magic still exists, actual dragons are extinct. In Overlord II the dwarves join them. While other magical beings such as the elves, unicorns, gnomes, fairies, mermaids, the Overlord himself and the Minions still exist, they suffer anti-magic persecution in the same game.
- This is the setting of Brütal Legend: The giant mythical beast has been dead for millenia, titans had been born, built a civilization, kicked ass and ascended to a higher plane of existence, the landscape is littered with their giant relics and the rebellion against the demons has already failed. And then The Hero shows up and inspires some.. well.. legends of his own. This goes for the age of metal compared to the modern age as well: Eddie comes from our time, and feels out of place in a world where most of the good metal has died. Then he gets transported far into the past, to a world with swords, demons, great beasts, landscapes and metal! He feels more at home there than he ever did in the 2000's.
- In the Chzo Mythos it is shown that magic used to be common and achievable in our world. Then the magic waned and almost entirely went away, which is shown to be a good thing, because the lack of magic would cause the Eldritch Abomination to die if he ever crossed over to our dimension.
- Vagrant Story centers around the last place of magic left in the world — Lea Monde. The trick is that we've seen what the world looked like with magic; it was called Final Fantasy Tactics (which was itself an example to Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy Tactics A2, which had much more advanced magic and magitechnology). What happened in the intervening centuries between each of them is unknown. (Funny enough given the trope name, there are lots of dragons in Vagrant Story.)
- Obviously, in Spyro the Dragon, there still are dragons, but this applies to the Forgotten Worlds in Spyro: Year of the Dragon. The dragons left the Forgotten Worlds long ago, and as a result the worlds' magic is dying out.
- The Dragon Age setting has elements of this trope, along with Death of the Old Gods. Griffons died out and dragons had been hunted into extinction centuries ago. However, the current century is named the "Dragon Age" specifically because of the return of dragons to the world.
- As of Last Flight, the griffons have also returned.
- In Dragon Age: Inquisition, Solas claims Thedas was far different before the humans came:
"We hear stories of them living in trees and imagine wooden ramps and Dalish aravels. Imagine instead spires of crystal twining through the branches, palaces floating among the clouds. Imagine beings who lived forever, for whom magic was as natural as breathing. That is what was lost."
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has Dragon burial mounds scattered across the landscape, having been hunted to near-extinction thousands of years ago and considered to be near-myth by the inhabitants of Skyrim. Now something is bringing them back to life and those people who considered them myth become suddenly very aware that they may have built their town right next to one.
- Legacy of a Thousand Suns takes place eons in the future, but before humans came to earth they existed on Tor'gyll with other magical creatures, including dragons, elves, dwarves and orcs.
- Metroid: In a way, the civilization of the games fits into this; the wonders of the Chozo have faded away to myth and stories, and in Metroid Prime it is shown Chozo society was, despite their unmatchable technology, closer to a magical one, what with their prophecies and ghosts. Consider as well that there is Ridley, the last space dragon flying around, and as the games advance the amount of mythically focused things seems to go down, and you have this trope Recycled In Space.
- In Dark Souls II, true dragons are practically extinct. The Guardian Dragons in the Dragon Aerie are mere wyverns. There is only one true dragon present in the game and there are hints that even that dragon might be a fake. The gods have suffered a similar fate. Barely any traces of their existence remain and even their names are long forgotten.
- In the Skyrim Game Mod Falskaar, this applies in the titular island's backstory. Dragons used to live on the island of Falskaar, but were driven away by Shor several hundred years ago and unlike Skyrim any of their corpses aren't getting up any time soon. A few Word Walls can be found around the island, but are useless and have become lairs for bears and trolls. The Walls do reactivate after the main quest is finished, but still no dragons.
- The original The Legend of Zelda happens at the end tail of "The Era of Hyrule's Decline" timeline, when magic has all but faded from the world.
- It is explained in Dies Irae and Dies irae ~Interview with Kaziklu Bey~ that in far the past, magic on a grand scale was not only common, but a main asset in society. Magic was so simple that even children knew how to fly using it. This is referred to as the Age of the Arcane by those that know of it. By the time the story takes place, magic is all but dead with only three individuals in the world being recognized as true magicians and with the Old Gods all but extinct. And what magic does exist is difficult to pull off. This is all cause the worlds God, Mercurius, who is pretty much the father of magic is nearing the end of his life and is due to soon be replaced by another God.
- Codename Hunter starts there. Then all hell breaks loose.
- In The Gods of Arr-Kelaan, it is revealed that the Earth no longer has magic or gods outside the Christian faith because for some reason all the magic power is running out of our galaxy, so they cannot even get to Earth without a VERY large outside source of energy, which the gods who started Christianity have. By the end of the storyline they lose it though, so magic is completely gone.
- In The Phoenix Requiem, magic disappeared along with the Spirits. Now that the Spirits have shown signs of returning, people want the magic back. Well, Utopia Justifies the Means...
- In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, dragons didn't die out, they just left Earth and went to live in outer space.
- Impure Blood: There used to be Ancients, but even Roan's mother was only a half-blood. There used to be monsters that the Ancients fought, too.
- In El Goonish Shive, Pandora's backstory shows magical creatures were more common in the past including actual dragons, giant magic animal hybrids and werewolves (Pandora herself is partially responsible for the absence of the latter).
- Suburban Knights: In the backstory, magic once existed side by side with science. The gradual decline of magic started when the wizard Malecite challenged the alchemist Aeon in a duel and lost. Aeon's inventions laid the foundation of the world of science and technology as we know it today, while Malecite was forced to watch all magic fade away. Technically magic still exists, both in the backstories of most of the reviewers (though how canon to the specials those are is debatable) and in the movie itself. It just is that using magic drains life force, unless one has the Hand of Malecite to protect them. In the commentaries Linkara lampshades this detail and handwaves his own painless use of magic by saying his hat protects him.
- Magic and monsters used to be prevalent in the past world of Summer Camp Island, but the advancement of human technology and industry led to magic, and people's knowledge of it, fading away entirely, with the titular island being the only magical place left on Earth.
- The SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron have had to fight supernatural villains on a few occasions. The modern skyscrapers of Megakat City are built on the ruins of a medieval citadel, from which strange things sometimes emerge... The presence of magic in the city's past is so well-known and well-studied that the cops are unsurprised when confronted with undead skeletons and the museum includes ancient spellbooks among its exhibits.
- Look in any geology or paleontology book. Giant flying reptiles? Massive beasts trudging across the land? Horrid monsters lurking in the deep? Earth's distant past was one of these!
- Of course, plenty of modern creatures would be equally outlandish to one who had never encountered them. Huge beasts with one massive horn jutting from their face? Hairy man-beasts in the jungle? Feathered, flying lizards with clawed pincers instead of a face? Familiarity, as one paleontologist has observed, breeds familiarity.
- It's also thought that the fossils left behind by these creatures may have inspired the legends of dragons and such in the first place. Mammoth skulls found in Europe and the Mediterranean during the Iron Age are thought to have given rise to legends of the cyclops (the large nasal opening for the trunk in the skull was presumably confused for a giant eye socket). It's also thought the the griffon myth may have been tied to the discovery of Protoceratops fossils in what are today Mongolia and western Siberia. Similarly, dragons are probably based on finding various dinosaur fossils, at least in part. There's a theory the unicorn came from garbled stories of rhinoceroses, as Europeans at the time would never see one.
- In addition to fossils, there are many extraordinary creatures which survived to recent enough times to have potentially influenced mythology and oral traditions of people, perhaps even providing the initial basis for creatures that would appear in tales thousands of years later. For instance there was Megalania, the perhaps 20 foot long giant monitor lizard that likely still lived when humans first colonized Australia. What's more it's living relative the Komodo dragon was once more widespread on many islands in the Pacific, and word of mouth of encounters with them could have added credibility to tales of dragons. Additionally, before widespread hunting, abnormally large individuals of living species of crocodiles, pythons and other creatures were more common and could have gained mythic status depending on who encountered them and how. Notably, many of the oldest stories/versions of dragons simply depict them as looking like very large snakes, with things like wings and fire breath being later additions.
- On a more personal level, Growing Up Sucks. Suddenly, the world isn't always such a magical, wonderful place when there are bills to pay and chores to do.
- As humanity's knowledge of the natural world increases, many of the phenomena once thought to result from magic or supernatural forces are given scientific explanations. This sometimes gives the impression that the world has become a more mundane place than it was back then.
- This is how anyone who was part of the Internet during its first ten to fifteen years feels today. We miss the magic of unfettered creativity before people realized they could make a buck off the Internet, back in the days before clickbait, before spyware, before malware and ransomware, before social media contracts that mock your rights to privacy, and before the modern need to fight for network neutrality. Sure, there was the 'blink' command and the insanity of Time Cube, but the freedom for experimentation and play really made it seem a magical time, and it didn't even last twenty years.
- There are youtube videos of the original youtuber stars puzzling over how much youtube has changed in so little time.
- The internet itself could be viewed as an example of this trope. In an era where any claim can be instantly fact-checked by reaching into your pocket and typing a few words into your smartphone, it can be hard to believe that just a few decades ago people were largely at the mercy of whatever they were told by books (which weren't always easy to come by in the first place), news media, or word of mouth. Urban legends are a lot less spooky when you can debunk them with a quick visit to Snopes.com. That said, the internet has also given birth to new mysteries and wonders, and provided a platform for communities that may not otherwise have ever come together, so in that regard the "dragons" are still alive and well. Unfortunately, it also means misinformation is equally available, with credible sites often held to be "shills" of whoever the people criticizing them dislike.
- Some users on Tumblr have theorized this is why a lot of older users from the X and Y generations have so much nostalgia for The '90s and the Turn of the Millennium—though with computer and internet technology than "magic". Between 1990 and 2010, computers and worldwide networking made absolutely massive strides forward, with the idea of a personal computer going from a large, expensive, and heavy beige box with a simple screen and noisy keyboard and requiring a lengthy dialup that was physically connected to the wall, to something that could be held in the palm of your hand, carried in your pocket, and could access the world wide web from practically anywhere. In a span of 20 years, the world suddenly became a lot more accessible—and a lot smaller in the process.
- Planet Venus. (Or Mars, perhaps less so.) Public image, nourished by science-fiction, before a probe got through, was a hot jungle full of life. At least the "hot" part was right.