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Journey to the Sky

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And he later has to climb beyond the tower's top to reach Kamisama's Lookout.

"I get the feeling that little by little, we're getting closer to the sky..."
Midna, during her and Link's quest for the City in the Sky in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

At one point during a work's story, either as part of its central plot or as a Story Arc, a character wishes to reach the sky. Not in a spiritual sense when the character dies (that would be The Journey Through Death), but in a physical sense while the character is still alive. They wish to reach there for a specific purpose, be it to find a Plot Coupon, to find something or someone who might help them in the adventure, or it's mere curiosity. So the story shows the character undetaking a trip to the sky. They may do it by climbing a ladder or beanstalk, or reaching the highest floor of a building or tower (in this case, the clouds have to be seen around or beneath the floor's height, to ensure it is within the domain of the sky). As a last resort, the character might need to build something (such as a tower or a flying vehicle). The objective is the same regardless of the means.


The character may end up finding an Ominous Floating Castle or a Floating Continent. On rare occasions, the character might reach so high they find themselves in outer space or an otherworldly landscape.

This trope is Older Than Feudalism, and its popularity is attributed to religious and mythical lore as well as man's desire to learn what lies above everyday ground. It has become a frequent instance in high fantasy and science fiction media.

Compare Climbing Climax. Sister Trope to The Journey Through Death (for cases when the character dies and manifests themself afterwards as a soul aiming to either come back to life or reach the angelic sky to rest peacefully) and Stairway to Heaven (when the character's soul walks upstairs to reach the spirit realm); both of them, especially the latter, are often combined with Ending by Ascending. The next logical step of this trope is Interplanetary Voyage.


Super-Trope to:

  • Scaling the Summit: When a character aims to climb a mountain to reach its top.
  • Tower of Babel: When an entire society tries to build a tower leading to Heaven to meet God.
  • Call of the Wild Blue Yonder: For cases when a character wishes specifically to fly through the skies and enjoy doing so, either by riding a plane or becoming a bird (namely one capable of flying).
  • Beanstalk Parody: When a character climbs a beanstalk and makes a big discovery when reaching the cloudy sky. This one is often done to parody, pay homage to, or otherwise reference Jack and the Beanstalk.

The opposite of this trope is Dug Too Deep, when the character reaches Hell or a sinister location by going too far towards the opposite direction.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Battle Angel Alita: Alita's love interest Hugo dreams of going to Tiphares (Zalem), a literal city in the sky that Hugo believes is paradise. The city is supported by orbital rings, connected to a Space Elevator, and supplied by the Scrapyard below using Factory tubes that connect the ground to the sky. Hugo is so obsessed with reaching Tiphares that he falls for a scammer's false promises to take him there and steals spines trying to raise the money. He gets a bounty on his head for his crimes, and is mentally shattered by the scammer's admission that he was never going to take Hugo there. When Hugo tries to climb up to Tiphares via the Factory tubes, he gets torn to pieces by its security measures until he can't hold on and falls to his death.
  • Dragon Ball features two instances, both in the original series preceding Z:
    • During the Red Ribbon Story Arc, after Goku loses a fight to Tao Pai Pai, he's told about a sacred tower where a wise, 800-year-old anthropomorphic cat known as Karin (Korin in the English dub) lives and holds the secret to enhance one's strength. Goku, wishing to defeat Tao Pai Pai to avenge the murder of Upa's father, proceeds to climb the tower and eventually meets Karin at the very top.
    • After defeating Piccolo Sr. but being unable to revive his fallen friends due to the murder of Shenron (by Piccolo Sr. himself), Goku is told by Karin that his Power Pole was originally designed to be placed at the very tip of the tower's ceiling and then enlarged to its fullest extent so one could climb even higher and reach The Lookout, the homeland of Earth guardian Kamisama. Goku then uses the Pole to do the extra climb, as meeting Kamisama will be the only way to revive Shenron (and, subsequently, his friends) and train with him and Mr. Popo to fight and defeat Piccolo's son one day.
  • One Piece: The first half of the Skypiea Saga concerns itself with this kind of plot, as the protagonists are attempting to reach the aforementioned Skypiea, which is a island in the sky (floating above a dense mass of clouds). They manage to do so by sailing through a gigantic water spout that is conveniently timed to erupt just below the cloud mass where the island is.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann begins in a society of people forced to live underground. Kamina's dream is to reach the surface and see the sky, with the help of Simon, whose Arc Words are "The drill that will pierce the heavens". Over the course of the show, they not only reach the surface and see the sky but eventually reach space, using Humongous Mechas.

  • The Triforce Trilogy: This is a plot point retained in Breath of the Wild, from the source material of the same name (albeit adjusted to the context and tone of the fanfic). Medoh is the only Divine Beast that Link cannot physically reach on his own, as he's incapable of flight. As a result, Teba is one of the only companions that Link absolutely needs in order to infiltrate Divine Beast Vah Medoh. Thankfully, he quickly earns Teba's trust, partly because they bond as fathers who are determined to create a better world for their children.

    Films — Animation 
  • Castle in the Sky: The story is about the search for the lost kingdom of Laputa, which floats somewhere in the sky. Eventually the young protagonists (Pazu and Sheeta) have to team with a crew of Sky Pirates to get there before government agents do.
  • Despicable Me centers around Felonius Gru, the Villain Protagonist, who wishes to buy a spacecraft in order to reach the moon and shrink it so it can be grabbed. This was derived from two experiences: His rival Vector having stolen the pyramid of Giza in a similar fashion and making him jealous, and more importantly, his frustrated dream of becoming an astronaut and reaching the moon due to his lack of support from his mother.note  After many struggles, including stealing Vector's shrinking ray and funding the construction of a spacecraft, he succeeds, but at the cost of losing the trust of his adopted daughters (whom he promised to see during a ballet event) and the need to rescue them from a revenge-seeking Vector.
  • In The LEGO Movie, after Emmet and Wyldstyle meet up with Vitruvius in the Old West, the heroes venture towards Cloud Cuckoo Land, located in the skies of Middle Zealand, to assemble an army of Master Builders to defeat Lord Business.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Aeronauts portrays a pair of balloonists making a high-altitude flight so one of them can prove his theories that weather follows predictable patterns.

  • Angels & Demons: During the start of the climax, when the antimatter canister that was planted in the Vatican Necropolis is finally located, the Camerlengo quickly takes it out of its location and, once in the then-crowded St. Peter Square, mounts an helicopter with the canister at hand to fly upward as far as possible. In the book, Robert Langdon is accompanying him, and mistakenly believes that the Camerlengo tries to drop it in a lake; the real plan is to make the helicopter take the canister so high into the sky that its explosion wouldn't damage the Vatican too much. There is only one parachute in the vehicle, which the Camerlengo takes to escape (at that point, he plans to let Langdon die with the explosion because he was fearing that Langdon would find out that the whole Illuminati conspiracy was his idea all along; Langdon survives and, with the Camerlengo's betrayal fresh in his mind, eventually finds out the truth anyway). In the film adaptation, the Camerlengo drives to the sky alone, and Langdon discovers his evil plan alongside Vitoria in a different way.
  • In The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton, the titular magical tree grows right up into the clouds, and climbing to its top usually leads to some Magical Land (a different one every week), although the length of time each land stays can vary from days to hours, which can result in characters being stuck there. On one occasion, in order to rescue someone who had become trapped in the Land of Marvels, the others have to get there via the adjoining Land of Giants, which they access by climbing Jack's beanstalk.
  • From the Earth to the Moon: Originally, the plan of the members of the Gun Club was to merely shoot a large bullet to the moon for the sake of experimentation, but then a Frenchman suggested to them the idea of building a hollow projectile so they could launch themselves to the revered satellite. The voyagers manage to execute the launch, but don't actually manage to land on the moon as they end up stuck in decaying orbit and land back in the Pacific. This concept is revisited in the book's first sequel (Around the Moon), and popularized the idea of Interplanetary Voyage in science fiction and eventually real life.
  • Jack and the Beanstalk has the eponymous protagonist climb the magical beanstalk that grew overnight out of a set of magical beans he obtained by trading a cow he was supposed to sell for money. When Jack reaches the top, he discovers a castle inhabited by giants.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Once Upon a Time: First in season 2, and multiple subsequent times, characters climb a beanstalk to reach the kingdom of the giants.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • The Bible has a unified, single-language civilization attempt to build a tower in Shinar, the Tower of Babel, in order to reach Heaven and meet God. God Himself does not approve of this, so He makes it so the builders end up speaking different languages to make communication impossible, thus rendering them unable to proceed with the tower's construction.
  • In Classical Mythology, Bellerophon attempted to fly to Mount Olympus on Pegasus, but his mount was stung by a gadfly, causing Bellerophon to fall into a thorn bush and lose his eyesight as a result.
  • In Mande Mythology, Ndomayiri fashioned an iron chain which he climbed up to the sky. In those days there was no moon, so Ndomayiri crafted one from iron. When the crescent moon appears, he is heating it up. When the full moon appears, it means he has finished his work. Unfortunately for mankind, the chain to heaven broke after Ndomayiri’s ascent and death came into the world.
  • In Serer Mythology, the Mbos tree once grew until it reached heaven. Roog was displeased by this intrusion and cut off its head, demanding it stay closer to earth. The tree was ashamed and intertwined its branches so nobody could climb it. The first humans took refuge under it.

    Video Games 
  • In Etrian Odyssey II and V, this is the end result of reaching the top of the Yggdrail Labyrinth (I and III revolves around going downward instead, IV is about simply reaching the Yggdrasil and Nexus is about traveling around it to access it at the end). In II, the highest stratum is the Forbidden Wood, a sacred forest where the Overlord (the then-defeated Big Bad) encased his deadliest creations; it takes cues from the biblical Eden, and there are floating islands one can reach by using warp points. In V, the highest stratum is the Empyreal Bridge, which takes the player's character party to the realm of outer space, well beyond the atmosphere of the planet.
  • Kirby Air Ride: This is actually quite easy to do. In City Trial mode, there are a few ramps- and a volcano- that will launch you straight to a transparent, circular object in the sky that you can climb on top of. Despite not looking much like a garden, it's referred to in-universe as "the garden in the sky". The first time you do it, you'll unlock an achievement.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap: Link has to climb to the top of the Veil Falls to find a tornado that takes him to the Cloud Tops. There, he has to traverse through a maze-like area (and hovering from one part to another with mini-tornadoes in the process) to find another big tornado and reach the Palace of Winds, where the last Plot Coupon (the Wind Element) can be found.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: The Mirror of Twilight is shattered into four fragments, and the last such piece lies in the City in the Sky, homeland of the Oocca. To reach it, Link has to travel across Hyrule to find some ancient statues and move them with the Dominion Rod (which in turn needs to have its power restored by completing a prior task) to acquire the characters in sky language written beneath them. Doing this will complete a text that, once read by Shad in the basement of Renado's sanctuary, allows a nearby statue to be moved with the Rod and reveal a Sky Cannon. Unfortunately, the Cannon is broken, so Link and Midna have to transport it to Lake Hylia and pay 300 Rupees to Fyer so he repair it. Only then can the young hero use it to launch himself skyward and reach the City in the Sky.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword:
      • Guld, the leader of the Mogma tribe, tells Link during the last arc of the game that he's tired of the usual lifestyle of digging underground through Eldin Volcano in search of treasure, and wishes to spend his retirement time living in a very high place to enjoy the scenic view of the sky. Link fulfills his wish by taking him (with the help of Scrapper) to Pumpkin Landing, one of the floating islands in the sky. Once there, Kina entrusts him the job of plowing the pumpkins' field (which is why Link looked for him in the first place), but he's very happy with this. When Link returns to Eldin Volcano and is asked by another Mogma what happened to Guld, he responds by saying that Guld is "in the sky"; the Mogma is saddened to hear that because he thinks Guld died and didn't realize that Link was talking in a literal sense.
      • The case of Link and Zelda is an inversion. The two already live in the sky, alongside the other students of the Knight Academy and of Skyloft's population. But during the game's prologue, Zelda feels like something or someone from the surface is calling her, though she tries to brush it off. After she's forcefully taken downward by Ghirahim, Link is guided by sword spirit Fi to the inside of the Goddess Statue, where they open a hole in the clouds connecting to the surface. With the encouragement of Zelda's father (Gaepora), Link embarks on a journey to the earth in order to find his childhood friend.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: One of the Divine Beasts corrupted by Calamity Ganon is Vah Medoh, which has since begun to fly across the northwestern skies and terrorize the Rito tribe. When Link reaches Rito Village, he is tasked by the Rito chieftain (Kaneli) to find a way to free the Beast, for which he has to find Teba and ask him to take him to the sky in order to reach Vah Medoh (being a Rito, Teba can fly). After Link earns Teba's trust (by passing a target test), the two embark on the travel and reach their destination; however, they'll also need to disable the Beast's protective barrier by destroying its energy sources with Bomb Arrows while avoiding the Beast's ballistic attacks. Once that is done, Link is able to enter the Beast and start looking for a way to save it.
  • Ōkami:
    • As Amaterasu and Issun explore the islands of West Ryoshima Coast, they eventually reach one in which the fabled Catcall Tower was erected. As they try to figure out the origin of the meows (audible even in the surroundings of the island), they proceed to climb it thanks to the luminous golden marks left by Kabegami, the god of walls and one of the 13 brush gods. It's a very tall tower divided into eight levels (the number is not a coincidence), its top is shrouded into the clouds and has a large cat statue. Reaching there and feeding the nearby cat (the one who is meowing) summons Kabegami, who proceeds to grant Amaterasu the Catwalk ability; this skill proves useful later for the location of the Dragon Palace, the homeland of the now-enraged Water Dragon.
    • At the end of the game, after Amaterasu manages to defeat Yami the Lord of Darkness, she and Waka start piloting the now-purified Ark of Yamato to embark their trip to the realm of heavens, since their duties to protect Nippon have only begun.
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team: The Very Definitely Final Dungeon is Sky Tower which, as the name implies, is a tower floating in the sky and is made up of clouds. It has a total of 34 floors, of which the last nine comprise the Sky Tower Summit. The heroes need to head there and reach the highest floor to request help from Rayquaza, one of the Olympus Mons, in stopping a meteor from destroying the planet, for which they have to defeat it in battle. The first arrival can be done with the Teleport Gem, but in the postgame the object is damaged so the tower can only be reached with the Fly ability (this is no longer necessary in the game's remake).
  • Stella Glow:
    • 1000 years before the events of the game, Elcrest, Xeno, Dr. Veronica and the witches of that era climbed the Yggdrasil to reach the moon in order to meet Mother Qualia, as they aimed to kill her and save humanity. The Yggdrasil, from its roots to the upmost branches, have provided a physical link between the Earth and the Moon, which allowed the aforementioned travelers to climb onto the whereabouts of Mother Qualia. Unfortunately for them, their mission failed when Xeno got corrupted by their enemy's influence after he put himself in Elcrest's place to save him. At his request, the others retreated by returning to Earth, but Elcrest ended up dying anyway due to his wounds, and wouldn't return to life until 985 years later as Alto, the game's protagonist.
    • In the present time, after a series of critical events in the last two chapters, culminating with Marie's abduction, Alto and his friends resolve to travel to the moon by navigating through one of Yggdrasil's roots to kill Mother Qualia for good; during their journey, they face strong opposition from the angelic army at key points, which requires defeating them in battle so the characters can finally reach their destination.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Super Mario Bros. 2: The last level of World 6 has Mario and his friends climb a series of tall beanstalks that take them well above the usual Shifting Sand Land of that world, and reach a pyramid in the sky where the boss (Tryclyde) awaits. This part of the game is not only important for the conclusion of the world, but also because it leads to the next world, set in the cloudy skies, as it's there where Big Bad Wart lies.
    • Super Mario Bros. 3: One of the invaded kingdoms is located in the Sky. World 5 starts as Mario and Luigi venture through a few land-based levels and then reach a spiral tower whose top has a blue beanstalk leading to the sky portion of the world's map. The spiral tower is played as if it was a Fortress, but Boom Boom (the usual Mini-Boss who would guard it) is absent.
    • Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins: Space Zone takes it further. To get there, Mario has to reach the top of a tall plateau in the overworld map and enter a level where he uses a hovering Hippo bubble to travel upward (and gather coins in the process) until he reaches outer space. This procedure has to be repeated whenever he wants to return there.
    • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars: While searching for the sixth Star Piece, Mario and his team are sent to Bean Valley, at the end of which is a series of beanstalks that leads to Nimbus Land, a city in in the clouds where Mallow was born.
    • Paper Mario: The Origami King: The Great Sea segment focuses chiefly on Mario completing a series of puzzles needed to unlock the Sea Tower, followed by ascending it in order to reach Shangri-Spa, an earthly paradise/spa resort mix floating high up in the sky.
    • Newer Super Mario Bros. Wii, a fanmade game, has World 7 divided into two parts: The first is Sky Mountain, in whose last level (Beanstalk Ascent) Mario has to climb a series of beanstalks to reach outer space. This is revealed to be the setting of the world's second half, Starry Skies, and it's there where one of Bowser's Koopalings (Ludwig von Koopa) awaits.
  • Touhou Shoujo Tale of Beautiful Memories: Reimu and many of the friends she meets along the way need to go above the clouds to reach the Heaven to find one of the twelve Boundary Fragments.
  • A Very Long Rope to the Top of the Sky: The starting Sibling Team, after fighting their first boss, climbs the titular rope to a Floating Continent.

  • Pomp's Pomps: This is the premise of the chapter "Space-goers", which also combines Wacky Racing with In a Single Bound. Two Pomps compete to see who reaches higher after the first jump; one of them gains momentum by stomping on the other, and then flutters its legs to gain even more. The Pomp reaches outer space, and realizes too late that it's unable to breath there. Some time later, a baby Pomp plans to do the big leap as well, but now having a space helmet at hand.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: In an episode after the introduction of Finn's father ("The Tower", from Season 6), Finn attempts to build a tower using whatever he can get his hands on so he can find his dad and take revenge on him. He starts to asphyxiate as he gets higher into the atmosphere, passing out once he hits space.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: The Season 4 episode "They Call Him Mr. Ed" revolves around the Eds trying to build a tower of junk (the Sky Elevator) to reach the moon, for which they start a business known as Ed Co. and convince people from the cul-de-sac to help this cause. They actually do end up reaching the moon, but their attempts to grab it cause the tower to fall, ending the episode with them holding on for dear life.
  • The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: In the Season 3 episode "Pooh Skies", the animals who live in the Hundred Acre Woods believe erroneously that the sky is tearing apart (the misunderstanding originated when Pooh tried to grab a beehive from a tree and ends up knocking a cracked eggshell instead). So they travel into the clouds to figure out what's going on.
  • Ninjago: In the fifth episode of Season 5, "Peak-a-Boo", the ninja use their mechs to climb the tallest mountain in Ninjago, the Wailing Alps, to reach the "Blind Man's Eye", a storm cyclone which is one of the only ways to travel to the alternate realm known as the "Cloud Kingdom".
  • Rupert: In Episode 6 of Season 3 ("Rupert And The Cloud Pirates"), Rupert and Bill are greeted by a friendly, sentient cloud (Dewey) who needs to return to the rainy sky. When this cloud takes them above the stormy cumulus, they come aboard a skyship (led by Captain Peebles) that has been stranding since the disappearance of the Four Winds that regulate weather. It's later revealed that the Four Winds were abducted by cloud pirate Captain Stubbs, so the characters aim to rescue them from the villain to restore the weather before it's too late.
  • South Park: In Episode 12 of Season 6 ("A Ladder To Heaven"), the boys (Stan, Kyle and Cartman) decide to build a ladder so they can meet Kenny (who died at the end of Season 5 and, for the longest time, hadn't done his usual revival, making everybody believe he died for real). They want to see him so they can retrieve a ticket he won alongside them in a contest, but since the adults are unaware of this intent they think the boys are still sorely missing Kenny and build the ladder to to see him again, which moves them emotionally. This becomes international news, to the point the Japanese plan to build their own ladder while the US military soldiers believe the soul of Saddam Hussein is building a chemical warfare plant in Heaven. At the end of the episode, and upon Cartman discovering that Kenny had placed the ticket in his house before dying (he learned this by reliving Kenny's memories due to having eaten his cremated remains), they decide to suspend the ladder's building. The adults, still unaware of why they wanted to build the ladder in the first place, interpret this as the boys having accepted Kenny's death and moved on, so the whole international story ends. Unbeknownst to the soldiers, it turns out Saddam's soul is building a chemical warfare plant in Heaven.
  • Steven Universe: In the Season 1 episode "Ocean Gem", Lapis steals the Earth's ocean and makes it into a tower so she can reach Homeworld. When Steven convinces her to have a polite conversation with him, Lapis admits she knows it's not going to work, as Homeworld is galaxies away and the tower is barely able to break into space, but she had to try anyway.