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Jungle Opera
aka: The Jungle Opera

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This is a speculative tale that takes place in undiscovered or semidiscovered country in the present or "recent" past (usually no earlier than the early 20th century), supposedly on this Earth, as opposed to, say, a High Fantasy in a Medieval setting, or a Space Opera in a far future-like setting. As the title indicates, it often takes place in a tropical rain forest, though that isn't necessary. The key point is that Willing Suspension of Disbelief is provided primarily by the use of settings that are regarded as exotic, mysterious, dangerous and above all, far away by most readers, yet still on this world, rather than providing a whole imaginary world "in a galaxy far away". A typical setting, for instance, might be Hungry Jungle, Darkest Africa, The Shangri-La or Tropical Island Adventure. There are occasional similarities with Planetary Romance; the two genres can each borrow tropes normally associated with the other, and there is potential for crossovers (aliens can, for instance, kidnap the intrepid explorers, or perhaps a Planetary Romance can have a story take place on a jungle planet). However, some elements of a Jungle Opera can be less flexible than other speculative sub-genres by the nature of operating in "closer proximity" (so to speak) to Real Life.

Jungle Operas tend to feature Bold Explorers, primitive locals (who tend to be very territorial and angry), Precursors, Lost Colonies, Ancient Artifacts, and the like; ruins-filled-with-deathtraps is one of The Oldest Ones in the Book. This will also often involve Ancient Astronauts and have an Adventurer Archaeologist as one or more of the characters. Oddly enough, the experiences of Real Life explorers did sometimes bear a suspicious resemblance to this genre. We don't think that any secrets man was not meant to know have been discovered — not that anyone would admit it if there have been some. Maybe the world is not yet ready?

Often involves a Lost World. In some versions the story is about a quest to find this, and a Lost World is a MacGuffin Location. Also see Two-Fisted Tales, with which this trope usually overlaps.


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    Comic Books 
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: Many a Scrooge McDuck story.
  • The beginning of Iron Man Noir features this.
  • Marsupilami: The Marsupilami lives in the jungles of Palombia and the comics often feature the native tribe, a Great White Hunter, and foreign documentary filmmakers and industrial investors entering its wild world.
  • Any Marvel Universe comic that takes place in the Savage Land, home to Ka-Zar.
  • And in the same way, several volumes of Spirou and Fantasio, who are some of the mentioned documentary filmmakers who are the first to prove the marsupilamis' existence and take one back to France as their pet.
  • Sensation Comics: The Wonder Woman feature "In the Clutches of Nero" is about an anthropologist from Holliday College going to a recently discovered jungle island with three of his students and trying to learn about the natives there, who prove to be quite hostile.
  • Sheena, Queen of the Jungle
  • Superboy (1994): The Wild Lands are an island that is almost completely hidden from the outside world and has lost their knowledge of it. When SB ends up washed up on shore he is enslaved and drugged and has to fight his way free and tell the unaware locals that humans from the outside world are actually intelligent creatures which has been hidden by a local conspiracy that has been drugging any humans who end up on their shores to hide their sapience.
  • Tintin had this every once in a while ([[/Tintin - Tintin in the Congo Tintin in the Congo]], Cigars of the Pharaoh, Prisoners of the Sun) but Flight 714 has this with a twist: Ancient Astronauts.

    Comic Strips 

    Film — Animation 
  • Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie has Arnold and friends exploring the fictional country of San Lorenzo and exploring ancient South American ruins to find Arnold’s long-lost parents.
  • Missing Link has elements of this, although it's not entirely set in the jungle.
  • The Road to El Dorado. Two con men find a fabulously wealthy Central American city and try to save it from a Human Sacrifice-happy high priest and conquistadors.

    Film — Live-Action 

  • In Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars, the heroes travel through a portal into Another Dimension, the Lost World of Waka Waka. Waka Waka is a tropical, jungle environment, built on the ruins of an ancient, great civilization, but now the inhabitants hide in the shadows from a mysterious beast controlled by alien invaders. It's something of a parody of the genre, as the heroes aren't dashing explorers but pre-teen boys who simply happen to be more competent than all the adults. Life in Waka Waka is pretty boring, and the solution to their problems turns out to be pretty mundane.
  • The Serpent, the first novel in Jane Gaskell's Atlan series, takes place in a prehistoric civilization in ancient South America and contains such elements as giant carnivorous birds and a reptile-man villain. The rest of the saga is in the vein of a Lost World but is still rife with jungle hijinks, particularly in The City, in which the heroine returns to her former home.
  • Congo by Michael Crichton is a rare modernized version of this trope.
  • Doc Savage
  • Parodied in Eric, which says that the rainforests of the Discworld's Africa-counterpart are so full of Lost Worlds, Lost Colonies, Temples of Doom, and so on that there's barely room for the trees.
  • Clark Ashton Smith's Hyperborea stories are a borderline case. Rightly, they could more be called Sword and Sorcery stories with a Hungry Jungle setting, since they're set in The Time of Myths - a Lost World in the process of becoming lost - and don't feature any Mighty Whitey European or American explorers, but they're full to the brim with Jungle Opera tropes like dangerous abandoned cities, cave-dwelling beast men, occasional Living Dinosaurs, and more. Notably, the first of these stories, The Tale of Satampra Zeiros, is about a pair of bold explorers in the abandoned former capital of their own nation.
  • The Jack West series by Matthew Reilly.
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne in 1864, chronicles the adventures of a German researcher, Professor Lidenbrock; his adventurous nephew, Axel; and Axel's girlfriend, Grauben, as they explore some dormant lava tubes within an Icelandic volcano. Though they never get to the center of the Earth, they do discover oodles of wonders and marvels, concluding with the discovery of a lake, warmed by fumaroles, that's home to heretofore extinct dinosaurs.
  • The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling.
  • King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard is the Ur-Example.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World (1912) probably counts. The heroes end up on a lost plateau in the South American jungle with dinosaurs, ape-men, diamonds and Everything Trying to Kill You.
  • O Guarani by José De Alencar
  • Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs. One of the most widely-adapted characters ever, he also appeared in Comic Strips, Comic Books, Radio, Television (both live-action and animated), and of course Film (again, both live-action and animated). There was even a loosely-based Anime series, "Jungle King Tar-chan".

    Live-Action TV 

  • Congo is about an expedition into a jungle that uncovers a lost city and a diamond mine.


    Tabletop Games 
  • The genre is evoked by the classic Dungeons & Dragons adventure Isle of Dread, the less-classic Isle of the Ape and the fairly recent Tomb of Annihilation.
  • The "gimmick" board games Fireball Island and Forbidden Bridge, and many others, are all about this trope.
  • GURPS volume Cliffhangers has a lot about this kind of story and how to draw a typical plot of this kind.
  • The Pathfinder adventure path Serpent's Skull (exploring ancient temples in the jungle) wallows in the tropes of Jungle Opera (though the Ancient Astronauts are replaced by earthbound reptilian Precursors).
  • The theme of Venus in Rocket Age, though Ganymede could also qualify.
  • The board game Spirit Island involves European colonial powers discovering and trying to take over a newly discovered tropical island. However, you play as the island in this game.
  • Spirit of the Century frequently visits this territory.
  • The historical wargame The Sword and the Flame has a Darkest Africa variant where this applies in spades — literally, as turning a card tells you whether one of your units has just met Livingstone, been attacked by a lion, or heard drums that cause you to lose a turn in fear.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 

  • Kaza's Mate Gwenna takes place in a jungle opera setting. They deal with many of the things listed on this page and make an occasional foray out of the jungle too.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): The Jungle Opera