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North Is Cold, South Is Hot

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The Land of Always Winter to the North, the Dornish desert to the south.

It seems quite common in fantasy worlds to have an arctic or temperate climate in the northern hemisphere, and a tropical climate in the southern hemisphere, i.e., a cold north and a hot south.

In reality, it doesn't quite work this way. Planets have a cold north and a cold south, with the hottest part being in the middle. This representation probably comes from the fact that, on Earth, the majority of the population lives in the Northern Hemisphere (where most of the land is), which makes it seem true.

This is Older Than Dirt: Aristotle knew the world was round, and assumed that the south pole was just as cold as the north pole, but he believed the lands near the equator were so hot that they were impassable. To be fair, his reference for "lands near the equator" was the Sahara Desert.

The idea of the Grim Up North and The Savage South are intimately linked to this trope.

See also: Fantasy World Map, Patchwork Map.

Compare Left-Justified Fantasy Map

Played completely straight, the northern hemisphere is cold, the southern hemisphere is hot

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Played straight in Dragon Ball. The north has the barren Yunzabit (not snowy, but quite cold) and the Muscle Tower area (that has the snow), and in the south there's the tropical Papaya Island where the Tenkaichi Budokai takes place.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Year Without a Santa Claus has Snow Miser in charge of the North and Heat Miser the South. Much of the story revolves around reconciling the two so that they can allow a Southern town to have snow for Christmas. Essentially, the Southern Hemisphere is ignored.

  • Ur-Example is probably Norse Mythology. From The Other Wiki: "In the beginning, there were two regions: Muspellsheimr in the south, full of fire, light and heat; and Niflheimr in the north, full of arctic waters, mists, and cold." Between these two was Ginnungagap, into which the world was brought into existence.
  • Greek Mythology is another Ur-Example. Deities associated with the north were usually associated with the cold as well, with the most prominent example being Boreas, god of the north wind and the bringer of winter. Meanwhile southern based deities were usually associated with heat and fire, like Notus the god of the south wind and bringer of summer.

  • Since Toki Pona doesn't have a direct word for "north" or "south" speakers sometimes use "lete" (meaning "cold") to mean "north" and "seli" (meaning "hot) to mean "south".

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted does play it straight, but the world isn't a planet — all of existence is bordered by the four Elemental Poles, which separate it from the Primordial Chaos. The Pole of Fire is in the south, and Air, which also covers coldness, in the north.
  • Played straight in Anima: Beyond Fantasy, where the northern part of Gaïa is tundra or worse and the southern one jungles and the like. Justified in that magic was used to divide the planet in three regions, each one of them even if the world itself was not physically divided appearing as an independent planet for their inhabitants.

    Video Games 
  • Played straight in World of Warcraft: in the south, you will find Tanaris, Stranglethorn Vale and the Swamp of Sorrows. In the north, you have Northrend.
    • Although the Grim Up North with all the Dwarves in it is... roughly equatorial. Sure, equatorial mountains are cold, but that doesn't change the fact that the middle of the world consists of frigid valleys, frigid-er peaks, and the Scottish — err, Twilight Highlands. (Well, and Searing Gorge.)
    • This is a recurring theme not only in the world design but also the continent design.
      • Kalimdor: The deserts of Silithus and Tanaris and the jungle of Un'goro in the south, the snowy mountain of Winterspring in the north.
      • Eastern Kingdoms: Excluding the Lordaeron sub-continent, you have the Stranglethorn Vale jungle and Blasted Lands desert in the south with the snowy mountains of Dun Morogh in the north.
      • Northrend: The relatively hospitable Borean Tundra and Howling Fjord in the south, the bitterly cold Storm Peaks and Icecrown glacier in the north.
      • Pandaria: The Krasarang Wilds jungle in the south, the snow-covered Kun-Lai Summit in the north.
      • Draenor: The warm plains of Nagrand to the south, the snow-covered Frostfire Ridge just to the north.
      • Broken Isles: The fel volcanoes of the Broken Shore to the south, the snow-covered Highmountain to the north.
  • The world map of Final Fantasy II has a vast snowfield stretching on the northern hemisphere and two deserts and a tropical island on the southern hemisphere.
  • Played straight in Nox, where you start off in the south and move upwards on the map until you reach the villainess' lair in the Grim Up North.
  • Trials of Mana not only has the snowy Frostbite Fields to the north and the arid Scorching Sands to the south, but due to the Law of Cartographical Elegance's looping property, the "hot" and "cold" places aren't even very far from each other.
  • The SNES game ActRaiser literally lets you play as God, and you have to save the world you created from the demon Tanzra by defeating his minions. It's safe to say therefore that the map represents the entire known world. And it consists of Aitos and Northwall in the north, Fillmore and Bloodpool around the center, and Kasandora and Maranha in the south.
  • Freedom Planet 2 plays this straight in regards to the world map: The northern kingdom of Shuigang is covered up in snow; being set in a mountainous region, whereas the southern islands of Parusa is a tropical getaway with sunny beaches, lush jungles and a volcano.

Played straight, but the map does not show the whole world, so the worldsetting may, in fact, have a cold north and cold south.

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  • In Dragon Bones, the protagonist lives in Shavig, which is in the north, and has very cold winters. Towards the south, the climate becomes more temperate. It seems that the map only shows the northern part of the world, (the equivalent of Europe), so there could be a North Pole, and a South Pole somewhere.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, The southernmost land that plays a major role in the story, Haradwaith, is a hot desert, and the wastes at the northern edge of the map are the coolest.
    • The parts of Middle Earth that we see are explicitly modelled on Europe - the people (called "Southrons") who come from further south are clearly African, while those from the east ("Easterlings") are middle-eastern with some Indian influence. So it's clearly implied that the world is similar to the real world, the protagonists just don't see or know much about most of it.
  • In The Chronicles of Narnia, temperate Narnia is north, and desert Calormen is south. Then the map stops, with no equator getting involved.
  • In Inheritance Cycle, the southern kingdom of Surda is hot with dark-skinned inhabitants, while the north, if not cold, is more temperate. The rest of the world, however, stays unexplored.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the south is warmer than the north. In the continent of Westeros, the North is freezing, while the southernmost kingdom, Dorne, is Mediterranean. The southernmost continent is described as jungly, though the known world does not extend far from its northern coast.
  • Jennifer Roberson's Tiger and Del series primarily focuses on the desert south (Tiger's homeland) and the frozen north (Del's homeland), but this seems to be a single continent rather than the whole world.
  • The First Law: The North is cold, Midderland in the middle is temperate, and Ghurkul in the south is hot.
  • Earthsea has the very cold northern lands of the archipelago and the tropical islands in the south. Given the scale given on the map, the entire archipelago fits between the equator and pole of an Earth-sized planet. But nobody has been able to travel around the entire planet or to the other hemisphere to see if there is any land there.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones, being based on the book series A Song of Ice and Fire, plays this straight. The farther north you go in Westeros, the colder it gets, progressive from the southernmost deserts of Dorne to the arctic glaciers beyond the Wall in the north.
    • House of the Dragon, being set in the same world a few hundred years prior, has no scene set in the North in Season 1 but it does get mentioned along with the Wall, and the one Stark seen in the series so far, Lord Rickon, is obviously clothed for winter.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power shows Galadriel traveling to the Northern extreme of Middle-earth, in the range of mountains named Forodwaith, which translates as the "Northern Waste". The southernmost part of the continent are the Southlands, which seem to have a temperate climate.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Played straight for the known continents in The Dark Eye, especially the main setting Aventuria.
  • In Birthright's world of Aebrynis, the main (human-)inhabited continent is Cerilia, which is populated by several Fantasy Counterpart Cultures. In the north live the Rjurik (Norse) and the Vos (Russian/Mongol) while in the south live the Khinasi (Arabs). There are two continents south of Cerilia which are not described in detail: one is Aduria, which was the original human homeland but is now arid and sparsely inhabited, and the other is Djapar, home to the nomadic Basarji who are the ancestors of the Khinasi. Any lands further south than these are not mentioned or mapped out.

    Video Games 
  • Seal Clubbers from Kingdom of Loathing are barbarians who "hail from the frigid Northlands, because one character class always hails from the frigid Northlands" and who can summon seals so they can club them. The southwest is a desert area (particularly South of the Border), but the southeast is not discernibly tropical.
  • The Elder Scrolls: Played straight in general for the continent of Tamriel, where every game in the series to date has taken place. The northern regions contain snowy mountain ridges as well as arboreal and pine forests. The northernmost mainland province is snowy Skyrim, which is primarily tundra and taiga, with forests along the border regions. Tamriel's northernmost landmass is the island of Solstheim, which is largely a frozen over rock with perpetual glaciers in its northern regions. Southern Tamriel contains the deserts of Elsweyr and the jungles/swamps of Black Marsh. In the southwest lie the semi-tropical Summerset Isles. Loose Canon maps showing Tamriel's position on the planet (Nirn) typically show it just north of the equator, largely justifying the trope. That said, there are some quirks and possible exceptions, though they could be explained by the geography. For example, much of northern Morrowind is on the same latitude as Skyrim, but Morrowind is much more temperate with a varied climate. This could be explained by the large mountain range (the Velothi Mountains) separating the two provinces, blocking Skyrim's cold winds entering Morrowind, as is the case for numerous real-life mountain ranges.
  • The land of Calradia in Mount & Blade is quite distinctly this, specifically in Warband. The map is freely rotated and is oriented with the Slavic Vaegirs in the north and the Persian-like Sarranids in the south, in tundra and desert environments respectively. However, this is only part of the world; the expanses of open space the map edges suggest that the tundra and desert go on for effectively forever.
  • Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The southwest of the map is the Gerudo Desert, with the rest of the south being a long, tropical jungle parallel to a wide beach. The northwest has the Hebra region, which is the coldest area in the game, and the northeast has the autumnal, temperate Akkala. The sun and moon are always to the north, though, which would place Hyrule in the southern hemisphere.
  • In Dishonored, the northernmost known country is the eternally frozen Tyvia. The London-esque Dunwall is further south. Even further south is Serkonos which is portrayed as rather warm and temperate. Pandyssia is portrayed as existing somewhere to the south-east of the Empire and is covered in tropical jungles.
  • Played Straight for certain regions of the Pokémon world where the cold, snowy areas are to the north. These include Sinnoh, Unova, Kalos, and Galar, all of which are based on places in the Northern Hemisphere (Hokkaido, New York state, mainland France, and Great Britian, respectively).
  • Betrayal at Krondor: The furthest north part of the map is an icy wasteland populated by dark elves, and indeed their capital city is the northernmost point in the game. The southernmost point in the game is the good-guys' capital city, Krondor, which is a bit north of some deserts that are unreachable in gameplay, but visible on the world map.
  • Paper Mario 64: The world map only displays the immediate neighboring areas of the Mushroom Kingdom. That being said, the Dry Dry Desert from Chapter 2 and Lavalava Island from Chapter 5 are all to the south, while the Shiver Snowfields from Chapter 7 are all to the north.
  • The Fire Emblem games each take place on their own continents, and while it's unclear where the equator lies, they often follow this trope.
    • Fire Emblem Gaiden has Zofia, to the south, be warm and fertile, although the deserts are slightly to the north of the castle. Meanwhile, Rigel, to the north, is cold and barren.
    • Fire Emblem: Awakening has the snowy lands of Regna Ferox to the north and the deserts of Plegia to the south.
    • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, similar to Gaiden, the Adrestian Empire, to the south, is relatively warm, while the northern reaches of the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus are described as cold.
    • Fire Emblem Engage takes place on the ring-shaped continent of Elyos, which is divided into four kingdoms. The Kingdom of Elusia, which is in Elyos' northeast, is a land covered in snow, while the southeastern Queendom of Solm is a desert. To a lesser extent, the southwestern Kingdom of Firene is warm and has good farmland, while the northwestern Kingdom of Brodia is rocky and barren.
  • In Might and Magic VI, most of the northern third of Enroth is covered in snow, while the deserts are to the southwest.

Inversions, aversions, etc...

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Parodied in One Piece: Monkey D. Luffy seems to literally believe this, as which direction feels warmest/coldest is how he determines north and south. This despite the latitude having no apparent relation to the temperature in the mostly island-based world he lives in (particularly in the Grand Line, where the climate of individual islands seems completely random).
    • Averted - if only offhandedly - in the flashback to Shanks' and Buggy's past, where they're actually arguing over whether the North Pole or the South Pole is colder. This indicates the locations are known to exist in the One Piece world, though the Straw Hats may or may not ever travel there.note 
  • Inverted in Maoyu, where the far south of the human world is depicted as a freezing polar region, and although the far north could be assumed to be a polar region as well, the northern-most lands depicted in the series seem to be primarily hot and arid.

  • Averted in Dragonlance, where the bulk of the stories take place in a Southern Hemisphere continent.
  • Averted in The Stormlight Archive, where the map indicates that the continent the story takes place on is in the southern hemisphere.
  • Averted in the Chalion series; the titular medieval-Iberia analogue is somewhere in the southern hemisphere; the Roknari, whose role in history parallels the Arabs, come from a desert archipelago to the north.
  • Averted in The Bitterbynde Chronicle, where the archipelago of Erith is set in a southern hemisphere. To the north the seas are bound by a "Ring of Storms" that is seemingly impassable.
  • Inverted in Book of the New Sun where south is frequently described as frigid.
  • Averted in The Black Magician Trilogy and associated books - Kyralia, the main setting of the series, is clearly in the southern hemisphere of its world: it's temperate in climate, while the countries to the north are hotter and more arid. It may be relevant that the author is Australian.
  • Averted in Mistborn where the Final Empire is generally temperate (despite some inhospitable elements) but it's later revealed that the Final Empire is actually near the north pole and had been moved there when the Lord Ruler screwed up the climate of the planet by moving the planet's orbit closer to the sun.
  • Inverted in Wise Phuul, which is set in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Averted in The Fifth Season, which is set on a supercontinent that stretches from the Arctic to the Antarctic.
  • Inverted in the Ciaphas Cain novel ''The Traitor's Hand", which takes place on a Tidally Locked Planet, whose "hot" pole has been designated as north pole.
  • Inverted in Harry Turtledove's Darkness Series, for both north-south and east-west. The main continent, a Eurasia analogue, is in the southern hemisphere with "Japan" in the far west and the other main players on the eastern side, with the North Africa analogue to the south being The Land of the Ice People.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Averted in the Forgotten Realms setting as a whole, which takes place on the planet Toril. This trope is true of Faerûn, the continent 90% of the material is set in, which goes from the Great Glacier in the far north to downright tropical areas in the south. However Faerûn is explicitly just one continent of many (equivalent to Europe, western Asia, and the northern half of Africa in terms of Earth's geography, which is similar). Whether the other continents play it straight depends on their location on Toril: Kara-tur, east of Faerûn, plays it straight, while Zakhara to the south inverts it, and Maztica (effectively the Americas) goes from cold to hot to cold.
  • Averted in Warhammer, which, as with Lord of the Rings, is heavily based on real world Europe. The Chaos Wastes to the north are cold and populated by over-the-top Vikings, while the south has deserts that were home to an ancient civilisation with a bit of a mummy obsession. It's clearly shown that there is more world beyond this and that the utmost south is also frozen, it's just that travelling there is too dangerous for much information to reach the Old World.
  • Numenera: The region of Matheunis, known in-universe as the Cold Desert, is at the southernmost point of the map, and things like the Caecilian Jungle are located closer to the northern edge.

    Video Games 
  • Inverted in Dragon Age. Normally, the game doesn't directly call attention to it, but you head south to reach first a tundra and then a frozen area populated only by nomads. Up north near Tevinter the weather is far more tropical. Fereldan is disliked in part for being cold and muddy as the most southern large nation on the continent. The fact that "frozen wastes" are located on the southern edge of the map has reportedly confused many a fantasy fan.
  • Averted in Civilization IV, the player can choose how the map is arranged and what temperatures go in which direction.
  • Dungeon Siege has some interesting examples:
    • The Kingdom of Ehb map has a temperate south, and a north of extremes. The northwest is snowy and frigid, while the northeast is sandy and arid.
    • The Utraean Peninsula mostly plays the trope straight, except for one particular instance: the most important snowy area is in the south, and is positioned just north of the Endless Desert. One cannot directly access the two regions from one another, however.
  • When creating smaller maps by Procedural Generation, Dwarf Fortress will pick at random between north or south being the colder direction. Larger maps will have two polar regions and a hot equator.
  • Weyard, the setting of Golden Sun, has icy areas in the far north and south. This despite being a Flat World and thus having no particular reason why the coldest regions would be at the far opposite edges of the map.
  • Golf Story: Inverted with Coldwind Wastes, which is the southernmost course, and Bermuda Isles, which is north of Wellworn Grove (though not the northernmost). Justified when the zoom-out at the end of the game reveals the world map to be Australia, which, being in the southern hemisphere, would naturally be colder to the south and warmer to the north.
  • Inverted in Illusion of Gaia, where the climate is quite pleasant in the south and gets hotter in the north. And is hottest of all in the northwest...
  • Inverted in Epic Battle Fantasy 4, where the desert area is in the north of the world map and the snowy area is in the south.
  • Played with in Harvest Moon One World, where the coldest region of Salmiakki is to the north-west and the tropical Halo Halo village is to the south-east. The hottest part of the world, though, is the desert tucked more to the east, above the tropical location.
  • Harvest Moon The Winds Of Anthos has the coldest areas taking up the north-west corner of the world map, and the beach, alongside a Volcano, are found in the far south-east. The hottest area is the desert, which is in the eastern part of the world, but surrounded by grasslands on one side and the mountains on the other, leaving it a sort of hot spot on the map.
  • Pillars of Eternity is stated to be set in the Eastern Reach, a temperate region of Eora's southern hemisphere. Your boreal dwarf teammate Sagani is from the far southern island of Naasitaq in the icy Deadfire Archipelago, and you can choose a region even further south called the White that Wends (basically Space Antarctica) as region of origin for custom characters. So far there's no mention of a corresponding ice cap on the north pole.
  • Averted in Tales of Phantasia, where ice continents can be found on both hemispheres. The southern hemisphere also contains a desert continent.
  • Zig-zagged in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This trope does seem to hold true in certain areas of Hyrule; on the western side, for instance, you have the vast Gerudo Desert to the south, note  and the Hebra Peaks to the north. However, going to the east, you have Death Mountain in the northern reaches, and the snowbound Mount Lanayru in the lower central region. As well as this, on the Great Plateau where you start the game, the cold Mount Hylia is located to the south-west, while the northern section is forested.
  • Final Fantasy XII averts this, albeit in conjunction with Patchwork Map. Kerwon is the coldest among the three continents and it's located in the Southern Hemisphere. Dalmasca, which is located in the equator, is a hot desert country. It's implied that the farther you go north, the climate gets colder as expected, though you do not go that far north.
  • While the Pokémon games set in regions based on relatively cold places play this straight, as noted above, the warmer regions instead use deep coastal caves (Seafoam Islands in Kanto, Ice Path in Johto, Shoal Cave in Hoenn) or tall mountains (Mt. Silver in Johto in the remakes and Mt. Lanakila in Alola) to house their Ice-types. Galar also ends up zigzagging this, as while the base game's coldest region is in the north, the Crown Tundra DLC area is mostly covered in ice and snow and is located south of the area explored in the main game.
  • World of Warcraft inverted this trope in Dragonflight with the Dragon Isles. In the north is the volcanic, tropical Waking Shores, the two central zones are temperatre, and the southern Azure Span is a boreal forest with several snowy regions.

    Web Original 
  • All the civilizations in Mark Rosenfelder's Constructed World of Almea are located on Almea's southern hemisphere; thus, the south is cold and the north is hot, with explorers having reached the tropics.

    Western Animation 
  • Averted in Avatar: The Last Airbender, there is a north pole and a south pole, and they're both cold. In fact, most of the first season is spent traveling from the south pole to the north. The Fire Nation is the hottest because most of it is near the equator, and consists mostly of active volcanic islands.
  • The world of Equestria in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic seems to play this straight. Official maps showed that arctic areas like the Crystal Mountains are in the north, while deserts like the MacIntosh hills are in the south, with many grassy areas in between the two. However, as the official map expanded further outside Equestria, it was eventually revealed that there is indeed a cold south on the planet.

    Real Life 
  • Real-life Earth zigzags this. While temperature becomes progressively colder the farther north/south you go, the Southern Hemisphere is somewhat warmer than the North on average, because, compared to the North, it has less land and more water, which better conserves heat than land. However, the trope gets averted hard as you reach the poles, because the Antarctic is much colder than the Arctic for precisely the same reason. Unlike the Arctic, which is a frozen sea, the Antarctic contains a frozen continent (and one that has a high elevation at that).
  • Conditions on the other worlds of The Solar System result in some interesting situations:
    • Both Uranus and Pluto have unusually large axial tilts (98 and 120 degrees, respectively), so the trope is averted when the planet's north pole is pointed toward the Sun, and played straight when it's pointed away from it.
    • The atmosphere of Venus is thick enough to efficiently distribute heat across the entire planet. There is a 20-30 degree Centigrade difference between the polar and equatorial surface temperatures, but that's in the context of a 460 degree Centigrade average surface temperature (and an 80 degree difference between the median altitude and the planet's highest point on Maxwell Montes).
    • Due to its eccentric orbit and slow rotation, Mercury has two "cold poles" (which always face the Sun when it's at its maximum distance) and two "hot poles" (which always face the Sun directly at its minimum distance) at 90 degree increments on the equator. In these cases, both "East is Cold, West is Hot" and vice versa can be true depending on where you're at. All four of these thermal extremes are at the equator, and are separate from the north and south poles - which are colder than the cold poles are.