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Creative subversion of the omnipresent trope that "higher is better" (e.g., "higher quality", "higher rank", "higher calling"). When this trope is in effect, lower is generally considered better. For example, instead of His Royal Highness talking to a lowly peasant, you might have His Royal Lowliness talking to a higher peasant.

Most common in constructed worlds and languages, and especially among nonhumans.

Compare Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad.


  • Discworld's dwarfs & Tales of MU's dark elves, for who lower is better.
    • Also to Discworld dwarfs, "enlightened" is seen as a negative term, as light makes your pupils contract and can therefore blind you.
    • Also seen among the demons in Eric and of The Screwtape Letters, who do bad deeds in the hopes of being demoted through the lowerarchy.
    • Another Discworld example is that trolls believe history is lived backwards, because you can only see what's in front of you, which is the past, so the dawn of time is actually the end, and the sunset is the beginning.
    • Also, DC Comics' Hell works like this.
    • The humans in Above Ground are yet another example.
  • The Dispossessed by Ursula K Leguin: In the Conlang Pravic, the term "more central" is used instead.
  • Ringworld by Larry Niven: the Puppeteers value cowardice above all things, so their leader is called "The Hindmost". It's also often noted that the rear is the most dangerous position while running away...
  • In L. Frank Baum's Tik-Tok of Oz, Dorothy is dropped through a hollow tube to the other side of the world. Here, most people are Kings or Queens, with a lesser number of lesser royalty, but there is only one "Private Citizen" who is the most important (to the extent that anyone in the Oz universe has more than local and transient effect).
  • Used occasionally in Invader Zim, as Zim's alien species has a hierarchy based off of height.
  • The Addams Family all the freakin' time. A major theme and source of humour is the clash between the family and outsiders and the way the family always reacts pleasantly to horrified reactions because to them their words are compliments.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's Line of Delirium, the Silicoids (floating sentient columns of rock) value stability and balance above all else. As such, their hierarchy is inverted compared to humans. Unlike The Emperor, who rules from the top, Sedimin (the ruler of the Silicoid Basis) rules from the very bottom, supporting the Basis, thus his title is the Foot of the Basis. When the protagonist is thinking of how the Silicoids decide leadership based on a duel to the death, he has to mentally correct himself in that Sedimin did not ascend to his position, as a human would, but descend.
  • In some games, such as golf, a lower score is better.
  • Screwtape frequently mentions the Lowerarchy of Hell.
  • This website by the amusingly named "Doctor DOS Betamax" seems to be dedicated to demonstrating how the normally-held-to-be-technically-inferior DOS is a better operating system than Windows. (A Justified Trope to the extent it demonstrates how the command line and batch files are useful for power users, which many hardcore techies swear by, noting that the command prompt continues to feature in every version of Windows to date for a reason; however, trying to convince us that DOS isn't dead might put it a little too close to Disco Dan territory for some people's liking.)
  • In a variant of this trope, the song "Ain't Your Fairytale by Sonata Arctica, which is sung from the perspective of a wolf, uses the phrase "the dawn of our way of life" to refer to an end (and the rise of Humankind), inverting the standard (human) symbolism of sunrise as a hopeful beginning and sunset as an end.
  • In Beneath a Steel Sky, in the "city corporation" the game takes place, living on or near ground level is a sign of high social and economic status, while the poor and people with blue-collar jobs are forced to live thousands of feet above ground, not even allowed to visit lower levels.
  • "The Author of the Acacia Seeds", by Ursula K. Le Guin, discusses a manifesto written by an ant, which ends, "Up with the Queen!" The narrator notes that to ants, the safe and desirable direction is down, while danger comes from above. Also, the author of the manifesto was a revolutionary. So a better translation would be, "Down with the Queen!"