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Scavenged Punk

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Scavenged Punk is a stylized setting that focuses on technology and culture based on an unusual source: scavenged junk. Weapons, tools, clothing, and sometimes entire cities will be built out of repurposed materials. A key factor here is that said materials, often pieces of trash, are being used for something other than their original purpose (as opposed to simply being repaired and reused). This trope shows up almost exclusively in two cases.

Firstly, it's used for After the End set stories in Scavenger Worlds where supplies are short and hence items from the past civilization must be used for basic necessities. Scavenged Punk specifically crops up when Improvised Armor (or Post-Apunkalyptic Armor) and Improvised Weapons are emphasized.

Secondly, it shows up in stories where beings smaller than human (rodents, bugs, Lilliputians, etc.) have urban civilizations and use materials scavenged or stolen from humans. Many stories with anthropomorphic animals will have this to an extent as part of a Mouse World, but only when it's strongly emphasized does it really become Scavenged Punk.


In either case (but especially the second), this trope is often made to be extremely visually interesting as random objects are put to surprising practical (or not) new uses. Because of this visual focus, Scavenged Punk has been common as Scenery Porn in animation especially recent CGI films.

When technology is constructed in a much more limited capacity it is simply MacGyvering. Note that while Scavenged Punk is not exclusively a fiction trope, most real life examples fall under MacGyvering or Scavenger World. Also contrast with Bamboo Technology where technology is built from rudimentary natural materials but not junk.



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  • In the 1997 film of The Borrowers the eponymous characters take this to an extreme, with tools made from strings, paper clips, and needles. There's even a vehicle made out of an abandoned roller-skate.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids There are shades of this as the kids begin to piece together some makeshifts equipment.
  • Over the Hedge provides a mild example as RJ the raccoon uses solely scavenged equipment (such a pocket fishing rig as a grappling hook) and begins to teach the other animals to do the same.
  • In both The Rescuers films, the rodent-sized civilization make considerable use of human castoffs.
  • 9 takes this to its extreme with a hyper stylized After the End world where even the characters are built out of zippers, gloves, and spare bits of trash. Once again the characters are small enough to utilize almost anything (see lightbulb staff, scissor knives, and candle hat). Director Shane Acker has referred to them as stitch punk. This film actually fulfills both typical scenarios as it set After the End AND contains miniature creatures.
  • Rango has an old west town where the inhabitants (anthropomorphic animals) all have technology built from human trash.
  • A Bug's Life drifts into Scavenged Punk during the city sequence. The city is built entirely out of discarded boxes and trash with a tipped over soup can doubling as a dive bar (the countertop inside the bar is a swiss army knife). The background of the entire sequence is scattered with numerous details like this.
  • Flushed Away contains a sewer world, populated by animals, that is entirely this trope. For example, a pair of egg beaters is repurposed as jet skis.
  • Chicken Run, from the same creators as Flushed Away has this for its animal characters. It's especially noticeable in Nick and Fletcher who work as, well, scavengers. One of them sports a coat made out of a food sack with a full sized human zipper whose pull tab is as big as his head. Supplies they scavenge include a human spoon which becomes a shovel and a badminton birdie which is used as a hat. The movie, like Flushed Away is full of similarly great background details.
  • An American Tail has this as part of its Mouse World.
  • The Secret Of Nimh similarly has this trope in place as a background element.
  • Star Wars: Attack of the Clones has some of this in the freelance engineers hanging around low-rent spaceport docks on Coruscant, as well as, presumably, other worlds like Tatooine. The Visual Dictionary even has a picture of such an engineer, wearing his equipment, including one device which is stated to have had its casing made from part of a toilet.
  • The BFG features this for anything in Giant Country that couldn't be crafted by the giants themselves, but in a twist on most other examples they are on a large scale rather than a small one. The BFG's suspenders are rope ladders, his magnifying glass is a porthole, his seat is the wing of a Spitfire, he uses a London telephone box for storing grain, a snowplow for a chopping knife, and the soles of his shoes are made from melted truck tires, with their treads forming the bottom sole pattern. This extends to the other giants as well, such as Gizzard Gulper wearing many tarps for trousers.
  • The 80s Polish Comedy "Kingsize" is about a society of dwarves living in "Drawerland" a city made out of filing cabinets in an old abandoned archive connected by rope bridges made of matches.

  • The Borrowers is probably the Ur-Example. Its plot revolves around a race of tiny people who live in the walls of the homes of normally sized people and "borrow" whatever they need to survive. Movies based on these books have provided some very cool visual looks at Scavenged Punk.
  • The Nomes Trilogy by Terry Pratchett contains this in a similar way as The Borrowers. A small race of Nomes utilizes a whole lot of scavenged material from people.
  • The Carpet People (also by Pratchett) also features this, with natural materials coming from the carpet and what's on it: tools and weapons are made out of varnish melted from the World Tree-like pillar known as achairleg (a... chair leg), lumber is mined from the Woodwall at Burned End (a matchstick), and bronze is obtained from the vast mesa called ON EPEN NY (a penny). Note that the biggest city on the Carpet is about the size of a period in the book.
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles very much have this in the form of Thimbletack the brownie who lives in the walls and steals human items for his home. In the illustrations he is even shown to wear a cobbled-together outfit that includes a hat made out of sewing equipment.
  • Un Lun Dun Features entire anti-cities made of scraps and discarded items from their regular counterparts, which grow magically from the streets and are often sentient. A very novel setting in that the 'discarded items' include people, ideas, and abstract concepts that all 'cross over' to the un-city when nobody is looking. China Miéville seems to be a big fan of this trope.
  • Over the course of The Dresden Files, Harry's dewdrop-fairy ally Toot-toot acquires his armor and weaponry by cobbling them together out of things like Pepto-Bismol bottles, hollowed-out golf balls, and hacksaw blades sheathed in pen casings.
  • In The Tale of Despereaux, the Mouse World operates largely as Scavenged Punk. Desperaux even wields a needle as a sword.
  • In Edward Eager's book Knight's Castle, a magic world made entirely out of toys and fictional characters comes to life at night. This fantasy world contains cities built out of soup cans and generally formed (albeit not scavenged) out of everyday objects.
    • In this respect, Knight's Castle is a homage to E. Nesbit's The Magic City.
  • The elves' village in Afternoon of the Elves runs on this, with a touch of Bamboo Technology. Most impressively, they build a magic-powered(???) working Ferris wheel out of bicycle wheels, wire, and popsicle sticks!

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Doctor Who episode, The Doctor's Wife, the Doctor encounters a "bubble universe" that is filled with trash from the wider universe that has been fashioned into something of a home on top of a living asteroid. It's interesting to note that much of the scavenged junk is not supposed to be from earth and hence looks very strange.
  • True to form, The Community episode Modern Warfare (a parody of most apocalyptic tropes) contains a nod to the Post-Apunkalyptic Armor variety of this. Many of the characters outfits are pieced together from random available equipment. In some cases it makes solid sense (Troy, a football player, wears some modified football pads); other times it is simply amusing (members of the chess club wear plastic bowls with chess pieces attached as helmets).
  • On Sesame Street the Twiddlebugs' house is made from a half pint milk carton with golf pencils for roof shingles, a backyard swing is made out of paperclips, etc.
  • Bush Mechanics features things like foot coverings made of bits of tyre, brake shoes made from pieces of old boomerang, windscreen wipers made of rags wrapped around the wiper arms, and a soup can made into an improvised billy to hold the coil inside with some water when the coil overheats. Minor example when the gang use the car's battery and some jumper leads to start a fire.
  • Stormworld features the protagonists improvising a means of producing fuel for their boat, and a submersible made out of part of an aircraft.
  • Dad features some of the protagonists' fathers' improvisations, including jumper leads linked to the phone jack in the shed hidden behind an old sign which swung up on a hinge, allowing him to carry a large old phone around with him in the garden. The son freaks out when he reads the sign (Danger: High Voltage.)

  • The video for "Furious Fixation" by Doll Skin utilizes this trope.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Small Folk are Lilliputians hiding in the corners of the modern world, who scavenge a fair amount of discarded human stuff.
  • Improvised Weapons and Improvised Armor are all par for the course in Nuclear Renaissance. Most equipment is made from sources unrecognizable as haing been vehicle parts. Of particular note is the Engine Cannon, made from the head and part of the block of an engine, using the fuel/air mix detonating to propel the projectile.
  • Often happens in Rifts. Australia describes the uses for old CRT monitors mostly being limited to a bin for spare bolts. Techno-wizards make amazing devices out of anything they find; bespoke parts may be professionally made, if the Techno-wizard decides to spend that much, but need not, as it works by magic anyway. This is only beginning when an internal combustion engine is converted to magic without becoming a telekinetic engine, and is converted to steam because petrol and diesel engines cannot be simply converted to run on magic, and have to be converted into something else; in the novel Sonic Boom, a Techno-wizard uses a device made from a saltshaker to heal a cut on a young mystic's foot.
  • Junker devices in Deadlands: Hell On Earth are liable to be made from any old thing found lying about, similar to the Rifts example, as it mostly works by magic.

    Video Games 
  • In Xenoblade, the Hidden Village of the Machina is built largely on parts scavenged from Mechonis proper.
  • In the Fallout series, weapons, equipment, clothing, armor, and at least one entire city are made of Pre-War junk, aptly named "Junktown".
    • Fallout 4 has a much heavier focus on scavenging than it's predecessors with the crafting system intertwined with the settlement system and gun upgrades. Vendor Trash is now more than a way to scrounge up more cash; now you can scrap that junk for nails, wood, metal, even nuclear material for supplies. It's even enforced as traders have far less caps and supplies to go around, making you rely more and more on what you can make over what you can buy. Guns also can be upgraded in order to make them stronger or adapt to your play style; even the humble crank-and-fusion-cell laser musket can be upgraded to be strong enough to kill a Legendary Deathclaw in a single sneak headshotnote .
  • Early game Path of Exile equipment is made out of such materials as driftwood and whalebone. Standard RPG equipment starts replacing it at about the second act, and it's gone by the third. During your second loop through the game, you're finding items that are better than what you had before, but still look scavenged, which is very strange, needless to say.
  • Though it's not as prominent as it is in Fallout, Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light feature a fair amount of technology made from pre-war scrap and salvage. Highlights include a handheld dynamo with a motor from a sewing machine, guns partially constructed from pieces of plumbing/gas pipes, and an improvised river raft built from what looks like sheets of roofing material, empty oil drums, and pieces of chain-link fencing.
    • The Metro blacksmith had also fashioned a functioning railgun out of post-war scrap and it's one of the strongest guns Artyom can find and use.
  • A combination of an arts and crafts aesthetic mixed with a miniature scale meant that many of the contraptions in LittleBigPlanet fall into this, with many more able to be created by the player. This has been de-emphasized in later games as the "show the strings" look gives way to a more approachable sensibility, although it appeared again in the Rise of the Cakeling DLC.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, this is a common trait of Goblins. They have been known to salvage weapons, armor, and other items created by the other races for their own use. Likewise, the goblin-like Rieklings of Solstheim are known to collect detritus of the civilized races and set it up for apparent worship.
  • In Overwatch, there's the aptly-named Junkertown, a town in the Australian Outback where many of the people living there holed up following the destruction of the Omnium that ravaged the continent. The city itself is made of scrap metal, and surrounding the city are small settlements where the city's outcasts (including our Junkrat and Roadhog) live in hovels built of scrap wood and metal.

    Web Comics 
  • In Gifts of Wandering Ice people gather ancient things that melting icebergs bring and use them as they see fit. Most of the time they don't know what these things were originally used for.

    Western Animation 
  • The Tinker Bell (film series) aka Disney Fairies features this a lot. Basically, all the fairy civilization do this to some degree, but it's specially true with the "tinker-talent (or class) fairies", from which Tinker Bell along some others are part of, re-utilizing mostly any garbage or lost things from the human world
  • In Futurama the sewer mutants build their entire impressive civilization out of human trash flushed down toilets.
  • Adventure Time functions partially off of this, with Finn and Jake scavenging a lot of things. Also the Hyoo-man society scavenges from the ruins of old humanity.
  • Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers has this a lot. All of Gadget's inventions are made from discarded junk, as is most of the furniture at their headquarters.
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius: Most of Jimmy's inventions are made from everyday items he can get his hands on.
  • The Wombles make good use of the things that they find- things that the everyday folks leave behind.
  • In The Buzz on Maggie, much of the town of Stickyfeet (which is located in a dump) is constructed from human refuse. Maggie's house, for example, is an old milk carton.
  • Little Robots follows the adventures of a group of small robots who live in a cave in a scrapyard, and have built their whole world - including the sky - from junk, as is said in the opening credits.
  • In the 1939 antiwar short Peace on Earth, a group of forest animals, inspired by a verse in The Bible about "rebuilding the old wastes" following mankind's destruction, construct a village out of war weapons, including making homes out of helmets and converting bayonets into streetlamps.

    Real Life 
  • To varying extent, this was the case throughout Western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. Roman structures continued to be used and inhabited, often for very different purposes than they were designed for: over the course of succeeding centuries, the Colosseum was converted into a tenement, then workshop, and then partially dismantled for its stone. The early medieval period also saw Roman iron implements and fixtures of all sorts melted down and recycled to make new tools and weapons.

Alternative Title(s): Junk Punk


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