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Small, Secluded World

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"Peaksville was just someplace. Someplace away from the world. It was wherever it had been since that day three years ago when Anthony had... done the thing. Had taken the village someplace. Or had destroyed the world and left only the village, nobody knew which."
It's a Good Life by Jerome Bixby

The character(s) live in a small secluded world. It could be a Pocket Dimension, Middle-of-Nowhere Street, an island without communication with The Outside World, a spaceship lost in the void, a special kind of prison, or something else that has the same effect. If there is any contact at all with an outside world, then this contact is very limited.

When there doesn't seem to be any world outside the Small, Secluded World, then this trope overlaps with World Limited to the Plot. If there is an outside world, characters who grew up secluded from it are very likely to be naive to it. They might mistakenly believe themselves to understand their world — be Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance. Alternatively, the characters are completely unaware that there exists an outside world at all: there's only the City in a Bottle.


In any case, living in such narrow boundaries is likely to affect the characters negatively. They might get depressed, desperate to get out, or even fail to comprehend that anything larger then their Small Secluded World exists.

May often have a Wall Around the World. Any Hidden Elf Village or Ominous Floating Castle is likely to qualify for this trope if the characters are forced to live there for a while. Also, any case of Ontological Mystery is likely to also be a case of Small, Secluded World or World Limited to the Plot, or both.

Compare with Bottle Episode, where the characters are only locked in a secluded world, the bottle, for a single episode. Contrast with The Outside World.



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     Anime and Manga 
  • In Attack on Titan, the remnants of humanity live encircled within three enormous walls, with only a few daring to brave the Titan-infested outside; one of Armin's main reasons for joining the military was to fulfill his dream of seeing the outside world. Later, the main cast discovers that their community is not humanity's last bastion, and that the humans living outside are doing just fine; in fact, their homeland (Paradis Island) is the only place on Earth that's overrun with Titans. Also in keeping with the trope, Paradis Island is far behind the rest of the world, being stuck with mostly early Industrial Age technology while everyone else has advanced to the early 20th century.
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann the village where Simon and Kamina live is secluded from the rest of the world and is only big enough for the inhabitants. Each of the underground villages where humans are hidden are one of these.

     Comic Books  
  • ''Morbus Gravis'' takes place in a barbaric world simply called "The City". It is really a spaceship, but everyone forgot. Drifting aimlessly through space, its ruling priesthood no longer understands that space and stars even exist.
  • In Supergirl story Demon Spawn, the Innerverse is a secluded pocket dimension created by Supergirl's dark side which exists inside her mind and outside of the physical world. Is a kind of hell inhabited by demonic monsters.

     Fan Works  
  • The Bolt Chronicles: In “The Box,” the entire story is set inside the title container in which Bolt is first trapped and then shipped to New York.
  • A Different Medius's titular world is actually one of these, residing in a Pocket Dimension.
  • Most all Harry Potter fanfics portray the wizarding world as such. Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is a notable example.
  • The Outside begins with this. Because she's being raised by an agoraphobic older sibling, Ryuuko lived in isolation for much of her life and doesn't know much of anything about the outside world other than what she's experienced. However, this instance is played with, as she's aware that there are things around outside of her house but she's not allowed to experience them and is pretty unaware of what most things are, including any potential dangers. In that vein, because she's agoraphobic, this could apply to Satsuki, as she can't be bothered to leave their house, to her, the idea is dangerous.

  • All of Lifeboat takes place on said lifeboat, which the cast is stuck in after a German U-boat sinks their ship.
  • In Blast from the Past, the main character is born and lives the first 35 years of his life in a underground bomb shelter. He is raised by his parents, who incorrectly believe that there has been a nuclear war and that the surface has been rendered uninhabitable.
  • Most of The Truman Show takes place in a small society that is extremely secluded from the outside world although the main character is unaware of the artificial nature of the situation (it's all to keep him from ever leaving the fake town where everyone else is a paid actor).
  • Dark City appears to be an ordinary city on earth. But it's actually some kind of space-station.
  • In Beetlejuice, the main characters are stuck in their house, unable to have any contact with the surrounding world. At first, they do not realize that they are dead and haunting the house in which they lived.
  • In The Others, the main character keeps her children locked in the darkened house due to their genetic disorder which makes sunlight lethal to them.
  • The coffin in Buried.
  • Dogville, set in a small mountain town, takes this idea and turns it into an emotional nightmare.
  • The protagonist in Bad Boy Bubby lives in a bunker-like place until he reaches the age of 35.
  • Dogtooth revolves around three children who have been confined their entire lives to a small country estate and told almost nothing about the outside world.
  • Welcome to Dongmakgol centers around a rural mountain Korean village in September 1950, which is so isolated that not only do the villagers not know that The Korean War is raging, they don't even know what a rifle is.
  • In Men in Black one of K's lockers is an entire world to small aliens, but then in the stinger we realize that our galaxy is just a marble in an alien game.

  • Room is narrated by a 5-year-old who is unaware of anything outside the 12' x 12' room he lives in. Eventually, his mother reveals that they are locked in her kidnapper's garden shed.
  • In Flatland, the King Of Pointland lives in a nothingness that he mistakes for infinity.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Nation, the main character's world only includes a few islands since no one in his tribe ever sailed far enough to see the continent.
    • Well... not since the last Ice Age, anyway.
  • Under the Dome is this trope personified in a small town in Maine that is suddenly enclosed in an impenetrable dome that covers the entire town
  • Most of the places in The Little Prince, if the story is to be taken literally at all.
  • For most of Robinson Crusoe, the title character is stuck on a deserted island.
  • Lord of the Flies feature a group of British school boys stuck on a Deserted Island. Because the story is a satire against the Robinson Crusoe optimism about human nature, they quickly go wild instead of building a new little civilization.
  • The title character of Enoch Arden is shipwrecked on a Deserted Island for over ten years.
  • The Greene tribe in Non-Stop are familiar with the idea that they're living in a Generation Ship, but they generally mock it, considering the ship to be all of existence.
  • The generation ship in the short story Paradises Lost. Communication with Earth is infrequent, difficult to understand, and has been known to fail for years at a time. Most people simply don't pay any attention to it at all. It gets to the point where the religious sect Bliss bases its entire system of belief on the conviction that there is nothing outside the ship at all.
  • Orphans of the Sky also includes a generation ship where a mutiny left most of the officers dead. Without a command structure the society gradually devolved into a superstitious Cargo Cult that believes the ship is the only thing in existence. Narby flat-out states the stars seen from the one window on the ship are nothing more than an elaborate trick by their ancestors.
  • The exiled brother and sister Ged encounters on a small island in A Wizard of Earthsea. They were marooned on the island as small children, and having spent their whole lives there have "forgotten that there were other people in the world."
  • The City of Ember was built underground as a refuge from a nuclear apocalypse, but the instructions for escape were lost long ago, and now the city's supplies are running out.
  • In Life, the Universe and Everything, the planet of Krikkit has a thick haze covering the outer atmosphere, so its inhabitants can't even see the stars.
    • They eventually build a spaceship, and see for the first time that the universe exists. This collides so harshly with their iron-bound belief that they are the only things that exist in the universe, that their only reaction is to make plans to destroy the rest of the universe.
    • The ruler of the universe lives on a world shrouded in secrecy by the few people who know who he is. In his own perspective, his shack is all that exists, making it its own small secluded world.
    • In So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, Wonko the Sane built an inverted house to contain an insane world, and by living inside the house he lives outside the world.
  • In Being There, mentally challenged Chance the Gardener knows no home aside from The Old Man's residence until he is middle-aged and his benefactor's death means he must leave it. He is aware of the outside world, but only through television.
  • Gormenghast castle may as well exist in a Pocket Dimension for all the reference made to any kind of outside world. The only way to even vaguely judge what time period it's set in is by the few descriptions of people's clothes. The whole thing is played for the seclusion and oppression it creates in the inhabitants, especially Titus, who longs to escape and explore the world.
  • The fable about the frog who lives in a well who is one day visited by a frog from the ocean and simply can't understand that the sea is so much bigger than his well.
  • In Helliconia, some maggots are mentioned which live in nuts, and people in-story think that the maggots must be very surprised when someone eats the nut, and the maggots suddenly realize (if they could think) that the world is much bigger than they thought. Yuli, protagonist of the prologue, compares his companions who spent their whole life in a cave to the maggots.
    • The occupants of Avernus, the Earth-made observational outpost that monitors Helliconia, have degenerated into savagery and madness by the end of the trilogy, sealed away in a Small Secluded Space Station.
  • Hender's Island in the sci-fi novel 'Fragment' by Warren Fahy is the last surviving remnant of the original supercontinent, where evolution has progressed in complete isolation for over 400 million years. Most of the island's life forms, including the single intelligent species, are highly evolved terrestrial stomatopods - i.e mantis shrimp.
  • In "The Tunnel Under the World" by Frederick Pohl, a man wakes up from a terrible nightmare and it's always the same day, over and over again. He doesn't realize this until he falls asleep in his basement and then sees what is happening. As it turns out the entire town was destroyed by a chemical plant explosion and the minds of the dead bodies were put in robot bodies to test advertising. They repeat the same day over and over again so the missing people and the lack of contact with the outside world don't have time to alert the people. The man thinks he can escape but to save money the robots are miniatures and the entire recreated town is basically on a tabletop.
  • The Refugium in Reaper's Gale, book seven of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, is a small chunk of primeval tundra that's been squirreled away from any outside influence hundreds of thousands of years ago. It is populated by the last remnants of living, flesh-and-bone Imass (Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Neanderthals) and can be reached from the the outside, but only by knowing where it is or by first traversing the icy Jaghut Realm of Death. Rud Elalle, who grew up among the Imass of the Refugium, is at first eager to see more of the outside world, but changes his mind quickly when he finds out its existence is at risk and becomes just as eager to die in the Refugium's defense.
  • The Jacob's Ladder, the eponymous Generation Ship from the Jacob's Ladder Trilogy, is all its inhabitants know. They even call it the World, and though they are aware of Earth's existence, it's just something their ship at some point started from. The ship is partitioned in various areas with their owm cultures, inhabitants and purposes, creating even smaller worlds some of which are inaccessible but functional due to a catastrophic fallout prior to the trilogy's story.
  • The Bellegerins in The Great God's War are theoretically aware that the world is far larger than their own kingdom and the neighbouring one that they are in a Forever War with, but they have no knowledge of anything else. The first book has the protagonist struggling to deal with the discovery that there is a huge, sprawling world out there filled with a dizzying array of other cultures that neither knows nor cares about Belleger and its problems.

     Live Action TV  

     Tabletop Games  
  • This is how looks the world in Anima: Beyond Fantasy's setting, being divided by magic in three partsnote  that for all purposes are -almost- independent of each other and look spherical for their respective inhabitants. Note, however, that the planet itself is in one piece.

     Video Games  
  • Kingdom Hearts has numerous worlds which exemplify this trope. According to the backstory, travel between them was impossible until Ansem's tomfoolery and the discovery of gummi blocks (unless, as in the prequel, you had a Keyblade or powerful magic). From any given world, all the others appear only as stars in the sky. The heroes' home, Destiny Islands, apparently consists of a handful of islands almost designed to inspire wanderlust in powerful individuals. Take a look at Riku or Master Xehanort...
    "This world is just...too small."
  • Cocoon from Final Fantasy XIII. It's "only" the size of North America. Most, if not all, of the people of Cocoon have never even glimpsed the world of Gran Pulse below until the ending and have been raised to believe that it's hell. Given all of the horrible monsters that live there, they're not entirely wrong.
  • The Myst series is all about exploring Small Secluded Worlds.
  • Gensokyo from Touhou, a magical realm which was specifically sealed off from the outside world to keep the magic from going away. The border separating the two realms, however, isn't entirely stable, and things and people from outside are constantly drifting into it by accident.
  • Rapture from BioShock is an underwater city that lies on the ocean floor where the only means to get there is via bathysphere. It's quite amazing that almost no one on the surface knows about it by much, considering the feat of building an underwater city isn't exactly easy.
  • Zenozoik from Zeno Clash is a roughly square-shaped world surrounded by impassable barriers (at least to the primitive, caveman-like inhabitants). To the north is the Endworld, a world of darkness with guardians attacking people who try to pass; to the south: ice and freezing cold; to the west: a vast ocean; and to the east: steep mountains. In Zeno Clash 2 we find out that Zenozoik is in fact a tiny part of the actual world. The civilized people who inhabit the rest of the world use advanced technology and live under the rule of law. They believe the inhabitants of Zenozoik are not capable of life under such a system, so they keep them locked in Zenozoik and don't let anyone in or out.
  • Wasteland2: After the patterns of the radiation clouds shifted, Arizona was cut off from the rest of the world. Opinion on the outside range from "Arizona is the only place on Earth which actually is a wasteland, and the only reason for that is that nothing gets through the radiation." to "The radiation clouds stretch from here to the end of the Universe and the outside doesn't exist.". The radio transmissions coming in from outside and the Ranger's expeditions to California show that California is still around, and in roughly the same shape as Arizona.
  • As noted below under Real Life, forest wildfire watch persons in the US are cut off from the world for months at a time. The protagonist of Firewatch tries to use this trope to get away from his problems.
  • Fallout: The iconic Vaults, massive underground shelters constructed a few years before the Great War in 2077 that destroyed the world. The Vaults were designed to be self-sufficient and allow the survivors to repopulate the U.S after around 20 years or so when the radiation had gone down. However, unbeknownst to all but a few, Vault-Tec, the corporation behind the Vault system, had actually planned the Vaults as part of a sinister social experiment, and out of 122 Vaults, only 10 "control Vaults" functioned as advertised. While many of the Vaults consisted of cruel and inhumane tests and experiments of various kinds, some, such as Vault 101 and Vault 13, were intended to study long-term isolation, and were kept sealed far longer than advertised; Vault 13 for 80 years, and Vault 101 for 200 years, with the inhabitants having no contact at all with the outside world.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles X it's implied to be the case with planet Mira. The Ganglion mention that they are unable to leave the immediate space around the planet and previous attempts to leave resulted in them just ending up back at the planet and a random Manon NPC will mention that their sensors indicate that the space around the planet is very small, implying the planet is in some kind of sub-dimension.
  • In We Happy Few, Wellington Wells became isolated from the rest of the world once the town started taking Joy. A document found in Arthur's story they used to trade with farmers just outside the border until the farmers got tired of receiving only clothes and junk.
  • In Flower, Sun and Rain, the setting of Lospass Island has effectively been cut off from the rest of the world, thanks to a magnetic field that causes it to relive the same day. It's played much straighter with a character who never left the island since she was born and explicitly refers to it as a world.
  • In the Dishonored universe, the apparent entirety of human civilization exists on a single chain of islands in the middle of the ocean. The only other known landmass is an unexplored Death World of a continent separated from the Isles by a huge stretch of water that people have barely even begun to brave.

     Web Comics  
  • In Glorianna, the Mountain King rules a small colony of castaways stranded on the Moon.
  • In Time, Megan and Cueball know next to nothing about the world outside their seaside community.
  • The titular camp from Camp Weedonwantcha is this, although there are occasional flashbacks to before the campers arrived there.
  • Nebula: The solar system (and star systems in general); no one new comes in, no one who was born there has ever been outside of it, and no one really knows what's beyond it, if anything. Sun forbids the planets from leaving, saying that the void outside is a Death World, and implies that it would be in Earth's best interest to stop asking so many questions.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: The expedition in a Death World around which the story is centered is the mobile variant, with the only contacts with the Known World being with Mission Control via radio and the mage Talking in Your Dreams system. In practice, the latter only enables Reynir-Onni communication.

     Western Animation 

     Real Life  
  • Some of the first major civilizations in the Middle East believed that there was nothing outside their city but endless desert and that anyone who ventured out would perish.
  • Isolated lighthouses, back when they weren't automated and there was no radio communication. If the lighthouse was on an island off the coast, the keepers had to stay on their own for weeks or even much longer.
  • Easter Island became this trope for its natives, after all the trees were gone and boats could no longer be constructed to leave.
  • Bluewater sailing on a yacht. A transoceanic leg may take weeks, perhaps months. Before the solar panels and wind turbines, electricity (and hence communication) was on very short supply.
  • Even the most remote islands in the world aren't as secluded from the rest of the world as they once used to be. Still, many lonely islands and archipelagos in the South Atlantic and the southern Antarctic seas are amongst the most secluded places on the Earth (to the point that you might feel like on a different planet entirely). Case in point : Tristan da Cunha, the Crozet Islands, the islands of Amsterdam and St. Paul...
    • It is not all that surprising that many of the more isolated island groups developed their own endemic flora and fauna after many millenia of gradual local evolution. There are lots of species of herbs or sea birds that only live on one small island in the entire world (and are all the more vulnerable to introduced species they aren't used to).
    • North Sentinel Island. Despite being relatively close to mainland India, the natives that live there are among the last groups of people to be completely untouched by modern civilization.
  • Forest wildfire watch persons in the US spend months alone during the summer and early fall months high up in a small post. There's minimal furnishings and the only human contact they get are runners who get them supplies once in a while. See Firewatch in Video Games above.
  • Natural caves can remain isolated from the world above for tens or hundreds of centuries, disturbed only by the occasional sub-surface tremor or seasonal variations in water level.
  • In 1978 a Soviet geology expedition to Siberia discovered a family of six living in in a hut in the Taiga. They were Old Believers (an offshoot of Orthodox Christianity often considered heretical) and fled to Siberia over 40 years earlier to escape Communist persecution. The geologists introduced them to aircraft, television, cellophane (which utterly fascinated them), and bread, which only the parents had ever eaten. They had no idea World War Two happened and the for the children the only knowledge of the outside world came from their parents stories and the family Bible.
  • While almost all Aborigine tribes in Australia had interacted with White people by the end of the 19th century, there was one tribe that remained uncontacted and completely unaware of the outside world until 1984. Initially they were discovered by Westernized Aborigines and later studied by the first White people they had ever seen. They promptly abandoned their traditional nomadic lifestyle and settled in with assimilated Aboriginal towns.
  • Reportedly Daufuskie Island was this for a long time. People from many places have lived/settled there since Before the Beginning. Following The American Civil War, white plantation owners fled leaving their slaves, who went on to establish their own independent world. There are no bridges to the island, and a strong isolationist mindset still exists. Daufuskie's Gullah language and culture, evolved and preserved from African and West Indian roots, is legendary. When educator/author Pat Conroy came there in the late 1960s, most of the children could not read or write, believed Savannah to be one of the largest cities in the world, and thought of Daufuskie as the center of the universe.
  • An animal version of some note is the Devils Hole Pupfish, which has the smallest range of any vertebrate on the planet. Their entire breeding, feeding, and main habitat is a whopping 2 by 4 meters of algae-covered shallows in a small hole filled with water in the desert. While the hole itself is significantly larger, the fish cannot live far from it's food and breeding areas, and is critically endangered.


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