A classic trope usually seen within the Fantasy genre, the Hedge has both a literal and metaphorical purpose within any story that features it.
Physically, it is a place of painful passage, thorns and brambles, that acts as a hazard for the main character(s) as they try to either pass it, or escape it. More often than not, it is connected to fairies (Fae) or some other mysterious group of creatures, as the trope is linked to the idea of a natural barrier to some greater prize (or terrible horror). Fantasy-wise, the Hedge usually appears within enchanted forests. However, sometimes the Hedge is conjured by a "higher power," and thus can appear anywhere the summoner demands. Also, the thorns tend to quickly eat whatever dies or lets its guard down within it.
The Hedge is most often a home for various forms of life, whether carnivorous or not. Sometimes it's a kingdom in-and-of itself, being ruled by an Evil Overlord, Sorceress, Bandit King or similar character. Outside of the previously stated genre, the Hedge can be a torturously difficult labyrinth made from plants and fungi, or a hideaway for smaller characters against the Big Bad.
Metaphorically, however, the Hedge of Thorns can stand for something that tears at the psyche as well as the body of anyone who tries to get through it (fairies often are linked to madness). It also acts as a test of character, since it can stand between the Hero(ine) and the Bright Castle that holds what (s)he seeks. Usually the ordeal of the Hedge, as previously stated, is one of mental endurance and brinking on insanity, since it questions one's principles and bravery, as well as capability to adapt to the harshness of the reality that exists within the Hedge.
Note: the Hedge can also be a catch-all term for lands belonging to the Fae, such as the The Lost Woods.
- The first arc of the Sailor Stars anime had Usagi having to go through one of these to reach Queen Nehellenia's castle while she's barefoot in her civilian form.
- The "Briar Rose" spell from Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force summons one of these. Like the one from the spell's namesake fairy tale, it impedes the path of those trying to enter the place it was summoned in and could completely engulf those who let their guard down within the affected area.
- The Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics versions of Rapunzel, The Iron Stove, Sleeping Beauty/Princess Briar Rose and other Grimm tales use this trope. In Rapunzel the Prince is blinded as he falls on it, in Iron Stove the Princess must go past hers to save her prince and it turns out to be an illusion, in Briar Rose the thorns and vines catch anyone but later split when the destined Prince arrives, etc.
- In The Ancient Magus' Bride, the titular mage Elias Ainsworth is nicknamed "Thorn Magus" or "Child of Thorns" for a good reason. A black hedge of thorns often appears around him when he casts his spells, and while sometimes it's just a cosmetic effect, he can also send these thorny brambles to attack his foes.
- Castle Waiting is sealed off by one of these. Fortunately a tunnel has been cut through, although it's still an unpleasant experience thanks to the skeletons of people who didn't make it through still caught up in it.
- Once the Wolfrider elves in ElfQuest establish a new Holt, their tree-shaper, Redlance, creates a thorn wall surrounding the area which only he can create a path through, to protect them from intrusion by unfriendly humans.
- In Fables, whenever Briar Rose (aka Sleeping Beauty) pricks her finger on a needle, it triggers the curse and puts her and everyone in the building/her vicinity to sleep, and then a hedge of thorns will grow.
- Rapunzel has thorn bushes growing at the base of the tower, on which the prince is blinded near the end of the story.
- Sleeping Beauty's castle is surrounded by roses. Many princes have met miserable ends in them.
- The heroine of "Mary's Child" is cast out into the wilderness, where she is confined by thick, thorny hedges that she cannot break through. Fortunately, a king who was out hunting cut through the hedges with his sword and freed her.
- The thorn bushes growing around Stefan's castle in Sleeping Beauty, put there by Maleficent to try and keep Prince Philip from reaching Aurora.
- Willow uses some magic to burn a hole through the otherwise impassible wall of brambles.
- Maleficent magically creates one to defend the Moors. King Stefan later follows her example, except his version is made of iron.
- The Satanic Rites of Dracula found a novel way of polishing off the Count: luring him into a tangled hawthorn thicket. Hawthorn being (at least according to Van Helsing) what Christ's crown of thorns was made from, the spiky branches prove as effective as holy water would've been.
- Invoked in Pan's Labyrinth, when Ofelia tells a story about a mountain covered in thorns whose poison makes a single scratch lethal. The thorns never show up in the movie's main plot, but feed into the story's themes of fear keeping people within preset boundaries.
- A hedge also separates the faerie world from the normal world in Robin McKinley's The Door in the Hedge. In that case, it's a fairly normal hedge.
- In Summer Knight, near the end of the story a Fey conjures up a nasty, poisonous hedge to keep Harry from interfering.
- In One for the Morning Glory, Amatus invokes this as an analogy of their situation.
"This is not how these tales end," Calliope said firmly.
"This is not the way that things end when they get to be tales," Amatus said, "but since ours is not told yet, we cannot count on it. There were a hundred dead princes on the thorns outside Sleeping Beauty's castle, and I'm sure many of them were splendid fellows."
- In Teresa Frohock's Miserere: An Autumn Tale, the Rosa acts as this. Fortunately it's one of the good guys.
- Interestingly, in the traditional poem Thomas the Rhymer, it's not Faerie, but the path of righteousness that is a "narrow road, so thick beset with thorns and briars", difficult compared to the broad and inviting road of wickedness. Faerie is down another, completely separate road.
- In E. D. Baker's The Wide-Awake Princess, Annie is nearly caught in the hedge of roses that grows up to encircle the castle while her sister sleeps.
- In the Shannara series by Terry Brooks, the Druid castle of Paranor is protected by a poisonous hedge. Some parts are actually illusions, and passable, but usually a druid guide is required to find them.
- The Hedge from Changeling: The Lost, which is the border between the "real world" and the fae world of Arcadia (not in any way to be confused with the trope of the same name). There are actual thorns and a wide variety of other dangerous features, including living creatures, and it's generally an unhealthy place to be. Oh, and getting dragged through those thorns as a human rips your soul to pieces, which you then (possibly) only gather together once you escape from Arcadia.
- In 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, black and green dragons cause plant life to warp into The Hedge in the vicinity of their lairs. The effect only fades after the dragon has been killed or driven off. Portions of the Feywild are also described as this, as is the entirety of the Shadowfell.
- The magical hedge surrounding the Beast's abode in King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow.
- Donkey Kong Country
- Introduced as a level theme in Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest, which has a few levels set entirely in brambles. They really do act as a test of character, because they're all really freakin' difficult.
- Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze has two bramble levels: One in Lost Mangroves and another in Bright Savannah. Cranky Kong's pogo cane lets him bounce off the thorns safely.
- In Don't Starve's Hamlet expansion, brambles appear during the Lush Season which are essentially thorn barriers that require the player to chop through as they do damage.
- World of Warcraft has a pair of dungeons called Razorfen Kraul and Razorfen Downs that are both built under a network of huge, thorny trunks. The occupants aren't faeries, though: they're savage boar-people, and the thorns aren't all that difficult for a player to get through.
- Warcraft III has Thorns Aura, which causes enemy melee units to hurt themselves when attacking allied units (strangely enough, the Night Elves' buildings are trees but lack this feature, while the orcs have their Spiked Barricades upgrade for this effect).
- In Brain Dead 13, this hedge of thorns has formed a giant maze, and they can be deadly: In one death scene, if Lance goes the wrong way, he will accidentally run into the thorny hedge and come back out as a skeleton; in another, if he goes through the wrong gate and is trapped, a tentacle vine will grab him while he tries to get out and pull him into the hedge.
- Metroid Prime 3: Corruption has the aptly-named Thorn Jungle area of planet Bryyo.
- This happens in the second part of one of the levels in Dragon's Lair: Time Warp. After the fall of Eden, numerous thorny branches start sprouting all over the place.
- The Cat in the Hat has a few. They are traversed within a moveable bubble.
- Zork: Grand Inquisitor has one blocking the way to the Dungeon Master's Lair. The rank undergrowth prevents eastward movement!
- Many of the levels in Super Mario World: Piranha Island contain sections where Mario has to avoid thorns, but StarMan Muncher is hard because Mario has to rely on the power of the Starman powerup to get through a thorny maze in a limited amount of time.
- Tales of Hearts: The legend central to the story is a fairy tale about a sleeping princess in a forest of thorns. However, the twist is that it is not, in fact, a literal hedge. the Forest of Thorns is a codename used to identify an ancient control unit known as the Mysticete. It also happens to be the Flying Whale worshiped by the church and the place where Lithia's physical body has been preserved in stasis, since it's a remnant of a very advanced alien civilization that was destroyed 2,000 years before the game's time.
- In Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Maleficent creates her hedge of thorns in preparation for her boss fight. Said thorn forest reappears in the sequel, where it's nearly all that's left of that particular world now that it's been pulled into the Realm of Darkness and fallen prey to The Heartless. Maleficent later recreates her thorn hedge on a much smaller scale in Hollow Bastion in Kingdom Hearts I.
- Rayman 2 has them in The Menhir Hills, The Sanctuary of Rock and Lava and Beneath the Sanctuary of Rock and Lava. The ones in The Menhir Hills require using a walking shell to get past, while in the latter two levels they simply act as obstacles, killing Rayman on contact.
- In No Rest for the Wicked, Prince Ricardo tackles one.
- Girl Genius: A large robotic version makes up one of Castle Heterodyne's defences.
- Champions of Faraus: The Hyperia Pantheon temple grounds are encircled by a magic hedge that mainly consists of thick, thorny vines. The various vines and branches of the hedge move out of the way for the protagonists when they want to enter or leave, a curtesy granted by Hyperion and Leilusa, the pantheons deities (and the protagonists bosses) who enchanted it.
- Care Bears (1980s): One of No Heart's schemes involves leading the bears into a hedge maze that he had augmented with thorns.
- My Little Pony 'n Friends: In "Would-Be Dragonslayer", when the heroes find a castle surrounded by an impassable wall of thorny vines, they immediately think of the usual reasons this trope shows up in fairytales and heroically charge through to rescue the princess trapped behind it. As it turns out, the princess is getting married to a knight and her fairy godmother raised the hedge to keep trouble away.
- The Simpsons has the Eliminator, featured in the Season 8 episode "The Secret War of Lisa Simpson". It serves as a final test for the cadets of the military school, and consists in a rope suspended several feet over a thick bush of thorn-filled brambles. All cadets (including Bart and Lisa) must go through it.
- A really tall, thick and well-tended hedgerow can be a formidable obstacle to a burglar or an angry mob and seriously inconvenience an advancing army. It's difficult to cut through or climb over without making a lot of noise, catapult or cannon-fire will go through it without doing any serious damage and suitably thorny plants will do an excellent impression of barbed wire. Common hedge components like hawthorn or hazel don't burn very well either, and that's assuming you can manage to set them alight.
- French Bocage country, consisting of fields demarcated by hedgerows planted on top of rubble walls. A significant impediment to military operations in WWII.
- When the East India Trading Company occupied India, it charged taxes on purchases of salt made by residents of the inland towns and cities. To prevent them from going to get their salt from either coast of the Indian Ocean, EITC planted over 650 miles of hedges, that in some places were 12-feet high and 14-feet thick. Wikipedia