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The Promised Land

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"Write on them all the words of this law when you have crossed over to enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you."

The world in which the characters live in is less than pleasant, to say the least. The sky is choked with pollution, the crops won't grow, and the evil dictator of the land brings nothing but despair and suffering to the people.

Or, on the more positive end, the world the characters live in is fine, but the characters are restless. Perhaps they are bored with their current life and want to find something better, or perhaps they are misfits in an otherwise nice world, and desire a place where they will have no worries.

Regardless of the case, there are stories of some mystical land, of which rumor and legend tell, where all people can be happy. The ground is fertile, the food is good and the best part is: you can get to it … if you know how.

This trope comes in two main flavors, the idealistic portrayal, and the cynical portrayal. The promise, so to speak, of the Promised Land lends itself very much to an idealistic flavor, but whether or not this promise is actually true depends very much on the tone and genre of the work it takes place in.

Idealistic Flavor: The Promised Land is everything that it has been cracked up to be. Rivers flow with clean water and plenty of tasty fish. Fruit just falls right out of the trees, perfect for eating, the land all around you is perfect for farming, the weather is always perfect, and anyone can make it big with just a little hard work. Sadness, despair, and hard times are all but just stories and bad memories in this place. The promise of the Promised Land will be a driving force for the characters of the story, and while they face many hardships while trying to get to this place, arriving there is almost always an immediate Happily Ever After ending. It is possible that the Promised Land isn't exactly what it was said to be but still good; if the rivers flow with clean water and food is abundant, it's not that important that there are no genuine rivers of milk and honey. The main characters might have to work at it, but at the end of the day they'll still earn their happy ending.

Cynical Flavor: The Promised Land is anything but what it's advertised to be, and the truth about it usually falls into one of three major sub-flavors:

  • No Promised Land: The Promised Land never really existed; it was just a myth, perhaps created to give people hope of a possible better life, or from a misunderstood or distorted legend of the past. Sometimes, even more cynically, the idea of the Promised Land is a lie, deliberately concocted in order to control people with a false promise of better times with the price of submitting under a cruel rule, or to lure people into danger and death. In dystopian works, an even crueler variant exists in the form of being Released to Elsewhere—the people going there are being killed instead.
  • Crappy Promised Land: The Promised Land is in disarray, either from everyone else who arrived there before the main characters using it up, or some other event. The once beautiful land is now dry and barren, with only vermin as its remaining native life, and ruins as its last structures. Worse, the Promised Land may even appear to be exactly as advertised, but turn out to be just as bad as, if not worse than, the world that they know. This trope overlaps heavily with the Idealistic Promised Land.
  • Unreachable Promised Land: The Promised Land exists, and is probably a great place to live — that is, if you could actually get there. Either the Promised Land can only be reached by those with money and/or power, or some kind of barrier, physical, political, or whatever, prevents the characters from arriving to this place. In this case, getting there may be a driving force of the story, like in the other flavors, but the goal may be later discarded when reality sets in. Another take on this flavor is that the Promised Land is never really visited or even seen, but merely mentioned by the characters as they wistfully dream of making it there, but know deep down that they could never make it and continue on with their dreary lives. A variant of this is that the land is reachable, but at a great cost. Perhaps the character would have to sell his or her soul, or enslave him or herself to a cruel master, or eat a thousand babies alive before they could even think about setting foot there. Regardless, the land is not reachable for common folk.

For both No Promised Land and Crappy Promised Land, the revelation of the truth of the Promised Land is usually the story's big reveal, and can usually be a breaking moment for the characters, and at its worst, a Downer Ending. See also Safe Zone Hope Spot.

Can go hand in hand with Last Fertile Region, and Gaia's Lament, and almost always, Crapsack World. Very likely to show up in works set After the End.


Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Aposimz has The Core World, which the Rebedoa Empire wants to claim, is stated to be an abandoned automated underground facility with enough land for humanity and without the snow, monsters or the virus. However, it's surrounded by an unbreakable shell, and the entry is accessible only to someone with the AMBs and proper authorization.
  • The Galactic Leyline in Outlaw Star is a Promised Land.
  • Pacific Rim: The Black: Sydney is this to the protagonists, being the only city said to still be under PPDC control and safe from the Kaiju. When they finally reach it in the Season 2 finale, the stories turn out to be completely true, making this an idealistic example.
  • The Promised Neverland, as the title implies, is all about finding a promised land - in this case, one where children aren't eaten by alien monsters.
  • Throughout the RobiHachi Isekandar is heavily advertized as a planet at the end of The Galaxy Highway, where everyone can find happiness and all your life problems would disappear.
  • The eponymous Shinzo is a Promised Land for the human lead Yukumo to find the rest of the human race, in a world populated by animal-human hybrids called Enterrans. It turns out that Shinzo doesn't exist anymore, as Mushra, Katul, and Sago go 500 years back in time to the end of the Human-Enterran War, and find out Mushrambo had destroyed it.
  • Umineko: When They Cry: The Golden Land can act like this, depending on which EP. The catch: resurrecting Beatrice, done by having about a dozen people killed in as horrific a manner as possible. Except from a mundane perspective, it really just refers to the place where Kinzo's gold is hidden.
  • Paradise (Rakuen) in Wolf's Rain is apparently real. Nobody seems to know what it's like, only that it's desirable to get there.

    Comic Books 
  • The Fourth Doctor comic story "End of the Line" takes place on a planet ruined by years of industrial, chemical, and nuclear development, where a horde of Mad Max-style cyborgs terrorize a small band of human rebels. The rebels are trying to get to the mythical "Countryside," a small patch of unspoiled land. The Doctor gets there, only to find that it's just like the rest of the land. A truly heartwrenching example of No Promised Land.
  • The Give Me Liberty series of comics sees child soldier Martha Washington finding the Promised Land in the form of a meritocratic, technologically advanced Promised Land that is extremely Idealistic by any definition — with gardens and pyramids and shiny suits and all. It doesn't fall flat because of the sheer hellishness of the former life experiences of its inhabitants, and the selfless fervor with which they are prepared to defend it against other inhabitants of the former United States gone insane.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Nesting Grounds in Dinosaur. Although according to the viewers of the film, the Herd is going there because it's the only part of prehistoric Earth that was not destroyed by the meteorite, according to the book Dinosaur: The Essential Guide, the main reason the Herd was going there is that during the winter, the Nesting Grounds actually become too cold and infertile for the dinosaurs to lay their eggs, and as a result they were all evicted into the desert where they all remained for days until springtime. The film's events actually take place in the spring since that is when the Herd is supposed to return to the Nesting Grounds.
  • Gibraltar in Sky Blue is talked about as if it's the idealistic flavour. Guess where the crapsack city of Ecoban is.
  • Antz manages to subvert its idealistic utopia without turning it into a cynical one. When Z reaches Insectopia (a garbage dump) he finds that it is everything he dreamed of — but in the end he voluntarily leaves because he decides that saving the colony is more important than selfishly living out his days in idle luxury.
  • The Great Valley in The Land Before Time, a lush valley where herbivore dinosaurs are free from predation by "sharpteeth".
  • In An American Tail, the expatriate Russian mice en route to New York sing of their destination, "There are no cats in America / And the streets are paved with cheese." Upon arrival, they are quickly proven wrong, and it takes some work to establish a niche where they are free from predation.
  • John Henry: The land offered to the workers of the transcontinental railroad if they finish the monumental task serves as the Promised Land, but the railroad owners try to screw them out of it at the last minute with the steam hammer. John Henry makes sure the workers get their Promised Land by defeating the steam hammer in a race, but he dies from the effort afterwards.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Island (2005) is named for its so-called Promised Land which people can "win" a one-way trip to — in reality, they're clones being harvested for parts. Winning your trip to the Island means that it is your time to be harvested.
  • Logan's Run features a Promised Land by the name of Sanctuary, which the Runners are trying to reach. In the movie, it doesn't exist, the Runners who left before the story takes place were harvested and turned into nutrition by the malfunctioning robot Cube. The outside world still exists though, and is mostly unspoiled. In the novel its based on, Sanctuary IS real and it's an old abandoned space station orbiting Mars. However, by the time of the sequel novel, it has fallen apart due to supply ships no longer arriving after the resistance leader back on Earth dies in a suicide charge
  • Clonus features America as a Promised Land.
  • In Tank Girl, The Rippers have a belief in such a place, as related by Booga.
    Booga: It's one of Johnny Prophet's dreams. See how the people are all free, and the water just comes down from the sky and it don't cost nothin'. With flowers and rainbows.
  • A Boy and His Dog has the title characters searching for "Over the Hill" (which, when you think about it, would be a more appropriate destination for the escapees from Logan's Run, but we digress …)
  • The Mad Max films use this trope a lot.
    • The intended destination of the besieged "villagers" in The Road Warrior qualifies (described as fertile place of plenty, with "nothing to do but breed"). It's never revealed whether or not their destination fits this exact description, but since the narrator (who's actually the Feral Kid as an old man) reveals that the villagers successfully built a mighty tribe with the Gyro Captain as their new leader, it can be assumed that their new home was at least better than the one they left.
    • The lost kids in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome think that Max is the Second Coming of Captain Walker, who will take them to "Tomorrow-morrow Land", which is just their distorted memories and stories about the pre-war world. Ironically, the tribe already lives in a Promised Land, a fertile oasis which is a paradise to the rest of the wasteland, but many of them are obsessed with the idea of Tomorrow-morrow Land, and leave to find it despite Max urging them not to. After escaping Auntie Entity's forces during the climax, the children end up creating their own promised land in the ruins of Sidney, with the help of Master who fled with them.
    • Mad Max: Fury Road has "The Green Place", where Furiosa planned to take the Five Wives to. She eventually learns that the green place has turned into an uninhabitable swamp. Furiosa and the others then return to the Citadel to turn it into a new Promised Land, once Immortan Joe and his allies have been dealt with.
  • Dry Land in Waterworld. The Atollers don't believe it exists, and the Smokers want to find and plunder it. It does exist, and is actually the highest area of Mt. Everest, which has turned into a jungle, complete with forests, horses, and waterfalls.
  • Pacific Playland fits the No Promised Land description in Zombieland.
    Tallahassee: Out west, we hear it's back east. Back east, they hear it's out west. It's all just nonsense. You know, you're like a penguin on the North Pole who hears the South Pole is really nice this time of the year.
  • Blade Runner: The Earth (or at least Los Angeles) has become a sprawling, overpopulated megalopolis suffering from pollution, urban decay, and corporate hegemony. As the zeppelins floating in the sky announce:
    "A new life awaits you in the Off-world colonies! A chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure!"
  • The Gorgonites in Small Soldiers don't want to fight the Commando Elite — they just want to be left alone and find their way back to Gorgon, their idyllic homeland. An odd case in that Gorgon is fictional in-universe, making it technically No Promised Land, but the Gorgonites don't mind: when they set off on their journey in the end, it's safe to say that they'll find some place they'll be happy to call home someday.
  • In The Seventh Continent, Australia is symbolized as the ideal place to escape to for the doomed European family. Ironically, this place is visualized as an otherworldly beach, with a mountain range on the left border and pool of water with mysterious waves (which are clearly physically impossible) in between. The falseness of this place foreshadows the fact that the parents never intended to go there.
  • A downplayed example in The Running Man. Runners are told that if they win the titular game, they will get to spend the rest of their lives in idyll on a tropical island, their debts to society paid. In reality, they're quietly executed and left to rot in the playing field. Though an astute viewer will be clued into this early, as both the "winners" shown on a supposedly live video feed are still wearing their Runner jumpsuits long after they played in the game.
  • Future World (2018): In the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the film, the Prince is convinced that Paradise Beach holds cures for any disease, which can help his sick mother. He also was told there people can live forever. So he heads out for there, though he's warned it isn't all he dreams. It turns out to just be a fantasy.

    Folklore 
  • The mythical and surreal Cockaygne (Cucaña, Kukania) of the Medieval European myths and folklore. It is said to be an earthly paradise with abundance of food and wine, where Christmas lasts one month and where there are five Easters in the year and eternal May, and fasting once in a hundred years. But it represents the Unreachable Promised Land, since the only road leading there is an unnavigable — but wadeable — neck-deep river of faeces. It will take five years to reach there.
  • Similarly, in Jewish folklore the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel were said to live beyond the mythical river Sambatyon, impossible to cross except on the Sabbath, when devout Jews are not allowed to travel — thus, no Jews could ever reach it, and the ones on the other side could never leave. Legends vary on whether the land on the other side is a paradise or not.

    Literature 
  • In Animorphs, Tobias leads two escaped Hork-Bajir to freedom in a hidden valley where the Yeerks can't find them. The Hork-Bajir had no previous tradition or concept of a "promised land", but it ends up being the closest they can get on Earth to living free on their home planet.
  • The Elric Saga and other stories about the Eternal Champion featured the city of Tanelorn. Tanelorn was created by a gestalt of humanity's dreams for peace. Safe from both Law and Chaos, it's a utopian paradise where those who manage to find it can take up whatever hobby and activity they want so long as it doesn't harm anyone else.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • Númenor to the Dúnedain. It became a lost paradise.
    • Regarding Valinor:
      • It is an Idealistic Promised Land to most Elves. Although they are immortal, they will eventually grow tired of Arda unless they settle in Valinor. It won't give them complete bliss, however, because not even Arda will last forever.
      • It is an Unreachable Promised Land to Men, who are barred from visiting it from time immemorial. It is the only part of Arda that is (almost) free of Morgoth's influence, but only the Ainur and Elves are allowed to settle there. Before the Third Age, Men technically could sail the sea to reach there, but nobody tried until the Númenoreans staged their infamous invasion, after which Eru himself made the world round precisely so no Men could attempt again. Not that this is not because Eru is being unfair to his children or anything. Valinor was designed to make people less weary of the world, which is great for Elves, whose lives are tied to the world, but not to Men, who are, by their nature, mortal, and must leave Arda upon death. Therefore, settling Valinor is useless to Men because it won't give them happiness.
      • It is also an Unreachable Promised Land to the Noldor Elves for a long time since they decided to follow Fëanor to rebel against the Valar by departing for Middle-earth, only to learn that it was a harsh place to live for Elves. When some wanted to go back to Valinor, however, they learned that the Valar had imposed a ban on them from returning, which would not be lifted until the end of the First Age.
  • House of the Scorpion: The boys under control of the Keepers in Aztlán (Mexico) view the United States as this, and one boy mentions that his father is probably currently living it up in California as a movie actor. This fact was subverted earlier in the book when El Patrón mentions that when he captures illegal immigrants for his work force, he catches them not just coming in from Aztlán, but from the United States, saying that America has seen better economic times.
  • In Dr. Seuss' story I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew, the titular Solla Sollew is a Unreachable Promised Land, as a key-slapping slippard prevents the door from being unlocked. The protagonist is offered a chance to go looking for another promised land that is supposedly even better, but he thinks it over and decides instead to go home and fix the problems he already knows about.
  • The mythical land of Sugar Candy Mountain in Animal Farm qualifies, though this is supposed to represent Heaven — and in the context of the novel in general, it's meant to symbolize the promises of religion (represented by Moses the Raven), which were seen as empty and another means of control by those with the money and power (represented by Man) according to the proponents of the Russian Revolution.
    • When life on Animal Farm worsens, Napoleon invites Moses the Raven back, so that Moses will keep the others happy with his tales of the promised land. It is never clarified if this land exists, but it is clear that Napoleon doesn't believe it does. So, No Promised Land, at least from Napoleon's point of view.
    • Based on Stalin's outreach to the Orthodox Church in face of the Nazi invasion.
  • In Dune, the Fremen believe they can turn the planet Arrakis into a Promised Land through ecological engineering. They refer to it in the same quasi-religious terms. They get their wish in later books, which turns out to be a mixed blessing at best when the sandworms that create all Spice go extinct from the moisture.
  • Chicago in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle is unequivocally depicted as a Crappy Promised Land.
  • California in The Grapes of Wrath. This falls under the cynical side of this trope, as everyone else has been trying to get to California, resulting in government officials blocking it off, and forcing many people into labor and government camps.
  • Death Lands. Earth has become a Death World after WW3. A popular myth is that a gateway to a better world lies in the Darks (Glacier National Park in Montana). Turns out the 'gateway' does exist — to a Lost Technology Portal Network which takes the protagonists from one part of Death Lands to another, which is not exactly an improvement.
  • Three examples in the Warrior Cats series:
    • The oldest known group of cats lived around a lake, but human construction work made prey scarce and life difficult. Jayfeather/Jay's Wing promises them that there is good land for them in the mountains; he knows this because he's traveling back into the past and knows that the Tribe of Rushing Water lives in the mountains later and realizes that these cats would become the Tribe.
    • In the Dawn of the Clans prequel arc, the Tribe is starving because they are overpopulated for the prey that lives in the mountains. Stoneteller, the Tribe's leader, has a dream of a prey-filled land that lies in the direction of the rising sun. About half the Tribe leaves to follow "the Sun Trail" and find this land.
    • In the The New Prophecy arc of the main series, the Clans - having lived in the forest for countless years - are struggling because the forest is being destroyed by humans. Midnight promises them that there's a place for them to live with oak forests and streams and plenty of prey, and when they leave on their journey, their ancestors give them a sign to show them which way to go. This was actually the original forest that the first group of cats started in, but it no longer has extra human activity and has perfect territory for each Clan.
  • In Of Mice and Men Lennie and George's dream of a little homestead for themselves is one of these. For most of the book it's out of their reach because they never made much money and had to move about to keep Lennie safe; it becomes a Hope Spot when Candy decides to use his life savings to try and make it a reality. But when Lennie accidentally kills Curly's wife George admits that he only really started believing in it because Lennie did and without him it feels pointless.
  • Watership Down for the rabbits in the eponymous book. Of the Idealistic flavour — after a long struggle the rabbits reach it.
  • Selma Lagerlöf's Jerusalem. A Swedish sect decides to sell their property and real estate and found a colony in Jerusalem. In the end they find, instead of land of milk and honey, a slovenly run filthy and crappy Oriental town. They still make it. The book is based on Real Life events (see Real Life section). The colony exists still today.
  • The Voyage of St. Brendan recounts St. Brendan's search for the "Land of Promise of the Saints", a paradisiac island in the Atlantic which God will give to "His elect" when the entire world will be subject to God and "days of tribulation may come upon the people of Christ" (this refers probably to the beginning of the end times as described in the Book of Revelation). St. Brendan finds the Land of Promise, but is sent back by an angel because the time is not yet ripe to reveal the Land of Promise to mankind.
  • The Vinland Sagas: There are many enthusiastic descriptions of Vinland's natural resources, such as wild-grown wheat, grapes, streams with plenty of fish, no frost or snow in winter, and forests full of game for hunting and timber for building. At Leif's Huts, there is salmon "larger than they had ever seen before" (The Greenlanders); at Straumsey, there are "so many birds there that they could hardly walk without stepping on eggs" (Erik the Red). When Leif and his companions drink the dew of Vinland right after making land, they "thought they had never tasted anything as sweet" (The Greenlanders). Erik the Red also asserts that Leif found Vinland accidentally when he was sailing to Greenland with a mission from the king of Norway to preach Christianity there; this and the combined mention of wheat and grapes—which are used to make bread and wine, i.e. the food used in the Eucharist—suggest between the lines that maybe the discovery of Vinland was according to some divine plan. Vinland is not a perfect paradise, though: In Erik the Red Thorfinn and his party suffer famine during their first winter in Vinland because their preparations were insufficient, and the natives fight back and kill Thorvald Eriksson and Thorbrand Snorrason.
  • Invoked in the Icelandic Book of Settlements: After spending two winters in unpopulated Iceland, Floki Vilgerdarson and his company return to Norway. When people want to know how good the new land is, Floki says it is all bad; Floki's retainer Herjolf says that it has both good and bad qualities; his other retainer Thorolf says that it is so good that "butter drops from every blade of grass".
  • The Emigrants, which revolves around a Swedish family going to America during the immigrant era of the 19th century, drawn by the promise of a better life than they had at home. Unlike a lot of fiction about this era, they do indeed find their promised land, and the characters settlement prospers, with their children and grandchildren getting opportunities they would never have gotten in Sweden. But the prize is enormous, dozens of characters die, none of them ever see the family they left behind in Sweden again, and Christina never stops missing her old home. In the end, Karl-Oscar is widowed, and spends his last years tracing a map of the land of his youth back home...
  • In Edgar Rice Burroghs' Barsoom novels, nearly all Martians who live to the age of a thousand voluntarily undertake a pilgrimage down the river Iss to what legend says is paradise. When John Carter actually finds himself there in the first chapter of Gods of Mars, he discovers it's anything but. (It's Flavors 1 and 3 of the Cynical variety, since the dangers along the way will kill most people, and the few who do struggle through discover it's actually a death trap.)
  • In Brak the Barbarian by John Jakes, the titular Brak is in route to Khurdisan the Golden, a legendary paradise known all over the world, with his various adventures happening on the way there. As of this writing, Brak has never reached his goal. When interviewed on Brak, Jakes implied that Khurdisan may be of the cynical type of this trope; he says that Brak will make it to Khurdisan but it will not be what he expected.
  • The Alien Chronicles trilogy has Ruu-113, a secluded paradise planet accessible only by a long-dormant star gate. The Viis view the planet as little more than a source of resources to prop up their faltering empire, and press their technologically-savvy Zrheli slaves to try to fix the gate at any cost. But the Zrheli consider Ru-113 to be sacred, and have spent centuries continually sabotaging the gate they are supposed to be repairing. Protagonist Ampris takes an interest in the planet, hoping that it will one day serve as a new homeworld for those enslaved by the Viis Empire, but the Zrheli prove hesitant to work with outsiders. Until the end of the series, at least, when Ampris negotiates passage to Ruu-113 for her exodus fleeing the Viis. According to Ampris' visions of the society that ultimately blooms on Ruu-113, it's very much an idealistic example of a Promised Land.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The planet Earth in Battlestar Galactica. The colonists eventually find Earth in the re-imagined series, but it is a burnt out wasteland, putting this trope in the cynical side. However, the trope swings over to the idealistic side, when they find another planet, with more biodiversity than any of the planets they originally came from, which they decide to call Earth in honor of the series-driven dream.
  • Doctor Who has had several shown in both the future and past throughout the Doctor's travels in time.
    • An example from the first season of the new series, The Long Game: the workers on the TV satellite talk about the legendary "Floor 500", which is described as a promised land. Falls under a mix of No Promised Land and Crappy Promised Land, in that there is a 500th floor of the satellite, but it's full of corpses being used by the station's abominable alien overlord.
    • Myth-shrouded Utopia in the Doctor Who episode of the same name from Series 3, which the last remaining people in the year 100 trillion seek in a dying universe, having heard a beacon beckoning all to come to Utopia said in legend to be created thousands of years ago as a way to survive the collapse of reality. It's a mix between No Promised Land and Unreachable Promised Land as it's ambiguous whether it actually existed; Yana (The Master) deliberately sabotages the rocket heading there by removing a piece of its navigational system and the Doctor never sticks around to find out whether it did or not. Two episodes later state there was nothing those people in the rocket could find, only the dark and the cold at the end of everything so the last of humanity ended up transforming themselves into the horrifying psychopathic Toclafane cyborgs in order to survive. The Master uses them as his flunkies in the season finale to taunt the Doctor this is what humanity will become at the very end in their search for salvation.
    • Series 8 actually shows us that Doctor Who has an afterlife, which is referred to as "the Promised Land" (alongside "Heaven" or "the Nethersphere"). Various villains from the earlier episodes are trying to reach it, and minor characters from the past, present and future intermittently show up there when they die. The whole thing's run by the mysterious Missy, and once again it's a mix of Crappy Promised Land and No Promised Land - Missy's the Master. Her "Promised Land" is actually a Time Lord matrix built to delete the emotions from the human minds it stores, before uploading them into Cybermen.
    • "The Crimson Horror" has Sweetville, proposed in 1890s England as a haven from the sinfulness of modernity. It is, of course, all part of a plot to rain the titular Crimson Horror down from the skies.
  • Red Dwarf has a species of evolved cats who believe in a Promised Land known as Fushal. It is, in fact, Fiji, where Lister, who they worship as a God, planned on settling down with a farm. In the 90-minute special called The Promised Land, Lister reveals that he's not their God and that Fiji probably doesn't exist anymore. The cat people respond by telling him that they now believe that the promised land isn't a place, but within you.
  • Stargate SG-1 has an episode where Maybourne learns of a Promised Land and tricks SG-1 in to taking him to the gate that sends you there. Jack follows him through. Unfortunately for him, the message pointing him to the planet was millions of years old, and the Promised Land stopped existing at some point in the intervening millennia.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: The episode "The Way to Eden" had a band of space hippies searching for the legendary paradise planet of Eden, which sadly turns out to be a beautiful yet horrifically poisonous Death World of toxic fruit and acidic plants.
  • Defiance: Before settling in Defiance, Nolan and Irisa were trying to make their way to Antarctica, which has apparently been terraformed into a tropical paradise. Everyone tells Nolan it's a pipe dream, and given the current state of the world that we see, it's likely that very few people have been there to confirm it. In general, however, ark hunters are trying to make enough money to get to Antarctica, if the tie-in game is to be believed.
    • Earth was supposed to be this for the Votan fleet. It's not clear if they knew it was inhabited ahead of time, and they may simply have had no other choice.
  • The 100:
    • People from The Ark and Mount Weather view the Earth's surface as their beautiful, ancestral home that they must one day return to; on the Ark, returning to the Ground is actually part of their religion. Living in crowded space stations and underground bunkers will do that to people. Too bad there are already people living on the Ground who don't take kindly to invaders showing up.
    • In Season 2, the City of Light is this for many people traveling across the Dead Zone, including Jaha and his followers. The reality is much stranger and more sinister than they realized, though Murphy seems content to take the underground bachelor pad full of food and booze he stumbled across as his personal Promised Land.
  • Van Helsing (2016):
    • Throughout the first two seasons, mention is made of Denver being a safe zone totally protected from the vampires. When the heroes reach it in Season 3, this turns out to be true... except it's also a Police State, and on top of that is woefully unprepared to face the Daywalker breed, which assaults it at the end of the season. By the beginning of Season 4, the city's been wiped out.
    • Season 4 starts making mention of some unnamed location that people claim is completely free of vampires. This turns out to be where the remnants of the US government is holed up.
  • Intergalactic: Tula is set on traveling to Arcadia, a planet she describes as a utopia, and living there with her daughter Genevieve.

    Music 
  • Oingo Boingo uses the idea for one of their renditions of Tender Lumplings with a heavy lean toward the cynical.
    "Oh listen, Tender Lumplings, let me take you by the hand
    I'll take you from this hellhole to the Promised Land.
    But don't blame me, oh children, if those promises don't keep
    'Cause promises, like lives, can be bought so very cheap."
  • The song "Big Rock Candy Mountain" by Harry McClintock depicts a hobo's version of paradise, with cigarette trees, hens that lay soft-boiled eggs, wooden-legged cops and rubber-toothed bulldogs, where the boxcars are empty and the "bulls" (railway police, whose job it was to protect railroad property and often booted hobos from trains) are blind. The original version that McClintock wrote in 1898, however, is far more cynical than the regular version, meant to illustrate the dangers of hobo life, with a final verse omitted from the other versions that lays bare that it's all a lie:
    The punk rolled up his big blue eyes
    And said to the jocker, "Sandy,
    I've hiked and hiked and wandered too
    But I ain't seen any candy.
    I've hiked and hiked till my feet are sore
    But I'll be damned if I hike any more
    To be buggered sore like a hobo's whore
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains."
  • The Seekers, "I'll Never Find Another You"
    There's a new world somewhere they call the Promised Land
    And I'll be there someday if you will hold my hand
  • Apollo 440 mentioned this in their song "Bulletproof Blues":
    Take me to the promised land, take me girl and hold my hand
    And make me a better man
  • Parodied in "Kingdom In The Sky" by Da Vinci's Notebook, which depicts Disney World's Magic Kingdom as this:
    All my life I have been searching for the fabled promised land
    With my sisters and my brothers we shall walk there hand in hand
    Through the trials and tribulations and the Devil's cruel temptations
    I know that we will all get there one day
    After years and years of wandering, oh, the Kingdom we shall find
    And the doors may not be open, but we'll gather in the line
    And our hearts will swell with pride the day those gates swing open wide
    And we take a walk down Main St., USA...

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Fraggle Rock episode "Manny's Land of Carpets" implies this trope to the Fraggles. They think radio commercials for stores like Manny's Land of Carpets and Bubba's Burger Barn are heavenly places to go, saying statements like "all you can eat" and "your happiness is guaranteed". In the end, they choose not to go after Gobo convinces them.

    Religion 
  • Exodus, from The Bible, is the Trope Namer, showing that this trope is Older Than Feudalism. The Promised Land is the land which, according to the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible), was promised and subsequently given by God to Abraham and his descendants, and in modern contexts an image and idea related both to the restored Homeland for the Jewish people and to salvation and liberation is more generally understood. Subverted slightly in modern times that the present incarnation of the Promised Land may be mostly like the trope—but only after years of labor and constant effort to make it like that and keep it that way. Also referred to as the Land of Milk and Honey, milk referring to goat's milk and honey referring to a type of date paste.
    • The land is part of the "Fertile Crescent". Compared to the desert or near-desert to the south and east, it's practically heaven, even without irrigation. Irrigation has ironically contributed to it becoming less like this over the last couple of millennia, because the largest major sources of irrigation water ... the Sea of Galilee and the River Jordan ... are slightly saline (due largely to salt-water springs under the Sea of Galilee), resulting in the gradual salination of the irrigated land.
  • The Book of Mormon: The Americas are promised by God at different times to two different groups of people, and the narrative agrees that they find the land to be fertile, rich in resources, and protected from the rest of the world through isolation. However, the promise comes with an attached condition: the people there must serve God, or else when they are "ripened in iniquity" they will be wiped out. Ultimately, both the Jaredites and Nephites become arrogant in the wealth that they've collected, divided against each other, and destroy themselves in civil wars, leaving only the remnant of people who have forgotten all about God's promises and are therefore granted more time.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons it turns out that elves have a paradise they can reach as they near the end of their lifespan. In the Forgotten Realms, the elves actually pull a fragment of their heavenly afterlife into Toril so they can actually sail to The Promised Land.
  • The objective of the board game Herd Your Horses, in the first out of the three potential rulesets, is to get your herd of horses to safety in the river valley. To do so, you have to travel through a board filled with all the sorts of dangers that wild horses have to deal with.
  • This is what Eden is believed to be by The People of Mutant: Year Zero, because The People are all mutants who can not conceive children. And most of them believe that Eden will give them prosperity.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy VII. It contains "the promised land, a land which promises supreme happiness". The Shinra company wishes to find it and extract the allegedly abundant Mako in order to build Neo-Midgar. It turns out to be mostly metaphorical … not that that stops anyone fighting over it.
    • The Expanded Universe indicates that the Promised Land is the collection of souls that makes up The Lifestream, essentially being the setting's version of the afterlife.
  • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King contains another promised land with the name "The Promised Land" … Imaginative bunch, aren't they?
  • Rupeeland in Freshly-Picked Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland is described as a utopia by Uncle Rupee, who promises Tingle access to the place if he can collect enough Rupees for him. It's not. In fact, it's even worse than the Rupee-driven Crapsack World Tingle lives in — those who live in Rupeeland have to gather Rupees or die, and most of the Rupees go to Uncle Rupee, who wants to get filthy rich and make Tingle and everyone else a slave.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, the people forced to live in the Taris Undercity have a legend about a Promised Land where life will be better. You can help them learn the location of the Promised Land, or give the clues to a slimy merchant who's perfectly content with the way things are.
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri: Some of the factions consider Planet to be this, especially when you compare it to what Earth ended up turning into before the game begins. The Lord's Believers actively refer to it as such, and get an environmental penalty as a result (hey, if it's the Promised Land, why worry about treating the native life right?).
  • The titular land of Ys was this until it was brought to ruin by the very artifact that drove it to prosperity.
  • Erinn, the setting of Mabinogi, is seen as one of these in the Darker and Edgier prequel, Vindictus, and is very much an Unreachable Promised Land, what with the war against the Fomors in order to reach it. By the time Erinn actually does get reached, several quite sympathetic characters have been corrupted, killed off or both, the biggest Badass of the entire game has become the Big Bad, and sweet and adorable Tieve has become Morrighan herself.
  • RuneScape has Yu'biusk, the goblin homeland. It's supposedly a green land of happiness and tranquility, where all goblins can live together in harmony, but when the player gets there, what's left of it is barren rock and toxic sludge, completely inhabitable.
  • In the Fallout: New Vegas add-on, Honest Hearts, Joshua Graham refers to Zion Nation Park as the Idealistic Version. It's hard to argue with him. The player's actions can have Joshua and the tribals leave Zion for another Promised Land (which leads to Zion being polluted and despoiled by the White Legs), or fight off the White Legs to preserve Zion's natural beauty at the cost of introducing war to its (innocent) local population.
  • Nirvana from Digital Devil Saga is promised to be a Promised Land of the idealistic type. But in the sequel, it turns out to be a Crappy Promised Land.
  • Satellite in Phantasy Star III, where Ayn's generation go to resettle after Shushoran and Cille are attacked by cyborg armies. Satellite turns out to be a Crappy Promised Land. It's the headquarters of the chapter's Big Bad. Ayn can settle his people there afterwards and remain as their leader, but if he does, Siren will attack and destroy it 17 years later, killing all the survivors who went with him.
  • Season 2 of The Walking Dead has a promised land in the form of Wellington, a nigh-mythical settlement that has managed to become a safe and stable society amidst the zombie apocalypse. In one of the finales, it's finally revealed that Wellington does exist, and seems to be as safe as rumored. Unfortunately, it's become so overcrowded that they have to turn away anyone that seeks refuge there. However, Kenny is able to get Clementine and AJ in at the cost of not getting in himself.
  • All three games in the Patapon series have the title people on a search for Earthend, their Promised Land.
  • Elysium in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, a rumored lush land where the creator of the world lives atop the World Tree. Given that the entire world lives on floating, living beings who are prone to dying of old age and sinking, the concept of an actual permanent piece of land where people can live is pretty appealing. It ends up being a ruined habitat in an eons-old space station located in orbit above the World Tree (a Crappy Promised Land), but then the Titans end up forming a true one at the end of the game. Said space station also turns out to be the same one seen in the end of the first game.
  • The plot of Homeworld revolves around a journey from Kharak (a dying desert planet that the Taiidan Empire nukes, exterminating all life) to Hiigara (the titular Homeworld that's revealed to be both a veritable paradise planet and the capital planet of the corrupt and tyrannical Taiidan Empire).
  • In World of Warcraft Thrall came to view Nagrand as the true orc homeland and chose to take up farming there after the events of Legion. As Saurfang points out, this is a Crappy Promised Land. In addition to the many threats to Nagrand, the soil itself can barely sustain a crop with seemingly healthy grain crumbling in dust at a touch.
    Saurfang: This world... it looks good. But it's wrong. Broken. Falling apart.
  • In the flash game SeppuKuties, a group of adorable animals are left without a home after their forest is destroyed by loggers. They set out on a journey full of dangers (were the player must often have the animals die horrible and gory deaths in order to proceed) in the hopes of finding a new home in a place called Paradise Meadows. Going straight into Cynical territory, "Paradise Meadows" turns out to be a mall built by the same contractors that destroyed the forest.

    Western Animation 
  • The Land of Milk and Honey in The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
  • Toad Hollow in Toad Patrol.
  • Tino remembers and tries to convince the other members of the group that The Crevasse of Dreams in The Weekenders is real. This example is both the Idealistic version and an Unreachable Promised Land as they can't quite remember how to get there.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): In one three-part episode set in the future, a mutagen bomb has gone off mutating everyone and making the world a Mad Max homage. The turtles, and many other factions, are searching for a promised land where water is in abundance. The third episode ends with the turtles finding it.
  • In The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, everyone in Storm-Along-Harbor wants to find Candied Island. None of them ever find it. The closest anyone in the series ever gets is when Flapjack and K'nuckles are travelling with the Moon, and come within inches of actually reaching Candied Island... before being pulled back by the Moons gravity. They never find it again, and in the final episode, Flapjack, K'nuckles and Bubbie simply set off to find somewhere else to live (after turning live-action for some reason).
  • Ren & Stimpy travel to Canada which is called the promised land and got rich in selling wieners that grow there (as in they grow in the ground). But after a while they hit rock bottom.
    • There was also an episode (2X12) where they struck... dirt? in Canada, which is highly valued as a food source (wait what?), and then they claim the land and set up a colony and everything's good for a few years, but years after they die the colony turns into Canadian Pittsburgh. Or something.
  • The Hair Bear Bunch episode "Ark Lark" has the zoo animals rehearsing for a re-enactment of the story of Noah and the ark (of which has been built on zoo grounds. After Peevly calls for a morning rehearsal:
    Hair: By morning we'll be gone. I'm gonna put wheels on this ark and take us to the Promised Land.
    Square: Where's that?
    Hair: I dunno, but I promise you...it'll be a long ways away from Peevly and Botch!

    Real Life 
  • Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the USA for many immigrants from poorer European countries (and lately, non-European ones too as they allowed them to immigrate). North-western and central European countries are also this trope for many these days, as well as other developed countries like Taiwan and Japan. This trope falls under both the idealistic and cynical sides of this trope. For some immigrants, they find a golden land of opportunity, for others, they find themselves in dirty slums facing violent gangs and discrimination and distrust from the native population. For the indigenous peoples, it resulted in genocide, depopulation, and poverty and discrimination that continue to this day.
  • There are stories of people running away to places like California (a western state of the USA), hoping to make it big in the movie industry, but wind up poor and penniless when they find out the difficulties of getting in.
    • Lots of people on the East Coast were sold 'agricultural' land in the West Coast that turned out to be horrible for farming when they finally reached it. Some of the luckier victims of this scam found that the clay soil hardpan that flooded and killed the wheatfields they'd been promised was actually excellent at growing rice...
  • Indentured service in the 17th and 18th century was basically an Unreachable Promised Land. A poor man would basically sell himself as a slave to get to the Americas and work as a slave for several years at the plantation, factory or farm. Once the period of servitude was over, the indentured servant was free to live as an inhabitant of the land. Providing, of course, that he survived the harsh treatment, climate, work and diseases first.
  • Israel is pretty nice when it hasn't been ecologically wrecked by the constant fighting that goes down there.
  • The Soviet Union was at first known as the "the workers' paradise". It quickly turned into a Crappy Promised Land, especially after Stalin took over.
  • The Swedish-American colony in Jerusalem, which sparked Selma Lagerlöf to write her novel Jerusalem, founded in 1881. The colony was founded by religious extremists, who wanted to make a "permanent pilgrimage" to Jerusalem — only to discover that the town, like any bustling city, suffered from the realities of urban planning, falling short of their ideal. Seeking to fulfill their vision of the Promised Land, the settlers founded the commune, which grew and eventually moved out of the city, where it served a variety of functions, including hosting refugees from World War I. The colony eventually collapsed from internal strife, and a hotel now bears its name.


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