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The Underworld

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The realm of Hades. Kratos comes here a lot.

"Everyone goes to Hell. Everyone."
Danny Estacado, The Darkness

The Underworld is often a gloomy, depressing realm, if only because it is often depicted as being Beneath the Earth. (The fact that people go there after they die might have something to do with it, too.) Still, it isn't evil. It's not Hell, although Hell may be one part of it. All of the dead come here, whether they were saints, total jackasses, or just kinda so-so in life. Some versions of the Underworld judge the dead and grant them different living standards (or unliving standards, if you prefer) depending on their conduct in life. In others, there's no real judgment, and life — or whatever — continues much as it did before. Possibly they receive, in due course, a chance to go back.

The Underworld is often connected to the world of the living in some manner, although it is typically very difficult to reach — after all, the dead cannot easily come back to the world of the living, or the living visit the dead, so the boundary between the two must not be easily crossed. In most cases, it is literally underground, only reachable through hidden passages winding deep into the bowels of the earth; in other cases, if the setting is a Flat World, it is at the farthest edge of existence, on the very border of creation. In either case, there is often an Underworld River serving as a boundary, and some kind of powerful being — Cerberus, a dragon, an angel with a flaming sword — keeping watch at the gates.

See also Heaven and Hell, the Underworld's more exclusive counterparts. Despite its normally neutral nature, the Underworld, especially the Classical Mythology version, is susceptible to being Hijacked by Jesus and becoming Hell. Expect intrepid mortals to mount an Orphean Rescue for a loved one. See also Afterlife Antechamber, which is a waiting room or brief rest stop on the way to the true afterlife. Compare and contrast Mundane Afterlife. If you were looking for the criminal “underworld”, try The Mafia.

Not so present in movies.

If you were looking for the band, it is at a different realm.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Death Note, Ryuk informs Light that anyone who uses a Death Note can neither go to Heaven nor to Hell, but rather to a place called "Mu," or "nothingness." Eventually, we’re shown a flashback revealing that Light quickly figured out that this applies to everyone, whether they have used a Death Note or have never even seen one. The original series implies that this entails Cessation of Existence, but the prequel novel Another Note, the narrator Mello hints that Mu may actually more of a Mundane Afterlife or simply a generic world of the dead.

  • Rowan Atkinson had a sketch where he plays the Devil welcoming a batch of new arrivals to Hell, separating them by nationality, sin and religion. Turns out everyone but the Jews goes there.

    Comic Books 
  • The Darkness. According to Danny Estacado, a previous host of the Darkness Entity, and Nick (who is actually the true Devil that religious stories of Lucifer and The Devil are all based on) that all souls - whether they were good or evil in life - eventually fall into Hell. A rather disheartening side note is that there actually is a Heaven in the series but no human soul has ever been seen to enter it due to the fact only "beings of light" are allowed entrance.
  • The Avatar published Lady Death comics took place in the Labyrinth, a dark domain in the afterlife inhabited by demons or humans from the living world that were sentenced there. It wasn't necessarily considered a Hell or a place of torment, though it was populated by many monstrous beings.
  • Starting in Wonder Woman Vol 2 Themyscira holds and guards Doom's Doorway, which leads to the dangerous outer reaches of the Underworld full of monstrous creatures seeking to escape to earth. If one manages to pass through far enough to reach Hades itself Elysium is also contained within so there are some nice places there as well, just not anywhere near the door.

    Films — Animation 
  • Hades runs the Underworld in Hercules, as the entire movie is based on Classical Mythology. It's depicted as a gloomy place where the River Styx eventually leads into a whirlpool of souls that eventually has an endpoint, but what happens there is never seen.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Beetlejuice has the Neitherworld, which is pretty much the Underworld, with a Waiting Room From Hell.
  • In Black Orpheus, a symbolic retelling of the Orpheus myth in 20th century Brazil, Orfeo is taken to a strange place where a pagan ceremony is taken place. He hears Eurydice's voice, and just as in the myth, he loses her forever when he turns to look.
  • The Necromongers in The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) speak of their promised land as "the underverse", an alternate plane where the dead go, and which has been visited by every Lord Marshal to have ruled their empire, gaining magical abilities because of it.
  • In The Scorpion King II: Rise of a Warrior, the heroes visit the Underworld to steal a sword required to defeat the Big Bad. It's depicted as a great white desert that soon sprouts spikes from the ground becoming a dark swamp filled with tormented corpses and cursed souls. They also have an hour left to complete their mission or else they are turned into stone.
  • The Sword and Sandal movie Hercules In The Haunted World. The "Haunted World" refers to this place, as Herc must travel deep into the realm of Hades to find the Stone of Forgetfulness which, he hopes, will work like a mental Reset Button to cure his semi-comatose lover Deianira. It's a very low budget movie but the Underworld sets are still pretty cool and stylized.
  • Parking (1985) depicts the Underworld as a gloomy metro full of waiting queues and the occasional hotel. Orpheus and Charon arrive there by car.
  • Shredder Orpheus shows sections of the Underworld connected to separated areas. The main area is Hades and Persephone's broadcasting network, which is adjacent to a gloomy office setting where Apollo and Calliope are tasked with erasing incoming souls' memories via a paper shredder. The second area is deep below the earth and is connected to a shady parking garage, where flame jets and seemingly impossible skateboarding jumps deter intruders. Elysium is mentioned as a golf and country club that shades can retire to, but is never seen.

  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian franchise:
    • During "The Phoenix on the Sword", Conan describes his people's gods: "Their gods are Crom and his dark race, who rule over a sunless place of everlasting mist, which is the world of the dead."
    • In "The Slithering Shadow", Natala is convinced that she and Conan have died, so strange is the city they find themselves in.
  • In Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea, the Underworld is characterized by strange stars and total lack of water. Late in the series, it's revealed that it's the result of a botched attempt at Immortality.
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh: It's Gilgamesh's fear of ending up here, no matter what he does on Earth, that drives his quest to overcome death, after seeing his best friend Enkidu sicken and die, tormented by dreams of the Underworld as a nightmarish prison. To quote from Stephen Mitchell's translation:
    Those who dwell there squat in the darkness, dirt is their food, their drink is clay, they are dressed in feathered garments like birds, they never see light, and on door and bolt the dust lies thick.
  • The Faerie Queene: Mammon rules the Underworld with his daughter, Prosperina, which takes after the Greek account of the Underworld than classic depictions of Hell. Persephone's garden is there, Tantalus is seen reaching for food that moves out of his reach, and souls are even seen wailing beneath the river Cocytus.
  • His Dark Materials: God is a pretender who created an afterlife of near non-existence, where no one was happy; murderers and saints and poets and beggars all went to the same miserable, grey place.
  • The Locked Tomb: The River is the destination of all dead souls, a dangerous spiritual realm inhabited by billions of starving ghosts. The bottom of the River has mouthlike openings into a dreaded space that no one has ever explored, but which the knowledgeable refer to as Hell. There is a fringe belief that the River is supposed to be a transitory space whose current state is the result of something going terribly wrong.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians uses the underworld several times. In the books, it is girdled by the river Styx and consists of the Fields of Asphodel, a grassy plain where the undeserving dead mill about forever; the Elysian Fields, where heroes enjoy an earthly paradise; the Fields of Punishment, where the wicked are tortured forever; and Tartarus, a pit that serves as a prison for the enemies of the gods (the last two are a decomposite of the Greek Tartarus, which served both purposes). The movie interpretation is exclusively a Fire and Brimstone Hell.
  • Riverworld: There are two afterlives: one for children who die before the age of five, and the Riverworld itself for those who die at an age where they'll be able to care for themselves once they're resurrected.
  • The Salvation War: God had already accepted his most blindly devoted worshippers (historically maybe 10% of the population) and closed the gates of Heaven. This action had the effect of ensuring that everyone else (faithful or not) would burn in Fire and Brimstone Hell after death. When humanity finds out, they decide to fight back.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In MythQuest, Alex walks into Hades to retrieve Euridice.
  • In Once Upon a Time the Underworld is a sort of Mundane Afterlife where the recently dead go to sort out their unfinished business before passing on to their final destination, and it's ruled by Hades, who doesn't like his subjects leaving.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In Classical Mythology, the Underworld is Hades, the realm of the god of the same name. Depending on their conduct in life, the dead can end up in the Elysian Fields, which are basically paradise, in the Fields of Asphodel, where they just sort of... hang out, or in Tartarus, whose inmates are tortured for all eternity for crimes against the gods.
  • In Japanese Mythology, Izanagi, the father of the gods, went to the underworld to recover his wife, Izanami, after she died, but ran in terror from her when he saw she was now a rotting undead. Bizarrely, his son, the god Susano-o, on finding out his mother was there, just went to the underworld to live with her like nothing was wrong!
    • Yomi, the main afterlife location, is rather similar to Hades, as it's not a place of punishment, but still rather dark and gloomy. Unlike Hades, it's not eternal, as souls eventually either reincarnate or become Kami.
  • In Mesopotamian Mythology, the dead go to Irkalla, ruled by Ishtar's Darker and Edgier twin sister Ereshkigal. Ishtar tries to take over. She isn't successful, and in fact loses her beloved husband Dumuzi for six months out of the year. Sort of karmic payment for stealing Ereshkigal's husband and getting him killed. See above under Literature for how the Sumerian incarnation of Ereshkigal's underworld shows up in The Epic of Gilgamesh.
  • In the Book of Genesis, everyone expects to "go down to Sheol" after death. The phrase suggests that Sheol is conceived of as The Nothing After Death instead of some sort of paradise or punishment.
  • In Norse Mythology, those who die an inglorious death in their beds or of disease go to the icy realm of Niflheim, ruled by the death goddess Hel. There is also Niflhel (Misty Hel), where the dead go when they die. Apparently that which is dead may die again.
  • In Aztec Mythology, those who don't die in battle or childbirth go to Mictlan, ruled by Mictlantecuhtli and his wife Mictecacihuatl. The catch is all the dead live on the ninth and last layer of Mictlan, and getting there requires a four-year trip through eight layers, all incredibly dangerous.
  • In Egyptian Mythology, the idea of the death and soul is... complicated (and slightly inconsistent), but not unlike the above example, involves the deceased's spirit having to make a journey from one point to another through a location called the Duat. The Duat is said to be inhabited by monsters and demons, and there are a series of trials that a person has to go through in order to continue; to deal with this, some Egyptians would be interred with a copy of the Book of the Dead, a literal guidebook on how to get around in the Duat.
  • See the other wiki if you are interested in many more assorted examples (one can't choose one's afterlife carefully enough).

  • Invoked in Tom Waits' song "Everything Goes to Hell" off the Blood Money album. The album is a collection of songs from a stage musical version of Woyzeck, with this number being a Villain Song by the nihilistic Drum Major.
    I don't believe you go to Heaven when you're good
    Everything goes to Hell anyway

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition noted that the traditional "Great Wheel" cosmology of D&D actually lacked a plane that filled this archetype; the closest was Hades, which had undergone the Christianity-inspired reworking into a Hell-plane mentioned in this trope's description, being presented as a barren wasteland where all positive feelings are slowly sucked away, leaving only the worst impulses before those too fade into total apathy, the spiritual manifestation of Neutral Evil. Thus, the newly fledged "World Axis" cosmology released hand-in-hand with the Nentir Vale setting, featured the Shadowfell; a gloomy and depressive realm primarily inhabited by the transitory spirits of the dead before they pass on to their final fate, be it joining their deity in its home realm or something else. It's also the homeland of the undead, as well as several Dark Is Not Evil-themed races. There are living inhabitants here, but it's noted as a distinctly unhealthy environment for them. It also doubles as a Dark World in that it tends to present itself as a distorted mirror of the material plane.
    • Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition retained the Shadowfell, despite largely going back to the Great Wheel cosmology.
    • In the 4th edition iteration of the Forgotten Realms, the Shadowfell is said to be a new part of the cosmology born from the great cosmological disaster that occurred during the Time Skip, which resulted in a contamination of the Plane of Shadow (Elemental Embodiment of darkness) with the Plane of Negative Energy (Elemental Embodiment of death and decay).
    • In the Eberron setting of Dungeons & Dragons, the souls of the dead go to the grey wasteland of Dolurrh, where the pervasive hopeless apathy of the realm causes them to fade into Shades. The world's primary religion accepts this as the natural order of things, although others, like the Church of the Silver Flame, promise deliverance from Dolurrh to the faithful. It's essential Hades from the Great Wheel, but shorn of the Neutral Evil associations.
    • Although never implemented in a game product, a series of Dragon articles by Bruce Heard posited a shadowy ghost-world for the Mystara setting: a lightless parallel of the mortal plane, home to incorporeal undead, to which the souls of the slain would pass immediately upon death. The lucky ones would find a handy portal to the true afterlife promised by their respective faiths, while the unlucky might be consumed by hungry wraiths or stripped of their residual identities by hostile souls before they reached one.
  • Exalted's Underworld didn't exist until the titular Exalted Divided By Zero by killing the creators of the universe, who had never designed the world with mechanisms to cope with their deaths. The result was a gaping hole in existence, the Well of Oblivion, around which the remnants of the dead Primordials, the Neverborn, gathered, and a shadowy reflection of the living world formed.
  • Magic: The Gathering has a very classically-inspired variant in the "Theros" block, where the realm of Erebos functions as this in a manner similar to that of Hades, right down to being named after the god who rules it. All mortal souls on Theros go here after death, and coinage minted from clay burial masks is the local currency. Interestingly, there is a way for the dead to return to the land of the living — by forging a golden mask to wear in order to escape Erebos. Sadly, the act of forging this mask and returning to the mortal world also removes the memories of the would-be fugitive, turning them into a shambling zombie known as a Returned.
  • The Underworld in the New World of Darkness is where ghosts who lose all their anchors to the living world end up. It's divided into the Autochthonous Depths, a massive underground labyrinth that bears a vague resemblance to the underworld myths of the nearest living civilization, and the Lower Mysteries, which are alien realms governed by strange laws enforced by the Kerberoi.
  • The Old World of Darkness has the Dark Umbra, the realm of the Spirit World where wraiths materialize. It's split into layers; the Shadowlands, which mirror the living world, are at the top, while beneath them are a number of firmaments known as the Dark Kingdoms (America and Europe play host to the Dark Kingdom of Stygia) and an everswirling storm of unsettled spaces known as the Tempest. Below the Tempest lies the Labyrinth, which is not a nice place.
  • In Pathfinder, the Boneyard serves this role, though unlike most examples it's usually a temporary measure. It's a True Neutral realm that takes all souls after death before judging them and assigning them to their proper afterlives. Souls who are themselves True Neutral remain there forever, while other choose to flee and hide within the realm rather than submit to judgement.
  • In Scion, the prison of the Titans drew the souls of the dead to it. When the gods noticed this — and that the dead still held a good measure of their humanity — each pantheon created an Underworld where the dead could go; as a consequence, most every mythological Underworld exists somewhere in Scion. However, the Titans' escape from their prison has caused upheaval across the various Underworlds.

  • In Jasper in Deadland, all souls eventually end up in Deadland. Most of the entrants remain in the City Circle (the main circle of Deadland), however souls who can pass Ammut's test may enter Elysium.

    Video Games 
  • The underworld map in the Fantasy game of Civilization 2: Test of Time.
  • According to Word of God, this is how the Demon World works in Devil May Cry in spite of several characters referring to it as Hell. It's unclear how personal morality factors in, but it's made clear that the Underworld is divided into different zones with demons like Berial ruling over a Fire and Brimstone Hell while the Divinely Appearing Demons known as The Fallen live in higher areas.
  • In the Fall from Heaven backstory, most souls go to an underworld-like place when dead.
  • A typical feature of the God of War series, though its appearance varies between games. In the first game, all that is seen is a river of blood and several pillars made of bones, with rotating bridges with blades on them that are implied to be made of flesh. The second game does away with the gore-related aspects, though it still looks distinctly hellish. The third game, however, has a depiction that is significantly more faithful to the Underworld of Greek Mythology, with only the part of Tartarus actually looking like Hell. Kratos regularly comes down here and manages to escape in some form or another, though in earlier cases he required help of some kind.
  • Due to the main setting being in the sky, the surface world, known as the Crimson Horizon in Granblue Fantasy, serves as this. Nobody knows what it's actually like down there since flight technology stops working after a certain altitude, and some say that it's the land of the dead. What is known however is that there are demons down there, who occasionally attempt to invade the sky world.
  • The setting of Hades, as can be divined by its title. Hades himself has made his palace in the deepest layer of Tartarus, wherein he manages his realm and listens to the petitions of the dead, and protagonist Zagreus will have to carve his way out of all three traditional layers of the Underworld (Tartarus, Asphodel and Elysium) plus the banks of the river Styx during his repeated attempts to run away from home.
  • Fox Eye's Roguelike Hades Vanquish takes place in the titular underworld, where Mana's soul goes after she dies from cardiac arrest at the beginning of the game. True to Fox Eye's Author Appeal and Signature Style, this take on Hades has many of its floors underwater. The player must navigate through each floor of each area in Hades while fighting off monsters and making sure Mana doesn't drown in each floor's submerged areas in her bid to escape from the underworld and get a second chance at life.
  • The Underworld can be accessed in Harvest Moon: Light of Hope. Gorgan is the Underworld King. Nova is his (presumably Half-Human Hybrid) daughter who decided that she preferred to live on the surface. The Underworld isn't particularly hellish as it has its own inhabitants and society.
  • King's Quest: Mask of Eternity: The Dimension of Death. Implied to be a temporary holding place for souls.
  • In Lost Eden, The Valley of Mists is this for the dinosaurs, and is accessible by humans only by eating the Root of Ages. It's also where you learn the secret of the strange tablets you've been collecting throughout the entire game.
  • The underworld is one of many Netherworlds in The Multiverse of Makai Kingdom, and is implied to be the resting place of people too vile to even qualify as prinnies. It is ruled by Seedle, a former samurai who murdered his way to the top after being sent there.
  • Mushroom Kingdom Fusion also has the Demon Realm, with levels based on Castlevania and DOOM among other things.
  • Rayman 2: The Great Escape has The Cave of Bad Dreams, where Polokus's nightmares are sealed. It has ghosts coming out of the ground, lots of skulls, and is referred to as the Kingdom of the Dead in the PS1 version.
  • The Netherworld in Romancing SaGa. It also has Purgatory, a realm for those who choose to retain their memories of life until they abandon them and become reincarnated.
  • According to Shadowman, everyone who dies ends up in Deadside — basically, hell — where they gradually lose their identities and become mindless zombies. The sole exception is the titular protagonist, due to the power of the Mask of Shadows.
  • The dimension of Khalderun is stated to be Summoners War: Sky Arena's "land of the dead." It's a dark world full of demons and undead, and holds the second awakening dungeons for the Grim Reaper and Howl (a spellcasting ghost monster).
  • Super Mario Fusion Revival has Di Yu, a world named after the Chinese hell. Many enemies found there are either undead or demonic.
  • The Underwhere of Super Paper Mario is pretty much one big Expy of the underworld from Classical Mythology. It's populated by creatures called Shaydes (Shades) who lament about how their "games were ended" and ruled by Queen Jaydes (Hades), who acts as a judge for the Shaydes. Other characters include a ferryman named Charold (Charon) who provides you safe passage across the River Twygz (River Styx), a three-headed Chain Chomp named Underchomp (Cerberus) that guards the entrance to the Overthere (Elysium), and three old hags (Fates) who live on the Underwhere Road (Tartarus).
  • The protagonist of Terranigma actually starts in the Underworld.

     Web Comics 
  • A-gnosis' works, being based on Classical Mythology, feature the Greek Underworld as a humongous underground cave that can be accessed through magic portals, as one in a cave beneath a temple of Hades, with little illumination except a part of Elysium that receives sunlight and with the locations featured in the mythos as Hades' and Persephone's palace, where he judges people who have recently died, or the Asphodel Fields. In one scene when Demeter asks Hades to release a mortal lover who was zapped by Zeus, he explains her not only it goes against the rules, such lover has become so deeply changed that he would be unrecognizable to Demeter, and Persephone describes the place as stagnant, noticing how only the old trees produce fruit and nothing (save presumably asphodels) grows, the dead there have skull-like heads save for Minos and the other attendants of Hades, and it's also inhabited by other deities as Nyx and the Erynies.

    Web Original 
  • Karzahni in BIONICLE, where Matoran used to be sent to for repairs. Unfortunately, the ruler, also named Karzahni, didn't do a great job, so he sent some the badly repaired Matoran away from their islands or kept them. The Turaga realized Matoran weren't coming back, so they stopped and told stories of Karzahni as a scary place where lazy Matoran were sent to.
  • Dreamscape: Notably, its where the Overlord of Evil is sealed.
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, the Land of the Dead is where all the spirits of the dead go regardless of their alignment. It used to be a neutral realm ruled by Dis Pater until Death took over and turned the land into the verse's equivalent of Hell with his corrupting influence.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time has the Land of the Dead seen in "Death in Bloom". Later episodes mention different parts of the Land of the Dead known as "dead worlds". "Together Again" takes place almost entirely in these dead worlds, as by this point most of the cast is dead, and it elaborates on the structure of the Land of the Dead. The Land of the Dead is divided into 50 different dead worlds, with the bottom most being equivalent to Hell and the top most being equivalent to Heaven, while still being rather different, with a wide variety of dead worlds inbetween.
  • Fangbone! has the Skullbanian afterlife known as the Nightlands, a barren wasteland shrouded in perpetual darkness where the memories of those who have passed through the realm play out for others to see. In its heart however is a Warrior Heaven in the form of a vast feasting hall home to the spirits of countless barbarians.
  • Appears in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy often. Located miles beneath the surface, oceans of lava and macabre, monstrous architecture are commonplace. It's populated by monsters and demons of every type imaginable with many of the show's supernatural characters coming from the realm (including the Grim Reaper himself). Despite the similarities to Hell though, most of the monsters live a normal Earth-like life and many seem to be quite amiable if frightening.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has Big Good and sun goddess Princess Celestia put out lost dog flyers for Cerberus, and Twilight worries about the evils in Tartarus escaping. Putting something from Classical Mythology into a world that has little to nothing to do with the world of the viewer was a bit jarring. However, it definitely still counts: much much much later, the final enemy of season four was being held there and Cerberus' temporary absence so long ago was what allowed him to get free. It's eventually shown that Tartarus is the place where monsters and those who committed crimes against all of Equestria are imprisoned.
  • In a Robot Chicken sketch, a man dies and finds out that everyone goes to Heaven. He passes by several people before seeing Adolf Hitler.
    Hitler: I'm just as surprised as you are.
  • Wishfart: Dez and his friends visit it in several episodes, with Akiko specifically being native to there. Located just beneath the City of Adventure, it's a fiery wasteland populated by demons and the spirits of the deceased, and ruled by a giant angry demon known only as the King of the Underworld. On the few times its inhabitants interact with the surface, bad stuff happens.