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The Vanishing Isle: known for its turtle soup.

Mythical creatures of mystery: fish, whales, or turtles (there's a definite preference for turtles over any other animal, as their hard shells appear especially suited to holding up or forming chunks of landscape) big enough to be mistaken for islands or even continents have shown up in Mythology and Legends for thousands of years. This creature is often called an Aspidochelone or, if specifically a turtle, Zaratan. They are often portrayed as being so large and ancient that soil and plant life have grown on its back, sometimes ancient species containing something so rare that the hero (or villain) must marvel at it or try to obtain it. Often the hero gets only a brief opportunity to marvel at its existence, before it decides to set out and dive deep underwater, leaving the protagonist high and dry (or wet and drowning if he doesn't manage to get off in time). How the fauna and flora on its back can survive and grow when it frequently dives underwater is rarely addressed — although, in some cases, the beast never dives, instead spending its time cruising at the ocean surface.

A variant of this trope place the beast on land rather than in the sea — a Turtle Hill, so to speak. In these cases, the creature may be mistaken for a regular hill or mountain, as soil and dirt may cover its body entirely and forests or villages grow on its back, until something prompts it to move and a piece of the landscape stands up and walks away. Flying variants also occur from time to time, especially when The Sky Is an Ocean with its own floating islands and continents.

While turtles are a common choice for this treatment, crocodiles and whales share the similar trait of sometimes sitting near the surface of the water such that they resemble large rocks, and thus are common alternate types of animal islands when scaled up to enormous sizes.

A Sub-Trope of That's No Moon. See also Kraken and Leviathan for other gargantuan sea creatures, with which this trope often overlaps. An Ocean of Adventure will likely host many such creatures. If people live on the back of one of these beings it's usually a Mobile City by necessity, although not typically one with a lot of control over where it goes.

If Earth is one of these, there's a good chance it's turtles all the way down. If it's a dead turtle, it's a Giant Corpse World.

A very common trope in world religion, Turtle Island for instance being the name used for Earth or North America by several northeastern indigenous peoples. Not to be confused with the 1995 animated series.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Arabian Nights: Adventures of Sinbad: The main character encounters an island on the back of a whale.
  • Case Closed: A three part episode takes place in a turtle shaped island around Okinawa.
  • Digimon:
    • Digimon Data Squad: ElDoradimon is a tortoise big enough to bear a temple and its surrounding city and jungle on its back. Another one appears in Digimon Adventure: (2020), initially acting as a base of operations for Devimon against its will.
    • Digimon Tamers has Ebonwumon, a two-headed turtle with a tree growing on its shell, as a downplayed example of this trope.
    • Digimon Fusion gives us KingWhamon, who carries the Island Zone on his head.
    • Digimon Adventure: (2020), in addition to ElDoradimon, also has its iteration of Petaldramon, which is big enough to house an entire forest on its back.
  • Guardian Fairy Michel: Sitel is a fairy who happens to be one of these. And he can fly.
  • Kurohime: Genbu is a Spirit King who occasionally tromps around a nearby continent and is covered in ogres. He's also a Grumpy Old Man.
  • Naruto: Naruto and Killer Bee hide and train on an island turtle (which has long since been guarded by the Cloud Village), which is a very good place to hide because they can get it to move if they need to. And apparently it's not a summon, unlike the usual giant beasts seen. Gai's personal summon is shocked by the size of one of the turtles who promptly informs him it's only a hatchling.
  • One Piece:
    • The Island Eater is a giant goldfish that eats islands. Its subsequent feces are mistaken for islands.
    • The Giant Mechanical Soldier of Karakuri Castle: Meka Island turns out to be the back of a gigantic turtle. Its Japanese name, read backwards, read as "Shimagame" — meaning, of course, "Island Turtle".
    • Another example appears at the start of the series twelfth opening. The Straw Hats only realize this after having been playing on the island for some time and end up fleeing.
    • A variation on this is the island of Zou, which is on the back of an ancient elephant.
  • Toriko: One of the Gourmet World's residents is a tortoise that carries an entire fortress city is on its back.
  • The☆Ultraman has Islanda, a shell-shaped kaiju the size of an island who appears harmless when immobile, until it reveals itself to unwary ships by lashing out with it's hidden tentacles.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Capsule Monsters: The island the heroes first board without realizing is the back of an island turtle.

  • On the Carta Marina of 1539, the English ("Angli") have cast anchor on a giant whale and are in the process of boiling a kettle on its back.

    Asian Animation 
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: In the first episode of Mysterious Ocean Adventure, the ground starts shaking and creating cracks in the ground and uprooting trees, causing distress with the Goats' Village inhabitants. Wolffy and Master Paopao note the sudden disappearance of Goats' Village from its place at the end of the episode. The next episode reveals the reason why: Goats' Village is on top of a giant turtle-like creature that carries it and the surrounding plains on its shell, and it decided to start moving.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • The old card Island Fish Jasconius, based on the fish from Saint Brendan's legend under Mythology.
    • Hamletback Goliath depicts a couple of goblins living on the Goliath's back, and plant growth that makes it look like a mountain.
    • Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle a tremendous kraken with a city on its back that becomes both the site and the subject of a violent dispute between the sea god Thassa and the Planeswalker Kiora.
    • Slinn Voda is an unusual submarine example — while it never emerges from the seas, it bears a merfolk city on its back.
    • The five Hideaway lands appearing in Lorwyn are implictly enromous creatures deep in slumber and covered by soil and vegetation, though four of the five are the Turtle Hill variation. In Shadowmoor, they all wake up together.
  • Magi-Nation: The underwater civilization of Orothe builds some of their cities on the backs of giant sea turtles, as seen here. They're mostly mermaids and the turtles themselves usually stay submerged.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Island Turtle is, naturally, an example.

    Comic Books 
  • Aero: According to Madame Huang, the world was once populated by Kaiju called Nests who carried entire cities on their backs. However, when human technology advanced, they decided that the Nests were too dangerous and slaughtered them using the white crystal towers now popping up all over Shanghai.
  • The Authority: Infinite City, the place where all the Jenny incarnations that have passed are placed, is a city on the back of a giant turtle.
  • In Forets D Opale, a series by the author of Lanfeust, a smaller and and land-based version exists, looking like a six-limbed sea turtle with trees on its back. It gets a Dying Moment of Awesome when it gets rid of an enemy ship by diving under it and ramming it from below, sinking soon after.
  • Lanfeust: The Magohamoth isn't exactly a turtle, and it's intelligent and speaks to people telepathically, but it fits this trope otherwise. The protagonists follow its trail to an island off the coast of a river delta, and after some bizarre hallucinations we get a Distant Reaction Shot, and the entire island is what they were looking for. Below the waterline it looks sort of like a manatee. With a volcano on its back.

    Fan Works 
  • Kaiju Revolution: This incarnation of the lost continent of Mu is an utterly colossal filter-feeding anomalocarid Kaiju that has a unique ecosystem inside and outside its body and also serves as a nesting ground to other kaiju.
  • Monster Island, a Doctor Who fanfic, has an island called Monster Island which turns out to be a shapeshifting alien monster, one of the Volmiy-Shapebeasts.
  • Pokédex: Torterra are mentioned to have been mistaken for islands before when they grow large enough and hibernate. They usually get mistaken for hills or other parts of the landscape, but they are also noted to be naturally buoyant and good swimmers, and as such it's common for a sleeping Torterra adrift at sea to be mistaken for an island. It turns out that Sinnoh itself is a Torterra of tremendous size.
  • Voyages of the Wild Sea Horse: One chapter involves the protagonists visiting Meka Island from The Giant Mechanical Soldier of Karakuri Castle, and just like in the OAV, the island's ruler succeeds in awakening Shimagame with plans of weaponizing her to conquer the world. With roughly half the crew being familiar with Japanese kaiju movies, they are very underwhelmed by Shimagame's natural arsenal.

    Film — Animated 
  • Ainbo: Spirit of the Amazon: the gigantic tortoise spirit Motelo Mama carries a whole forest on her shell.
  • Aladdin and the King of Thieves: The Hand of Midas is located on one of these, called "The Vanishing Isle".
  • Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan: The "uninhabited island" turns out to actually be a giant sleeping dragon.
  • Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio: The Terrible Dogfish is a deep-sea monster that periodically comes out of the abyss to bathe in some sunlight before going back down. Thus, when it sleeps while staying afloat, the part of the body that sticks out of the water looks like an island.
  • Moana: Te Fiti, the Goddess of Creation, is a woman big enough to be an island when she lies down.
  • Strange World: Once Searcher and Ethan reach the other side of the mountains, they discover that their homeland rests on the back of a gigantic, continent-sized organism, and that the subterranean world they've been navigating is actually the inside of its body.
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Meet the Pegasus: The floating island where Prince Pegasus and Princess Blue dance while the goats are chased by the wolves is revealed to be a large turtle with all sorts of plants and rocks on it.
  • Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas: The island that the main characters come across after escaping the Sirens is actually a giant angler fish. The flora is actually the fish's fleshy growths, which retract when it begins moving (or are cut) and its lure can be mistaken for a tiny, fast-moving sun.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Adventures of Baron Munchausen: What the characters initially assume to be an island is revealed to be a gigantic stonefish-looking Monster Whale, the blowhole of which was mistaken for an active volcano.
  • Gamera: Guardian of the Universe: Gamera is initially mistaken for a floating atoll until he shows up in Fukuoka.
  • The Neverending Story: The giant turtle Morla, who lives in the Swamps of Sadness and is first perceived by Atreyu to be a hill of some sort.
  • Pokémon Detective Pikachu: What the main characters think is a mountain range is actually a group of Torterra subjected to growth experiments, big enough to play this trope straight.

  • Seas of Blood contains a sleeping Sea Monster mistaken for an island. Essentially, its only purpose is to rob you of some crew members, as the pirates who are exploring the island when it wakes up all meet a watery death.

  • Abarat Days Of Magic Nights Of War: Near the end, Candy Quakenbush washes up on the shores of an island and happily dozes. The island is not actually a turtle, but another kind of creature entirely, with a tree and other foliage growing straight out of its back. Interestingly, Candy first realizes she must be on a creature instead of an island because real islands in the Abarat are frozen at a single hour of the day, and she notices that the light has changed since she washed ashore.
  • Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox has krakens, which are described as like an "acorn barnacle, albeit a barnacle which could easily house an Olympic Stadium or two". They are often mistaken for islands.
  • Book of Imaginary Beings: The Fastitocalon, a great whale whose slumbering form can be mistaken for an island. When sailors land on it and kindle a fire on its back, the Fastitocalon awakes and dives back into the sea, dragging the sailors to their doom. In ancient times it was called the Aspidochelone and was described as a turtle, but the name became corrupted over time and one sea beast replaced the other. There is also the zaratan, which is much the same thing. The kraken is also often mistaken for an island.
  • Books of the Raksura: The leviathan in The Serpent Sea doesn't have plant life growing on it other than moss, but it is big enough to host an entire groundling city.
  • Discworld:
    • Taken to extremes with Great A'tuin, a space-traveling star turtle that carries four less-giant elephants on its back, who in turn carry the Discworld itself on their backs. A Turtle Planet, if you like.
    • There's a parody in Jingo: Leonard dismisses sailors' tales about giant turtles being mistaken for islands as obvious myths, on the grounds that "you don't get giant turtles that small".
  • Doctor Dolittle: A humongous sea snail appears in one of the later books.
  • Expedition has Grovebacks, which as their name implies, host groves of trees on their backs while dormant.
  • In Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi, Wei Wuxian's capturing Wen Chao as a counter hostage against the Wen sect is disrupted by the realization that the island that they're both standing on is really the tortoise yao they'd been hunting.
  • Hungry Kid Island, by Shel Silverstein, about an island that's Exactly What It Says on the Tin: the scalp of a giant hungry child.
    Oh, I'm goin' to Hungry Kid Island,
    Way out in the shimmerin' sea.
    There's probably hungry kids out there
    Who'll share my lunch with me.
    But why call it Hungry Kid Island?
    There's no kids around that I see,
    So I'm goin' to Hungry Kid Island
    To solve this mystery.
  • Iron Council: A terrestrial variant appears, with an entire small city is built/carved into the back of a gargantuan tortoise that wanders the plains. People who step off it needn't worry about drowning, but might have to walk a ways to catch up to their home if they stay away long.
  • The Lord of the Isles: There's a Turtle Island in the first book. True to Drake's own brand of "realistic" fantasy, the only life present is sea plants.
  • The Neverending Story: When Atreyu heads into the Swamp of Sadness to look for Morla the Aged One, the oldest and wisest of Fantastica's mortal creatures, he's told to look for a hill named Turtle Rock. When he finds it, he also discovers that Morla doesn't live in Turtle Rock — she is Turtle Rock, as she a tortoise so vase that her shell is the size of a good-sized hillock.
  • Pagoo: In an already-submerged and miniature example, the baby hermit crab takes shelter in a tiny vacant shell that's attached to a cluster of stalked barnacles, only to be shaken about when his new home starts crawling. He's unwittingly become a tenant of "Traveling Towers", a barnacle-colony atop a snail shell which an adult hermit crab (Pagoo's "landlady") is wearing.
  • The Reader (2016): Reed and his crew encounter one on their voyage to the end of the world.
  • Ringworld: In The Ringworld Engineers, Louis Wu discounts tales of such creatures, knowing the same stories had been told speciously by Earth sailors. Of course, the Great Ocean on Ringworld is many thousands of times bigger than the puny little puddles on Earth, so it's not wholly unexpected when it's confirmed such "islandfish" really do exist there.
  • The Saga of Arrow-Odd: Sailing past Greenland, Odd sights a small island covered with heather and sends five men to explore it. The island goes down, drowning the men. Afterwards Odd learns what looked like an island was the back of the sea-monster Lyngbakr ("Heather-Back").
  • Star Trek: Titan: Referenced in Over a Torrent Sea, when the characters observe floating "islands" in the ocean of planet Droplet. Torvig asks a Chelon crewman (as the name suggests, Chelon are turtle-men) if they're relatives of his.
  • The Stormlight Archive: In a "making of" video by Brandon Sanderson about the writing process of the second book, it's revealed that there's a part of the world with several islands like this. Except, this being Roshar, the giant beasts in question are greatshells, not turtles. Words of Radiance itself reveals they are apparently at least near-sapient as after a minor heroine seriously impressed one of them (which is worshiped by its inhabitants) it gave her a a larkin (a crabdragonwasp thing) as a reward.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium: In The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, there is a hobbit rhyme about "Fastitocalon", a giant turtle mistaken for an island. Tolkien got the name from an Anglo-Saxon verse bestiary; it was a distortion of the Greek "aspidochelone" ("Shield-Turtle").

    Live-Action TV 
  • Once Upon a Time in Wonderland: The Mock Turtle takes this form, though it's considerably smaller than most examples.
  • Used in-Universe on a few episodes of Star Trek: Voyager.
    • The crew encounters a traveler in a space-port bar who claims to have landed on a moon, started a fire, only for the "moon" to unfurl and start moving, sending him clamoring for his spaceship and barely escaping alive. Unsurprisingly, everyone else in the bar treats it as a ridiculous tall tale.
    • Another episode had the crew discover a wormhole that led back to Earth, ending the danger of being trapped in the Delta Quadrant. The reason this sounds too good to be true is because it is; the visions they're getting of Earth are actually an ancient, massive deep-space predator using telepathy to trick the crew. The wormhole they're planning to fly into is its mouth.


    Mythology, Religion, and Legend 
  • The mythologies of several First Nations tell of a giant tortoise that rose out of the sea when animals needed land to live on. In fact, the Creation Myth of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy has the entire planet as just one really big turtle in an infinite sea. Some current-day Indigenous Americans prefer to use "Turtle Island" instead of "North America".
  • One of the most famous early examples would be the island in the tales of Sinbad the Sailor, which he discovered was on the back of a whale. Before they realize what it is, the crew find many rare fruits and plants on the surface. Due to the fact that he's possibly the unluckiest man of his time, his entire crew manages to escape (the only time they ever, however), and he gets left behind when the whale submerges and is lost at sea for years.
  • Supposedly, the origin for the island of Bohol in the Philippines (you can find it as a little speck at the heart of the archipelago) is that a woman fell from the sky, so a turtle turned itself into an island that she could live on. Compare to the Native American story above.
  • There's a traditional belief among the people of Timor that their home island is actually a giant stone crocodile, its back protruding from the water.
  • In The Voyage of St. Brendan, Brendan and his companions make land on the back of the fish Jasconius at Easter and celebrate Mass. For seven years, Brendan and his companions return to Jasconius on Easter Sunday to celebrate Easter on its back.
  • The Leviathan (or, sometimes, the Kraken) is occasionally portrayed as such. One of the original myths of the Kraken was that it was simply a giant monster that would sleep at the surface for so long that plants would grow on it and ship crews would mistake it for an island. Anyone unfortunate enough to light a fire while ashore would wake the Kraken, which would then submerge and pull the ship down with it.
  • There's an extreme version of this in the pre-Islamic Arabian Mythology, in a turtles all the way down recursive cosmology sense. It's said that our world is located on the back of an angel of God, but he needs to stand on a ruby so he won't fall down. This ruby is small enough to be placed on the back of a bull called Kujata, who in turn is small enough to be placed on the back of a fish called Bahamut (now you know where that name came from). And Bahamut is also swimming in an astral ocean. It's said that the true sight of the fish is so overwhelming that freaking Jesus fainted upon seeing a glance of it.
  • Hindu Mythology has it that the world is carried on the backs of four elephants which in turn are carried on the back of a turtle named Akupara. This was likely the inspiration for Great A'Tuin and Torterra. Some say that the tortoise is likewise balanced on a cobra.
  • Aztec Mythology told that the land was created from the corpse of Cipactli, a gigantic crocodile. The gods Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca, who normally hate each others' guts, teamed up to kill the monster. Cipactli stayed at the bottom of the sea, so Tezcatlipoca lowered his foot to lure it to the surface. After getting it bit clean off, the two gods turned into snakes and strangled Cipactli, thus forming the North American continent.
  • Singapore has a particularly localised myth to explain the origins of its own turtle-shaped island, Kusu Island, which houses several temples and is visited more by devotees than tourists. The story goes that a turtle transformed itself into the eponymous island to save two drowning sailors.
  • Myth has it that Indonesia was a giant solidified crocodile, as told in an episode of the Crocodile Hunter.
  • Older Than Feudalism: Pliny the Elder in his Natural History describes a giant fish called pristis, which is so big that sailors have taken it for an island and landed on its back.
  • Several legendary creatures from medieval bestiaries fill this role. These are the Jasconius, Aspidochelone, and Zaratan. Depending on the story, the being is either portrayed as a turtle, a fish, or even a crab. Often, in modern retellings, the creatures are all a single type of island beast with multiple names.
  • Ares magazine issue #4, "Facts for Fantasy" section. Anglo-Saxon legend calls the whale "Fastitocalon", a creature the color of uncut stone that sometimes sleeps on the ocean surface. Sailors would moor their ships to and land on the "island", even building fires and eating. When the activity woke the whale it would dive underwater, taking the sailors and their ship to their doom.
  • The Icelandic saga of Örvar-Oddr has the lyngbakur ("heatherback"), an enormous whale whose back appears to be a small island covered in greenery. Unwary sailors who try to land on it might find themselves drowned when the lyngbakur suddenly submerges, as nearly happens to Oddr and his crew.

  • Avernus from Embers in the Dusk has these. They were known to spit psionic nukes at any Daemonic invaders, and, in one case, a city containing a rogue Alpha+ psyker.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 13th Age: Koru behemoths are enormous eight-legged creatures that are so large that they can support entire towns and semi-autonomous ecosystems on their backs and are considered world features rather than monsters. So long as their passengers don't practice too much annoying magic, the behemoths generally tolerate them.
  • Atlantis The Lost World: Leviathans are giant marine turtles 200-400 feet long. Their shells are encrusted with corals, mollusks and seaweed, and when basking on the surface sailors often mistake them for small reefs or islands. If the sailors "go ashore" and are still there when the leviathan dives, the results are disastrous.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Al-Qadim: The Zaratan is a huge turtle (200-350 feet across) with rock outcroppings on its shell and flippers that looked like small reefs. When asleep on the surface, it could be mistaken for a small floating island.
    • 1E Oriental Adventures setting adventure OA5 Mad Monkey Vs. Dragon Claw: An uninhabited island is actually a huge dragon turtle (100 yards across) sleeping on the ocean's surface.
    • Dungeon magazine #46: In the adventure "Floating Rock", the titular wandering island is actually a Zaratan from the Al-Qadim campaign setting.
    • D&D Expert rulebook (1980): The dragon turtle monster is so large that sailors have mistaken their hard shells for islands and tied their ships up to them while they were floating on the surface.
    • Zaratans appear in the 5th edition sourcebook Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes are a type of Elder Elemental, resembling a vast turtle made entirely out of stone and earth and large enough to carry trees upon its back.
    • Dragonlance adventure DL12 Dragons of Faith. While voyaging on a ship, the Player Characters encounter a small rocky island that turns out to be the back of an old sea dragon resting on the ocean surface. If they go ashore to explore, the sea dragon will swim away from their ship and attack the party, hoping to have them for dinner.
  • Exalted
    • The Grand Amanuta, a behemoth that lives in the Western oceans, is an island-sized, turtle-like beast that typically floats just at the waterline, its shell emerging from the water while its tentacles and birdlike head remain hidden beneath the waves. Over time, dirt has come to cover its back and a tropical forest has taken root in it, causing it to resemble a small ovoid island slowly drifting through the sea.
    • Living islands are immense creatures that drift through the seas of the Western Wyld. In their natural environment, they're protean shapeshifters that can mold their bodies to possess any feature or ability they need. They don't usually last long in Creation, whose stricter natural laws typically cause them to calcify and stabilize into mundane islands, but some manage to survive by shaping themselves into things like huge turtles or hermit crabs, with permanent limbs and other organs tucked away beneath their now-stable shell.
  • Fantasy Wargaming: The Kraken is a marine monster that floats just under the surface of the ocean and is large enough to be mistaken for an island. It doesn't notice people walking on it, but it does notice attempts to beach a ship on it.
  • Invisible Sun: Built upon the back of the Cadallish, a mile-long, ten-legged snapping turtle, is a small city of gold and black towers and minarets.
  • Numenera: The granthu, a titanic crustacean that lives deep beneath the sea to the west of the main setting. It's big enough that a good-sized city, Joira, has been built on, in and beneath its carapace. The Fish People who inhabit it, who speak about the granthu like humans speak about the Earth, are firmly of the belief that the beast is not unique, and that there are more out there bearing their own cities on their backs.
  • Pathfinder:
    • Aspidochelones are present as high level monsters. They're absolutely massive whales, often more than 500 feet across, with rocky hides. They spend most of their lives hibernating between periods of ravenous hunger where they'll consume so much sea life — from schools of fish to giant sea monsters to ships — that they'll devastate the ecosystem for leagues around. While they sleep, dense jungle develops on their back. When startled out of their sleep, such as by sailors lighting fires on their hides, they have a habit of diving deep very quickly, creating powerful undertows that pull all nearby creatures down into the depths — and even if they manage not to drown, the now cranky and hungry aspidochelone isn't going to take long to resurface.
    • The 2nd Edition Bestiary mentions rumors of dragon turtles — a type of dragon resembling massive, heavily armored chelonians — of immense size, who spend centuries drifting across the seas while soil, vegetation and even small villages accrete on their backs.
    • One of the Plane of Water's settlements, City-on-Lure, is built on the back of the absolutely tremendous anglerfish that gives it its name.
    • The brine dragons of the Plane of Water sometimes reach such sizes that, when some are forced to take up nomadic lives for whatever reason, they often carry their entire kingdoms on their backs.
  • Space Master: The supplement Aliens & Artifacts describes Living Islands, which can grow up to two kilometers in diameter. They can dive under the surface, leaving whatever was on top of them behind.
  • Warhammer: Age of Sigmar: The Idoneth city of Galanaur was built on what the Idoneth thought was a submarine desert, but which was in fact the back of a continent-sized Great Scaphodon. The people of Galanaur have formed something of a symbiotic relationship with their colossal host in a manner compared to fish living within an anemone, shaping their city from its shell and following its slow, meandering path across the seas of the Realms.

    Video Games 
  • ARK: Survival Evolved: Genesis Part 1 introduces a manmade creature called Megachelon, a giant six-legged turtle with a flat stone shell broad enough to build structures without needing a platform saddle. If it has berry seeds in its inventory, they will gradually grow into plants.
  • Corruption Of Champions has Venus, a freshwater turtle woman who grew and grew after demons started to pump toxic run off from their mountain factory into the lake. She grew so big that her shell looks like a small island though at this size she'd never try to hurt anyone. Being a fetish RPG with a plot you can partake in sexual activities with her.
  • Dawn of the Monsters: The Monarch of Tremors, Gaiacras, is so large that she has buildings, statues, and obelisks on her body.
  • .hack//G.U., Tartarga is a giant flying turtle that houses the Net Slum, a paradise for bugged PCs and hackers, of which Zelkova is a resident.
  • Dragon Mania Legends has a sleeping turtle island as one of the expansions for holding your dragon habitats.
  • Endless Ocean: There is one of these in Blue World. You travel to it and it wakes up after you get there.
  • Fe features a giant deer with trees growing on its legs and back. Later, the swamp area has what appears to be a large pulsating rock formation, which is actually the unconscious serpent queen/mother.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Adamantoises seem to grow bigger with each installment. The one from Final Fantasy XV is in the running for the largest boss in the series. It was mistaken for a mountain for a long time, and it boasts over 5 million HP - before updates, it would apparently take fifteen straight hours to beat it.
    • Late in the story for Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers, it's revealed that the Isle of Ken on the First is actually their version of the primal Bismarck, having laid dormant long enough for grass and trees to grow on his back. The player and friends end up awakening him for the purpose of transporting them to where The Very Definitely Final Dungeon awaits.
  • God of War Ragnarök: The Lyngbakr is an imprisoned whale-like creature that, like in Norse myths, is so big that can be easily mistaken for an island before it emerges from the water. Kratos can fight enemies, find chests, and ultimately help to free the animal all on top of its back. Tragiclly, if the player takes the time to free it, it will make no effort to swim to freedom. Turns out that centuries of being trapped caused it to grow accustomed to its chains.
  • Golden Axe: At least one of the games has a village on the back of a giant turtle, and it actually swims across the sea as you make your way through the level.
  • Hearthstone: Colaque is depicted as a very large turtle with seaweed, coral, a staircase and an arch on its back. A shark can be seen nearby, and it looks small enough to fit inside Colaque's mouth.
  • Katamari Damacy: In the final levels, when rolling up the entire world your Katamari will grow large enough to start snatching up entire islands and landforms by the dozen. Some of the islands will actually try to run away from you — not just because Katamari Damacy is really weird, it's also because those 'islands' are actually "Giant Sea Turtles".
  • Kingdom Hearts II: The Groundshaker boss is a huge quadrupedal Heartless which requires a small Colossus Climb to do anything more than chase after it, and it also has a small forest on its back.
  • King's Bounty: The Legend: A scientist (the would-be king of the humans who gave up his throne For Science!, no less) hypothesizes that the world rests on the back of a giant turtle. He also remarks on how ludicrous an opposing hypothesis that says the world is a giant sphere orbiting a sun in a large void. He's right.
  • The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon: The Destroyer is a gigantic Golem that carries the remnants of a city on its back, though it is no longer inhabited.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask has a giant friendly turtle of an island who takes Link to a dungeon in the middle of a maelstrom. He shows up in the Super Smash Bros. Melee level based on the area, too.
  • Lunar: The Silver Star: The party hears tales about a moving island, which turns out to be a giant turtle.
  • Monster Sanctuary: According to the Monster Compendium, some Krakaturtles grow so big that they become islands. The ones you can encounter are much smaller, but they still have a volcano and foliage on their backs.
  • Mystic Riders has the floating island stages, where several of those islands are gigantic, airborne turtle-like monsters who sticks out their heads to chomp on you.
  • Panzer Dragoon has the Lathum, which are basically living continents. Panzer Dragoon Orta has a particular example where one is large enough to not only house a Wormrider village, it can also carry an entire ecosystem on its back.
  • Pirate101 has Maruzame castle. The game being set in a World in the Sky, it's a flying turtle, but it still only appears when summoned.
  • Pokémon:
    • The Turtwig evolutionary family (Torterra especially) is based on the world-on-a-turtle mythology. Turtwig itself is just a large turtle with a leafy twig growing on its head, Grotle is a man-sized turtle with two bushes growing on its back, and Torterra has a tree and a pair of small mountains on its back, and, while not island-sized, is large enough to be occasionally mistaken for a hill.
    • Downplayed in Pokémon Sword and Shield with Gigantimax Lapras, which doesn't carry a city per se, but its shell makes it a living cruise ship that can carry around 500 passengers on its back.
    • Pokémon Uranium, a fan game, has Cocance, a crab that carries a tropical island and a palm tree around on its back.
  • Rune Factory Frontier has the aptly-named Whale Island. It gets bonus points for being in the sky.
  • Scribblenauts Unlimited has Dot the Island, which has a village on it. You have to dive into the ocean below to see the turtle's head and fins.
  • Secret of Mana features an island (which you never have to visit) that is allegedly a turtle's back. It certainly looks like it from an overhead view, but nothing ever comes of this fact.
  • Shin Megami Tensei:
    • Megami Tensei II: Zaratan is a dungeon home to the Saturn Pillar. The dungeon isn't atop Zaratan, it's inside — the hero is swallowed up by the turtle when crossing the sea.
    • Devil Summoner Soul Hackers: Cabracan, a deity from Mayan Mythology representative of mountains and earthquakes, is depicted as a tortoise with a shell of earth, with trees and a pyramid atop it. While Cabracan's representation in the Popol Vuh indicates a rather malicious being, its tortoise design and position in the Wilder race rather than the Vile race is something without much of an explanation.
      • The disconnect between Cabracan's design and mythology is widened in the Devil Survivor games, where it is a member of the Beast race.
  • Skies of Arcadia: In an early sequence, Vyse and Aika briefly mistake the enormous arcwhale Rhaknam for an island. To be fair, it was pretty foggy at the time.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Sonic Heroes has a stage called Ocean Palace, which has an area full of giant turtles the teams (other than Team Rose) have to go between via cannons and springs.
      "That turtle is swimming with a block on its back!"
    • Sonic and the Secret Rings: Levitated Ruin is set entirely in an aerial version of this trope. The stage is a flock of Rukhs in flight (though reimagined as manta rays), each carrying a roughly block-sized chunk of civilization on its back. Sonic travels from one Rukh to another via flying gargoyles who still inhabit the ruins.
  • In Soul Sacrifice, The Leviathan is a titanic Archfiend that is so huge that he carries an abandoned kingdom on his back, which is also called Leviathan.
  • In Spiritfarer, the three turtle sisters (Olga, Masha, and Irina) are almost as big as Stella's ship. They each have three planting spots on their backs, where Stella can grow trees and minerals and come back later to harvest them.
  • Subnautica has an underwater version in the Reefbacks, enormous leviathans that occasionally swim through the world, large enough that whole ecosystems have grown on their bodies.
  • Sunless Sea:
    • The Chelonate is the bony carcass of a long-dead zee-turtle that died centuries ago, and was then used by the Chelonites' ancestors to build their homes. It's notably bigger than some of the other nations you visit in terms of raw size.
    • The underwater city of Hideaway was built on the shell of titanic — and still living — crab named Temtum. The Admiralty is more than a bit shocked at these news when you turn in your report on it.
      A city on a WHAT?
  • Tales of Rebirth: The Sacred Beast of Earth, Randgriz, was initially big enough to be mistaken for an island while travelling the sea by the legendary pirate, Airfread. When the Sacred Beasts tell Eugene to find the "Isle of Illusion", the party obtains the pirate's map and realise the island is, in fact, Sunnytown. Randgriz's body became the foundation of the city.
  • Tasty Planet: The final level of Back for Seconds has the Grey Goo devouring all the World Turtles holding up the universe before imploding into a new one.
  • ULTRAKILL: The 1000-THR "Earthmovers" are colossal Killer Robots that dominated warfare to the point where war is entirely dependent on them. Their battles are so devastating that they blotted out the sun, causing civilians to build cities on the war machines' backs to survive due to the surface being severely polluted and barren of flora and fauna life.
  • The Wandering Village has a plateau on the back of a giant sauropod-like creature called an Onbu, with trees and berry bushes and mushrooms growing on it. A village of refugees also lives on its back, fleeing from the plague spreading around the world.
  • World of Warcraft: The fourth expansion, Mists of Pandaria, introduces a massive Turtle Island named Shen-zin Su, the Wandering Isle, as the starting zone for the pandaren. The climax of the Pandaren starter story involves the player in a massive effort to save Shun-Zin Su's life.. It's revisited and established as the Order Hall for Monks in the sixth expansion Legion.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Some of the larger Titans in Alrest can qualify, but two of the biggest examples are Uraya (a whale) and Tantal (a turtle). Played with in that their ecosystems and civilizations are inside them rather than on top.

  • 70-Seas: Played for laughs in one strip, where, due to some tricky perspective at sea, what appeared to be a Turtle Island turns to be an entirely regular-sized turtle with a small shrub on its shell.
  • Dominic Deegan: Seen here with a gigantic mollusk-like creature with a mountain-like shell.
  • Sinfest: Here, what at first appears to a small hillock in the swamp turns out to be the coils of a sleeping dragon.

    Web Original 
  • Microsoft Windows: This Windows 7 wallpaper, with flying for added awesome.
  • SCP Foundation
    • SCP-169 ("The Leviathan") is a sea creature 2,000-8,000 kilometers long that has spent at least the last few millenia just below the surface of the ocean. The rock-like plates protruding from it constitute an archipelago of islands.
    • SCP-1585 ("Red Queen Island") is a giant jellyfish 544 meters across. It secretes calcium carbonate, which creates a rigid surface over the upper portion of its bell and causes it to appear to be an island. Many creatures and plants live on its top layer.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: In one episode, Finn and Jake visit the City of Thieves, which is built on the shell of a giant dead tortoise in the middle of the desert.
  • Alfred J. Kwak: In "A Turtle Island", heroes take advantage of the situation by coaxing the turtle to take the island out of the way of an incoming tropical storm.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • In the original series, the Lion Turtle Aang meets near the end of his quest is an island with real trees and other plant life.
    • In The Legend of Korra, we see that in the ancient past there were a number of Lion Turtles, each with a city of humans on their back that they protected from the dangerous spirits roaming the world. Whenever humans left the city, the lion-turtle would use energybending to give them one of the four types of elemental bending to defend themselves, and then they would return it when they came back to the city. The street-urchin Wan was the first to steal fire from a lion-turtle simply by not returning it when he was supposed to. When he was exiled for bringing fire into the city, the lion-turtle allowed him to keep it so he could protect himself in the wilds. Over time, he traveled to other Lion Turtles and collected the other three elements from other Lion Turtles, and with a fusion with his spirit companion Raava, became the first Avatar.
  • Danger Mouse: At the end of "Danger at C Level", Greenback's escape pod lands on a small island that turns out to be an angry whale.
  • The Deep (2015): Tartaruga is one of the few known Monumentials. It appears to be a moving island, but under the surface of the water it is revealed to be a giant sea turtle.
  • Dragon Hunters: One of the "dragons" the titular characters face is actually shaped like one of the setting's floating islands, using gold nuggets (actually its boogers) to lure humans so that it can eat them. After they asphyxiate him with a boulder on each cavern/nostril, the corpse floats away and becomes another island, with Lian-Chu implying some of the islands had a similar origin.
  • Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts: In "Explosion Berries", Kipo, Wolf and Mandu escape from the frogs by climbing on the back of a four-eyed mutant turtle so large that it has an entire grove of trees growing on its back.
  • Looney Tunes: In The Ducktators, the Hirohito duck mistakes a turtle for an island and places a Japanese mandate sign on its back. Said turtle is unamused and chases after him with the sign.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Between Dark and Dawn", Applejack's farm is invaded by a land-bound version in the form a hill-sized tortoise with a grove of trees growing on its back.
  • Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor: In his Bragging Theme Tune, Sinbad states that he lives on an island on the back of a whale. However, the whale is never seen in the short itself and the island acts as a perfectly ordinary one.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender: At one point, while Keith and Krolia are traveling through the Quantum Abyss, they find a group of Space Whales each large enough to grow forests on their bodies, support normal-sized animal life, create gravity, and produce their own atmospheres. They end up living on the back of one of them for two years.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Whale Island


Whale Watching

After reading about a flying whale in the witch's newspaper, the girls head out to see it.

How well does it match the trope?

4.75 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / GiantFlyer

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