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World Pillars

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"The Pillars of Nosgoth. Even in life, few sights have moved me such as this. I marveled that such beauty should grace our dying world."The Types of Pillars 

Fictional worlds can come in many shapes and sizes. Some are Flat Worlds, some are Hollow Worlds, and others can be of truly bizarre types.

And then you get worlds which turn out to be supported by artificial megastructures.

A type of Worldbuilding trope most commonly found in fantasy and science fiction works, World Pillars give off the impression to the characters (and by extension, the viewer) that their world isn't as natural as it may seem. In fact, the mere concept of a world being held aloft by giant structures may sound crazy to the local populace who're unaware they exist. Perhaps they were put there by Precursors or beings of divine origin, either to create a place where life can thrive, or to save their original world from total destruction. Either way, they're the literal foundation of the world itself.

Expect the plot to be centered on the eventual collapse of these pillars, either by natural decay or through deliberate sabotage by the Big Bad. When a World Pillar goes, it will often take out an entire city, region or continent with it. Naturally, this leads to the heroes trying to save their world by restoring and fixing the pillars back into their original states, which may prove more challenging if the pillars are a form of Lost Technology that was not passed on to newer generations.

World Pillars can overlap with just about any setting type, just as long as it's evident that the setting itself is being supported by them.

See also World Tree, which is the natural and symbolic variant of this trope. Not to be confused with Cosmic Keystone.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Clockwork Planet: The newly reconstructed Earth has civilizations placed on giant gears, which are held aloft by enormous core towers that are stated in the novels to be 90,000 meters (90 km) tall. The plot of the first novel revolves around Naoto, RyuZU, Marie and Halter trying to stop the government from deliberately tampering with Kyoto's core tower and purging the city into the void below.
  • Saint Seiya: In the "Poseidon Saga", the eponymous Greek god (reincarnated in the billionaire playboy Julian Solo) kidnaps Saori Kiddo/Athena into the underwater world. To free her (being imprisoned in the Master Pillar that works as a Drowning Pit), the Bronze Saints have to break every one of the seven World Pillars, which represent every of the oceans (five, in fact, having two for Pacific and Atlantic oceans) and are guarded by the seven Generals that protect every pillar.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie: Zigzagged. The world of Planet Freedom is divided into two portions; an array of Floating Continents collectively known as "the Land of the Sky", and the planet's conventional surface, which is known as "the Land of Darkness" due to the perpetual shadow it lies under. Whilst the continents of the Land of the Sky float naturally, they are anchored to the Land of Darkness by a massive glacial mountain range at the planet's northern pole. Robotnik's plan turns out to be having his new super-minion Hyper Metal Sonic destroy this mountain, which will result in the combination of Planet Freedom's rotation and the Land of the Sky's natural Anti-Gravity properties sending the Land of the Sky hurtling out beyond the atmosphere, where they will shatter into pieces. This will, naturally, kill everything living in the Land of the Sky, leaving Robotnik to claim technical victory as the sole ruler of the half of Planet Freedom left undestroyed.

    Comic Books 
  • Thessaly: Witch for Hire: The titular witch alludes to there being pillars that keep the various Heavens from crashing down upon Earth. She mentions this in the context of mentioning that she's learned spells to topple them.

    Films — Animation 
  • Urusei Yatsura: In the movie Beautiful Dreamer, the world to which the cast have become confined is revealed to be flat and standing upon caryatids.

  • Matter by Iain Banks takes place on a shellworld, where different worlds are nestled inside each other, held up by pillars through which you can connect to other levels.
  • Titan: The center of Titan is connected to the outer ring by vast spokes which serve to hold it together.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Traditional Chinese religion describes the Eight Pillars of the Sky, which hold up the vault of the heavens and can be climbed to move between heaven and earth.
  • The Pillars of Herakles from Classical Mythology. Some say they are not just the markers for the end of the world as the Greeks knew it, but also held up the sky (usually the task of Atlas, who Herakles once asked to get some golden apples Atlas' daughters were guarding.)
  • In both Hinduism and Jain mythology, there is a pillar or column called Stambha or Skambha that joins or bonds heaven with the earth. In the Hindu scripture known as Atharva Veda, there is a celestial Stambha that described as an infinite scaffolding with its purpose to support both the cosmos and material creation.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering: The Underworld of Theros is usually depicted as dominated by immense pillars looming over its landscapes, implicitly holding up the world of the living that lies far above it.
  • Pathfinder: The world of Golarion is dotted with a series of structures called the Star Towers, which were driven into the earth by the god Zon-Kuthon in ancient times. The towers act like coffin nails sealing shut the prison of Rovagug, the god of destruction whom the other gods incarcerated in the planet's core in ancient times.

    Video Games 
  • Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland: It's revealed that both the Fellsgalaxen and Orthogalaxen ruins are part of a greater infrastructure supporting the world of Arland itself. The plot of the game eventually shifts to Lulua trying to prevent the collapse of the Fellsgalaxen ruins, which would destroy all of the Arklys region if allowed to happen, as well as save its operator, Stia.
  • Dark Souls has the giant, stone-pillar esque archtrees that hold up Lordran. The lowest point in Lordran is Ash Lake, where you can see the forest of them stretching from horizon to horizon, implying the whole world is like this.
  • The Elder Scrolls: Several natural and artificial structures across the world of Nirn, called the Towers, bear a collective unknown purpose in the setting's cosmology (believed by some to be stabilizing the plane of Mundus and preventing it from dissolving back into Oblivion). These range from the White-Gold Tower in the center of the Imperial City to the volcano Red Mountain in the center of Morrowind.
  • God of War: Chains of Olympus: The world has held by a single pillar until it was destroyed by a Titan named Atlas.
  • Gravity Rush is set around a gigantic pillar, and there are different "levels" that are each populated by different societies. Several characters theorize as to what's at the top and bottom of the pillar, though the bottom specifically seems to be covered in black gravity storms. Unusually, at one point in the first game the player character actually gets to traverse inside the pillar.
  • Legacy of Kain: The Nine Pillars of Nosgoth support the eponymous world throughout the series, overlapping with Cosmic Keystone. In order the nine pillars are Mind, Dimension, Conflict, Nature, Balance, Energy, Time, States, and Death. In Blood Omen, the Pillars have become corrupted, and in order to restore the Pillars Kain must commit a Heroic Sacrifice. He refuses, instead destroying the Pillars and becoming a Vampire Monarch, ruling the world for thousands of years.
  • Tales of the Abyss overlaps this with World Tree with the Sephiroth Trees, which hold the Outer Lands from the deadly miasma-filled underworld below called the Qliphoth, and are powered by lost fonic technology from the Yulia age. Over the course of the game, Big Bad Van Grants shuts down some of the trees and causes some parts of the world map to fall into the Qliphoth. As a subversion, rather than attempt to preserve what's left of the Outer Lands, the heroes instead resolve to stabilize the core of Auldrant itself and safely lower the Outer Lands into a miasma-free Qliphoth, effectively returning the world back to its original state before the uplift.
  • World of Warcraft: In Cataclysm, a major storyline is restoring the pillar supporting Azeroth from the underground realm of Deepholm, which was broken into pieces by Deathwing as he escaped to the surface. Unlike most examples, this pillar is bare unsculpted rock and it's not clear if it is natural or made by beings like the Titans.

    Western Animation 
  • Dan Vs.: Canada is seen to be supported by some sort of ice pillar in a cave inside a mountain which, after getting destroyed, ends up flooding Canada with snow and ruining it.

    Real Life 
  • The Pillars of Creation, three immense tower-like structures of interstellar gas, were named due to their appearance, resembling a trio of vast pillars at the edge of the universe, evoking this concept.