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World Pillars

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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 World Building 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.

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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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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In 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 has the "Poseidon Saga", in which the eponymous Greek god (reincarnated in the billionaire playboy Julian Solo) kidnaps Saori Kiddo/Goddess Athena into the underwater world. To free her (being imprisoned in the Master Pillar that works as a Drowning Pit), Bronze Saints have to break every of the World Pillars, seven of them that represent every of the oceans (five, in fact, having two for Pacific and Atlantic oceans) and guarded by the seven Generals that protect every pillar.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie, the Land of the Sky is connected and supported by specific contact points with the Land of Darkness. The second half of the movie's plot centers around Hyper Metal Sonic trying to destroy those points and cause the Land of the Sky to be hurled off into space.
  • In the Urusei Yatsura movie Beautiful Dreamer, the world to which the cast have become confined is revealed to be flat and standing upon caryatids.

    Comic Books 
  • In 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.

    Literature 
  • 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.
  • In the Titan series the center of Titan is connected to the outer ring by vast spokes which serve to hold it together.
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    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.

    Video Games 
  • In 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.
  • In 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 seem 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 Pillars of Nosgoth support the eponymous world of vampires throughout the series, which overlaps with Cosmic Keystone. As an inversion, Kain is tasked with actually destroying the pillars to rule over the land as the evil vampire king, and each pillar contains a guardian which reflects their state of mind. It's eventually revealed later in the series that Kain's life is tied to the pillars, and should he take his own life, he would doom all of Nosgoth.
  • 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.
  • Warcraft: The continent of Northrend is sometimes known as the "roof of the world". In Warcraft III, Malfurion receives a vision of Northrend crumbling and fears that Illidan's spell from the Eye of Sargeras may destroy the world. World of Warcraft introduces a more literal example in Cataclysm that is broken into pieces by Deathwing escaping from Deepholm and must be repaired to prevent Azeroth from collapsing in on itself.
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • In 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.

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