TV Tropes: Fantasy Kitchen Sink

What a bunch of weirdos

What a bunch of weirdos




Fantasy settings often follow a particular mythos. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings tended to follow a northern European (particularly Nordic) mythos (albeit infused with English Catholicism). Vampire and zombie fiction tend to have vampires and zombies respectively. And then you get fantasy settings which follow multiple mythoi, often to the point that all myths are true. Beyond that, you get this trope, in which anything goes – in terms of fantasy or mythology. As TV Tropes tells it, in this setting, fairies can be real – but then so can ghosts, vampires, werewolves, mummies, sea monsters, giant worms, superhuman mutants, aliens, time travelers, espers, angels, demons, God, other gods, eldritch abominations, magic, psi, chi and so on.

Such settings are common in episodic media such as comics (the DC and Marvel Universe for starters), role-playing games (Dungeons & Dragons, Rifts, Warhammer) and TV series – both animated (Adventure Time) and live-action (X Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural and True Blood). They are perhaps less common but still occur in more unified media such as film (Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean to some extent) and literature (the Narnia Chronicles for one).

And then you get other ‘kitchen sink’ settings – the similar Sci-Fi Kitchen Sink and Conspiracy Kitchen Sink…

TV Tropes: Sealed Evil in a Can!





How can one resist a trope like this? I mean – you’d pick it up at the supermarket, wouldn’t you? How could you resist?

Another one of my favorite tropes, it is very common in fantasy and science fiction or perhaps especially in horror.

It essentially deals with the situation where some old or ancient evil is not destroyed (for various reasons) but contained – captured or confined, imprisoned or sealed away (typically by design but also by chance). Of course, the problem is when someone later opens the “can” – typically much later, when the evil has been forgotten.

As TV Tropes puts it, it is a situation where long ago, an ancient people faced a terrible evil, and by various means, bound the evil into a prison from which they thought it would never escape. It did.

I was prompted to thoughts of canned evil by the Balrog in my recent feature on The Lord of the Rings – a classic instance of where evil was sealed away, until the dwarves dug too deep…

This trope is as old as mythology itself – the Devil in the Bible (particularly in Revelations), Pandora’s Box in classical mythology, the Fenris Wolf and the whole Ragnarok in a box in Norse mythology.


As per TV Tropes - "I hope it's not too late to return this"

As per TV Tropes – “I hope it’s not too late to return this”


Some of my favorite versions of this trope are when the can is a person (Sealed Evil in a Person-Like Can) or when the can is leaking (Leaking Can of Evil / Sealed Evil in a Colander)…

Of course, being TV Tropes, there’s a whole index of things sealed in a can (or evil sealed in things) – including Sealed Good in a Can, Sealed Badass in a Can, Girl in a Box, Sealed Army in a Can, Sealed Evil in a Teddybear (Awww!), Sealed Evil in a Sixpack, Sealed Evil in a Duel.


Now in a variety of flavors! Yummy!

Now in a variety of flavors! Yummy!

TV Tropes: Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?




It’s a light blogging week (as I sort out notes and drafts as well as tidy up behind the scenes here at Stark After Dark, perhaps including spring-cleaning my About Stark After Dark page) so I’ll be posting tropes and poetry (or possibly also getting Stark Naked with my bare-assed and half-baked thoughts).




This is one of my favorite tropes – for when a character in fiction impossibly takes on a vastly powerful or superior being AND WINS! It doesn’t  have to be literally Cthulhu himself (although bonus points if it is), just metaphorically any being or entity that is on a similar scale. Like a god (as in the quote from the TV Tropes article). Or God, if you’re up to it.

As TV Tropes indicates, it could be an eldritch abomination (incomprehensible omnipotent dark gods who reduce to gibbering insanity anyone in their presence – such as Cthulhu), an alien or cosmic entity or essentially anything operating on a higher or utterly different scale of power from the fictional characters – “You know the type. Eternal, infinite, harbingers of the End of Times, impossible to even understand, let alone think about opposition”. And then along comes a hero or fellowship of heroes, who didn’t get told the Abomination is impossible to defeat (or didn’t care) and through some combination of skill, brains, courage, awesomeness, strategy, technology and/or sheer dumb luck, they defeat it.

I was prompted to his trope by my last feature Top 10 Heroes of Lord of the Rings (Better than Frodo), in which I mentioned my favorite heroic criteria of eldritch abomination body count – Sam scored highest with Shelob, Gandalf scored high with the Balrog, and Eowyn (and Merry) scored high with the Lord of the Nazgul or Witch-King.

For that matter, it happened to Cthulhu himself when H.P. Lovecraft introduced him in “The Call of Cthulhu”, although the protagonist runs him over with a steamship rather than punching him. (Of course, Cthulhu just went back to sleep, while the protagonist’s mental health wasn’t the best after it).

Other fictional examples include:

  • Mythology is full of examples. It’s kind of the sine qua non of a mythological hero – to kill some monstrosity or to strive with gods.
  • The Ghostbusters did it (even if they had to cross the streams)
  • Batman could do it. Because he’s Batman

And there’s a whole index of similar Cthulhu tropes for play:

  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu (often a consequence of the above trope – for example Eowyn in The Lord of The Rings)
  • Did We Just Have Tea With Cthulhu? (For when Cthulhu confronts you and invites you to dinner. Like Darth Vader with Han Solo and Princess Leia in The Empire Strike Back – for what must have been the most awkward dinner conversation in the Star Wars Universe, as parodied by Robot Chicken)
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?
  • Did You Just Romance Cthulhu? (SQUICK!)
  • Did You Just Scam Cthulhu? (As in your classic deal with the Devil story)
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu
  • Hijacking Cthulhu
  • Staring Down Cthulhu
  • Wowing Cthulhu
Snoophulhu is adorable (Art Print by Anna Marie Jung)

Snoophulhu is adorable (Art Print by Anna Marie Jung)

TV Tropes: Orcus on His Throne





This trope is for villains that essentially sit around doing nothing, even though they are meant to be actively evil and awesomely powerful. As TV Tropes puts it:

Deep in Mordor, at the top of the Evil Tower of Ominousness, the Evil Overlord awaits. He has his Legion of Doom, the Artifact of Doom and any other Doomy Dooms of Doom you can think of. His power is vast and he is poised to strike and destroy all we hold dear at any moment. Any moment now. Aaaaaany moment… Looks like we have a case of Orcus On His Throne. A villain with great power and the potential to wipe out the Forces of Good turns out to be an awfully retiring sort. Sure, they’re out there somewhere being evil, probably oppressing someone else, but they don’t actually seem to do much; they just sit about resting on their laurels or at most maintaining an active training regimen, waiting for the heroes to come and overthrow them. One wonders how they ever mustered the ambition to climb to their position of power in the first place.

The trope namer is the demon lord of the undead, Orcus, from Dungeons & Dragons.

However, this does seem to be a surprisingly common trope:

  • Our title image is the latter-day Orcus of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thanos, who has spent his time hovering on his space-throne and coming up with convoluted plans for unreliable minions to obtain the Infinity Stones – until finally announcing “Fine. I’ll do it myself”. Finally!
  • In Lord of the Rings, Sauron doesn’t seem to do very much other than eyeballing Middle Earth. He also keeps his most powerful minions, the Nazgul or Ringwraiths, well in reserve as they don’t seem to do very much either
  • The Big Bads in Buffy the Vampire Slayer also tend to be strangely inactive, just sitting around waiting for the slayer


Devil’s Dictionary & TV Tropes: Hot Witch




Witch – (1) An ugly old repulsive woman, in a wicked league with the devil. (2) A beautiful and attractive young woman, in wickedness a league beyond the devil.”




In fictional and historical representations, witches have tended to alternate between two tropes – the ugly wicked witch (or hag) and the sexy hot witch. Indeed, through the power of magical illusion or transformation, the same witch can alternate between those two tropes (like Angelina Jolie as Grendel’s hot mum in the Beowulf film).

We tend to identify the hot witch as a modern cinematic or television trope, but it has been part (and perhaps even the predominant part) of the characterization of witches from their origins in mythology – Circe and Medea in classical mythology, Morgan Le Fay in Arthurian legend and so on. And why not? Hocus pocus baby!




TV Tropes: Eldritch Abomination

Oh crap

Oh crap



I concluded in my previous post (Our Monsters Are Different) that eventually you get to the really weird and fantastic supernatural beings and creatures – but after that you get to this trope, the eldritch abomination. (I’m pretty sure that no one used the word eldritch until H. P. Lovecraft adopted it as his adjective of choice – or dark necessity). And once you get to this trope, you are beyond all help or hope – beyond even prayer, as this abomination drives the gods into hiding from it, or disproves them with its very existence.




The eldritch abomination is the Other, the Alien, the Inconceivable – a being so mindbendingly beyond our very senses and sanity that our brains all but bleed out our eyes at the wrongness of it all. The eldritch abomination is “defined by its disregard for the natural laws of the universe as we understand them” (or at least, as we want to understand them). They are “grotesque mockeries of reality beyond comprehension whose disturbing otherness can not be comprehended in any mortal tongue” or be seen and remain sane – or even worse, “reality itself warps around them”.




The primary example is of course the ‘Cthulhu Mythos’ of H. P. Lovecraft, ranging upwards from various alien races such as the Deep Ones, the Elder Things, the Great Race of Yith and the Mi-Go (or Fungi from Yuggoth) through shoggoths (Oh dear God – not the shoggoths!) to the cosmic horror of the Great Old Ones or Outer Gods – Great Cthulhu himself (itself?), Azathoth, Yog-Sothoth, Shub-Niggurath (or the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young) and Nyarlothotep (or the Crawling Chaos)…

TV Tropes: Our Monsters Are Different

Fantasy art by Luis Royo

Fantasy art by Luis Royo




This index of tropes celebrates the diverse range of supernatural (or pseudo-supernatural) beings and creatures that populate the world of fantasy, generally originating from mythology or folklore. As the title indicates, they tend to have characteristics that define them as particular beings and creatures (even if occasionally in name only), but may otherwise have different characteristics from setting to setting.





Vampires are a good case in point. They tend to have some characteristics that define them as a vampire – typically a hunger or need for blood (or life force or something else equally as vital, so even that’s variable), but they can vary so widely for other characteristics. Take sunlight – does it kill them? In a fiery explosion? Or does it just weaken them or force them into dormancy? Or have any effect at all? Or an effect that depends on other factors, like the age of the vampire? (Or worst of all, does it make them sparkle?)

Rinse and repeat with any other vampire characteristic. I have a soft spot for the obsessive compulsive disorders of vampires in European folklore – like the Count in Sesame Street on crack. You could stop them with a pile of seeds or some similar small objects, which they would not be able to resist picking up and counting. Of course, you can see why this rarely translates into cinematic or televised format, as it would make confronting Dracula or slaying vampires much less dramatic or interesting.

Speaking of vampires, despite a whole range of supernatural beings or creatures, the world of fantasy in film and television often seems to be dominated by the holy (or unholy) trinity of standard horror – vampires, werewolves and zombies. For that matter, werewolves would seem to come a distant third to the leading duo of vampires and zombies. I tend to think that this is because they are so readily replicated by human actors with minimal effects, as opposed to more fantastic creatures – but also because they so readily symbolize aspects of the human condition. I remember reading (in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction) that they each tend to symbolize (or embody fearful stereotypes of) one of the three social classes – vampires as the aristocratic and exploitative (or decadent) upper class, werewolves as the middle class (dare I say it, in a dog-eat-dog competitive world and only able to ‘wolf’ it up in occasional periods of leisure) and zombies as the mindless masses of the lower class


Vampirella by Amanda Conner

Vampirella by Amanda Conner


As much as I love all three of these (and particularly vampire girls), there’s a whole range of other fantasy beings and creatures out there, as demonstrated by the index of tropes. Some are almost as standard – demons and ghosts, dragons and giants, dwarves and elves (or other ‘fair folk’), even angels and gods. Others are more exotic – the index also gives special feature to trolls, skeletons, banshees, centaurs, cryptids, gargoyles, genies, ghouls, goblins, gnomes, gryphons, homunculi, liches, mermaids, ogres, orcs, spirits, titans and wights. And then you get to the really weird and fantastic beings and creatures…

Devil’s Dictionary: Puritanism




“Puritanism – the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy”

Not quite Ambrose Bierce, but close – H.L. Mencken. A more modern version might refer to fundamentalism – and to the fear that someone, somewhere may be having fun. Can’t have that now, can we?


“What ailed us o gods to desert you, for creeds that refuse and restrain?”