Earth:Subterranean fiction

From HandWiki
Illustration of a fictional underground town from The Child of the Cavern by Jules Férat.

Subterranean fiction is a subgenre of adventure fiction, science fiction, or fantasy which focuses on fictional underground settings, sometimes at the center of the Earth or otherwise deep below the surface. The genre is based on, and has in turn influenced, the Hollow Earth theory. The earliest works in the genre were Enlightenment-era philosophical or allegorical works, in which the underground setting was often largely incidental. In the late 19th century, however, more pseudoscientific or proto-science-fictional motifs gained prevalence. Common themes have included a depiction of the underground world as more primitive than the surface, either culturally, technologically or biologically, or in some combination thereof. The former cases usually see the setting used as a venue for sword-and-sorcery fiction, while the latter often features cryptids or creatures extinct on the surface, such as dinosaurs or archaic humans. A less frequent theme has the underground world much more technologically advanced than the surface one, typically either as the refugium of a lost civilization, or (more rarely) as a secret base for space aliens.


Map of the Interior World, from The Goddess of Atvatabar (1892)
  • In Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy poem Inferno, Hell is a vast cavern and the narrator travels through the center of the Earth and out the other side.
  • In Ludvig Holberg's 1741 novel Nicolai Klimii iter subterraneum (Niels Klim's Underground Travels), Nicolai Klim falls through a cave while spelunking and spends several years living on both a smaller globe within and the inside of the outer shell.
  • Giacomo Casanova's 1788 Icosaméron is a 5-volume, 1,800-page story of a brother and sister who fall into the Earth and discover the subterranean utopia of the Mégamicres, a race of multicolored, hermaphroditic dwarfs.
  • An early science-fiction work called Symzonia: A Voyage of Discovery by a "Captain Adam Seaborn" appeared in print in 1820. In the story, Captain Seaborn leads a group of travelers into the concave inner surface of the Earth. There, they discover an inner continent, which they name Symzonia after John Cleves Symmes, Jr. The story obviously reflected the ideas of Symmes, and some have claimed Symmes as the real author. Other researchers say it deliberately satirized Symmes's ideas, and think they have identified the author as an early American author named Nathaniel Ames (see Lang, Hans-Joachim and Benjamin Lease. "The Authorship of Symzonia: The Case for Nathanial Ames" New England Quarterly, June 1975, page 241–252).
  • Faddei Bulgarin's short satirical tale "Improbable Tall-Tale, or Journey to the Center of the Earth" (1825) describes three underworld countries: Ignorantia (populated by spiders), Beastland (populated by apes), and Lightonia (populated by humans, with a capital called Utopia).
  • Edgar Allan Poe seems to hint at the Symmesian idea of a hollow channel between the poles in his 1838 novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket and his short story "MS. Found in a Bottle".
  • Although it is often suggested that Jules Verne used the idea of a partially hollow Earth in his 1864 novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth, his characters actually descend only 87 miles[1] beneath the surface, where they find an underground sea occupying a cavern roughly the size of Europe. There is no indication in the novel that Verne intended to suggest that the Earth was in any way hollow, partially or otherwise.
  • Lewis Carroll's 1865 novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was originally titled Alice's Adventures Under Ground.
  • Edward Bulwer-Lytton's 1871 novel The Coming Race was an account of the Vril-ya, an angelic subterranean master race.
  • Louis Jacolliot's novel God's Sons (1873) is credited as the origin of the word A(s)gartha
  • Mary Lane's Mizora (1880–81) combines the hollow-Earth theme with feminism.
  • James De Mille's novel A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder, published in 1888 but written prior to the author's death in 1880, depicts a subterranean land with inverted values.[2]
  • Pantaletta: A Romance of Sheheland by Mrs. J. Wood (1882)
  • George Sand used the idea in her 1884 novel Laura, Voyage dans le Cristal, in which grotesque monsters are found in the interior of the Earth.
  • Interior World: A Romance Illustrating a New Hypothesis of Terrestrial Organization by Washington L. Tower (1885)
  • Alexandre Saint-Yves d'Alveydre's "Mission de l'Inde en Europe" was published in 1886 as a "true" story about Agartha. He withdrew it from the print and it was released again by Gérard Encausse in 1910.
  • William R. Bradshaw's science fiction novel The Goddess of Atvatabar (1892) is a utopian fantasy set within the hollow Earth.
  • Will N. Harben's Land of the Changing Sun (1894) is a utopian fantasy set within a 100-mile wide cavern found below the Atlantic Ocean 200 years prior and settled. The settlers found the atmosphere very rejuvenating, and also build an artificial changing sun to light their world. Two balloonists, an American and an Englishman, discover this world.
  • The protofeminist utopia Etidorhpa (1895) by John Uri Lloyd is also set within a hollow Earth.
  • In the sociologist Gabriel Tarde's only literary work, Underground Man (1896) (original French title Fragments d'Histoire Future), Humanity escapes a second apocalyptic ice age by delving under the earth and reforming society with Art as its central value.
  • Charles Willing Beale's 1899 novel, The Secret of the Earth tells of the adventure of 2 brothers who build an anti-gravity airship and travel to the hollow earth. There they find several lost races, and learn that mankind originated in the hollow earth, but the unruly types were exiled from the hollow earth. They then exit via the South Pole opening and crash on an island in the South Pacific, from which they send off a log of their adventures which forms the novel.
  • The concept was mentioned in Wardon Allan Curtis's 1899 short story "The Monster of Lake LaMetrie".
  • In NEQUA or The Problem of the Ages a visit in a sailing ship is made to Altruria, a society inside the earth. This feminist utopian science fiction novel was published in 1900 in Topeka Kansas. Jack Adams listed as the author, was a pseudonym for A. O. Grigsby and Mary P. Lowe, both newspaper publishers.
  • An underground Nome Kingdom is featured in several of the Oz books by L. Frank Baum, notably Ozma of Oz (1907), Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (1908) and Tik-Tok of Oz (1914).
  • Willis George Emerson's science-fiction novel The Smoky God (1908) recounts the adventures of one Olaf Jansen who traveled into the interior and found an advanced civilization.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote adventure stories (beginning with At the Earth's Core in 1914) set in the inner world of Pellucidar, including at one point a visit from his character Tarzan. Burroughs's Pellucidar has oceans on the outer surface corresponding to continents on the inner surface and vice versa. Pellucidar is lit by a miniature sun suspended at the center of the hollow sphere, so it is perpetually overhead wherever one is in Pellucidar. The sole exception is the region directly under a tiny geostationary moon of the internal sun; that region as a result is under a perpetual eclipse and is known as the Land of Awful Shadow. This moon has its own plant life and (presumably) animal life and hence either has its own atmosphere or shares that of Pellucidar.
  • The Russian geologist Vladimir Obruchev uses the concept of the hollow Earth in his 1915 scientific novel Plutonia to take the reader through various geological epochs.
  • A deliberately tunneled-out Earth occurs in Charles R. Tanner 1930's SF short story "Tumithak of the Corridors".
  • Morgo the Mighty by Sean O'Larkin was serialized in The Popular Magazine in 1930. It featured the adventures of a Tarzan-like character in a network of giant caverns beneath the Himalayas. The caves are ruled by a cowled magician and populated by primitive men, giant intelligent bats, giant warring ants and giant killer chickens.
  • Tam, Son of the Tiger by Otis Adelbert Kline from 1931 features the adventures of Tam (another Tarzan-like character) in a subterranean world beneath Asia.
  • The novel In Caverns Below (1935) by Stanton A. Coblentz posits an extensive populated network of caverns underlying the Basin and Range province in the North American southwest.
  • The novel The Secret People (1935) by John Wyndham features prisoners held captive in a labyrinth of caves by an ancient race of pygmies dwelling beneath the Sahara desert.
  • In the Middle-earth books by J.R.R. Tolkien the kingdom of Angband and its predecessor Utumno are deep underground, under mountains called Ered Engrin; they are home to Orcs, monsters and Morgoth, the Dark Lord. Also, the Dwarves and even elves live underground – the underground realms of Moria and Erebor and cities like Nargothrond and Menegroth play a major role in the stories.
  • Richard Sharpe Shaver's The Shaver Mystery stories are about ancient civilizations still living in caverns beneath the Earth surface
  • C. S. Lewis's 1953 novel The Silver Chair (part of The Chronicles of Narnia) takes place partly in Underland, a subterranean kingdom plotting to conquer Narnia. At one point, the Lady of the Green Kirtle attempts to brainwash the protagonists into believing that the world above ground does not exist.
  • The Third Eye (1956) by Tuesday Lobsang Rampa mentions contact with advanced beings living in the center of the Earth.
  • The End of the Tunnel (aka The Cave of Cornelius) (1959), by Paul Capon. Four boys in England get trapped in a cave by a landslide, and by following the cave, they encounter a forgotten civilization.
  • Dark Universe (1961) by Daniel F. Galouye. A post-apocalyptic science fiction novel where two clans live deep underground and are descendants from humans who escaped an old war.
  • City of the First Time (1975) by G.J. Barrett. British survivors of an atomic holocaust venture downward into the earth through a series of caves and encounter two other races, survivals of previous extinctions.
  • A Hollow Earth featured in the children's Choose Your Own Adventure novel The Underground Kingdom (1983).
  • The history of the Hollow Earth theory is explored in Umberto Eco's 1988 novel Foucault's Pendulum, alongside a wide range of other pseudo-scientific and conspiracy theories.
  • Rudy Rucker's novel The Hollow Earth (1990) features Edgar Allan Poe and his ideas. Rucker claims in an afterword to have transcribed the novel from a manuscript in the University of Virginia library; the call number given is that of a copy of Symzonia.
  • The Dark Elf Trilogy (1990–1991) by R. A. Salvatore was the first of the Forgotten Realms books to describe the underground world of the Dark Elves called the Underdark. This greatly helped popularize underground settings in fantasy RPGs.
  • The novel Indiana Jones and the Hollow Earth by Max McCoy (1997) expands on the legend of an advanced civilization in the Earth's interior.
  • Reliquary (1997) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child features an underground civilization of humans beneath Manhattan.
  • The short story "Black as the Pit, From Pole to Pole" by Howard Waldrop and Steven Utley continues the journey of Frankenstein's creature through a hollow Earth.
  • In Jeff Long's 1999 novel The Descent and its 2007 sequel Deeper, a vast labyrinth of tunnels and passages underlying the Earth is inhabited by a brutal species of once-civilized but now degenerate hominid, Homo Hadalis.
  • The 2000 novel Abduction by Robin Cook includes the concept of a third world under the sea called "Interterra."
  • Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl series (2001–2012) focuses on crimes committed by or against the fairy-folk who live beneath the earth's crust in a technologically advanced society.
  • Underland (2002) by Mick Farren has the vampire hero Victor Renquist traveling to a hollow Earth populated by Nazi scientists, subjugated proto-scientific lizard people, and a fungus addicted race of sub-vampires.
  • The City of Ember (2003) and its sequels by Jeanne DuPrau describe a city built underground to survive a nuclear holocaust.
  • The Underland Chronicles (2003–2007) by Suzanne Collins tells the story of a war between the humans and the rats in a location under New York City called the Underland.
  • Tunnels (2005) is the first of a series of books by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams, taking place in a hollow Earth with an interior sun, in which multiple civilisations exist within and beneath the crust.
  • Metro 2033 (2005) and Metro 2034 (2009) by Dmitry Glukhovsky are post-nuclear-apocalyptic novels which describe the last remaining humans fighting to survive in the metro system underneath Moscow with the surface being too irradiated for humans to survive.
  • Against the Day (2006) by Thomas Pynchon makes extensive mention of the Earth's interior as a place to be explored, positing inner-Earth seas. Pynchon's Mason & Dixon (1997) also uses the idea of a Hollow Earth as the planet's final holdout for magic against the calculations of the surface's most eminent men of science.
  • In Geraldine McCaughrean's The White Darkness (2007), the characters undertake a journey to find a hole into the hollow Earth.
  • Neal Shusterman's Downsiders (1999) is a story where a young boy living under New York City in a secret community becomes curious about the topside and adventure ensues.
  • John Hodgman's 2008 book More Information Than You Require says the hollow interior of the Earth is the home of the subterranean Molemen. In the center of this Hollow Earth is a small, red sun.
  • The Battle of the Labyrinth (2008), the fourth book in Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, revolves around the protagonists' attempts to navigate the Labyrinth, a confusing, supernatural maze under the United States.
  • The Silo series narrates post-apocalyptic human life in a subterranean city extending one hundred forty-four stories beneath the surface.
  • Kameron Hurley's 2017 novel The Stars Are Legion takes place on an alien world with various separate underground societies that the protagonist must work her way through on a long journey back to the surface.


  • A Scrooge McDuck comic book story by Carl Barks called Land Beneath the Ground! (1956) describes an underground world populated by humanoid creatures who create earthquakes.
  • The comics series Les Terres Creuses by Belgian comics writers Luc and François Schuiten features several hollow-Earth settings.
  • The Hellboy Universe features the Hollow Earth as a major part of its mythology. It was first introduced in the 2002 miniseries B.P.R.D.: Hollow Earth, when the team journeyed into great caverns inside the Earth where they discovered a race of people that had been artificially created by the ancient Hyperboreans.
  • One adventure of Alan Moore's Pulp-style hero Tom Strong involved a gateway into the Hollow Earth in the Arctic where Nazis had fled after World War Two only to be devoured by its inhabitants. Much of the story is spent discussing many of the varying Hollow Earth concepts mentioned above. (Tom Strong's Terrific Tales #1)
  • In the 1970s, comic-book artist Mike Grell produced the comic-book Warlord, about a pilot who finds himself in Skartaris, a sword-and-sorcery world reached through an opening at the North Pole. First believed to be the hollow interior of the Earth, Skartaris was later revealed to be a parallel dimension.
  • The Marvel Comics features several underground empires in Subterranea ruled by villains like the Mole Man or Tyrannus.
  • The webcomic Overcompensating referenced Hollow Earth theories in an August 2006 strip.
  • Super Dinosaur has shown Earth to be a planet with a planet on the inside.
  • The webcomic Mare Internum follows the adventures of two scientists trapped in the underworld of Mars.


  • The 1935 serial The Phantom Empire combines a western musical with subterranean plot elements loosely adapted from Bulwer-Lytton's The Coming Race.
  • The 1951 short feature Superman and the Mole Men postulated a race of little people living inside a hollow earth. The film was later reconfigured into a two-part TV episode called The Unknown People, with most or all explicit references to "Mole Men" being excised.
  • The 1951 film Unknown World is the story of a small crew in a drilling vehicle exploring for a refuge from nuclear war, and finding great caverns at tremendous depths.
  • The 1956 film The Mole People has an introduction by Frank C. Baxter ("Dr. Research") explaining the history of Hollow Earth theories.
  • The 1959 film Journey to the Center of the Earth is probably the most well known adaptation of Verne's novel.
  • The 1971 film THX 1138 is an American science fiction film set in a dystopian future in which the populace lives underground and is controlled through android police officers and mandatory use of drugs that suppress emotion, including outlawed sexual desire.
  • The 1973 film Godzilla vs. Megalon involves the seatopians.
  • The 1976 film At the Earth's Core is based on Burroughs' novel.
  • The 1984 film What Waits Below depicts the discovery of a lost race of albino-skinned beings.
  • The 2001 animated film Atlantis: The Lost Empire, has the protagonists discovering the survived ancient civilization of Atlantis in the depths of the Earth.
  • The 2003 film The Core in which a team has the mission to drill to the center of the Earth in order to restart the rotation of the Earth's core.
  • The 2004 Japanese horror film Marebito, directed by Takashi Shimizu, references the Hollow Earth hypothesis.
  • The 2005 film The Island is a 2005 American science fiction-thriller film directed by Michael Bay, starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson.
  • The 2008 film Journey to the Center of the Earth, as well as the similar film Journey to Middle Earth.
  • The 2008 film City of Ember is the survival story of a fantasy underground city.
  • The 2009 film Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs features an underground world where dinosaurs have survived into the Holocene.
  • The 2011 anime film Children Who Chase Lost Voices features a party's journey to Agartha.
  • The 2013 anime film Patema Inverted features a civilization that lives in a system of tunnels and caverns deep underground.
  • The 2019 animated film How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World features the "hidden world," an underground world inhabited by Dragons and accessible by a caldera in the ocean.
  • The 2019 film Godzilla: King of the Monsters reveals the existence of a Hollow Earth with portals that Godzilla uses as shortcuts to move faster around the globe.


  • In the Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Journey to the Center of Acme Acres", a series of earthquakes shake up the city, causing Plucky and Hamton to fall into a crater in the ground. They fall for hours before finally reaching the center, which is hollow.
  • The Spider Riders series of books and anime take place in an "Inner World" inhabited by humans and intelligent insects.
  • The anime series Gurren Lagann is initially set in an underground civilization.
  • The Transformers: Cybertron cartoon series features a character, Professor Lucy Suzuki, who believes in the Hollow Earth Theory.
  • The Japanese anime Gaiking: Legend of Daiku-Maryu has the protagonists spend much of their time in a hollow Earth called Darius, home of an empire of humanoids that are currently amassing a force to invade and conquer the surface world.
  • The French cartoon Les Mondes Engloutis (known in English as Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea) involves protagonists descending through a maze of caves into a subterranean world of different space and time, inhabited by various peoples.
  • Sanctuary has a Season 3 storyline that deals with Helen Magnus and her team finding and visiting Hollow Earth.
  • In Detentionaire, the main antagonist of the series known as "His Eminence" is from a long lost race of ancient reptilian humanoids who retreated beneath the earth and lay dormant for thousands of years.
  • In Doctor Who Series 5 (2010), episodes 8 and 9 The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood take place in an underground city populated by Silurians, a humanoid reptilian race who have been hibernating for millions of years and want to have their planet back from the "ape descended primitives" who have evolved and taken over (i.e. humankind). The Silurians and their aquatic cousins the Sea Devils also appeared in the original run of Doctor Who - in Doctor Who and the Silurians (1970), The Sea Devils (1972) and Warriors of the Deep (1984).
  • In Justice League Unlimited, Series 3, episode 3.
  • The animated television series Billy Dilley's Super-Duper Subterranean Summer takes place in an underground world called Subterranea-Tania, which the main characters get trapped due to a science project gone awry.
  • In the 1987–1996 animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series episode "Turtles at the Earth's Core", the turtles discover a cavern on Earth where dinosaurs still roam.[3]


  • The video game Final Fantasy IV for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Released as "Final Fantasy II" in the United States) features a subterranean world that is inhabited by dwarves.
  • The video game Terranigma for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System features both a hollow and normal Earth.
  • A pulp roleplaying game, Hollow Earth Expedition.
  • The Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game's Mystara campaign setting included a Hollow World expansion, featured in the Hollow World Campaign Set.
  • The tabletop Pathfinder Roleplaying Game's main setting, Golarion, features an extensive underworld known as the Darklands. The deepest region of the Darklands, known as Orv, consists of a series of caverns (referred to as Vaults) roughly the size of surface nations, home to a variety of alien environments, creatures and cultures.
  • In Mage: The Ascension, the Hollow Earth exists as an alternate reality, but virtually all ways of accessing without magic have ceased to exist in the modern age because people no longer believe the Earth could be hollow.
  • In Aion: Tower of Eternity, the world of Atreia used to be a hollow planet with the Tower inside it, connecting the northern and southern hemispheres together, providing light and heat to the creatures living inside of the planet.
  • The video games Dragon Age and The Elder Scrolls V both feature a subterranean city, along with other caves.
  • Arx Fatalis takes place almost entirely in an underground setting.
  • Avernum, and its predecessor, Exile, are set in a nation based in a cavern system originally used as a penal colony.
  • The role-playing game Breath of Fire for the PlayStation 2 console is set entirely in an underground world, where the main characters try to reach the surface.
  • The browser-based game Fallen London, as well as its roguelike spin-off Sunless Sea, are set in an alternate history in which Victorian London is now located a mile beneath the surface, in an enormous cavern colloquially referred to as the "Neath" dominated by a large subterranean ocean.
  • In the adventure video game series Myst, the D'ni civilization lies in a large cavern under the U.S. state of New Mexico.
  • In the roleplaying game Undertale, the character falls into the Underground, a subterranean realm which serves as the setting for the game. The Underground is populated with a society of monsters which were banished there by humans.
  • In the MMORPG The Secret World, the Hollow Earth serves as a central hub allowing the player to travel between the different area of the outer world. In its reboot Secret World Legends, it has been redesigned for being the central place for trade, meetup and services
  • The interactive fiction computer games in the Zork series are set in the Great Underground Empire
  • The role-playing game Underrail is set in a distant future, where life on Earth's surface has long since been made impossible and the remnants of humanity now dwell in a vast system of metro station-states.


  • Japanese psychedelic rock band Far East Family Band named their 1975 debut album Chikyu Kudo Setsu, (Hollow Earth Theory), although the official English title was The Cave Down to Earth. The album's sleeve notes refer to familiar stories of entrances at the north and south poles, and of an ancient civilisation dwelling inside the Earth with connections to UFOs.[4]
  • The band Bal-Sagoth has, on their album The Chthonic Chronicles (2006), a song about the hollow Earth called "Invocations Beyond the Outer-World Night".
  • Sunn O))) on their album Monoliths & Dimensions has a song called Aghartha.
  • In Coldplay's first full album Parachutes there's a song called Spies. It may refer to a subterranean location, but the lyrics themselves are ambiguous.
  • Science Babble, on their album Membrane" has a song "Rock Bottom" revolving around hollow earth theory

Other celestial bodies

Subsurface fiction may also be set on other planetary bodies:

  • The most common example of a hollow body other than Earth has historically been a hollow Moon. A breathable interior atmosphere allowed various SF writers to postulate lunar life (including intelligent life) in spite of scientific observations of the uninhabitability of the Lunar surface. The subgenre largely died out following the actual Moon landings.
  • The console Strategy/RPG series Super Robot Wars features a Hollow Earth world named La Gias.
  • The role-playing video game Septerra Core takes place on an eponymous world with seven separate layers, similar to the theory of Edmund Halley.
  • The PC Adventure game Torin's Passage features a depiction of the hollow fictional planet Strata, similar to the one described by Edmund Halley.
  • The planet Naboo in Star Wars has a "hollow core," but it is filled with water.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky", there is a hollow, artificially created, planet-shaped spaceship whose inhabitants falsely believe that they are living on the surface of a planet.
  • "World Without Stars", the third volume of the French graphic space novel series "Valérian – spatiotemporal agent" takes place mainly inside a hollow planet inhabited by a matriarchal and a patriarchal culture continuously at war with each other.

See also


External links