Arcadia

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Come live with me and be my Love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dale and field,

And all the craggy mountains yield.
Christopher Marlowe, "The Passionate Shepherd to his Love"

The gentle, quiet life of the countryside, peopled by souls of wise simplicity living In Harmony with Nature. Arcadia is traditionally populated by shepherds and shepherdesses; more recent versions may also include agriculture.

Idealized often to the point of becoming a Utopia. Generally portrayed as a place where people still stick to the Good Old Ways, rather than being trapped in the city's bustle. (Unkind souls may sneer at them for being old fashioned.) Though the city dwellers may scorn them for their lack of luxuries, they are happier for not having to rely on material things for happiness.

It may, indeed, be the Good landscape, in contrast with its Evil Is Deathly Cold Shadowland, Grim Up North, or the citified Shadowland of the Deadly Decadent Court or Vice City. It is not, however, a region free from all evils; the expression Et in Arcadia ego (even in Arcadia I - i.e. death - am) comments that The Grim Reaper also makes appearances here.

A Ten-Minute Retirement often brings the character to Arcadia. A character - perhaps a City Mouse who's learned his lesson, or someone who lost his memory - may settle down here for a peaceful life and a quiet romance. The pursuits of Arcadia are often portrayed as bringing life into the world, and are more productive than the destructive pursuits of heroes and villains. Depending on how it is depicted, this can range from idyllic leisure, to unending and hard work—which, nevertheless, keeps the character from boredom and is always useful, thus fulfilling the character who was Desperately Looking for a Purpose In Life. (Plus, of course, all that hard work gives you a good appetite, so you also don't need all the fancy dishes to tempt your stomach, unlike the city.)

The Country Mouse or the Farm Boy often come from a (more or less idealized) Arcadia. It often features as Home, Sweet Home for an adventurer. Many a Retired Badass and Old Master live here full time, having jumped at the Call to Agriculture. If the question of social relations comes up, it will always turn out to be a Close-Knit Community.

A brief visit there is an Arcadian Interlude.

Closely related to Ghibli Hills, but inhabited. (They may, in fact, be next to each other in the same story.) Visual media often use it for Scenery Porn. Often features in a Green Aesop. In older works, it may contrast to The Lost Woods. As late as the early nineteenth century, wilderness was not considered attractive scenery; a pleasant view was one of cultivated countryside, usually with human figures in it.

The Noble Savage lives with even less of civilizations' goods, but operates on the same principle, although he is usually of a different race than the city folks, unlike the Arcadians—in both cases, by whatever definition of race was current.

Sweet Home Alabama is a Deep South Arcadia. Oireland is usually (though not always) an Arcadia.

Contrast Town with a Dark Secret. The Good Shepherd calls on Arcadian imagery. Often involves a society with No Poverty.

Arcadia is a real region, the hilly middle of the Peloponnese. During the Roman Empire, poets (including Virgil) cast it as the idyllic land of the pastoral. Although thus Older Than Feudalism, it is generally a trope used by city dwellers. Compare it to Wild Wilderness which it sometimes can overlap with also.

Not to be confused with Tom Stoppard's play of the same name, or the Duran Duran Spin-Off band. Joan of Arcadia and Skies of Arcadia aren't exactly this either. Not to mention all the other things named after Arcadia on the other wiki.

Examples of Arcadia include:

Anime And Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • "In the end, all men think that their youth was Arcadia"—Goethe, as quoted in Arcadia of My Youth, the Captain Harlock movie. Used to justify the name of Harlock's Cool Ship.
  • In Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Sheeta, having grown up in a pastoral lifestyle, explains at the climax that Laputa had been abandoned because their ancestors had learned that it cut them off from nature, and an Arcadia was truly a better place to live.
  • The Ghibli Hills of My Neighbor Totoro are next to farming villages fitting this trope.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Resembool, the Elric brothers' hometown, seems to be this.
  • Haibane Renmei may have a town and some technology, but it perfectly embodies the emotional aspects.
  • The idyllic world found in Neo Angelique is actually called Arcadia.
  • Windaria The Valley, also known as 'Saki'. Its the region where people farm. Its a beautiful place with friendly people.
  • The setting of Aria. It is mentioned that technologically, it is a lot more primitive than Earth (called "Manhome"). And yet it's an Utopia.
  • In Saint Beast, heaven is meant to be more like this than a Fluffy Cloud Heaven, but has a sinister edge thanks to the Jerkass God.

Comics[edit | hide]

Fairy Tales[edit | hide]

  • The literary fairy tales of the precieuxes, such as Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont's Aurore and Aimee, frequently put their princes and princesses in disguise as shepherds in a pastoral setting.

Fan Works[edit | hide]

  • In "The Prince", Joshua Christopher and his family live in a town named Arcadia, somewhere in the Midwestern United States. It is the modern day parallel to Bethlehem/Nazareth/Jerusalem.

Films[edit | hide]

  • The entire plot of The Village is concerned with a desperate, generation-old ploy to preserve an Arcadia.
  • Yellow Submarine. Pepperland before the Blue Meanie attack.
  • The last segment of Akira Kurosawa's Dreams.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • One of Horace's odes ("Beatus ille") begins by extolling at length the supposed joys of living in the countryside. How wonderful it must be, the narrator muses, to have a small, self-sufficient farm in the country, to turn the soil with his own oxen, to enjoy the grafted pears and grapes and drink wine fermented in his own home with a sweet wife who spins his flock's wool and makes cheese from the milk and with gentle home-bred slaves to help them....and the narrator turns out to be a Roman moneylender who has no intention of actually giving up his job. Good thing, too, because (as Horace knew personally) actual country life was nothing like the narrator's imaginings.
  • Sir Philip Sidney's The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia.
  • The Christopher Marlowe poem "The Passionate Shepherd to his Love". Walter Raleigh's response "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd" is a Deconstruction.
  • In Don Quixote, at the end of the book, Quixote considers leaving being a knight to become an arcadian shepherd instead. Pastoral tropes in general are deconstructed and parodied in the novel: The real shepherds are CountryMouses ignorant people who have enough common sense and work as sheperds by need. They want to help and are sympathetic enough. The problem comes when a lot of CityMouses try to invoke this trope:

All this long harangue (which might very well have been spared) our knight delivered because the acorns they gave him reminded him of the golden age; and the whim seized him to address all this unnecessary argument to the goatherds, who listened to him gaping in amazement without saying a word in reply.

will your worship be able to bear, out in the fields, the heats of summer, and the chills of winter, and the howling of the wolves? Not you; for that's a life and a business for hardy men, bred and seasoned to such work almost from the time they were in swaddling-clothes. Why, to make choice of evils, it's better to be a knight-errant than a shepherd!

  • In Aesop's The City Mouse and the Country Mouse, the City Mouse scorns the country life as simple, but when the Country Mouse visits, he discovers that the city is dangerous, and he is better off content in the country.
  • The Shire in Lord of the Rings. The characters even make a point of not even letting the hobbits know Gondor and Rohan are duking it out against Mordor.
    • On the other hand, the hobbits are also portrayed as unimaginative and parochial, which is atypical.
  • In Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, the shepherds are the only people who do not know of the Blatant Beast.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Honour Guard, Saint Sabbat's background, as a herder in the mountains. Consquently, Vamberfield's visions of her are also visions of Arcadia.
  • The novel Ecotopia has the Northwestern US secede and become a separate country which is an Arcadian Nation. The protagonist is a reporter and visits the nation.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel Dead Sky Black Sun, Uriel retreats from Cold-Blooded Torture to the memories of his childhood home, an Arcadian Shadowland to the Eye of Terror. Only when his dead mentor Captain Idaeus appears to chide him does he return to the pain.
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The background state of Oz is an Arcadia propped up by several potent pieces of nationwide magic (to the point where it hardly even has any death), punctuated by numerous settlements of bizarre people. Adventures consist of protecting Oz from outside invasion, from upset by one of the bizarre internal settlements, or (as in the first story) finding your way home by finding your way through Oz and environs to the Emerald City. So the Arcadian background winds up staying pretty firmly in the background.
  • Maid Marian was a shepherdess in pastoral plays that were common at May festivities. (Then Robin Hood plays came into fashion, and someone did a Crossover, and she shed her Arcadian roots as she joined the crew there. But she started out a shepherdess.)
  • Mildly deconstructed in the Tiffany Aching Discworld sub-series, which make it clear that being a shepherd is bloody hard work, and birthing a lamb at three in the morning in the rain is not conductive to a peaceful life. But both the Chalk and Lancre are generally presented as simpler and "nicer" places than Ankh-Morpork, so Sir Pterry does play it more-or-less straight at times.
    • Not really. Ankh-Morpork is, in real-world terms, a cross between New York and New Jersey. Being nicer than Ankh-Morpork isn't hard; the bottoms of particularly uninviting wells are routinely nicer than Ankh-Morpork.
      • Which doesn't stop people from moving from places like Lancre to Ankh-Morpork.
  • Hed, in Patricia A. McKillip's The Riddle-Master of Hed
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic poem Evangeline, the begining of which is a discription of the French colony of Acadie.
  • The Two Rivers from The Wheel of Time series, mostly shepherds with a scattering of farmers, check, Ghibli Hills in the mountains, check, believes in the Good Old Ways, check. Small wonder that the Protaganists grew up there.
  • The vast majority of the Anne of Green Gables books by L. M. Montgomery are set in this trope (except goes to Anne of the Island, where she is in a city going to college), and her "Emily," "Story Girl," "Magic For Marigold," "A Tangled Web," and "Pat" books also fit the bill. On the other hand, "The Blue Castle" and "Jane of Lantern Hill" are about City Mice finding fulfillment in Arcadia - here embodied in Prince Edward Island.
  • Pastoral literature is mocked extensively in David Eddings' The Tamuli.
    • Also in The Belgariad and The Malloreon, The Rivan Pasturelands and The Vale of Aldur count as pastoral places.
  • Tess of the D'Urbervilles deconstructs the concept of an idyllic Arcadia. The beauty of the Victorian countryside is juxtaposed to the chain of heinous events that happen to the titular heroine.
  • Appears in much of William Morris' works. In particular, his vision for a socialist future in News From Nowhere.
  • In PG Wodehouse's Uneasy Money, Elizabeth starts to be reconciled with the notion of Bill as a house guest when it turns out he's kept bees, and when their talk turns to dreams of living the Arcadian life in a farm, she is quite reconciled.
  • Deconstructed in Sherlock Holmes; while Watson appears to hold the Arcadian view of the country as opposed to crime-ridden London, Holmes the hardened crime-solver does not. (He does end up retiring to the Sussex Downs and keeping bees, however.)

"Good heavens!" I cried. "Who would associate crime with these dear old homesteads?"
"They always fill me with a certain horror. It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside."
"You horrify me!"
"But the reason is very obvious. The pressure of public opinion can do in the town what the law cannot accomplish. There is no lane so vile that the scream of a tortured child, or the thud of a drunkard's blow, does not beget sympathy and indignation among the neighbours, and then the whole machinery of justice is ever so close that a word of complaint can set it going, and there is but a step between the crime and the dock. But look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser."

  • In Michael Flynn's Up Jim River, the emperor dreams of a life as a cowboy on another planet. The harper notices how romantically deluded and inaccurate his dreams are. Then, he's really miserable as emperor.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • In the new Doctor Who's second season finale, the Doctor alludes to "the Fall of Arcadia", a battle during the Time War.
  • Ironic usage on The X-Files, with a planned community called Arcadia that's really a Town with a Dark Secret.
  • Doc Martin takes place in an idyllic rural fishing village.
  • The Picard Family Orchard is depicted this way in Star Trek TNG
  • The Night Visions episode A View Through The Window involves a man seeing an idyllic world of this sort through an interdimensional window, and longing to go there. Subverted when he does so; to find it populated by carnivorous aliens, who begin to look for a way through themselves.

Music[edit | hide]

  • Beethoven's Sixth, the Pastoral Symphony.
  • Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull moved out to a farm to enjoy the bucolic life, and then made the album Heavy Horses about this trope.
  • Arcadia is gone
  • This song also refers to Arcadia, if only in general idea.
  • Many songs by The Libertines are about Arcadia. Both Carl Barat and Pete Doherty used to talk longingly about the idea of reaching Arcadia, and Doherty still believes in it.
  • Pink Martini's music alludes from time to time to a place,

Where the hills are green, and the cars are few and far
Days are full of splendor, and at night you can see the stars...

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • The New World of Darkness has not one, but TWO Arcadias, one from whence all Fate and Time magic stems (resulting in the trickster-like Acanthus mage path) and another, where the twisted True Fae of Changeling: The Lost takes their kidnapped mortals. All Changelings must fight their way out of Arcadia, which is only peaceful and idyllic to the True Fae themselves; the Changelings are the slaves that make their happiness possible. Despite attempts by fan club members to retcon the two into one space, Word of God has refused to confirm whether they are or not.
    • Most of the New World of Darkness is ambiguous, and quite a few Mages want Changelings to take them through the deadly thorns of the Hedge and into Arcadia to learn more about it. As well, Fate and Time are more useful than any other type of magic within the realm of Faerie. One of the Changeling line books finally confirms what happens when a Mage ends up in Arcadia. It's... not pretty.
    • Then there was the Arcadia of Changeling: The Dreaming, which was a lot less Cosmic Horror Story and a lot more, well, Arcadia. It was the homeland of the fae, but was cut off from Earth once disbelief got too strong, forcing the fae left on Earth to take refuge in human bodies.
  • In Ars Magica, Arcadia was the sort of Faerieland you'd get if you mixed folk mythology to get a cross between Shakespearean fairies, the Celtic Otherworld, and Norse "Aelfheim" (Elfland).
    • And it was pretty dangerous place, despite of being almost always beautiful. It had four directions: Dark, Light, Summer and Winter. If you went towards any of them long enough, you would either die or lose your mind.
  • One of the Outer Planes in the Planescape AD&D setting, specifically the park-like "Lawful Good with emphasis on the lawful" plane, was called "Arcadia." (The complete name, according to Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, was "the Peaceable Kingdoms Of Arcadia." But that's splitting hairs.) However, Dothion, one of the Twin Paradises of Bytopia, fits the trope just as well if not better.
    • The halfling homeland of Luiren in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. It's not completely free from danger (this is Dungeons & Dragons after all—why go somewhere if not to kill and loot stuff?), with a dangerous forest at its border and the occasional monster, but all in all it's one of the safest places in the Realms.

Theater[edit | hide]

  • William Shakespeare used it more than once: in Cymbeline and The Winters Tale, the royal foundlings are raised by shepherds, and in As You Like It, Rosalind, fleeing her uncle's corrupt court.
    • As You Like It is arguably a parody of this trope as a reaction against all of the pastoral plays of Shakespeare's time. The "arguable" part stems from the fact that it still retains the spirit of this trope while mocking its conventions—the shepherds, for example, repeatedly complain about their supposedly idyllic jobs and are terrible at wooing their love interests.
  • Strephon from Iolanthe is an Arcadian shepherd. He's also half fairy.
  • Tom Stoppard's Arcadia, strangely enough, takes place in a rural country house. Even if it isn't necessarily where the title comes from.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Ironically, Arcadia in Halo Wars and the rest of the Halo Universe is nothing like this.
    • Not when we actually see it, anyway. When it's first mentioned, Serina comments that Arcadia is a resort planet.
  • In The Longest Journey, Arcadia is Another Dimension where magic is possible. While it looks like a pastoral utopia to people coming there from our world, it has its own share of problems, too.
  • Tazmily Village, the setting of Mother 3. It seems a little too good to be true. It's too good to last, anyway. It was never really true in the first place. The villagers founded Tazmily with the Arcadia stereotype in mind, designing it to be a utopia and then altering their own memories to believe it had always been that way. That's why Tazmily has all the features of Arcadia at the start of the game. The ways of life there are peaceful and simple, resources are so plentiful that the villagers can't fathom the concept of money, and the lead character is even the son of a shepherd. And then Fassad comes along to ruin it...
  • The Mega Man Zero series had Neo Arcadia, the last utopia for humans.
    • Which, in another bit of irony, is a technological paradise rather than a pastoral one. It's not Neo Arcadia for nothing. The guy running it even tries to make the environment outside Neo Arcadia uninhabitable at one point.
  • Typically, in Pokémon, the protagonist begins their journey in a ridiculously tiny, picturesque town. Played with in that these places usually host a widely-respected scientist who sends the protagonist on their journey, a character not normally found in Arcadia settings. Other Arcadia spots besides the beginning of each game include:
    • Johto contains a large farm on one of its routes, and the small hamlet of Mahogany Town and its scenic lake.
    • Verdanturf Town from Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, it's so idealized that simply being there makes you healthier.
    • There's a lot of farmland near Solaceon Town. Comes bundled with free ruins!
    • The White version of Pokémon Black and White's Opelucid City, a quiet, old-timey town. Black's version of Opelucid is a techo haven.
    • Agate Village, the only beautiful place in the hellhole that is Orre.
  • In Fire Emblem, there was a village named Arcadia where humans and dragons lived in peace (when everywhere else, dragons were made extinct by humans). However, its giant libraries were also the place where the Big Bad obtained his ability to drain and consume Life Energy.
  • In BioShock (series), Arcadia is the name of the underwater forest that serves as a source of oxygen for Rapture.
    • It was originally planned for Andrew Ryan to use the line "even in Arcadia, I exist", before he gasses all the vegetation in Rapture.
  • Present-day Winhill in Final Fantasy VIII. It's the only town where the primary party does not engage in combat, the townspeople are mostly friendly, and is the site of two of the relatively few peacefully-resolved sidequests.
    • Ironically, Winhill is still less of an Arcadia than it used to be (even after the giant bugs were exterminated). Compared to Laguna's flashback, the atmosphere is melancholic and downbeat—the colours are less vivid and there are fewer signs of life. Which makes sense since the town was repeatedly raided for child prisoners by Esthar and children orphaned by the war were placed into an orphanage on another continent, making Winhill a declining Arcadia.
  • In Modern Warfare 2 the 1st Batallion, 75th Regiment of US Army Rangers passes through Arcadia, Virginia, on the way to Washington DC. It's an upper middle-class community and the scenery is therefore a match, if a subversion in that the inhabitants would certainly not be simpler-minded folk. We can't ask them because they've been run off by the invading Russian Army, which the Rangers are fighting against.
  • In Fable II, the town of Oakfield is a great example of Arcadia, consisting mostly of farmland with a few houses, produce stalls, and an inn. From the first game you have Oakvale, but by Fable 2 it's become a cursed marsh.
  • Rural Sicily is shown to be something of an Arcadia in Hitman II Silent Assassin
  • Touhou: The very purpose of Gensokyo. But it just end up being a very broken paradise with a 60-years-long Vicious Cycle, some truly psychotic casts, and failing in actually stopping technology from encroaching it.
  • A majority of the Harvest Moon games are set in this type of area.
  • Skyloft from The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword is a Floating Continent version.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • In Sarab, most of the world is like this.
  • In The Dreamer, 18th century Roxbury Massachusetts definitely fits the bill.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Cars: the quiet rural town of Radiator Springs teaches Lightning McQueen what is important in life.
  • The Pastoral Symphony in Fantasia.
  • In Thundercats 2011, (a series prone to Scenery Porn)
    • "Omens Part One" has it present in the Epic Tracking Shot that introduces Thundera, seen to the south of the walled city.
    • In "The Duelist and the Drifter" this is the setting of the Swordmaker's home, full of rolling fields.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • The Trope Namer is a historic region of the Greek Peloponnesus (still a prefecture of Greece today). It is mountainous and surrounded by mountains, which tended to isolate it from cultural changes and preserve old dialects and old ways. In ancient and medieval times it was so rustic and secluded that its inhabitants became proverbial as primitive herdsmen leading simple lives.
  • The scenery of northern Tōhoku, the northernmost bits of the Japanese main island Honshu, looks straight out of My Neighbor Totoro. The people there are also incredibly kind to bumbling foreigners.
  • Diocletian abdicated as Emperor and built a retirement palace at Split, and when asked to come out of retirement replied that "If you could see the vegetables planted by my hands at Salona, you would then never think of urging such an attempt."
  • Marie Antoinette was notorious for having set up a mock-dairy and play-acting as a shepherdess. She really believed country life was like that—with the cows all scrubbed for her arrival and probably people in the wings who knew what they were doing well enough to fool Marie into thinking she was doing well.
    • Some commenters of the time noted that with the money it cost to build that section of the palace gardens, they could probably have fed the area, though the cost was exagerated by contemporaries in an attempt to discredit her. Not that the actual price would have been insignificant.
  • The Old South before the Civil War, though there was obviously slavery and supposed threats of "black rebellion" against whites to break the idyllic image.
    • The Appalachian area of the Old South as well, which traded in slavery for more lawlessness and backwood feuds.
  • Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, though it's a lot colder than ideal half of the time.
    • Parts of western Massachusetts could qualify as well.
      • The northwestern and north-central portions of New Jersey most definitely qualify as this, and are colloquially known as "The Skylands" by New Jerseyans. Areas of gorgeous countryside, isolated by scenic mountains that get even more scenic in the spring and autumn, and a largely pristine landscape dotted by small, peaceful towns definitely make New Jersey's Skylands a modern version of Arcadia. It really is a crime that Hollywood and New York media have never allowed this to become a prevalent image of New Jersey in movies.
  • Acadia was historically a French colony consisting of modern day New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Maine. Maine still has a reputation for being old fashioned and idealistic. There are still some French speaking descendants of those colonists, particuliarly in coastal New Brunswick, the Saint John Valley on the Maine-New Brunswick border, and the Louisiana Cajuns.
  • The less famous parts of California (particularly the coastal region) are often close to this. While most cities are at least partially developed, they also have lots of greenery and well-kept parks. On the other hand, living/rental costs are among the highest in the States, so that balances things out a little.
    • Oddly enough an actual City of Arcadia exists a little north of Los Angeles, nestled against the Mountains. It is pleasant enough, though still obviously a suburb of LA.
  • Most small rural towns seem like a real-life Arcadia to those who don't live in them, and everyone's home-town from their childhood seems like Arcadia when looked back upon twenty or thirty years later.
    • "Anyone who thinks small towns are nicer than big cities has never lived in a small town."
  • Welcome to the North West Coast of Scotland, please be nice to the sheep. Actually the South West and North East of Scotland fits too, but not the Central Belt, that is Mordor.
  • Because of Anne of Green Gables and her enduring popularity (see Literature), Prince Edward Island has worked very hard to preserve its Arcadian spirit. Does a very good job, too.
    • Which is very fitting, as P.E.I. was once a part of Acadia (see above) and later Nova Scotia before becoming it's own colony/province.
  • There is a medieval term, Locus Amoenus (pleasant place) which is described in similar terms to both the Garden of Eden and Arcadia. It could pass as an alternate title to this trope.
  • Any part of Cornwall that is not on the coast (the coasts, for the record, are Surfer Dude territory)is an arcadia. Extends to most of The West Country, as well.
  • Rural Ireland is one as well. Really, most of the 'celtic nations' have arcadian traits, though Ireland has a lot more rain than typical.
  • Ukraine. It's not called the breadbasket of eastern Europe for no reason.