Swamps Are Evil

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Westley: A few more steps and we'll be safe in the Fire Swamp!
Buttercup: We'll never survive!

Westley: Nonsense. You're only saying that because no one ever has.

In fiction, swamps are often portrayed as godforsaken places that no man enters willingly. When they aren't infested with undead horrors, they hide tribes of hideous frog-, lizard-, or fish-men (or possibly fishlizardfrogmen) who slink from their half-sunken temples to grasp the unwary with their cold hands and drag them beneath the still black water. At the very least, they are the home of poisonous snakes and strange, incurable diseases. Often, there are ancient curses that cause travelers to become lost and wander the swamps forever. Will o' the Wisps (also called corpse candles and Ghost Lights) lead the unwary into quickbogs to die. For extra horror, people who get lost in the swamp may themselves become one of the monsters infesting it. Swamps are also a popular home for witches, voodoo ladies, families of inbred cannibals, and other unsavoury types, like zombies.

There is an element of Truth in Television to this: Swamps were long regarded as dangerous and unsanitary. They tend to attract a lot of insects, which can spread disease; the sodden terrain can make traversing them on foot difficult; many swamps are prone to heavy fog because of all the water, which can make it easy to get lost; and some swamps are also inhabited by dangerous animals, such as alligators. More realistic depictions will have swamps as dangerous and unpleasant rather than outright evil. Expect lots of complaining about mud, leeches, and over-sized mosquitoes.

In real-world folklore, swamps were often regarded as cursed, haunted or full of monsters. This is, of course, the basis for many fictional portrayals. That said, swamps, marshes and other wetlands are an important part of the ecosystem, providing a habitat or breeding ground for many different species. Some are actually quite nice places to go birdwatching or fishing. Swamps are natural water level monitoring devices because in rainy times they collect rainwater as a sponge and thus prevent floods. In dry times swamps are water reservoirs.

In a Video Game setting, swamps will frequently be inhabited by zombies or carnivorous plants. Expect to find a lot of Grimy Water as a gameplay mechanic.

Not to be confused with Bubblegloop Swamp...

Examples of Swamps Are Evil include:


Anime And Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Onigafuchi, in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, is believed to be the mouth of a dormant volcano, and the villagers believe that it could leak toxic gas at any moment. Big Bad Takano uses this as an excuse to cover the true reasons for the massacre of Hinamizawa.
  • The Numa Numa no Mi/Swamp Swamp Fruit Logia-class Devil's Fruit eaten by Caribou allows the user to instantly create a swamp anywhere, and to absorb things into it. However, it's more the person creating the swamps are evil.
  • In Episode 22 (and 23 probably) an opponent of Alice uses some sort of mind trick or illusion of this a bit in "Pumpkin Scissors".

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Swamp Thing and Man-Thing were both "born" in swamps, as was their Golden Age inspiration, The Heap.
    • Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing averted this a bit, as while the swamp was mysterious and sometimes dangerous, evil tended to intrude upon the "clean earth" that was the titular character's place of power.
    • Man-Thing isn't really evil either.
  • DCU villain Solomon Grundy was created from a dead gangster that was tossed into a swamp.

Film[edit | hide]

  • The Creature from the Black Lagoon lived in the swampy jungles of the Brazilian rainforest.
    • The film was actually shot in Wakulla County, Florida... an area known for its mosquito-infested swampland.
  • Labyrinth has the Bog of Eternal Stench, a wretched swamp that would make anyone unfortunate enough to fall in it stink forever.
  • In the first Shrek movie, Lord Farquaad exiles all magical creatures to the swamp where the titular ogre already lives. Granted, they're not actually all that evil, but the principle is the same.
    • On a similar principle Shrek lives in the swamp because he's an ogre, and wants to play on the perceptions to get more privacy.
  • The Bayou in Disney's Princess and The Frog looks rather murky and is infested with nasty crocodiles.
    • Also, Devil's Bayou from The Rescuers. The presence of Madame Medusa doesn't make it any frendlier.
  • The swamp world of Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi certainly looks evil, and there's at least one big, nasty swam creature interested in eating you, but it also is the home of Yoda.
    • It also contains the strange tree-cave, which holds an unusual presence of the Dark Side of the Force.
      • And another swamp is home to Jar Jar.
  • In The Adventures of Milo and Otis, Deadwood Swamp is a desolate, terrible place. Just see the name.
  • While the actual swampland in Monty Python and the Holy Grail is never seen, the King of the Swamp Castle is suspiciously eager to get the hell out of there. So much that he's willing to marry his son to a hideous princess in order to get his hand on her huge... tracks of land.
    • Later he also tries to adopt the princess by killing both his son and her father.
  • The monsters of Attack of the Giant Leeches dwell in the swamps of Florida.
  • AJ Annila's Sauna is mostly set in a nameless village in the middle of a large swamp. It's not a nice place.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • In Lord of the Rings, the Dead Marshes feature the usual treacherous footing, constant fog, and corpse candles. There were also horrible, pallid faces floating just beneath the water's surface. Looking at the faces too closely would cause you to become entranced and fall into the water.
    • There was also the insect-infested Midgewater Marshes in Fellowship of the Ring.

"What do they eat when they can't get hobbit?"

  • In Rowan of Rin, one of the challenges Rowan's party faces is a swamp. It's covered in fog, every step needs to be probed with a pole lest you fall into the sludge and drown, and the images and voices of their loved ones appear to lure the heroes from the safe path.
  • The Princess Bride has the Fire Swamp. The three primary dangers of the swamp are random spouts of fire (easily avoided by identifying a popping noise right before one erupts), the lightning sand (though once you've fallen into that one, it's easy to look out for), and the ROUSes (Rodents of Unusual Size. I don't think they exist...)
  • The Swamps of Sadness in The Neverending Story, in which Atreyu's horse Artax dies of despair.
  • The Belgariad both uses and averts this with the swamps of Nyissa. When the main cast goes through them, they're hopelessly depressing, sinister, astonishingly dangerous, and full of a variety of narcotic compounds and poisonous plants. Later, they pick up a Nyissan ally, the eunuch Sadi, who is perfectly fond of his homeland and disheartened when they come across a cursed swamp. When asked why, he explains that a swamp is green and verdant with life, but that this particular swamp is nothing but death and decay.
    • Further north from Nyissa there's the Fens in Drasnia (and part of Algaria). Their bad reputation comes from the countless midges and the fact that navigation is problematic at best. Much of what looks like solid land are in fact free floating mounds of vegetation that float around in the sluggish current. There are also fenlings, intelligent, otter-like creatures that have a reputation for changing channels around. They'd do it too, more out of a sense of mischief than maliciousness though.
  • The Goosebumps book, and tv adaptation, of The Werewolf of Fever Swamp of course features the titular werewolf as the main antaganist. However the swamp itself is presented as a far greater Ultimate Evil.
  • Witches Abroad features a swamp inhabited by a benign practitioner of Hollywood Voodoo. The swamp itself is said to be a source of great power, and when one undead character is imbued with it he becomes virtually unstoppable.
    • While Mrs. Gogol is on the side of the protagonists, she's not completely morally white, having been the lover and supporter of the rather tyrannical Baron, until he was deposed by the even more tyrannical Lady Lilith.
  • In The Art of War, Sun Tzu advises the reader never to lead his army through a swamp, because that's the best place for the enemy to lay an ambush.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "The Scarlet Citadel", Tsotha got his Eye of Newt from a swamp.

"It is steeped in the juice of the purple lotus which grows in the ghost-haunted swamps of southern Stygia," said the magician. "Its touch produces temporary paralysis.

  • In Franny Billingsly's Chime, the town of Swampsea is next to - what else? - a giant, terrifying swamp infested with witches, dead hands, and talking flowers, among others.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Regained, parts of Hell.
  • The Marram Marshes in Septimus Heap may not be evil per se, but they are infested with ghosts, wraiths and all manner of evil stuff.
  • The Mist Marsh is haunted by a Kraken-esque Wraith. The Matted Brakes are a hellhole populated by The Things, which you will not see until they are on you. And the In Ju...the In Ju's on Morrowindl, a one-island Crapsack World, and still manages to be one of the worst places to go ever.
  • In Gene Stratton Porter's Freckles, Freckles's original impression of the Limberlost. He gets over it and finds it a place of wonder and natural beauty. Then, Black Jack dies from a poisonous snakebite in it, making people wonder that he tried to cross a section in the dark.


Music[edit | hide]

  • In the Emerald Sword saga and Dark Secret Saga, the Darklands where Akron rules supreme are surrounded by the swamps of Halgor, a dark, gloomy place with waters infested by ferocious sea serpents. Is also subverted in the Dark Secret saga, when our heroes hide in the swamp to hide from the living dead chasing them.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Swamp cards in [[Magic: The Gathering]] produce black mana. There are also Bog Wraiths, Will o' the Wisps and numerous other horrible swamp creatures. The designers insist that [[Magic: The Gathering]] does not have an evil color, but black does represent death, greed, and amorality. It is also the color that (until recently) contains all the classically evil creatures, including nearly every undead monster you can name, demons, cosmic horrors, etc.
    • Not to mention the card Evil Presence. Not happy with your neighbour's depressingly wholesome Tropical Island getting sunlight all over your yard? Slap an evil curse on it. Instant swamp!
    • In the end of the Kamigawa saga, however, the main hero settled nicely in a marsh. So, Swamps Are Not Always Bad.
    • Among the ten original duals, the red/black one, white's enemies, was the Badlands.
  • The Yu-Gi-Oh! field spell Venom Swamp is a lovely place to visit, especially when you consider the native inhabitants. And don't forget to pay a visit to the royals!
  • The Yozi Metagaos in Exalted. His entire body is a swamp, and he's fond of snacking on anything that enters him. And when we say anything, we mean anything - he eats mortals, demons, time, space, identity, himself... If you manage to survive a trip through him, you'll probably wish you hadn't, because you'll be infected with numerous diseases that will turn you into an outgrowth of Metagaos.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, swamps are the traditional home of black dragons, generally regarded as the most sinister and malicious of all dragon breeds. Other inhabitants include the evil frog-like bullywugs and the more neutral (but still aggressive) lizardfolk.

Theme Parks[edit | hide]

  • Monster Mansion at Six Flags in Atlanta, where you meet all kinds of friendly, silly monsters until you make a wrong turn. "Stay out of the marsh," indeed.
  • Averted with the Blue Bayou resteraunt at several Disney Theme Parks.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Nan Zhong In the Dynasty Warriors series has a poison swamp somwhere which can drain you health quickly...
  • In ZanZarah: The Hidden Portal, there's a swamp village called "Dunmore" and there's also "The Misty Swamp".
  • In the forgotten PC game Princess Maker 2 if you set adventure to the forest you might find a few swamps in there, not really evil but it has a shortcut trap that you'll least expect...
  • In Quest for Glory IV, the evil influence of the Dark One has caused the surrounding valley of Mordavia to mutate into a swamp, complete with undead monsters and deadly green goo. Needless to say, Baba Yaga thinks it's a lovely place to make her new home.
    • It gets worse: This particular swamp is also home to Error 52, the most infamous Game Breaking Bug of the series.
  • In both Dragon Quest and Ultima, swamps deplete Hit Points and sometimes inflict the "Poison" Standard Status Effect.
  • A swamp appears in Final Fantasy Tactics. The enemies that often appear on the map are almost always undead or flying (or both), and thus aren't effected by the highly poisonous water. You are, though.
  • This is the way it is in almost every recent The Legend of Zelda game.
  • In the Exile series and the remake, Avernum, you are poisoned by walking through swampy terrain.
  • Bubblegloop Swamp from Banjo-Kazooie featured vicious pirahnas.
  • While the Black Marshes from The Elder Scrolls are not necessarily evil as well as the Bitter Coast from Morrowind, they are inhospitable. Also, the Black Marshes are populated by Argonians who, despite being friendly and benevolent, are fiercely territorial and will never let the Empire rule them.
  • The new "Point Lookout" DLC for Fallout 3 features a swamp filled with Hillfolk ready to murder you instantly. And it's also filled with Ghouls, Mirelurks, and Robots, all also ready to murder you.
  • King's Quest: Mask of Eternity had a subversion. The Swamp was actually a fairly decent place to live and had a couple of huts and benevolent beings. Unfortunately, a great cataclysm takes place in the opening scene, turning human beings to stone and causing the Swamp Witch to take over, bringing a host of nasty monsters with her.
    • King's Quest II: Romancing the Stones has a straight example, complete with poisonous water and an Ominous Castle inside.
  • Secret of Evermore had the Bugmuck, a swamp home to a gigantic (like the size of a small village!) bug carcass and bone dragons.
  • EarthBound features the Deep Darkness, a tropical swamp where wading in the deeper water actively saps your health.
    • And by "deeper water," we mean "muck deep enough that our Child Heroes are totally submerged by it." So they're probably losing HP from having to hold their breath...
  • Left 4 Dead 2 has the campaign "Swamp Fever" set in a zombie-infested swamp.
  • The Black Morass in Warcraft I is not evil per se, but it is where the orcs first came to Azeroth. The Swamp of Sorrows and Dustwallow Marsh in World of Warcraft are infested by dragons, spiders, crocodiles...
  • The Mire of the Damned in Might and Magic VI is, well, you get the idea.
  • Wraithmarsh is a particularly good example - a desolate swamp that separates the town of Bloodstone from the rest of Albion in Fable II. Wraithmarsh was once the site of Oakvale, the Hero's hometown from the original game; it was destroyed as part of Reaver's bargain with the Shadow Council. Run-down buildings, skeletal statues and graves can be found throughout Wraithmarsh, which is haunted by Hollow Men, Wraiths and the occassional Balverine and Troll. It is also the home of the Demon Door to Terry Cotter's Army, easily one of the freakiest areas in all of Albion. A trek through Wraithmarsh is accompanied by a haunting soundtrack; even after the Hero gets strong enough to overcome anything Wraithmarsh has to throw at him, it can still give you the heebie-jeebies.
  • RuneScape both averts this and plays it straight: there's a swamp just south of the starting town that's populated by goblins and giant rats, but they won't attack you; in fact, several quests involve locations in this swamp itself, including one of the beginner quests in the starting town itself. Once you progress farther, though, you encounter the land of Morytania, which is arguably one big swamp full of werewolves, the Vyrewatch, and other restless dead, all out to kill you. Special mention goes to the Mort Myre area, though, which is full not only of spooky pools and acid-spitting snails, but also Ghasts, which are intangible and sneak up behind you to spoil the food you're carrying. If, by chance, you don't have any food or a particular plot item, they'll instead spoil your own flesh (i.e., your Hit Points).
  • The two swamps in Summoner are both pretty evil places, though in different ways. One was actually a lovely forest kingdom before the reigning monarch decided to halt Human Sacrifices to the local river god, at which point every single person was turned to stone and the entire place allowed to degenerate into swampy monster-infested ruins. The other is filled with a malign fog which inflicts a nasty Status Effect on the entire party, and is the home of The Fair Folk; even so, it's perhaps not quite entirely evil, because it provides protection of sorts for a sacred shrine.
  • The Korcari Wilds in Dragon Age: Origins may or may not qualify - it is a fairly unpleasant place, but as for evil it is nothing compared to many other places such as the Darkspawn-infested Deep Roads or the Bone Pit. Blackmarsh, in the expansion, plays this trope entirely straight.
  • The second and third stage of the Valley of Defilement from Demon's Souls. Lots of Goddamned Bats in the shape of gigantic insects, freaky mutants with disease literally pouring from their flesh, gigantic trolls that deal massive damage per hit and aborted fetuses. Did we mention that staying too long in the swamp poisons you? And that you are reduced to a crawl when you are in it? And that enemies, especially the aforementioned powerful ones, are not hindered by such a thing? Have fun.
  • Dooms Mire from Brutal Legend. there's a grove of hanging-trees about midway through, so if people become lost they can commit suicide instead of drown or rot. Or get eaten by laser-shooting panthers.
  • In Halo: Combat Evolved, the area where you first encounter the Flood is located in a swamp.
  • In the Neopets console game, The Darkest Faerie, the village of Bogshot is located in a swamp that houses the Plague Serpent Kastraliss, a minion of the titular Darkest Faerie. Everyone in the village comes down with disease when the swamp is turned by the Darkest Faerie's magic.
  • Splot in Bug!! Oh dear god, Splot. The water instantly killed Bug- never mind Mercy Invincibility, you still die. There were many unforgiving sections (bubble jumping comes to mind). Enemies were either annoying (farting stink bugs, swamp flies, mozzies) or dangerous (frogs, literal lightning bugs, machine-gunner snails Made of Iron).
    • And the boss? A swamp worm, who you were forced to fight while standing on a small platform (and an even smaller one later) surrounded by water. Getting hit would knock your character back into the water for instant death. That One Boss, indeed.
  • Castlevania II featured swamp levels. The fun unit is that when in the water, you have to jump out to move.
  • The Final Boss of Fire Emblem Gaiden is fought in a swamp. Units standing on the swamp tiles take some damage when their army's phase start. The Final Boss in question is an "Dark God" named Doma.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic I and II have the Warlocks, who seem to be vaguely on the side of evil, prefer hanging out in swamps. III, on the other hand, have the swamp be home to the Fortress, which is neither good nor evil. In IV swamps are again associated with a vaguely-evil faction (Chaos).
  • Blighttown in Dark Souls is the Valley of Defilement reborn. The game throws you a bone at least in the form of artifacts like the Rusted Iron Ring and the Poisonbite Ring that makes trudging through the swamp much easier. If you know where to find them.
  • Sierra's Conquests of the Longbow' Played With the trope in the Monastery in the Fens. While the Fens were not inherently evil—at least not in any obvious way—the black-robed monks that lived there almost definitely were.

Web Original[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • The Foggy Swamp from Avatar: The Last Airbender is initially depicted not as evil but definitely as very creepy (visions of the dead, scary noises, etc.). Meanwhile, the residents of the swamp are hunting the main characters for dinner. Though once all the misunderstandings are sorted out, it's not that bad a place.
  • The Magic School Bus does an episode about wetlands where the kids start by believing in this trope but eventually learn the importance of a swamp in the ecosystem.
  • On Challenge of the Superfriends, the Legion of Doom is headquartered in "The Swamp." It is always referred to as "The Swamp," in such a way as to imply that there is only the one swamp in the world (in fact, at least one episode contains a minor plot hole if you assume that there are other swamps). In one episode, the Legion hassles a witch they spot in The Swamp, only to discover that she works for an entity even more evil than they are, who also dwells in The Swamp.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • The Great Dismal Swamp, in the eastern USA. Or the name at least. It actually isn't evil. It isn't even that ugly.
  • Two of the visible markings on the Moon were named "Palus Putredinis" and "Palus Epidemiarum". Although they're not really swamps, names like "Marsh of Decay" and Marsh of Epidemics" show that astronomers aren't immune to this trope.
  • A notable aversion: If you were a slave in the antebellum South, the swamps of Florida were home to the Seminoles. Of course, this could also qualify as an exploitation, since nobody would venture into Seminole territory because Swamps Are Evil.
  • If some accounts of the Battle of Ramree Island are any indication, saltwater crocodiles were responsible for killing five hundred Japanese soldiers out of a group of about nine hundred that tried to escape from British forces through a swamp.