That's No Moon

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Obi-Wan Kenobi: That's no moon... It's a space station!
Han Solo: It's too big to be a space station!...
Luke Skywalker: I have a very bad feeling about this.

Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope

Characters traveling in an unfamiliar area choose to stop at a landmark. They discover that it's not terrain, it's something, and much bigger than that something has any right to be.

A common Subtrope of this trope includes finding out the hill, island, or entire world you're on is a giant turtle, or that a mountain is a sleeping Giant/Troll/Earth Elemental, or that the asteroid cave you're hiding in is a giant space slug, or that it's still just the kind of place you thought it was, but alive. Then there's the Dyson tree — a plant, likely engineered, the size of a good planetoid; Dyson's own version was supposed to utilize a comet as both substrate and source of water, while containing habitable closed space(s).

Compare Big Dumb Object and Dyson Sphere. Occasionally part of a Standard Sci-Fi Fleet. If it's a real-world location, may overlap with Weaponized Landmark. Whatever the actual object turns out to be the discovery of it can often lead to an Oh Crap moment. Contrast No Mere Windmill.

Examples of That's No Moon include:

Anime and Manga

  • Digimon
  • Mazinger Z: Salude, The Dragon Baron Ashura's submarine fortress was simultaneously a Cool Ship and an Island Base camouflaged itself like a real island (it had two parts: the lower part was a submarine Home Base and the upper part was an artificial island. Both parts were interconected via a tube. When Salude surfaced, only the upper part was visible). The first time The Hero Kouji saw it, he exclaimed: "That is not a island!"
  • The "island arc" of Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water ends with the heroes discovering that the island they've spent the last five episodes on is a spaceship about nine times bigger than the submarine from which they were shipwrecked.
  • Used and triple-subverted in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, where the moon is used by the Anti-Spiral to exterminate humanity by letting it crash on the earth, only to be revealed to BE an operation base, only to be revealed to be in fact Lordgenome's ancient battleship, the Cathedral Terra. Once Team Dai-Gurren claim it, they tug the real moon from hyperspace back to its original place.
  • Inuyasha has both a cave that is a giant stomach that eats Miko that come in there and a yōkai that looks like a hill when it's sleeping (which he tries to always be) and had an object that prevented him from being detected.
  • GaoGaiGar FINAL features a case of That's No Sun. Upon arriving to the Trinary Solar System and the Repli-Earth, the GGG eventually discovers that the system's "Sun" is actually Pisa Sol, the 11 Masters of Sol's regeneration machine.
  • In the dub for Martian Successor Nadesico, when Yurika is shown a Jovian colony fortress, she immediately says: "That's no space station, that's a moon!"
  • The moon of Endless Illusion in Gun X Sword is actually a monitoring station for the prison planet below. Pulling it closer is a key part of activating the Claw's "Birthday" system.
  • Both averted and played straight in Sora wo Kakeru Shoujo. Averted in that, while Leopard does have a giant antimatter cannon, his body is also a perfectly fine, perfectly habitable space colony, just as it looks like. Played straight when part of the St. Artemis Rehabilitation Center, located on the Moon, turns out to be merely the tip of a segmented, mobile space colony controlled by Nerval when it emerges from the regolith (and probably megaregolith below, considering the size) to confront Leopard.
  • Inverted in Naruto: Jiraiya once made a trap that consisted of a restaurant that was really a toad. A regular-sized toad.
    • Way later in the manga, the trope is played straight as the moon is revealed to be the container of the Ten-Tailed Beast, which was sent into space by the Sage of the Sixth Paths.
      • Well, technically it is the moon (as in a giant rock orbiting earth), it's just that it was made artificially and contains something inside of it (not all of it).
    • Played straight again when it is revealed that Lightning Country's secret training island for their demon containers is really the shell of a giant turtle.
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh dub-only "Capsule Monsters" arc, there is a Turtle Island the cast got on board without realizing.
  • The manga version of Johji Manabe's Outlanders reveals, much like Mutineer's Moon and Gurren Lagann, that the moon is the ancient Precursor battleship "Dora".
  • Orguss 02: The island retreat of Prince Perion of Rivilia turns out to be the burial ground of an incredibly powerful Decimator in pristine condition.
  • In One Piece, Luffy spends much of the Skypeia arc inside of a giant snake, which he believed to be a cave.
  • In the Transformers Armada episode "Portent", Cybertron's moon is revealed to be none other than Unicron himself.
    • And in the pseudosequel Transformers Cybertron, the Transformer home planet Cybertron turns out to be their creator/god Primus. One wonders how, in all their millenia of living on it, nobody ever noticed the presence of giant curled-up limbs or faces.
      • Scale. That's how the trope works. In this case, it's hard to notice you're looking at an elbow joint when it's the size of France.

Comic Books

  • Played straight in an issue of Astonishing X-Men, where what was previously thought to be a moon turns out to be a station. Lampshaded by Beast, who says "You know, I thought I'd have a lot more fun if I ever got to say this... That's no moon..."
    • And then again, when the giant missile they went there to stop turns out to actually be a giant bullet.
  • In issue #10 of The Authority, the Engineer kills a huge alien parasite. In the middle of fixing the damage it did she looks up at the sky and mentions that it looks like an eclipse of the Sun. Turns out a giant alien is the thing that's eclipsing it.
  • Played for fun in this cartoon.
  • Tom Strong meeting the Pangaean for the second time. "Ah. I see. You are the landscape."
    • Similarly, the Modular Man is now Venus. The planet.
  • Marvel Comics' Ego The Living Planet sometimes disguised itself as a paradise world to lure space travelers to its surface and devour them.
    • On a smaller scale, Krakoa is "The Island that Walks Like a Man."
    • Smaller than that, Spragg the Living Hill.
  • When Doctor Strange went to confront Shuma-Gorath on his home world, he commented on a strange mountain he was flying past, until said "mountain" opened its eye and was very pissed...
    • In a Marvel Fanfare one-shot, he went into a strangely deserted city which had a warm, skinlike texture and a subtle hum in the air. Near the end, he realized he was standing on the back of a sleeping giant...
  • In The DCU, alien malcontent Bolphunga the Unrelenting decided to take on Mogo, rumored to be the most formidable of the Green Lanterns. After years of mapping the planet Mogo was said to reside on, he realized with great horror that Mogo is the planet by the fact that all the forests of the world formed a Green Lantern Ring.
    • In a Justice League story by Grant Morrison, Starro the Conqueror makes a big entrance. Flash sees what looks like a new land mass near Canada on the monitor, and J'onn flies off to investigate. Then the storm clears, and J'onn realises he can see Starro...from orbit. Aquaman later tries to make contact with it, and wonders why he can't see it. And then the ocean bed blinks.
    • The DCU also has artificially built planet Legion World, although there was no horrified realization involved.
  • In DC One Million the Martian Manhunter has fused himself with Mars.
  • When Superman and Supergirl first encounter Mongul's "WarWorld", they use their telescopic vision to examine a city on its surface. They think that there's a very high wall behind the city, so high that it extends above their field of vision, but when they "zoom out", the wall turns out to be the side of a VERY large missile.
  • The Sandman features the duel between Morpheus and Doctor Destiny, where Doctor Destiny believes he's finally destroyed the Dream-King because he's found himself on a featureless white plane. Pull back to reveal he's actually in the palm of Morpheus's hand...
  • In Lanfeust of Troy, the gang at one point explores a huge island. Later, they reveal that it is not an island, but a huge creature And not just any creature, the Magohamoth itself !

Fan Works

Bakura: That's no toon, it's a space station!... Oh wait, you're right, it's a toon.

Films -- Animation

Unicron: You underestimate me, Galvatron. For a time I considered sparing your wretched little planet... But now you shall witness its dismemberment!"

Naveen: I made that promise to a beautiful princess, not a cranky waitre-- why are those logs moving?
Tiana: Those aren't logs...

  • A hippo and a rhino disguise themselves as rocks during the song "Following the Leader" from Peter Pan.
  • Rock-Eyes the toad from Rango.
  • In Antz, Bala walks up on a plant that is, in fact, a praying mantis.
  • Young dinos mistaking a sharptooth's leg for a tree seems to be required content for any film in The Land Before Time series.

Films -- Live-Action

  • In Twister, Beltzer , one of the members of the Storm Chasing Crew, states while looking at the radar during an F-3 tornado, "That's no moon, it's a space station! Woohoo!"
  • Galaxy Quest. Gigantic stack of boulders. Carnivore midgets running away from it. It lives.
  • In the first of Steve Reeves' Hercules movies, Argo captain Jason steps onto a giant mound of earth to reach a Plot Coupon... but the mound reveals itself to be a dinosaur.
  • In the 1970s remake of King Kong, one character falls into a large hole in the ground, which turns out to be a giant ape's footprint.
    • In a possible homage to this, the 1998 remake of Godzilla features a character climbing into what he thinks is a digsite but is actually a Zilla print.
  • The trope's name comes from the above quote about the Death Star in Star Wars.

Obi-Wan: That's no moon, that's a space station.
Han: You're crazy, old man. (approaches Death Star) That's way too big to be... a... space... station... ohboy.

  • Time Bandits. Ship ends up being a hat worn by a giant.
  • Occurs at the end of The Deadly Spawn, when the authorities think that they have tracked down all of the monsters, only to have it revealed that somehow the large hill behind the house has been hollowed out by a massive creature.
  • Harry Potter: This is no graveyard... it's a chess board!
  • In the movie Behemoth, the title monster's head and neck are as big as a mountain. The rest of its body, or at least its tentacles, is/are so huge it/they caused seismic activity all over the world.
  • In The Neverending Story Morla the giant turtle is first perceived by Atreyu to be a hill of some sort.
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey: That's no monolith... it's full of stars!


  • Happens in Lone Wolf book 20, The Curse of Naar, while the hero is venturing into the Plane of Darkness (the setting's equivalent of Hell). While lost at sea on a small raft, Lone Wolf spots a distant island and heads toward it—until it starts moving and is revealed to be a nondescript giant monster. If the player hadn't picked a magic amulet earlier, Lone Wolf gets eaten by the monster.


  • The Neverending Story has a giant turtle, disguised as a grassy hillock in a swamp.
  • The Adventures of Baron Munchausen features the baron finding an island that turns out to be a giant fish.
  • The novel (and the BBC adaptation) of The Silver Chair has Eustace, Jill, and Puddleglum stop to look at the far-off gigantic statues lying in a field. Jill remarks on how lifelike they look. Then they stand up and start throwing rocks the size of cars. Fortunately, the giants were throwing at each other as a game; unfortunately, they have lousy aim.
    • In the same book, they explore a series of strangely cut chasms. Later, they find out that the chasms were actually letters carved into the rocky landscape.
  • David Weber's Mutineer's Moon, the first Empire From the Ashes novel. The Moon is no Moon. It's a light picket cruiser with enough firepower to make the Death Stars seem weak in comparison, that threw the original moon into the sun and secretly replaced it 50,000 years ago. Oddly enough, this is the least outrageous plot point.
  • In Reunion, Alan Dean Foster appears to play this straight from the Star Wars example, with an artificial object orbiting an otherwise uninteresting gas giant. A bit larger than Earth's moon, it appears to be a colossal space station, or even possibly a warship. However, it one-ups the Trope Namer when it turns out the "moon" is a lifeboat. You know, those tiny things that carry only a small fraction of the parent ship's passengers and crew. Turns out the real warship is the Gas Giant. Said "gas giant" being slightly larger than Jupiter, which is itself 1320 times larger than Earth by volume
  • Frank Herbert's Whipping Star. Stars are really the visible manifestations of a species of extradimensional beings of unfathomable power. To be more precise, stars are more or less mouths to these beings.
  • Harlan Ellison wrote one of his better known works, The Chocolate Alphabet, in the window of a Los Angeles bookstore. It is actually a collection of 26 mini-stories, one of which is (approximately): "The Midgard Serpent (from Norse mythology) is not dead, only sleeping. One day, the moon will writhe."
  • In Jackie French's short story Dancing Dinosaurs, dinosaurs (and, it is implied, other prehistoric animals) have survived to the present day by disguising themselves as hills around Canberra and only coming out at night. Another That's No Moon moment occurs when a mountain turns out to be an Allosaurus.
  • In the Earthsea Trilogy, Ged once goes to an island to fight off dragons. The first dragons are relatively small and easy to defeat... then the castle on the island moves and it's the main dragon...
    • The BBC Audio adaption even gives Ged the line "you are right, my friend, that is no tower..."
  • Discworld:
    • In Terry Pratchett's The Light Fantastic, a team of thieves find a cave full of diamond stalactites and stalagmites high up on a mountain and think they've hit the jackpot. But the diamond structures turn out to be troll teeth — and still in the huge, ancient troll's mouth...
      • This was said to be the root of all the animosity between Trolls and Dwarves. The Dwarves go about innocently mining for diamonds, only to be severely beaten when the Troll owner of the diamond teeth wakes up.
    • The Discworld sits atop the back of 4 gigantic elephants, who themselves stand upon the back of an even larger turtle.
    • In Reaper Man, Death and the Auditors are standing on a flat, whorled plain that turns out to be the fingertip of Azrael, the spirit of Death for the entire universe.
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Grawp is, at first, believed to be some anomalous hillock.
  • In China Mieville's The Scar, Bellis finds out what it is Armada is looking for by means of a drawing in a book:

She still did not take her gaze from the picture she held: a little man in a little ship on a sea of frozen waves that overlapped in perfect sequin-like fish scales, and below them deeps rendered in crosshatched and tightly spiraled ink, and at the bottom, easily eclipsing the vessel above, a circle in a circle in a circle, vast no matter how vague the perspective, unthinkably big, with darkness at its center. Looking up, looking up at the fisherman hunting his prey.
Sclera, iris, and pupil.
An eye.

  • Larry Niven's Ringworld has a super-sized example where The sun that Ringworld orbits can be manipulated to emit photon bursts through solar flares. That's right, a sun-sized laser!
    • The Great Ocean of Ringworld has some surprises of its own. Not only does it contain real "island-fish" that sailors can accidentally land on (see "Mythology", below), but also archipelagos which are precise maps of various populated Known Space planets: Earth, Kzin, Jinx, etc. Precise, one-to-one scale maps.
  • Polity Series: The Delta-class are the largest Polity spaceships that can orbit an inhabited planet. The bigger ones aren't allowed as they will disrupt the tides.
  • In the Ray Bradbury short-story "Here There Be Tygers", a group of astronauts exploring space discover that the planet they are on is alive, and able to read their thoughts and grant their desires. It's pretty cool.
  • In The Sailor on the Seas of Fate, Elric and a bunch of others are tasked with destroying two malevolent beings. They enter one of what they believe to be the towers of these creatures, but in the end it turns out the "buildings" are rather the creatures themselves. The Mooks the protagonists have been fighting inside are the immune system of the creature.
  • In Peter F. Hamilton's Commonwealth Saga, one planet has what are moon-sized alien cabbages orbiting it.
  • Children's poet Shel Silverstein wrote about "Hungry Kid Island" in his book Falling Up, and drew an illustration showing why it's called that.
  • In the second book of Clive Barker's Abarat, there is a "double island"—a friendly creature which head and back look like two rocky islands. It even has a tree on its back.
  • In Black Powder War we see a mild version when Laurence is asked to evacuate the Prussian Royal Family from the front on Temeraire. Queen Louise waves off concern over this mode of transportation (citing her experience being shuttled about on couriers maybe twice the size of a horse), then asks Laurence "Is that your dragon on the hill over there?"... before the "hill" lifts his head to look at her.
  • Star Trek: Titan series. One of the novels has the characters notice two odd moons. Too even to be regular planetary bodies; they were computers.
  • The Goosebumps novel "Ghost Camp" has the campers tell a story about people who hear a strange thumping noise while out in the woods. Turns out the noise is the heartbeat of the giant monster they're standing on. The ghosts who inhabit the camp later create an illusion of said monster to scare the heroes.
  • In the first Revelation Space novel, a planet orbiting a neutron star turns out to be a beacon that alerts the Inhibitors, a race of Omnicidal Maniac aliens. The neutron star turns out to be an immense computer. In the sequel, Redemption Ark, the Inhibitors break down three worlds to create an enormous weapon, which is used to turn a star into a flamethrower. The third book in the trilogy, Absolution Gap, a gas giant is revealed to be a transport mechanism for creatures from another dimension. Alastair Reynolds really likes this trope.

Live-Action TV

  • An episode of the original Star Trek, "For The World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky", had a giant asteroid turn out to be a worldship for an almost-long dead civilization. In a twist, none of the inhabitants knew they were on a worldship until the Enterprise crew told them.
  • Star Trek: Voyager began one episode with a grizzled old explorer in a spacedock talking about a forest-covered planetoid he claimed to have once discovered: during an "earthquake", it turned out to really be a gigantic alien creature with its own ecosystem growing on it. Oddly enough, the story is brushed off as a tall tale and plays no part in the rest of the episode. Given the bizarre lifeforms encountered each week, that might be taken as Arbitrary Skepticism on the crew's part.
    • The same crew once met a living, sentient nebula.
  • Used in the Stargate SG-1 episode "Unnatural Selection", when the crew lands on a planet and realizes its surface is made entirely of Replicators.
  • In the Farscape episode "Green Eyed Monster", the line "That's no moon!" is used word for word by Crichton. It's not a space station however, it's a "budong".
  • The Doctor Who episode "42" had a good take on this trope. That's no Sun. Oh wait, it is a Sun. Oh wait, the Sun is alive.
    • And again with the Series' Fnarg finale. All the stars in the universe have been wiped out- so why does Earth still have a sun? Because that's no sun, its the exploding TARDIS!
    • And in "The Beast Below", the Doctor describes Starship UK as "that's not just a ship, that's an idea, that's a whole country". Skyscrapers have neon signs bearing the names of counties. Then it turns out Starship UK's engines are dummies - because the whole structure is built on the back of a star whale!
  • The Babylon 5 station orbits a planet called Epsilon 3. Only it's not a planet—it's a planet-sized machine.
  • In Andromeda the ship approaches what appears to be a star system. Only it's not, it's a Dyson Sphere. Only it's not just a Dyson Sphere, it's also mobile and equipped with black hole-firing guns.
  • The Lexx—a city-sized wingless dragonfly—was once mistaken by a low-tech planet for a new comet in the sky.
  • The "Seven Giant Teeth Monster" from Sesame Street.
  • Spoofed in Celebrity Deathmatch, when Bam Margera goes into orbit around the massively fat Don Vito.

Newspaper Comics

  • Calvin and Hobbes featured "Spaceman Spiff" exploring an alien landscape that turns out to be alive. The last shot reveals that Calvin, in classic six-years-old fashion, is crawling over his father's sleeping body. This happens twice. On another occasion, Spiff is flying over some canyons that turn out to be part of giant footprints.

Oral Tradition, Folklore, Myths and Legends

  • Older Than Print: In the Arabian Nights, Sinbad the Sailor stopped on an island on his first voyage and discovered the hard way that it was a whale. Then he found a huge dome and found out the hard way it was a roc's egg. This same beast, the zaratan, appeared in other Middle Eastern tales. Strangely, it was sometimes a whale and sometimes a turtle, despite the name remaining constant.
  • Krakens were supposedly so huge that sailors frequently mistook them for islands, camped on them for the night, and were then drowned as they submerged.
  • Norse Mythology
    • In one myth, Thor encountered a strange house while on a journey to recover his stolen hammer: five small rooms letting off a single much larger room. It turned out to be a giant's glove.
    • The Earth itself was said to be crafted from the corpse of Ymir, the first frost giant.
  • The deceptive whale island is a pretty common theme in medieval literature. There's an Anglo-Saxon poem in which it's a metaphor for the devil.
  • In the Finnish national epic Kalevala, the mighty giant sage and sorcerer, Antero Vipunen, who lies in the earth dead but dreaming, is often mistaken for a huge cliff, as even trees grow off his body.
  • Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen sometimes depicted trolls so large that trees grow on them.
  • Another huge example from Arabic Mythology is our world resting on the shoulders of Kujata, a colossal bull, who is then standing on the back of Bahamut, an even more colossal fish!


  • At one point in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (original radio show version), the ship's Improbability Drive causes it to rematerialise in what seems to be a strange cylindrical cave on the planet of Brontitall. The cave is a mile deep, ice-cold and apparently carved out of marble. It's also hovering thirteen miles above the planet surface, and eventually revealed to be part of a massive statue of "Arthur Dent Throwing The Nutrimatic Cup" and held up by artistic imperative. Oh, and a society of birds now live in Arthur's right ear.
  • In The Devil of Denge Marsh, the second adventure of The Scarifyers, Inspector Lionheart is flying in a small plane towards some listening dishes on the South Coast of England. He exclaims "That's no dish... That's Shub-Niggurath, the Great Old One!"

Tabletop Games

  • In the Revised edition of Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the intro story, told by a werewolf prophet, has him relating one of his dreams, talking about how massive the Wyrm is. How massive? Well, a small mountain range slides back, and something black and wet and glistening can be seen, if you're high enough... a pupil.
  • The fan-made Genius: The Transgression lists this trope as the highest possible size category of Wonders the game's Mad Scientist PCs can produce. It takes one million years for one man with no empowerments to create. With a really solid gang of igors, a good lab, and help from plenty of other Geniuses, you can cut it down to ten years pretty easily.
  • One of the Outer Gods from the Cthulhu Mythos is Ghroth, a moon-shaped planetoid that travels through the universe. Whenever it gets close enough to a planet, it sings a song that brings about the end of the world. The roleplaying game Delta Green has fun with this in a mission where the player characters end up on a Mi-Go space station as Ghroth approaches: "The continents move back, revealing a vast ocean. On a successful Idea roll, the character realizes that the planet is actually opening its eyes. Roll 1d10/1d100 SAN [roll to see how many Sanity Points you lose], and thank you for playing."
    • Call of Cthulhu also has an adventure called "Crack'd and Crook'd Manse," where the investigators are called in to figure out why a renowned explorer seemingly vanished from his own home. One of the first things they tend to notice is that the walls are badly damaged by excess moisture... because there's a fricking shoggoth living between them.
  • Crops up occasionally in Warhammer 40,000, usually as a Necron construct. Usually these are the tombs on Necron Tomb Worlds, the entrances into the interiors of which often can be mistaken to be simple, abandoned tombs on worlds. But then those tombs turn out to be bigger...much bigger...and their builders are still at home, simply waiting for the proper stimulus to wake up. And ninety-nine percent of the time, the arrival of intruders in their tombs qualifies as the proper stimulus.
    • There are also mention of two planet-sized Necron creations. The first of which was a Death Star ersatz, and the other was a time-messer-upper.
    • There are also the Eldar Craftworlds, which serve as a moon-sized space-city for a planet's worth of a population.
    • Orks use Roks — asteroids rigged with engines and weapons to be used as Drop Ships. Of course, they don't hold monopoly. Rogue Trader adventure Frozen Reaches has Bulwark — one of smaller (about 30 km in diameter) moons of Damaris partially hollowed out and converted into a massive defence station with space docks (see the official illustration). Part of the problem is that while such a station is worth a few battleships against vessels trying a sane approach of slow orbital manoeuvre for aimed bombardment, shuttling troops or proper landing, it's not that effective when Ork Roks tumble by and only exchange a few potshots before they reach the planet at velocities that allow only semi-controlled crash landing.
      • Rogue Trader has Void Kraken[1] — giant creature who feeds mainly on asteroids and as such consists of similar matter. Which is why it's usually disregarded by sensors as yet another misshapen asteroid in an asteroid belt, right until the kraken decides to flex tentacles (it's slower than almost any ship, but very manoeuvrable and noticed only when already close).
  • The Finnish RPG Astra includes a creature called Parmaelosthu, a giant floating blob that looks exactly like a small island until you try to climb onto it and discover it's made of slime. The book leaves it an open question whether it is intelligent or not.
  • Legend of the Five Rings features the Kusatte Iru, a sleeping demon so large that humans can navigate its blood vessels like tunnels.
  • In Exalted, both the sun and the moon are gigantic eons-old artifacts attuned to the sun god and moon god of the setting, respectively. The Silver Chair of Night is a vast reality engine, drawing in forces from other realms to bring both dynamism and stability to Creation, and the Dirigible Engine Daystar is, aside from serving all of the functions of our sun and fueling Holy effects, the mightiest weapons system Creation has ever known, surpassing even the Realm Defense Grid. The Daystar can also fold itself into a giant robot. And it knows Kung Fu.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • The Immortals expansion of the CD&D rules includes a race of rocky space-dwelling intelligent beings who are commonly mistaken for planets.
    • The giant turtle zaratan appeared in the Arabian Nights-themed Al-Qadim setting, and has since become a D&D staple.
    • Spelljammer has a few asteroid-shaped critters. "Gammaroid" is a huge (adults are 2500 ft. across) space turtle that looks like a misshapen asteroid when retracted into its shell, and quickly snaps out if someone approaches within its reach; if a snack runs away, it accelerates and tries to ram the prey. "Murderoid" is a living planetoid (up to 600 miles in diameter) that lures curious 'jammers and monsters with illusions and/or remnants of their predecessors, and when they land, knocks them off their feet and opens a mouth beneath them. Meteorspawn is a living rock sphere from 100' diameter and up (it lives for centuries and may grow more than ten times greater), that scoops sand and stones much like a whale feeding on plankton; being mindless and thick-skinned, it ignores anything except food and things that seriously harm it, and even then cannot bite (unless someone is stupid enough to jump into huge stone grinder this thing has for mouth), only push itself away from the threat by continuously expelling its waste... the bad news is that the latter happen to be a stream of stony chunks that in size, velocity and rate of fire match output of a whole battery of heavy catapults - and with much better aim.
      • "Great Dreamer" is a benign godlike Space Whale. They are 10–20 miles long themselves and travel with an entourage of "smaller" cetaceans in a blob of water big enough to have weather patterns. "Rogue moon" is an inverted case: it's a whale-sized spherical thing weakly glowing to imitate a small moon farther away - well enough to fool inexperienced crews or other critters somewhat smarter than space moths - and when they enter its little atmosphere, suddenly puffs up to suck the prey into its mouth, then uses tentacles if that was not enough.
  • Island-Fish Jasconius from Magic: The Gathering. A direct reference to the Arabian Nights source.
    • In the Shadowmoor expansion, many of the giants have been sleeping for so long, the earth has folded over them and grasses and trees grow on their backs. They're often mistaken for mountains... at least, until they wake up.
    • The long-running Weatherlight Saga of books eventually revealed that the Glitter Moon, one of Dominaria's two moons, was actually a giant orbital weapon charged with insane amounts of mana.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, there is a card called Island Turtle.


  • Major Bionicle spoiler: It turns out that the entire Matoran "universe" is inside Mata Nui, who's a Humongous Mecha that crash-landed on a planet. The island that bears his name is (was) actually a covering on his face.
    • In which case, he has lava coming out of his nose.
      • Allergies. I get 'em too.
    • Likewise, the Red Star that orbited that planet was revealed to be some kind of mechanical component that joined to Mata Nui - rocket boosters or something, though there's likely more to it than that.
    • Over on another planet, Bara Magna, villages had settled around various structures; the rock tribe's looking like a head with a Cave Mouth but the rest unidentifiable. When the people united they moved the structures together, and... they're parts to a broken Humongous Mecha - Mata Nui's prototype, in fact.
  • Hero Factory's sixth podcast has a planet's moon vanish because it was eaten by a villain, who left a moon-sized poop behind. Accompanied by the line "That's no moon."

Video Games

  • In Lunar: The Silver Star, the party hears tales about a moving island, which turns out to be a giant turtle.
  • Katamari Damacy: The Island-turtles appear again as one of the many, many things you can pick up once you get big enough.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
    • An island-turtle appears in the game.
    • The moon, which turns out not to be a moon, but a different world used only by the Mask itself, to destroy all of Termina. Inside the moon is a lush field and a big tree.
    • The giant boulder which turns out to be the biggest Goron you'll ever meet?
  • Yet another giant turtle appears in Golden Axe, after you beat the "Fiend's Path" stage.
    • That game also has a level on a giant eagle's back. This revelation is foreshadowed when giant feathers periodically fly across the screen.
  • God of War III demonstrates this in one trailer.
  • The title planet of Halo: Ghosts of Onyx is composed mostly of trillions of Sentinels.
    • To clarify, the bulk of the "planet" is composed of Sentinels, but not the whole thing; there's a Forerunner facility inside, which, among other things, produces said trillions of Sentinels.
  • In Descent II, your mercenary pilot has the job of flying from planet to planet, clearing out the mines on those planets of berserker robots. Only when you have finished clearing out the last 'mine' on the last 'planet' does the player find out that that was no planet, it's a space station, with a drive and everything.
  • Inversion: In Marathon, the titular vessel is actually Mars' moon Deimos, hollowed out and turned into a spaceship. Also, the sequel revolves around the search for a clan of the S'pht race which were supposed to live on a mythical extra moon of their planet that vanished because it had been equipped with an enormous hyperdrive.
    • This is based on some nutbar theory in Real Life that Deimos is really a giant spaceship.
  • Jade Empire has a sidequest involving the search for a corrupting demon of hunger called the Cannibal Mother... which ends in a giant cavern with a strange rock formation in the middle of it. Needless to say, it's not a rock formation.
  • In Wild ARMs 1, the moon Malduke (Marduk) is a Metal Demon Base.
  • In the mission "The Place of Chariots" in the game Free Space 2, an unusually large asteroid is discovered in an asteroid field near the rebel cargo depot the player's squadron is attacking. As the player approaches, the asteroid is revealed to be a huge space station, and it is soon destroyed only to reveal a completed warship, the Iceni, with the rebel leader Admiral Aken Bosch as her captain, on the inside. The Iceni immediately escapes.
  • One of the bigger secrets in City of Villains...At the epicentre of all kinds of dangerous magical phenomena is the Eldritch Abomination sleeping underneath Sharkhead Island, and possibly all of the Rogue Isles!
  • Golden Sun: The Lost Age reveals that the moon of Weyard is actually the ancient city of Anemos lifted above the ground by a wind-affinite tribe.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei II, player will found pointy mountains in undergound and Makai demon world. The mountains eventually moving, it turn out that these mountains is actually the dragon Kuzuryu.
  • In Persona 3, the moon really turns out to be a huge Eldritch Abomination called by collective humanity so that everyone would die.
  • The (Armada-based) Transformers game had you fly out to an aircraft carrier to clear it of Decepticons. Then it begins to transform, and becomes Tidal Wave, the end of level Boss.
  • Celland in Tales of Hearts has two moons, neither of which is real. The black one is Gardenia, the progenitor of all The Heartless Zerom, and the white one is the dead world of the Precursors, Quartzia, drained of all life by Gardenia. One character points this out - "Wait, so the black moon destroyed the white moon?".
  • Armored Core 2. It's revealed that the Martian moon of Phobos is actually a massive hunk of Lost Technology left behind by a long dead alien race which the Big Bad intends to smash into the planet. The final mission has the player infiltrate the asteroid to prevent this from happening.
  • In Mass Effect, it turns out that Pluto's moon Charon isn't a moon—it's the mass effect relay for the solar system, allowing humanity to enter the galactic community.
    • Sovereign, Spectre Saren Arterius' ship (Who is allied with the reapers) is one of the most powerful ships in the galaxy. It becomes more apparent when the ship decides to talk to you, and in turn reveal its status as a Reaper itself!
  • In Endless Frontier, the heroes note that the location in which they go to confront the invaders attacking their worlds seems to be a giant fossilized monster. It is in fact the corpse of Stern Regisseur, the final boss of Super Robot Wars Original Generation 2.
  • Aside from the obvious Star Wars reference *coughDeathEggcough*, the Sonic the Hedgehog series features the space station ARK, which makes its first appearance in Sonic Adventure 2 disguised as a very large asteroid/meteor, half of which disintegrates to show the Eggman-like facade.
  • In Final Fantasy III you start out on a continent that appears to be world. Turns out it's a floating continent above a MUCH bigger planet
  • In Final Fantasy IV, it turns out the moon is a spaceship for a race of Precursors. In Final Fantasy IV: The After Years a new moon appears which is a spaceship for a completely different set of Precursors.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, the characters only slowly realize that the entire Temple of the Ancients is the black materia to summon Meteor.
  • Asteroid Monitors in Sword of the Stars are giant hollowed-out rocks with huge numbers of gun turrets on them that have been left in orbit for hundreds (or thousands) of years. And they're still running on full automatic. You can hack unowned Monitors to gain control of their weapons platforms, and later in the game you can research the technology to build your own with even bigger guns.
    • Another type of Random Encounter is the Alien Derelict, a fragment of some unspeakably large spaceship floating in space. The last patch added a game mode which required the factions to find and collect multiple derelicts to reassemble them, upon which it's revealev that that's no spaceship it's a space suit! And it's signalling its owners. Cue the arrival of the Suul'ka.
  • Bydo Lab profile in R-Type Final mention how they once encounter planet-size Gomander.
  • In the somewhat-fogotten The ClueFinders games, the "living island" the kids land on in 5th grade adventures is not an island, but a spaceship.
  • In Shadow of the Colossus, at first you think that you're going to have to climb a tower to get to the final colossus. Then you realize that the tower is part of the final colossus.
  • In Super Mario Galaxy 2, in the Freezy Flake Galaxy, Mario lands on a suspicious ice planetoid covered in what seem to be spikes at the end of the level. Until he takes the nearby Sling Star and lands on the next planet, causing said first planetoid to crash down and be revealed to be Sorbetti, the level boss.
  • Teldrassil in World of Warcraft. This single tree is bigger than some mountain ranges and has a city and two smaller towns in its branches, plus a seaport village in its root structure. No doubt it was very surprising for someone who created a Night Elf character without watching the opening narration when they finally left it and looked back.
    • In the expansion pack Mists of Pandaria, Pandaren start on the Wandering Isle. It's actually an enormous wandering sea turtle.
  • In Strider, the Big Bad's base is a Death Star-like planetoid called the Third Moon. Minus the earth-shattering super laser.
  • In Phantasy Star Online Episode I Red Ring Rico finds and notes in her logs that you find along the way the supposed expansive ruins of Ragol are not ruins at all, but a giant spaceship.
  • In Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten, the Tera Star animation shows the planets of the solar system, starting with Earth and going through Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, U- wait a minute...
  • In Tales of Vesperia, there's a mountain on the northeastern part of the world map not even the airship can fly over. The in-game description explicitly states it's the tallest mountain in the world. It is. And it isn't. Because it's the ancient tower Tarqaron, the Final Dungeon
  • Happens in Game Boy Mega Man V, leading to an Unexpected Gameplay Change: "What's that star?..." *"Star" shoots its Big Fraggin' Laser at Mega Man*
    • It's even called the "Wily Star".
  • The abundance of giant turtle-islands in mythology (and pop culture) is referenced with the Pokémon Torterra, which has a tree and a pair of small mountains on its back, and, while not island-sized, is large enough to be occasionally mistaken for a hill.
  • The Simpsons Game: Comic Book Guy gives this exchange in the level Around The World In 80 Bites:

"That's no moon! It's Homer Simpson!

Web Comics

Web Original

  • /m/ wrote a Science Fantasy universe where the local solar system's sun was surrounded by a giant Dyson Ring that was actually a large dragon that bit itself in the tail. This is currently the largest example of this trope on this page. /m/ does not think small.
  • In Orion's Arm the brains of the ruling transhuman intelligences start at the size of the moon and go all the way up to being the size of the star Betelgeuse, which is larger than the orbit of Jupiter.
  • Inverted in Fenspace, with a quote from a member of the Star Wars faction who said, upon first seeing the 3/4-mile-diameter mini-worldship the Grover's Corners, "That's no space station, that's a moon."

Western Animation

  • Played with in Codename: Kids Next Door in "Operation C.A.K.E.D.-F.I.V.E" as part of a Star Wars shout-out. Numbuh 86 and 19th Century are heading to the Moon Base when an alarm alerted them of approaching the base. 86 mentions that they shouldn't be there yet and looks up, sees Father's giant ice cream cake and says, "That's no moon!"
  • Yet another giant turtle with an island on its back appears in Aladdin and the King of Thieves.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender, true to form, gives us a giant Lionturtle, that actually turns out to be pretty important to the plot.
    • And the Foggy Swamp, located on the roots of an enormous, sentient banyan tree.
  • Sort of a Lampshade Hanging in an episode of The Simpsons: a runaway Sacagawea (Lisa) stops to weep on a rock, saying "O warm, fuzzy rock, you're my only friend!" The warm fuzzy rock is actually a wildcat.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants
    • "Sandy, Spongebob, and the Worm" has Sandy arrogantly going after a local worm-monster. She attacks and ties a knot in what she thinks is the worm before SpongeBob can tell her that it's actually the worm's tongue.
    • ("Nature Pants"). SpongeBob runs away from Bikini Bottom and Patrick starts chasing him. SpongeBob runs behind a supposedly big rock to hide from him, but the "rock" turns out to be a gigantic snail.
    • Played with in "Plankton's Amry". Plankton's family comes to help steal the Krabby Patty formula. What a surprise. They surround the Krusty Krab and Mr. Krabs asks "You planted grass?" Then the grass started laughing and reshaping itself into limbs and ears...
  • In Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles, the Ice Bug is an asteroid-sized space creature that hibernates for interstellar travel. One of the movies had a "Godbug" which could supposedly devour a planet.
  • In Code Lyoko Season 4, episode "Maiden Voyage", the heroes' virtual ship is lost in the Digital Sea, where it is attracted by a Replika which they think to be Lyoko at first. The scene is a direct Shout-Out to the Trope Namer, with the Replika looking like a giant metallic sphere and Aelita saying "That's not Lyoko!"
  • The first season finale of Transformers: Beast Wars uses this. Turns out, when they were finally rid of the giant scary orbital weapon that wasn't a moon, the planet started to look suspiciously familiar...

Megatron: Idiot! It was never a moon, and it is far from gone!

  • In Transformers Animated, the ship that the Autobots used to come to Earth is revealed to be Omega Supreme, one of the most powerful Autobots ever. Ratchet was aware of this. The other Autobots were shocked, and the Decepticons had a big Oh Crap moment.
  • In Transformers Prime, Earth is actually Unicron in disguise!
  • In Shadow Raiders, the planet Remora turns out to be a giant battle station created by the Beast.
  • Alfred J Kwak, which you probably don't know as well if you're not Dutch/Swedish/Polish, had the typical "Turtle island" trope.
  • An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes had Lucius making it to Miseryville's moon and planting his flag on a hill. It turned out to be a moon beast.
  • In the Justice League episode "The Savage Time", John Stewart (who'd lost his ring) noted to the soldiers he was attached to that the hill they were standing on did not exist in the map they have. It turned out to be Vandal Savage's hanger for his advanced jet bombers that would be used to invade the USA.
  • A somewhat smaller example than the rest, but quite large for its scale - in one episode of Family Guy, Peter is in a sauna with Chris, when Peter notices... "Hey, that's not your leg!" The rest of the episode is about Peter trying to deal with penis envy (or something more like "penis shame").

Real Life

  • Geologists knew, from certain terrain features such as geysers and hot springs, that there was an inactive volcano somewhere in Yellowstone Park. They searched for the caldera but were unable to find it—until aerial photos revealed that the entire park was the caldera.
    • Also, it turns out the Yellowstone supervolcano isn't so inactive after all. It has a major eruption about every million years, give or take a few hundred thousand. The last eruption was 640,000 years ago, and was about 24,000 times stronger than the largest nuclear bomb ever detonated. Another such eruption would likely render most of North America uninhabitable to humans. And Yellowstone isn't even the largest of the supervolcanoes.. This was explored in excruciating detail in the docudrama Supervolcano.
    • Another is Siberia. Not in Siberia, I mean Siberia itself. Its last eruption corresponds with the Permian extinction that wiped out most of the species on Earth.
  • In another park, biologists were finding tendrils (mushrooms' underground part) all over the place, but no mushrooms nearby, so they wondered where they all were. It turned out all those tendrils (kilometer-wide!) belonged to one single mushroom colony, growing inconspicuously near one tree.
    • Technically, the mycelium (the network of tendrils) is the main body of the fungus organism. The visible mushrooms are just temporary fruiting bodies.
  • Three years after A New Hope came out, space probe flybys revealed this closeup picture of Mimas, one of Saturn's moons. Kind of Hilarious in Hindsight.
  • A somewhat apocryphal story tells of Hashima, an island off the coast of Nagasaki that is often called Gunkanjima (Battleship Island) because the sea wall and the buildings on the island make it look like a battleship. Supposedly, during the Second World War, an American submarine mistook the island for a Japanese battleship and attacked it.
  • There's a forest in Utah that covers 107 acres, with about 47,000 trees.... Correction: there's a giant tree in Utah named Pando with about 47,000 stems. Pando is a male tree. This is apparently not as unusual for Quaking Aspen as we'd have suspected—we just never looked all that close at forests before. Pando is also probably 80,000 years old.
  • Inverted by a stretch of land off the Gower Peninsula in Wales called the Worm's Head, which bears a striking resemblance to a colossal sea serpent in silhouette. Cannae remember whether it's true or not, but apparently it scared off a shipfull of Viking raiders, who later got shipwrecked in Swansea Bay.
  • A "true" story in an English book called The Sleeping Giant that is about an island off the Irish coast coming to life some day in the future.
  • Iapetus, a moon of Saturn, has a light-colored side, a dark-colored side, and a straight mountainous seam running along its equator. You gotta wonder.
  • The almost-island of Ferdinandea between Italy and North Africa. After almost starting a world war in the 1830s when it first surfaced and quickly sank, it was bombed during the 1986 attack on Libya because an American plane mistook it for a submarine.
  1. it's not Tyranid organism, it's another kraken... Or maybe Hive Mind "adapted" these to its purpose