The Time of Myths
Know, O Prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars...
A setting in the ancient past, when gods, demons, and monsters walked the earth. Often blends the mythologies of various cultures together, as the writers see the advantages for storytelling. Those writers are a crafty bunch. Also has the tendency to bring in plenty of anachronisms in terms of technology, culture, and so forth. The literary forerunner for this would be the Hyborian Age of Robert E. Howard's Conan stories, which mixed and matched milieus from different times and places: this way, Howard could have a series protagonist in a historical context, without worrying about historical inaccuracies.
Naturally, however, the concept of such an age is Older Than Dirt. Much myth and literature was written about a supposed time period in the distant past (i.e. before the Iron Age) that was chock full of ten-foot-tall warriors and interesting monsters to kill. Contrast Advanced Ancient Acropolis.
If we see the end of the age, that's End of an Age or The Magic Goes Away. May overlap Here There Were Dragons, Lost Technology, and Pointless Doomsday Device. See also Death of the Old Gods, which is when a setting's past is described this way.
In medieval Europe, the preceding dark ages were considered to be this, with Atilla the Hun, historical rulers, dragons, dwarves, and Gods figuring in Gotterdammerung itself. Asian fiction subverts this trope somewhat, due to the prevalence of ancient records and artifacts and the fact that the culture was humming along in Medieval Stasis until relatively recently.
Anime and Manga
- Princess Mononoke. Bits of Japanese Mythology make appearances in other Ghibli films as well.
Narrator: In ancient times, the land lay covered in forests, where, from ages long past, dwelt the spirits of the gods. Back then, man and beast lived in harmony, but as time went by, most of the great forests were destroyed. Those that remained were guarded by gigantic beasts who owed their allegiances to the Great Forest Spirit, for those were the days of gods and of demons.
- Harryhausen movies: Clash of the Titans, Jason and the Argonauts and the Sinbad trilogy.
- In Time Bandits, the bandits use a hole in space-time to travel to the Time of Legends, home to all sorts of mythical creatures, and wherein is imprisoned the Evil Genius. The implication in the story is that the Time of Legends is not a true historical time period, but rather a kind of pocket universe, only reachable by time-hole.
- The Beastmaster
- Conan the Barbarian
- Larry Niven wrote a book series called The Magic Goes Away, which posits that magic and magical creatures, up to and including Gods were once real, but the Mana that powered them got used up, civilization fell into ruins, the Gods and monsters all died, and Man was left to huddle in caves for millenia until new ways of life could be invented.
- The setting of the Everworld book series, although in the modern day, is an alternate universe where all the mythological creatures and deities ran away to.
- The Age Of Legends in The Wheel of Time, basically a Utopia fueled by Magitek. It didn't end well.
- And the time that is actually called the Age of Myths in The Wheel of Time is implied to be our own modern age.
- The war 3000 years ago between the Old World and the New. The Keep, the Confessors, the Chimes, Chainfire, the Palace of the Prophets, the Bond with Lord Rahl, innumerable books of magic, constructed spells, the Journey Books, the Towers of Perdition, and even the antagonist and the protagonist are all remnants of that war, brought back as the last smidgeon of that war.
- The age of The Gunslingers in The Dark Tower and of the Great Old Ones before them. Basically same as the above.
- The Elder Days in The Silmarillion, especially the Great Tales descended from The Book of Lost Tales, which reads exactly what it sounds like.
- Michael Moorcock's Corum books all open with a 'Time of Myths' introduction, which starts something like "In those days there were oceans of light and cities in the skies and wild flying beasts of bronze..." and goes on to recount this semi-mythical history for a while before an eventual segue into the story to date.
- In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the planet-building megafactory of Magrathea was built during a golden age:
"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri."
- Tolkien's Middle-Earth is also one of these—part of the fiction is Professor Tolkien claiming the The Lord of the Rings and its related works were translations of long-lost volumes, thus setting the action in a forgotten age of our own world.
- Dark Reflections Trilogy mentions that before the suboceanic kingdoms, and even ancient Egypt, there was a time when gods walked the Earth in their orginal forms. Then humans decided they prefer mute, stone statues to living deities and hunted them down. The Flowing Queen is actually one of these old gods, Sahment. There are hints Baba Yaga may be one herself, too.
Live Action TV
- The most egregious video game example is named Age of Mythology.
- Featuring Egyptians, Greeks, and Vikings fighting each other, and later the suspiciously Roman Atlanteans.
- A theme in the video game Dominions 3; The Early age is an age where magic is commonplace. Mages are stronger, the various races are quite superhuman, and civilization hasn't progressed as far. Fast forward a bit, and the various civilizations have very developped metallurgy and are closer to a 1500s level of technology... and magic has dwindled. The non-human races have interbred with humans, and mages have become weaker.
- In Ultima II, this was where Minax the Big Bad was living. Ultima II is the strangest of the games to explain canon-wise, because for some reason it takes place on Earth, yet later games say it happened in Another Dimension Britannia.
- The Elder Scrolls games have the Dawn Era. In addition to the usual god walkabouts and wars, time was also nonlinear. A lot of strange stuff went down. When it ended, most of the "original spirits"/gods had been turned into the flora and/or fauna of Nirn.
- Also into linear time, matter, and the world itself.
- Okami exists because of this trope.
- The Kingdom of Zeal in Chrono Trigger.
- Titan Quest is an entire Action RPG about the Greek Time of Myths.
- Final Fantasy XII and, to a much lesser extent Final Fantasy Tactics are this to Vagrant Story, with magic going away more and more over the course of millennia.
- The God of War series, an ultra-violent take on the ancient Greek mythos.
- Asura's Wrath seems to take place in this at first, but many of these elements are actually mixed with Science Fiction and actually takes place in the far future, but The elements for this trope are extremely prominent.