In many works of fiction we have seen the presence of a dark, alternate, usually near mirrored version of a world. Examples of this would be in Zelda: A Link to the Past, and more recently

The Upside Down/Vale of Shadows in Stranger Things.

My question is, what is the first occurrence of the "dark world" concept in fiction?

  • 1
    This one?
    – Valorum
    Sep 22, 2016 at 17:38
  • @Valorum Interesting suggestion, but when I think of the concept of an underworld, I don't think of a mirrored version of another world, I imagine its a different world completely
    – Scrotinger
    Sep 22, 2016 at 17:42
  • I'd be surprised if the Star Trek episode "Mirror, Mirror" from 1967 were the earliest, but it's the earliest I can think of.
    – LAK
    Sep 22, 2016 at 20:20
  • It really just boils down to the oldest trope in existence, good vs. evil. Where it first appears in fiction is probably relative on what you call fiction. Most of the the earliest written stories are going to relate to some religion. Over time that attachment to religion fades and it just becomes folklore, and then absorbed as pure fiction.
    – Skooba
    Sep 22, 2016 at 20:30
  • For an early Dark World in SF, what about The Time Machine? Wells wrote the world of the Morlocks as a dark counterpart to the world of the Eloi, developing the idea of the "Two Nations" described by Disraeli. And the "good" versus "evil" part was far less clear-cut...
    – Spencer
    Sep 23, 2016 at 1:31

1 Answer 1


As is often the case for general trope questions, a great starting resource is TVTropes. Other than the fact that it will suck you in for hours into its endless depths, it also features a pageful of examples in its Dark World trope page, which I found linked from the Alternate Universe page, which was my first guess.

I haven't read it through, especially since most entries aren't dated, but from a quick scan it seems that John Metcalfe's 1920 short story The Bad Land is a good contender in modern fiction:

a new arrival at a British health clinic soon discovers an abandoned road that gradually leads him into an eerie, twilight version of reality 

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.