The story starts with a tribesman going on a exploratory voyage around the land, meeting other progressively more and more distant tribes, learning about the world. Gradually he or she discovers that the "world" is actually a giant spaceship flying through space.

The story climaxes by the hero ascending to the commanding deck and learning who actually pilots the ship and to what purpose.

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    Possibly Robert Heinlein's Orphans of the Sky. Were there mutated people on the upper decks?. – Bob Warwick Mar 27 '13 at 23:14
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    This could match a number of stories, depending on how accurate the description and memories of it are. It could be The Starlost, for example, or maybe even a not well remembered version of Ringworld (if the reader remembered Teela's "friend" who was on his question). If the asker isn't sure if it's TV or a book, then details could be mis-remembered. – Tango Mar 28 '13 at 0:39
  • Generational starship story maybe ? Would be helpful to have a timeframe. When did you you read or view this ? – Stan Mar 28 '13 at 0:57
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    Harry Harrison's Captive Universe, perhaps? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captive_Universe – Frock Mar 28 '13 at 3:22
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    Or Brian Aldiss' Non-Stop? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-Stop_%28novel%29 – Frock Mar 28 '13 at 3:32

You could try to go through some Generation Ship stories list and try to see for yourself if any match your memories. This list on Goodreads could be a good start.

The first book on that list, Non-Stop (1958) by Brian W. Aldiss fits your description quite well. There is a tribe, two members of which go on an exploratory journey, and discover the world is a starship... just as you said.

Curiosity was discouraged in the Greene tribe. Its members lived out their lives in cramped Quarters, hacking away at the encroaching ponics. As to where they were - that was forgotten.

Roy Complain decides to find out. With the renegade priest Marapper, he moves into unmapped territory, where they make a series of discoveries which turn their universe upside-down...

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  • I checked out the suggested books and at first sight it is Non-Stop. So I accepted this answer. – user7610 Apr 1 '13 at 20:17
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    Just finished the book. Loved the parts about the crazy religion. Can recommend. Thanks again. – user7610 May 23 '13 at 10:27

A TV show that fits the description, 'The Starlost', and a follow-up novelization by Harlan Ellison, Phoenix Without Ashes comes to mind. There were subplots for each episode, and I'm unsure that there was a final wrap-up, my recollection is that it just... ended with its first season.

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