Barbarian

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Trope · Genre
Synonyms: Caveman AU, Viking AU, Noble Savage
Related: Ancient Vulcan, Western, Historical AU
See Also: Alternate Universe
Tropes · Slash Tropes · Tropes by Fandom
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A common trope in both fanfic and fanart is to re-imagine characters, often from contemporary settings, in a barbarian fantasy tribal setting. The Greeks meant anyone not Greek when they used the term barbarian, but more modern popular usage seems to mean any pre-industrial society. In a fanwork AU the setting can be a historical setting—Vikings and Celts are popular choices for this—and sometimes fantasy elements are merged with the historical bits so the result is more pseudo-Celts/Vikings. The barbarian trope can overlap with genres such as Westerns, when versions, often very fantastical, of Native Americans cultures are used. The trope can be prone to various racist pitfalls like the "Noble Savage" cliché or the portrayal of older and non-Western religions in problematic ways.

This kind of plot can be done as a total AU or through other story tropes that use a plot device to displace characters into a new setting while still complying with canon. Often combined with the barbarian tribal setting are "stranded" plots, e.g. modern characters end up on a planet with a pre-industrial civilization and have to integrate with them to survive (this can be conveniently combined with slavery kinks or cave stories), and of course time travel plots. The pre-historic version of this is the Caveman AU.

A slightly different type of story turning characters into barbarians is to strand them alone in some wilderness—jungles are popular for this, less often deserts—and have them survive without their modern technology. Sometimes they get the help of (magical) animal companions, i.e. basically plots like the Jungle Book, Tarzan, and the like. Or they might meet some kind of local human inhabitant, and the story then retreads the Robinson Crusoe plot, with all its potential for racist tropes.

In Star Trek: TOS the Ancient Vulcan works can fit this trope, but they can also be still advanced technologically, only pre-Reform philosophically.

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