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If you thought the north was bad, you have not seen the south. Down there everyone is crude, their language indecipherable and their mannerisms are barbaric. The land is inhospitable jungle full of wild beasts, barren desert, or nasty swamps full of crocodiles (sometimes it has all of the above). Also, don't go swimming: there are sharks, or worse.
The Savage South is when a southern area is seen as more barbaric than its northern counterpart. This shows up frequently in westerns, fantasy settings, horror films, and many other works and takes many forms. In milder versions the area is just unpleasant with rude, poorly groomed people. At its worst, the people want to kill (or worse) any outsiders and the land itself is portrayed a nightmare realm waiting to kill unlucky travelers.
Possible Truth in Television: until recent times, areas near the equator were seen by many Europeans and Americans as not only unpleasantly hot but also arid or sopping wet and full of dangerous large animals like panthers and lions. If the heat or animals did not kill you, the diseases borne by biting flies or mosquitoes would. Modern advances in dealing with disease and wild animals have resulted in a more "friendly" outlook on these places as the risks are more easily managed.
The field equipment of any self-respecting European or American in places beyond the tropics would include the venerable pith helmet - before World War Two, plenty of Real Life people were fully convinced the head of a White guy would boil in the midday sun without, while the natives were genetically adapted to it. It had a more mundane explanation: while the people who had grown in hot climates would know better and stop all physical activity from around 11 AM to 6 PM, Northerners would insist on their usual work schedule from their home country, with most active hours when the heat is worst.
No "real life" examples unless very specific, please. For example, quoting an American newspaper saying that Mexico is barbaric is fine (despite the Unfortunate Implications), but saying "how America views Mexico" is not enough.
- Cannibal Exploitation Films were very popular in Grindhouses all over the USA during the 70's and 80's. The whole point of these films is showing how "savage" South America is. Cannibal Holocaust is one of the most famous.
- There are countless horror films that take place in the Southern USA. Here is a sample list:
- Invoked in Romance of the Three Kingdoms - the South is reportedly a vast, dense jungle inhabited by tribes, all of which answer to the mighty Meng Huo. Unlike the usual barbarian chieftains, Meng Huo can be reasoned with... eventually... involving a lengthy series of moves that takes the form of a Humiliation Conga and culminates in the ultimate Break the Haughty.
- Aristotle argued that the peoples to the south of Greece, while intelligent, were lazy and lacked spirit, in contrast to those to the north, who were spirited, but unintelligent. That's why, he thought, Greece was the only "civilized" place around, and everyone else were barbarians.
- In Faulkner's Sanctuary, beautiful Ole Miss coed Temple Drake is kidnapped by the impotent criminal Popeye who proceeds to rape her with a corncob when his junk won't work... later, in a drunken rage at being interrupted by his local book club, Faulkner answered the question, "Do you see yourself in your writing?" with "I, madam, I WAS THE CORNCOB" before slamming the door and getting back to his scotch.
- Until fairly recently, Africa south of the Sahara was often called "Dark Africa" in many books and films because it was largely an unknown, "savage" land.
- Averted in most French works: The south of France is often depicted as being far friendlier and warmer than the north. Played straight in that most clandestine immigration comes from the South (that is, North Africa), so depictions of the area are portrayed roughly the same as Mexican Favelas.
- The Black Company spends most of the saga traveling from the north (which is the standard fantasy setting) to the south (India Expy) down to their place of origin at the southernmost end of the continent... where things get really weird.
- In The Lord of the Rings, the land south of Gondor, called Harad, is considered savage land. Sauron musters an army from there.
- Harad is a generic name that the Gondorians have to all southern areas of the world, but there is at least one technologically and socially advanced kingdom there, albeit one under Sauron's thumb. The Far Harad is implied to be a genuinely savage environment.
- The southern lands in Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian series. Most of the lands are savage in various degrees, but the lands south of Stygia are more so, especially the Black Kingdoms.
- Oregon: Washington's Mexico and California's Canada, according to Stephen Colbert.
- Community has a joke in it referring to Thailand as China's Mexico.
- The X-Files has multiple episodes that take place in the Southwest and in Mexico ("South of the Border") and portray it like this.
- In Legend of the Five Rings, the Crab Clan who occupy Rokugan's Southernmost Provinces are considered by most Samurai to be crude and Vulgar. This is justified however by the fact that, for nearly their entire history they have been at war with the Shadowlands just south of them. Which are an even better example since the are literally hell on Earth.
- Dungeons and Dragons provides some examples. Generally speaking, the humans who live in these areas are fairly civilized or at least peaceful toward outsiders; it's the monsters that live there that pose the real threat.
- The Chultan Peninsula in Forgotten Realms. Swarming with dinosaurs, Snake People, and the odd evil Cult. (Further south from that is the continent of Zakhara, which is actually more civilized than the Realms.)
- Hepmonaland and the Amedio Jungle from Greyhawk. Home to various plant monsters, Mayincatec ruins, and a secret cult of fantasy Nazis.
- The Mwangi Expanse in Pathfinder is filled with dinosaurs, demons, and Maniac Monkeys. Further south, off the edge of the map, there's rumor of a land of warlike Amazons and an empire of dino-riding Lizard Folk. On the other side of the world, south of the "Dragon Empires" of Tian Xia, is the "dark continent" of Sarusan.
- Because the main setting of Dragonlance is in its planet's southern hemisphere, their "savage south" is actually any other setting's Grim Up North.
- Eberron: the continents of Xen'drik and Argonessen, ruled by giants and dragons respectively. Xen'drik in particular is filled with trap-laden ruins and haunted by Snake People and dark elves.
- The Kocari Wilds in Dragon Age, which is full of barbarians.
- Ferelden is in southern Thedas and is considered the south border of the civilized world. But all the other northern countries, specially Orlais, think Fereldans are only one step above savages and only a bad day away from reverting to barbarism.
- Ferelden might be in the south of Thedas, but in practice, it is Grim Up North, since Thedas is basically Fantasy Europe flipped upside-down. Conversely, the Anderfels, located in the north, are a land of ravaged steppes and forests, and are close to a region called the Donarks, which are also filled with jungles.
- Sands of Destruction's Summer Continent appears to be an Expy of Africa, complete with deserts and Savannah. The biggest sign of civilization is the complex operated by Elephas Rex, and travelers who fail to take precautions usually collapse from heat exhaustion before they reach it.
- Two of the southern-most regions in The Elder Scrolls series are Elseweyr and the Black Marsh. Elseweyr is a massive desert with some tropical jungles at the borders, home to cat people who have a not-undeserved reputation for stealing everything that isn't well-guarded. The Black Marsh (aka Argonia) is exactly that, full of diseases, poisonous life forms, sentient trees, and the only native inhabitants are disease-resistant Lizard Folk who can breathe underwater. Goodness knows how it was able to be conquered and added to the Empire in the first place, because when demons from hell began invading the world, the Black Marsh was the only place where they retreated in terror.
- Australia, according to Badass of the Week.
- In Australia itself this trope tends to be applied to the North as opposed to the temperate (and heavily populated) southern half of the continent. Heck, just go to the Useful Notes page on Australia to see it in action.
- Bionicle: the southern edge of the Matoran Universe are said to be so dangerous that not even Makuta go there.