Cloud cuckoo land

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For the album by the Lightning Seeds, see Cloudcuckooland (album). For the academic journal, see Cloud Cuckoo Land (journal).

Cloud Cuckoo Land refers to an unrealistically idealistic state where everything is perfect. ("You're living in cloud cuckoo land, mate.") It hints that the person referred to is naïve, unaware of reality or deranged in holding such an optimistic belief.

The reference comes from The Birds,[1] a play by Aristophanes in which Tereus helps Pisthetairos (which can be translated as "Mr. Trusting") and Euelpides ("Mr. Hopeful") erect a perfect city in the clouds, to be named Cloud Cuckoo Land (Νεφελοκοκκυγία, Nephelokokkygia).

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer used the word (German Wolkenkuckucksheim) in his publication On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason in 1813,[2] as well as later in his main work The World as Will and Representation[3] and in other places. Here, he gave it its figurative sense by reproaching other philosophers for only talking about Cloud-cuckoo-land. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche refers to the term in his essay "On Truth and Lying in a Nonmoral Sense."

Uses in politics[edit]

  • U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace (later U.S. Vice President in Franklin D. Roosevelt's third term) used the term to describe the unrealistically inflated value of stocks on the New York Stock Exchange just before the crash of 1929 that signaled the onset of the Great Depression. In his 1936 book, Whose Constitution? An Inquiry into the General Welfare, Wallace describes a cartoon in a popular weekly magazine which "pictured an airplane in an endurance flight refueling in mid-air, and made fun of the old fashioned economist down below who was saying it couldn't be done. The economic aeroplane was to keep on gaining elevation indefinitely, with the millennium just around a cloud" (p. 75). Wallace wrote that Wall Street's practice of lending money to Europe after World War I "to pay interest on the [war reparations] debts she owed us and to buy the products we wanted to sell her … was the international refueling device that for 12 years kept our economic aeroplane above the towering peaks of our credit structure and the massive wall of our tariff, in Cloud-Cuckoo Land" (p. 77).
  • Paul Krugman used the phrase referring to inadequate German economic politics toward failing members of the European Union: "Basically, it seems that even as the euro approaches a critical juncture, senior German officials are living in Wolkenkuckucksheim — cloud-cuckoo land." (June 9, 2012)

Other uses[edit]

  • Cloudcuckooland is the name of a poetry collection by Simon Armitage.
  • Cloud Cuckooland is a level in the Nintendo 64 game Banjo-Tooie.
  • Cloud Cuckooland is an area in the UK theme park Alton Towers.
  • "Cloud Cuckoo Land" is one of the many realms featured in the 2014 film The Lego Movie. It is described as "a land up in the clouds where there are no rules, no government, no babysitters, no bedtimes, no frowny faces, no bushy mustaches, and no negativity of any kind".
  • The American poet, Sylvia Plath references Cloud Cuckoo Land in her poem, The Ghost's Leavetaking. "Go, ghost of our mother and father, ghost of us,/ And ghost of our dreams' children, in those sheets/ Which signify our origin and end,/ To the cloud-cuckoo land of color wheels/ And pristine alphabets and cows that moo/ And moo as they jump over moons as new/ As that crisp cusp towards which you voyage now."


  1. ^ "listing of Cloud Cuckoo Land". Retrieved 2012-03-15. 
  2. ^ On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason § 34, p. 133.
  3. ^ The World as Will and Representation Vol. I, Part 4, § 53, p. 352.
  4. ^ David Randall (2013-04-14). "10 things you thought you knew about Margaret Thatcher's Downing Street years". The Independent. Retrieved 2013-08-29. 
  5. ^ "YouTube". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-03-15. 

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