Floating island (fiction)

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The floating islands of Themyscira in DC Comics' book Wonder Woman.

A floating island in fiction is a landmass that floats in a body of water (such as Vadanis in The Guardian Cycle of novels), or in the sky (such as Angel Island from Sonic The Hedgehog). By contrast, a flying island is an island that flies, or floats, above the surface of the earth (such as the flying continent of Laputa in Castle in the Sky). These islands are usually free-floating and may be directed by the whim of their inhabitants, whilst others may be permanently anchored.

Floating islands have been found in literature since Homer's Odyssey, written near the end of the 8th century BC. They reappear in Pliny the Elder's Natural History of the 1st century AD, as the island of Laputa in Jonathan Swift's 1726 book Gulliver's Travels, and many times in more recent works.

Floating islands may be held aloft by lighter-than-air gases, such as helium or hydrogen; a lodestone, magnet, crystal, or other mineral; magic; levitation technology such as anti-gravity, propellers or balloons.


Gulliver discovers Laputa, the flying island in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. Illustration by J.J. Grandville, d. 1847.)
  • The first floating island encountered in literature is the home of the four winds, Aiolia, as recounted in Homer's Odyssey:
    • Odysseus: We came to the Aiolian island (nesos Aiolios); here lived Aiolos, son of Hippotas; the deathless gods counted him their friend. His island is a floating one; all round it there is a wall of bronze, unbreakable, and rock rises sheer above it.

      — The Odyssey, 10.1[1]



Video games[edit]

Floating islands and continents are too common an element in video games for every appearance to be listed. However, a few examples of video games that have floating islands as a central theme or motif include:

  • Stratosphere: Conquest of the Skies is based around combat between mobile floating islands.
  • Granstream Saga takes place on floating islands.
  • The entire world of Skies of Arcadia is a series of islands in the sky, with the ground being a sea of fog and mud.
  • The world of Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean and its prequel Baten Kaitos Origins primarily consists of floating islands in the sky.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword largely takes place on a series of islands in the sky, with the floating island of Skyloft being a hub for the game.
  • BioShock Infinite is almost entirely set in the floating city of Columbia.
  • Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure has the story line take place in a realm of numerous floating islands. Some are covered in seas, and some are very large.
  • Cave Story the entire game takes place on a floating island inhabited by a race of rabbit-like creatures called Mimigas.
  • Project Nomads is entirely set on floating islands.
  • One of the final levels in Tomb Raider II is located on floating islands.
  • NetStorm is centered about floating islands and the fighting between high priests of the three furies.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog games, floating islands help characters advance higher. A location called Angel Island serves as home to Knuckles the Echidna, and in Sonic Adventure, a stage called Windy Valley consists of floating Islands connected by highway systems.
  • In Front Mission 3 floating island Ocean City is featured and located nearby Okinawa, Japan.[7][8] This island is a collective assembly of smaller parts that can be separated. At the end of the game, one part of this city that contains nuclear bomb is separated and the bomb is intentionally detonated in the Pacific Ocean.


  • Works by the artist Roger Dean depict floating islands, such as those featured on Yes album covers.
  • The music video for Feel Good Inc. as well as its sequel, El Mañana, by Gorillaz features one of the band members on a windmill-powered floating island.
  • Ancient High Netheril in the Forgotten Realms setting of the Dungeons & Dragons universe contains airborne cities kept aloft by magic.
  • Artist Naohisa Inoue often portrays various types of floating islands in his Iblard series of paintings. One type of island, Laputas, hatch from eggs to become the recognizable floating islands.[9]
  • Reggae band Rebelution's album cover for "Peace of Mind" features a flying island.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Homer (2008) [8th century BC]. "10.1". In Shewring, Walter. The Odyssey. 
  2. ^ Pliny the Elder. "II:209". Natural History. 
  3. ^ Page, Michael; Ingpen, Robert (1987). Encyclopedia of Things That Never Were: Creatures, Places, and People. New York: Viking Press. p. 191. ISBN 0-670-81607-8. 
  4. ^ Head, Richard (2012) [1673]. The Floating Island. Google Books. 
  5. ^ The Floating Islands (2011) Amazon Retail Page
  6. ^ Anders, Charlie Jane (14 January 2010). "Avatar's Designers Speak: Floating Mountains, AMP Suits And The Dragon". io9. 
  7. ^ http://community.simtropolis.com/files/file/27237-the-terrain-of-okinawa-ocean-city-front-mission-3/
  8. ^ Okinawa Ocean City screenshot
  9. ^ Naohisa Inoue's Iblard