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Does the outline for your quest story look as though it'd make a pretty thin book? Well, don't fret; you can get your coveted 300-odd pages without breaking a sweat if you just toss in a few Wacky Wayside Tribes. If the adventuring party is in a great hurry, slap them over a critical passage, or make them hostile. If it's amid a dull journey section, you don't even need to go that far.

A Wacky Wayside Tribe is never integrated into the plotline — it is, instead, an isolated flurry of eccentric action that is frequently three times as annoying as the basic story elements. It could be an angry predator, a natural disaster you'll never hear of again, or a crazy old hermit, but most often, it's a tribe.

Basically, the non-Video Game version of sidequests and Random Encounters.

A Wacky Wayside Tribe, if well done, can also help flesh out the world and give a sense that there are things going on that don't revolve around the main characters. If poorly done, however, it can imply the opposite, with the main characters repeatedly solving hundred-year-old mysteries that no one else has managed to solve.

When part of the cast is involved in something like this while everyone else is busy with important stuff, it's Trapped by Mountain Lions. In Anime this is often a way to provide Padding when the plot Overtook the Manga. If the events are not merely irrelevant but ludicrous, it's a Big Lipped Alligator Moment. Can be considered a form of Plot Detour in many circumstances.

Examples of Wacky Wayside Tribe include:

Anime and Manga

  • The Pokémon anime indulges in this with its Filler episodes.
    • Especially notable because 75-90% of the show is filler (depending on the season). The whole plot structure revolved around Wacky Wayside Tribes in the second generation, though the writers have seemed to vary the conflicts more recently.
  • Hikkatsu, a manga featuring a kung-fu expert who can (eventually) repair stuff by hitting it really hard. In his quest to find the source of the civilization-battering electric storms, he comes across many of these Tribes; small towns obsessed over concepts. One town has to open everything, from car trunks to popcorn bags to (attempted) women's shirts. Another town is obsessed with digging tunnels, a third is obsessed with zombies. And so on. Provides much plot-worthy things for the hero to hit.
  • The OVA of Tales of Eternia had them meet a Wacky Wayside Tribe, presumably set during the two minutes you spend crossing the ocean to get to the center island in the game just before heading to Celestia the first time.
  • The Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle anime did this. I don't remember exactly what happened but I think the group had to face some "god" that was terrorising the village, but it turned out to be a HUGE Tornado-bird.
    • Almost everything you think is plot-relevant turns out to be instead this, and the original plot is abandoned later when the real plot kicks in.

Fan Fiction

  • Shinji and Warhammer 40 K manages to make this work well through Chekhov's Gun and not be annoying. Javaal is where Shinji gets an army of Grey Knights. A large group of Macedonians decides to follow him and kick some ass.

Films — Animated

  • The Ice Age films are filled with these. The first film has the Crazy Survivalist dodos and the trip through the ice cave. The second features a literal Wacky Wayside Tribe of mini-sloths who make Sid their "Fire King" and the vultures singing "Food, Glorious Food." And of course, there's Scrat and his acorn.
  • Those Two Birds Dinky and Boomer and Squeeks the caterpillar in The Fox and the Hound. Aside from helping to get Widow Tweed to save Tod, they contribute nothing to the main story line, and their antics, entertaining though they are, simply stop the film cold.
  • Transformers: The Movie (the 1986 one, not the 2007 one) was positively full of these. Wheelie especially. The Quintessons also served no real purpose in the movie, though they were revealed to be the creator of the Transformers and recurring villains in the TV series. The Junkions count too, but they're forgiven because Eric Idle made Wreck-Gar work (And they were generally awesome anyway).
    • Expanding the universe in the movie DID make the premise for the following season easier to explain...
    • In addition, the third season mostly took place in space and on alien worlds, rather than on Earth the way it had in the first two, so putting things In Space set up this transition.

Films — Live-Action

  • The Cannibal Island sequence in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. This one is particularly inexplicable, given that the movie is two-and-a-half interminable hours long, leaving one to wonder why the producers thought it needed more padding.
    • The scriptwriters have explained in interviews that the key point is the cannibals' belief that Captain Jack is a deity trapped in human form, which was supposed to prepare the audience for the revelation in the sequel that one of the other characters actually is a deity trapped in human form. That still leaves most of the sequence as unnecessary padding, though.
    • According to the commentary, it was also supposed to address the idea that Jack could escape Davy Jones and the Kraken by simply staying out of the ocean. Because, you know, he tried that once and it didn't work.
  • A variation occurs in the James Bond teasers, which are usually only a cool action scene. The ones from Goldfinger, Thunderball and Octopussy have no connection to the story whatsoever (unless you count the scar in Thunderball). Some only serve for a introduction (Red Grant and SPECTRE training in From Russia with Love, Scaramanga and his "funhouse" in The Man with the Golden Gun, Henry Gupta - briefly - in Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond getting his license to kill in Casino Royale). The rest give Backstory, though sometimes you only discover after the credits.
  • One of the most famous (and successful) uses of this trope are the various "creature encounters" in the Star Wars movies. We didn't really need to see Luke pulled under garbage by a dianoga in the first movie, or the Millennium Falcon almost get swallowed by a space slug in the second, but adventures like these helped establish that it's a big galaxy out there.
  • The film Ator l'invincibile 2 (1984) contained a sequence right in the middle involving a tribe of cannibals. Oddly enough, the USA DVD release (Cave Dwellers) was titled after the Wacky Wayside Tribe. This film richly deserved the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment it received.
  • The Fireys from Labyrinth. (In earlier script drafts, they were given a little more to do by agreeing to help Sarah find the castle, but it turned out they didn't know what that was...)

 The Nostalgia Chick: Wait, wait, hold this retardation. Big Lipped Alligator Moment!

  • The entire middle section of Raggedy Ann and Andy: a Musical Adventure consists of these.
  • The beatniks from the John Waters version of Hairspray are arguably a two-person example. Their one scene is fairly brief and not really any more eccentric than the rest of the movie, but they don't tie into the plot and seem to just be there to briefly satirize a different side of the The Sixties than the rest of the film.
  • The Dracula sub-plot in House of Frankenstein. On their way to find Frankenstein's records on reanimating corpses, Dr. Niemann and Daniel happen to stumble upon a traveling road show that has Dracula's skeleton as an exhibit. Niemann removes the stake from Dracula's bones, reviving him, and he persuades Dracula to kill this one guy who had done Niemann wrong. Dracula does this, and meances the victim's family for a while, before getting caught in the sunlight and dying again. Niemann and Daniel continue on their way, and absolutely nothing that happened while Dracula was around is ever referenced again.


  • The Redwall series is full of these. In Martin the Warrior, the verse roadmap has nothing but Wacky Wayside Tribes, and that's not even counting the uber-annoying pygmy shrews. In the early books they were generally well integrated into the plot, but as the series has aged and decayed, they've become more and more grating. For some reason, all of them mysteriously disappear and are replaced by completely unrelated Wacky Wayside Tribes by the next book, even if there's only a gap of one or two generations.
  • Tom Bombadil. One of the reasons why the LOTR movies are often considered Adaptation Distillation is because the entire segment involving him was left out.
    • Tolkein managed to do this better than most, however; Bombadil returned to help Frodo a few chapters later, he was referred to and had his existence acknowledged at the council, and his gift of Barrow-blades proved fruitful against the Witch-king in the third book.
    • Also, Ghan-buri-ghan and the Woses, who do provide a way to get the Rohirrim to Minas Tirith without having to plow through an army of orcs en route, but the whole sequence is similar to the Bombadil section mentioned above.
  • The Inheritance Cycle has several.
  • A rather unfortunate example in "The Courts of Chaos", the fifth installment in the Book of Amber. Corwin is on a quest to deliver a McGuffin while being hounded by his evil brother Brand. However he can't use his magic deck to simply teleport, so he has to reach the place by horse. Despite the book being less than 150 pages, over a half of them involve Corwin being sidetracked by random and irrelevant adventures; including him meeting a talking raven, finding the tree Yggdrasil, having a picnic with a seductive lady and getting his horse stolen by Leprechauns. This also counts as a case of Trapped by Mountain Lions as the book does have a lengthly plot, only Corwin misses most of it.
  • Discworld:
    • The first half of Witches Abroad. Before the coven gets to the borders of Genua, we have half a book of amusing culture clashes, including some very good (but strictly speaking unnecessary) parodies of Hammer Horror, The Lord of the Rings, and The Wizard of Oz. Collectively, they introduce the reader to the Discworld's Law of Narrative Causality and its manipulation by the book's antagonist, a major plot point.
    • The very first book, The Colour of Magic, had the section with the tree and the entire "The Lure of the Wyrms" chapter, but then there was no actual plot (as Pratchett freely admits).
    • In book three, Equal Rites, there's Esk's time with the incurably truthful Zoon tribe.
  • Enid Blyton built lots of her fairy stories on this.
  • The first few Spellsinger novels were episodic, but still possessed a plot. Later ones ... not so much. Most obvious in the sixth, which features so many escapes from cannibal tribes that even one of the characters complains about the monotony.
  • Congo (that is, the original novel by Michael Crichton) has this right in the end. After the main characters have escaped the killer gorillas. After the Lost City has been destroyed. After they've accepted that the good gorilla will return to live in the jungle. THEN!! this cannibal tribe appears from nowhere after not being a problem through the entire book and attacks them, forcing the good guys to refuge in a crashed airplane and use all the weapons they can find. Not surprising it was left out in The Film of the Book.
  • Piers Anthony's Xanth series of books tend to be made up of almost nothing BUT these. It is a common aspect of the books for the main characters, while traveling long distances towards their main goal, to be stopped every couple of pages by some pointless, punnish characters. Sometimes these characters have a small problem, which the main characters tend to solve within one paragraph. Other times, the wayside characters serve no purpose other than introducing themselves and explaining their unique magic ability (many of which are based on readers' mail-in suggestions).
  • The Plains of Passage, fourth book in Jean M Auel's Earth's Children series, features a whole lot of this is made entirely of this.
  • In Consider Phlebas, the encounter with the nightmarish Eaters (more cannibals) is really just a danger for the protagonist to fight through, contributing only marginally to character development and not at all to the overall plot.
  • In the Strontium Dog "Max Bubba" storyline, Johnny and his Vikings are at one point waylaid by a group of man-eating trolls who kill a few redshirts, but are never mentioned after escaping.
  • Quidditch throughout the Harry Potter series. More so as time goes on, which may explain its diminishing frequency. It's telling that the actual games being played are among the first things the later movie adaptations ditched.
    • The classes as well. In the first four or so books, much attention is paid to what Harry and his friends are doing or studying in each class. As time passed, focus was shifted to only classes and teachers revelvant to the overall plot.
  • The Oz stories are pretty much entirely comprised of these sorts of adventures, with most of the stories featuring traveling characters "discovering" new, slightly dangerous parts of Oz and having to navigate around the wild animals / monsters / cannibals / etc.
    • This goes back to the first book and the Dainty China Country. A city surrounded by a wall that only exists to lengthen the journey from Point A to Point B. The instant they leave the city it's never spoken of again.
  • Don Quixote: The last chapters of the First Part are dedicated to solving a Romantic Plot Tumor, reading a Novel Within A Novel named "The Ill-Advised Curiosity" and to hearing the tale of the Captive Captain, leaving Don Quixote as a mere spectator in his own book. In the Second Part Cervantes makes an Author's Saving Throw when Don Quixote opines:
  • Much of Huckleberry Finn.
  • Count and Countess is a serious and grim story, but Vlad Tepes' background as a child soldier is occasionally interspersed with anecdotes of two Turkish bandits who initiate a furious rivalry with Vlad and Istvan Bathory. It's played completely for comedic effect and probably to give the reader a breather from all the beatings, torture, and mercy killings Vlad is forced to experience.
  • In the second book of the second Warrior Cats arc, the protagonists are heading home after a long journey, but get abducted by the Tribe of Rushing Water who want them to fight a mountain lion for them.

Live-Action TV

  • "Stranger in a Strange Land", a.k.a. the Jack's Tattoos episode of Lost. Though most episodes are relevant to the overall plot of the series, this one can be skipped entirely without really missing anything. It's also almost universally considered to be the worst episode of the series. In fact, the only character introduced in this episode was later confirmed by Word of God to have died off screen... in an explosion that happened on screen... somehow.
  • "Black Market" episode of Battlestar Galactica Reimagined (aka "Film Noir Apollo") where we are introduced to the seamy underbelly of crime in the fleet. This not only introduces a prostitute with a kid that Apollo has apparently been seeing for a while (with no previous mention) but also a may-or-may-not-have-been-pregnant girlfriend back on Caprica (with no previous mention). The episode was pretty much considered a failure by everyone and most of the plot points were never spoken of again.


  • 8-Bit Theater had four of these, most of which had nothing to do with the source material. Doesn't stop them from being pretty darn funny, though:
    • First there's a journey to the arctic (for a reason revealed after it happened) which only served to introduce a group of doom cultists which returned later. Though this was at least based on the Ice Cave quest for the floater/levistone in the original Final Fantasy I.
    • Then the Light Warriors take over a nameless town through force after getting stuck on the Air Orb quest.
    • Later, a particularly bizarre one in the last dungeon: Black Mage decides to leave the Light Warriors and ends up the leader of the Dark Warriors while Drizz'l joins the Light Warriors. When the two teams confront each other the Other Warriors show up, and the sheer lack of space leads the following 36 strips to be about reorganizing the three parties.
    • And finally, one occurred during the final battle. Chaos gave the Light Warriors 24 hours to level up in order to stand a chance. They spent it kidnapping babies, murdering and beating people up, getting beat up, robbing the true Light Warriors of their ultra weapons which 3/4 of the protagonists cannot use, discussing bubble gum, buying snow cones stubes, speeding up time, selling said ultra weapons, and then something about a porpoise disguised as a shark using the remainder of those. None of this ended up being relevant for the end boss's eventual defeat.
      • They weren't even the ones who defeated Chaos.
  • Order of the Stick had a gang of bandits which the order encounters, deals with, then goes back on their quest. A second use of this trope is more recent when half of the order encountered a tribe of orcs on an island (albeit some minor plot points were involved, the orc tribe was not pertinent to the story).
    • However, Word of God itself states that both these sequences were essential to character development of main characters (first Roy, then Elan).
      • The quest concerning the dirt farmer being abducted by ogres has no such excuse, however.
        • Actually, that was probably to establish Miko as a psychotic Knight Templar.

Western Animation

  • In the Futurama: Bender's Game, the "stuck in a fantasy RPG" plot that all of the trailers, advertisements, and box art depict turns out to be a side-story to the main plot (uniting the two crystal to render all dark matter inert as fuel) that suddenly sprung up from the B-plot right before the climax, and all of one event affects the last ten minutes of the movie (though it does adimitedly continue the other B-plot about Leela). It takes up approximatedly 32 of the film's 88 minute length.
  • The Angry Beavers: Theres a tribe of girl racoons in episode 19: "The Mighty Knothead".
  1. Alfonso de Madrigal, philosopher whose works "have more than twenty volumes.".