has been searching for the MacGuffin
for the entire story and has scoured every corner of the globe. He's convinced that the MacGuffin
doesn't even exist, or that it was a metaphor or the power that was inside him all along
. He ends his journey and decides to face the Big Bad
But wait, what's this? The villain is recoiling in horror, as if something nearby is hurting him!
But what could it be?
It turns out that the "empty" treasure box he's been carrying around all this time actually does
have the MacGuffin
! Only, he/she still can't see it, touch it, or even interact with it. The MacGuffin
, you see, is Made Of Imagination
, and the hero is too much of a cynic to believe it exists. It's there for everyone else, but not for him.
The story above need not be the only example. There could be a person or entity that everyone's been trying to get another character to believe in, but he dismisses it. When the door slammed on its own, it was "just the wind". When that sword magically stabbed a Mook
to save his life, it was Selective Magnetism
. And lastly, when the words "I AM REAL, YOU IDIOT!" wrote themselves on the mirror, that was... okay, that one is a little tough to explain.
But it certainly
wasn't a magical entity!
This trope is in a similar vein to Gods Need Prayer Badly
and Clap Your Hands If You Believe
. Like in those tropes, belief in the metaphysical is key. However, unlike those tropes, the thing that's being imagined was there all along, but in a form that was useless to human senses. It isn't until you believe it's there that it finally makes itself manifest to you.
Compare Enlightenment Superpower
, Power Born of Madness
, Achievements in Ignorance
, Imaginary Friend
, Not-So-Imaginary Friend
, Invisible to Normals
and Living Dream
Anime & Manga
- Fairies and elves are this way in Berserk. There's clearly a scene in which Puck is interacting with confused non-believers, who can't see him even though he's right before their eyes. Those that believe in fairies, however, can see him with no problem.
- The banquet in Hook. Everyone starts gorging themselves around Peter, and he can't understand it. When they tell him to simply imagine the food, it finally appears. No, actually, judging by everyone's surprise after it happens, his imagination overrides theirs.
- The title character in Drop Dead Fred is an Imaginary Friend who was sealed in a Jack-In-The-Box for many years, until his imaginator(?) accidentally releaeses him. Presumably if he hadn't been sealed up he'd've been out in the world even if he had no longer been believed in.
- The short story "Faith" by Sherwood Smith revolves around this.
- The children's book O'Diddy by Jocelyn Stevenson is built on this torpe, combined with a dose of Accidental Nightmare Fuel: when an imaginary friend's child partner grows too old to believe in them, the imaginary friend is still around, but invisible and unable to interact with them in any way. The only way to avoid an And I Must Scream situation is to seek out another child to befriend.
- Lampshaded in Voyage of the Basset (and the film it inspired, Voyage of the Unicorn); the titular ship's motto, "Credendo vides", is translated in - universe as "By believing, one sees." In fact, a more accurate translation of the latin might be "you believe as you see".
- Played with in the webcomic Count Your Sheep, where Katie's "imaginary friend" Ship is real, but can only be seen by certain people. At first that's Katie and Katie's mom Laurie (whose imaginary friend Ship was when she was Katie's age), but later the strip introduces Laurie's mom -- who can see Ship, but repeatedly denies that she believes he exists even when she's talking to him and there's nobody else around -- and Laurie's Cool Big Sis -- who can't see Ship, even though she believes he exists.
NOTE: Again, what makes this different from Clap Your Hands If You Believe is that believing in something isn't what causes it to exist. It existed all along and (usually) would continue to exist even if the other characters stopped believing. It would simply remain Invisible until belief returned.
- Played with in the Dexter's Laboratory episode "The Koos is Loose". Dee Dee has an imaginary friend named Koosalagoopagoop. Dexter is able to interact with him as well, but is skeptical of his existence. When Dexter, after constant pestering by Koosy, demands that he disappears forever by thinking him away, Koosy complies. It is only then that Dexter realizes that he likes Dee Dee's imaginary friend almost as much as she does. Later on, it's revealed that Koosy still exists, with Dee Dee actually travelling to his world (where it turns out that she's his imaginary friend) and Koosy later showing up as a construct of Bubbles' imagination.
- In one episode of Teen Titans Raven guards three super powered children all the while telling the oldest one her imaginary friend isn't real but at the end of the episode he's what saved all their lives.