Created By: CaveCat on May 11, 2013 Last Edited By: CaveCat on August 11, 2013
Troped

Hot On His Own Trail

A character mistakes his own footprints for someone else's.

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Trope
Exactly What It Says on the Tin, when a character gets covered with dirt or is walking through the snow, he will look down and see his own footprints. However, because this character is either a Cloudcuckoolander or The Ditz, he will think that his footprints belong to someone else and start following the footprints. It is then that the character is back where he started that he realizes that it was actually his own footprints that he had been following.

Compare Going in Circles

Needs a Better Name, Needs a Better Description


Examples:

Comic Books
  • In the Tintin comic "Land of Black Gold", the Thompsons get lost in the desert. They're driving a jeep, and soon come across some tire tracks, which they follow. The tracks are joined by another set, and another... until eventually they are convinced they have found a major trail that dozens of vehicles have taken. Of course, it's their own tracks, as they have been driving in circles for hours.
    • In another comic "Explorers on the Moon", the bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson walk around the moon's surface and soon, to their surpise (since this expedition marks the first time men set foot on the moon) find footprints that they eagerly follow. It soon becomes apparent that they were going in circles and were following their own footprints multiple times over.

Film
  • A more high-tech version of this occurs in Now You See Me, where the main character is using an electronic device to tail The Four Horsemen after one of their shows, only for the device to get confused and begin tracking him instead. It takes until he plows into and out of a random bathroom before he realizes it.

Literature
  • In the original Winnie-the-Pooh book, Pooh finds some snow tracks and starts to follow the "Woozle;" Piglet joins him, and then they discover that the Woozle has been joined by a friend, then two more, and then two more again. Christopher Robin informs them that they've just been following their own tracks around a tree.
  • Happens in The Adventures of Captain Hatteras by Jules Verne, after the heroes get lost for awhile and turn out to have been walking in circles.
  • In David Brin's The Practice Effect, the hero is stranded on an alien world (just how alien, he doesn't know), and only knows its inhabited by intelligent tool users. At one point he finds a campsite and explores it in growing excitement. They have shoes! Shoes with tread patterns! Patterns just like [[falls down looking at his own soles]]... oh.

Live-Action TV
  • In the I Love Lucy episode "Desert Island", the Ricardos and Mertzes tow their gasless boat to a seemingly deserted island; after Ethel wanders around a little, Lucy notices huge footprints in the sand she deduces belong to a giant native, and proceeds to follow them, only to find they're Ethel's.
  • In a Thanksgiving Episode of The Middle where Frakie's family goes to spend the holiday with the grandparents along with her sister's family Janet whose daughter is incredibly spoiled, when her favorite stuffed bear goes missing, Janet is quick to blame Brick for it, trying to prove his innocence Brick goes to gather clues which include following boot footprins with a star...which turn out to be his own.

Video Games
  • Early in Pokémon Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald one NPC won't let you proceed west of Oldale because he's busy sketching footprints he believes belong to a rare Pokemon; he's rather embarrassed to find out they were just his own.

Web Comics
  • Early in 8-Bit Theater, Fighter and Black Mage are lost in the Giant's Forest. Fighter announces that he found some footprints and has been tracking them in the hopes of getting the duo out of the forest. Black Mage asks if Fighter can intuit any details about the people leaving the footprints, and Fighter ends up describing themselves.
  • In Olympic Dames, two sets of Bigfoot hunters, each ignorant of the other's existence, end up tracking each other, exacerbated by both putting out what the other recognises as Sasquatch mating calls... it doesn't help there are fugitive criminals holed up in the area, one of whom is big and mean enough to look like a shaved Sasquatch...

Western Animation
  • In The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh episode "The Piglet Who Would Be King", Pooh enters Rabbit's house by going down the chimney while trying to find Rabbit. Because Pooh gets covered with soot while doing so, he starts tracking soot all over the floor but mistakes his own footprints for "honeynapper tracks".
  • This also shows up in the Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat episode "Sheegwa And The Blizzard". After Sagwa thinks that Sheegwa ran away while it was snowing due to the former's own bossiness, Sagwa starts following what she thought was Sheegwa's tracks but it later turns out that she was actually following her own tracks and that Sheegwa had never actually run away after all.
  • Very briefly in The Scooby Doo Project they find some tracks (both human and dog) and declare it to be some kind of monstrous freak. Then Fred points out that those are their own footprints.

Real Life
  • The Ant Mill; Some ants use pheromone trails to track their way back to the nest. However if the lead ant gets lost and walks around back to the original trail laid down it'll just keep walking in that circle. The kicker is that it often isn't just one ant but 100's or 1000's of them all following this trail, walking around and around in a big circle until they drop down dead.

Needs More Examples
Community Feedback Replies: 33
  • May 11, 2013
    randomsurfer
    The Pooh example happens in the original book too. He finds some snow tracks and starts to follow the "Woozle;" Piglet joins him, and then they discover that the Woozle has been joined by a friend, then two more, and then two more again. Christopher Robin informs them that they've just been following their own tracks around a tree.
  • May 12, 2013
    Omeganian
    Happens in The Adventures of Captain Hatteras by Jules Verne, after the heroes get lost for awhile and turn out to have been walking in circles.
  • May 12, 2013
    Stratadrake
    • Early in Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald one NPC won't let you proceed west of Oldale because he's busy sketching footprints he believes belong to a rare Pokemon; he's rather embarrassed to find out they were just his own.
  • May 12, 2013
    UltramarineAlizarin
    Webcomics
    • Early in Eight Bit Theater, Fighter and Black Mage are lost in the Giant's Forest. Fighter announces that he found some footprints and has been tracking them in the hopes of getting the duo out of the forest. Black Mage asks if Fighter can intuit any details about the people leaving the footprints, and Fighter ends up describing themselves.
  • May 12, 2013
    surgoshan
    • In David Brin's The Practice Effect, the hero is stranded on an alien world (just how alien, he doesn't know), and only knows its inhabited by intelligent tool users. At one point he finds a campsite and explores it in growing excitement. They have shoes! Shoes with tread patterns! Patterns just like [[falls down looking at his own soles]]... oh.
  • May 12, 2013
    chicagomel
    Not sure if this would be poetry or what, the classic 'Footprints in the Sand' poem...the protagonist believed he was walking alone during the hard times in his life,because he saw only one set of prints instead of the two he saw during the good times, but is told by God "it was then that I carried you".
  • May 14, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Very briefly in The Scooby Doo Project they find some tracks (both human and dog) and declare it to be some kind of monstrous freak. Then Fred points out that those are their own footprints.
  • May 15, 2013
    ohnoesazombie
    Perhaps this would be better titled Following In Your Own Footsteps?
  • May 16, 2013
    ACarlssin
    In one of the Tintin comics... I believe it was "Land of Black Gold"... the Thompsons get lost in the desert. They're driving a jeep, and soon come across some tire tracks, which they follow. The tracks are joined by another set, and another... until eventually they are convinced they have found a major trail that dozens of vehicles have taken. Of course, it's their own tracks, as they have been driving in circles for hours.
  • May 17, 2013
    Jallen
    A real life example; sorta. The Ant Mill; Some ants use pheromone trails to track their way back to the nest. However if the lead ant gets lost and walks around back to the original trail laid down it'll just keep walking in that circle. The kicker is that it often isn't just one ant but 100's or 1000's of them all following this trail, walking around and around in a big circle until they drop down dead.
  • May 19, 2013
    Stratadrake
  • May 22, 2013
    m8e
  • May 22, 2013
    the_lurkman
    Agreed. "Following in Your Own Footsteps" would be more accurate, at least to my tin ear.
  • May 25, 2013
    Tuckerscreator
    • Ice Age 2. Manny tries to convince fellow wooly mammoth Ellie that she's not a possum by pointing out her massive footprints. She responds, "How do you know those aren't yours?"
  • May 25, 2013
    CaveCat
    ^I don't think that counts.
  • Live Action TV
    • In the I Love Lucy episode "Desert Island", the Ricardos and Mertzes tow their gasless boat to a seemingly deserted island; after Ethel wanders around a little, Lucy notices huge footprints in the sand she deduces belong to a giant native, and proceeds to follow them, only to find they're Ethel's.
  • June 6, 2013
    Chernoskill
    Comic Books

    In the Tintin comic "Explorers on the Moon", the bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson walk around the moon's surface and soon, to their surpise (since this expedition marks the first time men set foot on the moon) find footprints that they eagerly follow. It soon becomes apparent that they were going in circles and were following their own footprints multiple times over.
  • June 13, 2013
    Laukku
  • June 13, 2013
    RoseBride
    In a Thanksgiving episode of The Middle where Frakie's family goes to spend the holiday with the grandparents along with her sister's family Janet whose daughter is incredibly spoiled, when her favorite stuffed bear goes missing, Janet is quick to blame Brick for it, trying to prove his innocence Brick goes to gather clues which include following boot footprins with a star...which turn out to be his own
  • June 14, 2013
    DracMonster
  • June 17, 2013
    surgoshan
    I kind of like Hot On His Own Trail, because that opens it up to less literal examples, as I understand Memento to be. Don't spoil it; I may watch it some day.
  • June 17, 2013
    TonyG
    A variation occurs in the Sponge Bob Square Pants episode "Sandy's Rocket". As SpongeBob talks about mysterious Crop Circles, he walks around in a circle, so when he looks down on his footprints he thinks he's stumbled into one.
  • June 23, 2013
    Clevomon
    A more high-tech version of this occurs in Now You See Me, where the main character is using an electronic device to tail The Four Horsemen after one of their shows, only for the device to get confused and begin tracking him instead. It takes until he plows into and out of a random bathroom before he realizes it.
  • June 23, 2013
    MrThorfan64
    For the page image you could have the Thompsons following their tracks. For the quote you could have them referring to following their footprints in explorers on the moon. Just an idea. I am uncertain about the title, perhaps Hot On His Own Trail would be better.
  • June 28, 2013
    dalek955
    The Practice Effect one is actually a subversion; due to the nature of the planet, everyone's shoes (including the explorer's) all develop the same "perfect" tread pattern.
  • July 2, 2013
    Larkmarn
    This is a subtrope of Going In Circles.

    Without a better description, I don't think this needs to be separate. But improve the description and I'd probably change my mind.
  • July 5, 2013
    AgProv
    Hmmm... in [[Webcomic:Olympic Dames]], two sets of Bigfoot hunters, each ignorant of the other's existence, end up tracking each other, exacerbated by both putting out what the other recognises as Sasquatch mating calls... it doesn't help there are fugitive criminals holed up in the area, one of whom is big and mean enough to look like a shaved Sasquatch...
  • July 6, 2013
    xanderiskander
    Unwittingly Tracking Yourself makes me think of Tracking Devices instead of footprints.
  • July 30, 2013
    jayoungr
    The Tracker Is The Trackee? Or Hot On His Own Trail (as suggested above) is good too.
  • July 31, 2013
    earzo700
    The Spongebob one listed wouldn't count. Spongebob knows exactly what he's doing, and is trying to trick Sandy. He drags his foot around to make a circle, leaving no footprints.
  • August 1, 2013
    dalek955
  • August 2, 2013
    Stratadrake
    I like that too.
  • August 7, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Hot On His Own Trail works.

    I still stand by my last post, though. Unless the description gets cleaned up, this is covered by Going In Circles.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=joday3psfs88kolsojbgp6zi&trope=HotOnHisOwnTrail