Look Behind You / Literature

  • Used word for word by Cao Cao in Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
  • At one point in the Tolkien parody novel Bored of the Rings by the Harvard Lampoon, a character distracts another by shouting, "Look! The Winged Victory of Samothrace!"
  • In Neal Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle, "Half-Cocked" Jack Shaftoe resorts to this to outwit his enraged and violent sons, in characteristic Vagabond style:
    "Powers o' Darkness!" Jack exclaimed, focusing his one eye that hadn't swollen shut on a point in the middle distance. "I do believe that elephant is fookin' that camel up the arse—or is it t'other way round?"
  • M.Y.T.H. Inc in Action—double subversion and then unusual subversion again.
  • The usual subversion in The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davies—notable for the villain mocking Falco for using "that old trick" in Ancient Rome.
  • In The Lies of Locke Lamora, Locke is getting his ass kicked by the Grey King, and tricks him into thinking that Jean (who is a much better fighter than Locke) is right behind him. While he's distracted, Locke steals the dagger from his enemy's belt and stabs him to death.
  • In the Time Warp Trio book Your Mother Was A Neanderthal, the eponymous group pulls this on a group of cavewomen using the phrase "Woolly mammoth!" The boys are aware that the targets don't understand English, leaving the strength of the ploy in the body language and emotional acting.
  • Fablehaven has a bizarre version of the not-looking version. Kendra is trapped in a cave by the human form of Navarog (both the literal and figurative dragon for the Big Bad), and Raxtus appears behind Navarog; Kendra makes an expression of genuine surprise. Navarog comments that she's over acting, lectures her on the lack of ingenuity, and says she needs to try harder on this trope to fool him, even saying "If something tried to creep up on me, I would know". This comes back to bite him, literally, as Raxtus eats him.
  • Sherlock Holmes actually does this in one famous scene, though being Sherlock Holmes, he does of course give the trope a little finesse. (All protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, he has to be having a bit of fun at Watson's expense. It's not like he didn't have Mrs. Hudson as a gauge, if nothing else.)
  • A running joke from the later chapters of Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal is Biff and Joshua pulling off various stunts (including some of Joshua's miracles) by pointing into the distance and yelling, "Hey, look! Is that a seagull?"
  • In Stephen King's The Stand, Stu Redman tells the soldier who's been sent to terminate him at the Stovington hospital that there's a huge rat behind him, then hits him over the head with a chair.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "Xuthal of the Dusk" how Thalis distracts Conan the Barbarian.
    "What do you hear?" he demanded.
    "Watch that doorway," she replied, pointing.
    He wheeled, sword ready. Only the empty arch of the entrance met his gaze. Then behind him sounded a quick faint scuffling noise, a half-choked gasp. He whirled. Thalis and Natala had vanished.
  • In The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Bartimaeus once defeated a group of Djinn by using this trick. Additionally, in Ptolemy's Gate, when Nathaniel is facing off agains the mercenary for the final time, he tells him that his doom approaches from behind and shouts for "Belazael" to attack. There is no Belazael, but he tactic does get the mercenary to look behind him, allowing Nathaniel some time to make his move.
  • In the Alternate History novel West of Eden by Harry Harrison, Vainte uses the ability of humans to lie by instructing her captive human Kerrick to shout "Look, a ustouzou (human) in the trees!" on a particular signal. She later stabs a rival with a human arrow and gives the signal—fortunately the startled Kerrick remembers his cue.
  • The Dresden Files: This is used for a Crowning Moment of Funny in Turn Coat. A minor villain believes that Harry has been hiding the person he's after.
    Binder: I'll give you one last chance to save yourself, Dresden. Where is he?
    Harry: ...he's sitting in a wheelchair about forty feet behind you. Holding a shotgun.
  • Tom Sawyer does this to his Aunt Polly early in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
  • Chas McGill pulls this on Boddser Brown when Brown has him cornered. Turns out that Clogger has just arrived behind Boddser to lay the smackdown on him.
  • In The Lost Hero, Piper plays this straight up in an admittedly obvious trick, but it works because as a child of Aphrodite she has the ability to charmspeak which causes not only her target to look, but everyone else as well.
  • In Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury, Bigman Jones is holding Jonathan Urteil at blaster-point in the Mercury mines when Urteil looks over Bigman's shoulder and says that Lucky Starr is coming back. Bigman looks, and Urteil quickly gains the upper hand.
    Never in his life had Bigman so hated himself. To be tricked and hoodwinked this way. He almost deserved death. He would almost rather die than ever have to face Lucky and say, "He looked behind me and said you were coming so I turned…"
  • Luna Lovegood uses one of these at the end of the Battle in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows so that Harry, Ron, and Hermione can go get some sleep.
    Luna: Oooh, look! A Blibbering Humdigger!
  • Pat McManus reminisces about this trick's prevalence in the Westerns of his childhood in "Meanwhile Back at the B-Western."
  • In The Stainless Steel Rat, Angelina holds a gun on Jim, and his eyes widen as he looks over her shoulder. She scoffs at him for trying to pull that trick, and is then disarmed by the man coming up behind her.
  • Star Wars: Kenobi: After foiling his False Flag Operation and pursuing him over the desert, Ben shouts to Orrin to watch out for actual Sand People behind him, but he refuses to believe it and runs into their ambush.