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Accidental Truth
"Gwendolyn, it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth. Can you forgive me?"

It looks like a character is going to get caught out in a lie that they told, but then they're unexpectedly saved - they didn't know it, but what they said was correct all along, or has become correct quickly enough that they're safe. Maybe it's just a lucky coincidence, or maybe one of their friends quickly and quietly arranged things to save them, but either way, they've avoided having their lie exposed.

Often, a character rescued in this way will just be relieved about it. Sometimes, though, the character will feel guilty about their lie, especially if there's some Oblivious Guilt Slinging - if so, they may show their strong moral character by rejecting their chance at escape and owning up to the lie.

Compare Right for the Wrong Reasons, where a character follows an erroneous chain of logic to a correct conclusion, and Accidentally Accurate, where a creator does not do the research, but gets it right anyway.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Fairy Tail Carla claimed to be the Exceeds' princess to prevent Edolas!Erza from arresting her and Happy. Turns out that she really is Queen Chagot's daughter
  • In episode 26 of Nichijou, the girls decide to celebrate Nano's birthday on little more than a whim of Yuuko. They even go so far as to buy her a cake. Nano's simply left wondering how her friends knew it was her birthday.
  • In Beelzebub, in order to make their fellow students interested in finding the demon prince En, Furuichi told the rest of the delinquents that En is from Akumano Academy (demon academy) instead of, you know, Hell. Then after Furuichi managed to make En mad, En took over Ishiyama High and make it into an actual Akumano Academy, filled with 394 demons.
  • In Otaku No Musume San, Kanau is embarrassed that her father Kouta is an Otaku so she lies to her new friends that her father is their favorite manga artist. Later, Kanau and her friends learns she was actually half-right when Kouta reveals he's actually that manga artist's assistant in drawing.

    Comics 
  • In one Silver Age Superman story, Jimmy Olsen is kidnapped and interrogated about Superman's identity. He buys himself some time by claiming that Superman is "my boss at the Daily Planet". Guess who's filling in for Perry White when the crooks show up with a chunk of kryptonite...?
  • In Thunderbolts Baron Zemo goes by the codename Citizen V and proclaims to the media that he is the grandson of the original Citizen V who fought Nazis in World War II. Helmut's father killed the original Citizen V during World War 2 so Helmut was sure the original Citizen V had no children or grandchildren. A few years later Zemo gets beheaded and thanks to a prank from his former team member Techno he wakes up in the body of the grandson of the original Citizen V.
  • Les Tuniques Bleues: After an army-wide briefing, General Alexander orders our two heroes to stay, making sure they understand the battle plan, then has them go on a mission where they're sure to get captured by the Southerners. Once they do, Blutch quickly figures out they were sent so the Rebels would get the battle plan out of them, and proceeds to willingly give the whole plan n great detail to their commander. Unfortunately, the Rebels are suspicious, especially when Chesterfield refuses to talk, and undergoes several days of torture until he finally snaps and... gives a completely different version of the Union's battle plan. Which turns out to have been the real plan, resulting in a Union defeat.

     Fan Works 
  • Shatterheart when Syaoran is kidnapped by a street gang who is led by a pair of Serial Killers, the female leader Cassie mocks his hero complex by cowing "You got a princess waiting for you in a tower? Have lots of magical adventures with your friends? Explore foreign territories and overthrow cruel regimes?" Which is a pretty accurate guess of what he actually does.

    Film - Animated 
  • Ice Age 2: The fast talking salesmammal predicts a devastating flood to help his sales, which is confirmed to be actually happening.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • In Liar Liar, Jim Carrey is occasionally surprised at what he's "allowed" to say while cursed to tell the truth. For instance, he asks for a toilet break...
    Judge Stevens: (irritated) Can't it wait?
    Fletcher: (crestfallen) Yes, it can. ...but I've heard [emphasis added] that if you hold it you can damage the prostate gland, making it verrrry difficult to get an erection or even become aroused!
    Judge Stevens: Is that true?
    Fletcher: ...It has to be!
    Stevens: ...In that case, I'd better take a short break myself.
    • He's also surprised when he is able to say that he really wanted to see his son that day. "How 'bout that, I do."
    • In its most heart-breaking form:
    "I'm a bad father!"
  • In The Cannonball Run, Mad Dog and Batman tell a motorcycle cop that their brakes have failed. When they attempt to stop, they discover their brakes really have failed.
  • The Rocket Boy has the hero lie about what was guarding the nest, since he wanted to sound like he did something more impressive than destroy a recording. He described a large orange spiky reptile, which then appeared after finishing his boast.
  • In Jack Frost (1998), Jack gives his son a harmonica shortly before he leaves for a gig and dies in a car accident, claiming it's magic. It turns out to be true, much to the surprise of both of them.
    Jack: You were the one who played on the magic harmonica!
    Charlie: What?! Magic harmonica?! I thought you made that up!
    Jack: So did I!
  • In Mystery Men Mr. Furious claims he gets Super Strength when angry. He later reveals he's been basically bluffing, but in the final battle with Casanova Frankenstein, he goes into genuine Unstoppable Rage and mops the floor. Apparently he had just never been angry enough.

    Literature 
  • In the Hornblower books, the protagonist has to convince a party of Napoleon loyalists to abandon their mission to restore their deposed Emperor, and he sees no option but to give his word of honour that Napoleon has died. When he gets back to port, he is met by the news that Napoleon actually had died, getting him off the hook. Characteristically, though, he still beats himself up over what HE knows was a lie.
  • At the beginning of Les MisÚrables, Valjean is caught after stealing the bishop's silver, and makes up the story that the bishop gave it to him as a present. The skeptical policemen take him to the bishop, and the bishop surprises both them and Valjean by confirming the story and adding more valuable gifts on top. Cue Heel-Face Turn.
  • Towards the end of Neverwhere Richard pretends to have a key the antagonists want. He lies so badly that they assume (correctly) that he's trying to protect Door and ignore him. Unbeknownst to him, she'd slipped the key into his back pocket.
  • There's a pretty brutal version of it in The Wall by Jean Paul Sartre. A political prisoner is given the choice between execution or turning traitor and giving the location of a collaborator. At the last moment, he delays the execution by making up a location so that the army will look foolish, knowing full well that the collaborator is hiding far away from there. The army searches...and it turns out the collaborator had to switch hiding spots to that location. He is killed, and the man goes free.
  • Alan Dean Foster's Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye. Luke Skywalker is given a small container but is not told its opening combination. When he's captured, he pretends the container is his. His captors test him by asking him the combination: he is forced to bluff and say "It's open". They try it, and it works: it was open.
    • In the Enemy Lines duology, Smug Snake Viqi Shesh is in the hands of the Yuuzhan Vong, and on the verge of execution. In order to prove her worth to them (and spare her life long enough to escape), she pretends to have found a conspiracy against the Warmaster: the "shapers" (their equivalent of scientists and doctors) are deliberately causing one of his artificial limbs to be rejected. As it turns out, the conspiracy not only exists, but is found and rooted out relatively quickly—more quickly, it also turns out, than Shesh would have liked.
  • In H. Beam Piper's novel Space Viking, Lucas Trask distracts his divided followers by inventing a conspiracy by his enemy Andray Dunnan to subvert and take over the planet Marduk. It turns out that that's exactly what Dunnan is up to.
    • Another example is in Piper's novel The Cosmic Computer, in which the protagonist travels to Earth to investigate local stories about an abandoned supercomputer left behind after a recent war. He concludes that the computer never existed, but backs off from attempts to convince people of that; instead, he organizes a search in order to stimulate the economy and improve morale. And then the supercomputer turns up....
      • Graveyard of Dreams, essentially the short version, only got up to the "organizes a search" part.
  • Inverted in Robert E. Howard's "Gates of Empire." Giles Hobson makes up a story about the Crusader army's intentions to impress a pretty girl with how in-the-know he is. It turns out she's a spy for the Saracens. No harm done, since he lied to her, right? Except that, although he didn't know it, what he told her is exactly what the Crusader leader planned to do.
  • Francie Nolan claims her name is Mary Frances in order to win a doll at a charity Christmas party. She feels guilty about lying, but reasons that she can take the name Mary when she makes her Confirmation. When she announces this intention, her mother tells her she can't because her real name is Mary Frances Nolan.
    • Made interesting because one of the messages of the book is that people sometimes tell what's true but write what they wish was true. If (as a lot of people do) you start thinking of Francie as the author's avatar...
  • In The Truth Teller's Tale, Truth Tellers Cannot Tell a Lie. Roelynn's father isn't nobility but he is extremely ambitious, and hopes to marry Roelynn to the prince. Roelynn is extremely flirtatious, and falls in love with a variety of men, which is explained as being a free spirit until her father ties her down. So, when the titular Truth Teller, Eleda, says that her friend Roelynn will marry the prince, it breaks both Roelynn and Eleda's hearts: Roelynn because what Eleda has said must be true and because she has already secretly married her newest love, and Eleda because she has forced a lie past her lips (It Makes Sense in Context). Her new husband turns out to be the prince, so Eleda has told no lie at all.
  • Subverted in The Devil in Vienna, where Inge recalls entertaining her cousin with a story about how she, the cousin, was really a princess but had been adopted as a baby. It turned out that the cousin really was adopted, and the adults all thought Inge deliberately tried to upset her.
  • In Dracula, when Mina Harker asks Dr. Seward to let her listen to his phonograph diary, he's worried that she won't be able to stand hearing what happened to her best friend Lucy and tries to deter her by saying he doesn't know how to go to any specific part of the recordings. No sooner are the words out of his mouth than he realizes, "Oh Crap! I really don't have any idea how to find any specific part of the diary! How are we supposed to use it to find clues about the vampire we're hunting?!" He now has no choice but to grant Mina's request to listen to the whole thing and transcribe it on her typewriter.
  • In Hills End by Ivan Southall, one the children claims that there is Aboriginal art on the walls of the cave in an attempt to sound important to his teacher. Later, when they are lost in the caves, they stumble into a chamber containing Aboriginal cave art and the bones of megafauna.
  • Terry Pratchett uses this trope a lot.
    • From Wyrd Sisters, "A man would have to be a natural born fool to want to be king." The professional Foole who becomes king is "natural" (i.e. illegitimately) born, and he wants to be the king.
    • In Night Watch, Sam Vimes is sent back in time about 30 years, and when asked his name, gives the first he can think of; John Keel, his old sergeant. He isn't Keel, of course, but due to the real Keel being murdered by a fellow time traveler, he ends up taking his place. He even coincidentally gets an injury that requires an eye-patch and makes him look like Keel. The History Monks are excited by this, as it lends credence to the theory of self-correcting history.
  • In The Traitor Game, Michael tells Shipley that him and Francis stopped being friends because Francis was gay and made advances towards him. At the time, Michael only said this because he knew this would make Francis Shipley's target, but at least the first part turns out to be true and it's implied that, while the second part wasn't entirely true, Francis did have feelings for Michael.
  • In Dragonflight, Lessa tells the tyrant Fax and the dragonrider F'lar that although Gemma has died, her child has been born alive and male, in order to provoke the fight that results in Fax's death. After the fight is over it is revealed that a live baby boy was cut from Gemma's womb in the intervening time.
  • This is basically the plot of the Honor Harrington novel Shadow of Freedom. An agent of the Mesan Alignment informs resistance movements on a few planets currently being oppressed by the Solarian Office of Frontier Security that he's managed to get them support from the Star Empire of Manticore. The plan is that when they launch their uprisings, and the Manticorans fail to show up, the uprisings will be crushed along with Manticore's credibility. Unfortunately for him, the resistance movements manage to get word to the Manticorans. The Manticorans do show up, and not only do the uprisings succeed, but by the end of the novel, OFS has lost an entire sector. What was particularly stupid was that the Mesan agent in question actually told the resistance just how to contact the nearest Manticoran fleet, figuring that their admiral wouldn't move without orders from above. Apparently, he forgot that the RMN has a tradition of officers taking the initiative to launch operations without clearance from above, with the idea that if their superiors disagree, they can disavow what happened. This was rather stupid of him, as one of his previous operations failed in part because a Manticoran captain (Aivars Terekhov) did just that, and came out with a promotion and a knighthood.
  • This is the problem that led to Dirk Gently's expulsion from college: the capstone of his scam to deceive his more gullible classmates into believing that he had psychic powers but was in denial about their existence founders when he produces a complete copy of a future exam "under hypnosis" (by looking over previous exams and guessing what might come up) only for it to turn out to be exactly letter-for-letter correct.

    Live Action TV 
  • Used absolutely ridiculously on All My Children a few years ago: Krystal wants David to keep the secret that Babe's daughter is actually Bianca's baby, so to stall for time, Krystal announces that David is Babe's father, even though to their mutual knowledge, they only met recently. David orders a DNA test to confirm, and it turns out he is Babe's father, due to a nameless frat party liaison 20 years back.
  • An episode of I Love Lucy has Lucy and Ethel running a raffle to raise money for "Ladies' Overseas Aid," a charity they make up on the spot on the basis of, "We're ladies, we want to go overseas, and boy do we need aid." Eventually they're informed that doing such a thing is illegal, but just as they collect all the money, a representative from the real Ladies' Overseas Aid organization shows up to collect their generous donation, which they gladly hand over as a policeman was there getting ready to arrest them for fraud.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a variant, when Willow's Power Incontinence makes it so that whatever she says becomes literally true. Hilarity Ensues before anybody can figure out what's going on.
  • An interesting variant, where the character never learns he was telling the truth, in the Smallville episode "Harvest". The Town with a Dark Secret attributes their health and vitality to Human Sacrifice, but the sheriff tells Clark it's down to the Blue K in the water. It is.
  • Played with in an episode of Burn Notice - Michael goes to a lot of trouble Framing the Guilty Party as being an undercover cop, only he hid the fake evidence a little too well, and the guy's boss almost doesn't find it. At the last moment, he finds... different evidence. Turns out the guy was an undercover cop; cue Oh Crap moment.
  • In Season 7, episode 9 of The Amazing Race, Rob Mariano decided to have some fun with Meredith & Gretchen and asked them if they had gotten on the earlier flight to Turkey in spite of there not being one...except that it turned out that there was in fact one, which Meredith & Gretchen and Uchenna & Joyce got on, leaving Rob & Amber and Ron & Kelly in the dust. Rob, not knowing this, kept on laughing at and trash-talking these two teams until he learned in Turkey that he and Amber were actually two hours behind them. Laser-Guided Karma at its finest.
  • Community Season 2 Episode 9 Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design, Jeff invents a fake night class taught by Professor Professorson. Then meets Professor Professorson. Then things get weird."
  • In the rebooted Battlestar Galactica miniseries, Baltar quasi-randomly picks someone on the bridge as being a Cylon in order to divert suspicion over his own role in the attack on the Colonies to someone who's been a jerkass to everyone and they really don't like. The man turns out to be a Number 5 model of humanoid Cylon.
  • In Malcolm in the Middle, when questioned about his poor grades in History, Reese claims that the teacher has it out for him and is intentionally failing him. When Malcolm discovers that the teacher actually is trying to send Reese to remedial classes out of spite, Reese admits that he didn't know that and was just lying to save face.

    Radio 
  • In one episode of Absolute Power (the original radio version), Archie hires Prentiss McCabe to embarrass the Prime Minister, who's been getting a bit too full of himself lately. Martin makes up a story about the PM making plans to abolish the monarchy and set himself up as President. Turns out such plans were discussed, albeit not as a serious proposal... and Archie wrote up the document, making him the obvious scapegoat when the government goes into damage limitation mode.

    Religion 
  • The story of the "miracle of the roses", in which St. Elisabeth of Hungary is claimed to have been saved by God's own intervention. Carrying bread to the poor in defiance of her husband's wishes, she is saved from discovery when her pouch turns out (to her surprise) to hold roses instead of the bread. (Other versions say that she did not actually speak when asked what she had, however - presumably because a saint shouldn't be lying in the first place).

    Theater 
  • The Importance of Being Earnest. Jack and Algernon pretend to be brothers, then it turns out they actually are brothers. Also, Jack tells Gwendolen his name is Ernest, and it really is. (He was abandoned as a baby.)
  • The Music Man. Professor Harold Hill cons the citizens of River City into paying for uniforms and instruments with the promise that he'll train their children into a band. He does so using a "think" system which couldn't possibly work, but in the end the children learn to play anyway (albeit extremely out of tune) and he's saved from being punished.
  • The Rainmaker and the musical version 110 in the Shade end with Starbuck's promise of rain in twenty-four hours coming true after he admitted it was all a con.
    "For the first time in my life... rain!"
  • In Bells Are Ringing, Ella, being menaced by two Corvello henchmen after she accidentally ruined their "Titanic Records" bookie operation by knowing more about classical music than their code books, desperately makes up that the police were recording their conversations all along and that Inspector Barnes should appear any moment now. He does so immediately. Ella is overjoyed, and the henchmen are arrested.

    Video Games 
  • Used in Tales of the Abyss. The party needs to head to Chesedonia to find out if Largo is really Natalia's father by asking her wet nurse. Jade tells Natalia that the rest of the party heard a travelling Scorer was reading false prophecies in Chesedonia. When the party arrives, they find Smug Snake Sync doing just that. Jade even lampshades it, saying "It seems our lie has become the truth."
  • In Primal Jen says of Queen Devena, "I guess she's not the gal she used to be." she isn't.
  • In Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando Angela Cross says "I swear that crazy old man is not the same person I used to work for." He isn't.
  • In Kingdom Hearts II, Demyx claims that Organization XIII members do have hearts in spite of the fact that Nobodies are said not to. Come 3D, it turns out that he was unknowingly honest.
  • In Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, Matthew gains entry to Kaocho Palace by telling the guards he and his friends are the Adepts the king was waiting for. Turns out the bad guys were Railroading them into the king's service.
  • In Uncharted, Sully sends the enemy mooks on a wild goose chase, and, purely by coincidence, he happens to have sent them to exactly the right place.
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots: Subverted to a degree. Liquid Ocelot convinces the members of the Beauty and the Beast Unit that if they kill Solid Snake, their minds will be cleansed. Snake, of course, beats them, but according to Drebin, fighting him turned out to be just the therapy they needed to be free of their torment.
  • In Sam & Max Save The World episode "Reality 2.0", Sybil's VR goggles break, and Max makes up a cool-sounding Technobabble explanation for what's wrong, despite the fact that he clearly knows nothing about the goggles. Turns out his Technobabble explanation was right on the money.

    Webcomics 
  • Happens in El Goonish Shive when Susan tells her mother that Justin is gay so that she won't mind him staying the night. Turns out he is.
    Ellen: You lied to your mom for a guy?
    Susan: Yeah, I told her that Justin was gay.
    (beat)
    Ellen: Uhhh...
    Susan: Trust me, it was a lie at the time.
    • It appears that Susan told two accidental truths in one night, as what she herself called a ridiculous claim has turned out to have been declared a medical condition. Officially speaking hair does spontaneously change color. The actual cause is magical burnout, but the government calls it "spontaneous" in order to uphold the Masquerade.
  • In The Fancy Adventures of Jack Cannon, Angel calls the titular Jack "the toughest guy in the universe" early on, before any action had occurred. She wasn't very far from the mark.
  • A meta-example from the world of webcomics: Kris Straub made "Addictions and the Human Toll" as a parody of Least I Could Do, heavily implying that Rayne has a sex addiction and needs help. A week later, "Not Viagra" reveals that Rayne has been diagnosed with depression.
  • Exterminatus Now has the tale of Edward Bay.
  • In Kevin & Kell, when Lindesfarne is mistaken for the princess of England, she manages to find and track down the real one, a homeless hedgehog named Churtsey Ealing. A twist at the end of the arc indicates that Churtsey is not the real princess, and Lindesfarne allowed her to be passed off as the real one to stay with her family, be free of media attention, and avoid having her status as royalty detract from the credibility of her research. Years later, an arc reveals that Lindesfarne is actually the princess of England in the human world, and Churtsey is her counterpart in the animal-dominated world.
  • Played for Black Comedy in Sore Thumbs: main character Fairbanks killed two people because they "looked like terrorists". By sheer luck, they were and he got off scott free.
  • Early in Shortpacked!, Amber suggests that Ethan's lack of interest in Robin might be due to him being gay. As she later admits, she only said it to needle Robin and had no idea it was the truth.

    Web Original 
  • Leo Bone (aka Napoleon) does this in Look to the West to try and seize a Royalist French fleet by telling the Royalists their exiled leader has formed an alliance with Britain; when they return to Corsica, turns out he has.
  • When reviewing I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers, Todd in the Shadows was uncertain what the word "haver" meant, and threw out "babbling out nonsense words?" as a wild guess. Then the dictionary definition was displayed.
    "Huh. Okay, that's exactly what it means."

    Western Animation 
  • In The Fairly Oddparents episode "Mr. Right!", Timmy, sick and tired of always being wrong, wishes that he was always right, thus making it so whenever he says something, it's automatically true, to the extent that when he told Mr. Crocker that there were only 49 states in America, North and South Dakota immediately merged into a single Dakota to prove him right. As usual, Timmy's wish backfires when he subsequently insists to Mr. Crocker that he doesn't have fairy godparents, which causes Cosmo and Wanda to disappear right then and there.
  • In The Mysterious Cities of Gold, the heroes tell the Spanish to send a scouting party to foil an hypothetic ambush, in order to distract them from something (maybe stealing goods from them). Then the Aztecs capture the heroes, furious that their ambush has been foiled...
  • In the pilot episode of Archer, the titular character tries to cover his misuse of ISIS funds by claiming he's searching for a mole in the agency. Later it turns out there IS a mole and Archer's "investigation" causes him to attempt to escape.
    • In "Skytanic", ISIS is called to come along on the inaugural voyage of a luxury airship due to a bomb threat. It's later revealed Mallory made the threat just to get a free ride and make her neighbor jealous. However it turns out that the captain was going to blow up the ship for real.
    • It happened again in "Live And Let Dine" where Mallory leaks information about a fake threat at a fancy restaurant hosting a meeting between U.S. and Albanian diplomats to get a reservation. Sure enough, the Albanian ambassador is poisoned. Somewhat subverted when it's revealed that the thing was set up by Katya and Barry just to make ISIS look bad.
  • The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack: In "These Boots were Made for Walking (On Your Face)", K'nuckles tells a pair of thugs searching for Flapjack to search for him in a pile of old diapers as that is one of Flapjack's favourite hiding places, while he sneaks off to talk to Bubbie. However, it turns out Flapjack really was hiding in the pile of diapers and the thugs capture him.
  • In an episode of My Gym Partner's a Monkey, when Adam is tired of Jake making up lies about him to put in the school newspaper, he decides to give Jake a taste of his own medicine and write a lie about him. However, his story about Jake getting "cheek implants" turns out to be true. This is lampshaded by Lupe.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In the episode "Funny Pants," Squidward gets fed up with Spongebob's nonstop laughing and tells him that if he doesn't stop, he'll burn out his "laugh box" and never be able to laugh again. Later in the episode, he confesses his lie and cracks up laughing over his own prank. As it turns out, the laugh box is real, and Squidward burns out his and has to get a partial transplant from Spongebob at the end of the episode.
    • In "One Krab's Trash," Mr. Krabs sells a soda drink hat to Spongebob, and then, after finding out that it's apparently worth a million dollars, attempts to scare it off Spongebob by telling him the hat is cursed and unless he returns it to the grave of its previous owner, Smitty Werbenjagermanjensen, he himself will be cursed. Imagine his surprise when he finds out that not only is Smitty Werbenjagermanjensen real, but the hat really was his when he was alive.


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