Roger: My name is Braff Zacklin. I was an international race car driver. One day a baby carriage rolled onto the tracks, so I swerved into the retaining wall to avoid it. The car burst into flames, but the baby miraculously survived. I was that baby.One character treats another to a lengthy third-person anecdote. Either the receiver, or the person telling the tale, will be one of the crucial characters. Usually it's revealed, but sometimes it's just implied. Can be used to inspire a fellow character in a similar predicament, but it's most often a means of explaining crucial backstory. You wouldn't think you would explain something the heroes need to know in a way that looks like wasting their time with some story about irrelevant third parties, but it seems to be a pretty effective distancing tool for these narrators. Seen often in Glurge. If you're reading one, and the wise old stranger is telling the discouraged younger person an inspirational tale of someone who was just like them once, you know it's coming. Compare You Know Who Said That, where the anonymous example of some value turns out to be a historical figure. Also compare I Have This Friend..., Actually, I Am Him, and Let Me Tell You a Story. For when the entire story turns out to have been one of these, see Narrator All Along. If the main character does this, it's Nostalgic Narrator. This trope can be subverted when the narrator is asked how the story is relevant, with bonus points for the story being depressing, and he replies with something along the lines of "Fuck if I know." Can be double-subverted if he follows up with something about the story that was inspirational from the story. From here, it can encounter the rare triple-subversion if it is revealed afterwards, such as after the other characters leave, he reveals that he was in that story, such as pulling out a memento or taking one off of the wall/shelf, and talking about his companions or saying something along the lines of "Good times..." Because of the nature of this trope, expect unmarked spoilers ahead.
Steve: That doesn't make any sense.
Roger: I'M BRAFF ZACKLIN!
Steve: That doesn't make any sense.
Roger: I'M BRAFF ZACKLIN!
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- An advert for Go Compare home insurance features an old man telling the story of Glynn, a man "raised by houses" who has the mystic ability to protect peoples' houses from disaster (or something). When asked how he knows all this, he starts to reply, "Because I am-" ...at which point Glynn appears behind him and he finishes "...a friend of his."
Anime And Manga
- Dragon Ball Z when a space warrior named Raditz appears claiming to be Goku's brother, Master Roshi tells Goku of a story his grandfather once told him.
Roshi: A long time ago, your Grandpa Gohan was walking through the woods when he came upon a strange object that appeared to have fallen from the sky. When he went to examine it more closely, he found a baby boy with a tail, sealed inside a little round pod. Gohan decided to take the childhome and raise him as his own. But the boy had an angry, violent nature, and before long the old man was at his wits' end. Then one day, there was a terrible accident. The child fell into a deep ravine and hit his head. The injury was nearly fatal. But somehow, miraculously, the boy survived. What's more, after that, he was no longer violent. From that day on, he became a happy, loving boy.Goku: The boy was me, wasn't it?Roshi: Yes...
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig includes an episode in which a woman who owns a shop tells the Major a story about a boy and a girl who were two of the first people to get cyborg bodies. It's implied that the little girl is in fact the Major, which is all but confirmed at the the end of the episode when the Major seems to know something about what happened that the woman didn't tell her. Also, later episodes suggest that the boy was the season's Anti-Villain Kuze.
- Full Metal Panic! Sigma has a one off chapter where, after getting into a fight over each other's perceived lack of competence, both Kurz and Sousuke go about telling Mao one of their most memorable war stories. Kurz recalls a skirmish in Lebanon two years ago, where he fought some Savage pilot way better than Sousuke, and was just about the only target he wasn't able to take down. Shortly after, Sousuke tells Mao about this sniper he went up against two years ago in Lebanon who was far superior to Kurz...
- A relatively subtle example happens in One Piece, during Chopper's backstory. Dr. Hiruluk tells Chopper the story of a thief who was diagnosed with an incurable disease, and wandered the world until he found a cherry blossom tree, and was supposedly miraculously cured. In a later scene, after Dr. Hiruluk has thrown Chopper out of his home to avoid making him watch him die, Dr. Hiruluk speaks with Dr. Kureha, who asks him why he doesn't go on another voyage to find the legendary trees like he did in the past, indicating him as the person in the story.
- Done literally in Triage X during Hitsugi's rematch against Kaori and Kaoru. She tells them about a young girl who suffered from a debilitating disease, and whose scientist father began experimenting on her to try and cure it. After developing a drug that boosted the girl's strength and endurance to superhuman levels, the man lost his way and started experimenting on others as well, until finally the girl snapped and killed everyone involved in the experiments. Hitsugi then reveals that she was the little girl, and asks Kaori and Kaoru how they managed to survive, revealing that they were also used as test subjects by her father.
- In Midori Days, Ayase recounts a story of her friend who has a crush on someone, but due to her shyness was unable to confess properly, until an outburst caused her to accidentally confess, only to later redact the confession as a joke. She was, of course, talking about her own crush on Seiji, and she used the climax to finally confess for real.
- Happens in episode 9 of Psycho-Pass when Masaoka is trying to give Akane insight to inspector Ginoza's frustration with her risking the hue of her psycho pass by explaining that his father was one of the unlucky detectives who were labeled latent criminals from around the time when the Sibyl System was first being put in place (with Ginoza being a little kid at the time). The audience finds out later finds out that Masaoka is Ginoza's father.
- In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, Koichi and Rohan end up in a mysterious alley where they meet a girl named Reimi Sugimoto, who tells them a story about a girl who was murdered 15 years prior alongside her dog who had his throat slit. She then reassures a frightened Koichi that it didn't actually happen. However, shortly after this, Rohan sees a dog with a slit, bleeding throat, leading Reimi to reveal that she was the girl murdered and that she and her dog are ghosts who want their murderer, Yoshikage Kira, brought to justice so they can finally move on.
- In The Sandman miniseries Death: The High Cost of Living, a young woman, in order to drive home the point that "ennui" is no reason to commit suicide, tells the story of a "friend" who was repeatedly molested by her father and his buddies the mayor and chief of police, so there was no one in her small town she could turn to. She attempted suicide by slicing up her arms, but survived and was glad that she did. When asked what happened to her in the end, she says "I expect she came out to the big city" (the miniseries takes place in New York). Furthermore, she's wearing long gloves...hint, hint.
- In another issue of Sandman (the Hunt) an old man is telling his granddaughter a story from The Old Country about a young man of "the People" who goes on a quest to find a princess, only to instead fall in love with a woman of the People he meets on the way. Oh, and the People are werewolves. When the girl is unimpressed by the story, he says he's sorry she never knew her grandmother who had a lot in common with her, and never let him forget that she won that hunt.
- This◊ infamous Very Special Spider-Man Issue, in which we learn that Peter Parker was molested as a child.
- 2000 AD: This is the punchline of the short strip Candy and the Catchman, where an old man warns a bunch of children to watch out for a bug-like monster that drains the lifeforce of small children, and how a boy named Billy Candy stood up to the creature but failed. When the children don't believe his crazy story, he reveals that it happened only yesterday, because he's Billy Candy.
- Crimson ends with the Joe being revealed to have recounted the whole series to a friend in a bar.
- A Boy, a Girl and a Dog: The Leithian Script: In this The Silmarillion fanfic, Finarfin is trying to encourage his daughter-in-law Amarië to forgive his son saying that she reminds him of a certain prideful Elf. Amarië protests that she is not like Fëanor, and Finarfin clarifies that he was talking about himself, not about his brother.
- A Crown of Stars: Daniel tells Shinji and Asuka how he met and hooked up with Rayana as if it was something happened to another person.
- HERZ: When Rei tells Akiko how her father -Shinji- saved her mother -Asuka- twelve years ago thanks to the help of a friend of his Akiko quickly guesses Rei is his father's friend her aunt is talking about.
- The Second Try: In "Raise", Shinji is telling his little daughter a tale about a prince, his princess and his sister that fought huge monsters wearing living armors. However Aki easily guesses that the prince and the princess of the tale are he and Asuka (meaning her parents) and he is telling a tale about their lives.
- In the Bleach fanfic The World In Black And White Ichigo's, who is a Vasto Lorde class Hollow here, talk to the Grand Fisher is a subtle version of this.
Ichigo: You know, about six years ago, there was a kid and his mother. You ate her, I guess, but you left the boy.
- In Return to Prince Manor Baba Yaga told Snape and his fiancee a story about three sisters who were Light, Dark and Neutral. The first was Titania, Queen of the Summer Court; the second was Maeve, Queen of the Winter Court; and the third was Baba Yaga herself.
- Subverted in Master of Death and What it Means. Harry Potter tries to do this but Clint tells him to keep telling his story like it happened to someone else, that it'd be easier.
- In the Magi fanfic The Brothers Day and Night, the titular story is told by Kassim, about two brothers, one born of light and one born of darkness, who loved each other at first but whose differences drove them apart and led them to become enemies. He presents it as his own idea, but Mariam - who he's telling the story to - can easily tell it's really about him and Alibaba.
- In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, Rika Fuurude tells his nephew Kyon about her own brushes with the paranormal hoping that it convinces Kyon to share his own paranormal experiences so she can help him.
- Balto begins with a grandmother telling her granddaughter the story of Balto and how he saved all of Nome to help a little girl who cared about him. At the end of the story, Rosie, the girl Balto saved, tells him she'd be lost without him. At the end of the film, the grandmother turns to the statue of Balto and quotes Rosie, the granddaughter calling to her as 'Grandma Rosie', revealing she was Rosie from the story.
- Bolt has Mittens telling Bolt how they cannot trust humans while inevitably revealing her past to him. While Mittens never outright says it was her, it was obvious that she was talking about herself.
Mittens: [People] pretend they're going to always be there for you, and then one day they pack up and move away and take their 'love' with them, and leave their declawed cat to fend for herself! ...They leave her, wondering what she did wrong...
- Cinderella III: A Twist in Time begins with a voiceover asking the viewers if they remember a story about a girl who escaped a life of cinders by believing in a dream, and also letting talking mice and a fairy godmother help her find true love. After a beat, the narrator continues, "Well, that girl is me." Cinderella then smiles to the camera while the title appears.
- Vampire Hunter D has a scene where the sheriff of a local town and his deputies try to run D (a Dhampyr) out of a store at gunpoint. The owner of the elderly shopkeeper stalls them with a story of a group of children who were kidnapped by a vampire and while a bounty hunter did rescue them all the townspeople turned on him when they realized that he was a dhampyr. As D departs the shopkeeper thanks him for the rescue all those decades earlier, revealing that the story was about both of them.
- The narrator of The Town Santa Forgot is an old man who tells his grandchildren about spoiled brat Jeremy Creek who, long story short, Took a Level in Kindness and became Santa's assistant until he got too big to fit in the sleigh. At the very end, some snow falls off the mailbox outside, revealing that the house belongs to one J. Creek.
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs provides an example, and also lampshades it within two seconds.
Snow White: Once there was a princess...
Doc: Was the princess you?
- The 2005 Frosty the Snowman sequel Legend of Frosty the Snowman is narrated by an old man and the story's main character is a young boy named Tommy Tinkerton, who has a crush on a girl named Sarah. At the end of the film, the old man states that he knew Tommy Tinkerton better than most people. An old woman's voice is then heard addressing the old man as "Thomas", and the old man replies with "Coming, Sarah".
- In The Care Bears Movie, the Narrator turns out to be Nicholas, the boy who made a Deal with the Devil to become a mage, after he's all grown up and is running an orphanage now.
- Happens again in The Care Bears' Nutcracker Suite, in identical fashion (except the girl joins the Care Bears in their adventure instead of fighting them).
- Disney's Aladdin was originally going to reveal that the salesman from the beginning was the Genie (which is part of why Robin Williams voices him). This was dropped. Not that he narrated for more than five minutes.
- At the end of The Book of Life, the tour guide that told the the story to the students is revealed to be La Muerte in human form.
Live Action Film
- Played with disturbingly in Psychopathia Sexualis. A woman tells some girls a very morbid story of how a mute girl found her voice (via screaming) whilst being raped and then killed her rapists who she and her father had put on a shadow-puppet show for. The girls listening seem very disturbed and the woman narrating it seems sad and nostalgic. In the end she offers a disconcertingly weak "its only a story" to the girls.
- In Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine strongly implies that he served under a death-conquering Sith Lord in order to sway Anakin to his side. He also implies that Anakin was created by that same death-conquering Sith Lord, or possibly by Palpatine himself, who the Sith taught all his tricks to.
- Where the Truth Lies: The journalist tells the story of a little girl who was saved thanks to a call-in show. It turns out it's her.
- Subverted in Caddyshack, with Ty Webb (Chevy Chase) telling the story about the guy "night putting" with the dean's daughter.
Ty: You know who that guy was, Danny?Danny: You?Ty: Ha ha... No, that guy was Mitch Comstein, my roommate. He was a good guy.
- The end of The Road Warrior reveals that the Narrator is none other than the Feral Kid.
- In Matilda, the Reasonable Authority Figure Miss Honey describes how the Big Bad Miss Trunchbull was once her wicked step-aunt, without mentioning herself or Trunchbull by name. The Child Prodigy protagonist sees right through this, of course.
- In the novel, she doesn't use the pretense of third person at all and upfront states that the little girl in the story was her when she starts: the twist at the end of the story is her aunt's identity. This was undoubtedly changed for the screen because it was easier to hide "the little girl's" identity than to keep the audience from recognizing Trunchbull in the flashbacks.
- The musical offers a new twist, as the story of Miss Honey's birth and childhood is told by Matilda, who thinks she's making it up, and is surprised to discover later that her "fiction" is real.
- The Four Musketeers (1974). Athos, when he tells d'Artagnan the story of the Comte de la Fere. d'Artagnan figures out that Athos was the Comte, and near the end of the film Athos admits it. It plays out much the same in the original novel.
- Fox tells a similar story to explain why she works for the Fraternity in Wanted.
- Medicine Man has a rather nightmarish version and subversion of the trope. Dr. Campbell tells Dr. Crane why he doesn't want to tell anyone about the cancer cure he thinks he has discovered while living among the natives of South America — because another doctor, he explains contemptuously, had discovered a painkiller in similar circumstances, which resulted in another tribe being wiped out by swine flu when the drug company came down to mass-produce it. Later on it's revealed that Campbell himself was that doctor, and he keeps a journal filled with pictures he drew of every single person in the tribe he destroyed. Subverted a bit in that it seems almost a Freudian slip when he reveals this to Crane; it's not clear whether he actually wanted her to know.
- In One Crazy Summer after Ack-Ack is kicked out of his dad's house, Egg starts telling him a story about "a little fat kid that nobody loved" that becomes more and more specifically about Egg as it goes along. Eventually Ack-Ack stops him and asks "Were you the little fat boy?" Egg replies no, but he used to beat that kid up.
- In Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, George tells Nick the story about a boy he knew during his youth who accidentally killed both of his parents (his mother with a shotgun, and his father in a driving accident). When asked whatever came of the boy, George told him that as far as he knew, he was still in the asylum. This was not the case, the boy was George.
- In the opening of the first Spy Kids film, Ingrid (the mother) tells Carmen and Juni a bedtime story about two enemy spies who were assigned to kill each other and fell in love instead. It is Ingrid and Gregorio's actual Back Story.
- Parodied in Bridesmaids, where Megan tells an "inspirational" anecdote that is so transparently about herself that the little girl in the story is also named Megan. Annie even keeps trying to interrupt so they can skip to the obvious ending.
- At the end of Maleficent, the narrator is revealed to be an elderly Aurora.
- After the brutal final confrontation in The Devil's Backbone, the narrator turns out to be the ghost of doctor Casares, who now haunts the orphanage with Santi.
- In Snowpiercer, Curtis tells the story of the chaotic early days of the tail section, when people starved and turned to cannibalism. He goes some way into detailing his own part ("I know that babies taste best") but shifts into third person when relating how things turned around. After a man kills a mother to get to her baby, an old man steps up to offer his arm to be eaten instead, spurring others to make the same sacrifice. Gilliam, Curtis' mentor, was the old man; Edgar, Curtis' protege, was the baby.
I was the man with the knife.
- Edward Scissorhands starts with a grandmother telling her granddaughter a bedtime story, about a man with scissors for hands who made it snow for a girl he loved. It is revealed in the end that the grandmother is actually Kim, the girl who Edward loved and who loved him.
"Sometimes...you can still see me dancing in it."
- Early on in Le Destin Fabuleux de Désirée Clary, at a dinner party at Joseph and Julie's house, Bernadotte tells Julie an anecdote about a sergeant who came to her father's house with a housing billet and was shown the door and asks her if she would recognise that sergeant; of course, it was him.
- Villain example in Cinderella (2015): Lady Tremaine tells Ella the story about a young girl who married for love, and was happy, until her husband died. Out of concern for her daughters’ wellbeing, the girl, now a grown woman, decided to marry again to provide them with financial support. But then that husband died, too. Her last attempt was to get her daughters to marry the prince of their kingdom, but the prince was instead wooed by a simple servant girl "and I lived unhappily ever after".
- In Antonia's Line, the narrator of the story is revealed at the end to be Antonia's great-granddaughter Sarah.
- The entire Frame Story for Mark Helprin's Swan Lake turns out to be setting up one of these: the little girl who is treated to the story turns out to be the young Queen.
- In Larklight, after Jack tells them the story of how his parents died, Art asked "Was that you?", to which his sister replies that obviously it was him, or else what was the point of telling them the story?
- Richard III in the 21st Century tells the story of how he met and married his first wife, Anne, to his future stepdaughters in this manner.
- In Wizard of the Pigeons by Megan Lindholm, the female lead has a tendency toward conveying information like this. At one point, she tells the protagonist a story about a group of boys, and at the end it turns out he was one of the characters in the story (although not the one he was expecting). Later, she tells him a story about a little girl, and he sarcastically predicts the "And That Little Girl Was Me" ending (and is so busy being a smartass that he neglects to actually think about why he's been told the story, and fails to learn anything from it). There's also a point where she tells him an anecdote in first person, but ends by saying that it didn't actually happen to her; she just told it that way because that's how the story is traditionally told.
- Near the end of the dystopian novel Devil On My Back by Monica Hughes, a character tells the protagonist a story that, although he is careful to disclaim it as a fairy story with no particular meaning or real-life relevance, doesn't take much imagination to interpret as a description and explanation of his own actions during the novel.
- It looks like this trope is being subverted in The City of Dreaming Books, when the protagonist (Optimus Yarnspinner) meets the Shadow King, who tells him a story about his friend, one of the few humans in Zamonia. About halfway through, Optimus stops him and asks if his "friend" is actually him. The Shadow King asks if he looks like a human, which he doesn't. However, as his story goes on, his friend was turned into a different creature, and he finally reveals that he is now that creature.
- In Jack Vance's Throy - the heroes Glawen Clattuc and Eustace Chilke go in search of a businessman who can lead them to the source of a planetary conspiracy and are accompanied by his secretary. When in the course of rescuing the businessman they are attacked and wounded by hostile aliens, the secretary unloads on the aliens with a blaster and saves them all. In a slight subversion of the trope, it's not the secretary but her boss who later recounts the tale of a former employer whose house collapsed long ago in a storm, leaving only a terrified and badly wounded little girl at the mercy of those same xenomorphs... Possibly also qualifies as a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- In Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's The Palace, Roget tells a group of workers that his master Ragoczy is trustworthy because he once rescued an escaped bondsman at great risk to himself. When one worker scoffs that Ragoczy made the story up, Roget reveals that he was the escaped bondsman.
- Played with in Fred Saberhagen's The Holmes-Dracula File, in which the Count narrates his first couple of chapters' events in the third person, before getting bored with the pretense and admitting that the "old man" he's been describing is himself. He even Lampshades the transparency of the ruse.
- In "Father Brown's Story" a priest tells of a man, disillusioned by the death of his beloved sister, who turned to atheism and hated everything religious. Then one night he had a dream of a mysterious woman who he followed to the edge of the sea. It was his sister, who pointed at the ocean and said "It is the holy blood.". The man awoke with tears on his cheeks and changed his ways. As they are leaving the priest stops one man and tells him "I was that man."
- In Griffin's Daughter, Keizo Onjara, king of the elves, tells half-elf protagonist Jelena a story of a nameless elf man who was injured traveling through human territory, the human girl who found him and hid him away while he healed and how they fell in love but could not stay together. By the end of the story Keizo drops the third person pretense before slipping the White Griffin ring on Jelena's finger. The ring would glow when worn by a member of the royal bloodline, so its reaction proved beyond all doubt that Jelena was his daughter.
- Done inadvertently as the punchline in He Walked Around The Horses, a short story by H. Beam Piper in which a diplomat carrying documents from our world fall into an Alternate Universe where the French and American Revolutions never happened. The story is told through a series of letters and reports, the final one by a high-ranking British officer called Sir Arthur Wellesley, who is puzzled by the repeated references to this chap Wellington. "I've no idea who he could be."
- Played with in the short story "Hide-and-Seek" by Arthur C. Clarke. The narrator of the Framing Story is being told a tale of the Second Jovian War by the retired naval officer Kingman, who starts by saying he changed some names. The story involves a cunning spy codenamed K.15, pursued by a heavy cruiser near Mars, who uses the limited manoeuvrability of the cruiser to keep on the opposite side of Phobos. When the story is finished, the narrator suggests Kingman knows the story so well, he must have been K.15, and Kingman denies this and stalks off. The third member of the party explains that Kingman was commander of the cruiser.
- In The January Dancer, first book of the Spiral Arm series, the frame story involves a harpist track down a scarred man in a bar and asking him to recount to her the tale of an artifact called January's Dancer. He starts by claiming that he only spoke to some of those involved and all are now dead or missing, but as his story goes on it is eventually revealed that one of the characters is actually him before he acquired his scars: he is Donovan, aka the Fudir.
- Used at the end of A Scanner Darkly, in a rather gut-punching way. In the epilogue, Philip K. Dick talks about the people he'd lost to drug addiction over the years, and then lists some of them off. One of the last names is "Phil" - he'd discovered shortly before writing the book that he had suffered permanent pancreatic damage, which would eventually kill him.
- The Saga of the Faroe Islanders: Sigmund and Thorir spend six years in seclusion with farmer Ulf and his small family at their hidden homestead in the mountains of Dovre. When they depart, Ulf tells them a story of a young man called Thorkel Crispfrost who carried off a woman called Ragnhild when her father refused to give her in marriage to him. This caused a feud in which Ragnhild's father and nineteen others were killed; Thorkel was outlawed and made a secret homestead for himself and Ragnhild in the mountains. His story ends with the predictable revelation that he himself is Thorkel Crispfrost.
- Subverted in an episode of Monk. Sharona has a fear of elephants that culminated when she was a little girl. She tells a story of how when she was little, a small girl ended up in the elephant cage at a zoo. As the girl didn't actually get hurt, the audience waits for her to say "I was that little girl", but nope, she was apparently traumatized because some other girl was in that predicament.
- In The Golden Girls, Sophia often ends her "Picture it..." stories like this.
"That beautiful young peasant girl was me. And that artist...was Pablo Picasso."
- The House episode "Three Stories": House tells a class of medical students three stories about diagnosing three different patients, all complaining of leg pain. The third story is revealed, at the end, to be the story of the aneurysm, and infarction that caused House's permanent leg injury, and continuing chronic pain. He never tells the students the third patient was him. His colleagues, who're listening in, do figure it out, though.
- Subverted in an episode of My Two Dads: Nichole is worried about going to the prom, and Judge Margaret tells her about another teenage girl who was teased at her prom. When Nichole asks what the girl did, the judge says she destroyed the other girls with her psychic powers.
Nichole: Wasn't that Carrie?
Margaret: It's all I've got. I was really popular at school.
- In the Christmas episode of Glee, Coach Beiste has to dress up as Santa Claus, to convince Brittany (who still believes in Santa Claus) that even Santa's magic can't grant her wish: for Artie, who is paraplegic, to be able to walk. Beiste does this by sitting down Brittany on the couch and telling her a story about another little girl, just a little younger than herself, whose only Christmas wish every year was to be petite and slender instead of "a little husky". And how she never got it, but she did get the gift of patience. Subverted in that Brittany never gets it — Santa's a boy, duh!
- Parodied by Chris Rock in a commercial for one of his HBO comedy specials. The ad consists of him telling us about a little white girl growing up in a convent in the Alps, who would "sing her heart out whenever things looked bad." He then informs us that he was that little girl. "And now I'm an adult black male," he says, with no further explanation.
- Quasi-subverted on Hill Street Blues when the eccentric vigilante "Captain Freedom" spins Detective Belker a long story about a boy growing up neglected and abused with only the heroes of comic books and TV shows to relieve his horrible existence. However, when Belker is moved to tears by the story the Captain assures him that the little boy grew up to be a business leader and that he read about him in Reader's Digest. It's unclear if the Captain was actually talking about himself or not.
- Subverted in the pilot of Boardwalk Empire. Nucky Thompson gets a group of Moral Guardians on his side by telling a story about how his family suffered terrible poverty in his childhood due to his father's alcoholism, and he was once forced to catch rats for their dinner. Then outside, he reveals to his cohort that it was all made up.
Nucky: Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
- The final episode of the second series of Black Adder contains a series of increasingly bizarre examples as a gloating Master of Disguise reveals his past encounters with the main characters. Starting with...
Prince Ludwig: We have met many times, although you knew me by another name. Do you recall a mysterious black marketeer and smuggler called Otto with whom you used to dine and plot and play ze biscuit game at ze old pizzel in Dover?
Blackadder: My God!
Prince Ludwig: "Yes! I... was ze waitress!
- Subverted in British sitcom Just Good Friends.
Penny's mother: Many years ago there was ... a girl who lived in the same road as me - we were the same age. She met a chap. And then she discovered she was carrying his child. Her family disowned her, the neighbours shunned her, even her best friend called her a trollop. She miscarried. Years later she married. She has a small family of her own now.Penny: That girl, it was you, wasn't it?Penny's mother: It most certainly was not me! Her name was Eileen Bennett, and I was her best friend, the trollop!
- The Crack Fox in The Mighty Boosh tells his backstory to Vince in this manner, showing him a short animated film about a fox that moved from the countryside to London, only for his life to be ruined by drugs and constant partying, before concluding "That fox, my friend, was none other than me... the Crack Fox".
- Parodied in one episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, when Gypsy puts on a "one woman show" and ends the show with the story of "a gal who ran the higher functions of a little satellite in a synchronous orbit." It's clear she intends the story to be uplifting and inspirational — the problem is that it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
- Hank Henshaw related a story about hunting an alien refugee as part of the DEO in Supergirl. Naturally, for this trope, it turns out to be Henshaw himself, who's really the Martian Manhunter and the real Henshaw died trying to kill him.
- Outnumbered: Subverted in "The Chinese Horde", where Karen is called to the headmistress's office:
Headmistress: You know, Karen, I once knew a little girl like you. A long, long time ago. She was clever, she had lots of opinions, which she loved to share, she thought she was the center of the universe and she didn't think the rules should apply to her. And do you know what happened to that strong-willed little girl?Karen: Did she become head teacher?Headmistress: No, she got expelled. She's in prison now. Turns out the rules did apply to her after all.
- Daredevil does it twice in "Guilty as Sin":
Blake Tower: How did you miss that in his file?Samantha Reyes: All the names were redacted.Blake Tower: Not good.Samantha Reyes: No shit.
- Stick tells a story about how a child began fighting the Hand, killing them until they were driven out and this act of defiance was the origin of his organization, the Chaste. Matt assumes Stick is talking about himself and sarcastically compliments him on keeping himself at the center. What the audience sees of the Chaste indicates Stick isn't its leader, suggesting this assumption may well be wrong.
- At Frank Castle's trial, Colonel Schoonover testifies as a character witness, and tells a story about a stupid officer who got Castle's squad into an ambush, that caused said idiot officer to lose his right arm. When Reyes claims no one can really know what happened if they weren't there, Schoonover clarifies that he was that idiot officer, completely undercutting Reyes' argument (and making her wonder how she managed to overlook his prosthetic arm in the first place).
- In The Phantom of the Opera, Gérard Carrière tells Christine all about the Phantom's childhood and his relationship with his father; when Christine asks him how he knows all this, he reveals that he is the Phantom's father.
- Parodied in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt:
Titus Andromedon: And that 12 year-old boy who got kicked out of the choir...was me!Kimmy Schmidt: Yeah. You said that. That was the whole story.
And again in the same episode:
Jacqueline White: And that young, impressionable girl in the fishing gear was me!
Lillian Kaushtupper: Yeah, I know. That was the whole story.
- In Metallica's "The Unforgiven", the narrator switches between first (in the chorus) and third person. The last verse ends with:
The old man then prepares
To die regretfully -
That old man here is me.
- Arctic Monkeys have "Bigger Boys and Stolen Sweethearts", a B-Side to a single off their album Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. It describes a boy who gets played by a girl who's only interested in older men, before turning around and saying that he was in fact that boy.
- Eminem used this in 'Criminal,' as part of another rant against his mother:
My mother did drugs, hard liquor, cigarettes, and speed
The baby came out - disfigured, ligaments indeed.
It was a seed who would grow up just as crazy as she.
Don't dare make fun of that baby, 'cause that baby was me.
- Britney Spears has done this with 'Girl in the Mirror.'
I can't believe it's what I seeThat the girl in the mirrorThe girl in the mirrorIs me
- Emilie Autumn, Opheliac
She speaks in third personso that she can forget that she's me
- The chorus of Lindsay Lohan's "Drama Queen (That Girl)" from the similarly-named film Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen:
That girl was a one-time teenage drama queen,A hot, tough everyday wannabe,But she'll have changed her destiny, now she's a somebody.That girl was a wild-child dreamer but she found herself.'Cause she believes in nothing else,And you'll look back and you won't believeThat girl was me.
- In Jim Croce's "Box #10", the narrator sings of "a down home country boy" who has a rough time of it in the Big Apple. The verse ends with, "Oh well it's easy for you to see that that country boy is me".
- Mary J. Blige's song "Take Me As I Am" ends the second verse describing a girl's life before the bridge with "ask me how I know, 'cause she is me(eeeeeee)."
- Delta Goodrem has done versions of this twice in "The Analyst" and "Uncovered".
- In Jo Jo's unreleased song "Paper Airplanes", describing a disintegrating relationship:
I feel her pain,'Cause she's me.
- The country standard "Harper Valley P.T.A.".
- The spoken word song "Deck Of Cards" has the artist tell a story about a soldier who was once caught in church with a deck of cards. They wanted to punish him, but he then explained he didn't have a Bible and used the characters and signs on the cards to remind him of biblical facts and characters. He then concludes: "And that soldier... was me."
- In Bob Dylan's song "Simple Twist of Fate", Dylan uses first person pronouns to narrate a story about a man and a woman who had a romantic encounter that ended. In the last verse, the narrator switches to first person - "I still believe she was my twin" - revealing that he was the man in the story.
- This trope is reference in Lauren O'Connell's song "The Pilot":
Didn't know what he told those stories forAnd when he'd reach the end, we'd say"That man was me".
- Danish singer Anna David's song "Den Lille Pige" ("The Little Girl") about a teenage girl who was raped. Translated into English: "Even though she's a grown-up now, she'll never forget you. Take my word - I know it, because the little girl was me".
- In Leonard Cohen's "Winter Lady" song, the narrator invites a stranger to stay the night. He then talks idly about her resemblance to his Childhood Friend, finishing:
And why are you so quiet now
standing there in the doorway?
- Stevie Nicks belts out "That girl was me!" at the end of her song "Angel", but the rest of the lyrics confusingly address a friend or lover, who may or may not be dead, so we're not sure...
- Played for Laughs in Tim Minchin's "Rock 'n' Roll Nerd".
He knows that his music lacks depthBut it just can't be helpedHe has nothing interesting to saySo he writes about himselfBut he doesn't want to seem self-obsessedSo he writes in third person
- The indirect version is a staple of Paul Harvey's routine. Usually, at the end of his radio show, he'd reveal "The Rest of the Story", where he'd talk about a young boy or girl who underwent some sort of hardship. And at the end, wouldn't you know it, he'd say "and that little boy/girl grew up to be...(name of famous person)."
- A fictional version is occasionally used by Garrison Keillor when he reports the News from Lake Wobegon, where he'll mention that he was visiting Lake Wobegon for some reason or other, and then shift to third-person perspective to tell the characters' story, only to switch back to first-person to reveal that a person he was talking about was actually him all along. The best part is that he does it so subtly that it takes a few moments to notice the shift.
- A humorous version is used in an episode of The Life of Riley called "The Hold Up," which guest-starred Burt Lancaster. Chester Riley is outlining the perils of becoming a gangster to his son, Junior. After telling Junior the story of a gangster who got the chair, he closes with this:
Riley: ....slowly they opened the little green door. He could see the chair. And then....his nerve snapped! He shook like the yellow rat that he was! He began screamin', "I DON'T WANNA DIE, I DON'T WANNA DIE!" They had to carry him to the chair! They strapped him in and he kept on screamin' until they pulled the switch! Son, that no-good yellow whimperin' rat was....(Beat)....Chester Riley!Junior: Pop! What are you tryin' to hand me? If they pulled the switch on you, how come you're still alive?Riley: No juice. The warden forgot to pay the electric bill. And let that be a lesson to you, Junior!
- The opening narration of every episode of The Lives Of Harry Lime:
That was the shot that killed Harry Lime. He died in a sewer beneath Vienna, as those of you know who saw the movie The Third Man. Yes, that was the end of Harry Lime ... but it was not the beginning. Harry Lime had many lives ... and I can recount all of them. How do I know? Very simple. Because my name is Harry Lime.
- The Bible has an example of this with the Trope Namer of The Uriah Gambit. After the king sent Uriah to his death so he could take Uriah's wife (despite having several wives already), the prophet Nathan tells him a story about a man with many sheep stealing a sheep from someone who had only one. When the king is outraged and says that man should be punished, Nathan reveals that he was talking about wives, not sheep, and the king is that man.
- Another has a man named Mordecai uncover and report a plot against the king. The king asks his Evil Chancellor Haman (who had previously been humiliated by Mordecai) how to best reward a man who has done him a great service. Haman, thinking it's himself, starts going on about the lavish honors and riches to be given to the man. When he's finished, the king agrees, adding "Thus shall I reward Mordecai".
- There's an older Egyptian version of that biblical tale: the god Set is attending a congress of deities, and an old woman comes to him asking for reddress: her evil brother has killed her husband, usurped his position, and maimed and driven away her son. Set agrees that a great injustice has been done to her, and asks for the name of the criminal. It's Set himself, as the old woman is really the goddess Isis, her murdered husband is Osiris, and their son is Horus.
Role Playing Games
- Svetlana or Florence, depending on the production, has a song like this in Chess. Though everyone in the audience has figured it out by then, it ends:
And if that girl I knew should ask my adviceOh, I wouldn't hesitate, she needn't ask me twiceGo nowI'd tell her that for freeTrouble is, the girl is me.
- "The Barber and his Wife" in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
- The reprise of "Who Am I" on Les Misérables where Valjean reveals his past to Marius.
- A similar approach was taken in this Wind Waker commercial.
- In Cage in Lunatic Runagate Yukari explains what happened in her last attempt to invade the moon this way. Ran actually figures it out immediately, but Yukari denies this being the case.
- Jeremy tells a story about his childhood like this in Double Down.
- Team Fortress 2 short Meet the Medic combine this with Orphaned Punchline
Medic: "It gets better! When the patient woke up, his skeleton was missing... and the doctor was never heard from again! *Laughs* Anyway, that is how I lost my medical license".
- Rosalina in the storybook from Super Mario Galaxy.
- Subverted in Jade Empire. When Sagacious Zu mentions that he saved Master Li's infant daughter, who was born around the time Dirge was attacked, a female spirit monk can ask whether Zu is talking about her, and Zu will tell her not to assume that everything is about her.
- It is, however, actually Dawn Star.
- As the final part of the True Ending reveals. Mithra from Asura's Wrath was telling the story of his and Yasha's adventures the whole time while she was younger to a bunch of children gathered around her (which is hinted in the episode previews at the end of each one with a small narration of her English and Japanese voice actors).
- At one point in Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, you are required to visit a penal colony. One of the inmates offers to tell you a story about the nation of Cumbria, which has fallen on hard times in recent years. He ends the story with the words '...and the rightful heir to Cumbria's throne was shipped off to a penal colony, never to be heard from again', at which point you realise you've spent the past few minutes chatting with a member of the Cumbrian royal family.
- In Final Fantasy IX, during their stay at the Black Mage Village, Zidane tells Garnet a story about a young adopted boy who went in search of his real parents, thus revealing some of Zidane's Back Story.
- Later on on in Wolfenstein: The New Order, Anya sends B.J. recordings of her reading through her cousin Ramona's journal, which chronicles Ramona's methodical Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the Nazis. As the story goes on, the story clearly references moments such as a stint in University and how a heavily-scarred man suffering horrible head trauma was brought into her family's hospital and how she finds a kindred spirit within him. The final entry has her admitting that some of these things might have happened to her.
- Comes as a Tomato Surprise in Broken Age when Shay's mother tells him a story about a young girl that resembles Vella's story and ends it by revealing it was her, which Shay already knew. The player, however, did not.
- In one of the promotional comics for Nier, Kaine tells a story about a warrior who protected a young boy from Shades. Weiss doesn't buy it. Kaine refers to the warrior (herself) as a man, adding some foreshadowing to her own dilemma.
- In Nancy Drew: The Captive Curse, the traveling storyteller Renate tells Nancy how a girl she knew had been told never to enter the forest near the castle. One day the wind blew her beautiful scarf into the woods, and when she went to retrieve it, her older sister ran after her. "Two girls went out into the woods. One came back. There were monsters in the woods that night." Later, Nancy finds the scarf and returns it to Renate.
Nancy: "That story you told me, about the girls. That was you, wasn't it? You chased your sister into the woods—but couldn't save her."
Renate: "You're half right."
Nancy: "How so?"
Renate: "I was the little girl. It was my older sister who chased me into the woods. My sister died trying to protect me."
- In Might and Magic X, the narrator is really the grown daughter of the governor, Ann Morgan, who is haunted by the events she lived through and telling the story as a way of dealing with it.
- In Animal Crossing Happy Home Designer, as part of your job training, Lottie takes you to a client's house as a practice room, which is completely bare except for an unopened package. Lottie tells you, "The client who lives here is a girl who is a fan of all things cute. She's requested a room with a lovely atmosphere." After teaching you the core mechanics of the gameplay, Lottie leaves you to design the room however you like, claiming she'll play the part of the client. After you finish up and recieve her impression of the room, Lottie admits that she really is the client, and she hadn't had time to decorate due to work, having to use a sleeping bag during the night.
- At the end of The Longest Journey Lady Alvane, who tells the story to her grand children turns out to be the heroine April Ryan in later years.
- In Grand Theft Auto V, Trevor tells Wade his life story during the drive to Los Santos. The characters are obviously him and Michael, to the point that Trevor almost uses their real names before stopping himself midway (he uses "Trisha" for himself and "Michele" for Michael). Fortunately for him, Wade isn't smart enough to catch on, even when he loses his temper and starts using their real names.
Trevor: "This story's about a boy called Tr... Tre... Trisha."
Wade: "Is Trisha a boy's name?"
Trevor: "It doesn't matter."
- In the second Fragment's Note, Yukitsuki gives one to Kyoichi in an attempt to convince him that she really does have the ability to empathize with him and understand his pain.
- In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Penny's inspirational song begins "Here's the story of a girl...", but she realizes how silly it is to keep up the pretense by the end of the fourth line.
- When the Video Games Awesome! played The Binding of Isaac, they started sharing stories of unhappy memories from their own childhoods. Every time one of the stories also involved someone else, someone would joke "And that boy... was Deacon/Ben."
- ...and in Tumblr there was this
- In the Welcome to Night Vale episode "Condos", The Faceless Old Lady Who Secretly Lives in Your Home relates a story about a girl she once knew, who was always trying to fit in, and pretending to be someone she was not, so that every day there was less-and-less of her to see, until eventually...
Old Woman: ...she died. [Beat] Oh, that wasn't me. I see the confusion here. No, that was a woman I watched. I secretly lived in her home.
- In "TF2 - Slugman's Transformation", Jerma985 tells a story about Slugman, a human with the mind of a slug who can't bring himself to do anything. It turns out that Slugman is Jerma, as a metaphor for his struggle to overcome laziness.
- Zig-zagged in Within the Wires when "Cassette #1: Stress, Shoulders," Side B has its Narrator instructing its listener, the patient in a research hospital, to imagine themself as a dragonfly handled by a little girl. While the metaphor would initially suggest that the Narrator is the girl grown up, Cassette #2 implies and Cassette #6 confirms that the girl is the patient, with the Narrator trying to cure her Laser-Guided Amnesia.
- On American Dad!, Roger uses this as part of a convoluted back story for his made-up detective persona.
Roger: My name is Braff Zacklin. I was an international race car driver. One day a baby carriage rolled onto the tracks, so I swerved into the retaining wall to avoid it. The car burst into flames, but the baby miraculously survived. I was that baby.Steve: That doesn't make any sense.Roger: I'M BRAFF ZACKLIN!
- In Recess, Spinelli's ballet teacher tells her, "You remind me of little dancer known by me in old country." "Yeah? What's she doing now?" asks Spinelli. "That I am telling later," replies the teacher. After her big ballet recital, Spinelli asks what happened to the girl, and the teacher reveals, "little girl was me."
- In Rugrats, there's a scene where an old lady is relating to Grandpa Lou about a man who showed her some kindness when she was younger, and how she never got the chance to thank him. Grandpa just smiles and replies "You just did." They get married in the second movie.
- In The Simpsons, Otto tells a bedtime story to Lisa, the Urban Legend of a woman outrunning a driver who seems to be stalking her, but was actually trying to warn her of the axe wielding maniac in the back seat. He then asks her if she wants to know how he knows the story: "I....was that maniac" Cue Homer and Marge hearing Lisa's screams.
- An informational video about restraining orders narrated by Gary Busey tells the story of Joe, a Stalker With a Crush who received a restraining order from the object of his desires, Mary. At the end of the video...
Busey: I'm gonna let you in on a little secret: Joe is me. And Mary is a composite of twelve different women and a small, independent film company; all of whom couldn't deal with me because I'm too real.
- An informational video about restraining orders narrated by Gary Busey tells the story of Joe, a Stalker With a Crush who received a restraining order from the object of his desires, Mary. At the end of the video...
- Played with in an episode of Hey Arnold! when Arnold is complaining about Helga. Grandpa Phil tells Arnold about a little girl named Gertie in his class that was horrible to him and spent the school year making him miserable. At the end of the episode Arnold's Grandma states that she was that very girl - though Arnold doesn't hear it. Which leads to some Fridge Logic when you realize that Arnold probably knows his grandmother's name, and so he should've have made the connection that Gertie was his grandma, especially since it's a really uncommon name.
- Gertie sounds like a nickname. Which means that maybe she isn't called by that by anyone except Phil anymore.
- Gertie is usually the nickname for Gertrude. But everybody calls Arnold's grandmother Pookie.
- In an episode of the Madeline animated series, Madeline is humiliated when she messes up during a ballet recital. She's then told a story by a professional ballerina about another girl who messed up, but got back out there and kept trying. "That little girl...was me!"
- Inverted in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Katara goes to find the leader of the Fire Nation raiders that killed her mother. Yon Rha reveals via flashback that he was sent to kill the last waterbender of the tribe. Kya, seeking to protect the tribe and her daughter, who had interrupted the conversation moments before, falsely confesses to being that waterbender.
Katara: She lied to you. She was protecting the last waterbender.Yon Rha: What? Who?Katara: ... ME! *cue terrifyingly badass display of using waterbending to suspend the rain*
- On Metalocalypse, Pickles once took his bandmates on a tour of the sleaziest parts of Los Angeles, in an attempt to teach them about the drug-fueled excesses of 80's glam rock (and why he thought they were awesome.) He concluded the tour in an alleyway where he once saw a famous male singer performing oral sex on a guy. "And that guy...was me," he says. The others are shocked, and then Pickles laughs at them and says he was just kidding.
- In the ThunderCats (2011) episode "The Duelist and the Drifter", the Drifter, a.k.a. Hattanzo the Swordmaker uses this technique to relate his past to Lion-O, warning the young hero that he'll inevitably duplicate his failure because they're Not So Different.
- In an episode of Transformers Prime, Ratchet tells Raf how the field medic who saved Bumblebee after Megatron had tortured him wasn't able to fix Bumblebee's voice box. He was speaking about his OWN inability to completely fix Bumblebee since he was that field medic.
Ratchet: Yes, well... the medic could have done better.
- The first Care Bears movie had the old man who head of an orphanage tell a story about a possessed magician's apprentice named Nicholas who was saved by the Care Bears. In the end, his wife calls him by name, Nicholas.
- The Care Bears Nutcracker Suite features a ballet teacher telling her class about her favorite version of The Nutcracker, one where a girl named Anna goes with the Nutcracker and the Care Bears to Toyland. After saving Toyland, Anna wakes up to find it was All Just a Dream...but then she meets her new neighbor Alan who looks exactly like the Nutcracker's human form, and gives her a nutcracker as a Christmas gift. At the end of the movie, the teacher leaves with her boyfriend Alan, causing the students to deduce that she must be Anna.
- Subverted by Granny in Squidbillies when she explains how Gaga Pee Pap ran out on their family:
Granny: He done married me, got me pregnant, ran off with some floozie bitch and had a baby. And that baby grew up to be... me.Early: She don't fully recollect her connection to the man.Granny: What man?
- Played with in The Powerpuff Girls episode "Abracadaver." The zombie magician mistakes Blossom as the little girl who way back in the old days caused his untimely demise.
- Bee and Puppycat: Implied. Puppycat tells Wallace and Bee a story about a (presumably human) outlaw who fell in love with a princess, but was betrayed by the princess and her father. The end of the short shows Puppycat looking out the window with a reflection resembling the outlaw.
- The Rankin Bass special The First Easter Rabbit reveals in the end that the narrator E.B. (voiced by Burl Ives) is the special's protagonist Stuffy, now much older.
- The Tex Avery cartoon Dixieland Droopy tells the story of how John Irving Pettybone (Droopy the dog) acquires a Dixieland band made up of fleas, granting him his life-long dream of being a Dixieland conductor. At the end, the cartoon's narrator is revealed to be Pee Wee Runt, the trumpet-player in the band.
- Another Tex Avery cartoon, The First Bad Man, tells the story of Dino Dan, the first criminal in Texas history. At the end, it turns out that Dino Dan is the narrator.
- While The Boy and the World is devoid of dialogue, it is strongly hinted that the man in the rainbow hat is the titular boy.
- Parodied in this exchange from The Amazing World of Gumball's episode "The Pest":
Billy: There once was a happy boy who—Gumball: Can we just stick to the subject, please?Billy: The boy is me, it's a story about me.Gumball: Oh, sorry, please continue.
- There's a famous Real Life subversion of this. American psychologist Gordon Allport was visiting Sigmund Freud and told him a story of a boy he'd seen on the train who wouldn't sit near anyone dirty. Allport said that the boy's mother seemed to be domineering, which might have something to do with his behavior. Freud leaned over to him and said, "And was that little boy you?" It was not.
- A story (perhaps anecdotal or urban legend) of an artist who was commissioned to do the life of Christ in a giant mural. He started with Christ's birth, using the most cherubic baby he could find as a model, and after years reached the end, but was only stuck on the model for Judas. He simply could not find anyone degraded enough to use, until he finally found a worn-out drunk with the most depraved look and hired him. The drunk could hardly refuse the money, but when they reached the studio and saw the mural he burst into tears. Asked why, he said "I know about this painting. My mother told me about it. I was the model for the Christ child."
- There is a similar story about Leonardo Da Vinci painting the Last Supper. In order to find the appropriate look for Judas, he went to the local prisons and found a man who looked haggard, angry and dangerous and used him as the model. Some years later he still hadn't found the right person to stand in for Jesus. While pondering the question, a man walked into the studio who looked perfect, clean, with kind features. Leonardo immediately chose the man as his inspiration for Jesus. When Leonardo asked the man if they had ever met, the man replied "Yes, I was Judas."