"Aiii, destruction for us all! Pain and fire and the fall of towers. Magic of the strangest sort loosed upon the land! A plague, a pox, the bane of all wizards!"Fortune Tellers, palm-readers, fire-readers, insect-entrails-on-windshield-readers and other assorted diviners are canaries in the mineshaft of adventure. They pick up approaching trouble and reveal it in the form of ominous, inconclusive forebodings even when they shouldn't be able to. That's all well and good for ordinary disasters, but when a Third Eye gets smacked with a half-brick of the end of all things, getting the gravitas across takes a fit. Screams, spasms, visible exhaustion, malfunctioning seer's tools, it's all good. Fainting is not required but makes for a suitably dramatic finish. Sometimes the interruption means that the prophecy in question is incomplete — in some cases when the seer dies or the props are destroyed, it's because an interested third party is trying to hide the outcome. What all this amounts to is a psychic version of The Worf Effect, and is equally popular with telepaths and empaths. You know shit's serious when the team psi keels over in the middle of a scan. A Fainting Seer clearly has some actual power: fakes value customer satisfaction. Nothing spoils a date at the fair like a fortune-teller who starts screaming about death, DEATH, oblivion shrouding the land with its brimstone veil, yea, the very HEAVENS dripping with human gore, aaaiiiigh... etc. A variation on My Significance Sense Is Tingling. Frequently paired with The Force Is Strong with This One and Poke in the Third Eye. Can be related to or cause even be the cause of Mad Oracle. Can overlap with Power Strain Blackout. If trouble happens a lot — compare The Ophelia. Historically, this was invoked in many traditions by viewing narcolepsy or epilepsy (both commonly referred to as "the falling/sleeping sickness") as signs that one was gifted with prophesy. See Post-Victory Collapse when the hero breaks down due to physical or mental exhaustion.
— Rick Cook, Wizard's Bane
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Mysterious Waif Tiffa Addil from Gundam X often collapses when she uses her Newtype powers to see the future. In the second episode, when she uses them to give Garrod access to the Gundam X's Satellite System, poor Tiffa has an horrible Heroic B.S.O.D. and almost dies of pain.
- The Vision of Escaflowne is a rare example of the Fainting Seer as the main character. Ordinary High-School Student Hitomi Kanzaki often uses tarot cards to read people's futures (and she once receives a nasty surprise when she gets phantom-attacked by the Death card). She also makes a chilling discovery later when she finds out that her anxiety about the future is actually causing the worst-case scenarios she fears to come true.
- And then there's the time when she's being questioned, is asked to "show how her powers work," and then gets a good shot of Mind Rape before dying. Which prompts Van and Allen to run, very very fast.
- In Puni Puni Poemi the local Fainting Seer has a vision while in the bath with her sisters, who then rush out to confront the evil and leave her there.
- In Toriko, a fortune teller asked his crystal ball about Zebra - the ball, instead, chose to self-destruct.
- While Haruka of Kotoura-san is a telepath, this is usually not a problem for her... until episode 8's stinger, when she collapsed after having a vision of a violent crime. This happens again at the end of episode 10.
- Both subverted and used straight by Dreamer in DC Comics' post-Zero Hour Legion of Super-Heroes continuity: she is a narcoleptic precognitive whose visions come to her in dreams, with the result that she pitches into a dramatic swoon any time a prophecy hits her, even if - as it is the first time we see it during her interview at the Legion's try-outs - it's a fairly immediate and small-scale prediction. On the other hand, for major visions, the fainting is often followed by a full-scale freak-out.
- Later, she undergoes Training from Hell to gain better control over her power... and becomes insomniac.
- Mrs. Yamilah from the Tintin book The Seven Crystal Balls scream and faints after announcing that a spectator's husband just fell ill from a curse.
- Pretty much everyone associated with the X-Men who has mental powers has an episode like this at least twice.
- Subverted in From Hell, where Queen Victoria's royal psychic Robert Lees claims he was a Phony Psychic all along and he faked the seizures as part of his performance.
"I'd even pee in my trousers sometimes, for emphasis. Only during childhood, naturally. I'd long since purged my repertroire of that device by the time I was ninteen and first introduced to Her Majesty."
- The Silver Surfer suffered a brief bout of paralyzing psychic horror upon encountering Terminus for the first time, since Terminus destroys planets much the way Galactus does, but has none of the "keeping the cosmic balance" justifications for it that Galactus does. Terminus destroys planets for money. This scene was rather Narmy, since even as bad as Terminus is, the Surfer gets into fights with far worse opponents on a pretty regular basis.
Films — Animated
- Fiver in Watership Down, especially the animated film version; trapped in the warren, particularly, he swoons and froths at the mouth while panicking over what he thinks (correctly) is certain doom all around them. His ravings give Hazel a cunning plan which results in doom for the attacking Efrafans only.
- The Simpsons Movie opens with Grampa having a convulsive fit in church as he gives a dire warning: "Twisted tail! A thousand eyes! Trapped forever! Eepa! EEEEEPAAAA!"
Films — Live-Action
- Downplayed in Blackbird, in which Randy has inexplicable premonitions of Leslie's death, and the first one leaves him momentarily dizzy and unresponsive.
- In Diana Wynne Jones's The Merlin Conspiracy, when a new Merlin is introduced to give a prophecy, he begins weeping and faints. The audience is unimpressed, and complain that they wound up with one of the 'weepy' kinds of seer.
- Subverted in David Eddings' The Belgariad. When Garion's party gets caught in a magical face-off where taunts are exchanged in the form of each side's seer getting visions of the demon they need to summon, Silk's opponent blatantly rips off Silk's vision by applying Bigger Is Better to it and then dramatically faints to cap it off. When it is evident that a giant demon is about to materialize right on top of him, the seer then wakes up without prompting to scramble out of the way.
- Literary example of the interrupted prophecy type: in the Weis and Hickman Darksword Chronicles, the protagonist is the subject of an ancient prophecy that states that he will bring about the doom of the world. It turns out the prophet died before he could speak the last line, and in the third book the prophet's ghost reveals the last clause — "... or its salvation."
- Another example, where the interruption is due to enemy action - in The Dresden Files urban fantasy/detective stories, a prophecy has been given that if Harry the protagonist gets involved in the pursuit of a group of powerful demons, he will die. Harry discovers that the leader of the villains blocked the second part of the prophecy - that if Harry didn't get involved, the whole city would die. And, in the end, prophecy in this series isn't completely inevitable — an ally with terminal cancer takes Harry's place at the last minute, in an Heroic Sacrifice.
- Hen Wen (a clairvoyant pig) in The High King, including a combination of terrified refusal to pass on her visions, and bizarre, nonsensical prophecies before the oracular sticks shatter and she goes into Heroic B.S.O.D..
- In The Wheel of Time series, Gitara Moroso dies from the shock of a Foretelling that the Dragon is at that very moment being reincarnated on the nearby slopes of Dragonmount.
- In Harry Potter, Sybill Trelawney always faints after going into a trance and prophesying. This, as far as we know, only happened to her grand total of twice in her lifetime. She doesn't remember it afterwards, and therefore not even aware of having that ability.
- Omitted from The Movie, probably to save time.
- Zhegorz Fiavrus, from Tamora Pierce's Cold Fire and The Will of the Empress, can't see the future, but can see distant images on the wind. This has slowly driven him mad, and he gets very agitated when he sees anything important: "Game pieces, game pieces! See the pretty game pieces, the ladies and the mages, two in one, a nice long game of capture the pieces!"
- In Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, a character repeatedly draws an Emperor card from the Tarot deck. Each time, the card looks more and more like the legendary figure the Raven King. It ends with his shrieking about the fortune this tells.
- Warhammer 40,000 - of course - loooves this trope. Only being WH 40k the seers (astropaths and other psykers) don't usually faint. They tend to explode.
- Fiver from Watership Down is prone to fits of panic after his visions, particularly towards the end.
- Childhood's End features a group of party-goers trying out a ouija board. Clarke, being a hard science fiction writer, explains the ouija board's mysterious powers by way of subconscious personal knowledge from at least one of the planchette-holders. One of the members asks what planet the Alien Overloads come from. When the ouija gives out an answer (which turns out to have been 100% accurate), one of the women faints (who turns out to have been the person who subconsciously knew the answer).
- Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet describes a few of these from a first-person perspective. It turns out that when the titular prophet foresees a death by gunfire, he actually feels the bullets. Ouch.
- Time Scout's Ianira Cassondra is sometime overwhelmed by her prophetic trances.
- In the Age of Fire Series, Wistala plays this part first as an act when traveling with a circus, then later in order to infiltrate the dwarvish Wheel Of Fire empire. She's actually very successful on acount of being a rare dragon seer and one of her wild predictions coming true rather publicly.
- After she leaves the circus, she's replaced by the human girl Iatella, who appears to be the genuine article, given how she accurately foretells Wistala reuniting with her brothers and hinting at the events that follow, before passing out in shock.
- Lots in the Tales of the Branion Realm series, to the point where it's standard practice for an acolyte to physically hold the Seer steady while he prophesies. They tend to hit their heads otherwise.
- Vincent Demabrien collapses in a shivering fit during a seance with the ghost of Grendille Moran in The Mirador. Even when he isn't deliberately engaging with the dead, their presence makes him tired and nervous.
- In The House of Night, Aphrodite's visions leave her extremely faint and jittery. She becomes a Cassandra Truth when she falls from Neferet's good graces.
- The title character in Helen Cresswell's Ordinary Jack was pretending to be a prophet as an attention-getting gambit due to feeling unappreciated by his far less ordinary family. His Uncle Parker, who came up with the scheme, instructed him to swoon after every "vision" he managed to pull off.
- In Rachel Griffin, Nastasia sees visions of certain people when she touches them. When she shakes hands with someone she's been warned (by a girl named Cassandra, no less) not to touch, she passes out.
- This occurs in "The Message," the fourth book in the Animorphs series. Both Cassie and Tobias receive psychic messages from a distance; when they do, they pass out simultaneously. It turns out that these messages are the thought-speak of Ax, who's trapped in the Andalite's crashed Dome Ship.
- In "The Heroes of Olympus" The Lost Hero, Rachel passes out after speaking in someone else's voice and issuing a prophetic message. Piper notes that the other campers appear to be used to this, as they calmly pull up a chair and wait for her to wake up.
- In The Taggerung, the renowned seer Grissoul dies after proclaiming (in verse) that Ruggan Bor must beware of Redwall. This is exactly why Bor does not listen to her, and consequently gets his ass kicked several chapters later.
"She was old. Foxes die when they get too old."
- One Nation Under Jupiter: The oracle at the Temple of Apollo, who delivers a foreboding prediction to Diagoras before collapsing.
- In the Chalet School series, Fiona McDonald turns out to be one. She uses her psychic powers to tell Joey in Highland Twins that Joey's husband Jack, who was thought to have drowned, is actually alive and well, albeit injured. She falls into a long sleep afterwards.
Live Action TV
- Phoebe from Charmed never has a premonition without the standard gasping, shuddering, staggering, but when she has a particularly scary one (e.g. Herself being burned at the stake in Morality Bites) it's usually accompanied by her falling over, crying, screaming, and generally freaking out other people.
- Smallville had a blind seer who looked into Lex Luthor's future, and she died. The audience got to watch her vision, and it wasn't pretty.
- Cordelia gets this.
- Well, she's really more of a "Crippling Migraine Seer."
- And the migraines are so bad that they tend to turn her into a Shrieking, Twitching, Convulsing And Then Fainting Seer.
- That, if she hadn't become half-demon, would have been "Blow the back of your skull off Seer."
- A more literal example would be one of Lorne's earlier appearances, "Happy Anniversary." Using his power to read peoples futures through karaoke, Lorne reads a shy guy who comes into his karaoke bar one night. He receives a vision that tells him that the world is going to end because of this man in just a night's time (or rather specifically that there is "nothing" after a certain point in time). The vision knocks Lorne out, and he doesn't come to until after the guy leaves.
- Another example, in "Hell Bound," a medium suffers a Psychic Nosebleed while being murdered by a dark spirit, mid-seance.
- Cordelia gets this.
- The seers in the Doctor Who episode "The Fires of Pompeii" aren't seeing the volcano erupt, but one of them still faints when she is able to see that the Doctor is "a Lord, sir...a Lord of Time."
- Justified in Heroes, where Isaac Mendez uses heroin to get his visions of the future.
- In season four of Supernatural, the boys go to a psychic to try to find out what raised Dean from Hell. When she manages to trace the thing's true form (which turns out to be an angel), her eyes burn out. We see her in a later episode, and she's mostly fine, with glass eyes with milky pupils that she says sells the "seer" look.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer had Drusilla, a girl cursed with visions that took a serious physical toll on her, even after she was turned into a vampire. Depending on the nature of the vision, it could manifest as anything from fainting spells to migraines and awful stomach cramps, or just sounding like whispers to her.
- Garth Marenghis Darkplace has Liz seeing what becomes of Garth's old friend( He explodes) in a horrifying vision, crushing Sanchez's hand in the process.
- Happens a few times in Mutant X with Emma, who although isn't a seer is said to have constant headaches because of it.
- Built in the game mechanics of Earthdawn, sort of : whenever a mage (or windling) uses his astral sight in a place where an horror dwells, he takes damage.
- In Warhammer 40,000, it's less Fainting Seer and more like Seer with A Serious Case of Exploding Head. The main culprit is usually incoming Tyranids Hive Fleet or incoming Warp Storm.
- Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers has a standard seer freak-out, plus awfully specific horoscopes that must give several hundred thousand non-protagonist Aquarii a fright.
- Lampshaded in the game, when on the last day Gabriel comments as he reads his horoscope that somewhere in town is a schoolteacher who is very, very puzzled.
- Played with a bit in Breath of Fire I. The seer, Bleu, tries to determine the party's future by looking at a crystal ball. It shatters, but she simply shrugs and mutters that it's probably nothing to worry about.
- In Diablo II: Lord of Destruction, the seer of Harrogath, the home base for the expansion back, has her hair turn white, goes shrieking mad, and dies when she sees what's coming.
- Variation in Mass Effect. During the prologue, Shepard meets a man who is having a freak-out related to his predictions (which happen to foreshadow major future plot points). He doesn't faint, but Renegade Shepard can punch him into unconsciousness.
- Played initially straight with Shepard and the Prothean beacons, as encountering the first beacon knocks them out for over 15 hours straight and causes them to suffer horrible nightmares about the end of all organic life. Averted later, as Shepard apparently builds up a tolerance to the visions and when they encounter another beacon on Virmire, they remain conscious throughout and only momentarily dazed afterwards. By the second game, Shepard is barely affected by another version of the Prothean message encountered and in the From Ashes DLC of Mass Effect 3, when Shepard views the Prothean data recordings detailing the fall of the Prothean settlement on Eden Prime, they simply tune out for a minute or so.
- Played straight with Liara however in the first game, when she offers to meld with Shepard to help you sort out the visions. The process leaves her decidedly woozy each time and she'll ask you if she can go crash in sickbay for a while afterwards. Somewhat justified, as she's not a particularly experienced melder and she can barely handle the intensity of the vision, commenting that it was most likely Shepard's sheer force of will that prevented it from destroying their mind.
- Baldur's Gate, being set in the fairly magic-saturated Forgotten Realms, has plenty of NPCs who comment on sensing a great destiny is in store for the PC. However, anyone you meet who claims to be an actual Seer or Fortune-Teller will have a massive freakout on being asked to see your future. Then there's "The Nice and Ominous Prophecies of Alaundo the Wise,
WitchSeer", which give the distinct impression their original rendition wasn't quite as calm as their current recitations in Candlekeep.
- One of the seers actually gives you your money back, and will rather fight to the death then tell you the truth if you try to press her to tell you what she saw.
- Elayna from Star Ocean: The Last Hope faints after having an apocalyptic vision of the future. It's a wonder that our heroes actually come to her aid when she does, as she spent the previous 20 minutes trash talking and verbally abusing them. She makes up for it later, however.
- Played with slightly in the obscure game Falling Stars. When your party consults a seer in regards to the Big Bad, she starts rattling something off. The BBEG notices her probing and kills her from halfway across the world to keep her from saying too much.
- In Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, two Fortune Teller sisters have set up shop in Harapa. The younger offers Matthew and friends a free reading from her crystal ball, and has a vision of them bringing disaster upon the world. This frightens her into a fit, and she refuses to ever tell fortunes for "those accursed warriors" again. Her sister completely averts this trope by remaining calm, upbeat, and giving some advice that's actually pretty helpful even in the middle of the aforementioned disaster.
- Much later in the game, our heroes arrive in Yamatai and learn that the princess has been having fainting fits and visions of terrible danger. A strange stone they've acquired enables her to stay conscious and coherent through her visions, and in repayment she joins them to find a way to end the Eclipse.
- In Icewind Dale 2, you meet an already-fainted seer who attempted to scry on the goblin army attacking the Ten-Towns and got a nasty Poke in the Third Eye from a goblin shaman. He is alive and recovering but only halfway conscious and lucid and speaks in riddles.
- Final Fantasy XIII-2: Serah and Yuel both have visions (albeit involuntarily) when the timeline is altered (ie when paradoxes are created or destroyed). At first, they experience mild headaches during their visions, but each time it gets a little bit worse (until they get to the point where they faint each time), and they eventually die.
- Noel: You're not having visions, are you?Serah: N..no. I'm fine.
- The title character of Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire has been known to have some very strange things happen when he has major visions. When he first saw the Storm of Souls, he spent a week in a coma. Later in the same story arc, an accident with a teleportation spell during a vision caused white light to come out of his eyes, and he was subsequently teleported to another plane.
- The psychic in the Nightmare World story entitled "Enjoy the Silence". A minor subversion as she handles the situation comparatively well, though she still is deeply shaken.
- This strip of Those Destined, right after Rae removes the collar that hid her Chosen One aura.
- A seer's tool freaks out in 8-Bit Theater.
Matoya: Stupid Light Warriors must've broken my crystal. I keep asking for lotto numbers and all I get is "The Destroyer Is Manifest."
- Jade Harley from Homestuck. Her narcolepsy sometimes leads her to mix up the present and the future. It's actually a subversion - Jade doesn't have any innate power to see the future. Her dream self just happens to be in a place where visions from the past and future appear on clouds. We later find that she's not actually narcoleptic either - an alien from an Alternate Universe was putting her to sleep with Mind Control.
- This happened in the Global Guardians PBEM Universe when Second Sight, perhaps the most powerful precog in the setting, got flashes of the upcoming apocalypse when Dagon began his plot to unleash the Great Old Ones from their interdimensional prison. The shock of the visions knocked her unconscious for nearly an hour.
- Rather than drawing Death repeatedly, in the Whateley Universe, Gypsy (a precog with a long family history and an ancestral Tarot deck) does a reading for Carmilla (who is literally more than half-demon). The first card is 'the Devil'. So is each successive card. When someone else turns over the same card, he gets the Three of Wands. Because the deck is alive and magical too.
- In the Gaia Online Manga series, Ms. Fortune predicts that 'a new threat shall come, one group shall survive or all will perish'. Of course, whatever this 'new threat' is is so terrible that Ms. Fortune delivers it twitching and holding her head in agony on the floor.
- In Engines of Creation, Terra Murphy, a small-town Canadian girl and marijuana enthusiast suffers from the occasional debilitating vision-induced seizure.
- Parodied in Avatar: The Last Airbender, when Aang has his fortune read by the fortuneteller throwing a bone into a fire in order to read the cracks that form. The bone explodes, signifying the great battle between Good and Evil that Aang is going to be in the middle of. Aang, of course, already knows about that, and is much more interested in seeing if he will ever marry Katara.
- In an episode of Justice League Unlimited, when Felix Faust usurps Hades's place in the underworld, magically-sensitive characters Dr. Fate and Zatanna find themselves in a bad way, laid out on their beds and screaming in pain.
Zatanna: !lleH fo enorht eht no stis tsuaF
- Whenever Cheetara uses her Sixth Sense in ThunderCats (1985), it leaves her drained and weakened.
- Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers: Niko can usually handle whatever she senses through her Psychic Powers. There have been a few occasions where it sucker-punches her, though. The best example was in "New Frontier" where she tries to find Eliza. As she's reaching out to find Eliza's presence, she runs straight into the Queen...who is much more powerful and forcefully ejects her. It causes Niko to briefly black out and fall over the console, freaking Zachary out.