A specific variant of Foreshadowing
, in which a character has foreseen the circumstances under which he or she is going to die, whether by natural means or foul play. The character may also predict when and where the exact time and location of their death will be.
However, while in some cases the character may know that it's their own demise they're predicting, other times they may not be aware.
The character's death may be forecast through some incident, phrase or item that will later become a Chekhov's Gun
or Meaningful Echo
. The Incurable Cough of Death
is often a giveaway clue.
The Magical Negro
or The Omniscient
might wind up doing this at some point, although it's not a constant or necessary factor of either character. It may also be a consequence of the Mentor Occupational Hazard
Depending on the circumstances, and if they knew what those circumstances would be, the character's response to this knowledge will vary. They may Go Out with a Smile
and Face Death with Dignity
. Or they may decide that Prescience Is Predictable
since they already know how they're going to die anyway. Or they may Go Mad from the Revelation
Compare You Can't Fight Fate
, where a person resigns themselves to the fate outlined for them, and Prophecies Are Always Right
, which is...well
. Also see Your Days Are Numbered
, where they know they don't have long to live (but they may or may not know how long they have, and the prediction is the result of a force or circumstance outside of themselves).
Not the same as the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
, Whodunnit to Me
or Thanatos Gambit
NOTE: A character foreseeing or predicting someone else's
death is not this trope. The character has to be predicting their own death.
As a Death Trope, all examples, by their very nature, will be treated as spoilers.
Anime and Manga
- In Clover, people with powers are known as Clovers, with the number of cloves indicating how powerful they are. Oruha is categorized as a lowly "one-leaf clover" because her only power is the ability to predict her own death.
- Chrono Crusade: Mary Magdalene knew from birth that she would die because of her contract with Chrono.
Film - Live Action
- In Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Monitor is aware that Harbinger will betray and kill him and incorporates her treachery into his plans.
- In Smax, a powerful dragon has such precise visions of the future he can send a message to a woman through an anagram that someone who met the dragon once heard him say. The woman, Robyn, happens to build a giant ballista with a giant bolt made of Cold Iron, the one thing that could kill the dragon. The dragon gets distracted chasing Smax right into it, and takes the iron right in the heart. His final words are "I knew this would happen!"
- The 1982 Jamaican film Countryman has one minor character do this, though he himself isn't aware he's predicting his own death. The foreshadowing is done through a chart on the cycle of life which he's teaching to the village children from early in the film, which portrays a mule-drawn dray-cart as one of its most significant illustrations of death. He's later beaten to death by corrupt cops and his body is taken back to the village on a very similar cart.
- Any protagonist doing this is what kicks off the plots of the Final Destination series. The deaths of a small group of people is avoided as a result, but then Death gets mad...
- In Big Fish, the main character knows how he will die because he looked into a witch's eye. Later he escapes a scrape as he announces "This isn't how I die!"
- Subverted in that he actually doesn't know, since he made up the whole story, but has his son make up his own story of how he died at his deathbed.
- In Sherlock Holmes, Watson claims to have met a man in India who accurately predicted the circumstances of his death, including the number of bullets and where they hit him.
- In Matrix: Revolutions, the Oracle foresees her death / assimilation by the rogue Agent Smith, as evidenced by her calm, unsurprised demeanor when he finally arrives at her current place of residence.
Live Action TV
- A characteristic of witches and wizards in Discworld, witches usually use their visions to get their affairs in order while wizards prefer to empty their wine cellars and run up a ton of debts.
- In Moby-Dick, Queequeg saw his own death in the bones he cast—probably a link to the later death of everyone when the ship sank.
- Warrior Cats:
- At the beginning of Twilight, a cat is informed by Star Clan of their impending death. It's later revealed to be Cinderpelt, who dies defending a cat giving birth from badgers.
- Toward the end of one of the Expanded Universe novels, it is mentioned that medicine cat Goosefeather predicted that he would die on the day of the first snowfall, and he did.
- Robert A. Heinlein's short story "Life-line". Professor Pinero builds a machine that can electronically predict the exact date and time of a person's death. He writes down when his own death will occur and seals it inside an envelope. When he's murdered, the envelope is opened and the prediction turns out to be correct.
- In Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy Pilgrim is unstuck in time and thus has experienced his own death several times "beforehand" - so he isn't really surprised when he is shot after one of his speeches.
- Jojen Reed from A Song of Ice and Fire is heavily implied to have done this - he was blessed with symbolic visions of the future, and throughout the series, he repeatedly tells Bran and his sister that "this is not the day he dies."
- The Hungarian novel The Book of Fathers is about twelve generations of a Hungarian family, where the firstborn son has an ability to see into the past of his ancestors, or into the future. Nándor Csillag, who lived in the first half of the 20th century, once has a vision of how his life will end; choking to death with many others in semidarkness. He couldn't understand it. Because he was of Jewish descent, eventually he was gassed to death in Auschwitz.
- In Who Fears Death, when doing the test in order to learn the Four Mystic Points, Onyesonwu experiences being stoned to death. Later she realizes that it was her death she saw and sure enough, in one of the last few chapters, she is stoned to death.
- Centauri of Babylon 5 have prophetic dreams of their deaths. Londo recognizes G'Kar as the one who kills him the first time they meet (but doesn't realize that it was a Mercy Kill).
- On The X-Files, in the episode "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose", Peter Boyle played a man who could accurately predict the manner of someone's death, including his own.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer had an episode in season 7 with a girl who told Buffy she was going to die at a certain point. Buffy saved her from a demon worshipping cult that was going to sacrifice her...only for her to die from a heart problem.
- Doctor Who:
- A rather interesting variation occurs in Series 6, in which the Doctor invites his younger self and three others to see his own death, but he's the only one of the four that doesn't see it. For the rest of the first half of the season, Amy and Rory know exactly when, where and how the Doctor is going to die, but they can't tell him (lest they make it fixed in his timeline too, preventing him from escaping it). He doesn't find out about his death until "The Almost People" and the full circumstances surrounding it until "Let's Kill Hitler".
- The 2009 specials had the Doctor receiving a prophecy of his "death" from Carmen ("He will knock four times"), but he doesn't find out what it means until "The End of Time".
- In "The Name of the Doctor", it's revealed that the Eleventh Doctor has been aware of this for some time, knowing both the location and guessing at some of the circumstances of the Doctor's eventual death at Trenzalore. Note that this isn't actually the death of his Eleventh incarnation, but rather the ultimate fate of the Doctor himself. He freely admits that this is something that cannot be avoided and that he will always die at Trenzalore in one last final battle. The swirling energy that comprises his timestream and serves as his "corpse" makes this point even more obvious.
- Syd Barrett's album Barrett has a song called "Effervescing Elephant". The elephant in this song predicts he will die in June because of a roaming tiger. While the jungle animals flee the tiger assures them he will not hurt one of them, but prefers something that is less scant to chew on, namely the elephant, who is then eaten by him.
- In the opening of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Uriel Septim states that he is aware of his own imminent death and is powerless to prevent it moments before it happens.
- There's a Dark Brotherhood assassin in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim named Gabriella who claims to have foreseen the circumstances of her own death. She's eventually killed when the Imperial bodyguard, the Penitus Oculatus, raid the sanctuary where she lives, but since she doesn't share any of the details of her prediction, it's left vague as to whether or not that's how she expected to die.
- After the death of Kodlak Whitemane during the Companion Questline, his journal reveals that he had long since been plagued by dreams of Tsun barring the Harbingers before him from entering Sovngarde because of their Lycanthropy, letting Hircine drag them to his hunting grounds for all eternity. When it came to his turn, he saw the Dragonborn step in and fight alongside his spirit, ultimately freeing his soul from the Daedric Prince's clutches and allowing him to enter the Nordic afterlife. It turns out this was the real reason he took the Dragonborn under his wing and placed such trust and faith in them.
- In Persona 3, the forced awakening of Chidori's Persona gave her foreknowledge of her own death. The knowledge sent her catapulting over the Despair Event Horizon and made her susceptible to Takaya's nihilistic preaching, leading to her recruitment into Strega.
- Nozdormu, as part of his powers as the World of Warcraft's Aspect of Time, was given foreknowledge of the exact time and manner of his death. In fact, he oversees the players' killing his future self at the end of the End Time instance.
- Implied in Final Fantasy II that Minwu knew he was going to die, if not exactly when he did, then the general idea of it.
- Final Fantasy XIII-2: It is said that the Seer of Paddra (aka Yeul) always knew her fate — right down to the exact time and circumstances (usually the result of a vision), but was unable to change it — for fear of bringing a worse one upon her people.
- Rika Furude in Higurashi tells Akasaka in the Time Killing Chapter that she will be killed around the Cotton Drifting festival of 1983. She knows this due to the Ground Hog Day Loop.
- Quite a few characters from Homestuck, specifically Aradia!bot right before she exploded, seemed to know they were going to die soon. Somewhat subverted though because in Homestuck, Death Is Cheap.
- The Oracle in The Order of the Stick is able to foresee the time and circumstances of his own deaths, and hires a wizard and a cleric to teleport to the place where he died at very specific times and cast a resurrection spell on him. If he foresees himself being murdered, he'll also manipulate circumstances to screw with whoever carried out the murder.
- Soviet gymnast and 1978 World Champion Elena Mukhinanote , while training for the 1980 Olympic Games, told her coaches that she would surely break her neck attempting the complicated roll-out floor skill the Thomas salto. Two weeks before the Games and less than a month after her twentieth birthday, Elena's prediction came true; the exhausted, starved, overworked, and still-injured gymnast underrotated the salto, snapping her neck and rendering her instantly quadriplegic. She died of complications from her accident in 2006. She later said that her first thought as she lay on the floor was, "Thank God, I won't have to go to the Olympics."
- Apparently, soldiers of the Napoleonic Wars had psychic tendencies.
- Marshal Jean Lannes told Doctor Lannefranque, who was tending to the wounded in the aftermath of the first day of the Battle of Essling (21 May 1809), that he had a feeling that he would need Lannefranque's services soon, and that whatever the issue, it would he bis last battle. On the evening of the next day, he was brought in with both legs shattered by a cannonball and died of gangrene nine days later.
- On the morning of 6 July 1809, General Antoine Lasalle found his pipe and alcohol vials broken and was in a sombre mood for the whole day. In the evening, took a stray bullet to the head.
- General Thiébault, who recounts the anecdote about Lasalle, also gives a near-fatal example: during the siege of Genoa, he had to bring an order to Colonel Mouton, who replied "That's a f... suicidal order you're bringing." He carried it out nonetheless, and was brought back grievously wounded.
- On the morning of 1 May 1813, Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bessières burnt all of his wife's letter and refused to eat at first; but when his aides-de-camp finally convinced him to have something, he muttered: "If I am to die today, I do not want to die on an empty stomach." A few hours later...
- On 22 May 1813, General Géraud Duroc, one of Napoleon's most devoted men, sounded particularly defeatist as he told his friend Marshal Marmont: "Napoleon's thirst for battle is endless... He will get us all killed!" He was eviscerated by a cannonball and died at dawn on the next day.