Calvin: "If you could have anything in the world right now, what would it be? Anything at all! Whatever you want!"
Hobbes: "A sandwich."
Calvin: "A sandwich?!? What kind of stupid wish is that?! Talk about a failure of imagination! I'd ask for a trillion billion dollars, my own space shuttle, and a private continent!"
(Cut to kitchen)
Hobbes: [eating a sandwich] "I got my wish."
With a puff of smoke, Alice the Genie appears! Solemnly, she tells Bob that because of his tireless efforts in browsing TV Tropes for nineteen hours straight, she will grant him one wish
— anything at all.
Bob, after a moment's thought, wishes for a bag of potato chips.
is the trope when a character, given the opportunity to choose any reward without restraint, intentionally picks something simple and commonplace. While this may be done simply for comedy, it is often used to establish the practical or humble nature of the wisher — such as if Bob simply doesn't want
anything grand, or doesn't even think to ask for such. Alternately, Bob may be Genre Savvy
enough to wish for something simple in order to counteract the backfire potential
of a literal
or Jerkass Genie
Typically appears in stories featuring magic (or a similar substitute
), but can also appear in non-magical situations, like an Emperor offering an open-ended reward to a hero or a conversation between friends.
This trope is closely related to Wasteful Wishing
, but differs in intent — Wasteful Wishing
is when a request is mundane because the wisher was being frivolous or made a mistake. A Mundane Wish
, in contrast, is intentionally
chosen because that's all the wisher wants.
Related to Be Careful What You Wish For
. Subtrope of Three Wishes
, evoking the first law. See Mundane Utility
and Misapplied Phlebotinum
. Someone who wants a mundane prize but isn't simply being offered it has a Humble Goal
open/close all folders
- The Tim Tam genie ads were based on this premise: people would wish for a packet of Tim Tams that never ran out.
Anime & Manga
- Played With in Dragon Ball. Emperor Pilaf has finally gathered the seven Dragon Balls, and is so overcome as he begins to make his wish to the dragon for the title of ruler of the world, but he stammers a bit. Oolong the anthropomorphic pig takes the opportunity to leap between Pilaf and the dragon and wish for women's panties (the world's most comfortable pair of underwear in the broadcast version of the dub). It would have been Wasteful Wishing except that the wish saved the world, and Oolong was very happy with what he got.
- Commander Red is eventually revealed to want the Dragon Balls to wish to be taller. Upon hearing this, Staff Officer Black, enraged that he wasted so many resources on such a petty wish, shoots him dead.
- Again spoofed near the end of the battle with Buu. Vegeta has a plan to defeat Buu, but it requires two wishes from the Namekian Dragon to work. Once those wishes are granted, Dende asks Vegeta what his third wish is, and Vegeta responds "A new pair of boots. Size 10." Dende realizes he's joking, which is good, since they do come up with a use for that third wish later.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica,
- Since Madoka can't think of anything to wish for but wants to help Mami as a Magical Girl Warrior, they decide to ask Kyubey for a cake feast. The idea was that they would have a party to celebrate their partnership and Kyubey would provide the food for it.
- It turns out that First-Timeline!Madoka's wish was to save a random kitty that got run over.
- In contrast to most of the series' Magical Girls, most of the Pleiades Saints in Puella Magi Kazumi Magica deliberately chose wishes that would act as stepping stones for what they wanted to achieve instead of wishing for them outright to lessen the Equivalent Exchange penalty the bigger wishes often result in.
- Side material indicates that another magical girl did wish for a cake... a cheesecake to share with her dying mother in the hospital. Aww. Presumably that magical girl became the witch Charlotte upon realizing she could have wished to save her mother instead.
- Metal Fight Beyblade: Discussed. When the WBBA held a tournament promising to grant any wish to whoever won, Ginga commented he intended to wish for a hamburger.
- In the 2000 remake of Bedazzled, when the Devil tells Elliot to make a wish so she can prove that she's genuine, he asks for a Big Mac and a large Coke. They ride the bus to McDonald's and buy one (with his money).
"There's no such thing as a free lunch."
- In the 1967 original, it's a Frobisher & Gleason raspberry-flavored ice lolly, gotten the same way. Later, when Stanley is in a fix and can't wish his way out, the Devil points out that the ice lolly counted as one of the seven wishes he's now used up. To rub it in, he pays Stanley back the sixpence, telling him "Now we're even!"
- A very un-politically correct joke Rocco tells in The Boondock Saints has three men (Black, Hispanic and White) each granted one wish; the black man and the hispanic man each wish for their fellow blacks and hispanics to be back in their home countries and not in America, and when the white guy realizes that this means there are no more blacks or hispanics in America, he happily just asks for a coke.
- A non-magical version appears in Sneakers. The team has been confronted by a group of armed NSA agents who want The Box, and is making demands in exchange for turning it over.
Carl: "The young lady with the Uzi, is she single?"
Bishop: "Carl... Excuse us." [Takes him aside] "This is the brass ring. You gotta think bigger thoughts."
Carl: "I just want her telephone number."
- He gets it. Because she gives it to him herself.
- In the Beginning, the Prequel Film of Babylon 5, we get an exchange where Londo offers a young Centauri noble any one wish, topping it off with the Armour Piercing Question "what do you want?". The boy answers "I want a story!". Londo, obliging, wryly notes that the boy did far better on that question than he did.
- In the 1937 adaptation of The Prince and the Pauper, Errol Flynn's character refuses to believe that the Street Urchin he's helping is really the heir to the throne. When the prince insists that no-one is allowed to sit in his presence, but allows the granting of a royal favour in thanks for his help, he says, "I wish to sit in the presence of the king!" which allows him to get on with eating his meal. This becomes a Brick Joke at the end of the movie when he enters the throne room and sees the Prince and Pauper, but can't tell if their plan has worked and the real prince is restored. He finds out just by grabbing a chair and sitting down on it. As outraged courtiers go to throw him out the prince stops them, saying this man has permission to sit in his presence.
- From The Last Hero, when the gods of the Disc are granting requests to the heroes for preventing the destruction of the world, Rincewind asks for a blue balloon (to replace one he had lost when he was six). He also speaks on behalf of the Librarian and asks for three thousand file cards, a new stamp, five gallons of ink, and a red balloon.
- It's a running joke in the City Watch books that, at the very end, whatever else the Watch may or may not be granted from Vetinari, a new dartboard is always on the list.
- In Night Watch the People's Republic of Treacle Mine Road is talking about what they hope to accomplish, and Vimes says a hard boiled egg. He says that while he's pretty sure that tomorrow there isn't going to be a great deal of Truth, Justice, Moderately Priced Love, and so on around, he might just get the egg. It ends up being smashed before he can eat it.
- Used in The Dresden Files: Small Favor, when Harry Dresden calls in the favor owed to him by the Summer Court of Faerie - and asks for a doughnut. The point is, however, is whom he asks that of, namely, the Implacable Man Mage Killer after his head, and when—namely, a few seconds before said killer rips him to shreds and a few minutes before the bounty on Harry officially expires.
- It's revealed in the next book that this little maneuver has made Harry famous among the fey. Well, more famous, anyway.
- There's an old Arab tale about a man who got a wish from a genie in a bottle. He only asks that his net never come up empty of fish. He gets his wish and does well for the rest of his life.
- In one of Caroline B. Cooney's The Vampire's Promise books, the titular vampire has gifted a high school student named Devnee with beauty and brains by draining the energy out of the classmates she wished she could have the qualities of. The climax of the book comes when Devnee, intending to stop the vampire before he can force her to let him feed on another girl, learns to her horror that her mother has found him and made a wish of her own — only to discover that her mother only wished for good weather.
- Agatha Christie's Tuppence Beresford mentions that in her childhood she knew of a real magic well, where wishes did come true, though she did use to wish for things that were quite likely to come true.
- In Dani's One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale, the raja is impressed by Rani's honesty in returning a handful of spilled rice to him during a time of great drought and tells her that she can ask for any reward she wants from him. Rani initially asks for just one grain of rice. The raja, surprised, urges Rani to ask for something bigger and she amends her wish to get one grain of rice first, then two grains of rice on the day after that, then four grains of rice on the third day and so on for a month. If you're aware of the mathematics of this doubling-up pattern, you'll know that Rani's request wasn't nearly as modest as it seemed to the raja at first.
- In a Sunday strip of Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin asks Hobbes what he'd wish for; Hobbes says he wants a sandwich. Calvin doesn't understand why and wishes for enormous wealth. Hobbes gets his wish, and Calvin obviously does not. Another strip had Calvin ask a similar question, to which Hobbes replies that he'd wish for "a big sunny field to lie in." Calvin is aghast at how mundane this is, but then observes Hobbes sleeping in the grass. "Actually, it's hard to argue with someone who looks so happy."
- A Frumpy The Clown comic had the eponymous sarcastic clown and a kid encounter a wizard who claimed he could give them whatever would "make [their lives] complete." Frumpy immediately wishes for the first ABBA album on vinyl and a watermelon. While the kid complains that he could have wished bigger, Frumpy quips that he doesn't trust midgets with wands.
- After having been turned into an ottsel in the beginning of Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, Daxter gets his chance to turn back into a humanoid in the ending for Jak 3: Wastelander as the Precursors offer to grant him a wish. He wishes for a comfortable pair of pants. Granted shortly before that he had discovered that the Precursors are ottsels, so presumably the knowledge that he is a member of a legendary race borderline worshiped by his previous race rather than just a Funny Animal made his condition more bearable.
- In Twisted Metal, Calypso uses the stolen power of a demon to grant the winner of the titular demolition derby any wish they desire. Some ending show that he is forced to carry out the wish no matter what it is, making Calypso abuse the Literal Genie principle very frequently. However, some wishes fall under this, such as Sweet Tooth's wishes in 1 and 3 (for a paper bag and candy, respectively) and Hammerhead in 1 (to repair his truck's tires).
- In the Animaniacs movie special Wakko's Wish, Wakko wishes for two ha'pennies! This is not Wasteful Wishing because spending them helps revive his home town since it was simply so poor that everyone treated it like a fortune.
- In Aladdin: The Series, Eden actually refuses to grant her master's first wish for a sandwich (fortunately, lacking the words "I wish" in front of it) and instead talks her into wishing never to go hungry again.
- In The Simpsons' second Treehouse of Horror, Homer obtains a monkey's paw. Maggie makes the first wish and a limo pulls up. Homer starts to celebrate as the driver comes to the door. He gives her a new pacifier and then drives off.
- After the other wishes backfire, Homer wishes for a turkey sandwich and specifically forbids any unpleasant supernatural surprises. The wish still backfires because the turkey is a little dry.
- In the fourth Treehouse of Horror episode, Homer sells his soul to the Devil (aka. Ned Flanders) for a donut.
- Invoked and lampshaded in The Fairly OddParents. Norm notes there's a pattern when he gives a person Three Wishes. The first is something useless and mundane ("The Sandwich Wish"), the second is a huge change, and the third is changing it all back. His foresight is actually his downfall, when he gives Chester a sandwich sans wish, allowing him a third wish to hit the Reset Button.
- In the animated Punky Brewster episode "Any Wish Way But Loose," the wish spell Glomer intended for Punky hits Margaux instead. When Allen says something atypically inane, Margaux spouts "I wish you'd disappear!" Allen does just that.
- Adventure Time's Jake has wished for a sandwich...twice. What makes this even weirder is that his life hung in the balance both times.
- Although Jake didn't actually get his sandwich wish the second time; Prismo just made him a sandwich and allowed him to keep his wish for something more important.
- In another episode, when the Hot Dog Knights finally get the chance to wish:
Knight #1: I wish for a box! (box appears) Sweeet!
Knight #2: I wish to blow up! I mean get big. (explodes)
Finn: Wow...you guys are really stupid.
Knight #1: What do you mean?
- In the Rick and Morty "Meeseeks and Destroy", Rick gives his family a "Meeseeks Box", which creates beings called Meeseeks that will fulfill any request the user wants and then disappear. Rick warns them to keep the requests simple. Beth and Summer ignore the advice and ask to be "a more complete woman" and "more popular", respectively. Jerry on the other hand, decides to play it safe and asks to take two strokes off his golf game. This being Jerry, HIS wish is the one that leads to everything going to hell.
- In another episode, when Summer sees her boss (AKA, the Devil) try to hang himself, she uses a Monkey's Paw she happened to be holding at the time to make a desk light enough for her to move, the noose to be untied and for her to know CPR. The Devil then notes that those are some pretty insignificant wishes to use on such a a thing.
- Alexander the Great, at one point visited Corinth. While there he offered, according to the story, a particular Philosopher (Diogenes) anything he wanted and, being emperor of just about everything at the time, he could have granted it. Diogenes only looked up, slightly irritated, and asked him to get out of his light. Sometimes interpreted as Diogenes showing Alexander that all his worldly triumphs couldn't compare to the wonders of nature such as the sunlight.
- Three soldiers of Napoleon Bonaparte - a German, a Pole and a Jew - have fought well in battle, and he decides to grant each of them a wish.
"Before the war, I had a brewery, but it was burnt down." Napoleon:
"You will get it rebuilt." Pole:
"My motherland is under the thumb of other nations." Napoleon:
"You will get it liberated." Jew:
"I like marinated herrings so much. Could I get a few of them?"
Napoleon is surprised, but promises him the herrings. Later, the Jew explains: "I don't think you'll get your brewery back, or your free Poland. But my herrings - I may actually get them..."
- There's a (likely anecdotal) story about Josef Stalin and the author of the Soviet anthem. Stalin asked the author, what does he want in reward, a car or a dacha. The author asked Stalin for his pencil, explaining that Stalin's pencil holds a symbolic value for him. Stalin gave him the pencil, and the car and the dacha too.
- Another similar joke has Stalin asking four movie producers what they need in order to work properly. One complains about cramped surroundings - he gets a flat. The other complains he works best outside the city, and gets a dacha. The third has a dacha, but complains it's hard to get there - Stalin gives him a car. The fourth is hesitant, saying it's a big wish, but after Stalin insists, he asks for a copy of Stalin's book "The Questions of Leninism" with an autograph, for inspiration. He got the book... and a flat, a car, and a dacha as a bonus.