Portent of Doom

“I had just been born. What did you expect of me?”
“Enormity,” the black-haired prince replied. “You were small, but far-famed. We were in Oldtown at your birth, and all the city talked of was the monster that had been born to the King’s Hand, and what such an omen might foretell for the realm.”
“Famine, plague, and war, no doubt.” Tyrion gave a sour smile. “It’s always famine, plague, and war. Oh, and winter, and the long night that never ends.”

The writing on the wall. A mystical phenomenon that tells of a dire future for those who witness it.

Specific types of portents include:

Compare with Foreshadowing, the out-of-universe equivalent. Compare with Magpies as Portents, which can involve both negative and positive outcomes.

Only place examples here that do not belong on one of the subtropes.


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  • At the end of the Judge Anderson storyline "Postcards from the Edge", Anderson has a vision of the eagle of justice being attacked by the pterodactl of death, and being saved by a bat. This foretold the crossover story Die Laughing, which ultimately came out three years later, and involved Batman helping save Mega-City One from the Dark Judges.

    Fan Works 
  • The Writing On The Wall features the eponymous writing in dozens of unknown languages inside an Ancient Tomb, which Adventurer Archaeologist Daring Do dismisses as a curse on anyone who would disturb the sanctity of the tomb, meant to scare away superstitious tomb robbers.
    "'This is the tomb of the great and terrible So-and-So! Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair! Whosoever steals the treasure will face the gods' curse, and the sky will fall on their heads, et cetera'."
    • Daring Do is absolutely correct - there is no curse on the place. Unfortunately for her, when the writing is eventually deciphered, it turns out to be a warning about the true nature of the building.
    This is not a place of honor. No great deed is commemorated here. Nothing of value is here.

  • In Tales from Earthsea, the sightings of dragons fighting is taken to be a sign that the balance of the world is greatly upset, perhaps irreparably.
  • In Practical Magic, the chirping of the death watch beetle foretells the death of a loved one.
  • Darby O'Gill and the Little People had a banshee (evil spirit) that appeared and wailed mournfully when someone was about to die.

  • In the first few chapters of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the end of the Han dynasty is seen in some very bad portents (a horrible plague among one of those things), kicking of the chain of events that leads to decades of war.
  • I Heard The Owl Call My Name, in which the protagonist is subjected to the named portent of death (and in this case survives, as it's autobiography.)
  • Any time Stormwings start to flock in the Tortall Universe, at least after The Immortals. Since they feed on fear and live to desecrate war dead, you can bet that trouble's a-comin'.

    Live Action Television 
  • In Supernatural, we find that certain ghosts can be death omens and groups of Reapers appear before disasters. In addition, demonic signs (crop failures, storms, and cattle mutilations) are often apparent before the forces of Hell act and there are many signs associated with the Apocalypse including the rising of the 4 Horsemen.

    Myth, Legend, and Religion 
  • In the book of Daniel, supernatural writing foretells the demise of the Babylonian Empire. It is the origin of the phrase "the writing on the wall."
    • The phrase written, Mene, mene, tekel, u-Pharsin and its translations "numbered, numbered, weighed, and divided" (figuratively) and "You have been judged and found wanting [by God/the Persians (unwittingly acting for God)]" are also used.

  • In Julius Caesar Portia urges Caesar not to go to the Senate because of the various omens she's either witnessed or heard about from reliable sources. Caesar poo-poos it and goes anyway.

Alternative Title(s):

The Writing On The Wall