aka: Self Fulfilling Prophecies
"A man often meets his destiny on the very road he took to avoid it."
Whenever anyone tries to avert a prophecy, for good or ill, the end result of their actions is to bring the prophecy about. The harder he struggles to prevent it, the more inescapable his destiny becomes. Fate, it seems, loves irony
. Strangely, the other side of this, where the prophecy is fulfilled because someone wants
to fulfill it, is rarely explored in fiction (Either-Or Prophecies
When a hero
tries to prevent the prophesied release of an ancient evil
, his actions will help it escape
because You Can't Fight Fate
. When the Big Bad
tries to slaughter all the members of a given people in order to kill the one among them who is prophesied to end him
, he will only manage to create the hero
that he fears, because destiny says so
One common mechanism for this is a Prophecy Twist
. If no one understands the real meaning of the prophecy, any attempts to avert it will naturally be futile. A cynic will point out that by this measure, a prophecy must
be vague. Otherwise it would be easy to defeat, or else those it affects must carry an Idiot Ball
and not take the direct approach that would have no room for failure.
To be this trope, a member of the cast must be actively trying to prevent it from happening. Then it happens, most often because
of the attempt to prevent it. Generally, this happens through one of two courses: either a) the person the prophecy concerns will, in their pre-preemptive efforts to prevent their purported doom, end up creating the very circumstances by which the prophecy is fulfilled; or b) having taken their preventative measures, they will then unwittingly blunder right into the prophecy's hands. More complex prophecies may include both.
The archetypal Older Than Feudalism
example is the Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex
. A prophecy says the king will be killed by his own son, so the king orders his infant son killed. (He has his feet nailed to a board and left to die of exposure in the wilderness, rather than, say, cutting him in half with a sword.) Oedipus is rescued, and brought up not knowing he's the prince
. Twenty years later he learns his fate: he will kill his father and marry his mother. Wanting to protect his adoptive family — who he believes are his natural parents — Oedipus leaves home. On the road, he meets his biological father (whom he doesn't recognize, naturally), gets into an argument, and kills him. Shortly thereafter he comes to the city his father ruled, and frees them from the Sphinx; as a reward Oedipus is made king of the city and marries the widowed queen...his own mother.
Most of the real-world prophecies that come true are also self-fulfilling — simply stating that something will happen often ensures that it will happen someday
, whether by accident or because someone read your prophecy and decided he'd make it happen.
An example sometimes given is that a prediction that a bank may become insolvent (or, excuse the pun, "bankrupt") may scare people into withdrawing their money from the bank all in a rush — but since the bank only keeps a fraction
of their deposits actually on hand (the rest is invested out, e.g. bank loans), the run on the bank
can drive the bank into insolvency, ironically just as predicted. In simpler terms, fear that a certain commodity (like gasoline) will run short may trigger people to stock up on it, leading to a shortage of that very commodity. Then there's plain old paranoia, which is a good way to make enemies.
Contrast Self-Defeating Prophecy
. Compare Catch-22 Dilemma
, Prophetic Fallacy
, The Firefly Effect
, Streisand Effect
, and Nice Job Breaking It, Hero
and/or Nice Job Fixing It, Villain
(depending on who did it). Often an integral part of tragedy
. May cause a Clingy MacGuffin
. For the Time Travel
version, see You Already Changed The Past
and Stable Time Loop
. See also Situational Irony
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Anime & Manga
- Slayers Try has a town that fears dragons because one of them destroyed the town. They manage (along with Xelloss) to make Filia angry enough that she does just that.
- In Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, Fei Wong Reed goes through a ridiculously complex Gambit Roulette to prevent Yuko's death from catching up with her, in the process creating two clones, then discarding them (essentially killing them). The woman he was trying to save then embraces her long-delayed death as payment to bring the two clones into the cycle of reincarnation. In other words, had he not tried to save Yuko, she never would have died. The real kicker is that, apparently, she and Clow planned all this. Even the characters are starting to get confused. And apparently they just set him off again because now he's just going to try again. A Stable Time Loop or something, it's really not very clear. Even the metaphorical screw is getting confused, really.
- Very nearly occurred with Hiei of YuYu Hakusho. A prophecy held that he would destroy the village of his birth, so he was cast out to die. He survived and, driven by a deep-seated anger over being cast aside, returned to destroy the village. Only seeing the misery of the village stayed his hand.
- In Dragonball Z, Frieza kills all of the Saiyans he can find and even destroys their home planet in order to prevent a Super Saiyan from rising up and defeating him. What happens later? Frieza's efforts actually anger Goku to the point that he becomes a Super Saiyan and completely beats the shit out of Frieza, even to the point of killing him. It doesn't stick but even at that point, it was pretty clear that Frieza was killed because of his efforts to prevent himself from being killed.
- In addition, his actual death is by the son of one of the three Saiyans he allowed to live in one timeline, and by Goku in the other.
- In the "Episode of Bardock" special, it turns out Bardock was sent back in time and got into a conflict with Frieza's ancestor Lord Chilled. It also turned out that Bardock was the Legendary Super Saiyan, meaning that Frieza was indirectly responsible for the very legend upon which he would destroy that Saiyan race for, an act that would eventually cause his death. Talk about Irony.
- Prior to Goku actually fulfilling the prophecy, Vegeta tries unsuccessfully to invoke this trope, declaring that Frieza was an idiot for destroying the Saiyan race because he feared their potential power...but keeping the strongest one of all alive. Vegeta incorrectly believed that he had become a Super Saiyan at this point, and Frieza gave him a rude awakening. Since Death Is Cheap in the Dragonball universe, though, Vegeta was brought back to life and got to see the fulfillment of the prophecy anyway.
- In X/1999, Sorata is told as a boy by his temple superior that he will die for the sake of a woman. Sora decides that if this has to happen, he'd like it to be a beautiful woman, and when he meets Arashi he tells her that he's "decided on" her. Once the two develop genuine feelings for each other, Arashi becomes so troubled at the thought that she'd be responsible for Sora's death that she defects to the Dragons of Earth, so Sora would have no reason to protect her anymore. When she displeases Fuma, Sora gives his life to spare her from Fuma's wrath, which would not have happened had she not defected.
- Ai Kora has a chapter where Maeda has a dream where he and Sakurako end up Caught in the Rain together, and end up kissing. When similar circumstances strike in the real world, Sakurako ends up leaning towards Maeda for entirely non-romantic reasons, but he's so wound up he ends up kissing her.
- Digimon Adventure gives us Myotismon (Vamdemon in Japanese), who hears that the eighth Digidestined, who turns out to be Tai's sister Kari, will be the one to destroy him. So what does he do? He sends his legions of doom all over the place to hunt her down and destroy her. This causes him to fulfill his own prophetic demise in a few ways; first of all, Kari's partner is a member of the aforementioned legions of doom, so they never would've met if he hadn't called a hunting party. Secondly, by trying to destroy her, he caused the Heroic Sacrifice of Wizardmon, which triggers Kari's crest and digivolves Gatomon into Angewomon, who proceeds to One-Hit Kill him. Considering all the other Digimon couldn't do crap against him at that point, he could've conquered the world at his leisure if he hadn't tried to find her. The gravity of it only increases when you consider that without Angewomon, there is no WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon, so if by some miracle he had been brought down, his resurrection as VenomMyostismon would have gone off without a hitch and he would've curb stomped the entire world. Way to go you moron.
- Devimon did something similar by hearing the youngest of the kids will be the one to cause his death. He goes after TK, triggering Patamon's evolution.
- In Full Moon o Sagashite, the main character, Mitsuki, is fated to die in a year, but there's a prophecy that a mysterious person is fated to come along and prevent her death, so two shinigami are sent to prevent Mitsuki and that person from meeting... and then Takuto, the male of the two shinigami, falls in love with Mitsuki, and turns out to be the person who prevents her death.
- In Corsair, after listening to his brother try to heap guilt on him and justify his actions based on a prophecy made when Canale was born, Canale delivers an embittered speech about how the prophecy about him being the "devil's child" who will wreak "destruction on towns and cities" was rubbish and how his family's reaction to it led to him becoming such a dangerous and destructive force in the first place.
- In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure that's exactly the working mechanism of Thoth, the Stand of Boingo, one of the antagonists. Thoth takes the form of an indie comic book, describing future happenings or actions taken by his user and his immediate peers. Thoth is so accurate, even if following a leap-and-bound narration that makes it slightly hard to understand at a quick glance, that every attempt to change or foil the events already written in its pages will ensure the very same event takes place, and exactly as described. One other way to interpret what Thoth is doing is that it generates a single image that describes all the possible futures in some oblique fashion. With Oingo: If he hadn't panicked at Joseph's early arrival and taken Jotaro's guise, the bomber orange would have been left in the car...and would have been the one Jotaro began peeling to slake his thirst. With Hol Horse: If he'd relied on the clocktower instead of his fast watch, the bullets would have hit Jotaro at the same time as the water burst. In other words, it's accurate for both the "default" stance and the self-fulfilled results.
- In Eureka Seven, Holland learned from Norbu 3 years ago prior to the series that whoever makes Eureka smile and happy is her destined partner, who turns out to be the protagonist Renton. Holland's efforts to deny their relationship and trying to win Eureka's favor only seeks to setup a chain of events that made Renton and Eureka officially into a couple. Holland even face palm on his efforts after his quarrel with Eureka in episode 26.
- In Dog Days, Leonmichelle's attempts to stop the foretold deaths of Milhiore and Shinku ends up summoning the beast that will presumably kill them.
- Harminia from Gosick was told at age 6 that she would die when she was 26 years old. She killed the Elder/prophet, and framed Cordelia. Cordelia is exiled, leading to Victorique's birth, and subsequent return twenty years light to clear her mother's name. After Victorique reveals Harminia is the killer, she goes on a rampage, leading to her death.
- The Second Hokage thought that the Uchiha would betray Konoha and wanted to protect the village. So he ostracizes the Uchiha clan from the start of his reign, and treated them worse then he should have. His treatment of them led to the attempted coup, since his treatment was passed down.
- Madara Uchiha. After the village was founded, Madara feared that the Senju clan would eventually eliminate the Uchiha Clan, and tried to get them to break ties with the village. While this did happen eventually, it was largely because Madara's own disciple (Obito) attacked the village with the nine tails and framed the Uchiha Clan for it, leading to more discrimination against the clan and the eventual coup attempt. This may or may not have been intentional.
- In Death Note, Ryuk the Shinigami tells Light Yagami that misery follows those who use the Death Note. Throughout the series, it becomes apparent that this phenomenon isn't so much the fault of any karmic punishment - it's just that people who use the Death Note are always the kind of people who surround themselves with death and destruction.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, Astral uses the Trope name word-for-word to describe how Numbers holder Shuta Hayami is able to predict the future; he manipulates events so that his predictions - which are bad for his victims - come true via their own actions.
- From Trigun, there's Vash's reputation as the Humanoid Typhoon, who causes death and destruction wherever he goes. The bounty was put on his head to prevent any more destruction, but caused overzealous bounty hunters with no care for collateral damage to converge on him and cause even more destruction.
- Zera of Litchi Hikari Club is told by a fortune-teller that he will either rule the world at the age of 30, or die at the age of 14. In his desperate rush to achieve the former, he ends up bringing about the latter. (Commencing the final step of his plan on the night of his 14th birthday was a tremendously bad idea, but by that point he'd gone mad with paranoia.)
- Gendo Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion abandons his son, Shinji, because he believes that he will be a bad parent and only end up hurting Shinji. The irony of course, is that with his abandonment, he ends up giving Shinji one of his deepest emotional scars. Funnily enough, Shinji does something similar; he desperately wants human affection, but alienates all the people who try to help him because he refuses to believe they care about him.
- Comedic variant from Captain Britain:
Zeitgeist: You didn't warn us because I was going to insult you? You mean I hadn't even insulted you at that point? You just predicted I was going to and didn't warn... Cobweb, you are the most thoroughly irrational squack-head I have ever set eyes upon.
Cobweb: There! I knew you were going to say that!
- A couple of Spider-Man stories deal with his Time Police counterpart from the year 2211 and his arch-nemesis Hobgoblin 2211. It's revealed the Hobgoblin 2211 is really his daughter Robin, who, while researching breaks in the "multiverse" throughout history, and how to stop them from continuing to destroy reality, is arrested by her father for things she is innocent of now, but will do in the future (namely murder and screwing around with reality), and placed in a virtual reality prison/paradise. Her boyfriend, however, attempts to free her by using a virus to shut down the computer she's attached to, which also drives her completely insane as her mind is affected by the virus. Now totally nuts, she then dons a dimensional/time traveling suit and goes on a rampage through time and reality, erasing people (usually Spider-Men) from existence with Retcon bombs. As a result, not only do her father's attempts to stop her from becoming the Hobgoblin directly cause her to do so, but she herself becomes the cause of the very breaks in reality that she had discovered (though that's less a prophecy than merely an ironic turn).
- In one issue of The Beano, Fatty reads about a bean shortage in the paper. He promptly buys all the beans he can find and causes the shortage.
- According to a Retcon in X-Men, Boliver Trask was inspired to create the Sentinels because his son was having visions of a Bad Future, and he assumed this meant a mutant-controlled one. The visions were actually of the "Days of Future Past", a Sentinel-controlled future.
- Trask's son also saw visions of various mutant supervillains' crimes. What he didn't see was mutant superheroes were the ones who stopped them.
- In the classic Judge Dredd storyline The Judge Child Quest, the Judge Child makes predictions that make the people who hear them cause the accidents that they just heard predicted.
- In 2003 Gyro Gearloose story "The Accidental Factor", a future telling device predicts a rampaging elephant ruining the mayor's parade. In order to prevent it, Gyro tracks the elephant down and tries to keep him in place with a large amount of peanuts, but the animal goes crazy after the peanuts and causes the exact accident Gyro was trying to prevent.
- In The Fish and the Ring, Vasilii the Unlucky, The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs, The King Who Would Be Stronger Than Fate, and many other fairy tales, a man who discovers finds his child doomed to marry a poor child tries to kill them with many tasks, before and after the wedding. It never works.
- In "Sun, Moon, and Talia", an older variant of "Sleeping Beauty", wise men prophesy that Talia will be harmed by flax. Her father therefore bans it from the castle — which means Talia doesn't know what it is and finds it intriguing.
- In Madame d'Aulnoy's Princess Rosette, the fairies (reluctantly) predict that the princess will cause grave danger, or even death, to her older brothers. So her parents lock her in a tower. When they die, her brothers immediately free her. She learns that people eat peacocks and, in her innocence, resolves to marry the King of the Peacocks. Her loving brothers try to bring this about and end up in grave danger (though they do survive).
- In The Brothers Grimm's The Bright Sun Brings It to Light, a tailor's apprentice in need of money robs and murders a poor Jew who prophesies with his last breath that the apprentice won't get away with it because "the bright sun will bring [the crime] to light." Years pass and the apprentice eventually finds work, marries his boss' daughter and starts a family. One day, he notices the sun shining on his coffee and the reflection making circles on the walls and mutters "yes, it would like very much to bring it to light, and cannot!" His wife asks him what he means by this and pesters him until he admits his crime to her. She confides the secret to someone else and it soon becomes public knowledge. "And thus, after all, the bright sun did bring it to light."
- In "The Grateful Beasts", downplayed. Ferko's brothers, looking for something to slander him with, claim he will carry off the princess. He does marry the princess, because of the consequences of that.
- In a Russian fairy tale, a ruler is foretold that his favorite horse will cause his death. He orders the horse taken away and killed. A year later, he goes to the place where the horse was killed, taunts its bared bones and kicks the skull. An angry snake crawls out of the skull and bites him in the leg, killing him.
- The story was turned into the poem "Old Oleg" by Alexander Pushkin. In his version, the prince does not have the horse killed, but decides not to ride it any more and leaves it on a distant pasture to graze. Many years later he comes to the place and finds that the horse has died of old age in the meantime. Then he makes the mistake of approaching the skeleton...
- Discussed in The Headhunt. Tess Phohl notes that a good part of the reason so many genetic augments turn bad is because the Federation treats them like crap, whereas "folks like the Mottas actually appreciate them." Hence people hate Augments, hence more of them turn bad.
Films — Animated
- In the sequel to The Secret Of NIMH, Nicodemus foretold that M. Brisby's youngest son, Timmy, had a great destiny of saving his loved ones awaiting him, and should therefore be sent to Torn Valley for further education. This possibility enrages his older brother Martin so much, that he runs away from home, gets captured by NIMH, gets experimented on by being given hyper-intelligence, causing him to go Hitler, upon which he manages to brainwash all the other rats in the facility, causing an uprising against the scientists, after which he organizes the lab rats into an army to invade Thorn Valley, longing for revenge, and is then gradually and conveniently stopped by Timmy, who has henceforth managed to keep his loved ones safe.
- Kung Fu Panda has the Old Master Oogway warning that he had a premonition that the villainous Tai Lung will escape his prison. Master Shifu has a bird messenger sent to the prison to increase the security, when he gets there, he inadvertently provides the essential element (a feather, used as a lockpick) that puts Oogway's premonition in motion and Tai Lung escapes. Oogway even tries to warn Shifu of this possibility before the fact.
- Kung Fu Panda 2 has the Genocide Backfire version: Lord Shen hears that he will be defeated by a "black and white warrior" so he destroys the panda village in the area. This act eventually causes baby Po to be sent to the Valley of Peace, which allows him to become the Dragon Warrior and get the training he would need to fulfill his destiny.
- In Hercules, Hades gets a prophecy from the Fates that the only thing that can foil his plan to rule the cosmos is the titular hero. When he tried to dispose of Herc as a baby, he set off a chain of events that led to Hercules growing up to be a hero and foiling his plans.
Films — Live-Action
- A fable from the Middle East tells of a wealthy man of Baghdad, whose servant begs for his master's fastest horse to flee the city to Samarra. The servant tells his master that he saw Death in the marketplace that morning and that she had made a threatening gesture at him. The master acquiesces, then hunts Death down for an explanation as to why she'd threatened his servant. Death replies that she was not threatening, only surprised to see the servant there...because she had an appointment with him that night in Samarra.
- Retold by W. Somerset Maugham in "The Appointment in Samarra".
- And by Italian singer Roberto Vecchioni in "Samarcanda"
- Also used as a Title Drop in the TV adaptation of Agatha Christie's Appointment with Death.
- Given a lovely recitation by Boris Karloff in Targets.
- That story is played with in Discworld when Death runs into Rincewind and tells him they have an appointment in another city and asks Rincewind to please hurry and go there, even offering to lend him his horse. Rincewind refuses. Of course, it was the same city Rincewind was planning to run to in the first place, making it a sort of accidentally self-defeating prophecy.
- The Jewish version of this story has King Solomon meeting the angel of death, who looks sad. Upon being asked why he is sad, the angel replies that he is supposed to take the lives of two of Solomon's advisers but can't. Solomon, worried for his advisers, sends them off to the city of Luz, famous for the fact that all who live within have immortality so long as they remain in that city. The following day Solomon sees the angel of death again, who is happy this time. Why was he sad yesterday, and why is he now happy? Because he was supposed to take the lives of those advisers just before the entrance to the city of Luz, and couldn't do so so long as they weren't there yet...
- There was a small town. One day, an old lady said something bad was going to happen that day. Word gets out, and then every person is so paranoid that the townspeople burn it down and run.
- Of course, as mentioned above, the ancient Greek fable of Oedipus Rex (later made into a play by Sophocles), which ended in Oedipus gouging out his own eyes and his wife/mother hanging herself.
- In Astral Dawn, Caspian unwittingly fulfills his destiny by traveling to the Moment of Creation, a point in space-time he was warned never to go.
- In the Hindu Mythology epic Mahabharata, possibly the Ur Example, the story of Krishna begins with his uncle Kamsa, the king of the Mathura kingdom, being told a prophecy that predicted his death at the hands of his sister Devaki's child. Out of fear, he imprisons Devaki, planning to kill all of her children at birth. Eventually, her eighth child Krishna is born and is smuggled out to be raised by foster parents in the village of Gokula. Years later, Kamsa learns of his survival and sends demons to kill him. The demons are defeated by Krishna, who as a young man returns to Mathura to overthrow his uncle, resulting in Kamsa's death at the hands of his nephew Krishna. It was due to Kamsa's attempts to prevent the prophecy that led to it coming true.
- In Piers Anthony's Blue Adept, in (what they thought was) their big showdown, protagonist Stile asks the Red Adept why she was gunning for him. She replies a prophecy had foretold of her destruction at his hands, so she decided to strike first. Stile points out that he never would've heard of her, magic, or the world of Phaze (let alone been able to enter it) if Red hadn't murdered Adept Blue (Stile's Phaze self) and tried to kill him. Turns out the Oracle, which is really a supercomputer, set Red on his trail intentionally, to get Stile into Phaze to play his part to Save Both Worlds.
- Done with a Prophecy Twist in Peter David's Star Trek New Frontier novel Martyr. A prophet 500 years in the past predicts the savior of his people will come when certain events happen. When those events do happen, Captain Calhoun is revered as that Savior. The Twist? The actual Savior is the man who thinks he's appointed to kill the Savior, whose traits include a scar (which Calhoun has...and gives the appointee while he's struggling). He does kill the Savior—himself—accidentally. And then it's subverted by the fact that The prophet was cheating by using Advanced Alien Technology to look into the future.
- In Fire Logic an army attacks the peaceful Ashawala'i people because an oracle told them that someone from there would defeat them. Naturally, the lone survivor does just that because they killed off her people.
- Inverted in I, Claudius. A prophecy is made that Caligula (yup, that one) can "no more become Emperor that he can ride across the bay from Baiae to Puteoli". One of Caligula's first acts as Emperor involves a very long bridge...
- Subverted and lampshaded in Calderon's Life is a Dream, where Segismund - subject of an Oedipus Rex type prophecy - points out that it would be a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, while preventing it from getting fulfilled.
My father, who is here to evade the fury
Of my proud nature, made me a wild beast:
So when I, by my birth of gallant stock,
My generous blood, and inbred grace and valour,
Might well have proved both gentle and forebearing,
The very mode of life to which he forced me,
The sort of bringing up I had to bear
Sufficed to make me savage in my passions.
What a strange method of restraining them!
- Harry Potter is built around one, as explained by Dumbledore in book six:
- Voldemort hears half of a prophecy about a boy about to be born who will be his nemesis. With two possible choices, Harry Potter and Neville, he chooses Harry, but in the process of trying to kill him, gives him both the power to defy him and a reason to. What's the best way to turn an otherwise unimportant young wizard into your mortal enemy who's well-equipped to defeat you? Well, murdering his parents and spending the better part of a decade sticking him in convoluted death traps is not a bad start. What's more, Dumbledore hints that not all prophecies have to be fulfilled. The only reason Harry is going to fulfill the prophecy is because he would never rest until Voldemort was dead, and the same goes for Voldemort. The only way to avoid it coming true is if they both stop, which certainly won't happen. Worth noting, the prophecy only actually says that one of the two (Voldemort, Harry) will kill the other. Since Harry was a baby at the time Voldemort heard it, striking immediately seemed to make sense. Voldy really should have put more thought into it, though. JK Rowling has said that had the roles been reversed, Neville would have been just as capable of walking the same path Harry did.
- Played for laughs with some of Trelawney's "predictions". The first time we see her, in the third book, she asks Neville to use one of the blue cups for tea-leaves-reading after he breaks his first one. Neville, already nervous at the best of time, promptly breaks the first cup he uses. She ends the lesson by telling him he'll be late next time, "so mind you work extra hard to catch up". Hermione believes this is why people die when they see "the Grim".
- A similar example is mentioned in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them; The Augurey's mournful cry was once believed to foretell the death of whoever heard it (in reality, they were predicting rain). The entry goes on to mention how several wizards suffered fatal fear-based heart attacks after hearing an unseen Augurey's cry.
- In The Wheel of Time series Mat learns he would marry the Daughter of the Nine Moons. Much later, she comes across him trying to flee from a city and has to be tied up. When Mat finds out what she is, having already learned the hard way that You Can't Fight Fate, he changes his mind about hiding her in the lofts and kidnaps her instead. And much later, Tuon only completes the marriage ceremony Mat accidentally started because of the marriage prophecy she got.
- Many, perhaps most, prophecies in WoT seem to work this way. For example, one well-known prophecy states that the Stone of Tear (a fortress in the middle of a major city) would never fall until Callandor (a super-powerful ancient sword held in the Stone) was wielded by the hand of the Dragon (The Chosen One). When the main character was told that he was the Dragon by what he considered untrustworthy sources and wanted to know for sure, he snuck into the Stone and yanked Callandor. Sure enough, he was the Dragon, but he probably never would even have heard of Callandor let alone decided to try to claim it if not for the prophecy. Memorably, Moiraine (Rand's personal Obi-Wan) was pissed that he had decided to go for Callandor so quickly, as he was most definitively not ready. We can only imagine her reaction if she knew what had happened on his trip there.
- In Percy Jackson and the Olympians there was a great prophecy stating that a child of the "Big Three" (Zeus, Poseidon, Hades) would make a decision that will decide the fate of Olympus upon turning sixteen. Those three gods formed a pact to stop having children as a result, and to kill the ones they currently had before they turned sixteen. Suffice to say that if not for that pact Hades' lover Maria wouldn't have been killed, Hades wouldn't have cursed the Oracle, Luke's mother wouldn't have gone insane trying to become the new Oracle, Luke wouldn't have tried to bring back Kronos, and there would have been no decision for the kid in the prophecy to make in the first place.
- Paycheck offers a twist on this. Instead of trying to prevent the prophecy from happening, the protagonist Jennings is actively trying to figure out how to fulfill it. Jenning has an envelope of items, which will help him to survive. At all times, there is the appearance of free will; only at certain moments do the items reveal how they are useful. Jenning's frenemy seems to defeat Jenning's mission (the prophecy) with a reveal but then the time scoop shows up to reveal the final item's worth. The movie by the same name (see above) plays with the trope in a different way.
- Dune uses this trope in an interesting way. Instead of the seer giving a prophecy and leaving others to fulfill it, the seer is a Messianic Archetype who tries to find the best possible path for the future and enact it himself. The problem is that once humanity is set on a certain path in the present, the number of possible futures diminish and it becomes impossible to switch to a different path for the future without dealing with the effects of the prior path.
- All prophecies in the Sword of Truth series are self-fulfilling. Richard, the main protagonist, also makes a strong argument for just letting things run there course as part of it. Throughout the series, just about every prophecy has been twisted because of interpretation, and no one knows what the actual meaning is to properly use. Even then, there are "dead branch" prophecies because some are either-or. Combined, this meant that trying to invoke a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy or prepare for it could actually prevent or impair it.
- C. S. Lewis' book The Horse and His Boy is, in theory, based around one of these; the revelation of the content of the prophecy sets in motion the very events that were predicted. Of course, Aslan has a carefully judged paw on the scales of the universe throughout - pushing boats to shore, scaring the horses, propping up the central character's failing morale, and generally helping the characters complete his Gambit Roulette. No doubt giving the dryad the plot-triggering prophecy was all according to plan.
- The Clayr in the Old Kingdom trilogy apparently see nothing odd about inducting a member into their ranks because they Saw themselves inducting her into their ranks.
- The Nice And Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, from Good Omens work a bit like this:
Newt: But if you're going to places and doing things because she saw them, and she saw them because you were there, then...
Anathema: Yes, I know.
- Mr. Casaubon's posthumous attempt in Middlemarch to prevent his widow, Dorothea, from marrying Will Ladislaw using a codicil in his will that removes her inheritance if she does so. At the time of Casaubon's death they have no serious involvement and certainly no plans to marry, but Dorothea's sense of injustice helps to attract her to Will, and in fact her money is one of the things standing in the way of the relationship...
- In The Graveyard Book, if the Jacks had never taken it upon themselves to kill Bod's family, Bod would never even have made it to the graveyard in the first place.
- Among the many foregone conclusions in the Horus Heresy series are a number of these, including Horus's vision of the Emperor and the nine loyal primarchs being worshiped like gods.
- In Castle in the Air, Flower-In-the-Night's father locked her up since her birth, after hearing a prophecy that the first man she sees will become her husband. If he hadn't done that, she would have never met the main protagonist Abdullah ...
- In Through a Brazen Mirror: The Famous Flower of Servingmen, the sorceress Margaret is haunted by a vision that her daughter and an unknown man will kill her; since the laws of magic prevent her from killing family without magical backlash, she tries to break the prediction by getting rid of the likeliest candidates for the man. These candidates are her daughter's husband and son. She doesn't realize the son also counts as her family, and his death sets her up for failure for the rest of the book. She is eventually executed for the deaths of her grandson and son-in-law, as well as all the people she kills trying to indirectly kill her daughter afterward.
- In Eragon the title character is asked by a mother to bless her child. He scrapes together some magic words, and does. Then his dragon kisses the child, leaving a mark on their forehead. When Eragon protests that he didn't really do anything, someone points out that the kid has both the blessing of a dragon rider, and the mark of a kiss from a dragon. They're probably not going to be satisfied as, say, a grocer or blacksmith. Unfortunately, Eragon screwed up the wording, and accidentally cursed Elva.
- Later in the series, it's stated that there is one way to prevent a self-fulfilling prophecy: killing yourself immediately after the prophecy is made. Any other attempt to avoid it will play the trope straight.
- Jane Yolen's Great Alta Saga. When Jenna's soldiers capture the Cat and tell her to kill him, as it is prophesized she will, she refuses. That night, the Cat breaks free and Jenna's close friend, called Cat as a nickname, dies in the resulting fight. Thus, Jenna does bring about the death of a Cat.
- In Shannon Hale's Princess Academy, the priests of a country traditionally predict what city the prince's future wife will come from, and then the prince goes there to meet all the local girls and get married. The current prince is told that his bride will come from the remote village of Mount Eskel, so the kingdom hurriedly sets up the titular academy to give the local peasant girls a decent education before one of them becomes queen. The prince ends up proposing to Britta, a girl he knew from back in the capital, whose parents had shipped her off to Mount Eskel to get her into the pool of potential brides. The priests are quick to close this loophole for future prophecies, and the main character later wonders why the prophecy didn't point to the city that Britta was originally from, but decides that it was because Mount Eskel "needed an academy more than a princess".
- Cersei Lannister, from A Song of Ice and Fire, had her fortune told when she was a child, and every attempt she's made to say Screw Destiny seems to bring her closer to fulfilling various conditions.
- Part of the fortune was that 'the valonqar' - the younger sibling - would murder her. She decided that this meant Tyrion and began treating him like dirt, giving him several good reasons to want to kill her... but her increasing paranoia over the whole affair caused massive rifts between her and Jaime, who is younger than her by a matter of seconds, and as of A Feast for Crows, he may be able to fulfill the prophecy by refusing to save her from the Swords and Stars.
- She also seems to be on her way to fulfilling her own personal interpretation of the part regarding her children - "gold shall be their crowns, and gold shall be their shrouds". It does not necessarily mean that her children will die before her, but the way she raised Joffrey as a monster set him up to be killed by the Tyrells to protect Margaery, and to allow her to marry the more pliable Tommen.
- Each Targaryen attempt to outright force the Prince That Was Promised prophecy into happening in their specific generation (as it turns out, most of them premature, at best) has had long-lasting effects. Most being tragic ones, when not being outright stupid and tragic together. Yes, each and every attempt has, ultimately, led to the situation in which dragons were, finally, hatched again. And, arguably, after enough failures... somebody would eventually get it right, if only by accident; so, it was always going to pass in some manner. Whether the price will ultimately prove worth it? We'll have to see.
- Played with in the Tim Pratt short story "Another End of the Empire": a Genre Savvy Evil Overlord receives a prophecy that a child from a certain village will grow up to bring an end to his empire. Rather than wipe them out (he knows how these things work; there will be survivors), he instead uses the village as a test bed for social and political reform, improving education and the general quality of life, hoping to eliminate any possible motive anyone would have for trying to overthrow him. He even adopts the three most likely candidates as his sons, and allows them to pursue their own agendas to keep them happy. The twist is that in making all these changes, he has made his empire peaceful and prosperous, his subjects actually like him now rather than simply fear him, and he can even retire happily and pass on rule to one of his more progressive-minded sons. So his empire does come to end, just not the way he expected.
- The wording of the prophecy was "If allowed to grow to manhood, he will take over your empire, overthrow your ways and means, and send you from the halls of your palace forever", which almost (one can quibble about one part of it) happened, just not in the way the evil overlord thought: the Empire is taken over by one of the children... because he adopted the child (all of them, but only one wanted to rule) and later abdicated and gave the throne to that child, his ways and means were overthrown... because, in the process of allowing them to indulge in their agendas, that child had introduced extensive but effective reforms far beyond anything the overlord had considered, and while the one that took over the Empire didn't exactly send the overlord from the halls of the palace forever, he did see the overlord do so - because the overlord felt useless and didn't want to stay around after having abdicated.
- In the Earthsea Trilogy, the God-King of Kargad knows of a prophecy that one of the descendants of the old dynasty will bring his empire down. At the time, only a boy and a girl remained of it. He was afraid to kill them (they had Royal Blood, after all), so he sent them to an uninhabited island. They survive for about 60 years... until one day, Ged stumbles across them. The woman gives him a half of a broken bracelet. Turned out it's a piece of an ancient artifact...
- In book 2 of The Incorgigible Children Of Ashton Place, one character refuses to tell Penelope what's going on for fear that Penelope's attempts to avoid it will lead to this.
- In Fate of the Jedi, it is revealed that Abeloth used to be a mortal woman. Fearing that her immortal family would abandon her once she became old and decrepit, she drank of the Font of Power and bathed in the Pool of Knowledge. Doing so gave her immortality and incredible powers, but mutated her into her current form. Her family abandoned her in disgust.
- Chris and Cathy's incestuous love in Flowers in the Attic. The Grandmother wanted to prevent such a thing, but she actually pushed them together by locking them up for years, isolated from the rest of the world and other kids.
- In the Back Story of Whit by Iain Banks, Isis's Great-Aunt Zhobelia has a vision that the large bag of banknotes discovered near Isis's grandfather before he set up his cult, and which she's been hiding ever since, will bring disaster to the cult. So she decides to burn it. This causes the fire in which Isis's parents were killed.
- About thirty years before the start of the Vorkosigan Saga, Mad Emperor Yuri became convinced that his relatives were planning to kill him and seize the throne for themselves. So he sent teams of assassins to kill all of his successors before they could strike. Those of his relatives who survived the attacks, along with their in-laws (Including the greatest warleader in the empire, General Count Piotr Vorkosigan, who did not take having his wife, daughter and oldest son murdered at the dinner table well) decided that they'd had enough of Yuri's insanity and launched a coup which resulted in his death.
- In Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure, Zeus's original order that the gods withdraw from the mortal world was Zeus's attempt to outwit a prophecy of his murder, which, eventually, wound up making it come true.
- Subverted unusually in Smallville, "Lexmas". Lex dreams about a "perfect" future in which he is married to Lana, while Clark is married to Chloe. He is on excellent terms with everyone, even Jonathan Kent, who has become senator when Lex made the choice to drop out. Jonathan even said Lex is the finest man he ever met. Lex's mother's ghost tells him this could be reality if he makes the right choices. Unfortunately, dream Lana dies delivering his second child. Lex wakes up and decides the only way to stop that is to have money and power, so he starts the smear campaign against Jonathan, tragically missing the point that his decision of not dropping out means all the happiness he felt would become nothing.
- Dolly Parton had a variety show in the '80's, and commented in her opening monologue one night about a tabloid paper that predicted she would fall in love with a 300 lb. wrestler, and write a song about him entitled "Headlock On My Heart". She then introduced her special guest star, Hulk Hogan, and showed a video of a song she wrote, called "Headlock On My Heart." (Lyrics here.)
- Granted, the tabloid gave her the idea, and she never "fell in love" with Hogan (and, in fact, in the video he played a "Goldust"-style wrestler named "Starlight Starbright" instead of himself), but was this her having fun with a tabloid or an actual, but faulty, prediction of the future? Hmmm?
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Prophecy Girl": The Master is freed by drinking Buffy's blood, but she went to fight him only because of the prophecy.
- Another example from "Help": Cassie's prophetic abilities convince her she is going to die. Naturally, this causes her no small amount of stress. Despite Buffy saving her from demons and deathtraps, she dies from an aggravated heart condition. Aggravated no doubt by the aforementioned belief she was going to die, the demons, and the deathtraps. She was convinced she would die, and so she died.
- Subverted in one episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, in which a particular child is destined to take a king's throne, and the obligatory evil councilor tries to use the prophecy to start a civil war which will put the baby on the throne and himself in place as regent. Eventually, the king marries the baby's mother, and so the prophecy is fulfilled: The baby is now heir to his father's throne.
- Don't forget Callisto, whose parents were killed during Xena's reign of terror, so she naturally assumed that Xena or one of her soldiers killed her folks. After she became a goddess, she accidentally ended up in her old village on the day of the attack. While trying to protect her mother and her younger self, she accidentally kills her father and is forced to kill her mother in self-defense. Of course, by the end of the episode, Iolaus went back and changed history so that Callisto never went back to that day, so said SFP never actually happened...
- It has been prophesied that Xena's child would cause the doom of the Greek gods. They decide to kill the child, their attacks on her and Xena leading to their doom.
- Often used in conjunction with time Travel. For example, The Twilight Zone episode "No Time Like the Past" involves a man traveling back in time and attempting to prevent a small town fire he knows will happen. Instead, his actions end up causing the fire.
- The same twist happens in the episode "Back There". A man travels back in time and tries to warn people of Lincoln's assassination. Unbeknownst to the man, one of the people he tells about it is John Wilkes Booth, who gets the idea from him.
- A non-time travel related example: In "What's in the Box", a man is shown his future (via an enchanted TV set) in which he kills his wife during a fight and dies in the electric chair. When he tries to describe this to his wife, she laughs at him, which gets him angry, they start to fight, and...
- In "The Mirror," a successful South American revolutionary leader is told by the dictator he is replacing that his mirror is enchanted and he will see in it the face of the man who will assassinate him. The new ruler begins imagining that he sees the faces of his allies and one by one he has them executed, becoming as much of a blood-thirsty tyrant as the man he had fought against. Guilt-ridden, looks into the mirror a last time and realizes he is finally looking at his true murderer... and then kills himself.
- Lampshaded, defied, averted, played straight, and thoroughly deconstructed, all in one Star Trek: The Next Generation episode: "Cause and Effect" deals with causality and time travel, and at one point the following analysis takes place:
Picard: If you are right, perhaps we could escape from the loop by avoiding the collision.
La Forge: That's our guess.
Worf: Perhaps we should reverse course.
Riker: For all we know, reversing course may be what leads us into the crash.
Picard: No, we can't afford to start second guessing ourselves, we'll stay on this course until we have reason to change it. But let's do everything that we can to avoid the collision.
- This trope is also one of the driving themes of the episode "Time Squared", although it is averted at the very last moment.
- And in "All Good Things," it's Picard probing into the Negative Space Wedgie in three different time periods that causes it to form in the first (and last, and middle) place. That's the Timey-Wimey Ball for you.
- That's So Raven. Most of the episodes revolve around the tried-and-tested formula of vision > attempt to stop vision > vision happens because of attempt.
- Occasionally, the vision would come true without her not doing anything except for watching. Usually, she completely misinterprets what's actually going on.
- iCarly: If Carly/Freddie isn't revisited then Sam's insistence that Carly's feelings for Freddie weren't real would become one. Sam tells Freddie Carly's feelings aren't real. Freddie breaks up with Carly because of Sam's thoughts. This stops any chance of Carly's feelings being allowed to blossom or fail on their own. Instead Carly's feelings end immediately due to rejection and Freddie's explanation of Sam's potentially mistaken logic. Those feelings never return. Everyone believes Sam was correct. Carly never loved Freddie. Sam saying that Carly's feelings aren't real creates the situation that eventually results in everyone believing that Carly's feelings weren't real thus creating the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
- Heroes is full of these. Especially Isaac Mendez' comic book 9th Wonders, which depicts Hiro and Ando doing things like renting a car... and after Hiro finds the comic, he follows it to the letter, because he is shown doing it in the comic; but Isaac had only drawn it that way because he had seen Hiro in his visions of the future.
- Before that, he reads a comic in which he saves a little girl. He does, but only after putting her in danger in the first place.
- Even Sylar, after he steals Isaac's precognition power, does things like killing Ted and impersonating Nathan to get the presidency solely because he had painted himself doing it.
- In "1961", a young Angela speaks with the young Company Founders about her dream, in which they form a company, and of the horrible things they will do to protect the secret, and of how it's a necessary evil. She declares these things in a manner which suggests the idea of using the information from her prophetic dreams to help avoid, or prevent, exactly this type of thing from having to happen at all never occurred to her.
- Done, though never identified as such, on Angel in the case of Sahjan and Connor. Sahjan read a prophecy that Angel's son would grow up and kill him. He tried to get rid of him by sealing him in an inescapable Hell Dimension, where time moved faster so that after only a few weeks on earth, Connor would have died of old age there. He escaped grown up, a few days later, and killed him a year on earth after that. Additionally, because of his meddling he spent the intervening time locked in an urn.
- The false prophecy that Angel would kill Connor that prompted Wesley to kidnap then infant Connor from Angel in the first place is also an example. The kidnapping was the event that triggered the tragic chain of events that made up most of season 4, culminated in Angel killing Connor to save a bunch of hostages. Thanks to a Deal with the Devil, Connor came back. In short, Sahjahn's meddling to try and avoid his fate created the circumstances that led to his fate being fulfilled.
- Averted in one episode of Stargate Atlantis, the crew meets a man who can tell the future (correctly) and even show his visions to other people. The team suggests that they are self-fulfilling prophecies, however even events that could not have been self fulfilled through the prophecy turn out to be true.
- On 3rd Rock from the Sun, Dick became paranoid that the Chancellor had it in for Mary. He then talked Mary into thinking so as well and accidentally got her arrested. At the end of the episode, he described what happened:
Dick: I was completely convinced Mary was going to lose her job.
Sally: And did she?
Dick: Yeah. So I guess being paranoid is kind of like being psychic.
- In an episode of Early Edition, Gary's "selfish" counterpart (who used the paper at least partially for his own gain) accidentally ruined the stock pricing of a (very) small computer company (three or five people) by selling all of their stock that he owned when the paper said they were going to crash.
- In Red Dwarf, Cassandra, a supercomputer with the ability to predict the future with total accuracy tells Lister that he will end up destroying her. Lister walks into the room with the computer and gives a big speech on how he has his own free will, culminating in his refusal to destroy Cassandra. As he walks out, however, he sticks a piece of chewing gum on the wall, which falls on a lamp that then swings around into something, catapulting it into something else, until finally a container full of liquid falls on Cassandra's wiring, destroying her. The look on her computerized face just before she shorts circuits is a weary "See?"
- Earlier in the episode, "Rimmer" (actually a crew member wearing Rimmer's nametag) dies of a heart attack brought on by the stress of being told (by Cassandra) that he's going to die of a heart attack.
- It's subverted when she predicts that Lister will murder Rimmer while the latter is making love to Kochanski. Cassandra fabricated it to trick Rimmer and Kochanski into doing it, so she could get pre-emptive revenge on Lister.
- This sort-of shows up in the only CSI episode involving a (confirmed) psychic. The psychic predicts that the killer's next move will be associated with "green tea", and follows Stokes home. Following a hunch the psychic goes into the attic, where the killer is hiding. The killer gains the upper hand and sends the psychic crashing through the ceiling onto Stokes' carpet, which was a green T (for Texas) on it. The psychic, alas, does not get better.
- Similarly on a NUMB3RS episode featuring Chinese people, a psychic predicts the killers' next move and goes there with his camera. The killers are there, along with their big truck. He doesn't get better either.
- LOST: There are three big flags that the detonation of the hydrogen bomb in 1977 will cause the crash of the original Oceanic Airlines flight bringing Jack and the gang to the island. First: Sayid shooting Ben in 1977 causes him to become a Magnificent Bastard in an extended way, since this is what brings him to the Others for... healing. Second: Miles lampshades this trope in the last few minutes of the episode. Third: if it doesn't, the whole series is in for one weird-ass Reset Button one season out from its announced ending.
- Sadly, this theory has been Jossed, to the point where the timeline has split in two-one where Jack's plan worked, and one where it didn't.
- This was un-Jossed in the series final when the nature of the alternate timeline was revealed. The Stable Time Loop was not confirmed though.
- Charmed has a few examples:
- Season 6 reveals that Piper and Leo's son Wyatt is destined to become the most evil male witch ever. This leads Gideon, headmaster of the Magic Academy, to try and prevent it by killing Wyatt as an infant. As it turns out, however, Wyatt will fight him off, but the psychological trauma of Gideon's attempts to kill him is exactly what turned Wyatt evil to begin with. Leo ultimately breaks the cycle by killing Gideon.
- A prominent example is with Cole Turner in Season 5. He repeatedly attempts to win Phoebe back and be good, but no matter what he did to try to convince her, Phoebe and her sisters adamantly refuse to accept him back and even try to kill him, stating that he will never be anything more than an evil demon. Eventually, Cole goes insane and decides to just roll with it.
- In The Outer Limits (1995) episode "Breaking Point", a scientist invents a Time Machine, which he uses to travel several days into the future. There, he sees his wife, who has been shot. When he returns to his own time, he desperately tries to convince everyone that he really did travel to the future, only to have everyone think him crazy (doesn't help that the time shift apparently has some nasty side effects, such as actually turning him crazy). In the end, he ends up accidentally shooting his wife while trying to stop her from leaving him. In a twist, he decides to prevent her death by ensuring that they never meet in the first place, so he travels back to the day they met and shoots his younger self. Both versions of him die. Unfortunately, fate doesn't like to be cheated - his future wife was planning on killing herself that day, and only meeting his past self kept her from taking the pills.
- Happens in Home and Away when Miles is told by a young and apparently psychic girl who was either a hallucination or a ghost that only he could see that he will die if he falls asleep. He spends several days not sleeping, eventually collapsing from exhaustion on his desk. If he hadn't been woken up a few minutes later and walked away from his desk, he would have been decapitated by a falling ceiling fan.
- What drives a lot of the plot in FlashForward (2009). For example, until Janis saw a vision of herself pregnant in the future, she had never really considered having a baby. Mark was haunted by the vision that he would fall off the wagon, the pressure building to the point that when he's given a flask by someone who'd foreseen himself quitting drinking, he gives in to fate instead of pouring it out. Olivia's vision of herself with a lover begins to break apart her marriage, making cheating more likely.
- For extra points, she only ever met the guy in question as a direct result of the flashforward.
- By the end of the series, it's been shown that the future seen in flash-forwards can be changed, but doing so required great effort to fight the inertia of the timestream.
- There's a sort-of case in Doctor Who season five, when The Alliance, consisting of pretty much every villain the Doctor ever faced, band together to lock the Doctor way in order to prevent him destroying the universe (it's complicated). Unfortunately locking him away meant he couldn't do anything to prevent the universe's destruction in the first place. Oops. That said, because he is in a perfect prison that isn't affected by the Universe ending, it gave the Doctor an opportunity to restart the universe with a Big Bang 2.0 by using the very prison he was put into.
- On Being Human when Mitchell receives a prophecy that a werewolf will kill him, he becomes paranoid about any werewolves other that George and Nina. When they encounter two other werewolves he picks up the Idiot Ball and is so aggressive that he starts a feud with them and really messes up things for everyone. Although no one gets killed and they make peace in the end it is quite likely that this will still end up as a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
- Later, the one who gave Mitchell the prophecy in the first place, admits that she completely made it up to screw with his head, and specifically calls this out. Quoth, "there is a wolf-shaped bullet. That he carved his name on."
- The prophecy does fulfill it self in the end, Mitchell's paranoia leads him to aid the monstrous Herrick in attempt to learn how to survive death-by-wolf, the consequences of such are so terrible that he decided he needs to end his life, and had his werewolf best friend George stake him. But not only that The prophecy almost unfolds exactly as the would-be prophet intended; on hearing Herrick has put George's girlfriend Nina in hospital, George almost kills Mitchell there and then.
- In Community episode "Debate 109" Shirley comes in to tell Jeff and Annie about the crazy idea Abed had that they would kiss. Thus giving Annie the thought to use this as a ploy to win a round of debate.
- This is a huge part of Merlin. Morgana is shown to go to the dark side mainly because they're the only other magical people she knows. If Merlin had revealed himself to her, this wouldn't have happened. In case that's too subtle enough for you, Merlin is so desperate to keep Mordred from his future evil acts that he trips him with a branch so he will be caught by Camelot knights. Not only does Mordred kill said knights, but his line afterwards makes absolutely certain that Merlin has driven him to evil.
- And in "The Tears of Uther Pendragon Part II", he tells the Dragon that he should have listened to him and never trusted Morgana. So apparently he missed the obvious Aesop.
- Luckily, he gets straightened out four episodes later when he's shown visions of the future by a crystal cave. Except for the first three visions, he winds up fulfilling each and every one of them through his paranoia to stop them from happening. He clearly states that this was all his doing at the end though, and nicely averts Aesop Amnesia when he talks to Arthur about destiny in the next episode.
Merlin: You may be destined to rule Camelot, but you have a choice as to how you do it.
- There's also a nice variation with Arthur. Merlin protects and advises Arthur because Arthur will one day be a great king, and as a result Arthur becomes a better king.
- Invoked in a round-about way in Kamen Rider Ryuki. Miyuki Tezuka, a fortuneteller, predicts that he will be the next Rider to die in the Rider War. This is a lie. The next Rider that he predicts would die was in fact Shinji Kido, the protagonist of the series and the only other Rider besides Miyuki who wants to stop the Rider War. When both Riders are attacked by Takeshi Asakura, Miyuki takes a lethal blow intended for Shinji and ends up fulfilling the fake prophecy as a result.
- Once Upon a Time: A seer tells Rumplestiltskin that his actions on the battlefield will "leave [his] son fatherless," which he quite naturally assumes means he's going to die. He's not happy when he runs into the seer again and she remarks that her prophecy came true.
Rumplestiltskin: "Well, in a manner of speaking. I hobbled myself on the battlefield, was branded a coward. My wife ran away and left me. Then my son was called to the front. Oh! - Then I became the Dark One. Then Bae left me. So, yes, my actions on the battlefield left my son fatherless. But it would've been nice to know about all the pesky details."
- This one overlaps with Dramatic Irony. We already all these things happened, now we just get to figure out the why.
- In an episode of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Wayne makes a high-tech eclipse viewer, which somehow allows him to see the near future. When he tries to show the truth to his neighbor, a cop, the neighbor just concludes that the only reason these things are happening (e.g. a car swerving and crashing) is because Wayne is the one causing them (e.g. running out in front of said car to try to stop it, resulting in the swerve and crash).
- In Lexx, His Divine Shadow went out of his way to make the conditions of the prophecy foretelling his death at the hands of the last Brunnen-G possible just to show his contempt for the whole idea of prophecy, wrongly believing that time is not cyclical and that no one can predict the future. His attempts to avert it when he realizes his earlier arrogance was a mistake seal his fate.
- In the song Project "Ma", Queen Maria Moonlit prophetized the end of Levianta (her country) and the whole world by <The Dark Legacy, "Sin">. Levianta's answer was to create Project [Ma] to purify the sins. The first project's failure caused Eve Moonlit's mental instability and the second project created Hänsel and Gretel, the twins she would later kill for, unleashing the "Sin" onto the world.
- The Kate Bush song "Babooshka" is about a woman, bitter and paranoid that her husband is cheating on her, initiating a Two-Person Love Triangle with him to test his fidelity. He ends up succumbing to the charms of the mysterious Babooshka... but only because 'she' reminds him of his wife before she 'freezed on him'; if she hadn't succumbed to paranoia about her husband's fidelity and turned on him, he wouldn't have become unfaithful in the first place.
- The Black Sabbath song "Iron Man" is about a man who travels in time to the future, sees the world being destroyed by a man of steel, then while returning to his original time, turns to steel because of a magnetic field. He becomes immobilized and is ignored by the people when he tries to warn them. This causes him to become bitter and angry, until he finally has his revenge on mankind. In other words, he becomes the very thing he was trying to save the world from.
- In the music video for the They Might Be Giants song "Bastard Wants to Hit Me", the "crazy bastard" is so mad about getting snubbed by the narrator that by the end of the video, he does want to hit him (and does so).
- In Joe Diffe's Third Rock from the Sun a man in Smokey's Bar sees a beautiful woman walks into the bar and calls up his wife to tell her he is working late (so he can make time with the lady in question). The wife calls up her sister and asks her to come over to comfort her, which gives her boyfriend time to go out and get a beer from a nearby store. He leaves the keys in his car, allowing some teenagers to take a joyride in his car. The teenagers end up in the path of a semi truck, which crashes into them, goes across a bank parking lot, and hits a nearby clocktower. The clocktower falls over and takes out a powerline, making the entire town go dark. A waitress calls the police in panic, claiming aliens are landing, and the police call the mayor, waking him up, because they can't find the sheriff. The mayor tells the police to use their heads - if he isn't in his car, he's probably hiding from his wife down at Smokey's Bar. So he is going to have to work late after all.
Mythology and Religion
- Greek Mythology frequently displays this trope:
- A prophecy that Paris will cause Troy to burn down? His parents abandon him in a remote area, but he gets found and raised by someone else, eventually returns home by which time his parents have forgotten the prophecy, and due to things he did when abandoned, causes a long chain of events that ends with Troy burning.
- Many times this trope in Greek Mythology results in an Idiot Plot; for example, Cronus (father of many of the Greek gods, such as Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades), in an attempt to avert the prophecy that one of his children will overcome him, decides to swallow them as soon as they're born. His wife finally gets tired of it and smuggles the sixth (Zeus) off after he's born, tricking Cronus into swallowing a rock instead. After growing up, Zeus defeats Cronus and frees his siblings. Interestingly, Zeus himself managed to avert such a thing happening to him on at least two occasions. Warned that the second child of his consort Metis would be a son great enough to oust his father, he swallowed her while she was pregnant with their first child. Granted, he subsequently had to go through the pain of giving birth to Athena, but as a bonus side-effect he absorbed Metis' cleverness into himself. On a later occasion he lusted after the sea-goddess Thetis, but after hearing the prophecy that her future son would be greater than his father, he forgot about having sex with her and arranged for her to be safely married to a mortal, Peleus, so that the foretold son would merely become a demigod, Achilles.
- Greek tragedy often revolves around the idea that You Can't Fight Fate. Those who attempt to do so suffer grisly punishments for their hubris. If you consider Oedipus et al., Paris got off lightly.
- Then there's King Croesus, who was told that if he attacked his neighbor, a great empire would fall. Think about that for a moment—obviously it's going to come true, since whichever empire lost the war would fall. Croesus just didn't consider that it might be his empire. This is lampshaded in Cartoon History of the Universe's version, where Croesus' response is "What kind of answer is that?! I might as well flip a coin!" Also, when Croesus complained to Apollo and his oracle after his campaign turned out a disaster, he got the response: "You should have asked which empire instead of assuming that it would be Cyrus' empire that would fall." As a matter of fact, if people got an unsatisfactory answer from the oracle in Delphi they could ask for another one, and Croesus as a favoured benefactor of Delphi easily could have done just that.
- See also the myth of Perseus' birth. See, the oracle at Delphi told King Acrisius that his grandson would kill him, so he decided to prevent his daughter Danae from ever bearing a son by locking her up in a brass tower, where her weeping drew the attention of Zeus...
- In addition, this is not helped by the fact that in ancient Greek times, it was considered a much greater and more unforgivable sin to directly kill a family member than it was to abandon them and leave their survival to fate, whereas under modern mores, the latter is not considered much better than the former.
- And Perseus did end up killing Acrisius, albeit accidentally. As Perseus returned home, Acrisius learnt he was still alive and fled to the remote city of Larissa. Turns out Perseus got shipwrecked there too, where he entered a local athletics contest, and hit a member of the crowd in the head with a discus. Guess who that crowd member was.
- Oedipus. Before his birth, someone cursed his parents, declaring that their child would kill the father and marry the mother. When little Oedipus was born, they spiked his heels and left him on a hill to die of exposure - only for the rulers of another nearby region to find the child and take him in. The rest, as they say, is history. Or maybe mythology. Even worse, Oedipus learned about the prophecy and ran away from his foster parents to prevent it from happening. Little did he know he was not their biological son. Poor, poor Oedipus...
- This is the cause of Baldur's death in Norse Mythology. Baldur has visions of his death approaching, so he turns to his mother Frigg for help. Frigg makes all things in the world swear not to harm Baldur, making him invulnerable to any form of attack, so the other gods start a game out of throwing things at Baldur. Loki gets frustrated by this and discovers that Baldur is not invulnerable to mistletoe (Frigg having forgotten to ask the mistletoe or discounting it as harmless depending on the version), makes an arrow made of mistletoe and tricks Baldur's blind brother Höðr into using it to kill him.
- In The Bible, Joseph has prophetic dreams saying he will one day rule his older brothers - so they fake his death and sell him into slavery. But this then starts a chain of events which lead to him becoming prime minister of Egypt and controlling the only source of stored food when a famine hits, leading to his brothers having to beg him for help.
- At Ring of Honor's Undeniable 2007, Kevin Steen rejected Adam Pearce's offer to join Hang Men 3 at the expense of El Generico, arguing that only he was allowed to have fun smacking Generico around. At the 2009 Final Battle, guess what Steen did to Generico?
- In Warhammer 40k, the primarch Horus gets infected with a demonic plague that causes him to fall into a coma and get visions of the future from the Chaos Gods. In the visions he sees a world where the Emperor is worshiped as a god and his name is not mentioned anywhere. This, combined with his anger about the Emperor returning to Earth and leaving him and the other primarchs fighting to expand the Imperium, causes him to turn to Chaos and start a civil war that nearly destroys the Imperium. As a result of the war (known as the Horus Heresy), 10,000 years later the mortally wounded Emperor, now confined in the life-supporting Golden Throne, is venerated as a god and the names of Horus and other traitorous primarchs have been removed from Imperial records.
- Which is also deliciously (especially from the Chaos Gods' perspective) ironic, because the Emperor had been an opponent of religious dogma.
- Of course, this depends on the edition and writer: In some works, any guardsman knows of Horus and his betrayal, as it's why Chaos Space Marines exist.
- They know who he is, but Horus was upset by the lack of monuments to him, unlike the Emperor and loyalist Primarchs. Not quite the same thing.
- In that scene, yes. The wiped from records thing comes later, but its effectiveness varies by author.
- A Black Crusade campaign can start one of these, depending on how the GM follows the plot thread the antagonist of the introductory adventure, False Prophets, starts.
- Shakespeare's Macbeth revolves around this trope.
- When the Witches greet Macbeth as the King of Scotland in the first act, it prompts him and his wife to plot to steal the throne from the rightful King after the Witches' earlier prophesy (that Macbeth would become the Thane of Cawdor) unexpectedly comes true.
- When the Witches prophesy that Macbeth's friend Banquo will give birth to a line of kings, he tries to have Banquo and his son Fleance murdered so that it won't come true. He only succeeds with the first part, with Banquo ordering Fleance to avenge him with his last words.
- When the Witches warn Macbeth to "Beware Macduff, beware the Thane of Fife," it prompts him to send his assassins to massacre Macduff's castle. Macduff isn't home, but the assassins do succeed in murdering his wife and children...giving Macduff all the reason he needs to storm Dunsinane with his allies and personally kill Macbeth in single combat.
- Shakespeare's Henry IV also has this, in its own way. King Henry's refusal to ransom Mortimer under the fear that he might lead a rebellion eventually causes Hotspur to lead a rebellion of his own.
- The Order of the Stick:
- Durkon has one of these in his background. He's going to cause bad things to happen when next he returns to the dwarven kingdoms, so his bosses send him away without telling him why, and tell him never to return. But he would never have really been able to return if he hadn't left. (Handwaved when they pointed out the possibility of him buying groceries or somesuch.) The kobold Oracle has prophesized that he WILL return home... albeit posthumously. This begins to make sense after he becomes vampirized by the Linear Guild, foreshadowing the first prophecy to come true.
Dwarven cleric 1: 'Tis risky business screwing with prophecy.
Dwarven cleric 2: Aye, don't I know it.
- Belkar kills the Oracle because the Oracle earlier told Belkar that he would kill someone from a short list of subjects (including the Oracle himself), and Belkar didn't actually get to kill any of them yet. The Oracle then tries to weasel out of the prophecy with a bunch of pretty lame Prophecy Twist ideas, all of which were lifted from the Epileptic Trees in the comic's forum. The actual answer was that Belkar would cause the death of any in that list of subjects, and when the Oracle said that Belkar did cause the death of most of the people in the list, Belkar just stabbed him.
- Another Oracle-related one (well, what do you expect, with future-prediction?): the Test of the Heart, which one must undergo to reach the Oracle (a simple health check) was instituted after someone came in for a prediction, which was that they would have a heart attack right after being told they were going to have a heart attack.
- These two strips from Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic.
- Jade of Homestuck has some semi-precognitive abilities, and ends up creating one of these. She sees a vision of Dream!John crying in the future— then, presumably, being confronted by Jack Noir. So she prepares a birthday present — a collection of high level weapons — to protect him against Jack. Said gift falls into Jack's hands first, who uses it to launch his rise to power, causing the scene which prompted her to send the present in the first place.
- Pops up in The Wotch during the War Stories arc where one of the good guys betrays them to the villains under the belief that the ancient prophecies around the Big Bad Xaos were inevitable and ended up helping him out in hopes of bargaining for their safety. Theodore calls him out on this, leading to a Redemption Equals Death moment.
- Nedroid does it
- In El Goonish Shive, Damien was created with the intent of fulfilling a prophecy.
- Sluggy Freelance: In the chapter "K'Z'K", after a lot of complications, the characters manage to change the outcome of events that were going to lead to the release of the demon K'Z'K and The End of the World as We Know It — you could say the trope is Zig-Zagged. However, on a smaller scale, when Riff heads to Manhattan to see that K'Z'K can't capture his mother to use as a hostage, K'Z'K sees him heading that way and guesses what he's doing — and goes there ahead of him to capture his mother.
- Inverted in Teen Titans season four. Raven is troubled by her destiny to destroy the world and, along with Slade and her father Trigon, repeatedly insists that no matter what she does, there's nothing she can do to prevent it. She fails to realize that the only way the prophecy can come true is if she willingly goes along with it, as the destruction of the world is completely dependent on the conscious actions she makes of her own free will.
- Her friends even call her out on this, but she shrugs them off each time. During a telepathic conversation with Trigon, she even suggests that she could stop him by refusing to cooperate with the prophecy, but willingly goes along with it when he tells her that, as her creator, he decides her destiny.
- Her willingness to go along with the prophecy could probably be justified by the fact that Slade would have killed the other Titans had she not cooperated.
- The episode "The Fortuneteller" from Avatar: The Last Airbender focuses on a town that hangs on the every word of their fortune teller, Aunt Wu. Aunt Wu's predictions are almost always right, but what the villagers don't realize is that it's what they do after hearing her predictions that cause them to happen. Like the old man who was told that he would be wearing red shoes on the day he meets his true love... so he wears red shoes, every day.
- Another example from the same episode: Wu predicts that the village will not be destroyed by the nearby volcano. While the villagers' minds are put at ease, the more skeptical protagonists go to check the volcano and find that it is about to erupt. They warn the villagers, who refuse to believe them. So they manipulate one of Wu's fortunetelling methods so she will predict the eruption, then work with the villagers to divert it. Much to Sokka's frustration, this does nothing to dissuade the village's faith in Wu; after all, she predicted the village wouldn't be destroyed, and it wasn't.
- On the other hand, there's some indication that Aunt Wu is just a canny old bird who's very Genre Savvy about this trope. After all, had she not made the prediction about the town not being destroyed, the people would have been willing to pick up and move, becoming refugees because they'd lost their homes and possessions and land. Instead, since the people refused to leave, the Avatar that she made the prediction around had to go and save the village instead.
- Danny Phantom may have been this if you read The Movie a certain way. Specifically, Clockwork was tasked with preventing the Bad Future by killing Danny before it could happen. However, the ghosts he sent back in time failed to do this, causing a series of events that cause it to happen anyway. Well, almost happen anyway.
- In the Hercules episode "Hercules and the Big Kiss", Cassandra has to kiss Icarus awake. He was put into the sleep in the first place by her efforts to avoid fulfilling a vision which showed her kissing him.
- Justice League Unlimited's Project Cadmus arc is all about averting a Superhero-Government war that happened in an Alternate Universe. Lex Luthor and Brainiac take full advantage of the paranoia to trigger one. Even those actions taken by Cadmus without Luthor's overt involvement (Waller claims, and believed he was mainly a source of income) contributes to the scenario at the end of the arc.
- The Thundarr the Barbarian episode "Prophecy of Peril" deals with three woman (a hermit barbarian, an element queen, and a human woman) that would be found by her foe. The wizard of the week, Vashtar, goes back in time to kidnap the human woman. And in the end, the three women destroy the Gem of Glory, the power source of the evil wizard.
- Bonus points for not stopping to think: Thundarr takes place 2000 years after the time when the human woman lived. The wizard specifically mentions that Ariel, the "Sorceress Companion" to Thundarr, cannot travel in time. If Vashtar hadn't brought the woman to the future, she wouldn't have been around to clobber him. And instead of treating her nicely, he tells her he's going to kill her and throws her in a dungeon. It gets better; the woman wins free of her dungeon and tries to get the Gem of Glory to send her home; when Vashtar tries to zap her, his magic goes through the Gem and hits her, granting her powers of her own, and wings.
- And this as he was ticking off the hermit woman; before Vashtar and his soldiers invaded her territory, the hermit couldn't have cared less.
- A few examples in Gargoyles:
- Demona goes back in time from 1995 to 994 to warn her past self about the slaughter of her clan by the humans. This causes her past self to distrust the humans living in the castle, so she betrays them to the vikings... who slaughter her clan after taking over the castle.
- Prince (later King) Duncan was paranoid that his cousin Macbeth would try to claim the throne of Scotland, and this paranoia was exacerbated when the Weird Sisters prophesied that Macbeth would become king. So he attacked Macbeth, unsuccessfully, and Macbeth killed him and became king anyway. The catch is that Macbeth had no interest in becoming king and was loyal to Duncan, and he never would have killed Duncan if Duncan hadn't attacked him first.
- When the Weird Sisters told Macbeth that Duncan hired the Hunter to kill his father (the former king) does Macbeth fight back.
- Young Justice: After hearing that there is a mole in the team, Aqualad decides to withhold the information and investigate himself for fear of causing disunity amongst the members. When the other members find out, they end up distrusting Aqualad and it causes a rift.
- Blue Beetle learns that he will one day lead the Reach to conquer the Earth. He's so desperate to avoid that that he trusts Green Beetle to damage his Scarab for him. As a result, his Scarab is rebooted and he's now a Reach mole.
- One episode of The Simpsons regarded a tapestry that predicted everything that would ever happen to it. When one of Homer's ancestors discovered this, he saw that the tapestry depicted him eating it, so he ate it.
- The Treehouse of Horror segment "The Ned Zone" has Ned gaining the ability to foresee people's deaths. When he foresaw himself shooting Homer to death, he at first successfully changed the fate... only for him to foresee Homer killing everyone via a nuclear explosion at the power plant. Ned then tries to shoot Homer to prevent this, but inadvertently causes the explosion himself anyway.
- In the Thundercats2011 episode Native Son, the Ancient Spirits decree the infant Tigra must die, because he will grow to be the spirits' enemy. To protect Tigra, Javan sends him away, where he is adopted by Claudis and raised by a culture that rejected the spirits of evil.
- The Sponge Bob Square Pants episode "InSPONGEiac" has SpongeBob slacking off a bit on the job (i.e. using a teensy bit too much mustard) because he went to sleep two minutes later than usual, prompting Mr. Krabs to flip out over it and conclude that he's an insomniac. SpongeBob starts to get paranoid about his lack of sleep, eventually causing him to become an insomniac for real.
- South Park: The Pandemic two-parter is full of this. The prophecy - that Craig would be the one to avert the Pandemic - is brought about by a combination of the Big Bad sending Craig to Peru, and Craig himself simply walking away when he learns of the prophecy, fully intending to ignore it... leading to him standing on the exact spot necessary to activate his Eye Beam (It Makes As Much Sense In Context) and avert the global crisis.
- The self-fulfilling prophecy is a fairly major sociological concept. The idea is that when other people expect something of a person, that person will act that way as a result of their actions. Sociologists once performed an experiment where they continually told children that blue-eyed children were worse than other children. When they tested the children afterwards, the blue-eyed children performed worse than before.
- The blue-eyes experiment was actually a study in bigotry and privilege; self-fulfilling prophecies in performance were a side-effect. Here's an experiment which examined self-fulfilling prophecy directly: a class of children were given an aptitude test, and afterwards their teacher was told that child X's results showed him/her to be particularly gifted. Child X had, in fact, been drawn at random. When the experimenters followed up on the class a few months later, they found that X was performing much better than before — because the teacher was giving them more attention.
- Similarly, this commonly happens even without (or despite) external influence, primarily in two different ways: overcompensating and fatalism. When a person, for example, thinks they're annoying people because they're dull, or not strong enough to succeed at a sport, they may attempt to spice up and vary conversations beyond a comfortable range of normality of the other person or exercise so much or so hard that their body can't perform as well as it could have come game time. In a contrasting manner, a person may think they can never succeed at painting or getting a promotion so they never practice, and don't even try. This can even extend to an extreme of expending more effort in avoiding the expected failure than it would have taken for someone with their skill level or situation to actually succeed.
- Caretakers or family members of a person with a disability will often create a self-fulfilling prophecy. In assuming that the person they are caring for is too disabled to be capable of a certain life skill, they won't bother to try teaching them to do it, thus guaranteeing they won't be able to do it, and it will have to be done for them.
- Economics: Investors' fears of a downturn in the stock market are one of the most common reasons for a downturn in the stock market.
- Recessions in general work similarly, since consumer confidence is a major factor. Once the news media alerts the general population that there might be a recession coming, people start spending less money, and before you know it, we're in a recession. The longer and louder the media goes on about it, the worse it's likely to be, in part because of the warnings.
- Schools other than Keynesian would agree or disagree to various degrees, complicating the issue somewhat. This leads to another sort of self-fulfilling prophecy that is often seen. People in power who believe in Keynesian economics will often seek to undermine any other economic model used because it's not Keynesian (since Keynesian is generally regarded as the only model backed by historical precedent)... and then hold up the failures they themselves caused as proof that only Keynesian economics work. This can generally be applied to any sort of government or economic model.
- Some Jews and Christians donate money to organizations dedicated to building the third temple in order to usher in the foretold Messianic era. However, exactly what happens during the "Messianic era" depends on which side you ask: Will it be as foretold in Ezekiel, with God reinstating the Aaronic priesthood, the temple sacrifices, and taking the Jewish people under His proverbial wing again? Or will it be as in Revelation, with the golden cube-city of New Jerusalem descending from the heavens to bring God's eternal presence to Earth? Only time will tell...
- "Or?" There's a thousand years, explicitly mentioned in Revelation chapter 20, for events like that to happen in. Ezekiel clearly says that the temple sacrifices will be made as sin offerings, which Jesus was supposed to have rendered unnecessary. Plus Ezekiel's messiah is described as a far more... earthly sort of character, fathering children of his own and growing old and dying, as the book details how his earthly possessions will be distributed among his children.
- Banking Runs are considered to be often impacted by the perception of a bank being solvent. In reality most banks can't withstand all of their liquid money being hit at once. The FDIC knows this, and their list of banks most likely to fail is considered to be top secret since publishing the list will cause runs on those banks and cause them to fail. An example is the Washington Mutual bank failure. Basically, it was going relatively okay until a bunch of people heard the bank might fail with the economic downturn. Then, in one day, 10% of its assets were withdrawn by panicky account holders, causing the bank to fail and get bought out by Chase. These are actually the Trope Namer. Robert K. Merton coined the phrase, and used a banking run as the canonical example. A particular real life example of a bank run was seen in the UK with Northern Rock. The bank quietly asked the Bank of England if they could have an extended overdraft (effectively), even though they didn't actually need it at that point. Word got out, leading to every branch in the country being besieged by savers desperate to take all their money out before the bank collapsed - which it wasn't in danger of doing until people panicked.
- Similarly, during the Great Depression, many people worried that they would lose their money due to the stock market crash and failing banks. As a result, people rushed to get their money out, thereby causing the banks to fail. This would be part of the reason FDIC would later be created, because if you were unlucky and didn't get your money out of the bank in time, you lost it. Banks that are FDIC insured protect bank consumers up to $250,000 in the event of a bank failing.
- The fate of Sengoku Jidai Japan was decided at the Battle of Sekigahara. Prior to it, Mori Hidemoto's retainer Kikkawa Hiroie believed his side, the Western Army, would lose and the Mori would be punished and stripped of their lands. Hoping to prevent being punished for loosing, Kikkawa made a deal with Tokugawa Ieyasu who commanded the Eastern Army. When the battle was joined, Kikkawa refused to participate with his forces. Not only that, but by virtue of being the vanguard of forces stationed on Mount Taiguu, Kikkawa blocked the road of the forces stationed there and prevented Mori and others, totaling 33000 men (over 1/3 of the 82000 men army) from participating and attacking the rear of the Eastern Army. This resulted in the defeat of the Western Army. And Tokugawa Ieyasu stripped the Mori of two thirds of their lands anyway.
- An example from the UK in 2008 or so: a two-day strike at an oil refinery in Scotland wouldn't have affected petrol distribution in the slightest as several days' reserves are stored off-site. However, as soon as news of the strike got out, queues appeared at petrol stations all over the country - even those areas which got their petrol from completely different refineries. This of course meant they sold out of petrol quickly, leading to local news stations running stories about petrol stations running short, which led to more people trying to fill up before the nationwide fuel drought struck their beloved motor...
- An earlier UK example: when there was a sugar shortage in the UK in the early 1970s, a presenter of BBC Radio 4's morning news-magazine programme Today joking said "at this rate there'll be a salt shortage next". Some people took him seriously, panicked and started stockpiling, and before the day was out there was a salt shortage.
- Currency Units of Exchange in general are semi-examples. Things work out pretty much okay if everyone accepts that the certain shiny rock or certain green piece of paper legitimately represents a store of value, and if people don't, then things may very well start going down hill. We'll leave it at that.
- Basically, money is only worth something because everybody agrees that it's worth something. It's like a mass hallucination that only continues to exist by the sustained willpower of everybody in the world (or at least, within your country)
- This is essentially how the entire Foreign Exchange market works. People think that a currency will go up? It goes up. People think it's about to plummet? It plummets. It's even more self-fulfilling with Technical Trading (Foreign Exchange Trading based on technical analysis). The idea is that past prices and patterns will repeat themselves, but it only works because so many people and institutions place orders on the belief that they will that those very orders cause it to happen.
- The Induced Traffic theory. City fathers and developers argue for the building of new roads and highways and the expansion of current ones to both relieve current traffic congestion and prepare for traffic increasing in the future. In truth, it's building the roads themselves that causes the increase in traffic by encouraging more and more people to drive (especially since many of the roads built are not pedestrian friendly).
- If the media hawks about a new disease, people get more stressed, which weakens the immune system, which makes them more likely to get sick.
- Relatedly, one of the most powerful factors in determining who wins an election (especially the Presidential primary) is who the media (seeing a pattern here?) claims is "leading". This is why most of the attention is given to the earliest primary states, and why states (like Florida in '08, for instance) jockey for the earliest races.
- In 1973, Johnny Carson made a joke about a potential toilet paper shortage. This caused viewers to stockpile toilet paper, thus creating the very shortage he'd joked about.
- There's a potential urban legend floating around surrounding a major expansionary chain (usually McDonald's, Starbucks, or Wal-Mart) that does in-depth studies on urban markets to determine where the city will grow, so that they can buy the land while it's cheap and move in first. Then the city discovers the study and shifts its resources to this part of town, with the increase in attention and funding actually causing the predicted growth.
- In 2008, there was a chain letter circling via e-mail that made the claim that all gas stations in Nashville had run out of gas. This caused everyone to rush to the gas stations and buy up all the gas, causing all the gas stations in Nashville to run out of gas.
- Another instance comes from accounting. Companies are required to file statements of possible losses from lawsuits should it be considered reasonably possible that they may lose the case. However, once they do so their own statements are used against them as evidence of their obvious guilt and they usually lose the case shortly afterwards.
- When Richard Nixon was President of the United States, he was well-known for being both intensely paranoid and at the same time very concerned about the kind of legacy he would leave behind. So when the Watergate Scandal came up, and Nixon soon discovered that he wasn't about to get out of this easily, what did he do? He tried to cover up the famous scandal as best as he could, but to no avail. Ironically, if he had simply come out in the very beginning and humbly admitted what he did wrong, his legacy might not have been so harshly viewed. He wouldn't be liked, but people probably would have respected his being forthcoming.
- One of the most common reasons given for people pirating anime but not buying the domestic release is that the "dub sucks". While this is subjective, it means that the lack of sales can cut into the localization budget of future anime, which leads to worse dubs, which leads to lower sales, which leads to cuts in the budget, etc. Of course, given that its "Common Knowledge" among certain groups of anime pirates that "all dubs suck", they likely weren't going to buy anyway.
- A similar case is often claimed with regard to DRM and unskippable FBI warnings. Media producers add DRM to fight pirates, consumers turn to pirated versions to avoid DRM, producers add more intrusive DRM...
- Economically disenfranchised areas of an American city tend to have higher crime rates than the rest. Police look upon residents of said areas as more likely to commit crimes. This creates or exacerbates a distrust of the police in said communities. This leads to a lower chance of any crimes being solved, which lowers the police's opinions of said communities, etc. It is rather tragic to see the same person complaining that the System doesn't care about their community also telling informants to "stop snitchin'".
- People who have the worst opinions of police are generally people who lead lifestyles that bring them into contact with police frequently, especially if they treat the police in an offensive manner.
- During the May Day 2012 protests in Montreal, a photo was circulated of protestors mocking police by dangling donuts on strings. Their defenders claimed that the protestors weren't responsible from any consequences from their needlessly baiting police. Many protestors seek to deliberately do something that makes the police arrest them in order to prove the police are oppressive, then have a friend record it and cut down the video to just the police's response.
- During the Roman Empire the Praetorian-prefect Marcus Opellius Macrinus was informed of a prophecy from an oracle that he would become the emperor. Luckily for him he got the information before the sitting emperor (the, quote, "Common enemy of mankind"), Caracalla, since if he didn't he would most likely be executed as a possible threat. Since the emperor would inevitably find out sooner or later his hand was forced to actually assassinate Caracalla and ended up as the new emperor after the Guard proclaimed him such. Not that it made much of a difference since he would also be the first emperor to die before entering Rome.
- For this reason making prophecies about the imperial succession was usually a crime punishable by death.
- Not a prophesy as such but a major part of the death of Caligula was betrayal by the commander of his guard. By most accounts the man was loyal until he found out the Emperor was having doubts about him and remembered what happened to the last guard commander Caligula didn't trust.
- When the first Twilight film came out, the media acted as if the Twilight series was a serious rival for the Harry Potter series with headlines like "Move Over Harry Potter, Twilight Has Arrived," implying the existence of a Fandom Rivalry - and creating one as a result.
- One aspect of supply and demand involves the idea that when people believe that the price of a good will increase, they'll buy more of it before the expected increase, and as such will be the cause of the price increase thanks to the demand going up.
- Inversely, if there's a report, true or false, that supplies are low, people will buy more of it, and the result is that supply WILL be low. Some companies try to profit from this, by claiming that "supplies are limited" when they are, in fact, anything of the sort, creating a sort of artificial demand.
- Stereotypes, people subconsciously adapt to behave 'normally', with stereotypes representing what people consider 'normal' behaviour for certain groups of people.
- The situation is made harder by the fact averting stereotypes is usually a conscious decision to make a character that is 'different' (implying they are abnormal) and backlash against stereotypes often goes wrong, creating 'reverse' stereotypes (for example, Real Women Never Wear Dresses).
- The November 1948 issue of Astounding Science Fiction printed a reader's letter reviewing the contents of the November 1949 issue. Editor John W. Campbell then commissioned stories from the authors mentioned in the letter, making the actual November 1949 issue as close to the imaginary review as possible.
- People who claim to be psychics run off this. They hope that if they tell you something will happen under certain circumstances, you'll enforce those circumstances on your own. If they tell you "You will meet your future spouse while wearing red shoes," they hope that you'll wear red shoes all the time (especially since if you're asking a psychic, you're likely a little desperate), so when you inevitably meet someone, the "prediction" comes true. Similarly, if you ask about, say, having a baby, that implies you're stressed about it (stress can make it harder to conceive). They hope that if they tell you you're going to have a baby soon, that'll reduce your stress levels, possibly encourage you to "try" more, and increase the odds that you will have a baby.
- Fat people who are otherwise as average in eating and activity habits as their thin counterparts may come under attack by individuals or groups who make fun of them or stereotype them as lazy and gluttonous as a misguided attempt to motivate them to adopting healthy habits. Unfortunately, this may crush their self esteem so much that it prevents them from doing so in the first place as they see no reason to.
- While the population of people on the Internet roughly reflects the gender distribution of the world population, roughly half male and half female, many regulars on gaming and technical forums firmly believe that There Are No Girls on the Internet. When a woman does show up, boorish, misogynistic behavior by the male regulars drives them away, resulting in male-dominated technical spaces. This partly explains why relatively few women major in technical fields.
- When it comes to women, the idea that games with female leads don't sell well is also one of these, as argued here - publishers are afraid the game won't sell and as such puts only the minimum amount of effort into marketing, resulting in nobody even being aware the game exists, and as a result it doesn't sell well.
- In programming, people tend to wait until the end to optimize code because they think it takes too much time and effort, but it mostly takes so much because it grows more complicated due to the delay.
- TV scheduling can run afoul of this quite easily too. After buying or making a show, the broadcaster later comes to the conclusion that it probably won't do well with the audiences, so they typically put it on in a late-night "death" slot, and frequently poorly advertised ahead of time too. Quite predictably, the show's viewing figures are dismally low due to few people even knowing that the show is on, and still less people willing to watch it in such an awkward timeslot. The broadcaster then says "we told you this show wouldn't do well" and cancel it.
- William Henry Harrison, during his run for President, was criticized for being old and frail (he was then the oldest man elected President, and would remain so until Ronald Reagan 140 years later), and many people speculated that he would be the first US president to die while in office. He tried to prove his detractors wrong by giving a two-hour inauguration speech outside in the rain in cold weather without wearing warm clothes, subsequently catching pneumonia and, a month later, becoming the first US president to die in office.
- That small fraction of people in any democracy who don't vote because they don't think their vote counts. And who thus act in a way that makes sure that it won't.
- During the 2012 Presidential Election, it seemed like Mitt Romney was ahead enough in the polls to win the Presidency from Barack Obama. While Ohio and Pennsylvania were close according to the polls one week before the election-some even having him ahead by a couple of points, Romney feared that he might still lose those key states. So he decided to focus his final week campaigning in Pennsylvania instead of the other states he believed were already his, and he decided to release commercials in Ohio claiming that President Obama was planning to ship jeep production jobs overseas as part of the bailout deal with General Motors and Chrysler. The campaigning in Pennsylvania was a waste of time, as Romney lost it by a huge margin during the election, at the same time also losing states that he should have won like Florida. And he lost Ohio after his ad about the jeeps were fact checked and proven wrong, turning many potential voters against him right before the election.
- Game developers who don't make games for a particular system because they have no faith in it or are unimpressed with its low install base inadvertently make said game for that system fail because of it, and also fail to grow the console's install base. Same goes for those who make poor ports of multiplatform games for said system, causing that version of the game to sell poorly.
- The "I didn't vote" argument. People become cynical and convinced that their votes don't matter because corrupt politicians and fundamentalists will just cheat and/or bribe their way to victory. Thus they don't bother going out to vote, which just makes it easier for the corrupt individuals to keep themselves in power by paying off friends and allies to pad out the ballots in their favor.
- Racial profiling in law enforcement. Proponents of profiling say that "This group has a higher crime rate, so we should profile them." The profiling then ensures that the group continues to have a high crime rate, both in reaction to the treatment and because crime rate statistics are based on the crimes being seen, so the profiling will never end.