When the plot (usually courtesy of the antagonist), in a last ditch effort, tempts the hero into abandoning his potentially painful and tragic cause
to pursue what would be a fairly ordinary and happy life
, especially with a vision or daydream of said situation. The true hero, naturally, doesn't fall for this, or at least acknowledges he has a higher calling.
Occasionally, the dream implies whatever the hero was doing has been done
somehow, and they shouldn't worry about it now. Although sometimes the quest still exists but is suddenly someone else's problem
Different than All Just a Dream
in that the audience usually isn't supposed to be fooled by this; not everyone in the "dream"
plays along, and usually a friend of the hero or a vision of them appears in the fantasy, outright confirming it's fake.
This might be the fantasy conjured up by a Lotus-Eater Machine
, and often fails when it overplays its promise. May be used in conjunction with More Than Mind Control
, though the villain has the added burden of first convincing the victim the offer is
what they want.
The name is drawn from the novel and film The Last Temptation of Christ
, in which Satan
tempts the dying Jesus with a vision of a long and happy life where he gets to marry Mary Magdalene and raise a family as a simple farmer.
Compare We Can Rule Together
. See also Leave Your Quest Test
, but without a supernatural slide show. Not to be confused with the last temptation in T. S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral
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- The Alan Moore story For the Man Who Has Everything, in which Superman's mind is trapped in an illusion induced by an evil plant called the Black Mercy, depicting him living a happy life on an intact planet Krypton. He later breaks free of it through sheer force of will, then turns his full unstoppable fury on Mongul, the guy who put him into the illusion. This is one of the few times we witness Superman go all out on someone with intent to kill, and it's both awesome and terrifying.
- There's a part in Catwoman in which the titular character ends up in a weird mind-control machine on some other planet somewhere. She's invincible and feared by everyone; it takes a lot for Lex Luthor to get her to snap out of it.
- In Earth 2, the Grey tempts Alan Scott (Green Lantern) with an apparition of his dead lover Sam.
- In the JLA Watchtower universe, Hades attempted to persuade Omen to his side, and convince her to let him kill the Titans so that they could go to Elysium, instead of letting her and Troia return to life with them. They would have a life in paradise as innocent children, with Omen taking Persephone's place as Queen of the Dead. Hades also broadly hinted at why heroes get a revolving door at the afterlife...and this was written 4 years before Blackest Night!
- In the MLP fic Rainbooms and Royalty (an AU where Rainbow Dash became Celestia's student instead of Twilight), Nightmare Moon, like in canon, tempts Rainbow Dash just prior to the Final Battle. It is much darker, however, in this story. Rather than offer her the captaincy of the Shadowbolts, Nightmare Moon commiserates with her, pointing out that she too knows how it feels that have one's self and achievements overlooked in favor of another. She tries to plant seeds of doubt in Rainbow's mind about whether Celestia truly cared for her or even understood her, or whether she was just using Rainbow as a weapon. Nightmare Moon then offers all of Rainbow's goals and fondest desires to her, namely a spot on the Wonderbolts and Shining Armor's love. And not just that, but she offers to fulfill all of her friends' wishes as well if Rainbow would proclaim loyalty to her. Finally, she points out that with Celestia gone, she was the only one capable of controlling the sun and the moon, and was thus indispensable to Equestria. Despite heavy temptation and inner turmoil, Rainbow resists with a simple realization: Celestia loved her, and all Nightmare Moon cared about was her own self-gratification.
- Chronomistress Out Of Time: Queen Chrysalis, who traps people in blissful illusions so that she can feed on their emotions, makes one last desperate bid to offer this to the protagonist who is escaping her lair.
- In Perfection Is Overrated, an example similar to Mai-HiME happens, only this time, Yukariko is doing it to Natsuki, offering her a world in which not only are her parents and dog still there, but so is everyone else she's met at Fuuka Academy. Natsuki comes to the realization that she can never get back what she's lost, but she can move forward, and frees herself from the illusion. The chapter in which this takes place is even called "Last Temptation".
- In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "Smurfed Behind: Smurfing In Heaven", Ares secretly attempts to have Empath join him by first giving him the illusory promise of being with his fellow Smurfs again in Elysium, until Empath saw through the charade and realized that the Elysium and the Tartarus he was in were both illusions. Ares tries again by promising him godhood in exchange for drinking blood from the Chalice of Conquest, and Empath seems to fall for it...until Hermes rescues him just as he was about to drink from the cup, saying that it would have turned him into another of Ares' demons.
- The Equestrian Wind Mage: During the final fight with Sombra at the end of Season 1, he casts an illusion on Vaati that shows him gaining everything he's ever wanted (control of Hyrule, Zelda by his side, etc.) if just goes back to evil. And it almost works, until Luna intrudes on the vision and reminds Vaati of the bonds he's made in Equestria, which is enough to give him the strength to fight off the illusion and the temptation.
Film — Animation
- In Barbie & The Diamond Castle, the heroines come across an isolated mansion and are told that it now belongs to them. As it would provide them with more food and dresses than they ever had before, Alexa wants to stay, while Liana feels they should continue on to the Diamond Castle to save the world from being robbed of all music. The two girls split up, but it turns out the mansion was just a trap set by the villain, and Alexa is promptly captured.
- Dr. Facilier of The Princess and the Frog tempts Tiana with a vision of the restaurant she's been trying to open her entire life, in one of the straightest applications of this trope.
- Samwise Gamgee's temptation is played up in the animated The Return of the King. It comes in an intense A God Am I fantasy that pulls him within a second of being consumed by the Ruling Ring before his conscience rebelled.
Film — Live Action
- The Nexus in Star Trek: Generations, which offered to anyone who entered their happiest fantasies come to life. It didn't work on Picard. He was always at his happiest when on the Enterprise, and the Nexus deprived him of that, giving him the chance to see through the illusion. Even so, the chance to see his beloved (but recently deceased) nephew again and to live with the family his career never left time for is almost enough to tempt him into staying, if lives weren't hanging in the balance
- It didn't work on Kirk, either, at least not once Picard tells him its all an illusion. Kirk is enough of a thrill junkie that he needs an element of danger, or at least to believe there is one, in order to be happy.
- The lure of the Nexus is so powerful that the Big Bad of the film is willing to sacrifice billions of lives to get back to it after having been unwillingly pulled out a century earlier.
- Jareth does this at the climax of Labyrinth, offering Sarah himself and all her fantasies come true if she stays with him. He is undone with six words: "You have no power over me."
- Cypher has fallen prey to one in the original Matrix, before the movie started. He has seen the Crapsack World "Real" world, of ruins and darkness and decided he would much rather live out his life in the computer-generated dream world that is the Matrix. The Machines gladly offer him any status he wants in the Matrix in exchange for a betrayal of his friends in the real world. His role is the same as Judas in the Bible.
- In the Apocalypse film series movie Revelation, the Antichrist Franco Macalousso through his Digital Avatar tempts Thorold Stone with the promise of being reunited with his wife and daughter in exchange for accepting Macalousso as the Messiah and taking the Mark of the Beast. Stone ultimately refuses to accept, as he knows where his wife and daughter really are.
- One of the earlier examples is from G. K. Chesterton's book The Ball and The Cross: At the pinnacle of an extended metaphor revolving around the eponymous shapes, "Professor" Lucifer successively tempts the two protagonists (a Catholic and an Atheist) with monarchic and anarchistic utopias, respectively. Both refuse his offer by falling out of the airship, the first trusting in miracles and the second in the fact that he's probably dreaming.
- Nikos Kazantzakis' The Last Temptationof Christ.
- Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings, the only Ringbearer in history to refuse the temptation of the One Ring. Being the quintessential hobbit, this was attributed to his "plain hobbit sense." He imagines a garden the size of an entire realm, then realizes it'd be impossible to manage and unfulfilling to have servants do it for him.
- Achilles is told early on that if he does not go to the war he will find peace and have a family of his own but he will eventually be forgotten; if he goes to Troy, his name will last for eternity but he will die there. Guess which one he took.
- Andre Norton's Storm Over Warlock: the telepathic Wyverns put Shann Lantee through a test involving illusions, including reunion with a pet he'd had a few years before — "the only thing Shann had ever known which he could love wholeheartedly...." To pass that part of the test, he had to force himself to recall in detail how his pet died, in pain from an injury Shann was powerless to heal. He was, understandably, in a rather bad mood for some time afterwards.
- In the Incarnations of Immortality novel "And Eternity", Satan offers Orlene precisely this type of temptation. In exchange for a small favor merely asking Luna to abstain from a key vote. Luna's response is not relevant to this deal., he offers Orlene her baby. Getting her baby back has been her entire goal through the novel. Jolie even observes "He is Tempting her." Orlene's decision here to refuse seals her fate she becomes the Goddess
- I, Lucifer has Jesus being tempted by Lucifer in order to sway him from sacrificing himself. Unlike the bible, Lucifer states he simply showed him a vision of the future in order to see if it would be worth it. The vision shakes Jesus' faith but God strikes the vision with lightning and Christ regains his resolve. Leading Luce to angrily point out God had cheated when aiding Jesus through his test.
- In The Belgariad, farmboy-turned-hero Garion is on his way to confront the Dark God, Torak, when he begins dreaming of a life in which he is not orphaned, with the implication that Torak could make it happen if Garion gives up the quest to slay him. Garion sees through it with the help of the Light Prophecy, and delivers a defiant Shut Up, Hannibal!.
- In The Wheel of Time, Nynaeve finds herself in a world where she and Lan have married, had kids, and settled down to peaceful farm life. Different from many examples in that the temptation is not created by a villain, but is part of a magical test she has to pass to join the Aes Sedai.
- In Jennifer Murdley's Toad, the Big Bad witch tries a last-ditch effort to persuade Jennifer to hand over her magical toad by showing her a vision of her as a beautiful blonde and telling her that she has the power to give her the beauty she's always wanted. Just to drive the point home even further, the chapter in which this happens is titled "The Temptation of Jennifer Murdley".
- In The Elenium, Azash resorts to this in desperation when his attempts to destroy Sparhawk are ineffective. First giving offers of power, he then creates illusions of gold and beautiful women to distract the knight, but the Troll-gods remove these.
- In Blood Promise, Strigoi!Dimitri offers to turn her Strigoi so they can be together - she comes very close to accepting.
Live Action TV
- An odd example in Smallville, Labyrinth. A phantom takes over Clark's mind and tries to bend him to its will. It used an illusion of Lana to persuade him to stay in the dream state and believe it was real, while the phantom maintained control over Clark's body. Fortunately, the unlikely team of Shelby and Martian Manhunter saves him.
- In the third season (2007) Doctor Who episode Family of Blood, the Doctor, before deciding to change back to a Time Lord, sees a vision of himself as a human, marrying, having children, and growing old before dying peacefully in the knowledge that all his loved ones are safe from danger.
- Unusually, the vision may have had an effect on The Doctor, as it's quite likely WHY the Family received their fate worse than death.
- And in the second season (2006) episode "School Reunion", the Krillatines offer the Doctor the chance to share in the power of the Skasis Paradigmn, allowing him to bring his people back from extinction.
- Supernatural, "What Is And What Should Never Be": Dean has to choose between his life as a hunter and a Lotus-Eater Machine where his mother is still alive, his father died of natural causes, and Sam finished law school and got engaged to Jessica.
- Especially epic (and also arguably trope-subverted) in that Dean makes the decision to try and break free before he knows that its an illusion. Regardless of how much better life was for himself and his family, Dean wouldn't accept it at the price of all the innocent lives him and Sam had saved as Hunters. He would have refused the temptation even if it had been true.
- The spores in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "This Side Of Paradise" caused the target to be content with living a simple comfortable life, abandoning any greater ambitions.
- An episode of The X-Files had Mulder imagining that he'd given up his crusade for a peaceful life. Darkly subverted in that it ends with him dying in bed with only the Cigarette-Smoking Man for company, who then looks out the window to watch an alien spacecraft bombarding a destroyed Earth.
- Not exactly the same sort of temptation, but fitting the trope: An episode of Scrubs introduces Dr Cox's friend Ben (an avid photographer who likes to take spontaneous pictures, claiming that 'posed pictures aren't real'), who gets diagnosed with cancer. JD takes a liking to Ben, and gets convinced that the diagnosis is wrong - all his friends have complained how important files have been mixed up and the wrong patients sent to surgery and so on, and JD believes that the same thing happens here. After convincing the lab doctor to redo the test, Ben is proven to be healthy, and everything is rosy... and the edges of the frame starts getting kinda blurry... when Ben wants everyone to gather together for a group pic, JD thinks it's odd because doesn't Ben think pics like that aren't real? And Ben replies, "Don't you see? None of this is real." And that's when JD's wishful daydream, which has been going on since just before the second blood test, ends.
- And in a later episode, Ben visits for Cox's son's birthday party, Dr. Cox blames JD for the death of a patient, and Ben manages to convince Dr. Cox to apologize. Later, Dr. Cox and Ben are on the way to the party, and JD arrives, prompting Dr. Cox to realize that Ben is not there, that Ben was in fact the patient who died and that they are attending his funeral rather than Jack's birthday party.
- Happens in the Space: 1999 two-parter "The Bringers of Wonder".
- Game of Thrones: Part of a huge Tear Jerker at the end of Season 2. Whether as a result of a Lotus-Eater Machine or simply a prophetic vision of what might have been, Daenerys sees the life she might have had with Drogo had he and her son lived. While visibly shaken, she leaves anyway to rescue her dragons, the only "children" she has left.
- On Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Hades distracts Hercules from his task of rescuing Persephone by presenting him with his late wife and children. When Hercules takes up the task again, Hades disguises himself as Deinara in an attempt to make him look back.
- In Queen of the Wave by Pepe Deluxe, Zailm undergoes "The Trial of the Crisis" to determine if he's spiritually ready to marry the princess Anzimee, or if he has to undergo another cycle of reincarnation. The Trial involves a demon taking several different form to tempt Zailm in a number of ways; for the final test, he takes the form of Princess Anzimee.
- Persona 3 has an especially twisted and (for some) heart-wrenching variation: It turns out that one of the main character's friends from school, Ryoji Mochizuki, is actually the monster who will bring about The End of the World as We Know It Because Destiny Says So. However, because they've developed such a close friendship, Ryoji offers him the option of killing his physical avatar to erase the team's memories of the Dark Hour, meaning that when the End comes, everyone will die instantly instead of having to live with the knowledge that their doom approaches. In effect, the main character's choice boils down to accepting his fate and killing Ryoji, or letting him live and Screwing Destiny.
- Made especially painful because everyone involved heavily plays up that Nyx is unbeatable and invincible, a force of nature that cannot be destroyed or pushed back, that to resist is meaningless - merely slow and painful death, complete and total despair as you watch the sands of your metaphorical hourglass tick away in a battle that is impossible to win, instead of a swift, merciful, blessedly unaware death..
- Not to mention that throughout December, you and your team discuss the choice heavily, and all of them ultimately resolve to face Nyx, no matter how slim their chance. When Ryoji comes to hear their decision, he waits in the Main Character's room, and he or she informs him of the decision to let him live. Ryoji then points out that they are currently alone, and so if the protagonist has a dissenting opinion, he or she can opt to kill Ryoji anyway.
- Occurs in Neverwinter Nights (Hordes of the Underdark, to be specific) if you try to oppose the Elder Brain. It's not very tough to overpower the illusion - but fighting off the three big uglies that show up when you do is another matter. (After which the Elder Brain dies almost anticlimactically, since it's... well... a giant brain.)
- In a not-very-Secret Test of Character in Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal, a figure representing your character's lost innocence tempts you to give up all your power and become this your younger self again. However, you don't even have the chance to acquiesce, and it's not clear how this rewinding the clock is supposed to be possible. When you refuse, "your innocence" will turn into the monstrous avatar of Bhaal you also have the ability to turn into and attack, making for a mildly challenging fight.
- Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction plays with this right before the final boss fight with Tachyon, by showing Ratchet the dimension the Lombaxes had escaped to, and offering Ratchet a chance to join them, leaving Tachyon unopposed. Naturally, Ratchet claims he has a Higher Calling (i.e. kicking Tachyon's ass).
- Part of the Air Gem tests in the AGD Interactive Fan Remake of King's Quest II. Graham is thrust forward in time to his darkest moment - Daventry is in ruins, the three-headed dragon ravaging the land has demanded Graham's daughter as a Human Sacrifice, and Graham's son was kidnapped by his enemies. That's when the Big Bad (who masterminded the whole thing in a Batman Gambit) shows up to gloat and offer a deal. He will send away the dragon, return Graham's kids, and restore the blighted kingdom in exchange for Graham's crown. It's playable, so you have several options. The one scoring the highest points is telling him that the act of passing on the crown to someone like him would be treason against the principles that Daventry is founded on, and that certain values must be put above oneself and one's family. The fiend ends up being quite impressed with your sense of loyalty.
- The Perfect World in Fable II. As a last ditch effort to keep you from stopping his plans, Lucien traps you in a Lotus-Eater Machine that gives back the life you lost. You are a child, living in a beautiful estate, and your sister is alive again. After a day or so of fun and games, you are awakened by the Music Box you bought long ago. As you follow the music, the blissful dream gradually gives way to a nightmarish road littered with corpses. When you finally reach the box, the illusion shatters completely, and you set out to finish the quest once and for all.
- Bravely Default has the Sage Sidequest, where the Sage sets it up so that the party who have been jumping from Alternate Continuity to Alternate Continuity; are in a reality where their counterparts were killed, but nobody can prove it. They could easily give up their quest and have a happy life taking their counterparts place.
- This happened to Shipwreck in G.I. Joe in the episode "There's No Place Like Springfield".
- An episode of Batman: The Animated Series featured Batman caught in a virtual dream world by the Mad Hatter (who fortunately could not observe the dream itself) living as playboy billionaire Bruce Wayne, with his parents alive and well (and thus he had never become Batman). In the dream he was engaged to Selina Kyle (who was not Catwoman) and the mysterious Batman was someone ELSE who just showed up in Gotham. His friends and family in the dream almost had him completely convinced he had created his real life as a delusion to escape his feelings of not having accomplished anything on his own, but the illusion fell apart when he discovered he couldn't read anything (because reading requires parts of the brain not used in dreams?). Suffice to say, he did NOT appreciate the Mind Screw when he woke himself up.
- Trying to read something in a dream is a trick used by lucid dreamers to detect whether they are dreaming. Unless you have a photographic memory, your brain will have some trouble trying to remember or imagine a page full of text.
- The Justice League adaption of Alan Moore's For the Man Who Has Everything (see Comic Books, above) does the same thing for Superman.
- Used in The Penguins of Madagascar episode "The Lost Treasure of the Golden Squirrel".
- The Adventure Time episode Puhoy. On a particularly dagger-rainy day, Finn is bummed out by Flame Princess not laughing at one of his jokes. He overthinks it decides to go 'fester' his mind under some pillows. Finn the drops into a pillow world and falls in love with one of its local residents.
- Subverted, however, in that he decides that his new formed family is more important than his old life, and only returns when he dies of old age. Its also unclear whether the events truly occurred or if they were just a dream.