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"I DIDN'T MEAN IT!"

"So this is it; this is what I wished for; just isn't how I envisioned it..."
Eminem, from "Careful What You Wish For." note 
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...because you just might get it.

A character makes a wish and actually gets what they wished for, only to find that the reality does not live up to their fantasy.

This trope is all about how a character who makes a wish comes to regret it; the actual circumstances vary. The wisher may or may not have known that their wish was actually going to be heard. The one which grants it may be anything from a wish-granting Genie who wants to show the character the error of their ways to a Jackass Genie who just wants them to suffer. A sudden appearance by Louis Cypher, ready to offer a Deal with the Devil, is not out of the question either. Sometimes the character gets a tour through an Alternate Timeline. Other times the mechanism of the granted wish is not even explained — the wisher gets what they want through nothing more than an ironic and coincidental twist of circumstances.

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The "deal breaker" that makes the wish not worth it also comes in a lot of possible flavors. Perhaps the character finds out that what they wanted comes at the cost of something they wanted even more. Maybe the element of their life that they wanted gone is really essential to who they are; maybe the wish isn't all they thought it was cracked up to be; or maybe it just comes true in an unanticipated manner.

In many cases the character repents of their ill-considered wish and things revert to normal, though in some stories the character is stuck in the new situation and forced to deal with the consequences of their thoughtless wish.

This is an elementary form of deconstruction — The character wants X, and then they find out that X has unforeseen consequences or is less satisfying than expected. Nine times of ten this is an outright Aesop, though strictly speaking it doesn't have to be. A crucial element of playing that angle well is making the "deal breaker" a meaningful, inherent flaw to the original wish rather than something tacked on or that could have easily turned out differently if the character had more common sense. Otherwise, a Broken Aesop is guaranteed.

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Often a cause of Blessed with Suck, though not the only one; wont to count as an Opinion-Changing Dream; Contains the same type of irony as Ironic Hell. In some cases the experience may lead the wisher to discover an Awful Truth.

Sub-Trope of Be Careful What You Say. Super Trope of It's a Wonderful Plot, I Wish It Were Real, I Wished You Were Dead, Please Dump Me, and Rhetorical Request Blunder. Often overlaps with Full-Circle Revolution — "So you want new leadership? Meet the New Boss, same as the old boss."

Compare Gone Horribly Right, when science or logic is involved rather than wishes, Wanting Is Better Than Having, when getting your wish ends with more disappointment than satisfaction, and Tempting Fate, which does not specifically require a wish.

Contrast the Literal Genie, which ignores the intent of the wish in favor of the exact words; this trope is about the complications that arise when you get exactly what you wanted, rather than exactly what you said. A Jackass Genie is likely to cause this to happen, if they don't just twist your words entirely. The Benevolent Genie, too, may make this happen if they think you "need to learn the lesson from getting your wish, or if they lack the common sense or human perspective to see that the wish is disastrous, or if they're just constrained to grant the wish no matter how disastrous it is.


Examples:

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    Comic Strips 
  • In Art Sansom's The Born Loser, the strip's main character Brutus Thornapple finds a lamp with a genie, who will grant him one wish. In an Aside Comment, Brutus says to us, "Boy, I wish Gladys [his wife] could see this!" Gladys suddenly appears in the genie's place and deadpans "You called?"
  • The trope image comes from Calvin and Hobbes, during a storyline where Calvin gets sick.
  • Two arcs of FoxTrot relating to one of Jason's money making schemes are a direct result of this trope: The first one related to Jason making his own website, and the second dealt with a greeting card, both times were the result of Roger, his father, ranting about how he would make a lot of money creating a site and at the cost of buying Christmas cards, respectively. The second time, Jason wasn't even in the same room as Roger, implying that Roger was talking about to Andy loud enough for Jason to hear it from another room.
  • Garfield has a few examples:
    • In a strip, Jon scolds Garfield about how he is "doing nothing with your life" then goes to the store, saying, "when I come back, I want you to have learned something". By the time he comes back, Garfield has learned to use his credit card, and has bought enough stuff to construct a "man cave" with it.
    • A subversion:
      Garfield: Reruns! Yesterday's news... Leftovers! There's never anything new around here!
      Jon: Run for your life! The plumbing backed up, and thousands of piranha are spawning in the toilet!!
      Garfield: Again?!
    • In another strip, Garfield wished for a fifty-pound pan of lasagna. It fell on him. (At which point he mused, "Now wouldn't you think I'd know better than to make a wish like that on a Monday?")
    • In a very early strip, Garfield is shown hanging onto the screen door simply because he's bored, complaining of his boredom. He wishes for something to happen. A very mundane yet apparently painful something occurs when Jon announces it's lunchtime.
    • One strip has Garfield stranded up a tree. Garfield says to it "Stupid tree... may all your stupid branches fall off!" Needless to say, all the trees branches broke off and fell to the ground. Including the one he was on.
      Garfield: Nice curse, Garfield.
    • Garfield wished for a pizza and then he got it. He then wished for some music and a piano fell on him.
    • When Jon and Liz were about to take their Christmas card photo, Jon called for Garfield and Odie, claiming they wanted everyone in it. Garfield then brought several characters, including the pizza delivery guy ("He's like family," according to Garfield).
    • After returning from a camping trip, Jon wishes he "could camp just one more night". Garfield locks him outside their home.
  • U.S. Acres: Roy wanted his eyes to be bigger. Too bad for him it was Lanolin who granted that wish.
  • Liō: Liō went to a wishing well and evidently wished that his crush Eva would love him back. He turned into a sword, which she loved.

    Fairy Tales and Folklore 
  • In "The Twelve Wild Ducks", a queen says, "If I only had a daughter as white as snow and as red as blood, I shouldn't care what became of all my sons." A troll witch hears and takes her sons.
  • In "The Seven Ravens," the father wishes his sons were ravens for their being so forgetful. (To add to the irony, he was mistaken about why they hadn't done as he said.)
  • In "The Myrtle", a woman wishes for a child, even a sprig of myrtle.
  • In "Hans the Hedgehog", the father wishes for a son, even a hedgehog.
  • Similar stories went around in seventeenth-century England. In some cases a Catholic or Anglican parent would rather their unborn child have no head than be a Roundhead; in others, a Puritan would wish for their child have no head rather than have a priest make the Sign of the Cross on it. Either way, they ended up with a headless baby.
  • In "The Ludicrous Wishes", a poor couple that rescues an elf and is granted three wishes in return. The wife, being hungry, wishes she had a nice, tasty sausage. Her husband scolds her for wasting a wish on such a mundane thing and blurts out in anger: "I wish that stupid sausage was stuck on your nose!" which is exactly what happens next. In the end, they have to use the third wish to get the sausage off the poor woman's face and have thus wasted all three of them.
  • There's a story from somewhere in Africa about a tribe that doesn't exist any more, because when seeking a reward from some supernatural being, the men said that the best thing that could happen to them was for their wife to give them a son, and for their cattle to give them female calves. — So be it, all your children shall be sons and all your calves shall be heifers. — They rejoiced, until...
  • "Prince Ivan, the Witch Baby, and the Little Sister of the Sun." Your son does not talk. Wish for any child at all, because things can't be worse, and you get a witch child born with iron teeth who eats you up.
  • Played with in one fairy tale about a girl who lies dying during the early spring from a malady winter has afflicted her with who wishes that she could at least get to live for as long as the beautiful spring flowers in her garden still bloom so she can meet with her boyfiend who is set to return to her before summer. She near instantly becomes healthy and, unusually for the way these kind of tales tend to work out, seems fully aware of the fact that her life is now tied to her garden flowers and starts taking good care of them to ensure her own survival. She never regrets her wish or angsts about how her days are numbered but is simply thankful for the additional time she has been given and is even more loving and kind to her family than usual... Cue her unknowing boyfriend returning while she's napping in the garden: he plucks the flowers, braids them into a crown and wakes her up by placing it upon her head. The girl quickly realizes what the boy has done and hurriedly sets the flowers in water but over the following days. As the flowers wither away, so does the girl. The story ends with the last petals of the flowers falling as the girl peacefully passes away with her family and devastated boyfriend at her side while the hushed laughs of The Fair Folk are heard from the garden.
  • In The Boy Who Found Fear at Last, the Fearless Fool protagonist goes through a series of terrifying adventures in his quest to "find fear", all without batting an eye. But when he's made a king at the end of the story, he finally finds fear at the prospect of the The Chains of Commanding and the burden of trying to be a good ruler.
  • In "Zeus and the Bee", one of Aesop's Fables, Zeus offers to grant the bee a wish after she presents him with honey. The bee tells him that she is constantly having her honey stolen from her and asks for a weapon to defend her honey. Zeus is displeased by the selfish nature of the wish, but being obliged to grant it, he gives her a barbed spear... which he implants directly into her abdomen, so that it will tear out her insides and kill her if she uses it.
  • One account of the story of the Flying Dutchman (first published in Blackwood's Magazine in 1821) goes that the captain was caught in a storm off the coast of South Africa, and swore he would make it around the Cape of Good Hope if it took him until Judgement Day. Sure enough, to this day he's still trying to navigate his Ghost Ship through the stormy seas.

    Jokes 
  • Somewhere in the Soviet Union... A Russian catches a goldfish, who speaks: "Dear man, free me and I'll grant your one greatest wish." The Russian thinks for a moment: "Well, I have a solid, well-paid job, a beautiful wife, two great children, a car, a flat... What could I wish for? I know! I want to receive the Hero Of The Soviet Union!" The fish nodded: "Your wish is granted!" Suddenly the guy is caught in a giant blast. As it recedes, the man finds himself sitting in a foxhole, wearing a worn-out battledress, with a rifle with a few bullets and several grenades and the bodies of other Russian soldiers lying all around. The man looks out and notices a large group of Nazi tanks advancing towards his foxhole. Suddenly, he realizes: "Holy fuck! It's a posthumous one!!!"
  • Another, post-Soviet one: "We always knew everything we were told about Communism was a lie. Only when it was too late did we realize everything about Capitalism was true."
  • Man catches a goldfish and wished for riches, power, and a beautiful wife. Next morning he wakes up in an opulent palace, surrounded by splendor, luxury and obedient servants. A gorgeous woman comes into the bedroom and tells him: "Ferdinand, sweetheart, get up. It's time we go to Sarajevo."note 

    Myths & Religion 
  • From The Bible:
    • Even God could be harsh in granting wishes when the wishers were being too whiny. In response to the Israelites complaining about all manna and no meat, he gave them meat for a month "until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you" (KJV).
      • Ten of the twelve Israelites sent to spy out the Promised Land insisted that its people were too strong to conquer, even though they had God on their side. The people declared that it would be better to die in the desert than try to conquer the Land. God, furious, declared that they wouldn't enter the Land until every man who complained had, in fact, died in the desert. Cue 39 more years of wandering.
    • During the time of the Judges, Israel had no king (except for God himself). The Israelites decided they didn't like this situation and wanted a human king like all the surrounding nations. So God tells them, "Alright, I'll give you your king, but you won't like him very much". In no fewer than four kings (Saul, David, Solomon, Rehoboam), Israelites got so tired of all the work imposed by the king (particularly Solomon, who built the temple and many other great works) that 10 tribes chose to follow a different fellow named Jeroboam, instead of Rehoboam, son of Solomon, splitting the nation into the northern kingdom of Israel and southern kingdom of Judah. As if this wasn't bad enough, most of the time (starting especially with Jeroboam), the kings (and their foreign-born queens) led the nation into idolatry, until the northern kingdom of Israel was wiped out by Assyrians and the southern kingdom of Judah underwent a long period of captivity in Babylon.
  • One particular instance is Draupadi, the Pandavas' wife, in the Mahabharata yearning for a husband in her previous life. She wanted her husband to be as strong as Vayu, as talented as Indra, as moral as Dharma and as beautiful as the Ashwini twins. She forgot to specify that she wanted one husband. As a result, in her next incarnation, she married five men and was the wife of five husbands simultaneously.
  • The legend of King Midas (the first part, at least) is a good example. Upon finding the drunken satyr Silenus, a follower of Dionysus, trespassing on his property, Midas treated him hospitably for ten days rather than punishing him. Dionysus offered Midas a reward for his charity, offering him anything he wanted; Midas asked that anything he touched be turned to gold. Although the god warned him that he had made a foolish wish, he still granted it. Though Midas was happy at first, it soon became obvious that he had indeed been foolish. His daughter was quickly turned into a statue by this power, and Midas couldn't even touch food without it turning to gold. When faced with starvation, he begged Dionysus to take the gift back...

    Pro Wrestling 
  • One particularly famous example occurred at ECW's Hardcore Heaven 1994. Terry Funk and Cactus Jack had beaten down Public Enemy for interrupting their main event match, and during so, they asked no one in particular in the audience to toss them a chair. Cue every one of their fans complied, subsequently burying them and Public Enemy in a pile of chairs. It even got to the point where Joey Styles had to ask the audience 5 times in a row to not throw chairs into the ring until they finally ran out.
  • Razor Ramon would often encourage children to be just like him, a disrespectful brute who took whatever he wanted. Well, one child did end up like Razor, and Razor Ramon turned out to not like having to deal with him.
  • The Four Horsemen and Kevin Sullivan's Dungeon of Doom, as tired of everyone else in WCW of Hulk Hogan, joined together to form The Alliance To End Hulkamania. Well, they failed, but everyone was still sick of Hogan, so Hulkamania ended up dying of natural causes. But Hulk Hogan didn't leave just because he no longer had the power of the Hulkamaniacs, oh no. He formed the nWo, a group worse for WCW than the Horsemen, Dungeon Of Doom and Hulkamania combined.
  • On Friday Night Smackdown, the fans voted for Randy Orton to be the first challenger to WWE World Heavyweight Champion Christian. The same fans were less than enthused when Randy won.
  • Monday Night Raw referee Brad Maddox wanted to be a wrestler, he wanted to have matches. So he got them, with Ryback, The Great Khali, Brodus Clay, Randy Orton and Sheamus. Subverted, in that Maddox was just a fall guy set up by Paul Heyman to protect CM Punk.
  • Said word for word when Sara Del Rey beat up Santana Garrett at EVOLVE 14, mocked the then new SHINE promotion for using Garret as a front runner, then challenged a wrestler she stumbled upon the prior month and deemed the best competition SHINE could offer, Jazz.
  • On the unauthorized ROH A Night Of Hoopla, The American Wolves were repeatedly mocked for wearing pants, Eddie Edwards by the Hoopla Hotties, Davey Ricards getting chants of "Take Your Pants Off" and "Pants Still On" from the crowd itself. However, when Richards actually did pull them down, the chant changed to "Keep Them On!".
  • When MVP became director of wrestling operations for TNA, Bully Ray would criticize him for not using the powers allotted by the position to their fullest potential. Then Don Sterling lost his National Basketball Association team, The LA Clippers, which not only lead to MVP using the powers allotted to him as director of wrestling operations to their fullest in the most spiteful ways possible, but him deciding that those powers were not enough. Soon Bully Ray was accusing MVP of having a god complex.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This trope is a staple of fantasy roleplaying when wishes are available to players, often spurring almost comic efforts to avoid loopholes, poor wording, or ill-conceived wishes. In Dungeons & Dragons, Wishes are most often obtained from literal Jerkass Genies and demons, which should be a pretty clear warning. The most powerful arcane spellcasters in 3rd edition can make wishes safely within certain parameters; beyond those, GMs are encouraged to get creative with unexpected side effects. Particularly if a player is trying to make a game-breaking wish.
  • You can ask a higher power to directly intervene in battle in Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok, but if the runes are not with you, they might very well appear on the battlefield and kick the crap out of your party instead of helping you.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • The game has a cycle of Wish cards, the flavour text of each of which is a variant on the following: "He wished for X, but not for the [Required Secondary Power] to [effectively use] it." The Future Sight block added another one as one of its many Call Backs.
    • Braid of Fire is based around this. It gives you increasing amounts of mana at the start of your upkeep, and by its mana given/casting cost ratio is one of the best mana accelerants ever made. But unlike most it happened uncontrollably, and it was also made in the days of mana burn; if you couldn't find something to spend all that mana on before your mana pool emptied you'd take increasing amounts of damage, giving you a choice between hoping something turned up before it killed you and giving up so much lovely extra mana.
  • Warhammer 40,000: In the background fluff of the Changeling, the Dark Angels besieging the fortress of a rogue planetary Governor who'd turned to Chaos. The governor asks the daemon of Tzeentch for a way to break the siege, the daemon asks for the Governor's daughter in exchange for the favour. The Governor grimly complies and the Changeling hands him something and disappears. The governor just has time to wonder what it is before he is surrounded by the hulking blue force fields heralding teleporting Space Marine Terminators; the Changeling had stolen a teleporter homer from a nearby Ravenwing biker, which was keyed to that of the attached Deathwing Terminator Squads. The siege was indeed swiftly ended.
    • Horus' greatest wish was to be remembered. Now no one will forget his name.
    • The Necrontyr wanted immortality. The C'tan granted that wish...by turning them into undying robotic horrors. Not surprisingly, some of the Necrons who still have some of their mental faculties have decided that being fleshy short-lived mortals wasn't so bad after all.
    • Unlike Space Marines, who are only ever grafted into Dreadnoughts in order to save their lives, Orks queue up to be welded into Deff Dredds because Dredds are 1) big, 2) loud, 3) stompy and 4) covered in chainsaws and guns. Many soon discover that the drawback to being permanently wired into a giant metal can is that you have been permanently wired into a giant metal can.
  • Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine has a special chart for Reality Syndrome characters, used to determine which foundations of a wish are likely to go well and which are more likely to end up failing horribly instead of entertainingly. A character who wishes for a friend because they are lonely and who has "a little lonely" on their sheet is likely to get it or something like it quite easily; wishing for your own pet shoggoth because you are lonely is...less likely to work out well, put it that way. (Incentive for the archetypal Reality Syndrome character, Chuubo, to fail horribly anyway is provided by a system wherein he gets bonus XP for making the other players Face Palm in an amused fashion.) In the Glass-Maker's Dragon campaign, the "standard" Wishing Child is expected to finish up their story by concluding that wishes just aren't worth the trouble and sacrificing that ability, instead choosing to make do with just the ability to turn into a giant snake - but there are plenty of opportunities to derail this in play if you have a different idea of where to go.
  • Meta Example in the Yu-Gi-Oh! game. In the 2015 Forbidden/Limited List, several cards that had been Forbidden for years after becoming Tier Induced Scrappies (including Dark Magician of Chaos, Sinister Serpent, Ring of Destruction, and Crush Card Virus) that many of their former users would have loved to use again were upgraded to Limited - with a catch. These cards were given new errata that give them serious nerfs, making the powerful strategies they were outlawed for completely unusable, even in Traditional Format.
  • One of the supplements for the Chronicles of Darkness series, Mysterious Places, has the Swimmin' Hole, which occasionally grants wishes to those who spill blood in it. One such example of the end result is a man named Eddie Lansdale, whose last wish was that his ex-girlfriend, Edith, would come back to him. She did, but the power behind the Swimmin' Hole had turned her into an undead abusive Yandere.

    Theater 
  • In Igor Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, the hapless (and gormless) Tom Rakewell's troubles start with him wishing he had money, upon which a mysterious manservant appears to inform him that an estranged uncle has left him a fortune. Once Tom realises that urban decadence and high living are no substitute for the love he left behind in the countryside, he wishes he were happy, and his servant convinces him to marry a genderbending circus artist. Once the marriage falls apart, he dreams of a machine that turns stone into bread and, upon waking, wishes it were true; the servant wheels in a prototype. The machine is a complete fraud, and Tom is bankrupted. You'd think the fact that the servant gives his name as "Nick Shadow" would have rung a bell at some point...
  • Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods: Everyone wishes for something at one point - in fact, the beginning prologue song comprised of mostly the lyrics "I wish, more than anything, more than life" - but it typically backfires. Cinderella wishes to go to the Festival but doesn't count on a prince chasing her around the woods. The Baker and his wife wish to have a child but don't intend to also run around the woods trying to get stuff for the Witch. This theme carries through the whole thing. Just when you think everything is resolved, someone whispers "I wish...", which kicks off the whole second half of the play.
    Company during Finale: Children Will Listen: Careful the wish you make, / Wishes are children. / Careful the path they take, / Wishes come true, / Not free.
  • In Shakespeare's Henry V, Henry asks three traitorous nobles what he should do with a drunk who called him a nasty name. The nobles, unaware that Henry knows of their treachery, tell him emphatically that he should show no mercy for this (minor) infraction and punish the drunk harshly. In doing so, they leave themselves no room to ask for mercy when Henry reveals his knowledge of their betrayal. He has them executed.
  • Shows up in I Married an Angel.
  • During "The Wizard and I" in Wicked, Elphaba sings of one day being known by everyone in Oz. Since it's a Foregone Conclusion that she's going to become the Wicked Witch, she gets exactly what she wanted.
  • Salem: Mary says this exactly to Mercy after recounting how she came to be George Sibley's wife.
  • The Snow Maiden. Kupava wishes her best friend the Snow Maiden (shunned by boys because of literal frigidity) would too find someone who'd love her. Five minutes later, cue Kupava's own bridegroom dumping her for the Snow Maiden. Publicly humiliating Kupava in the process.

    Visual Novels 
  • Discussed in detail in Fate/stay night, but for the most part averted. Except for Archer. I want to save everyone! I know, how about I make a contract with the world? Guardian Spirits gets to save people all the time! Oh wait, they actually kill people en masse indiscriminately to prevent them from killing even more people. Woops. Other than that little mistake, it seems the idea is 'do what you can with your own ability, and accept your own failures if it doesn't work.
    • Also played straight in "Unlimited Blade Works" when Shinji obtains the Holy Grail... by having it implanted in his body, transforming him into its vessel. He recovers and is noted to have reverted to a more pleasant personality after overcoming his obsession.
    • And played straight: Angra Mainyu/Avenger was an ordinary villager whose compatriots chose him to be the embodiment of all mankind's sins and sacrificed him. In doing this they wished for there to be an external embodiment of evil they could dispose of in order to purify themselves. The Grail, when it absorbed Avenger, attempted to grant that wish, and as a result there now exists a being made up of every sin mankind has ever or will ever commit, an Embodiment of Evil, and it is not pleased at all with humanity for having created it. Nice going, ancient villagers.
  • One of the side stories in Kagetsu Tohya has Shiki living in a world based on Twin Threesome Fantasy fantasy scenario he had. The problem is, he realized such a thing could never happen unless they were in a world all by themselves plus he's currently already trapped inside a "Groundhog Day" Loop. So the Dream Within a Dream he has just traps him a world where he's living forever inside the mansion grounds with only Kohaku and Hisui, doing whatever he likes with them while slowly going insane.
  • The Jerkass protagonist of Yandere: I Love You So I Want to Kill You wants to have sex with as many girls as possible. He gets his wish, but, as the title suggests, he gets a few Yandere girls who may try to kill him if he makes the wrong choice.
  • Played with in Tatarigoroshi-hen of Higurashi: When They Cry. Keiichi wishes Irie and Ooishi were dead, then Irie commits suicide and Ooishi disappears. Then, thinking he had entered another dimension, he wishes the entire village of Hinamizawa destroyed... and it gets destroyed. His wishes had nothing to do with the deaths; they were pure coincidences.

    Web Animation 
  • In Lucky Day Forever, 514 finally wins the lottery in this film, but he gets locked into the Lotus-Eater Machine and gets used as resources for the Whites.
  • Eddsworld: In "The End: Part 1", Eduardo, annoyed at Jon, says to him "I wish you were dead." In Part 2, Jon dies after Tord fires a rocket at Eduardo's house. He doesn't take it well.
  • In the season one finale of Camp Camp, after spending a good part of the season trying to breakdown his annoyingly optimistic and chipper councilor, David, Max finally gets David to come around to his cynical view of the world... and immediately feels like crap for it.
  • Team RWBY desperately wants Ozpin to trust them, mostly because Ozpin withholding his secrets lead to the death of Pyrrha and the Fall of Beacon. When it turns out Ozpin lied about no more secrets (thousands of years of experience made him Properly Paranoid), Ruby decides to find out what Ozpin's hiding by asking Jinn, the Relic of Knowledge. Team RWBY got what they wanted, and finding out the Awful Truth severely unnerved them, mainly that Salem is immortal, and the best that Ozpin can do against her (for the time being) is to hold her at bay, among several other secrets.
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