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Dreaming of Times Gone By

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A sleeping character dreams a vision of events past — sometimes long past — and certainly ones they never saw.

While they can be hard to fathom, like Dreaming of Things to Come, they are unable to be warded or fought off, since they are long gone. And unlike Dream Spying, the characters are seldom detected by the people they watch. Dream Weavers can send them. When a character is Talking in Your Dreams, the other can show them.


Usually used to reveal information. They are always, of course, true.

Beware, though, that sometimes the past is not an era friendly to human sanity.

Might be explained by the dreaming characters having lived in the past, or having an ancestor living in that past, in which case there are definite limitations to what they will dream of.

See Past Experience Nightmare for dreams of the character's (traumatic) past and Exposition of Immortality for when the character actually lived through the past they're dreaming about.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • AIR: Misuzu dreams of the time of Kannabi-no-Mikoto which was her "full-self". As the dream becomes more vivid, her body deteriorates because no human body can contain the entirety of Kanna's soul, eventually leading to her tragic death.
  • One chapter of Ayakashi Triangle begins with Shirogane dreaming of decades in the past, when he was worshiped as a god, and conversed with a little girl who says no one else believes he exists. By the end of the same day he reunites with her, who turns out to be Reo's grandmother.
  • In Cardcaptor Sakura, the eponymous character dreams of the time of death not of Clow Reed.
  • Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]: Rin continuously has dreams of Archer's life when he was alive. This is presumably a side effect of their contract. Because Archer has amnesia, it takes Rin a while to piece together and realize what she's seeing: Archer is in fact a Future Badass version of Rin's boyfriend Shirou, and the memories she's been seeing show how his life went to shit, he was betrayed by everyone he tried to save, and his ideals were dragged through the mud.
  • HeartCatch Pretty Cure! begins with Tsubomi dreaming of Cure Moonlight's defeat.
  • MÄR: Koyuki and Snow are essentially the counterparts of the same person, and so they share dreams of what's happening between their worlds. Snow dreams of Koyuki's memories of her and Ginta's past, while Koyuki dreams of Snow's interactions with Ginta, and relates them to his worried mother to confirm to her that her son is alright, though in another world. Given that both girls love Ginta, this level of interaction helps to solidify them as his 'One True Love', yes, both of them.
  • My Hero Academia: Izuku has a dream through One for All about the origin of One for All itself.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka dreams of things that have happened in the previous iteration of the "Groundhog Day" Loop.
  • Ranma ½: An old man's astral form entered Ranma's dream showing him a date that had happened when the man was young.
  • Sailor Moon Crystal:
    • Act 1's Cold Open depicts Usagi's Dream Sequence watching a princess running to meet her prince, that unbeknownst to Usagi, is a memory of a former life.
    • Again in Act 1, when Usagi falls asleep in the evening, she begins to dream of being the princess, Holding Hands with the prince charging to battle, until the dream narrative suddenly becomes muddled with Sailor V videogame imagery.

    Comic Books 
  • In Superman story The Phantom Zone, the criminals of the Phantom Zone cause Charlie Kweskill (who used to be their fellow inmate Quex-Ul before losing his memory) to dream events of Krypton's past; specifically the Phantom Zoners' lives before being convicted and thrown into their dimension-prison.

    Fan Works 
  • In later parts of Bringing Me To Life, Max starts dreaming about events of The Matrix over seventy years ago, since he is one of the reincarnations of the main cast.
  • In The Devil of Zero, Louise has frequent dreams of Vergil's past. She's witnesses his childhood, his battles with his brother (as both himself and Nelo Angelo), and his journey through Hell.
  • Fate/Harem Antics: Shirou dreams of Saber's past, as in canon. However, for some reason there is a "glitch" and he also dreams of Archer's past from canon, superimposed over Saber's past. The Archer from canon wasn't even summoned in this fic, making it even weirder. Presumably it has something to do with Iri screwing up the timeline by changing the way the Holy Grail War works. Also an example of Dreaming of Things to Come, since it's one of Shirou's possible futures.
  • Kathryn in The Heart Trilogy sometimes sees the past in her dreams, other times the future, due to her being a Seer.
  • In Jaune Arc, Lord of Hunger, Jaune starts having dreams of Darth Nihilus's past as a Jedi after finding his mask.
  • In Karma in Retrograde, Touya is slowly regaining his memories of his time as Dabi in his dreams. While they're from his perspective, all of the events he's remembering already happened.
  • In the Doctor Who fanfic Last of the Time Lords, all of the Doctor's former companions dream of a starless night where Earth is the only planet in the universe on June 26th, 2010. None of them quite know what to make of it or realize the dream comes from an alternate timeline where the stars never existed because of an exploding TARDIS. Sarah Jane Smith interprets it as an omen the Doctor is dead.
  • In the My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! fanfic Mirror, Mirror (My Next Life as a Villainess), Sophia had more dreams of her past life than in the source material, and I'm Crying, but I Don't Know Why is a relatively frequent occurrence to her and often some comforting from Nicol.
  • Ruby Stars: While Sadie's passed out, she experiences the day her mother Kay emerged from her hole, which occurred thousands of years ago.
  • In Switchblade, Izuku dreams of the Meta Liberation War from the perspective of Destro and his generals, which gives him insight into their personalities, ideals and actions during the war, most of which were glossed over or actively changed in history books. Izuku also dreams about his missing week from the perspective of his body-snatcher, which gives him clues to what they were up to at the time. It's later revealed that all of these were Switcher's memories, which Izuku only retained because of the unprecedented way that Switcher's possession Quirk interacted with War Dog's People Puppets ability.

  • After her very bad first day in San Francisco, Riley from Inside Out begins to have a nightmare. Joy, being the Anthropomorphic Personification of Riley's... well, joy, is determined to keep her happy at all times, and quickly shuts the dream down, declaring, "We are not ending the day like this." She then replaces the dream with a happy memory of Riley and her family ice skating back home in Minnesota, allowing her to sleep peacefully.
  • Jack Harper in Oblivion (2013), living in 2077 post-war New York, repeatedly dreams of a pre-apocalyptic world. Turns out he's reliving memories, but they're not his own - or are they?

  • Several characters in H. P. Lovecraft stories are unfortunate enough to dream of the times when Gods and their servants walked the Earth. Those dreams are usually harmful to mind, body, sanity, or all three.
  • Jack London's Before Adam is about a boy who somehow inherited Genetic Memory of his caveman ancestor and relives the caveman's life in his dreams. Every night, since his infancy, and the prehistoric world is not friendly.
  • In Barbara Hambly's Bride of the Rat God, a character dreams of the ancient ritual in which the cursed necklace was used.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "Shadows In The Moonlight", Olivia dreams of how the strange statutes had been men, Taken for Granite by a Physical God after they had tortured his son to death.
  • Evillious Chronicles: In addition to his visions of the future, Gammon Octo has dreams about events that happened hundreds of years in the past.
  • Ghosts of the Titanic: Kevin Messenger has a dream while he's out at sea that he is on the Titanic right after it hit the Iceberg that sunk it. He spends his time there trying to save Annie McConnell and her son Michael from drowning when it goes down.
  • In Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens, Witchfinder Shadwell has a dream about seventeenth-century witch and prophet Agnes Nutter. Because of her prophetic ability, he is detected by her, leading to a Brick Joke; in the first account the book gives of her burning at the stake, it says that her last act was to look up at the sky and say "That goes for you as well, you daft old fool," and it's implied that she's talking to God. When Shadwell dreams about it, it becomes clear that she was actually saying it to him.
  • I'm the Villainess, So I'm Taming the Final Boss: Unlike most protagonists in the subgenre, Aileen only gets her Past-Life Memories through her dreams. This makes her particularly prone to Flashback Fail.
  • In Stephen Hunt's The Rise of the Iron Moon from the Jackelian Series, Purity's dreams are identified as telling of the long-distant past.
  • In Rick Riordan's The Kane Chronicles' The Throne of Fire, Sadie dreams of Ra being forced from his position.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • Frodo dreams of Gandalf's capture and escape from Isengard during Fellowship Of The Ring. Gandalf observed "Then it was late in coming". (Worth noting since he also has prophetic dreams.)
    • Merry, under the barrow wight's spell, dreamed of falling in battle after a night attack - evidently of the men whose grave they were in.
    • Faramir often dreams of the fall of Númenor, which happened an age ago.
  • My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!: One of the ways Sophia's Past-Life Memories comes to her is through her dreams. While she forgets most of it when awake, she gets a feeling that she's dreaming of her past, before her own birth. In any rate, the readers/viewers do see the content of one of those dreams, which portrays that person's past with the person who became Catarina.
  • As Hannah Snow of Night World nears her seventeenth birthday she starts dreaming of events experienced by her previous incarnations, dating back to the Stone Age. This includes her interactions with her soulmate, Thierry, and Maya, allowing her to recognize them in the present day. The fact she has nightmares about being murdered in every one of her past lives sets her on edge and leads her to seek out psychological help, initially fearing she's becoming unhinged.
  • In Margaret Ball's No Earthly Sunne, Ellen dreams of Elizabethean times.
  • One Nation, Under Jupiter: Diagoras dreams about himself at the Battle of Milvian Bridge, seeing Maxentius kill Constantine.
  • In The Opal Eyed Fan, the heroine dreams of a centuries ago Human Sacrifice on the island where she was shipwrecked.
  • Ravensong: Celia dreams of the arrival of some disease that arrived in the past in the first two pages.

  • In Septimus Heap, Silas and Sarah Heap dream of Nicko and Snorri as the latter are walking across a snow-covered forest ... 500 years before then.
  • In Shaman of the Undead's The Mirror Demon, after Ida's immortal oath starts acting up, the girl starts seeing the past of the eponymous creature. It's mostly because the oath wants to be fulfilled, so it helps Ida (although Ida would probably prefer it didn't).
  • In Witch World's Horn Crown the hero dreams of himself at a long-ago banquet — where a woman talks with him and realizes he's from the future and gives him some aid.

    Live Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Part of the Slayer package is flashbacks to battles of other Slayers in the form of nightmares.
  • Deadtime Stories has this as part of a Nightmare Sequence in "A Grave Secret", showing the lead character how the ghost girl became a ghost in the first place.
  • The whole premises of Medium Allison dreams of stuff happening to other people, or a situation she's in that may act as a metaphor of whats going to happen.

  • Journey into Space: In The Red Planet, Whitaker's presence causes Jet to have a dream about visiting the British Empire Exhibition with Whitaker in 1924. He hears the 1923 novelty song "When It's Night Time in Italy, It's Wednesday Over Here" by James Kendis and Lew Brown and sees London as it existed in 1924 as opposed to how it exists in his own time of 1971. Prior to this, Jet had never heard of either the Exhibition or the song.

    Video Games 
  • In the Interactive Fiction game Curses, sleeping in the Servant's Room gives the player a vision of the Dark Ages, with a Celtic army preparing to fight a hopeless battle against the invading Saxons. It's also Dreaming of Things to Come; at the climax, the player travels back in time and visits the same location in person.
  • A major plot point in Final Fantasy VIII, and several gameplay sequences, are devoted to the main characters dreaming of past events involving Laguna Loire and his friends. This later turns out to be because of another character's magical power.
  • In Forever's End, Epoch regularly dreams of the past of the Crusades.
  • Zig-Zagged in the first Knights of the Old Republic. The Player Character and Bastila are having dreams that retrace the steps of Darth Revan and Darth Malak as they sought out the Star Maps. It's played off as Force visions until The Reveal at the game's three-quarter mark.
  • In the story mode of Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, Iron Man manages to see the past where Jedah Dohma and Mistress Death conspire to work together and Death uses Thanos' love for her to start her plans. Thanos can't believe it and attacks Stark, taking the Time Stone to see if he was telling the truth. Unfortunately for Thanos, Stark was right which then pushes Thanos' Berserk Button.
  • Tales of Innocence: The R version of the game added many, many optional dream sequences to the characters' past lives while sleeping at inns. Notably, all of them are fully voiced, unlike most of the game's skits.
  • In Tears to Tiara 2, Hamil dreams of the forging of the swords of Melqart and Tanit over a thousand years ago.
  • In Xenogears, Fei and Elly experience visions of themselves in the distant past. It's not until near the end of the game that the reason for these visions is revealed.

    Visual Novels 
  • In the Yuri Genre Visual Novel Akai Ito, Kei dreams of the time of the Mizuki Tribe and their coalition with the human exorcists from the Capitol in their quest to vanquish Nushi. She also dreams of the fall of the Mizuki at the hands of their human ex-allies, and the subsequent suffering of Sakuya.
    • Its sort-of sequel, Aoi Shiro, Syouko dreams of the time of Yasuhime and her exile to the southern islands to seal the <>. This is Justified by having the blood of Yasuhime literally flowing in her veins — she was brought back to life by Yasuhime, once.

    Web Comics 
  • In Homestuck, an important Troll historical figure known as the Signless had dreams of life before he Scratched his universe, causing everyone's lives to be reset, inspiring him to spread anti-caste-system messages.
  • Zig-zagged in No Future. Andrew has visions of a future that already happened, but hopefully won't.
  • Pibgorn is sent back in time by the ghost, into a dream. Much later Dru's attempt to enter her dream finds her in a memory.
  • In Retro Blade, the events during the Prologue surrounding Magnus, the Guardians, the 4th Dimension and the mysterious devil dude are visions from a dream Alexis has before dying.
  • In Strays, Meela has one of a murder, and more after.
  • Chaerin from Surviving Romance has dreams and occasional visions, particularly when someone dies, in which she sees the memories of her classmates, sometimes even from other timelines.
  • In UC, all four main characters have repeated shared dreams of a ritual involving a candle and a mysterious figure yelling "What have you done!" There is no in comic explanation about these dreams yet, but it is strongly hinted that they are showing a ritual that occurred before the story began.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Framing Device for "Evergreen," the origin story of the Ice King's crown, on Adventure Time. Justified because the crown's first owner passes their memories to future owners.
  • In The Legend of Korra, Avatar Korra occasionally has visions of her past life as Avatar Aang that are her past incarnation's warnings about Tarrlok's ambition and his bloodbending, both of which he inherited from his father Yakone. They were also possibly warnings of Tarrlok's brother Noatak, who was later on revealed to be Amon.
  • In the season four premiere of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Twilight Sparkle drinks a potion that responds only to alicorn magic in order to find out why the Everfree Forest is invading and figure out where the missing Celestia and Luna are. The potion causes the drinker to view events that have long since passed. Twilight witnesses the banishment of Nightmare Moon, the defeat of Discord by Celestia and Luna, and how the Elements of Harmony came to be in the possession of the two royal pony sisters.
  • Ninjago: In the "Tales from the Monastery of Spinjitzu" short "Green and Gold," Lloyd's dream shows his last day with the Ultra-Dragon and explains where it went after Season 2.
  • Parodied in the South Park episode "I'm a Little Bit Country", in which Cartman tries to invoke this trope to get out of studying for an American history report.
  • During season 5 of Steven Universe Steven starts having dreams about Pink Diamond's past from her perspective when he sleeps in places she visited. This is confusing to Steven because he has empathic powers that connect his mind to others, but only the living, and she's supposed to be dead. Turns out this is because Pink Diamond and Rose Quartz, who gave her life to create Steven, were actually the same person.
  • Midway through the first season of Winx Club, Bloom has a dream where Mike rescues a baby from a fire and is magically protected. She finds out the following day that baby was her, and was adopted by Mike and Vanessa, and she's not from Earth.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Dreaming Of Things Gone By


The Owl House

Luz dreams of her adventure in the Boiling Isles from "A Lying Witch and a Warden", which turns out to be not a dream and it really happened, and is ready to begin her studies as a witch-in-training.

How well does it match the trope?

4.4 (20 votes)

Example of:

Main / ThatWasNotADream

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