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Dreaming the Truth

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The character goes to bed and dreams. Often intensely symbolically. Or possibly a dream that he forgets within moments of waking. But either way, he wakes up having pieced together all the clues he had before but hadn't seen the significance of, or having made a decision that troubled him. The dream, if recounted, need not have any apparent relationship to the discovery.

Can also occur in delirum and hallucinations.

These are not prophetic or psychic dreams, or having it communicated to him; he had all the information in hand, he just hadn't put it together. Though some dreamers assume they are dreaming the truth for prophetic or communicating dreams. Seldom if ever Recurring Dreams, except where they overlap with Bad Dreams, especially if the character is suffering Trauma-Induced Amnesia. If the dream is about resolving UST, expect it to be an Erotic Dream.

Compare Opinion-Changing Dream and Helpful Hallucination. Contrast Real Dreams Are Weirder.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • At the end of Monster, Tenma has a dream (or not) of Johan revealing to him what it was about his childhood that plagued him the most.
  • Lupin III: In the second episode of the anime; Fujiko left Lupin a few cryptic negatives with strange lines and symbols that belong to Pycal/Piker, a menacing magician. Lupin had already figured out his fire-shooting and levitation tricks but is completely clueless about how he becomes invulnerable. Later, however, Lupin accidentally falls out the window and the resulting blow knocks him into some sort of dream where the negatives are projected over each other, revealing a chemical formula for an extremely resistant liquid.

    Comic Books 
  • In Tintin in Tibet, Tintin has a dream about his friend Chang surviving a plane crash in the Himalayas. The next morning he hears about the crash in the paper and goes to search for Chang, taking the dream as a sign.
  • In the New 52 continuity, Clark Kent used to dream about Krypton and how he was sent to Earth, those dreams stopped after he found out who he really is.

    Fan Works 
  • Children of an Elder God: At the beginning, Shinji had intensely disturbing dreams where he turned into something inhuman after killing several Eldritch Abominations. Then he realizes that's what is happening to him and his teammates.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Incredibles originally was to include a Dream Sequence where Helen's worries about Bob took shape. This was one of the first things cut from the plot partly because it was too lazy. It's discussed on the DVD extras, though.
  • In The Simpsons Movie, a powerful medicine woman induced Homer to have a prophetic dream that tells him how to solve his problem.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Woody Allen's Match Point: The protagonist Chris murders his lover Nola, and her neighbour. He's questioned about this as a witness, not a suspect, but one of the police detectives suspects something is off about him. That policeman then has a dream which reveals to him exactly what Chris did; it involves Nola and her neighbour directly speaking up about that they were murdered by Chris.
  • A variant in Vertigo, where the dream does not immediately reveal the truth but it prominently features a necklace that later tips the hero off that he was being played.
  • In The Princess Bride, Buttercup declares she will not marry Humperdinck after dreaming of the Ancient Booer, who calls her garbage for setting aside true love in favor of becoming Queen.
  • The 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate makes use of this trope.
    • This was done TWICE in the original 1959 film. It was incredibly done and contained a terrific inside joke
  • The Dark Knight Rises: Bruce sees Ra's al Ghul appear before him in a hallucination, and in the ensuing conversation he comes to think that Bane is his son. He's not, but by tracking him he eventually discovers who is Ra's al Ghul's daughter.

  • In K.A. Applegate's Animorphs, it turns out #41 was all a mind exercise, during which Jake rediscovers the things they're fighting for in the first place.
  • In Madeleine L'Engle's The Other Side of the Sun, Stella (an Englishwoman) goes to live with her husband's father in the Deep South shortly after the The American Civil War. After a dream involving fireflies and her husband metamorphizing into a (black) man she had met there, she wakes to the realization that her husband and this man are half-brothers.
  • In book two of the H.I.V.E. Series Laura is trying to figure out how to decrypt a message she intercepted, but can't come up with solution. Cue a dream sequence where she is surrounded by floating numbers and letters made of smaller numbers and letters, followed by her waking up screaming "It's a fractal encryption!"
  • Used in Twilight after Bella learns Edward is a vampire. Even though Dream-Edward is attempting to lead her to her doom, Bella realizes she doesn't care if Edward's a vampire as she's more upset that Dream-Edward is about to be attacked. The same dream with a slight twist is used in the sequel New Moon so she can realize Jacob is a werewolf.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel Fulgrim, Fulgrim hears voices nagging at him every night. He convinces himself that it's his subconscious. He's wrong.
    • In Graham McNeill's Fulgrim, Serena d'Angelus forgot that she was a murderer until her Bad Dreams made her discover the bodies. (Leading to her suicide.)
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel The Killing Ground, the Lord of the Unfleshed remembers deliberately putting himself somewhere where fumes would make him dream deeply, and remember his past.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Blood Angels novel Deus Sanguinius, Arkio had dreams in which his glorious triumph was tainted by something evil. He prays for guidance as to what it means.
  • Inverted in The Second Chronicles of Amber. In Sign of Chaos, Merlin muses (paraphrased) "Someone who had been through all the truly bizarre crap I had over the past few days should have had a revelatory dream, waking up with new insights as to how to deal with their problems. Me? I woke up in the middle of the night and realized that my feet hurt."
  • Buttercup has dreams in The Princess Bride which upset her enough to make her want to call off her wedding to Prince Humperdinck. The film gives her just the one, but in the book she has bad dreams for a good week.
  • In Felidae, Francis the cat has a highly disturbing dream that symbolises the motive behind the murders he's investigating. He still has to do some more conventional investigation to work out what the dream means, though.
  • In John C. Wright's Count to the Eschaton:
    • Menelaus, owing to his mental modifications, can consciously think while dreaming—which still leads to this.
    • In the second book, Mickey uses drugs and dreams that the Judge of Ages is awake and among them. The Witches explain that it pieces together insights. Menelaus, who is the Judge of Ages awake and among them, finds it awkward.
  • In Barbara Hambly's Ran Away, Benjamin January dreams of his dead wife asking where Sabid is — which causes him to consider whether Sabid might actually be in New Orleans, making trouble again for the same man he attacked years ago.
  • In Thief of Time Jeremy clockson has this happen while working on the glass clock. He wakes up to find his sheets and wall covered in diagrams and notes.
  • In Michael Flynn's Up Jim River, Donovan, in his drugged sleep, realizes a few things (on top of getting his soul pieced back together).
  • In the first Harry Potter book Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Harry has a dream about wearing Professor Quirrell's turban and hearing a voice coming from it. He wakes up and... promptly forgets it. If he hadn't ignored this dream then he could have figured out the truth way before he did.
  • In George MacDonald's "Port In A Storm", the narrator explains to his children that he had known of the winecellar as a child, and dreamed of it the night before he found it again.
  • In Patricia C. Wrede's Frontier Magic novel The Far West, Eff eventually realizes that the vivid dreams she has been having are a result of her magically nudging herself to pay attention to them.
  • In Andre Norton's The Zero Stone, a feverish Jern dreams of hostility from the medico of the ship — turns out they had taken him to hand over to his enemies.
  • This is the likeliest explanation (it's left ambiguous) for Russell's visions of the Four Heroes in You, as immediately after most of them he mentions waking up.
  • Dreams come up a lot in Julian. Both Constantius and Julian have dreams, but it's not quite clear if they're merely putting pieces together in their heads, or if the Gods are telling them how screwed they are.
  • In Terrier, the first Provost's Dog book, Beka dreams a memory that helps her realize the true identity of the Shadow Snake: Deirdry Noll screaming at Tansy for stealing bread. Beka lines up Noll's sympathetic words about the death of Tansy's son with this memory and realizes that the sympathy was faked.
  • In Marion G. Harmon's Wearing the Cape novel Villains Inc., Hope realizes, in a dream, that the villain who was willing to let her see him must have no longer cared if he was identified.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica: Whilst near death, Laura Roslin hallucinates and dredges up a forgotten memory of seeing Gaius Baltar kissing a Number 6 on Caprica before the attack. Though she met both later, she didn't connect the two in her head until that moment.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Two-parter "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood" has the temporarily-human/amnesiac Doctor/John Smith dreaming about his Time Lord adventures and recording them in his Journal of Impossible Things.
    • In "Amy's Choice", the Eleventh Doctor's feelings are revealed when psychic pollen gets stuck in the TARDIS time rotor, heats up, and induces a dream state for Amy, Rory, and the Doctor. The pollen latches on to the Doctor's massive amounts of darkness and reveals the difficult truths about Eleven's character to Amy and Rory in two dreams.
  • The Finder's Walter Sherman has the occasional Dream Sequence which ends in him figuring out something he missed earlier in whatever case he's working. Usually its about the nature of what he's looking for or an aspect of a person involved in the case that he misread. Once, instead of a standard dream sequence, he hijacked a hypnotic state and used it to figure out a mistake made in a 20 year old murder case.
  • House:
    • In one episode, the not-so-good doctor had a dream which gave him the key to resolving his latest case. The dream also involved him wearing a catheter which ruptured, but that had more to do with his own issues at the time.
    • In another case, they used Dreaming The Truth, but the audience can't be sure if he just hadn't put the facts together or if he was actively in denial. After all, who wants to remember that they got their best and only friend's girlfriend in a bus accident?
  • This happened in an episode of Medium. A Texas Ranger was troubled by dreams that had only recently started to become clear... and then the things he was dreaming started happening (a pair of EMTs killed and dumped where he dreamed they would be, and so on). It later turned out that he truly wasn't having prophetic dreams; he'd spent some time comatose in a hospital, and while in that state had overheard someone making plans that later presented themselves as dreams as his mind made sense of the information.
  • Used on Psych in the "Mr. Yin Presents" episode. Shawn is able to remember a vital clue that he walked right past the killer in the movie theater the night before and saw he was wearing ankle weights. Subverted by the fact that the ankle weights clue was a Red Herring and the one Shawn thought was the killer is actually Yin's next victim.
  • The Pushing Daisies episode "Bitches" had Emerson to discern a clue he hadn't noticed before which allowed him to deduce that the dog the case revolved around was still alive. This in the same episode in which he told off Ned for treating a dream as anything other than random images.
  • The Sopranos:
    • Tony had a dream where he was forced to face that he knew one of his underlings was wearing a wire.
    • In the same series, Dr. Melfi has a dream which leads her to realize that she can, if she wants to, have Tony punish her rapist — though she chooses not to.
    • And in Season 6, Carmela has a dream where she's forced to confront the possibility that Adriana was killed. Previously, she'd been led to believe that the latter had abandoned the family.
  • Twin Peaks: Agent Cooper has an iconic dream early on in which the victim whispers the name of her killer. He immediately forgets it, however, and it's a while before he is able to remember.

    Video Games 
  • In Jay's Journey, Gaia has a dream where everyone in the dream (save Gaia herself) repeats something said earlier in the game, which lets Gaia see how selfish she's been, and why Carol's been acting so cold to the man she previously loved. And to get an opportunity to repeat all the game's Running Gags in quick succession.
  • In Um Jammer Lammy, guitar-dependent Lammy has a Dream Sequence about a famous TV martial arts master being the new lead singer of her band. They play a rather prophetic song together that slowly derails into Shave and a Haircut, and Lammy realises her guitar is actually a vaccuum cleaner. The Sensei then tells her that he lost his dojo, which even had a casino, but it's okay, as it still exists in his mind. This gives Lammy the inspiration she needs to realise her guitar is just a Magic Feather, and she can be badass without it, since it's in her mind.
  • Played with in the first Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney with Miles Edgeworth's nightmares about DL-6... although he suffers Trauma-Induced Amnesia, he does dream that he threw something heavy, there was a shot, and then a horrible scream. For years, he fears that he accidentally shot his own father and decides that this must be so, confessing in court. However, Phoenix proves that the shot actually hit Manfred von Karma, who was standing outside the elevator—the scream was his, not Gregory's. Then von Karma murdered Gregory after Miles had passed out.


    Western Animation 
  • Happened a few times on The Simpsons. Twin Peaks was even explicitly parodied at one point during one of these.
  • In one early Family Guy episode, Lois dreams the truth; that Stewie's an evil baby genius hellbent on world domination. Of course, when she wakes up, she immediately forgets the details and brushes it off as a bad dream.

    Real Life 
  • The practice of "sleeping on a problem" is common in any field where mental roadblocks are commonplace. Often, forcing yourself to sleep will at least help you be more refreshed and ready to tackle the problem later; also, when you're asleep, your subconscious mind is free to make wilder leaps of logic without being bothered by the part of your brain that determines whether or not a particular idea makes sense.
    • As a result, this turns out to be a great example of a common misconception about science. To many peoples' surprise, science as a process has nothing to say about how you come up with an idea. Science is completely in how you test your idea, and therefore confirm or discredit it. Scientifically, dreaming is just as valid a way to ideate as twenty years of hard work, and much more fun! Of course, the people whose dreams end up on this page are usually the same ones who are working night and day anyway...
  • The German chemist Friedrich August Kekule was trying to figure out the structure of the compound benzene. He had a daydream about a snake biting its own tail. When he woke up, he realized that the benzene molecule was in the shape of a ring, and this was later confirmed. The Other Wiki's take on it, and Mr. Kekule's own description of the experience.
  • Double Subverted by Otto Loewi, a German pharmacologist who earned the Nobel prize for his discovery of of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. One night in the spring of 1921, he awoke with the sudden realization that he knew how the the brain's electrical signals traveled along synapses. He hurriedly wrote down his revelation and went back to sleep, only to discover in the morning that, to his horror, he could not read what he had written down. Fortunately, he had the same dream the following night. Taking no chances this time, he got up and went right to the lab where his experiments confirmed his idea.
  • There is a legend that Dmitri Mendeleev had seen the periodic table of the elements in a dream.
  • In George Orwell's "My Country, Right Or Left", he recounts how he had argued against the obviously approaching war (and all the people who would line up behind the government if it started) — but the night before the Russo-German pact, he had had a dream that war had started and it revealed to him that he, too, would support the war out of patriotism.
  • Maria Gaetana Agnesi, an Italian mathematician, solved some math problems in her sleep.