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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 delirium 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 Past Experience Nightmare, 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 and Manga 
  • 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, 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.
  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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.

    Film — Animated 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's (2023): One of the ways main character Mike Schmidt is shown to be trapped by his past is his adamant determination to attempt to invoke this trope; taking sleeping pills and conditioning himself to dream of the day his younger brother was kidnapped when he was a child every day, hoping that eventually he can learn something like the identity of the kidnapper.
  • Incest! The Musical begins with Alex having a dream, resulting in a Love Epiphany: he's in love with his twin sister Katie. He awakes, sits bolt-upright in bed, and declares, "Holy shit."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 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.
  • Caraval: In order to purchase a new dress, Scarlett must give up a day of her life. While she is temporarily dead, she has a dream that sheds some light on what happened between Legend and her grandmother. She also finds out a bit more about the woman who died after participating in Caraval a few years ago. Not played completely straight, as some of the information Scarlett receives isn't completely accurate.
  • 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.
  • Discworld: 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 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.
  • Harry Potter :
  • In The Haunting of Drearcliff Grange School, the protagonist has a nightmare just before the climactic scene in which she's being hunted by twisted versions of her classmates. She doesn't consciously have any realizations as a result, but several of the details foreshadow revelations that occur during the climax that she'd probably had some subconscious awareness of. A big one is that the dream includes two different versions of a classmate who's been acting strangely for days, foreshadowing the revelation that she's been replaced by an imposter.
  • 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!"
  • 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.
  • On two separate occasions in Let Me Call You Sweetheart, Kerry has nightmares about the women she saw in Dr Smith's clinic whose features are hauntingly familiar; in her nightmare the woman is lying on the floor with a knotted cord around her neck. After the second nightmare, Kerry finally realizes where she's seen their faces before; they both look nearly identical to infamous murder victim Suzanne Reardon (who was strangled with her own belt). Kerry's boss was the lead prosecutor on the case when she first starting working for him.
  • 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 George MacDonald's "Port In A Storm", the narrator explains to his children that he had known of the wine cellar as a child, and dreamed of it the night before he found it again.
  • In "Wanted", the 8th book of Pretty Little Liars, this is how one of the titular Liars, Spencer, figures out the major twist of the first half of the series shortly before the Big Bad reveals/confirms it to her and the other girls. They already know by this point that their deceased best friend, Alison DiLaurentis, had a twin sister named Courtney, but not too long after meeting her, she tells them each separately that there was a Twin Switch before the murder; she's Alison, and the dead twin is Courtney. When they have a sleepover together and Ali hypnotizes the four of them "for old time's sake", Spencer's subsequent dream reveals that this is technically true, but the Twin Switch happened much earlier; the girl that the Liars knew as "Alison" was actually Courtney all along, and she—their former best friend—really is the one who died. The girl who's with them today, who looks slightly different than the girl they knew, is the real Ali, who killed Courtney and now wants to kill them too.
  • 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.
  • The Pyramid Plot, in the Usborne Puzzle Adventures series, has one of the protagonists dream around the halfway point, and wakes up with the realisation of what has happened so far. The dream is shown to the reader, but it doesn't show the truth; rather it uses symbolism to help them to understand the Jigsaw Puzzle Plot of the book.
  • 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."
  • Michael Flynn's Spiral Arm: In Up Jim River, Donovan, in his drugged sleep, realizes a few things (on top of getting his soul pieced back together).
  • Tortall Universe: In Terrier, Beka Cooper 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.
  • 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.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
  • 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.
  • This is the likeliest explanation (it's left ambiguous) for Russell's visions of the Four Heroes in You (2013), as immediately after most of them he mentions waking up.
  • 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.

    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:
    • "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.
    • "Turn Left": An alternate timeline is created around Donna Noble where she never met the Doctor, resulting in an utter Crapsack World where he died permanently because of that. A universe-hopping Rose Tyler speculates that, ever since the incident with the Racnoss where that happened, Donna has been having dreams about her adventures with the Doctor in the real timeline. Donna's reaction proves her correct.
    • 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 it's 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 that 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:
    • In "Funhouse", Tony has a dream where he is forced to face the fact that he has figured out that Big Pussy has betrayed the gang and turned informant for the government. It is strongly indicated that he had already subconsciously made the deduction earlier over the dinner at Vesuvio's, where Pussy described the works of the calling cards scam to Furio in just a little too much detail, but he couldn't consciously accept it until his dream pointed it out to him.
    • In "Employee of the Month", 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.
    • In "Cold Stone", 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.
  • In one episode of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Spartacus, while suffering from a fever, has a series of dreams which make him realise that Batiatus's explanation for how his wife died doesn't hang together. It's intentionally vague whether this was divine intervention or Spartacus's subconscious mind putting it together.
  • St. Elsewhere: In "Sweet Dreams", while participating in a dream research project, Morrison has a dream in which he sees Peter White, who was killed in the previous episode "Fade to White". The experience allows Morrison to come to terms with the fact that Cathy Martin was telling the truth when she accused White of raping her. Morrison had been the only person to believe him and to support through thick and thin during his rape trial.
  • 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: Sun-Tuz Liao has a dream. He discounts the mystical ideas of his insane sister that dreams are pathways to truth, merely considering them his mind's way of organizing information for long-term storage. In the dream, he sees people he knows in pictures as he last met them, then the "mental image" he has of them now. He comes to Joshua Marik, currently at the Davion capitol of New Avalon being treated for leukemia, but no "modern" picture of the boy. This makes sense to Sun-Tzu, as he hasn't seen Joshua since the summit on Outreach years earlier. It does, however, give him the idea when he wakes to accuse Victor Davion of having replaced Joshua with a Body Double. No one is more shocked than he is when it comes out Victor has actually done exactly that.

    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 vacuum 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 and killed his own father, Gregory Edgeworth, and decides that this must be so, confessing in court. It's even implied that Gregory also though this was the case, and lied about who killed him in order to protect his son when his spirit was channelled. 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.

  • In Westward, an Intrepid Reporter who was once captured and tortured by communists starts having strange dreams about the experience many years later that don't match his conscious memories. Eventually he confirms that his dreams reflect reality, and this leads him to stumble upon a mystery of potentially cosmic proportions.

    Western Animation 
  • Archer: A critically-injured Sterling blacks out and dreams about his Disappeared Dad visiting him as a child and giving him a birthday present. Archer is convinced that he knows who his father is - but the memory fades as he comes to and he's left unusually morose.
  • Happened a few times on The Simpsons. Twin Peaks was even explicitly parodied at one point during one of these. One instance subverts it for laughs - Homer dreams that he created a wildly successful new product, but is repeatedly prevented from finding out what the amazing invention is.
  • 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.
  • King of the Hill: In "Vision Quest," Dale has a food and sleep-depraved hallucination where he sees Nancy making out with a Native American man before giving birth to Joseph, basically spelling out all the evidence he was ignoring that Nancy cheated on him with John Redcorn and that Joseph is the latter's biological son. Dale instead comes to the conclusion that he himself was Native American the entire time and just did not know.
  • Molly of Denali: In "The Qyah Ice Classic," a tripod named 'Timmy' is placed on ice, and the town holds a contest to predict the exact date and time that the ice will break. Tooey dreams about Timmy the Tripod being born on April 30th at 12:16 PM. When he awakes, he decides to cast his vote that the ice will break on that date and time, only to later have another dream about him catching a salmon on May 2. This leaves Tooey very confused. Eventually, he chooses neither option.

    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 the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. One night in the spring of 1921, he awoke with the sudden realization that he knew how 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.