An object that proves the adventure the main characters had written off as All Just a Dream was not a dream after all. Usually something relatively small and conspicuous, which may have been a MacGuffin at a previous stage of the story. It's found shortly after the protagonist "wakes up", and usually right after they begin to question the reality of their experience. It may be used in The Stinger. Sometimes it's never found by a character, and is only shown to the audience in a kind of wink from the creator, but this can leave the audience unsatisfied, as it leaves the characters believing that their entire adventure never happened.
This can be played with elements of ambiguity. Sometimes the keepsake is definitely from the dreamworld and even has supernatural powers; at other times, it's a relatively mundane trinket whose presence is at best somewhat implausible, and which may have alternate explanations. Worse, finding an item from a dream can lead a character to question the reality of their waking life.
This plot device isn't only employed in dream sequences. Many a protagonist has returned from the Magical Land with a souvenir, sometimes a powerful one that will give them an edge in their ordinary life. This way, the audience is assured that they won't languish in mundanity from now on. At the least, the item can be used to quell people who doubt the protagonist's story, though few will be really convinced.
Sister trope to Fantasy All Along.
Commonly an Ending Trope, so beware of spoilers.
- In Monster Rancher Genki, a boy from present day was transported into a Standard Fantasy Setting style game with some of the stuff in his room, that unfortunately didn't include his shoes. Someone notices this and gives him shoes that are in the style of the game's setting in an early episode. When he somehow gets back in the real world, he notices that he's still wearing the shoes.
- Wonder Woman (1987): When Diana hears Brian's burns are going to prove fatal she enters a meditative state and mentally travels to get a piece of the golden fleece, which involves several battles and a surreal landscape. She awakens in her unmoved body at Brian's bedside and hands the fleece over to the doctors with instructions on how to use it, then passes out for most of the day. The doctors are able to use the fleece to heal Brian and every other kid in the burn unit before it dissipates.
- In Alarm Clock, Ditzy Doo dreams about having a conversation with Princess Luna, who's a Dream Walker. At the end of the conversation, Luna offers a job to Ditzy, at which point Ditzy wakes up. Then Ditzy finds a written version of that same job offer on her nightstand.
- At the end of The Detective and the Diplomat Holmes considers everything that happened to him in Ankh-Morpork was a very bizarre dream until he finds the gold mouse in his pocket.
- Early in Constantine, John visits hell to see if the dead sister of the MacGuffin Super Person committed suicide or was murdered. He finds her there and brings back the psychiatric hospital wristband she had to prove it.
- In the ending of 1408, with the protagonist having escaped the haunted room, it could be thought that everything he went through was some kind of hallucination, with either a natural or supernatural cause— except that his tape recorder has his daughter's voice on it.
- In Gozu, Minami wakes from his nightmare only to find in his lap the letter that was handed to him in the dream. Is he still in a dream or wasn't it a dream in the first place? We never really learn the truth.
- Subverted in Ivan Vasilievich Changes Profession. Shurik awakens, talks to his wife and Bunsha and finds that they have no memories of the film's events. He wonders if it was just a dream. Then he notices Ivan the Terrible's hat lying in the corner... but seconds later we see he was mistaken and it's just a cat. Turns out it really was just a dream.
- In MirrorMask, the keepsake is a person. Most of the characters in Helena's dream world are identical to people she knows, in classic And You Were There tradition, except for Valentine, whose real-world counterpart she doesn't meet until after the dream.
- In the world of Inception, it's common for people who work in dreams to keep a totem, that is an object of personal importance to remind oneself of whether they are or aren't dreaming. But it still may not work if you're in the dreamworld long enough.
- At the end of Masters of the Universe, Julie wakes up in her bed before the events of the movie. There is no evidence it wasn't All Just a Dream... until Kevin shows her a magical artifact from Eternia.
- When Bruce wakes up from his visit to Heaven in Bruce Almighty, he's holding the prayer beads that he'd given to God earlier on.
- The Night Walker has Irene finding the wedding ring she put on in her dream, thus proving that it wasn't just a dream. Actually it's part of a plan to use Gaslighting on her.
- A variation in Return to Oz. When Dorothy returns to Kansas this time, she's allowed to communicate with Ozma through the mirror to prove she didn't just dream her adventures.
- Legend has it that The Wizard of Oz originally ended this way, showing the Ruby Slippers under the bed. The studio denies this was ever shot, but many say they remember seeing it on television, once, in the early 1960s. In the book, Dorothy does lose the Silver Shoes. Her subsequent journeys to and from Oz are via Ozma's magic.
- The Phantom Planet involves astronaut Frank Chapman crash-landing on a weird planet, falling unconscious, and having an adventure where he shrinks down to six-inches tall, interacts with the tiny inhabitants of this "phantom planet," fights off another race of aliens, and has an inevitable romance with one of the cute natives. At the end of it she gives him a lucky rock or something to remember her by, and Frank gets back in his spacesuit and passes out as he grows big again. He wakes up in time to see other astronauts rescue him, and as they blast off he contemplates the pebble he found in his suit.
Frank Chapman: Now they'll never believe me.
Mike Nelson: I'll have to kill them all...
- Teen Beach Movie: After returning to the real world, Mack is wearing the necklace given to her by Lela as a parting gift. This becomes a Chekhov's Gun in the sequel where its presence reopens the gateway and lets the movie characters enter the real world.
- In H. P. Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, when the hero wakes up from the titular dream he is welcomed back by a black cat he keeps in his house, just like a black cat he had befriended in his oniric adventure.
- In Labyrinths of Echo, when Max goes back to our world for the first time, he suffers a mild psychic trauma upon arrival that makes him doubt that his adventures in Echo were real. Then, however, he tests some of his powers (poison spit and Orbs of Death) and realizes that if he is still a trained combat mage, he must have not been dreaming, after all.
- In Robin Jarvis' Deptford Mouselets book Fleabee's Fortune, the titular character wakes up after having a dream wherein she successfully summoned the rat goddess Mabb. On her pillow is an ornate dagger, Mabb's gift to her.
- An unusual time-travel variant is used in the Discworld novel Night Watch. Vimes, being Trapped in the Past and trying to prevent his foe Carcer from making wrong what once went right, begins to lose his sense of connection with the present world he's working to preserve. To combat this, the History Monks find his cigar case, which is engraved with a message from his wife, as a constant reminder of what he is fighting for.
- In the Gaunt's Ghosts novel "Ghostmaker", Larkin speaks to the statue of an angel while waiting for a target. The angel gives him some fabric from her gown to brace his lasgun with. After he successfully snipes the leader of the enemy forces, Larkin has a seizure and goes unconscious. When he comes round, he sees the inanimate statue, but the barrel of his gun is still wrapped with the fabric the angel had given him.
- Twice in Neverwhere:
- During the Trial for the Key, Richard is pulled into a hallucination that tries to convince him all his adventures have been imaginary and that he's insane and should kill himself. He is able to resist the lie because he finds the bracelet of a girl who helped him earlier in the adventure, proving his memories are real.
- At the end, Richard returns to his old life with everyone believing he's been on holiday in Majorca for the past couple of weeks. Richard knows the truth, but the only proof he has is the ornate knife that was given to him by Hunter. Because the knife does not have any special powers, a co-worker points out that it could just be a souvenir that he bought while abroad.
- At the end of The Polar Express, the narrator receives a bell from Santa's sleigh that he had previously requested but then lost. Significantly, its ring can only be heard by those who believe in Santa.
- In Johnny And The Bomb, after returning from the 1940's Kirsty finds a pickle from the exploded pickle factory in her pocket. That somehow cures her of the Laser-Guided Amnesia that made the rest of Johnny's friends forget their time-travel adventure.
- Subverted at the end of The Nutcracker, when Marie presents the Mouse King's seven crowns as proof that her adventures were real. However, another character claims these were toy crowns he used to wear on his watch chain. Some time later the Nutcracker does arrive to confirm it was real, but he doesn't seem to tell it to anyone but her.
- At the end of The Frost-Giant's Daughter, most people refuse to believe Conan saw and chased Ymir's daughter... except that he's still clutching a piece of her gown, and it's obviously not human-made fabric.
- In the Relativity story "Weather the Weather", Yule is attacked in his bedroom by Vincent, who approaches him with a hypodermic syringe. Suddenly he wakes up, and there's no sign of Vincent. He assumes it must have been a nightmare, but then he notices a needle mark on his neck.
- In the first book of The Spearwielders Tale, the main character has a copy of The Hobbit that he lends to a leprechaun near the beginning of the book, who proceeds to change the text to one he can read. At the end of the story he begins to wonder if he imagined all of what just happened, but when he opens the book he lent it is still in the strange script the leprechaun had turned it into.
- A Cowboy Episode of MacGyver (1985), which takes place in a dream, ends with Mac being shot and a Wild-West style pocket knife saving his life. When he wakes up, he finds a pocket knife like that, complete with bullet mark, in his pocket.
- Sherlock realized that the meeting with a client was not a drug-induced hallucination because of this. The note that Faith Smith/Eurus Holmes left behind in his apartment.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Pen Pals" Data becomes friends with a little girl named Sarjenka and saves her planet from earthquakes that would render said planet uninhabitable. In the end our crew is forced to wipe her memory before returning her to her home, but Data still puts a "singer stone" in her hand that she was admiring earlier, despite knowing that she won't remember where it came from.
- Star Trek: Voyager. In "Barge of the Dead", B'Elanna Torres has a shuttle accident and wakes up on the barge taking her to Klingon hell along with her estranged Klingon mother. B'Elanna then wakes up in Voyager's sickbay with the same hand injury she received on the Barge. She then has to convince her shipmates she didn't imagine the whole thing, and that she has to return to the Barge (i.e. recreate her near-death experience) in order to save her mother.
B'Elanna: Look at this — The eleventh tome of Klavek. It's a story about Kahless returning from the dead still bearing a wound from the afterlife. A warning that what he experienced wasn't a dream. The same thing happened to me!
- Doctor Who: In Last Christmas, the characters fight dream crabs, alien monsters that trap their victims consciousness in a shared dream while digesting their brains. Santa Claus shows up in this shared dream, offering tangerines to everyone—but he admits hes just a representation of their subconscious minds fighting to stay alive. But after Clara wakes up from the final layer of the dream and runs off to another adventure with The Doctor, the episode ends with a lingering shot of a tangerine on Claras windowsill.
- An episode of Miami 7 has the S Club going into the Bermuda Triangle and travelling back into the 70s. When they wake up in the present, Hannah is still wearing platform shoes and Bradley still has a rose from the girl he met to prove that it was real.
- An episode of Series/Sanctuary, "Pavor Nocturnus", had Helen Magnus awake to find herself in a Bad Future, where she acquires a Badass Trenchcoat. This turns out to be All Just a Dream projected by a creature trying to stop her from taking the artifact that could cause the bad future scenario - but she still has the trenchcoat, implying she may have been literally sent forward into a timeline that she's now averted.
- A music video by Aaron Carter called "That's How I Beat Shaq" ended with Aaron realizing that his defeat of Shaquille O'Neil in one-on-one was All Just a Dream, then realizing he still has the jersey Shaq gave him.
- The Wiz has Dorothy keep the Silver Slippers when she returns to Kansas, deviating from the book that inspired the musical. The Slippers provide Dorothy with both a reminder that her adventure in Oz was not All Just a Dream (unlike the adventure in MGM's The Wizard of Oz), and a means for her to someday meet her friends again.note
- Late in the A Dance with Rogues, the Dhorn finally catch up with the Princess and, in a ploy to marry her off to an upstart Dhorn nobleman, try to convince the Princess that she has been sick with fever for months and the events of the game were all just a nightmare. However, upon regaining control of the Princess, you quickly find out that she is still a level 19 rogue with all the skills and combat abilities that go with it—which would naturally be impossible if her adventures were fake.
- In Final Fantasy VIII, the main party keeps everything obtained by Laguna's party during their Mental Time Travel.
- Golden Sun: Dark Dawn has a Guide Dang It! moment where a town with strict border control is only accessible via a dream of when it was still open, allowing you to pick up an otherwise Permanently Missable Djinn.
- The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass ends with Link waking back on the pirate ship, the game's whole adventure being seemingly a dream, then seeing Lineback's ship on the horizon.
- In Tomodachi Life, your Miis can dream about various weird stuff. When they wake up, you get a gift related to their dream.
- Xenosaga has the Encephalon, which is a curious aversion. It's supposed to be a virtual reality taken from your mind, but you can go into it, gain levels, come back with items, and even go into places that were behind locked doors when you visited the places in reality and couldn't have been taken from your mind. This has no implications at all and is at best a version of Gameplay and Story Segregation.
- In Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, the key from Gabriel's dream magically appears next morning by his bedside.
- In Spellcasting 101: Sorcerers Get All The Girls, the spells used in a simulation of rescuing a princess are supposed to be removed by the supervising professor when the simulation ends, but by sitting in the simulation chair after the university has been raided and the professor is no longer present, the simulation can be made to proceed past its usual end point and the player character keeps the spells after waking up.
- Ziz-zagged in Romancing Saga 3. When Muse, an already ill-in-bed lady, is poisoned by Jackal with a potion (maliciously claiming to be medicine) that causes her to be trapped in a dream dungeon. From the outside, she looks alive, but unconscious of the world around her and struggling. Sharl, a dear friend of Muse (with one missing hand) who was trying to nurse her back to health suggests drinking it so he can try to help. The player has the option to join Sharl in his attempt to help Muse. (Refusing causes him to drink the potion alone, and both Sharl and Muse become permanently removed as players for the rest of the game, effectively dead.) The resulting dungeon has random encounters significantly more powerful than normal, and the boss of the dungeon is effectively That One Boss. However, the dungeon has a few items in it, two notable. The Dream Tears, a powerful consumable that heals all health and mana when used in combat (although doesn't cure LP, the stat that limits how many times you can be revived), and the Silver Hand, a Gamebreaker equipment that lets Sharl attacks as normal (with boosted stats), or lets other units normal attack twice in a turn. Defeating the one-time dungeon cures Muse and causes the Dream Tears to disappear from your inventory since they are a figment of the dream. However, the Silver Hand is explictively noted in surprise that it does NOT disappear, representing the bond and gratitude of Muse toward Sharl and her desire to help him. The two then become available as party members.
- A variant occurs in Homestuck when John is dreaming in the Dream Bubbles in the Furthest Ring (Which also doubles as an afterlife for dead Sburb players from thousands of alternate timlines). At one point, he finds a ring (Later revealed to be able to bring ghosts to life), but is woken up when his dream projection is impaled by Meenah's trident. He is surprised to find that he still has the ring when he wakes up. Items can also be brought into the Dream Bubbles too, and using this both ways allows Aranea to Mind-control Gamzee into sleeping and bringing her the ring so she can bring herself to life with it, then waking him up while touching him so she will be transported to where he was sleeping.
- Part of the Running Gag in Housepets! where encounters with the "Celestial Nerds" end with an All Just a Dream situation that is almost immediately subverted. The first time it was just a Griffin feather, the second time it was a bit less subtle, and the third artifact didn't even try to conceal its origins.
- XKCD. This deconstruction of a Summon Everyman Hero fantasy — the protagonist has a thank-you gift which proves to him, but wouldn't prove to anyone else, that his adventures in another world were real.
- In Stray Ami, Blank takes a bowler hat with him from a dream, but it might be justified by the fact Blank is an Imaginary Friend.
- Subverted in the Futurama episode "The Sting". Leela, believing Fry to be dead, keeps having dreams in which he tries to convince her otherwise. In one such, he puts his jacket on her shoulders and she's still wearing it when she wakes up. However, when she goes to show the jacket to the rest of the crew, what she has is her own jacket and not Fry's. Ultimately, it turns out that all of this was a dream, and she's the one who almost died.
- In the Barbie film Barbie in the Nutcracker, meeting Eric, the Nutcracker Prince, in real life proves she wasn't dreaming.
- Kuu Kuu Harajuku: In the episode Control+Alt+Dimension, Love invents a machine that calculates alternate choice pathways, then falls asleep on it and is accidentally transported to an alternate reality where HJ5 is evil and their enemies are good. She gets the help of this reality's Rudie to return home and wakes up wondering if it was all a dream. Then the alternate Rudie stands up from behind the couch after she leaves the room and mentions he got pulled into the wormhole which sent Love back to her reality.
- An episode of Garfield and Friends (parodying The Twilight Zone (1959)), Garfield gets Trapped in TV Land and, during the escapade, Garfield acquires a scarf and Odie accidentally drops the remote, breaking it. When Garfield wakes up, he's convinced that it was all a dream, but he notices the broken remote on the floor and then sees the scarf still on him.
- Every episode of BBC 1970s children's show Mr Benn ended with the title character returning home after a magical adventure and finding a souvenir of that week's story in his pocket.
- The end of Over the Garden Wall implies the entire trip to the Unknown could have been Wirt's hallucinations as he nearly drowns. However, aside from the fact that Greg seems to remember it too, his pet frog can be seen glowing when Greg shakes him—a result of eating the magic bell a few episodes before. Wirt's friends can be seen looking surprised by this just as the episode is ending.
- In the episode "The Chrome Car" of Infinity Train, Tulip's reflection gained sentience and, after making peace with Tulip-Prime, decided to explore the various cars on the train and experience life on her own terms. Fast-forward to the end of the series and Tulip finally returning home, where we see that she still lacks a reflection after passing by a hallway mirror.