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Forgotten Framing Device

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And now that I have carried this history so far in my own character and introduced these personages to the reader, I shall for the convenience of the narrative detach myself from its further course, and leave those who have prominent and necessary parts in it to speak and act for themselves.

The story is introduced via some kind of Framing Device, but when the story is over, the credits roll and the framing device isn't there to close things.

Related to Offscreen Inertia, as it makes it seem like the framing device is forever stuck telling the story. Compare Schrödinger's Butterfly. Contrast Narrator All Along, where it's a plot twist that there is a Framing Device.


Examples

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    Comic Books 
  • In the Trollhunters spinoff graphic novel, Trollhunters: The Secret History of Trollkind, the beginning of the story has Blinky trying to reassure Jim that Kanjigar had shortcomings just as he did. The graphic novel ends with Trollmarket being established and the reveal that Bulgar and Strickler are also in America, but the Framing Device is left ignored in the end.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Disney's Aladdin, the story opens with a merchant telling the viewer the story of the lamp. The movie ends with the Genie shouting "Made you look!" to the audience and the credits roll. It was originally planned for the movie to return to the merchant at the end, and reveal he was actually Genie in disguise, but this was cut for pacing reasons. The merchant eventually does show up again, however — at the end of the Direct to Video movie Aladdin and the King of Thieves, which closes out the spin-off TV series and ends the franchise.
  • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins opens with Andy's toys about to watch a VHS of the titular movie. We never see them again. When the movie aired as the first three episodes of the television show, the opening sequence was removed.
  • In Dino Time, the main character breaks the fourth wall when providing narration at the beginning of the movie, but after the third time, about 20 minutes in, he never does it again.
  • Pokémon movies tend to start with narration that helps explain the nature of the Pokémon world for any newcomers, before introducing Ash Ketchum, Pikachu, and the companions-of-the-season and his goals to become a Pokémon Master (some movies just cut straight to Ash after about 10 seconds of explaining the nature of the world). Unlike episodes of the show, the narrator doesn't come back at the end. Some of the movies, strangely enough, place the "Welcome to the world of Pokémon" narration at the end of the film.
  • The Jungle Book (1967) opens with a copy of the actual book opening up, and Bagheera's narration as we move into the book. These elements do not return at the end, but the 2016 remake homages them by inverting this trope, ending with the closing of the same book.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Big Trouble in Little China starts with one of its characters being interrogated by the police. He begins telling his story, which kicks off the action, but there's nothing at the end to explain how the cops got involved or why the character was detained for questioning. This scene came about from Executive Meddling and was not something originally in the script or first cuts of the film, but added later.
  • The extended version of the martial arts movie, Fearless (2006), begins in the present-day with a wushu association spokeswoman (played by Michelle Yeoh) narrating the story of their founder, Huo Yuanjia (the hero played by Jet Li) where the story then flashes back a hundred years ago. But the film then ends without returning to the present. Averted in the original release, which is set entirely in the past.
  • The Japanese sports drama Give It All begins in the present-day (1998, when the movie's released), with an old, rickety shack belonging to a rowing club about to be torn down. The camera then zooms in on a faded photograph (dated 1977) of the club's ex-members before flashing back to the 70s detailing the club's history, but by the credits the film still remains in the past.
  • In The Quest, the film starts with one framing device and ends with a completely different one. In the opening, the older main character reminisciences about the tournament he took part in, and in the ending, the closing of the story is presented literally with a book being closed.
  • The Saragossa Manuscript ends without returning to the primary level of the Nested Story, the one where the two opposing soldiers discovered and read the manuscript during a battle.
  • In Singin' in the Rain the movie-within-a-movie The Dancing Cavalier is supposed to be a giant Dream Sequence for an ordinary Broadway dancer who got hit with a sandbag backstage. And yet we are explicitly shown the end of the movie as still being inside the world of the dream sequence. Didn't the guy ever wake up?
  • In I Remember Mama, we see Katrin in the opening scene flashing back to the events of the story. A couple of times during the narration are we returning back to present day but the story ends without a final nod to the Framing Device.
  • Titus, an expressionistic film adaptation of Titus Andronicus, opens with a modern-age little boy playing violently with toy soldiers and other military toys. Suddenly a Roman soldier bursts into the room and drags him away, and the boy then becomes Young Lucius in the story. This is never called back to, although the final shot may imply an emotional resolution to it.
  • Bride of Frankenstein starts with Mary Shelley narrating the story to her husband and friends, an epilogue was filmed but cut from the movie.
  • The framing device of the Found Footage Film Phoenix Forgotten is the sister of a woman who disappeared investigating the UFO phenomenon known as the "Phoenix Lights" interviewing several people who last saw her and her friends, but then the sister finds the tape with the recording the group's final moments before they were all abducted by aliens and once she presses "play", the film becomes your regular "OMG aliens are really real, run-run-run, aaaaggggghhhh!" fare and doesn't return to her at all.

    Literature 
  • The Old Curiosity Shop begins with a unnamed elderly gentleman giving a first-person narration. At the end of the third chapter, the narrator abruptly signs off. The novel shifts to third person omniscient narration for the remaining seventy chapters.
    Narrator: And now that I have carried this history so far in my own character and introduced these personages to the reader, I shall for the convenience of the narrative detach myself from its further course, and leave those who have prominent and necessary parts in it to speak and act for themselves.
  • William Hope Hodgson's novel The Night Land. The book starts with a 17th century gentleman mourning the death of his beloved in childbirth. He has a vision of a distant future where their souls will be reunited, and sees that world through the eyes of his future incarnation. The end of the novel doesn't mention anything about this.
  • Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid plays with this in "Little Harmonic Labyrinth": Achilles and Tortoise have been captured by Hexaphone Goodfortune, who plans a Sinister Fate for both of them. While they await their fate, they find a book about Achilles and Tortoise and start reading it. The dialogue ends on the Achilles and Tortoise within the book, rather than those which Goodfortune captured.
  • The Worm Ouroboros begins with a man from Earth who dreams his way to Mercury, where the bulk of the novel takes place. No sooner does this dream-traveler get a peek at the royal court of Demonland than the author forgets all about him, focusing on the adventures and intrigues of its nobles.
  • The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is narrated in the first person by the protagonist. To start with there are several references to the fact that she's keeping a journal, such as one section ending with her saying that she has to stop writing now because she has a visitor. About halfway through, she starts narrating events as they happen, clearly not stopping to write anything instead. This does help with the horror atmosphere, as women who live in wallpaper can't really write anything...
  • Dark Harbors by J.S. Dark: At the beginning, protagonist Jack Cross stands up at an Alcoholics Anonymous-like meeting and starts narrating his last voyage in first person to this captive audience. About two-thirds of the way in, there are suddenly third-party chapters revealing the thoughts and actions of characters Jack hasn't met yet and did not have any opportunity to find out about during the timeline of the story. At the end, the story not only fails to return to the meeting, but leaves it unclear if Jack is still alive and/or able to communicate.
  • Winnie the Pooh once had a storybook where Pooh and the gang reenact various fairytales; the second chapter which adapts The Ram in the Chile Patch had Rabbit dream of his garden being attacked by a Heffalump who blows everyone out, and it ends with the Heffalump being bitten in the rear by the bug and fleeing the garden, without Rabbit ever waking up.
    • The original book also begins with a Framing Device talking about the zoo and Christopher Robbin's toys as if they were toys in the real world, something that is quickly forgotten.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The pilot episode of Dad's Army started in the 1960s with Captain Mainwaring addressing a Rotary Club dinner and reminiscing about his time in the Home Guard, before flashing back to the story of the founding of the platoon. This was never referred to again in the remainder of the series. Mainly because the writers never wanted a framing device in the first place, but for the first episode the network insisted.
  • Quantum Leap spent its entire run utilizing a Narrating the Present framing device, as if we're seeing Sam Beckett's memoirs acted out. But in the final episode it's revealed that he "never returned home." So how did he narrate all that time?

    Theatre 
  • Any Number Can Die opens with a young couple visiting the now abandoned house years after the story's events. The man begins talking about the murders that took place leading to the main story... and that's it. The scene is less than two minutes long, adds nothing to the story, and is never returned to.
  • Starlight Express begins with the reveal that "Control" is a little boy playing with his toy trains (which are the characters in the show), but his mother tells him to go to bed. Control then starts whispering as he introduces the trains for the first musical number, as if hiding that he's not asleep yet from his mother. Once Greaseball comes in, he's no longer whispering, and although Control gets more lines including being the commentator of the races, that he's a kid playing with toy trains is never brought up again.
  • The Green Pastures has a black preacher teaching Sunday school to the children of his congregation. When asked about Heaven, he imagines it's like a Sunday fish fry. The rest of the play is a series of Old Testament vignettes set in 1920s Louisiana with an all-black cast. The framing device pops up a couple of more times but is forgotten in the latter part of the play and does not appear at the end.
  • The Phantom of the Opera opens with an elderly Raoul attending an auction of the opera house's items which segues into main story when they show the chandelier. Raoul's lines imply that Christine has died but the play ends with her still alive and never returns to the framing story. (The film version does but it's a silent scene adding no new elements.)
  • The induction of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Christopher Sly, a drunk, is found passed out on the street by a Lord who decides to play an elaborate ruse on Sly, making Sly think he's a Lord who has only been dreaming that he's a drunkard. The Lord's attendants go along with the gag. The majority of Shrew is a play put on for Sly by a group of players. After a couple of interludes showing Sly's reactions to the play, it's dropped. For this reason, some productions of the play choose to cut the induction entirely.
  • Some versions of Grease start with the characters as adults at their Class Reunion before going into a flashback of them as teenagers and the reunion never appears again.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • The Book of Job opens with a framing device in which Satan convinces God to give him power over Job in order to test his loyalty. After Job's children and home are all wiped out, Satan meets with God again to urge him to inflict pain on Job himself. They have no further meetings and the result of their bet is never addressed at the end.

    Video Games 
  • Brütal Legend opens with Jack Black leading the viewer into a record shop and showing him the Brutal Legend record, which turns into the game menu. You can beat the game, but you'll never see that record shop again.
  • The player can invoke this with the second main ending to Return to Monkey Island, which has Guybrush using Stan's key to open the doors he entered from and escape back to Monkey Island and, as written by the button prompt, "deny what he thinks he saw and return to the world he knows". The story cuts with no return to the framing device of Guybrush telling the story to his son, directly to the credits.
  • She and the Light Bearer begins with a grandmother telling the story of the "Light Bearer" to her grandchildren, which segues into the first stage. But after several hours of gameplay, the final cutscene concludes without returning to the grandmother at the story's beginning.
  • The Stinger from Super Mario Galaxy 2 combines this trope with Narrator All Along, as collecting the Green Stars is required to unlock the game's final and most difficult level, Grandmaster Galaxy, especially "The Perfect Run."

    Webcomics 
  • xkcd: The "1337" storyline begins with a guy getting foiled by a mother when trying to leech off her Wi-Fi and segues into his friend telling him about how the mother is only the second-greatest hacker compared to her daughter, Elaine. By the time we get to the end of Elaine's story, the two guys are never mentioned again.

    Web Video 
  • Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is broken into three acts, with the "blog" aspect only used in Act 1 and the first few seconds of Act 2 (where he stares blankly at the camera before giving up on recording one).
  • Ultra Fast Pony: "The Nightmoon Mare Zone" starts with a parody of The Twilight Zone (1959)'s opening, but that parody aspect gets dropped immediately afterwards.
  • Zero Punctuation played with for Laughs in that it hoped you'd forget there was a framing device. In talking about Anarchy Reigns Yahtzee opens by framing the review as a talk with a bartender. That gets dropped until halfway through the review-
    And then he goes, "Are you buying something or what?!"

    Western Animation 
  • Looney Tunes short "A Hare Grows in Manhattan" starts with Bugs Bunny giving an interview about his youth growing up in Manhattan. But when the story, which mostly involves Bugs brawling with a gang of bulldogs, finally ends, the cartoon ends without referring back to the interview.
  • Family Guy: "Viewer Mail #2" starts with Brian and Stewie out of character talking to the camera about the mail they've received, and the first short shown is in response to a letter asking about the origin of the show. The framing device is dropped after that, showing two other unrelated shorts. This is in contrast to "Viewer Mail #1" where Brian & Stewie introduce each short, saying they were based on viewer suggestions.
  • In The Simpsons:
    • The first four Treehouse of Horror episodes utilize a framing device (with the first one taking place in an actual treehouse), but the third (the Simpsons throwing a Halloween party) and fourth (Bart hosting a Night Gallery) episodes end without concluding their own frame stories. The fact that the "Treehouse of Horror" episodes originally used a framing device at all has also been forgotten, though "Halloween of Horror," the show's only canon Halloween episode to date, implies that the Literary Agent Hypothesis is still in operation with an exchange between Homer and Ned Flanders about the Simpsons' annual tradition of telling spooky stories in the treehouse.
    • In season 17, "The Wettest Stories Ever Told", while the Simpsons are waiting for their meals at the Frying Dutchman, a seafood restaurant, Marge, Bart, and Homer each tell a story with a nautical theme. The episode ends at the end of Homer's story and we don't see the Simpsons at the conclusion of the story.
    • Season 19's "Love, Springfieldian Style" has Homer and Marge getting stuck on a "Tunnel of Love" type ride on Valentine's Day, and Homer tells Marge a story to pass the time. The kids join them after, and Marge and Bart also tell stories, but Bart's story goes straight to the credits and we don't see what happened with the ride.
  • The Shimmer and Shine special "The First Wish" is an Origins Episode which explains how Leah won her genie bottle pendant at a carnival and Shimmer and Shine became her genies. It was the first episode produced, but got aired as the season finale and it added a Framing Device where Shimmer and Shine recall the episode in flashback while looking at a scrapbook of their adventures with Leah and upon coming across a photo of their first time together; said framing device is never seen again after the main story begins, nor is it acknowledged.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • The SpongeBob's Runaway Roadtrip episodes, also known as the vacation miniseries, which features each episode beginning with the same framing device of a character showing pictures of a vacation they were on, leading to a Whole Episode Flashback. However, the framing device for each episode is not revisited at the end, nor are they acknowledged in the other episodes. Averted in the book adaptation which shows all the stories together and ends with an epilogue which closes out the Framing Device.
    • The episode "Swamp Mates" does the same trick with SpongeBob introducing the episode as a story he reads to Gary in his library; said Framing Device was not seen again in the end.
  • The Teen Titans Go! episode "Video Game References" starts with the Titans entering simulations to test their skills, but the episode ends as soon as Robin's simulation ends.
  • Justified in Bojack Horseman season 4 episode 9. The episode starts with Princess Carolyn's great great great grand-daughter Ruthie telling her class about her famous ancestor. As the story goes darker and darker (she has a miscarriage, learns her assistant plotted to stab her in the back and that a precious family heirloom is fake, and breaks up with her boyfriend) Ruthie assures that it has a Happy Ending. At the end Princess Carolyn tells Bojack that she imagines her hypothetical descendant telling stories about her when she feels down to convince herself that everything is going to be fine, even though its completely fake.
  • An I Am Weasel episode has an unusual and likely intentional case of this trope: the episode begins with the fictional Airplane Channel showing a pseudo-documentary about the Wright Brothers. When the characters celebrate at the end of the story with a root beer float, the TV channel has somehow turned into the Root Beer Float Channel. That is, the episode begins with one framing device and ends with a slightly different framing device.
  • The Dora the Explorer episode "Backpack", started with Dora telling the audience about how she first met Backpack, with the episode continuing into her flashback story but never leaving it.
    • The special "Dora's Dance to the Rescue" does the same thing. The episode is just a story told by Dora, but the rest of the episode is told through the flashback and never returns to the real world. It is also not mentioned in all descriptions of the episode; it's possible the scene was added in to take up time.
  • Many of the earlier episodes of Caillou begin with an old lady telling the story of the episode's events as a book to her grandkids, but the episodes immediately cut to the credits once they finally end.

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