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Infallible Narrator

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Rizzo: How do you know what Scrooge is doing? We're down here, and he's up there.
Gonzo: I keep telling you—storytellers are omniscient. I know everything.
Rizzo: Hoity-toity Mr. Godlike Smartypants.
Gonzo (facing the camera): To conduct a proper search, Scrooge was forced to light the lamps.
[the window lights up from the lamps]
Rizzo: How does he do that?

A Framing Device is set up in which the hero recounts his adventures in vivid detail. Very vivid detail. So vivid, in fact, that once the story is over and Fridge Logic has set in the question arises: how are they remembering all these details, while fighting off Ninja Pirate Zombie Robots in Space?

This trope is especially common in the Epistolary Novel, where action scenes and lengthy discussions are minutely reproduced afterwards in the form of journal entries or letters, which is assumed to be exactly what happened/was said.

Obviously more common in literature due to the need to describe everything, but a variant can appear in television when details that would be insignificant or assumed knowledge are commented on by characters from the framing device, implying that the speaker really was describing everything the viewer sees on screen.

Essentially the opposite of Unreliable Narrator. See also Direct Line to the Author, Literary Agent Hypothesis, All First-Person Narrators Write Like Novelists.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Whole Episode Flashback in Black Cat to Saya's death has Train telling Eve and Sven as a Framing Device, but shows events only Saya or Creed were present for. The author's comments in the volume version acknowledges he had to give the reader's an omniscient perspective, and the version Train was telling had some gaps where he had to speculate what happened.

    Comic Books 
  • The Red Skull remembered the details and experience of his own birth, as well as the personalities of both his parents despite his mother dying in childbirth and his father commiting suicide the next day. He lampshaded and justified both by claiming a "remarkable memory". One could, of course, take it to mean that his entire life story was embellished, especially given that he was telling the tale to his Arch-Enemy Captain America.


  • Heart of Darkness is told by Marlow, a ferry boat captain with the descriptive powers of Joseph Conrad.
  • All the characters, including great philosophers and children, speak with similar intelligence, style and vocabulary in Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse.
  • The Scarlet Letter is somewhat disturbing, since the small child of Hester (only about seven years old by the end of the book) speaks as eloquently (and with the same level of vocabulary) as the adults, who all happen to share the linguistic grace of Nathaniel Hawthorne.
  • Averted by P. G. Wodehouse. As an omniscient narrator, he wrote in his own unique and awesome style, but when writing in the capacity of Bertie Wooster, he had a whole different set of quirks. Bertie would often use an odd word and then question if it was indeed the word he wanted — or forget the word entirely (save its first letter), explain what he meant by anecdote, and then suddenly remember the word a paragraph later.
  • Moby-Dick: Ishmael may be better at writing than at whaling. This is probably intentional: he's a writer and occasional "marchant" seaman, only entitled to the Pequod's 777th lay.
  • Averted, often quite painfully, by just about anything written by William Faulkner.
  • In the medieval Scrapbook Story Catherine, Called Birdy, the narrator/diarist seems far too eloquent for a girl living in The Dung Ages who supposedly just learned to read and write (although her style seems to become more "literary" over time, even drifting into Purple Prose once or twice near the end).
    • Cushman does however give a nod to the Unreliable Narrator when Catherine talks about how her uncle, who's been on Crusade, tells them about the wonderful animals he's seen: unicorns, and griffons, and so on — but when he gets to describing elephants, "a splendid big beast with a tail at both ends", she thinks he's making it up.
    • Kevin Crossley-Holland's King Arthur trilogy has a similar problem where the books are supposedly the day-to-day writings of a teenage boy during the Crusades, but are just way too wordy and literary-minded for that to be plausible, especially considering all the emphasis on how laborious the process of writing was at that time. There's rarely any mention of Arthur reading anything, but his verbal education seems to be complete to the point that he never lacks for the right word to describe something.
  • Nero Wolfe keeps Archie Goodwin on his permanent staff precisely because Archie can be one of these.
  • Bobby Pendragon, of The Pendragon Adventure. Made especially glaring because writing the story down was one of the major plot points, and we're supposed to believe that in many cases he had hand-written a well planned out eloquent narrative in a single night. Later insight into the nature of Travelers explains this to a degree. In the last book, he notes that he has perfect recall of every moment of his life.
  • In many of the Sherlock Holmes short stories, the famous detective would spend (usually) the first half of the tale interviewing the client, who would effortlessly provide step-by-step, word-for-word descriptions of the events that brought them to seek Holmes out. This can sometimes reach a few weeks back.
    • The same happens in a lot of similar mystery stories by any number of authors, but is averted in one Isaac Asimov Black Widowers story — in "The Next Day", the solution is obscured because the guest didn't have this sort of memory and paraphrased what people said rather than using Exact Words. It was played straight in most of the other Black Widowers tales, though.
  • This sort of thing's common in H. G. Wells' books, as the narrators of The War of the Worlds and especially First Men in the Moon recount every single line of conversation in a dramatic narrative even though they're supposed to be telling the story years later. It reaches the breaking point, though, in The Food of the Gods. The unnamed narrator is clearly meant to be a person, as he describes attending one of the characters' lectures in college, and offers his own speculations about certain mysteries in the story. But then we have the same narrator somehow vividly describing the dreams of the characters, when the characters themselves didn't even remember them upon awakening. As the story goes on, the narrator becomes more and more infallible, until it's impossible to reconcile his knowledge of events with any human perspective.
  • In Harry Potter, characters can remember practically anything with the aid of a Pensieve, such as what someone in the same room as them twenty years ago was writing while they weren't even looking. Dumbledore promises Harry at one point that his own memories will be accurate and detailed, but it's hard to imagine how much more accurate and detailed they could be than the other ones we see.
  • The Name of the Wind features a protagonist who has since birth been trained to be a professional storyteller, so the author raises the stakes by having him orate the entire novel in real-time to a scribe, talking for an entire day with very few breaks, presumably ad-libbing the entire thing. There are a couple points when he stops to collect his thoughts, and one where Bast takes issue with his story (he describes his love interest as flawless, and Bast corrects that her nose was a bit crooked. He also takes the opportunity to point out that Kvothe tends to describe every woman he meets as beautiful, something those reading may have noticed by that point).
  • Greener Than You Think unintentionally draws attention to this when the narrator writes an in-story news article. In accordance with his ego and his tendency to overplay things, he rapidly reaches the heights of Purple Prose, then makes accusations of jealousy against those who criticize his writing. The narration itself, however, is in a plain, unadorned style.
  • Lampshaded in The Princess Diaries. The narrator remarks on the difficulty of taking a diary to formal occasions (when it won't fit in a purse), and her rampant writing in her diaries is noticed by her friends and family, and the last book recounts, in part, her attempts to get her first novel published.
  • The first book in the Hyperion Cantos has an interesting way of handling this. About half of the book is comprised of multiple backstories told from each person's perspective, and so the tone of each one is different. Some of them are told in the third person, justified as being how The Consul (the primary protagonist) remembers them telling it, without stuttering or pauses. Other times, the story will be told through a series of journal entries. One character, Martin Silenus, is a poet, and so his portion is told from the first-person and is written differently than the others.
    • A few chapters into Endymion, the narrator lampshades the fact that he's giving detailed descriptions of events he did not witness, and promises it will make sense by the end of the story.
  • This often happens when characters are recalling something that happened offscreen in stories; it's disturbing how they sound like professional storytellers when they definitely aren't. For example, Warren does this in The Fablehaven novel Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary, Luke does it in City of Bones...
  • Justified in C.S. Lewis' The Horse and His Boy. Aravis recounts her entire backstory like this, and Bree explains that Calormenes are taught story-telling in school. She isn't entirely infallible, either; as per the standards of her culture, she colours her narrative with painful amounts of Purple Prose, even when recounting what another character, who is present, said - causing said character to comment that they didn't actually say it in nearly as fancy words.
  • The Ciaphas Cain note  novels have most of the memoirs Cain himself as a straight example, especially given how good his memory must be to remember all the fine details from sorties that happened over a century ago. The chapters taken from the memoirs of Jenith Sulla, meanwhile, are intentional aversions. The fact that Cain's 'memoirs' are being critically commented on and (left slightly incomplete to be) augmented by a fictional editor goes some way towards making them seem more real, but it doesn't change the fact that the parts that are wholly his own narration are the way that they are.
  • H. P. Lovecraft:
    • In "The Whisperer in Darkness", the narrator's account includes verbatim reproductions of documents several pages long, entirely from memory, as the documents themselves have been destroyed along with the rest of the evidence. He remarks at one point that he's quite proud of his ability to recall details, and so he should be.
    • Interestingly averted in "The Call of Cthulhu", where the narrator is not the one who experienced the events himself but rather a compiler of them. Of the journal and eyewitness account that forms the final and most important narrative he writes that he "cannot attempt to transcribe it verbatim in all its cloudiness and redundance" and instead paraphrases it. This gives the description of the final encounter with the ultimate horror a curious mix of immediacy and distance, but certainly justifies the level of detail given and the way it's written.
  • The novel Child Of The Northern Spring follows the story of King Arthur from Guinevere's perspective. Gwen turns out to be amazingly accurate in her narration - so much so that she (somehow) manages to recount events even though she claims to have forgotten about them.
  • Wuthering Heights provides a double example: Nelly Dean is able to perfectly recall all the events of the book - over more than 20 years, to boot - and recount them to Lockwood (Handwaved as due to her good memory). Lockwood himself is able to later write her whole tale, including other characters' individual recantations to Nelly, down in his diary from memory.
  • Played with in the Gotrek & Felix series. The opening of each chapter is a page from felix's own publishing of their journeys (felix having joined up to write Gotrek's story and co-incidentally taking several hundred levels of Badass to become on the worlds greatest heroes along the way), before it then switches into the main part of the chapter, where it's narrated at real time.
  • Mostly averted in The Lord of the Rings, as the details in the Red Book could reasonably have been remembered by different members of the Company as they compared stories. A few parts had no obvious witnesses, however, such as Gollum's near-repentance on Cirith Ungol while Frodo and Sam slept.
  • Subverted in the 7th Thursday Next book, "The Woman Who Died A Lot" which reveals that recurring character Jack Schitt didn't really have that name, it was a nasty pseudonym bestowed on him by Thursday.
  • The Beka Cooper books are presented as the diaries of its protagonist. Since she writes them as a memory aid for her reports, the level of detail isn't surprising (and they are usually written on the same day as events) and there are a few One Paragraph Chapters where she's too exhausted, sick, or upset to write a proper entry. However, there are occasions when she's writing days or weeks later, after harrowing and traumatic events, still with perfect recall and grammar. The final book, Mastiff, gives this a Hand Wave of her "memory palace".
  • Fitz from Realm of the Elderlings writes down detailed events of what happens years after the fact, although his good memory is probably justified because of the Skill. His daughter takes it a step further by remembering what happens while she was in her mother's womb.

    Live-Action TV 
  • How I Met Your Mother may be an example of this. Ted has a very clear recollection of several years of his life. Although it is sometimes averted or played with as he does have moments he doesn't remember and stuff. There's still some Fridge Logic as to the degree of detail he seems to use to describe his sex life to his own kids...

    Video Games 
  • Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! is framed as Athena recounting the events of the game to the Crimson Raiders, with commentary by both Athena and her audience scattered throughout. During True Vault Hunter Mode, Tiny Tina questions whether Athena's memories are really accurate and challenges her to recite the seventeenth thing Jack says in the story; Athena proceeds to quote it flawlessly, implying that she's been relaying everyone's dialog word for word the entire time.
  • Persona 5 is for the first 3/4ths of the game or so, Joker recounting the details of all the events that led up to that point in the story (roughly 6 months worth of time) to Sae in a police interrogation room. This has led to him being at least memetically performing this trope, as fans speculate that he's really telling her about all the times he went to the various shops, watched movies, slept with Sae's sister...

     Web Original 
    Western Animation 
  • An episode of The Simpsons sees Homer recounting the story of Maggie's birth. Suffice to say he's very graphic about the conception.
    • At one point in that episode the audience sees Homer's head explode during the re-telling. This in then revealed to be Bart interfering. Homer then needs to be reminded that he "had a head" as he re-takes the reins of the story.
  • In Futurama, the professor accomplishes this through use of a memory ray pistol.
    • Justified on another occasion because it was a robotic security camera replaying what it recorded.
      Security Camera: My memory's a little fuzzy, but I think it went exactly like this.
    • Parodied and averted at another point, where Zoidberg can be seen with a full head of hair in Farnsworth's flashback, something Farnsworth wouldn't have bothered to mention. When the others comment on it, he reveals that he never mentioned hair, and that if they assumed he had hair that's their problem not his.
  • Parodied in the early seasons of Family Guy. Peter narrates his own life out loud and some descriptive insults about Lois' looks lead to her knocking him out, only to awake hours later.
    Peter: I awoke several hours later in a daze.