Dorothy: I didn't want herpes!
Wizard: Oh. Well... you've got it.
The hero is on a quest to find something or someone of great value to him or her. After a long series of adventures, the quest finally ends when the hero is informed — usually by The Mentor or by the Spirit Advisor who sent them on this long and sprawling quest — that the object or person they were searching for was in their own possession from the very beginning. The hero's reaction to this news can range anywhere from relief to a forehead-slapping "D'oh!" moment, although it rarely ever involves the hero kicking the crap out of The Mentor or whoever it was who sent them on this wild goose chase. (Mostly because the hero knows they probably made them go for his/her own good.)
This trope can often be justified if the hero needed to reach a specific state of mind/body/spirit that could only be achieved through the efforts taken in during the quest. In essence, the object of the quest truly did not exist until after the hero started wandering though the Big Bad's back yard. (Though one wonders why the mentor didn't mention something along these lines rather than risk it all on a young hero having a convenient epiphany while trying to survive.)
See also Magic Feather, when this is done with a power or skill rather than an object, and Hidden in Plain Sight. Compare Bluebird of Happiness, which, if you were searching for it, always turns up back at home.
Because this trope typically deals with plot resolution, you shouldn't be surprised that there are spoilers ahead in the examples. After all, the spoiler was there all along...
- A vacationer in a car commercial can't find his sunglasses, so backtracks to one tourist site after another, looking in vain for where he left them. In the end, he finds them caught in the hood of the hoodie he's been wearing all through the ad.
- Sailor Moon with her search for the Silver Crystal — more obviously in the manga. It was created from her tears and The Power of Love (and, in the anime, the Rainbow Crystals).
- At the same time, it's revealed that Usagi is Princess Serenity, whom Luna had been searching for up to that point.
- Similarly, in the anime version Uranus and Neptune spend a lot of time searching for the three Talismans in other people's heart crystals, resorting to morally dubious means, only to discover that two of the Talismans were in their own heart crystals, and the third was the heart of Sailor Pluto.
- Also in the anime, Chibi-Usa spends a season looking for her mother's Silver Crystal. She is revealed to have absorbed the Silver Crystal back when she picked it up and it was living inside her.
- Inuyasha: Bakusaiga is this for Sesshoumaru. He spends the entire manga searching for a sword that is powerful enough to be wielded by him. Character development means that his entire quest, starting with his father bequeathing him Tensaiga, is a The Only Way They Will Learn Secret Test of Character that was designed to reshape his mentality into something that was capable of achieving his full potential. In the moment he achieves his full potential, he pulls Bakusaiga out of his very soul, forged from his own power. As Toutousai point-blank states, that sword was with him all along - inside him, just waiting for the day when he was wise enough and compassionate enough to unleash it.
- Darker Than Black: Hei's sister Pai has merged with Hei's body and is actually inside him giving him contractor powers the entire time.
- In Detective Conan Ran Mouri is constantly looking for her childhood friend Shinichi Kudo, who is with her all along as a little boy named Conan Edogawa. Conan himself lampshades this at one point. Ran still doesn't realise this fact up to the present manga chapter.
- Occult Academy:
- Fumiaki is sent into the past to find Nostradamus' Key in order to prevent the apocalypse. In the final episode, he learns that he is Nostradamus' Key. Encountering and touching his child self overloads the time line and triggers the apocalypse.
- In one episode, Kozue undergoes a near-death experience, but her soul is unable to return to her body because she'd dropped her glasses in the afterlife. It turns out they were just resting on top of her head.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, Ed and Al spent most of the series trying to find a way to restore Al's body. In the end, he trades his ability to perform alchemy in order to bring Al back. In theory, he could have done this at pretty much any point in the series, though it took most of the series before he was in the proper emotional state to figure out the solution for himself.
- The finale of Digimon Adventure has Apocalymon destroy the Crests and Tags of the Chosen Children that represent their virtues, rendering them unable to evolve their partners. They then learn it wasn't that their virtues powered the Crests, but that their virtues themselves were the Crests, despite having them having spent half the season looking for the physical objects). Interestingly, however, there seems to be a difference between the physical power the Crests give them and their virtues; Digimon Adventure 02 reveals that despite keeping said virtues, at some point they were forced to surrender the power it gave them to evolve the Digimon.
- A dark example of this in Fate/Zero. After Kiritsugu shoots Ryuunosuke, the serial killer looks at his blood pooling in his hand, and remarks that it is the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen, and that he'd finally found what he was looking for. It was inside him all along.
- In Fairy Tail, the first and third generation dragon slayer's missing draconic parents were sealed within them all along.
- Naruto: In Chapter 29, Haku asked a then-rookie Naruto this: "You said to me you wanted to become the best ninja in your village and have everyone acknowledge you. Now, if someone who acknowledged you from the bottom of their heart appeared, wouldn't that someone become the most important person to you?" After years of searching for "that someone", Naruto realizes in the canon movie The Last that it was Hinata all along. Both Naruto's flashback◊ in Chapter 538 and Masashi Kishimoto in this 2015 New York Comic Con interview confirm that Hinata was the very first person to acknowledge Naruto for who he is, long before Iruka did. After the Final Battle, they finally become an Official Couple and get Happily Married.
- Near the end of the first season of Shirobako, main character Aoi scrambles to find someone to animate a herd of horses for the finale of Exodus (animals are very difficult to animate naturally). A meeting with a Hideaki Anno stand-in (arranged as a prank by some industry veterans) reveals that an old hand at her studio was a master at drawing animals, including the cast of her favourite childhood anime about animals, Andes Chucky.
- Korin's Sacred Water in Dragon Ball fulfills this trope. The legend says that whoever drinks it will gain a massive power increase, but in actuality the rigors of actually getting it (climbing his tower and catching Korin, specifically) train the body to the same effect. The water in the bottle is revealed to be ordinary tap water. Across the series, most power boosts in the story, excep the Ultra-Divine Water are done internally via training, techniques or transformations, not through external means.
- In one of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past mangas, Ghanti's earrings turn out to be the weapon they will need to defeat their enemy.
- Dragon Drive: In second part Agent A asked Takumi to find Raikou-oh Edea, the only dragon that can defeat Genryuu. The very first Raikou-oh card Takumi retrieves from Agent A, the Raikou-oh that was always with him IS Edea.
- Parodied in Kyou no Go no Ni: Ryota believes Megumi is searching for her glasses, so he tells her she's already wearing them. In reality, she's looking for her bloomers. Turns out she was wearing it the whole time.
- Saint Seiya Episode GA: Cocteau, the owl that acts as Athena's messenger to Shura, actually is the Sleep-Mode Size of Gemini Saga and only returned to his true from once Shura is in mortal peril.
- In Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku, Hanako panics after losing her necklace, one of a matching pair her boyfriend Tarou had bought years ago. She finds it after he presents her with a new set of matching accessories: engagement rings. The necklace had gotten tangled up in her scarf.
- In American Born Chinese, The Monkey King frees himself from being trapped under a mountain of rock by releasing his shape-shifting kung fu and reverting to his original monkey form.
- During the Young Avengers story arc The Children's Crusade, Wiccan is informed by Doctor Doom that the spell that was used to heal him also took away his powers. It's only later on, when the group desperately need his magic, that Doom admits that it's impossible for anyone to take away Wiccan's powers... but it is possible to use magic to convince him that that's the case.
Doom: What they can do, however, is enchant you into believing anything they tell you.
Wiccan: I've had my powers this whole time? That's so "Wizard Of Oz."
- The Superman Adventures: In Issue #52, Superman needs an element that doesn't exist on Earth to save Supergirl's life. Once he eventually loses all hope, he sheds a tear and it's shown to contain the element. One of his friends even comments "you've been carrying element x around all the time!".
- In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Roam reveals that he is seeking the Silver Arrow spoken of in the Book of Mudora, which prophesied that Ganon can only be defeated by a sacred arrow. Although he reveals to Link that he has yet to find it, Roam continues to search for the Silver Arrow to defeat Ganon with it and prove himself to be the legendary hero. However, when Link and Zelda arrive to Ganon's Tower, Roam returns and admits he has failed to find the Arrow. After Roam dies saving Zelda, the princess snatches up Roam's crossbow and takes aim at Ganon. As it whistles through the air, the power of the Maidens, Zelda, Link, and Roam, turn the arrow into the Silver Arrow.
- The Cossacs cartoon series have a short about the protagonists who have to help their Similar Squad alien counterparts with their Flying Saucer. The aliens tell they need "oil". The short is about them getting into a few adventures to get some exotic types of oil, but none work. Then one of the wheels on their cart starts squeaking, and they pull out a bucket of tar to grease it...
- In "A Pottle O' Brains" (collected by Joseph Jacobs in More English Fairy Tales), the fool finally goes to the wise woman with his clever wife to answer her riddles and get a pottle of brains. When he succeeds with his wife's prompting, the wisewoman explains he already has the brains: in his wife's head.
- A Long Journey Home: After the death of his wife, Simon searched desperately for Jasmine so she could break his curse and finally allow him to die. He continued the search until his body became so decrepit that he was confined to a bed. It was then that Jasmine finally visited him, and revealed that she had broken the curse on him decades ago what was keeping him alive was Simon himself, whose magic was reacting to his subconscious wish to atone for Myrddin's death. It is only when Simon overcomes his guilt and forgives himself that he is finally able to die.
- In Man of Steel fanfic Daughter of Fire and Steel, Kara tries to talk Kal into giving her the Codex so she can convince Zod to leave Earth, but Kal does not know where it is. Shortly after, Zod guesses Jor-El hid it inside his son.
Kara: General, you have the Genesis Chamber and the World Engine. Once we have the Codex..."
Zod: (shouting) "We?!"
Kara: "...We can find a suitable world to colonize and reform Krypton."
Zod: "We have everything we need right on this planet. The only two things stopping us are you and Kal."
Kara: "You still need the Codex."
Zod: "You're standing next to it. Jor-El was far more clever than I gave him credit for. Instead of simply leaving it inside the ship when it could be damaged or rioted away in time, he put it inside the one thing that couldn't be destroyed on this world. The Codex is inside Kal's DNA."
- In Ancienverse, Ash realizes that his answer to being a Pokemon Master is quite simply his desires of meeting and helping others, allowing him to proclaim that he's already a Pokemon Master.
- Transformers: The Movie (1986) plays with this a bit... The Matrix of Leadership looks like it's going to fill this trope, seeming originally to be a merely symbolic token of Autobot command, but which Unicron fears.... And then neither Ultra Magnus or Galvatron manage to use it. In the end, Hot Rod manages to open the Matrix, become Rodimus Prime, and destroy Unicron after reclaiming the Matrix from Galvatron, who had stolen it from Ultra Magnus
- The Lion King (1994): Rafiki tells Simba that his father is still alive. When Simba tells Rafiki that his father is dead, Rafiki shows him that his father still lives on inside him.
- In Kung Fu Panda, this is the lesson of the Dragon Scroll, which merely shows the reflection of the one 'reading' it. Po gains wisdom and confidence from this. Tai Lung... doesn't.
- In Barbie in the Nutcracker, Clara/Barbie helps the eponymous Nutcracker find the legendary Sugarplum Princess, who they eventually identify as Clara.
- BIONICLE: Mask of Light sends Takua the Chronicler on a search for the Toa of Light, which results in him transforming into the Toa of Light.
- Curious George (2006): The 3-inch Zagawa trinket, which was thought to be useless, when held up to the light, it creates a pictogram map that leads to the actual 40 foot lost shrine of Zagawa.
- Played extremely straight in Starchaser: The Legend of Orin. Infamous for ripping off several elements of Star Wars and even a few from The Legend of Zelda, this film ends with the main character being told that the sword he was using never had a blade and that the few times one appeared were the result of his own power. Who tells him this while he's in the throes of battle with the Big Bad?. The character he met IN THE VERY BEGINNING OF THE FILM, who oddly, never was one for speaking at all until then. Must've slipped its mind.
- Pooh's Grand Adventure: The ending of the movie reveals that everything the cast had searched for, they had all along.
- Piglet was always a very brave little guy, proven by when he immediately threw himself off a cliff to rescue Pooh and Tigger.
- Rabbit was always very smart, and never needed a map to effectively lead the group.
- Tigger always was extremely strong, if not physically then emotionally.
- And Pooh learns that Christopher Robin was and will always be with him in his heart.
- Eeyore sums it up best.
Eeyore: Didn't need to come all the way out here to find it. Always had it with us all along.
- Moana realizes, during her Darkest Hour, that the Call to Adventure was inside her all along, giving her the resolve she needs to complete her quest.
- Coco: Miguel spends a good chunk of the movie searching for Ernesto de la Cruz, who he believes is his great-great grandfather. It turns out that his actual great-great grandfather is Hector, the man who was helping him find Ernesto.
- In the seventh Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf film, Paddi cannot find the Dragon Artifact he needs to defeat the stone dragon when he makes it to what he thinks is where it's located. That medal Weslie made for him out of a tin container lid that appears throughout the film? That's actually the Dragon Artifact.
- In Frozen II, "Show Yourself" is about Elsa searching within Ahtohallan for the source of the voice, only to realize it's really an echo of her origin and that she's really always been searching for herself.
- In Olaf's Frozen Adventure, while Olaf sets out to find a tradition for their family by looking to see what others did, Anna and Elsa find one in Elsa's old trunk - and the tradition is Olaf. Anna had made an "Olaf" gift every Christmas growing up, creating a tradition herself.
- In Frozen (2013), Anna spends most of the story longing for love. Then at the climax, her heart is frozen and she needs an "Act of True Love" to break the curse. Naturally, she goes to her fiance for a True Love's Kiss, only for the act of true love to be her own act when she sacrifices her life for her sister. All she needed was her own love.
- Onward: Brothers Ian and Barley go on a quest for a magical artifact that complete a spell to revive their dead father before the 24-hour time limit is up. After many harrowing dangers, they find the gem they needed was hidden in the town fountain the whole time. Furthermore, Ian realizes that while he never knew his father, he still had someone with him growing up; his elder brother Barley.
- One very famous example is Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, who spent the vast majority of the story Trapped in Another World, trying to find a way out — only to learn at the end that she had been wearing the means of her escape (the Ruby Slippers) on her feet the entire time. However, other than ending the movie early, the Witch of the North didn't tell her earlier...
Glinda: ...because she wouldn't have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.
- The other members of the main cast all had what they wanted from the Wizard, too, and also either didn't realize it or misinterpreted the meaning: the Scarecrow wants a brain so that he can be smart, but he's already quite intelligent in the street-smart Guile Hero kind of way; the Tin Man wants a heart so that he can express emotions again, but is already quite capable of that; and the Cowardly Lion wants courage but mistook his common sense (e.g., not pointlessly running into danger) for cowardice. The Wizard rewards them symbolically in the end: the Scarecrow gets a diploma, the Tin Man a heart-shaped clock, and the Cowardly Lion a medal for bravery.
- Parodied in a MadTV skit.
- In Cheshire Crossing, Dorothy calls Glinda on her bull, accusing her of withholding the information purposefully to get Dorothy to kill the Wicked Witch.
- Parodied in The Kentucky Fried Movie, where Pennington tells Loo that he can go home by clicking his own ruby slippers—slippers which Loo had not been wearing, and which were obviously simply edited in from The Wizard of Oz.
- Similarly, in The Neverending Story, the hero needs a human child-who turns out to be the boy reading the story, like in the original book.
Atreyu: I have failed you, Empress.
Childlike Empress: No, you haven't. You've brought him with you.
Childlike Empress: The Earthling child. The one who can save us all.
Atreyu: You knew about the Earthling child?
Childlike Empress: Of course. I knew everything.
Atreyu: My horse died, I nearly drowned, and I just barely got away from the Nothing. For what? To find out what you already knew?
Childlike Empress: It was the only way to get in touch with an Earthling.
Atreyu: But I didn't get in touch with an Earthling!
Childlike Empress: Yes, you did. He has suffered with you. He went through everything you went through. And now, he has come here with you. He's very close. Listening to every word that we say.
- The Last Dragon sends its hero "Bruce" Leroy on a quest to find a non-existent martial arts master, and is given a "mystic sigil" to help him on his way. By the end of the film, its revealed that the martial arts master is actually a fortune cookie machine, and the mystic sigil is just a belt-buckle. The wisdom he was seeking was within him all the time.
- The prisoners/subjects of the deathtrap-filled Cube start out in an unnotable cubical room that happens to be the room one door away from the exit (after some shuffling), at the very end.
- In Bedknobs and Broomsticks, the characters spend about the first 2/3rds of the film searching for Astoroth's medallion, which contains the words for the Substitutionary Locomotion spell. Even when they get the original medallion, it vanishes from their possession since it was taken from a Magical Land back to their own. It turns out a drawing of the medallion, with all the spell's words, is in a picture book the youngest of the kids has had with him for a substantial part of the film. Even more, he knows the picture is there the whole time, but every time he tries to explain this to the others, he's constantly told to be quiet - it isn't until the spell seems lost and everyone's despaired for a bit that he finally makes himself heard.
- In Penelope (2006), the title character is under a curse that can only broken if she is "loved by one of her own kind." Of course, it doesn't occur to her until she's twenty-five that she is of her own kind, and the curse is broken when she says "I like myself the way I am."
- Sucker Punch: Baby Doll is told that she needs five things for her escape, and the fifth is a secret. The fifth turns out to be Baby Doll herself.
- Any Which Way You Can: After Scarfe gives Clyde the orangutan the advance money for Philo's fight with Wilson, Philo tells him, "You stash that, Clyde, and don't let Ma see you." "Ma" Boggs is looking out the window, however, and sees Clyde with the money. In a later scene, we see her searching Clyde's room in the shed for the money, to no avail. And when Philo decides to cancel the fight and give back the money, Clyde goes and gets it. Ma follows him, and learns that Clyde hid the money under her own mattress.
"Humiliating! Outsmarted by a banana-head!"
- In Spaceballs, when Lone Star loses the ring that supposedly grants him the power of the Schwartz, Yoghurt tells him that he found the ring in a crackerjack box and that the Schwartz is in fact within Lone Star himself.
- In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Walter travels around the world, trying to follow a photographer as he seeks a missing photo frame the photographer appeared to leave out from his last message. At the end of the story, he finds it was on the wallet the photographer had sent as a present, along with the other frames.
- During the search for the titular car in Dude, Where's My Car?, Jesse and Chester are accosted by two groups of aliens who both want a device called the "Continuum Transfunctioner". Unfortunately, they don't know where it is. All they have is a bunch of stuff they acquired the previous night which they don't remember. After they try to pass off a toy as the device, Chester solves a Rubik's Cube that was among the bunch of stuff. That turns out to be the Continuum Transfunctioner in disguise and solving it triggered the transformation.
- Done indirectly in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, where Master Yoda assures Luke that the ancient Jedi temple with its sacred texts - which Yoda had just set on fire - contains nothing that Rey does not already possess. It's all in keeping with the film's theme of letting go of the past - but it's also a hilarious subversion, as the end of the film reveals that Rey had stolen the texts before they were destroyed. Yoda was being quite literal.
- Done tragically in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Peter Quill has spent his whole life searching for his father, hoping to reconnect with him. By the end of the movie, he realizes that his biological father is a monster and Yondu was always the father figure hed been searching for... but he only realizes this after Yondu dies saving Peter, leaving them unable to ever reconnect.
- Done again by Marvel in Thor: Ragnarok. Thor's first confrontation with Hela ends with her shattering Mjolnir, leaving him powerless. During the climax, only after receiving a vision of Odin reminding him of his title is Thor able to regain his thunder and kick ass.
"Are you Thor, the God of Hammers? That hammer was to help you control your power; to focus it. It was never your source of strength."
- Escape to Athena. Several of the escaped POW's have heard of some gold plates worth $2 million that the Nazis have stolen. La Résistance convinces them to raid a mountain monastery where they're supposedly stashed. Turns out it's actually a hidden V2 missile launch site and they just wanted them to help blow it up. At the end of the movie it's revealed that the Nazis never got the plates because La Résistance hid them in the whorehouse they were using as their base.
- In Tintin and the Golden Fleece, Tintin and Haddock try to find Paparanic's lost gold before the villainous Karabine can get to it. In the end, the treasure chest they found by following a map turns out to have been a Red Herring: the gold was actually hidden in the railings of the Golden Fleece, the boat which he'd left to Haddock in his inheritance at the start of the movie.
- Older Than Print: The medieval Persian poem The Conference of Birds is about all birds organizing an expedition to find their hidden bird-god, the Simorgh. After many dangers and hardships only thirty birds that are left reach the land of the Simorgh... only to see their own reflection in a pond and realize that the Simorgh is all of them and their union.
- The Algebraist by Iain Banks. The hero embarks on a quest for mythical information about access to a hypothesized network of interstellar wormholes (which would utterly transform the face of the entire galaxy), and actually ends up using several of them before the end. He finally finds the answer embedded within the picture that he was given as a shibboleth by his Obi-Wan figure at the start of his journey. In a double subversion, the information turns out to be the figure zero, and despite that actually makes sense.
- In Deltora Quest, after two red herrings (Dain and Jasmine), it turns out that Lief is the Heir of Adin.
- The Neverending Story:
- The boy Bastian is reading the eponymous book, in which the Childlike Empress sends hero Atreyu out on a quest to find a cure for her illness. After a long and horrifying journey he returns to at least tell her the cure, thinking he has failed in also providing it: she needs to be given a new name by a human child from our world. Her answer? She knew the cure all along, but sent him out on an adventure to draw in a human child who could save her - who is currently reading along, and has been since the beginning of the tale.
- After a certain point, Bastian begins to search Fantastica for the door leading back to the human world. In the last chapter, he finally finds it - the door is within AURYN, the golden pendant Bastian has been wearing around his neck since he arrived in Fantastica.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry needs to gather three artifacts. One has been with him the whole book without him knowing it (the Resurrection Stone), another has been under his control and technically "his" even if not in his possession since halfway through the book (the Elder Wand), and the third has been with him for the entire series (his Invisibility Cloak).
- Also in Deathly Hollows, Harry is on a quest to find all of Voldemort's Horcruxes. He discovers that he himself is the final Horcrux.
- In the Order of Phoenix, a medallion is found in Sirius Black's house, but it doesn't seem important until the seventh book, where it's revealed to be a Horcrux.
- Land of Oz series:
- In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy spends the entire book looking for a way home, only to find out at the end that the answer is the silver slippers she's been wearing the whole time. Unlike in the famous film, though, the Good Witch of the North who she meets at the beginning and the Good Witch Glinda who tells her about the slippers at the end are two separate people, so at least there isn't the whole "Why didn't you say so in the first place?" aspect.
- In The Marvelous Land of Oz, Tip's quest to find the lost Princess Ozma eventually requires Glinda the good witch to force Mombi the wicked witch to confess the truth: Tip is Ozma, transformed into a boy.
- The Dresden Files: In Ghost Story, Harry is sent back to the mortal world to find the person who killed him. At the end, he discovers that he killed himself. Specifically, he hired an assassin to kill him at a specific time, then erased his memory of doing so.
- In the Magic: The Gathering novel Test of Metal, Tezzeret is sent by Nicol Bolas to find something called "carmot". In the end, Tezzeret discovers that he is the carmot.
- In the second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the party had what they needed to create a new Staff of Law from the very beginning. The problem was that it required a great sacrifice by one member. The point of the quest was to convince that person that there was no other way.
- Subverted for black comedy in the Roald Dahl short story Lamb to Slaughter. A woman beats her husband to death with a frozen leg of lamb. When the police come over, she invites them to stay for dinner. They rule her out as a suspect because they don't see how she could have disposed of the murder weapon in time; they have no idea that they're eating it.
- In Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell, as soon as Cadance and Twilight realize what they needed in order to be effective leaders, the Crystal Heart Spell revealed itself to them.
- Encyclopedia Brown: In one case, the absent-minded Ziggy Ketchum is mentioned as having once hired Encyclopedia to find his wristwatch. Encyclopedia found it on his other wrist.
- Implied in Autobiography of Red. Ancash says that the Yazcamac come back from being thrown into a volcano as red Winged Humanoids. Geryon was a red Winged Humanoid to begin with; in a way, he can already be identified as a Yazcamac. He decides to fly into the volcano anyway, and seems to be pretty much the same person afterward.
- Played with in Empire Star. When Jo is handed a strange crystal, and asked to take the message to Empire Star, he assumes the crystal is the message, but eventually discovers that he will have been the message all along—once he figures out what it is. Time travel can be confusing that way.
- The sixth volume of The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign revolves around the search for the Founder's Gallery, a repository of valuable knowledge. At the end, Kyousuke pieces together the clues and realizes that it's in the same building as Aika's apartment... the same apartment he's been using as a base for the entire series. And Aika knew about it all along, being the self-appointed guardian of the gallery.
- In Day of the Dissonance, Jon-Tom is sent on a long and perilous quest by his mentor Clothahump to get special medicine in order to cure the debilitating condition he's suffering. After a long and perilous journey filled with Wacky Wayside Tribes, evil wizards, and other dangers, Jon-Tom gets to the shop, retrieves the medicine... and discovers that it's regular old Aspirin, which was something he'd been carrying with him the whole time. Clothahump knew this and sent him on the quest anyway because he's a Troll (and was grooming Jon-Tom to be his successor, whether Jon-Tom wanted it or not).
- In Henry Ernest Dudeney's Canterbury Puzzles, one man got rich by overhearing two men discussing a buried treasure. One of them complained that he has a document saying it is buried on a square field in a certain district, at a spot a certain distance from one corner, a certain other distance from another corner, and yet another distance from a third corner. The problem is, all the fields there are square, and the size isn't specified in the document. The man overhearing them then went and dug up the treasure, because he knew only a field of particular size can have such a spot.
- In season 2 of 24, villain Jonathan Wallace is shot during a tenuous alliance with Jack and dies before he can tell Jack where he hid a microchip. Jack has a flash of intuition and realises that what Wallace claimed was shrapnel while Jack was waving a metal detector at him is in fact the microchip and cuts him open to retrieve it.
- There's a clip on an episode of America's Funniest Home Videos where a toddler is searching his house, crying his eyes out, looking for his lost Tigger doll... which he's dragging along his wake in his other hand.
- Breaking Bad: In the second half of the fifth and final season, Hank starts his scathing speech to Walter over finding out he's Heisenberg with "It was you... all along it was you!" Hank has been searching for Heisenberg for nearly the whole series, not realizing that he was near him the entire time.
- Doctor Who: "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances" is about a plague of gas-masked zombies overrunning London during the Blitz. The leader of the zombies is a Creepy Child named Jamie who is looking for his mother. The mother in question, his "older sister" Nancy, who's being chased by him, has no idea until the climax that all she needed to do to fix everything was touch him, as when she does the nanomachines causing everything recognize her maternal DNA and fix all of their victims up properly.
- In How I Met Your Mother, Marshall and Ted get stranded in their car during a blizzard and spend the entire night nearly freezing to death — right outside a motel.
- A variation occurs on an episode of Seinfeld. Kramer puts Jerry's cuff links in his new lock box and hides the key in a neighbor's birdcage. The bird eats the key and dies with the result being Jerry and Kramer having to dig up the corpse. Before Jerry can unlock the lock box, George opens it casually and reveals that it was never locked to begin with.
- Stargate SG-1: For just a minute, it seems like this is going on in the Season Seven finale. Jack, while dealing with My Skull Runneth Over, has led the team to a distant planet to find a fabled "lost city" that could save the Earth from the Big Bad. He points them to a holographic map of Earth and drops the name "Atlantis", making them think that the MacGuffin they've been looking for all season long was on Earth all along... but no, he really needed to go to the planet with the map, because it also had a power source he could use to fuel defenses left behind on Earth.
- ''Supernatural: In Season 5, Sam and Dean go searching for The Sword of Michael, which is a weapon that can defeat Lucifer. When they arrive at the storage locker where they think it is, they are met by angels who inform them that Dean himself is the Sword of Michael and that he is the archangel's vessel.
- Blanketville by Tom Chapin. The narrator is searching for "The Mayor of Blanketville" so he can go to sleep. At the end of the song, the narrator is revealed to be the Mayor of Blanketville.
- Used almost verbatim in Survivor's "The Search Is Over". It turns out the girl the singer was looking for is someone he's known most of his life.
- India.Arie's "Strength, Courage & Wisdom". Guess where she finds them.
- The conclusion to the Geordie folk song "Wor Geordie's lost his penka" (it was in his trouser pocket, but only finds this out after he's blown up the neighbourhood!).
- In "The Treasure," a parable attributed to the nineteenth-century Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, a man dreams of a treasure buried under a bridge in Vienna. He travels there and finds the bridge, which is guarded. The guard asks him his business, so he shares the dream with him. The guard scoffs and says he too had a dream about a treasure, and names both the town and the name of the person under whose house it's buried, which turns out to be the traveller's own house. He returns home, digs, and sure enough, finds the treasure. "It was with me all along," says the man, "but in order to find it, I first had to leave home."
- In Thom Ryng's version of The King in Yellow, the Yellow Sign was embroided on the Stranger's robes all the time, in the plain sight, but only Camilla could eventually recognise it for what it was.
- Conker's Bad Fur Day and its remake offers a depressing example, where Conker realizes this about his girlfriend after she's been murdered.
"I may be king, and have all the money in the world, and all the land, and all the stuff. But you know, I don't really think I want it. I just wanna go home, with Berri."
- The NES game The Magic of Scheherazade twists this trope in an interesting way. The hero spends almost the entire game seeking to rescue his girlfriend, the titular Princess Scheherazade, from the clutches of an evil wizard. Ultimately, the hero learns that the wizard has opened a Sealed Evil in a Can which he cannot control and which he wants the hero to deal with. To earn the hero's goodwill, the wizard reveals the whereabouts of the princess who, it turns out, was the cute animal sidekick/magical guide who had shown up and been helping the hero since the beginning of the quest. (She had a spell cast on her preventing her from telling anyone her true identity). Just why the wizard would do such an odd thing to his enemy is never adequately explained.
- Planescape: Torment does this to you. You start out not a few feet from the entrance to The Very Definitely Final Dungeon. Of course, you didn't enter it then, because you didn't know that it existed or that you needed to go there, much less how to open it. To add insult to irony, however, Morte (the first member to join your party) knew this all along, he just didn't choose to tell you because he didn't know if he could trust you (because you've been Ax-Crazy more than a few times)
- In his defence, you couldn't have opened it even if he'd told you, because you didn't have the key and Morte didn't know what it was. The key is a specific rune written in blood on a piece of one's own skin, and a strong feeling of regret from the blood/skin donor. The Nameless One doesn't have much regret at the beginning of the game, because he has no memories at all.
- At the end of his storyline in Final Fantasy: Dissidia, Bartz discovers that the good-luck charm he had given to Squall earlier was the crystal he needed to find.
- In Kingdom Hearts, Kairi's heart has been with you all along.
Sora: Hey, Riku? What do you think it was? The Door to the Light?
- In Kingdom Hearts II, there's this exchange between Sora and Riku:
Riku: This *points to Sora's heart*
Riku: Yeah. It's always closer than you think.
- During Beat's chapter in The World Ends with You, Neku and Beat are tasked with finding Mitsuki Konishi (the GM for the chapter), who is hiding somewhere in Shibuya, though she gives her word to the duo that she will not move from her hiding place. She's hiding in Beat's shadow, allowing her to move around the city without breaking her word.
- In Tak and the Power of Juju the Pupanunu People's Prophecy states that a Mighty Warrior, trained by the high shaman, will defeat the evil shaman Tlaloc after he turns the rest of the populace into sheep. Jibulba, the High Shaman, says that he has trained such a warrior, Lok. Strange things happen to Lok, though, the strangest of all being him dying. Eventually, it is revealed that the Prophecy isn't talking about Lok at all. the actual "Mighty Warrior" is Tak, Jibulba's errand boy. Apparently, the "training" consists of about six Fetch Quests.
- Disgaea 2 has a somewhat dark take on this. Adell starts the game using a summoning ritual to summon Overlord Zenon, whom he has sworn to kill, but the summoning ritual screws up and summons his daughter Rozalin instead. As it turns out in the end, the summoning was successful: Rozalin is the reincarnation of Overlord Zenon, and thus Zenon (or at least his soul) has been with Adell all along. Fortunately, the reasons for Adell wanting to kill Zenon turn out to have been on account of someone else's actions, so it works out in the end.
- In Disgaea 3's Raspberyl Mode, Raspberyl storms Celestia in order to obtain the "Heart of an Angel" and become the Ultimate Delinquent. When she encounters Flonne, Flonne asks her what her true purpose is. Raspberyl admits that it was all to inspire Mao to become the Ultimate Honor Student. When all is said and done, Flonne reveals that she did not need to come to Celestia to obtain the "Heart of an Angel" because she always had it.
- In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky, the hero and partner seek the means to get to the Hidden Land and only discover that you need some sort of proof. It isn't until you see the markings on the wall at Brine Cave that match those on the Relic Fragment that you realise that your partner had the proof all along, and thus, the means to enter the Hidden Land.
- In LostMagic, the Sage of Wind is Trista. This is easy to figure out for the player. Isaac just didn't ask, or he just wasn't paying attention - when the truth gets out, she says she said that already. This leads to you getting the Wind Blades spell only after a couple of boss fights which it would be very useful for.
- Most of God of War III is based around Kratos reopening Pandora's Box and finding a Zeus-killing weapon inside. Turns out said weapon, Hope, had entered Kratos back in the first game, and was the sole reason he was able to destroy the gods. Poor Pandora...
- However, that weapon Hope was buried under all of Kratos' guilt and regret so it was useless against Zeus. Pandora's sacrifice enabled her to help Kratos get past all of that to unlock the true power of Hope.
- In Mario Party 3, what you thought was the Millenium Star will reveal he's a fake after going through all those boards and even defeating him. The real Millennium Star was hiding in the head of your host all along.
- Parodied in this Team Fortress 2 blog post for Christmas.
BUT THE GREATEST GIFT OF ALL... was inside you all along. It's blood! Turns out you can sell it! See you at the plasma center! Merry Smissmas, everybody!
- Parodied in the end of the Captain Scarlett DLC in Borderlands 2. Just before you get to the treasure room, the game cuts to the credits, with a kid narrating how the real treasure had been with the heroes all along. Marcus then tells him how hokey it sounds and even the kid agrees it's incredibly contrived.
- In Astal, the missing Leda turns out to be the bird who has been following Astal around throughout the game.
- Played cynically (but then again, what do you expect from this 'verse?) in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings: Geralt can spend up to half of the game looking for his Distressed Damsel girlfriend Triss Merigold after she disappears from a party. He can also stumble across a weird-looking statuette outside an invading army's camp in the next act, depending on which of the two Branching Paths one takes. When he gets captured by the Nilfgaardian delegation when he infiltrates the camp, it's revealed that Triss got shrunk and stuffed into said statuette, meaning that he needn't have bothered going there in the first place.
- Used at the very tailend of Xenoblade: Throughout the game, Alvis has been telling Shulk the cryptic message "You must find your Monado". While this seems somewhat meaningless at first, once Zanza takes his Monado back from Shulk, Shulk's still somehow able to tap into its power, even against Zanza himself. It turns out Shulk internalized Zanza's godly power from his time using the Monado, and each god gets their own Monado in this universe. Sure enough, at the very end of the fight he's able to quite literally pull a new Monado- his own -out of thin air to finish off Zanza once and for all.
- The objective of the bizarre series of games called Scrimmy Bingus and the Crungy Spingus involves searching various scenes or areas for an unknown object called the "bingus". Invariably, upon completing one of these games, the game gives a message telling you that the "bingus" was with you all along...apparently....
- The final clue in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Dual Destinies is one of these, and Phoenix explicitly points it out. Long story short (too late), Phoenix needs a sample of moon rock to prove that an international spy killed Athena's mother. He realizes he has one: Athana's earring, which she has been wearing for seven years (and the entire game).
- Frog Fractions 2: It was a common joke in the Game Detectives community that the search to find it was the real game. Lampshaded in an email sent to the players, where one of the characters (in French) says they probably thought the game was "the friends [they] made along the way". After the two year long ARG to find it was completed, Twinbeard revealed they were right on the money. The game hidden in Glittermitten Grove was Frog Fractions 3.
- Pillars of Eternity: Zahua is desperately trying to uncover the lost secret of his tribe's chosen protector, the Anitlei, so he can return to his homeland and overthrow the rival tribe who forcibly assimilated his own. By the end, he finally accepts that his tribe is gone and that his ancestors would rather he move on than perpetuate a cycle of senseless violence. As soon as he realizes this, he gains the powers of the Anitlei; he always had the abilities within him, but the psychological burden of clinging to his Dark and Troubled Past held him back from his true potential.
- Mass Effect 3: In this game you are tasked with finding personnel, materiel and defenses for a super weapon called the Crucible in order to use it to destroy an invasion of Nigh-Invulnerable Sapient Ship Eldritch Abomination known as Reapers. The Crucible is however missing a key component known as the Catalyst. Only towards the penultimate level are you told that you had the Catalyst all along - it was the Citadel; an ancient space station that served as your home port all game long.
- Inverloch: Acheron was a host for Kayn'dar and vice-versa.
- Chainsaw Suit approach to Indiana Jones movies.
- Rice Boy Three immortals have been searching for the Chosen One to bring back sanity to the world. T-O-E, the leader, actually finds a real Chosen One named Rice Boy, but at the end of the journey is told by Rice Boy that BOTH of them meet the requirements to fulfill the prophecy, both having taken massive character development THREE times. Unfortunately, one of them has to die. One of the other immortals was executed by their sponsor when he recently quit, so the immortal who went rogue executes T-O-E (for personal/political reasons), and the electrical explosion from T-O-E kills almost everyone at the top of the tower, with the exception of Rice Boy.
- A series of Achewood strips were flow charts for the main characters. Lyle's flow chart had him trying to find a place called Drinking Island. The end of the path reveals that Drinking Island is a place in your heart.
- Parodied by The Order of the Stick in this strip:
Belkar: I'm pretty over that whole "Banjo" thing. I mean, I got into it strictly to injure Roy. I was lost, perplexed, spiritually adrift on a sea of confusion. But I've learned a valuable lesson: the power to inflict bodily harm was always mine. I just needed to use it more often. Like so. [tosses a dagger at Roy]
- Parodied in Nedroid. After finishing a quest, Reginald and Beartato angrily confront a wizard, demanding treasure. The wizard tells them the treasure was inside them all along and, to their delight, they begin pulling literal gold treasures out of their mouths.
- Played for Laughs in Oglaf, when a hero rescues a princess, only to find out that his quest was about self discovery and the princess was him all along.
I've never been so happy!
- In Baman Piderman, the Happy Winter Friends' wish was inside him all along! (Like, literally, inside him. He had a drawer in his chest.)
- Parodied in the Ultra Fast Pony episode "The Longest Recap", where the recounting of the season 3 premier ends like this:
Rarity: But then we all learned the real crystal heart was inside us all along.Twilight: No it wasn't. It was on top of the tower.Rarity: Oh. Well then where did this thing come from? [cue Reveal Shot of a giant realistic beating heart floating in the air]
- In Tyranitar Tube's Alpha Sapphire Ultimate Randomizer nuzlocke video series, Tyranitar Tube is perplexed by the "Mysterious Mega Stone", an item which is sold in some stores in the titular hacked Pokémon game which can apparently be turned into a mega stone which can mega evolve and unknown Pokémon that couldn't mega evolve in the real games. He never actually reveals its content due to how much money it would cost for something that would probably be useless to his team anyway. However, when he fights the champion, that champion reveals that he has the mysterious Mega Evolved Pokémon, and it turns out to be Milotic, the very first Potémon Tyranitar Tube caught, which had been on his team for the whole game.
- Double subverted in the SMG4's Mario Bloopers episode "SMG4 Runs Out of Memes". SMG4 is told by a spirit that his ability to create memes and make people happy comes from "in here", pointing at his heart. SMG4 think he means his phone in his pocket. The spirit dope slaps him and tells him he meant from within, which insipires SMG4 to get back in the saddle.
- When Jimmy's dad finds his Lawn Lopper appliance is missing in The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, he accuses Carl's dad of borrowing it and failing to return it. When Carl's dad denies borrowing the tool, an enormous feud beings, resulting in the crabgrass on their lawns growing into giant mutant monsters. After the boys risk their lives defeating the monsters, Sheen recalls that he forgot to deliver a message from Sam Melvick informing Jimmy's dad that Sam borrowed the Lawn Lopper and will return it soon.
- In Central Park, Season 1 "Garbage Ballet", Molly has been texting Brendan apologizing for her kiss and seeing if he's okay, but she assumes he's not responding back because he's ignoring her and he doesn't forgive her. Then Molly and Hazel discovers Molly had Brendan's phone this whole time under her laundry and the phone battery died. Brendan gave Molly his phone so she could put her number in it, but he had to leave because of his peanut allergy and he forgot to take it back.
- Subverted in the Futurama Series Fauxnale. Fry makes a deal with a devil for a pair of robot hands which give him great talent on the holophone. After losing the hands, Zoidberg assures him that it was never the hands; Fry had the talent within him all along. Fry proceeds, and plays horribly, everyone leaves, and Zoidberg mocks him.
Hedonism Bot: Less reality, more fantasy. Resume the opera.
Fry: But I can't play anymore.
Dr. Zoidberg: Yes, you can! The music was in your heart, not your hands.
[Fry plays off key, everyone boos]
Dr. Zoidberg: Your music's bad, and you should feel bad!
- Subverted in The Simpsons in a scenario similar to the Futurama example when Lisa uses boots made by Professor Frink to cheat at tap dancing.
Professor Frink: Jesus, Mary and glavin! These shoes are in the off position!Lisa Simpson: You mean I danced all by myself?Marge Simpson: See, honey? All you needed was to believe..Homer Simpson: What are you talking about, Professor Frink? They're clearly in the on position. See? "On".Professor Frink: I was merely trying to spare the girl's feelings, you insensitive clod.Homer Simpson: Oh... OOH! Well, now that I look even closer...Lisa Simpson: Forget it, dad.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic pulls this in the second episode with the Elements of Harmony turning out to exist within the hearts of the main cast. They apparently still need the actual elements to actually use them.
- Ren & Stimpy plays this straight in the episode "Hair of the Cat". Ren's fever results from cat hair, something that originated from his companion, Stimpy.
- Played with in the Baman Piderman Christmas special. Pumpkin begins to rot and so with the help of the Basement Monsters, Baman and Piderman journey to find a wish to get him back to normal. When they stumbled upon Tuba's dad, he tells Baman how to wish was in him all along. And then, the symbol on Baman's chest opens up like a drawer and they find a magical wand in it (the wish)...
- In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002), the episode "The Power of Greyskull" has King Greyskull (an ancestor of He-Man) sent on a quest by the Oracle to find the power he needs to fight off an invasion by Hordak. At the end of his quest, he finds the Oracle already waiting for him, who gives him the sword that had been lost in a previous battle. Greyskull points out that it's just an ordinary sword, and has no special power. The Oracle agrees, saying that it's Greyskull himself who has the special power, and always has. After Greyskull's death, the sword becomes magical, being imbued with his power and becoming He-Man's Sword of Power.
- In Littlest Pet Shop (2012) Zoe comes to Sunil asking him to help her find her beret...which is on her head. Incredulous, Sunil asks if he's being Punked. When Sunil produces the hat, Zoe compliments him on what a great magician he is.
- An episode of the revived Beavis and Butt-Head has the pair watching a TV where a man asks a father for her daughter's hand in marriage. As you might expect, the two interpret "asking for her hand" as something else entirely. They go to ask the father of a girl from school for her hand, and after a few misunderstandings he finally realizes what it is they're asking. When he attacks them, Tom Anderson intervenes and says that in this neighborhood, they keep their hands to themselves. As the two fight off screen, Beavis thinks over Anderson's words, and realizes that he spent so much time looking for someone else's hand, he forgot that he had one of his own. As the two look at their hands in awe, Butthead states "The answer was always with us".
- Secret Squirrel goes through a Humiliation Conga when he faces his nemesis Yellow Pinky. After all the trouble, Yellow Pinky unmasks himself to be Secret's superior Double Q. He had put Secret through all the motions before facing the real Yellow Pinky.
- PJ Masks: The two-parter "Race Up Mystery Mountain / The Mountain Prisoner" resolves around Night Ninja trying to get a magic ring that will give it's owner three times the power. He uses PJ Robot as a hostage to force the Masks to get it for him, which they do, and along the way they learn to work closer as a team. In the end, the ring is revealed to be just an ordinary ring with no powers. The real goals was to learn teamwork, and since the 3 heroes did just that they now have 'three times the power'.
- A huge ongoing mystery in Steven Universe is how and why Pink Diamond was killed by Rose Quartz. However, "A Single Pale Rose" reveals that Pink Diamond was actually never shattered, she chose to become Rose Quartz as a new identity, who would become Steven's gem.
- Sponge Bob Squarepants has this in one episode. SpongeBob lost his nametag and spent the whole episode looking for it, but it turned out in the end, he had it on all along has he was wearing his pants backwards.
- This is parodied in the ending of the film, where after Mr. Krabs declares SpongeBob the new manager of The Krusty Krab 2, SpongeBob states that he has something to say.
Squidward: I think I know what it is. After going on your life-changing journey you now realize that you don't want what you thought you wanted. What you really wanted was inside you all along-
SpongeBob: (snatches the Manager tag) Are you crazy?! I was just gonna tell you that your fly was down! Manager?! This is the greatest day of my life!
- This is parodied in the ending of the film, where after Mr. Krabs declares SpongeBob the new manager of The Krusty Krab 2, SpongeBob states that he has something to say.
- Infinity Train: The lead character Tulip is hunting for the Conductor of the eponymous train, believing they'll be able to help her get home. In the final episode, it's revealed that her companion One-One IS the Conductor, having been usurped many years ago and grown a bit scatter-brained from their absence. Literally.
- Wander over Yonder: In the episode "The Heebie Jeebies", Wander and Sylvia face a dark forest in order to find an ancient power that will help them defeat Lord Dominator, but find something only more terryfing: Phantom Mimes, which feed on their fear. Once all the disasters are taken care of, Sylvia realizes they had the ancient power all along - it was fear, which can be conquered by all.
- An example from mathematics, more precisely graph theory: the BondyChvátal theorem. Given a graph on n vertices, if you add an edge between two vertices of total degree at least n and the graph becomes Hamiltonian, then you didn't need that edge: the Hamiltonian cycle was in the graph all along.
- In 1932, the Bayer corporation, after years of trial and error, have discovered Prontosil, a powerful antibacterial drug. They expected it to bring them boatloads of profit... until it was discovered that the drug works due to being converted into another compound inside a living body... a compound for which Bayer held the patent since 1909, long enough for it to expire.