Follow TV Tropes


Nostalgic Narrator

Go To

A long long time ago
I can still remember how that music used to make me smile

Ah, the life of a trope. One day you're just a recurring idea, flitting around in a writer's head, the next you've got your very own wiki page. I remember when I was just a YKTTW, an insignificant blue entry swimming with hundreds of others. Back then, I had fewer Wicks, a lot fewer examples, and my trope description looked like this:


This is a specific type of Framing Device, a first-person Narrator who is looking back on his experiences. Generally (not always), it's an adult looking back at his childhood. These stories are generally big on nostalgia, but they also attempt to capture the naïveté and confusion so prominent in childhood. Since it's the author looking back on things, we may get Unreliable Voiceovers or other inconsistencies, but we also tend to get a candid look at childhood — including petty fights and foul mouths.

Can overlap with Narrator All Along when the narrator uses a third-person limited viewpoint and switches to first person in the last reel. Compare with How We Got Here, where the story starts at the end and then transfers into this trope.

When adding examples, be sure the narrator is evidently an older self looking back on the past; not all first-person stories qualify.



    open/close all folders 

  • The Hovis bread company used this device for a number of adverts, to tie in with the tag line "It's as good today as it's always been." Here's a famous example.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Horribly subverted in Bokurano: The first narrator's word choices make it sound like he's talking about the distant past, but he's actually only narrating maybe two days back, and even less time until he abruptly dies.
  • Played straight in The Tibetan Dog, where the protagonist is an old man telling the story of himself when he were young.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Black and White: "Heroes" is narrated by the protagonist from some unspecified distance in the future, looking back on "that year, when I was ten years old".

    Fan Works 
  • Songs Uncle Sings actually contains two different examples of this. One is Clopham, telling of his uncle. The other is Breeze, telling Clopham a story about his days as a warrior.
  • Used in various stories of the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf series that involve flashbacks to earlier times, including the novel where Empath learns that he is Papa Smurf's only biological son.
  • Evershade: In the beginning of "Reforming", Kyle looks back on the last baseball practice before his mutation activated:
    It's the bottom of the ninth, bases empty, tied score, one out, two strikes, two balls. Pitcher winds up, curve ball-OOH! Batter took the bait, and missed. Strike three, second out. I swung my bat one more time in practice, letting the excitement rise in my veins. Looks like it's up to young Kyle Yates to keep this game going.

    That was me, walking up to the plate, a young teenager, not too bad-looking in the school team's uniform, if I said so myself. I could almost hear the crowds cheering as I got myself in the best moment of the the game. Oh yes, it was fun to be out in the field, chasing the fly balls, and getting the catch, but there was always something about holding the bat in your hands, swinging hard, and scoring. This was the spotlight moment, my moment to make a difference, and I was looking forward to it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Stand by Me: The main events of the film are narrated by Gordie, who is writing a short story about the event in the Framing Device.
  • Little Manhattan plays with this, as it's about a 12-year-old boy's first love, as narrated by himself, looking back from the ripe old age of 13.
  • Amadeus, recounted by a mad Salieri.
  • Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior: At the end we discover that the elderly narrator is actually the feral kid.
  • Thomas and the Magic Railroad originally would have featured an older Lily in this role.
  • Millennium Actress is mostly told as a series of anecdotes the titular actress relates to documentary filmmakers (with some occasional interruptions by the documentary director and cameraman) and depicted as scenes from her movies, though there is no narrator as such.
  • A deleted scene from the 2003 film adaptation of Peter Pan would have made Wendy this, having her go on to narrate that after she grew up, her own daughter went on adventures with Peter.
  • Peter Jackson's The Hobbit is shot like this, beginning with Bilbo writing the events in his memoirs, so he can leave Frodo with the last story of his adventures.
  • The Sandlot - Scott Smalls reminisces about one childhood summer revolving around baseball.
  • A Christmas Story - Ralph Parker reminisces about one childhood Christmas revolving around a desire to receive a particular gift.
  • Summer of '42 - A man reminisces about the summer of 1942, during which he lost his virginity at 15.
  • Edward Scissorhands is ultimately this, as Kim - now an elderly woman - is telling the story of the title character to her young granddaughter.
  • A Mary Poppins Read-Along cassettenote  framed the story as an older Jane Banks (voiced by Karen Dotrice, who played her in the movie) recalling the misadventures she and Michael experienced while under Mary Poppins' care.
  • Season of Miracles opens with Zack as a middle-aged man visiting the old baseball field, where he picks up a baseball lying in the grass. Most of the rest of the movie takes place in flashback.

  • The A. E. Housman poem "When I was one-and-twenty", from the poem cycle A Shropshire Lad; actually a subversion, as the speaker is reflecting on his youthful impetuosity when he was 21... from the grand old age of 22.
  • The Warhammer 40,000-based Ciaphas Cain novels are framed as his memoirs, annotated by a member of the inquisition (and possibly lover).
  • Kvothe in The Name of the Wind is unusually young to play this trope straight, but he's looking back on himself from when he was younger nevertheless.
  • Michael becomes this when recounting his student days in Vikram Seth's novel An Equal Music.
  • In the Dramatic Audio version of the Left Behind book Glorious Appearing, a grown-up Kenny Williams (the son of Buck and Chloe Williams) narrates some of the events that took place in the book from sometime in the future.
  • Played with in the Farseer trilogy, the first trilogy of Realm of the Elderlings: the narrator throws in occasional mentions of his physical frailty and his isolation, building up a picture of him as old and alone, but at the end of the third book it turns out that he's still quite young; his adventures have just been that hard on his body and his friendships.
  • Eileen is told from the perspective of Eileen as an old woman fifty years after the events of the story, contemporaneous with when the book was written. Unlike most examples, older Eileen is hardly nostalgic for her youth, which was generally miserable, but the age gives her some distance and perspective on what she was like back then.

    Live-Action TV 

  • Frank Sinatra's "It Was a Very Good Year" sort of combines this with Age-Progression Song. ("When I was seventeen...")
  • Eric Bogle's "Eric and the Informers" is him musically reminiscing about his first ever band (and how bad they were).
    • "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" is told from the point of view of a World War One veteran looking back on his service.

    Video Games 
  • Interestingly, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time uses this; its two sequels don't, though the third frames the whole trilogy by calling back to it.
  • Slightly subverted in Ōkami. At first, it seems like a disembodied voice retelling the story. It turns out that Issun is really the narrator. Similarly in Ōkamiden; however, instead of being Issun, it's Kuni
  • Done rather chillingly in Age of Empires II. The Attila campaign is narrated by an old monk who was captured and rode with Attila, and sums up the experience of conquering, butchering, and looting. At the end he goes silent before saying, "Sometimes... I miss it."
  • Bionic Commando: "Let me tell you about the man I met when I was young."
  • Both Icewind Dale games use this. The narrator in the first game turns out to be the Big Bad Belhifet stewing over the memory of his defeat and relishing the approaching end of his century long banishment. The narrator of the second is a little girl who accompanied the party for a while on their journey who is now an adult remembering their adventure as she sets out on her own journey.
  • The Last Guardian is narrated by the boy when he's an adult, and The Stinger reveals that he was telling it to the village children.

    Web Comics 
  • Gunnerkrigg Court has Antimony narrating the first few chapters; so far we cannot tell precisely how far in the future she is narrating from, but it's more than two years.
    ... boy, things sure have changed since then, huh?
  • You Damn Kid does this, sometimes comparing how different things were back then.
  • A Modest Destiny kicks off with an elderly Maxim berating his grandkids, then starting to tell the story of the first time he saved the world. Every now and then, the comic cuts back to present day, such as to reveal which of his potential Love Interests he married.
  • Sunstone has a now happily married Lisa writing a novel detailing how her unconventional relationship unfolded.

    Western Animation