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Not Quite Forever

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"Impermanent are all component things,
"They arise and cease, that is their nature:
"They come into being and pass away,
"Release from them is bliss supreme."
Sakka, Chief of the Buddhist Deities, on the concept of "Impermanence".

When someone says that something is forever, but it turns out it's not. Sometimes it is lampshaded with "Forever is a long time." This is sometimes Played for Drama, and other times it's Fridge Logic.

This can range from how long a Sealed Evil in a Can stays in a can to how long best friends stay friends. It can also be used when breaking an oath that was supposed to last forever. Usually, before people realize Who Wants to Live Forever?, this applies. There are many times this trope can be applied.

Offscreen Inertia is almost the exact opposite of this trope.


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    Comic Books 

    Films — Animated 
  • From Peter Pan:
    Peter: Tinker Bell! I hereby banish you forever.
    Wendy: Please, not forever.
    Peter: Well, for a week then.
  • Played for Drama in The Fox and the Hound. First, there's:
    Tod: And we'll always be friends, forever, won't we?
    Copper: Yeah, forever.
    • Later:
      Tod: And we'll keep on being friends forever. Uh, won't we, Big Mama?
      Big Mama: Darling, forever is a long, long time and time has a way of changin’ things.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Lampshaded or explained in Tim Burton's version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,
  • In Airplane!, a disc jockey announces his station is "WZAZ in Chicago, where disco lives forever!", seconds before the eponymous plane destroys the station's transmission tower.
  • In MouseHunt after a rare house is flooded by a mouse (long story) scaring away investors, Ernie declares that "This house will last forever!", after which the house promptly falls apart in a spectacular fashion.

  • The whole plot of Isaac Asimov's The Last Question starts with this trope:
    Adell: All the energy we could ever use, forever and forever and forever.
    Lupov: Not forever.
    Adell: Oh, hell, just about forever. Till the sun runs down, Bert.
    Lupov: That's not forever.
    Adell: All right, then. Billions and billions of years. Twenty billion, maybe. Are you satisfied?
    Lupov: Twenty billion years isn't forever.
  • Inverted in Terry Pratchett's Eric. The protagonist wishes to live forever and he is brought back to the actual beginning of the universe.
  • In Guards! Guards!, Sam Vimes confronts the villain behind the dragon attacks and tells him "You'll never get away with it!" The bad guy retorts that "never is a very long time" and has Vimes taken away by the palace guard.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn tells Treebeard that the humans will never forget his deeds. Treebeard says: "Never" is too long a word even for me. Not while your kingdoms last, you mean; but they will have to last long indeed to seem long to Ents.
  • From Winnie the Pooh;
    I used to believe in forever, but forever was too good to be true.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the formal ceremony granting new lands and titles to a vassal tends to include the phrase, " be held by your children and grandchildren from now until the end of time." While such holdings can indeed last quite a long time if well-managed, they can also be lost rather quickly if the liege lord is removed from power or the vassal attainted for treason. Janos Slynt, for example, is granted Harrenhal by Cersei Lannister and never sets foot in it before being condemned to the Wall by Tyrion Lannister; Harrenhal is later granted to Petyr Baelish, who is too smart to put much stock in promises. The end of time having not yet been reached, it remains to be seen which (if any) noble houses will still be in possession of their original holdings.

    Live-Action TV 
  • From The X-Files episode "Tithonus", during the immortal Alfred Fellig's Who Wants to Live Forever? speech:
    Scully: What about love?
    Fellig: What? Does that last forever? Forty years ago, I drove down to the city hall, down to the Hall of Records, Record Archives, whatever they call it. I wanted to look up my wife. It bothered me I couldn't remember her name. Love lasts... 75 years, if you're lucky. You don't want to be around when it's gone.
  • In an episode of LazyTown, the group of friends turn on Stephanie and break their "friends forever" promise. The song that follows is enough to break anybody's heart:
    I hope that / We will be friends, tomorrow
    Right to the end, / And then we will
    Wipe away tears and sorrow. / If we can be friends again...
    • Another episode has Robbie Rotten obtain a genie and wish for all the healthy food and exercise equipment to disappear from Lazytown. It does! ...Too bad he forgot to specify he wanted them gone *forever*.
    • And, of course, Robbie is always going on about how he wants Sportacus to leave town forever. "With my plan that's so darn clever, I'll make him leave town forever!" At one point, Sportacus comments "That's a long time."
  • In Bewitched, Endora gives Darrin three wishes, and makes Samantha believe he used them to be with another woman. When the truth is discovered, but it turns out that she actually did give him three wishes and he just hadn't used them, he uses his first wish to summon Endora, proving that he still had them. The second?
    Darrin: I wish that your mother would stay out of our lives forev—
    Samantha: [who realizes that literally speaking, that means never seeing her mom again] Darrin, no!
    Darrin: [sighs] —for two weeks.

  • Meat Loaf's "Paradise by the Dashboard Light:"
    And when the feeling came upon me
    Like a tidal wave
    I started swearing to my god and on my mother's grave
    That I would love you to the end of time
    I swore that I would love you to the end of time!
    So now I'm praying for the end of time
    To hurry up and arrive
    Cause if I gotta spend another minute with you
    I don't think that I can really survive
  • The 1979 Judas Priest song "Rock Forever". The song just friggin' stops! Couldn't they have just had a gradual fading out, so we could pretend they rocked forever?
  • Outkast's "Hey Ya":
    If what they say is "Nothing is forever"
    Then what makes ... love the exception?

    Newspaper Comic 
  • Pearls Before Swine: According to Rat, when a man says to a woman "I'll love you forever", he means three months. "Forever and ever" adds another six weeks.
  • In a Peanuts strip, Sally tells Charlie Brown that she'll be grateful forever if he helps her with her homework. When Charlie Brown comments "forever is a very long time", she amends it to most of the afternoon.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • To quote Rocky Romero, "Tag champs, three times, next up, FOREVER TIMES!" This led fans to joke "Really, forever Alex?" when Koslov went on hiatus and Romero began teaming with Berretta instead.

    Tabletop Game 
  • The Gorgoroth sourcebook of the Middle-Earth Role Playing system describes the Sammath Naur - the complex of forges and laboratories within Mount Doom that Sauron used to create the One Ring. One chamber focused time energy on the artifact (rendering it immune to decay and corrosion) at the subjective rate of one thousand years per second. Naturally, this causes Men, Dwarves, and Hobbits to expire almost instantly, but even the supposedly immortal Elves would fade and die after an hour (3.6 million subjective years) of exposure to the chamber's power.

    Video Games 
  • In Kingdom Hearts II, there's this exchange:
    Xemnas: Heroes from the Realm of Light, answer me this. If Light and Darkness are eternal, than surely we Nothings are the same: eternal!
    Riku: You're right. Light and Dark are eternal. Nothing probably goes on forever, too. But guess what, Xemnas?
    Sora: That doesn't mean you're eternal!
    Xemnas: (chuckles wryly) No more eternal than that radiance of yours.
  • In Kingdom Hearts χ, when the Beginner's Deal (All-Target Attack Medals, Single-Target Attack Medals and Buffer & Utility Medals) and Daily Deal were announced for the Global version, the Notice announcing them stated "Starting today, in order to help our newer players get caught up and be ready to take on the Heartless in KINGDOM HEARTS Union χ[Cross], we're introducing three deals as permanent additions to the deal lineup!" On January 31/February 1, 2018, they were discontinued, with the promise of replacement banners in mid-February. Not that anyone really mourned their loss.

    Web Animation 
  • Apparently expected by Homestar Runner when he is told he must stay with the demon in Strong Mad's creepy painting "for all eternity". He spends the last part of the episode asking if eternity is "over" yet. That said, he did appear again outside the painting, so either the trope or Negative Continuity was invoked.


    Web Original 
  • Kitboga is a scambaiter popular on Twitch and YouTube. In "The Craziest Scammer I've Ever Called," the scammer asks Kitboga's character, Granny Edna, if she wants to live with him forever. Edna replies that she wants to live the rest of her years with him, not forever, that honestly at some point forever is a really long time.

    Western Animation 
  • One episode of SpongeBob SquarePants had SpongeBob and Squidward on strike. At the end of the episode (after SpongeBob destroys the Krusty Krab... it's a long story) Mr. Krabs says that to pay him back for destroying the restaurant, SpongeBob and Squidward are going to work for him....FOREVER! Cue a "One Eternity Later" card, and we see SpongeBob's and Squidward's skeletons still working in the Krusty Krab.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Homer Simpson in the year 1974, to his cynical father: "No way, man! We're gonna keep on rockin' forever....forever....forever....[cut to 1996, and a suddenly "uncool" and morose older Homer] "forever....forever....forever...."
    • Attorney Lionel Hutz once helped a client with a false-advertising lawsuit against The Never Ending Story.
    • In a similar case, we find out Mr. Burns's house has a bottomless pit.
      Lisa: It couldn't possibly be bottomless.
      Bart: Well, for all intents and purposes.
    • Inverted (humorously) in the episode about Homer becoming president of a secret club called the Stonecutters and letting his newfound fame go to his head. Lisa tries to lecture him on this.
      Lisa: Nothing lasts forever.
      Homer: [childishly] Everything lasts forever.
  • An episode of Animaniacs has Wakko essentially sell his soul to a Swedish-accented Death for a Swedish meatball (this being a parody of The Seventh Seal, which was a Swedish film). Death drags Wakko down to the netherworld with him, with Yakko and Dot in hot pursuit; once there, they find their brother reduced to a passive mind-slave who is forbidden to do literally anything, even talk (except when someone talks to him first). Yakko and Dot demand that Death set Wakko free - and he tells them that they will be reunited with their brother if they can beat him in a game of checkers. Well, they do - and Death then reveals that when he said Yakko and Dot would be reunited with their brother, he meant that they'd be imprisoned in the netherworld, too! Since they're now trapped for all eternity, the siblings refer to Death as their father and urge him to play with them; their pranks and annoying behavior drive him absolutely berserk. What really drives Death to the breaking point is when Yakko cheerfully says: "Just think, we get to be here forever and ever and ever and...." "Maybe I was a bit hasty," Death says, and he tells the kids they're free to go - for now. Someday they must return, but Death hopes that it won't be for a very long time!
  • Twice in Xiaolin Showdown.
    • At the beginning of the second season.
      Wuya: You didn't think I'd stay in that box forever, did you?
      Omi: Well, another thousand years would have been nice.
    • When Dojo turned evil for an episode.
      Master Fung: It has already begun: a thousand years of darkness!
      Kimiko: Why a thousand?
      Master Fung: It is actually 962 years, but "a thousand" sounds more ominous.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Nightmare Moon was banished permanently, for 1,000 years.
  • PB&J Otter has a scenario in "Happy Harmony" in which the dialogue is so similar to the above Peter Pan example that it may be an intentional reference, given that both are by Disney.
  • In "Strawberry Fields Forever" from Beat Bugs, Jay wonders, perhaps not unreasonably, why they should refrain from eating too many strawberries if, according to Crick's cricktulations the strawberry fields truly go on forever. Crick warns that if they eat too many, then maybe they won't go on forever.

Alternative Title(s): Nothing Lasts Forever