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Portent of Doom

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Oberyn: You were small, but far-famed. We were in Oldtown at your birth, and all the city talked of was the monster that had been born to the Kingís Hand, and what such an omen might foretell for the realm.
Tyrion: Famine, plague, and war, no doubt. Itís always famine, plague, and war. Oh, and winter, and the long night that never ends.

The writing on the wall. A mystical phenomenon that tells of a dire future for those who witness it.

Specific types of portents include:

Compare with Foreshadowing, the out-of-universe equivalent. Compare with Magpies as Portents, which can involve both negative and positive outcomes. For other signs of impending doom see Stock Ominous Signs.

Only place examples here that do not belong on one of the Sub-Tropes.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Near the end of Golden Wind, there's a flashback arc that introduces a character named Scolippi and his Stand, "Rolling Stones". This Stand is this trope incarnate; it acts independently of Scolippi's control and rolls around, looking for the closest person whose death (particularly horrible ones) is near; it's able to turn its form into the statue of the would-be-dead person, indicating who the stone is after. It'll then offer the doomed person a painless death by touching the stone. In the story, it predicted the death of Bucciarati, and his friend, Mista, tried to get rid of it; but after Mista and his friend left the building they're in, the stone morphed into the statue of not just Bucciarati, but also Abbacchio and Narancia (Mista's other friends).
    • Steel Ball Run: While hiding from Funny Valentine, Lucy Steel sees a brief light emerge from a chimney before getting engulfed by it. Once Valentine finds her shaken in the corner, she claims that 'someone' told her she'll be the bearer, moments before Valentine sees that Lucy has been endowed with the head of the holy corpse, signifying that it will be made whole soon.

  • Carta Marina:
    • According to the commentary, the appearance of the Great Norwegian Serpent ("200 feet long and over 20 feet thick") is a bad omen that betokens a sudden change of rule in Norway, or else an imminent war.
    • Mermen coming near ships is a sign of imminent danger, and may presage the sinking of the ship.

    Comic Books 
  • The Cavalier: Rance knows danger is afoot when a portrait of his ancestor scowls.
  • At the end of the Judge Anderson storyline "Postcards from the Edge", Anderson has a vision of the eagle of justice being attacked by the pterodactl of death, and being saved by a Bat. This foretold the crossover story Die Laughing, which ultimately came out three years later, and involved Batman helping save Mega-City One from the Dark Judges.
  • When a Marvel writer wants to show that something really wrong is about to happen, Spider-Man's Spider-Sense will go off like crazy without any apparent danger. One of these was when Thanos snapped his fingers to destroy half the life in the universe, in The Infinity Gauntlet.

    Fan Works 
  • Played with in Saulderon's So We're A Couple. During the History of Remnant class, OC Ty is giving an oratory report on his family's history and Professor Oobleck asks if the Faunus revolutionaries ever attacked Ty's homeland during the Revolution. Ty answers no, it was very likely the war ended before the Faunus could orchestrate an invasion. In truth, Ty did find a single entry of a war that is, according to canon, supposedly the most brutal in over eighty years: "The Faunus set foot on the Coast in search of retribution for the sins of Humanity's past; they were met by the fangs of theirs." It's an incredibly brief message in a book that's filled with thousands of years worth of recorded family history, but it shook Ty up to the point where he went around Beacon avoiding the shadows for a week.

    Films — Animation 
  • MutaFukaz: One of the guardian wrestlers has a vision of a fiery skull on his sandwich, and finds a stain that resembles a cockroach. The audience knows that these omens do relate to the main characters, but the other wrestlers are a bit more cynical.
  • In Tales from Earthsea, the sightings of dragons fighting is taken to be a sign that the balance of the world is greatly upset, perhaps irreparably.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Love Parade, Count Alfred says that seeing a cross-eyed person is bad luck for him. On the morning of his wedding, everyone he sees (including the portrait on one of his medals) is cross-eyed.
  • In Practical Magic, the chirping of the deathwatch beetle foretells the death of a loved one.
  • The Gauntlet: Detective Shockley initially believes that witness Gus Mally is just being difficult about being taken to Phoenix for a trial. However, while waiting in a bar, Shockley sees a betting board for a horse race with only one entrant: Mally No-Show. This clues Shockley that Mally wasn't bluffing about being a Kill on Sight target of the mob.

  • Cradle Series:
    • Whenever the Dreadgods appear, the world shakes, and the aura of their affinity starts going wild. Once they get close enough, the entire sky turns their color, at which point generally accepted wisdom is that everyone close enough to see it is already dead.
    • Then there are those who have ascended their world entirely. Entities at the level of a Judge affect the entire Iteration just by unveiling their power. When the Mad King appears in the sky, the entire universe quakes. In one especially large Iteration, it's noted that everyone in the universe can look up and see him in the sky—every sky, of every world, because he has so much significance that the entire universe bends to let the people see their doom. Most seers die the second he arrives. In book 10, When he arrives on Cradle every seer on the planet starts screaming "a destroyer has come."
    • Inverted with the Judges, who calm the universe with their mere presence. Also in book 10, The presence of all seven in Fathom prevents hundreds of Vroshir, including the Mad King, from destroying the Iteration just by existing. When the Mad King flees to Cradle, Ozriel unveiling his power immediately stops the shaking. And every seer in the world declares "The Destroyer has come."
  • I Heard The Owl Call My Name, in which the protagonist is subjected to the named portent of death.
  • In the first few chapters of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the end of the Han dynasty is seen in some very bad portents (a horrible plague among one of those things), kicking of the chain of events that leads to decades of war.
  • the secret lives of Princesses: Black Butterfly forcasts doom. Once your see it, there is little hope. Princess Primandproper raises them.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire some believe it to be a sign of an unworthy king for them to be cut by the Iron Throne, with one particularly disliked king, Maegor the Cruel, believed to have been outright killed by the throne itself rather than any assassin. There's little apparent validity to this idea, because the throne is designed to be dangerous to sit on and anyone who uses it regularly has probably done it at least once.
  • Any time Stormwings start to flock in the Tortall Universe, at least after The Immortals. Since they feed on fear and live to desecrate war dead, you can bet that trouble's a-comin'.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A particularly cliched example used in Filipino soaps: when a character is about to die in a scene, there is a quick cut to his (or a close friend's) house showing a glass falling and breakingnote , and all his friends or relatives present reacting in shock to it. It then either cuts back to show whether he died, or was just badly hurt, or, an authority calls up to bring the bad news.
  • Spoofed in Blackadder, as you'd expect.
    Prince George: Ah Blackadder. It has been a wild afternoon full of strange omens. I dreamt that a large eagle circled the room three times and then got into bed with me and took all the blankets. And then I saw that it wasn't an eagle at all but a large black snake. And also Duncan's horses did turn up and eat each other. As usual.
  • In Supernatural, we find that certain ghosts can be death omens and groups of Reapers appear before disasters. In addition, demonic signs (crop failures, storms, and cattle mutilations) are often apparent before the forces of Hell act and there are many signs associated with the Apocalypse including the rising of the 4 Horsemen.
  • Parodied in The IT Crowd when Richmond warns the others not to go to their boss's funeral because:
    Richmond: This morning I saw a crow perched upon my windowsill. It looked at me and crowed three times. Caw! Caw! Well, you know what a crow sounds like. And then I stood on a piece of Lego. Ooh, it really hurt, it did! So anyway that's why- (he turns around to see they've all gone while he was talking.)
  • Doctor Who: A one-shot character from the 9th Doctor's debut episode is convinced that the TARDIS and the Doctor himself are one of these, judging by the number of times they've been seen in the vicinity of terrible disasters. He's not exactly wrong, even if he's got cause and effect backwards.
  • Rome. On the eve of his assassination, Julius Caesar's wife has a dream of a flock of birds taking the shape of a skull as they fly over a field.
    Caesar: I was about to wake you. Wherever you were, you were not enjoying yourself.
    Calpurnia: It was another dream of omens.
    Caesar: You're becoming quite the oracle. Shall I send for some willow water? You'll sleep better.
    Calpurnia: I was in the country, and...
    Caesar: Please, I have had such dreams for years. Bloody rain, black dogs, hooded ferrymen—for years. Here I am, still alive and well.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: In "Year of Hell", Janeway's ready room gets trashed after a series of attacks, but she's glad to find her lucky coffee cup has survived intact. Just then Voyager is attacked again and she rushes to the bridge, not seeing her cup get knocked off the table by the vibrations and smash on the floor.

    Myth & Religion 
  • In the Book of Daniel, supernatural writing foretells the demise of the Babylonian Empire. It is the origin of the phrase "the writing on the wall."
    • The phrase written, Mene, mene, tekel, u-Pharsin and its translations "numbered, numbered, weighed, and divided" (figuratively) and "You have been judged and found wanting [by God/the Persians (unwittingly acting for God)]" are also used.
  • Half's Saga: Sailing homeward after marrying Hringja, daughter of King Hreidar of Zealand, Hjorleif observes a giant rising out of the sea who chants a prophecy that predicts the death of Hringja, Hreidar, and Hjorleif's own imprisonment.

  • Iron Maiden's The Writing on the Wall sets this trope to music.

  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Mirielle's superpower allows her to visualise people's relationships as strings. This also includes their relationship with the thing that will kill them, represented by a black string. When two students start dying in the school, Mirielle is able to tell by the way that it affects their strings.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, the build-up event to 2nd Edition was referred to as "Malign Portents", with various portents of doom were witnessed all over the Mortal Realms, most pertaining to Nagash's designs in the realm of Shyish.

  • In Julius Caesar Calphurnia urges Caesar not to go to the Senate because of the various omens she's either witnessed or heard about from reliable sources. Caesar pooh-poohs it and goes anyway.

    Video Games 
  • By Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, Richard the Rooster has gone from being another hallucination to this, and perhaps the Grim Reaper, too. If he appears to a character who didn't appear in the previous game, it's as good as a spoiler: they're not going to survive.
  • Discussed in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. In one of Link's memories, Zelda theorizes that increasing numbers of monsters appearing around Hyrule are a sign that Ganon's prophesied return is imminent. The final entry in her diary ends with Zelda stating that she's certain something terrible is coming, though no one would believe a failure like her anyway. Soon after, Ganon emerges and utterly devastates Hyrule.
    Zelda's Diary: Right now, for no particular reason, I am filled with a strange and terrible certainty that something awful is about to happen.
  • XenoGears: During the prologue, just as Citan is about to leave his workshop, the music box he showed to Fei earlier suddenly breaks into pieces, signaling Citan that something foreboding is about to occur in Lahan.

    Western Animation 
  • TrollHunters: The illustration on the wall beyond Merlin's workshop illustrates the future, display an illustration of Jim, Toby and Claire, as well as Angor Rot.