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Portent of Doom

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“I had just been born. What did you expect of me?”
“Enormity,” the black-haired prince replied. “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 King’s Hand, and what such an omen might foretell for the realm.”
“Famine, plague, and war, no doubt.” Tyrion gave a sour smile. “It’s 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.


Only place examples here that do not belong on one of the subtropes.


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  • 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.

  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • The Writing on the Wall features the eponymous writing in dozens of unknown languages inside an Ancient Tomb, which Adventurer Archaeologist Daring Do dismisses as a curse on anyone who would disturb the sanctity of the tomb, meant to scare away superstitious tomb robbers.
    "'This is the tomb of the great and terrible So-and-So! Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair! Whosoever steals the treasure will face the gods' curse, and the sky will fall on their heads, et cetera'."
    • Daring Do is absolutely correct - there is no curse on the place. Unfortunately for her, when the writing is eventually deciphered, it turns out to be a warning about the true nature of the building. It's a nuclear waste storage facility.
    This is not a place of honor. No great deed is commemorated here. Nothing of value is here.
  • 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 
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • I Heard The Owl Call My Name, in which the protagonist is subjected to the named portent of death (and in this case survives, as it's autobiography.)
  • 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 Television 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Myth, Legend, and 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.

  • 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.