Tyrion: Famine, plague, and war, no doubt. Its 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:
- Ace of Spades: A specific playing card that signifies danger ahead.
- Bad Moon Rising: A celestial event foretells doom.
- Comet of Doom: The arrival of a comet as a bad omen.
- Dead Man's Hand: A poker hand with two black Aces and two black Eights means death.
- Dreaming of Things to Come: When nightmares are soon to come true.
- The End Is Nigh: Those doomsayers and signholders know what they're talking about.
- Flying Dutchman: Just seeing the Trope Namer was a portent to an unlucky crew. Even worse if the Ghost Ship tried to hail them.
- For Doom the Bell Tolls: A church bell foretells death.
- Foreboding Fleeing Flock: Animals in large numbers are fleeing something ominous.
- Hellhound: The Portent variety spelled death or grave misfortune for whomever saw them.
- The Mothman: The appearance of one of these cryptids is generally taken as an ill omen.
- Ominous Fog: Something is coming, but no one will be able to see it.
- Our Banshees Are Louder: The anguished wail of a banshee is a portent of death.
- Red Sky, Take Warning: Evil clouds foretell doom.
- A Storm Is Coming: ...so does the rain.
- The Stars Are Going Out: The stars blinking out foretells the end of the world.
- Signs of the End Times: The portents point to The End of the World as We Know It.
- Tarot Troubles: The Tower, Hanged Man, and Death cards are used for this purpose in fiction. In reality, physical death is not indicated by any individual card but rather an interaction between the combination of cards pulled and the question asked.
- Twins Are Special: Some cultures interpret a multiple birth as a bad omen.
- Vagueness Is Coming: The Mad Oracle is speaking in riddles, again, and these visions and dreams won't make sense until its too late.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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'."
This is not a place of honor. No great deed is commemorated here. Nothing of value is here.
- 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.
- The transgender chickens in Farce of the Three Kingdoms.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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'.
- 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...
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.