Prophecies never lie. In fiction, especially Fantasy, a prophecy is equivalent to destiny. Prophecy is never wrong, oracles are never false, prophets never turn out to be deluded and "predictions" never turn out to be political allegories of the time they were written in. If they weren't, why even bring them up in the first place? Prophecies, furthermore, are always believed, except by those who simply don't like what is predicted, or The Chosen One who can't accept his fate. They may twist, they may have loopholes, they can even be misleading, but in the end, the prophecy is fate, and you can't fight it.
Philip K. Dick wrote a short fantasy story subverting this trope once, but no one would publish it until he changed the ending to fulfill the prophecy. Dick wrote, bitterly, "I guess the term False Prophet is an oxymoron, then."
In fantastic stories with prophecies in them, writers are so wedded to this trope that even a fake prophecy, or anything that even vaguely sounds like a prophecy, will turn out to be true. Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane may be invoked to attribute the prediction to mundane knowledge, or claim it's just dumb luck.
See also Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, where the knowledge of a prophecy spurs the actions that (whether intentionally or not) ultimately fulfill it. Contrast Self-Defeating Prophecy, where knowing the prophecy allows people to make it false, and Thread of Prophecy, Severed, where something goes wrong with the prophecy to cause it to fail.
Usually a result of Conservation of Detail. A prophecy that doesn't come true is just a character's extraneous guessing.
- The Rail Tracer in Baccano!. In reality, it's what happens when let someone as Ax-Crazy as Claire Stanfield hear about it and then give him a reason to act it out. Certain comments reveal that the reason the story about the Rail Tracer is so accurate is because Claire was probably the one who made up the story in the first place.
- Lyrical Nanoha: Carim's annual prophecies are always correct. Now, if only they were written in a less flowery form and in a language that isn't dead so people could interpret what they're saying a lot easier.
- Mai-Otome: The legend of the Tragic Meister had almost nothing to do with the actual events that led to Mai Tokiha's disappearance; the real story was considerably less tragic, to say the least. However, the same series includes a straight example of this trope (although if the characters knew the circumstances under which the legend of the Guiding Star was fulfilled, it would definitely have quite a few eyebrows raised).
- Parodied in one Project A-ko OAV. A prophecy is discovered at the beginning, and seems to be progressing towards fulfillment as the story goes on. At the end, the professor who discovered the prophecy gravely pronounces it to be... a complete coincidence.
- Scrapped Princess: Played straight — all of the prophecies of the Oracle of Grendel are true, until a minor character does some research and finds out that 3 of the 5110 prophecies so far have been wrong. (There were also an unspecified number where the evidence wasn't clear-cut or which still hadn't occurred, so the track record could be worse.) Then subverted when we find out that the 5111th prophecy that drives the plot of the show was partially made up to push a specific political agenda. It is revealed the prophecies were made by the evil angels who imprison humanity. They were wrong at least three times. Of course, they have the power to control humans, so they could have made all the others correct.
- Averted in one story/episode of Mushishi. There is a man with a reputation for prophetic dreams, caused by a mushi infection. Ginko gave him medicine to control the infection, but only said controlling the infection was important. It wasn't until the man stopped taking the medicine that he found out why. The mushi did not give him prophetic dreams. They made his dreams real, both the pleasant ones and the nightmares.
- In Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, we learn of a prophecy where some messiah dressed in blue will restore mankind's connection with the earth. Of course, in the end that messiah turns out to be no other than the heroine, Nausicaä.
- Panzer World Galient: According old legends of planet Arst: "when evil rules the world, Galient the Iron Giant will manifest, and cleanse this world of darkness". And that's exactly what happens.
- Cells at Work!: The Memory B Cell is always going on about "prophecies" of pathogen attacks recorded by his predecessors, which represents how memory B cells produce antibodies based on pathogens the body has encountered.
- Tsunekichi Hatadaira from Talentless Nana has the "Talent" of prophetic dreams, which he documents using a Polaroid camera. The scenes depicted in them always come true and attempting to avoid said fates oftentimes causes them to play out anyway. The most prominent example is a prophecy of him failing his high school entrance exam; he attempted to cram all night, got violently ill on test day, and flunked it as a result.
- In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Link is told he's destined to save Hyrule, and that's exactly what he does.
- The Krypton Chronicles has Jaf-El, a distant ancestor of Superman and Supergirl, whose prophecies always turned out to be right. He stated the sun would turn yellow and it happened. He foretold a big disaster, and his home city was flooded by a great deluge. He warned Krypton would be destroyed in the far future, and as a matter of fact, the planet exploded.
- Aquila: Boudicca is given a vision that the Britons will one day free themselves and rule an Empire greater even than the Roman one, while Locusta foresees that there will be a new god taking power in Rome, although she thinks it will be Nero. Triscus also foresees that Pompeii won't be a good place to be in a while.
- HERZ: Subverted. SEELE was fully confident on their victory because they thought that it was prophesized in the Dead Sea Scrolls. So that in order to stop them the Children came up with a scheme was not written in the Scrolls. Secret organization's GEIST's leader remarked that prophecies may be broken.
- Thousand Shinji: Subverted. The Dead Sea Scrolls's prophecies were a reliable guide... until the moment of Third Impact, when they went completely wrong due to the meddling of the Warhammer 40,000 gods.
None of them had any idea what Ikari had unleashed, as this was all quite outside of the prophecies they had been using to guide their way through the war with the Angels to the culmination of Third Impact. But now everything had gone inexplicably wrong.
- In Children of an Elder God, Gendo and Fuyutsuki use several prophecies like guidelines. They usually are reliable. In the prologue, Gendo quotes a prophecy after it has come to pass.
- Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality: This turns out to be the big Reveal. Dumbledore had heard a prophecy that Harry would destroy the world, so in desperation he listened to every prophecy in the Hall of Prophecy, which allowed him to plot an extremely precise Gambit Roulette to avert an apocalypse. As he explains, not one of the prophecies stated whether Harry would destroy the people of the world, making it clear that his job was to ensure Harry would "destroy the world" in a way that humanity at large could live through.
- The Salmon of Knowledge observes this as a reason why it hates prophecies in Son of the Western Sea. Considering that Percy ended up joining the Wild Hunt in chasing the Twrch Trwyth across Ireland and by utter coincidence ended collapsing a cliff on the Isle of Man above the Salmon, it has a point. However, Prophecy Twist is in full effect.
- In The Last Son, Blind Seer Irene Adler insists that her prophecies are never wrong, even when Mystique tries to argue that she's got her first blemish on her record, as Superman refused to join with Magneto to rule mutantkind. Adler however refutes that, when Superman destroyed the meteors that Magneto tried to drag to Earth to destroy humankind and claim the planet for mutants, he fulfilled the first part of the prophecy ("Death will fall from the sky, with unquenchable fire, but the Child will strive on, and shall never tire"). Adler states that her prophecy isn't wrong, just still on track, and that Mystique and Magneto simply misinterpreted Superman's destiny.
- The Bolt Chronicles: In "The Seer," Kelvin the Labradoodle is able to predict the future, and from what the story suggests, he's always right. He correctly prophesizes Mittens's imminent karmic meeting with Bolt, among other things.
Kelvin: Its a gift. I get these nagging sensations in my gut and my bones, and I see apparitions from the future. Among other things, I predicted Pluto would be demoted to a dwarf planet, Kosovo would declare its independence from Serbia, and Carrie Underwood would win American Idol. Haven't missed with a single prophesy yet.
- An odd example comes up in the fourth book of the Dangerverse, in which a prophecy warns of a potential attack on the Den, and then the next several lines are instructions on what to do in response to that attack succeeding. In theory, a large chunk of the prophecy could have been negated if the Pack-adults had paid closer attention to the earlier lines and stopped the attack on the Den. In the actual story, of course, they miss this and the attack goes off as planned, bringing the next set of lines into play.
- Seems to be the case so far in the Kung Fu Panda series. In the first film, it was said that the Dragon Warrior would save the Valley of Peace. And it happens by the end of the film. In the sequel, Lord Shen is told that he will be defeated by "a warrior of black and white". Lord Shen tries to keep this from happening by killing all the pandas, but Po survives and ends up defeating him by the end of the film.
- Combined with Villain Has a Point in Toy Story 2. Stinky Pete makes Woody fully aware that Andy will inevitably grow up and when he does, he will move on and leave the toys without a home or an owner, leaving them for the landfill. Guess what happens in Toy Story 3?
- In The LEGO Movie, Vitruvius reveals that the prophecy was made up by him. However, Emmet manages to convince Lord Business to disarm the Kragle.
- Similar to Toy Story 2 above, in Wreck-It Ralph, King Candy (aka Turbo) refuses to let Vanellope race because he thinks her actions will cause Sugar Rush to be unplugged. In Ralph Breaks the Internet, Vanellope does exactly that!
- The Matrix is a subversion. The oracle lies to Neo to get him to do what he needs to do. Other than that, every prophecy turns out to be true, including one that was a dream Neo had, and the one that says he'll save the humans from the machines, despite that one being a lie that turned out false every time until then.
- Star Wars:
- Double Subverted with "The Chosen One" prophecy. Word of God has it that it isn't a subversion because Vader brought balance to the Force by killing Palpatine, the last Sith, and leaving only the Light Side with Luke as the last Jedi, although that didn't stop Yoda from admitting that the prophecy had been misinterpreted in Revenge of the Sith. Which aren't necessarily contradictory; none of the Jedi had interpreted "bringing balance to the Force" to have preconditions like their own deaths and nearly 20 years of Sith tyranny over the galaxy before it could happen.
- In Return of the Jedi, Palpatine spends about half the movie with lines such as "Everything is going exactly as I have prophesized" and "I have foreseen it" before the complete opposite happens and he is killed off.
- Also, in The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda foresaw Han, Leia, and Chewie getting tortured in Cloud City (true) but also warned that if Luke got involved, "it would destroy all which they have fought and suffered" (not true). However, Yoda had also suggested that Luke's action could help them, but in the end, Luke was the one who needed saving since Lando ended up freeing Leia and Chewie while Luke was getting knocked around by Vader.
- Another one occurred in "Empire" when Vader tells Luke that he had foreseen the two of them ruling the galaxy as father and son but it might have been a lie to try to get Luke to join him.
- In The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon tells Obi-Wan that he has foreseen him becoming a great Jedi knight which is pretty much the only prophecy in the films to actually be 100% true.
- Yoda does warn that "always in motion is the future", so prophecies made by Jedi (or Sith) should never be taken as absolute. As circumstances change, so too do the foretold events. And moreover, what you think a prophecy foretells and what it actually foretells aren't necessarily the same thing.
- This is actually somewhat averted in The Beastmaster, although it might not have been the writer's intent for it to be so. Basically, at the beginning of the film it is prophesied that the Big Bad will "die at the hands of Zed's unborn son", which of course results in the Big Bad trying to kill Zed's unborn son, failing, and unwittingly giving the young man a motive to kill the guy when he grows up. About 3/4ths of the way through the film, the hero does end up shanking the Big Bad in the stomach, but this doesn't actually kill him. Instead he gets back up and tries to stab the hero in the back, but suddenly gets tackled by a ferret and falls into a pit of fire without the hero lifting a finger or even realizing the guy is still alive.
- At the beginning of the second act in both The Interview and This Is the End, James Franco describes, off the cuff, how he wants the story climax to play out and is correct both times.
- Subverted in the legend of "The Cauld Lad of Hylton" — the ghostly boy often laments in verse how long it will be before he's freed, even in the tales where the servants, who heard him complain of the cold or saw him shiver by the fire, made him a cloak for pity's sake, and found that that was needed to lay him.
Wae's me, wae's me,
The acorn's not yet fallen from the tree,
That's to grow the wood,
That's to make the cradle,
That's to rock the bairn,
That's to grow to the man
That's to lay me!
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- This trope normally holds true but is subverted by Dany's son being satanically miscarried instead of leading the Dothraki to conquering the whole world as was prophecized. But it leads to Dany trying to take over the world.
- Melisandre foresees that if King Stannis marches against Kings Landing, his brother Renly will crush him, but if he attacks Storms End he'll defeat his brother. Turns out both happen; at Storms End Stannis uses Melisandre's sorcery to kill his brother, forcing the majority of Renly's army to come over to his side. He then marches against Kings Landing, only to be crushed by a combined Lannister/Tyrell army led by 'Renly's ghost' (actually someone wearing Renly's armour in an El Cid Ploy).
- Prophecy in the series also often has the twist of becoming true because of people directly acting to fulfill or avoid the fulfillment of the For example, Cersei Lannister's predicted future by Maggy the Frog has been eerily accurate. It's beginning to become implied that the things Cersei does in fear of the prophecy are, in actuality, directly fulfilling the things that have yet to come which she fears most.
- In William King's Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf novel Wolfblade, Ranek invokes this to defend Ragnar, who threw their prized relic The Spear of Russ into a Chaos warp gate, despite the prophecy that their primarch would take it up when he returned. The Spear would doubtlessly return in good time to fulfill the prophecy, if it is a true prophecy. One of those who wish to punish Ragnar sneers at Ranek's faith — a sad misstep on his part. It really is recovered in the end of the series.
- The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: The prophecy is an interesting case — right from the start, it's clear in the prophecy that it could go in two different directions — he could "save or destroy" the Land, and he definitely will do one or the other. Knowing Thomas, it initially seems like a bit of a free kick that the Land is stuffed.
- Subverted in The Underland Chronicles. The series revolved around the prophecies of Sandwich (no, really), who wrote numbers of them in his tenure in the Underland some time before. At first, these prophecies seem to be always turning true (the first two books for example), but the third and fourth books become increasingly stretched to fit the prophecy. It all comes to a head when it is revealed that in the last prophecy, Gregor is supposed to die. After going into the final battle, Gregor does not die, and not all of the prophecy comes true, as is noted by several characters throughout the book such as Ares, Gregor, Ripred, and Luxa. However, they still manage to con the people and creatures of the Underland that the prophecy is true with a little help from Luxa's "prophetic" cousin, who believes the prophecies are true in order to bring peace amongst the humans and rats.
- In Fell by David Clement-Davies, there is a prophecy that a wolf will be reborn from the water and sprout two heads. The protagonist at one point emerges from behind a waterfall feeling "reborn" and has a shadow with two heads in a later scene due to lantern placement. These seem like weak justifications for the prophecy's fulfillment, especially when the book's predecessors had been so prophecy heavy. Later in the story, however, when the ghost of an old Antagonist, Morgra, is summoned using a well, and proceeds to possess two people.
- In The Belgariad and The Malloreon, David Eddings plays with many of the standard conventions of prophecy. In particular, there is not one, but two prophecies that control the outcome of the universe. The two are diametrically opposed, born of a tremendous accident that occurred long ago. The writings of their prophets are carefully hidden such that only the people they are intended for can make use of them, and they actively intervene from time to time to make sure events stay on track.
- Moreover, the primary people whose destiny it is to fulfill the prophecies are aware of what they are doing and are actively collaborating with them. This is said to be necessary because of the way the prophecies were divided in the first place; great care must be taken to avoid another accident which, if it were to happen, could potentially unmake the universe.
- Alternatively, it could lead to new potentials and prophecies, meaning that the original two would less less likely than they currently were (50%) of winning. Although a real and immutably accurate prophecy does exist, Belgarath in his seven thousand years has had plenty of time to encounter many self-deluded "prophets" who are simply mad, and knows how to tell the difference.
- Played absolutely straight in Meredith Ann Pierce's The Firebringer Trilogy. There are three prophecies regarding the unicorns' promised hero the Firebringer, each delivered by a different dreamer. The first describes his coloration; the seconds describes "burning blood, sparking hooves and a tongue of flame: a colt born at moondark out of a wyvern's belly and sired by the summer stars"; and the third claims he would be a Renegade outside the Law and "would storm out of heaven in a torrent of fire, and his advent would mark the ending of the world." The unicorns think only the first prophet was correct and the last two were insane. By the end of the trilogy, however, every word off all three prophecies comes true, if not literally than at least metaphorically.
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Played perfectly straight. You cannot fight fate, in part because prophecies always take into account the future—meaning that if you trigger them by trying to avert them, it's because you learned of them, and guess what? That was taken into account. On the other hand, the prophecies are worded in a fashion that leaves them open to multiple interpretations, with few parts being obvious and unambiguous. Of course, this is based on Greek mythology, so this is only natural.
- Dune, by Frank Herbert, makes some interesting uses of prophets and prophecies. The Bene Gesserit, the supreme Chessmasters of the galaxy, set up religions to suit their needs and seed them with messianic prophecies that they can later manipulate to their advantage. At the same time, they are seeking to breed a human with oracular powers. Unfortunately, an error causes the breeding program to produce this "Kwisatz Haderach" one generation too soon. Paul Atreides takes their prophecies and runs with them, setting himself up as a Messianic Archetype and Emperor of the galaxy, and his son, Leto II, is even stronger, locking humanity into a singular course for close to ten thousand years. What makes this an interesting example, however, is the question the books ask: does the oracle predict the future, or create it?
- Harry Potter: Both of Trelawney's prophecies in the series come true, although Divination is otherwise treated as a very imprecise art. Also, Dumbledore is quick to point out in the sixth book that not all of the prophecies studied by the Department of Mysteries have or will come true, saying by way of example that had the prophecy regarding Harry and Voldemort not been overheard and relayed to Voldemort, it would have never meant anything.
- It's also played with, as even though everyone thinks of Trelawny as a poor seer, every single one of her predictions comes true in some way or another. An obvious example is in Prisoner of Azkaban when she refuses to sit down at a table with twelve people at it, as that would make thirteen sitters, and therefore the first to rise would be the first to die. She's eventually persuaded to sit anyway, and that particular book is one of the few in which Everybody Lives. Except Peter Pettigrew was in Ron's pocket, disguised as Scabbers, meaning there were thirteen people sitting there before she arrived; Dumbledore rose to greet her and he's the first sitter to die (although not for another three books).
- Subverted in Karl Edward Wagner's Darkness Weaves (part of his Kane series): Roget, Lages and M'Cori each have their fortunes told. Roget is told he will find great glory in battle, Lages will become king and M'Cori will marry her true love and bear seven sons. Roget's prophecy comes true, although he dies soon after. Lages never becomes king. M'Cori dies before getting married or having any children.
- In Hilari Bell's The Prophecy, a prince finds a prophecy with instructions for how to slay a dragon. It turns out the whole thing was made up by the prophet for his own ends, but the prince kills the dragon anyway.
- In Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens, prophet Agnes Nutter was completely accurate about everything she predicted. Her priorities as to what she prophesied, though, were somewhat odd. For example, for the day Kennedy was assassinated she wrote a warning about a falling brick in her hometown. She even set up a scheme to deliver a second volume of her prophecies to the main character after all of her early prophecies had been fulfilled.
- Though as Anathema points out, Agnes was mostly concerned with her descendants: as they lived in Smalltown, England, there was a chance they might get hit by a falling brick in Kings Lynn and very little chance of being hit by a stray bullet in Dallas.
- Given the laughter of her ghost when the new book was destroyed (which she undoubtedly saw coming), plus the way it appeared out of nowhere when how she got the first printed was a subplot, this was probably just an elaborate prank on her part.
- The 'Always' part of the trope is, however, averted, because it's mentioned that Agnes Nutter is the only prophet in human history to have 100% accurate prophecies (which is speculated as the reason why her book didn't sell). While other famous prophets of human history such as St. John, Nostradamus and St. Malachi had some seer-abilities, they were muddled by Heaven and\or Hell sending some interferences into their 'mental channels', by the prophets themselves often developing substance abuse habits to cope with the flood of information they recieve from the future, and prophets prioritizing rhyming and meter over total accuracy when writing their visions down. So most prophecies include some element of the truth, but also some major inaccuracies. Save for Agnes Nutter.
- Taken to an extreme in The Elvenbane: The prophecy of a Chosen One who will end elven rule was made up by rebels as a metaphorical thumb in the eye of their rulers, and absolutely nobody believes it's true. The main character happens to perfectly fit the description of this Chosen One, and by coincidence and inclination begins to fulfill the prophecy anyway.
- Sword of Truth: Prophecies are always true in the series, and several of the books start out by having the characters learning of one that holds dire consequences for them, or suggests they'll act entirely contrary to their goals and character. The trick is, while they're always true, they're also always vague, and almost never to be taken literally. Even the ones that are literal are so only on the surface level, and the reasons why the characters end up doing the crazy things eventually make sense.
- In Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series, the series of prophecies that guide the Light come true exactly as written. It's stated that the Dark has its own set of prophecies, but we aren't told anything else about them.
- In Yoda: Dark Rendezvous the young Padawan Whie Malreaux regularly dreams about what he'll be doing in the future. Details seem to be obscured—he once knows that someone will beat him but not who or how, even though when it was actually happening her name is stated—but the gist always happens. He knows that a Jedi will kill him and it will surprise him; he thinks this means he'll turn to the Dark Side and be hunted down, but in actuality Anakin Skywalker kills him in the Temple in Revenge of the Sith. Despite the future always being in motion, some things are apparently set.note
- In Eragon, first book of Inheritance Cycle, witch Angela makes a prediction, of Eragon falling in love with someone of noble birth but having to go away and never return. Both of these happen as predicted, the first quite soon and the latter, unsurprisingly, at the end.
- At the same time, Angela's werecat offers Eragon two pieces of advice, both of which make absolutely no sense to him at the time. Later, Eragon actively pursues the advice and understanding it in order to achieve his goal, which he could not have done otherwise.
- The Lord of the Rings:
- Gandalf foresees that Gollum's fate is bound up with that of the Ring, and the Ring cannot be destroyed unless Gollum is kept alive. Naturally, this comes true, as Frodo is unable to destroy the Ring in the end, and Gollum is one who destroys it.
- Gandalf also foresees that Merry and Pippin are more vital to the quest than even Glorfindel, and that they should be included in the Fellowship instead. Needless to say, they prove vital by getting the Ents involved in the war, and by killing the Witch-King, as well as keeping Denethor alive long enough to reveal his vision in the palantír that results in the decision to march on Mordor—all of which were vital to the quest.
- Sam Gamgee also has a vision in the beginning, that he "has something to do before the end," and that he "must see it through." Of course, this comes true.
- Glorfindel prophesied that the Witch-King would not fall by the hand of any man; and he is indeed killed instead by a woman.
- Arwen also prophesied that Aragorn would be among those who would destroy Sauron.
- Several folks in The Silmarillion indulge in prophecy. Mandos and Morgoth, being Valar, are pretty much strong enough to make (or foresee) their own prophecies come true, but we also have folks like Fëanor and Beren, who make bold statements about what they're going to do next that pretty much turn out to be prophecies.
- These could be somehow justified as Tolkien pretty much stated that the fate of the world was pre-created during the Great Music (aka creation). It does not apply 100% (though it seems to be the case for all the time up to the end of the Third Age, maybe because the stories tend to be too "large" to be affected by one or a few people who don't act as expected), but does work for most, if not all of the above mentioned.
- In Moby-Dick, a New Bedford street-prophet prophesies several things that will happen heralding the death of everyone on the Pequod—save one: call him "Ishmael."
- Jack Chalker's Dancing Gods series states that prophecies from the better oracles are always true: the only problems are that you usually don't know what the specifics mean right away, and the prophecies don't state what the outcome will be, only what is needed to have a chance of getting the outcome you want.
- Played with in the Wheel of Time series. The Dragon is a reincarnated hero who appears throughout time to battle the Dark One. Numerous prophecies have been written regarding how this will play out. The thing is, The Dragon doesn't exactly know what to do once he realizes who and what he is and there have been numerous "False Dragons". Rather than be led around by people trying to manipulate him, he decides to use the prophecies as a sort of PR tool. Even if he doesn't believe that they predict the future, fulfilling them convinces other people that he's the real deal. Additionally, most prophecies are extremely confusingly-worded, and the wording is often revealed to the reader well before the fulfillment of the prophecy. What the characters (and the reader) think each prophecy means, and what actually happens rarely match.
- The Aiel cleverly avert this: when they figure out that a certain Ter'angreal in their possession allows them to see a/the future, they have the Wise One to whom it gave visions not tell anyone certain minor details of what she'd seen, and then change those details. They reasoned that if prophecy is infallible, somehow they'll be unable to change those details — just like how Ta'veren bend probability to get who and what they need. It works like a charm, and several details, small and large, are shown to be different from her vision. Which is fortunate, since the vision predicted the genocide of the Aiel, among other things.
- Justified Trope in John Scalzi's The Android's Dream since the Church of the Evolved Lamb has several members who recognize that its founding was a total scam but are devoted to making its prophecies come true anyway.
- Subverted at least once in The Dresden Files: Harry is told that if he sticks his nose into the problem du jour, he'll die, but if he doesn't, his friends will die. Naturally, he sticks his nose into it and doesn't die because one of his friends took the curse that would have killed Harry into himself, saving Harry.
- Double Subverted: his actions start a series of events (most centrally, but far from exclusively, having sex with Susan and conceiving their daughter) across the series that culminate in Changes, in which he does die.
- In Dog and Dragon a kingdom has been in a perpetual state of war for many generations and the hope of the common people is the prophecy of the Defender who will come, bring peace to the land and anoint a new king. The prophecy was made up by a powerful mage who intends to use his magic to keep himself alive for as long as it takes for him to find his son who was lost in another dimension. Once he is reunited with his son or his descendants, he will declare a convenient patsy to be the Defender, use his magic to make it seem like the prophecy is fulfilled and then have his son anointed as the new king. His plan is thwarted when Meg, a powerful but untrained female mage, arrives from another dimension and accidentally starts to fulfill parts of the prophecy. At the end it is revealed that Meg was his lost 'son'. Due to the circumstances of her birth no one ever told him that the child was female.
- Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series: Before his death, Dr Hari Seldon records several messages prophesying about what will happen to the Foundation—and arranges for these messages to be played during the nearest anniversary of colonization. The main effect is to reassure the Foundation that everything is on track.
- In "The Encyclopedists", long-dead Hari Seldon appears during the 50th anniversary of colonizing Terminus via hologram. He announces that the Encyclopedia Foundation is a fraud, and that Terminus was actually founded as the next Galactic Empire. He also points out that they're already in the middle of their first socio-political crisis, and the solution to their problem is "obvious". Which the resolution of the story proves right.
- "The Mayors": During the 75th anniversary of the Foundation colonizing Terminus, a hologram of the dead Hari Seldon appears, and describes the way the Foundation has used religion to subvert control from their more powerful neighbors. He also points out the "Balance of Power" that was used this time and last time will not be enough for the next crisis, occurring in "The Merchant Princes".
- "The Mule": When the hologram of Hari Seldon appears, the Foundation expects to hear a prophecy about the war they're fighting against the Mule's new Empire, but they instead hear a completely wrong prophecy about a Foundation civil war (that never happened, since the factions involved all saw the Mule as a greater threat). And Double Subverted when the Second Foundation, whose job it is to account for the unexpected as it appears manages to get the Seldon Plan back on track before the events of Foundation's Edge.
- In Claudius The God, Claudius is told by his wife Messalina that a prophecy says that her husband is going to die in a month. For this reason they divorce and she marries another man. When Claudius realises that it was a plot against him, he sentences that man to death. Other prophecies also are true.
- Duchess Sylvie, a full-blooded troll from Malediction Trilogy has a limited ability to foretell the future - in the form of cryptic rhymed prophecies. Her prophecy concerning the marriage of troll prince Tristan (her nephew) to a human girl is what sets the events of the trilogy in motion. And although it seems not to be working, by the end of book two it turns to be absolutely right.
- Wings of Fire, which features a cast of protagonists prophecized to be heroes has the prophecy messed up from the beginning when one of them is killed as an egg. Then completely subverted when it turns out Morrowseer made up the prophecy to save his tribe from their miserable volcano home without being vulnerable to the NightWings' enemies. Moonwatcher's prophecy in the second series plays it straight due to she and Darkstalker being the only living actual NightWing Seers, though they used to be much more common.
- In The Revenants by Sheri S. Tepper, the protagonists set out to fulfill a prophecy, not knowing that the copy they have was written out by an old man with a failing memory and contains several distortions and inaccuracies. By the end of the novel, the true prophecy has come about — and so has the inaccurate one.
- Discussed by the Fool in the Realm of the Elderlings series when Fitz questions the validity of his prophecies. The Fool claims that prophecies that were written down often turn out to be true, but that it's also impossible to tell which prophecy will eventually be the one to surface, because there are a number of possible futures. All of those futures can be foretold, but it's only after the fact that one can say 'yes, that happened exactly as it was foretold'. Hence prophecies, when written down, tend to be so infuriatingly vague that they leave enough room for interpretation.
- Parodied in Heroics for Beginners. The seeress who gives Kevin a warning of doom is amazingly specific; when told to beware a tall man in dark clothes, Kevin complains that it could be anyone - she responds by giving him detail down to the ring on his finger and how he likes his tea and biscuits. A stunned Kevin notes that if she were really that good, she'd be making a fortune on the stock market; her response is to mutter that she needs to check on her investments and leave before the hero can hear more about her financial planning.
- Agatha Christie of all people plays with the trope in a short story The Lemesurier Inheritance. The Lemesuriers are cursed from medieval times: no firstborn son can ever inherit. But when its obvious somebody is deliberately trying to kill little Ronald, the firstborn and heir apparent, his mother rushes to Hercule Poirot for help. Poirot saves the day, Ronald inherits, Hastings remarks that Poirot has definitely got rid of the old curse and Poirot reveals that it was pretty obvious Ronald wasnt a Lemesurier firstborn: he was born from the mothers liaison with a secretary; so the true firstborn Gerald never inherited after all.
- The Reluctant King: A plot point in the second book, where two prophecies made by the high priest and the high priestess of the city foretell that 1) Iraz will be saved by the clock tower and that 2) Iraz will later be saved by a barbarian, and thus apparently contradicting each other. Turns out, both are correct: Jorian (who's a foreigner and thus considered a barbarian by Iraz' standards) saves the city from the besieging armies by changing the hour on each of the four clocks so that their coordinated attack is thrown into disarray, with each of the four armies attacking separately and ending up destroyed.
- In Seven Stars, a set of prophecies by Nostradamus (the "suppressed quatrains") are a recurring plot point. They all come true, although sometimes in ways that are only clear once they've happened.
- Played with: The prophecy which predicts Connor's birth also says that Angel will kill him. It turns out, however, that this was a fake prophecy that Sahjhan arranged in an attempt to change the future. In the end, the original prophecy comes true. (Though some would argue that the fake one does metaphorically, when Angel rewrites Connor's memory to give him a different, happier life.
- Another prophecy says that Angel will have all his connections to the Powers That Be severed by Wolfram and Hart, which Angel prevents while delivering the line "Don't believe everything you read."
- Subverted on Buffy the Vampire Slayer though; in "Prophecy Girl", the prophecy about Buffy says she's going to die to free the Master—she does, technically, but is revived by CPR, and is more or less prophecy-free from there on out.
- Near the beginning of Farscape, Aeryn mutters, of Rygel, "One day, your greatest fear will be realized: you will be killed by a Peacekeeper." Aeryn is one of a very few characters in the show to never show any signs of precognitive ability, but the prophecy still gets fulfilled by Aeryn's mother.
- Babylon 5:
- Narns are the only species with no telepaths. When Narn Ambassador G'Kar yells in the first season that one night, the Centauri will awaken to find the Narn's teeth at their throat, it's clearly just ambassadorial bluster...that also happens to come true.
- Played straighter with all the other prophecies— whether via Centauri death-dream, Vorlon vagueness, Stable Time Loop, or whatever Lorien's deal was, they all get taken utterly seriously, met with trepidation and some degree of fatalism by all parties involved.
- In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the "prophets" of Bajor turn out to be the aliens who created the Wormhole, who exist outside of linear time, and who can therefore foresee prophecies by simply reading the future. Even when people use the prophecies to try to avoid them, the attempt only ends up fulfilling them.
- Abed from Community makes several predictions weeks to hours in advance about actions, conversations, and menstruation cycles of the rest of the study group. Every last one is shown on screen or implied to be correct.
- In Lexx the time prophets could see into the distant past and because time is cyclic in the two universes it meant they could effectively predict the future. One of them predicted that His Divine Shadow would wipe out the Brunnen-G and then one of them would end his reign. Sure enough, the Shadow destroyed the Brunnen-G and reanimated one warrior as an undead assassin, only for said warrior to regain his free will and fulfill his destiny 2,008 years later.
- In the Red Dwarf episode "Cassandra", the crew come across Cassandra, a computer that can supposedly predict the future with 100% accuracy. The thing is, while she can predict the future perfectly, she can also lie about what she sees.
- Legend of the Seeker, like the Sword of Truth books its based on, has various prophecies that, naturally, always turns out to be true. And yet many characters desperately try to change them. The main one, of course, is the one about Richard himself, as he is prophecied to defeat Darken Rahl, causing the Nice Job Breaking It, Herod! trope to take effect. Rahl's troops slaughter every firstborn in the town of Brennidon. Naturally, Richard is saved from the massacre and grows up as a woodsman far from D'Hara. By the end of the first season, that prophecy is fulfilled. Interestingly, the same episode initially shows it not being fulfilled (i.e. Richard is sent into the Bad Future, where Rahl fell by his own son's hand who became an even greater tyrant). Many other prophecies (often seemingly contradicting one another) show up in the second season. All of them end up coming true, in one form or another.
- MythQuest: Cleo is a teenager who travels into a Greek myth and takes the place of the Oracle of Delphi. While there, she has visions of events that will happen later on in the myth, as well as in her own modern world. They all come true eventually.
- Sleepy Hollow follows this, but with a twist: Moloch prophesies that Ichabod will deliver Abbie's soul to him. Everyone interprets this to mean that Ichabod is going to be tempted to sell her out, but the result is actually a Heroic Sacrifice: Abbie voluntarily stays in Purgatory so that Ichabod and Katrina can escape to confront the Horseman of War.
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse has a subversion in one of the playable archetypes: The tribe of the character is known for its oracles and she utters quite a few prophecies. However, she never learnt the rite for receiving them and just makes them up as she goes to lend her own plans more weight than they'd be afforded otherwise since she is a Metis (shameful and near-outcast offspring of two werewolves mating with each other).
- Inverted by Pathfinder, as the default setting takes place during the Age of Lost Omens, which was kicked off when major prophecies suddenly stopped being right.
- Warhammer 40,000 gives us Orikan the Diviner, Necron astromancer. His prophesies are always right because he is willing and able to use time travel to retroactively change anything he didn't anticipate and ensure his original prophecy comes to pass.
- Justified in Eberron. The Draconic Prophecy as a whole can never be wrong, because it defines every possible future and all of the events leading up to each future. However, that means that it's a vast network of branches rather than a single pre-ordained future, and most of the setting's Chessmasters who are long-lived enough to look at time in terms of centuries (or longer) are keen on studying the Prophecy in order to learn how to make their desired outcome come true- and how to shut down any outcome they don't want.
- In Dorothy L. Sayers' The Emperor Constantine, Constantine likes his prophetic dream because it is clear and unambiguous — falsity doesn't even enter his mind.
- In the opera Carmen, the title character and her friends are reading tarot cards. Her friends see love and fortune, but Carmen sees only death for herself and her lover, in that order. By the end of the opera, Carmen is murdered by her ex-boyfriend Don José, and it's implied that he himself will be executed for his crime.
- Similarly, in Verdi's opera A Masked Ball, King Riccardo of Sweden visits the gypsy fortuneteller Ulrica, who foretells that he will be murdered by the next man whose hand he will shake. In an attempt to disprove the prophecy, Riccardo shakes the hand of his best friend and secretary Renato. In this case, however, it turns out to be a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Riccardo is in love with Renato's wife Amelia, and Renato, erroneously believing his wife to be faithless, shoots Riccardo at the titular masked ball.
- In Macbeth, it is prophesied that "No Man of Woman Born" could harm Macbeth, which he took to mean that he was invincible; and he is killed by MacDuff, who it turns out was not "born" from a woman, but "untimely ripped" by C-section.
- Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura:
- This trope is subverted rather beautifully. The game starts with your protagonist being declared the reincarnation of one Nasrudin, and a lot of the game is played under the pretext of fulfilling his prophecy. As it turns out, Nasrudin is still alive, and the entire religion founded around him has little basis in fact.
- Double subverted by Nasrudin himself when he explains that depending on your interpretation of the prophecy you may be fulfilling it anyway.
- Double subversion in Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. There is a prophecy wherein a hero will save the world... until you reach the final boss, who by way of pre-fight chat informs you he made that prophecy up as a prank ages ago. Once you defeat the final boss, you discover that the old man you had been running into is the Crystal of Light in the guise of a human... who's been pulling strings behind the scenes to make it so that the prophecy does come true.
- Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines: Rosa and a Malkavian PC makes a number of mad prophesies and foretellings about the plot of the game. All of them turn out to be utterly correct, but not always in the context you'd expect.
- Super Paper Mario includes two mutually contradictory prophecies: one in which the villain uses the Chaos Heart to destroy all worlds, and one in which the heroes use the eight Pure Hearts to stop him. It's not hard to figure out which one each side is trying to fulfill. The Starscream decides to help the heroes fulfill the good one so that he could swoop in and fulfill the bad one at the last second. Ultimately, only the good one comes true, through. Interestingly enough, the good prophecy was deliberately created to counter the bad one, suggesting that the individual(s) who authored it had greater power than mere observation of the future.
- Subverted in Might and Magic IX, via the False Prophet version. The overall plot of the game involves your party receiving a Writ of Fate from the Oracle prophesying that your destiny is to stop the warlord Temur Lang from conquering the world. However, when you finally run into Temur Lang, you learn that he's trying to conquer the world because he received a Writ of Fate from the Oracle prophesying that it's his destiny to do so. After comparing notes, you join up to go against the Oracle, who's the real Big Bad, basically making up false prophecies for shit and giggles.
- Tales of the Abyss: This is a major plot point. The heroes and the Big Bad are both trying to eliminate the Score, a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy (maybe) that apparently eliminates free will; the only difference is in the method they choose to do so. It also heavily deconstructed the whole thing by painting a picture of what kind of world is born from the people with that kind power on hand; the least troubling thing is people using it to choose what to eat today. More disturbing examples come from people in the know secretly arranging for things in the Closed Score (which covers things like deaths, wars, and Switched at Birth situations) to happen.
- Persona 4: Igor tells you that you are going to be involved in a 'great mystery'. Guess what happens only a day after you arrive? Yup Mayumi Yamano dies, lighting the spark that leads to the whole world almost being destroyed.
- Persona 2: Innocent Sin has the Oracle of Maia, a prophecy that dictates the coming end of the world in flowery poetic terms. As is to be expected, it starts coming true. Mostly because the Oracle is actually a Cliff's Notes version of the Big Bad's plan, part of which involves the plan being released as part of the plan.
- There is a legend in Pokémon Black and White that a hero will rise and be acknowledged by one of the mythical dragons of truth and ideals that helped create Unova. The antagonist, N, is apparently The Chosen One. The player character summons the other dragon just to take him down a peg, resulting in two heroes who both fulfill the prophecy. The Man Behind the Man Didn't See That Coming.
- All the characters in Odin Sphere knew of the forthcoming Armageddon and the events that will unfold. Eventually it did happen as foretold. If the player chooses not to follow the prophecies, you will get the bad ending.
- Tragically averted in the case of Susabi's childhood in Onmyōji. Not all of his prophecies were correct, and so he became The Cassandra, hated and eventually killed by his villagers before ending up in the Afterworld. That does not end well for the young man's mentality as an adult.
- In EarthBound the Apple of Enlightenment foretells the downfall of Giygas at the hands of four children (Ness, Paula, Jeff, and Poo) that are the Chosen Four. Giygas, who lives in a future timeline where he had succeeded in destroying the world, sends his henchmen to the past to kill Buzz Buzz, who was trying to help Ness start his adventure to stop Giygas. The plan fails, but Giygas keeps sending his mooks all over the world to stir up chaos and hinder Ness's journey. Giygas then travels to the past so that he can continue to keep attacking while the heroes presumably can't time travel to confront him. Ness and his friends go back in time with the help of Dr. Andonuts and the Mr. Saturns and destroy Giygas anyway, just like the prophecy foretold.
- The Order of the Stick:
- The kobold oracle has so far been 100% accurate, even to the point of setting up arrangements in advance for allied clerics to teleport in and raise him from the dead minutes after his murder. The oracle has no fourth wall either and erases the minds of everyone after leaving his valley except the specific prophecy they ask for. He'll make snarky comments on the events to come as well as talk directly to the audience. When he's really snarky he'll give the most cryptic answer he can to screw with the audience. 'The Right four words for the wrong reasons' caused years of crazy fan work about every four words until a strip was called The Wrong Reasons.
- It's revealed in the Origin of PC's prequel that Durkon's "mission" to explore the Human lands is an attempt by his clerical superiors to avert this as it was prophecied that when he next returned home, the Dwarves would suffer a great disaster. Durkon never knew about the prophecy, but is loyal and obedient enough to obey the instructions never to return until he is called for (which he never will be). His only consolation is a prophecy provided by the kobold oracle that he will eventually return home, "posthumously" (so at least his remains will presumably be put to rest with honors alongside his ancestors). Turns out, BOTH prophecies come true at once, as Durkon is killed and made into a vampire, and the evil spirit which now controls his body returns to Dwarven lands with a plot to destroy the world and enslave EVERY DWARVEN SOUL.
- Dominic Deegan, Oracle for Hire: This trope is subverted. Most of Dominic's prophesies are only possibilities, and he has been known to become The Chessmaster and manipulate everyone so that the most desirable possibility comes true. The one time he does get a vision that is unavoidable, the Fated Fatal, it only tells him that someone will die, with no clue as to who, when, or how.
- In Hitmen for Destiny there is an organization called Destiny and its job is to ensure that various prophecies are fulfilled due to the fact that it's a moneymaking venture and destiny, their moneymaker, is fallible. The point of this is discussed in spoilerific detail here.
- In The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny, it's prophesied that "only one will survive—" and it comes true: Mr. Rogers!
- Due to all the many, many ways to see the future in Homestuck, and the massive case of You Can't Fight Fate the series runs on, this trope is in full effect. The only exceptions are Terezi's prophecies, which are a case of Self Defesting Prophecies because her powers are about seeing what happens in Alternate Timelines and understanding "synaptic causality". Even those predictions are accounted for by Paradox Space.
- Goblins: Goblins use Prophetic Names, which as you can imagine is hard on poor Dies-Horribly. In an attempt to show him it's not set in stone, Saves-A-Fox tells him of the time she found a sick fox and, with the whole village watching her get ready to make her name come true, she gave it a Mercy Kill. Dies just looks glumly at her and asks for a few details before confirming that it had a particularly painful and fatal affliction, so she'd saved the fox from a long, drawn-out death.
- Kill Six Billion Demons: Jadis is a Demiurge who has seen the True Shape of Creation, and now knows all things. Unfortunately, this attempt nearly killed her; she is now sealed in a block of glass, whispering perfect prophecies that cannot be false. However, her priests are fully capable of misinterpreting her words, as demonstrated with the Prophecy of the Successor. Everyone believes that the prophecy refers to Zaid, Allison's boyfriend, so the Thorn Knights kidnapped him to keep him safe and let him rise to his rightful power. They believe that they "broke the prophecy" by grabbing him too early, resulting in Allison receiving the power instead, and spend the entire comic fighting to kill her and give the power to Zaid. The idea that they could have simply identified the wrong Heir never occurs to them.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: In 14th episode "The Fortuneteller," Aunt Wu proclaims that the village will not be destroyed by the volcano this year. Sokka and Aang later ascend the volcano and discover that, of course, its about to erupt. After saving the village Sokka happily tells the villagers that Aunt Wu was wrong, but someone points out that she was still right: she never claimed the volcano wouldn't erupt, only that it wouldn't destroy the village.
Sokka: I hate you.
Sokka: But the fortuneteller was wrong! You didn't have a safe journey, you were almost killed!Old Man: But I wasn't! Alright, have a good one...
- Also this line, from the old man above, after saving his life:
- Justice League: The Legion of Super-Heroes transport three Leaguers into the future, knowing that "incomplete records" indicate that one of the three won't make it back alive. The subversion comes in when all three heroes ''do" survive the mission, but one of them chooses to stay in the future of her own volition.
- Rikochet Buena Girl And The Flea from ¡Mucha Lucha!: The Return Of El Malefico. They are The Chosen One because they can stop El Malefico from taking over the world.
- Double Subverted in Kim Possible, when foreign exchange student/heir to his country's throne, Prince Wally, is almost killed in an assassination attempt to fulfill an ancient prophecy that the country's monarchy will end with Prince Wally. The characters pat themselves on the back for a good job averting the prophecy, when Wally, impressed with Democracy, claims he will Abdicate the Throne. Thus fulfilling the prophecy.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Twilight Sparkle reads about The Mare in the Moon, and how the legends state that "on the longest day of the thousandth year, the stars will aid in her escape and she will bring about nighttime eternal." Since that's only two days away, she warns the princess, who tells her to get her nose out of the books and make some friends. However, as the next day dawns, or rather, fails to, guess who shows up gloating about a never-ending night? It later turns out that Celestia did know the prophecy was real, and having Twilight make some friends was part of her plan for Twilight to save Equestria.
- Thundarr the Barbarian play this trope in the last episode, "Prophecy Of Peril", which reveal three women would defeat a evil wizard—one of them from the old pre-Cataclysm world who will "be found by her foe." —and the wizard falls for the bait much like any other 1980s cartoon villain.
- Winx Club:
- Subversion: When Tecna is investigating about Avalon's lack of wings, she comes across a prophecy that says the Angel of Darkness will bring about doom and destruction. Several other clues seem to line up with him being the Angel of Darkness, so the Winx except Bloom try to eliminate him. The problem was that the prophecy was written by a comedian, but Tecna thought that because he was famous his words were the truth. Most of the clues were just coincidences. The fact that Avalon was actually evil anyway was mostly unrelated.
- In The Secret of the Lost Kingdom, a prophecy states that a crown-less king will use Oritel's sword to free the people of Domino, something that the Ancestral Witches don't want to happen. Despite their efforts, Sky, who was at the time a crown-less king, ended up freeing the people of Domino along with Bloom. Though this also worked out for the Ancestral Witches since they were freed from their imprisonment as well.
- Subversion: When giving the Winx the Black Gift, the ethereal fairies specifically say "More than one human being could be beyond life's threshold, but you may rescue one person. This is the prophecy, Winx." The next scene seems to suggest that there would be a dilemma between using it on Duman or someone else (many were expecting Bloom, from the trailer that followed the episode). As it turns out, Duman has long been destroyed before the Black Gift comes into play, leaving only Nabu in danger. And then when Aisha decides to summon the Black Gift to use on Nabu, Ogron takes it away and uses it on a flower, meaning that it is neither used by the Winx, nor on a person.
- In Polish animated series Film pod strasznym tytułem (The Film with Scary Title), the cruel leader of Marbats is told by his generals a fake prophecy about a child that is going to defeat him. The prophecy is fulfilled at the end.
- In The Bear's Island, the prophecy saying that when the main characters find the title island, the members of the 4 elements will lose their power, is simply fulfilled without direct justification: when the protagonists succeed, the Mooks of the members rebel.