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Prophecy Armor

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He who is born to hang will never drown.
— Folklore

Sometimes Death is a huge stickler for the rules, and thus won't take you until it's your specific time to die, on the hour, on the minute, in the exact manner you're prophesied to end. So until you meet that "not of woman borne", you might as well be functionally immortal because nothing in your way is destined to kill you... yet.

In some sense, this trope can serve as an in-universe version of Plot Armor. May involve a visit from Death stating that It Is Not Your Time.

Compare Purpose-Driven Immortality, when someone is given an extended lifespan in order to accomplish a particular task. Also compare Foregone Conclusion and Saved by Canon. Super-Trope to No Man of Woman Born, which is when the conditions specified by the prophecy seem impossible to meet, but end up being met via Exact Words. Contrast Geas, where someone will die if they break a certain taboo or restriction.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Invoked in Fullmetal Alchemist. The homunculi seeking to use Edward and Al as human sacrifices have to keep the boys alive until "The Promised Day", so they frequently end up pulling Villainous Rescues to ensure their prey stays alive. When the two brothers learn this, they start exploiting it, engaging the homunculi in battle fearlessly and at one point putting themselves in danger to bait their watchers out into the open.
  • If a person's name is written on Death Note and a specific date for the death and the method of death are noted, said person will not die before that date. There's a limit to how far in the future it can be, so it's a pretty hefty cost to pay. In the live-action movies, L sacrifices himself by writing his own name in the Death Note to make himself temporarily unkillable, which lets him bait Light into writing his name, play dead, and then steal the damning evidence.

    Comic Books 
  • Averted in The Sculptor. David Smith is given artistic superpowers by Death in exchange for living for only 200 more days. However, he is fully capable of being killed before his deadline, so as Death warns him: "No crimefighting!"

    Fan Works 
  • Discussed in the Dangerverse. After Draco Black sees a vision of his own grave with the date of his death on it, he wonders if that means that he can jump off the Astronomy Tower and survive because it isn't yet the day he is going to die.
  • In the Homestuck fanfic The Game, and Those Who Play, the Thief of Doom can 'steal' a person's doom, in the form of taking a small black coin from them. Until they give them the coin back the person can't be killed; when it's returned, the person immediately dies from whatever it was that was destined to kill them.
  • HV-S02: Quests for the Golden Fleece: When Meleager was born, the Sisters of Fate decreed that he would die when a certain piece of wood in the fireplace finished burning, so his mother Althaea quickly put it out and hid it. When Meleager becomes a warrior, he finds that all lethal attacks miss him since he isn't supposed to die this way. He understands his limits and knows this won't necessarily allow him to win a fight, only survive.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Big Fish, the hero Edward claims that he learned how he would die via a vision in a witch's eye. One of his tall tales has him being attacked by carnivorous trees. But just before they kill him, Edward remembers out loud that this isn't how he dies, causing all the trees to back off.
  • Played with in a very cruel fashion on the Final Destination series: Death wants you dead, and Its cruel game which includes giving some people visions about disasters so they can get away and It can keep on hunting them down is played by Its rules. This includes deciding to take your own life to try to appease Death: Death just won't let you die until It feels like taking you. The two Token Minority members of the cast in two different films — Eugene Dix in Final Destination 2 and George Lanter in The Final Destination — try to commit suicide once it's made clear how screwed they are and in both occasions the suicide attempts fail utterly, freaking out the rest of the cast.
  • Minor example in Black Adam (2022): Karim is informed by Dr. Fate that he won't die from his current wounds because Fate has looked into the future and seen that he'll die by electricity. Later, confronting the walking dead, he smiles happily, repeating the prophecy, and lays into the zombies.

  • In the Animorphs book Megamorphs #3, the kids are given the power to follow the Villain of the Week through time while retaining their memories despite any changes to history. The power comes from the two opposing forces The Ellimist and Crayak, so the price for the two of them cooperating is Crayak demanding one of the kids must die. Ellimist twists this into "only one of them may die", causing the other Animorphs to become immortal after Jake is killed, healing from bullet wounds, surviving ship explosions, etc. Eventually they rewrite the time stream where the book's events never happened, nullifying the villain's threat and causing Jake to have never died.
  • In the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book series, thanks to an encounter with a murderous time-traveling enemy, Arthur Dent is left with the impression that he can't die until he's visited a planet called Stavromulos Beta, where he will encounter the said enemy in his future but the other guy's past. It actually turns out to be a nightclub called Stavro Mueller's Beta, but it's about right.
  • In the world of the Sulien novels, it's possible to curse a person to die if they ever break a particular condition; a person thus cursed will never die any other way than by the curse. It's mentioned that people have occasionally tried to come up with creative conditions that will make themselves or a loved one effectively immortal, and it always backfires horribly.
  • The Big Bad of The Balanced Sword, who is The Chessmaster and practically immortal, has a recurring prophetic dream in which he is hunted down by the one person capable of defeating him, though he can never remember anything about the person when he wakes except their eyes. He considers that he has nothing to fear from anyone until he meets somebody with those eyes. When it's pointed out that Kyri has gray eyes, he says that he doesn't believe it's her because she has the eyes of someone seeking vengeance for a recent wrong, not the controlled determination of the eyes in the dream. During the climactic battle at the end of Phoenix Ascendant, he looks into Kyri's eyes as they fight and her eyes still aren't the eyes from the dream, but they're a lot closer than he was expecting. He escapes with his life, but the implication is that one day they'll meet again.
  • Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon is about a fairytale princess who gets cursed Sleeping Beauty-style, but unlike Sleeping Beauty her parents tell her about the curse when they figure she's old enough to understand. Upon realizing that she's effectively invulnerable until the birthday in question, Harriet decides to take advantage of it by going out and having adventures.
  • Wizards and witches know when they're going to die on the Discworld, though wizards are forever trying to cheat death through various means, none of them successful in the end. Witches tend to use the time to make sure their cottage isn't messy and tidy up the place for their replacement.
  • Older Than Print in The Saga of Arrow-Odd: As a teenager growing up in Berurjod in Norway, Odd receives the prophecy that he will die in Berurjod, killed by the horse Faxi. Odd kills Faxi and leaves Berurjod to become a viking, intending never to return. He survives countless battles unscathed and lives to the age of three hundred until he gets homesick and resolves to visit Berurjod, where he is bitten by a viper nesting in the skull of Faxi, and dies.
  • The Long Ships: The eleven sons of Sone who join Orm's voyage to Russia receive a prophecy from their father that only seven of them will return to him. When four of them have died, the remaining brothers start to behave with utmost recklessness in combat, because, having absolute trust in their father's clairvoyance, they believe they cannot be killed as long as they do not return home. Even though they are somewhat dismayed by the realization that they still can be wounded, when Orm returns to Scania they decide to stay with Orm and do some more adventuring instead of going home, because in that case their lives would be no longer protected by the prophecy.
  • The Heroes: Whirrun of Bligh thinks that Armor Is Useless, because witch Shoglig told him "the time, and the place, and the manner" of his death, "and it is not now". She "was talking shit", as he later realised. With a spear in his back.
  • Machineof Death: Many of the stories invoke this. In one, a pregnant couple realizes that their child will be carried to term, as it's destined to die of congestive heart failure. In another one, secret agents are recruited for a dangerous mission due in part to their predicted death by cancer.
  • Discussed in The Wheel of Time after the Pregnant Badass Elayne receives a prophecy that her children will be born healthy. After getting overconfident and suffering a traumatic near-miss, she starts listening to her more level-headed advisors' warning that the prophecy doesn't say anything about what condition she will be in at the time.
  • Stile, the protagonist of the first three Apprentice Adept books, takes advantage of an Oracular prophecy that his wife would conceive by him by delaying the consummation of his marriage until he succeeds in a dangerous task.
  • The Licanius Trilogy: As a result of a combination of prophecy and time travel, Davian knows exactly how and when he is going to die. When he is taken prisoner by the Venerate, he points out that he knows they're not going to kill him because he knows how he is going to die and it doesn't involve them killing him.
  • Whateley Universe: In "Silent Nacht (Chapter 5)", a plot-important case of this is mentioned, and summarized as:
    "The old 'I can't be shot; I was born to be hanged' bit," Swash mused.
  • In the Horus Heresy novels, the Primarch Sanguinius has prophetic visions of the future and comes to realise that he is destined to die in battle against his treacherous brother Horus. After he decides that he will embrace this fate rather than try to defy it, he begins to throw himself into extremely dangerous situations certain that he'll survive until his destined death and, in his own words, "I do not die this day".

    Live-Action TV 
  • A variant in The Flash (2014). Barry travels through time to the future and sees his girlfriend Iris being murdered by the Big Bad Savitar in five months. Iris for her part sees this as the universe giving her Plot Armour until then, doing increasingly reckless acts in the interim.
  • This is downplayed in The Librarians. Prophecies always come true unless someone outside the prediction intervenes or they're contradicted by a prophecy of greater consequence. Otherwise they become self-fulfilling. Outside of those two circumstances whatever is foreseen in a prophecy will survive until that prophecy comes true. This is exploited in the episode this information is introduced by using a coin foreseen to be donated to a museum being used as a surefire way to detect a safe path through a booby-trapped hallway.
  • Power Rangers Dino Fury: Morphin Master Green says she summoned Aiyon because he is destined to fight the resurrected Lord Zedd. Aiyon interprets this to mean he cannot lose against Zedd and becomes incredibly arrogant and reckless in battle against him, which costs him and his teammates dearly. Green eventually clarifies that he was supposed to take Zedd on as a team. Aiyon does eventually contribute to Zedd's defeat.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Ilya Muromets, the most famous hero of Russian Mythology and Tales, had his future foretold to him and learned that he "will not fall in battle". With that, he went on to face the deadliest enemies in combat and always prevailed.
  • While the gods of Norse Mythology can - and will - die, it can only happen at Ragnarok under the circumstances foretold (e.g. Thor will die after killing the Midgard Serpent, from breathing in too much of its venom).

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Chosen playbook in Monster of the Week has a special ability that prevents them from dying until their Destiny is fulfilled—any event that would normally kill them is automatically negated with their Luck points.
  • Warhammer Fantasy:
    • An old campaign named "The Tragedy of McDeath" (guess what it's based on), where the titular Laird McDeath is prophecied not to die to any man of woman born (and graciously explains this to any challengers). This being Warhammer, however, his castle is under attack not only by human armies (including the bastard daughter of a noble who's looking for the papers to prove her birthright) but dwarves and treemen as well.
    • The elvish Phoenix Guard, protectors of the Shrine of Asuryan, are granted perfect foreknowledge of their own demise, which serves to make them utterly fearless.
  • GURPS 3rd Edition supplement Compendium I. The Destiny advantage causes the character to have a specific future fate. In most cases the character cannot die before achieving their destiny, because premature death would prevent their destiny from occurring.

  • Macbeth: At his second meeting with the three witches, Macbeth receives the prophecy that "none of woman born shall harm Macbeth". In the final battle, even though the odds seem to stand greatly against him, Macbeth takes courage from the fact that he still cannot be defeated by anyone "born of woman", and warns his opponents to attack him because (he thinks) he is unkillable. This assumption proves to be wrong with Macduff, who was delivered by Caesarean section.
    Let fall thy blade on vulnerable crests:
    I bear a charmed life, which must not yield
    To one of woman born.

    Video Games 
  • Cultist Simulator: Winter Long aren't Nigh-Invulnerable in the same way other Long are. In fact, they are bound to die. But they know exactly when it will happen, and until then they're even more unstoppable than usual for Long.
  • Dawn of War: Dark Crusade has Farseer Taldeer responding to Captain Thule's taunts by telling him she already knows when she's going to die, so his threats fall a little flat (however, this is in the non-canon mission where the Eldar beat the Blood Ravens). In canon, she's captured by the Blood Ravens, "interrogated" by chapter master/chief librarian Kyras, and killed at some point within their custody, with Kyras keeping her spirit stone.
  • God of War (PS4) deconstructs this with its depictions of Magni and Modi. The two of them have even greater Prophecy Armor than the other Norse gods, as they're foretold to be among the few who survive Ragnarok. As a result, the two have grown up to be Fearless Fools who provoke as many fights as they want and behave like spoiled bullies; it doesn't matter who they piss off. They'll survive anything the world can throw at them. They realize too late they're fighting Kratos, who has rewritten the outcome of his fate and crawled back from Hades multiple times... painfully. So when Kratos murders Magni, Modi is just as much horrified as he is baffled. Now realizing he has no divine protection, Modi turns and runs. Eventually he is blamed for Magni's death and is killed shortly afterwards by Kratos' son Atreus.
  • Discussed in Spider-Man: Edge of Time. Spider-Man 2099 explains to Amazing Spider-Man that he saw a vision of him dying against Anti-Venom on the 66th floor of the Alchemax building. Amazing Spider-Man takes that to mean all he has to do is stop Anti-Venom before they get there since he shouldn't be able to die before then. Spider-Man 2099 warns him time travel still isn't an exact science, so he could still expire before then.

  • Invoked in Rose Tide Rising when Prince Hyacinth promises to leave the ship last because he was told of his fate to live a long life.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-711 ("Paradoxical Insurance Policy"). SCP-711 is a device capable of receiving transmissions from the future. It has received one such transmission from a future Foundation agent, but the governing O5 Council has ordered that the transmission never be sent. Since the Foundation knows the message will be sent at some point in the future, as long as it hasn't been sent then the Foundation can't be completely destroyed because that would leave no one to send the message.
  • The Fear Mythos: Spacefuture Blogger in Omega's Bizarre Adventure was told by the Vision that he will be killed by giant spiders. Omega figured out that this meant he could use Spacefuture Blogger as a highly effective meatshield.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of My Life as a Teenage Robot, Tuck overhears some frightening factoids causing him to spend all of his time locked in of his room. Jenny shows him his future with her mother's Future-Scope, showing that Tuck will live to see old age. Thus armed with this knowledge, Tuck becomes a hardcore daredevil. However, Jenny has to race to keep him safe, because not only are the visions of the Future-Scope not 100% reliable, the vision didn't say if Tuck made it to old age in one piece.
  • The Venture Bros.: Discussed and exploited in the episode "Past Tense", where after Old Soldier Action Man pissed off Dr. Orpheus by shooting at him, the necromancer read Action Man's future to say that he'll suffer from a stroke two years and seventeen days from now. He then goes off with the rest of the cast to save Rusty Venture who was kidnapped and has to fight his way through an army of robots. True-to-form, Action Man does suffer from that stroke two years later in the episode "Arrears in Science", but he is just rendered comatose.
    Col. Gentleman: We're all going to die!
    Action Man: Not me! I still got two more years!