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"And be these juggling fiends no more believed,
That palter with us in a double sense;
That keep the word of promise to our ear,
And break it to our hope."
Macbeth, finally cottoning on, Act V scene viii
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Prophecies are funny things. They always come true (except when they don't), but they almost never mean what you thought they did.

It's even worse when you think you have them figured out.

Half the time they work much like a Literal Genie. A prophecy may seem to predict the death of a character, or of a set of characters, or The End of the World as We Know It, but then it turns out that there's some other reason for such-and-such to occur. (Like if a character "isn't coming back" from some sojourn to, say, The Future, they may survive, but then stay in the future.)

The other half are impossibly cryptic, often using incredibly flowery metaphors. "The sun will rise on Christmas Day" has an obvious literal interpretation, but the sun in question might actually be the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli, an H-bomb, or the British tabloid. It might, through standard symbolism, mean gold, or something golden, love in general or a particular pair of lovers. It could refer to Japan, Uruguay or the Jesuits, all of whom use a sun in their flag. It could be a person whose name means 'sun', such as Elanor, Eloise, Sol, Sorin... It could be any of a thousand things. And if it's spoken rather than written that opens up situations where the prophecy refers to a "son" rather than "the sun."

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"Rise" has multiple meanings too, and there are several possible dates for Christmas. If the prophecy is said to be a translation, there's additional room for obscurity. Perhaps rise should be raise — the same word in some languages. Perhaps the real meaning involves bi- or trilingual puns, or Hittite idioms. The technical term for the little "twist" in such a prophecy (or any riddle, contract, etc) is "quibble" (although it's most commonly used for when the twist turns on legalistic nitpicking).

Ambiguous Syntax can be another technique: in "The duke yet lives who the king shall betray", will the king betray the duke, or the duke the king? And since most prophecies are spoken, there is always the possibility that it was simply misheard. Remember, when it comes to prophecy, homonyms are definitely not your friends. If the prophecy is old enough to have been recorded in a dead language, the original wording may also be forgotten, replaced by a less-clear translation — or in the worst-case scenario, multiple translations, at least two of which directly contradict each other.

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In any case, the prophecies generally rely on a heaping dose of Double Meanings to give them their ambiguous nature.

Sometimes, of course, the most literal meaning is correct. Such an instance can still be a meta-Twist if the witnesses to the prophecy's proclamation suspect a twist.

Deciding what the prophecy actually meant, and whether it's literal or deeply cryptic, is then impossible until after it has happened, which is part of the mechanism of many Self Fulfilling Prophecies. It's because no one understood the real meaning that the attempts to avert it made it come true.

This is Older Than Feudalism; the "cryptic" prophecy was a staple of ancient Greek Mythology.

See also No Man of Woman Born, False Reassurance. For when the "real meaning" relies on an extremely dubious interpretation (beyond what a reasonable person would consider valid) of the original prophecy, see Metaphorically True. For when the vision looks like someone dying, but turns out to be a clone, robot, shapeshifter, identical twin, or other impostor, see Actually a Doombot, Doppelgänger, Twin Switch, Backup Twin.

Since the mere fact that there is a twist to a prophecy is often a spoiler, feel free to turn back at this point.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Discussed in the extended version Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods. Goku at one point theorises that "Super Saiyan God" isn't a level, but rather another surviving Saiyan named "God".
  • Fuu, Umi and Hikaru of Magic Knight Rayearth must fulfill an ancient prophecy — but what they think they have to do and what they actually must do are two very, very different things.
  • The manga of Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch had Lucia raised as a civilian, in the human world no less, because it was foreseen that she would see great hardship as the sea kingdoms were destroyed. Of course, it happened anyway, and she turned out all right. The anime didn't even include the prophecy and gave her a normal princess life.
  • The entire main plot of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Strikers is based around this, with the military unit the characters serve in being formed to prevent a seemingly apocalyptic prophecy. As it turns out, they interpreted the prophecy correct in some areas (the "Tower of Law being burned to the ground" referring to the TSAB Ground Forces HQ being attacked and wrecked), but got another part wrong: the "ship of Law that protects the stars" doesn't refer to the TSAB's fleet and space base, but rather to the Saint's Cradle, a massive warship from the ancient Kingdom of Belka. It's co-opted by the Big Bad near the end, and the last few episodes are the protagonists going all out to stop it...which they succeed in disabling, allowing the Cradle to be vaporized in orbit by the combined TSAB fleet sent to stop it.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders features Boingo, user of the Stand named after the Egyptian god Thoth, which is a manga that predicts the future. Of course, to keep the characters and audience on their toes, every prediction is subject to this or Prophetic Fallacy. For example:
    • Thoth predicts Jotaro will have his face split in half via an explosion caused by a bomb disguised as an orange. Boingo's brother Oingo goes to set the trap. (Oingo has to use his own Stand to disguise himself as Jotaro to avoid being caught, and gets stuck with the bomb. Note that since Thoth is a manga, the prediction is shown through an illustration of Jotaro getting blown up.) However, Jotaro would indeed end up meeting his end via getting his face split in half, albeit 22 years later and under different circumstances.
    • Later, Thoth shows Hol Horse a prophecy that says "At 12:00, the bullets go through the head!", with a picture of Jotaro getting shot. (Hol Horse follows the prophecy's prediction but misses the heroes, then discovers his wristwatch was fast and he fired too early. Panicking, he grabs Thoth and holds it up in front of him... at which point the bullets ricochet and pierce the picture of Jotaro to hit Hol Horse.)
  • RG Veda has a particularly tragic example: the prophecy that everyone thinks predicts the overthrow of Big Bad Taishakuten by the Six Stars actually predicts Ashura awakening to his true identity as the god of destruction, killing all of his companions, and annihilating the world. Taishakuten's acts of tyranny had actually been attempts to prevent this from coming to pass. It almost came true, too, except that Ashura couldn't bring himself to kill Yasha-oh, and turned his blade on himself instead.
  • In Chrono Crusade, Mary Magdalene is a seer that has had constant dreams of someone named Chrono would be the one to "take her life". When she meets the person from her dreams and tells him of the prophecy, both assume that it means he'll kill her—but it turns out the prophecy's wording is deceptive. In reality, Chrono literally takes away her lifespan to supply his powers through a demonic contract. It appears he kills her completely (and in the manga he believes that was the case), but her spirit lives on inside the watch that seals his powers, guiding him and Rosette.
  • In Rave Master, Musica sees a vision of Haru stabbing a helpless Ellie with his sword Ten Commandments. The event later plays itself out when Haru is seemingly forced to kill a self-destructing Ellie, but is revealed in the aftermath to have used an alternate form of the sword to merely phase the sword through her body and seal her unstable powers.
  • In One Piece, Madame Shyarly, the resident fortuneteller of Fishman Island, makes a prediction that Luffy will destroy Fishman Island, very soon. The arc ended with Straw Hats saving the island, but it's highly likely this prophecy will come true. Said soothsayer has NEVER been wrong, accurately predicting Great Era of Pirates, and Whitebeard's death.
  • In the first chapter of Doraemon, the titular character proves he's from the future by predicting that main character Nobita will hang himself in 30 minutes and then be burned alive ten minutes later. Nobita scoffs, but then thirty minutes later, he slips while getting a shuttlecock off the roof and his shirt collar gets caught on a tree branch, making another character joke that he hung himself. Ten minutes later, he falls into a full bathtub and dries himself out in front of a space heater. The phrase "to burn alive" in Japanese is similar to "to warm in front of a fire."
  • One story in The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service involves an actuary with the ability to kill people by luring them into scenarios where he's calculated the odds are greatest they'll die in a freak accident. As he watches our heroes nearly get washed away by a flash flood, he boasts to himself he'd calculated there were good odds he'd be killed in a plane accident today, and had thus put off his planned escape flight. The villain meets his end a few pages later, when he's hit in the eye with a loose screw that fell off a passing airplane.
  • In Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, the prophecy states that the Earth will be saved by "one garbed in raiment of blue and descending upon a field of gold..." but it didn't say that they would be red clothes drenched in Ohmu blood so much that it dyed them blue, or that the "golden field" would be made of Ohmu tendrils. Or, for that matter, that The Chosen One would be a girl. Heck, the tapestry depicts The Chosen One having a bird of prey on his shoulder. Nope, it's Nausicaa's Animal Companion, a cute foxsquirrel.
  • All the time in Mawaru-Penguindrum. Ringo's diary has future events written down, which she claims to be destiny. For example, her diary proclaimed that her and the man she loves would have lunch at 12:30, and he would find it delicious. Therefore, she makes him lunch... but that gets eaten by birds, and so they had to have the food that had been prepared by a third party. Tabuki did indeed find it delicious. How accurate these prophecies are is further muddled in that Ringo directly tries to make the diary's events happen.
  • The Mysterious Cities of Gold has a prophecy that stated that the white man would try to take the cities of gold in the future. As it turns out, that white man that would threaten the cities of gold? It's not the Spaniards... but the Olmecs.
  • Brynhildr in the Darkness: Kana's forecasts show what will happen, but not why. For example, in episode 5 she sees Kotori smiling while standing over Kuroha's body and thinks Kotori killed Kuroha. In episode 6 we learn that it's actually Kotori being a Stepford Smiler to hide her sadness.
  • In Naruto Shippuden The Movie, Shion sees a vision of Naruto dying. It turns out that what she saw was one of his Shadow Clones . In her defense, she didn't know about those when she had the vision.
  • The English dub of Pokémon 2000 creates one of these: an ancient prophecy seems to predict the end of the world, but through a clever bit of wordplay, actually reveals the Chosen One who can save everything: the main character, Ash. However, in the Japanese version, there is no such wording loophole, so Ash (whose name is Satoshi in Japanese) just says "Screw Destiny."
    The Collector: Disturb not the harmony of Fire, Ice, or Lightning, lest these three Titans wreck destruction upon the world in which they clash. Though the water's Great Guardian shall arise to quell the fighting, alone, its song will fail. Thus the Earth shall turn to Ash.
    • There is at least one translation that has Misty say to Ash "That's it! Your name! It means "ashes" in English!" However, since the Prophecy Twist relies on both the terms "turn to" and "Ash" having a Double Meaning, this renders the pun still Lost in Translation in dubs that use a wording closer to "the world shall become ash" or similar.
    • Happens again in the 13th film, Kodai has a vision early in the film of him getting the Time Ripple he's been searching for. Turns out he actually saw himself absorbing an illusion Time Ripple created by Zoroark.
  • Pacifica, the main character of Scrapped Princess, spends the whole series being hunted down due to being prophecised as an Apocalypse Maiden who will bring about The End of the World as We Know It. By the end of the series, she does exactly that, in a way, by destroying the Medieval Stasis being enforced on the world by the powerful Peacemakers, who invented said prophecy to get people to hunt down and kill Pacifica because of the threat she posed to them.

    Comic Books 

In General:

  • A gypsy woman predicts that Hieronymus Jobs (from a story illustrated by Wilhelm Busch) "will speak, and many will hear him; he'll scare the thieves and console the ill". Which is why his parents pay for his studies to become a priest. At the end of the story, he'll become instead a nightwatch man.

By Work:

  • In the All-Star Squadron sequel series The Young All-Stars, Fury has a dream that a giant Mekanique attacks the All-Star Squadron within a futuristic city. As it actually turns out, Mekanique doesn't turn big — she shrinks the All-Star Squadron to doll-size (except for Fury and the Young All-Stars) and attacks them within a model of a futuristic city.
  • Angel (IDW): Angel's "death" in After the Fall technically fulfills the Shanshu Prophecy, even though the Reset Button is pressed.
  • Invoked in Aquila: there is no way to stop a new god from rising in Rome, but Ficus realises said god need not necessarily be Nero; for example, the carpenter god worshipped by that new religious group with a thing for fish seems like a nice enough chap.
  • Arawn: Siahm has a vision of future for her four sons: the first would become a god, the second would have his heart eaten by worms, the third would die in his sleep and the fourth would betray his blood, and that none of them would survive. She tries her best to make the first part come true at least, and avert all the rest. She grooms her eldest son Math, whom she believes will become a god and rebukes her youngest Arawn believing that he would betray his blood. It turns out that Math is the one to betray his kin by kidnapping and killing Arawn's wife, and its her third son Engus who becomes a god instead of Math. By the fifth volume, her second son Kern is murdered by a power-crazed Engus, who also kills Arawn in a duel and Math is killed by Siahm herself when she realizes too late the mistake she made. Then, Engus is killed by a resurrected Arawn who later becomes a god himself after taking his brother' place. In a sense, the prophecy was fulfilled with Arawn becoming a god and he along with all his siblings dying - the prophecy didn't state that he would stay dead.
  • In Big Trouble in Little China we're told "seeking the House of the Seven-Faced Widow is a fool's errand." It doesn't mean that you're a fool for seeking her, it means that literally only someone who is foolish can find the way.
  • In The Defenders, the Hulk-Strange-Surfer-Namor team broke up because of a prophecy saying that if they ever worked together again, it would lead to a huge cataclysm. Much later, Doctor Strange said he'd found this to be a hoax... but the next time all four of them did work together was The Infinity Gauntlet battle, which was unquestionably a huge cataclysm. Also the prophecy ended up coming true when the four founders became "The Order" and tried to conquer Earth.
  • In Enemy of the Empire, Karda is informed that his hated superior, General Nim, will meet an untimely end which will result in his own promotion. This foretelling does indeed come true, but not as he would have liked; Karda kills Nim when he tries to take the casket, resulting in his promotion to Enemy of the Empire.
  • Judge Dredd: A dying Psi-Judge prophesizes that a child with an eagle mark on his forehead would have to become the Chief Judge of Mega-City One to save it from destruction. Judge Dredd traverses space to find him, but abandons (and later kills) him when he realizes that the Judge Child is truly evil. When Dredd travels to a Bad Future later on it turns out that the Judge Child would save the city from himself by becoming Chief Judge, as he would otherwise mutate into a hideous monster that would destroy the city.
  • Dream Girl of the Legion of Super-Heroes sometimes has problems with this; her visions of the future always come true, but she isn't always seeing what she thinks she is. (Invoked in her first appearance, in which "the Legion will die!" turned out to mean "some robot doubles will be destroyed.") Her powers work "literally", in a visual sense. Previsualization, not true precognition. Usually.
  • A prophecy foretold that The Mighty Thor would die (no, this is not about Fear Itself), and Odin attempted to engineer a prophecy twist to circumvent that. His solution was to banish Thor from his position and have a human named Red Norvell fill the role of Thor.
  • In Prince of Persia: The Graphic Novel, a prophecy says that a man born on a certain day will kill everyone in the city, so every boy born in the city on that day is rounded up and killed, except for one, who goes on to lead the families of those that died in a revolt. At first this seems like a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy... until a bunch of Mongols show up at the city gates. Turns out the guy from the prophecy wasn't from the city at all; he was Genghis Khan.
  • In the Very Special Episode one-shot Shazam: The Power of Hope a disillusioned Captain Marvel is sent from the Wizard Shazam to help several terminally ill, or otherwise afflicted kids in the Fawcett City hospital, predicting he'd be able to bring hope to the kid that needs it the most. After helping out the most desperate of the bunch Captain Marvel realizes that the most needful kid, in a personal Twist Ending, was Billy Batson himself, his human identity, needing to find back his spark to act as a force for good.
  • In an EC Comics story "Dead Right!" (Shock SuspenStories #6), a woman marries a rude, fat slob, because a Fortune Teller told her, that he will inherit a large amount of money, and die violently soon after. Eventually, she wins twenty-five thousand dollars, and decides to leave her husband. When he hears this, he kills her in a fit of rage. Thus, he inherits her money, and dies in the electric chair the day after.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Spider-Island includes a prophecy that only Peter Parker can kill the Big Bad. This is a problem, as Peter had not only recently reaffirmed his no-kill policy, but also pledged that nobody involved in his adventures will die, period. His Anti Heroic clone Kaine does the deed.
    • Spider-Geddon: In Spider Girls #3, Anya, Mayday and Annie learn that there was actually a fourth person that's connected to the Web of Life and Destiny, called the Pattern Maker. Annie ends up being this, an extension to her oddly-defined Spider-Powers.
  • Star Wars Legends: In Knights of the Old Republic, the masters of the Covenant have visions of their own deaths, and of a Sith Lord dressed in a red environmental suit, exactly like the one their apprentices were wearing at the time. They jump to the conclusion that they will fall to the dark side and murder them (with one survivor). The Sith Lord turns out to most likely be Malak, who wore a suit later on, but their deaths were also mostly unrelated. Marn "Gryph" Hierogryph, a snivviaun conman blind to the Force (and who also wore the suit at one point), caused the deaths of at least two: He stole Feln's lightsaber, causing him to be defenseless against the mob who killed him, and detonated the Jedi Tower under Raana Tey, causing her to fall to her death. His involvement with Xamar's death is more vague, but he was present when Q'anilia died. Gryph even lampshades this, bu pointing out that the Covenant jumped to the quickest solution in order to force the prophecy to fit.
  • Examples from Superman comics:
    • The Black Ring: Vandal Savage was told that Luthor's use of the black energy spheres would bring him great happiness. At the end of their conflict, he's yet to be made happy. Then Luthor achieves near-godhood and starts broadcasting messages (at the Zone Child's insistence) of peace and tranquility across the multiverse, making Vandal, and everybody else, greatly happy.
    • In Action Comics #338, villain Raspor, who boasts of infallible precognition, foretells Supergirl will marry him, even though she openly hates him. His vision indeed appears to come to pass when Supergirl agrees to marry him... until Supergirl reveals their "wedding" was a sham — part of a complex plan concocted to get rid of him and at once punish his crimes — and Raspor realizes his vision never showed him what happened after the "I Do" bit.
  • In Thessaly: Witch for Hire, the Virgin of the Wall prophesies that "nothing and no-one" can kill a Tharmic Null. The solution turns out to be to remove all the souls making up the composite ghost Fetch, then use magic to keep him from just dissolving. Now that he's literally "nothing and no-one", his fighting the Tharmic Null results in both ceasing to exist.
  • During The Transformers: Dark Cybertron, Scoop tells Starscream of an ancient prophecy he once read, about a "false prophet", one who would among other things "unravel the gaze of Primus". During the event, several of the things the prophecy states supposedly come true. Then, a few years down the line in The Transformers: Robots in Disguise, Optimus Prime has a vision, with the same passage repeated again. Only this time it has a few additions, and suggests the so-called false prophet is none other than Optimus himself. And then, toward the end of the following series, it turns out the prophecy was talking about Shockwave and Unicron. Namely, Shockwave does the unravelling, by revealing he manipulated all of Cybertronian history just to see what would happen, and inadvertently created Unicron, "the adversary", in the bargain.
  • In Trouble, the reason Mary doesn't want to have sex with Richie is because of a prophecy a psychic told her about. The prophecy in question is that if Mary has sex, she will be a mother before she's 20. Conversely, no one will call her best friend May "Mom." The prophecy itself is worded vaguely enough that readers may be led to believe that Mary will be pregnant if she has sex and May won't have kids at all. The prophecy still comes true, but not as the readers might expect: May ends up pregnant by Richie and subsequently gives birth to the future Spider-Man Peter Parker, whom she gives up to Mary for her to raise with Richard.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): When Hippolyta learns of a prophecy stating Wonder Woman will die she decides to save her daughter by holding a contest for the role while siphoning power from Diana to Artemis to ensure Artemis wins. While Polly's machinations do get Temi killed, they also end up causing Diana's death, and the prophecy is really foretelling that everyone who legitimately holds the title for even a little while, including Hippolyta herself and Donna Troy, is going to end up killed by it even if they all get better.
  • X-Men:
    • As revealed in the Uncanny X-Men "Flash Back Month" issue, Bolivar Trask's paranoia about a mutant-created Dystopia was increased by his precognitive son, whose visions of a Bad Future seemed to jibe exactly with Trask's fears. Therefore, he built the Sentinels to protect the world from mutants. The future Larry Trask was seeing was actually the "Days of Future Past" setting, a dystopia run by the Sentinels.
    • The Thieves' Guild has had a prophesy since ancient times that foretold that Gambit (referred to by his moniker "Le Diable Blanc") would come into great power, uniting Heaven and Earth, turning the gaze of all people towards the light of the New Son. Unfortunately, there was a Son/Sun mix-up, and what the prophesy actually meant by "unite Heaven and Earth" was that he would lose control of his newly godlike powers, going supernova and killing every living thing on Earth.
    • In Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men, Blind Seer and Waif Prophet Blindfold is troubled when the majority of the X-Men—Wolverine, Kitty Pryde, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Armor, Colossus, and Beast—are transported to space, and remarks that "Not all of them" will return. She's not referring to death—she's referring to Kitty pulling a massive Heroic Sacrifice and bonding herself with a planet-destroying bullet to save the Earth. She later comes back, meaning that Blindfold's prophecy only meant that the X-Men wouldn't be returning at the same time, or that she can't see with certainty years into the future.

    Comic Strips 
  • This strip: Garfield read this from a fortune cookie fortune: "Today you will be whisked away to a large white building where all you have to do is lie in bed all day as lots of people pay attention to you and bring you food". As Garfield said it sounded "too good to be true", he failed to notice he was about to fall from the table.

    Fanfiction 
  • Naturally common in Harry Potter fanfiction, since the Prophecy and its possible consequences are so central to the original:
    • In The Parselmouth of Gryffindor, Hermione, expert in Loophole Abuse, immediately starts thinking of ways she could twist the Prophecy's wording into a non-lethal meaning for either Voldemort or her friend.
    • In the AU A Different Fate a different ancient prophecy spoken by Morgan Le Fay names a "Child of mid April drawn, born light as the sun himself" as The Chosen One. However it's later suggested that the prophesy was not referring to The Chosen One's moral leanings but his complexion and that Draco Malfoy is The Chosen One.
    • As pointed out in Harry Riddle the Prophecy never said "the Dark Lord" is Voldemort. If "the Dark Lord" is Grindelwald then Voldemort also "defies" him.
    • Prophecies in Black Sky are always unveiled to the one concerned or their ancestor. Dumbledore should have been more open-minded about the "Dark Lord" vanquished by "the one born of those who thrice defied him" with a "power he knows not". Maybe he could have prevent his own demise at the hands of Blaise Zabini, a Soulfire-user born in the Zabini family who were staunch political opponents to Dumbledore.
    • Hinted at in the Harry Potter/The Matrix crossover fic Know Thyself; while it is not explicitly stated, although Trinity has fallen in love with Neo despite him not being the One in this series, she comes to love the true One, Harry Potter, but this love is maternal rather than the sexual and romantic love Trinity initially assumed it would be.
    • The prophecy in Princess of the Blacks states that one of the twins would "know only darkness". Dumbledore assumed this means Jen was born evil, but Word of God confirms fan theories that it actually refers to her blindness.
    • In Enter the Dragon a clan of Centaurs believe they must sacrifice one of their maidens to the "Great Wyrm" or they will all perish. The Great Wyrm in question is an eight year old Harry Potter who's been turned into a dragon and thus befriends the centaur maiden he was expected to eat. When the clan is attacked by a swarm of acromantula, Harry saves them because they're his friend's family.
    • In the epilogue of Harry Potter Kidnapped!, Voldemort is killed by three foreign-born wizards working together, who have all been scarred in previous battles with him ("marked as his equal"), are using spells unique to them by nationality/family/invention ("powers he knows not"), and were born on the same day... of different years. Dumbledore's assumption that the prophecy referred to Harry Potter note , which he'd used to justify the titular kidnapping, was not only baseless but completely wrong, which could have been pointed out to him by anyone else a long time ago if he'd just told them about it.
  • In The End of Ends, the condition of being able to use the Dark Prognosticus is to have an empty heart and have never found true happiness. A cybernetic heart's essentially the same as an empty heart... Though it's unsaid how Beljar managed to fulfill the latter part.
  • Discussed in Reality Is Fluid. Captain Kanril Eleya says she doesn't put much stock in the Bajoran religion's prophecies because even when they do come true, they never do so in any way anyone predicted (she specifically cites Trakor's Third Prophecy from the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Destiny", below). Benjamin Sisko pretty much agrees with her:
    "... they either get fulfilled or they don't, in the course of sapient beings acting on their own."
  • In the Kung Fu Panda fanfic The Vow, the Soothsayer foretells that the marriage between Lord Shen and Lady Lianne will happen "beneath tears of snow". When it's attempted to be held in midwinter when real snow falls in Gongmen City, a snowfall never happens and the ceremony is interrupted with Shen's canon act of mass murder being exposed. When Shen and Lianne are finally married after so much pain thirty years later, he cries for the first time since his childhood and sheds tears that look snowy with their cloudiness and milky white coloring.
    • Also, Shen is defeated by a Warrior of Black and White for continuing his dark path just like in canon. However, the prophecy said that he'd be defeated, not killed.
  • In the backstory of Sonic X: Dark Chaos, the Seedrians prophesied that they would be destroyed from within by the Black Wind. The prophecy never said a Seedrian would be the "Black Wind" though.
  • In Rose and Saffron, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, the Curse Escape Clause of the Beast learning to love and be loved in return remains the same... but the Belle in this universe turns out to be only ten years old, dashing the Beast's hopes of her breaking the curse. Fortunately, the curse escape clause never specified that it had to be romantic love; the Beast and Belle growing to love each other like a father and his daughter turns out to work just as well.
  • In The Matrix fanfic Rescue Run, the Matrix is destroyed and the human race freed when Captain Dena Reese, a representative of humanity's inter-planetary forces who left Earth centuries ago to colonise other worlds, crash-lands on Earth and starts a chain of events that lead to the entire population of Zion being evacuated and given a new planet. However, when Dena asks Morpheus if he still believes in the prophecy of the One, Morpheus affirms that he does, as not only does he consider it unlikely that Dena's original crash was a complete accident given the odds against multiple engine failures, but he also finds it significant that she was first discovered by the Nebuchannezer and was initially spotted by Neo.
  • A somewhat meta example is pulled on the reader in Fist of the Moon, as Chibi-Usa sees Usagi fawning over Mamoru.
    Chibi-Usa: The Fool is with pops! I have to break them up so that mom and pop can get together!
  • Early on in the Dangerverse, Luna receives a vision showing that she will be weeping at a grave with Draco Black's name on it when someone who looks exactly like Lucius Malfoy comes to her. She will then say that she never loved "the one buried here", declare her allegiance to the one who looks like Lucius, and leave with him. It's confirmed by literal Word of God that nobody in that scene was lying, and everything that Luna Saw will happen. What we don't find out until much later is that the corpse in the grave is that of Lucius Malfoy, unrecognizable due to being burnt to ashes, and the person who looks exactly like Lucius is Draco disguised with an Aging Potion.
  • Happens to Manannan mac Lir in Son of the Western Sea, though we only find it out after the twist happened. The seers of the Tuatha de Danaan made a prophecy about a son of the sea, a member of The Wild Hunt, a horse that ran on waves and a journey. Manannan notes that though he did not want to abandon his home in the Blessed Isles he would have followed the prophecy. Then Percy (a son of Poseidon) accidentally gets inducted into the Hunt and uses his powers to allow Blackjack to run over the sea during his trip around the world, meaning the prophecy was about Percy instead. Manannan's own Cool Horse Enbarr finds the whole thing hilarious.
  • Lampshaded by Count Dooku in Back From the Future in regards to the prophecy (which no one has ever seen or heard in full) about The Chosen One who will "bring balance to the Force". The Jedi believe it means Anakin will destroy the Sith and Obi-wan refuses to believe the Sith could destroy the Jedi and corrupt Anakin until Dooku points out an alternate interpretation. Though the Jedi's interpretation ends up true when Darth Vader, who's from the future, kills Palpatine and Luke Skywalker brings together all the various Force using organizations.
    Dooku: There’s a certain symmetry to it all, don’t you think? The Jedi wipe out all but one Sith. The Sith wipe out all but one Jedi. Doesn’t that look like balance to you?
  • Let the Galaxy Burn has an in-universe case (that there is a prophecy is revealed to the reader after the events that twist it plays out, so narratively it fits closer to Dramatic Irony): Rhaegar cites a prophecy as reason to believe the North will not yet rebel against him. Despite Rhaegar's advisers being understandably doubtful, the prophecy is entirely correct... but the twist is that nothing in the prophecy said anything about Rhaegar being aware of the events — situations fitting the criteria had already happened, Rhaegar just wasn't aware of them because his intelligence on events in the North is near non-existent.
    • Euron Greyjoy tells Tywin Lannister that he will be killed by a member of his own family, seemingly a reference to how his son Tyrion kills him in canon. He's actually killed by Tysha, his daughter-in-law.

    Film — Animated 
  • The Last Unicorn. Haggard's previous magician, Mabruk, tells Haggard "You have let your doom in by the front door, but it will not depart that way!" We assume that he's referring to Amalthea (and maybe that's all that he realizes). But Haggard's doom is actually caused by Lir, who was left on Haggard's doorstep as a baby. If Lir hadn't sacrificed his life, the unicorn would have just gone into the sea and would not have fought back against the Red Bull.
  • In Frozen, protagonist Anna is accidentally cursed so that she's slowly turning into pure ice, but is told that only an "act of true love" can save her. The main characters quickly assume this means romantic love, in the form of True Love's Kiss, and rush to get her to her romantic interest. However, in the end, Anna selflessly sacrificing her life for her sister is what does it...
  • Played with in The Princess and the Frog. To break Naveen's curse (he has to be kissed by a Princess), he and Tiana hope to exploit it by taking advantage of an honorary title bestowed upon her friend Charlotte. That fails (due to time running out, whether or not it actually would have worked is unknown), but by then Naveen and Tiana have fallen in love with each other, and decide to get married. But since Naveen is still an actual Prince, marrying him makes Tiana a Princess. Kissing the bride breaks the spell.
  • The prophecy of Lord Shen's defeat in Kung Fu Panda 2 is either this or just a regular prophecy. According to a soothsayer, Shen's downfall would come in the form of a black & white warrior, which he assumed meant pandas. Shen himseld is an albino peacock. In the end, while Po does contribute in his death, it's his own equipment that finally does him in. It's never really clarified whether the prophecy was referring to Po or Shen himself.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Apocalypto has a prophecy predicting that the end of the world is imminent. The Mayans take this literally and believe it to be the result of divine displeasure, leading them to mass sacrifices. What they don't realize is that the prophecy isn't foretelling the end of the world, but the end of their world as the Spanish are about to make landfall.
  • Bullet Proof Monk features a trio of prophecies that determine the one most worthy to protect a scroll that grants great power. The protagonist monk had already performed these prophecies at the movie's beginning. As the plot progresses, we see the male lead, Kar, perform modern-day versions of the prophecies. The real twist however, is that Kar's Love Interest, Jade, participated in the same events that fulfilled the prophecies for Kar. Thus, at story's end, both become the next guardians of the scroll.
  • In Willow, Elora Danan is prophesied to bring about Bavmorda's end. However her defeat actually comes by the hands of those protecting the infant princess; Elora Danan is the catalyst who brings about Bavmorda's end, not herself the agent of it.
  • Star Wars:
    • The prequels are based on one of these, as Anakin Skywalker is prophesied to bring balance to the Force, which the Jedi believe means destroying the Sith and bringing peace to the galaxy. However, even that does not preclude him from falling to the Dark Side, slaughtering his fellow Jedi, and enslaving the galaxy first. And if Kylo Ren is anything to go by, the Prophecy doesn't mention that it stays balanced.note  There's also the Jossed but widely popular interpretation that Anakin's true purpose was to "bring balance to the force" by eliminating all but two Jedi so that the Light and Dark sides of the force would be properly balanced (or at least by eliminating the dogmatic Jedi Order so that it could start again).
      • Additionally, both the Jedi and Darth Sidious (aka Palpatine) seem to believe that Anakin's high midi-chlorian count is the key to the Sith's destruction, and hence assume that is what makes him The Chosen One. After Anakin became Darth Vader, Obi-Wan and Yoda came to believe the prophecy actually refers to Luke Skywalker, Anakin's son, rather than Anakin himself. Even Sidious starts to believe it to be the case, and tries to subvert it by attempting to convert Luke to the Dark Side (or if that fails, simply kill him where he stands) What Sidious fails to realize is that the Chosen One is still Anakin, and that Anakin's love for his son is what allows him to turn on Sidious and throw him to his demisenote . It was the creation of the Skywalker family, not their strong Force-potential bloodline, that became the undoing of the Sith.
    • In Revenge of the Sith, Anakin has a vision in which Padmé dies in childbirth. He falls to the dark side in order to protect her because Darth Sidious promises him the power to save people from death. However, it is because of his fall that Padmé dies in childbirth, either directly (by strangling her out of his dark-side fueled rage), or indirectly (by causing her to lose the will to live) depending on who you ask. The fact that Padmé is forced to give birth at a clinic on a remote mining colony due to Anakin's own actions (rather than in a properly facilitated hospital on Coruscant or Naboo) did her no favors, either.
    • The Last Jedi:
      • When Supreme Leader Snoke is torturing Rey, he gives a play-by-play of Kylo Ren's thoughts. He expects him to kill Rey, as he detects Kylo preparing to strike down his 'true enemy'. However, he fails to sense that Kylo is about to kill him, slicing him in half using the confiscated Skywalker lightsaber sitting on Snoke's throne.
      • Both Rey and Kylo Ren see a Force vision of the two of them fighting together. Kylo interprets this as Rey falling to the dark side and joining him, while Rey believes it means Kylo will return to the light. Neither of them considered the possibility that they might team up without either of them switching sides.
  • In The Thief of Bagdad (1940) the prophecy predicts that a tyrant shall be overthrown by the lowest of the low, who appears on a cloud. Pretty much exactly what it says in the prophecy happens, so it's not as much of a twist as some of the other examples, but it's still an example of vague prophecy, since the fact that the prophecy never named the tyrant left the common people thinking it was Ahmad, not the usurping evil vizier Jaffar who is actually tyrannical as opposed to Ahmad's mere incompetence.
  • Lawrence of Arabia: Gasim gets lost in the desert. The Arab army refuses to go after him because "it is written", at which point Lawrence says "Nothing is written" and goes into the desert alone to rescue him. A few days later, Gasim kills a man from another tribe and Lawrence is forced to execute him to prevent a feud. The head of the tribe asks why Lawrence looks so distraught. When someone mentions Lawrence had saved Gasim's life just days earlier, he nods and says, "So it was written, then."
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • A kind of inverted subversion is in The Fellowship of the Ring (extended version only): When Aragorn tells Frodo about the Story of Lúthien, who gave up her immortality to live a mortal life with the man she loved, Frodo asks him how it turned out. To which Aragorn simply replies "She died."
    • But played straight in The Return of the King with the Lord of the Nazgûl: "not by the hand of man will he fall". Of course, he is killed by a woman and a Hobbit. Eeowyn made sure to rub the prophecy twist in the Witch King's face before her coup de grace.
    • Subverted by Gladriel's prophesy regarding Frodo coming to realise that "the quest will claim his life," while he survives, on his return and having been through so much, he cannot go back to the life he once knew, instead leaving to the Gray Havens.
  • In the film adaptation of The Hobbit, the "last light of Durin's Day" that shines upon the keyhole to Erebor isn't the last ray of sunlight like in the book, but rather the light of the moon.
  • Depending on your interpretation of the last scene between Syrena and Philip, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides may contain this: People say that a sailor who's kissed by a mermaid won't drown. They're right - the mermaids usually eat the sailors after kissing them. And dead men don't drown.
  • After the Driving Question of what The Matrix is about is answered, Neo must figure out how his abilities as The One are to end the Man-Machine War. Neo realizes that the Oracle is, in fact, a Machine intelligence herself, rooting for and supporting the humans. She tells him that the One must find the Source to end the war. But it seems that the Oracle's prophecy is nothing more than a manipulation by the Oracle's counterpart and the Matrix's creator, the Architect, into a "Groundhog Day" Loop of man/machine detente for the virtual world's existence, Neo Takes a Third Option. When Neo inadvertently freed Agent Smith and turned him into a nihilistic destroying virus in the Matrix, he is able to use Smith's relentless destruction that also threatens the real world into a pact with the Machines in the real world. The false prophecy of the Oracle and the Architect becomes truth From a Certain Point of View — specifically, from a point of view outside of the Matrix.
    • The Oracle tells Neo that he is not the One, he has to decide that either he or Morpheus will die and he seems to be waiting for another life. While this discourages Neo at first, technically all of this comes true: when Neo makes a choice to go into the matrix to save Morpheus, he starts to bend rules of the matrix but is not yet the One. He is gunned down by Smith (= he is killed instead of Morpheus) but resurrects himself (= waiting for another life) to finally be the One (= the prophecy for Morpheus that the One will return).
  • In The Wolverine, Yukio predicts Logan will die on his back, with blood everywhere and with his heart in his hand. She's never wrong. Logan does die (in medical terms: his heart stops functioning for an extended period of time) lying on his back on an operating table, with his blood everywhere and has his "heart" in his hand, but his healing factor kicks back in soon thereafter and he is able to return to the land of the living.
    • In Logan, Logan actually dies, but Yukio's prophecy still held true for that occasion, as he dies lying on his back, with his and his enemies' blood all over him, and holding his heart figuratively in his hand with him holding the hand of his "daughter", Laura, as he dies.
  • In Back to the Future Part III, the photograph of Doc's tombstone accurately predicts that he will die on Monday, September 7, 1885 by Buford Tannen shooting him in the back over a matter of $80 if history continues on the same course. Doc and Marty fail to realize that just because he dies on Monday does not mean he gets shot on Monday, hence Doc's surprise when Buford shows up to shoot him on Saturday is quite genuine.
  • Thor: Ragnarok features the eponymous prophesy that Ragnarok will happen, destroying Asgard, and the film opens with Thor learning the specific circumstances that will make it happen and preventing them. Then they pass the Godzilla Threshold and Thor realizes the prophesy is basically a set of instructions on how to take care of the actual threat, once the actual inhabitants that make Asgard matter have been evacuated.
  • In Jessabelle, the title character, nicknamed Jessie, moves back in to her childhood house with her estranged father, Leon, and finds some old tapes that turn out to be home movies of her late mother, Kate, who died shortly after she was born. In the first tape, she addresses Jessie by her full name and does a tarot reading for her: Two of her predictions, that she'll never leave her hometown and will spend a lot of her time near water, already seem inaccurate. The third deals with an "unwanted presence" though, and that seems to relate to a Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl Jesse's been seeing ever since she moved in. It turns out the tapes weren't meant for her at all - Kate had an affair which resulted in a child (Who was also named Jessabelle), who was then killed by Leon, Jessie was then adopted to cover it up. So Jessie is the unwanted presence, and the other two predictions apply to Kate's birth child, who was buried in a swamp not far from the house.
  • Babylon A.D.. Aurora predicts they're all going to die in New York. Rebeka is indeed killed in the New York shootout. Toorop also dies, but he gets revived. Aurora dies during childbirth in a hospital in the state of New York.
  • In the Sherlock Holmes Made-for-TV Movie The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire, a fortune teller tells Holmes that the church will save him. At the end of the film it turns out a man who rescued Holmes when the murderer pushed him into traffic is named Reginald Church.

    Music 
  • There is a song called "Plastic Jesus", which ends with a - yes, you guessed it - plastic Jesus figurine lodged in a woman's womb after a car crash, WTF? Someday he'll be born again indeed.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • While the New and Old Testaments have plenty of straightforward prophecies, they are also full of Prophecy Twists. As an example, the Messiah was prophesied to be a Nazarene, which was a Jew who had taken a certain special type of vow, as well as the title for people from the town of Nazareth. Saint John the Baptist was the former sort of Nazarene, while his cousin Jesus Christ was the latter.
    • On the other hand, Jesus several times prophesies that he will be killed, and will rise on the third day—and yet, both his death and his resurrection seem to take his disciples completely by surprise. Presumably they were looking for a Prophecy Twist that wasn't there. After all, the Messiah can't die, so there's got to be a hidden meaning... (maybe they assumed it was symbolic or something)
      • Quite a few of his prophecies of oncoming death and resurrection are of the "bizarre metaphor" variety, such as saying the Temple will be destroyed and he will rebuild it in three days. (The Temple in question is his body, not the big building.)
    • Isaiah's prophecy of Jesus' birth also has a Double Meaning. Certainly, he did mention a virgin having a child, but at the time he was talking to the King about a young woman in their time who was about to be married, and certain events that would take place between her having a child by her husband and that child's coming of age; she certainly wasn't going to be a virgin by the time the kid was born! As with much else concerning Jesus, his Virgin Birth was a retread with a bit of a twist on old prophecies that had—in a way—been fulfilled already.
    • The prophet Jonah told the people of Nineveh that in forty days, their city would be "overturned." The people of Nineveh then repented so thoroughly, God decided not to destroy them. The twist: the Hebrew word for "overturn" also means "transform."
  • Oedipus the King. While exiling himself so he didn't kill his father and marry his mother, Oedipus killed some dude (late we find out, he was the King of Thebes) on the road who set his servants on him, then proceeded to save the city of Thebes from a monster and married the newly-widowed Queen of Thebes. Too bad Oedipus didn't find out he was adopted until after he had four kids with his biological mother, even though his birth parents left him on a mountain to die. Oops.
  • Greek myth: According to some stories, the soothsayer Calchas was told by another fortune teller that he would die, and set the exact day. When the day came and Calchas was still alive, he was overcome with laughter and died.
  • Legend says that Aischylos heard from an oracle that he would be struck down by a house. To escape his fate, he went to the plains. An eagle carrying a turtle was looking for a rock to crack the turtle's 'house' open. Apparently, bald heads are mistaken for rocks easily from above...
    • A variation has him 'to be struck down by a bolt from above'. So he never went out during storms.
  • In the Ulster Cycle, Medb is the enemy of King Conchobar of Ulster. She asks a druid which of her sons will kill Conchobar and is told "Maine". Since none of her sons are called Maine, she renames all of them, just to be sure. Having thus averted the One Steve Limit, her son Maine the Swift goes on to kill a completely different Conchobar.
  • In one version of Odysseus' death, it's prophesied he'll die by the sea. He ends up getting killed inland... from a spear made from a stingray's tail.
  • In the "Cupid and Psyche" myth, the oracle of Delphi prophesizes that Psyche's husband will not be a mortal lover but "a monster whom neither gods nor men can resist". Psyche and her family take this to mean that her husband will be a horrible beast that will make her miserable but the oracle is actually describing Cupid whose arrows of love can't be resisted by any god or man.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • After returning to TNA in 2014, Low Ki had two title shots against for the X Division Title involving Samoa Joe, the first being a triple threat match also involving Seiya Sanada, whom Joe choked out, and then a one on one match which Low Ki lost. Following these incidents, Low Ki asked Joe to be his partner in a tag team tournament to become number one contenders to the American Wolves, saying Joe's presence would "Guarantee Victory". Joe agreed but he and Low Ki lost to Matt Hardy and Jeff in the final round, in which Joe was injured to the point he had to vacate the X Division Title. Low Ki would go on to win the belt in Joe's absence.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In the Fraggle Rock Grand Finale, Doc, having recently learned of the Fraggles' existence, is now moving to the desert with Ned Shimmelfinney (or, in the UK version, BJ is moving to a castle because the lighthouse is being automated). When Gobo asks the Trash Heap for advice about losing his new friend, the Heap says to tell him "You cannot leave the magic". He interprets this as meaning Doc/BJ mustn't be allowed to leave, but it's too late. However, it turns out "cannot" means "it's impossible to..." rather than "you mustn't...", when Gobo finds a hole leading to Doc/BJ's new home.

    Radio 
  • In The BBC Radio 4 Stanley Baxter's Playhouse episode "The King's Kilt", Sir Walter Scott is subjected to an ancient Highland curse: that he will spend eternity sitting on a stone chair, in a room without any walls, and the birds of the air will do their business on his head. Flash forward to the present day and the Scott Monument.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The early Warhammer Fantasy campaign The Tragedy Of Mac Death, being a Macbeth parody, has its own take. The part about being safe until Klinty's Wood (cute) comes up to his castle is made a lot easier when you know Klinty is the leader of the treemen, and No Man of Woman Born is much riskier when your opponents feature not just a man who was born by C-section but a woman, the aforementioned treemen and dwarven miners.

    Theatre 
  • Macbeth: The Three Weird Sisters promise him that No Man of Woman Born can kill him, and that his reign will last until "great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him." (Unlikely at best, as the two are about 12 miles apart on a straight line, or just over 18 miles apart following the roads. With a couple of river crossing in between them as well.) In the final battle between Macbeth and Malcolm's armies, Malcolm has his men camouflage themselves by breaking off branches form the trees of Birnam Wood and put them in their hats before they march on Dunsinane hill. Just before the final duel, there's this exchange between Macbeth and Macduff:
    Macbeth: Let fall thy blade on vulnerable crests;
    I bear a charmed life, which must not yield
    To one of woman born.

    Macduff: Despair thy charm,
    And let the angel whom thou still hast served
    Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother's womb
    Untimely ripp'd.
    Poor Macbeth believed it and thought himself safe.
    • The 2006 film with a Setting Update to a modern day gangster story has the Birnham Wood part fulfilled by Malcolm's forces using a lumber truck to break down the front gate of Macbeth's house. The Patrick Stewart version has Macduff's troops use branches from the wood as camouflage instead. The 2015 film adapts it by having Malcolm's forces burn the woods as their camouflage, and the wind then carries the ashes into Macbeth's castle.
  • Another Shakespeare example occurs in Richard III. Richard created a false prophecy to set his brother Clarence and the king against each other. The prophecy stated that "G" would murder the king's heirs. The king decided this must be George, Duke of Clarence. Richard, who ultimately did murder the king's heirs, was Duke of Gloucester.
  • In Henry VI Part 2, a prophetic spirit is asked what will become of the Duke of Somerset. It says he should "shun castles." He is killed by a young Richard Gloucester outside the Castle Inn in St. Albans. The spirit says the Duke of Suffolk will meet his death by water. He is taken prisoner and put into the keeping of a soldier named "Walter" (whose name in some English dialects would be pronounced the same as "water").
    • The same spirit, asked about the contest between King Henry VI and the Duke of York, says "The duke yet lives that Henry shall depose / But him outlive, and die a violent death." This is as ambiguous as the prophecy given to Pyrrhus (under "real life" below). As with that prophecy, it ends up being fulfilled both ways...York and Henry "depose" each other, and both die violent deaths.
  • Another Shakespeare example in Henry IV: King Henry was told a prophesy that he would die in Jerusalem, and believed this would entail going Crusading or otherwise journeying to the Holy Land to repent of his sins. Toward the end of the second part of the play, Henry becomes ill and collapses and is brought to a room in the palace. He asks the name of the room, and is told it is called the "Jerusalem Chamber". He then realizes he will die in the room.
  • In Once Upon a Mattress, the King is cursed to remain mute "until the mouse devours the hawk." The literal attempt to fulfill this condition obviously fails: by Dauntless's account, "the mouse got scared and ran away and the hawk bit Daddy." The prophecy is ultimately fulfilled when Dauntless stops being a Momma's Boy and yells at his mother to shut up.
  • Elements of the upbeat song "The Wizard and I" in Wicked follow this - Elphaba (the future Wicked Witch of the West) envisions her future popularity, in which "when people see me they will scream" and there'll be "a celebration throughout Oz that's all to do with me". Thinking about it apparently makes her "so happy I could melt". So... Yeah.
    • Fiyero has his moments of this as well, once in the song 'Dancing Through Life' when he says "Life's more painless/for the brainless" as well as in 'As Long As You're Mine' when he says "Maybe I'm brainless" He eventually becomes the Scarecrow
    • Even the Wizard joins in on the fun, when he says in the song 'Sentimental Man' that he is "a sentimental man/who always longed to be a father" at the end of the play, it turns out that the Wizard is Elphaba's father.

    Video Games 
  • In the for-now last installment of the Legacy of Kain game series, "Defiance", we learn that both the Ancients and the Hylden have prophecies about each race's individual messianic warrior destroying the other race's own champion. However, what they - and everybody since - didn't realize was that both warriors are one and the same person. The champion of the Ancients is supposed to save Nosgoth and restore the Vampire race to glory, while the Hylden champion is supposed to ruin Nosgoth and free the Hylden from their prison. By using the heart of darkness to revive Janos, Raziel provides the Hylden with the vessel they need for their General to possess Janos, allowing him to enact a plan that eventually leads to a time of great ruin for Nosgoth and frees the Hylden. But then, by allowing Kain to kill him and purifying his corruption, Raziel gives Kain the power to restore the pillars lead Nosgoth into a golden age.
    • As for the "one champion destroys the other" part? Raziel willingly commits suicide to heal and arm Kain. For bonus points, he does so using the Reaver - his own time-displaced self!
    • Also, it is prophesied that Raziel will kill Kain eventually. And he does. They didn't know that as the Scion of Balance, Kain can't die and he just comes back to life later.
    • Raziel is prophesied to wield the Soul Reaver, except that his destiny predicts he'll be drawn into the sword and become its soul-devouring spectral half. So he can't go near the sword because it'll kill him, but due to a time paradox integral to that destiny, he wields the spectral version of the sword independent of the material version. As the dialogue goes:
      Janos: Raziel, you are ordained by prophecy to wield the Reaver.
      Raziel: *manifests the sword, earning a shocked gasp from Janos* And so I do... Though not quite as you had envisioned.
  • In the Eldar campaign of Dawn of War II: Retribution, Autarch Kayleth is motivated by the following prophecy:
    "The dead shall bear death, the damned shall be damned, every soul of a Craftworld lost, slain without a word".
    • She is told she can prevent this doom by going to the planet Typhon. As such, the prophecy is interpreted as "The Spirit Stones of the dead Eldar contained in the buried Craftworld on Typhon will be destroyed by the Imperial Fleet bent on Exterminatus unless you stop them". Things get complicated when another group of Eldar show up, claiming that their prophecy says a Craftworld will be lost unless Autarch Kayleth is killed. When Kayleth kills them in self-defence, it turns out they were delaying the Imperial Fleet, and Typhon Craftworld is destroyed shortly afterwards. It turns out that Kayleth's prophecy actually meant "Undead, silent robots will kill everyone on an unrelated Craftworld nicknamed "the Damned", unless you recover a Macguffin from the Big Bad who happened to be near Typhon at the time". While she does end up fulfilling that prophecy, that's presumably cold comfort to all the souls lost on Typhon.
  • In the web RPG DragonFable, the main story of Book One revolves around a prophecy which states that two dragons- whose eggs are contained in the White and Black Dragon Boxes- will be involved in a titanic duel which places the world of Lore in jeopardy. The egg from the White Dragon Box will hatch into a dragon who saves a world while its opposite in the Black Dragon Box destroys a world. Despite Sepulchure transforming the dragon from the White Dragon Box into an undead behemoth while the dragon from the Black Dragon Box becomes the DragonFable hero's pet- causing everyone to think the prophecy had been broken for a time- the prophecy is fulfilled, but with a twist. After Fluffy is bound to Drakath and subsequently the Super Mega Ultra Darkness Dracolich, he returns from the dead to telepathically alert you and your dragon of his weak point, thus saving the world with its information, and your dragon defeats the SMUDD. Whether the SMUDD is seen as literally being a planet has been hotly debated.
  • Tales of the Abyss's Big Bad exploited the crap out of his local prophecy that the world would see a Chosen One by cloning him. Since the prophecy is strong enough that the odd deviation here or there won't throw it off-track, he intended to let the clone die when the original was supposed to, so that he could keep the true Chosen One around for his stronger hyperresonnance. However, what said Big Bad didn't realise was that the prophecy was also a secret message begging humanity to avoid destruction by rejecting and overturning it; which the protagonists are implied to use to their advantage to win the day.
    • There's also a bizarre Prophecy Twist regarding said clone. Initially, the Score reads something like "The Chosen One will bring his people to the miner's city. There, the youth will turn power to calamity, destroying himself and the city." For most of the game, this is assumed to be Akzeriuth, so it seems to be a subverted prophecy since The Chosen One -both of them, actually- makes it out alive. Then, much later in the game, Luke leads ten thousand replicas, quite literally his 'people,' to the Tower of Rem, which is revealed to be built over a miner's city. At the tower, Luke sacrifices himself to destroy the miasma. He dies slowly, admittedly, but in a way the prophecy comes true.
  • Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame: "He Who Would Steal the Flame Must Die!" Simply jumping into the Flame is Self-Immolation. You actually obtain the Flame for yourself by means of a Fission Mailed.
  • In Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People Episode 1: Homestar Ruiner, one of the Drive-Thru Whale's lines is the rather ominous-sounding "When the End Times come, we will all dance the Conga of the Apocalypse". This might be interpreted as a very oblique clue for the endgame, where getting everybody out of Strong Bad's house involves getting them to dance in a conga line. In fact, much (but definitely not all) of what the Whale says can be interpreted as a clue in the various episodes of SBCG4AP:
    • In Strong Badia the Free, the Whale instructs you to "Get your lighter from the anvil, please." If Strong Bad allies with The Cheat (who has been compared to an anvil in some of the cartoons), the Cheat will give Strong Bad a lighter he can use to solve some puzzles later in the game.
    • In Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective, one of the Whale's lines is "On a sunny day, don't forget to bling out your power tools." In the endgame, Dangeresque fights a robotic duplicate of Dangeresque Too on a space station orbiting the Sun, and has to defeat him by putting a "diamond-tipped diamond" on an industrial drill and tilting the space station so the drill rolls into the robot.
  • Odin Sphere:
    • This is Lampshaded and, in a way, Deconstructed by the prophetic dragon Hindel. He explains that he no longer speaks with humans because they constantly misinterpret his words to mean something completely different.
    • Even the doomsday prophecy has a twist. The prophecy states that only two people will survive Armageddon, but this does not include Pookas, allowing two more people to survive.
    • Said prophecy also states that King Onyx's rampage will be stopped by the World Tree. When Armageddon comes, Onyx burns down Ringford forest and massacres the fairies, boasting that there is no World Tree to be found...until he finds out Queen Mercedes' true name: Yggdrasil, the World Tree from Norse Mythology.
    • Yet another twist in the doomsday prophecy, combined with something outside of it. Though the actual prophecy states that Gallon will be killed by "the shadow of the lost master" (the lost master being the late Queen Odette,) Gallon also reveals another caveat; he can only be slain by Titanian royalty, and since Cornelius, the only surviving member of the Titanian royality, has no real connection to Odette, Gallon is effectively invincible. Cue Oswald, wielder of power granted to him by Odette, taking him on anyway and having a Really Royalty Reveal as he successfully kills Gallon.
  • From the end of Mega Man X3: "To save mankind, X must destroy Zero." A straight example in Mega Man X5: Zero and X indeed fight, but X wasn't able to destroy Zero (although he did die, by Sigma's hands), because they were the best of friends. The same prophecy was then averted much later, in the Mega Man Zero series. According to Inafune, X is originally the Big Bad of the first game, a Knight Templar exterminating Reploids for the sake of humanity, and Zero The Hero trying to save the remaining Reploids because they were wrongly accused of being "Mavericks". It was only because of Executive Meddling on the X series, that the true, "twisted" events of the prophecy never came to pass, replacing X with a clone.
    • It should be pointed out that, in the Japanese version of X3, the ending states that, deep down, X (somehow) knows he and Zero are fated to fight, which does happen in X5 and thus it all works out, even with the Executive Meddling that changed Zero 1.
  • The opening narration of Guild Wars Nightfall states, "Night falls. The Time of the Five Gods is at an end." And sure enough, by the end of the campaign, you've destroyed the banished god Abaddon and set up Kormir to take his place alongside the Five True Gods, beginning the Time of the Six Gods.
  • King's Bounty: The Legend has a variant. Researchers have almost activated the Artifact of Doom, and discovered that it will only serve an owner who claims it by force out of rage, and who then wets it with his blood. The head researcher tells about this to the King's courier at length: the courier can't stand the blather but grabs the artifact, fumbles it, and in trying to catch it drops it corner-first on his hand. The jury is out on whether this is blatantly stupid or marvellous.
  • Weaponlord: The Big Bad learns that a "Weaponlord" will rise up and kill him. Rather than run, he decides to meet destiny head-on and organizes a tournament, figuring the Weaponlord would be whoever wins, and he can then face him in single combat. In his ending, he is elated that the prophecy was proven false... until he learns it wasn't meant for him, but rather his predecessor, an even worse monster he had killed to take over. In other words, the prophecy came true before the game even began.
  • In the Fan Remake of King's Quest II, the Big Bad levels a curse on Graham before departing. At each turn of the curse/prophesy, it gets twisted. His family in jeopardy? Yes, but Alexander-Gwydion manages to escape and thwart the dragon plaguing Daventry. While celebrating this happy news, the second part of the curse kicks in, causing Graham's "heart to slow." Rosella intervenes by getting the magic fruit from Tamir and saving her father. The last part of the curse? Well, Alexander ends up ruling the faraway Land of the Green Isles. Rosella may or may not move to Etheria with Edgar... and even if she does, there's Connor MacLir
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, one of the stories you can hear from Jolee Bindo is about a young Jedi who was told that his destiny would involve changing the galaxy. Of course, he believed that it made him immortal, and flouted about his 'destiny' to anybody who would listen. In the end, a warlord who had captured him finally grew sick of hearing about his so-called 'immortality', and threw him into a reactor intake port, killing him. However, the Jedi's body apparently damaged something important on the way down, as the ship's engines went into meltdown and exploded, killing the warlord and starting a large local power vacuum.
    Bindo: Changed the political course of the entire sector for centuries to come. I'd call that quite a destiny, wouldn't you?
    PC: I hate you, old man.
  • May or may not have been intentional, but in the first Jak and Daxter, Samos states that the answer to the whole Precursor riddle rested on the shoulders of a young boy. This could obviously refer to Jak's important role in the events of the games, but it may also refer to the fact that Daxter, now a Precursor, stands on Jak's shoulder for the majority of the adventures.
    • And another case in the first game, the precursor oracle statues state that the dark light (which is taken to mean Dark eco) has twisted the fate of one of them, and the pure light (Light Eco?) would put it right again. By the end of the first game, it seemed to refer to Daxter, who had been changed by dark eco, and could be changed back by light eco. Then at the start of Jak II: Renegade, Jak is corrupted by dark eco. In Jak 3: Wastelander, this is restored by the precursors giving him light eco powers. The prophecy in the first game, which was more of a meaningful background detail than part of the plot, took on a completely different meaning in retrospect.
  • In Ultima VI, a gargoyle prophecy states that the only way to prevent of the destruction of their people is by "sacrifice of the False Prophet". Most gargoyles believe this means they must sacrifice the False Prophet (and boy, do they try!), but in the end the situation is resolved by the False Prophet sacrificing something else entirely. One of the more philosophical gargoyles even points out that the wording of the prophecy might mean one of three things: the False Prophet is sacrificed, the False Prophet performs a sacrifice on another person, or the False Prophet sacrifices a valuable possession.
  • In Super Paper Mario, it is said that the "Man in green" (Luigi) will determine whether the Chaos Heart is used to destroy the universe or not. Much to the glee of The Starscream, Dimentio, it doesn't say anything about whether the man in green has to consciously decide, nor anything about whether he has to be 100% himself. Subverted when the Luigi-Dimentio hybrid is defeated regardless of what destiny says, and the other characters outright state that his prophecy means nothing.
  • Combined with You Can't Fight Fate in Um Jammer Lammy: In the original version of Stage 6 ("Vital Idol"), Lammy avoids getting hit and run by an out-of-control car so as not to end up in hell (as Chop Chop Master Onion has foretold in her dream). As she keeps running, she doesn't notice the Banana Peel that PJ Berri has left because she is in too much of a hurry, then slips on it, falls down, breaks her neck and dies, thus fulfilling Chop Chop Master Onion's dream prophecy.
  • The prophecy that opens Diablo III ominously states that "Justice shall fall upon the world of men". Turns out the prophecy is a much more literal play on words: the Fallen Star that sets up Act I is actually Tyrael, the Archangel of Justice, after renouncing his angelic status in protest and subsequently falling to Sanctuary.
    • The forlorn priest in New Tristram lost his faith in the gods because of the zombie outbreak (which has to do with the above prophecy), only to slowly realize that the prophecies in his archives are slowly coming true. Among them are "Though the three will be made one, never again will the four be made whole" signifying the reforging of Tyrael's sword but not his angelic connection to it, and "weep, Sanctuary, Justice must die for Wisdom to be reborn" where Tyrael resigns his post as the aspect of Justice to take up a sorely needed Archangel of Wisdom position, not to mention that he was the actual angel of wisdom due to a clerical error of epic proportions. By the end, he's gained faith in the player character, and most of his strangely-worded prophecies end up happening in some way or another.
  • The bees in The Secret World warn against falling prey to this; namely, they advise caution against dismissing every false prophecy about the end times, because an "end" is not necessarily instantaneous. Separately, Kirstin Geary tells Illuminati players that a prophecy foretold the exact time the Council of Venice would fall; the time has long since come and gone and the Council of Venice still exists, but the time noted in the prophecy coincides with when the Council began its decline into near-irrelevancy.
  • Played with in Chrono Trigger. The party is present to see Crono dying right in front of them in a Heroic Sacrifice to save them from Lavos. Since this is a game about time travel, they can retroactively change this event by using an artifact from the Guru Of Time and the doll offered as a prize in the Millennial Fair at the very beginning of the game to make it so that what they saw killed was Actually a Doombot, thus making a Prophecy Twist out of their own past experiences.
  • In the story of Mortal Kombat 9, Raiden receives visions of things to come that are sent to him from himself in a Bad Future along with the words "He must win." He proceeds to interpret this as 1) Liu Kang winning the Mortal Kombat tournament (does nothing, as this is what happened anyway in the original timeline) 2) Kung Lao winning the Outworld tournament (just gets a Neck Snap from Shao Kahn, leading Liu Kang to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge and inadvertently causing the same conclusion). What he really was supposed to do was let Shao Kahn win, as doing so would violate the terms of Mortal Kombat and the Elder Gods would take direct action against him. He doesn't come to this conclusion until the eleventh hour, by which point nearly every Earthrealm warrior is dead and he tried to cross the Godzilla Threshold by seeking a truce with Quan Chi in exchange for his own soul.
  • Age of Empires II. In Attila The Hun's second-to-last mission, Attila receives a prophecies from his priests which state his army will lose but enemy leader will be slain. Attila considers it to be a fair trade. Everyone not history geek will assumes slain commander is Flavius Aetius but in reality Flavius' ally, a leader of Visigoth.
  • In The Elder Scrolls backstory, the Greybeards, masters of the Thu'um, summoned The Chosen One who would restore the Empire and conquer the elves to High Hrothgar, their monastery on the Throat of the World. Wulfharth Ash-King, the legendary ancient King of the Nords, famous Shezarrine who had died and come back to life at least three times, and noted Elf-hater, Jumped at the Call and went to the Greybeards. Instead, Wulfharth is "blasted to ash" by the Greybeards who declare Hjalti of High Rock (a young Tiber Septim) to be the one instead. The Greybeards do leave him with a message though: "remember the color of betrayal." When Tiber Septim makes an Armistice with Morrowind, validating the rule of the Dunmeri Tribunal that Wulfharth hates so much, Wulfharth believes this to be the "betrayal" and leaves Septim. It turns out that this is not the case. Septim later contacts Wulfharth and agrees that the Tribunal must be destroyed. However, when Wulfharth arrives, he is ambushed by Zurin Arctus and Imperial soldiers. Arctus soul-traps Wulfharth within the Mantella, but not before Wulfharth kills Arctus with his dying breath. This was the betrayal the Greybeards spoke of.
  • Forever Home has the Future Stone, which can show a person's potential future if it's placed on their head. If the vision has a blue tint, it means the vision won't come true and most people assume this means the subject doesn't have long to live.
    • When Kina gets a blue-tinted vision of her and the party in Glarefrost, only for her to commit suicide before the party visits that city. However, she ends up rejoining with a different appearance and memories sometime after the party visits Glarefrost, showing that the blue tint doesn't always mean the subject will die in the near future.
    • When Xero uses the stone to view Enda's future, he sees another vision with a blue tint, which when combined with his knowledge of a previous timeline, causes him to believe that Enda will die in the second Aquadome. She ends up surviving the Aquadome in the current timeline, making Xero believe she escaped her fate, only for the two to perform a Heroic Sacrifice in the ending.
  • In StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void, a prophecy states that the Xel'naga shall stand against Amon yet when Artanis finds the home of the Xel'naga, they've all been slaughtered by Amon. As it turns out, there's one left alive and he goes on to ascend Kerrigan into a Xel'naga, who stands against Amon. By that point, she's the only Xel'naga in existence except Amon. So indeed the Xel'naga stand against Amon; the prophecy just never stated whether that was singular or plural.
  • Shadow Man's plot revolves around the Prophecy and its multiple twists. The Prophecy itself states that the Shadow Man will try to fight the Five during the day and fail, allowing Legion to collect the Dark Souls and bring about the Apocalypse; this prompts Michael (the titular Shadow Man) to twist the Prophecy, by getting the Dark Souls himself to get stronger, and by fighting the Five at night (via magical eclypse) so that he can actually defeat them. Unfortunately, there's a second twist: Legion himself wrote the Prophecy specifically to push the Shadow Man towards that path. The plan was to make the Shadow Man collect a lot of Dark Souls, only for Legion to defeat him and take many Souls in one quick swoop. Then there's a third twist: Mike, using part of the Dark Souls' power, manages to get strong enough to disable Legion; then dumps the Souls's full power into him, fulfilling the "And Legion took the Dark Souls unto him..." verse. This causes Legion to undergo a Phlebotinum Overload, which completely destroys both him and his Cathedral.
  • Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal is centered around the prophecy that the children of the dead murder god Bhaal (one of which is the Player Character) will destroy the Sword Coast. It's generally assumed that the prophecy refers to the Player Character, but as it turns out, the prophecy speaks of what will happen if the Player Character fails to stop the destruction.

    Webcomics 
  • Played with in The Order of the Stick, with the singularly confusing prophecy "When the goat turns red strikes true." At first Roy thinks it's usual prophetic nonsense, but when Nale turns on the group he figures it out, telling Haley to shoot Nale, making a Million To One Shot. As he explains later, the prophecy should be "When the goat turns, red strikes true", "goat" referring to Nale (who has a goatee), and "red" to the redheaded Haley.
    • The Oracle gives Belkar a prophecy that Belkar will cause the death of at least one of the people on his hit list, which includes the Oracle. Belkar ends up giving a magical item to one such person, causing that person to use it to bite off more than they could chew and get killed, as well as annoying another enough to make a Face–Heel Turn resulting in death, and getting another sent back to the Celestial planes as a result of a series of events where Belkar's involvement is a bit questionable. When Belkar and the Oracle meet again, he tries to pass this off as fulfillment; Belkar stabs him. "Worth a shot." Of course the Oracle had already set up his revenge and resurrection.
    • Yet another one is that the Oracle says Vaarsuvius will gain "complete and total ultimate arcane power" "by saying the right four words to the right being at the right time for all the wrong reasons." According to a loose literal interpretation of the Oracle's words, it has been fulfilled: The twists were that the four words were, in fact, three and a stammer (or possibly a repeated word for emphasis, depending on how you read it), the right being was Vaarsuvius themself, and "complete and total arcane power" referred to the set of soul splices giving Vaarsuvius three aspects of magic currently barred to them: necromancy, conjuration, and spontaneous casting. Along with a ridiculously high effective caster level, probably in the low 90s (for comparison 21 is Epic level, something most characters will never reach), for as long as he's able to hold onto all 3 spliced souls.
    • The Oracle also predicted that Durkon would only return to his homeland posthumously. Durkon is overjoyed, because that means he'll be buried in the family crypt instead of his corpse becoming some monsters' dinner. However, Durkon eventually dies at the hands of the vampiric Minister Malack, who then raises the deceased dwarf as a vampire. This is particularly scary when it is combined with a previous prophecy that Durkon will bring "death and destruction" with him next time he returns home. Making things even worse: the vampire-spirit now controlling Durkon's body is a follower of the evil Dwarf goddess Hel, with his likely domains being "Death" and "Destruction".
      • That previous prophecy was also subject to a twist: Durkon was exiled to the human lands by the previous High Priest of Thor and ordered to not return until given the say-so (which the High Priest had no intention of doing) in an attempt to Screw Destiny. Unfortunately, the High Priest never considered the possibility of Durkon's physical body returning without the consent of Durkon, the man who would never disobey an order from his superiors.
      • And yet even then, the "death and destruction" bit contains its own twist: "death" part is fulfilled when Durkon as vampire kills and converts so many of his people to vampires themselves... but the "destruction" part, Durkon decrees, will be fulfilled by himself, with a lightning hammer artifact!
    • Before the Oracle predicted "Belkar would take his last breath ever some time this year", he insisted he was phrasing it as unambiguously as possible, as if in defiance of this trope. The twist was subverted when it looked like Belkar would be vampirized, as that would technically kill him and certainly stop his breath, but he was not. It's not too late to zig-zag though; it's obvious the Oracle was trolling Roy, but was he doing it with the honest truth or a misleading truth?
    • A version in which the twist is obvious from the start: Roy asks the Oracle which Gate Xykon will visit next, and remembering how the Oracle screwed with him the first time he visited him, specifically words the question to prevent the Oracle from giving a useless answer, in a way that inadvertently excludes the actual answer (in short, he asked if Xykon would go to Girard's Gate or Kraagor's Gate next). To his credit, the Oracle tries to convince Roy to reword his question, but Roy insists, so the Oracle answers that of those two Gates, Girard's will be the first one Xykon goes to. The twist is that Roy forgot to include Soon's Gate in the question... and guess which Gate Xykon and his forces were marching towards at that time?
  • In Goblins, many goblin children are named based on a fortune teller's vision of their future. One of these, Saves-A-Fox, deliberately killed the fox she was supposed to save. However, as noted by forumgoers, the aforementioned fox was never in any apparent danger, and her name isn't Rescues-A-Fox — but she HAS been saving that fox's tail as a memento all these years...
    • Dies later revealed the fox she killed was suffering from an incurable disease as good as a Fate Worse than Death, and she actually saved it by killing it.
    • Dies Horribly has indeed died horribly by being slaughtered by demons for his soul. However, he somehow had two souls- one more than was agreed upon by the characters- and was released after his "mistress" was banished.
    • However, this is hilariously subverted in the form of "Piss off I hava headache", and his unseen clan-mate "Stop the ceremony I swallowed a bug" - both named because their teller sucks at naming.
  • Subverted with extreme literalism in Exterminatus Now.
    "Dammit, the one time my horoscope was right. 'Beware of Old English sheepdogs carrying Kaiser Lawgiver Model V .38in revolvers.'"
  • Non-prophecy example (but an answer from an oracle) in Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures: "The life of Destania has ended at the hands of Daniel Ti'Fiona." The real meaning is very much figurative. She married his soon-to-be father, completely changing as a person after he was born - as she puts it herself, her old life ended when they met; she even changed her name, though her married name has yet to be revealed.
    • Dan lampshades this and wonders why oracles/prophecies are always so twisted. Apparently the Oracles' Union charter states that they have to be intentionally vague and they can't give a straight answer. This may be a very, very bad thing, as she may have finally lost the last of her humanity and gone completely off the deep end, meaning the original Destania, who could love, no longer exists, as shown by her callous disregard for the life of her adopted daughter.
    • And Pyroduck demands a straight answer from one of his caretakers. They reveal that there are some things in the universe that are too well-cloaked in time and space for the Oracles to see past, and that one of them is in the way of Dan's adventure, which explains why Oracles never give straight answers. This shakes him to his core.
  • Oh-so-ripe-yet-unexplained prophecy abounds in Last Res0rt:
    The Otherworlders will head the call
    They shall return when all shall see
    a Dead Inside where none should be.
    • Veled even lampshades this trope as soon as she says it, admitting that there may be a few errors in its translation, but it's not like she'll pass up a chance to make Jigsaw piss herself.
  • In Jayden and Crusader the character Crusader is reading ahead the script of the page, and everything comes to pass just as foretold
  • Gaia Online's Halloween 2008 event-comic revolved around Ms. Fortune's predicting a new threat to Gaia, and that "one group shall survive, or all shall perish!" The fantastic races of Gaia began fighting amongst themselves to be the one group to survive— with the exception of dhampyr Ian, who pointed out that the fantastic races already existed, so the prediction couldn't mean them. The next month, Gaia Online's MMORPG zOMG! entered Open Beta; the new threat Ms. Fortune predicted was the Animated (or possibly the Predator Prarie Pups or the Hive World denizens), against which Gaians of all races had to unite as a single group.
  • In Nedroid, Reginald and Beartato find a scroll that tells of two great heroes who "became known throughout the land, and their were hailed as kings, and were cheered and hooted by the citizens of the village", which Reginald concludes to refer to them. Which it does, as next they are in the crowd cheering at the heroes being paraded through the streets.
  • Parodied in Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal when King Croesus from the Mythology example gets fed up with the prophecy twists that screw him over.
    Croesus: Why can't you just give straight predictions?! Why is everything a mystery?!
    Oracle: You will die this year. Your empire will fall forever soon after. Ancient Greeks are mostly remembered for pederasty.
    Croesus: [Beat Panel] Okay, go back to the old way.
    Oracle: You shall be known for conquering many young warriors!
    Croesus: I'll take it!
  • In Kid Radd, rumor has it that anyone who visits the Seer is "destined" to die not long after. Radd, Sheena, Crystal and Bogie all visit the Seer before the comic is halfway through. All of them "die" before the comic ends, but the twist part kicks in. Crystal was absorbed by the Seer and ends up trapped forever in a ghost form (she messed up and never picked which "death" program subroutine to follow if she was ever beaten - a bad move when there are five conflicting sets for her code to pick from.) Radd and Sheena technically died, but it was really just their doubles from a dolled-up sequel game. Bogie forced Radd to shoot him to claim a power-up, but he gets better with the help of an emulator.
  • In Vampire Cheerleaders, a vision of a terrible military loss puts the Reptillians into a millennia-long vendetta against the peaceful Mothmen, their aggression leading the Mothmen to induct a transformed human as a more militant queen, and an attack by them becoming the slaughter they foresaw.
  • In Dragon Mango, High Priestess Raisin predicts that the dragonslayer princess will break the Sealed Evil in a Can, murder the dragonslayer King, destroy the dragonslayer kingdom, and doom the world. To prevent this future from happening, she tries to kill Princess Cherry. It turns out there's a second dragonslayer princess, and while Princess Cherry does accidentally crack the seal, Phenylalanine is the evil princess who wants to force Cherry to break the seal entirely.
  • Erfworld: A standard part of the world. Fate is a Sentient Cosmic Force and decrees how things will end, but not how events will reach that end. Therefore, things can happen in entirely unexpected ways. If you try to fight your Fate, things will inevitably go very very wrong—but still end up in the same way you were Fated to.
    • In book 0, Wanda is Fated to serve under Olive Branch. Wanda's brother tries to turn Olive to their Side so that they can fulfill the Prediction that way, but Olive poisons him, crushes their Side, and captures Wanda. Later, Jillian is Predicted to croak the Ruler of Haffaton, Judy Gale. Since Olive is the heir, she both wants this to come true and not; she's fine with Jillian croaking her Ruler, but is worried that someone else might croak Judy, and then Jillian will croak Olive. When Judy escapes Erfworld, Olive becomes Ruler, and Jillian does indeed croak her despite massive interference from her father.
    • These experiences have made Wanda a Fatalist who will always allow Fate to happen—except where Jillian is concerned. Jillian aside, she makes a mistake regarding Parson and Charlie. She believes that Parson is Fated to croak Charlie, so she stops Lilith from doing it despite having an excellent chance to do so. This action puts Gobwin Knob at war with the Magic Kingdom, gets Wanda and all her decrypted captured, the Arkentools declared OP, and set to be executed. Wanda's mentor, a Predictamancer, points out that since Charlie has been cheating Fate for so long, they have to be prepared to cheat Fate back. She says that Lilith croaking Charlie, then having Wanda decrypt him and Parson execute him, might have been enough to fulfill the Prediction. Parson further theorizes that since he gave the order for Lilith to croak Charlie in the first place, that might have counted as well.
    • When Sylvia was a lowly stabber, she was Fated to croak in a fire. When she was caught in a fire and incapacitated (to the point that she'd croak the next day), the court Carnymancer, Jojo, was in love with her, so he cast over her for days to change her Fate. He made it so that she would only croak by her own hand—mostly to cheat Fate, but also because he believes strongly in the right to suicide. This made her essentially invincible, and she quickly rose through the ranks. She got croaked by a volcano at one point, but was actually resurrected by the next turn. She finally croaks for good when a fire she set herself gets out of control. Jojo admits he didn't consider the possibility that she'd accidentally croak herself.
    • In the Digdoug side story, Digdoug's Side receives a Prediction that they will suffer a massive air attack. They try to prepare, but know they can't do enough in time, so they hire a Carnymancer to find them a way out. She suggests they attack themselves. They hire Charlie to attack with minimal force, which he does. But their parent Side hires Charlie to come back and attack them for real. They do not survive, and Digdoug himself is left a barbarian.
    • According to the Predictomancer Marie, a lot less is Fated than people think. As far as Fate is concerned, the vast majority of people and events simply don't matter and so the details are flexible. When Fate does care, her Predictions suddenly go from vague or twisty to being precise down to the second.
  • The events in Zita the Spacegirl are kicked off when aliens kidnap Zita's friend because of a prophecy they believe indicates that he'll save their world from a giant meteor. Once we see the prophecy, it turns out to be a visual depiction showing a light emitting from his chest. The events of the picture do come to pass, but the light turns out to be coming from a freshly-repaired robot designed to destroy the meteor that's currently positioned behind him. It only looks like it's coming out of him from the perspective the picture shows and the perspective the aliens see it from.

    Web Original 
  • Atop the Fourth Wall: The poem about the Entity reads as thus (albeit in all caps):
    "Beneath the seas, beside the flame
    Off the coast where the lost beast came
    To bring the world misery and shame
    A piece of the world is missing"

    "The path you should have never crossed
    The beast exacts a heavy cost
    The number of the beast is lost
    You will know it by its hissing"

    "The bones from hell you cannot tame
    Devour your life and all your fame
    That is the price to play its game
    And all while you're reminiscing" .
    • Linkara cannot figure out what it means until The Entity posing as 90s Kid says "Heavy". Heavy. As in, Heaviest Pokemon. Missingno. The poem suddenly fits like a glove. The "beneath the seas, beside the flame" refers to the spot on volcanic Cinnabar Island where Missingno is found. The lost beast in the first verse is Mewtwo (who came ashore in the area), not Missingno. The twist that makes it fit: The last line of the first verse is properly rendered as "A piece of the world, is Missing." (Meaning that Missing is a part of the world). The "path you never should have crossed" is the path one must cross to find Missingno as well as referring the fact that you need to use cheat codes to do it. Missingno costs you your save file and a lot of other things. It's number is indeed lost, hence the name "Missing Number". As well, it's made of incomplete number codes. It has a distinct hissing sound as its noise. The "bones from hell you cannot tame" are the images of fossil Pokemon Missingno sometimes appears as. You cannot tame fossil Pokemon normally. It devours all your life and fame by dint of the glitch that makes it appear corrupting the save file you have devoted so much time to and corrupting your Hall of Fame data. That's the price you pay for catching it. On top of everything else, the style of this twist is an homage to the "The Earth shall turn to Ash" twist from the second Pokemon movie.
      • Although the prophesy doesn't work quite as well when you realize that Missigno does not in fact corrupt your save file, or cause any other kind of permanent harm other than messing up your Hall of Fame pictures, which is hardly a huge loss.
  • In Greek Ninja, the prophecy from Delphi clearly states that the Legacy of Hiroyuki is necessary for the victory of mankind in the war with an unknown power aiming to destroy them. The Legacy of Hiroyuki is Hashimoto Daichi, the son of Hiroyuki. Everyone thinks that his role is to defeat the threat, being the strong warrior he is, however all he was needed for was to be the person that motivated Sasha to kill Creon, the one behind the whole destroy-the-world plan, in order to save him.
  • The Lord of Dark in Eliezer Yudkowsky's The Sword of Good argues that the pivotal Choice between Good and Bad in the Prophecy of Destiny is this - it is not so much a choice between a good alternative and a bad alternative as a matter of deciding which is which.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Johnny Bravo episode titled "The Hunk at the End of this Cartoon", the title turns out to refer to, not a hunk muscling in on Bravo's territory (not that he has any), but a hunk of cheese.
  • The "character not coming back but that's because he's staying where he is" came from an episode of Justice League Unlimited where Supergirl travels to the future of the 31st century Legion of Super-Heroes. All their records indicate she won't come back, and sure enough she looks dead enough at one point, but returns in the very next scene... but then decides to stay in the future, as she had fallen for Legionnaire Brainiac 5. (Of course, this episode had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Cartoon Network was introducing a new Legion series the very next fall.)
  • In "Mardi Gras", Mamma Lui from Jem and the Holograms had this for the Holograms and the Misfits. Her prophecy was the following: A pirate coming for Shana and that the pirate will protect her. It turns out to be a hologram from Jerrica Benton's computer, Synergy.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Iroh realises that this applies to his old prophetic dream of one day taking the Earth Kingdom capital Ba Sing Se. As a young man, he had believed that he was thus destined to take it as a conqueror for the Fire Nation, but in the Grand Finale reveals that he now realises he was instead supposed to liberate it from the Fire Nation.
    "Destiny is a funny thing, Prince Zuko. It never happens the way you expect."
    • If Ursa's backstory in The Search is of any indication, the fire sages prophesized for Fire Lord Azulon that Ozai's and an Avatar-descendent' bloodline would yield a powerful bloodline, Azulon took it as a means to continue his Villainous Legacy in the coming centuries. But, as we have seen in the series, they were likely referring to Zuko being the Fire Nation's salvation from tyranny.
    • All of Aunt Wu's prophecies wind up coming true, even though she claims that destiny isn't set in stone. One of her predictions was that the nearby volcano would not destroy the town that year; naturally, the heroes discover that the thing is about to erupt, but then rally the townspeople to divert the lava. Sokka is annoyed when a townsperson points out that technically, Aunt Wu never predicted that the volcano would stay dormant, just that it wouldn't destroy the town.
  • Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers episode "Seer No Evil" contains one of these. Near the beginning of the episode, a fortuneteller bug by the name of Cassandra predicts several events that (with some creative interpretation) all happen throughout the episode, but it's her last prediction - the one related to Chip - that gets the twist. At the end of her predictions, she points to Chip and tells him that "the trunk shall fall...then thppppth *throat-cutting gesture* ...then all is darkness." In the final third of the episode, a somewhat-paranoid Chip is left alone outside a carnival funhouse with a giant elephant statue that's swaying back and forth above the entrance, while the other Rangers enter the funhouse to track a thief (with everyone thinking that the statue will fall down and crush Chip). Chip, in arguably the biggest test of his sense of duty, eventually rushes underneath the statue to the funhouse entrance, and is relieved when he sees that the prediction didn't come true. But just a few moments later, he runs into the funhouse, and is seemingly crushed by a falling chest (or, if you prefer, trunk) containing the thief's loot. The thief's helper monkey sees this and makes a throat-cutting gesture (as well as letting out a raspberry, or thppppth) as the thief leaves the funhouse, and the Rangers believe Chip is dead...except he's actually trapped underneath the trunk in a hole in the floor (which, obviously, would make things pretty dark for Chip).
  • Kim Possible:
    • In "Royal Pain", King Wallace II of a small country contacts the heroes about threats on his son's life. It turns out that the men responsible have a prophecy that the kingdom's monarchy will end with Wallace III, and they're doing their part to make the prophecy come true. At the end of the episode, Kim captures the villains and the prince is still alive; however, having been exposed to democracy throughout the episode, he announces that, while he won't interfere with his father's kinghood, after his father's death, he'll convert the kingdom into a democracy and run for president. Ron is quick to point out how this meshes with the prophecy.
    • In "Monkey Ninjas in Space", Monkey Fist receives a prophecy from a monk telling him to follow a suitable monkey into space, where "the ultimate monkey master will be unstoppable". At the end of the episode, the monk explains to the monkey ninjas that the prophecy actually said "the ultimate monkey master will be Ron Stoppable".
  • An episode of The Penguins of Madagascar uses this; Rico gets a fortune cookie which reads that he will meet 'a foul end'. The group tries for the majority of the episode to find ways to prevent such a curse (or convince Rico that it's silly superstition), until the very end, when a duck crash-lands on him. Fowl end, you see. Private is highly amused.
  • American Dragon: Jake Long: Two (actually more if you bother to keep count) prophecies were twisted in "Body Guard Duty". The first one stated Trixie and Spud would "tie the knot", much to Trixie's horror. The second was that Jake would be hit by a boulder and it didn't help that the prophecy specified how fast the boulder would be. At Ogre Bowl, an ogre threw a boulder that hit Jake at the specified speed, thus fulfilling the prophecy. However, Jake was flying at a slightly slower speed and it didn't hurt him. At the end of the episode, Spud's shoe was untied and Trixie tied it, meaning the prediction about them tying the knot wasn't about marriage.
    • In a smaller scale, it is predicted that somebody would take the last pudding at the cafeteria before Rose could get to it. And it looks like someone else is about to get it, but then Jake takes it — and gives it to Rose. Trixie protests, but the oracles point out that they never said Rose wouldn't end up with it; just that someone else would take it first. Also, it was predicted chocolate milk would be spilled onto Spud's shoes. Trying to defy the prophecy, he went outside the school, where it was unlikely to happen, and a truckload of chocolate milk crashed, spilling some of its contents into Spud's shoes.
  • In the first episode of All Hail King Julien, Masikura the chameleon predicts that the king of the lemurs will get eaten by a fossa... and Julien has just inherited the throne. He does get eaten, but only a small part of his rear end is bitten off.
  • In one episode of Tabaluga animated adaptation season 2, Shouhou's crystal ball shows that a great stone thrown by Humsin will destroy a net protecting Greenland. Greenlanders try to fight destiny. At the end, the stone destroys the net and than Humsin land, because Humsin's hanchman, Kayo, has stolen the net.
  • In Samurai Jack, the Guardian sees an older version of Jack in his time portal to the past. He assumes this means Jack will eventually surpass him and earn the right to use the portal that he's guarding. Aku destroys the portal and the Guardian before Jack can surpass him, but the samurai eventually uses one created by Ashi in order to fulfill his destiny.

    Real Life 
  • Herodotus recounts the story of Croesus, King of Lydia (in modern Turkey), who expended a considerable portion of his vast wealth to get the Oracle at Delphi's opinion on whether he should attack the Persian Empire. The Oracle responded that "If Croesus attacks the Persians, a great empire will fall," or something to that effect ("...he will destroy a great army!"). Croesus attacks the Persians, and it turns out that the empire the Oracle was talking about was his. Cyrus, however, is a nice conqueror and decides to make Croesus an advisor.
    • That example was the second question he asked on the subject. After the first "Can I beat the Medeans?", the oracle responded "Unless they make a mule their king." He asked for qualification and got the more famously twisted answer. The Medean succession, meanwhile, passed to the half-Medean, half-Persian Cyrus.
  • According to Plato, Socrates and Chaerephon, the Oracle at Delphi, when asked whether anyone was wiser than Socrates, responded with a simple "No." Socrates then spent the rest of his life trying to figure out the twist. And his conclusion—that nobody really knew anything, but that he alone knew he knew nothing, thus making him wiser—pissed off enough people to help with his death.
  • In about 279 BCE, the Celtic army was approaching Oracle at Delphi, and the Greeks knew they couldn't hold out against them. Fearing the temple would be sacked, they asked the priestesses what could save the temple. The oracles considered the matter and replied that the temple would be saved by the "white virgins". The Celts advanced, the Greeks retreated, and the Celts sacked the temple, stealing much of its wealth. Then the weather changed and the Celts decided fighting in the snow wasn't fun, so they went home. The Oracles returned to what was left of their temple and declared it had been saved by the snowflakes, just as they predicted. Some members of the Greek army were less than certain about this.
  • During Xerxes' invasion of Greece, the Athenians supposedly asked the Oracle of Delphi about their chances and were basically told they were screwed... but that "a wooden wall" might yet save them. A group of Athenians refused to evacuate their city, and holed up on the Acropolis behind improvised wooden barricades, where they were killed by Xerxes' army. Then, the wooden-hulled Athenian navy kicked Persian keel at the Battle of Salamis, forcing Xerxes to withdraw. Military historians have been referring to Age of Sail warships as "wooden walls" ever since.
    • Harry Turtledove's short story "Counting Potsherds" has a eunuch chronicler visit the ruins of Athens years after the successful Persian invasion. He finds that the Athenians had taken the prophecy quite literally, as the diehards did above, and their wooden wall rather understandably failed to keep out Xerxes' huge army.
  • According to Suetonius, when Nero consulted the Oracle of Delphi, he was told that he must look out for the seventy-third year. He thought he would die at that age, and was relieved, since he was just around thirty. He was eventually dethroned and Driven to Suicide by Galba, who was seventy-three at the time. Or so the story goes - according to modern historians, Galba was born 3 BC, and dethroned Nero in 68 AD. (Seeing as how there was no year 0 he would have turned 73 in 71 AD.)
  • The sons of the last Roman king once went to the Oracle of Delphi (initially, to ask another question their father was concerned about, but we don't know the answer) to find out which one of them would become the next ruler of Rome. The answer was "the one who next kisses his mother". Now their cousin Lucius Iunius Brutus (a distant ancestor of the guy who killed Julius Caesar) who accompanied them interpreted "mother" to mean the Earth, so he pretended to trip and kissed the ground.
  • And while we're at Caesar and mother Earth: He once had the extremely squicky dream that he raped his own mother. He was very disturbed about this, until one seer interpreted that dream this way: The Earth is the mother of all humans, figuratively speaking, so this dream means that Caesar would become ruler of the Earth. Julius definitely liked this interpretation.
    • Yet another story: when Julius Caesar went on his expedition to Africa, he tripped as he got off the boat. However, he covered by shouting "Africa, I embrace you!," thus converting a bad omen into a good one.
      • William the Conqueror did something similar in his conquest of England.
  • Constantine approached Rome in the fall of 312, aiming to unseat his imperial rival Maxentius. Meanwhile, Maxentius wondered whether he should stay at Rome and try to endure a siege or ride out with his army to meet Constantine. Entrenching was a safer option, but Maxentius was becoming unpopular in Rome, due in part to Constantine's wild success as he swept through Italy. Nervous about his position, he consulted the keepers of the Sibylline Books, who told him that this very day, "the enemy of the Romans" would die in battle. Emboldened, Maxentius rode out to meet Constantine and was defeated with his army, and killed, at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. Poor Max never considered that he himself might have been the enemy they were talking about.
  • A legend has it that an astrologer predicted to the Czech king Wenceslas IV that he would die before the tower of the St. Vitus Cathedral. Fearing the prophecy, the king ordered the tower to be demolished; however, he died of stroke before the work could be completed. So the prediction came true: the king died, not standing before the tower, but rather before the tower did.
  • A prophecy told Henry IV would die in Jerusalem. The king assumed this would mean he died on a crusade. He instead died in the house of the abbot of Westminster - in the Jerusalem Chamber. Shakespeare later references this event.
  • Invoked (and parodied) by Benjamin Franklin when he predicted in his 1736 almanac that the sea would rise and put New York and Boston under water, and that American ships would be put out to sea by a power America was not at war with. A year later, he announced that his prophecy had come true - evaporated sea water rained on the cities, and America was not at war with the wind.
  • Towards the end of Julius Caesar's life, there was a popular prophesy that Parthia could only be conquered by a king. This was likely spread either to support Caesar's bid to be crowned King of Rome, or by his enemies to stoke fears that he would seek kingship. Regardless, Caesar died before the Parthian campaign, and Rome never did conquer it. When Parthia finally was conquered, however, it was done so by a king. It just turned out to be the king of Persia when they'd assumed Rome would be the one to conquer Parthia.
  • During the Battle of Marathon, the Persians had with them the old Hippias, a former Athenian tyrant. When he disembarked, it is claimed a tooth of his fell out and was lost in the dirt. Hippias considered it a bad sign - apparently, it was predicted that his bones would lie in the Attican soil, and this kind of interpretation wasn't exactly what he had had in mind.
  • The legend of Y Mab Darogan, the Destined Son, spoke of a Welshman who would rule over England. Most believed that it would mean either that the Welsh would drive out or would conquer the English. It motivated men like Llywelyn the Last and Owain Lagoch to mount ill-fated rebellions against the English king under the belief that they were the figure in question. In the end, the Welshman who mounted the English throne turned out to be King Henry VII.
  • The Indian fortress of Gawilghur was set atop a mountain, and built over a ravine separating the inner and outer gates. Given nicknames like "the sky-fortress" or "the fortress of the Gods", it was intended to be the final redoubt of the Rajah of Berar - his last "Oh shit, time to get serious" refuge, from where he could negotiate as an equal (since no enemy wanted to even try and assault Gawilghur). Indeed, it was often said that "All the armies of India could not take Gawilghur", and indeed it is sometimes reported that there was a prophecy to that effect. A prophecy that did Berar absolutely no use when the British arrived in 1803, blasted a road up the mountain and unleashed their Highlanders. Arthur Wellesley raised the Union flag above the ruins on the 13th of December. It had taken his army only two weeks and 150 men.
  • In the early first century CE, there was a prophecy going around that the ruler of the world would come out of Judaea. The Jews took it as sanctioning the Jewish Revolts, which they lost, with their conqueror Vespasian becoming Emperor of Rome and first being hailed in Judaea. The Jewish writer Josephus, whose patron was Vespasian, claimed the prophecy referred to Vespasian.


Alternative Title(s): Quibble

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