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Rip Van Winkle

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So once True Love's Kiss clears the cobwebs, help everyone upgrade their clothing.

Someone is settling down for a nice nap. When he wakes up, it may take a while to realize it's several years or several decades later. He sees the effects of his absence. Anything he did wrong can no longer be fixed. Those who loved him, if still alive, are miserable, and everything has changed. The Future Is Shocking trope may ensue.

A combination of Yet Another Christmas Carol and It's a Wonderful Plot sans Christmas elements, often with some 20 Minutes into the Future mixed in.

This is Older Than Feudalism. The story it's named after is an old American folktale, which itself is derived from an earlier Dutch folktale, having variants stretching back to the third century CE.

Compare the King in the Mountain and Human Popsicle. Compare Cold Sleep, Cold Future and Asleep for Days. See also Year Outside, Hour Inside, where the victim doesn't sleep away the years but spends them in an enchanted place. When the character is conscious during this it's The Slow Path. An extreme version of this trope is Slept Through the Apocalypse, where the world has ended while the protagonist slept. If you want to add humor when that person wakes up, use Rip Van Tinkle. When someone is deceived into believing this trope it's Faked Rip Van Winkle. Also compare the Heavy Sleeper.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Played for Laughs in The Beano in an early comic strip called "Rip Van Wink" about a man who had been asleep for 700 years so was completely unused to the then modern world.
  • The premise for La Belle Endormie is set up this way; Oxana, a young ballerina dancer from the end of the 19th century, falls into a deep sleep after being cursed. She wakes up 100 years later, with her memories gone and in a completely unfamiliar time period.
  • Captain America. Believed to have died in WW2, he was in fact kept alive as a Human Popsicle in an iceberg in the Arctic. His super-soldier serum kept him from freezing to death for decades before being found and rescued in the Modern Era (originally 1964) by The Avengers.
    • Captain America ends up referencing this trope when he confirms that Peter Parker is back in his body after the whole Superior Spider-Man mess. The Human Torch tells Peter this, referencing the time he was dead.
    • One interesting aspect of this is that Cap's service in World War II is one of the few comic stories not subjected to Comic-Book Time, as all they have to do is extend the time he was frozen.
  • Pretty much Captain Marvel's whole cast. He, his family, and many of his enemies took long naps as an explanation of how they transfered from the Golden Age to the Modern Era.
  • One of the articles featured in Marvel Year-In-Review '92 was titled "Marvel 2099: What You Won't Be Seeing". Among the joke spinoffs presented is "Squirrel Girl 2099":
    The fun-loving mutant rodent teen (and let's face it, a squirrel ain't nothin' but a rat with a fluffy tail) finds that she accidentally hibernated for over a hundred years! What a crazy nut! Can she survive in the far-flung future? Will buckteeth be "in" with the squirrels of 2099? Just how good is she at chewing nuts? And why should anyone care?
  • Richie Rich dreamed one time that he somehow slept into his old age and now appeared on Jackie Jokers' version of "Here Is Your Life" with all his friends, family members, and even adversaries being much older.
  • Superman: One Silver Age story, aptly named "Rip Van Superman", sees Superman rendered unconscious in an accident involving Kryptonite. After remaining in his coma for centuries, he awakens far in the future. It gets Played for Drama as Superman quickly realizes that he has long since outlived the people he knew and loved in his own time. This spurs the natives of the future to return him to his own period using a time machine, allowing him to miss only a week.

    Comic Strips 
  • Bloom County 2015 begins with Opus waking up from a 25-year nap.
  • Buck Rogers: Buck Rogers was a mining engineer who mustered out of the air service at the end of The Great War. He was surveying the lower levels of an abandoned mine near Pittsburgh when the roof collapsed and a strange gas seeping out of the rocks put him into suspended animation. He awakens and emerges from the mine in 2429 AD, in the midst of another war.

    Fan Works 
  • Sassette in Empath: The Luckiest Smurf was actually a real female Smurf who was trapped in a Crystal Prison for a century since she was a little Smurfling and awakened by Nat, Snappy, and Slouchy with no knowledge of how she became trapped in there in the first place. In "Little Sister Smurf Lost", though, she does find out that an evil wraith named Avengelica put her into the crystal, since Sassette expressed a desire to get even with the male Smurfs who at that time were mistreating her, and thus her hatred for them resurfaces as she exacts her revenge against them, particularly against her older brother Hefty.
  • A common theme in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfiction is taking advantage of the fact that this effectively happened to Luna as a result of her being Sealed Evil in a Can for a thousand years. One that doesn't use Luna is The Bridge, where it is Princess Cadance that is an unknowing example given it is heavily implied Princess Amore of the Crystal Empire a millennia ago was her mother. King Caesar spirited her away as a baby to escape from King Sombra after Sombra killed Amore. We next see them 1,000 years later with Caesar giving her away to a kindly young couple.
  • Shantae: A New Genie: Thanks to the voice, Harmony was forced into one of these. The amount of time was not stated, but the voice states he put her to sleep as a child and she is now in her early twenties.
  • In "How Things Smurf" from The Smurfette Village series, Hefty and Toughette are trapped in a Crystal Prison for half a millennium, and wake up to find themselves in the modern world circa 2005 with their fellow Smurfs Brainy and Brainette now elderly.
  • In Tangled In Time instead of dying, Ganondorf was comatose for decades with his body being taken care of by the Twinrova before he wakes up.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The original ending to Army of Darkness had Ash take too much of the potion that was to return him to his own time. He overshoots his own time by one hundred years and awakes to a post-apocalyptic world.
  • Justified in Captain America: The First Avenger, where Steve Rogers gets frozen in the arctic in the 1940s and is woken up again in modern times. Needless to say, he's a bit surprised when he puts it together (because Steve had been at the baseball game S.H.I.E.L.D. put on the radio to put him at ease).
  • Joe "Not Sure" Bauers in Idiocracy is cryogenically frozen, supposedly only for a year … but no one defrosts him for 500 years. When he wakes up he's shocked to discover that the world is now overpopulated with pathologically stupid people. Ditto for fellow test subjects Rita and Upgrayedd.
  • In the film Merlins Apprentice, the titular wizard rests out in a cave after Camelot comes to peace and wakes up 50 years later to find Camelot in ruins and Arthur dead.
  • One of the earliest narrative films ever made, Rip Van Winkle, is a 4 1/2-minute film dramatizing the Trope Namer's visit with some strange spirits, followed by his 20-year nap and revival in the woods.
  • Tom Canboro (Gary Busey) in the Christian film Tribulation (from the Apocalypse series) wakes up a few years into the Tribulation period after being in an automobile accident, complete with Time-Passage Beard.

  • Epimenides the Cretan, according to Diogenes Laertius (early 3rd century AD), was sent to a farm to get a sheep but went to sleep for 57 years. When he woke up he thought only a few hours had gone by so he continued on his quest for the sheep. When he arrived at the farm he found it had been sold and the style of dress had changed. It is also said he died at the age of 157.
  • The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus were said to have hidden in a cave to escape persecution and fallen asleep there, only to wake decades later, after Christianity has triumphed, and be caught when one of them tries to buy coins with the old emperor's head on them.
  • A medieval legend told in various versions tells of a monk who comes to doubt God because he cannot wrap his mind around the Biblical verse "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." (2nd Peter 3:8) (or alternatively "For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past", Psalms 90:4). Deep in thought, he wanders into a forest and forgets of the time (depending on the version, he may fall asleep while sitting down for a rest, or be entranced by a beautiful songbird). At evening, he hurries back to the monastery, only to discover that during his stay in the forest, three hundred years have passed. He realizes that God has done this to demonstrate His power, and dies soon after. The best-known modern adaptation of this legend is the ballad "The Monk of Heisterbach" by Wolfgang Müller von Königswinter.

  • In Andre Norton's Android at Arms, the protagonist is one of several important political figures who were kidnapped, stored as Human Popsicles, and replaced with Ridiculously Human Robots. When they are initially decanted from cold storage by a power failure, they compare notes to learn that they were all kidnapped in different years, and that several of them have been prisoners for decades.
    • That's the short and not quite accurate version — they were "defrosted" previously but were under Mind Control until the power failure knocked out the Mind-Control Device.
  • Spider Robinson's "The Time Traveler" in Callahans Cross Time Saloon is a variant on this - the protagonist hasn't been sleeping, but he is imprisoned by a dictatorship in the early Sixties and not allowed any contact with the outside world. When he's released in the early Seventies, the culture shock between the era of JFK and the era of Vietnam/ Watergate makes him contemplate suicide.
  • In The Dead Zone Johnny Smith falls into a coma in October 1970, and wakes up in May 1975. He's shocked to learn that during this time Nixon had to resign, the Vietnam War was won by the Communists, and on the personal front, his girlfriend got married and had a son. He even compares himself to Rip van Winkle.
  • Forest Kingdom: This happened to the supporting character Wulf Saxon in the Hawk & Fisher spinoff series' book 6 (The Bones Of Haven), who got trapped inside a booby-trapped magical portrait for 23 years while attempting to rob a sorcerer. No time passes for him, but by the time he's set free, his family are all dead or penniless, his friends have become callous and hostile, and the city he'd once hoped to reform has become a Wretched Hive far worse than he remembers.
  • In the children's picture book The Frog Band and Durrington Dormouse, Durrington, after a life at sea, runs into the woods to escape a press gang. He runs into Mad Maude the Toad, who gives him a drink. This sends him to sleep and he awakes to find everything completely different. It's not made clear how long he was asleep, but, given that he went to sleep in an age of press gangs and woke up in the twentieth century, it was probably over 100 years.
  • Crowley from Good Omens slept through most of the 19th century. To be fair, he is a demon.
  • Looking Backward: Julian West is put into a hypnotic trance in Boston 1887, then by a mishap he only awakens in the year 2000, with society changed beyond recognition in the meantime.
  • The Trope Namer is the 1819 short story "Rip Van Winkle", in which Rip goes into the woods, meets some strange beings, drinks of their liquor, and takes a 20-year nap. He winds up pretty pleased about it, as he has outlived his nagging shrew of a wife and gets to live the life of a respected senior citizen.
  • Sholan Alliance: Thanks to spending 1500 years in an alien stasis cube, Rezac and Zashou get to experience a mix of this trope and Cold Sleep, Cold Future.
  • In The Sleeper Awakes, a man previously in a coma for centuries happens to awaken to find himself now not only in a bleak, dystopian future, but also the richest man in the world due to the compound interest on his bank accounts which had been compiling for so long.
  • Sleeping Beauty: Due to a curse, the title princess falls asleep. She wakes up 100 years later. Much has changed since then, including the fashions - the prince notes how outdated her dress looks.
  • The novel Son of Rosemary brings the heroine of Rosemary's Baby up-to-date by having her awaken from a twenty-plus year sleep, just as her demonic son's plotting to bring about The End of the World as We Know It.
  • The Space Odyssey Series: The last and final volume, 3001: The Final Odyssey, finds Frank Poole — previously killed by HAL in the first book — discovered by a space-tug after floating about the Kuiper Belt for a millennium; the absolute zero temperature of deep space having preserved his body, which the ultra-advanced society of 3001 is able to heal and bring back to life.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie technically qualifies. She wasn't asleep, but she was trapped in her bottle for 2,000 years before Nelson found it, and she clearly had no contact with the outside (as proven by the fact that she couldn't speak English until he wished for her to be able to).
  • Parodied on The Kids in the Hall, where they had a sketch where a man fell asleep for 20 minutes and woke up to a world largely the same, except for everyone, including the man, acting as if years had gone by. And "the Elongulator," which is not described any further.
  • The premise of The Munsters Today, as told in the opening theme song, was "We went to sleep some twenty years ago / And woke up with a brand new show!"
  • Red Dwarf enforces one upon main protagonist Lister, as while he has been rendered a Human Popsicle as a punishment, a deadly gas strikes the ship, killing all the humans, so the computer keeps him on ice until it can get rid of the gas completely. Which takes 3000 years.
  • Roswell, New Mexico: Rosa is revived in the second season, nearly a decade after her death, and struggles with her relationship with her younger sister Liz who is now older than her.
  • From Saturday Night Live, Aidy Bryant plays 13-year-old Melanie, who goes to slumber parties only to fall for her friend's father each time. It's slowly built up on when she mentions that her father is "like 72 years old", and she had to take a Vicodin after hurting her back once, but then Vanessa Bayer as her mum arrives to deliver the Wham Line.
    "She's not 13, she's 25. We lied to her about how long she was in that Vicodin coma; she's all horned up now and doesn't know why."
  • Parodied in the sketch comedy The State: A man is in a coma for "one hundred and nineteen...almost two hours." However, the world at large seems to have changed as if he'd been in a coma for decades.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "Future Imperfect", Riker falls unconscious after exploring a cave that was flooded with toxic gas and waking up to discover that at that moment he had contracted a strange alien disease that apparently wiped all his memories between the time he fell unconscious and the 16 years since. However at the end it turned out to be an elaborate holographic illusion created by a lonely alien who had captured Riker and was impersonating his fictional future son.
    • [[Star Trek: Voyager:
      • In "Living Witness", a backup copy of the Doctor stored in a piece of the ship that had ended up in an alien museum was reactivated and discovered that 700 years had passed since Voyager left the planet. From his point of view, he was on Voyager just yesterday.
      • In "Timeless", the Doctor is reactivated 15 years in the series' future and discovers that he, Harry and Chakotay are the only three members of the crew still alive.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise, episode "Twilight." Captain Archer wakes up many years in the future, after the destruction of Earth, to learn that he contracted an alien disease causing a form of anterograde amnesia: every six months, he wakes up with no memories since he contracted the disease. It all ends with a Reset Button as they use Techno Babble to retroactively cure the disease, returning us to the plot arc. It's really just an excuse to run an Alternate Universe plot about the Enterprise's mission failing.
  • Invoked by some train robbers in The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "The Rip Van Winkle Caper". The robbers' intent was to remain in gas-induced suspended animation until their theft of gold bullion had been forgotten.
  • WandaVision has Monica Rambeau waking up from a nap in a hospital room, and discovering five years have passed. During that period, she was outright non-existant, being among half the population of the universe that was wiped out by Thanos (something that happened as she dozed off), and thus revived when the Avengers reversed that decimation - the reason why she was in the hospital, her mother Maria, even died three years prior.

  • The song "L Dopa" by Big Black is about a girl who falls asleep in her teens and wakes up as an old woman. The woman decides that she'd rather die than continue living since she literally slept her entire productive life away, however the doctors feel that all life is worth saving regardless of the patient's input on the matter, so she's unable to have her request fulfilled.
  • The song "Four of Two" by They Might Be Giants does this to a man who falls asleep waiting for a date to arrive, not realizing that the clock he's looking at is broken & the girl has stood him up.
  • "Won't Get Fooled Again" by The Who is an interpretation of the original story, which used the twenty-year nap to illustrate that the Revolutionary War (which happened while he slept) really didn't change anything at all, and he was basically living in the same world. It's a bit hidden in the song, but certain lyrics like "And the marching on the left/ Is now the marching on the right/ And the beards have all grown longer overnight" make it a definite reference.

    Myths & Religion 
  • There is an ancient Christian martyrological tale of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus — seven Christians who flee to a cave to escape persecution by the Roman Emperor Decius (around 250 AD), fall asleep, and awake decades later (usually during the reign of Theodosius II, 408-450 AD) to find the Roman Empire has become Christian.
  • The Talmud contains the story of the ancient Rabbi and scholar Honi ha-M'agel, who slept for 70 years, and awakened to find his teachings misinterpreted and all of his friends dead. The texts probably dates from the early 3rd century AD.


    Video Games 
  • In the backstory to Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night Miriam fell into an enchanted sleep right before she was supposed to be sacrificed in a ritual to cause Hell on Earth, only to wake up ten years later. One decade is a short turnaround for this trope, but the Industrial Revolution is in full swing during that interval, and Miriam is surprised and fascinated by things like primitive photography.
  • Bug Fables: Leif the moth is rescued from a spider's web in Snakemouth Den by Vi and Kabbu. After the trio deliver Snakemouth's artifact to Queen Elizant II of the Ant Kingdom, Leif reveals that he had gotten trapped in the web back when the queen was Elizant I decades earlier. He's a bit shocked at both the technological developments that have happened and at the tenser political environment of modern Bugaria (namely, the Ant Kingdom no longer being on friendly terms with the Wasp or Termite Kingdoms). Worse for him personally, he seems to have outlived his wife Muse. It turns out the "Leif" introduced in the present is not the original Leif, who died in that web all those years ago, but a cordyceps fungus modified by Roach scientists that escaped their hidden lab and took on the memories and personality of the original Leif by entering the latter's body.
  • In Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, the main character Laharl planned to take a ten day nap... and slept for 2 years. He would have slept longer, but his 'loyal' vassal Etna woke him up. Also between that time, his father died.
  • This happens to the main character, their sibling, and adopted parent in Bleach: The Third Phantom. Luckily, the protaganist takes it better than the others, or else things would've really gone to hell.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link: Long before the game's events, a previous princess named Zelda (separate from the one encountered in the preceding game) had a cruel brother who mistreated the citizens of Hyrule with the help of an evil wizard. When Zelda refused to tell her brother what she knew about the location of the Triforce, the wizard tried to kill her with a spell that instead killed him and put Zelda in a deep slumber. The remorseful brother placed his sister in a castle tower in the hope that she would one day be woken up. The plot of the game involves Link finding the Triforce of Courage to do so.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has Link wake up after a century-long slumber. He was put in such a state because he was in front of death's doors when Calamity Ganon ravaged Hyrule and the corrupted Guardians attempted to kill him. He wakes up fully recovered, but without his memories.
  • In Portal 2, Chell gets caught in cryogenic stasis for an indefinite amount of time (the "hotel room" she was in started out intact, and afterwards was severely decayed) at the start of the game.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Ever17, Takeshi spends 17 years in cryo-stasis, and upon waking up, discovers that he has 16-year-old children. The story of Rip van Winkle himself is discussed in some of the routes.

    Web Comics 
  • In the finale of the original Ctrl+Alt+Del storyline, this is what happens to Ethan after hitting the reset button on his time machine to save the future: he gets stuck inside a temporal limbo where time doesn't exist, and is only able to escape when a time portal experiment is conducted eighty years in the future. In the interim his best friend died and his wife remarried. On the bright side, Lijlah is still friendly with him, his creation Zeke is an advocate for AI rights, and he has eight decades worth of games to catch up on.
  • The Dog House Diaries uses this trope to highlight some of the most unbelievable events of the 21st century's first decade in this comic.
  • In the Pokey the Penguin strip Rip Van Pokey, Pokey gets a 20-minute power nap to find out he is no longer welcome in the Arctic Circle.

    Western Animation 
  • Inverted in an episode of The Angry Beavers. The two beavers spend the entire episode trying to stay up all night, only to realize their clock is broken. When they go outside, decades have passed and they can see a futuristic city on the horizon.
    Norbert: Dag! How long have we been awake?!
  • The Flintstones: In "Rip Van Flintstone", Fred dreams that he's been asleep for twenty years, "like in that Rip Van Winklestone story", and finds that Barney has become an oil tycoon and that Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm are married.
  • The plot of Futurama is kickstarted when pizza delivery boy Fry accidentally freezes himself during New Year’s Eve of 1999 and wakes up a thousand years later.