In most fiction, inanimate wish-granting objects (such as wishbones and birthday candles note ) tend to grant only one wish. But when you're fortunate enough to find a living creature that can grant wishes, you'll most likely receive three of them.
When presented with three magical shots at anything they want, most fictional characters react thus:
- The first wish is one typically made in haste, perhaps not quite believing that it would be granted. Sometimes they specifically wish for something trivial, just to "test" if their wish will really be granted at all. Other times they may waste it on something frivolous, like wishing that the neighbor's damned dog would stop barking. (Granted! A car plows into the neighbor's house, killing the dog in the process.) Sometimes the second wish may also be wasted on something equally frivolous.
- The second wish is made with much greater care than the first wish, with full awareness of what (obvious) consequences may result; they will carefully craft their second wish in a way that results in the maximum gain and the minimum unintended side effects, and possibly attempting a bit of Loophole Abuse to get the better of their benefactor. A Jackass Genie, well aware of their greed, will usually find a way to exploit the person's Exact Words and attach some measure of unforeseen tragic consequence to their wish all the same. Alternatively, the wish itself will be flawed and shallow, and the hero's misery will be his own fault.
- The last wish — almost invariably — pushes the Reset Button and returns things to the status quo through one precisely worded Wishplosion. However, if nothing of consequence ever came of the first two wishes, the third wish (desperately made in an attempt to elicit some gain) may also backfire, but with hilarious instead of tragic consequences. Another option for the third wish is Freeing the Genie.
Related to the Rule of Three. For this to work, the person with the wishes has to not be Genre Savvy enough to know to use the first wish to wish for the knowledge and wisdom to know what to use the last two wishes for. Kind of a Dead Unicorn Trope, as the origin of the rule is not from the original Aladdin story in Arabian Nights, the genie does not have a limit on wishes he just only got to three before the lamp was stolen, nor Djinns in Arab mythology have a limited number of wishes in folklore. The oldest known movie in having the "three wishes" rule is probably The Thief of Bagdad (1940) making this trope Newer Than They Think.
See Mundane Wish when one of the wishes (typically the first one) is spent on something trivially minor. See also Be Careful What You Wish For, Wasteful Wishing. Can easily become a Story-Breaker Power if restrictions are loose; i.e being allowed to wish for more wishes or being allowed to write out long, elaborate wishes that string together dozens of unrelated things, thus effectively giving yourself unlimited wishes.
Reset Button Examples:
- Each miko in Fushigi Yuugi gets three wishes. While Takiko and Suzuno's last wishes are unknown (the former is assumed to have died before making her third wish, while it is unclear whether or not the latter's wish to remain with Tatara was indeed her last), Miaka and Yui's last wishes are of this type ( Yui, after being devoured by Seiryuu, wishes that Miaka be given the power to summon Suzaku, while Miaka wishes that everything be brought back to normal).
- A rather grisly example shows up in ×××HOLiC, this one involving a monkey's paw which grants five wishes (one for each finger of the mummified paw). In this case the additional two wishes only give the woman who gets hold of the paw that many more ways to screw herself over: her first wish turns out harmlessly enough, which only encourages her to make increasingly reckless and greedy wishes. It's not long before, running late for an important interview, she carelessly thinks to herself that if there were a railway accident it would give her an excuse for being late - which the paw accepts as a wish, causing an unfortunate bystander to be thrown into the path of an oncoming train. Matters deteriorate rapidly after this as her other wishes begin backfiring on her as well, and when she tries to use her final wish to hit the reset button, the paw kills her.
- Misty: The heroine of the story "The Evil Djinn" receives these after saving a Jerk Ass Genie from choking to death. The first two wishes (for legally gained wealth, and for the heroine's sister to be alive again) have negative consequences, so in an act of Laser-Guided Karma she uses the last wish to wish that she had never met the genie, and the genie dies.
- Rick and Morty (Oni) Dungeons and Dragons Chapter II: Painscape: In an interesting variation, Rick does this with his second wish, after earning a magic wishing ring and using the first wish to return home from the alternate dimension in which he's trapped. By the time he does get home, his own version of Earth has been taken over by the D&D characters he created and many other monsters, and a large portion of the planet's population has been killed, including everyone in Rick's family. After he defeats his Big Bad OC, he uses wish #2 to return everything back to normal (complete with nobody else even remembering any of it), and tells the reader that the remaining third wish will be a Chekhov's Gun for Chapter III.
- In The Mermaid and the Genie, when Ursula steals the Genie's lamp from Ariel when Ariel has only used one wish to become human, Ariel is able to retrieve the lamp from Ursula and use her second wish to undo all of Ursula's wishes.
- In DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp (see the entry in the other category), there are at least three examples of a Reset Button, though none are made by the original wisher. The first two are made by the nephews to undo the chaos caused by Webby's wishes (or at least the two of hers that are seen onscreen). The third is Scrooge's second wish, done to reverse the work of the Big Bad (and then his third wish is used for Freeing the Genie).
- The remake of Bedazzled (2000), despite giving the main character seven wishes, follows this trope fairly well. The first is wasted on a Cheeseburger. That he has to pay for himself. Wishes 2-through-6 are attempts to get the Hot Chick to fall in love with him. Of course, the Devil screws them up. The final wish is to make sure that the object of his affection has a happy life. Everything goes back to normal, with The Devil telling him that making a Selfless Wish voids the contract with her and he no longer owes her his soul.
- Darby O'Gill and the Little People: Three wishes I'll grant ye, great wishes an' small! But you wish a fourth and you'll lose them all!
- In Wishmaster, three wishes are granted for the one who awoke the Djinn (everyone else gets only one, and give up their soul in return). Granting them all will unleash the hordes of the Djinn upon the world. The Djinn may also give a "free" wish. He did so as a demonstration to show that one cannot simply wish the Djinn were dead or killed. He offered the protagonist in the second film a free wish, so that she "might know its joy", but she refused. In the first film the protagonist makes her third wish such that it resets time so that the Djinn was never freed from his magical prison. As the Djinn learns from his mistake, later movies force the heroes to look for other ways to beat him at his own game.
- In Road to Morocco Hope and Crosby are in a cell waiting to be executed and are given a magical ring. They don't believe it but Hope wishes he had a sandwich. When one appears he exclaims "Well I'll be a monkey's uncle" and is turned into a monkey. After several seconds of jumping up and down he turns back into himself, having apparently wished for that. Their three wishes are gone and they are no better off than before.
- Used in the fairy tale "The Fisherman and His Wife":
- The henpecked fisherman catches a fish which says he'll grant him three wishes if he spares his life. The fisherman agrees, and wishes for a castle. The wife isn't satisfied and wants to be the Pope, so she sends the fisherman back to catch the magic flounder and get that wish fulfilled as well. Still not enough. Now she wants to be like God, so the fisherman gets sent back one last time. This wish undoes everything, as the fish interprets the wish in the context, as American Mcgees Grimm points out at the end, that God has no need for material possessions - in short, to "be like God" means absolute destitution, which is no big deal for the divine, but utter hell for the insatiable wife.
- In another version, the fish doesn't limit the wishes to three, and the wife progresses up the social status ladder from the shabby hovel to a nice little cottage, then to Burgher to Bishop to King to Pope to God, and the "God" wish causes the fish to become so angry at the wife's greed that he retracts all the wishes, returning her to the shabby little hovel she started with.
- In yet another version, the wife progressively makes more and more demanding wishes, and when the wife is about to make the ultimate wish, the fish is annoyed and says to the fisherman "Every time you come here, you bring a wish for your wife. Don't you have any wish of your own?" to which the fisherman replies "I just wish for my wife to be happy" to which the reset button is applied, and the couple are returned to their original poverty, but now the wife is satisfied with her lot in life and no longer seeks to rise in social status nor wealth. Awwww.
- Another Fairy Tale that uses this is The Three Wishes, in which a a woodsman is granted three wishes by a fairy in return for not cutting down her tree. He returns home, but is hungry, but dinner won't be ready for hours. He wishes aloud that he had a "link of black pudding," which immediately appears before him. His wife, hearing the story about the fairy, calls her husband a fool and wishes the pudding was stuck to his nose, which ends up counting as the usage of the second wish. Try as they might, they can't pull it off, so they are forced to use the last wish to get the pudding unstuck. This story was remade as a Disney Book called Mickey's Magic Bottle, which revolves around Donald and Goofy finding a genie and being granted three wishes. (In a subversion of the "Three Wishes" trope, Donald and Goofy are each granted one wish, then they must share the third.) While trying to think about what they want to wish for, Goofy gets hungry and wishes he had a fine turkey dinner. He gets his wish, but Donald is angry for "wasting the wish" when they could have wished for enough food for a year, and accidentally wishes the drumstick was stuck to Goofy's nose, which uses his wish. Since, try as they might, they can't get the drumstick off, they're left with no choice but to use their shared wish to get the drumstick unstuck.
- In "The Monkey's Paw" by W. W. Jacobs, the characters skip straight to wishing for lots of money. The second wish is then used in an attempt to undo the side-effects of the first wish (namely, the horrific death of their son), and the third wish to undo the side-effects of the second (fortunately without creating any new side-effects of its own).
- Partially defied in "The Third Wish" by Joan Aiken; the main character is warned early that he'll likely end up using his third wish to undo the first two. Instead, he uses the second to undo the first, but is still happier than before, and dies with the third unspent.
- Goosebumps: "Be Careful What You Wish For". First Samantha Byrd wishes that she would be the strongest member of the basketball team, but everyone else becomes weak. Then she wishes for Judith to stop bugging her, but everyone disappears. After Samantha resets the wishes, Judith accidentally wishes "Byrd, why don't you fly away?", turning her into a bird.
- The Dresden Files: Inverted. Fairly early in the series, Harry ends up owing three favors to the Queen of Winter Faeries, Mab. As of Changes, he seems to have paid them all off, but even if becoming the Winter Knight counts as the third favor, he now has to follow her orders anyway.
- The implications of this version of the trope are part of the ultimate solution in A Hat Full of Sky. The third wish is the one that undoes the harm of the first two because people don't think things through when they have that much power suddenly handed to them.
- The Twilight Zone TOS episode "The Man in the Bottle". The genie actually granted four wishes; with the first wish being used solely to test the genie, the second being "one million dollars" (which they give away to friends, before federal and state income tax claim the rest), the third being a clear Type 2, and the fourth to return everything to normal. A closing Karmic Twist Ending ultimately undoes their first wish as well, leaving them with nothing but some wisdom learned from the experience.
- Invoked and averted in Angel by Sahjhan, who ends up just telling him he "appreciates it". Then he finds out who Connor is.
- In the season 2 finale, the genie grants the sisters a wish each. Piper vaguely wishes for Dan to move on with his life (as in stop pining over her and Leo) which backfires and he ages rapidly. Prue wishes for love to feel "like it used to" and she ends up transformed into a 16-year-old. Phoebe wishes for an active power but hers gets stolen from a Dragon demon (which becomes Hilarious in Hindsight as she gains the exact same power naturally in the next episode).
- "I Dream of Phoebe": Phoebe accidentally wishes that Chris wouldn't leave and that ends up stopping him from being able to orb. So her second wish is for him to be able to orb again. Her third wish sets the genie free...and traps her in the bottle instead. Chris becomes her master and accidentally wishes for Leo to get over his prejudice towards him. He then wishes for Piper and Leo to sleep together (long story) but Phoebe makes them fall asleep next to each other. He doesn't get his third wish however as the original genie steals the bottle. Her three wishes are to kill the sister, raise a lost city and (through some heavy trickery) wish the new genie free which imprisons her again.
- One strip of The Bash Street Kids in The Beano has the teacher discovering a Genie. He blows his first wish on wishing he wasn't so freaked out. He then wishes for all the kids to be smart. It happens, and teacher hears he's going to be out of job, so he wishes for all the kids to be stupid again.
- Dungeons & Dragons has a Ring of Three Wishes. And yes, the GM is supposed to be an Evil Genie when he doesn't like the wish. In third edition, they start listing exactly what the players are allowed to wish for without the Dungeon Master messing with them, and any greater effect is giving license for the DM to wreck your wish to balance the game.
- In Finian's Rainbow, Finian's crock of gold has three wishes in it before it turns to dross. The first wish is accidental, causing complications until it is undone by the third wish (because there was an accidental second wish too).
- This version is given something of a twist in a short tale from Planescape: Torment:
An elderly man was sitting alone on a dark path. He wasn't certain of which direction to go, and he'd forgotten both where he was traveling to and who he was. He'd sat down for a moment to rest his weary legs, and suddenly looked up to see an elderly woman before him. She grinned toothlessly and with a cackle, spoke: "Now your *third* wish. What will it be?"
"Third wish?" The man was baffled. "How can it be a third wish if I haven't had a first and second wish?"
"You've had two wishes already," the hag said, "but your second wish was for me to return everything to the way it was before you had made your first wish. That's why you remember nothing; because everything is the way it was before you made any wishes." She cackled at the poor man. "So it is that you have one wish left."
"All right," he said, "I don't believe this, but there's no harm in wishing. I wish to know who I am."
"Funny," said the old woman as she granted his wish and disappeared forever. "That was your first wish."
- In a Sesame Street Christmas special, Elmo gets a magic snowglobe from Santa Claus. He uses the first wish to get a drink of water, the second wish to make Christmas neverending, and the third wish to undo the second one when he realizes that an endless Christmas isn't as wonderful as he thought it would be. Subverted with the third one when the snowglobe breaks as he's trying to wish on it, and he has to take an alternate way of undoing his second wish.
- A Discussed Trope on The Fairly OddParents (see Three Good Wishes). According to Norm The Genie, the typical structure is thus: Something stupid like "I want a sandwich"; something world changing ("I want to be Mayor of the World!"); and then when that blows up in their face, "I wish I had never met you!", returning the status quo. Interestingly, Timmy also uses a variant of this when he meets Norm (before this pattern was brought up). He decides, since Norm can grant him three RULE FREE wishes (as opposed to Cosmo and Wanda, who can grant unlimited wishes but have a ridiculously long book of rules to go along with it), to test them out with a simple rule free wish: "I wish I had an omelet (after 10 am)!" (Of course, Norm, being The Trickster, gives him an omelet that was too hot without a plate). This is followed by, "I wish Trixie Tang was in love with me, Timmy Turner!" (actually in love with everyone named Timmy Turner on the planet), and "I wish I had One Billion Dollars!" (it's counterfeit). The reset button is pressed by him more or less blackmailing Norm into more wishes, and then wishing for a lawyer (the only thing that can defeat Genies besides Smoof).
- Daffy Duck's Fantastic Island ends with Speedy, Daffy and Yosemite Sam stranded on the island and granted one wish each. Speedy wishes for a burrito. Daffy, indignant at such Wasteful Wishing, wishes for the burrito to get stuck to Speedy's nose, making him unable to breathe. He then suggests that Yosemite Sam use his wish to get the burrito unstuck, except Sam has already wished for a getaway ship. The End. (So, uh... Speedy suffocated to death?)
- In The Smurfs episode "The Magical Meanie", when Papa Smurf gets a hold of being master of the Jerkass Genie by saying the magical word "pumpernickel pickle", his second wish was to undo all the things the genie did with his magic. This also undid the first wish of Gargamel and Azrael being shrunk to Smurf-size as they were floating down the river on a small raft, causing them to start swimming from the waterfall that they were approaching.
- Woody Woodpecker gets three wishes from a leprechaun woodpecker. The first wish gets Woody in trouble with the law, so he uses the second wish to get out of the jam. Woody uses the third wish to tell the leprechaun (in kid-friendly terms) to go to Hell.
Three good wishes examples:
- Subverted in the Asatte no Houkou manga; a sign by the shrine the wishing stone is in says each stone will grant three wishes, but in truth, each one only grants one wish.
- Junkers, from Junkers Come Here, is a talking dog who says he can grant "Three Miracles" to his owner, Hiromi; So she first wishes that her tutor, Keisuke, doesn't marry his girlfriend, Yoko, so the next day the latter breaks up with Kaisuke, severely depressing him and causing a My God, What Have I Done? moment in Hiromi, so later she uses her second wish to make them reconcile, which they do; and for her final wish Junkers offer her to wish that her parents don't get divorced which she declines and instead wishes for her family be happy together just one last time, Junkers grants her third wish and whisks the three away to the beach where she had her best childhood memories, and the next morning Hiromi's mother announces that her father and she have decided not to divorce; the downside of all these is that Junkers has lost his ability to speak and it's now a normal dog. Hiromi at the end wonders if Junkers was really a talking dog and if everything that happened was because of his magic or just a series of coincidences.
- In Koucha Ouji manga, by performing a specific ritual while drinking tea under the full moon, a human can summon a tea prince or princess who will stay with them until three small wishes are granted. The "small" part is important as the wishes cannot be too big (like asking to be a millionaire), or affecting too many people (so you can't wish to cure cancer or something like that) unless a specific circumstance happens that allows it to be (like erasing normal people's memories because they discovered the existence of the tea fairies). Even so, it also depends on the personality of the tea prince/princess that how big a wish can be, some princes will freely perform small magics to help you in daily life and only count something as a wish if it's required a lot of power, some others will not use any spell at all and use them only for the wishes.
- In The Mermaid and the Genie, when Ariel finds the Genie's lamp after her father destroyed her collection, she uses her first wish to become human, but although she promises to release the Genie, he suggests that she not waste her remaining two wishes and instead just give it a few days to make sure she wants to stay human. As a result, when Ursula later steals the lamp for herself, Ariel is able to use her second wish to undo the consequences of Ursula's wishes, before using her final wish to free Genie as she promised.
- On the other side, when Ursula acquires the Lamp, she uses her third wish to wish that the Genie will have to obey her as long as she's holding the lamp, essentially drawing out her third wish rather than wishing for more.
- Genies in Disney's Aladdin movies must give whomever hold their lamps three wishes, with three restrictions: they can't kill anybody (but, as the sequel Aladdin: The Return of Jafar made clear, "you'd be surprised what you can live through"), they can't make anybody fall in love with anybody else (there's a moment when Jafar wishes for Jasmine to fall in love with him; Jasmine fakes it, much to Genie's surprise), and they can't bring people back from the dead (it's not a pretty picture... they don't like doing it!). And of course, wishing for more wishes is strictly forbidden (but, as Aladdin proved, genies can apparently be tricked into using their powers without making an official wish, when he doubts whether Genie can even free them from the Cave of Wonders and Genie takes the dare, freeing them without realizing Aladdin never actually wished for it).
- From Aladdin: The Return of Jafar, there's a subversion. Abis Mal frees Jafar and also gets the standard three wishes, despite Jafar demanding he take him to Agrabah first so he can get revenge on Aladdin, then he'll give Abis Mal his wishes. Instead Jafar takes the Jackass Genie route and makes Abis Mal completely waste the first two, while saving the third one for getting himself freed from the lamp. Even so, he's in a good enough mood at that point that he gives Abis Mal an entire room of treasure as a reward for setting him free, but Abis Mal never gets to do so in the end.
- In the Ducktales The Movie Treasure Of The Lost Lamp, the villainous sorceror has a talisman that allows him to override the three wish rule. And unfortunately, wishing for possession of the talisman is the one wish beyond the genie's power.
- Theseus gets three wishes from Poseidon, and in Euripides' play Hippolytus, he uses one of them to kill the eponymous character.
- The Witcher short story collection The Last Wish is, as you would expect, based on this.
- Subversion: In The Old Genie Hottabych by Lazar Lagin, the genies are not required to fulfill any wishes for those who free them but the titular Hottabych feels so grateful to The Protagonist that he decides to become his lifetime servant, i.e. granting him unlimited wishes for the duration of his life (which is, needless to say, thousands of times shorter than Hottabych's own, so it's a pretty good deal). Another genie (Hottabych's brother) appears later in the novel who has to be coerced into serving his rescuer but also grants unlimited wishes.
- The Wheel of Time has Mat entering another world where fox-like beings grant three wishes to every visitor. He wishes for a cure for his amnesia, a way to be free of Aes Sedai and the One Power, and a way out of their world and back to his own. That last wish is almost a "reset button," but he still "enjoys" the benefits of his first two wishes. Except he failed to specify that he wanted to leave their world alive, so they try to hang him.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire the assassin Jaqen H'ghar offers Arya three very specific wishes. Specifically, she can say three names, and those people will die (because he'll kill them). As is traditional she ends up wasting the first two on a petty tormentor and a soldier who, while vile, was no worse than several of the others. Only after doing so does she realize that she could have said anyone and she should have killed the enemy commanders. The third name she says is Jaqen H'gar, after he refuses to help her free the prisoners and have her family's forces take control of the castle. She unsays it after he helps her, but because several people were killed in the uprising he considers his debt to her paid and refuses to let her pick another name. Jaqen H'gar was impressed however, because he essentially offers her admission to his order before leaving. Ironically Arya wasted the third wish too. Jaqen H'gar offered to kill Joffrey, the sadistic boy-king who had Arya's father executed. Instead Arya insisted he free the prisoners, only they turn out to be part of a Trojan Prisoner gambit and would have been freed to take the castle anyway.
- In Dead Witch Walking, Rachel apprehends a leprechaun who offers her three wishes if she'll let her go. Rachel decides to take the leprechaun up on her offer, intending to use the wishes to quit the IS and set up a freelance runner firm. Ivy and Jenks, believing the IS will try to have Rachel killed, offer to come along to help her along in exchange for a wish each. Rachel uses hers to avoid getting in trouble for taking the leprechaun's bribe, Jenks wishes to become sterile (he already has lots of kids and is afraid his wife would leave him otherwise), and Ivy gives hers to a banshee who helped her once, which causes trouble a few books later.
- In one of the Callahan's stories, an alcoholic Irish spirit known as a clurichaun is captured before he can drink Mary's Place out of business and is forced to grant three wishes. The bartender, Jake, sees the potential disaster looming and uses his first wish to summon his mentor for help; the second wish is granted out of sheer mischief when the Irish spirit interprets a casual remark as a wish to fix a broken table. Wish three should be used to banish him, but Jake realizes just how fun the clurichaun has made the place — so he uses the third wish to make the clurichaun pay for every drink he takes, in honest money. Since Jake had been running the bar at a loss, the clurichaun's patronage is the financial saving of the place.
- The short story "Time in a Bottle" by P. Andrew Miller (published in Dragon) has a scholar who frees a female genie from her bottle and first wishes to see something no other human has, so she takes him to the bottom of the sea (and points out that, had she been a Jerkass Genie, she could have not provided the ability to breathe, or simply left him there). When he realises how much she's experienced, and also how much she hates being trapped alone in the bottle between wishes, he wishes for her to tell him all the stories she knows. Many, many years later, as an old man, he makes his final wish. Not Freeing the Genie, but joining her.
- A rare inversion of this trope is Barry Longyear's fantasy novel "The God Box". The protagonist receives a magic box that can give you anything; the catch is that it will always give you what (in the gods estimation) you truly need, not what you want. The consequences are usually as unexpected as the Three Wishes version, except that the results are (ultimately) to the good.
- There was a Saturday Night Live sketch with a 3-wish-granting fish; the fisherman who caught him was Genre Savvy enough to hire a team of lawyers to figure out precisely what his first two wishes should be. His third wish? "Pay my lawyers." His lawyers' fee: 100 wishes.
- In The X-Files genie episode "Je Souhaite", Mulder skipped the simple test wish, having already seen the effects of some of the genie's wishes. So his first wish was for "peace on Earth", which the genie granted by getting rid of everyone except him (which, she explained, was much easier than making people actually love their fellow man). He used his second wish to undo the first. His third wish was to free the genie.
- The Twilight Zone had an episode, "I Dream of Genie," where the Genie only gave one wish, saying there'd been cutbacks, so the man delayed making his wish and dreamed three possible scenarios (the classics: love, money, and power). Finding them all to be unsatisfying, he wished to be a genie himself, who granted three wishes. However, the condition was that his every recipient had to return his lamp to the alley, so that he'd only be found by (and thus help) people who were down-on-their-luck.
- In Tales of the Questor, Quentyn wins a wild hunt and earns a boon, but due to circumstances, the debt is tripled, giving him (what else?) three wishes. The first two are used to reduce the Unseelie Prince who called the hunt to utter destitution, to said Prince's quivering rage, but the third wish banishes him from the plane, "never to trouble this world again."
- Genies in The Fairly OddParents, who are a different subset from fairies. You can't wish for unlimited wishes, but you can use your third wish to wish for three more wishes. If you use up the next three by accident, you are out of luck. Turns out genies actually have been bluffing people when they say you can't wish for more wishes.
- When The Simpsons go to Tokyo they wind up gutting fish to earn enough money to go home. Bart guts fish rhythmically chanting "Knife goes in, guts come out. Knife goes in, guts come out." He then picks up a talking fish that says if his life is spared he'll give Bart three wishes ... "Knife goes in, guts come out."
- There's a joke about a man getting a genie who grants him the traditional three wishes with the stipulation that whatever he wishes for, someone he hates will get double that (usually his boss or every lawyer in the world). The man uses his first two wishes on money and a car, and the genie helpfully reminds him that [insert hated person/group here] will gain twice the amount of money he did and two cars. Then the man says that for his last wish, he'd like to donate a kidney.
- A variation of this joke has the wisher as a woman instead, and the genie saying that her ex-husband will get ten times the things she wishes for. The woman uses her first and second wishes on typical things like money and houses. Her third wish? Well, there are at least three variations: "I'd like to give birth to twins."/"I want big breasts"/"I want a lover with a 12 inch penis."
- A bawdier variation has the man wish first for a mansion, second for ten of the world's most beautiful women as his lovers, and third for one of his testicles to disappear. (In Irish comedian Dave Allen's more TV-friendly variation, the man's final wish is that his desire for women be reduced by half.)
- Another version has the last wish to be beaten half to death.
- Another version has a woman's last wish be to have a mild heart attack.
- Yet another version has the last wish be to be blinded in one eye.
- There's a joke about a guy who finds a genie and makes his first two wishes: "I wish for a million dollars, tax-free." POOF! "And I wish for a fire-engine red Testarosa." POOF! The guy then decides to save his last wish for later, dismissing the genie for now. He dumps the cash into the back seat of his new car and drives down the road. He's so happy about his change of fortune that he can't help but sing along with the commercial jingle playing on his car radio: "Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Meyer Weiner..." POOF!
- Another joke involves a bear and a rabbit who despise each other who find a genie who grants them three wishes each. The bear wishes that he was the only male bear in the world, that every female bear in the world was madly in love with him, and for a huge, luxurious den that will be able to hold his massive harem. The rabbit uses his first two wishes on a motorcycle and a helmet. The bear mocks him for what he perceives as Wasteful Wishing, only for the rabbit to hop on his motorcycle, put on his helmet, and zoom away at top speed while screaming: "I wish this bear was gay!"
- There is a joke about the Devil offering a Doom fan three wishes, and then he'll take him to Hell. First wish: IDDQD. Second wish: IDKFA. Third wish... what wish? Take me to hell now! A variation exists where the Devil is not stupid... and sends him to the Nightmare difficulty level, where cheats do not work.
- So there's this fellow in Warsaw during the days of Communism, and his last light bulb goes out. Dreading the prospect of waiting in lines for what will probably be no light bulb, he rummages about in his attic and finds a lamp. The lamp looks worse for the wear, so our hero gives it a quick polish. POOF! Out pops a genie! The genie gives his spiel about the three wishes, and our hero thinks for a bit. "For my first wish, I'd like Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes resurrected, have them loot and pillage their way across the steppes, get to the Polish border, decide they don't like the place, and head home. And oh yeah, that's my next two wishes, too." The genie grants the wishes, "Done, done, and done. But what's the deal with Genghis Khan?" Our hero simply smiles and chuckles, "He has to go through Russia six times."
- A story by Robert Sheckley features a man who received three wishes from the Devil, with no strings attached (appparently, Hell has more than enough souls as it is). Except that whatever he wishes for, his worst enemy will receive twice as much of it. So if he gets rich, the other guy gets richer, and this eats at him. His final wish is for a sexual partner whose rapaciousness is at the absolute limit of his ability to handle.
- Joan Aiken's short story "The Third Wish" has a protagonist who's Genre Savvy enough to not accidentally waste his wishes on something stupid and even pricks his tongue with a thorn to make sure he doesn't make any careless wishes. He uses his first wish for a wife "as beautiful as the forest" and does get his perfect wife - except that she's actually a shapeshifted swan who's unhappy at having left her sister and life as a swan behind, and he decides to use his second wish to turn her back into a swan. After seeing what happened with his first two wishes, he decides not to use his third wish and actually lives pretty contentedly for the most part taking care of his swan wife and sister-in-law and dying with a smile on his face.
- In Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, a Genie in a Bottle offers the Tortoise and Achilles three wishes. Achilles suggests wishing for a hundred wishes ("I always wondered why those dopey people in the stories never tried it themselves," he says), but the Genie answers that he doesn't grant meta-wishes—it takes a Meta-Genie to grant those. Eventually, Achilles is instead allowed to make one Typeless Wish, with disastrous results.
- The short story "Those Three Wishes" by Judith Gorog centers around a clever but cruel young girl named Melinda Alice who encounters a magic snail. When she is about to crush it, the snail begs for its life and promises to grant her three wishes should she spare it. Melinda wishes that her next thousand wishes would come true and spends some time wishing for new things while rejecting any sort of altruism, instead deciding to use her wishes to force people to do whatever she says. Later on, when she arrives at school, a classmate reminds her of a big math test next period, which Melinda didn't study for. Upset at the prospect of failing, Melinda groans "I wish I was dead."
- One short story written by Shel Silverstein takes the old "greed is bad" aesop Up to Eleven. The story goes that a boy finds a small elf in the woods, so the elf grants the boy one wish. Being greedy, the boy wishes for two wishes, which he then gets, surprisingly enough. With each of those wishes, he then wishes for two more wishes, creating four wishes. Then eight wishes, sixteen wishes, thirty-two wishes, and so on, until the boy dies, presumably from old age, leaving behind an enormous pile of unused wishes. The narrator then invites the reader to take a few, and warns him or her not to "waste your wishes on wishing".
- A "Scenes From A Hat" game in Whose Line Is It Anyway? had "Bad Ways to Use Your Three Wishes." Colin Mochrie's response was "I'll have two cokes and some chips."
- In the Finnish comic strip Fingerpori, a genie promises his summoners three wishes. He then proceeds to give these — by listing three things he wishes they would do. After all, he just said they'd get three wishes, not that they'd get to make them.
- In Hack 'N' Slash, the genie Halcyon grants you three limited wishes. These "wishes" consist of directly altering the in-game variables. The player is free to wish for more wishes by altering the "WISHES" variable. It's more a satisfying Easter Egg than anything else, given how limited the wishes are.
- According to xkcd, if you do the first wish right, there's no need of the other two. Also, in this strip's alt text, the protagonist circumvented the "no more wishes" rule by wishing for the genie to not be able to remember any previous wish, making the current wish always the first one.
- In this Cyanide & Happiness strip, a character gets around the "can't wish for more wishes" restriction by wishing for more genies!
- Sluggy Freelance: In "Torg Potter and the Chamberpot of Secretions", the Djinn of the Chamberpot grants only two wishes because the third one is "withheld for tax purposes." Also, good luck getting past the first wish without it being interpreted as "Turn me into chocolate."
- In a (non-canon) strip of Deep Fried, Beepo discovers a genie but, having heard all of these stories, he's too terrified to make any wishes. Roadkill grabs the genie prison and wishes for 1) future wishes to have no ironic or negative consequences, 2) for wish 1 to apply to itself, and 3) to rule the universe. It works.
- The Dom uses this in one of his end-of-video segments where he informs his viewers about his Patreon. The part where he informs viewers about alternative ways to support the channel is always preceded with "If right now you are thinking: 'My goodness the dom, I can't do that because ___'" followed by some humurous reason the hypothetical viewer can't afford it. One of these segments is about a man who found a genie and meant to wish for infinite wealth but it didn't quite work out. Long story short: he has three jetpacks now.
- In one episode of The Real Ghostbusters Janine finds a genie in a lamp who offers her three wishes. The first is to be the Ghostbuster's boss, the second is to have Egon in love with her. In both cases she gets tired of them soon enough, especially because both represented a lot of pressure. Her third wish never happens as the genie is actually a Reality Warper using the lamp to open a gateway to the spirit world who was using the mayhem caused by her wishes to distract the Ghostbusters.
Janine: But... you promised me three wishes!Ghost: I Lied.
- An episode of Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats has a cat genie granting wishes to Mungo who, because is kind of dumb, wast them all.