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Tomes of Prophecy and Fate

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People have wanted to know the future ever since the concept of "future" existed, so the idea of inverting a history book from a recounting of the past into a Tome of Prophecy that predicts the future has found lasting appeal. This tome is pretty much Exactly What It Says On The Cover; it's a book written by a prophet,note  a school of seers, or possibly even a god. As such all the Fate and Prophecy Tropes apply, including being open to interpretation, often compounded by being written in a dead language. Inexactness notwithstanding, just about everyone and their Hot Librarian will want to steal it. May be used as a MacGuffin or other type of plot coupon (thing that motivates all the characters in the story) if it is hard to find or everyone knows the heroes have it. In some examples though the book is easily available, but reading it bestows special powers or skills. Thus the book is instead the gateway to the Masquerade.

Now, imagine what would happen if rewriting parts of the Tome of Prophecy didn't make it inaccurate, but instead changed the prophecy. In these cases, what you have is a Tome of Fate, the "big brother" to the Tome of Prophecy. Rather than be a normal book with a mystic prophecy written on it, you have a mystic book that turns whatever is written in it into fact. A Tome of Fate can vary considerably from setting to setting in what it can do, though usually they can do one or all of the following: provide an exhaustive record of every event past and future written in its nigh infinite but comfortably portable pages, act as a Literal Genie literary genie (with all the risks that that implies), and serve as a Cosmic Keystone that defines the nature of existence and is capable of Rewriting Reality. If a Tome Of Fate is indeed magic, rather than merely being written by someone who is magic, then it will probably overlap with Reality-Writing Book.

The Tomes of Prophecy and Fate need not mean that You Can't Fight Fate; a lot of the time they're designed to work without compromising free will, though they do exert (or reflect) a great deal of power over existence. As a carry-on size Deus ex Machina, the Tome of Fate may be safeguarded with a number of features, especially when it doubles as a Cosmic Keystone. It may be a Clingy MacGuffin that can't be destroyed except under specific circumstances, paired with a magic quill, ink, or eraser to make rewriting it more difficult, or out and out made "read only" to avoid Edit Wars. In some cases, this book might cause the plot of a story to unfold.

Compare Reality-Writing Book, Tome of Eldritch Lore. No, not that Tome of Fate. Or that one.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Bloody Cross has The Book of Prophecy and The Book of Da'at (which means knowledge), two powerful God's Inheritences that appeared for the current Holy War. Though, their exact nature and powers haven't been fully revealed yet.
  • The trope is somewhat parodied in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 3: Stardust Crusaders with the character Boingo and his Stand Thoth, who manifests itself as a comic book in which the future is progressively drawn in a really weird art style and with a childish writing. It's a Prophecy-type book as everything that is drawn in Thoth will happen, even if it seems implausible at first because of some overlooked details. For example, the book said at one point that a character will hit a woman in the neck and that she would thank him for that, but it didn't said that it was because there was a scorpion on her neck. Later, it is said that this character will defeat the entire good guys team by putting his fingers in the nose of one of them (the book just didn't show that because of that, the team would cross the road and get hit by a car).
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls in Neon Genesis Evangelion are some imprecise combination of this and Akashic Records. The exact details are ambiguous and never fully touched on in the series itself, but some of the background materials suggest that they are an alien prophecy regarding the fate of the world that has already mostly played out by the time the series begins.
  • Kinnikuman's Scramble for the Throne arc gives us the Muscle Book of Prophecies, which goes one step further- if a Choujin's personal page in the book is destroyed, that Choujin fades from existence.

    Audio Plays 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who: Tales from the Vault: The Fourth Doctor identifies what has been incorrectly labelled an early impressionist painting as actually being an alien artefact that shows anyone who looks at it the circumstances of their death. The death cannot be changed or avoided, and anyone who looks at will go insane if they don't die first.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Dragon Magazine comic Libram X, the eponymous tome is both the accurate self-writing log and can be written (one magic quill is included in the kit). Which naturally explains why everyone and their dogs tried to find it all this time.
  • The book of Destiny from The Sandman (1989) is a Tome of Fate; being already complete, the book can't be edited. It is stated that Destiny's sole purpose is to read the book. It is also implied that the book is an actual part of him (or vice versa).
    • A storyline that ran for several issues of The Brave and the Bold had Destiny lose the book and several characters using it to change events, so it can be edited. It also revealed that the Challengers of the Unknown exist outside the book, because they shouldn't have survived the plane crash. Note however that this story is from the main DC Universe and so probably not canonical with Sandman's version, depending on DC policy this week.
  • X-Treme X-Men (2001) was initially about the team searching for the lost volume of Destiny's diary, before they decide it would probably be more trouble than it's worth.

    Film — Animated 
  • The Book of Life is a chronicle of every person's life story from beginning to end. It is kept by the Candlemaker, who reads from the book as he tends to the candles representing mortal life. When the book is mentioned in the film, it's revealed that Manolo's entry in the book is completely blank. It shows that he's no longer following fate and now writing his own story.

    Film — Live Action 
  • The Oraculum in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010) is a Tome of Prophecy.
  • Nightfall (1988): Sor's Book of Illumination is written in a sort of Braille that holds the record to previous nightfalls, and Sor is able to convince people that the future is recorded as well. Halfway through the film, he blinds Roa and begins teaching her the writings of the book so that she can be a Blind Seer like him.
  • In Film/Constantine there's a bible from hell where the coming of Mammon, the son of the devil is prophetized.

  • The Belgariad: Several examples. The most prominent one is the Mrin Codex, but there is also the Darine Codex (less detailed than the Mrin Codex, but much easier to read and comprehend due to the insanity of the Mrin prophet), the Ashabine Oracles, and the Book of Kell.
  • The Galactic Pot Healer has the Book of Kalends, telling (in many languages) what shall be. Whether Kalends make things happen in writing their book is a major question for the characters.
  • The Gods of Pegāna: Trogool, the thing that is neither god nor beast, sits at the edge of creation reading one of these, turning the pages black and white until THE END. When IT turneth a black page it is night, and when IT turneth a white page it is day, and "[t]hough the whirlwind of the South should tug with his claws at a page that hath been turned, yet shall he not be able ever to turn it back."
  • Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, is the "sole prophetic work in all of human history to consist entirely of completely correct predictions", including the events leading up to The End of the World as We Know It. The main issue is interpreting the prophecies, as they were written in a non-linear older, by a mad old witch with a clever sense of humor but a limited understanding of technology beyond her times, and in Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe.
  • The Licanius Trilogy: The Journal, a record of the prophetic visions of the recently-deposed Augurs. The semi-antagonistic Tol Shen faction stole a number of pages from the Journal during the chaos the rebellion against the Augurs, and has bee using them to guide their political maneuvering ever since.
  • Nightfall (1990): The Apostles of Flame have a holy scripture, called the Book of Revelations. It is a record of the events from the previous cycle of destruction and rebuilding, and may date back even earlier.
  • Night Watch (Series) has a Tome of Fate, though it's not the tome that's important but the Chalk to write in it. If a Great Sorceress of Light holds the Chalk of Fate in her hand and performs a certain ritual, the spectral Tome of Fate will automatically appear before her, allowing her to rewrite a small portion of fate. The fact that the Tome of Fate can be summoned in two places at once proves to be crucial when the characters realize that while the main heroine was rewriting a person's fate, another Great Sorceress simultaneously rewrote her fate without the Day Watch noticing.
  • The Power of Five has a dream world where the five main characters can talk to each other. It has a library that holds the book of every person who has ever lived (and possibly who will live). Each book tells the entire life story of that person from birth to death, Matt reads his in order to find out how to defeat the Old Ones.
  • Redwall: There is a cavern that functions as a Tome of Prophecy in Salamandastron behind the Badger Lord's throne, sealed with a boulder so huge that only a badger warrior can move it. The warrior seer badger lords retreat into this cavern when so moved and paint their prophetic visions on the walls. Outsiders are allowed in only at the behest of the current Badger Lord, so generally only the lords themselves know what is painted there.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Daenys the Dreamer, a Targaryen ancestor who had prophetic dreams, collected her visions in a book called Signs and Portents. It's long-lost by the present day, although one maester claims to have recovered three pages.
  • Symphony of Ages: The Framing Device involves someone trying to use something that appears to act like a Tome of Fate to change the past. Oddly enough, the device he uses appears to consist of a filmstrip and projector...
  • Transformers: Exodus: Alpha Trion writes things out with the Quill in the Covenant of Primus, whereas the rest of Cybertronian society prefers typing things out. The Covenant details future events but it's a matter of context on interpretation, and the Quill has a limited ability on writing new events, but the future is quite mutable and the changes don't always last. Hence, Alpha Trion sticks to chronicling Cybertron's history.
  • Xanth: Good Magician Humphrey Book of Answers, which is a magical compendium of every bit of information Humphrey came across in his 100+ years of life, and which is able to make prophecies based on acquired data.
  • Young Wizards: In the first book of the series, the protagonists use a Tome of Fate to alter the nature of the Big Bad, from irredeemable to redeemable.

    Live Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel had a lot of these, sometimes in book form (codex) and sometimes in scroll form. Few reach the complexity of the Pylean tomes of prophecy, however, which are written in both demon tongues and trionic, meaning part of a passage begins in one book, continues in a second book and ends in a third book. Not only does the reader needs to be able to read the demonic language being used but they need to understand it enough to translate the rhythm in order to know when to switch books to get the rest of the information.
  • Charmed: In the episode "They're Everywhere", the Akashic Records are described to be this. However they will never be read; being destroyed before it was possible at the end of the episode.
  • The titular comic book in the series Dark Oracle can tell the future and is rewritten by the decisions of the characters.
  • Kamen Rider Zi-O has two; both wielded by different versions of Woz. The first, wielded by Black Woz, is the Ohma Advent Calendar, which details the rise to power and reign of Ohma Zi-O, while the other, the Future Note wielded by White Woz, can be used to alter the present. Due to events changing because of Sougo and Geiz's actions, the Ohma Advent Calendar actually changes, to Woz's surprise... Though not enough to alter the future.
  • Mahou Sentai Magiranger/Power Rangers Mystic Force had the Book of Prophecy, a tome that unerringly predicted the future.

    Video Games 
  • Makai Kingdom. The Sacred Tome predicts the future with absolute certainty, and whatever is written in it BECOMES the truth. 'Badass Freakin' Overlord' Zetta is pissed off because the tome claims that he will destroy his own Netherworld through foolishness and arrogance, so he burns it. This causes the entire world to collapse, and he has to quickly transform HIMSELF into the Sacred Tome to prevent a total collapse, though his own Netherworld still bites it, thus proving the prediction true... Most of the gameplay basically centers around using the powers of the Zetta-Tome, by having various characters write 'wishes' into it, thus making them come true.
  • Super Paper Mario has the Dark Prognosticus. Nobody knows who wrote it but it brought great misery wherever it went as people who wanted to know the future fought wars over possession of it, only to open the book and find that they had already done exactly what the book said they would do. The final pages of the book predict how the multiverse would end. The Light Prognosticus is a second book of prophecy that gives instructions on how to stop the Dark Prognosticus's final prophecy.
  • Tales of the Abyss: the Score is said to be a record of everything that will ever happen in the history of the planet, with "eternal prosperity and wealth" promised at the end. Because of the "prosperity and wealth" part, an entire religion has sprung up whose members devoutly follow the events predicted in the Score, even down to what breakfast they have. The game is sketchy on whether this is a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. There's also a hidden section after the "prosperity and wealth" part that actually predicts The End of the World as We Know It, so one character speculates that the author recorded the Score precisely so her descendants could avert it.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • The eponymous Elder Scrolls themselves:
      • The Scrolls combine this with being Tomes Of Eldritch Lore. Referred to as "Fragments of Creation," the Scrolls are of unknown origin and number which simultaneously record past, present, and future events irrefutably; what did happen, what could have happened, what might yet happen. Even the falsehoods in them are true. (Especially the falsehoods, as is pointed out several times in the series.) To the untrained eye, the Scrolls will yield an odd chart that looks like it has constellations on it with odd glyphs printed over or under it. A knowledgeable reader will be able to interpret the Scrolls to a degree, but incompletely, and will be irrevocably struck blind. A well-trained reader, such as a member of the Cult of the Ancestor Moth, will glean much more from the Scroll and will even recover their eyesight... for a finite number of times before their sight is permanently lost. In all of these cases, reading the Scrolls tends to lead to madness for the user. Even those who merely study the Scrolls, never actually using or even handling them, are driven to complete madness with alarming regularity.
      • The power of the Elder Scrolls is so great, their truths so irrefutable, that not even the machinations of a Daedric Prince can overcome them; that's how the curse on the Gray Cowl of Nocturnal is broken in the Oblivion Thieves' Guild questline. In Skyrim, you get to read one yourself to gain knowledge of a Thu'um shout lost to time; it turns out you don't read the scroll, you see events happen as if the scroll was a window to another (possibly alternate) time. Trying to read the scroll outside of the Time-Wound temporarily robs you of vision and the reason you only suffer that much is because you have the soul of a being that exists partially outside of time, not unlike the Elder Scroll itself. Even the dragons like Paarthurnax and Alduin himself fear the Elder Scrolls' power. Turns out that they don't just reveal events, they can alter reality as well; with no recourse left, the ancient Nordic heroes who faced Alduin invoked the power of an Elder Scroll to "cast Alduin out of time", postponing his reckoning until the age where Skyrim (the game, not the province) takes place. The residue from that event created the Time-Wound, mentioned above.
      • As seen in Skyrim, the glyphs on the Elder Scrolls match closely to those seen on the Eye of Magnus, an artifact of great and mysterious power connected to Magnus, the god of magic and "architect" of Mundus. This has led to the theory that the scrolls are related to that event (and their alternative name, "Fragments of Creation", further lends credence).
      • In Skyrim's Dawnguard DLC you undergo the same ritual Moth Priests go through to be able to read an Elder Scroll after the Moth Priest you rescued goes blind after reading one without the necessary precautions. After reading the Scroll you are none the worse for wear, likely because as the Dragonborn, your Aedric soul protected you from the normal side-effects.
    • Skyrim also has the "Book of Fate", which appears blank when you try to read it, implying the Dragonborn is Immune to Fate. On the other hand, it might be a con, considering that you later discover that Calixo, the guy telling you about the book, is actually a deranged serial killer with a penchant for necromancy.
  • Call of Duty: Zombies has the Kronorium, which shows to its reader the entirety of reality across dimensions and time.
  • Histoire in Neptunia is implied to be this.
  • The basic premise of Avalon Code is that the world is going to end and be reborn. Your homework is to record everything worth keeping or changing.
  • The trilogy of the last three Wizardry games featured an artifact called the Cosmic Forge, a magic quill that makes anything written with it become true, which was stolen from the gods. Unfortunately, when not used with the Book of Fate that lies in the Cosmic Circle, it will interpret the writings of it's bearer in the worst way possible.
  • Within the Kingdom Hearts franchise, the Book of Prophesies, introduced within Kingdom Hearts χ, serve as this for the entire universe. It has information about things that were, things that are, and things that will be. And, according to Maleficent via a retroactively added scene within Kingdom Hearts coded, one can, among other things, create new worlds simply by adding onto it.
  • ZanZarah: The Hidden Portal: Amy can find several flying books around Zanzarah that contain ancient prophecies about her.

    Web Original 
  • Empires SMP Season 1: The Book Of Prophecies, Past & Future, which was discovered by Lizzie in the Elven Library, and is currently in her possession. The book has 57 pages, but so far, only 26 of the pages have had their contents revealed, and those prophecies have been fulfilled as of the finale.

    Western Animation 

  • Older Than Feudalism: The Sibylline Books in Ancient Rome. These were a collection of ancient books containing ominous prophecies and religious instructions that were consulted by the Roman government in times of crisis. Supposedly Tarquin the Proud, the last king of Rome, had bought them from the Sibyl of Cumae. They have not survived, so their contents are only partially known from secondary sources.
    • The Sibyl was a good saleswoman: she offered a price, Tarquin refused, so she burned three of the twelve books. She offered the same price, Tarquin refused, so she destroyed three more. She offered the same price again, Tarquin refused, so she burned three more of the books. She offered the same price for the last three, and Tarquin accepted.
  • The Garencières by Nostradamus.
  • One interpetation of the Book of Revelation is that it is this trope.
    • The Bible also contains a lot of explicit books of prophecy, ie, books recording the words and actions of people identified as "prophets" in the text. The Book of Isaiah and the Book of Jeremiah are probably the most famous, but there are a whole load of shorter ones as well. At first glance, these are actually subversions of the trope, in a way, because usually the prophets are making claims only about what will happen if people do not change their ways, rather than what will happen regardless, and as such most of the "prophecies" are never technically proven true. However, the writers of The Four Gospels argue that a lot of the things written in these books were also accurately predicting the life and nature of Jesus.

Alternative Title(s): Tome Of Prophecy, Tome Of Fate