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You Can't Fight Fate
aka: You Can Not Fight Fate

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"It is written."
Tamil Proverb

A character gains knowledge of an event that is about to happen whether by prophecy or time travel and they attempt to change it, but it comes true anyway. (Often it happens because of those attempts). It's as old as Oedipus Rex, used by Shakespeare and Tolkien, and still fresh at least as recently as the mid-80s sitcom!

This trope will usually turn out one of three ways:

  1. The event comes true exactly as expected. Depending on the mood of the series, the final fulfillment of the prophecy may or may not be a Downer Ending. One technical term for the Time Travel version of this trope is the predestination paradox, a concept very popular with the Ancient Greeks, who believed you cannot change the future. There is only one possible future, and if you think otherwise, it's because you were destined to take a different path. Sometimes, the heroes still manage to put right the wrong the prophecy promises. In such situations, they usually conclude that fate only said something bad would happen, not that they couldn't eventually right it. An Aesop usually follows about free will being stronger than destiny.

  2. The event comes true but not quite as expected. Usually this involves a Prophecy Twist, where the prophecy hinges on some Ambiguous Syntax or metaphor that make it technically true. If it's the specific subtrope where a character cheats death only to die in a separate, but equally cruel and unusual, circumstances, that's Cheated Death, Died Anyway.

  3. Everything does change, except for the one thing that the characters actually want to change. This is more common with Time Travel stories, where a time traveller tries to Set Right What Once Went Wrong (saving one particular loved one, hometown, etc.) but find that no matter how hard they try and how many times they time travel back, their attempts to do so still result in their loved one or hometown being gone. There might be an explanation involving some form of the grandfather paradox where the time traveller can't change that particular event because it's what led them to time travel in the first place; thus if they succeeded they would never have started time traveling, which of course means that their loved one or hometown wouldn't have been saved. In any case, expect An Aesop about how there's no use crying over spilt milk and that it's important to move on.

Note that this is the exact inverse of the common Western portrayal of fate as an outside force of some sort, acting to "guide" outcomes in real time as they progress — both of these opposite notions fall under the concept of "You Can't Fight Fate".

If the prophecy comes true because of being made (in the most common scenario, because of everyone's attempts to prevent it), it's a case of a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. If the universe appears to self-correct any attempt at change, then Ontological Inertia is in play. In any case, on the Sliding Scale of Free Will vs. Fate, stories where You Can't Fight Fate register as Type 1 on the scale.

Since it's Older Than Dirt, most examples rely on a Prophecy Twist. If time travel is involved, You Already Changed the Past. See also Stable Time Loop and Prescience Is Predictable.

The Fatalist is characterized by their strong belief in fate.

Compare Because Destiny Says So, But Thou Must!, Prophecies Are Always Right, In Spite of a Nail, and Rubber-Band History. Contrast with Screw Destiny and Immune to Fate (who treats this trope like a funny joke). A way to get around it can be Tricked Out Time.


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    Eastern Animation 

    Fairy Tales 
  • In "Catherine and Her Fate", Catherine had told her Fate that given a choice, she would rather be happy in her old age than her youth. In her miserable and impoverished youth, she reminds herself of this trope to inspire herself to go on.
  • The moral of The King Who Would Be Stronger Than Fate, and many other tales.
  • In "The Nix in the Mill-Pond", the hero's father is tricked into promising his newborn son as payment for the riches offered by the titular water sprite. The family manages to keep him away from the pond long enough for him to grow up, but she eventually comes calling and forces his wife into an adventure to get him back.

    Films – Animation 
  • In Kung Fu Panda 2, the antagonist peacock Shen ordered the massacre of the entire panda population in China because of the prophecy that he will be brought down by a warrior in "black and white". In the end, his efforts to change his fate became the very beginning of his downfall (Shen's parents banished him for it) and sets up the chain of events that will fulfill this prophecy.
    • "One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it."
    • The Soothsayer does acknowledge that this will only happen if Shen continues on his current path. So he could fight fate, he just tried to fight the wrong part of it.
    • Extra irony points because Po, the one destined to defeat him, doesn't even know that Shen EXISTS until a week before he fights him. Shen assumes that Po is looking for revenge for the deaths of his parents and his entire people, when as far as Po knows, he's only there because Shen stole a bunch of pots and took over a city on the other end of China and has no external reasons for vengeance.
    • Also worth noting is that as an albino peacock, Shen himself is a black-and-white warrior. All the events of the film that conspire to bring about his doom are things that he directly or indirectly set into motion.
  • In The Lion King 1 ½, Timon tries to fit in with the other meerkats at first, but eventually his aspirations (and distaste for their humble lifestyle) motivate him to leave the colony. But this means that- years later- he is in exactly the place he needs to be to save Prince Simba's life after the latter has been exiled. In this case, the 'letter' of Pridelands hierarchy had to be defied to preserve its spirit.
  • In Hercules, the Fates share with Hades a prophecy that in eighteen years precisely, he will free the Titans and conquer Olympos, becoming an all-powerful ruler, but also that if Hercules (who is a baby at this point) "fights, you will fail", so Hades sends his minions to kidnap baby Hercules and kill him. They fail, but tell Hades that they succeded. Fast forward eighteen years and after finding out that Hercules is still alive, Hades desperately tries to kill him before the deadline and repeatedly fails. Realizing that Hercules and Megara (who is a reluctant servant of Hades after selling her soul to him) have feelings for each other, Hades makes a deal with Hercules to release Megara if Hercules gives up his godlike strength for twenty-four hours (on the day of the prophecy), with the caveat that Megara will remain unharmed, or Hercules will get his strength back. During the chaos that ensues when Hades releases the Titans, Megara performs a Heroic Sacrifice to save Hercules from a falling stone pillar, giving Hercules his strength back and allowing him to save Olympos and defeat the Titans.
  • This is a major overarching theme of Spiderman Across The Spiderverse. Spider-Man 2099, Miguel O'Hara's, Spider-Society works to maintain the status quo across dimensions after Kingpin's collider breaks the stability of The Multiverse and displaces people across universes so "the Canon" stays intact. That is, events that absolutely must happen in the stories of Spider-People across reality so that the stability of their universe doesn't fall apart. Miguel himself upon discovering interdimensional travel attempted to try this out after discovering a universe where his family wasn't dead, and he instead was, allowing him to jump in and replace his alternate self. However, this ended up causing irreversible damage to the dimension, wiping out his new family in the process. Now jaded by the experience, Miguel ensures that this will never happen again. But when Miles Morales discovers that his father's death is a "canon event" and chooses to Screw Destiny and save him regardless, this puts him at odds with Miguel and the Spider-Society who believe he must die for the sake of his reality.

    Films – Live-Action 
  • 12 Monkeys: Time-travelling protagonist Cole recognizes a scientist and concludes he is directly involved with the virus that wiped out most of humanity. Cole runs trying to stop him, and is shot down by airport security. Said death is witnessed by young Cole, becoming one of his most vivid memories, played over and over in his dreams - it was already set that he couldn't change the future.
  • Deconstructed in The Adjustment Bureau. Destiny needs its little helpers (called "The Adjusters") to ensure the proper unfolding of the great plan.
  • Played rather frustratingly in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010), in that every character tells Alice she can't fight fate, and despite her numerous attempts to Screw Destiny, the White Queen, who has the power but refuses to slay the Jabberwocky on principle, passive-aggressively guilt trips Alice into doing it for her. Ironically, being railroaded into taking a level in badass like this ultimately gives her the self-confidence to Screw Destiny back in the "real" world.
  • The Devil in the form of The Antichrist Franco Maccalusso in the Apocalypse series knows he's doomed for the Lake Of Fire, and so decides to take as many souls with him in the Tribulation through the Mark of the Beast.
  • In Deewaar, Vijay references this idea when Anita suggests getting his tattoo removed after Anand's funeral – if he were to change his palm lines, would that alter his fate?
  • The Devil's Messenger: This is the central theme of "Condemned in Crystal". The fortune teller Madame Germaine tells John Radian that he is destined to die that night, and that she will be the one to kill him. Every action John takes to avoid his fate inevitably draws him closer to it; even killing Madame Germaine before she can kill him.
  • In Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, Dr. Schreck's Tarot draws apparently reveal that there is no way for the five passengers to escape the fates he predicts for them. However, what the fifth card (Death) is actually saying is that will avoid these fates because they are already dead.
  • In Dune: Part One, Paul Atreides has a vision of a terrible future in which a holy war is waged throughout the universe in his name. Throughout Dune: Part Two, he seeks to find ways to prevent that future, but he progressively comes to realize that he can't win against the Harkonnens and the Emperor if he doesn't go through with that prophecy (implanted by the Bene Gesserit) to rally the Fremen, and so he becomes a Dark Messiah and the film ends with the Fremen starting the holy war he thought he could prevent.
  • The Final Destination series is a variation, which says "If you're supposed to die, you will".
  • Glorious: Ghat is convinced that fate has contrived to bring him and Wes together in the bathroom stall. He describes it as a force greater than gravity and one that even an Elder God such as he has no control over. Why else would their vastly different planes of reality possibly intersect to allow them to meet each other? Wes makes numerous attempts to reject the part the universe wants him to play, all of which fail spectacularly.
  • Horrific: In ''Masters of Death", six people trapped in a cabin a presented with a prophecy that three of them will be killed by the other three. Roz is convinced that Len is going to kill, and winds up killing him. She believes she has cheated the prophecy (he can't kill her if he's dead), but the others point out she has changed nothing: the prophecy never specified who would kill whom, and there is still one murderer and one victim.
  • Knowing (2009) stars Nicolas Cage as a Hollywood Atheist who rushes around trying to find a way to prevent (or personally survive) The End of the World as We Know It, but by the end we see there was nothing he could have done to change it.
  • In the backstory of Krull, the Cyclops race made a deal with The Beast: they would trade one of their eyes in exchange for the ability to see the future. The Beast took their eyes and gave them the ability to see the future. Specifically, their future deaths. Any Cyclops who tries to avoid their fated end always ends up dying in an even more painful way instead. The Cyclops Rell leaves the rest of the heroes near the end because his time has come. He goes back to help them anyway and holds open a pair of moving walls just long enough for the others to enter the lair. Sadly, they are unable to save him as the walls slowly crush him to death.
  • In Lawrence of Arabia during the trek across the intensely hot Nefud Desert to Aqaba, one of Prince Faisal's men, Gasim falls off his camel during the night. Ali says it's too late to go back and that it is "Written" that he die. Lawrence goes back and saves him proving "Nothing is written!" Later, after they forge an alliance with the tribe of Auda Abu Tayi, one of his men is killed by one of Faisal's. Lawrence decides to settle the dispute and save the alliance by killing the guilty man. It turns out to be Gasim. Lawrence then has to execute him with a pistol. Afterwards, when Auda asks Ali why Lawrence is upset, he tells him he brought the man he killed out of the Nefud. "Ah," Auda says, "It was written, then."
  • This is revealed to be the crux of The Matrix movies. Towards the end of The Matrix Reloaded, Neo finally reaches the "source" of the Matrix and meets the Architect, the computer program who designed the Matrix. He informs Neo that Zion will ultimately be destroyed and that it cannot be saved. At the end of their conversation, he also mentions that Neo's "destiny", like that of his five predecessors, was to enter the source and restart the program, allowing 23 humans to be selected to rebuild Zion. Thus, the "prophecy" will be fulfilled that after a century of warfare between humans and machines, the fight will finally come to an end. However, Neo would only be restarting the war, not ending it. Finally, the Architect mentions that Trinity will inevitably die in order to save Neo. The Architect tells him that there is nothing he can do to stop that from happening. In The Matrix Revolutions, Neo tells the Oracle about the Architect's warnings, and she responds that the Architect is full of crap and can't predict the future worth a damn. Guess what? Zion is not destroyed and the war comes to a permanent end. Both Neo and Trinity die, though.
  • The Outlaw and His Wife: "None can escape his fate, even if he were to move more swiftly than the wind." The news that Kari is actually an escaped convict comes soon after.
  • Paycheck: The main character created a machine that could predict the future before having his memory erased. He has a vision of being shot on a catwalk and while he hopes he'll be able to prevent it, during the film's climax, The Dragon, aware of the protagonist's fate, lifts him by the neck using a crane and onto the catwalk, seemingly making his vision come true. During the movie, his watch is counting down, with it hitting zero right before he gets shot, where it tells him to "DUCK", preventing him from getting shot.
  • The Prophecy in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides states that a one-legged man will be the doom of Blackbeard. In the end, that's exactly what happened despite Blackbeard's efforts to try to reach out to the fountain of youth to avoid that fate.
  • The Sandra Bullock film Premonition mixes this trope with a partial Temporal Paradox. In the future Linda sees, her husband Jim dies, she goes crazy, is suspected of hurting her daughter, and gets committed to an insane asylum. Her efforts to prevent Jim's death create Self-Fulfilling Prophecies, and the film's "happy" ending consists of a reveal that she was eventually released from the asylum, now pregnant with another child.
  • In Sex and Death 101 (2008), the main character is emailed (by a Magical Computer) a list of 101 women's names. It turns out to be a list of all the people he has slept with, or is going to sleep with, before he dies. Initially, he thinks it's just a joke, as his current fiance happens to be #29 out of 101, but, regardless of how he tries to avoid it, he ends up sleeping with every woman on the list, in exactly the order in which they appear, and, to his dismay, the last name on the list happens to match that of a notorious Femme Fatale Serial Killer who seduces men before drugging them into permanent comas. Indeed, she is the last woman he ever sleeps with, because they get married and live Happily Ever After.
  • Sound of My Voice: Maggie claims to be a time traveler from a post-apocalyptic future. Based on her statements about time, this trope applies. She never suggests that any of her cult members can change the events that cause society to break down. She can only give a select few people the skills they'll need to prosper when it does. She also states that she's already met most of the people in her cult in the future, and says that the reason she kicks one man out is because she'd never met him, meaning he was always going to drop out at some point.
  • Star Wars as a whole.
    • In Episode I, we find out that Anakin Skywalker (just a kid by then) is The Chosen One, destined to bring balance to the Force by destroying the Sith. At the end of Episode III, he does the opposite thing: he joins the Sith Lord, and helps him to destroy all the Jedi order as Darth Vader. Episodes IV, V and VI follow, and in the end Darth Vader kills the Sith Lord and dies shortly after... and thus the prophecy takes place: the Sith are no more, thanks to the actions of Anakin Skywalker.note 
    • In Revenge of the Sith, Anakin had foreseen his beloved Padmé's death and tried to find ways to prevent it, which led him to the dark side. Ultimately, he failed to prevent Padmé's death. Not only did he fail to prevent Padmé's death, he was the direct cause of it. She "gave up on life" because she had lost him to the dark side. Also, the force choking didn't help matters too much either.
  • Surf Ninjas lampshades it repeatedly. Every time Zatch proposes a new even more difficult task for Johnny, someone will protest that it is impossible and he can't possibly do it, and someone will say "He can if it's his destiny". By the end of the movie, multiple people will join together in a resigned chorus of "He can if it's his destiny".
  • In Targets, Boris Karloff's character tells a story called "Appointment in Samara", about a man who attempts to avoid meeting Death by going to another place, only to find that that is the place he is fated to meet Death.
  • Terminator:
    • The films as a whole are an example of this. In the first movie, Sarah Connor learns that the fate of her unborn child, John, is to lead the remaining humans against the machines After the End; the second movie is all about Sarah and John trying to stop the end from happening, and seemingly succeeding. However, everything ever since have tried to keep the Stable Time Loop running by saying the nuclear holocaust and ensuing Robot War are inevitable, the second movie only delayed Judgement Day from the original 1997 date (to when, it depends on which Alternate Continuity is being followed).
    • Then there's Skynet's attempts to avert its own destruction by repeatedly sending Terminators back in time to stop John Connor from being born or kill him. Not only does its Terminators never succeed, they are indirectly responsible for multiple attempts to prevent the existence of Skynet. Worst of all, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles shows by sending him into the future that, even if John Connor wasn't a factor, there would still be a Resistance there fighting Skynet anyway, so killing John Connor wouldn't have actually made a difference.
    • Terminator: Dark Fate (after replacing the other sequels to ''Judgment Day'' in the official canon) takes the concept even further: Here, after Sarah and John succesfully stopped Skynet from happening, a Terminator already in the past kills John after that. But even with Skynet and John Connors now both out of the picture, there still is a war between humans and machines happening in the future, with Legion and Dani Ramos taking their places in the original timeline.
  • In Thor: Ragnarok, Thor hunts down and kills Surtur, the one destined to destroy Asgard, believing this will prevent Ragnarok and put an end to his prophetic dreams. But shortly after that, Odin tells him that Ragnarok has already begun, and in the climax Thor has to resurrect Surtur and bring Ragnarok to fruition in order to stop the even bigger threat of Hela. The Prophecy Twist is that, while Asgard the place is destroyed, Asgard the people mostly survive.
  • Played with in the 2014 sci-fi thriller Time Lapse. A group of friends discover that their neighbor was a scientist who built a camera that can take pictures of the future. From his diary, they read that he saw his death in the future and tried to stop it, then discover his horribly mangled body and assume this means that if you try to change the course of time, your timeline stops right there and you die horribly. The truth is that You Can't Fight Fate for a different reason - it is literally impossible to alter the predicted future, no matter how hard you try, it will come true. The scientist died in a mundane accident involving dangerous gases, failing to prevent his death. Similarly, Callie learns the hard way that you cannot use the camera to "reset" your timeline to a more favorable one by sending a new message to your past self. One way or another, circumstances will cause the message to revert to the previous one, preventing any alteration of the timeline.
  • The Time Machine (2002): Dr. Alexander Hartdegen creates a time machine to try to prevent his girlfriend from getting killed. She was mugged in Central Park, so they stop by a flower stand instead. But while Alexander is buying her flowers, she gets run over by a carriage. No matter how many times he travels back and does things differently, she always dies. This is later revealed to be because if she doesn't die, he'll never build the time machine in the first place, which would be a Temporal Paradox.
  • Triangle: It's implied that the only way for Jess to escape the time loop is by accepting that she can't change her son's death in the car accident. She refuses every time, so she is doomed to relieve the time loop forever.
  • Discussed in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Hank theorizes that the flow of reality eventually corrects itself, so one can't change the future by changing events in the past. It seems averted when Xavier decides to Screw Destiny and succeeds. However Logan suggests this trope may ultimately be played straight: Though set in the "Good Future" timeline, mutants are still apparently gone.
  • Young Frankenstein:
    Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: All right, you win. You win. I give. I'll say it. I'll say it. DESTINY! DESTINY! NO ESCAPING THAT FOR ME! DESTINY! DESTINY! NO ESCAPING THAT FOR ME!

  • In the eponymous song written by Diane Warren and recorded by Taylor Dayne, the speaker sings about how her ex-lover will eventually come back to her, because they're soulmates. It's left ambiguous whether this is actually true, or the delusion of a crazed stalker.
    When it's meant to be it's gonna be that way
    You can't fight fate
    You can drive your car, drive it night and day
    But you won't ever drive me away...
  • In the Spanish romance "Enamorado y la muerte" a young man wakes up to see Death walk into his room. (He mistakes her for his beloved at first.) He begs her for one more day of life, but Death tells him he has only one hour to live. The young man flees to his mistress' house and convinces her to let him in through the window. The girl throws him a rope, the rope breaks, and the young man falls to his death. The hour had passed.
  • Lia Marie Johnson's song "DNA" explains how some kids in bad families wind up being just like their parents. The singer is a child telling an alcoholic, possibly incarcerated parent that they're determined not to become them when they grow up. But the last line of the chorus suggests that the child is exactly doomed to become the bad parent, regardless of what they try to avoid it.
    I won't be, no, I won't be like you
    Fighting back, I'm fighting back the truth
    Eyes like yours can't look away
    But you can't stop DNA...
  • It's sung verbatim in U2's "Out of Control".
    One day I'll die
    The choice will not be mine
    Will it be too late?
    You can't fight fate.
  • Lene Marlin's "Here We Are" is all about how she tried to resist her one true love and found she couldn't.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The ancient Greeks loved these types of stories:
    • Gaia and Ouranos prophesied that Kronos would be overthrown by one of his children, so he ate each child as it was born (that's both sons and daughters, just to be clear). His wife kept their last son, Zeus, hidden, so that Zeus could eventually fulfill the prophesy (as told in Theogony by Hesiod).
    • It was prophesied that Achilles, the Trope Namer of the Achilles' Heel, was to die young in battle. His mother, Thetis, attempted to defy this prophecy by dipping his body in the River Styx, attempting to render him invincible, but holding Achilles by the heel, which proved to be his one weakness. His father, Peleus, sent him to train with Chiron, and gave him a suit of bronze armor. Unfortunately, all of his prowess in battle was not enough to prevent a spear or arrow from striking Achilles on the heel and his dying at a young age as prophesized.
    • Sisyphus, who tried to cheat death for as long as possible, when Thanatos, the Greeks' equivalent of The Grim Reaper, came to summon Sisyphus to Tartarus, the dark, abyssmal pit section of the Underworld reserved for big-time offenders. Just as Thanatos came to Sisyphus' door, he locked Thanatos in chains after asking him for a demonstration. Other versions have Sisyphus knocking Thanatos unconscious with a heavy object, like a huge pestle or millstone, with Ares watching the warriors slashing at each other with their swords bloody and wounded but never dying because Sisyphus held an unconscious Thanatos captive in his house. Ares was not happy about this, sending him to the Underworld when he discovered Thanatos in Sisyphus's house, where he pleaded that he didn't receive proper burial rites from his wife, so he asked Hades' permission to go back to Earth to rebuke her, living for a time, until Thanatos wondered what became of Sisyphus, with Hermes dragging Sisyphus to Hades, where Sisyphus was doomed to roll a gigantic boulder up a steep hill, which took every bit of remaining strength, only to have the boulder roll downhill and he would be stuck trying to push it uphill and failing time after time...
    • Oedipus and his story revolve around this trope: He was prophesied to slay his father and wed his mother. It is an especially ironic example because after receiving the same prophecy his parents received and abandoned him for, Oedipus in turn exiles himself away from his foster father for fear of killing him, with no suspicion that his adoptive parents are not his real parents. In short, everything that the characters do to avoid the prophecy is necessary to make the prophecy come true.
    • Two other famous cases involve the Oracle at Delphi; in the first, a man prophesied to die in the sea spends his life avoiding the ocean, only to die in a forest the locals call "The Sea"; another is the Croesus story reported with The Histories under Literature above.
    • Another example is Meleager, who was fated to die young, specifically when a log of firewood burned out. His mother took the log and hid it away, and Meleager grew up to be a well-respected hero. But during the Calydonian Boar Hunt, he murdered his uncles in a rage after they insulted his martial prowess. His mother was furious and threw the log into the fire, and Meleager died.
    • This (plus it being an accident) was actually the reason Perseus pretty much got away with a slap on the wrist for killing his grandfather Acrisius. See, said grandfather, a king, received a prophecy that if his daughter, Danae, was ever to have a son, that son would kill him. So the king locked his daughter into a room to prevent any men from getting to her (as she wasn't pregnant yet). Zeus however heard her cries and next thing you know, Danae was pregnant by a shower of gold. When the baby, named Perseusnote  was born, the king put the mother and the baby in a wooden box or casket and had it dropped into the sea. Zeus pulled strings with his brother Poseidon and together they ensured the two got a safe landing at an island. Said island's ruler wanted Danae as wife but Perseus refused to allow it (in lieu of a father or husband, he was Danae's closest male relative even if he was her son) so Perseus got sent on an assumed suicide mission to get Medusa's head. After he did and he freed Danae plus princess Andromeda, who he married, Perseus returned to his mother's homeland to find his grandfather the king ran away in terror at the news of his arrival. He took the throne that was rightfully his and ruled happily, then one day, partaking in the games in another city, the discus he meant to throw accidentally hit an old beggar living near on the streets. That beggar? Perseus' grandfather.
  • This trope is also all over Norse Mythology. If anything, this was the real Norse hat, having four different words meaning inescapable fate, one of them being "dom". Even the gods can't fight their fate, when Ragnarok hits the fan. It's interesting to note that "rök" not only means "fate" but also "development", "cause" and surprisingly "origin".
  • An ancient Arab legend tells about a man who saw Death staring at him and fled to faraway Samarra to avoid him. When somebody asked Death why he'd been staring at the man he said, "I was surprised to see him here because I'm appointed to meet him in Samarra next week."
  • Older Than Dirt: In the ancient Egyptian story Princess Ahura: The Magic Book, the prince and his family cannot escape the punishment the gods decree for their sacrilege of stealing the holy Book of Thoth. They try, but it catches up no matter what they do. In the end the prince, his sister/wife, and their son die.
  • Christianity:
    • Enforced by Jesus when Saint Peter tries to stop His arrest and attacks a Pharisee with a sword. Jesus admonishes him and heals the man's wounds, as His Heroic Sacrifice was necessary to save all of mankind willing to accept it (which He had explained multiple times previously but they didn't believe it until then). Afterwards, everything plays out exactly as Jesus predicted it would with Peter denying knowing Him at His trial even after being told he would and professing his Undying Loyalty, breaking down into tears after realizing he had betrayed his God and himself.
    • The concept of predestination, which is common in Western Christianity, especially in Calvinist denominations, less so in Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism, but also in Islam. While the idea that the ultimate fate of every human being is foreknown by God is accepted by most, "Predestination" is normally associated with the idea that God picks who he will save completely independently of what that person does in life, i.e., no one actually has any true choice or free will in choosing or rejecting God and their final fate in the afterlife, it's all just destiny and what God wants to do with them. The reason given is usually that salvation is a freely given gift, and not something one can earn. In Christianity this ranges from hardcore Calvinism (God actively predestines people to Hell) to a lighter form in Catholicism (what God knows will happen must inevitably happen, but he does not cause it).

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Magic: The Gathering this is what Green mostly believes in and why it is an enemy of Black and Blue: Green fully believes in fate as a force and that everyone needs to accept their place in the universe, while Blue believes that anyone can be anything they want to be and that everyone is born a Blank Slate while Black believes that anyone can do anything and that there is no real purpose to existence.
  • In GURPS: Thaumatology there are items that force a Destiny on the owner, causing them to fulfill it whether they want to or not. The Destiny doesn't run out either, an item that makes one person King of England will also make the next person who picks it up into the King of England.
  • Duke Rowan Darkwood in Planescape gets screwed over by this in spades, becoming destined to be the person who instigates (as the ancient wizard rumored to have crafted a spell that can destroy the Lady of Pain), starts (as Rowan Darkwood), and ends (as Gifad, who coaxes the party to help him cast the Sigil Spell) the Faction War all in one go. And all this time, the Lady of Pain had controlled everything...
  • True to its source material, Fate is one of the overarching themes in The Witcher: Game of Imagination. Regardless of anything else, players must either make a roll from secret table or outright leave it to GM's decision what will be the Fate of their characters. Fate remains secret for players and Story-tellers are obligated to create such plot structure that will eventually lead to fulfillment of it. That might include death, constant persecution, Perpetual Poverty, being always in the wrong place in the wrong moment or being mistaken for hero/villain. On the bright side, certain paths of Fate are can be beneficial, like dying out of old age or becoming famous and/or rich. If rolls are used, the most common outcome is having your Fate tied with somebody.
  • Exalted generally averts this trope- pretty much anyone or anything capable of using Essence can alter Fate, and the mere presence of a creature from Outside Fate can cause a disruption in the Loom of Fate. The Pattern Spiders were created to smooth out the constant problems that these disruptions create, but bigger problems may necessitate the Sidereal Exalted coming out.
    • Played with by samsara, the nebulous order that exists above and beyond Fate which the Maidens of Destiny may look to in order to foresee the future. The upside is that samsara is far more accurate as a predictive tool than Fate; the downside is that the Maidens are compelled to act in accordance with samsara whenever they view it. For this reason, they try not to use that particular power that much. Also, unlike Fate, samsara has no active power - except that the only beings that can perceive it (the Maidens) are also bound to bring about its predictions.
    • Fear of this trope is also the reason why everyone wants Sacheverell to stay asleep. Supposedly, everything he sees becomes real, and while he's asleep, he can only see the present. When he's awake, however, he can see everything, past, present and future, which would result in the end of free will as they know it. For this reason, even his fellow Yozis want him to stay asleep- they fear that even they would not be able to escape his predetermination.
  • In Continuum, this is not an inherent property of the universe as such. However, nearly all sapient life throughout time and space agrees on maintaining the universe the way it is (because not doing so causes damage to the timestream; more specifically, to the continuity of individual sapient beings), and accordingly it's going to stay that way; there's simply nothing in existence that can defeat the Clock Roaches when they come to fix things. Narcissists (the guys who fight fate) are destined to lose, though for this reason the War must be fought. Except that it's possible that Narcissists may escape into alternate timelines instead.
  • The Halflings of The Chronicles of Aeres were created by the Goddess of Fate, and given a natural proclivity for divination magic as a result. The race was sundered into two subraces when their homeland was invaded and their oracular visions become unclear; those who felt that this was a clear sign that the destruction of their homeland was fated ultimately fled and became the nomadic Wanderlings, whilst those who said Screw Destiny and stayed to fight became known as the Hinterfolk — to this day, the two races don't really get along. Ironically, the Hinterfolk had followed the path that their creator actually intended for them, and perhaps sensing this divine disappointment, the Wanderlings have never stopped running, even though the invasion was defeated generations ago. It doesn't help that they are dedicated pacifists, and prefer to flee conflict rather than fight.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Konrad Curze, 8th Primarch, was a firm believer in this; he was one of two Primarchs "gifted" with the ability to see the future, but unlike his brother Sanguinius, believed the things he saw were inevitable, including the Horus Heresy and his own descent into insanity. It should be noted, however, that this is demonstrable not true in the Warhammer universe. Characters with the ability to see the future are fairly common, and regularly act to alter their visions. The Craftworld Eldar are an entire faction that operates under this principle, seeing multiple futures and manipulating events to actualize the one most in their favor. In truth, Konrad wanted to believe this, as it let him absolve himself of his monstrous actions by believing he was forced into them by fate; his greatest fear was that this trope wasn't in play, because it would mean admitting he chose to be a monster.
  • Enforced in La Notte Eterna, where Doomkhan, the god of fate, has empowered his Destiny Wards to make sure that not even the gods can alter the course of the Celestial War that has been playing out in both the gods' domain Rengaria and the mortal world of Neir.

  • Subverted in Calderon's Life is a Dream, where Segismund is prophesied to kill his father, King Basil of Poland, and become an Evil Overlord. Because of this, Basil locks Segismund away in a tower in the mountains, which angers him. For a while, the play really, really looks like it's going to end with Segismund killing Basil. It doesn't. Although he does actually kill his mother, but that was an accident.
  • Everyman, the central character of the allegorical English morality play, who is summoned by Death to give a reckoning of his life, with Fellowship, his kindred and cousins, goods, strength, beauty, discretion, his five senses leaving him, with Knowledge departing from him at the end, and his only companion to the grave is his Good Deeds.
  • From Fly by Night, after the Fortune-Teller predicts that something terrible is going to happen to Miriam:
    Miriam: Is there any way to stop this from happening?
    Fortune Teller: I'll tell you for another dollar.
    Miriam: (Gives her a dollar)
    Fortune Teller: No.
  • A tear-jerking example is the theme of Our Town.
  • Macbeth. A whole bunch of Macbeth.
  • The point of most Greek tragedies.
  • In The Adding Machine, this is the lesson Zero is taught with a Bolt of Divine Retribution.
    Charles: You can't change the rules—nobody can—they've got it all fixed. It's a rotten system—but what are you going to do about it?

  • In BIONICLE, generally speaking, anyone who tries to avoid their destiny fails. Makuta was supposed to help Mata Nui repair the shattered planet Spheres Magna, but turned evil and tried to take over. When the two eventually fought, Makuta ended up drawing in the two fragments in an attempt to attack Mata Nui, one of which hit him in the back of the head and killed him. Thanks to Makuta pulling the planet chunks closer, Mata Nui is able to finish the job on his own.
    • Prior to that Makuta actually exploited this to his advantage: He had put Mata Nui to sleep, but a group of Toa heroes were destined to wake him up again. Rather than try to stop the heroes at all costs, he arranged things so that reviving Mata Nui could give him even more power.
    • Even earlier, both Mata Nui and Makuta tried to exploit this at the same time. Mata Nui determined which Matoran would become the Toa Metru, and a prophecy of their identities leaked out. The prophecy was quickly suppressed, but not before Makuta learned of it. He then tricked Toa Lhikan into deciding that the prophecized Matoran were not the ones truly destined to be Toa and caused Lhikan to pick six others who Lhikan thought would do the job. These six were, in fact, chosen by Makuta as six who would never be able to work together and therefor fail (and even if by some miracle they did succeed, he could at least have the satisfaction of knowing he screwed Mata Nui over). These six became the Toa and Makuta seemingly won (at least for a little while). Future averted, right? Nope. The prophecy was a lie created by Mata Nui for just such an occasion. The six Matoran Makuta planted in Lhikan's mind were in turn planted into HIS mind by Mata Nui, thus allowing those truly destined to take the power. Not bad for a guy who was asleep most of the series.
    • All three tie-in movies by Creative Capers seem to have this as a theme, with the three virtues, Unity, Duty and Destiny being their core mantra.
      • In Mask of Light, Takua makes everyone think his task to find/become the Toa of Light is actually the duty of his friend Jaller, as he's too afraid of the responsibility. He wisens up by the end after seeing his rejection of his prophecied fate just leads to others' suffering.
      • In Legends of Metru Nui, Vakama foresees a disaster befalling Metru Nui that he and his team can't prevent, but he also lets his visions guide them to evacuate and relocate the city's Matoran people to safety, even if it plays into the hand of the evil Makuta in the long term. The Mask of Time's uselessness shows both him and Makuta that they shouldn't try to rush their fate either.
      • Web of Shadows tries to disprove that destinies are written in stone, but the story is still headed for a set goal as the story is an interquel. Vakama, struggling from his failings, goes rogue and is given an evil, selfish goal by the villains, until he's reminded that saving the Matoran is a higher purpose. He technically had the choice to reject his duty and possibly alter his destiny, but that wouldn't have been the right thing to do.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Fate/stay night, Gae Bolg works on this principle. It's a weapon that reverses causality: instead of the attack puncturing the heart, the heart is punctured and THEN the attack lands.
    • Still doesn't keep Saber from avoiding death, using her canonical luckiness and extreme skill to ensure it only grazes her heart. Fate is thus unavoidable, but you can escape the worst of it.
    • The Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] adaptation ends with the possible interpretation that our Shirou became Archer in spite of it all... but he doesn't regret any of it this time.
    • The lesson that the Tragic Heroes of the franchise learn. Many of them want to use the victory wish of the Holy Grail War to undo whatever ending they got, but usually learn to accept the past and find peace in death (for a while anyways, considering TYPE-MOON's lore).
  • Even if Ange from Umineko: When They Cry changes the past and helps Battler come home, Battler still won't have come home, because it already didn't happen that way. Though in the canonical ending, Battler is one of the only two survivors of the incident on the island, and the whole series is how he tries to figure out what happened during those two days on Rokkenjima. The whole scenario is flipped around: No matter what happens, everyone but Battler and Eva are going to die on the island since that's simply how it happened.
  • In Steins;Gate, the concept of Attractor Fields plays with this. Certain groups of World Lines (alternate timelines) will always converge on the same result. Using Time Travel, you can change World Lines, and thus change certain events, but unless the World Line changes to that of a different Attractor Field, then that specific event will always occur. For example, if you witness a person die on October 13th, then that person will always die that day, no matter what the cause is. However, the True Ending reveals that Tricked Out Time is possible.

    Web Animation 
  • Done for laughs in Red vs. Blue, when Church repeatedly goes back in time, to try to keep "a lot of really weird and totally inexplicable stuff" from happening. It doesn't work. Mostly, either his plan fails, or he actually causes the event he was trying to prevent, including his own death. He also seems to selectively forget his mistakes, since he still blames Caboose for the tank incident, even though Caboose wasn't really at fault at all. Subverted in that he never even went back time to begin, as confirmed by Word of God, the whole thing was just a simulation Garry/Gamma was using to toy with The Alpha/Church.
  • DSBT InsaniT: Killer Monster was destined for evil, and not even Koden could prevent that.

  • Happens all the time in Hitmen for Destiny for example here. Characters who have prophecies predicting their death tend to die right on time (though sometimes they die earlier than predicted, destiny being fallible and damageable).
  • Far Star Summer School: Slightly downplayed; as much as Constanza wants to change it, Falguni makes it clear that what has been foreseen is next to impossible to change.
    Falguni: ”- the course of destiny is not an easy thing to deviate from.”
  • Goblins pulls this on a magnificent scale - Goblins are named after prophecies of their future so Saves a Fox attempts to thwart destiny by killing a fox. Guess what? It was suffering from a disease which would have left it to die a slow painful death - in context, she actually saved a fox.
  • Homestuck has several methods of gleaning into the future or traveling through time, but the course of time cannot truly be changed. Any attempt to alter the alpha timeline is doomed to failure. If you're lucky, it'll turn out You Already Changed the Past. In a worst-case scenario, it creates a paradoxical offshoot, doomed to veer off into nonexistence (as one character puts it, "The Universe eats paradoxes for breakfast"). Ultimately, the only thing one can hope to do is set up a series of Stable Time Loops to profit from what's bound to happen anyways, or to use an offshoot timeline to work on something which will aid the "fated" progression of the alpha timeline.
    • On the one hand, Stable Time Loops conspire to weave the outcomes of actions into the very structure of the game so that things "always had to happen this way". But on the other hand, these things still come about from people making (apparently) free will decisions. Kanaya highlights this a couple of times in Act 5 conversations with Aradia and Vriska. So ultimately fate may be one huge Batman Gambit.
    • As of the end of Act IV, Rose has had it with this fate bullshit. Incidentally, she knows she can't wantonly alter the timeline because she knows it will just create an offshoot. Which is something she's had personal experience with.
      Our otherworldly antagonists have assured us of our inevitable failure repeatedly, while the gods whisper corroboration in my sleep. I believe them now. I just blew up my first gate. I'm not sure why I did it, really. I'm not playing by the rules anymore. I will fly around this candy-coated rock and comb the white sand until I find answers. No one can tell me our fate can't be repaired. We've come too far. I jumped out of the way of a fucking burning tree, for God's sake.
    • Offshoots don't always veer off into non-existence though, as sometimes Paradox Space finds ways to make sure that all parties that would be altered in the new timeline meet a swift demise, as a Dave and one set of Trolls found out the hard way.
    • It also doesn't help the issue that we as the reader know the future, but characters in canon do not.
      • In short, in Homestuck not only can you not fight fate, if you do manage to split away from the main timeline, a quasi magical force known as Paradox Space will doom you all to a horrible death. Probably.
    • Interestingly, this only applies to major characters; Miss Exposition claims that the universe only really cares that much about the actions of people who will have a major impact on the universe itself and its survival/reproduction, while those without potential for such impact have traditional free will and the universe will not split into a doomed timeline regardless of their choices.
    • John is the only person able to actually fight this, as since he's no longer tied down to the basic causality of the Incipisphere, his actions as he flits across time and space can actually change the alpha timeline. Considering how narrowly the kid's made it out alive, this is more than a little scary for him.
    • This also a major reason why nobody ever tries preventing the rise of the Big Bad, Lord English, who doesn't even make a proper appearance in the comic until very late. Every time the possibility of mucking with time to prevent his arrival is raised, someone iterates that "You can't. He is already here."
    • And when the above two examples are mixed together, it still ends up that this trope is played straight. Even when John teleports the Kids in using his Retcon powers to stop Lord English's younger self before he can become Lord English, it still ends up being the event that creates him anyways.
    • It really doesn't help that Lord English is also able to manipulate Fate for his own ends, being a Lord of Time who gained game-breaking powers thanks to playing and beating a Dead Session. The very juju that granted John his power was originally Caliborn's.
  • In Erfworld Fate is a magical force in the universe that can be examined and manipulated to a degree by certain kinds of spell and is believed to manipulate events into occurring, with this trope and its nuances being heavily examined. Fate is heavily implied to be the reason Parson was summoned to Erfworld, to fulfill a prophecy that he will kill a certain person. When he's trapped in a burning building that will surely kill him with a scroll that can send him home, he asks his advanced calculator the odds of him casting the spell. It keeps returning neglible odds, until he realizes the number is almost instanteously changing. Running the calculation enough times in rapid succession shows him the true odds, nearly a guaranteed success. But when he tries it, a beam weakened from the fire falls from the ceiling and knocks him unconscious. After he's saved through other means, Parson is convinced that the numbers and the beam were Fate at work, influencing events so he'll fulfill his destiny.
    • Wanda, with personal experience trying to defy her Fate, has come to the belief that Fate can be fought, but it will always win. What's Fated to happen, will inevitably happen. One's choices do still matter, in that trying to defy Fate will cause suffering as it forces you back onto your proper path and one must seek to act in accordance with your Fate to avoid hardship. Jack describes her philosophy as even fatalism needing to acknowledge the rules of cause and effect. At one point, she even refuses to let her minion kill a dangerous enemy she has dead to rights because he is Fated to be killed by Parson. Wanda believes that not only would the attempt fail, it would invite disaster on them for trying.
    • Later, Marie, a Predictamancer who informed much of Wanda's knowledge of Fate, says Wanda should have gone for it and calls her worldview overly simplistic. Fate too is bound by cause and effect and will adapt to changing circumstances. The path doesn't matter, only the destination. As long as what's Fated to happen happens, Fate doesn't care how you get there. Clever people can get around it or stall it for a time if they know how. Tricking a prophecy, moving the goal conditions further along and bizarre strategies that ensure maximum safety and no risk. Parson suggests that Wanda could have killed the enemy, then later revived him via Decrpytion and then Parson could have executed him to satisfy Fate's conditions. He then speculates that maybe even him giving orders that lead to the enemy's death might count, but Marie's reaction suggests Fate isn't that malleable.
    • Carnymancy is the magic to change Fate. One of their most closely guarded secrets is that they can't, but they can strike deals with it. One Carnymancer had a girlfriend who was destined to die in a fire, so he changed her fate to be that she would kill herself, thinking that this would make her effectively immortal for as long as she wanted to live. Both prophecies came true, but not in the way he expected. Since her fate made it impossible for anybody to kill her, she became overconfident and ended up killing herself by refusing to escape from a fire, mistakenly thinking it couldn't hurt her.
    • One Thinkamancer had a theory that fate does not exists and Predictamancers are not really predicting the future, but are actually, without realizing it, forcing the future to happen the way they think it will by generating incorporeal entities that manipulate luck to make their prophecies come true. It's left unclear whether his theory is correct, but it does rely on the assumptions that Predictamancers don't know what their own magic does and that Predictamancy is really a specialized form of Thinkamancy. The story does make it clear that Casters, and especially Thinkamancers, have a bad habit of assuming their magic is the end all, be all. Another theory he posits is that even non-Predictamancers can create such entities via the act of sacrificing oneself but with the comic's discontinuation we'll never know if his attempt to create one himself worked.
  • Roommates: The characters are aware of their fictionality, the stories they are from AND the Theory of Narrative Causality so the destiny that says so and/or the fate they can't fight. More directly: Jareth desperately tries to be a hero but always fails and got villainous backlash because of it. Tallahassee tried to escape his Canon to bring back his son...and failed.
  • 8-Bit Theater has Sarda espouse this philosophy. This is due to his failures at Time Travel, thinking that something that happened cannot be avoided. Chaos claims to be able to turn that on its head, but since he's defeated before he can change the timeline it's not clear if he actually could have.
  • In Casey and Andy, veteran time traveller J.J. knows that any event that she personally observes becomes immutable. However, if she looks away, she can leave the outcome ambiguous enough for her to go back and change things.
  • Subverted in L's Empire. While you can't change the past, you can't know the future, therefore the existence of fate is irrelevant.
  • Scary Go Round: The "Hard Yards" storyline in 2017 involved a massive Retcon, according to which, much of the history of the Bobbinsverse was probably generated by a time travelling Scout Jones attempting to prevent the break-up of her parents' marriage and the births of her half-sisters — and actually causing many of the events involved.
  • DICE: The Cube That Changes Everything:
    • Mooyoung warned Taebin that he can't stop the spread of Dice, which he tries by doing quests privately. Dongtae got hands on one of his anyway and the rest is history.
    • With Mio dead by Mooyoung's hands, Dongtae awakens the Time Rewind again. After many attempts, he manages for her to at least not get killed, but Mooyoung still gets all her Dice and she gets automatically killed in the next game's penalty.

    Web Videos 
  • Enoch from Belkinus Necrohunt is a firm believer in this, especially when it comes to the inevitable costs of lying.
  • Empires SMP Season 1: As chronicled in its musical adaptation, in the song "Unimaginable Chaos", one of the prophecies in "The Book Of Prophecies, Past & Future" is fulfilled, causing Lizzie to grow paranoid that the prophecy about the end of the world will be fulfilled too in the near future. She tries to ignore it by trying to move on with her life in "Happy Ever After"… which is immediately followed by "The Rapture".
  • In The End, whenever Brendon meets someone new he receives a vision of the end of that relationship and he cannot change what he sees. His only choices are to accept fate or not to pursue that relationship at all.
  • In The King Dragon Canon, Dennis plays a Telltale-Games-esque version of the game, but due to a Plotline Death in the original, a certain choice reeks of But Thou Must! (Much to his dismay.)
  • In The Nostalgia Critic's editorial on Unbreakable, he discusses the darker side of this, asking about the people who hadn't wanted to be mean and the people destined to be victims.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): You Can Not Fight Fate


We're all slaves to fate

As prophesied by Scolippi's Stand, Rolling Stones, Bucciarati, Narancia and Abbacchio are fated to die prematurely.

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Main / YouCantFightFate

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