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Your Heart's Desire

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”Sure, you can ALL marry me!”

"We can supply anything
That your heart desires
But the consequences
Will surely be dire!"
— "The Greatest Show Unearthed", Creature Feature

These bad guys trap you by preying upon your desires. They know what you want and are willing to offer it to you—or so it would seem. They show you things you've always dreamed of, presenting you with the very thing that your heart yearns for. However, Be Careful What You Wish For. Temptation can be a powerful and dangerous thing, and is sometimes harder to resist than any overt danger.

This is a favorite technique of the Master of Illusion, who may use it to trap others in a Lotus-Eater Machine, or the kinds of monsters that get satisfaction out of manipulating their victims' emotions. After all, it's much easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar, and the victim often won't even be able to realize the danger until it's too late. Even if s/he realizes it's not real, the power of the desire may entice them to remain "deceived." The Deal with the Devil also frequently runs on this trope, exacting a horrible price in exchange for one's heart's desire, frequently in a way that makes it not worth it in the end. This is why your parents always told you not to take candy from strangers.

Contrast I Know What You Fear, which is knowing what another creature fears.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, the Book of Darkness trapped Fate in a world where her Evil Matriarch of a mother loved her and the dead girl she was cloned from was her Cool Big Sis. Fate even admits that this is what she always wanted as she breaks down in tears. This was meant to be a case of Let Them Die Happy rather than any form of malice, but ended up being crueler than any torture could have been since Fate knew almost immediately that it wasn't real (and that it never would be). Although it does help Fate come to terms with being a separate person from Alicia and accept Lindy's offer to adopt her.
  • In Nabari no Ou, the Shinrabanshou often tries to tempt Miharu into telling her his greatest desires, and then she will grant him her destructive power, regardless of whether his body can handle it.
  • The Infinite Tsukuyomi from Naruto traps everyone on the planet in an endless dream while draining them of their personalities and defining features, transforming them into White Zetsu.
  • Queen Millennia: Larela shows Hajime holographic replicas of his deceased parents and tells that her system can read his heart and recreate anything he thinks of.

    Comic Books 
  • Black Mamba of the B.A.D girls (seen in Cable & Deadpool, among others) can temporarily incapacitate people with an illusion of their ultimate fantasy. This failed to work on Shen Kuei / the Cat, a Gentleman Thief and martial artist who already is living his ultimate fantasy.
  • In For the Man Who Has Everything a Lotus-Eater Machine of this sort is used on Superman, who hallucinates that he's back on Krypton.
  • In DC's Legion of Super-Heroes, when Shrinking Violet was under the influence of the Emerald Eye (unbeknownst to her teammates), she started granting the Legionnaires their hearts' desires. It went fairly well until Leviathan got his, which was to die as a hero. Attempting to bring him back to life, Violet was taken over entirely by the Emerald Eye.
  • Rare hero example: Danielle Moonstar, AKA Mirage of the New Mutants, could create a mental illusion of your worst fear, or your heart's desire. She could choose which one, but even she couldn't know what her victim was seeing.
  • The X-Men annual Lost in the Funhouse revolved around this - Horde, the villain of the issue, sent the team to a Citadel to retrieve a MacGuffin on pain of destroying their world if they refused. The citadel's defence mechanism was offering intruders a vision of their heart's desire one-by-one. When it couldn't find Longshot's desire due to his "purity", it cut out step two and absorbed him.

    Fan Works 
  • The Karma of Lies: Lila Rossi manipulates her marks by figuring out what they want most and claiming that she can help them achieve their dreams with her supposed connections. She then proceeds to not only string them along with her scams, but directly sabotages their goals.
    • Most of her classmates are tricked into donating to her Fake Charity drives; she also convinces many of them to trust her with their work/information that she then turns around and sells off, robbing them of the fruits of their labor. Others find themselves blacklisted as a result of her actions, getting blamed for the damage she caused.
    • Adrien knows her true nature, but still gets suckered in when she feigns remorse, pretending that his 'high road' approach helped her realize the error of her ways... exactly what he wants to hear. She then sets him up as an Unwitting Pawn and The Scapegoat while making it appear that he's the one trying to frame her, helping shred his reputation.
    • In an example unrelated to Lila, this also comes into play during the Final Battle with Mayura: Rose/Pigella uses her Gift to manifest a vision of what the villain wants most: Emilie Agreste.

  • In Coraline, this is the Big Bad's modus operandi. The Beldam, a monstrous spider-like fairy, preys on children by constructing a Pocket Dimension full of all their wildest dreams, complete with idealized versions of their families and neighbours. The Beldam herself is the pièce de résistance of the whole illusion, disguising her hideous true form by pretending to be the victim's "Other Mother". Once she has the child in her grasp, she offers to let them stay forever in exchange for letting her sew her trademark black buttons into their eyes. Those who accept the deal are eaten, and they have their souls taken by the Beldam for good measure.
  • In The Princess and the Frog, when Tiana steals the magical talisman that Facilier needs for his Evil Plan, he conjures up a vision where she's a human again, in the dream restaurant that she's been working for years to open, and offers to give it all to her if she hands it back and lets him keep Naveen. At this point, however, she realizes that she needs her restaurant and Naveen to be happy, and tries to smash the talisman instead. Sadly for Tiana, Facilier's Living Shadow snags it before it hits the ground, but it isn't long before Tiana turns the tables and actually smashes it, causing Facilier and his shadow to be dragged to the Other Side.

    Film—Live Action 
  • Legend (1985). Jack's heart's desire is his girlfriend Lili. When the fairy Oona and Jack are trapped in the dungeon of the villain Darkness, Oona offers Jack his heart's desire by assuming Lili's appearance and trying to get him to kiss her.
  • The female 'space vampire' in Lifeforce (1985) took her appearance (her natural form is a winged alien creature) from the subconscious desires of the astronaut who found her. This gives him an unhealthy obsession with her, even after he discovers she feeds on Life Energy and is entirely capable of destroying the world.
    Carlson: What are you? Why are you so human, so perfect? What were the bird-creatures on the [space]ship?
    Space Girl: Our bodies are unimportant. As you and your men approached in your ship, we changed them for you. We entered your minds, and found their new bodies. I took my shape from your mind. I took your language. I became the woman I found there, in your deepest thoughts, your deepest...needs.
  • Suicide Squad (2016). At the final confrontation, Enchantress offers each member of the Squad the chance to fulfill their deepest desires, but they slowly start rejecting it or at least in some cases, debating it.

  • In The Dresden Files. Primary modus operandi of the Denarians. The Shadows of the Fallen Angels are just as powerful and knowledgeable as their original forms, but need a willing Host to allow the Fallen to fully enter the person. While it could be lies on the Fallen's side, one way to break their Host is to offer them this idea. One White Court vampire who genuinely loves a mortal woman and is loved in return is burned by that Love they feel towards each other as it is a poison to his incubus demon within. While he is originally feels he could resist the Shadow's offer, when told it could grant him a way to be with his beloved and not fear being hurt by her love, he goes silent, recognizing the effectiveness of this tactic.
  • Harry Potter had the Mirror of Erised, which shows the viewer whatever their greatest desire is. Ron, who feels overshadowed by his siblings, sees himself outdoing them all. Harry, who never knew his real family, sees himself with his parents and relatives. Dumbledore mentions that it can be highly addictive, however. Dumbledore hides the Philosopher's Stone "inside" the mirror as its final measure of protection—someone who wants to use its powers will just see themselves doing so, but someone who wants the stone for itself, without intent to use it, will magically obtain it.
  • Larry Niven's Known Space series had a gadget called a droud, which stimulated the pleasure centre of the brain directly. Users quickly became addicted and eventually starved to death, immobile in a puddle of their own wastes. Humanity had given up trying to treat the problem, regarding it as Darwinsim in action in a society which was, in any case, hugely over-populated so there was no value is trying to save people who would have nothing to contribute.
  • Stanley G. Weinbaum's science fiction short story A Martian Odyssey has a carnivorous plant monster that reads the mind of its victim and creates a mental illusion of what the victim most desires to lure it into the plant's clutches.
  • In Pact, Faysal Anwar, Gatekeeper of the Seventh Ring, offers Blake Thorburn a choice of either immortality (by giving him the ability to return from death indefinitely) or humanity (by restoring the pieces of Blake that were torn away when Blake fell through the cracks in the world), if he'll come work for Faysal's master Johannes. To Blake, who ultimately just wants to be free, both are incredibly tempting not for themselves but what they'd allow him to do.
  • The short story "A Part of the Game" in Dragon magazine #51. A group of desert travelers find an oasis which appears to be a gate to a utopian other world. Most of the group enters the pool only to be eaten by its inhabitant, a monster that can create beautiful illusions.
  • In the novel Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, the carnival tries to entice the boys by showing them exciting and marvelous things. Particularly Jim, who is fascinated by it, and who also has a desire to become older.
  • C'tlan in Technomagia i smoki, somewhat similarly to the A Martian Odyssey monster, hunts by inducing hallucinations in prey to lure it. It is, however, motile.
  • In The Whispering Skull, those who are ensnared by a glimpse of the bone-glass hear a ghostly, whispering, wheedling voice urging them "Look. Look. I give you your heart's desire." Those who actually do look into it directly, either by their own choice or because they are forced to, die no more than a minute after.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica (1978), episode "War of the Gods Part 1". The mysterious being known as Count Iblis can read the mind of anyone he talks to and determine their greatest desire.
  • Blake's 7. In "Headhunter", Orac is taken over by the Monster of the Week.
    Orac: Join us, Soolin. We can fulfill your every desire.
    Soolin: (Turning Orac off) You wouldn't know where to start.
  • The Greeed from Kamen Rider OOO are all about this. They are basically ancient homunculi who feed on humans' desire indirectly via their Yuumies.
  • Lucifer (2016). This is a shtick of the title character, who can look into someone's eyes and compel them to reveal this trope. This can vary from wanting to commit murder to wanting a cheeseburger.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • "Back to Earth" has a joy squid (opposite of the despair squid in earlier episodes.) Both had the same effect of trapping you in a hallucination until you die.
    • The total-immersion video game BetterThanLife was pretty much this. Unfortunately Rimmer's subconscious can't accept a world where nice things are happening to him, so his worst nightmares start coming true instead.
  • Star Trek:
  • Supernatural: The Djinn trap their prey by making their deepest wishes come true—by putting them in a hallucinogenic trance while the Djinn drains all their blood over the course of several days. Dean was once caught by a Djinn who made him experience an alternate world where the Winchesters' mother was never killed by a demon.

  • This goes all the way back to the Sirens of Classical Mythology. They would sing a song that made them irresistible to sailors, who would steer their ships toward the sound. Then the ships would hit the rocks surrounding the sirens and sink.
  • In a great many stories Satan is said to know Your Heart's Desire in order to get you to sign a Deal with the Devil. Far too many stories to list, really.
  • Several examples of Jackass Genie.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Li'l Abner: On August 31, 1948, cartoonist Al Capp introduced the schmoo, a bewhiskered white blob of a creature that looked like a bowling pin with legs. Schmoos seemed to exist only to provide humanity with its every need. Capp said he came up with the idea of the schmoo when he was driving through the New England countryside and saw the abundance that the earth provided. People of all political stripes — communists and capitalists alike — saw the schmoos as an analogy critical of their beliefs. (The fact that "schmoos" rhymes with "schmooze" didn't help.) Schmoos were Explosive Breeders that laid eggs and could give milk. If they really loved you, they'd could lay a cheesecake. And if you expressed a desire to eat a schmoo, one of them would die of ecstasy just to provide you with the opportunity. Naturally, a schmoo Tastes Like Chicken. Fed up with all the controversy over a character he claimed was nothing more than a commentary on the abundance of nature, Capp carried out a Writer Revolt by slaughtering the entire species in December. The Other Wiki has a more detailed analysis of the schmoos here.

    Other Sites 
  • SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-157 ("Mimetic Predator"). SCP-157 uses telepathy to project an illusion that it is something the target would want to eat, wear, or apply to its body.
    • When viewed, SCP-071 ("Degenerative Metamorphic Entity") changes its form to match that of its observer's strongest sexual desire, even if that sexual desire is for dogs or corpses. If the observer has sex with it, he or she suffers significant temporary and permanent negative side effects.
    • SCP-699 ("Mystery Box"). 90% of people who look at SCP-699 see that it holds "something they want to possess or to release...", such as "...precious metals, artwork, family members, pets, religious figures, and apparently useful technology..."
    • SCP-1888 ("Terraforming Temple"). When a sapient creature looks inside the "Treasure Room", it sees some extremely valuable object(s) appropriate to its own knowledge. For example, a jewel thief would see precious stones and gems, a nuclear physicist would see a cold fusion reactor, and so on.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Amazing Engine: Setting supplement Bughunters. Polyhedron magazine #106 has an article called "Bugging the Hunters" with dangers that UTPRF Marines could face. One is the device known as the Siren. It uses mechanical telepathy to summons humans to its location and makes them see whatever they desire most. When they approach the Siren, it strangles them with its tentacles.
  • Chaosium's supplement All the Worlds' Monsters Volume III. The Dream Beast is a telepathic plant that can cause any creature looking at it to see whatever it wants most. Once the target gets close enough, the Dream Beast grabs it with its 5-10 Combat Tentacles and drags it in to be eaten.
  • Dragon Quest: In the supplement The Enchanted Wood, the PCs encounter a living bog that can generate illusions of desirable things to lure them into itself. The bog tricks the characters by creating the illusion of a castle which appears to be a Rest-and-Resupply Stop. When the PCs touch it, it disappears and reveals that they are trapped in the bog.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • 1st/2nd Edition:
      • Adventure S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. A group of dao (similar to djinn) create an illusion of a desirable setting to lure the party into a cave. When the party enters, the dao attack.
      • Dark Sun/World of Athas campaign setting. The Red Silt Horror uses its telepathic/ESP abilities to determine what its target desires most, then uses its False Sensory Input power to create an image of the desired item. After its target moves close to it, it attacks.
      • Forgotten Realms supplement FR4 The Magister. The Cloak of Delight can cause any creature that sees it to fall into an motionless and oblivious trance for 1-8 minutes by showing the creature its ultimate pleasure and goal. The creature will maniacally attack any creature or thing that blocks its view of the Cloak. If its view is blocked by something without solid form (e.g. darkness or smoke) the trance ends.
      • Dungeon magazine #50, adventure "The Object of Desire". Sultan Farouz al-Algarin has a magical mirror that shows him something that will fulfill his heart's desire..
    • 3rd Edition: Creature Collection supplement. The Dweller at the Crossroads is a sinister figure that knows its victim's greatest wish and can grant it — for a price. Every gift the dweller gives is cursed in some way to bring corruption and misery to the person receiving it.
    • The Infinite Staircase, introduced in the Planescape setting, is a transitive plane that consists of an endless network of stairs hanging in space, whose landings contain Portal Doors to various places across the planes. It's a handy way to get around the Great Wheel if you know how to navigate it, but there's a chance for a character traversing the Infinite Staircase by themself to suddenly notice a new staircase leading to a door, which they instinctively realize leads to their heart's deepest desire. If that traveler resists the urge to step through, they'll never be able to find that door again, while those who succumb are never seen again... though as far as anyone else knows, they found what they wanted.
  • Earthdawn: In the supplement Earthdawn Companion, questors of the Mad Passion Vestrial have the ability to learn a target's greatest desire, allowing them to manipulate the target by granting their desire. They have another ability that allows them to implant a desire in a target that becomes the target's greatest desire.
  • In Nomine: When a Lilim (a type of demon) looks into someone's eyes, she can see that person's greatest need. She can then use her demonic abilities and resources to meet that need and gain a geas (control) over that person.
  • Neverwhere: The angel Islington can see into people’s hearts and offer them what they most desire.
  • Shadowrun has an Awakened creature ability called "Desire Reflection". It allows the creature to know the greatest desire of another being and trick that being into believing that the creature is that thing. A number of creatures possess this ability, such as the Incubus, Blackberry Cat, Kludde, Quicksilver Mongoose, and Siberian Firebird.
  • Space Patrol: Subverted. In an example of play, a man walking through a forest sees a beautiful nude woman. Believing that such coincidence is only possible in the movies, he decides that the woman is an illusion created by a man-hungry alien monster. He draws his blaster and fires at it, reducing it to its component atoms. The text reveals that the man was wrong: it was a real woman and he is now a murderer.

    Video Games 
  • The aptly-named Desire Demons from Dragon Age.
  • Fallen London: The Masters of the Bazaar host an Absurdly High-Stakes Game called The [sic]Marvellous, a card tournament where the winner gets whatever reasonable desire they want from an ultra-powerful insanely rich corporation. The catch? Not only do you have to 'convince' the other five contestants in the game to play again, but during the final round, the losing player can bet something of great value, from their vast fortunes to an aspect of their soul, and it will be taken from them if they lose. Many players have been ruined or driven insane trying to obtain the ultimate prize; the potential winner, Beechwood, is one such player who went mad because he won the game, and seeks to win again - this time, wishing that the Bazaar ends the games. Sacrificing this chance yourself ensures you'll lose your heart's desire, but you'll obtain a supernatural deck that can help you win your daily battles.
  • The PC horror game The Path can be interpreted this way, as it seems that each girl's wolf is something that appeals to them according to their personality, and thus they are lured in one by one.
  • Persona 5 Royal has Takuto Maruki, after he gains Yaldabaoth's powers, granting the wishes of the Phantom Thieves. Unless most examples, this is done out of misguided benevolence rather than malice.
  • Pretty much the reason people enter into Twisted Metal.

  • In The Order of the Stick, this is what the final illusion in Girard Draketooth's pyramid does, trapping anyone in a Lotus-Eater Machine so that Girard's clan can kill them. However, by this point, Girard's entire clan is dead, having fallen victim to V's Familicide spell. Interestingly, it is Elan who breaks the Order out of it by realizing his heart's desire (seeing his dysfunctional, broken family reunited) is too unrealistic to ever happen.

    Western Animation 
  • Aladdin: The Series had a variant in one episode: a small, timid animal that can do this whenever scared, hoping to distract a perceived threat. Naturally, Iago and Abu continually frighten it just to get stuff. In the end, Iago used a mirror to make the critter scare itself so it would grant its own heart's desire: to go home.
  • Fantastic Voyage. In "The Magic Crystal of Kabala", when the protagonists enter the title magic item they are each exposed to a fantasy that fulfills their heart's desire in an attempt to entrap them.
  • Kid Cosmic: A Lotus-Eater Machine attempts to trap the cast into staying within it by offering them things they'd want, like having your diner become a global chain (Flo) or getting to ride a dinosaur princess (Rosa). Kid's greatest desire, however, is something more important than material things, as seen when the fantasy attempts to offer him a chance to reunite with his dead parents.
  • Miraculous Ladybug has a rare heroic example. The Pig Miraculous, which grants the power of Jubilation, reveals what a person truly desires to help the target overcome their negativity and encourage them to pursue what makes them happy. Ladybug entrusts this Miraculous to Rose Lavillant, now the new superheroine Pigella, to save her best friend Juleka/Reflekta from her despair.
  • An accident more than a malicious act, but the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Cutie Pox" involves Apple Bloom misusing a plant that's outright called Heart's Desire in order to get her cutie mark. She got it, all right... dozens of them.
  • The Regular Show Christmas Episode revolved around the group Saving Christmas from an enchanted box that grants the user whatever they want most, with the cost of the Black Magic used to create it turning them Brainwashed and Crazy.
  • The VeggieTales episode "LarryBoy and the Bad Apple" dealt with the aesop of temptation and how difficult it is to fight it by revolving around a dangerous villain who literally trapped her victims inside their own obsessions.