Forbidden Fruit

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
    Image courtesy of Daniela Uhlig. Used with permission.

    If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying 'End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH', the paint wouldn't even have time to dry.

    —Susan Sto-Helit, Discworld

    There are two closed doors right next to each other, identical in every way except one: One has a large KEEP OUT sign on it in bold, red letters. Which door is someone more likely to try to open? It's not rocket science.

    Forbidden Fruit is a person, place, or thing absolutely irresistible to one or more characters, whose appeal lies solely in the fact it has been forbidden, prohibited, and declared unquestionably off limits. They feel they must have it only because they know they can't or shouldn't have it. Frequently takes the form of a Pandora's Box you are not to open, a Big Red Button you are not to press, an experiment you are not to mess with, a person you are not allowed to be with, or even hear about, a potion you are not to taste under any circumstances, or a place nobody is supposed to ever visit.

    Can be a result of Genre Blindness, but not usually, since the attraction of Forbidden Fruit is in and of itself contrary to logic. More often than not, the characters know that going for it would be a stupid move; they just can't help themselves. (They are particularly likely to be young.)

    Needless to say, opening the forbidden door or acquiring the Forbidden Fruit leads to disaster 99.9% of the time. Used often in setting Booby Traps, where it becomes Schmuck Bait, when a villain intentionally takes advantage of the power of Forbidden Fruit to lure heroes to their doom. (Unless, of course, he is redeemed by the power of Delicious Fruit Pies.)

    Can also be seen in Shipping; people like pairings with the Capulet Counterpart, Ho Yay, incest, etc. because it breaks taboo.

    The trope takes its name from the Bible, where Eve is tempted into eating the Forbidden Fruit (an apple, according to Fanon), making this Older Than Feudalism. For the record, it is now believed that the "forbidden fruit" of the Bible was actually a pomegranate (or possibly the whole story was just a metaphor to begin with).

    In his analysis of the Fairy Tale, The Morphology of the Folktale, Vladimir Propp concluded that the functions "prohibition" and "disobedience" really formed a single plot function—any prohibition was bound to be violated.

    The economic principles of scarcity may go a long way towards explaining this phenomenon.

    See also Curiosity Killed the Cast, Don't Touch It, You Idiot!, Schmuck Bait, and Wanting Is Better Than Having. Prime source of Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere, Do Not Do This Cool Thing and the Streisand Effect.

    For the Kerry Greenwood novel of the same name, see Corinna Chapman.

    Examples of Forbidden Fruit include:

    Anime and Manga

    • Ah! My Goddess has a human example, where ultra-popular 'School Queen' Sayoko's interest in Keichii originally stemmed from his complete disinterest in her.
      • This is how Skuld got "impregnated" with her angel.
      • In one of the Ah! My Goddess "Mini-Goddesses" adventures, Skuld labels a Big Red Button "Do Not Touch," and naturally Gan-chan and Urd fight over who will press it first. Skuld wisely re-labels it "Please Touch Me," causing them to lose interest—at which point the ever-obliging Belldandy pushes the button.
      • Aoshima is implied to lust after Belldandy because of this trope.
    • In episode 57 of Keroro Gunsou, Viper the Elder captures Kururu with a trap hidden in a box marked "Don't you dare open this!" As he goes to open the box, Kururu even remarks "That just makes me want to open it even more."
    • The sealed door at the Fuuka Shrine in My-HiME, episode 6. Mai and her friends are warned ahead of time by Shiho's grandfather never to open it, out of fear of unleashing a great evil. Midori, who had been sneaking around the place all day playing Adventurer Archaeologist, gets locked inside the shrine with seemingly no way out. She didn't hear the warning. Guess what happens next.
    • In Mamotte Shugogetten, one of Shaorin's previous masters was a little girl. When she wanted to go to the town near their house, Shaorin told her absolutely no, because the wolves were near it. Shaorin later goes to town herself, leaving the girl all alone. The instant Shaorin leaves, the little girl leaves as well. This leads to the girl being fatally injured by the wolves and dying in Shaorin's arms.
    • Implied in One Piece with Boa Hancock. She's declared the "most beautiful woman in the world," and can mesmerize and have pretty much any man she wants. Guess who she ends up falling for? Luffy, the Chaste Hero who will absolutely never return her feelings. It's even implied that she fell for him because he was "not like the others," with him calling her a "stupid lady" and telling her to shut up.
      • In a more literal example, the Devil Fruits, which give the eaters superpowers but make them unable to swim, even taking away their buoyancy. And due to the fact that that world is mostly water, it's a heavy price to pay for anyone who would be a major part of the plot.
    • Arguably, any person who wants Sousuke from Full Metal Panic!. Which is a lot of people. Pretty much every one of them knows that it's near impossible for him to ever return their feelings. And although each one of them normally has another person who is in love with them, they can't seem to help but be drawn to the mysterious and unattainable Sousuke. It came as a huge shock to most characters that he started to have some reciprocating feelings towards Kaname - something even she didn't know or expect (as she herself even thought that having feelings for him is hopeless, but it's something she just can't help).
    • The chosen priestesses in Fushigi Yuugi must be virgins and remain as such until they summon the deity that chose them and ask for three wishes. Cue excessive amounts of rape attempts on the heroine, Melodrama between love interests, and the like.
      • This is taken even further when, in the prequel manga, during the time of the priestesses of Genbu and Byakko, it's revealed that a wish for the priestess to be with a man she loves in the world of the Universe of the Four Gods cannot ever come true. The Priestess of Byakko, Suzuno, requests this wish, and Byakko cannot grant it to her.
    • Sakura Gari: The one person Souma finds himself truly falling in love with is the only person who has absolutely no interest in him. As a matter of fact, it's addressed that the main reason he fell in love with Masataka was because Masataka was "different from the others." And Souma, of course, unaccustomed to not getting sex from someone he wants, proceeds to tie Masataka up and rape him repeatedly.
    • In Fullmetal Alchemist, knowledge of the Philosopher's Stone is kept under wraps by the government, seeing how it's made out of people.

    Comic Books

    • Rogue of the X-Men. Her mutant powers keep her from touching others or else they will be rendered comatose. Gambit, relentless and successful womanizer, finds himself stuck on the notion of a woman that even he can't have. (It helps that, like most of the women in the Marvel universe, she's gorgeous.)

    Fairy Tales

    • In "East of the Sun and West of the Moon", the heroine disobeys the bear's warnings not to speak with her mother alone.
    • In "The Nine Pea-Hens and the Golden Apples", the hero opens the twelfth door his wife had forbidden.
    • In "Little Red Riding Hood", the little girl leaves the path, which her mother had forbidden.
    • In "The Golden Bird", the older sons disobey the fox up front, and after initial obedience, the youngest son disobeys him repeatedly.
    • In "The Dancing Water, the Singing Apple, and the Speaking Bird", on his third quest, the older son disobeys the hermit's commands, and is turned to stone; his younger son followed; only their sister saves them.
    • In "The Mastermaid", a prince working for a giant is forbidden to go through a door. Fortunately, he disobeys and finds the Mastermaid, who tells him how to survive.
    • In Joseph Jacobs's "Gold Tree and Silver Tree", after Gold-Tree is enchanted into her sleep, her husband the prince remarries and forbids his second wife to go into the chamber where her coffin is. The second wife disobeys and revives Gold-Tree.
    • In The Brothers Grimm's "Iron Hans", the prince disobeys his father's order not to let Iron Hans free, and is kidnapped; then he disobeys Iron Hans's order not to let anything into a well, and is exiled.
    • In "The Blue Mountains" and "The Raven", the hero must stay awake to greet the heroine and fails.
    • In "Our Lady's Child", the heroine looks through a forbidden door and is punished until she confesses.
    • "Faithful John" is forbidden by the old king to let the prince see a portrait, but when the prince becomes king, he overrides him.
    • In "The Goose Girl", the queen gives the princess a handkerchief with three drops of blood in it and orders her to take great care of it; the princess is careless and loses the handkerchief, which had protected her.
    • "Tatterhood" forbids her family to watch while she fights witches and trolls; when her sister does, her head is turned to a calf's head. Not to mention Tatterhood's existence came about because her mother ate something she was forbidden to.
    • Though it is very prevalent in fairy tales—still, there are also a multitude of fairy tales aversions, a small sample of which: "Bearskin", "The Gingerbread Man", "The Rose Tree", and "The Three Spinners".
    • Appears in the "Bluebeard". A mysterious nobleman leaves his young wife a key to a door which she must never open. Of course, she does open it, and discovers the mutilated corpses of his former wives.
    • In the story Strega Nona, a young man named Anthony works for the kindly old titular character. She has a magic kettle that she uses to conjure pasta, and she tells him not to touch it. Naturally, he disobeys her.

    Films -- Animated

    • In Disney's Aladdin, the title character and his monkey Abu are warned to "touch nothing but the lamp" when going through the underground treasure caves. When Aladdin tells Abu to "Wait Here", Abu sees a giant gem and can't help himself; his greed overcomes him and he grabs it, unleashing a tidal wave of lava on them.
    • Shrek has the nervous Donkey having to be goaded into crossing a rickety rope-and-plank bridge over a volcano. He says, before they set out, "Don't look down." Donkey actually manages not to, though he seems like he's about to try once or twice... and then he puts a foot wrong and ends up with his face poking through a gap in the planks. "SHREK! I'M LOOKIN' DOWN!"
    • Scar from The Lion King uses this on Simba to lure him to the elephant graveyard.
    • In the Little Nemo film, Nemo is given a key that unlocks every door in Slumberland, except for one with a sinister-looking symbol which leads to Nightmareland. Naturally, resident troublemaker Flip convinces him to do just that, and all hell breaks loose, literally.

    Films -- Live-Action

    • Any film that becomes hard to see immediately gets this appeal attached to it - whether it be a film rating that means people under a certain age can't see it (all 12-year-olds dream of sneaking into an R-rated movie), distribution or ownership rights issues preventing its release/rerelease, or content issues compelling the studios to voluntarily withhold it. A prime example of the latter would be Disney's 1947 Song of the South, unavailable in the US for decades because of concerns about now-outdated racial stereotypes - this has, of course, led to many annoyed fans who want to see it.
    • The Avengers 1998. While going to have tea with Mother, Steed warns Mrs. Peel not to take a macaroon because they're Mother's favorite. Guess what she does during the meal. To be fair, she was just doing it to tease him because he's so straitlaced. At the end when she and Steed have tea with Mother again, she deliberately doesn't take a macaroon as a gesture of friendship to Steed.
    • In one segment of the Tales from the Darkside movie involves a man who witnesses a demonic monster brutally murder someone. The monster spares his life on the condition that he never tell anyone else about it. Years later, the man is married to a beautiful woman and has two children... guess what he does? The minute he tells his wife about the monster and the killing, she turns into the monster and kills him, then leaves with her now-equally demonic-looking children.
      • This is very similar to the "Yuki-Onna" (snow witch) segment of the Japanese anthology ghost film Kwaidan. Only difference is, the Yuki-Onna spares her husband's life on account of their kids.
    • Pan's Labyrinth's Pale Man would like to draw your attention to the wonderful food before it and away from it's hands. And it's mouth. And it's face. And the fact that it's behind you right about now!


    • Lampshaded by Piers Anthony in the Xanth series. All knowledge not suitable for children (foul language and especially sex) is supposed to be protected by a literal Adult Conspiracy (The Color of Her Panties employs the Conspiracy as a major plot element). With a name like that, children in Xanth are practically compelled to try to break the Conspiracy (though breaches don't appear to occur very often).
    • In Little Women, right after Meg has decided to reject John Brook's proposal out of fear, Aunt March arrives, jumps the gun, and orders her not to accept him. Meg's response: "I shall marry whom I please, Aunt March, and you can leave your money to anyone you like!"
    • In John C. Wright's The Golden Age, Phaethon is warned that he can recover from his Laser-Guided Amnesia only at the price of exile.
    • In CS Lewis's The Magician's Nephew, the primary reason Digory rings the bell in Charn is to find out what will happen, but the warning of unspecified danger in the bell's inscription doesn't help, either.
      • In the same book, this trope is why Queen Jadis climbs the garden wall and steals apples of immortality which are offered freely to anyone who comes in by the gate and takes them for the sake of others. Digory, who learned his lesson after the incident with the bell, is not tempted by this warning; Jadis gives him pause only when she tells him the fruit could cure his mother's illness.
      • In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Lucy, reading through a spellbook, comes on some forbidden spells. Aslan's intervention helps her resist the temptation to cast a spell that would make her the most beautiful woman in the world but cause misfortune to others, but as a direct result she immediately makes up her mind to cast another spell which will tell her what her friends think of her (and regrets it, since it shows her one of her friends bad-mouthing her to another girl).
    • A favorite device of Edgar Allan Poe in many of his short horror stories involves a character/narrator who is overcome by the urge to kill someone for no other reason than because he knows it is wrong and he shouldn't. He is aware of this psychology, he has no reason to give in to these urges, but it drives him crazy until he does. Poe's own term for this phenomenon is "the Imp of the Perverse."
    • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Hermione delightedly explains that Professor Umbridge has done the one thing that will guarantee every student will read Harry's interview with Rita Skeeter: ban it.
      • Ironically, in the first book, there is a corridor that is designated as forbidden, which the characters only end up in by accident. Apparently, everyone else took Dumbledore's warning of a "most painful death" seriously. The same goes for the actually named Forbidden Forest, which the characters only wind up in because circumstances force them, and which most people avoid due to rumours of it being filled with horrible beasts (though the Weasley twins had apparently made attempts to enter it). However, the forest is entered again in nearly every book; Hagrid once held classes in there (though Hagrid is of the opinion that nothing in the forest would harm anyone with him because its denizens know him so well, and he seems to be right for the most part).
    • Mentioned in Terry Pratchett's Thief of Time. Susan wonders why someone would build a clock that stopped time and then realizes: "If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying 'End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH', the paint wouldn't even have time to dry."
      • In Terry Pratchett's Hogfather, Ridcully finds a door marked, "Do not open under any circumstances." So, naturally, he orders it opened, just so he can see why it was sealed shut.
        • By the end of the book it is sealed up again, but the groundskeeper makes sure not to seal it too well as he knows that the next Archchancellor will want it opened again. He knows how wizards think, apparently.
      • In The Last Continent this is further lampshaded, as they prop open a window to another dimension/time and hang a sign on it saying, "Do not touch the window, not even to see what would happen."
      • In Lords And Ladies, the stone circle is specifically not forbidden territory because of this trope; the people who aren't forbidding it don't want people going there at all.
      • The Unseen University Challenge includes a passing mention of the not-entirely-complimentary nickname "Merkins" for Americans, with a footnote whose text is "do not look this word up in the dictionary" but the subtext is "the dictionary's over there, what are you waiting for?"
      • The Patrician has been known to make Vimes take a case by forbidding him to investigate.
    • Edward Cullen is like the "forbidden fruit" to Bella when she first meets him in Twilight. In fact, the hand holding an apple on the cover is a reference to this trope.
    • In many variants of the Chivalric Romance The Knight of the Swan, the knight arrives to aid a lady, marries her or her daughter, but forbids anyone to ask what his name or origin is. When this is broken, he leaves.
    • In the revised edition of The Gunslinger Walter O’Dim leaves a note stating that if a woman says the word "nineteen" to a man he has brought back from the dead, that he will tell her the secrets of the afterlife, and it will drive her mad. He signs the note with a smily and follows this with "P.S. Did I mention the word is NINETEEN?"
    • Pointed out in Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary:

    "forbidden, p.p. Invested with a new and irresistible charm."

    • Played absolutely straight in Book Ten of The Odyssey with Aeolus's bag of winds. Aeolus was a king that Odyssius's party stopped to visit on the first year after winning the Trojan War. He entertains them well, and they stay for a month at his island, then say their goodbyes. To speed their journey, Aeolus gives Odysseus a bag made from the skin of a nine year old ox, and inside it is the North, South, and East winds. After ten days of smooth sailing that would probably set some records, they come within sight of Ithica. Odysseus goes to sleep after handling the bag for so long, and his companions, thinking there's gold from Aeolus in the bag, go to peek in it. The other winds burst out, and swept the ships away from their own country, eventually leading to everyone but Odysseus's death, and for him, his homecoming is delayed by nine years. Also a bit of an Idiot Ball case, seeing as Aeolus never said any sort of warning not to tell the others what's in the bag (for example, it's not like if someone else knew that the enchantment would be broken), so it's baffling why in the world Odysseus didn't simply tell them as they left Aeolus's island and sate their curiosity early on.
    • Played with in Patricia C. Wrede's Dealing with Dragons. After accidentally unleashing a djinn from an unlabeled bottle (that one character had been warned not to touch but the other hadn't) Cimorene thinks fast enough to recover the situation, seals the spirit in the bottle again, and then makes an "idiot-proof" label that explains exactly why it shouldn't be opened to prevent future mishaps. Oh, and the incident also furthers the plot.
    • In "A POISON TREE" from Songs of Experience, the narrator's foe covets and steals an apple in the knowledge it belongs to the narrator. Of course, it turns out to be poisonous.
    • Played unusually literally in Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market, where magical fruit serves as a temptation to young women. (Yeah, it's probably a metaphor for something.)
    • Invoked in WEB Griffin's The Corps series. Mrs. Sage specifically does not badmouth her daughter's Marine suitor, despite feeling that he's entirely wrong for her, because she knows full well that her daughter is a stubborn and contrary young woman.

    Mrs. Sage: I am following that hoary old adage that the best way to rid yourself of your daughter's unsuitable suitor is to praise him to the skies.

      • Then subverted when it turns out that her daughter knew exactly what her mother was doing and why. The two characters in question end up married.

    Live-Action TV

    • The TV content rating system introduced in the US in 1996 had the same effect to TV that the "Parental Advisory" stickers listed below had to music. They only let kids know which TV shows were not recommended for them, and therefore, the shows that were totally awesome.
      • FoxTrot lampshaded this in a 1997 strip with Jason flipping through the channels and continuing to change each time he came across something labeled TV-Y, TV-Y7, TV-G, and TV-PG, until he yells, "Is there nothing for a kid to watch when his parents aren't home?" Then he comes across a program rated TV-MA, and says, "Finally."
      • Then in 1997, it seems the Moral Guardians had clearly not learned their lesson and expanded on this mistake when they pushed for even more detailed content warnings. In addition to the rating of the show displayed in the upper corner, they had to have letters indicating the content of the show such as L for language, S for Sexual situations, and V for violence. This only helped kids even further with identifying the shows they wanted to watch.
      • The Onion lampshaded this with a story about the nation's teenage boys lobbying Congress to demand a more precise rating system with explanation such as how, if a teenage boy is to make an informed decision about whether a particular program is worth watching he needs to know exactly what it contains, and a boy complaining about how he sat through an entire program rated TV-MA that had no sex or violence.
      • When the UK's Channel 4 launched in 1982, with a mandate for adventurous, push the envelope programming, it made a huge fuss of prefacing its late night risque movies with a red warning triangle. This had the inevitable effect of attracting viewers rather than warning them off as the practice quickly became infamous. It was dropped not too long afterwards. But C4 retained its reputation for being slightly dangerous.
    • One episode of Father Ted featured two big red shiny buttons beside each other in an airplane cockpit, labelled "Emergency" and "Dump Fuel". When first introduced, and told not to push them, Father Dougal finds they're irresistibly calling to him. Naturally, later in the show, an emergency occurs and he is told to press the "Emergency" button. Three guesses what goes wrong...
      • To top it off, the Captain of the aeroplane does not know what pressing the button marked 'EMERGENCY' actually does as they've never had to press before. Those in the cockpit decide not to panic the passengers by telling them what's going on and just follow procedure and push the button. Unbeknowst on the flight deck the button triggers an alarm in the passenger section and the word 'EMERGENCY' comes up on all the displays and is repeated over-and-over on the PA system.
      • Before the start of the series, Dougal evidently once faced the same problem on the bridge of a SeaLink ferry.
    • Full House: D.J. Tanner went through the Pandora's Box-scenario with a gym bag belonging to her Uncle Jesse.
    • The kids of Salute Your Shorts get back at a spoiled brat who's made their lives miserable by telling her she's now free to "trash whatever you want to trash, destroy whatever you want to destroy..." except press "that little red button over there," which promptly sets off a well-organized Booby Trapped room that leaves her covered in egg yolks, spaghetti sauce and feathers.
    • The Rev. Eric Camden of 7th Heaven points out in one episode that ever since his wife put him on a diet, all he wants to do is eat.
      • Yeah, but that could also be because he's hungry.
    • Malcolm in the Middle: Malcolm and Reese find a door with a sign saying it's for authorized personnel only AND "forbidden". Malcolm is hesitant but Reese sways him with "They wouldn't put something like that up unless there was something really bitching on the other side." Malcolm turns to the camera and says "I can't find a flaw in his logic."
      • The next scene the two are hauled by a security guard. While Malcolm openly blames Reese, he admits that "It was pretty bitching" making this a bit of a subversion. While they did end up disciplined for their antic, considering the lives of the cast, this case seems to be more an acceptable consequence.
    • The programme Derren Brown: Trick Or Treat had fun with this. One episode involved a member of the public being challenged the go five minutes without pressing the Big Red Button that would kill a kitten. After five minutes of bleeping 24- style countdown, and repeated reminders to not kill the kitten, she eventually did it at the last second. The lights went out. When they came back up, the kitten was fine. The woman's psyche...not so much.
    • Season three of Heroes introduces Hiro by him watching a video will of his father telling him he just inherited a safe, and never to open the safe, or the world may end. The very next thing Hiro does is open it.
      • Kaito apparently expected nothing less of his son, seeing that the safe contains another video saying 'I told you not to open it!'
    • In the Doctor Who episode "The Impossible Planet", the Doctor, when confronted with a large pit, in the centre of a planet referred to as Hell, which is in orbit around a black hole, with the Devil attacking, discusses with a scientist why they have an urge to jump down the pit, and how the feeling is. The Doctor resists at first, but later has no choice but to absail down. When he runs out of rope but not pit, he gives into the temptation to fall. However, the Forbidden Fruit in this instance is good- if he hadn't given in, Satan would have been able to escape and take over the universe.
      • Doctor Who runs on this trope. Ever since the very first episode, neither the Doctor nor his companions have been able to resist sticking their noses where they know they don't belong. Have you got that feeling that you shouldn't be poking around somewhere? Poke away! Mysterious deserted city that everyone wants to get away from? Must investigate! Impossibly ringing phone that a mysterious stranger tells you not to answer? "Hello?"
    • An episode of Will and Grace featured Jack finding a mysterious locked room in Karen apartment that even Roasario is afraid to enter. Jack relented after Karen literally wrestled him away, only to fall into the room on accident. The room is a nursery that Karen set up after a pregnancy scare; the fact that she kept it at all is a major Pet the Dog moment.
    • Caitlin's Way: When Caitlin and Griffin are looking for a shortcut home, Caitlin instantly wants to cut through a field with a NO TRESPASSING sign simply because she saw the sign there, calling it "an invitation."
    • Symbolically invoked in the remake of Battlestar Galactica. When when Ellen is trying to convince Boomer that the Final Five had the right idea, she is eating from a bowl of apples. At some point, she offers one of them to Boomer but Boomer refuses, symbolising that she prefers to remain on Cavil's side.
    • In the Married... with Children episode "A Little of the Top" Al was accidentally circumcised and had to abstain from sex for a month. For most of their marriage, Al put great effort into avoiding sex with his wife. But now that it was forbidden, she suddenly became some sort of irresistible sex goddess whose every casual action seemed to turn him on.
    • Lizzie McGuire The episode "First Kiss" has Lizzie getting her first boyfriend, which her dad isn't too thrilled about, but her mom assures him that the number one way to make a boy even more appealing to a girl is to tell her she can't see him.
    • Underbelly faced this problem on it's release, as the court cases for Victor Brincatt and Thomas Hentshel (the people behind the murder of Jason Moran at his kid's Auskick clinic) and other cases in the Melbourne Gangland War were proceeding at the time. Out of fear that the jury would be influence by the show it was banned in Victoria, with one notable exception being episode five. Freak weather conditions in Tasmania bounced the signal to Victoria, allowing people in the state to get their first glimpse of the show.


    • The "Parental Advisory" label put on some albums in America (and on American albums sold overseas), also known as the "Tipper Sticker" after the Moral Guardians who pushed for it. A number of people have observed that putting a Parental Advisory sticker on an album only makes young people want to listen to it more. Indeed, the design of the sticker has attained cult status, and can be found on T-shirts, signs, and similar paraphernalia.
      • One such person was George Carlin, who entitled one of his albums Parental Advisory: Explicit Content.

    Religion and Mythology

    • The Trope Namer - the original Forbidden Fruit in the Garden of Eden. IT WAS A SET-UP, PEOPLE! THE SNAKE WAS FRAMED! Those two dolts we're all descended from would have had apples for lunch no matter what! THE WHOLE THING WAS RIGGED!
    • Pandora and the box she was told never to open. The Greek Gods, who were huge bastards at the best of times, gave her the box, told her not to open it, then gave her a huge amount of curiosity, so that eventually she WOULD open the box. And this was to punish mankind for accepting Prometheus' gift of fire. She opened it, and the world has been suffering for it ever since, though surprisingly, there wasn't a large line of angry Greeks ready to kill her. Since they were the first evils, maybe the typical reaction was: "Hmm. I wonder what this i--OHMYGODAAAAAHHH!"
      • Some variations include that Hope was the one good thing to come out of the box, although in some versions she had to open the box a second time for it to come out. In another, "Foreboding" (the foretelling of one's ills, such that mankind would always dread the future) was the one demon that Pandora was able to keep in the box.
        • Other variations imply that Hope was the worst evil to come out, as it stops people from giving up when they really should.
      • Depending on which version you read, Pandora herself was created by the gods and given to Epimetheus, brother of Prometheus. Before he was imprisoned by the gods for giving fire to mortals, Prometheus warned his brother never to accept any gifts from the gods. However, Epimetheus became so enchanted with Pandora that he accepted her (and the box she was carrying) without worrying about his brother's warning.
        • Prometheus means "forethought" and Epimethus means "afterthought". Which explains why Epithemus is so dumb.
    • In the Tale of Cupid and Psyche, jealous Venus sends Cupid to use his arrows to cause Psyche (whose beauty is praised above Venus, naturally) to fall in love with the most hideous thing in the world. Cupid bungles the assignment and pricks himself with love's arrow, falling in love with Psyche instantly. Psyche finds herself living the good life with a god, but on the condition that she never see her new husband. Naturally, this works out no better than any of the other examples on this page.
      • Not to mention how, when Venus ordered her to bring her a portion of Persephone's beauty, Psyche was warned not to eat anything in the underworld except for bread and also not to open the box Persephone gave her. She obeys the first order but disobeys the second, and would have likely slept forever had Cupid not intervened.
      • A very similar fate befalls Semele, one of Zeus's lovers.
    • Another Greek example is the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. Orpheus was a famed singer whose fiancee, Eurydice, was bitten on the heel by a poisonous snake and killed, while she was fleeing centaurs who were trying to rape her on her wedding day. Grieving for his lost wife, Orpheus travelled to the underworld and sang to Hades and Persephone, begging them to release Eurydice and allow her to live the rest of her life. They were so moved by his song that they relented, saying that Eurydice's spirit would follow him out of the underworld and she would be restored to life once they reached the surface. The one caveat to this agreement was that Orpheus was never to look back when he was leaving the underworld. Orpheus climbed back out the way he came but, as he reached the surface, suddenly began wondering if Eurydice was really following him... and guess what happened next. Unable to quench his doubt, he turned to check if Eurydice was behind him. She was just a few steps from leaving the Underworld and returning to life but, since he had broken his pledge, her spirit sank back into the underworld and, despite much more begging on Orpheus's behalf, Hades and Persephone wouldn't give him a second chance.
      • This exact scenario occurs in This Rough Magic with the unhappy ending avoided. Everyone was amazed when they reached the surface and the distrustful and suspicious protagonist had managed to not look behind him. Turned out that he hadn't just been capricious when he had that soldier polish his armor so much. He made sure to walk behind that soldier, and could see his wife's reflection behind him in it.
    • A Lakota story features two hunters seeing a woman. One just wants to sleep with her, but the other recognizes that she's a holy woman. The first one gets consumed by a cloud and all that is left of him is bones. Then she delivers modern ceremonies to the Lakota people.

    Tabletop Games

    • 4e D&D's H1 module, Keep on the Shadowfell, has a door with a sign that says "Danger! Stay away!" and then scratched below "REALLY!" Guess how many adventuring parties DON'T go through that door? Inside is a room that holds a very vicious blue slime monster (that has TPKed many a party attempting said module.)
    • Pretty much every Tabletop RPG Dungeon Crawl ever. As in:

    Old Guy in Tavern: There's an ancient ruin over yonder said to hold a terrible curse. Legend says that there are creatures in there that will drive you mad! Nobody who has ventured in has ever returned alive!
    Adventuring Party: Thanks, old man. Next stop: Evil Ruins!

      • Also any game where someone tells you "We used to use that path, but only a fool or a hero would go there now." Off we go, then.
    • In Paranoia, the Commies initially didn't exist - they'd disappeared long before Alpha Complex was built, but The Computer mistook civil defense files from 1957 as being up to date. Then some citizens got so fed up with The Computer that they decided to become the thing It hated most, even knowing nothing else about it.
    • In Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40k, one of the ways Tzeentch gains worshipers is to tempt mortals with the idea of knowledge forbidden by their leaders. It is invariably a Batman Gambit that ends with the person in Tzeentch's debt and forced to act as his pawn.
    • In a Magic: The Gathering article, Mark Rosewater used this to explain the goblin mentality, with a button and telling people do not touch that button! It would scramble the page.
    • Everway supplement "Spherewalker Sourcebook", story "The Serpent of Ice". A magician who lives behind a waterfall tells a tribe of hunters that they can take all of the water they want from below the waterfall, but not to take any from the spring that feeds the waterfall. The chief of the tribe and her son decide to take water from the spring anyway, and the water turns into a serpent that kills the son.
    • Risk: Legacy is a campaign-oriented version of the classic board game, with a series of envelopes that you're supposed to open over a series of fifteen games; they contain various items that affect the layout of the board, the abilities of the various factions, and other things that change how future games are played. There's one sealed envelope at the bottom of the box that simply reads "DO NOT OPEN. EVER". The contents of this envelope vary between different copies of the game, and may or may not have far-reaching consequences for your campaign.

    Video Games

    • In the video game Blasto, the player would run across large buttons labeled "DO NOT PUSH". Pushing them kills you instantly... most of the time. One rather nasty one scrambles the buttons on your controller, making it next to impossible to figure out how to access the menu and get out of the game. And some are beneficial.
    • Hoborg's crown in The Neverhood becomes this.
    • The Path. Like you're really going to stay on it.
    • Dawn of War. "You stupid humans! You mustn't destroy the Artifact Of Doom! You don't know what you're doing!" Worked like a charm, naturally.
    • During an amusing conversation in Dragon Age Origins, Leliana talks about being in the cloister surrounded by chaste young women. She says that being forbidden fruit "added to their mystique."
      • The really amusing part comes from the Warden's "Is your fruit forbidden?", to which Leliana responds "My...fruit? I can't believe I'm having this conversation."
    • In Portal 2, the trope is intentionally invoked, several times. Even though you know that it's going to kill you, you just gotta try.
    • Echo Bazaar has quite a few storylets with the words "this will severely damage your character. Don't do it" or something like it on them. Many of them are Violations of Common Sense. The wiki (filled out by the players) has precise descriptions of what happens if you do them.
    • In Mass Effect 2, its revealed that the Male Commander Shepard is this to Tali, despite that she's a Quarian Admiral's daughter, meant to safeguard her people's future, but due to the bio-chemical barriers between Quarians and Humans, she could actually die from being with Shepard;

    Tali: I mean a young woman gets rescued by a dashing commander who lets her join his crew and then goes off to save the galaxy? How could she not develop an interest in him?


    Web Comics

    Web Original


    While we fully understand that you are curious as to what happens when the gong is struck, we must strongly advise against it. The results are most unpleasant and dramatically fatal. Human nature being what it is, we realize that this warning may not stop you, and may in fact only drive you to strike it, but since we are unable to destroy the gong, and the lock was evidently insufficient to keep you out, we can only hope that you will take our advice. There are neither riches nor knowledge here, but only an ugly death.
    The Monks of Perdition
    (In Memory of Brother Wu)"


    Western Animation

    • Dee Dee in Dexter's Laboratory comes face to face with irresistible Forbidden Fruit (buttons, experiments, etc.) every way she turns in Dexter's lab, and goes for it every time.
    • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, "The Trouble with Scribbles", concerns Bloo and a door marked with, what else? "STAY AWAY. DO NOT ENTER." Mind you, Bloo only becomes attracted to opening it after Mr. Herriman tells him that it contains "deep, dark, mysterious secrets" (emphasis on secrets, as Bloo can't resist knowing them and then letting them out).
    • Subverted in Garfield's Nine Lives where a girl and cat live in a idyllic garden, with one condition, that a glass case must never be opened. The characters, who don't seem to have a serious thought in their heads, are tempted to violate that rule. However, while the story plays up their temptation to maximum suspense, at the climax, they leave the case alone and stay in the garden forever.
    • Subverted in a Simpsons Halloween episode; when Homer sees the school thermostat with the note "Do not touch -- Willie" on it, he reads it as "Do not touch Willie", regards it as good advice, and promptly turns up the heat.
      • A more straightforward example is the Halloween episode where Homer sells his soul to the Devil for a doughnut, then realizes that the Devil can't have his soul if he doesn't eat the whole thing. So he leaves a piece, marks it "Daddy's Soul Donut. Do Not Eat" and puts it in the fridge. Later, Homer goes for a midnight snack, sees his note and goes "Mmm. Forbidden donut... chomp!"
      • There's also the time when Bart is at the Wiggum household and he and Ralph get into the chief's closet which contains all his police gear, including weapons. The chief catches them and admonishes Ralph with "Why are you so fascinated with Daddy's Forbidden Closet of Mystery?"
      • Then there's the Simpsons trying to get rid of a faulty trampoline, figuring that nobody will want it. Bart convinces Homer to chain it to a pole, and Snake promptly shows up and steals it.
      • In the episode where Homer starts smoking medicinal marijuana, he tells Bart that his medicine, which Bart must never use, because it will ruin his life, lets him see magical, wonderful things that Bart will never, ever experience. Ever.
    • Who can forget the History Eraser Button from The Ren and Stimpy Show, probably the most famous example of a Big Red Button you're not supposed to press that gets pressed anyway.
    • Clerks the Animated Series: When breaking into Leonardo Leonardo's skyscraper, Dante and Randall come across a door on the roof with skulls hanging off it and 'MAZE OF DEATH' written in blood on the door. Naturally, Randall wants to go through this door, even though Dante protests and points out the perfectly ordinary door leading to the same place right next to it. We don't see the horrors that they experience when they choose door number one, but given that it apparently includes a minotaur and a Billy Crystal / Robin Williams movie, door number two seems to have been the better bet.
    • "The Secret Box" episode of SpongeBob SquarePants centers on SpongeBob's obsession with a box that Patrick carries around.
    • In an episode of Futurama, Professor Farnsworth creates a box with another universe inside and orders Leela to guard it. Of course, this "forces" Bender and Fry to immediately make every effort to steal the box. Leela distracts them with a decoy filled with booze and tangled Christmas tree lights, but then finally succumbs to temptation herself and looks in the real box.
    • In the South Park episode "Cartmanland", Cartman accidentally succeeds in triggering this trope when he buys a money-losing theme park and plans to use it exclusively for his own use. However, denying everyone else entry creates ravenous public demand, which is copied by other businesses.
    • In The Misadventures of Flapjack Episode "Mind the store but dont look in the drawer" Dr. Barber tells Flapjack "DO NOT LOOK IN THE DRAWER NO MATTER HOW TEMPTING!!!" in a very deep dark voice. Needless to say, Flap looked in the drawer.
    • In the 1930s Fleischer cartoon "Koko's Earth Control", Koko the Clown and his dog walk to the North Pole, where they find a control room with levers that control weather, earthquakes and volcanoes all over the Earth. One lever is clearly marked with a warning not to touch it. Of course, the dog (who can read) can't resist.


    • The ever-unobtainable All Blue Entry.
    • We all know what happens when you invoke Candle Jack, but none of us can ever resi
    • Spoiler tags. Especially if it's a series you care about. You know you want to find out nooooo! They killed your favorite character!!
    • This is probably the main reason the Wondrous Ladies' Room trope exists, and why so many things have fun subverting it or mocking it.

    Real Life

    • There is a psychological reason for this. People are naturally attracted to freedom, that is, having as many options open to you as possible. When an option is closed off your instinct is to open it back up; this is the root (or a contributing factor) to many other phenomena, such as mid-life crisis where people start to realize all the options that are passing them by. In general, this effect is greatly lessened if a (good, valid and fair) reason is given for not doing something, since then it feels like you have the option but are choosing not to, whereas if you are forbidden without an explanation it feels like you are being restricted. For the same reason telling people what to do instead of what not to do usually avoids this problem. This effect is strongest in teenagers because they are just starting to realize freedoms but don't have any boundaries set yet.
    • When potatoes were introduced in Europe, Antoine Parmentier promoted them by having potato fields near Paris protected by royal troops, thus giving the impression that said-vegetables were a delicacy, fit only for nobles' or the king's table. Of course, the men posted were told to accept bribes and retire at nightfall, making it extra-easy for peasants to give in to temptation...
      • It was Frederick II of Prussia that did it first, doing the guard stunt in 1744. Parmentier discovered potatoes by being a prisoner of Prussia during the Seven Year War. Parmentier wasn't able to pull off his stunt until 1786.
    • The Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum in Atlantic City, New Jersey has a display piece which is nothing more than a large steamer trunk and a sign which says "Open at your own risk." The trunk doesn't actually have anything inside that's worth seeing, but lifting the lid activates a hidden mechanism. The person opening the trunk is abruptly hit, via a barely noticeable hole in the floor, with a sharp blast of very cold air. It's an experiment in human curiosity.
    • The US Department of Energy is currently designing a facility in New Mexico to contain hazardous nuclear waste for 10,000 years. One of the design challenges is avoiding tempting future treasure-hunters who might mistake the warnings and defenses as proof that something valuable is stored within.
    • When the Netherlands decriminalized marijuana teenage use dropped from 11% to 8%. Guess we know who was just trying to be a rebel.
    • The "Do Not Eat" packet in beef jerky. You just KNOW it's gotta give you super powers or something...
      • Spoiler: It totally does. Go eat some now.
      • Lampshaded in This Video where a character goes on a long discourse about whether or not he can eat it.
    • Ditto the "silica gel: do not eat" in clothes boxes. It's a dessicant: a substance designed to keep everything dry by sucking all the moisture out of the air. Trust me, you don't want it on your tongue.
      • The weird part is, it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to eat it... without that label.
      • What happens if you eat silica gel? Best answer ever here.
    • The likeliest reason why they have warning labels like "Do not attempt to stop chainsaw with genitals"
    • The Streisand effect.
    • The Index of Prohibited Books created by the Roman Catholic Church during the Renaissance. Something on this list will be almost guaranteed to be a bestseller. Most of them are pretty boring though, prohibited for some obscure technicality.
    • In the 18th century, physicians for Britain's Royal Navy discovered that sailors could avoid suffering from scurvy on long sea voyages if they ate sauerkraut, which is rich in vitamin C. It was easy enough to order naval officers to eat sauerkraut, but the sailors refused to eat this unfamiliar food with its sharp acidic taste. Admiral Nelson solved this problem by storing the sauerkraut in barrels marked "For Officers' Mess Only", knowing that the sailors would steal and eat food that was exclusively for officers.
    • One of Bernie Madoff's tactics while running his colossal Ponzi scheme was turning down customers, even when they begged him to take their money. Not only did this convey the image that Madoff was such an "investment genius" that he could afford to turn down "unworthy" clientele, but it even convinced skeptics that his practices were legit: a scammer wouldn't turn down free money, right?
      • Con artists in general, once a strong enough hook is put into a mark, will occasionally encourage the mark to speak to their bankers or lawyers about it. Being told it's a bad idea only reinforces the image that they've found a quick, dirty way to make a fortune.
    • Scottish, Welsh and Irish people refer to this as the "Celtic Paradox"; the only way to enjoy something is if you think you're doing something bad.
    • Telling someone not to do something will usually result in them doing it. To avoid this, a direct order must be given. Dentists should say "keep your mouth open" instead of "don't close your mouth." The former is an order while the latter is Schmuck Bait.
    • Oscar Wilde once said, "If you want to ensure a book is read, have it banned."
    • There is a particularly large fountain on the campus of Florida State University that has a sign saying 'Please Keep Out of Fountain'. It had become tradition for students to throw their friends in the fountain on their birthday, right up until the powers that be decided to do away with the 'keep out of the fountain' rule since no one listened anyway. The birthday dunkings stopped, until a student group petitioned the school to make it against the rules again.

    Don't open this folder!

    • See? Not so easy is it?
    • It hasn't been a folder since the fork, you know. It can't be opened.