Noodle Incident/Literature

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Examples of Noodle Incidents in Literature include:

"Look at this neat little packet of manuscript; it is paginated, you see, and I have indulged in the civil coquetry of a ribbon of red tape. It has almost a legal air, hasn't it? Run your eye over it, Austin. It is an account of the entertainment Mrs. Beaumont provided for her choicer guests. The man who wrote this escaped with his life, but I do not think he will live many years. The doctors tell him he must have sustained some severe shock to the nerves."
Austin took the manuscript, but never read it. Opening the neat pages at haphazard his eye was caught by a word and a phrase that followed it; and, sick at heart, with white lips and a cold sweat pouring like water from his temples, he flung the paper down.

  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld books have quite a few:
    • They occasionally refer to the unlucky Mr. Hong, who disappeared in mysterious circumstances after opening The Three Jolly Luck Takeaway Fish Bar on the site of an old fish-god temple on Dagon Street during a full moon (some references also state that said full moon was on the Winter Solstice; thankfully, that's where the chain of unfortunate coincidences end--there's no "after a delivery of a rare kind of squid" to make it worse). No one knows quite what happened, but it wasn't pleasant: one of the references mentions that he left behind "one kidney and half an earhole". Note that Dagon is the name of a Philistine fish god, and is also a malevolent deity in the Lovecraft mythos...
    • A more sinister example is given just enough detail that the reader can figure out the likely story: In The Fifth Elephant Sybil Vimes nee Ramkin is reflecting on how she worries about Sam. There was one case, involving someone who "kept that little girl's shoes", where if Detritus hadn't been in the room the troll was pretty certain only Vimes would have walked out of it...
    • And on a similar note, the last king of Ankh-Morpork, Lorenzo the Kind, was said to be "very fond of children", and had various "devices" in his dungeons. The fact that he was apparently so bad even the notoriously corrupt and apathetic people of Ankh-Morpork wanted him dead speaks volumes.
    • In Soul Music, the wizards at Unseen University are eating and it is mentioned that the Bursar has to have wooden utensils instead of metal ones after what they have since referred to as "the Unfortunate Incident at Dinner".
      • This same "Incident" may also be the one that led to the grounding of the senior faculty's High Table. Prior to this, it had hovered in mid-air during meals.
    • Night Watch has Vimes threatening a recalitrant prisoner with the "Ginger Beer Trick", aproximated by a finger popped from the mouth, a hissing noise and a blood curdling scream. (This one's not really a mystery. You shake a glass bottle of soda or mineral water and spray it straight up the victim's nostrils, leveraging the pressure with the thumb. It hurts like hell and leaves no marks on the victims body. It is commonly done by drugdealers and corrupt cops in Latin America. For an on-screen example, you can watch it happen on a recent Dexter episode.) And it doesn't have to be a nostril, either--any mucus membrane will do, but the nostrils are simply convenient.
    • And then there's Bloody Stupid Johnson (a Shout-Out to real world Capability Brown), the, ah, "unique" designer/architect always mentioned in passing (along with his creations--which work, just not the way you expect them...or are supposed to)...and it is hinted in Jingo that an ancestor of Lady Sybil's had something to do with said passing, as well.
    • In Jingo, Vetinari and Fred Colon make a Noodle Incident up while going undercover in Al Khali.

Vetinari: It's going to be like that business in Djelibeybi again, Al.
Colon: Oh, dear.
Vetinari: I don't know if they ever got that man down off the flagpole.
Colon: Oh, most of 'im, they did.

    • A specific noodle incident occurs in Hogfather with Johnson's custom bathroom 'Typhoon Superior Indoor Ablutorium with Automatic Soap Dish' which was found boarded up hidden behind a bookcase in the University. The Archchancellor used it until there was an unfortunate incident, after which he solemnly ordered it sealed up again, only more thoroughly and with extra warning notices. It's implied that it involved an interaction between the shower and the university's pipe organ, which was also designed by Johnson and was being played by the Librarian at the time. It's also stated that "they never did find the soap".
      • When the Librarian activated the organ's afterburner (why Johnson thought an organ needed an afterburner is probably a Noodle Incident in its own right) with the Organ Interlock lever in the shower activated, nitrous oxide flowed into the shower, creating nitric acid. Ridcully was showering in acid rain.
    • And another is Jeremy Clockson's reaction to a fellow clockmaker who deliberately kept his watch fast. All we're told is that people are very understanding when it comes to genius, at least once they've cleaned up the mess and taken the hammer away.
    • Also, don't ask the Lancre Men's Morris Team (especially Jason Ogg) about the Stick and Bucket dance. Apparently, it's legal, which is surprising.
    • Supplemental material about Unseen University describes their school holidays and traditions, including one at which it's customary for the wizards to inflict "a plunking" on any red-haired men they come across. Not only is it never stated what "a plunking" actually is, but an unspecified incident is mentioned that led the University to exempt Captain Carrot Ironfounderson from this treatment. (This particular Noodle Incident apparently required a ladder to retrieve three student wizards from the eaves nearby.)
    • The very last sentence in Making Money mentions one, involving something that the ghost of Professor Flead did to prevent his chair from being removed from the Pink PussyCat Club.
    • From Snuff:

Many a crime had been solved because of things that had fallen on [Colon and Nobby], tried to kill them, tripped one of them, been found floating in their lunch, and in one case had tried to lay its eggs up Nobby's nose.

  • Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman fun from Good Omens: whatever happened to the third baby in the mix-up with the Antichrist and the Satanic nuns? You don't want to know what they could have done with him. Let's just imagine he was safely placed in a loving home, where he lived happily ever after and raised tropical fish. Turns out that's exactly what happened to him.
  • Lee Child's Jack Reacher novel 61 Hours plays with it by showing what happens when someone determined enough to keep trying actually starts to weedle the details out.
  • As students of the Sherlock Holmes canon know well, Dr. Watson liberally sprinkles various Noodle Incidents in his narratives of Holmes's cases, making it Older Than Radio. Sherlockians have long been tantalized by references to such matters as "the shocking affair of the Dutch steamship Friesland, which so nearly cost us both our lives," the case of Wilson the notorious canary-trainer, the repulsive story of the red leech, the story of "the Giant Rat of Sumatra, for which the world is not yet prepared," and "the singular adventures of the Grice Patersons in the island of Uffa"; for some reason, Dr. Watson never got around to writing these adventures up for publication. These references have been a fertile ground for amateur Sherlockian Fanfic and professional Sherlock Holmes pastiches alike for years.
    • Exploits of Sherlock Holmes, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's son Adrian Conan Doyle, is a short-story collection consisting entirely of cases Watson referenced in the original works.
    • Likewise, a number of these Sherlock Holmes incidents were transferred almost word-for-word into one of the Star Trek novels, with Spock reminding Kirk of them.
    • The Doctor Who New Adventures novel "All-Consuming Fire" attempts to explain these "missing" Sherlock Holmes adventures by cramming them all into the same adventure, to the point where it's really not funny.
    • Fred Saberhagen takes on "the giant rat of Sumatra" in his novel The Holmes-Dracula File. Of course, the title of that novel rather implies a few other Noodle Incidents along the way.
    • The Firesign Theatre's Sherlock Holmes parody, "The Giant Rat of Sumatra" refers to the eponymous rodent (and contains more puns per square inch than are strictly healthy).
    • In an author's note by Dennis L. McKiernan, McKiernan refers to this Holmesian trait of cases that never were and tells of imagining a reference of the case of the "red slipper" -- i.e. a case or item that you'll only be teased about and never get to see what it was all about. McKiernan also has the habit of sprinkling his epilogues heavily with these "red slippers".
    • The BBC radio series has created episodes from references made by Watson once they ran out of Canon stories to adapt. Example: The Ferrers Documents, from a line in The Priory School.
    • The later stories seemed to have more of these and sounding increasingly ludicrous. I've always wondered if they were Doyle's little sarcastic jokes, as by this point he'd been pushed into writing more Holmes books after (trying to) killing Holmes off.
    • One of the Solar Pons stories by August Derleth solves a series of mysterious stranglings of the Grice-Patterson family on the Island of Uffa.
  • Similarly, Agatha Christie often inserted references in her Poirot novels to other cases solved by the famed detective; occasionally, these are subtle references to other books in the series, but they are usually mere snippets of information.
    • Example: Poirot makes reference, in one of the short stories, to a man he once arrested -- a soap manufacturer in Liège who was guilty of the poisoning of his wife. This is all the information we ever hear about that particular case.
  • In the Nero Wolfe novels by Rex Stout, Archie (the narrator) occasionally hints at previous cases that he'll "write about later", or that "can't be revealed for reasons of privacy/security".
  • This is actually done in a lot of mystery and Private Detective fiction. It's especially prevalent in short stories, as it's a quick and easy way to bring in a new character and explain how/why they've come to seek the main character's services without having to waste limited space on unnecessary details.
  • There are a few in A Song of Ice and Fire
    • Many of the events of the Great Tourney at Harrenhal before the War of the Usurper take quite a few books to come to light but are referred to from various perspectives fairly frequently before they do, if they are explained at all. And when we finally do get an explanation, it's a second hand account disguised as a fairy tale. And the aspect that has the most relevance on the plot of the books (i.e. the details of Rhaegar and Lyanna's hook up) are left "for next time."
    • Perhaps equally important is the tragedy of Summerhall. Referred to multiple times by multiple different people. A lot of the things that it caused can be inferred from historical context, but you have to wonder just what it was that was bad enough to kill the king and crown prince, as well as reduce the entire castle to smoking ruins. Summerhall generally comes up when someone mentions wanting to raise dragons; whatever happened at Summerhall is a good indication that it's madness to do so.
    • Also the Doom of Valyria. The characters all seem to know what happened, and thus, never explain it for the readers' benefit; that being said, hints indicate that Valyria was a thoroughly-settled large volcanic island that erupted.
  • Happens often in War and Peace, to the point that it's left up to modern endnotes to explain what the characters are talking about. The trope is most clearly used when characters refer to Dolokhov's Persian adventures.
  • Used with great effect in the original novel of The Princess Bride (which predates the movie by almost fifteen years). Author William Goldman claims to be abridging the original novel by S. Morgenstern, which was really just a literary device that allowed him to write only the "good parts" of the story. In the scene where the mostly-dead Westley is to be revived by Miracle Max, Goldman writes about how Max sent Inigo and Fezzik out to collect different ingredients for the miracle pill -- but doesn't actually show the trouble they run into in the process. Note that this was completely dropped in the movie, probably for purposes of time more than anything else. The author actually does this throughout the book, stopping at various points to put on his italic typeface and explain that when his father read the "original" to him as a child, the man would do the exact same thing, but far more efficiently because instead of stopping to point out he was editing for readability, he'd just make a glossing-over comment and skip a massive whack of the book. He'll usually give a general idea what goes on and then get on with the swashbuckling and ROUSes, but he subverts it at least twice: he'll describe how his father made the shortest glossing-over of all, and then describe in detail what his father skipped; the things that went on in those pages, how many pages were devoted to each, and all that. Then he'll describe how it was all the incredibly boring lengths to which Morgenstern liked to go to in order to satirize the upper crust. The whole thing takes two pages minimum each time.
  • Played with in The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde, in which numerous previous cases are referred to, including the Karma Houdini pigs who 'deserved to fry' for what they did to that wolf, and DCI Jack Spratt constantly having to defend himself against a reputation for being a giant killer ("Technically, only one of them was a giant; the others were just tall."). Whilst no further details are given, any reader who is familiar with fairy tales might spot certain similarities.
    • This trope is also present in his Thursday Next series when the characters refer to The Great Samuel Pepys Fiasco, originally intended to be one of the books in the series.
  • William Hope Hodgson's Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder stories had a number of "unwritten cases" examples:
    • Gateway of the Monster: The Black Veil and the Moving Fur;
    • House Among the Laurels: The Steeple Monster;
    • The Horse of the Invisible: "The Black Veil case, when young Aster died. You remember, he said it was a piece of silly superstition and stayed outside. Poor devil!"
    • The Searcher of the End House: The Three Straw Platters, the Dark Light case, and the "trouble of Maaetheson's".
    • The Whistling Room: the Buzzing Case, the Grey Dog, the Yellow Finger Experiments, the Silent Garden, and the Nodding Door. The "Grunting Man" case was probably the story titled The Hog.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has a few.
    • The Great Collapsing Hrung Disaster of Gal./Sid./Year 03758, which wiped out almost everybody on Ford Prefect's ancestral planet Betelgeuse Seven. Lampshaded by mentioning that nobody knows what a Hrung is or why it should collapse on Betelgeuse Seven -- least of all Ford, whose childhood nickname "Ix" meant "boy who is unable to satisfactorily explain what a Hrung is, or why it should collapse on Betelgeuse Seven."
    • After a missile is transformed into a bowl of petunias, which rapidly falls to the surface of Magrathea, we get this lovely line: "Curiously, the only thing the bowl of petunias was thinking as it fell was 'Oh no, not again.'"
    • Zaphod Beeblebrox refuses to explain why his father is Zaphod Beeblebrox II and his grandfather is Zaphod Beeblebrox III -- apparently, it involved a contraceptive and a time machine.
    • In Life, The Universe and Everything, Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged is said to have gained his immortality after "an unfortunate accident with an irrational particle accelerator, a liquid lunch and a pair of rubber bands." The details are apparently unimportant as no-one has managed to duplicate the events, with everyone who has tried ending up looking very silly. Or dead. Or both.
      • It was explained in And Another Thing. Apparently he fell into the particle accelerator during lunch while reaching for the rubber bands.
      • This is also a good example of why most Noodle Incidents are never explained - what part of that is better or more entertaining than the ideas we each cooked up in our heads?
    • Trapped on prehistoric Earth, Ford tells Arthur that he took up being cruel to animals as a hobby. "I won't disturb you with the details, because they would ... disturb you. But you may be interested to know that I am singlehandedly responsible for the evolved shape of the animal you came to know in later centuries as a giraffe."
  • In Moby Dick a character mentions "that deadly skrimmage with the Spaniard afore the altar in Santa." This may be why God is pissed at Ahab.
  • Mercer, the protagonist of Cordwainer Smith's A Planet Without a Name, has committed a horrendous "crime without a name". We never learn more than that. Well... It's never spelled out explicitly, but if you put the clues given by a few lines together, it's clear that he killed infants belonging to the Imperial family.
  • There is a whole paragraph devoted to this in Robert Heinlein's Double Star:

"He mentioned a couple of details in my past that I would have sworn were buried and forgotten. All right, so I did have a couple of routines useful for stag shows that are not for the family trade -- a man has to eat. But that matter about Bebe; that was hardly fair, for I certainly had not known she was under age. As for that hotel bill, while it is true that bilking an 'innkeeper' in Miami Beach carries much the same punishment as armed robbery elsewhere, it is a very provincial attitude -- I would have paid it if I had had the money. As for that unfortunate incident in Seattle -- well, what I am trying to say is that Dak did know an amazing amount about my background but he had the wrong slant on most of it."

  • The Flashman novel Royal Flash begins, "If I had been half the hero everyone thought I was, or even a half-decent soldier, Lee would have won the battle of Gettysburg and probably captured Washington." He only says this to illustrate how history can turn on trifling events, and as a story for another time, never mentions it again.
  • There's the "Incendiary Cat Plot", mentioned at least once in Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga...
    • This may in fact be a reference to the classic filk song "Never Set the Cat on Fire" by Frank Hayes. The song itself is rules for children living aboard a spaceship including the rule mentioned in the title.
  • The Warhammer 40,000: Ciaphas Cain books are full of vague references to past events. Some are covered in the short stories, but most go unexplained. Thus far.
    • There is also the growing list of accidents involving the Guardsmen Penlan, which gained her the nickname Jinxie.

"... or the time I found myself charging a daemon of Khorne with just a rusty bayonet and a vial of holy water..."

  • Jim Butcher peppers his The Dresden Files books with these. Harry will periodically refer back to cases that had happened previously. Sometimes, these are the events covered by previous books (his remarks along this vein are a good way to deduce that the books generally happen a year or so apart), but now and again he drops a name, date, location, or supernatural threat that doesn't come up in any of the chronicles we've seen.
    • One of these actually becomes a plot point about 3 or 4 books after he drops the reference. "You should have seen the look on the stormchaser's face when he realized the tornado was chasing us" is implied to have the Summer Queen owing Harry a favor. Which he transfers to Charity later in a bit of maneuvering to let the Summer Knight and Lady help him through her, since they couldn't do so directly.
    • Mold demons.
    • "Somebody saw something in a lake"
  • In the first Artemis Fowl book, Root mentions how Holly screwed up, causing "The Hamburg Affair". One of her perps tried to bargain with the humans for asylum. "Four mindwipes, a time stop, and a retrieval squad" were needed to sort it out. All the comic book adaptation shows us is an elf smiling at the camera as the POLIZEI car he's in the back of pulls away.
    • As of Book Six, we now know more of the details. One of Holly's fugitives locked himself into a car in Hamburg. She tried to unlock it, but her omnitool had been stolen by Mulch Diggums a few hours before. The target was apprehended by humans, and he tried to bargain with them for political asylum. The rest is easy to piece together. Thinking he's a confused kid, they take him to the police station. A daytime raid on a police headquarters - a retrieval squad needing a time stop, with four mind wipes for all the humans involved.
  • In the Time Warp Trio, the three titular kids sometimes meet up with their granddaughters, who are both kids from the future and Distaff Counterparts of themselves. Their granddaughters explain that they're wealthy because in their near future, the boys experience an accident involving a bowl of cereal that leads to them inadvertently discovering anti-gravity technology. They don't want to explain just how this happens, so as not to cause a paradox. But it causes them to wonder -- how the hell could cereal and antigravity possibly be related?!
  • In the third book of The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Ptolemy's Gate, the djinni Bartimaeus mentions twice the Case of the Anarchist and the Oyster that he helped his master Nathaniel solve. Upon bringing it up, Nathaniel winces and tells Bartimaeus to please not talk about it. This is possibly also a Rule of Three situation, since the Anarchist and the Oyster is the third of three such situations, the first two being the plots of the two previous books.
  • The Neverending Story is littered with these; you can't go more than a half-dozen pages before the author mentions that such-and-such a character did x, y, or z, then adds, "But that's another story and shall be told another time." It became a plot point later on -- Bastian nearly couldn't leave Fantastica because he had to finish all those stories. Also, this may fit in well with the novel's overall Aesop (and the meaning behind the title), that everyone within a story has a story of his own, and those who explore them will find every story to be a true Neverending Story.
  • Harry Potter is likewise full of those. Mostly they're in the form of books mentioned, of which three (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Quidditch Through the Ages, and Tales of Beedle the Bard) have been defictionalized -- but there are many which aren't, such as Hermione's favorite go-to, Hogwarts: A History. There are goblin uprisings, house-elf history, and all those creatures -- even vampires, which judging by HBP are not openly hostile.
    • Also a nice twist and version with Grindelwald. When in first book we hear that "Dumbledore... is famous for his victory over the dark wizard Grindelwald", we imagine it being a simple story -- that no one could beat Grindelwald, until young Dumbledore duelled the Dark wizard to the death and killed him. In the last book it is revealed that the story is much more complicated...
    • Aberforth Dumbledore's incident involving using illegal charms on a goat counts as this, seeing as what the charm was is never mentioned, and that Aberforth generally likes goats, enough for one to serve as his patronus, anyway.
      • Some people have guessed what the "illegal charms" referred to either on their own in their gutter-minded imaginations or they guessed from a conversation between J. K. Rowling and a Harry Potter fan who asked about this particular Noodle Incident. J. K. Rowling started off by asking the fan's age and some people theorize that if the fan was not eight years old, J. K. Rowling would have said explicitly that the "illegal charms" were of the But You Screw One Goat! variety, judging by the fit of hysterical laughter she had when discussing it and the fact that she felt it necessary to ask the age of the fan.
    • The reason for Hagrid's expulsion from the school is treated like this in the first book and part of the second. It's only brought up about once or twice, but apparently his reaction generally involves [paraphrasing] "clearing his throat loudly and suddenly becoming deaf until the subject is changed." Subverted when we find out the story later in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
    • Also, in The Chamber of Secrets Tom Riddle recalls Hagrid getting in trouble for "trying to raise werewolf cubs under his bed." This might have been untrue, since werewolves in the setting have human babies, not cubs, but one wonders what Hagrid really did get up to.
    • The first book mentions two, both related to Quidditch. One is a claim that referees are sometimes known to vanish and turn up in the Sahara Desert months later, which later turned out to be an exaggeration--it only happened once, and it was because his broom had been turned into a Portkey. The other one is the 1473 Quidditch World Cup, where all seven hundred fouls in the game were committed (and several were likely created). Among the things we know happen are that a Chaser was turned into a polecat, some players brought actual weapons onto the field, and that the Transylvanian team released a storm of vampire bats from under their cloaks. One has to wonder how many players survived the 1473 match, and what the hell kind of foul is worse than trying to kill someone with a broadsword.
    • And then from The Deathly Hallows, during Harry's infiltration into the Ministry of Magic. A young witch, among a group of employees present to witness the remains of decoys Harry set off, remarks: "I bet it sneaked up here from Experimental Charms, they're so careless, remember that poisonous duck?" The incident regarding the duck has not been mentioned, much less expanded upon, before or since.
      • The poisonous duck might be a Historical In-Joke reference to the Platypus, a bizarre hodgepodge animal that was considered a hoax when it was discovered. It has a duck bill, beaver tail and is poisonous.
      • On a similar note: on the way to Harry's hearing, a man at the Ministry mentions that they had found something that "We thought it was a bog-standard chicken until it started breathing fire..." This is never explained.
        • It also makes a split-second appearance in the film, which is hysterical to notice for readers who were curious about it.
    • We never do find out what exactly those muggles did to Ariana, though there have been guesses . . .
    • Say Dumbledore what was this "thrilling tale" you hoped to tell Harry someday, but not the audience, that turned your hand black?
      • Putting on Marvolo Gaunt's cursed ring, which would have killed him if Snape hadn't helped him.
      • There's also a bit from Goblet of Fire, after the second Defense Against the Dark Arts class, where Ron asked Harry "Did you hear him telling Seamus what he did to that witch who shouted 'Boo' behind him on April Fools' Day?" with no further explanation made, ever.
    • From the end of Half-Blood Prince on, a big deal is made of how Voldemort supposedly made six Horcruxes which later turns out to be untrue, as Voldemort accidentally made Harry one of them but the exact details of actually making one after you commit murder are never mentioned.
      • Which isn't to say that JKR doesn't know. She mentioned in an interview that it is High Octance Nightmare Fuel (she told her publisher, and he felt like vomiting afterwards) and that it may well be published an a possible Harry Potter Encyclopedia.
    • And speaking of Voldemort, it is mentioned that when he was a child, he took two other children from the orphanage into the cave that Dumbledore and Harry go into later to retrieve what turns out not to be one of Voldemort's Horcruxes and did something in their presence that traumatized them into silence, but the specific details are never divulged in-story.
    • One of Snape's aspiring Death Eater classmates, Mulciber, did something to Mary MacDonald involving Dark Magic of some kind. What did he do? Oh wait, they don't tell us. Of course.
  • Lazlo Woodbine, hard-boiled Private Detective in Robert Rankin's Far Fetched Fiction, has a long string of Noodle Incidents in his past, all of which cost him a loved one, a body part, and a valuable artifact.
  • Pongo Twistleton and his uncle, Fred, who always pulls his nephew into his complicated schemes are recurring characters in PG Wodehouse's novels. In every story that mentions them, they always recall when they were arrested at the Dog Races, but it's never revealed why.
    • Likewise, in Wodehouse's Blandings Castle series, repeated references are made to the never-actually-recounted "Story of the Prawns" which relates a humiliatingly hilarious incident in the youth of stuffed shirt Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe. At the end of Summer Lightning, Galahad Threepwood starts telling the story, but the book ends before we would find out what it's about.
  • Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm. Apparently, there was something nasty in the woodshed.
    • Not to mention "the wrong my man did your father, Robert Poste's child." Flora finds out some of it, but the reader doesn't, and even Flora never learns if the goat died.
  • Occurs in Tsukihime, Plus Period Talk. At least two incredibly epic battles are glossed over. One, between the Wind mage Forte and Satsunjiki, and one, the big final battle between a sentient forest, Ciel, and Shiki at full power. The first is only seen when the viewpoint enters. Forte is totally, completely defeated. The second, "What happened after that would be needless to say. Since it would be what anyone would imagine."
  • In Dorothy L. Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey novels, the Attenbury Emerald case is referenced a number of times, but takes place before any of the books are set.
  • Every once in a while, this is completely serious. For instance, the narrator of The Monsters of Morley Manor by Bruce Coville possesses a Mook at one point, and starts to remember parts of the mook's Training from Hell. He "still can't talk about" when four trainees were locked in a room with only enough water for two of them to survive until they were scheduled to be released.
    • Another presumably serious example from the Peter F. Hamilton Space Opera Judas Unchained: Whatever universally-infamous atrocity "the Cat" committed which got her sentenced to a thousand years in suspended animation. (She gets let out early because the government has a dire need for stone-cold killers.)
  • Ethan Brand by Nathaniel Hawthorne does this with the Unpardonable Sin, the one act God is incapable of forgiving. The title character, who committed the sin makes occasional references to the woman he apparently did it to, but the act itself is never described, presumably because it's best left to the imagination.
  • In Hugh Cook's The Wishstone And The Wonderworkers, the Originator's manuscript is bowdlerized by members of a sinister organisation, effectively obscuring a number of improbable and unwholesome incidents.
  • In Arthur C. Clarke's short story Wacky, the protagonist mentions the "Case of the Elastic-Sided Eggwhisk", adding that he would almost certainly not have survived it had it ever actually occurred.
  • In the epistolary fantasy Sorcery and Cecelia, by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, there is repeated reference to a prank pulled by the protagonists that involved sneaking out at midnight to kidnap a goat belonging to Squire Bryant. No clarification is ever made beyond this fact.
  • In Mishaps, there is the 'school camp incident'. What exactly happened wasn't made clear, but Pen says that it involved her spending time in a decontamination chamber.
  • British author/screenwriter John Mortimer perpetrated what was probably the greatest inverted Noodle Incident in the history of the trope. In every script/story from the beginning of his Rumpole of the Bailey series of TV screenplays and short story/novel adaptations, the protagonist, barrister-at-law Horace Rumpole, would invariably make at least one reference to his greatest professional triumph, the case of "The Penge Bungalow Murders" (which Rumpole tried and won as a junior barrister "alone and without a leader"). After nearly three decades of teasing viewers and readers with references to this case, Mortimer, nearing the end of his career, finally wrote a novel (titled, unsurpisingly, Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders), which turned that epic Noodle Incident into an epic series of Continuity Nods.
  • "The Jenna Thing" in Pretty Little Liars, although it is revealed bit by bit throughout the first half of the second book, after which it turns into a gradual series of Reveals.
  • Myth Adventures likes this. How exactly a game of Dragon Poker led to Aahz's clothes being two floors below him at some point is never explained, although considering that a Trollop was involved, it may not be that tough to understand why he wasn't wearing them.
  • World War Z: Some truly chilling examples, as the novel is told through peoples' own experiences, and they don't necessarily take the time to explain the details. There was something about "those sick fucks at that weapons research facility at China Lake" that disgusted even a hardened war veteran, and also caused said research staff to suffer one of the highest suicide rates among US personnel.
    • There are lots of those. "The Great Panic", for example, although that is explained. For example, there was a certain incident on Flight 575. Details are sketchy - in fact, there aren't any - but it is deeply implied that a stow-away infected managed to break out of the cargo hold, with fatal consequences.
    • The Alpha teams. We know they were US special forces units, one of the first military responses to the zombies, tasked with finding and eliminating very specific zombie threats covertly worldwide, a stopgap while the US and the rest of the world geared up for a major, official offensive. We know that they met with great success, and were only let down by the followup offensive not taking place. We know they were intended to be 100% covert. We also know that their battle record is sealed for 140 years, and that one Canadian infantryman, recounting an early zombie encounter during drug ops in Kyrgistan, began his account by disclaiming any connection with them.
  • Noodle Incidents are plentiful in A Series of Unfortunate Events. This is partly because, often when the narrator describes a particular kind of situation, the examples are so bizarre and specific that they are obviously references to the experiences of Mister Snicket himself. Ex: In Book the 12th "..."Exit by mutual agreement" is a phrase that means you wanted to quit, and your employer wanted to fire you, and that you ran out of the office, factory, or monastery before anyone could decide who got to go first."
    • "...Someone who writes twelve or thirteen books in a relatively short time is likely to find themselves hiding under the coffee table of a notorious villain, holding his breath, hoping nobody at the cocktail party will notice the trembling backgammon set, and wondering, as the ink stain spreads across the carpeting, whether certain literary exercises have been entirely worthwhile."
    • A large part of the reason for so many passing references to unexplained stories has to do with the entire series' themes of secrets and mysteries. Even some of the most plot-important items and pieces of information remain Noodle Incidents and Implements until and after the end of the series.
    • Even the ending to the last book is a noodle incident.
  • The Selelvian-Tholian War from the Star Trek: New Frontier series (started due to the events of Gods Above and Stone and Anvil) isn't shown, because we skip ahead three years to the next book. All we do know is that the Federation won, Admiral Jellico no longer hates Captain Calhoun, and Soleta was drummed out of Starfleet after her Romulan heritage was revealed after saving Captain Shelby from an Orion raiding party.
    • Similarly in Star Trek: Destiny, the U.S.S. daVinci makes a planet disappear to save it from the Borg. It's even mentioned in a follow-up book that one of the engineers that used to be assigned to the daVinci won't tell how they did it (mostly because he wasn't there and doesn't know, but also because he's having too much fun keeping people hanging in suspense).
  • In 1001 Nights, a sage about to be executed observes that his fate is like the reward of the crocodile. When asked about the crocodile and his story, the sage says that he is not in the mood to tell a story at the moment.
  • There are a few of these in The Lord of the Rings.
    • Two examples are with the character Aragorn. When we first meet him in Bree there is a mention of a dark shadow passing over his face at some memory with the Ringwraiths. Later in the book he mentions once going through Moria and having an "evil" memory of his time there. Nothing is said again about either incident. The character's precursor, a hobbit named Trotter, had a backstory concerning being captured in Moria and taken to the Dark Lord in Mordor, but considering Aragorn's and Mordor's final form it is doubtful that this early snippet of the backstory remained canon by the time LOTR was published.
    • Tolkien had a lot of references in The Lord of the Rings to past events and people that were never explained there, but most of them already "existed" in The Silmarillion. He wrote in a letter that the only things that didn't have some sort of "existence" were the missing two wizards and the cats of Queen Beruthiel -- but he eventually wrote stories about them, too. He thought Noodle Incidents added depth to the story.
  • Like the films, the Star Wars Expanded Universe creates Noodle Incidents of its own.
    • The Bacta War has the Rogues leave the New Republic and worry about not having as many support personnel as they had before, meaning they might have to start performing some nonmission-specific duties.

Tycho: "I seem to recall the meal you tried to make out of tauntaun meat on Hoth and..."
Wedge: "I get the hologram, Tycho. [...] You know, with the right ambiance, that tauntaun would have tasted just fine."

Tycho: "Sure, Wedge, believe that if you want."

"How was I to know your kind can't eat sweetweed?"

"You could have looked it up. You plan to date outside your species, it's on you to know what's poison and what's not."

"You're never going to let me forget it, are you?"

"Not a chance, Green-Eyes."

  • Vlad Taltos constantly drops references to things he's done in the past, some of which are quite pointedly not explained. Like the guy who could jump an eleven-foot crevasse, but who Vlad survived because he was wearing the wrong kind of boots.
  • From the Just So Stories of Rudyard Kipling: "There are three hundred and fifty-five stories about Suleiman-bin-Daoud; but this is not one of them. It is not the story of the Lapwing who found the Water; or the Hoopoe who shaded Suleimanbin-Daoud from the heat. It is not the story of the Glass Pavement, or the Ruby with the Crooked Hole, or the Gold Bars of Balkis. It is the story of the Butterfly that Stamped."
    • That's King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Well-known legends in parts of the muslim world.
  • Kipling does this in The Jungle Book too -- in the story "Mowgli's Brothers" he says we can only imagine Mowgli's life among the wolves, because if written it would fill so many books ("Kaa's Hunting" and "How Fear Came" fill in some of the blanks); while in "Red Dog" there's mention of Mowgli's adventures up till then, among them encountering a mad elephant, fighting a crocodile, and being caught in a migrating herd of deer and nearly trampled.
  • The Marquis de Sade's work, Philosophy in the Bedroom, shows this happening after all four of the characters involved have engaged in excessively disturbing acts with each other in various combinations throughout the book:

MADAME DE SAINT-ANGE--Is there, do you think, any considerable infamy we are not worthy to hear of and execute?
LE CHEVALIER--Wait, sister. I'll tell you. (He whispers to the two women.)

EUGENIE, with a look of revulsion--You are right, 'tis hideous.

MADAME DE SAINT-ANGE--I suspected as much.

    • The LJ user who posted this on the community "Weepingcock" (a celebration of bad pornography) says "We never learn exactly what Dolmance and Augustin do in that room by themselves. Let's just assume that they were engaging in that unspeakable vice of cuddling."
  • In Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, what happened to Clara in the windmill as a child is rather vague and alludes to many possible theories.
  • In the first Kingdom Keepers book, it's mentioned that Maybeck's Aunt Jelly got her nickname in an incident involving a box of jelly donuts. She seems to embarassed to elaborate.
  • In the Babylon 5 novel To Dream in the City of Sorrows, Ranger trainees are required to tell a funny story in one of their lessons. Catherine Sakai's story, from her time at the EarthForce Academy, involved "A hated drill instructor, a visiting senator, a keg of beer, an exotic dancer, the academy's goat mascot and several mistaken identities." Beyond that, all that is known is that her story was funnier than the teacher's.
  • In Eric Flint's novel 1632, when Jeff and Gretchen's impending marriage stirs up trouble, Frank threatens to tell how exactly he met his Vietnamese wife, Diane, something no-one else wants to know.

Frank was in one of his very rare tempers. He leaned forward, clenching his fists on the table. "Well, I'll tell you what. I'm going to make it your business. I met Diane at—"

    • Of course, given that the trouble is mostly because Gretchen was once a camp follower, and Frank is a Vietnam War veteran, the obvious implication is that Diane used to bein a... similar line of work.
  • In Astrid Lindgren's book Emil of Lönneberga, the narrator occasionally mentions that she promised Emil's mom never to tell what Emil did on the 3rd of November, even though she laughs every time she thinks of it.
  • Apparently, as well as making peace with aliens, seeing dead people and travelling in time, Johnny Maxwell has discovered the Loch Ness Monster (in his goldfish pond), a Lost City (behind Tescos) and an elderly wizard sleeping in a cave. He mentions these things in passing, with the strong implication that this sort of thing happens to him all the time.
  • Noodle Incidents pepper a lot of Simon R. Green's works, usually as gags (e.g. a hand reaches out of a top hat to retrieve a drink from the bartender at Strangefellows, who quips "Boy, that rabbit was mad at him...").
  • In Sarah Caudwell's first novel Thus Was Adonis Murdered, one of Julia's letters from Venice mentions in passing that she can't stand spiders, prompting Cantrip to a reminiscence which is quickly cut off. The narrator says (I paraphrase): "I trust it shall not be necessary to recite the revolting details of the spider incident. Suffice it to say that any woman who retires with Cantrip on the night of March 31 ...."
  • From "Selections from the Allen Notebooks", in Woody Allen's book Without Feathers:

"Good Lord, why am I so guilty? Is it because I hated my father? Probably it was the veal parmigian' incident. Well, what was it doing in his wallet?"

  • In Maniac Magee, the entire 12th year of Maniac's life is completely unaccounted-for in the urban legend's lore.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Lost, Mab ends up hanging in the closet at the Christmas feast. He tells Miranda he doesn't want to explain.
  • In one of Peter S. Beagle's Joe Farrell stories, Farrell had to duel a ghost to the death with bad poetry. He's nearly beaten until he remembers "A Tragedy" by Theophilus Marziels. Before he recites it, he says, "Remind me to tell you how i learned it - there was a Kiowa Indian involved."
  • Roger Zelazny creates a Noodle Incident in a sort-of inverted way in This Immortal, when his narrator gives the story behind a song his wife is humming, about a wrestler who challenged the gods and was shortly thereafter killed by someone we quickly realize was the narrator, centuries before ... and then he adds, "Besides, that's not the way it really happened."
  • One actually happens during the events of one Wheel of Time book. While Elayne is attempting to divine the purpose of several ter'angreal, she tries waving Fire into one of them. The next thing she knows is waking up in her bed, with her traveling companions wearing highly amused grins and refusing to tell her what happened after she tried channeling.
  • A semi- example: in the DI Frost books, by RD Wingfield, there is a reference at least once a book to a joke told by Frost involving a man who drank a spittoon as a bet. The rest of the joke is never given, but anyone who has heard it reacts with alarm at any attempt by Frost to tell it again. When, in the final book, he does tell it to an unsuspecting individual, it happens off-screen.
  • The Demolished Man has one, used several times. Lincoln Powell, police officer and head of the Esper Guild - so, an upstanding citizen, one would think - is referred to as "Honest Abe" several times, which always makes him blush, either physically or psychically, as it's a reference to an unspecified event, but one that can also be summed up by asking him "Who stole the weather?"
  • In the Stephanie Plum series, Stephanie blackmails her cousin Vinnie into giving her a job by threatening to tell his wife about an incident involving a duck. This is never fully explained, but it's implied that you *really* don't want to know what he did to the duck.
  • In the Teenage Worrier series, Letty often refers to an unspecified embarrassing incident between her and Brian Bolt, involving a bag of flour and a bicycle tyre.
  • Willy Wonka does this all the time in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
  • William Faulkner uses this in his short story A Rose for Emily. A clergyman is persuaded to call on the reclusive title character. "He would never divulge what happened during that interview, but he refused to go back again." Considering that Emily was harboring the decomposing corpse of a prospective husband, this is not surprising.
  • In the Knight and Rogue Series, during their third burglary in three books, Fisk complains to Michael that he gave up burglary until the two of them met. Michael tries to defend that it's still always Fisk's idea and they haven't done it in over a year, since the previous book. Fisk mentions a time when they broke into a mayor's house during the Time Skip, and Michael argues that if you're returning something someone else stole, it doesn't count.
  • In The Pale King, it's never revealed what landed Leonard's mother in the hospital, but it apparently involved the kitchen oven malfunctioning.
    • Nor is it revealed what went down at the annual corporate picnic, but it involved mosquitoes, an infectious disease, and some spiked Kool-Aid.
  • In Alexei Panshin's Masque World, a character made his reputation in the Imperial Service thanks to his role in solving the Diced Strawberry Affair -- which is a code name for something far more sinister, but we do not find out what.
  • Circle of Magic: They never do explain how Lark knows what horse urine tastes like.
  • In Polgara the Sorceress, Polgara describes how she has to go undercover in Gar Og Nadrak, laying the groundwork for an alliance with the West. She gains a reputation as a dancer, eventually getting an audience with the young and notoriously lecherous Nadrak king, Drosta Lek Thun. She dances, pulling out all the stops to impress him, reducing him to a quivering shambles, but refuses to describe her routine - "the children, you understand."
  • In Christopher Anvil's "Colonization" setting, the narrator of the stories "Bill For Delivery", "Untropy" and "The Low Road" is fond of these. For instance, no-one knows exactly what was done to the crew of the Worst Yet, who thought they were "tougher than any combination of officers".

You know, Sam, when something's only half-bad, a man's eager to talk about it. When it's real bad, you have to wait and let it come out, a sliver at a time.
You can take one of the tough crewmen who shipped out on Worst Yet, with Upper Jaw for captain and Lower Jaw for first officer, and go to the most wide-open joint in the easiest-run space center you can find, and pour double shots of super-nova down his throat as long as the place stays open; about 0200, he'll stare into his empty glass and growl, "The bastards." That's it, Sam. That's all he'll say about it.

  • Septimus Heap has too many examples to count them all, including the so-called Wizard Inquistion, The Great Fire etc.
  • Time Scout: The Accident. It caused global catastrophe, turned the present into a World Half Empty, but we know nothing about it.
  • Author Irene Kampen [1] returned to college at UW - Madison in 1969. In her book on that experience, Due To Lack of Interest, Tomorrow Has Been Canceled, this is a running gag. When the CSDU ("What's the CSDU?") holds a meeting in her apartment, a member tells her they can't meet on campus anymore after that Timothy Leary thing. Later, a classmate asks her to chaperone a frat party, explaining that they must have an "older person" present because of all that trouble about the goat. "What trouble about the goat?" "Oh, there was just some trouble about a goat." As she leaves at the end of term, she's asked to sign a petition and is told it's "about the protest." She knows by now not to ask.
  • Arcadia Snips Though the victim of this Noodle incident is later introduced in a somewhat proper fashion, ( Jake ‘The Beak’ Montgomery is also, at the same time, the assassin following Snips and the inspiration for the titular character in very bad need of a Mary-Sue edit "Professor Von Grimskull" ), and the effects of it are even put to use, The Incident is never explained.

Morgrim was suddenly looking extraordinarily comfortable.
”At least you don’t know about the duck,” Snips said.
”Check the back side.”
Snips flipped the document over. “Oh.”
”I hear Jake ‘The Beak’ Montgomery still shrieks like a little girl when he hears a quack.”

  • The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is a picture book that is built on this Trope. According to the forward, a children's book editor named Peter Wenders meets someone named Harris Burdick who claims to be an author and editor, who shows him 14 illustratons - which are dark, ominous, and often frightening - with titles and captions, claiming each is an illustration for a story he has written. They do indeed pique Wenders' interests, but he is unable to find or contact Burdick again. Eventually, he brought them to Chris Van Allsburg (the true author) who published the fourteen illustrations alone, hoping someone would come forward with information on Burdick. Until then, the reader is encouraged to imagine their own stories to go with the illustrations. Some authors - including Stephen King and Louis Sachar - have done so. Go on, try it!

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  1. Best known as the author of Life Without George, the book that became The Lucy Show.