Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

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"A man often meets his destiny on the very road he took to avoid it."
—French/Chinese/Tortoise proverb

Whenever anyone tries to avert a prophecy, for good or ill, the end result of their actions is to bring the prophecy about. The harder he struggles to prevent it, the more inescapable his destiny becomes. Fate, it seems, loves irony. Strangely, the other side of this, where the prophecy is fulfilled because someone wants to fulfill it, is rarely explored in fiction.

When a hero tries to prevent the prophesied release of an ancient evil, his actions will help it escape because You Can't Fight Fate. When the Big Bad tries to slaughter all the members of a given people in order to kill the one among them who is prophesied to end him, he will only manage to create the hero that he fears, Because Destiny Says So.

One common mechanism for this is a Prophecy Twist. If no one understands the real meaning of the prophecy, any attempts to avert it will naturally be futile. A cynic will point out that by this measure, a prophecy must be vague. Otherwise it would be easy to defeat, or else those it affects must carry an Idiot Ball and not take the direct approach that would have no room for failure.

The archetypal Older Than Feudalism example is the Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex. A prophecy says the king will be killed by his own son, so the king orders his infant son killed. (He has him crippled and abandoned in the wilderness, instead of just breaking his neck.) Oedipus is rescued, and brought up not knowing he's the prince. Twenty years later he learns his fate: he will kill his father and marry his mother. Wanting to protect his adoptive family—who he believes are his natural parents—Oedipus leaves home. On the road, he doesn't recognize his father, gets into an argument, and kills him. Shortly thereafter he comes to the city his father ruled, and frees them from the Sphinx; as a reward Oedipus is made king of the city and marries the widowed queen...his own mother.

Most of the real-world prophecies that come true are also self-fulfilling—simply stating that something will happen often ensures that it will happen someday, whether by accident or because someone read your prophecy and decided he'd make it happen.

An example sometimes given is that a prediction that a bank may become insolvent (or, excuse the pun, "bankrupt") may scare people into withdrawing their money from the bank all in a rush—but since the bank only keeps a fraction of their deposits actually on hand (the rest is invested out, e.g. bank loans), the run on the bank can drive the bank into insolvency, ironically just as predicted. In simpler terms, fear that a certain commodity (like gasoline) will run short may trigger people to stock up on it, leading to a shortage of that very commodity. Then there's plain old paranoia, which is a good way to make enemies.

Compare Prophetic Fallacy, Nice Job Breaking It, Herod, The Firefly Effect, Streisand Effect, and Nice Job Breaking It, Hero and/or Nice Job Fixing It, Villain (depending on who did it). Often an integral part of Tragedy. May cause a Clingy MacGuffin. For the Time Travel version, see You Already Changed the Past and Stable Time Loop. See also Situational Irony.

Examples of Self-Fulfilling Prophecy include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Slayers Try has a town that fears dragons because one of them destroyed the town. They manage (along with Xelloss) to make Filia angry enough that she does just that.
  • In Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, Fei Wong Reed goes through a ridiculously complex Xanatos Roulette to prevent Yuko's death from catching up with her, in the process creating two clones, then discarding them (essentially killing them). The woman he was trying to save then embraces her long-delayed death as payment to bring the two clones into the cycle of reincarnation. In other words, had he not tried to save Yuko, she never would have died.
  • Very nearly occurred with Hiei of Yu Yu Hakusho. A prophecy held that he would destroy the village of his birth, so he was cast out to die. He survived and, driven by a deep-seated anger over being cast aside, returned to destroy the village. Only seeing the misery of the village stayed his hand.
  • In Dragonball Z, Frieza kills all of the Saiyans he can find and even destroys their home planet in order to prevent a Super Saiyan from rising up and defeating him. What happens later? Frieza's efforts actually anger Goku to the point that he becomes a Super Saiyan and completely beats the shit out of Frieza, even to the point of killing him. It doesn't stick but even at that point, it was pretty clear that Frieza was killed because of his efforts to prevent himself from being killed.
    • In addition, his actual death is by the son of one of the three Saiyans he allowed to live in one timeline, and by Goku in the other.
  • In X 1999, Sorata is told as a boy by his temple superior that he will die for the sake of a woman. Sora decides that if this has to happen, he'd like it to be a beautiful woman, and when he meets Arashi he tells her that he's "decided on" her. Once the two develop genuine feelings for each other, Arashi becomes so troubled at the thought that she'd be responsible for Sora's death that she defects to the Dragons of Earth, so Sora would have no reason to protect her anymore. When she displeases Fuma, Sora gives his life to spare her from Fuma's wrath, which would not have happened had she not defected.
  • Ai Kora has a chapter where Maeda has a dream where he and Sakurako end up Caught in the Rain together, and end up kissing. When similar circumstances strike in the real world, Sakurako ends up leaning towards Maeda for entirely non-romantic reasons, but he's so wound up he ends up kissing her.
  • Digimon Adventure gives us Myotismon (Vamdemon in Japanese), who hears that the eighth Digidestined, who turns out to be Tai's sister Kari, will be the one to destroy him. So what does he do? He sends his legions of doom all over the place to hunt her down and destroy her. This causes him to fulfill his own prophetic demise in a few ways; first of all, Kari's partner is a member of the aforementioned legions of doom, so they never would've met if he hadn't called a hunting party. Secondly, by trying to destroy her, he caused the Heroic Sacrifice of Wizardmon, which triggers Kari's crest and digivolves Gatomon into Angewomon, who proceeds to One-Hit Kill him. Considering all the other Digimon couldn't do crap against him at that point, he could've conquered the world at his leisure if he hadn't tried to find her. The gravity of it only increases when you consider that without Angewomon, there is no WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon, so if by some miracle he had been brought down, his resurrection as VenomMyostismon would have gone off without a hitch and he would've curbstomped the entire world. Way to go you moron.
    • Devimon did something similar by hearing the youngest of the kids will be the one to cause his death. He goes after TK, triggering Patamon's evolution.
  • In Corsair, after listening to his brother try to heap guilt on him and justify his actions based on a prophecy made when Canale was born, Canale delivers an embittered speech about how the prophecy about him being the "devil's child" who will wreak "destruction on towns and cities" was rubbish and how his family's reaction to it led to him becoming such a dangerous and destructive force in the first place.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure that's exactly the working mechanism of Thoth, the Stand of Boingo, one of the antagonists. Thoth takes the form of an indie comic book, describing future happenings or actions taken by his user and his immediate peers. Thoth is so accurate, even if following a leap-and-bound narration that makes it slightly hard to understand at a quick glance, that every attempt to change or foil the events already written in its pages will ensure the very same event takes place, and exactly as described. One other way to interpret what Thoth is doing is that it generates a single image that describes all the possible futures in some oblique fashion. With Oingo: If he hadn't panicked at Joseph's early arrival and taken Jotaro's guise, the bomber orange would have been left in the car...and would have been the one Jotaro began peeling to slake his thirst. With Hol Horse: If he'd relied on the clocktower instead of his fast watch, the bullets would have hit Jotaro at the same time as the water burst. In other words, it's accurate for both the "default" stance and the self-fulfilled results.
  • In Eureka Seven, Holland learned from Norbu 3 years ago prior to the series that whoever makes Eureka smile and happy is her destined partner, who turns out to be the protagonist Renton. Holland's efforts to deny their relationship and trying to win Eureka's favour only seeks to setup a chain of events that made Renton and Eureka officially into a couple. Holland even Face Palm on his efforts after his quarrel with Eureka in episode 26.
  • In Dog Days, Leonmichelle's attempts to stop the foretold deaths of Milhiore and Shinku ends up summoning the beast that will presumably kill them.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Comedic variant from Captain Britain:

Zeitgeist: You didn't warn us because I was going to insult you? You mean I hadn't even insulted you at that point? You just predicted I was going to and didn't warn... Cobweb, you are the most thoroughly irrational squack-head I have ever set eyes upon.
Cobweb: There! I knew you were going to say that!

  • A couple of Spider-Man stories deal with his Time Police counterpart from the year 2211 and his archnemesis Hobgoblin 2211. It's revealed the Hobgoblin 2211 is really his daughter Robin, who, while researching breaks in the "multiverse" throughout history, and how to stop them from continuing to destroy reality, is arrested by her father for things she is innocent of now, but will do in the future (namely murder and screwing around with reality), and placed in a virtual reality prison/paradise. Her boyfriend, however, attempts to free her by using a virus to shut down the computer she's attached to, which also drives her completely insane as her mind is affected by the virus. Now totally nuts, she then dons a dimensional/time traveling suit and goes on a rampage through time and reality, erasing people (usually Spider-Men) from existence with Retcon bombs. As a result, not only do her father's attempts to stop her from becoming the Hobgoblin directly cause her to do so, but she herself becomes the cause of the very breaks in reality that she had discovered (though that's less a prophecy than merely an ironic turn).
  • In one issue of The Beano, Fatty reads about a bean shortage in the paper. He promptly buys all the beans he can find and causes the shortage.
  • According to a Retcon in X-Men, Boliver Trask was inspired to create the Sentinels because his son was having visions of a Bad Future, and he assumed this meant a mutant-controlled one. The visions were actually of the "Days of Future Past", a Sentinel-controlled future.
  • In the classic Judge Dredd storyline The Judge Child Quest, the Judge Child makes predictions that make the people who hear them cause the accidents that they just heard predicted.


Fairy Tales[edit | hide]

  • In The Fish and the Ring, Vasilii the Unlucky, The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs, The King Who Would Be Stronger Than Fate, and many other fairy tales, a man who discovers finds his child doomed to marry a poor child tries to kill them with many tasks, before and after the wedding. It never works.
  • In "Sun Moon and Talia", an older variant of "Sleeping Beauty", wise men prophesy that Talia will be harmed by flax. Her father therefore orders it all kept of the castle—which means Talia doesn't know what it is and finds it intriguing.
  • In Madame d'Aulnoy's Princess Rosette, the fairies (reluctantly) predict that the princess will cause grave danger, or even death, to her older brothers. So her parents lock her in a tower. When they die, her brothers immediately free her. She learns that people eat peacocks and, in her innocence, resolves to marry the King of the Peacocks. Her loving brothers try to bring this about and end up in grave danger (though they do survive).
  • In The Brothers Grimm's The Bright Sun Brings It to Light, a tailor's apprentice in need of money robs and murders a poor Jew who prophesies with his last breath that the apprentice won't get away with it because "the bright sun will bring [the crime] to light." Years pass and the apprentice eventually finds work, marries his boss' daughter and starts a family. One day, he notices the sun shining on his coffee and the reflection making circles on the walls and mutters "yes, it would like very much to bring it to light, and cannot!" His wife asks him what he means by this and pesters him until he admits his crime to her. She confides the secret to someone else and it soon becomes public knowledge. "And thus, after all, the bright sun did bring it to light."

Film[edit | hide]

  • In the sequel to The Secret of NIMH, Nicodemus foretold that M. Brisby's youngest son, Timmy, had a great destiny of saving his loved ones awaiting him, and should therefore be sent to Torn Valley for further education. This possibility enrages his older brother Martin so much, that he runs away from home, gets captured by NIMH, gets experimented on by being given hyper-intelligence, causing him to go Hitler, upon which he manages to brainwash all the other rats in the facility, causing an uprising against the scientists, after which he organizes the lab rats into an army to invade Thorn Valley, longing for revenge, and is then gradually and conveniently stopped by Timmy, who has henceforth managed to keep his loved ones safe.
  • In Star Trek, Nero boasts that James T. Kirk will never become the hero that history remembered him as because Nero would kill him first, like he did his father. Ironically, Nero's deeds are PRECISELY what lead to Kirk becoming a hero; in fact he might've accelerated it!
  • In the 2006 Bollywood Superhero movie Krrish, a modern take on the ancient story of Krishna in the Mahabharata, the antagonist Dr. Arya builds a supercomputer that can predict the future. After seeing his own predicted death at the hands of Krrish, he begins hunting him down. Krrish's friend Kristian is shot dead by Dr. Arya when he is mistaken for Krrish. As a result, Krrish vows to revenge against Dr. Arya and eventually kills him. Dr. Arya's attempt to prevent his death led to it becoming true.
  • Kung Fu Panda has the Old Master Oogway warning that he had a premonition that the villainous Tai Lung will escape his prison. Master Shifu has a bird messenger sent to the prison to increase the security, when he gets there, he inadvertently provides the essential element (a feather, used as a lockpick) that puts Oogway's premonition in motion and Tai Lung escapes. Oogway even tries to warn Shifu of this possibility before the fact.
    • Arguably, Tai Lung's descent into darkness is itself something of a self-fulfilling prophecy: if Oogway had not foreseen such darkness in him and denied him the Dragon Scroll, he would not have gone mad with desire for power and sought to steal it. And the snow leopard would never have believed himself destined for it in the first place if a) his father-figure Shifu hadn't filled his head with dreams about it and b) he hadn't been given a name which rings the knell of destiny.
      • Yet, he actually GETS the scroll during the last fight, and Po goes as far as explaining to him the meaning of the scroll. Considering his violent and not so smart reaction after that Oogway may have had a point.
        • Point. Though it should be mentioned this was only after having already rampaged, been locked up for twenty years, and then being battered by Po. After going through all that (and becoming that unstable) it's not surprising Tai Lung would react badly. There's no telling what would have happened if he had been given the scroll 20 years ago—his reaction could have been the same, or despair, annoyance, sulking, who knows. Not to mention if he hadn't been encouraged to believe he was the Dragon Warrior or that gaining the scroll would make Shifu proud of him...
          • Granted, but Oogway was likely genre savvy enough to know his role in the course of events, effectively subverting this trope WHILE playing it straight. If he had never denied Tai Lung the role of Dragon Warrior, he would not have rampaged or been imprisoned, which means the Furious Five would not have come to be, Po would not have been enamored with them, and he would never have set out on the path that led HIM to discover his destiny as the TRUE Dragon Warrior. And if Shifu had not been heartbroken at Tai Lung's Start of Darkness, he would not have trained the Five or Po, which means SEVEN of that world's heroes would instead be beholden to lives of misery. Oogway set in motion events which brought peace back to the Valley, and to each of his students. This troper might have just blown his own mind.
    • The sequel has the Genocide Backfire version, Lord Shen hears that he will be defeated by a "black and white warrior" so he destroys the panda village then when Po stops suppressing the traumatic memories he attains inner peace and takes another level in badass.
  • The entire plot of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. This was done to contrast with Luke later being confronted by the same sorts of troubling prophesies, but ultimately being able to Screw Destiny and avoid the path his father took.
  • In The Matrix the Oracle tells Neo not to worry about the vase. Neo turns around to see what vase she's talking about, and in the process knocks it over. Then she tells him to wonder about if he still would have broken it if she hadn't said anything. Unlike most examples, the series as a whole justifies this trope in that those prophesied about actually WANT to fulfill the prophecies made by the Oracle. Also further justified in that the Oracle may SEE the future, but she usually doesn't TELL the future. That is, she doesn't tell the Zionites what the future actually holds. She just tells them what they need to hear in order for that future to come about. Of course, The Oracle was a memetic program designed to understand and manipulate human emotions. Go figure.
    • Case in point, Trinity said that the Oracle had told her she, Trinity, would fall in love with the guy who was the One from the prophecies. When Trinity fell in love with Neo, she used this to justify her belief that Neo was the One. But maybe she only fell in love with him because she thought he was the One? She was so fixated on the idea of the prophecy that she was unable to fall in love with anyone else, but once Morpheus announced Neo as The Chosen One, Trinity wanted desperately to believe in it.
      • Shooting script actually included additional lines about Morpheus finding other "Ones" before, who all died (hence why Cypher tells Neo not to screw with Agents like others did and just run) and Trinity whispering to Neo that she knows he IS The One, because she had a feeling about him she did not have about others.
    • Similarly, when Neo asked the Oracle if he was the One the first time he met her and she told him, "No, not in this life," she was speaking the truth. He wasn't. Not at that point in time, anyway. This may also count as an inversion when her telling Neo that Morpheus would die for mistakenly believing Neo was the One unless Neo did something about it eventually led to Neo dying, and getting resurrected in a blatant Christian metaphor, and at THAT point he becomes the One. And, of course, gets himself crucified a few films later.
    • However, it's subverted when Neo, The Messiah "prophesied" by the Machines to perpetuate a cycle of death and rebirth of Zion that had repeated several times before, he rebelled against the prophecy and later broke the cycle with the Unwitting Pawn help of Smith.
  • The bank insolvency example was mentioned in Sneakers.
  • In the first Terminator film, John Connor would not have been conceived if the T-800 hadn't traveled back in time and attempted to kill Sarah Connor, while Skynet wouldn't have been created if T-800 hadn't traveled back in time and attempted to kill Sarah Connor.
    • Similarly, in the third film he likely wouldn't have been in position to survive a nuclear war and assume command of the widespread human survivors (or get together with his future wife and second-in-command) if the T-X had simply gotten on with covertly helping the rise of Skynet and left him alone.
      • He would have done that anyway, eventually. T-X just sped it up.
      • The third film in general puts forth the idea that it's not so much a self-fulfilling prophecy anyway, but a kind of predestination... Judgment Day will always happen, and there will always be a human Resistance that rises up to fight it. It's the details such as the date of Judgment Day and who leads the Resistance (and whether the Resistance wins) that can be changed. All we know is that at some point, John Connor got conceived and added into the temporal shuffle, at which point his own actions formed a Stable Time Loop assuring he'd be born.
      • And later the Terminator tells younger Connor that he was able to kill him in the future because they had become friends in the past. He becomes friends with the same robot that kills him because he became friends with it.
  • In Willow, the local evil sorceress inadvertently causes her own downfall by trying to kill the infant prophesied to... well, be her downfall.
  • Subverted in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari: Cesare predicts that Alan has until dawn to live, and then goes and ensures the accuracy of his prediction. With a knife.
  • Minority Report plays it straight for most of its length, but subverts it near the end. Or more simply:

'destiny ain't what you thought it were'.

  • In Wanted the Loom of Fate causes Sloan to fall into this. The loom marks Sloan for death, but Sloan is the only one who interprets the loom's coded marks, so he simply hides it away and manufactures targets to make money as well as shape the world as he sees fit. In the end, the loom also marks the entire Chicago Fraternity for death; one tries to say Screw Destiny, but is killed by the Action Girl just after, who kills herself with the same bullet, in the same shot, as her name is on the list. Though Sloan survives this scene, his attempt to turn the Fraternity into assassins for money and his failure to succeed allow the main character to survive and kill him in the very next scene.
    • In Weapons of Fate, Wesley shows some Genre Savvy and ridicules the Immortal for the Fraternity's reliance on the concept of fate; his mother died by his father's hand, at her own insistence, because the loom of fate marked her, and he went along with it. Wesley finds this absurd and doesn't think the problem is self-fulfilling prophecy so much as members of the Fraternity having serious problems with common sense and a lack thereof.
  • Twelve Monkeys. Not the cataclysm itself, but the protagonist's vision of someone dying.
    • ...and La jetéee, the short French New Wave film it was based on.
  • Paycheck. And not Paycheck. Depending on the scene more than depending on logic.
  • The Sandra Bullock film Premonition, mixed with Anachronic Order via Unstuck in Time.
    • This is a particularly frightening example, because of the Anachronic Order nature of the film, she spends every other day as one before and one after her husband dies, and spends the movie trying to prevent his death not knowing that her eventual presence at the scene of his accident is what causes it.
  • A prophecy said that the title character in The Beastmaster would bring down the Big Bad, so the villain tried to have the boy killed before his birth, the act which gave him the beast empathy powers that led to the villains downfall.
  • In The Dark Crystal, the Chamberlain outright says that it's the prophecy's fault for causing the Genocide Backfire of the Gelflings. If it hadn't been for the prophecy, the Gelflings wouldn't have been annihilated, and the last survivors wouldn't have as much a motive to kill off the Skeksis by healing the Dark Crystal.
  • In The Chronicles of Riddick, the Big Bad experiences Genocide Backfire when he kills off the entire Furyan Race to avoid death by one of their hands. Except he misses one, who later comes back and bites him in the arse. Hard. His name is Riddick. He actually missed two, and the other one saves Riddick's life.
  • in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Black Beard journeyed to the Fountain of Youth to "cheat death". Guess where he died.


Folk Tales[edit | hide]

  • A fable from the Middle East tells of a wealthy man of Baghdad, whose servant begs for his master's fastest horse to flee the city to Samarra. The servant tells his master that he saw Death in the marketplace that morning and that she had made a threatening gesture at him. The master acquiesces, then hunts Death down for an explanation as to why she'd threatened his servant. Death replies that she was not threatening, only surprised to see the servant there...because she had an appointment with him that night in Samarra.
    • Retold by W. Somerset Maugham in "The Appointment in Samarra".
    • And by Italian singer Roberto Vecchioni in "Samarcanda"
    • Also used as a Title Drop in the TV adaptation of Agatha Christie's Appointment with Death.
    • That story is played with in Discworld when Death runs into Rincewind and tells him they have an appointment in another city and asks Rincewind to please hurry and go there, even offering to lend him his horse. Rincewind refuses. Of course, it was the same city Rincewind was planning to run to in the first place, making it a sort of accidentally self-defeating prophecy.
    • The Jewish version of this story has King Solomon meeting the angel of death, who looks sad. Upon being asked why he is sad, the angel replies that he is supposed to take the lives of two of Solomon's advisers but can't. Solomon, worried for his advisers, sends them off to the city of Luz, famous for the fact that all who live within have immortality so long as they remain in that city. The following day Solomon sees the angel of death again, who is happy this time. Why was he sad yesterday, and why is he now happy? Because he was supposed to take the lives of those advisers just before the entrance to the city of Luz, and couldn't do so so long as they weren't there yet...
  • There was a small town. One day, an old lady said something bad was going to happen that day. Word gets out, and then every person is so paranoid that the townspeople burn it down and run.
  • Of course, as mentioned above, the ancient Greek fable of Oedipus Rex (later made into a play by Sophocles), which ended in Oedipus gouging out his own eyes and his wife/mother hanging herself.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In the Hindu Mythology epic Mahabharata, possibly the Ur Example, the story of Krishna begins with his uncle Kamsa, the king of the Mathura kingdom, being told a prophecy that predicted his death at the hands of his sister Devaki's child. Out of fear, he imprisons Devaki, planning to kill all of her children at birth. Eventually, her eighth child Krishna is born and is smuggled out to be raised by foster parents in the village of Gokula. Years later, Kamsa learns of his survival and sends demons to kill him. The demons are defeated by Krishna, who as a young man returns to Mathura to overthrow his uncle, resulting in Kamsa's death at the hands of his nephew Krishna. It was due to Kamsa's attempts to prevent the prophecy that led to it coming true.
  • In Piers Anthony's Blue Adept, in (what they thought was) their big showdown, protagonist Stile asks the Red Adept why she was gunning for him. She replies a prophecy had foretold of her destruction at his hands, so she decided to strike first. Stile points out that he never would've heard of her, magic, or the world of Phaze (let alone been able to enter it) if Red hadn't murdered Adept Blue (Stile's Phaze self) and tried to kill him. Turns out the Oracle set Red on his trail intentionally, to get Stile into Phaze to play his part to Save Both Worlds.
  • Done with a Prophecy Twist in Peter David's Star Trek: New Frontier novel Martyr. A prophet 500 years in the past predicts the savior of his people will come when certain events happen. When those events do happen, Captain Calhoun is revered as that Savior. The Twist? The actual Savior is the man who thinks he's appointed to kill the Savior, whose traits include a scar (which Calhoun has...and gives the appointee while he's struggling). He does kill the Savior--himself--accidentally. And then it's subverted by the fact that The prophet was cheating by using Advanced Alien Technology to look into the future.
  • In Fire Logic an army attacks the peaceful Ashawala'i people because an oracle told them that someone from there would defeat them. Naturally, the lone survivor does just that because they killed off her people.
  • Inverted in I, Claudius. A prophecy is made that Caligula (yup, that one) can "no more become Emperor that he can ride across the bay from Baiae to Puteoli". One of Caligula's first acts as Emperor involves a very long bridge...
  • Subverted and lampshaded in Calderon's Life is a Dream, where Segismund - subject of an Oedipus Rex type prophecy - points out that it would be a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, while preventing it from getting fulfilled.

My father, who is here to evade the fury
Of my proud nature, made me a wild beast:
So when I, by my birth of gallant stock,
My generous blood, and inbred grace and valour,
Might well have proved both gentle and forebearing,
The very mode of life to which he forced me,
The sort of bringing up I had to bear
Sufficed to make me savage in my passions.
What a strange method of restraining them!

  • Harry Potter is built around one, as explained by Dumbledore in book six. Voldemort hears half of a prophecy about a boy about to be born who will be his nemesis. With two possible choices, he chooses Harry, but in the process of trying to kill him, gives him both the power to defy him and a reason to. What's the best way to turn an otherwise unimportant young wizard into your mortal enemy who's well-equipped to defeat you? Well, murdering his parents and spending the better part of a decade sticking him in convoluted death traps is not a bad start.
    • What's more, Dumbledore hints that not all prophecies have to be fulfilled. The only reason Harry is going to fulfill the prophecy is because he would never rest until Voldemort was dead, and the same goes for Voldemort. The only way to avoid it coming true is if they both stop, which certainly won't happen.
    • Worth noting, the prophecy only actually says that one of the two (Voldemort, Harry) will kill the other. Since Harry was a baby at the time Voldemort heard it, striking immediately seemed to make sense. Voldy really should have put more thought into it, though.
    • So to play it out: prophecy made. Whether Voldemort, Harry, and Neville ever hear it or learn of it, Voldemort will still be the evil wizard of the century, and both of the boys will have strong anti-Voldemort backgrounds—Neville will have dead Auror parents, and Harry might get to keep his. Harry has very talented parents so he might posses the properties to make a great wizard. It is likely that at least Harry becomes an active member of the resistance as they grow up, and there will come a time when Voldemort will want to get rid of him. They battle, and the first move Voldemort makes against Harry marks him as The Chosen One. Voldemort is temporarily defeated (or at least gets some kickback) and casts his murder intentions in iron. Fight to death is inevitable. Of course, Voldemort might choose Neville as well, in which case he would also gain the powers to defeat Voldemort despite his apparently weaker natural talent. So even if no one had ever heard of the prophecy, the prophecy would have been fulfilled. In that case, it's more of a Morton's Fork than a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
      • Neville's parents would have also been alive, since the Longbottoms also went into hiding after Dumbledore told them about the prophecy, so Neville would still have them, and the Longbottoms were also said to be two intelligent and powerful wizards. Also, Neville's apparently weaker talent in the books only comes from the combination of his lack of self-confidence (brought on by his grandmother always comparing him to his father) and his use of a wand that is not attuned to him (which is several times said to be not good because if the wand doesn't accept the wizard or witch, it will work badly).
      • Also, I think you're missing the part about Lily's sacrifice being Harry's protection.
    • Played for laughs with some of Trelawney's "predictions". The first time we see her, she asks Neville to use one of the blue cups for tea-leaves-reading after he breaks his first one. Neville, already nervous at the best of time, promptly breaks the first cup he uses. She ends the lesson by telling him he'll be late next time, "so mind you work extra hard to catch up". Hermione believes this is why people die when they see "the Grim".
  • In The Wheel of Time series Mat learns he would marry the Daughter of the Nine Moons. Much later, she comes across him trying to flee from a city and has to be tied up. When Mat finds out what she is, having already learned the hard way that You Can't Fight Fate, he changes his mind about hiding her in the lofts and kidnaps her instead. And much later, Tuon only completes the marriage ceremony Mat accidentally started because of the marriage prophecy she got.
    • Many, perhaps most, prophecies in WoT seem to work this way. For example, one well-known prophecy states that the Stone of Tear (a fortress in the middle of a major city) would never fall until Callandor (a super-powerful ancient sword held in the Stone) was wielded by the hand of the Dragon (the Chosen One). When the main character was told that he was the Dragon by what he considered untrustworthy sources and wanted to know for sure, he snuck into the Stone and yanked Callandor. Sure enough, he was the Dragon, but he probably never would even have heard of Callandor let alone decided to try to claim it if not for the prophecy.
      • Memorably, Moiraine (Rand's personal Obi-Wan) was pissed that he had decided to go for Callandor so quickly, as he was most definitively not ready. We can only imagine her reaction if she knew what had happened on his trip there.
  • In Percy Jackson and The Olympians there was a great prophecy stating that a child of the "Big Three" (Zeus, Poseidon, Hades) would make a decision that will decide the fate of Olympus upon turning sixteen. Those three gods formed a pact to stop having children as a result, and to kill the ones they currently had before they turned sixteen. Suffice to say that if not for that pact Hades' lover Maria wouldn't have been killed, Hades wouldn't have cursed the Oracle, Luke's mother wouldn't have gone insane trying to become the new Oracle, Luke wouldn't have tried to bring back Kronos, and there would have been no decision for the kid in the prophecy to make in the first place.
  • Greek Mythology adores this trope. A prophecy that Paris will cause Troy to burn down? His parents abandon him in a remote area, but he gets found and raised by someone else, eventually returns home by which time his parents have forgotten the prophecy, and due to things he did when abandoned, causes a long chain of events that ends with Troy burning. Many times this trope in Greek Mythology results in an Idiot Plot; for example, Cronus (father of many of the Greek gods, such as Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades), in an attempt to avert the prophecy that one of his children will overcome him, decides to swallow them as soon as they're born. His wife finally gets tired of it and smuggles the sixth (Zeus) off after he's born, tricking Cronus into swallowing a rock instead. After growing up, Zeus defeats Cronus and frees his siblings. Now, rather than eating the children when they're born, wouldn't it have been far more logical to just not have any children in the first place?
    • Given the lack of contraceptives, even divine ones, that would entail keeping it in his chiton—which not too many of the Greek gods were any good at. Especially Zeus.
    • Greek tragedy often revolves around the idea that You Can't Fight Fate. Those who attempt to do so suffer grisly punishments for their hubris. If you consider Oedipus et al., Paris got off lightly.
    • Then there's King Croesus, who was told that if he attacked his neighbor, a great empire would fall. Think about that for a moment—obviously it's going to come true, since whichever empire lost the war would fall. Croesus just didn't consider that it might be his empire...
    • See also the myth of Perseus' birth. See, the oracle at Delphi told King Acrisius that his grandson would kill him, so he decided to prevent his daughter Danae from ever bearing a son by locking her up in a brass tower, where her weeping drew the attention of Zeus...
    • In addition, this is not helped by the fact that in ancient Greek times, it was considered a much greater and more unforgivable sin to directly kill a family member than it was to abandon them and leave their survival to fate, whereas under modern mores, the latter is not considered much better than the former.
    • Of course, you've gotta mention Oedipus. Before his birth, someone cursed his parents, declaring that their child would kill the father and marry the mother. When little Oedipus was born, they spiked his heels and left him on a hill to die of exposure - only for the rulers of another nearby region to find the child and take him in. The rest, as they say, is history. Or maybe mythology.
      • To make things worse, Oedipus learned about the prophecy and ran away from his foster parents to prevent it from happening. Little did he know he was not their biological son. Poor, poor Oedipus...
  • This is the cause of Baldur's death in Norse Mythology. Baldur has visions of his death approaching, so he turns to his mother Frigg for help. Frigg makes all things in the world swear not to harm Baldur, making him invulnerable to any form of attack, so the other gods start a game out of throwing things at Baldur. Loki gets frustrated by this and discovers that Baldur is not invulnerable to mistletoe, makes an arrow made of mistletoe and tricks Baldur's blind brother Höðr into using it to kill him.
  • Paycheck offers examples of these as reasons why the machine that sees into the future is a really bad idea.
    • Specifically, the machine sees in the future that there will be a plague. So, leaders use the machine to see who will get the plague, round them all up and keep them together to prevent it from spreading. Surprise! They all get the plague. The machine predicts a war with another country, so leaders launch a pre-emptive strike against the evil country and the result is a war. By seeing the future, the leaders create the future, which they then see. It's weird and circular, but makes sense: the machine doesn't so much see the future, it sees the future that the machine will create merely by existing.
    • Again, the movie is an inversion of the original short story. In the original; protagonist has an envelope of items, which will help him to survive. The time scoop is being used for one political party to improve their candidate's chances in election. At all times, there is the appearance of free will; only at certain moments do the items reveal how they are useful, and always the protagonist must find this out for himself. Simply by existing, he causes the defeat of those employing the time scoop.
  • In The Bible, Joseph has prophetic dreams saying he will one day rule his older brothers - so they fake his death and sell him into slavery. But this then starts a chain of events which lead to him becoming prime minister of Egypt and controlling the only source of stored food when a famine hits, leading to his brothers having
  • Dune uses this trope in an interesting way. Instead of the Seers giving a prophecy and leaving others to fulfill it, the seer is The Messiah who tries to find the best possible path for the future and enact it himself. The problem is that once humanity is set on a certain path in the present, the number of possible futures diminish and it becomes impossible to switch to a different path for the future without dealing with the effects of the prior path.
  • All prophecies in the Sword of Truth series are self-fulfilling. In fact, that's the entire point of prophecies- they wouldn't be much good if they didn't actually change things.
    • (This is also true in Real Life. It's just that real prophecies have a lower success rate.)
  • CS Lewis' book The Horse and His Boy is, in theory, based around one of these; the revelation of the content of the prophecy sets in motion the very events that were predicted. Of course, Aslan has a carefully judged paw on the scales of the universe throughout - pushing boats to shore, scaring the horses, propping up the central character's failing morale, and generally helping the characters complete his Xanatos Roulette. No doubt giving the dryad the plot-triggering prophecy was all according to plan.
  • The Clayr in The Abhorsen Trilogy apparently see nothing odd about inducting a member into their ranks because they Saw themselves inducting her into their ranks.
  • The Nice And Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, from Good Omens work a bit like this:

Newt: But if you're going to places and doing things because she saw them, and she saw them because you were there, then...
Anathema: Yes, I know.

  • Mr. Casaubon's posthumous attempt in Middlemarch to prevent his widow, Dorothea, from marrying Will Ladislaw using a codicil in his will that removes her inheritance if she does so. At the time of Casaubon's death they have no serious involvement and certainly no plans to marry, but Dorothea's sense of injustice helps to attract her to Will, and in fact her money is one of the things standing in the way of the relationship...
  • In The Graveyard Book, if the Jacks had never taken it upon themselves to kill Bod's family, Bod would never even have made it to the graveyard in the first place.
  • Among the many foregone conclusions in the Horus Heresy series are a number of these, including Horus's vision of the Emperor and the nine loyal primarchs being worshiped like gods.
  • In Castle in the Air, Flower-In-the-Night's father locked her up since her birth, after hearing a prophecy that the first man she sees will become her husband. If he hadn't done that, she would have never met the main protagonist Abdullah ...
  • In Through a Brazen Mirror: The Famous Flower of Servingmen, the sorceress Margaret is haunted by a vision that her daughter and an unknown man will kill her; since the laws of magic prevent her from killing family without magical backlash, she tries to break the prediction by getting rid of the likeliest candidates for the man. These candidates are her daughter's husband and son. She doesn't realize the son also counts as her family, and his death sets her up for failure for the rest of the book. She is eventually executed for the deaths of her grandson and son-in-law, as well as all the people she kills trying to indirectly kill her daughter afterward.
  • In Eragon the title character is asked by a mother to bless her child. He scrapes together some magic words, and does. Then his dragon kisses the child, leaving a mark on their forehead. When Eragon protests that he didn't really do anything, someone points out that the kid has both the blessing of a dragon rider, and the mark of a kiss from a dragon. They're probably not going to be satisfied as, say, a grocer or blacksmith. Unfortunately, Eragon screwed up the wording, and accidentally cursed Elva.
    • Later in the series, it's stated that there is one way to prevent a self-fulfilling prophecy: killing yourself immediately after the prophecy is made. Any other attempt to avoid it will play the trope straight.
  • Jane Yolen's Great Alta Saga. When Jenna's soldiers capture the Cat and tell her to kill him, as it is prophesized she will, she refuses. That night, the Cat breaks free and Jenna's close friend, called Cat as a nickname, dies in the resulting fight. Thus, Jenna does bring about the death of a Cat.
  • In Shannon Hale's Princess Academy, the priests of a country traditionally predict what city the prince's future wife will come from, and then the prince goes there to meet all the local girls and get married. The current prince is told that his bride will come from the remote village of Mount Eskel, so the kingdom hurriedly sets up the titular academy to give the local peasant girls a decent education before one of them becomes queen. The prince ends up proposing to Britta, a girl he knew from back in the capital, whose parents had shipped her off to Mount Eskel to get her into the pool of potential brides. The priests are quick to close this loophole for future prophecies, and the main character later wonders why the prophecy didn't point to the city that Britta was originally from, but decides that it was because Mount Eskel "needed an academy more than a princess".
  • Cersei Lannister, from A Song of Ice and Fire, had her fortune told when she was a child, and every attempt she's made to say Screw Destiny seems to bring her closer to fulfilling various conditions. As an example, part of the fortune was that her younger brother would cause her death. She decided that this meant Tyrion and began treating him like dirt, giving him several good reasons to want to kill her... but her increasing paranoia over the whole affair caused massive rifts between her and Jaime, who is younger than her by a matter of seconds, and as of A Feast for Crows, he may be able to fulfill the prophecy by refusing to save her from the Swords and Stars.
  • Played with in the Tim Pratt short story "Another End of the Empire": a Genre Savvy Evil Overlord receives a prophecy that a child from a certain village will grow up to bring an end to his empire. Rather than wipe them out (he knows how these things work; there will be survivors), he instead uses the village as a test bed for social and political reform, improving education and the general quality of life, hoping to eliminate any possible motive anyone would have for trying to overthrow him. He even adopts the three most likely candidates as his sons, and allows them to pursue their own agendas to keep them happy. The twist is that in making all these changes, he has made his empire peaceful and prosperous, his subjects actually like him now rather than simply fear him, and he can even retire happily and pass on rule to one of his more progressive-minded sons. So his empire does come to end, just not the way he expected.
    • The wording of the prophecy was "If allowed to grow to manhood, he will take over your empire, overthrow your ways and means, and send you from the halls of your palace forever", which almost (one can quibble about one part of it) happened, just not in the way the evil overlord thought: the Empire is taken over by one of the children... because he adopted the child (all of them, but only one wanted to rule) and later abdicated and gave the throne to that child, his ways and means were overthrown... because, in the process of allowing them to indulge in their agendas, that child had introduced extensive but effective reforms far beyond anything the overlord had considered, and while the one that took over the Empire didn't exactly send the overlord from the halls of the palace forever, he did see the overlord do so - because the overlord felt useless and didn't want to stay around after having abdicated.
  • In the Earthsea Trilogy, the God-King of Kargad knows of a prophecy that one of the descendants of the old dynasty will bring his empire down. At the time, only a boy and a girl remained of it. He was afraid to kill them (they had Royal Blood, after all), so he sent them to an uninhabited island. They survive for about 60 years... until one day, Ged stumbles across them. The woman gives him a half of a broken bracelet. Turned out it's a piece of an ancient artifact...
  • In book 2 of The Incorgigible Children Of Ashton Place, one character refuses to tell Penelope what's going on for fear that Penelope's attempts to avoid it will lead to this.
  • In Glen Cook's Dread Empire trilogy, this was the doom of the Empire of Ilkazar. A prophecy said the empire would be brought down through the agency of a woman. Figuring she'd be a sorceress, the cruel rulers persecuted women who showed signs of magical power. The last King burned a certain woman at the stake. Her young son (later revealed to also be the King's son) in time made his way to Shinsan, where the Dread Empire's wizard lords trained him to be one of the mightiest mages in the world. And then he came back to Ilkazar ... and Ilkazar, a prosperous land, became a desert. That's the trilogy's Backstory, told in a few short chapters of the first book.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Dolly Parton had a variety show in the '80's, and commented in her opening monologue one night about a tabloid paper that predicted she would fall in love a 300 lb. wrestler, and write a song about him entitled "Headlock On My Heart". She then introduced her special guest star, Hulk Hogan, and showed a video of a song she wrote, called "Headlock On My Heart." (Lyrics ere.)
    • Granted, the tabloid gave her the idea, and she never "fell in love" with Hogan (and, in fact, in the video he played a "Goldust"-style wrestler named "Starlight Starbright" instead of himself), but was this her having fun with a tabloid or an actual, but faulty, prediction of the future? Hmmm?
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Prophecy Girl": The Master is freed by drinking Buffy's blood, but she went to fight him only because of the prophecy.
    • Another Buffy the Vampire Slayer example from "Help": Cassie's prophetic abilities convince her she is going to die. Naturally, this causes her no small amount of stress. Despite Buffy saving her from demons and deathtraps, she dies from an aggravated heart condition. Aggravated no doubt by the aforementioned belief she was going to die, the demons, and the deathtraps. She was convinced she would die, and so she died.
  • Subverted in one episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, in which a particular child is destined to take a king's throne, and the obligatory evil councilor tries to use the prophecy to start a civil war which will put the baby on the throne and himself in place as regent. Eventually, the king marries the baby's mother, and so the prophecy is fulfilled: The baby is now heir to his father's throne.
    • Don't forget Callisto, whose parents were killed during Xena's reign of terror, so she naturally assumed that Xena or one of her soldiers killed her folks. After she became a goddess, she accidentally ended up in her old village on the day of the attack. While trying to protect her mother and her younger self, she accidentally kills her father and is forced to kill her mother in self-defense, thus ensuring that she will grow up to be a cold-blooded bitch.
  • Often used in conjunction with time Travel. For example, The Twilight Zone episode "No Time Like the Past" involves a man traveling back in time and attempting to prevent a small town fire he knows will happen. Instead, his actions end up causing the fire.
    • The same twist happens in the episode "Back There". A man travels back in time and tries to warn people of Lincoln's assassination. Unbeknownst to the man, one of the people he tells about it is John Wilkes Booth, who gets the idea from him.
    • A non-time travel related Twilight Zone example: In "What's in the Box", a man is shown his future (via an enchanted TV set) in which he kills his wife during a fight and dies in the electric chair. When he tries to describe this to his wife, she laughs at him, which gets him angry, they start to fight, and...
    • In "The Mirror," a successful South American revolutionary leader is told by the dictator he is replacing that his mirror is enchanted and he will see in it the face of the man who will assassinate him. The new ruler begins imagining that he sees the faces of his allies and one by one he has them executed, becoming as much of a blood-thirsty tyrant as the man he had fought against. Guilt-ridden, looks into the mirror a last time and realizes he is finally looking at his true murderer... and then kills himself.
  • Lampshaded, defied, averted, played straight, and thoroughly deconstructed, all in one Star Trek: The Next Generation episode: Cause and Effect deals with causality and time travel, and at one point the following analysis takes place:

Picard: If you are right, perhaps we could escape from the loop by avoiding the collision.
La Forge: That's our guess.
Worf: Perhaps we should reverse course.
Riker: For all we know, reversing course may be what leads us into the crash.
Picard: No, we can't afford to start second guessing ourselves, we'll stay on this course until we have reason to change it. But let's do everything that we can to avoid the collision.

    • This trope is also one of the driving themes of the episode Time Squared, although it is averted at the very last moment.
  • That's So Raven. Most of the episodes revolve around the tried-and-tested formula of vision > attempt to stop vision > vision happens because of attempt.
    • Occasionally, the vision would come true without her not doing anything except for watching. Usually, she completely misinterprets what's actually going on.
  • iCarly: If Carly/Freddie isn't revisited then Sam's insistence that Carly's feelings for Freddie weren't real would become one. Sam tells Freddie Carly's feelings aren't real. Freddie breaks up with Carly because of Sam's thoughts. This stops any chance of Carly's feelings being allowed to blossom or fail on their own. Instead Carly's feelings end immediately due to rejection and Freddie's explanation of Sam's potentially mistaken logic. Those feelings never return. Everyone believes Sam was correct. Carly never loved Freddie. Sam saying that Carly's feelings aren't real creates the situation that eventually results in everyone believing that Carly's feelings weren't real thus creating the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
  • Heroes is full of these. Especially Isaac Mendez' comic book 9th Wonders, which depicts Hiro and Ando doing things like renting a car... and after Hiro finds the comic, he follows it to the letter, because he is shown doing it in the comic; but Isaac had only drawn it that way because he had seen Hiro in his visions of the future.
    • Before that, he reads a comic in which he saves a little girl. He does, but only after putting her in danger in the first place.
    • Even Sylar, after he steals Isaac's precognition power, does things like killing Ted and impersonating Nathan to get the presidency solely because he had painted himself doing it.
    • In "1961", a young Angela speaks with the young Company Founders about her dream, in which they form a company, and of the horrible things we will do to protect the secret�, and of how it's a necessary evil�. She declares these things in a manner which suggests the idea of using the information from her prophetic dreams to help avoid, or prevent, exactly this type of thing from having to happen at all never occurred to her.
  • Done, though never identified as such, on Angel in the case of Sahjan and Connor. Sahjan read a prophecy that Angel's son would grow up and kill him. He tried to get rid of him by sealing him in an inescapable Hell Dimension, where time moved faster so that after only a few weeks on earth, Connor would have died of old age there. He escaped grown up, a few days later, and killed him a year on earth after that. Additionally, because of his meddling he spent the intervening time locked in an urn.
    • The false prophecy that Angel would kill Connor that prompted Wesley to kidnap then infant Connor from Angel in the first place is also an example. The kidnapping was the event that triggered the tragic chain of events that made up most of season 4, culminated in Angel killing Connor to save a bunch of hostages. Thanks to a Deal with the Devil, Connor came back. In short, Sahjahn's meddling to try and avoid his fate created the circumstances that led to his fate being fulfilled.
  • Averted in one episode of Stargate Atlantis, the crew meets a man who can tell the future (correctly) and even show his visions to other people. The team suggests that they are self-fulfilling prophecies, however even events that could not have been self fulfilled through the prophecy turn out to be true.
  • On 3rd Rock from the Sun, Dick became paranoid that the Chancellor had it in for Mary. He then talked Mary into thinking so as well and accidentally got her arrested. At the end of the episode, he described what happened:

Dick: I was completely convinced Mary was going to lose her job.
Sally: And did she?
Dick: Yeah. So I guess being paranoid is kind of like being psychic.

  • In an episode of Early Edition, Gary's "selfish" counterpart (who used the paper at least partially for his own gain) accidentally ruined the stock pricing of a (very) small computer company (three or five people) by selling all of their stock that he owned when the paper said they were going to crash.
  • In Red Dwarf, Cassandra, a supercomputer with the ability to predict the future with total accuracy tells Lister that he will end up destroying her. Lister walks into the room with the computer and gives a big speech on how he has his own free will, culminating in his refusal to destroy Cassandra. As he walks out, however, he sticks a piece of chewing gum on the wall, which falls on a lamp that then swings around into something, catapulting it into something else, until finally a container full of liquid falls on Cassandra's wiring, destroying her. The look on her computerized face just before she shorts circuits is a weary "See?"
    • Earlier in the episode, "Rimmer" (actually a crewmember wearing Rimmer's nametag) dies of a heart attack brought on by the stress of being told (by Cassandra) that he's going to die of a heart attack.
    • It's subverted when she predicts that Lister will murder Rimmer while the latter is making love to Kochanski. Cassandra fabricated it to trick Rimmer and Kochanski into doing it, so she could get pre-emptive revenge on Lister.
  • This sort-of shows up in the only CSI episode involving a (confirmed) psychic. The psychic predicts that the killer's next move will be associated with "green tea", and follows Stokes home. Following a hunch the psychic goes into the attic, where the killer is hiding. The killer gains the upper hand and sends the psychic crashing through the ceiling onto Stokes' carpet, which was a green T (for Texas) on it. The psychic, alas, does not get better.
  • Similarly on a Numb3rs episode featuring Chinese people, a psychic predicts the killers' next move and goes there with his camera. The killers are there, along with their big truck. He doesn't get better either.
  • [[[Law and Order Special Victims Unit]]: Does it count if the psychic predicts he'll catch the killer when he is the killer and just playing with the detectives?
    • Probably not, as it's not a prophecy, it's just B.S. by a Jerkass.
  • Lost: Arguably there are three big flags that the detonation of the hydrogen bomb in 1977 will cause the crash of the original Oceanic Airlines flight bringing Jack and the gang to the island. First: Sayid shooting Ben in 1977 causes him to become a Magnificent Bastard or Complete Monster in an extended way, since this is what brings him to the Others for... healing. Second: Miles lampshades this trope in the last few minutes of the episode. Third: if it doesn't, the whole series is in for one weird-ass Reset Button one season out from its announced ending.
    • Sadly, this theory has been Jossed, to the point where the timeline has split in two-one where Jack's plan worked, and one where it didn't.
    • This was un-Jossed in the series final when the nature of the alternate timeline was revealed. The Stable Time Loop was not confirmed though.
  • Season 6 of Charmed reveals that Piper and Leo's son Wyatt is destined to become the most evil male witch ever. This leads Gideon, headmaster of the Magic Academy, to try and prevent it by killing Wyatt as an infant, not realizing that it will be all his attempts to kill him that will drive Wyatt to evil. Leo ultimately breaks the cycle by killing Gideon.
  • In The Outer Limits, a scientist invents a Time Machine, which he uses to travel several days into the future. There, he sees his wife, who has been shot. When he returns to his own time, he desperately tries to convince everyone that he really did travel to the future, only to have everyone think him crazy (doesn't help that the time shift apparently has some nasty side effects, such as actually turning him crazy). In the end, he ends up accidentally shooting his wife while trying to stop her from leaving him. In a twist, he decides to prevent her death by ensuring that they never meet in the first place, so he travels back to the day they met and shoot his younger self. Both versions of him die. Unfortunately, fate doesn't like to be cheated - his future wife was planning on killing herself that day.
  • Happens in Home and Away when Miles is told by a young and apparently psychic girl who was either a hallucination or a ghost that only he could see that he will die if he falls asleep. He spends several days not sleeping, eventually collapsing from exhaustion on his desk. If he hadn't been woken up a few minutes later and walked away from his desk, he would have been decapitated by a falling ceiling fan.
  • What drives a lot of the plot in FlashForward. For example, until Janis saw a vision of herself pregnant in the future, she had never really considered having a baby. Mark was haunted by the vision that he would fall off the wagon, the pressure building to the point that when he's given a flask by someone who'd foreseen himself quitting drinking, he gives in to fate instead of pouring it out. Olivia's vision of herself with a lover begins to break apart her marriage, making cheating more likely.
    • For extra points, she only ever met the guy in question as a direct result of the flashforward.
    • By the end of the series, it's been shown that the future seen in flash-forwards can be changed, but doing so required great effort to fight the inertia of the timestream.
  • There's a sort-of case in Doctor Who season five, when The Alliance, consisting of pretty much every villain the Doctor ever faced, band together to lock the Doctor way in order to prevent him destroying the universe (it's complicated). Unfortunately locking him away meant he couldn't do anything to prevent the universe's destruction in the first place. Oops. That said, because he is in a perfect prison that isn't affected by the Universe ending, it gave the Doctor an opportunity to restart the universe with a Big Bang 2.0 by using the very prison he was put into.
  • On Being Human (UK) when Mitchell receives a prophecy that a werewolf will kill him, he becomes paranoid about any werewolves other that George and Nina. When they encounter two other werewolves he picks up the Idiot Ball and is so aggressive that he starts a feud with them and really messes up things for everyone. Although no one gets killed and they make peace in the end it is quite likely that this will still end up as a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
    • Later, the one who gave Mitchell the prophecy in the first place, admits that she completely made it up to screw with his head, and specifically calls this out. Quoth, "there is a wolf-shaped bullet. That he carved his name on."
    • The prophecy does fulfill it self in the end, Mitchell's paranoia leads him to aid the monstrous Herrick in attempt to learn how to survive death-by-wolf, the consequences of such are so terrible that he decided he needs to end his life, and had his werewolf best friend George stake him. But not only that The prophecy almost unfolds exactly as the would-be prophet intended; on hearing Herrick has put George's girlfriend Nina in hospital, George almost kills Mitchell there and then.
  • In Community episode "Debate 109" Shirley comes in to tell Jeff and Annie about the crazy idea Abed had that they would kiss. Thus giving Annie the thought to use this as a ploy to win a round of debate.


Plays[edit | hide]

  • Shakespeare's Macbeth revolves around this trope. In the beginning, Macbeth is greeted by three witches: one who hails him as Thane of Glamis, the place he's always ruled, one who hails him as Thane of Cawdor, whose previous holder had just been executed, and one who hails him as king. Right after that, he discovers that he's just become the Thane of Cawdor, which prompts him and his wife to start plotting how to steal the kingship. They succeed, but through paranoia caused by more Self Fulfilling Prophecies - not to mention some misinterpretation - Macbeth is eventually killed.
  • Shakespeare's Henry IV also has this, in its own way. King Henry's refusal to ransom Mortimer under the fear that he might lead a rebellion eventually causes Hotspur to lead a rebellion of his own.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • In Warhammer 40k, the primarch Horus gets infected with a demonic plague that causes him to fall into a coma and get visions of the future from the Chaos Gods. In the visions he sees a world where the Emperor is worshiped as a god and his name is not mentioned anywhere. This, combined with his anger about the Emperor returning to Earth and leaving him and the other primarchs fighting to expand the Imperium, causes him to turn to Chaos and start a civil war that nearly destroys the Imperium. As a result of the war (known as the Horus Heresy), 10,000 years later the mortally wounded Emperor, now confined in the life-supporting Golden Throne, is venerated as a god and the names of Horus and other traitorous primarchs have been removed from Imperial records.
    • Which is also deliciously (especially from the Chaos Gods' perspective) ironic, because the Emperor had been an opponent of religious dogma.
    • Of course, this depends on the edition and writer: In some works, any guardsman knows of Horus and his betrayal, as it's why Chaos Space Marines exist.
      • They know who he is, but Horus was upset by the lack of monuments to him, unlike the Emperor and loyalist Primarchs. Not quite the same thing.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Done twice in Dragon Age II. First, everyone accuses the Qunari of being militaristic heathens who want to do nothing but convert everyone in Kirkwall to the Qun, even when the Arishok makes it perfectly plain that converting people is the last thing on his mind. In the end, the Arishok snaps and launches a war on Kirkwall, turning him into the monster many accused him of being.
    • Done a second time with Knight-Commander Meredith. In Act III of the story, the mages believe that Meredith is slowly going crazy trying to uproot Blood Magic from her ranks, even when it's clear that most of the mages just want to be left alone. When Meredith begins killing every mage, regardless of the reason, the mages turn to Blood Magic just to survive Meredith and the templars, making Meredith's paranoia end up causing exactly what she was so paranoid about.
  • This is basically the quarian-geth conflict in the backstory of Mass Effect. Robot servants start asking their creators things like "Does this unit have a soul?" The creators panic, expecting the robots to rise up, and try to shut them down. Robots fight back, creators get kicked off their planet. Centuries later, most quarians - including their representative in your party - still maintain the geth would have turned on them anyway and wiping them out was the only option...until Legion shows up.
    • This "Morning War" became a cautionary tale to the other races, who took the exact wrong message from it and made this Self-Fulfilling Prophecy law throughout the galaxy.
    • One of the many, many complaints about The Ending of Mass Effect 3 is that the reapers motivation is based on circular logic, Essentially This Trope: The reapers, an Incomprehensibly Ancient and Powerful race of machines, apparently wipe out all life every 50,000 years to prevent all life from being wiped out by synthetics, in essence fulfilling and perpetuating their own cyclical prophecy.
    • The Fandom has adapted a version of the "Yo Dawg" Meme to express the ridiculousness of this motivation: "Yo Dawg, I heard you don't want to be killed by synthetics, so I made a race of synthetics to kill you every 50,000 years so you don't get killed by synthetics."
  • In Summoner, Emperor Murod hears a prophecy that a Summoner will put an end to his reign. Every action he thus takes to stop this prophecy from happening results in making the prophesy happen, by undoing Joseph's Refusal of the Call. Had he sat on his throne doing nothing, Joseph would've lived his life as a farmer on another continent, never even learning of Murod's existence.
  • Overlord Zetta from Makai Kingdom receives a prophecy from an oracle that his Netherworld will be destroyed. In an attempt to Screw Destiny, Zetta hunts down and consults the 'sacred tome' - a book in which "everything pertaining to his Netherworld" is recorded - only to find that it states that his own stupidity has doomed the Netherworld. Insulted, Zetta responds by burning the book to a crisp, consequently un-recording the whole Netherworld in the process and fulfilling the prophecy.
  • This is the plot of The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. Zelda has a vision that Ganondorf will take the Triforce from its hiding place sealed within the Golden Realm, sends Link to preemptively collect the MacGuffins sealing the Golden Realm that Ganondorf has been attempting to obtain, and of course Ganondorf follows Link into the Golden Realm and takes the Triforce when Link unseals it. This sort of thing happens a lot in the series.
    • Specifically, Link himself was sealed away because, as a Hylian child, he was considered too young to be the Hero of Time. Of course, the Hero would have been unnecessary if he hadn't been sealed away for seven years, letting Ganondorf take over. If Link had in fact been a Kokiri, or else a little bit older, he would have succeeded in stopping Ganondorf because he would have gotten the power first (and its debatable if he would have gotten all of the Triforce).
    • The events of Ocarina of Time are inverted in Wind Waker, where Ganondorf's attempt to work in the shadows to restore and reclaim Hyrule under his title ultimately manage to do everything required to draw he, Zelda, and Link together once more. He perceives this as so self-evident that he expounds at length during the final battle about how the circumstances of their meeting cannot be anything but fate.
  • Similar to the Willow example, Kamek targets the newly born Mario brothers because of a prediction that the brothers will be trouble for the Koopas. However, he only managed to kidnap Baby Luigi, while Baby Mario ended up in the hands of the Yoshis. The Yoshis decide to help Baby Mario rescue his twin, which leads to the first defeat of then baby Bowser.
  • A Canthan New Year quest in Guild Wars involves a man who received a reading from a fortune teller that "something terrible will befall" him in the next year. Seeking to avert the prophecy, he contacts a local mystic, who has a ritual to reverse fortune. Unfortunately, the ritual involves submerging his head in water, and he drowns.
    • The main storylines of prophecies and factions involve this to some extent. In prophecies The Mursaat's attempts to prevent the release of the titans by the chosen lead to the player characters fighting against the mursaat and releasing the titans. In factions Shiro's attempt to prevent the emperor killing him leads to his death. The story also suggests that the emperor might have been reacting to some related predictions, although doesn't directly say. The factions case was later retconned into being an deliberate move by the Big Bad, and not an actual prophecy as such.
  • In God of War II, Zeus is convinced that Kratos will kill him and usurp his role as King of the Gods because of a prophecy (which says that the father will be slain by the son, as Zeus did to his father Chronos, and Chronos did to his father Uranus). In order to prevent this, he sets up events so that Kratos loses his divine power and is killed. However, this only serves to give Kratos a legitimate reason to be pissed off at Zeus, and with the help of the Titans, he starts on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, so...
    • Kratos himself breaks the cycle after getting his revenge. By killing himself at the end of the game. Or did he?
    • This also happens in God of War: Ghost of Sparta. A prophet said that whoever controlled the "marked warrior" controlled the fate of Olympus. Kratos's brother, Deimos, already had a mark on him. But when Deimos was taken away, Kratos tattooed an identical mark on himself out of respect for his lost brother.
  • Breath of Fire IV has a version of this in that Fou-lu (who was arguably his own empire's King in the Mountain) is promoted as the "Dragon of Doom who will destroy the empire" among the soldiers of the empire he founded. This is done explicitly by the empire as they have no intention of giving the throne back to the God-Emperor they summoned 600 years ago. After being the target of multiple and increasingly extreme efforts by his nation to kill him, Fou-lu finally snaps when a woman who rescued him from a previous attempt at deicide and who developed a romantic relationship with him is tortured and ultimately used as the warhead in a Curse Nuke specifically because of her connection with him...causing the whole "Dragon of Doom" thing to become a self-fulfilling prophecy as he decides that Humans Are the Real Monsters and that the best course of action is to Kill'Em All.
  • Two concurrent prophecies in Final Fantasy VIII, stemming from Squall's defeat of Ultimecia, each of them related to the other in a "chicken and egg" scenario:
    • It is known that, in the future, a Sorceress will rise to conquer the world and attempt Time Compression to attain godhood. Therefore, future societies persecute potential Sorceresses. When Ultimecia is finally born, this persecution plants the seeds of unending hatred within her, causing her to lash out and devastate the world.
    • Ultimecia is aware that she is destined to be defeated by the Legendary SeeD. Therefore, she attempts Time Compression so she can absorb all reality and all time and escape death. Her meddling with the timestream to accomplish this goal inspired people in the past to create SeeD, the very organization that raises anti-Sorceress child soldiers - and also caused Edea and Cid to intentionally groom Squall to become the SeeD destined to defeat Ultimecia.
  • In the Forgotten Sands variant for the PSP - there are four different games on different consoles under that title - an ifrit seeks to thwart a prophecy stating that a lonely hero with royal blood will kill him. So he starts assassinating people who are part of Persia's royal family. The Prince, upset over the deaths of his cousins, then tracks down and kills the ifrit, before saying that no one can thwart their destiny. Ironically, he later has some experience with that himself.
  • In Planescape: Torment, one of the side quests is about a necromancer looking for the blood of an immortal being. He asked a prophet to tell him where he could find it, and was told that he would find it if he searched these specific crypts. And he found it... in the form of the main character (an immortal) who arrived to stop him from desecrating the crypts.
  • Xenoblade has a variant: even after Shulk realizes his visions don't necessarily have to happen the way he sees them, one of the vaguer, more far-reaching ones seems to include events conducive to his goals, so he starts actively trying to bring it about.
  • In Homeworld, forces acting on orders from The Emperor enforce a mostly forgotten, ancient treaty - by wiping out the entire population of the planet Kharak. The reason behind this decision was that legend had it that the return of the Hiigarans, who had been exiled to Kharak was to herald the end of the Taiidan empire. The effect of this decision was trigger a war that would eventually result in a rebellion that changed the empire back into a republic.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • In The Order of the Stick, Durkon has one of these in his background. He's going to cause bad things to happen when next he returns to the dwarven kingdoms, so his bosses send him away without telling him why, and tell him never to return. But he would never have really been able to return if he hadn't left. (Handwaved when they pointed out the possibility of him buying groceries or somesuch.)
    • The kobold Oracle, on the other hand has prophesized that Durkon WILL return home... albeit posthumously. Meaning that the "bad things" may for instance be due to him not being able to defend the place or simply that his own death and the subsequent mourning may be those "bad things".
    • The dwarven clerics lampshade this:

Dwarven cleric 1: 'Tis risky business screwing with prophecy.
Dwarven cleric 2: Aye, don't I know it.

    • Another example: Belkar kills the Oracle because the Oracle earlier told Belkar that he would kill someone from a short list of subjects (including the Oracle himself), and Belkar didn't actually get to kill any of them yet. The Oracle then tries to weasel out of the prophecy with a bunch of pretty lame Prophecy Twist ideas, all of which were lifted from the Epileptic Trees in the comic's forum.
    • Another Oracle-related one (well, what do you expect, with future-prediction?): the Test of the Heart, which one must undergo to reach the Oracle (a simple health check) was instituted after someone came in for a prediction, which was that they would have a heart attack right after being told they were going to have a heart attack.
  • Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic, on this page (fulfilled on the next).
  • Jade of Homestuck has some semi-precognitive abilities, and ends up creating one of these. She sees a vision of Dream!John crying in the future— then, presumably, being confronted by Jack Noir. So she prepares a birthday present — a collection of high level weapons — to protect him against Jack. Said gift falls into Jack's hands first, who uses it to launch his rise to power, causing the scene which prompted her to send the present in the first place.
  • Pops up in The Wotch during the War Stories arc where one of the good guys betrays them to the villains under the belief that the ancient prophecies around the Big Bad Xaos were inevitable and ended up helping him out in hopes of bargaining for their safety. Theodore calls him out on this, leading to a Redemption Equals Death moment.
  • Nedroid does it
  • In El Goonish Shive, Damien was created with the intent of fulfilling a prophecy.

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Used in Red vs. Blue where Church attempts to stop a whole lot of bad things that happened in Blood Gulch, only to cause most of them.
  • Done 'spectacularly' in Opifex's The Storm Dragon series, a Fan Fiction series based on the Inheritance Cycle world. Most Elves and Dragons know a legend about a black dragon born during a storm that will cause a great deal of evil for the world. Both races attempt to kill the black dragon Ravana, but not only does he prove himself extremely hard to kill, but their attempts to do so drive him over the edge of insanity when he realizes every living thing is his enemy, turning him into exactly the kind of vengeful and murderous creature that the prophecy spoke about.
  • On TV Tropes, anything added to the Flame Bait page will... well, become flame bait, because then people will argue about whether it belongs there, scold other people for adding it to tropes, and so on.
  • In The Gift of Mercy, Aliens Steal Cable and decide that humanity's violent nature will lead to their being attacked, so they build a WMD and set it on a course for Earth. As they follow the progress of the weapon, they also observe humanity turning peaceful and artistic, but it is impossible to recall the weapon because the scientists and engineers responsible were Driven to Suicide by guilt. An Earthshattering Kaboom ensues... and there are survivors, with one thing to say:

"We know you are out there, and we are coming for you."


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Arguably inverted in Teen Titans season four. Raven is troubled by her destiny to destroy the world and, along with Slade and her father Trigon, repeatedly insists that no matter what she does, there's nothing she can do to prevent it. She fails to realize that the only way the prophecy can come true is if she willingly goes along with it, as the destruction of the world is completely dependent on the conscious actions she makes of her own free will.
    • Her friends even call her out on this, but she shrugs them off each time. During a telepathic conversation with Trigon, she even suggests that she could stop him by refusing to cooperate with the prophecy, but willingly goes along with it when he tells her that, as her creator, he decides her destiny.
    • Her willingness to go along with the prophecy could probably be justified by the fact that Slade would have killed the other Titans had she not cooperated.
      • Which really doesn't make any sense, since destroying the world would destroy them anyways.
        • It wouldn't have made a difference.
        • She imbued some of her power unto the Titans; thus, whilst the rest of the world perished, they survived. Considering she had always believed the coming of her father and the end of the world as inevitable, even entertaining the idea of preserving her True Companions was really the most she could ask for. By doing so - along with holding onto the "lucky" penny given to her by Beast Boy - she also evinced that she maintained some minute level of hope throughout the ordeal.
  • The episode "The Fortuneteller" from Avatar: The Last Airbender focuses on a town that hangs on the every word of their fortune teller, Aunt Wu. Aunt Wu's predictions are almost always right, but what the villagers don't realize is that it's what they do after hearing her predictions that cause them to happen. Like the old man who was told that he would be wearing red shoes on the day he meets his true love... so he wears red shoes, every day.
    • Another example from the same episode: Wu predicts that the village will not be destroyed by the nearby volcano. While the villagers' minds are put at ease, the more skeptical protagonists go to check the volcano and find that it is about to erupt. They warn the villagers, who refuse to believe them, and are forced to divert the lava flow themselves. This does nothing to dissuade the village's faith in Wu; after all, she predicted the village wouldn't be destroyed, and it wasn't.
      • Much to Sokka's frustration.
      • On the other hand, there's some indication that Aunt Wu is just a canny old bird who's very Genre Savvy about this trope. After all, had she not made the prediction about the town not being destroyed, the people would have been willing to pick up and move, becoming refugees because they'd lost their homes and possessions and land. Instead, since the people refused to leave, the Avatar that she made the prediction around had to go and save the village instead. Aunt Wu's just manipulating everybody for the good of the village.
  • Danny Phantom may have been this if you read The Movie a certain way. Specifically, Clockwork was tasked with preventing the Bad Future by killing Danny before it could happen. However, the ghosts he sent back in time failed to do this, causing a series of events that cause it to happen anyway. Well, almost happen anyway.
  • Justice League Unlimited's Project Cadmus arc is all about averting a Superhero-Government war that happened in an Alternate Universe. Lex Luthor and Brainiac take full advantage of the paranoia to trigger one.
  • The Thundarr the Barbarian episode "Prophecy of Peril" deals with three woman (a hermit barbarian, an element queen, and a human woman) that would be found by her foe. The wizard of the week goes back in time to kidnap the human woman. And in the end, the three woman destroy the Gem of Glory, the power source of the evil wizard.
  • A few examples in Gargoyles:
    • Demona goes back in time from 1995 to 994 to warn her past self about the slaughter of her clan by the humans. This causes her past self to distrust the humans living in the castle, so she betrays them to the vikings... who slaughter her clan after taking over the castle.
    • Prince (later King) Duncan was paranoid that his cousin Macbeth would try to claim the throne of Scotland, and this paranoia was exacerbated when the Weird Sisters prophesied that Macbeth would become king. So he attacked Macbeth, unsuccessfully, and Macbeth killed him and became king anyway. The catch is that Macbeth had no interest in becoming king and was loyal to Duncan, and he never would have killed Duncan if Duncan hadn't attacked him first.
      • When the Weird Sisters told Macbeth that Duncan hired the Hunter to kill his father (the former king) does Macbeth fight back.
  • Young Justice: After hearing that there is a mole in the team, Aqualad decides to withhold the information and investigate himself for fear of causing disunity amongst the members. When the other members find out, they end up distrusting Aqualad and it causes a rift.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • The self-fulfilling prophecy is a fairly major sociological concept. The idea is that when other people expect something of a person, that person will act that way as a result of their actions. Sociologists once performed an experiment where they continually told children that blue-eyed children were worse than other children. When they tested the children afterwards, the blue-eyed children performed worse than before.
    • The blue-eyes experiment was actually a study in bigotry and privilege; self-fulfilling prophecies in performance were a side-effect. Here's an experiment which examined self-fulfilling prophecy directly: a class of children were given an aptitude test, and afterwards their teacher was told that child X's results showed him/her to be particularly gifted. Child X had, in fact, been drawn at random. When the experimenters followed up on the class a few months later, they found that X was performing much better than before—because the teacher was giving them more attention.
  • Economics: Investors' fears of a downturn in the stock market are one of the most common reasons for a downturn in the stock market.
    • Recessions in general work similarly, since consumer confidence is a major factor. Once the news media alerts the general population that there might be a recession coming, people start spending less money, and before you know it, we're in a recession. The longer and louder the media goes on about it, the worse it's likely to be, in part because of the warnings.
      • That's actually one of the main points of Keynesianism: since private individuals and companies will resort to excessive saving, thus making the recession worse by diminishing the market's activity, Keynesianist advocate that the State, bigger and way more resilient than any given company, act as a pro-active economical actor to counter the self-fulfilling prophecy. Basically, Keynesianism is a self-fulfilling prophecy used to counter another self-fulfilling prophecy. The fact that we are talking about Real Life economics is the icing on the cake.
    • Schools other than Keynesian would agree or disagree to various degrees, complicating the issue somewhat. This leads to another sort of self-fulfilling prophecy that is often seen. People in power who believe in Keynesian economics will often seek to undermine any other economic model used because it's not Keynesian (since Keynesian is generally regarded as the only model backed by historical precedent)... and then hold up the failures they themselves caused as proof that only Keynesian economics work. This can generally be applied to any sort of government or economic model.
  • Some Jews and Christians donate money to organizations dedicated to building the third temple in order to usher in the foretold Messianic era. However, exactly what happens during the "Messianic era" depends on which side you ask: Will it be as foretold in Ezekiel, with God reinstating the Aaronic priesthood, the temple sacrifices, and taking the Jewish people under His proverbial wing again? Or will it be as in Revelation, with the golden cube-city of New Jerusalem descending from the heavens to bring God's eternal presence to Earth? Only time will tell...
    • "Or?" There's a thousand years, explicitly mentioned in Revelation chapter 20, for events like that to happen in.
      • Ezekiel clearly says that the temple sacrifices will be made as sin offerings, which Jesus was supposed to have rendered unnecessary. Plus Ezekiel's messiah is described as a far more... earthly sort of character, fathering children of his own and growing old and dying, as the book details how his earthly possessions will be distributed among his children.
  • Banking Runs are considered to be often impacted by the perception of a bank being solvent. In reality most banks can't withstand all of their liquid money being hit at once. The FDIC knows this, and their list of banks most likely to fail is considered to be top secret since publishing the list will cause runs on those banks and cause them to fail. The most recent example is the Washington Mutual bank failure. Basically, it was going relatively okay until a bunch of people heard the bank might fail with the recent economic downturn. Then, in one day, 10% of its assets were withdrawn by panicky account holders, causing the bank to fail and get bought out by Chase. These are actually the Trope Namer. Robert K. Merton coined the phrase, and used a banking run as the canonical example.
    • A recent real life example of a bank run was seen in the UK with Northern Rock. The bank quietly asked the Bank of England if they could have an extended overdraft (effectively), even though they didn't actually need it at that point. Word got out, leading to every branch in the country being besieged by savers desperate to take all their money out before the bank collapsed - which it wasn't in danger of doing until people panicked.
  • An example from the UK in 2008 or so: a two-day strike at an oil refinery in Scotland wouldn't have affected petrol distribution in the slightest as several days' reserves are stored off-site. However, as soon as news of the strike got out, queues appeared at petrol stations all over the country - even those areas which got their petrol from completely different refineries. This of course meant they sold out of petrol quickly, leading to local news stations running stories about petrol stations running short, which led to more people trying to fill up before the nationwide fuel drought struck their beloved motor...
  • An earlier UK example: when there was a sugar shortage in the UK in the early 1970s, a presenter of BBC Radio 4's morning news-magazine programme Today joking said "at this rate there'll be a salt shortage next". Some idiots people took him seriously, panicked and started stockpiling, and before the day was out there was a salt shortage.
  • Currency Units of Exchange in general are semi-examples. Things work out pretty much okay if everyone accepts that the certain shiny rock or certain green piece of paper legitimately represents a store of value, and if people don't, then things may very well start going down hill. We'll leave it at that.
  • The Induced Traffic theory. City fathers and developers argue for the building of new roads and highways and the expansion of current ones to both relieve current traffic congestion and prepare for traffic increasing in the future. In truth (for some people), it's building the roads themselves that causes the increase in traffic by encouraging more and more people to drive (especially since many of the roads built are not pedestrian friendly).
  • If the media hawks about a new disease, people get more stressed, which weakens the immune system, which makes them more likely to get sick.
  • Relatedly, one of the most powerful factors in determining who wins an election (especially the Presidential primary) is who the media (seeing a pattern here?) claims is "leading". This is why most of the attention is given to the earliest primary states, and why states (like Florida in '08, for instance) jockey for the earliest races.
  • In 1973, Johnny Carson made a joke about a potential toilet paper shortage. This caused viewers to stockpile toilet paper, thus creating the very shortage he'd joked about.
  • There's a potential urban legend floating around surrounding a major expansionary chain (usually McDonald's, Starbucks, or Wal-Mart) that does in-depth studies on urban markets to determine where the city will grow, so that they can buy the land while it's cheap and move in first. Then the city discovers the study and shifts its resources to this part of town, with the increase in attention and funding actually causing the predicted growth.
  • In 2008, there was a chain letter circling via e-mail that made the claim that all gas stations in Nashville had run out of gas. This caused everyone to rush to the gas stations and buy up all the gas, causing all the gas stations in Nashville to run out of gas.
  • Another instance comes from accounting. Companies are required to file statements of possible losses from lawsuits should it be considered reasonably possible that they may loose the case. However, once they do so their own statements are used against them as evidence of their obvious guilt and they usually lose the case shortly afterwards.
  • When Richard Nixon was President of the United States, he was well-known for being both intensely paranoid and at the same time very concerned about the kind of legacy he would leave behind. So when the Watergate Scandal came up, and Nixon soon discovered that he wasn't about to get out of this easily, what did he do? He tried to cover up the famous scandal as best as he could, but to no avail. Ironically, if he had simply come out in the very beginning and humbly admitted what he did wrong, his legacy might not have been so harshly viewed. He wouldn't be liked, but people probably would have respected his being forthcoming.
  • One of the most common reasons given for people pirating anime but not buying the domestic release is that the "dub sucks". While this is subjective, it means that the lack of sales can cut into the localization budget of future anime, which leads to worse dubs, which leads to lower sales, which leads to cuts in the budget, etc. Of course, given that its "Common Knowledge" among certain groups of anime pirates that "all dubs suck", they likely weren't going to buy anyway.
  • Economically disenfranchised areas of an American city tend to have higher crime rates than the rest. Police look upon residents of said areas as more likely to commit crimes. This creates or exacerbates a distrust of the police in said communities. This leads to a lower chance of any crimes being solved, which lowers the police's opinions of said communities, etc. It is rather tragic to see the same person complaining that the System don't care about their community also telling informants to "stop snitchin'".
    • People who have the worst opinions of police are generally people who lead lifestyles that bring them into contact with police frequently, especially if they treat the police in an offensive manner.
      • During the May Day 2012 protests in Montreal, a photo was circulated of protestors mocking police by dangling donuts on strings. Their defenders claimed that the protestors weren't responsible from any consequences from their needlessly baiting police. Many protestors seek to deliberately do something that makes the police arrest them in order to prove the police are oppressive, then have a friend record it and cut down the video to just the police's response.
  • During the Roman Empire the Praetorian-prefect Marcus Opellius Macrinus was informed of a prophecy from an oracle that he would become the emperor. Luckily for him he got the information before the sitting emperor (the, quote, "Common enemy of mankind"), Caracalla, since if he didn't he would most likely be executed as a possible threat. Since the emperor would inevitably find out sooner or later his hand was forced to actually assassinate Caracalla and ended up as the new emperor after the Guard proclaimed him such. Not that it made much of a difference since he would also be the first emperor to die before entering Rome.
    • For this reason making prophecies about the imperial succession was usually a crime punishable by death.
    • Not a prophesy as such but a major part of the death of Caligula was betrayal by the commander of his guard. By most accounts the man was loyal until he found out the Emperor was having doubts about him and remembered what happened to the last guard commander Caligula didn't trust.
  • When the first Twilight film came out, the media acted as if the Twilight series was a serious rival for the Harry Potter series with headlines like "Move Over Harry Potter, Twilight Has Arrived," implying the existence of a Fandom Rivalry - and creating one as a result.
  • One aspect of supply and demand involves the idea that when people believe that the price of a good will increase, they'll buy more of it before the expected increase, and as such will be the cause of the price increase thanks to the demand going up.
    • Inversely, if there's a report, true or false, that supplies are low, people will buy more of it, and the result is that supply WILL be low. Some companies try to profit from this, by claiming that "supplies are limited" when they are, in fact, anything of the sort, creating a sort of artificial demand.
  • Stereotypes, people subconsciously adapt to behave 'normally', with stereotypes representing what people consider 'normal' behaviour for certain groups of people.
    • The situation is made harder by the fact averting stereotypes is usually a conscious decision to make a character that is 'different' (implying they are abnormal) and backlash against stereotypes often goes wrong, creating 'reverse' stereotypes (for example, Real Women Never Wear Dresses).
    • Most suicides. People are told repeatedly that they are scum and that they don't deserve to be alive. Out of peer pressure, take a guess at what happens.
  • The November 1948 issue of Astounding Science Fiction printed a reader's letter reviewing the contents of the November 1949 issue. Editor John W. Campbell then commissioned stories from the authors mentioned in the letter, making the actual November 1949 issue as close to the imaginary review as possible.
  • People who claim to be psychics run off this. They hope that if they tell you something will happen under certain circumstances, you'll enforce those circumstances on your own. If they tell you "You will meet your future spouse while wearing red shoes," they hope that you'll wear red shoes all the time (especially since if you're asking a psychic, you're likely a little desperate), so when you inevitably meet someone, the "prediction" comes true. Similarly, if you ask about, say, having a baby, that implies you're stressed about it (stress can make it harder to conceive). They hope that if they tell you you're going to have a baby soon, that'll reduce your stress levels, possibly encourage you to "try" more, and increase the odds that you will have a baby.
  • Andrew Schlafly of Conservapedia is a teacher (yes, that's as terrifying as you're imagining), but he personally believes that women are naturally less intelligent than men. So to give the girls in his class "a fair shot," he doesn't bother teaching them things he doesn't think they'd be able to understand...resulting in the girls in his class getting worse scores and not knowing as much as the boys. Yes, you read all of that correctly.
  • Rebecca Black was made into a viral star by the very attempt her haters made to prevent it.
    • Before her, Justin Bieber became popular partially from all the comments on Youtube videos saying that the musician in question was better than him. It's tapered off, but Lady Gaga still receives this treatment, not that the extra popularity matters much.
  • Members on the forum 4chan kept vehemently asserting that Milhouse was not a meme. This in turn led to "Milhouse is not a meme" becoming a meme, so Milhouse now is a meme.
  • On the February 1936 elections in the Spanish Second Republic, the winning coalition was formed by several left-leaning parties, among them the Spanish Communist Party, whose influence was very little when compared to Republican Left or the Socialist Party. However, the right-wing parties, the conservatives in the army and the church said that the left coalition would turn Spain into a USSR-like dictatorship and prepared a coup. The coup partially failed, resulting in the Spanish Civil War. And, since the only foreign nation willing to support the Republic with war material was the USSR, the Communist Party soon started to gain great power, until it became the leading party of the coalition. If the Republic had ended up winning the war, the ending result may have been exactly Spain turning into a dictatorship.
  • Men get stereotyped as perverts who constantly want and seek sex. Any man over a certain age who has still not had sex or doesn't have enough sex will still be assumed to have been and still be trying 24/7 to have sex and failing all this time, making women think there is something wrong with him that makes him an unsuitable sexual partner (otherwise he would have had sex already), so they won't have sex with him either. Therefore, in order to even have any semblance of a sex life at all, all men must actually be perverts. Or liars. Whatever's easier for you.
  • Fat people who are otherwise as average in eating and activity habits as their thin counterparts may come under attack by individuals or groups who make fun of them or stereotype them as lazy and gluttonous as a misguided attempt to motivate them to adopting healthy habits. Unfortunately, this may crush their self esteem so much that it prevents them from doing so in the first place as they see no reason to.
  • William Henry Harrison's critics claims he was too old and feeble to be president. To prove them wrong he spoke for 2 hours in freezing rain without protective gear. Most suspect his susequent pneumonia and death after less than 30 days in office (most of which was spent bedridden) from it was related to it.