You Can't Fight Fate

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
And you're still hungry.

"Those things had to happen to me. That was my destiny. But you'll understand soon enough that there are consequences to being chosen...because, destiny, John, is a fickle bitch."

Ben Linus, Lost

A prophecy (or in Time Travel, something that is known to have happened in the past) comes true despite all attempts to prevent it (and often because of those attempts).

Often happens with an obvious (or not so obvious) Prophecy Twist on the language used in the prophecy. As old as Oedipus Rex, used by Shakespeare and Tolkien, and still fresh at least as recently as the mid-80s sitcom!

Depending on the mood of the series, the final fulfillment of the prophecy may or may not be a Downer Ending. Sometimes, the heroes still manage to put right the wrong the prophecy promises. In such situations, they usually conclude that fate only said something bad would happen, not that they couldn't eventually right it. An Aesop usually follows about free will being stronger than destiny.

One technical term for the Time Travel version of this trope is the predestination paradox, a concept very popular with the Ancient Greeks, who believed You Cannot Change the Future. There is only one possible future, and if you think otherwise, it's because you were destined to take a different path.

Sometimes this can turn out to be odd in certain Freaky Friday type Time Travel stories. There can be a gazillion outcomes for everyone...except the one thing that the Time Traveller wants to change. (saving one particular loved one, etc.) So everyone else in the cast may have good or bad results in different Alternate Timelines; but Fate is saving all of its energy to prevent a positive outcome for one single person.

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

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

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

The Fatalist is characterized by their strong belief in fate.

Compare with Because Destiny Says So, But Thou Must!. Contrast with Screw Destiny and Immune to Fate.

Examples of You Can't Fight Fate include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Half Prince a different kind of fate takes place when it comes to NPCs in Second Life. The game is programmed for things to happen, which is explored in a rather sad tale when Prince meets two NPCs on the Eastern Continent. Prince has to complete a quest by taking Kenshin the demon lord to see his game-programmed lover, but they find her grave. Even though the game was programmed for this to happen, because Kenshin developed a conscience it made it a very sad experience for him, because to kenshin it was as if she really did exist and she'd waited for him until the end of her days.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, this is embodied in the sympathetic Dark Magical Girl who is actually named "Fate". She feels that she has no choice in her life and in her actions, and thus no hope. Ironically, this is her power at first, as her ruthlessness (as there are no other options to her) gives her the edge. The Heroine contemplates a few times on how she, on the other hand, chose to be a Magical Girl, because it's something she wants to be. (Rather rare; most Magical Girls are that way Because Destiny Says So.) Thus, Fate and Nanoha's battle in the first season is symbolic of Fate vs. Free Will.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima, it's totally possible to fight Fate. But look out, he can turn people to stone and his power level is around 3,000, so...what? Wrong Fate? Oh. Um...never mind, then.
    • Of course, recent events show that even Jack Rakan has a hard time, given Fate's abilities.
    • And in the most recent chapter, it turns out 'there are six of him, two of which are unaccounted for. And they can be brought back from the dead due to their nature as constructs. Unless your last name is Springfield, it seems, you really can't fight Fate. And even then...
      • Right now? Five of the Fates have already been defeated. The only one standing is the original, and he and Negi are fighting their last and more definitive duel. So it seems that you STILL can fight Fate.
      • Update! You don't even need to fight Fate anymore. He's on Negi's side. Unless you mean having Fate as your romantic rival for Negi, that is.
    • Asuna Kagurazaka in the first anime's alternate story was doomed to die on her 15th birthday due to a Deal with the Devil so the demons would stop following her and bringing destruction wherever she went. The series' lead's Disappeared Dad attempted to save her and was promptly crushed under a bridge. She has to die and comes back in time to break the deal. And not before Negi has an Heroic BSOD upon seeing her death.
  • In Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, Lucia Nanami is prophesied to go through great hardship, so she is raised as a civilian. It happens anyway, but it could be argued that because she didn't know she was a princess, she met Kaito, gave away her pearl, and caused everything to happen that gave her True Companions to get through it. The anime, however, has all this happen while she does know.
  • Neji Hyuuga in Naruto used to be a firm believer in this, until Naruto shows him that Defeat Means Friendship.
    • Which is a heavy dose of dramatic Irony because Naruto's the son of a Hokage while Neji's the son of a family slave. Any believer in fate would be betting on Naruto in that case, except for the fact that neither of them knew that at the time.
    • 'Dramatic Irony' is one way to look at it, I suppose.
    • Yeah...but as of late, it seems that the manga is going out of its way to prove that Neji was right and Naruto was wrong about whether one can or cannot fight fate.
      • They're both wrong, because their positions were absolute. Messy reality sits somewhere in between. And that was the whole point. At the time of their fight, both of them were living subversions of their own position. Neji masters the main branch's secret forbidden technique which he was not supposed to be allowed to learn, on his own. He beats up Hinata, where a properly dutiful side branch believer in the inevitability of fate would have forfeited match to let the main branch candidate advance. And Naruto of course had the source of his power implanted into him when he was baby...
  • Played with in Sonic X with the character Cosmo, whose actual destiny ( i.e. turn into a tree, die, save the universe, in that order), is not revealed until the final two episodes of the series in what feels like a bit of an Ass Pull on the writers' parts: the spirit of her mother reveals to her that the stone she wears around her neck, similar to that worn by all species is in fact a Magical Amulet which, when activated, will accelerate her growth into maturity, allowing her to become a tree, attach herself to the Big Bad and weaken it to the point at which it can be destroyed. Because she had spent most of the series struggling with survivor's guilt, abject terror, and low self esteem, Cosmo saw this sudden revelation of her destiny as her redemption - she no longer felt that she had to stand by and watch their enemies destroy everything; she has a purpose at last. As such, she follows her newfound destiny willingly.
  • Sartorius (Takuma Saiou) was always talking about this in Yu-Gi-Oh GX when he was the Big Bad. Aster (Edo) Phoenix did a bit, too, although this is more in the dub (where his catchphrase is "You can't fight destiny").
    • The original series, at least in the dub, had a lot of You Can't Fight Fate with talk about things being fated to happen, but 2nd season Yu-Gi-Oh GX went with Screw Destiny with Jaden (Judai) having the power to defy fate. Somewhat similar deal with talk between Goodwin and Yusei in 5Ds.
  • In episode 26 of Zettai Karen Children, an Esper dolphin whose visions have always been 100% accurate is introduced. He has two particularly dire predictions: the first being his death by several gunshots; and the second one, where a war erupts between Normals and Espers, and a grown Kaoru has become the Queen of Catastrophe leading the Espers. Minamoto ends up gunning her down. Needless to say, Minamoto is determined to Screw Destiny. He actually manages to subvert the first vision; his interference causes the dolphin to die from only ONE bullet, proving that just maybe the visions aren't infallible.
  • In Rave Master, if your a guy whose last name is Raregroove you are destined to be a good person who suffers a horrible tragedy that causes you to turn evil and try to destory the world. If your a guy whose last name is Glory you are destined to stop whichever Raregroove guy from the same generation as you (who always shares your birthday, apparently). Gale and King don't believe this since they're best buddies. How could they possibly fight against one another when they're trying to save the world together? ...Until Gale accidentally gets King's wife and kid killed when the later thinks they need to dirty there hands to accomplish their goal. They later try to put an end to this when King kills himself and Gale sacrifices himself to save Haru, but it turns out King's kid wasn't dead after all, so the cycle repeats.
  • X 1999's main theme is that the future has already been decided and it can't be changed. Every time a dreamgazer looks at the future, they see the destruction of the world and the extinction of mankind. This did not end up coming true in the anime, and it remains to be seen if it will in the manga (if they ever finish it).
    • Not every time. Kotori's Famous Last Words to her fellow dreamseer Kakyou explicitly said that "the future is still undecided", which in the anime turned out to be true via Kamui taking a third option and going through a Heroic Sacrifice. The manga, eh, is something else.
  • The theme in Berserk, where the Big Bad seems to control fate, while Guts and the Skull Knight are people who "struggle against fate/causality." Guts' power to do this stems from surviving his fated time of death on the day he was born (as well as again during the living hell that was the Eclipse).
  • Lots of things in Eureka Seven are predestined and many things happen for a reason. Its revealed that whoever makes Eureka smile is her destined partner_ Holland refuses to acknowledge that he was not "the chosen one" by Eureka and tried ways to gain back her attention and trust (involving physically abusing Renton), which ultimately backfired and nailed the coffin on his chance with Eureka during their quarrel in episode 26. Renton and Eureka meeting each other and falling in love, as well as them being together ever after, is also proven by the events in both TV series and movie to be a destined thing. One good example is Eureka being always able to make a come back in some form in the ending and stay with Renton, one way or another (Tv, movie, manga). Theres a dialogue said by Talho in the movie when Renton reunites with Eureka after 8 years: "A first-timer breaking through a net of monsters...Is this just a coincidence? Or is it the work of a mysterious power?"
  • Two of the Stands in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Bohemian Rhapsody and Underworld, actually manage to turn this into a weapon. Bohemian Rhapsody fates people to re-enact stories that they have particular attachments to. This turns downright ugly, or even fatal, if the character they're most like met an unpleasant and/or deadly end. Underworld, meanwhile, fates people to live through an unearthed memory of their current location. Underworld is a little more flexible because Donatello's victims aren't necessarily incorporated into the memory like Bohemian Rhapsody incorporates victims into stories. This means it's possible to circumvent the bad portions of a memory, as long as you wouldn't keep the memory from repeating its original form.
  • In Bokurano, it's next-to-impossible to even make a serious attempt to fight fate, given how it toys around with laws of physics you've never even heard of. And if you do somehow try to fight it, you'll only make things worse. All you can do is try to make the best of it.
  • Teeki of Muhyo and Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation makes a Hannibal Lecture on this point after Julio immobilizes the heroes, claiming that Enchu, who had worked hard to try to catch up with Muhyo and become an Executor to support his mother, is a prime example of how people cannot change their destiny by their own efforts. Roji, however, responds that Enchu merely couldn't deal with his grief, before breaking Julio's curse.
  • Homura in Puella Magi Madoka Magica goes crazy with this trope, trying to avert it all over the place. It does not help that it keeps getting worse every time this is attempted, since somebody decided to give the wrong person the correct powers for this insane job. And then the anime decides to pull a fast one!

Comic Books

  • Present throughout Booster Gold, but particularly in the issue where he tries to keep Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) from getting shot by The Joker. He tries and fails to stop the event from happening multiple times before accepting that there are some things he isn't capable of changing because of solidified time (i.e. changing the past purposely, already extremely dangerous in "normal" cases, becomes impossible because certain events are literally too important to change, such as preventing Barbra Gordon from being crippled, thus preventing her from becoming Oracle, or saving Blue Beetle, preventing the Max Lord / Checkmate conspiracy from being revealed).
  • In Universal War One, when the group of heroes are trapped in the past, one of them realise that all the attempts to avoid the death of one of their comrades is, in fact, leading to his death.
  • Doctor Manhattan of Watchmen gradually came to such a belief due to his immense powers. Despite being a Physical God, he felt himself powerless before the forces governing the universe. Even though he could see key events before they occurred and could easily have shaped history to his liking, he felt that anything he did would be so insignificant in the long run, taking action was pointless.
  • X-Men villain Vargas (the Big Bad for part of the early 2000s X-Treme X-Men title) was seeking out the diaries of Destiny, a long-dead Blind Seer with the ability to predict the future. Being convinced that the prophecies favoured him, he boasted to the X-Men that they couldn't fight fate. When he comes across a diary that depicts Rogue killing him in battle, he changes his tune and tries to change destiny himself. He succeeds at first, only to be killed around X-Men #200 by one of the Marauders.
  • The Metabarons are fated to never be happy and lead a tragic existence: son slaying father to succeed as Metabaron, wives dieing, mutilation and general unhappiness.
  • Subverted in the crossover Spawn/Wild CATS, where future versions of Grifter and Zealoth (the former being the original's future self, but the latter being a new Zealoth) are sent into the past to slay Spawn, and as such prevent a future where Spawn became a ruthless dictator known as the Ipsissim. When they fail to kill him, the present Wildcats and Spawn agree to join them in the future to defeat the Ipsissim, but it turns out this was part of a predestination paradox, as the Ispissim uses the opportunity to give Spawn the medals that corrupted him and caused him to turn evil to begin with. Once back in the present, the influence starts, and Spawn starts Evil Gloating... until the future Wildcats realize their mistake and make a last attempt to modify a minor action in the past. This cause Spawn to recognize future Zealoth as an adult version of his beloved wife's daughter Cyan, come back to his senses, and hand over the medals to her, preventing his transformation into the Ipsissim and erasing this alternate future.
  • The villain Darkseid has the goal of imposing such a thing on the universe as a whole, eliminating the concept of free will and making every sentient being's destiny immutable. As in, he seeks to convince mortals that concepts like hope and freedom are pointless. His pursuit of the Anti Life Equation is his means to accomplish this.
  • This is a common theme in The Sandman. The future is written in the Book of Destiny, and it is never wrong. Even Destiny himself cannot change it. Death has claimed in many stories that she has no say over who lives and who dies, she must follow what is written.

Fan Works

  • In the Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic A Rose and A Thorn 4, Project: Mirage goes back in time to try and stop Ashura from causing the fall of the ARK. It turns out that because she did this while knowing what was going to happen, she made Sonic blue, and gave birth to Knuckles. The experiment she mated with caused the rampage of the Artificial Chaos because she told him it was going to happen. She still couldn't save Maria even though she knew about it and was right there. But then, she had just been shot...
    • But she did manage to kill Ashura so that A Rose And A Thorn 3 didn't happen, breaking a time loop that may have been going around for centuries, and because it didn't happen, A Rose And A Thorn 5 happened instead. So there was a point to it after all.
  • In Harry Potter and the Nightmares of Futures Past, Harry manages to come back in time, with the idea of preventing his future from happening. However, there are still things that happen no matter what he does - Voldemort trying to steal the Philosopher's Stone, Ginny falling under the control of Tom Riddle's diary, Sirius escaping Azkaban, Dementors posted at Hogwarts - which makes him despair that maybe he can't fight fate, and worries that everything may end as it did in his past. However, there seems to be someone who is trying to force things to happen as they did during the books.
  • The Mega Crossover Fanficcomic Roommates 2007 uses a highly meta version of this and Because Destiny Says So. The characters are aware of their fictionality, the stories they are from AND the Theory of Narrative Causality so the destiny that says so and/or the fate they can't fight. More directly: Jareth desperatelly tries to be a hero but always fails and even got villainous backlash because of it. Tallahassee tried to escape his Canon to bring back his son...and failed.
  • How Can It This Be had Raphael explained, despite wanting to bring the women their lives back, their wounds they suffered were too grave. He was kind enough to explain why.
  • The Sailor Moon fanfic Isekai by Moonlight plays the trope straight, to begin with: no matter how hard the isekai character tries to change things during the first chapter, including providing advance knowledge and power-ups, the Sailor Senshi still end up in a battle where they're hopelessly outclassed at D-Point.


  • Towards the end of The Matrix Reloaded, Neo finally reaches the "source" of the Matrix and meets the Architect, the computer program who designed the Matrix. He informs Neo that Zion will ultimately be destroyed and that it cannot be saved. At the end of their conversation, he also mentions that Neo's "destiny", like that of his five predecessors, was to enter the source and restart the program, allowing 23 humans to be selected to rebuild Zion. Thus, the "prophecy" will be fulfilled that after a century of warfare between humans and machines, the fight will finally come to an end. However, Neo would only be restarting the war, not ending it. Finally, the Architect mentions that Trinity will inevitably die in order to save Neo. The Architect tells him that there is nothing he can do to stop that from happening.
    • Of course, in Revolutions, Neo tells the Oracle about the Architect's warnings, and she responds that the Architect is full of crap and can't predict the future worth a damn. Guess what? Zion is not destroyed, and the war comes to a permanent end.
      • Trinity dies, though.
  • Knowing (2009) stars Nicolas Cage as a Hollywood Atheist who rushes around trying to find a way to prevent (or personally survive) The End of the World as We Know It, but by the end we see there was nothing he could have done to change it.
  • Played rather frustratingly in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, in that every character tells Alice she can't fight fate, and despite her numerous attempts to Screw Destiny, the White Queen, who has the power but refuses to slay the Jabberwocky on principle, passive-aggressively guilt trips Alice into doing it for her.
  • The Sandra Bullock Film Premonition mixes this trope with a partial Temporal Paradox. In the future Linda sees, her husband Jim dies, she goes crazy, is suspected of hurting her daughter, and gets committed to an insane asylum. Her efforts to prevent Jim's death create Self-Fulfilling Prophecies, and the film's "happy" ending consists of a reveal that she was eventually released from the asylum, now pregnant with another child.
  • In Sex and Death 101 (2008), the main character is emailed (by a Magical Computer) a list of 101 women's names. It turns out to be a list of all the people he has slept with, or is going to sleep with, before he dies. Initially, he thinks it's just a joke, as his current fiance happens to be #29 out of 101, but, regardless of how he tries to avoid it, he ends up sleeping with every woman on the list, in exactly the order in which they appear, and, to his dismay, the last name on the list happens to match that of a notorious Femme Fatale Serial Killer who seduces men before drugging them into permanent comas. Indeed, she is the last woman he ever sleeps with, because they get married and live Happily Ever After.
  • The Terminator films, as a whole, are an example of this. In the first movie, Sarah Connor learns that the fate of her unborn child, John, is to lead the remaining humans against the machines After the End; the second movie is all about Sarah and John trying to stop the end from happening, and seemingly succeeding. However, both continuities which Alternate Continuity explain that Sarah's actions did not prevent, but only delayed the rise of Skynet and the nuclear holocaust, from 1997 when it was originally supposed to happen, until 2004.
    • The plot of Terminator 1 is that in order to save humanity in the future Kyle got sent back in time to save Sarah thus saving the future John Connor from the Terminator that was created by SkyNet that was created from the very Terminator that was sent back in time to kill Sarah and the future John Connor in order to screw the humanity in the future. Headache!
    • What's worse about this is the futility of trying to change the future: if John and Sarah Connor ever were to succeed in preventing SkyNet from achieving self-awareness, it would by definition cause a temporal paradox ensuring that John Connor never existed. In the first movie, Kyle is sent back to save John's mother from being killed by SkyNet before she could give birth to John, and in the process of protecting Sarah, Kyle and Sarah sleep together, conceiving John. If there is no SkyNet, there is no threat, so Kyle never needs to go, so John is never conceived. Also, this nonexistence reality manifests if John dies at any point before sending Kyle back, since John is the only one who knows where/when to send him.
    • The Sarah Connor Chronicles twists the whole notion around at the end of the second season: John travels forward in time past Judgment Day, and discovers that he was superfluous; humanity is still around and kicking without him.
  • Twelve Monkeys is an excellent example.
    • As is the film it's based on, Chris Marker's La Jetee.
  • The Final Destination series is a variation, which basically says "If you're supposed to die, you will".
  • The 2002 adaptation of The Time Machine. Dr. Alexander Hartdegen creates a time machine to try to prevent his girlfriend from getting killed. She was mugged in Central Park, so they stop by a flower stand instead. But while Alexander is buying her flowers, she gets run over by a carriage. No matter how many times he travels back and does things differently, she always dies. This is later revealed to be because if she doesn't die, he'll never build the time machine in the first place, which would be a Time Paradox.
  • This is the whole plot of The Butterfly Effect.
  • In Lawrence of Arabia during the trek across the intensely hot Nefud Desert to Aqaba, one of Prince Faisal's men, Gasim falls off his camel during the night. Ali says it's too late to go back and that it is "Written" that he die. Lawrence goes back and saves him proving "Nothing is written!" Later, after they forge an alliance with the tribe of Auda Abu Tayi, one of his men is killed one of Faisal's. Lawrence decides to settle the dispute and save the alliance by killing the guilty man. It turns out to be Gasim. Lawrence then has to execute him with a pistol. Afterwards, when Auda asks Ali why Lawrence is upset, he tells him he brought the man he killed out of the Nefud. "Ah," Auda says, "It was written, then."
  • In Revenge of the Sith, Anakin had foreseen his beloved Padme's death and tried to find ways to prevent it, which led him to the dark side. Ultimately, he failed to prevent Padme's death.
    • Not only did he fail to prevent Padme's death, he was the direct cause of it. She "gave up on life" because she had lost him to the dark side. Also, the force choking didn't help matters too much either.
  • Young Frankenstein:

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: All right, you win. You win. I give. I'll say it. I'll say it. DESTINY! DESTINY! NO ESCAPING THAT FOR ME! DESTINY! DESTINY! NO ESCAPING THAT FOR ME!

  • The Devil in the form of the Antichrist Franco Maccalusso in the Apocalypse series pretty much knows he's doomed for the Lake Of Fire, and so decides to take as many souls with him in the Tribulation through the Mark of the Beast.
  • The Prophecy in Pirates of the Caribbean on Stranger Tides states that a one-legged man will be the doom of Blackbeard. In the end, thats exactly what happened despite Blackbeard's efforts to try to reach out to the fountain of youth to avoid that fate.
  • In Kung Fu Panda 2, the antagonist peacock Shen ordered the massacre of the entire panda population in China because of the prophecy that he will be brought down by a warrior in "Black and white". In the end, his efforts to change his fate became the very beginning of his downfall (Shen's parents banished him out for it) and sets up the chain of events that will fulfill this prophecy.


  • Happens a lot more than you think in The Bible. The book of Jonah tells one example.
    • And it's pretty much the premise of Left Behind and all Christian-related end-times fictional stories.
  • The plot of Philip K. Dick's novel The World Jones Made is driven by the titular Floyd Jones, who has the power to see one year into the future. Unfortunately, after he sees the future, he loses the ability to change the decisions he makes in that future - possibly because he's actually sending his memories back through time to his younger self.
  • In the Stationery Voyagers episode "Essentials of Nativity," Joe learns from Gabon that Minshus must be born and cannot die until some time after he is born. However, attempts to kill him before he is at least ten years old will result in entire nations being obliterated in a nuclear holocaust. So they must still defy King Hernald and save Minshus from the king's murder-happy ways; even if Hernald slaughters an entire village looking for the child.
  • In David Eddings' Belgariad, Ce'Nedra stubbornly refuses to accept the truth: that she is in love with Garion, whether she likes it or not, and that she has to go to Riva. It takes a god with a stare to die for to change her mind. The series makes a point of driving this home with a large hammer. Numerous times Polgara and Belgarath say that "Everything has already been decided." Which turns out to be true. Even minor, never to be seen again characters were born just for one particular purpose (such as the soldier heckling Ce'Nedra when she needs prodding to make an important speech).
    • Possible lampshading in the related books Belgarath the Sorcerer and Polgara the Sorceress. In those books, the titular characters spend thousands of years on assorted errands to ensure that the prophecy will be fulfilled. For example, Belgarath and Polgara practically dictated a major treaty to a sovereign power at sword point to make sure that, 500 years later, Ce'Nedra would be sent to Riva.
      • Definite lampshading in the former. The Prophecy's method of revealing information (concealing it in cryptic words until the right moment) is pretty much a necessary ploy to keep Belgarath (who hates the implications this trope) from doing things he's not supposed to.
    • While the characters can't fight their fates, at the same time, the core of the plot actually concerns two competing prophecies. One prophecy triumphing ultimately means the other gets screwed.
    • It's later revealed that it's possible to escape both fates. But it would make the universe go so far Off the Rails that the "third fate"'s outcome is unpredictable, and neither side is willing to risk that rather than accomplish the Prophecy that's good for them.
  • This is one of the two overriding themes in all of Thomas Hardy's work, the other being It Got Worse. Of course, Hardy did believe in a philosophy called "fatalism", in which this trope is the central tenet.
  • Cersei Lannister in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire is haunted by a childhood prophecy that has successfully predicted several events of her life; this prophecy also predicts that she will outlive all her children, that she will be supplanted by a younger and more beautiful queen, and that her little brother will strangle her. All of her attempts to prevent these things from happening only serve to alienate those around her.
    • Running tally: Joffrey is dead, Tommen's fate is largely dependent on her own (outlook not good), and Myrcella is surrounded by people who, while they don't wish her harm, will use her to gain power. Sansa Stark is being groomed for rulership by Littlefinger, Margaery Tyrell isn't dead yet, and let's not forget Dany Targaryen. And she has begun to alienate Jaime--also her younger brother, if only by minutes--while Tyrion yet lives.
    • On the other hand, The Stallion That Mounts the World, a prophesied warrior destined to become the greatest of kings and lead the Dothraki across the sea died, stillborn. Unless of course, the prophecy actually referred to Dany and the ones speaking got it wrong. Given that this is apparently the case with Stannis and Melisandre, it's quite possible.
  • A major plot point in Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife. Henry realizes there is absolutely nothing he can do to change the past, when he tried (and failed) numerous times to warn a mother that her child is about to be in an accident, and when he had to witness his mother's death over 50 times without being able to prevent it. The story doesn't delve into what would happen if any of the characters ever did try to change their fate - they simply accepted the fact that they couldn't.
  • In H. Beam Piper's short story The Edge of the Knife, a history professor remembers flashes of the future as well as the past; what he doesn't always remember is "the edge of the knife" - the knife-blade moment of the present separating the two - and so he gets into trouble for things like looking for books in the university library that won't be written for several hundred years, because he wants to draw analogies between two different historical situations. He copes with all this by thinking of events being just as much historical facts if they happened yesterday or will happen in the future.
  • The Tim Powers novel Three Days to Never has an interesting twist on this: one character, a Mossad agent, keeps having premonitions of things he will never do again (e.g. he hears a ringing phone and realizes that's the last time he will ever hear a ringing phone). The first time it happened—he touched something and received the premonition that he would never touch it again—he immediately tried to prove the premonition wrong, and not only failed but got his hand horribly disfigured instead. In the end, we're never actually shown why he has these premonitions, but they all come right when he dies.
  • Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens.
    • Adam decides that it doesn't matter what is Written, because you can always cross it out.
    • It reaches the point that two main characters realize they can pick any part of the book of prophecy at random and be assured that it'll be one relevant to their situation.
  • Played straight and subverted in The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
    • Early in the book a psychic sees the future burning of Ankh-Morpork, and races off away only to be killed in an avalanche - proving that Death also has a sense of humour
    • Later, Rincewind sees Death, who's surprised to meet the failed wizard, since he has an appointment with Rincewind the next day in another city. Death even offers to lend Rincewind a fast horse, but wisely he doesn't take up the offer. (This is Pratchett's take on an old Arab legend - see below under Oral Tradition.)
  • Norman Spinrad's short story "The Weed of Time". The victim - er, narrator - remembered the entirety of his 110-year life from the moment of his birth. An expedition to another planet brought back the weed which caused the precognition effect and it had been released accidentally and grew wild. The experience drives him insane, because he cannot change any of the events he experiences.
  • Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5 takes this to the extreme, with the protagonist hallucinating himself a theory about the non-existence of free will, involving Mental Time Travel and aliens. He does this in to make sense of what he saw during World War II.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Iluvatar (God) acts mostly through fate: Gandalf tells Frodo that "there are other forces at work in the could say Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, in which case you were also meant to have it." Being a demi-god, he has seen a vision of the history of the universe before it was made, and therefore is able to predict that Gollum would destroy the Ring.
    • The Lord of the Nazgul not only fits this trope but implies that Fate has backup plans. The prophecy that no man could harm him proved insufficient in the face of being opposed by the woman Eowyn and the Hobbit Merry, one of whom is not a man by gender while the other is not a Man by race. However, it can be argued that Fate originally meant for the Nazgul Lord to face Gandalf who is also not a Man, but an immortal Maia and had to go to Plan B after Denethor's attempt to kill himself and his son forced Gandalf away from the battle at the crucial moment. If so, then it's a Plan B that was thought out well in advance, because many months earlier Merry just happened to acquire a knife that was engraved with spells to defeat the Witch-King of Angmar, who just happened to be the selfsame Lord of the Nazgul, without which his stroke might not have weakened the Nazgul's power sufficiently for Eowyn to deliver the final coup. But that bit's not in the movie.
    • The basic plot point of the story of Túrin Turambar, thanks to Morgoth's curse on Húrin's family.
    • Also the point of the Doom of Mandos, which states that the Feanorians will never complete their oath.
    • Sador quit the army after having his fill of violence, only to lose his foot in a wood-cutting accident.
A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it.
—Sador Labadal

"Be at ease," she advised. "If Thog wishes you, he will take you, wherever you are. That man you mentioned, who screamed and ran — did you not hear him give one great cry, and then fall silent? In his frenzy, he must have run full into that which he sought to escape. No man can avoid his fate."

  • Explicitly the case in The Wheel of Time. Several events that occur, occur because they are in the Pattern woven by the Wheel. The Power Trio in particular cause people to take their fated roles in prophecy, and conversely have their own actions dictated by the Pattern at many points.
  • Matched by Ally Condie. Somewhat of a variation, actually; Cassia tries to go against the society, but they've seen it all before. No matter how hard Cassia tries, the society's data is always one step ahead.
  • In Powerless, Rowan uses this explanation, verbatim, when trying to convince Daniel not to try to find out what happens when the super kids turn 13 and lose their powers and memories. Daniel ignores this, and it turns out that you can fight fate...if fate turns out to be a power hungry old man covered in shadows, and not actually fate.
  • This trope is actually part of the draw of Machine of Death Many characters try to subvert their, or other peoples, predictions out of fear or wanting to prove the machine wrong. You explicitly know they die of whatever their paper says anyway, but according to the comic that spawned the project "part of the fun would be seeing how".
  • This is explicitly the case in Time Scout. You can act in the past, picking things up, talking to people, even killing people. However, if someone is crucial to some later act, he cannot be killed. YOU can, though, so you should be careful not to anger the wrong person. Paradox will be averted through a convenient coincidence.
  • This is a primary theme of The Craw Trilogy. The series is about a cycle of death and rebirth of Odin and Fenris. Vali, Feileg, and Adisla are destined to live out the roles they play in this cycle until Ragnarok. This cycle is in place because of Odin trying to fight/delay his fate by having his destiny play out on Earth because when the cycle is broken the Norns will set Ragnarok in motion and end the era of the Norse gods for good. Wolfsangel plays this trope straight but Fenrir lays the groundwork for possibly breaking the cycle in the next book.
  • Discussed Trope in Septimus Heap, where Septimus questions Marcellus Pye's intentions on creating a potion that gives eternal life along with eternal youth, since Marcellus has already taken the potion for eternal life already and Septimus saw him a withered old man 500 years later in Septimus's own time.

Live-Action TV

  • Partially subverted and partially played straight in Angel: a dark and seemingly inevitable prophecy forming one of the major plots of Season Three was ultimately revealed to be an elaborate Gambit Roulette on the part of time-traveling Big Bad Sajjhan, who wanted Connor killed off before he could fulfill the true prophecy: causing the death of Sajjhan. Ultimately, however, the true prophecy comes to does the fake one..
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Help": A teenager has had premonitions about her own untimely death. Buffy saves her from homicidal maniacs, a demon, and a Death Trap, but she has a heart condition and dies anyway.
  • Similarly (only with Time Travel), the Heroes episode "Six Months Ago" has Hiro finding out that the waitress that he's been trying to save from Sylar is already dying from a blood clot on her brain.
  • On seasons 3 & 4 of Lost many characters cannot be killed or die (Michael, Locke, Jack) because "the island needs them". Similarly, many characters are fated to die and any attempts to save them only postpone the inevitable.
  • The Monty Python's Flying Circus episode "The Cycling Tour" plays with this trope for comic effect. Mr. Pither accepts a lift from Mr. Gulliver, whose company has been developing food that can predict accidents and avoid them ("Even if it's in your stomach, and it senses an accident it will come up your throat and out of the window"). While Gulliver is explaining this one of his experimental tomatoes ejects itself from the car. Gulliver is so excited that it works that he loses control of the car, causing the very accident that the tomato had predicted.
  • The Red Dwarf episode Cassandra featured a computer that could tell the future. In a perfect example of You Can't Fight Fate, after it had foretold that certain characters would leave alive, a gun was pointed in their face and the trigger pulled. Naturally, it jammed. When pointed at another character who she foretold would die, it worked perfectly. This trope was then used almost word for word to seduce another character, since the computer had foretold he'd die while having sex with her. (When her boyfriend caught them in the act) But in the end, it turned out she was lying to cause jealousy. She foresaw that the boyfriend would kill her. He realized this and tried to avoid it, saying he wasn't going to kill her, but through a Rube Goldberg series of events ends up killing her anyway.
    • Note: Lister, who was foretold would kill Cassandra, wasn't dating Kochanski but it was foretold that he would kill Arnold with a harpoon gun as 'Rimmer' died of a heart attack after being told he would, but it was actually the captain of the squad wearing Rimmer's jacket with Rimmer's name on it. This was Rimmer's attempt at screwing destiny. This was all part of Cassandra's scheme as she knew she would die and rather sees 'visions' of the future rather than actual predictions as some of her 'predictions' are unclear even to her and thus attempts to take down whoever she can before she dies.
    • Future Echoes. Basically each character sees "future echoes" which are events happening in the future, which will happen to the characters at some point as the ship is going past light speed. As they go faster past it, the echoes are in the more distant future. At one point, Lister sees the Cat with a broken tooth. Lister runs off to find the Cat to prevent it, and just as the Cat is about to eat the robotic fish inside the tank (which would of course, break his tooth), the two struggle, with Lister trying to stop the Cat eating the fish. In this struggle, the Cat knocks his tooth off a corner of the ledge where the tank is, thereby breaking his tooth anyway.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode, "The City on the Edge of Forever", Edith Keeler must die so that Germany doesn't win World War II and wipe the Federation from existence. (Had she lived, she would have founded a peace movement that would have delayed the United States' entry into the European front of WWII, allowing Nazi Germany sufficient time to develop the atomic bomb and thus win the war.)
  • The classic Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Cause and Effect makes a point of this trope when Dr Crusher very deliberately tries to avoid breaking her glass in the next loop but just ends up breaking it another way.
  • Every Deal with the Devil on Supernatural ends with hell, no matter if you're a guest star or one of the leads.
    • Well, they did save the one guy who only made the deal to save his wife...but no one since.
    • Of course, as the fourth season opener reveals, you can still get out with a little help from above.
    • In a more typical example of the trope, the episode "The Monster at the End of This Book" reveals that there's a man with the gift of divine prophecy whose prophecies always come true, even when Sam and Dean try to avert them--which doesn't discount the possibility of a Prophecy Twist if the prophet doesn't see the whole scene.
  • Power Rangers features a variant across several series- you can change the future, but it makes things worse. Much worse. In Power Rangers Turbo, a robot goes back in time to prevent a war that was to happen two years later. It happened the next year instead. To say that the war ended well is pretty much lying.
    • For a Sentai example, the original Sixth Ranger Burai of Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger is told shortly after his introduction that he will die in 40 hours. This can be halted for awhile so long as he doesn't try to fight the bad guys but he needs to save the others often and whenever he does more of his remaining time ticks away. Just about every moment he appears in has somebody trying to find a way to prevent this, but they eventually find out that no, not even the gods can save him, his time has come. Sure enough he dies shortly before the finale, although he managed to make peace with himself and his impending death and dies with no regrets.
      • Another variant for another Sentai is another Sixth Ranger of Mirai Sentai Timeranger TimeFire who is also destined to die. Here it's not as specific. TimeFire will die, but as the ranger and not the person, meaning anybody could fulfill this destiny as TimeFire. The original TimeFire found this out and did his best to make sure somebody else took over for him ASAP. Sure enough the new TimeFire dies in the battle he was destined to die in, but the original's selfish scheme is discovered by the other Rangers, who promptly kill him anyway.
      • In Mahou Sentai Magiranger any time prophetic flashes, visions, or just straight up prophecies are brought up, they will come true. But once they have come true, there's nothing to stop anyone from undoing them.
  • In Star Trek, if you attempt The Kobayashi Maru scenario, it will result in failure, no matter what you do. Unless you hack the simulation program.
    • You can also refuse to do the main part of the simulation claiming it's a trap.
  • On Reaper, one guy manages to weasel out of his Deal with the Devil. The Devil gets his soul anyway.
  • "Profile in Silver", an episode of the 80s revival of The Twilight Zone, played with this trope. A historian from the future (who happened to be a direct descendant of John F. Kennedy) prevented Kennedy's assassination, only to set in motion events that would bring about a nuclear exchange between the U.S. and Russia. He manages to set things right by taking JFK's place in the motorcade, and Kennedy himself becomes a history teacher in his descendant's future.
    • Several Sixties-era episodes used this, both times in the form of time travel - one tries to prevent Lincoln's assassination, the other tries to avert catastrophes (Hiroshima, killing Adolf Hitler, et cetera). Neither of them can change anything, obviously.
  • In the Hercules: The Legendary Journeys two part adventure "Armageddon Now", Callisto goes back in time to prevent who she thinks was Xena: Warrior Princess (because her army was in the village) from killing her parents. While trying to protect her family from Xena's army, the adult Callisto accidentally kills her own father & mother.
  • The entire point of FlashForward's plot, where everyone on earth blacks out and, if they survived, sees a Flash Forward of themselves six months into the future (except for Harold). For instance, Joseph Fienne's character sees that he's on a taskforce to find the source of the blackouts, and when he wakes up his investigations land him on...a taskforce to discover the source of the blackouts.
    • Subverted when Harold's character, Demetri, survives March 15, the day that he was predicted to have been killed. The episode still plays it straight with villain Dyson Frost (who also predicted his own death on that date) dies.
    • Olivia highlights a major piece of Fridge Logic: since the flash forwards are everyone's precise vision of the same 2-minute period, you can avert your flash forward simply by ensuring that on April 29 you are as far away from where you saw yourself in your vision.
    • Quadruple-subverted with the Blue Hand Group: people who didn't have flash forwards since they'll be dead before April 29 and engage in risky behavior, as they think they have nothing to live for. When some of them live because others decided to Screw Destiny, their members start dying before April 29 anyway, in the same manner as they were predicted to. Lloyd thinks its fate trying to correct discrepancies but it turns out to be the Blue Hand's former leader doing what he thinks is fate's work. Double-subverted again when the FBI tries to stop him from running over his last victim, only for one agent to accidentally hit her with her car, proving Lloyd's theory that if you prevent your flash forward, someone else will just take your place in the sequence of events.
  • The Outer Limits had its own tendency to mess with this concept. Gettysburg is a great example. A mysterious time traveler, who had appeared in previous episodes, returns. However, this time, instead attempting to arrange "justice" against villains from the past while remaining consistent with recorded history, he is attempting to directly change what happened. Specifically, he hopes to avoid the assassination of the first black president in 2013, regarded as one of America's greatest leaders, by a Southern Sympathizer whose beliefs are all tied up in the Glory of the Confederacy. The time traveler sends the guy back from a Gettysburg re-enactment to the real battle where he serves under an insane commander and faces the true harshness of the war and his supported side. He learns his lesson, and comes face-to-face with his ancestor, whose self-serving cowardice contradicts the impressive legend that he had idolized during his youth, and he rejects extremism and the no-longer noble rebellion against the government. However, the insane commander from Gettysburg is accidently transported to the 2013 date and, while trying to kill "Lincoln," manages to assassinate the president anyway.
  • "A Determined Woman", an episode of the Dawn French comedy anthology series Murder Most Horrid, tells the tragicomic story of an inventor (French) working on a time machine, who gets so annoyed with her idiot husband disrupting her work that she hits him with a spanner, a little harder than she intended...some years later, after serving time for his manslaughter, she completes her time machine and goes back to try and save him, only to discover that her attempts to prevent his death were what caused it in the first place.
  • In Doctor Who, the Time Lords of Gallifrey (currently personified in one remaining member) are able to see the bend and flow of space-time to the point that they know when an event inevitably MUST happen in the grand cosmic scheme, and when certain things are permissibly malleable. The latter fact results in Donna convincing the Doctor to save a Roman family that they've befriended in Pompeii in 79 CE, even while he cannot will not stop the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, no matter how many may be perishing.
    • Though it did turn out that it was the Doctor who actually caused the eruption of Vesuvius, because it was the lesser of two evils. It was either that or let the rock monsters take over the entire Earth.
    • "He will knock four times and then you will die." There were an awful lot of dangerous but non-deadly four-beat noises before the end came.
    • In "The Waters of Mars" the Doctor handles a "fixed point" differently, instead breaking his own rules and challenging time. Of course, everything then goes wrong and the woman he saved kills herself to stop him.
      • Though that could be less to do with destiny and more to do with the fact he told her she was supposed to die and was placing a whole timeline of prosperity in jeopardy by letting her live. Could alternatively be viewed as the Doctor blaming destiny instead of his own idiocy for not realizing how a distraught person with a gun was likely to react.
    • Related to the above was River's attempt to stop the Doctor's death. It was a fixed point in time and, when it failed to happen, time literally began to disintegrate. But as it turns out, the Doctor had a better plan all along.
    • In Frontios, Turlough has Norna pick a hand and when that chosen hand has a good luck piece in, claims that it clearly shows that he can't fight destiny. In fact, he had one in both hands, because he knew what he ought to do.
  • Miyuki Tezuka/Kamen Rider Raia from Kamen Rider Ryuki, a psychic who claims his visions are always accurate, believes this. When he foresees the death of his friend Shinji Kido/Ryuki, however, he lies and tells Shinji that he foresaw his own death. During a later battle, Miyuki takes the metaphorical bullet for Shinji, averting his own prediction but turning his lie into a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
  • The X-Files episode "Synchrony" presents the case of a strange old man warning an MIT student and professor that the student is going to die at a specific time - because of this warning the professor, attempting to save the student, ends up accidentally pushing him into the path of an oncoming bus and thus the warning is a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. The old man is actually the professor from the future, who has traveled back in time attempting to Set Right What Will Go Wrong and prevent an impending scientific breakthrough that would be made by the professor in collaboration with his girlfriend, also a scientist, and the student, and which would be a catalyst for a catastrophic technological development. Mulder cites an old theory of Scully's about how the future can't be altered, and so the old man's efforts are probably doomed. Although the professor manages to kill both his present and future selves and erase all of his files, as the episode ends, the girlfriend is continuing the research on her own with backups of the erased data.
  • In The Unusuals episode "42" Detective Banks has to keep saving a woman who foresees several bus robberies and tries to die during one (and tries again, and again, because Banks keeps saving her) because she believes she's fated to do so. He finally convinces her that you make your own fate, only for her to die in a bus crash at like 11:50pm.
  • In WWE, whoever competes against The Undertaker at Wrestlemania is destined to lose. Long live the Streak.
  • Dark Oracle: Attempts at preventing the comic's predictions from coming true inevitably result in a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
  • Quantum Leap played with this. In each episode, Sam's goal was to fight a particular piece of fate, and he invariably won. However, when he and Al occasionally tried to change other things in their own personal interest, they were unable to do so. For example, in MIA, Al lied to Sam about what his goal was, and had him try to stop Al's own wife Beth from remarrying while he was a prisoner of war. Whatever Sam did to keep Beth away from her future second husband, they kept bumping into each other in unlikely places. Sam was actually there to stop a cop getting shot. In The Leap Home, Part 1, Sam could not convince his father to take up a healthier lifestyle and live longer, or stop his brother from going to Vietnam and getting killed, because his only goal for the episode was to win a basketball game. It seems the Unknown Force only unlocked little bits of fate at a time. Sam did save both his brother's life and Al's marriage in later episodes, though.

Oral Tradition, Folklore, Myths and Legends

  • The ancient Greeks loved these types of stories:
    • Gaia and Ouranos prophesied that Kronos would be overthrown by one of his sons, so he ate each son as it was born. His wife kept their last son, Zeus, hidden, so that Zeus could eventually fulfill the prophesy (as told in Theogony by Hesiod).
    • Acrisius consulted the Oracle of Delphi, and found that he was fated to be slain by the son of his daughter. As such, he locked his still-maiden daughter Danae in a tower. Zeus came to her in a shower of gold and fathered Perseus. So Acrisius puts Perseus and his daughter in a wooden chest and throws them into the sea. Eventually, Perseus unwittingly kills his now-old grandfather in an accident at the Olympic Games.
    • Oedipus and his story revolve around this trope: He was prophesied to slay his father and wed his mother. It is an especially ironic example because after receiving the same prophecy his parents received and abandoned him for, Oedipus in turn exiles himself away from his foster father for fear of killing him, with no suspicion that his adoptive parents are not his real parents. In short, everything that the characters do to avoid the prophecy is necessary to make the prophecy come true.
    • Two other famous cases involve the Oracle at Delphi; in the first, a man prophesied to die in the sea spends his life avoiding the ocean, only to die in a forest the locals call "The Sea"; in another, King Croesus is told that a great empire will fall if he goes to war, wrongly assuming it will be his enemy's.
  • This trope is also all over Norse Mythology. If anything, this was the real Norse hat, having four different words meaning inescapable fate, one of them being "dom". Even the gods cant fight their fate, when Ragnarok hits the fan.
  • An ancient Arab legend tells about a man who saw Death staring at him and fled to faraway Samarra to avoid him. When somebody asked Death why he'd been staring at the man he said, "I was surprised to see him here because I'm appointed to meet him in Samarra next week."
  • Older Than Dirt: In the ancient Egyptian story Princes Ahura: The Magic Book, the prince and his family cannot escape the punishment the gods decree for their sacrelige of stealing the holy Book of Thoth. They try, but it catches up no matter what they do. In the end the prince, his sister/wife, and their son die.

Tabletop Games

  • In GURPS: Thaumatology there are items that force a Destiny on the owner, causing them to fulfill it whether they want to or not. The Destiny doesn't run out either, an item that makes one person King of England will also make the next person who picks it up into the King of England.
  • Duke Rowan Darkwood in Planescape gets screwed over by this in spades, becoming destined to be the person who instigates (as the ancient wizard rumored to have crafted a spell that can destroy the Lady of Pain), starts (as Rowan Darkwood), and ends (as Gifad, who coaxes the party to help him cast the Sigil Spell) the Faction War all in one go. And all this time, the Lady of Pain had controlled everything...
  • Exalted has samsara, the concept that if you look upon Fate for absolute knowledge, then you must go with the results without any chance of deviating. That's why the Five Maidens are loath to look on samsara for knowledge. It's also why everyone wants to keep the Yozi Sacheverell asleep; whether he looks upon the present or the future with utter clarity depends on whether he's asleep or awake, and as long as he's asleep, free will is an option.


  • Subverted in Calderon's Life is a Dream, where Segismund is prophecied to kill his father, King Basil of Poland, and become an Evil Overlord. Because of this, Basil locks Segismund away in a tower in the mountains, which angers him. For a while, the play really, really looks like it's going to end with Segismund killing Basil. It doesn't. Although he does actually kill his mother, but that was an accident.
  • A Tear Jerker example is the theme of Our Town.
  • Macbeth. A whole bunch of Macbeth.[context?]
  • The point of most Greek tragedies.[context?]


  • In Bionicle, generally speaking, anyone who tries to avoid their destiny fails. Makuta was supposed to help Mata Nui repair the shattered planet Spheres Magna, but turned evil and tried to take over. When the two eventually fought, Makuta ended up drawing in the two fragments in an attempt to attack Mata Nui, one of which hit him in the back of the head and killed him. Thanks to Makuta pulling the planet chunks closer, Mata Nui is able to finish the job on his own.
    • Prior to that Makuta actually exploited this to his advantage: He had put Mata Nui to sleep, but a group of Toa heroes were destined to wake him up again. Rather than try to stop the heroes at all costs, he arranged things so that reviving Mata Nui could give him even more power.

Video Games

  • In Radiant Historia all the things that happened were just a Xanatos Gambit from the twins to, not only save the world, but also to make Heiss accept his fate of being the sacrifice
  • In God of War, Kratos finds you can not only fight Fate, you can kill them too.
    • Averted in a sense. Kratos was able to fight the Sisters of Fate, but in the game itself and the more recent ones it was revealed Kratos was fated to destroy Olympus. The implication being even the Sisters were bound by some higher power they could not control.
  • Half of the Legacy of Kain series revolves around this trope. The other half revolves around Screw Destiny. It's...complicated.
    • In Soul Reaver 2 despite rampant time-travel, different versions of the Reaver existing at the same time, and killing himself with his own soul, at the end Raziel realizes that he never escaped his terrible destiny; he had merely postponed it. History abhors a paradox.
  • In Final Fantasy XII, the main plot of the big bad is to win the power of the gods to control humanity's own history. Not so evil after all. He both succeeds and loses, which sucks.
  • Final Fantasy XIII-2 focuses on Time Travel to avoid a Bad Future. Despite going into various decades, centuries, alternate centuries or even obtaining the paradox endings, it always ends with Etro dying, time itself being destroyed and the Caius achieving his goal.
  • Mega Man X 5 has three different scenarios (two for X, one of which is non-canon, and one for Zero), depending on the Luck-Based Mission of the game. However, whichever scenario is played out, the Boss Battle in the penultimate stage will always be X vs. Zero, their prophecy finally being carried out.
  • The Armageddon in Odin Sphere. You can't stop it, but you can make it even worse if you don't fulfill the prophecy exactly.
  • The main plot of Summoner. The evil emperor Murod is told that his reign will be brought to an end by a summoner. So he spends his life finding the summoner, causing the destruction of his village, and later of the kingdom the summoner is from. This causes the summoner to fight and eventually kill Murod. Ironically, had he done nothing about it, said Summoner would have lived a happy life as a mere farmer.
  • Kratos from Tales of Symphonia tends to mention fate a lot in his battle quotes, such as saying "You can never escape fate." Considering what happened to him, it might be very justified.
  • In spite of the Time Travel, Allies will always win.
  • Present for the Big Bad in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Echoes of Time. Larkeicus's plan is to stop an event that's about to happen from causing crystals to disappear from the world 2,000 years in the past (...somehow). He calculates the exact time and location of the event, which is in the middle of the air. So he builds a tower to reach that point. After you defeat him, Sherlotta tells him something along the lines of, "If there wasn't this tower, what could have possibly happened, all the way up here?". She then follows up by essentially stating this trope.
  • Prince of Persia: In Warrior Within/Revelations you are chased by an unstoppable monster sent to kill you because you changed the timeline and it was bad. It is implied that it was sent by the gods. So, what do you do? In the alternative/proper ending you find a magical mask that lets you exist in two places at once. You let your other self get killed to free yourself from destiny and then you stop destiny again using a magical sword to destroy the monster.
  • In Chrono Cross, you literally fight fate, or rather, FATE. Of course, things don't exactly go smoothly afterwards...
    • You get several opportunities (and multiple playthroughs) to try and avoid the stabbing scene which was foreshadowed in the opening sequences. It doesn't work, of course.
  • A good part of the common backstory of the Kusanagi, Yasakani/Yagami, and Yata/Kagura clans in The King of Fighters relates to how they cannot escape from fighting the Orochi clan.
  • The Big Bad Dierker in The Saboteur said to Devlin in the Zeppelin "You should have died under my knife. Not like this.". Despite Dierker's Devil Luck to survive every ambush and attacks Devlin throws at him throughout the game, ultimately Devlin gets to kill him for good in the ending, showing Dierker can't fight his fate of dying.
  • In the ending of Tales of Destiny 2, Kyle STILL ends up meeting Reala in the very same place they did before despite what happened after the final battle. Coincidence?
  • Sunset Over Imdahl is particularly evil about this trope, since the entire plot is the main character's attempt to Set Right What Once Went Wrong (and his supposed ally's successful attempt to make it go wrong in the first place.) There's only one apparent change: while in the beginning the hero was the last survivor, in the end he gets a decent burial and a tombstone, while others are dumped in a mass grave.
  • The Stable Time Loop in Final Fantasy VIII involves some elements of this trope. Ellone repeatedly sends Squall's consciousness into the past in an effort to change it, but concludes after repeated failures that changing the past is impossible. The Big Bad also mucks around in the past in an effort to change it, but although the meddling causes quite a bit of trouble for everyone involved, it ends up causing the very results it was intended to prevent.
    • Squall himself also catches some You Can't Fight Fate; he doesn't want to be in charge of anything and takes it very badly when he's summarily appointed leader of SeeD thanks to Cid's knowledge of the Stable Time Loop, but not only does he grow into and accept the role as his destiny, he also gives Edea the information which she and Cid use to found SeeD and put him in charge in the first place.
  • The villains in the House of the Dead frequently use this as a part of their Hannibal Lecture.
  • Castlevania: Lords of Shadow has Gabriel Belmont attempting to Screw Destiny, but no matter how hard he does, he cannot change it, and he cannot avoid it. Not only does he fail to save his love from death, but he also becomes Dracula as the prophecy plays out; he also falls victim to Satan's Xanatos Gambit all along...
  • In the not yet released Crossover Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney features a girl, who's fate as written in the 'storytellers' book' is to die. The girl thinks that her death is her fate while Phoenix is sure that she will not die.
  • Sailor Moon: Another Story is about you teaching bad guys about this. Well...yeah.
  • Fear Effect. The second game strongly gives off this message, if the things the Eight Immortals say are anything to go by.
  • Game Mod Red Alert 3 Paradox plays with this trope by having it in its motto: "You can't change the universe without repercussions...", as in "Time Travel can only make the universe worse".
  • In Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, this was the case since the dawn of time. The Fateless One is special because he/she is Immune to Fate, and thus is the only person in existence who can Screw Destiny. Everyone else, even gods, can't change their fates.
  • This is a large part of the character of Nozdormu, the Aspect of Time, in World of Warcraft; he was shown the exact moment and cause of his death when he was first given his powers, but can do nothing to change it because of his role as leader of the Time Police. Plus, he knew about the betrayal of his friend Neltharion and subsequent transformation to Deathwing, and that Malygos would snap when Blue dragons nearly went extinct. The best example of this, though, is that Nozdormu also knows that he will eventually become Murozond, the leader of the Infinite Dragons who are screwing with history. And he accepts it, even if the thought terrifies him. He got better about it as of Thrall Twilight of the Aspects, deciding to only focus on the here and now, even if he knows for a fact what the future holds. "All that matters is this moment."
  • In Diablo III the Scroll of Fate dictates the fate of everything in existence. The only ones who can fight fate are the Nephalem (the player characters) since the Scroll of Fate doesn't mention them. Their fate is literally unwritten. This is good news for Heaven, since the Angels are otherwise destined to fall to the Prime Evil.

Visual Novels

  • In Fate/stay night, Gae Bolg works on this principle. It's a weapon that reverses causality: instead of the attack puncturing the heart, the heart is punctured and THEN the attack lands.
    • Still doesn't keep Saber from avoiding death, using her canonical luckiness and extreme skill to ensure it only grazes her heart. Fate is thus unavoidable, but you can escape the worst of it.
  • Even if Ange from Umineko no Naku Koro ni changes the past and helps Battler come home, Battler still won't have come home, because it already didn't happen that way.
    • Though in the canonical ending, Battler is one of the only two survivors of the incident on the island, and the whole series is basically his dying dream. He does come out of his coma once he figures everything out, only to die shortly after. So the whole scenario is flipped around: No matter what happens, everyone but Battler and Eva are going to die on the island since that's simply how it happened. Or Is It?

Web Comics

Our otherworldly antagonists have assured us of our inevitable failure repeatedly, while the gods whisper corroboration in my sleep. I believe them now. I just blew up my first gate. I'm not sure why I did it, really. I'm not playing by the rules anymore. I will fly around this candy-coated rock and comb the white sand until I find answers. No one can tell me our fate can't be repaired. We've come too far. I jumped out of the way of a fucking burning tree, for God's sake.

    • Offshoots don't always veer off into non-existence though, as sometimes Paradox Space finds ways to make sure that all parties that would be altered in the new timeline meet a swift demise, as a Dave and one set of Trolls found out the hard way.
    • It also doesn't help the issue that we as the reader know the future, but characters in canon do not.
      • In short, in Homestuck not only can you not fight fate, if you do manage to split away from the main timeline, a quasi magical force known as Paradox Space will doom you all to a horrible death. Probably.
  • This is Wanda's whole philosophy in Erfworld: everyone's fate is sealed, and the best they can do is accept it and let it run as smoothly and painlessly as possible.
    • Fate is a powerful magic in Erfworld, you're never exactly sure how powerful. Carnymancy is a Fate-aligned magic based on "rigging the game".
    • Wanda's Start of Darkness shows the one time she tried to fight Fate. Wanda eventually got dragged back into the role Fate had in store for her and her older brother was murdered by someone he would have never met if Wanda had just gone along with Fate.
  • Bob and George: I knew he was going to say that.
  • In Sinfest, Squidley, after a moment dramatically contemplating a universe where free will is mockery, says "sure, why not?"
  • In Spinnerette, this rule is what gives Benjamin Franklin superpowers.

Web Original

  • Done for laughs in Red vs. Blue, when Church repeatedly goes back in time, to try to keep "a lot of really weird and totally inexplicable stuff" from happening. It doesn't work. Mostly, either his plan fails, or he actually causes the event he was trying to prevent, including his own death. He also seems to selectively forget his mistakes, since he still blames Caboose for the tank incident, even though Caboose wasn't really at fault at all.
  • In The End, whenever Brendon meets someone new he receives a vision of the end of that relationship and he cannot change what he sees. His only choices are to accept fate or not to pursue that relationship at all.

Western Animation

  • In South Park, Craig Tucker is this during the episode "Pandemic 2: The Startling".
  • In the Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers episode "Seer No Evil", a gypsy moth named Cassandra gives a series of unlikely predictions to everyone except Zipper, but they all end in different ways than expected. Monterey Jack gets a pink fur coat (he gets covered in cotton candy), Gadget would have a run-in with a tall, dark stranger (specifically, the Villain of the Week's monkey), Dale would fly without wings (a magnet picks him up after he gets his foot stuck in a thimble), and Chip would end up running into an elephant and get crushed by a trunk, implying that he would die. However, it was an automated elephant at the entrance of the fun house, and the trunk in question had all of the stolen loot as well as Dale, Monty, and Gadget trapped inside, and they used force to knock it down and pry it open. Luckily, Chip didn't die, because there was a hole in the floor.
  • Danny Phantom's future self. The circumstances will be different, but the outcome generally the same. His present/past self says "Screw Destiny" and appears to have avoided that fate...but did gain a useful ability.
  • The Fairly OddParents, "The Secret Origin of Denzel Crocker":

Timmy: NO! This is exactly what I was trying! To! Prevent!

  • Comes up several times in Gargoyles, thanks to the Phoenix Gate's ability to Time Travel:
    • During his first experience with Time Travel, Goliath ends up in his own past and implores the past version of Demona not to make the same bad decisions that led to her becoming his enemy. When he returns to the present, Demona taunts him with the knowledge that she remembered that confrontation all along and that his efforts changed nothing. Interestingly, the bad guy she had teamed up with, Xanatos, already understands what the gargoyles will only later pick up about time travel, he's just there to arrange what he already knew happened, not to change anything.
    • Later, Goliath attempts to use the time-travelling Phoenix Gate to save Griff from being killed during the Blitz in WWII London, after being accused of abandoning or murdering Griff by his companions. With increasingly improbable incidents occurring that indicates the universe has decided Griff is its new Chew Toy, Goliath ultimately concludes that fate will not allow Griff to get home and uses the Phoenix Gate to bring Griff back with him to the present, thus causing his original disappearance.
    • A particularly strange timeloop appears when the archmage, while falling to his death, is saved by his future self. This future self gives him some extra powers and instructions and after what can't have been more than a few hours sends him off to save what now is his past self.
    • By the end of the Avalon arc, Goliath has learned his lesson enough that, faced with a dystopian future vision of things that will happen to his friends and allies and asked by Elisa to give her the Phoenix Gate in order to fix things, he refuses, stating that time and fate are immutable and cannot be changed. As it turns out the whole experience was staged by Puck as a gambit to obtain the Phoenix Gate for himself, so Goliath is presented as making the right choice.
      • Essentially, Gargoyles manages to avoid the Timey-Wimey Ball by sticking with one rule of time paradox.
  • In Disney's Hercules, Hades is given a prophecy by the Fates that Hercules will defeat Hades' rule over Mt. Olympus in 18 years. You can guess how THAT went down!
    • And yet, it should be noted that when Hades had Hercules trade away his strength for 24 hours, he also broke his spirit, so he almost succeeded in removing him from the game as a fighter. And THEN he had the bright idea of sending the Cyclops to eliminate Hercules for good, thus prompting Meg to go get Phil, thus leading to Hercules's victory, thus leading to Meg getting hurt, Hercules gets his strength back, and the Titans are thrown for a loop. (So close, and then you had to kill him right then!)
  • The Powerpuff Girls: After some Time Travel, Mojo Jojo chucks a young Utonium into the town volcano. However, the PPGs have travelled as well, and not only do they save Utonium, it turns out that this incident is what got him into science...and eventually led to the PPGs' creation.
  • This trope was done in The Ned Zone, one of The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episodes where Ned can foretell people's deaths, and has a vision showing himself killing Homer. He believes he's managed to avert the vision, but then has another vision of Homer causing an explosion at the nuclear power plant that destroys the town. In the course of stopping Homer from causing the explosion, he ends up fulfilling the original prediction, but Homer manages to cause the explosion anyway.
  • Teen Titans spent several episodes of the fourth season dealing with Raven's prophecied role as the instrument by which her father would enter and end the world. Despite hers and her friends' efforts of preventing it, she does become the portal for Trigon to get to Earth and destroy it...they just fix it afterward.
  • An episode of Jacob Two Two starts with Jacob accidentally destroying his older brother's priceless, never-been-played Beatles record, and discovering a time machine that will let him go back to when he broke it. But every single time he tries to fix it, things turn out worse, culminating in their entire house being destroyed (along with the record). Jacob finally gives up trying to save the record, and uses the time machine one last time to recreate the original incident (where just the record is broken and nothing else). And then he happens upon another copy of I want to Hold Your Hand. Yay! And then Daniel accidentally breaks that copy, too.
  • In Futurama Fry kills his own grandfather, but turns out to be his own grandfather after all (explaining his unusual brain structure, or lack thereof), so the Futurama timespace seems to be either impossible to change, or self-correcting.
    • Doom coefficient, anyone?
  • The Justice League Unlimited episode "Epilogue" (also a Fully-Absorbed Finale for Batman Beyond) has former CADMUS leader Amanda Waller explaining to Terry how her branch engineered his entire life to be the next Batman, from arranging for him to be conceived with Bruce Wayne's DNA instead of his actual father's, to setting up the Death by Origin Story of his parents. The assassin they contracted for that purpose refused to go through with it, leaving the McGinnis family alive. Fate had other plans, however and Terry's father was later murdered by Derek Powers, coincidentally around the same time that Terry met the aged Bruce Wayne and managed to connect the dots about his identity as the former Batman.
    • On the other hand, the very same episode emphasizes the choice Terry had in becoming who he is and how he's grown, considering the vast number of psychopathic or self-destructive nut-jobs CADMUS also ended up creating. It may have been fate that turned Terry into Batman, but it's Terry himself that became a hero.
  • An Aladdin episode has the Anthropomorphic Personification of Chaos convinced that Fate is on Aladdin's side after hearing about his many victories against impossible odds. This upsets him, to say the least, and that's when the episode gets a little more serious.

Chaos: To always win against such odds, Fate must have smiled on you.
Aladdin: Well, I try not to...brag...
Chaos: But I never liked Fate. Predestination goes against the grain. Besides, he cheats at cards. But if Fate has decreed that Aladdin always wins, what can I do? I mean, where’s the unpredictability in that? I’ve got it! Allow me to produce a little scenario I call “Evil Twin”. I have no problem with Aladdin winning all his battles. The question is, which Aladdin?

  • In My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, one episode has Twilight Sparkle meeting her future self, who has messed up hair, a torn-up catsuit, an eyepatch, and a scar. Because Present Twilight talks so much, Future Twilight can't deliver a warning about the future, so Present Twilight panics and tries to prevent a potential disaster, not only causing the changes her future self wound up with, but it turns out there was no disaster in the first place. The warning was to not worry about what the future brings.

Real Life

  • While time travel is still theoretical (and a very shaky theory at that), this article in Science News indicates that it would take this form. "A bullet-maker would be inordinately more likely to produce a defective bullet if that very bullet was going to be used later to kill a time traveler’s grandfather."
  • The universe will die. Not now, not tomorrow or in a million years but it will die and there is nothing we can do about it.
  • Newtonian Mechanics and General Relativity are like this in general. If you know the position and velocity of all particles at the present (or any) moment, then you can in principle derive their positions and velocities at any moment in the future. This includes the particles that make up your body, free will be damned.
    • In Quantum mechanics, it is the state vector that propagates deterministically into the future. Depending on your interpretation of QM, this might provide an out, but likely not one you can control.
  • Life Will Kill You.
  • In a meta sense, fictional characters are unable to change their fates due to the conventions of storytelling. As most forms of story have fixed or defined paths and at most a handful of endings, all 'fighting against fate' is actually scripted to be such. This will only change when technology arises that enables fictional characters to be made free agents, such as strong AI.