Incorrect fictional prophecies

Are there any examples of prophecies in fiction not coming true within the fiction?

To be clear, I’m talking about prophesies that exist in fantasy/sf works, not prophecies that are intended to predict the real world, such as Nostradamus or the Biblical prophecies.

Also, prophecies that technically come true, just not in the way originally read (such as the traditional, ‘If you go to war, a great empire will fall’ style of thing), do not count, as the prophecies do come true.

In God Emperor of Dune, the emperor uses prescience to create a “golden age”. But he forsees that this will cause humanity to stagnate and destroy itself. So he engineers a group of humans who are invisible to prescience.

The power in the government in Donald Kingsbury’s Courtship Rites is based upon how well people predict trends. If you predict correctly, you get to be leader. Thus, there are many incorrect predictions.

In Ken Grimwood’s Replay, the protagonist keeps going into the past and thus can predict events. On one occasion, the CIA discovers him and uses his knowledge to change things to prevent them from happening. By the end, he is unable to predict anything because the world has been changed so much.

China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun is pretty much entirely based around the premise of a massively significant prophecy of a “chosen one” not coming true

Merlin is surprised at how Arthur, the prophesied king, wins over some rebellious knights and earns his crown in Excalibur:

In the Harryhausen movie The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, the Evil Magician Sokurah predicts war between the two countries at the start. Of course, it was all a ploy to get them to take him back to the island Colossa, so it probably doesn’t count as a “real” prophecy. (And, even if it did, he said that his actions could prevent it. Which they did. So maybe his not-really-a-prophecy turned out correct, after all.)

In “Angel,” the time-shifting demon lord Sahjhan creates a deliberately false prophecy, one that’s not discovered until the denouement of that narrative.

But the Op makes a good point. Even in worlds where magic doesnt work, prophesies almost always come true in literature, but almost never (unless they are educated guesses or very general) IRL.

Well, stretching the meaning of “prophecy” a bit: In Asimov’s Foundation books things got that why because the (mathematical) predictions of the future went wrong in one important way.

I didn’t specify in the OP because I didn’t think about it, but people deliberately giving false prophecy probably shouldn’t count either.
I’m always a bit surprised by how often prophecy is used, especially in the genre fantasy I read a fair amount of, but I couldn’t think of any examples of a prophecy actually failing. There’s some good examples here though, and I’ll have to check out that Un Lun Dun book.

What about prophecy that does language tricks to work? Like the Witch King in LOTR was told that “No man will slay you”, which he interpreted as “No human will slay you”, but in practice meant “A woman will slay you”. Or a prophecy that’s so vague it’s hard for it not to be true, like “[Great Evil] will be brought down by a hero with a pure heart” which you can pretty much always contort to fit whatever ends up bringing the great evil down?

The language tricks are what I was specifically ruling against in the OP - the Witch King one is actually great example of that. Vague prophecies aren’t that common either in my experience, but if they come true, it’s not a failed prophecy.

The first season of HEROES revolved around the prophetic artwork of Isaac Mendez: the stuff he drew in his comic book, which he thought was imaginative flights of fancy that came to him while he was high on drugs, all came to pass — and once he realized he had a bona fide super-power, he knew exactly what he was doing when he’d go into a trance and paint the future and then try to figure out what to do in light of the revelation — but the big one, the Mushroom-Cloud-In-Manhattan one, done got thwarted real good in the season finale.

I don’t think I ever watched the 3rd Matrix movie, but didn’t Neo turn out to not be The One?

Terminator 2 stopped judgment day from happening, at least until the sequel when it turned out to just be delayed a bit. And I’m still not really sure about the Genysys version (or how to “spell” that). Liked the movie a lot, tho.

It was his choice to return to the source or not. Returning to the source would cause the matrix to reset, the non matrix world to be reseeded by the Architect and resume basically as it has always been or he can reject that option and destroy both worlds (in essence, its been a few years memory probably isn’t totally accurate)

Neo chooses to return to the source, but strikes a deal with the Architect first to allow people to be aware of the matrix and to leave it if they wish, and possibly to allow obsolete programs to migrate to the matrix instead being deleted maybe?

Anyway, he was The One, and fulfilled the prophecy as interpreted by both sides, just not in the way anybody expected

  • Minority Report*. The point of the movie is that the prophecy doesn’t have to come true.

How about technically true? In The Sword of Truth series The Seer tries to kill the hero because he’s “destined to end the world”. Turns out he ends the way things currently are and changes everything, thus technically ending the world.
It’s a little funny but the second time the Seer predicts doom everybody just rolls their eyes and says “whatever”.

The ending is really neat. It turns out prophecies were the problem all along and by ending prophecies the hero solves everything.

Does the “Bob’s Burgers” episode in which Linda thinks she has psychic powers count for this thread? She makes a number of prophetic “guesses” that all turn out wrong.

The Lego Movie had a “chosen one” prophecy that turned out to be bunk, in the sense that anyone who stepped up could have been the Chosen One.