I remember an old horror comic book that was later adapted into a TV episode of Tales From the Crypt. (I vaguely recall Demi Moore being the star.)
A gypsy tells a young, pretty woman that she will marry a particular fat, ugly man. The young woman asks, “Why would I marry HIM?” The gypsy says, “He’s going to die within a year, and he will leave behind millions of dollars in his will.”
The young lady marries the ugly guy, who can’t believe his luck in marrying such a gorgeous girl. Turns out he has no money. The young woman is miserable married to him.
But… the young woman wins the lottery. She now has millions of dollars! So, she tries to walk out on her husband, who gets angry and kills her.
Upshot: the fat ugly husband is convicted of murder and sent to the gas chamber. But since he inherited the lottery money his wife had won, he’s going to leave behind millions in his will.
I’m not sure whether it quite fits the definition, but time travel fiction LOVES this sort of thing…you know, “time traveler tries to change the future and ends up bringing it about.”
One such case: I’ve just been re-watching Time After Time, one of my favorites–you know, the H.G. Wells-vs.-Jack-The-Ripper one. The denouement turns on the following:
[spoiler]To prove he is who he says he is, H.G. takes his 1979-era love interest, Amy, a few days into the future in his time machine. She sees a newspaper with the future date on it, and is overjoyed to see that her lover is telling the truth–but that joy only lasts a few seconds when she sees a newspaper story about her murder at the hands of the Ripper. They return to the time they left from, where they try to thwart the Ripper, but their efforts to intercept him before he gets to his next victim are frustrated by a flat tire.
H.G. leaves Amy alone in her apartment while he goes out to get a gun, but before he can return the police, who believe he’s the one responsible for the killings. (Amy has rather foolishly taken a Valium to calm her nerves, and wakes when the Ripper is almost due.) All his efforts to convince the police of the truth are for naught, until, with time running out, he offers to sign a confession if they will only send the police to Amy’s address. They do go…only to see a horribly mutilated body.
The police let Wells go, and he wanders numbly towards Amy’s home…only to hear her calling out to him, with Jack’s knife at her throat. Seems that the police and the newspaper got it wrong…the mutilated, unrecognizable body was a friend of Amy’s who’d stopped by. That little misconception was never corrected–because the Ripper was defeated and H.G. took Amy Catherine Robbins, who was to become his wife, back to his own time. [/spoiler]
Time and Again, by Jack Finney, has a similar time travel “prophecy.” The main character participates in a time travel experiment, in part, because he has a charred note written in the period he’s going to travel to, that talks about “the destruction by fire of the entire World.” The note indicates that the writer, a fellow named Andrew Carmody, blames himself for the destruction, and history shows that Carmody killed himself shortly after he wrote it. There’s also some further evidence that Carmody had knowledge of future events. The protagonist is concerned that Carmody may be talking about a nuclear war.
The protagonist travels back to New York, around 1880, and tries to find the Carmody.
It turns out, the Carmody was the subject of a blackmail scheme. In the climax of the novel, while the protagonist and his love interest watch from hiding, he confronts his blackmailer in an abandoned office building in a tenement district. He knocks his blackmailer out, and then sets a fire, hoping to kill the blackmailer and destroy his evidence, and have it all look like an accident. The fire gets out of hand, and many innocent people in the adjacent buildings burn to death. Wracked with guilt, Carmody kills himself. The protagonist learns that the abandoned building used to house the New York World newspaper - the charred note was missing the word “building” from the end of the sentence, and the evidence that Carmody knew of future events was, of course, caused by the protagonists interference with the past.
You can’t escape you destiny and will only hasten it and make it worse if you try is pretty much every prophecy in all literature. The only character in literature that I can think of that didn’t make it worse on himself by cheating destiny was Paul Maud’Dib by heading out to the desert, leaving his awful fate to his own son instead.
It was a popular theme in old stories that prophecies always come true no matter how bizarre they seem, or what steps you take to avoid them. A lot of the time, it was the attempt to avoid a prophecy that ironically (*) ended up creating the circumstances for it to come true. Appointment in Samarra had this idea, and I remember some of the Sinbad stories did as well.
I’m not saying you’re wrong (because you might not be), but I suggest you might be conflating with a 1985 episode of Tales of the Unexpected called “In The Cards”
[spoiler]… about a low-rent fortune-teller (Susan Strasberg, who I guess bore some resemblance to Demi Moore) and her loser client (Max Gail, “Wojo” from Barney Miller). She predicts that he will soon receive a message about a large inheritance, after he marries a woman whose description matches the fortune-teller herself.
She later explains to a friend (baffled by her pending marriage to a virtual stranger) that she’s absolutely confident in her prediction and (though she neglected to tell him this part) that soon after he inherits, he will die.
The couple lives for six months in near-abject poverty with the associated stresses (including his not looking for a job in expectation of an inheritance and watching endless sports on her barely-functional television), until a lawyer shows up with information about a large inheritance - only it’s from one of her relatives, not his.
That night, during a rainstorm, she announces her intent to take her money and leave him. He tricks her into the backyard (claiming he found a box full of cash, which she believes since she’s still confident in her prediction that he’ll come into money) and bludgeons her with a shovel, having concluded that he will inherit a fortune - from her.
When he gets back inside, still soaking wet, he tries to steady his nerves by chugging a glass of wine and watching a football game… and then gets electrocuted by her TV set.[/spoiler]Episode on youTube
In James Clavell’s “Shogun”
The prophesy was for Ishido to “die an old man with his feet firmly planted in the earth, the most famous man in the land”.
After the climactic Battle of Sekigahara, Toranaga has him buried up to his neck and offered people the opportunity to use a bamboo saw on the most famous neck in the realm. “Ishido lingered three days and died very old.”
Robert Graves in “I, Claudius” uses as the central spine of the novel a poetic prophesy given to Claudius by the Sibyl that provides an ambiguous/obtuse outline of the fate of the various “hairy ones” from Julius Cesear to Nero.
Speaking of LOTR, I noticed an interesting thing while re-reading it last night. In the scene where Sam and Frodo are toiling up Mount Doom and Gollum attackes them, Frodo says something to Gollum along the lines of “if you touch me again, you will be hurled into Mount Doom.” Which, of course…
I’d be interested to know if there were any prophecies mentioned in stories that don’t come true (the Bible not included, to keep things simple). This only seems to work in “unreliable narrator” territory; otherwise you just end up annoying the reader/viewer.
Well, there’s HEROES, where folks all over the world start getting comic-book superpowers – this one can fly faster than a speeding bullet, that one can now turn invisible, another guy starts reading minds – and then we’ve got Isaac Mendez, possessor of the comic-book ability par excellence.
Which is to say, he can go into a trance and draw comic books – with illustrations that in fact then play out in real life. The numbers he’d penciled on that burning bus? Wait, those – those are the same numbers on the photo in today’s newspaper, from that suicide bombing in Israel! And the fiery trainwreck I’m now seeing on television? Why, that’s an exact match for my painting!
And so it goes: the comic book where Nakamura eats waffles, even the stick-figure drawing of Petrelli defying gravity, it all happens. And so the overarching theme of the first season is built around the huge mushroom-cloud explosion in the heart of NYC: the one Isaac drew, the one that – doesn’t happen.