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Subtrope of Foregone Conclusion, as they clearly did live to tell the tale -- except when they had an Unexplained Recovery. (Other exceptions may involve a From a Single Cell Healing Factor, The Undead, or coming Back From the Dead.) May lead to an Ask a Stupid Question situation ("Yes, I did die. I'm not here."). Contrast Posthumous Narration and Undead Author.
- In a flashback in Duel Masters, Shobu loses a Kaijudo duel, and possibly dies. The person listening to his story wonders if he might be a zombie. "What do you want me to do? Not eat a brain?"
- Mazinger Z: In episode 91, Kouji tries to bring a severely beaten Boss around. Boss mutters he is dead, and Kouji remindes him dead people can not speak. Boss realizes he is right and stands up.
- In the classic (read: all the usual crazy turned Up to Eleven) episode "Holy Matrimony!" of the Pokémon anime, James is relating his story as a child who escaped from his controlling parents and abusive "fiancee," ending with him dying in the snow, in front of a church, with his loyal Growlithe by his side. While everyone else is caught up on the emotional tale, Misty reminds them that the young boy that "died" is the man telling them the story.
- In the first One Piece movie, Luffy is quite disappointed to learn that old man Ganzo survived his fall from a cliff as a child.
- Zettai Karen Children has a character asking this...about HERSELF.
- In a Barry Blair Elf Quest story featuring an Indiana Jones-style adventure. At the beginning of Part 2 one of the people the hero is telling his adventure to says something like, "So what happened next? I want to find out if you got killed or not."
- Done in the comic book version of Ren and Stimpy, where 20 minutes in the future Ren's grandson asks him this after elderly Ren ends his past flashback of himself practically exploding in a mushroom cloud of rage when he finds Stimpy dipping chocolate into his favorite peanut butter after returning from a rehabilitation center to cure his anger.
- A Knights of the Dinner Table comic has Brian describing a role-playing adventure that he calls "the best I ever played." Eventually, the party was captured by an army of trolls, but Brian was able to escape his bonds, distract the guards with a spell, and impale the troll king on a spear. At which point, one of the other knights asks, "How did you make it out alive?"
Brian: I didn't get out alive. They killed me, of course. I mean, c'mon. There were like two thousand trolls and me all by my lonesome? I didn't stand a chance.
- At the end of episode 9 of Bowser's Kingdom, Jeff asks Karate Duo Numbah Won how, if his brother died in the story he had been telling, was he sitting there with him? Their answer? "Rucky Candy!"
- Used in the Yu-Gi-Oh! fanfic Say Something when Grandpa Muto relates the story of a game of Russian Roulette.
- In Undocumented Features's Road Film with Fighting, since it's basically a fanfic version of a Top Gear episode, they use this trope like Top Gear below.
FADE TO Int. Day. Top Gear Studio. CLARKSON and HAMMOND stand near the INDESTRUCTIBLE TOYOTA.
- Running Gag in Cool Runnings: "Hey Sanka. You dead?" "Ya, mon." At the end of the film, inverted to indicate they aren't willing to give up.
- Lampshaded in the film version of Kick-Ass, which occasionally has the title character give voiceover narration. In one such segment, he says that just because he's telling them the story doesn't mean that he survived it, mentioning a number of movies, including American Beauty, narrated by dead people.
- In Alien: Resurrection, one of the characters asks Ripley what she did last time she ran into the xenomorphs.
Ripley: [raises eyebrows] I died.
- Notable because it is not a joke - Ripley actually did die. The one in Resurrection is a clone.
- Inverted in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen when the climax of the story the Baron is narrating seems to end in the Baron's death, complete with tragic funeral procession -- at which point we hear the Baron cheerfully bellow "and that was just one of the many instances in which I met my death!"
- Similarly, in the Czech film Baron Prášil (a.k.a. Když Burian prášil) the main protagonist, descendant of Baron Munchhausen, dramatically relates how he was surrounded by bears on a narrow bridge over a chasm:
Prášil: So consider this: a bear in front of me, a bear behind me, me in the middle, and below me a chasm.
- (But the ghost of the old Baron, which knocked a plate from the wall whenever anybody told a lie, was polite enough to wait until the end of the story.)
- In Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, when Buck is telling of his encounter with The Beast (aka Rudy), and indicates he was eaten:
Crash: Were you killed?
- Happens Finding Nemo, as quoted above.
- Inverted in the Cars short "Mater the Greater", when Mater claims that it was Lightning McQueen who tried performing a death-defying leap across a canyon...and that he "didn't make it". (And it's Lightning himself he's telling the story to.)
- Roger Ebert noted that the documentary Touching the Void had this effect on him. Don Simpson is narrating his own experience of being stuck on a mountain with a broken leg, so clearly he survived, but the situation he's in looks so impossible to get out of that you're still kind of surprised he makes it.
- Parodied in Without a Clue. When "Holmes" tells the story of facing a poisonous snake, had it not been for his quick reflexes, he would be telling that story, but standing there a dead man.
- This great little exchange happens towards the end of the 1942 war film Flying Tigers, between John Wayne and his copilot aboard a plane loaded with nitroglycerin:
Jim: I used to drive a roller coaster once.
- Hopalong Cassidy once finished one of his dimwitted sidekick's long-winded stories for him by saying "I know, you died." California's response? "That's right, I died." It takes him a few more seconds to notice his mistake.
Folklore and Mythology
- Variation used by Wild Bill Hickock. As the story goes, he'd often be telling some story or another to an audience of eager kids, get to a climactic point and pause dramatically. One of the youngsters would ask, "And then what happened?" to which he'd answer, "Well, boys, they killed me!"
- Many a Shaggy Dog Story ends like this, following an exciting build-up.
- Yes, but most of them aren't being told by the supposedly-deceased main character.
- David Brin's Uplift novel Brightness Reef has Alvin complain of how the clear answer to this question in a first-person narration interferes with the dramatic tension of the story.
- In Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, after the Mariner describes how everyone on his ship died, the wedding-guest interrupts the story with "I fear thee, ancient Mariner!" and has to be reassured that the Mariner did not die. (This makes the trope Older Than Radio.)
- In the His Dark Materials short story "Once Upon a Time in the North", Lee Scoresby tells the politician's daughter about the time he was chased by a bear. Her question, "Did he catch you?" is a clue that she isn't the brightest bulb in the drawer.
- Played with in Sun Blind, book two of the Secret of the Unicorn Queen series, when the titular queen and Sheila are trapped by the big bad. as Sheila despairs, Illyria tells her a story about when she was trapped on a cliff side between a hungry cave bear, and a Lyros, a mountain wolf as big as a pony- and her fingers were slipping. she promptly ends the story, and sheila asks, hopeful, how she made it.
"Oh, I didn't. The bear ate me."
- Inverted in Tall Tale America where someone asks Jim Bridger how he survived a fight with a nine-foot-tall Indian. "I didn't (...) that dratted Indian killed me."
- A twist occurs in Way of the Peaceful Warrior. Dan is visiting Socrates in the hospital after the old man had a heart attack and, it seems, did actually die and miraculously come back to life. Dan is explaining what happened when Soc interrupts, "I'm rooting for you. I can't wait to find out how it all came out."
- Julian Comstock by Robert Charles Wilson, which purports to be a biography of the title character by his best friend, has this line halfway through:
The reader, if not versed in recent history, may be anxious to discover whether or not Julian and I were killed on Independence Day. I do not mean to protract the answer to that important question...
- The Amelia Peabody novel The Last Camel Died at Noon starts with Amelia, her husband Emerson, and their son Ramses lost in the Nubian desert, several days away from the Nile, after the death of their last camel. There is then an extended flashback to show how they came to be in this situation, which Amelia assures the reader is not for the purposes of causing any suspense about her survival because "Obviously I could not be writing this if I were in the same state as those poor camels."
- Top Gear's Richard Hammond is frequently subjected to this trope - for example, after sitting in a car while it was struck by lightning.
- The episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where Riley returned had Buffy and Riley promise to swap stories if they get a chance. She asks if he died, and when he says he didn't, she says, "I'm going to win." (She'd died and come back in the year since he left.)
- This was a favorite of Buffy writers:
Buffy: So, how've you been?
- On Dave Allen at Large, the comedian told a one-liner in which one drunk man asks another, "Say, was it you or your brother who was killed in the war?"
- Inverted in the Doctor Who episode "The Time of Angels". The Doctor asks Bob how he escaped the Angels. He replies that he didn't - they snapped his neck and reanimated his mind to communicate with the Doctor.
- Asked by Kelly once in Married... with Children.
Sir Phillip: We resolved to escape from St. Bastard's or die in the attempt!
- Adventures in Odyssey takes a story from Bernard's childhood, told to an impatient listener who knows that a matter of life or death is involved, adds a commercial-break cliffhanger (dramatic music and all) and blunts it within ten seconds of coming back.
Tamika: So it was Bernard who died!
- Inverted in an old Bert And I sketch. The titular duo finds a body in the kelp resembling Elmer Johnson, the lighthouse keeper. They stop at the lighthouse to see if he's all right, and he answers the door. They tell Elmer what they saw, and he asks a series of follow-ups.
"Was they high boots, or was they low boots?"
- In The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, this is one question you aren't allowed to interrupt someone else's tall tale with.
- In one of the inns in the Seventh Sea universe, you can tell any tall tale you like, no matter how outlandish, and get away with it as long as you confirm that you did die at the end.
- Malcom invokes this himself in The Full Monty The Musical. When Jerry and Dave are discussing ways to help him kill himself, he chimes in, "I stuck my finger in a socket once. It hurt real bad...but it didn't kill me." Jerry's response: "Malcolm, stay out of this."
- In the beginning of Don Giovanni, there's just been a duel between the title character and the Commendatore. Leporello, Giovanni's servant, asks "Who died - you or the old guy?" Giovanni replies "What an idiotic question - the old guy!"
- Inverted in Monkey Island 2. If you "kill" Guybrush during the game (which isn't easy), Elaine (whom Guybrush is telling the story to) tells him that can't have happened, since he's obviously not dead.
- Kind of inverted in Fallout. There's a ghoul character with a lot of war stories who will invariably respond to questions like "How did you survive?" with "Didn't. Got killed! Hehehehehe!" He really loves that joke.
- Implied in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time: The events of the game are being related to a third party by the prince, after the fact, (sort of), and if the player dies in-game, the prince can be heard saying something to the effect of "No...no, that didn't happen...let me start again..."
- Either it's this trope, or the prince has simply added a passage into his story where he is permanently killed, having forgotten that he is in fact alive.
- The old PC game Conan the Cimmerian is narrated by a traveler sitting at a campfire, telling Conan's story to a group of other men. If the player causes Conan to die, the game over screen cuts back to the storyteller, saying something along the lines of, "No, that's not right. Surely Conan would have known better than to do that." (The message varies according to how Conan died.) Then, of course, you reload your save and try again.
- Another old PC game, Banzai Bug, does it the same way as the Prince of Persia example above, since the whole game's events is being retold by the titular bug as a geriatric.
- Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures, a couple times - example.
- In Sluggy Freelance, Riff and Torg have to explain that, no Kiki, they were not killed by a a giant, carnivorous Smurf.
- The Onion has "Candidate May Have Lied About Heroic Death In Vietnam".
- "Did he died?": a common comment left by trolls on any online video featuring someone injuring themselves. Of course, one doesn't have to survive an injury to have a video of it posted online, but in the vast majority the people are shown to be living, albeit in a a great deal of pain from that railing that just impacted with their groin.
- Red vs. Blue: Tucker explains how some thugs killed his original team and then tried to kill him. Caboose really hopes he stopped them.
Homer: Then I heard the sound that all Arctic explorers dread... the pitiless bark of the sea lion! [gasp] He'll be killed!
- In another episode, Grandpa is trying to convince Homer to not attempt to climb the "Murderhorn" mountain:
Grampa: Son, don't go up that mountain! You'll die up there like I did!
- And another...
Willie: Nobody got out alive. Not even Willie!
- One old Popeye cartoon featured Popeye telling his nephews about one of his adventures. At one point they ask "Did you get killed?"
- In an episode of Invader Zim, Invader Skooge successfully conquers his assigned planet, but the Tallest 'reward' him by shooting him into the planet from orbit. However, later, he returns, leading to this:
Zim: Skooge? I thought the Tallest killed you?
- In the Shrek Halloween special, the characters are telling scary stories, and the gingerbread man's supposedly "true" story ends with "And then they ate me!" The Three Little Pigs run out screaming "weeeee!" (The Big Bad Wolf sighs that they'll be doing that all the way home.) It's Shrek who asks the gingerbread man, "If they ate you, how are you still here?"
- Rocko's Modern Life:
Heffer: You know, I died once.
- In the Futurama episode "Where No Fan Has Gone Before," while listening to the testimony of those involved, Zap Brannigan comments, "So Melllvar ordered a battle to the death. I assume no one survived?"
- In an episode of The Looney Tunes Show, Granny is relating her adventures as a spy in World War II to Daffy, who interrupts at every thrilling cliffhanger with "Did you die? You died, didn't you? I bet you died!"
- There is a Russian joke about an old man telling his grandson a story from his days as a partisan during the Great Patriotic War, about him getting caught by the Nazis and being forced to choose between death and sexual slavery.
Grandson: So what did you choose, Grandpa?
- Truth in Television: In the commentary for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, the directors mention that they got a lot of comments from people who thought Sam drowned after cannonballing into the pool in the jell-o castle, despite the fact that she shows up in the very next scene.
- Subverted in the stock insult "Did your mother have any kids that lived?"
- From a courtroom transcript:
Lawyer: What happened then?
- Sadly, this might actually have been a case of the lawyer covering his ass just in case. Trials have been drawn out over insane things before. Also, in direct testimony (at least in the U.S.), "leading the witness" is not allowed, so a more common phrasing like "But, of course, he didn't kill you, correct?" could be objected to.
- Not Always Right: Was it you or your brother who was drowned at sea?
- Neil Young almost did die of polio when he was five. When his family came to the hospital to take him home, he immediately said "I didn't die, did I?"