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The characters are chasing an animal, for example a pet that recently started to behave unusually, or trying to hunt down a wild animal, and as they get preoccupied with the chase, suddenly they notice that they were led to a strange place that they would have little chance to find on their own.
The implication seems to be, that animals are inherently magical creatures, serving as the channels of The Powers That Be, and subtly guiding humans.
It can be a form of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane, if anyone brings up the fact that it was an amazing coincidence, sceptical characters can still reasonably argue that it was indeed just the coincidence.
Anime & Manga
- In Aria, President Aria, the cat sometimes wandered away, leading Akari to strange places, using some sort of time travel.
- My Neighbor Totoro
- In the Pokémon story "Dig Those Diglett," Pikachu and the other Pokémon have been acting strange throughout the whole story. Pikachu runs off while Ash and his friends are in a hot spring, and they follow Pikachu, who leads them to where the Diglett and Dugtrio are planting trees.
- In the anime version of Fushigi Yuugi, Miaka follows a vision of Suzaku that leads her to the book. (In the manga, she finds it by chance when chasing not a phoenix but an errant pencil.)
- In Miyuki-chan in Wonderland this parodies the original (and this trope) by having Miyuki chase a Playboy Bunny on a skateboard.
- The Matrix referenced the trope, with this name.
- The Secret Garden had this with the children following a bird.
- In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:
- A robin leads the children to the Beavers' dam, indirectly.
- It's inverted later when they are hunting for the White Stag, and it leads them back to the gate to the normal world.
- Happens several times in Pans Labyrinth. On the way to her new home she follows a big bug to find a pagan-esque statue in the woods, later she follows the same bug to find the large stone structure in the labyrinth by her house, and the Faun.
- In The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack discovers Christmas Town by following Zero, the little ghost dog with a pumpkin nose.
- Alice in Wonderland, the Trope Namer.
- Harry Potter:
- In Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Harry finds a Plot Coupon when following a glowing doe in the forest, though he knew that it's just someone's Patronus, not a real doe.
- Also, "follow the spiders" from The Chamber of Secrets.
- The Prisoner Of Azkaban has Ron blindly chase after Scabbers when he bites Ron and runs away from him...unfortunately for the Trio, they follow Scabbers right to the base of the Whomping Willow and into the jaws of a giant black dog.
- In "Fable of the Goat," a short story by Galician-Israeli author Shmuel Yosef Agnon, an Eastern European Jewish boy, curious as to how his often-wandering goat always returns with such sweet milk, follows it into a cave which magically leads to what is now Israel.
- W H Auden - The Quest - XV Lucky
"Suppose he'd listened to the erudite committee,
He would have only found where not to look;
Suppose his terrier when he whistled had obeyed,
It would not have unearthed the buried city;
Suppose he had dismissed the careless maid,
The cryptogram would not have fluttered from the book."
- In Muddle Earth, the protagonist is transported to the magical world while chasing after his dog.
- In Peter S. Beagle's Tamsin, Jenny's cat leads her to the ghosts and kicks off the plot.
- In Devon Monk's Allie Beckstrom novel Magic in the Blood, Allie alludes to it, calling her guide a white rabbit.
Live Action TV
- Lost uses not an animal but the image of Jack's father to lead Him to the caves in the episode "White Rabbit"
- Psychonauts - A (mindscape-generated) rabbit acts as something of a guide for Razputin in the brain-tumbler experiment, leads him to an important clue, and also eventually becomes a central element in an Escort Mission.
- In Tales of Symphonia, the party finds their way through the Torent Forest by following a small animal that leads them along the correct path so they don't get lost.
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind has a quest like that, with a white guar.
- The opening act of Epic Mickey is this with Mickey pursuing his brother Oswald
- The adventure of Davy and his friends in Chameleon Twist begins like this.
- Happens literally in Sir Peter-arc of Rule of Rose, where you must find and return the titular pet to the Aristocrat Club. Poor creature won't survive the chapter, but his death parallels closely to another one that takes place much later in the storyline, with some unfunny irony.
- But not before he leads you to a series of jump-scares and an ambush.
- Some levels in Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 involve chasing rabbits in order to obtain Power Stars.
- Not to mention Super Mario 64, where there are two instances where you must chase and catch a rabbit in order to obtain two of the power stars. The rabbit in question even mentions that he's late.
- In the DS remake of 64, there are multiple rabbits running about the castle colored like the character who must catch them who give out keys to the game room.
- The first part of the Trapped Series has this exact quote as its subtitle, and a rabbit statue is essential to solving a puzzle.
- In The Prince of Egypt, Moses is led by a stray sheep to the Burning Bush.
- The Simpsons: in "Lisa's Wedding", Lisa is chasing an esquilax (a horse with the head of a rabbit, and the body of a rabbit) when she finds the fortune teller's tent.
- The first few Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the winter of 1946-1947 when Muhammed edh-Dhib, a Bedouin boy, found a cave when searching for a lost animal.