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It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.—Paul Clifford by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
Edward Bulwer-Lytton is remembered for the phrase "It Was A Dark And Stormy Night", which has become a touchstone for convoluted Purple Prose and campfire Ghost Stories. Thanks to the power of lightning, opening on a stormy night scene or at least featuring one had been a Horror trope since Universal's Frankenstein and before.
The phrase has been so thoroughly mocked and re-used it should be a Dead Horse Trope if it were not an Undead Horse Trope: it's just too much fun. In fact, two yearly writing contests are held in Lytton's honour.
Edward Bulwer-Lytton was three things -- an author, the inventor of such popular phrases as "the pen is mightier than the sword", "the great unwashed" and "the pursuit of the almighty dollar", and possibly a proto-Nazi. He is not publicly remembered as a writer or the inventor of those phrases -- it is his Purple Prose phrase that lives on.
Not to be confused with the Larry Blamire film Dark and Stormy Night.
Anime and Manga
- The official English version of Mahou Sensei Negima translated the title of chapter 68 into a pun based on this: "It Was a Dark and Stormy Visitor". And yes, it does take place during a dark and stormy night.
- Played with in the Fullmetal Alchemist manga. The series begins with the dark and stormy night the Elrics tried to transmute their mother but we can't tell just yet as the scene takes place indoors and lasts for exactly one page before cutting to the present, which happens to be a sunny day. It's not until later we find out through further flashbacks that it was a dark and stormy night.
- Spoofed by Junpei in the English dub of Digimon Frontier, when the Five-Man Band was exploring the Dark Continent:
"It was a dark and stormy night. Luckily there was this really great guy here to save you!"
- Detective Comics #500 turns Snoopy's short novel (see Newspaper Comics below) into a Batman story!
- Chantal, a character in The Sandman has a dream which is a loop of a sailor telling a story that begins with "It was a dark and stormy night."
- When Kyon realizes that Haruhi might end the world in Kyon: Big Damn Hero, he starts cursing the weather for not being dark and stormy.
- In The Ollivander Children 's sequel, The Ollivanders at War, Calliope Ollivander notes at the start of one chapter that it should be a dark and stormy night, but she can't quite tell, being trapped underground.
- Subverted, of course, in the Rocky Horror Picture Show: "It seemed a fairly ordinary night when Brad Majors and his fiancee Janet Weiss, two young, healthy, normal kids, left Denton to visit a Doctor Everett Scott, ex-tutor and now friend to both of them." Though, how dark and stormy the night actually turns out later, can hardly be a matter of debate.
- Double Subverted: "It's true there were dark storm clouds, heavy, black and pendulous, towards which they were driving."
- National Treasure begins with such a scene when the young Ben is talking to his grandfather.
- In The Parent Trap (1998 version), it's heavily raining when Nicolas and Elizabeth say goodbye before she gets on a plane home.
- Throw Momma from the Train begins with Larry Donner having massive writer's block, unable to get past "The night was..." He discards such lame words as "foggy", "hot", even "moist". Hilarity Ensues later when he finds out one of his literature students used the same phrase he did ("The night was humid"). Later, Momma picks the perfect word ("The night was sultry", itself a Shout-Out to A Tale of Two Cities) which presses Larry's Berserk Button and causes him to declare quietly to Owen that he's getting up "to kill the bitch".
- Appears in some English translations of The Three Musketeers. The original: "C'etait une nuit orageuse et sombre."
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle is a popular and critically acclaimed novel known for starting with the line. To her endless frustration, the UK publishers revised it to read "It was a dark and stormy night in a small village in the United States."
- The opening narration to Animorphs #2 chapter 16 reads as follows:
It was a dark and stormy night.
Sorry, I've always wanted to write that. But it really was a dark and stormy night.
- Found in the Discworld series. The follow-up gag usually being along the lines of "I'm sorry, but it was, a scene like this just demands it, okay?"
- Alternatively, it is pointed out that is should have been a dark and stormy night, but that's weather for you.
- The prologue of Good Omens (Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman) begins "It was a nice day. All the days had been nice." Then, after quickly covering Man's Fall from Eden, the short chapter ends with "It was going to be a dark and stormy night." It then proceeds to shamelessly mock the phrase during the first chapter, with the following quote:
"It wasn't a dark and stormy night.
It should have been, but there's the weather for you. For every mad scientist who's had a convenient thunderstorm just on the night his Great Work is complete and lying on the slab, there have been dozens who've sat around aimlessly under the peaceful stars while Igor clocks up the overtime."
- Children's author duo Janet and Allan Alberg have a truly excellent picture book that is titled for this trope and deliberately uses it. It's about Talking the Monster to Death.
- Bunnicula, a series of Affectionate Parody horror novels about, well, a vampire bunny who vampirizes fruits and vegetables, begins its third story thus:
"IT WAS NOT a dark and stormy night. Indeed, there was nothing in the elements to foreshadow the events that lay ahead."
- Ray Bradbury's detective novel Let's All Kill Constance begins with the unnamed narrator giving this line, then apologizing to the reader and giving a more original and detailed description of the truthfully dark and stormy night.
- There are no doubt many stories that start with original and detailed descriptions of dark and stormy nights, but just for starters here's one by Patrick O'Brian:
The night was old, black, and full of driving cold rain; the moon and the stars had already passed over the sky. But anyhow they had been hidden since midnight by the low, racing, torn cloud and the flying wetness of small rain and sea-foam and the whipped-off top of standing water. Dawn was still far away: from the dark east the mounting wind blew in gusts; it bore more rain flatlings from the sea.
- The opening of Julian May's Jack the Bodiless is: "It was a dark and stormy night, as so many nights were on Denali, where topography and climate conspired to produce some of the Galaxy's worst weather."
- Castle Murders by John DeChancie opens on a college campus, with the line "It was a stark and dormy night..." He uses the line "It was a dark night of Sturm und Drang."
- One of Stephen Leacock's early-20th-century parodies of Bronte-style romantic literature, the short story Gertrude the Governess: or, Simple Seventeen, begins with a parody of this opening:
It was a wild and stormy night on the West Coast of Scotland. This, however, is immaterial to the present story, as the scene is not laid in the West of Scotland. For the matter of that the weather was just as bad on the East Coast of Ireland.
But the scene of this narrative is laid in the South of England ...
- Time Pressure by Spider Robinson begins with this sentence, then has a paragraph about how yes, it really was a dark and stormy night, and he's saying it even if it's cliche. He then returns to his sentence: "It was a dark and stormy night--when suddenly the snot ran out . . ."
- Roald Dahl's short story The Great Automatic Grammatizator features Adolph Knipe, a computer engineer and aspiring writer. One of his short stories start with this phrase. Due to his failure as a writer, Knipe constructs a computer that writes successful fiction.
- The first line of the Mercedes Lackey novel The Oathbreakers is this. The next paragraph is a telepathic complaint about how the focus character is thinking in cliches.
- The opening of the short story "'The Five Barley Grains" in The Legionary from Londinium & Other Mini Mysteries starts out the way. Caroline Lawrence said that like Snoopy, she always wanted to started a story with that stock phrase.
- The first book of the Knight and Rogue Series begins with "To say it was a dark and stormy night would be a gross understatement." The character narrating that chapter goes on to exagerate the weather for the rest of the paragraph before settling into his regular snarky tone.
Live Action TV
- It's the opening line to the trashy novel Hotel Royale, a simulation of which traps several characters in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. Picard comments on how it's usually a sign of This Is Gonna Suck when he asks the computer to read the novel to him so they can figure a way out.
Troi: Maybe it'll get better.
"It was a dark and stormy night. I had just taken a creative writing course..."
- Lampshaded in The Hellcats when Tom is typing up his diary during a host segment right before commercial sign.
Servo: It was a fortnight ago, and it was... a -- hey! -- a dark and stormy night! Ha ha ha!
- The Joulukalenteri, a Finnish TV series starts all its episodes with the phrase.
- The Prisoner episode "A, B, and C" underscores the mad-scientist dream-control experiment performed on the drugged Number Six by holding it on a dark and stormy night. And why they didn't all catch their deaths I'll never know.
- Jonas mocks this in the episode "Slice of Life" (also known as "Pizza Girl").
- Blutengel: The song "The Oxidizing Angel" begins on this theme.
- Warren Zevon: "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" includes the lines "The deal was made in Denmark / On a dark and stormy day"
- Peanuts: Mocking this phrase perhaps began with, and was certainly popularized by, Snoopy's incarnation as World-Famous Novelist, with his typewriter set atop his doghouse. He eventually managed to string together an entire 'novel' out of banal dramatic clichés, including the oft-heard opening line: "It was a dark and stormy night... Suddenly, a shot rang out!"
The first "dark and stormy night" Snoopy strip was in 1965, and according to Word of God, the original joke was that you have a dog doing something incredible like using a typewriter, only to type such a notorious cliché. From there Charles Schulz built it into a Running Gag. The full opening of Snoopy's perennial novel was:
It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out! A door slammed. The maid screamed. Suddenly, a pirate ship appeared on the horizon! While millions of people were starving, the king lived in luxury. Meanwhile, on a small farm in Kansas, a boy was growing up. Part 2: A light snow was falling, and the little girl with the tattered shawl had not sold a violet all day. At that very moment, a young intern at City Hospital was making an important discovery.
After which he fears that he may have written himself into a corner. He does manage to weave this together: the intern finds a comatose patient has awoken -- the sister of the boy from Kansas, who loves the girl with the tattered shawl, the daughter of the maid who escaped the pirates. Then Linus asks "But what about the king?" and gets a typewriter to the head.
Snoopy's responses to Lucy's feedback:
- Lucy, having read a draft of the aforementioned novel, tells Snoopy that his writing lacks subtlety. His new draft commences with: "It was a kind of dark and sort of stormy night..."
- Lucy tells him he has to focus on the characters more, and create an iconic hero protagonist. So he changes it to "He was a dark and stormy knight..."
- Lucy complains that he's never tried to write anything romantic, Snoopy changes "Suddenly, a shot rang out" to "Suddenly, a kiss rang out". The latter is an chance pun in the German version since shot is Schuss and kiss is Kuss.
- Lucy wonders if "suddenly" is the right word in this instance. Snoopy changes it to "Gradually, a shot rang out."
- Snoopy attempted to write a sequel to Gone with the Wind, focusing more Rhett and Scarlett's relationship. He got as far as "It was a dark and stormy marriage" before deciding it was a bad idea.
- Lucy tells Snoopy that all good novels begin with "Once Upon a Time". Snoopy promptly reboots: "Once upon a time, it was a dark and stormy night..."
- Lucy complains that all Snoopy's novels begin with that line. Snoopy, Completely Missing the Point, promptly changes it to "It was a stormy and dark night..."
- Lucy says that Snoopy should write a Christmas story. He starts with "It was a dark and stormy Christmas night..."
- A Zits strip where the punchline was the character Pierce perched on top of Snoopy's doghouse in the final panel, texting "It Wz a Drk N Strmy Nite" or something along those lines.
- In Prickly City, Winslow starts a book like this (while sitting on a doghouse) but rejects as too doggish.
- There is also a popular story/rhyme that goes: It was a dark and stormy night, and the Captain said to Antonio, 'Tell us a tale, Antonio.' And this is the tale Antonio told: 'It was a dark and stormy night...'
- Which eventually led to a variation that ends in a subversion. After several loops to build up the tension, the Captain said to Antonio, 'Tell us a tale, Antonio.' So Antonio shot him.
- This is the title and opening line of a hilarious song in Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar:
It was a dark and stormy night--or so the Heralds say--
And lightning striking constantly transformed the night to day
The thunder roared the castle round--or thusly runs the tale--
And rising from the Northeast Tower there came a fearful wail.
- During one WWE storyline "Sexual Chocolate" Mark Henry was receiving therapy from an inconveniently hot therapist for his sexual addiction. When she asked him about his first sexual experience, he said, "Well, it was a dark and stormy night, and I was real scared!" She asked why he was scared and he immediately replied, "Because I was all alone!"
- In Once Upon a Mattress, the Minstrel sings that the Princess came to the castle "on a stormy night." He later notes, in correcting this "not quite accurate" version of the fairy tale: "That, of course, is utterly untrue. It didn't storm that night at all. In fact, it wasn't even night. And the princess only looked as though she'd come in from a storm."
- A comedy/mystery stage play written by Tim Kelly is entitled It Was A Dark and Stormy Night.
- Despite being in a visual medium, Wild Arms 3 opens with the words "It was a dark and stormy night," overlaid on animated storm clouds. Unironically.
- Golden Sun begins this way, with Isaac and Garet waking up at night in a storm to avoid a giant crashing boulder.
- The opening of Ace Combat Zero, "It was a cold and snowy day...", is a deliberate toying with this trope: Pixy recalls the weather during his very first mission as Cypher's Wing Man and in the final mission, the two of them duke it out above the Avalon dam in a snowstorm, with Pixy nostalgically remarking "Here comes the snow", making it both an Ironic Echo and a Book Ends. It then becomes apparent that Pixy chose a cheesy phrase to begin his story specifically to point out the similarities between his first and last meeting with Cypher.
- Lampshaded in Animal Crossing: Wild World:
"It was a dark and stormy night. A single figure stood alone in the downpour... Huh huh huh! It's like the opening to a really good bad movie."
- In Borderlands, Marcus beings the introduction to the Zombie Island of Doctor Ned DLC with this quote, followed by what sounds like surpressed laughter. Seeing as the entire DLC is an affectionate parody of zombies and horror, the phrase is quite fitting.
- Meme Cat: "It were a dark n stormie nite".
- John Scalzi's new fantasy novel The Shadow War of the Night Dragons, Book One: The Dead City (which is actually an April Fool's Day joke) begins with the Shaggy Dog Story version of this: an incredibly long sentence whose only real meaning is "it was a dark night", followed by an even longer sentence whose only real meaning is "it was a stormy night", followed by:
Which is to say: it was a dark and stormy night.
- Achewood features a pulp romance novel written by Ray: Danger at 2 1/2 Feet. The opening paragraph is shown, a complex mess of purple prose subclauses, shoehorning backstory into every word. The alt-text is It was a dark and raunchy night.
- In one Order of the Stick episode, Elan lampshades this trope by pointing out that rainstorms always begin when a dramatic event is about to occur. And he's right.
- Irregular Webcomic - Shakespeare begins writing a Novelization of the Lord of the Rings movies with this line, here.
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The opening segments to the first few seasons opened with Stock Footage of Dr. Weird's castle. (The footage for the castle exterior actually came The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest.)
- The intro to some of the Scooby Doo cartoons. The Game Cube game Scooby Doo: Night of a Hundred Frights parodies this: Some of the upper levels of the haunted mansion are called "A Dark and Stormy Knight". Naturally, this is where Scooby encounters the Black Knight. 
- When Bloo is spinning a false tale of Uncle Pocket's "evil" in Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, he begins by saying "It Was A Dark And Stormy Night...", only for Mr. Herriman to protest that it was morning and quite sunny out.
- Parodied by the narrator on SpongeBob SquarePants:
It was a dark and stormy night. Nights like this always remind me of the time Spongebob and Mr. Krabbs killed a health inspector.
It was a bright and sunny morning...
- In the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "Look Before You Sleep", Twilight begins a ghost story about The Headless Horse with this phrase.
- ↑ The title was also used for a cartoon episode.