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Calvin: "If you could have anything in the world right now, what would it be? Anything at all! Whatever you want!"

Hobbes: "A sandwich."

Calvin: "A sandwich?!? What kind of stupid wish is that?! Talk about a failure of imagination! I'd ask for a trillion billion dollars, my own space shuttle, and a private continent!"

(Gilligan Cut to kitchen)

Hobbes: [eating a sandwich] "I got my wish."

With a puff of smoke, Alice the Genie appears! Solemnly, she tells Bob that because of his tireless efforts in browsing TV Tropes for nineteen hours straight, she will grant him one wish -- anything at all.

Bob, after a moment's thought, wishes for a bag of potato chips.

Mundane Wish is the trope when a character, given the opportunity to choose any reward without restraint, intentionally picks something simple and commonplace. While this may be done simply for comedy, it is often used to establish the practical or humble nature of the wisher -- such as if Bob simply doesn't want or need anything grand, or doesn't even think to ask for such. Alternately, Bob may be Genre Savvy enough to wish for something simple in order to counteract the backfire potential of a literal or Jerkass Genie.

Typically appears in stories featuring magic (or a similar substitute), but can also appear in non-magical situations, like an Emperor offering an open-ended reward to a hero or a conversation between friends.

This trope is closely related to Wasteful Wishing, but differs in intent -- Wasteful Wishing is when a request is mundane because the wisher was being frivolous or made a mistake. A Mundane Wish, in contrast, is intentionally chosen because that's all the wisher wants.

Related to Be Careful What You Wish For. Also see Mundane Utility and Misapplied Phlebotinum.


Examples:


Anime & Manga

  • Played With in Dragon Ball. Emperor Pilaf has finally gathered the seven Dragon Balls, and is so overcome as he begins to make his wish to the dragon for the title of ruler of the world, but he stammers a bit. Oolong the anthropomorphic pig takes the opportunity to leap between Pilaf and the dragon and wish for the world's most comfortable pair of underwear. Would have been Wasteful Wishing except that the wish saved the world, and Oolong was very happy with what he got.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, it turns out that First-Timeline!Madoka's wish was to save a random kitty that got run over.


Comic Books


Film

 "There's no such thing as a free lunch."

    • In the 1967 original, it's a Frobisher & Gleason raspberry-flavored ice lolly, gotten the same way. later, when Stanley is in a fix and can't wish his way out, the Devil points out that the ice lolly counted as one of the seven wishes he's now used up. To rub it in, he pays Stanley back the sixpence, telling him "Now we're even!"
  • A very un-politically correct joke Rocco tells in The Boondock Saints has three men (Black, Hispanic and White) each granted one wish; the black man and the hispanic man each wish for their fellow blacks and hispanics to be back in their home countries and not in America, and when the white guy realizes that this means there are no more blacks or hispanics in America, he happily just asks for a coke.
  • A non-magical version appears in Sneakers. The team has been confronted by a group of armed NSA agents who want The Box, and is making demands in exchange for turning it over.

 Carl: "The young lady with the Uzi, is she single?"

Bishop: "Carl... Excuse us." [Takes him aside] "This is the brass ring. You gotta think bigger thoughts."

Carl: "I just want her telephone number."


Literature

  • From The Last Hero, when the gods of the Disc are granting requests to the heroes for preventing the destruction of the world, Rincewind asks for a blue balloon (to replace one he had lost when he was six). He also speaks on behalf of the Librarian and asks for three thousand file cards, a new stamp, five gallons of ink, and a red balloon.
    • It's a running joke in the City Watch books that, at the very end, whatever else the Watch may or may not be granted from Vetinari, a new dartboard is always on the list.
    • In Night Watch the People's Republic of Treacle Mine Road is talking about what they hope to accomplish, and Vimes says a hard boiled egg. He says that while he's pretty sure that tomorrow there isn't going to be a great deal of Truth, Justice, Moderately Priced Love, and so on around, he might just get the egg. It ends up being smashed before he can eat it.
  • Used in Small Favor, when Harry Dresden calls in the favor owed to him by the Summer Court of Faerie - and asks for a doughnut. The point is, however, is whom he asks that of, namely, the Implacable Man Mage Killer after his head, and when--namely, a few seconds before said killer rips him to shreds and a few minutes until the bounty on Harry officially expires.
    • It's revealed in the next book that this little maneuver has made Harry famous among the fey.
  • There's an old Arab tale about a man who got a wish from a genie in a bottle. He only asks that his net never come up empty of fish. He gets his wish and does well for the rest of his life.
  • In one of Caroline B. Cooney's The Vampire's Promise books, the titular vampire has gifted a high school student named Devnee with beauty and brains by draining the energy out of the classmates she wished she could have the qualities of. The climax of the book comes when Devnee, intending to stop the vampire before he can force her to let him feed on another girl, learns to her horror that her mother has found him and made a wish of her own -- only to discover that her mother only wished for good weather.
  • In The Bible, God offers Solomon a free wish. Solomon asks for wisdom. God is impressed.


Live Action TV

  • In a What Could Have Been draft of an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy would have been granted one wish of phenomenal cosmic power. After debating heavily the whole episode on how to use it, she would walk in with a brand new pair of shoes, prompting Willow to lampshade this trope before the big reveal: She actually used the wish to bring Tara back to life.
  • The Twilight Zone The Original Series episode "The Man in the Bottle". The couples' first wish (out of four) is to have a pane of glass in their shop repaired, in order to test the genie's power first. The couple then proceed to waste their remaining wishes, but in the end console themselves with the thought that at least the glass got repaired. Guess what happens next.
  • In a Sesame Street Christmas special, Elmo gets a magic snowglobe from Santa Claus. He uses the first wish to get a drink of water.
    • In the show proper there was another sketch where one of the younger monsters (don't remember which) found a genie's lamp and wasted all the wishes on having the genie go back into the lamp and pop out again, despite the genie's insistence for a better wish.
  • In The X-Files episode "Je Souhaite", Mulder encounters a genie who was originally a medieval French peasant who encountered another genie and made her take his place after her third wish of "great power and a long life". Her first two wishes were a stout mule and a magic bag full of turnips. After noticing Mulder's "What the hell?" facial expression, the woman once again points out she was a medieval French peasant.
  • In one episode of I Dream of Jeannie, Jeannie gets downright exasperated that most of Tony's wishes are mundane — but considering Jeannie's cluelessness and occasional mischeviousness, it's hard to argue against him.


Newspaper Comics

  • In a Sunday strip of Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin asks Hobbes what he'd wish for; Hobbes says he wants a sandwich. Calvin doesn't understand why and wishes for enormous wealth. Hobbes gets his wish, and Calvin obviously does not.
    • Another strip had Calvin ask a similar question, to which Hobbes replies that he'd wish for "a big sunny field to lie in." Calvin is aghast at how mundane this is, but then observes Hobbes sleeping in the grass. "Actually, it's hard to argue with someone who looks so happy."
  • A Frumpy The Clown comic had the eponymous sarcastic clown and a kid encounter a wizard who claimed he could give them whatever would "make [their lives] complete." Frumpy immediately wishes for the first ABBA album on vinyl and a watermelon. While the kid complains that he could have wished bigger, Frumpy quips that he doesn't trust midgets with wands.


Video Games

  • After having been turned into an ottsel in the beginning of Jak and Daxter The Precursor Legacy, Daxter gets his chance to turn back into a humanoid in the ending for Jak 3 as the Precursors offer to grant him a wish. He wishes for a comfortable pair of pants. Granted shortly before that he had discovered that the Precursors are ottsels, so presumably the knowledge that he is a member of a legendary race borderline worshiped by his previous race rather than just a Funny Animal made his condition more bearable.


Web Comics


Web Original


Western Animation

  • In the Animaniacs movie special Wakkos Wish, Wakko wishes for two ha'pennies! This is not Wasteful Wishing because spending them helps revive his home town since it was simply so poor that everyone treated it like a fortune.
  • In the animated Aladdin series, Eden actually refuses to grant her master's first wish for a sandwich (fortunately, lacking the words "I wish" in front of it) and instead talks her into wishing never to go hungry again.
  • In The Simpsons' second Treehouse of Horror, Homer obtains a monkey's paw. Maggie makes the first wish and a limo pulls up. Homer starts to celebrate as the driver comes to the door. He gives her a new pacifier and then drives off.
    • After the other wishes backfire, Homer wishes for a turkey sandwich and specifically forbids any unpleasant supernatural surprises. The wish still backfires because the turkey is a little dry.
  • Invoked and lampshaded in The Fairly Odd Parents. Norm notes there's a pattern in wishes, the first is something useless and mundane, the second is a huge change, and the third is changing it all back.


Real Life

  • Alexander the Great, at one point visited Corinth. While there he offered, according to the story, a particular Philosopher (Diogenes) anything he wanted and, being emperor of just about everything at the time, he could have granted it. Diogenes only looked up, slightly irritated, and asked him to step aside, because he was blocking the sun.
  • Three soldiers of Napoleon Bonaparte - a German, a Pole and a Jew - have fought well in battle, and he decides to grant each of them a wish.

 German: "Before the war, I had a brewery, but it was burnt down."

Napoleon: "You will get it rebuilt."

Pole: "My motherland is under the thumb of other nations."

Napoleon: "You will get it liberated."

Jew: "I like marinated herrings so much. Could I get a few of them?"

Napoleon is surprised, but promises him the herrings. Later, the Jew explains: "I don't think you'll get your brewery back, or your free Poland. But my herrings - I may actually get them..."

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