The phrase itself is not "purple prose". In fact, it has been used before. Paul Clifford was written in 1890, and the exact same phrase was used in an 1809 essay The History of New York by no lesser writer than Washington Irving.
It was a dark and stormy night when good Anthony arrived at the famous creek (sagely denominated Haerlem river) which separates the island of Mannahatta from the main land.
(The spelling oddities are in the original)
There's nothing particularly good - or bad - about that paragraph. Contrast it to quote from Paul Clifford set in its full context:
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.
That is overworked and unnecessarily complex and melodramatic, the very epitome of "purple prose".
Over time, memory of the full opening sentence has been lost and all we recall is the opening few words which have come, unfairly, to be held up as the archetypal example of "purple prose".
"Here's the World-Famous Novelist launching his latest bestseller..."
— Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (opening line)
It was a Dark and Stormy Night. Suddenly...an example rang out!:
open/close all folders
- Snoopy writes his novel during a dark and stormy night in one of the Metropolitan Life commercials starring him.
Anime and Manga
- Spoofed by Junpei in the English dub of Digimon Frontier, when the heroes were exploring the Dark Continent:
"It was a dark and stormy night. Luckily there was this really great guy here to save you!"
- 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.
- The 4Kids dub of Kirby of the Stars titles the episode with Kracko 'A Dark and Stormy Knight'.
- The whole plot of Arashi no Yoru ni starts with Mei the goat and Gabu the wolf bonding in an abandoned barn while hiding from a storm. The title literally means "One Stormy Night", and it serves as Mei and Gabu's secret phrase.
- 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."
- One issue of Wonder Woman has a supporting character narrating his meeting with Batman, beginning with: "He was a dark and stormy knight."
- 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.
- Lampshaded in The Gloves Are Off — "It was a dark and stormy night- except that it was mid afternoon and partly cloudy."
- Used in chapter 1 of All-American Girl, where it is referred to as an old cliché.
- The original first chapter of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Reflecting Balance begins with a lampshaded instance of this line. In the revised version of the chapter, this was changed.
- In The Story To End All Stories, this trope is invoked by Rimmer when thunder is heard outside Boddy Mansion.
- Triptych Continuum: It's defied by the use of pegasine weather manipulation in Barnyard Barge-Ins:
What everypony else has written concerning the Riot has taken the form of a story. I have spoken to the ponies who were there. I know what truly happened and so you, as a student of the Riot, will gain that knowledge.
It was a dark and storm-free night.
It had taken just about all of his remaining pull with the Weather Bureau to get that storm postponed. But if ponies were going to be waiting, then they were going to be waiting in the dry.
- 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".
- The phrase actually predates Bulwer-Lytton, appearing in Washington Irving's satirical 1809 book A History of New-York:
It was a dark and stormy night when the good Anthony arrived at the famous creek (sagely denominated Haerlem river) which separates the island of Manna-hatta from the main land.
- Appears in some English translations of The Three Musketeers. The original: "C'etait une nuit orageuse et sombre." Literally, "It was a stormy and dark night" (the primary meaning of orage is "thunderstorm"), but a translator could hardly be blamed for changing it just a little bit to match the cliché.
- One chapter of A Tale of Two Cities starts, "The night was so very sultry..."
- 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.
- The only way that the 1980s horror-pastiche that was the Fighting Fantasy Gameboy House of Hell could begin on...
- 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.
- 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 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 Spoonerism "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 tongue-in-cheek opening sentence of Aunt Dimity Beats the Devil reads: "It was a dark and stormy afternoon on the high moors of Northumberland." Of course, at the time Lori is driving en route to an Old, Dark House in Hostile Weather...
- The first line of the Mercedes Lackey novel Oathbreakers is this. The next paragraph is a telepathic complaint about how the focus character is thinking in cliches. This is followed by a retort that the night really is dark and stormy.
- 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 exaggerate the weather for the rest of the paragraph before settling into his regular snarky tone.
- In the Goosebumps novel The Blob That Ate Everyone, the protagonist acquires a typewriter that alters reality. So when he types "It was a dark and stormy night", it actually becomes one.
- 1634: The Galileo Affair references the famous line, in regards to the stormy evening at the start of the fifth chapter.
The autumn night that Don Francisco Nasi was musing on was a filthy one, slapping its rain and wind against the glass. It was the kind of night on which bad novels began.
- The first line of the sixth book in the Septimus Heap series, Darke, is "It is a Darke and stormy night."
- In Write This Book: A Do-It-Yourself Mystery, Pseudonymous Bosch begins Chapter 5 of the gothic version of The Case of the Missing Author with "It was a dark and stormy night," only to recall that it had already been established that it was morning at that point in the story, so it would have to begin another way.
- In Sonic The Hedgehog And The Silicon Warriors, after the intro, the first sentence is this word for word. Of course the setting is also taking part during a storm as the Mad Doctor performs his latest experiment.
- Following on from the above book Sonic The Hedgehog In Castle Robotnik; for the second book in a row the story starts of with this line, but this wasn't enough for the author as the second chapter starts off with "It was another dark and stormy night. In fact, it was even darker and stormier than the first dark and stormy night." And it happens yet again with the fifth chapter, by now the author is really poking fun at himself "It was yet another dark and stormy night; blimey, everyone was thinking, but Mobius has had a real run of bad weather lately."
- Played straight in the The Raven.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary...
- This is used as the opening lines of Judy Moody: Girl Detective. Also, in Judy Moody: Mood Martian, after Judy writes a story that begins with this and only gets worse from there, it convinces her that writing isn't the thing to do to improve her mood.
- The schoolyard rhyme compliation Far Out, Brussel Sprout! and its sequels include a few parodies. For example:
It was a dark and stormy night
The dunnynote Australian Slang for an outdoor toilet light was dim
I heard a crash and then a splash
"My god! He's fallen in!
- The Zachary Nixon Johnson novel The Doomsday Brunette opens with "It was a dark and stormy night..." as the first sentence.
- Marie Corelli was very fond of this. Her great novel Ardath starts out with a dark and stormy night over huge forbidding mountains as her Byronic Hero climbs to a remote monastery in search of... a cure for Writer's Block. It Makes Sense in Context though.
- Literature historians have theorized that Mark Twain was specifically mocking Bulwer-Lytton's infamous line with the hilarious prologue to his novel The American Claimant in which he insists that there will, in fact, be NO weather in his entire book (although he will include a convenient appendix at the end, detailing a variety of weather that the reader may apply to the book as desired). Being Mark Twain, he cheekily fulfills both promises, to the letter.
No weather will be found in this book. This is an attempt to pull a book through without weather. It being the first attempt of the kind in fictitious literature it may prove a failure, but it seemed worth the while of some dare-devil person to try it, and the author was in just the mood.
Many a reader who wanted to read a tale through was not able to do it because of delays on account of the weather. Nothing breaks up an authors progress like having to stop every few pages to fuss-up the weather. Thus it is plain that persistent intrusions of weather are bad for both reader and author.
Of course weather is necessary to a narrative of human experience. That is conceded. But it ought to be put where it will not be in the way; where it will not interrupt the flow of the narrative. And it ought to be the ablest weather that can be had, not ignorant poor-quality, amateur weather. Weather is a literary specialty, and no untrained hand can turn out a good article of it. The present author can do only a few trifling ordinary kinds of weather, and he cannot do those very good. So it has seemed wisest to borrow such weather as is necessary for the book from qualified and recognized expertsgiving credit, of course. This weather will be found over in the back part of the book, out of the way. See Appendix. The reader is requested to turn over and help himself from time to time as he goes along.
- In A World Less Visible, Diana asks Zeke to tell his story. He laughs for a moment before replying.
Hope youll forgive me for not being able to resist, but uh, it really did begin on a dark and stormy night
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's worth noting that earlier in the episode, when the characters discover the diary of the simulation's previous deceased occupant, he wrote that the characters were so trite and cliche that he found himself begging for death's sweet release.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000:
- Quoth Crow T. Robot when Pod People used a lightning shot:
"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!
- Quoth Crow T. Robot when Pod People used a lightning shot:
- 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").
- The Blutengel song "The Oxidizing Angel" begins on this theme.
- Warren Zevon's "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" includes the lines "The deal was made in Denmark / On a dark and stormy day"
- Mercedes Lackey wrote a song entitled "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" set in her Heralds of Valdemar universe. The song is a comedy about a Countess who is a Giftedly Bad singer, who is apparently murdered by her Henpecked Husband when he decides he can't take her nagging or nightly "singing" practice anymore. She was apparently so unpopular that everyone else in the estate helps establish the Count's alibi.
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.
- The P.D.Q. Bach song "Es war ein dark und shtormy Night."
- The band Creature Feature has the song "It Was A Dark And Stormy Night" as the first song on their album of the same name.
- The pop standard "Ridin' Around in the Rain", recorded by Bing Crosby amongst others, feature these lines:
Wait and pick a night
A dark and stormy night
And take her ridin' around in the rain
- 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". This is punnier in German, where "Plötzlich hallte ein Schuss!" becomes "Plötzlich hallte ein Kuss!" Perhaps not a coincidence since the author knew a little German.
- 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 on 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 again complains that all Snoopy's novels begin the same. Snoopy writes "It was a dark and stormy noon..."
- Lucy says that Snoopy should write a Christmas story. He starts with "It was a dark and stormy Christmas night..."
- Speaking of holidays, she also suggests he write a Thanksgiving story. Snoopy gets as far as "It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a turkey rang out!"
- Lucy suggests he write a political novel, and he comes up with, "It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly a vote rang out!"
- He tried to change it once without Lucy, writing, "It may have been dark. It may have been stormy. But one thing was certain, it was night." Then, after rereading it, he thought, "I think that could be shortened somehow..."
- Another strip, Snoopy is typing a letter to his mother to wish her a happy Mother's Day, which includes, in part, "I remember the night I was born. It was a dark and stormy night..."
- In Prickly City, Winslow starts a book like this (while sitting on a doghouse) but rejects as too doggish.
- 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.
- The titular character of Big Nate submitted one his Social studies paper that begins with "It was a dark and stormy night in the morning..." Mrs. Godfrey immediately gave him an F.
- 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.
- Another case of a never-ending story example: It was a dark and stormy night, and the robbers were in the den, and Bill said. 'Tell us a story.' So Ben began: 'It was a dark and stormy night...'
- 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.
- Also played completely straight in Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, this is both the setting and the title of the prologue.
- The opening of Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, "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 wingman 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