Created By: CalibanDrive on January 25, 2013 Last Edited By: Arivne on December 7, 2013

Chain Theft

When a particularly desirable item is first stolen, and then stolen from the one who stole it, and then stolen again, and so on.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Alice finds a rare and exotic Solid Gold Poop, she shows it Bob who then conives to hit Alice over the back the head and steal it. Charlie sees Bob carrying it and puts poison into his food when he's not looking and steals it for himself; and so on and so on.

Chain theft is when a particularly valuable or desirable item is so irresistable that it just keeps getting stolen over and over again, often with each new thief killing the previous thief, or with two thieves working together to steal the item and then one of the pair killing the other.

This is not same as freely sharing pirated material, where the original thief gives away the stolen material (as in online pirated content, or Robin Hooding).

Contrast with Honor Among Thieves


Examples

Literature
  • One of the stories in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book involves Mowgli finding a jeweled elephant goad. Though it's pretty, he considers it worthless so he tosses away, but it is found by a man who is killed by another man to take it, who is killed by a group of men to take it, who then kill each other for possession of it. Mowgli is very disturbed and takes the goad back to where he found it.

Western Animation
  • A literal Solid Gold Poop subject to a chain theft becomes a running gag in multiple episodes of American Dad!.
  • In a Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird Looney Tunes cartoon Sylvester has Tweety in his hands and is running away, when Tweety gets snatched out of his hands by another cat running the opposite direction. This happens a few times in quick succession, done by several cats. In the end of the sequence Sylvester has Tweety again.
  • The Pink Panther and three other characters steal a large bone from each other in "Prehistoric Pink".
  • Adventure Time. The thief city episode features this as a scene.
Community Feedback Replies: 13
  • January 25, 2013
    OmarKarindu
    Film and Literature
    • The title artifact in The Maltese Falcon started as a Templar artifact, but according to Kaspar Gutman, it has been passed down through the ages via Chain Theft. Everyone who encounters it steals it (or tries to) in a seemingly endless parade of backstabbing and murder. The novel and movie concern a group of criminals who contend with Private Eye hero Sam Spade while jockeying with one another for possession of the statue, so Chain Theft actually occurs in the main plot as well as in Gutman's exposition.

    Live Action TV
    • In season 4 of The Wire, a necklace originally belonging to Old Face Anthony is stolen serially by several characters across several episodes.
  • January 25, 2013
    IsaacSapphire
    In real life, some rules for White Elephant gifting games are specifically set up to allow and encourage a Poke The Poodle version of this as part of the fun.
  • January 26, 2013
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Dungeons And Dragons Forgotten Realms magic items. The descriptions of unique magic items often included a list of the various owners each had, with each new owner often acquiring it through violence.
      • Susk the Silent Sword. Distyl of Nesme was murdered by the adventurer Urnen, who took the sword. Urnen was later killed in a tavern brawl and the sword taken by a local bully, Usk Harpell. Harpell was found dead in an alley the same night and the blade gone. Later reports indicate that it was still "changing hands the hard way" years later.
      • The Spellbook of the Silver Talon was originally owned by the Archmage Asmiak, and he has spared no effort in his attempts to regain it. At least 8 low level mages have been killed by his agents, and many more high level mages have barely escaped the same fate. Oddly enough, each time his agents retrieve the Spellbook they lose it again before they can return it to Asmiak, and other people (such as the master thief Dunas) have stolen it too.
    • The Paranoia adventure The Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues has a series of secret societies stealing the Black Box from each other. The Romantics steal it from Free Enterprise, then in turn it's stolen by the Humanists, PURGE, the Mystics, Corpore Metal, and finally Death Leopard. At the end of the first mission the Sierra Club steals the box.
  • January 27, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Western Animation
    • The Pink Panther and three other characters steal a large bone from each other in Prehistoric Pink.
  • January 27, 2013
    marcoasalazarm
    The Noir story 'The Hot Rock' involves a chain of murders and thefts amongst several characters to obtain one single (and highly priced) diamond.

    I'm not sure if 'Snatch' would figure here, but it DO has several characters out to backstab each other because of a very priced diamond 'the size of a fist', with at least one or two sets of said characters ending up being the unknowing owners of the diamond for some time.
  • January 30, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In a Sylvester And Tweety Looney Tunes cartoon Sylvester has Tweety in his hands and is running away, when Tweety gets snatched out of his hands by another cat running the opposite direction. This happens a few times in quick succession, done by several cats. In the end of the sequence Sylvester has Tweety again.
  • December 6, 2013
    CrazyCatKid
    Adventure Time - the thief city episode features this as a scene.
  • December 6, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Namespaced and italicized the examples linked them to their respective work pages. Also, the Adventure Time example needs context.
  • December 6, 2013
    DAN004
    Compare You Kill It You Bought It for item/position that goes hand-to-hand via directly violent methods.
  • December 6, 2013
    omeganian
    Compare also Gold Fever
  • December 6, 2013
    Astaroth
    • The Artemis Fowl series has The Fairy Thief, one of 16 fairy-themed paintings by Pascal Hervé. It has been stolen so many times that very few people outside the criminal underworld are aware it even exists, and many art thieves consider it the holy grail of their profession, and whoever currently owns it to be the greatest thief of their generation. Artemis becomes the youngest thief to claim it when he successfully steals it from a high-security Munich bank vault.
  • December 7, 2013
    Arivne
    Corrected the capitalization (Mowgli not mowgli) and grammar/word choices in the The Jungle Book example and capitalized the first word in the American Dad example.
  • December 7, 2013
    AgProv
    In Shea and Wilson's Schrodinger's Cat trilogy, there is the Damned Thing, which is continually stolen, lost and re-stolen around the Multiverse, so many times that it comes full circle and returns to its original owner. Don't ask what the Damned Thing is....

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=89co57abxsk88kixzersws37