"This stone is not yet twenty years old. It was found in the banks of the Amoy River in soutern China and is remarkable in having every characteristic of the carbuncle, save that it is blue in shade instead of ruby red. In spite of its youth, it has already a sinister history. There have been two murders, a vitriol-throwing, a suicide, and several robberies brought about for the sake of this forty-grain weight of crystallised charcoal. Who would think that so pretty a toy would be a purveyor to the gallows and the prison?"
The Artifact of Attraction is an object that goes beyond being merely desirable for its own sake and is supernaturally super desirable. It can cause a group of friends to become paranoid and distrustful
, making them stop working together
or even come to blows
over ownership. Unsurprisingly for an object that can bring about a veritable Hate Plague
on those who set eyes on it (or even just know of its existence)
, the Artifact Of Attraction tends to be a powerful Cursed
item, though a few uncursed ones can get this kind of reputation.
Any object can serve as an Artifact of Attraction, but they tend to have a certain je ne sais quoi
. They may be a luxury item (like a fashionable pair of red shoes or a ring), or perfectly mundane (a red stapler or a warm blanket).
Knowing the Artifact of Attraction is capable of this doesn't stop the effects it causes, but may give the heroes enough warning to resist the effects
long enough to destroy it or give it to the bad guys. Of course, because of its nature no one wants to destroy it, making this kind of curse ideal for preserving an Artifact of Doom
and Amulet of Dependency
from being destroyed.
Though plenty lethal on its own, the Artifact Of Attraction may be triple enchanted to serve as an Artifact of Death
(to up the kill count) and as an Artifact of Doom
(to corrupt the hapless holder) and serve as a trifecta of desire, death and corruption.
To neutralize such problems, the heroes can always follow the example of the Hope Diamond and donate it to a museum
. That kind of unselfish act often means that the curse is broken while the item is kept in a safe place for everyone to enjoy... and get stolen by villains too dumb to realize Evil Is Not a Toy
Not to be confused with Apple of Discord
, which is not about the object, but a group of friends bickering to the point of coming to blows after a seemingly trivial comment or question (who is fairest, strongest, etc), or with Gold Fever
, which is about the mentality that makes normally good people so greedy and paranoid they want to kill their friends and fellow prospectors to possess gold or some other valuable. If the item is only important to a single character, it is a Number One Dime
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- There's an inversion in Green Lantern. Larfleeze, the Orange Lantern of the light of avarice, is the greediest being in the cosmos. How greedy? Everything and even everyone he sees become Artifacts of Attraction for him. He hoards precious and useless things and he even "steals" the people he kills by turning them into "ghosts" under his control, making up the Orange Lantern Corps.
- The Golden Helmet from Carl Barks' Donald Duck comic of the same name is a headgear version of the One Ring Of Power. Using an ancient edict, an Amoral Attorney has come up with some legal mumbo jumbo that declares anyone who owns the helmet becomes legal king of North America, and one by one, the heroes succumb to the temptation and decide they don't just want to keep it away from the villain, they want to rule North America themselves! They eventually manage to throw it into Mt. D— sorry, the ocean, only for it to reappear courtesy of Gladstone Gander in a sequel by Keno Don Rosa.
- The Slytherin Horcrux ring has this effect on Sirius in Oh God Not Again. Harry telling him that putting the ring on would kill him doesn't disillusion him in the least. Hilariously, he's only able to resist when Harry says, "Sirius, if you put that on then Snape will have to save your life. SNAPE.”
Films — Live-Action
- From the quotation on the beginning of the post: the precious ring of The Lord of the Rings. This is an especially dark example, given that Sméagol murders his best friend not two minutes after merely seeing the ring, just to get it for himself.
- The Coke bottle from The Gods Must Be Crazy is treated like this. It's pretty and useful, but the fact that there's only one causes the tight-knit villagers to fight over it. It's also harder than anything that can be found in the Kalahari Desert (namely wood or bone), so to dispose of it, the protagonist sets off on his quest to throw it off the edge of the world.
- South Korean film The Red Shoes has the eponymous (highly cursed) red shoes. Every woman who sees them wants to wear them, and will even steal them from treasured friends to do so. Once put on they get murdered horribly by a ghost.
- The Blue Max concerns one of Germany's highest bravery awards in WW1. And the lengths a pilot called Bruno Stachel will go to in order to win it.
- The Holy Grail had this effect in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It’s the source of the divide between Indiana Jones and his father, who spent his whole life studying it. Meanwhile, the grail’s allure drives both villains to their doom. First, Walter Donovan drinks from a decoy grail, causing him to age to death. Then, Elsa Schneider attempts to take the grail out of the temple with disastrous results. In a Literal Cliffhanger moment, she’s so tempted to reach for the grail instead of Indiana’s hand that she loses her grip and falls to her death. Indy nearly suffers the same fate trying to reach the Grail, but his father convinces him to let it go.
- In The Brass Teapot the titular Teapot has the power to draw people to it. Touching it once is enough to fall under its power and do anything to try to obtain it.
- In J. R. R. Tolkien's books:
- The title Silmarils in The Silmarillion are a prime example of Artifacts of Attraction. They don't have any special powers and possessing them provides the owner with no benefits whatsoever. But when Finwë (the creator Fëanor's father) is murdered and his murderer Morgoth (the local Devil stand-in) takes them with him just because they looked interesting, Fëanor swears revenge and makes an oath that he, his sons, and their people will not rest until the murder is avenged and the three jewels returned to their rightful owners. 500 years and no less than seven battles of epic proportions later, almost the entire High Elven nobility has been wiped out one after another, thousands if not millions of elves have been killed by orcs or other elves, and the entire region of Beleriand has been swallowed by the ocean, just because eight elves did not Know When to Fold 'Em.
And all of the Silmarils end up where mortals (and immortals alike) can no longer reach them, by the way. One was sunk into the depths of the sea, one was thrown into a fissure into the core of the Earth, and the final became the planet Venus. Though that might have been the only way to end the whole mess.
The Silmarils were so attractive that Morgoth wore them in a crown even though their light burned him. The burns were severe enough that they would never heal, but he kept the Silmarils anyway.
- The One Ring in The Lord of the Rings has this power. Everyone who loses the ring wants to retake it. Even worse, anyone who brings the Ring to the one place that can destroy the Ring, then decides to keep the Ring.
- The Arkenstone of The Hobbit implicitly has this effect, though it may not be strictly supernatural but rather an enhanced form of Gold Fever caused by the gem's immense value and uniqueness.
- The Zahir from Jorge Luis Borges' 1949 short story El Zahir is the most fascinating object in the world. It doesn't matter what it is - but there's always one Zahir in the world at any one time. Zahir is an Arabic word meaning "the obvious meaning," "the conspicuous" or "something that cannot be ignored."
- Later, Borges wrote that one of the characters of this tale, Teodelina Villar, was a deconstruction of this trope: Who could be fascinating to anyone in Real Life? A Shallow Love Interest, someone who nobody (not even the guy who is in love with her) can define why is he in love: Teodelina was a Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense Rich Bitch when she was young, and then she was a Fallen Princess. Even when Borges describes her as pretty stupid, he claims to love her, even when he cannot justify why, except because Borges admit he is a snob.
- This trope is deconstructed again at "Deutsches Requiem:" Otto Dietrich Zur Linde, director of a concentration camp, realizes that he could invoke this trope as a form of Cold-Blooded Torture. He even describes this method, but an editor censors it:
- Rudyard Kipling's The Second Jungle Book story "The King's Ankus" is named after a jewel-studded ivory artifact that Mowgli finds in a lost treasure chamber and then carelessly discards. He soon discovers that the Ankus causes men to kill each other (The reader knows if for greed, but not Mowgli) and wonders why he alone is immune. Mowgli invokes this trope as the only logical answer.
- Red gold from the Belgariad.
- The Sword of Tears from The Legend of Huma.
- In E Nesbit's Five Children and It, the children accidentally wish their youngest sibling into this. Fortunately, it wears off at sunset, after a long day spent chasing after everyone who kidnapped him.
- In The Stormlight Archive, Shardblades, which may not have any supernatural attraction, but they're so valuable (there are approximated to be a hundred on the planet) that they may as well.
- Also Nightblood from the same author's Warbreaker; not its primary purpose, but deliberately built in because it was created to destroy evil and needs a mechanism to detect such (since a sword has no innate sense of right and wrong). Essentially, anyone who is exposed to Nightblood and is someone who would want to wield such a powerful weapon for destructive purposes will be compelled to take it and draw it, at which point another of the sword's powers kicks in. Those who do not want to use it for destructive purposes can wield it safely, though it makes them uneasy to touch it. This isn't, however, a perfect test- The Dragon is able to resist the effect because even though he's a bad guy, he doesn't want to use Nightblood.
- The Apple of Discord from The Illuminatus-trilogy has the power to appear as the most desirable object or concept that whoever viewing it holds in their mind. It's used unexpectedly for benign purposes, preventing a small army of Nazi zombies from slaughtering thousands of festival goers.
- The Elder Wand in Harry Potter, a wand so powerful that nearly every person who has ever owned it was murdered by someone else who wanted it. The only known exceptions have been Dumbledore (who died for other reasons), Draco Malfoy (who never realized its significance until it escaped his grasp), and Harry himself (who decided it was too risky for him to use). Possibly subverted given that nearly every owner has also bragged that their wand made them invincible. Thus leading to others killing them for it.
- In the Discworld novels, the "Gonne" from Men at Arms. Maybe it's just due to the lack of guns in Discworld, but the gonne appears to have a demonic power that draws people into using it.
- In Andre Norton's Storm Over Warlock, Shann finds it hard to release the bone coin.
- In Forerunner Foray, the clay lump so draws Ziantha that she goes to apport it almost immediately.
- The Sword of Kahless in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Kor starts seeing it as a way to reclaim his glory days in the Empire and Worf nearly lets Kor fall to his death (he claimed there was a ledge that Kor could reach below, but Kor couldn't see one and Dax saw it and could tell it wouldn't support Kor's weight) in an attempt to keep the sword for himself. Eventually, Dax has enough of Klingon posturing and stuns them both just to get them to shut up. The writers resisted any attempt to say that the sword or the air or whatever had any kind of mind-altering effect and that it was simply the idea of having the sword once possessed by Kahless himself that made them act like they had. In this case, simple lust for power is a likely culprit, as both Klingons contend that ownership of the sword would give the holder a solid claim to leadership of the Klingon Empire. Considering the holy status of Kahless, this is a pretty reasonable argument.
- An episode of The Big Bang Theory parodied the attractiveness of The One Ring by having the geek protagonists discover a (stolen) ring prop actually used in the movie and going to ridiculous lengths to make sure it was shared fairly, then fighting over who should get to keep it. Highlights include Sheldon having a nightmare where he turns into Gollum, while Leonard finally decides to end the fighting by sending it back to it's rightful owner, Peter Jackson... only to reveal he's actually hidden in a box under his bed.
Leonard: My precious...
- One episode of Angel had a group of thieves (and Gunn and Angel, who'd infiltrated the group) try to steal a shroud containing the soul of a demon, which turned them against each other.
- The 10th Kingdom has magical shoes that make the wearer invisible, but the longer you have/wear them, the more you want to keep wearing them...
- Grimm had the Coins of Zakynthos, which gave the person holding it charisma and a great feeling of power (useful for creating a Cult of Personality, which helped Adolf Hitler create his), but made them erratic and obsessed with keeping them, even going as far as killing for it. The person possessing the coins will always be in danger, since many people want them.
- Any artifact or relic in 1st edition Dungeons & Dragons could have this one of the random/chosen by DM side effects for the item in question - it would thematically fit the "Jacinth of Inestimable Beauty", an incredibly large and beautiful gemstone capable of charming anyone viewing it.
- Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung features a magic lump of gold from the Rhine river which, if forged by one who had renounced love, could be made into a ring that would turn its bearer into the master of the universe. Guess what Alberich the Dwarf decides to do. Eventually, though, the Ring gets stolen from Alberich, so he places a curse upon it: Everyone would desire the ring, and whoever possessed it would eventually be undone by it.
- The Red Marker and the Black Marker in Dead Space have this effect. The hallucinations of deceased friends and relatives will often urge the victims to "protect the Marker" which often leads to them being fanatically devoted to the Marker in a matter of hours. Not even Unitologists are safe- the Red and Black Markers both affect everyone equally.
- The "World's Most Interesting Bomb" in MDK. Dropping it causes every enemy to drop what they're doing and run up to ogle the bomb. Which then explodes.
- In Dragon Age II, the lyrium idol that Hawke and Varric find in the Primeval Thaig. Being made of the supposed 'leftover creation' (lyruim), it is able to draw people to itself. It starts with Varric's brother, convincing him to lock Hawke and friends in the thaig, then ends up in the hands of Meredith, who has it forged into a sword. From there she clings to it religiously and becomes drastically harsher more paranoid of mages. Without this trait, almost the entire endgame could have been averted.
- By the sequel, an entire chapter of the Templars has individual copies of the same artifact. The Inquisitor also discovers the horrible truth about how it works: it's darkspawn-blighted lyrium... but the blight only works on organics. Lyrium is alive.
- Reaper artifacts in Mass Effect cause a weaker form of the indoctrination that will gradually condition organics in close proximity to protect or use the artifact. This is most frequently seen with humans willingly impaling themselves on Dragon's Teeth but also plays a major role in the Arrival DLC with Object Rho.
- Nodwick has "This One Ring" as a parody of The One Ring, from you know where. It didn't do anything and was eventually replaced by "This One Rock". Which also did nothing. Everyone still wanted both of them.
- The NSFW comic Oglaf has an interesting variation on the Artifact of Attraction.
- Janice from Why Not Janice has her MacBook pro and her cell phone. Don't you dare ask her what time it is. And how does she wrap the computer up? Not only completely safe in one blanket like the rest of us: she has three layers to hide it from the world and protect it from any potential damage.
- American Dad!: The Running Gag of Roger's golden jewel-encrusted poo (a.k.a. "The golden turd") (also an Artifact of Death).
- The episode "Crystal Canyon" of ThunderCats has the Keystone, an object that can boost the powers and intellect of the holder, but is addictive. Tygra and Alluro fight over it before Alluro gets it and Tygra is forced to give up the addiction.
- In The Simpsons episode "Three Men and a Comic Book", the #1 issue of Radioactive Man acts like this on Bart, Milhouse and Martin.
- The key and the treasure itself, in the episode "The Lost Treasure of the Golden Squirrel" of The Penguins of Madagascar.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Lesson Zero", Twilight Sparkle's Smarty Pants doll takes this role after she enchants it with a "Want it, Need it" spell, causing practically every pony who sees it to fight each other over it.
- The Mary McGuffin doll in Phineas and Ferb is so appealing that girls fight over it — which is what caused it to be pulled from the shelves in the first place.
- Many expensive luxury goods have this effect, which is part of the reason that older rich folk go without them. A shiny new Porsche is considerably more likely than a low end Toyota to "disappear" if you leave the key in the ignition.
- The legendary Hope Diamond started out as the biggest blue diamond in the world and even after being cut down a few times is still ginormagantuan. The story is that it was stolen from a temple in India and the god who was robbed laid a terrible curse on the gem. Every owner of the Hope has suffered immense tragedies; deaths of family and friends, collapsing businesses, ruined reputations, all that. And yet there was always someone who was willing to chance the curse just so they could say they owned the Hope. The last owner donated it to the Smithsonian and so far nothing bad has happened to them. The actual story of the Hope diamond is quite the opposite. The jewel has been owned by various people like Catherine the Great; very few of the supposed 'mysterious deaths' attributed to the diamond were those of people to have ever actually owned it.
- Gold has been this — there's even a term for it: "Gold Fever".