Poor kid has to spend the rest of the series finding another MacGuffin just to get rid of this one!
"How many times have you flung a magic ring into the depths of the ocean, and when you come back and have a nice bit of turbot for your tea, there it is?"
with one specific quirk: you cannot get rid of it. It cannot be removed, lost, given away, buried, thrown in the ocean, blown up, or separated from the owner in any way. It's usually not intelligent or sentient, but is nonetheless bound to you, for better or worse, till death do you part, or otherwise.
This can be found in Fairy Tales
, particularly those where Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
are not to be thwarted by a condition such as "You have to get this ring back to marry my daughter."
The most benign form is an Empathic Weapon
that's a little too empathic. It's not necessarily something you would want
to get rid of, but it can sure make maintaining the Masquerade
much harder if your Glowy Sword of Doom simply will not let you leave it at home. Also, if a villain is after it, you can't easily comply with a demand to hand it over to save a friend.
In this case, the only chance they have of getting it is killing you.
The evil version is more like an implacable stalker
. From the moment it crosses your path, no matter what you do to get rid of it, it will always be there. If you're lucky, it will just make you a Weirdness Magnet
. If you're unlucky, it'll be an Artifact of Doom
that will make your life a living hell until you fulfill The Quest
to destroy it or seal it away
for the next hapless victim.
If a Clingy MacGuffin appears in an ongoing series, expect several episodes about the character's attempts to get rid of it so that he can lead a normal life
. He might even succeed a couple of times but circumstances will always manage to bring the two of them back together because otherwise, there wouldn't be a show
. The character might also come to accept or even enjoy their new life and actively seek to regain the Clingy MacGuffin.
Technically, any comedy in which a hapless person gets something — a paintbrush, a Post-It note, etc — physically glued to their body and can't dislodge it could qualify as a (non-magical) descendent of this trope. If the attached object is relevant to the plot (e.g. the accidental lipstick stain that can't be wiped off, sabotaging the protagonist's romantic chances with his girlfriend), it actually is
If the MacGuffin
is a piece of clothing, it's a Clingy Costume
. If it's a living thing, it falls into The Cat Came Back
. Compare Loyal Phlebotinum
, which can be physically separated from the owner but still only works for its Chosen One
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Anime & Manga
- Bakura's Millennium Ring in Yu-Gi-Oh! Up to Eleven in the Manga, where the ring embedded itself into Bakura's chest. This didn't make it into the Anime. It did however always manage to find its way back to Bakura, regardless of what anyone tried to get rid of it.
- Manjyome's Ojama spirit monsters in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX.
- This is a major theme of Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL. All of the Numbers (except for Number 39: Utopia, maybe) are malevolent beings that corrupt whoever owns them, each causing its host to become drunk with power and become obsessed with it. What's more, the Numbers Holder is driven to find other Numbers by it. There are people, whoever, who are immune to this effect and those who can resist it, mostly Numbers Hunters like Yuma and Kaito, but they usually have some supernatural or technological aid.
- The title character of Gokudo planned to abuse his magic sword in a similar manner as in Dead Last, though his genie stops him before he can even try.
- The G Units from Guyver cannot be properly removed from their hosts without a specific piece of technology. Tearing out the control metal causes the armor to actually consume its host, but the metal regenerates the host shortly after.
- The Blue Water from Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water. There's a moment when she throws it into the ocean, only to have it rise from the waves and return to her.
- When Ichika from Uta Kata tries to throw away the charm given to her by Sei, it just flies back to her, signifying that it is too late already to change her fate.
- Mahoujin Guru Guru has an award statue that reappears whenever Nike tries to dispose of it.
- Berserk has Behelits, talismans that will one way or another end up in the hands of those who are destined to activate them.
- The Silver Crystal from Sailor Moon qualifies. Despite the canon belief it can be taken, and in the anime it is passed on, present Usagi always, always, has a copy of it. Even when Chibi-Usa takes the future version, Usagi still has the past version. Usagi eventually gets that copy back as well. In the manga, Chibi-Usa even gets a new pink crystal so Usagi can keep the Silver Crystal. Not that she's trying to get rid of it.
- A "kinda" example from Legendz: in the first episode, Shuu tries to get rid of his Talispod, but the wind blows it back to him.
- In a Slayers OVA, Naga, on pure impulse, put on a valuable bracelet made out of rare Orichalcum. Unfortunately, she discovered that she could not take it off. And what's more, a powerful superweapon became attracted to the bracelet and Naga and Lina got chased all over by this creature.
- Kazuki's kakugane in Busou Renkin, which had been put in his heart's place by Tokiko so he could survive a mortal attack from a homunculus which she was trying to kill. From this, the whole story kicks off, and halfway into it we find out that the kakugane is of the black variety, which tends to make the user absurdly powered, but he has to nourish on other people's energy to subsist.
- The title item of Witchblade is a strange bracelet that turns the user into a Stripperific death machine. Its clingyness is demonstrated in a sad sequence when Masane tries to get it off... using dangerous tools that could cost her an arm. At one point it wakes up, slices a press into ribbons and goes back to sleep. Worse, if Masane dies, it passes on to her daughter. Eventually she sacrifices herself, taking the Witchblade with her.
- Ichigo's Hollow mask in Bleach. If removed from his person it will disintegrate into nothing, but it always reappears on him, appearing to block fatal blows early on. When his Hollow gains enough power to start interfering in Ichigo's fights, it becomes downright dangerous. The "Hollow" is revealed much later to be his true Zanpakutou spirit Zangetsu; the "Old Man" really being a manifestation of his Quincy heritage. Ichigo can't get rid of it because it's part of his own soul.
- InuYasha: Kaijinbou forges Toukijin but cannot get rid of it. It controls his will, driving him to hunt Inu-Yasha and eventually (accidentally) killing Kaijinbou through sheer force of power. Death doesn't separate them, Toukjin just animates Kaijinbou's body and keeps going. In the end, Inu-Yasha has to hack off the smith's wrist to separate them, which allows the dead body to disintegrate, leaving Toukijin behind. When Sesshoumaru touches Toukijin, his will is so powerful it instantly defeats Toukijin's power, turning Toukijin into a Loyal Phlebotinum instead.
- A chapter of the Ranma ½ manga has female!Ranma ending up in a cursed swimsuit with the talking figure of a devil dog adorning it. No amount of efforts can remove it (panda!Genma gets near it with a pair of scissors, but the devil dog's face eats them). The only way to get rid of this curse is to fulfill the swimsuit spirit's wish before the sunset... or it will drag Ranma to the bottom of the sea.
- An episode of Lupin III has Lupin steal the Hope Diamond to make into Fujiko's engagement ring, unaware of its infamous curse. After bringing misfortune to everyone around it, Fujiko attempts to get rid of it, but it just keeps reappearing.
- In Gintama once Hijikata gets the cursed sword, which alters his personality, he can no longer leave it, always taking it with him. He himselfs talks about the problem while stirring his drink with said sword.
- In the card game Munchkin, there is a curse called "cursed thingie". It curses an equipped Item, which then doesn't give any bonuses anymore and can't be removed voluntarily. The result is, that it still occupies its slot (for example footgear), therefore blocking it. Therefore, the cursed player wants it on an item which is small and does not occupy a slot or hand. The other players want it on something that occupies both hands or a slot and is big, for maximized inconvenience.
- In Magic: The Gathering, Liliana Vess eventually realizes that the Chain Veil is an Artifact of Doom and wants to get rid of it. She liked the power it gave her — enough power to kill two of her demonic masters — but the multitude of spirits in the Veil itself are just as eager to enslave her. And while her mind might want to throw it away, her hands refuse to obey. At one point, she even tries summoning a skeleton and ordering it to take the Veil from her. The skeleton does so, then quickly falls apart as the magic that animated it fades. As it falls, the Veil "coincidentally" drapes itself over her arm. The spirits of the Veil explain to Liliana that they are not done with her yet, and that deep down she doesn't really want to be rid of the Veil either. They even point out that she put on the Veil again during their conversation, and she didn't even notice it was on her face before they mentioned it.
- Pierino e il burattino (Peter and the Puppet, an Italian comic, by Antonio Rubino, 1919) used this trope as subject. Obsessively. Although defining the puppet as Applied Phlebotinum can be excessive: it has no apparent property or power, but it comes always back to its unwilling beholder.
- One of these features prominently in one of the issues of the Spanish comic Mortadelo y Filemón, titled "The Warlock": a magical note, enchanted to kill anyone who reads it. The title characters subsequently try to remove it by the most varied means, chucking it into the bin, shredding it, burying it, tying it to a rock and throwing it to the sea, and hitting it with a full discharge of a flamethrower. And yet the note manages to never be actually harmed due to some kind of karmic immunity that causes people around it to suffer instead. They do manage to get rid of it. How? They send it back to the guy that commissioned the warlock to send the note to the Super.
- A villainous example occurs in the Iron Man comics with the Mandarin and his alien rings, which give him a variety of fantastic powers. The rings are attuned to him and cannot be taken from him by force. A partial subversion comes from the fact that the Mandarin can voluntarily lend his rings to his minions, although if they're knocked out or killed the ring automatically comes back to him. If the Mandarin himself loses consciousness, all the rings automatically reappear on his fingers, which left his Mooks powerless to stop the Stark employees they had kidnapped from escaping on one occasion after Iron Man knocked out their boss.
- Shows up in Green Lantern on occasion. When Hal Jordan was given a Blue Lantern ring, he was unable to remove it without hoping for something. In a Green Lantern cameo on Superman: The Animated Series, Kyle Rayner couldn't remove his lantern ring even when he tried.
- Spider-Man. The alien symbiote-suit that does get forcefully removed (although not easily), and promptly sees about finding itself a more appreciative host (thereby becoming Venom and its offspring, Carnage and Toxin). Even having successfully removed this MacGuffin from his body, the Web-slinger still isn't free of it: year after year, host after host, it comes back to fight him. It also has a "crazy ex-girlfriend" thing going on, and several comics have stated that it would gladly go back to Peter if he accepted it, which means it's still trying to be even clingier.
- It's gotten worse in recent years. The symbiote messed with the physiology of its last two long-term hosts, making them literally unable to survive without it. This forced Mac Gargan to be locked back into an upgraded Scorpion suit, and nearly killed Flash Thompson when the suit possessed the Superior Spider-Man.
- Numerous stories have seen Venom, Carnage or other symbiotes "permanently bonded" to their hosts such that they can never be removed again. Hell, it's noted in Venom's first appearance that this happened to Eddie Brock. It never sticks.
- Conan the Barbarian once came into possession of the Ring of Molub, an artifact connected to an ancient, Nigh Invulnerable demon of the same name. The demon will relentlessly pursue and slaughter the bearer of ring, which can only be disposed of by passing it on to someone without their knowledge, condemning that poor bastard to an extremely horrific death. Conan gets rid of it by slipping it on the finger of that story's Big Bad … and then breaking his hand for good measure.
- The Pistols in The Sixth Gun bond to whoever picks them up after their previous owner dies. Anyone else gets burned by green fire.
- Parodied in Tintin, with the piece of sticking plaster from Tintin The Calculus Affair. When Captain Haddock tosses it off, it sticks to someone else, who in turn shakes it off. And so it goes all over the bus, before coming to the Captain's cap. It then follows him aboard the plane, eventually makes its way to the cockpit (causing the pilots to momentarily lose control), lands on the Captain again by the end of the flight, is thrown away at the police station, only to return yet again on the captain's clothes in the hotel room!
- The Blue Beetle Scarab is "permanently" infused on the back of adorkable Jaime Rayes that turns him into the 3rd (rightly named) Blue Beetle.
- In "The Sliceman Cometh", in Tales from the Crypt #44, a French Revolutionary executioner who'd killed an innocent man at the request (and payment) of the victim's brother kept trying to dispose of the head only to have it returned to him in various plausible ways. Finally he decided to chop it to bits — which was when the headless corpse showed up looking for it...
- The Star Brand of The New Universe, an energy source that can do anything the user wants to. However, even if you do find a way to get rid of it, a piece of it will still live on in you and recharge itself.
- The current Crimson Avenger is a woman who bought a pair of Colt handguns to exact revenge on a murderer who escaped justice. The guns are cursed, and bonded permanently to her hands. They also lack triggers and never need to be reloaded, apparently firing by themselves and using her as a "host", to bring about vengeance on those who go unpunished for their crimes. She gets an "assignment" by reliving the death of the killer's victim, then involuntarily teleports to the killer's location. One time she tried to kill herself instead, but the guns render her immortal.
- The quantum bands that come with the job of Protector of the Marvel Universe, once put on, don't come off again until the death of their wearer. As a result, Quasar gets killed once precisely because the Big Bad of that story arc is after the bands and discovers that the bands can't even be removed from his wrists after cutting off his lower arms. (He does eventually get better.)
- There's a Mickey Mouse comic that combines this trope with Mundane Utility. Mickey receives a cursed miniature sculpture that is so ugly that no-one wants to keep it, but it will remain with the person who found it until they can find someone else to voluntarily accept it. At the end he is still unable to get rid of it, and finds a cave filled with thousands of identical copies of the object. After thinking for a bit, he makes them into keychain holders and starts a booming business selling them, as whoever buys one will never lose their keys again.
Films — Animation
- The Piece of Resistance from The LEGO Movie, the only thing that can stop the Kragle ( a tube of Krazy Glue), is glued to Emmet's back for most of the film.
Films — Live-Action
- Pipe Down, a title in the Super Mario Bros. Nintendo Adventure Books gamebook series, has this happen to Princess Peach when she receives a mysterious pair of red sneakers for her birthday. When she puts them on, they begin forcing her to dance a la the Hans Christian Andersen tale, and she eventually becomes the unwilling star of a Koopa basketball ballet. If Mario and Luigi manage to find her in the desert in one sequence, she'll tell them that she's tried over and over again, but the sneakers just won't come off her feet.
- The hero of J.H. Brennan's Saga of the Demonspawn gamebooks, Fire*Wolf, comes across a sentient magical sword that he keeps with him because it's a powerful weapon. It's only later that he learns he was destined to inherit it and finds he can't get rid of it. At the end of the series, when the Big Bads try to cripple the hero by stealing all his weapons, they find they can't deprive the hero of the sword.
- In The Fabled Lands if you earn the favor of Nagil, the god of death, you can be gifted with his White Sword. Besides its staggering +8 combat bonus, you'll have it forever. Even if you die and are brought back to life, you'll lose all the rest of your stuff, but not the sword.
- In the Hurog series, there is a ring that makes the wearer the owner of the eponymous castle. You only can take it off when you're dying, although there seems to be quite a long timespan between being able to take it off and actually dying. Ward is not happy when that is revealed, mainly because rings are impractical in combat.
- In the Undead... Series by Mary Janice Davidson, there is the Book of the Dead.
- The young adult novel The Eyes of Kid Midas features a pair of sunglasses that allow the wearer to change reality any way he wants... but the glasses cannot be removed.
- The short story "The Zahir" by Jorge Luis Borges involves a variant on this trope. The title object is cursed, causing anyone who sees it to become gradually unable to think of anything else. The main character succeeds in getting rid of the zahir itself, but is unable to get it out of his head.
- Another Borges example is "Shakespeare's Memory". The narrator — a German Shakespeare scholar — meets a man at a party and unwittingly agrees to accept Exactly What It Says on the Tin: the personal knowledge of all the experiences of William Shakespeare, recollections of which encroach more and more upon his thoughts, threatening to displace his own identity. He can only get rid of it by convincing another person to willingly accept it.
- The John Bellairs novel The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull features a miniature skull that can fit in a pants pocket... and returns there after the protagonist drops it into a lake.
- The walking stick in Iron Kissed, by Patricia Briggs. The protagonist Mercy Thompson acquires a magical walking stick, exact properties unknown. She tries to return it to the fairies several times, but it keeps coming back. A slight twist in that the stick shows up "in places where I live", like in her bed, her car and her work area. Mercy later uses this fact to lure her attacker into a trap. She could have retrieved the stick from any area she spent time in, but only told him about the spot that was protected. Apparently, it also has the power to ensure that all the owner's ewes will bear twins — not particularly useful for a Volkswagen mechanic. It comes in handy in Bone Crossed — apparently it was made by Lugh of the Shining Spear, and so can be used as a spear when needed.
- Vain from Stephen Donaldson's second The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant trilogy, who was brought to life to serve some mysterious purpose. He doesn't actually do much except hang around grinning like an idiot, but he's virtually indestructible and has a knack for overcoming insurmountable obstacles to return to the protagonists whenever something detains him. Not so much a case of The Cat Came Back because, as it turns out, he's an embodiment of pure order that will become one-half of the new Staff of Law when combined with an embodiment of pure magic.
- In Robert Louis Stevenson's story The Bottle Imp, the title MacGuffin (Exactly What It Says on the Tin, it's a bottle, with a devil inside) grants the owner's wishes... but the only way to get rid of it is to sell it at a loss, and still having it in your possession when you die means eternal damnation. The problem is averted when the bottle ends up sold to a minor character who doesn't care about the cost because he fully expects to go to hell anyway, and exchange rates permit the sale even when the bottle was bought for a single penny.
- The Power of Stormhold in Stardust, which Yvaine must carry until the heir of Stormhold asks her for it. But we don't know how clingy it is, because she never actually tries to get rid of it in any other way. In the book, Yvaine's lugging the gem around is explained as an obligation — though it knocked her out of the sky it's not hers, and as stars take obligations very seriously, she can't just leave it. She dislikes having to carry it, but will not get rid of it until the right person asks — that would be inexcusable for any star. A sort of culturally-induced Clingy McGuffin.
- The Elric Saga: Elric, Last Prince of Melibone, is a sickly albino who keeps himself competent as a Badass cliché hero through drugs, magic, and his evil Empathic Weapon, Stormbringer. After destroying his kingdom and losing his true love he has a narmy sequence where he tries to get rid of it and it stands in the ocean smirking at him and Elric becomes... very dramatic on the topic of realizing he's stuck with it. Bonus points for the illustration: it is in the fantasy-illustration style that includes every tiny detail of his outfit, and he gives an impression of faking female orgasm. Of distress. Possibly fainting, too. Perfectly normal for his type, really.
- A dragon scale keeps appearing in the path of the heroes in Mercedes Lackey's One Good Knight in her Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series. Fortunately, the Genre Savvy Sir George knows better than to disturb it; they eventually find that a fox has been following them and moving it around. In fact, the Tradition is a reliable source of Clingy Macguffins — if it's Traditional for a wizard to have a stuffed alligator in his office, he will have one there no matter how often he disposes of the existing one. The only way to escape Tradition is to shift one's personal circumstances so that they no longer suit that particular tale.
- Heralds of Valdemar
- Need takes the direct approach. Unless Need wants to change bearers, trying to get rid of it takes a fair bit of willpower, causes all manner of Nightmare Dreams, and frankly hurts. Just trying not to use it takes an act of will. However, once Need becomes fully conscious, she is no longer clingy.
- Tarma and Kethry, in one of their short stories in Oathblood, find a cursed bad-luck coin in their possession. They can't get rid of it in any ordinary fashion, but they do manage to find a way to pass it onto a more deserving group. It required considerable self-sacrifice on their part, with someone else inadvertently taking it.
- The Luggage and Rincewind in many of the books, which can follow its owner to non-magical worlds and the end of time itself. The Luggage is made of sapient pearwood, a rare wood that grows in high-magic areas. Anything made of sapient pearwood gains virtual immunity to magic and the ability to follow its owner anywhere in the multiverse, which is why a traveling chest made of sapient pearwood is said to be more valuable than anything and everything that said chest could possibly contain. And given that it's also a Bag of Holding, that can be quite a lot of stuff.
- In Wintersmith Tiffany's horse pendant turns out to work exactly as the ring in the folk tale; she gets rid of it near the start of the book to keep the Wintersmith from finding her, and near the end of the book finds it in the guts of a pike caught by her little brother.
- The sentient hellblade Kring — or possibly a purgatoryblade — was thrown into a very deep sea from a very great height by an owner who had been driven to insanity by its continual boring chatter. A parody of Moorcock's Stormbringer (see above), it shares a few characteristics, except, unfortunately, Stormbringer's ability not to sink in water.
- Considering that the Discverse is largely made up of Narrativium, this is just an example of the Theory of Narrative Causality at work. Any sufficiently important item in the Discworld will behave in this way, from the Archchancellor's Hat to Vimes' silver cigar case (though the latter took a lot of work).
- Slappy the recurring Demonic Dummy and his one-shot equally evil peer, Mr. Wood.
- Inverted in another book, with a demonic sponge that kills the possessor in 24 hours if left alone. It made a habit of running off to try and kill the protagonist.
- The Haunted Mask, which is incredibly difficult to remove once you put it on. In fact, it claimed the faces of several previous wearers.
- In The Green Pearl by Jack Vance, the eponymous green pearl is so beautiful that it fills the hearts of everyone who sees it with greed. Unfortunately, the pearl is cursed: no-one will buy it, and if thrown away or given away it will always return to the current owner (even if it has to animate a corpse to carry it back). It can however be transferred by being stolen, which half the time involves the murder of the current owner.
- The Misenchanted Sword by Lawrence Watt-Evans is about a sword that is a flawed Clingy MacGuffin. It makes one almost invincible in single combat (against adult males) about 100 times — then will pick a new owner and kill its old owner. And each owner will get betrayed faster. When sheathed the sword must stay within a certain distance from the wielder, but it becomes far more clingy once drawn and prior to killing; the blade must maintain contact with the wielder at all times. Trying to throw it away or hide it won't work, and is dangerous — the spells used cause an earthquake to return it at one point. On the other hand, nothing except the sword can kill its owner. The way the owner deals with it is refreshingly different than you'd expect: he used it as a mantle piece. Someone tried to steal it, and the resulting chaos almost wrecked his bar. Finally he got tired of it and just kicked it under his bed.
- The title painting in Stephen King's short story The Road Virus Heads North, which not only shows scenes of mayhem occurring in its wake, suggests that the subject of the painting is following the protagonist and fully intends to kill him as well when he catches up. It is suggested that the painting cannot be gotten rid of or destroyed by any means. It's also suggested at the end that the painting isn't actually a painting, but part of its painter's ghost; the other part is hunting after the protagonist.
- The creepy monkey in King's short story "The Monkey" is also resilient and extremely hard to get rid of.
- The One Ring from The Lord of the Rings could perhaps be considered one of these: there's a moment, for example, in the first chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring, when, as Bilbo is preparing to leave the Shire, Gandalf persuades him to "stop possessing it, give it to Frodo", and Bilbo agrees, but as he walks out, Gandalf stops him: "You have still got the ring in your pocket." The Ring also attempts to compel its wearer to put it on when a Ringwraith gets near. However, it could also be seen as a partial subversion of this trope, as it also has a tendency to slip off the bearer's finger unexpectedly, often when it is most needed; this is how it came to Bilbo after slipping off Gollum's finger. It also slipped off of Isildur's finger, revealing him to a band of orcs, thereby betraying him to his death.
In the book it is noted that even if thrown into the sea it would eventually find its way back to civilization by compelling some fish to eat it, and if buried under a mountain it would gnaw on the minds of the person who knew its whereabouts. (And imagine having the willpower to throw even an ordinarily priceless item such as the diamond in Titanic into the sea.) Anyone sufficiently powerful to safeguard it would be tempted to claim it and become the new Ring lord, and it would try to slip away from anyone sufficiently weak to avoid temptation or ability to wield it — and slip into the hands of someone who could.
The film explained this fairly concisely. The ring cannot be destroyed, except for within Mount Doom. The Ring cannot be guarded, buried or lost again; it will always call out to the nearest person to possess it, and cannot be resisted for long. The Fellowship could not be avoided.
- Another Tolkien example, from The Silmarillion, is the Silmarils and the Necklace of the Dwarves (which was built around one of the Silmarils). Morgoth is unable to part with the Silmarils even though their holy light burns him, and later Beren is unable to throw away the Necklace when he is told to, instead giving it to Lúthien to wear.
- Played with in Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun series, which takes place billions of years in the future. The hero, Severian, believes that the tiny claw shaped piece of Lost Technology called the Claw of the Conciliator that he had been carrying with him for a while was destroyed in an artillery bombardment. However, he later pricks himself on a bush and finds that the thorn is the Claw. However, later he discovers that he had actually subconsciously created a new Claw using a psychic link to some Imported Alien Phlebotinum that he did not know he had. He later goes back in time and gives the new Claw to the same religious order that he got the old one from, creating a Time Paradox. During the same time trip he acquires his link to Imported Alien Phlebotinum from Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, giving his younger self the power to create the Claw.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it is implied that the Elder Wand can't simply be destroyed: neither McGonagall nor Harry think about it when the chance presents itself. Though Harry does believe Dumbledore's plan will work — if all goes well, at least. The Elder Wand can be passed on fairly easily, the wielder just needs to lose a fight. The curse, so to speak, comes from the fact that it was usually passed on by lethal force.
- In Wicked, when Elphaba finally confronts Dorothy, she demands Nessarose's silver slippers, which Dorothy is wearing. Unfortunately, Dorothy finds that the slippers won't come off her feet, much to her and Elphaba's mutual frustration. Dorothy Lampshades this trope by stating that she's been trying to get the slippers off for days... and now her socks are so sweaty that "it's not to be believed."
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Percy Jackson's magic pen/sword Anaklusmos ("Riptide") can't be lost. Every time it's seperated from Percy, it simply returns to his pocket as a pen.
- In David Eddings' The Belgariad, Princess Ce'Nedra is given a magical amulet by Belgarath, Polgara, and Garion that once belonged to Garion's ultimate grandmother. Once accepted and donned willingly, it cannot be removed by anything short of the wearer's death. Being the Alpha Bitch as well as a Tsundere, Ce'Nedra at first bursts into tears thinking they are giving her a symbol of enslavement, but later discovers that the amulet gives her unique powers of perception.
- The title swords of Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn behave in this manner. They do not have any powers of movement, but subtly influence those around them to do their bidding. As their power grows throughout the story, it becomes impossible for their bearers to willingly give them up. (Yes, this was heavily inspired by Lord of the Rings.)
- The Device of Time Journeying in Weis and Hickman's Dragonlance novels stays with the person to whom it is given.
- Robert Westall's The Cats of Seroster features a knife that conveys immortality on its owner and if you try to discard it will come back to you or bring you back to it. The only way to get rid of it is to trick someone else into taking it.
- In Monday Begins on Saturday by the Strugatsky Brothers, the protagonist accidentally obtains a "non-changeable dime" that returns to the owner every time it's spent.
- The chain letter in Chain Letter by Christopher Pike. Once the letter is sent to you and you are on the list, the only way to free yourself from eternally being commanded to perform tasks (each task progressively becoming more malicious and difficult) is death.
- In John Bibee's Magic Bicycle series, most supernatural objects are like this, especially number cards.
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian novel The Hour of the Dragon, the Heart of Ahriman cannot be held by the sea.
- In Larry Niven's short story "Not Long Before the End", the barbarian warrior Belhap Sattlestone Wirldess ag Miracloat roo Cononson (his friends, who tend to only be temporarily so, call him "Hap") is rightly proud of his magical sword, Glirendree, and the fact that he cannot put it down or let it go doesn't really bother him... until the Warlock informs him that Glirendree is actually a demon forced into sword-form, and the reason he cannot put it down (or even transfer it from his right hand to his left) is that the demon has already sunk its fangs into his hand.
- In Robert McCloskey's story "Pie and Punch and You-Know-Whats", a stranger slipped the main character a record containing a ditty which, once heard, compelled the listener to keep singing parts of it over and over, "infecting" anyone who hadn't previously heard it with the same misfortune. It referred to, and was presumably inspired by, a similar story by Mark Twain called "Punch, Brothers, Punch."
- Lensman: E. E. “Doc” Smith's Lens is this after a fashion. Yes, those who acquire it do so deliberately and in full knowledge of the cost, and the thing is not intrinsically troublesome, but earning it elevates one to a rank that carries grave responsibilities for all its wearers; promotion to the elite ("Unattached" status) carries a 90% mortality rate (and the survivors are mostly artificial parts); and you can't ever give the thing away because it'll kill anyone who comes into more than fleeting contact with it. Come the final battle against the Eddorians, even Lensmen long since retired are required to do their bit.
- In The Wizard of 4th Street, the runestones keep reappearing in the pockets of Wyrdrune or Kira when they try to sell or discard them. Later, when they're joined by Modred, the three stones fuse themselves with the three characters, becoming permanently Clingy.
- Michael McDowell's novel The Amulet features the title amulet as an Artifact of Doom that is passed from resident to resident in a sleepy Alabama town. Anyone who stumbles across it is invariably compelled to hold it up around their neck and press the ends of its broken chain together, often to imagine how it would look on them. The chain then magically fuses together, resisting any subsequent efforts to remove it - until after the wearer has perished in a terrible freak accident, after which it comes loose of its own accord for the next unsuspecting victim to find.
- Rhodry's silver dagger in Katharine Kerr's Deverry series.
- In one of the stories from Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror, The Demon Bench-End, the eponymous item is this, overlapping with Driven to Madness and Driven to Villainy. Moreover, its current owner cannot get rid of it on purpose - it has to be stolen from them. It's implied that attempting to destroy it simply causes the owner to destroy something that they hold dear instead.
- In Stephanie Burgis's A Most Improper Magick, the Magic Mirror is this to Kat.
- Louisa May Alcott wrote a considerably more lighthearted and benign version of Andersen's The Red Shoes with The Skipping Shoes. A naughty girl named Kitty puts on a pair of new shoes that force her to behave, and that won't come off her feet when she tries to remove them. The shoes do have their upside, as when Kitty starts trying to be nice the shoes actively help her do it. They also give her the ability to talk to animals and even start teaching her how to dance. While their magic wears off at the end of the story, Kitty learns that Good Feels Good and continues to act as if she was still wearing the shoes.
- The Southern Reach Trilogy features an otherwise ordinary broken cellphone brought back from the Eldritch Location Area X, which always somehow returns after being thrown away. Control is stymied by his inability to get rid of it in Authority, and flashbacks in Acceptance reveal that it had previously behaved in a similarly clingy fashion towards the psychologist.
- Many objects in sci-fi/horror anthology shows fall into the evil stalker category: the "Talky Tina" doll and the guitar in The Twilight Zone, the Curious Camera in Are You Afraid of the Dark?...
- The magic car that Sabrina bought without her aunts' permission in Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
- The Amanda Show has this played for laughs — Amanda's character (in a sketch) was trying to sleep, only for the doll to be constantly talking and wake her up. She even throws it out the window, and then it jumps back in. She has her dog eat it, only to hear the voicebox still functional.
- In the short-lived series Dead Last, the Talisman owned by the main characters that allowed them to see ghosts always returned to them, no matter how they tried to dispose of or destroy it. One character actually took advantage of this in different ways — for example, he pawns it repeatedly in the first episode and makes a sizable sum of money.
- Parodied in Everybody Loves Raymond with the canister episode. A jar to hold crayons and cookies becomes symbolic of Marie's never-ending hold on Debra and the Barone family.
- The demonic vessel box that holds the Weapon of the Week in Reaper.
- LOST's mysterious numbers are an intangible but Clingy MacGuffin for Hurley. They keep turning up, though Hurley runs from them at every turn.
- A non-magical example occurs on Ally McBeal when the title character is dragged to a bowling alley by her friends after work. Since she doesn't have a ball, she borrows one from another bowler. Unfortunately, Ally's fingers swell up in the holes and the bowling ball becomes stuck to her hand. She tries to get it sawed off, but the bowler she borrowed it from pleads with her not to do it, since it was a memento of his dead wife. Ally is forced to take the ball with her to the office the next morning, just as they're about to try an important case. Fortunately, the swelling in Ally's fingers goes down and the bowling ball slides off... only to land right on her foot.
- In Smallville, Clark Kent at one point is tricked into putting on a ring that takes away his powers. It wouldn't come off and was seemingly indestructible (it was unaffected by Clark using a grindstone on it). He considered cutting his finger off, but Chloe begged him not to, so he didn't try. It took the power of the Fortress of Solitude to get rid of it.
- A benign example of this, similar to the Ring of Polycrates story, can be found in the miniseries The 10th Kingdom. Wolf purchases an engagement ring for Virginia, and after being rejected, he throws it into the lake. At the end of the story, Virginia ends up ordering the fish that ate the ring and Wolf takes this chance to propose again, with greater success.
- The Glove of Myneghon from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Revelations". It's an all-powerful gauntlet that will not release its hold on the wearer until death.
- Stargate Atlantis:
- Rodney once found an Ancient forcefield device that protects its wearer. Then he can't take it off. It turns out it's controlled by the user's mind, which means Rodney only has to want to deactivate it. Since he's... well, Rodney, his fear keeps it from ever deactivating, protecting him from bullets, falls, eating (his fear of random accidents was greater than his fear of starvation), etc. At least until he realizes it makes him the perfect candidate for a dangerous mission, at which point it promptly falls off. (A later episode shows that it does not protect one against drowning.)
- In the episode "Tracker", the Runner Kyrik (Runners are human big game prey for the Wraith) is in possession of an ancient armband artifact that fused onto him, and allows him to teleport long distances as long as it's powered up.
- In Chuck, the title character accidentally has a database of government information uploaded into his brain, setting off the events of the series. A recurring storyline is Chuck's attempts to have the Intersect removed. Though he succeeds a couple of times, circumstances usually force him to re-upload it.
- In The Invisible Man, an artificial gland that allows a person to become invisible is implanted into a convict named Darrien Fawkes. The only person who can remove it is killed by the series Big Bad, who wants control of the gland.
- The baseball from Defying Gravity in the episode "Rubicon" is a variant on this. It is a symbol of Donner's unresolved guilt for being forced to leave his girlfriend to die on the Mars mission. Once in each of the two time periods that the episode takes place in Donner gives the baseball up; both times he gets the ball back. The episode ends with Donner chucking the ball out the airlock, a symbol that he's finally given his guilt up.
- Power Rangers:
- In Power Rangers Dino Thunder, the white Dino Gem is much more powerful than the others. This makes it a very bad thing, as in this state it's (a) unremovable, (b) turns the user into an insane dark Ranger who fights simply because he can, and (c) you can't control when it will activate. Having some of its energy drained resulted in the loss of those qualities, but also makes Trent no stronger than the other Rangers.
- In Power Rangers Wild Force, the Evil Mask containing Zen-Aku's spirit can't be removed even while you're still yourself — a condition that won't last long.
Myths & Religion
- A mild example occurs in The Dark Crystal. Jen throws the Crystal Shard away into a dark swamp at night. That should be one very lost shard. But the next morning there it is, far less than a stone's throw away from where the heroes have slept.
- In the Suspense episode "The Pasteboard Box", a man murders his twin brother in order to take his place, dismembers the body to dispose of it more easily — and then just can't get rid of the pasteboard box containing the head. Until the end, when the police show up to arrest the other twin for murdering his secretary. He tries to prove his true identity by showing them his brother's head, and opens the pasteboard box to find that he did manage to get rid of the head after all, and this box only contains the fishbowl he ordered earlier.
- The obscure fantasy game Dragon Warriors featured Vallandar's swords in the first adventure. Vallandar was the universe's King Arthur-equivalent who would return to his kingdom at the end of the world, and anyone who took one of the swords (they were just standing there) would have it with them forever so that they could join him. Bury it in the woods, drop it in an ocean, and a few days later it would return to your inventory. These were good swords though, and would even become magical if the player played his cards right.
- Many cursed items in Dungeons & Dragons do this:
- The Loadstone: Weighs down the user, decreasing his base speed, and appears in one's possession even if destroyed.
- The Talisman of Zagy: When used wrong, it acts like a loadstone. But in a subversion, not only CAN you destroy it, but it turns into a diamond if you hold onto it for a few months.
- Many cursed weapons (e.g., the ever-popular sword -1) will appear in your hand every time you enter combat, forcing you to use a sub-par weapon. Players quickly found clever uses for this item. After all, you can never be disarmed and never have to carry a weapon when you're "cursed" with the sword. Fighting with a -1 weapon is far better than fighting with no weapon.
- Unless it's a cursed berserking weapon, which in a fight will force the wielder to attack everyone in sight (even their own allies) until they're dead, incapacitated, or the only one left alive. Ironically, those types of weapons often have magical bonuses.
- A more benign version are the Legendary Weapons from 3.5th Edition. Once a character has started to take levels in the Scion Prestige Class for such a weapon, it can't be separated from its owner for very long, as fate literally will find a way to reunite them. Adding to the fact those weapons are quite hard to destroy, it insures the character will hardly ever be disarmed.
- In one Paranoia module, the PCs are ordered to dispose of a trash bag full of treasonous Communist propaganda pamphlets, which prove to be indestructible (and if they just ditch it somewhere, then someone ends up finding it and returning it to them). Eventually, they get the pamphlets superglued all over themselves (though this does at least let them survive a massive weapon blast just before the final confrontation).
- In Exalted, a Lucky Rock is an otherwise ordinary stone that always reappears in its owner's possession. Simple (but expensive) magic can transfer this quality to javelins, arrows, and other tools of war. The effect is not immediate, so a "lucky arrow" is not a bottomless quiver in and of itself, but the enchantment has obvious utility regardless.
- Geist The Sin Eaters: Each Sin-Eater has a Keystone Memento, an object that exists partially in Twilight and represents the Bargain they struck with their geist. It can never be taken from the Sin-Eater, and if it is, it just disappears and reappears the next time they call on it.
- In one Rooster Teeth short, Geoff experiences this trope with a box he stole from the Devil in a dream — it was on his chest when he awoke, throwing it into a dumpster only causes it to leap back out, and in spite of leaving it at home that morning, it was sitting on his desk when he got to work.
- The book of E-Ville in Sluggy Freelance, as illustrated when it is thrown through a window.
- In Tales of the Questor, Quentyn's sword "Wild Card" is indicated to be just such a MacGuffin — its efforts to get back to its holder increase in direct proportion to the distance it is from him and the level of danger he appears to be in at the time... and it's pretty unsubtle in how it tries to get there.
- Blinker Stones from Gunnerkrigg Court are a rather benign variety. They can be retrieved from anywhere with a thought, even if you don't own the stone, though it's not clear whether one can be taken from its owner using this method.
- The Gods Of Arr Kelaan has a pink rubber mallet which always returns to the main character.
- The Necklace of Septumet in the currently defunct comic For Your Eyes Only not only had a difficult to control (and undesirable, at least for the current wearer) power, but it transforms into a tattoo when put on, making it irremovable.
- The artifacts that give Sydney her powers in Grrl Power. They cannot get more than a few metres from her or her from them. How they react seems to be based on the Rule of Drama or Rule of Funny.
- In Full Frontal Nerdity, Lewis has a cursed 20-sided die that is every gamer's nightmare; it always rolls a 1. The gamers give is a burial, but it returns. They bury it again, this time under a statue of the Virgin Mary, with a bunch of garlic. It returns again. The characters decide to de-curse it by mixing it with some dice that are extra lucky — they rolled every die in their gaming store and bought the ones that came up as 20 three consecutive times. But after doing this, all the dice start rolling 1s. ("It's like we tried to cure a zombie by locking it in a room with normal people!") Then the other cursed dice vanish, and the number 1 starts appearing world wide — sports all end up with a score of 1, clocks stop at 1:11, etc. The gamers decide that the only way to break the curse is to make rolling a 1 good. Fortunately, Nelson had the foresight to buy a lottery ticket with all 1s, and won $1,111. They use this money to bribe Wizards of the Coast to temporarily change the rules of Dungeons & Dragons so that 1s are good (version 1.1.1 — their word processor was cursed too). Lewis rolls the die in the hopes of getting a 1 and lightning strikes, destroying it.
- The Dewitchery Diamond in El Goonish Shive, seems to have a will of its own, somehow managing to thwart attempts to permanently hide it away from where "cursed" beings can touch it.
- The Sword of Re in Kubera is a god-level item, a powerful weapon against sura that inhibits their Healing Factor. The problem is, it also inhibits the owner's Healing Factor, bringing it down to human normal. Furthermore, once the sword has bonded to an owner, only that individual may use it, and the only way to give it up is to die (at which point it returns to its resting place in the Temple of Chaos). Yuta claims that the standard rules don't apply to him; he could draw the sword, use it, then hand it off to someone else. It's not clear if this is because he's half-Chaos Clan (magic doesn't work on them quite the way it should) or if it's because his mother is the goddess Kali, who made the sword in the first place.
- SCP Foundation
- The object SCP-050, which only switches owners if someone plays a good enough prank on its current owner. Hilarity freaking ensues.
- Also SCP-1015-1, which only switches owners if taken without permission, or the owner is killed.
- The Amulet of Cthon from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe. Putting it on makes a person utterly invulnerable to attack from forces both mystical and scientific... and slowly causes the user to become obsessed with the Great Old Ones, to the point that within a couple of years, the wearer is an utterly invulnerable cultist devoted to bringing the Old Ones back. And it won't come off until the wearer dies...
- In Noob, Sparadrap's hacked staff (and presumably similar objects Tenshirock introduced into the game) can't be deleted by normal means and will be part of the Starter Equipment if its possesser get banned by a Game Master and creates a replacement avatar. It's actually so clingy that the Game Masters settled for getting it Brought Down to Normal the second time they ran into it.
- In JourneyQuest, you have the Sword of Fighting. Sir Perfluous want nothing to do with it (as he's a Lovable Coward, not the kind of hero who'd willingly wield a magic weapon in face of danger), but after accidentally picking it up he just can't get rid of it. Even after repeatedly thowing it away, including down a cliff, it just comes back. Worst, it's a Talking Weapon, and it makes very clear that it will always find Perf... "Everywhere!"
- In The Adventures of The League of S.T.E.A.M., episode "The Tiki Room", the title Tiki can't be removed from the living room of its owner, despite the efforts of the Leaguers.
- Adventure Time: Finn's Grass Sword becomes attached to his right arm (this is treated by most others as if it were a curse, but Finn finds it ''totally awesome'' ... the sword is a pretty good weapon, after all). Come Season 6, however, and the sword is removed... along with Finn's entire arm.
- The Omnitrix in Ben 10 can't be removed without incredibly specialized equipment, skills, and technical knowledge — and a whole lotta pain. You could also kill the person wearing it or cut off the limb that the Omnitrix is attached to. Naturally, the Big Bad tries this but is thwarted by the good guys before he gets the chance to hack the boy's arm off. Oddly, in the What If? episode where Gwen gets the Omnitrix, the Big Bad indicates that he could remove it a lot less painfully (though Gwen hadn't been wearing it nearly as long), but wants to hack it off anyway For the Evulz.
- Subverted in the immediate sequel, Ben 10: Alien Force. The series finale reveals that Ben has learned how to remove the watch himself using a voice command and Override Command, so it's not technically a Clingy MacGuffin anymore. It gets destroyed before the episode ends, and it's currently unclear if his new Ultimatrix is clingy or not.
- Kim Possible:
- The Nano Tick and the Centurion Project.
- Another episode has our heroine donning a pair of red shoes that will allow her to move at hyperspeed to keep up with all her responsibilities. Unfortunately, once again they work too well, as they become stuck and won't come off her feet. For the rest of the episode, Kim (and Rufus, who also had a pair made for him) are stuck moving at hyperspeed, and at the end of the episode they're still wearing the shoes. Kim eventually Hand Waves this by assuring Rufus that the shoes will probably come off... eventually, anyway.
- The Manacle of Osiris from The Mummy: The Animated Series, is a quite literal Clingy MacGuffin in that it requires the use of another MacGuffin to remove.
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Two undying, self-mobile dummies (voiced by Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and T-Pain) plague the household. Smash them, bash them, they just return. Shake, in an odd moment of logic, uses them to create a profitable magic show. Turn one into splinters, it just wanders right back out from behind the curtain.
- Sabrina: The Animated Series has Sabrina getting a pair of magical dancing shoes for her boyfriend Harvey when he confesses that he can't dance. Unfortunately, the shoes work too well, as they won't come off Harvey's feet and force him to dance whenever he's in the vicinity of music.
- Phineas and Ferb:
- Played for Laughs in an episode. The family goes on vacation to Hawaii and Candace finds a Tiki necklace that seemingly curses her with bad luck. She tries to get rid of it, but it keeps coming back to her. It later turns out the Tiki necklace was a restaurant gimmick, and earned her a free dessert, which she turned down.
- And then there is the episode that parodied The Wizard of Oz. When the Wicked Witch (played by Dr. Doofenshmirtz) demands that Candace hand over the magic red-rubber boots, she replies that she would, but they've grown on her. By that, she means that thorned vines have literally grown onto her legs and they won't come off. It's only after Phineas and Ferb give her a red-rubber shoehorn that she's finally able to remove them.
- One House of Mouse short was actually about Mickey Mouse having a hard time sleeping because of his new alarm clock's ticking noise. He always tries to get rid of it, but no matter how hard he tries, the clock will inevitably make its way back to his house.
- The Green Shoes in the Looney Tunes cartoon The Wearing of the Grin.
- The Alicorn Amulet from the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Magic Duel" is a variant of this trope: it can be removed, but only by the wearer. Since it grants immense magical powers to the wearer (Trixie in this episode), they will have no desire to remove it, but it also makes them evil, so the main characters have plenty of reasons to want her to remove it. They succeed in making her remove it by tricking her with an even more powerful (actually fake) amulet.
- In SheZow the main character's Transformation Trinket is bound to his finger, though the episode "SheZow For a Day" has him briefly able to give it to his sister (whom she was intended to be SheZow).
- In Captain N: The Game Master we find out that Princess Zelda was now connected to all three Triforces. When Eggplant Wizard and King Hippo steals two of the three Triforces, she's brought to the brink of death and Link and the N-Team have to hunt down the missing items.
- This can happen to people who wear the same ring for too long, such as a wedding band. Over time, a person's fingers can develop around the ring to the point where it becomes stuck and can't be removed without filing it off. It's common enough that specialist tools exist just for removing such rings.
- Glitter (AKA "the herpes of craft supplies"). Try getting it off you.
- Pet hair. Especially when you're wearing black.
- Fine sand, especially from the beach. You'll find sand in places you never know could be possible.
- Credit history, criminal records, educational records, and a myriad of other records collected by the government and private industry tend to follow, and potentially haunt, a person until they die. Or longer.