Sometimes, an episode of a series may involve a character discovering an egg of some sort which later hatches. Occasionally, the protagonists may save the egg from a terrible fate: either from being smashed or from being something or someone's lunch. The egg eventually hatches and the character gains a Pet Baby, Wild Animal.
Usually the baby is a Small Annoying Creature (though it may actually be a gargantuan creature with the mind of a small annoying one) that thinks the first person (usually the discoverer) it sees is its "mama". Usually the baby may be far too much for the character to handle and they have to somehow find its real parents. A common variant has the egg hatching into something evil.
The trope can get even more unusual when the resulting offspring ends up taking on the characteristics of the hatcher, rather than who actually contributed to the genetics.
If the plot revolves around the unknown origin or result of a different kind of egg, it may be Who's Your Daddy?
A frequent cartoon scenario has a Talking Animal, or more often a Speech Impaired Animal, is trying to keep an egg warm without being interrupted or losing the egg in a offbeat chase scene. When the egg hatches, this often results in the (usually male) babysitter being referred to as Mommy.
Compare Egg Sitting, where the egg is just a stand-in for a baby.
Despite the trope name, the egg might or might not be a MacGuffin. The trope's name is a silly pun on Egg McMuffin, the breakfast sandwich.
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Anime & Manga
Shugo Chara!: The Embryo, and heck, the Heart's Eggs themselves, are there within order towards creating Dreams.
The egg that Skuld's angel Noble Scarlet hatches from in Ah! My Goddess.
In the Diamond is Unbreakable story arc of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Koichi's stand Echoes actually takes the form of an egg when he first gains it. Later, when he needs its power, it hatches into its first effective form.
In the opening arc of YuYu Hakusho, Yusuke is given an egg that will feed off his spirit energy and hatch when he can come back to life. It is ignored completely when Yusuke is brought back to life for a different reason, and seems to be forgotten for another few arcs — until the Dark Tournament, when Koenma reveals that it's finally ready to hatch. Instead of the huge, horrible beast the characters feared, it hatches into a little blue penguin-y thing. Keiko dubs it "Puu" and it becomes her pet. Then in the next arc, Yusuke dies and reincarnates as a demon. Cue Puu growing into a huge demonic version of itself.
Natsume Yuujinchou: Natsume takes care of a small egg found in a nest — which hatches into a "dragon". At first, however, it appears to take the form of an extremely tiny version of whatever creature it sees first — namely Natsume. It is possibly the cutest thing to ever exist in anime.◊
Played with in the Kirby of the Stars anime, where the giant steel bird Dynablade lays an egg that later disappears, with fragments of its shell around. The other characters suspect that Kirby has eaten the egg, and Dynablade ain't happy...
In Digimon, digi-eggs are the beginning and end of a Digimon's life cycle, with a Digimon reverting to egg form after "death." (There are exceptions to this, such as season three, which began the trend of new seasons being AU and thus had different rules, and season five, in which rebirth was automatic again... making it all the more horrible when the villainous Kurata creates a means of corrupting a Digimon's data so it can't ever be reborn. Once, Seraphimon, a god/king to the season four version of the Digital World, had to be toted around by Bokomon, who had it strapped to his stomach and acted pregnant for well over ten episodes until Seraphimon hatched as Patamon. And then proceeds to refer to Bokomon as his "papa-mon". No reference or mention is made of the fact that Bokomon could, if he wanted to, become The Man Behind the Man ruling 1/3 of the digital world.
In the anime, Ash and his friends found and looked after an egg for a while which eventually hatched into a Togepi (that became the Team Pet for a while). This Togepi saw Misty as its mother. Perhaps slightly spoofed in that Ash was the one who found the egg, and is pissed that the Togepi didn't therefore attach to him.
Most of the cast members have received a Pokémon through this fashion. Ash received an egg with hatched into a Phanpy, and another one much later that hatched into a Scraggy, May received one that hatched into an Eevee, Brock received one that hatched into a Happiny, and Dawn received one that hatched into a Cyndaquil. This happens in the games quite a lot as well.
In the Pokémon Special manga, Gold receives the Togepi egg, which at one point nearly gets eaten by a wild Gligar. Thankfully, it hatched into a Killer Rabbit with a gambling problem and took the Gligar down itself.
Subverted in Maison Ikkoku, where Yotsuya gives an egg to Godai with no explanation before leaving on a trip. The entire episode revolves around the rest of the cast dealing with the fallout resulting, some helpful, others not so much. In the end, it is revealed Yotsuya had just found the egg that morning.
The entire plot of Seirei no Moribito occurs because Prince Chagum is carrying the egg of a water spirit within his body, at first leading many people to believe that he's possessed by a demon. The entire cast becomes very concerned both with making sure the egg hatches successfully (since there will be a horrific drought if it doesn't) and with making sure that Chagum isn't killed in the process, with much of the drama of the latter half of the series coming from the fact that the two goals may be mutually exclusive.
In Xxx HO Li C, Watanuki is once given a magical egg as payment for a job. He is told that he just has to sleep with it and anything he wishes will come out. He uses it to hatch a little bird, Tampopo, that is immune to Himawari's bad luck curse to make her happy.
Revolutionary Girl Utena has an aptly-titled episode — "Nanami's Egg" — in which Nanami believes she's laid an egg in her sleep and no-one (except Utena) has the heart to tell her that it doesn't make sense. Nanami was already considered a character that straddled the Cerebus Syndrome, with both serious duel episodes and comic relief episodes based around her haughtiness and animals abusing her, but the 27th episode manages to marry both comedy of the absurd and very touching character development. Its Insert Song is "Hello, Baby.".
The Behelits of the Berserk take on the shape of an egg with human facial features strewn all over it. There are two egg-grades of Behelits: the normal brown-grade Behelits that give you average evil nutrition, and then the red-grade Behelits that give you humongousGod-like evil nutrition (and hence, this grade is also known as, "The Egg of the Conqueror/King"). And don't forget, these are also Clingy MacGuffins, as they always find their way back to their master when the time is right. So, they ain't going rotten anytime soon.
Episode 20 of Fairy Tail is a flashback centered around Natsu and Lisanna taking care of a mysterious egg that dropped out of the sky. It hatches into a certain flying blue kitty.
In U.S. Acres, Orson the Pig took care of two abandoned eggs, from which hatched Booker and Sheldon.
In the Eddie Murphy film Dr. Dolittle, Dolittle's daughter Maya has an egg throughout the movie that she believes is a swan egg. At the end of the film, it hatches, and it turns out to be an alligator.
John Hurt's character is this to the crew of the Nostromo in Alien.
The forged (and real) Fabergé egg in the first half of Octopussy.
Baby Boomers will remember Oliver Butterworth's 1956 book The Enormous Egg, in which a chicken lays an anomalously large egg from which hatches a triceratops. (If you don't remember the book, perhaps you remember the 1968 TV special based on it.)
In the Dr. Seuss book (and Bob Clampett cartoon adaptation) Horton Hatches the Egg, an elephant takes on the task of hatching the egg of a irresponsible bird. The offspring ends up being a bird with the head of an elephant.
The Daenerys subplot in A Game of Thrones features three fossilized dragon eggs. Once Dany figures out the meaning of her family's motto and its origins in Valyrian sorcery, it turns out her eggs are not so much dead as dormant — which is why in the subsequent books she's called Daenerys the Unburnt, Mother of Dragons.
In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Hagrid gets ahold of a dragon egg, which hatches into Norwegian Ridgeback which Hagrid dubs Norbert. Little Norbert, with his vicious, fire-breathing ways, quickly becomes a liability (especially as keeping dragons is illegal), and he is dispatched to Romania, much to Hagrid's distress.
In Taltos, young Vlad takes care of the jhereg egg that he'd obtained from its mother in Jhereg. When Loiosh hatches, he calls Vlad "Mama", although he switches to "Boss" once he's grown some.
Not an egg, but in Perdido Street Station, Isaac rears a caterpillar-like larva to adulthood in a similar manner to this trope, mostly to see what it'll grow up to be. This backfires spectacularly when the larva grows into a monstrous, mind-devouring slake moth.
In Nomads of Gor Tarl is tasked by the Priest-Kings to retrive the last egg of the Priest-Kings, the only female, to start their cycle anew.
Septimus Heap: The rock that Jenna finds in Magyk turns out to be one.
Most of the plot of The Good The Bad And The Mediochre revolves around Mediochre and his various acquaintances trying to keep a dragon's egg (which he names 'Glint') out of the hands of a smuggling syndicate. It is therefore a literal Egg MacGuffin.
Temeraire begins with this. In an alternate version of Earth where dragons exist, a French ship is captured by the British transporting a ship...forcing the captain to harness and bond with the dragon that comes out.
In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Parturition" Neelix and Paris find a nest of repto-humanoids, one of which hatches, leading them to care for it until the mother returns.
In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Bad Eggs", the students are given an egg to take care of to show them the responsibilities of parenthood. The eggs hatch into some kind of prehistoric mind-controlling parasites. (Discovered when Xander cooks and tries to eat his.)
In the Shake It Up episode "Heat it Up", Tinka (the comedic relief) enters an egg into a science fair that she genetically engineered. It hatches and proceeds to attack her.
In Merlin, Merlin and company go looking for a dragon egg in "Aithusa".
In the The Aquabats! Super Show! episode "Mysterious Egg!", Jimmy the Robot finds a giant egg and the team eagerly awaits its hatching with contrived imagine spots. The egg hatches and the resulting chicken-thing wreaks havoc and runs off. Jimmy is torn between his attachment for the hatchling and protecting the rest of the band from it.
Myths & Religion
In Hawaiian mythology, Pele carries an egg from her original home in Tahiti to the Hawaiian archipelago. The egg hatches out her fully-formed sister Hi'iaka.
In one of Vivian Stanshall's Sir Henry at Rawlinson End radio sessions (but not the LP or film versions) one of the stone balls on a gateway turns out to be a diplodocus egg and hatches — much to the annoyance of Sir Henry, who thinks he should be the only dinosaur at Rawlinson End.
In Chrono Cross, one of the first key items Serge can obtain in Another World is a Draconian Egg. Near the endgame, he can take it to an incubator in Fort Dragonia, where it will hatch into Draggy, a rainbow-colored infant dragon.
She may be the most hardboiled and Badass of Nintendo's protagonists, but in the closing of Metroid II even Samus Aran couldn't bring herself to exterminate the last Metroid, a mere baby that mistook her for its mother. She instead turned it over to scientists, proving to be both a good thing and bad thing when the Space Pirates steal it in the beginning of Super Metroid.
In a weird example, there's the Hummingbird Egg / Egg of Light from MOTHER 3, which appears to be more of a Fabergé egg than a real one. Apparently it's so important that Wess would implement a trap that would drop thieves into a watery pit just to protect it. The egg doesn't actually do anything in the story, but it's plot-important because it has all of the original memories of everyone who came from Earth. Since life on the islands turned out to be a true utopia, it might have been made when there were doubts about how well the plan was going to work.
Kinda subverted in An Untitled Story, as your character is an egg that runs around and does stuff (until you hatch it).
The plot of Saga Frontier 2 revolves around a magical egg that causes grief for a family of adventurers and influences the history of the world.
In Sam & Max: Freelance Police Chariots of the Dogs, the chicken was the McGuffin to answer an old mariachi's philosophical obsession. A rooster to be specific, who was left at the beginning of time where he promptly laid an egg. No one was more surprised about that than the rooster. This left forever unanswerable the question of "which came first, the chicken or the egg?"
In Super Smash Bros. Melee there was a mission where you had to keep an egg from breaking.
Super Mario World has the Yoshi eggs. Bowser has sealed Yoshi inside an egg. In several levels, Mario (or Luigi) can rescue Yoshi, who becomes the Power-Up Mount. Meanwhile, the seven Koopalings have kidnapped seven Yoshi eggs. Mario can recover the eggs from the Koopalings' castles, but they do not hatch until the end credits, when they become baby Yoshis.
The Egg MacGuffin in Yoshi's Island DS is one of the seven star children. It is baby Yoshi, who hatches during the end credits.
The Sphere of Light in Dragon Quest III is actually the Dragon Queen's final egg.
DragonFable starts out with the hero recovering the Black Dragon Box, which contained a dragon egg. After several quests involving the egg and its fate, it eventually hatches into the dragon that you use for titan battles.
In World of Warcraft, a Quest Chain in the Badlands results in you stealing a Black Dragon Egg. You end up purifying it, creating the only known uncorrupted Black Dragon Egg in the entire World. Naturally, Deathwing wants it destroyed and he thinks he has succeeded when he kills Rhea. She was Genre Savvy enough to have a Fake with her instead of the real thing, ensuring her sacrifice wasn't in vain. In the final patch of the expansion, the egg hatches into Wrathion, who proves that the Black Dragons are fairly nasty, corrupted or not.
Two of them in Bastion; they're minor and barely relevant to the plot, aside from spawning a couple of purely cosmetic pets in the Bastion, which will prompt some remarks from your companions.
In Shining Force III there is a hidden character that requires you to go through a lot of work to get, probably falls under Guide Damn It territory. You first have buy some chicken food and lure a chicken to follow you. Later in the game you have to find a couple boiling an egg, buy the egg for 1000 gold, find the chicken your lured sitting in your HQ and then place the egg under the chicken and it'll instantly hatch. The creature will run off and then right near the end of the game you'll find the character "Penn" who turns out to be a Joke Character as he starts at level 1, unpromoted, when all your other characters are promoted at level ~15.
In the adventure game AmerZone, your mission is to return a giant egg to its jungle of origin, conduct a tribal rite to prepare it for hatching, and then deliver it to its warm hatchling-ground near a volcano.
In NetHack if an egg hatches while in your inventory, the resulting monster may become your pet. Not all eggs you find hatch though.
The plot of Angry Birds revolves around three eggs, which are repeatedly stolen by the Bad Piggies. The birds highly value these eggs and fight hard to protect them. This is because they believe these eggs to be the only offspring of their species, as the birds themselves are quite rare.* Indeed, only twelve are known throughout Piggy Island — Red, the Blues (Jim, Jake, and Jay), Chuck, Bomb, Matilda, Hal, Terence, Bubbles, Stella, and Mighty Eagle Meanwhile, ancient pig law decrees that only the King Pig is allowed to eat eggs. However, the latest pig to take the throne, Smooth Cheeks, has never eaten, much less tasted, any eggs in his life. He only inherited the throne from his father, King Mudbeard. His loyal subjects never suspected this, assuming he eats eggs because he's so fat. If Smooth Cheeks is ever found out, he would be dethroned. This secret drives him into an obsession in stealing the Angry Birds' eggs, usually through his minions. In the meantime, he has fake eggs prepared for egg-eating ceremonies.
In the Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers episode "Three Men and a Booby", a booby bird loses an egg to an eggcentric collector. They retrieve the egg, but the booby is captured; part of the plot revolves around the guys caring for the egg (and later, the hatched booby) while Gadget builds a Trojan Easter basket...
The Simpsons: in "Bart the Mother", Bart Simpson has to look after a nest of bird eggs, after accidentally killing the mommy bird. Except that when they hatched they turned out to be Bolivian tree lizards. Apparently the female lizard eats the bird eggs and lays its own eggs in their place. The baby lizards then eat the bird.
Rocko's Modern Life has a relationship with a Cat and a Turtle which resulted in an egg that contained three children: One of them looking like Heifer (a Steer).
A classic cartoon example has Daffy Duck looking after his own egg. It's a rare setting that has him married. His wife goes out and tells him rather sternly to be responsible for a change and don't let anything happen to Junior. After a while he gets bored and starts playing with the egg. He does a little stage magic and vanishes it. The third time he does that, the egg doesn't come back. Daffy gets hauled into divorce court for the egg's disappearance, and after playing the suspense for all it's worth, he manages to bring the egg back in perfect condition.
An episode of The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss involves a girl named Megan and her friend Horton the Elephant trying to retrieve the priceless Zubble-Wump egg which was stolen by the Grinch.
An episode of the Super Mario World episode "The Koopa Shuffle" uses this. The twist: it was Luigi, transformed into an egg by a Magikoopa.
American Dragon Jake Long, "The Egg": Jake has to take care of a griffin egg ready to hatch — and loses it in a factory full of candied eggs.
In Gargoyles, Princess Katherine and her friends have to take care of thirty-six Gargoyle eggs because their parents are all either dead or unavailable. They do a good job in protecting them, though.
A Family Guy episode had Peter growing a beard, which a bird nested in. Due to the bird's endangered status, Peter has to put up with it until it leaves of its own accord (to get away from the music he was blaring to annoy it). He's elated until he discovers that it left behind three eggs, which he then has to care for until they hatch, becoming emotionally attached to them in the process. In the end, he has a hard time letting go when it's time for them to leave the nest/his beard.
One episode of Earthworm Jim has Psycrow using a magic orb which turns out, after Jim ends up sitting on it, to be an egg that promptly hatches. The entity inside the egg makes all sorts of vague promises about how it will help usher in a wonderful new age for the universe, at which point a cow lands on its head for no reason.
The Dofus in Wakfu. These dragon eggs are extremely valuable due to the incredible amount of Wakfu contained in them.
The Phoenix egg in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Dragon Quest". It plays a pivotal role in the climax of the episode when Spike decides to stand up to the teenage dragons rather than smash the helpless egg and decides that Twilight and the other ponies are his real family. In the last minute of the episode it hatches. Spike adopts the phoenix chick as his pet and names it Pee Wee.
Speaking of eggs and Spike, in "The Cutie Mark Chronicles" Twilight Sparkle's test to enter the school for gifted unicorns was to hatch a dragon egg. After her first attempt failed miserably, Rainbow Dash's Sonic Rainboom triggered her latent magic and she hatched Spike. Then her magic went out of control and Hilarity Ensued.
In the The Backyardigans episode "Tale of the Mighty Knights", Tyrone and Uniqua are tasked with guarding the king's egg, which promptly rolls away.
An episode of Batman Beyond involves Terry keeping track of an egg-shaped simulation of a baby that he needs to take care of for a grade.
A subversion from Avatar: The Last Airbender. When the episode "The Fire Bending Masters" had a large golden egg feature, many fans speculated that it would hatch into a dragon and be crucial to the plot. It didn't.