I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin
A minor character
has an important MacGuffin
or Plot Device
, but has been fatally wounded, or is otherwise about to die. This character then hands the object over to the main character(s) before dying. The main character(s) continue the dead person's mission
to get the thing to wherever it's supposed to get to before the bad guys get it.
A good way to keep the true story a mystery (and to keep the audience interested) is to have the main character be an Unlikely Hero
that has NO idea what's going on or who to trust.
The old bearer may double as a Sacrificial Lamb
, and is quite often a Pursued Protagonist
. Despite the trope name, the object handed over might or might not be a MacGuffin
Compare with It May Help You on Your Quest
, Plot Coupon
, and MacGuffin Escort Mission
. See also Almost Dead Guy
, who passes on information
instead of plot coupons, and Bequeathed Power
, when the thing being passed on is some kind of superpower rather than an item. For when the transaction involves human beings, see Take Care of the Kids
May be a Harbinger of Impending Doom
. Contrast Come with Me If You Want to Live
of Take Up My Sword
, itself a Sub-Trope
. Compare The Chooser of The One
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Anime & Manga
- The man with the data card in the first episode of Dirty Pair Flash. The new incarnation of the Lovely Angels spend the episode arguing over which of them has to get the card back to Heroes "R" Us headquarters — and demolishing everything that gets in their way.
- In Saint Seiya, the dying Saint of Sagittarius hands baby Athena and the Golden Armor to Dr. Kido.
- Ralph Wednesday, the vanship courier with Alvis Hamilton in Last Exile.
- The vaccine file in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. The file in question was a list of people who had received a vaccine for an otherwise incurable illness (the vaccine was rejected due to pressure from certain individuals and organizations who wanted to prevent their products from being rendered useless). The current owner of the file tries to give it to Togusa after the building's attacked by The Dragon and his Mooks. Togusa tries to get him to escape with it instead (he's caught and shot, meaning the protagonists have to make do with a video of what Togusa saw).
- Happens from time to time on Ranma ½, and usually it's Happosai who gets the MacGuffin.
- Kakashi in Naruto gets his Sharingan this way.
- So begins the execrable anime adaptation of Gray Lensman.
- In Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, after her ship crashes Nausicaa obtains the control crystal for the God Soldier from a dying (important) passenger.
- The end of the first episode of Gundam Unicorn, where Banagher receives the titular mech from his father.
- A terribly wounded Saki tries to give her heart (and power source) to Steel Angel Kurumi, but it ends up as a Fusion Dance somehow.
- In the Cowboy Bebop episode Sympathy for the Devil, a dying bounty head gives Spike a ring and tell him that he's the only one who can save "him" now. Cue the crew spending the rest of the episode figuring out what the guy meant and what they're supposed to do with the ring.
- Gateway Shuffle starts off with this, with Faye finding a fatally wounded police officer drifting through space. He tells her to take a briefcase to the I.S.S.P, and tells her not to open it. She does neither, and the object in the briefcase is sought after by the antagonist of that episode. She manages to steal it back and pocket it, only for it to come back into play at the very end of the episode to ruin her plans.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds: It's revealed that Yusei's dying father gave the 3 Signer Dragon cards he had to Rex Godwin (a fourth — Ruka's — got lost en route).
- In Metal Armor Dragonar, the Power Trio comes across a badly wounded man carrying the discs needed to activate the titular Humongous Mecha. In a subversion, he begs them to give the discs to Giganos, obviously not realizing that the boys are Federation trainees.
- One Piece has a rather interesting variation of this. The former Pirate King Gold Roger, well aware of his impending death due to disease, turns himself in. He then challenges everyone to find his MacGuffin and proclaims that whoever finds it can have it. The World Government had been about to execute him to make an example out of him to other would-be pirates, but his stunt singlehandedly created an Age of Piracy. Made even more interesting by the fact that nobody knows for sure whether the titular "One Piece" treasure really exists, much less what it actually might be.
- Confirmed by Whitebeard in his dying moments to actually exist but he doesn't say where or what.
- Although the characters are acquainted, the rest of the trope plays out as normal in Agnis Philosophy. Agni is apparently an acolyte in some sort of magic ritual. When they are attacked and their leader is shot, he passes on the smaller crystal that was part of the ritual to her as he lays dying.
- This tends to happen to Usagi quite a bit. More often than not, it turns into a MacGuffin Escort Mission.
- The somewhat-obscure Marvel Comics hero The Torpedo (see ROM: Spaceknight and New Warriors) got his supercostume from the dying scientist who had made it for an evil organization but then changed his mind... while he was waiting for an elevator. Then he just decided to put it on right then and there, which got him into a fight with Daredevil, who had been pursuing the scientist moments before!
- This is how John DiFool got The Incal, via a dying Berg disguised as a mutant.
- Green Lantern corps recruit new members by passing their ring on before they die. If there is a worthy successor nearby, they will hand off the ring. If not, the ring will fly off under its own power upon the bearer's demise and scout out a suitable recipient.
- Parodied multiple times in Takeshi Kitano's Getting Any?, where a dying gangster (it's the same gangster, dying multiple times) comes up to the protagonist and gives him something (a gun, a car, etc.) and says "Guard this for me, will you?" Hilarity Ensues.
- Innerspace: After being shot, a scientist uses the last of his strength to inject nearby passer-by Jack with the syringe containing the miniaturized submersible.
- The Fifth Element: Four of the Elements needed to save the galaxy are held by Diva Plavalaguna (inside her body!) who hands them over to Dallas as she is dying.
- The key that one of the aliens gives the monk in the pre-WWII prologue also serves as one.
- In the 1981 movie Diva, a prostitute stashes a cassette implicating a high ranking official as a mob boss in a postman's bag just before being murdered.
- Disney's Treasure Planet. Billy Bones is not a long-term lodger, but instead crashes his ship on the inn's doorstep and dies almost immediately on setting foot inside, with the pirates right behind. Before he dies, he opens the chest and shoves the treasure map into Jim's hands.
- Billy Bones does this to Jim in Muppet Treasure Island as well.
- Foul Play: A dying agent slips Goldie Hawn a microfilm cassette in a pack of cigarettes, unbeknownst to her. The bad guys try to kill her for the microfilm she doesn't know she has. The microfilm is eventuallydestroyed in a fire before anyone can view it.
- All the adaptations (and most parodies) of John Buchan's The 39 Steps. The best known (1935) version was directed by Hitchcock.
- Enemy of the State involves a researcher with an incriminating videotape who dies soon after passing on the MacGuffin.
- This is kinda-sorta the plot of Shoot 'em Up, with the baby as the McGuffin, handed off from the woman who's just given birth to it after she gets shot.
- In The Net, Dale sends Angela a disk and later flies down in his Cessna to meet her. The bad guys mess with the radar, causing Dale to the crash his plane.
- In Casablanca, Ugarte entrusts the letters of transit to Rick, only to be taken into custody and killed later that night.
- The Maltese Falcon hits the viewer hard with this trope. Everyone is after the titular bird (which is insanely valuable Pirate Booty but has been covered in lead to hide the value). For the first half of the movie the police (who don't know about the bird) suspect the main character of unrelated murders (which were actually committed by the Big Bad while looking for the bird). Then, about forty minutes into the film, the bird has only been discussed up until now and nobody knows where the thing actually is or who's hiding it. The body count is mounting and people start saying the bird might be cursed because of all of the people who get the bird die right afterward. Then The Ghost suddenly bursts into the room, riddled with gunshots, carrying the bird, then dies at the protagonist's feet without any explanation. Now the main character not only has the statue that a bunch of violent people are after but also has yet another dead body to explain to the police, this time of a guy he's been going around town asking people about. This plot is a weird case of I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin, Pirate Booty, a possible Artifact of Doom, a sort of Artifact of Attraction (since the bird looks worthless), and a Clingy MacGuffin (since he can't let anyone know about the bird) all at the same time. The rest of the movie involves him trying to exonerate himself without letting anyone (especially the police, who would just decide he'd killed everyone with the bird as his motive) find out he has the statue.
- Men with Brooms has Donald Foley arranging to have his ashes placed in the last of the Magellan Stones, and his will is basically him guilt-tripping his old curling team into reuniting and trying to win the Golden Broom.
- In Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, while Elizabeth Swann is on Sao Feng's boat, they get attacked. Sao Feng gets stabbed by a giant piece of wood and hands over a seemingly useless trinket which later turns out to be one of the Pieces of Eight needed for the meeting, and for releasing Calypso from Tia Dalma.
- Hitchcock's second version of The Man Who Knew Too Much. The man who knows too much doesn't exactly know just what it is he knows.
- The plot of Octopussy kicks off when 009, clutching a priceless Faberge egg, bursts into the British embassy in East Germany with a throwing knife stuck in his back.
- This is how baby Roshan comes into the care of Manny and Sid in the first Ice Age film, after his mother succumbs to injuries sustained from jumping into a river to escape the pack of saber-tooth tigers.
- In Epic Queen Tara is killed by a Boggan arrow while running from them carrying the pod which will bloom into her successor. MK finds her, and Tara bids her to take the pod to Nim Galuu before dying.
- The Maltese Falcon, for the same reason listed under Film.
- The 39 Steps starts with a dead man leaving his little black notebook containing the cryptic title phrase to Richard Hannay.
- In the sequel, Greenmantle, a dying man staggers into a Kashnir outpost carrying a bit of paper on which is scrawled, 'Kasredin', 'v1' and 'cancer'. Cue race against time to decipher same...
- The Cloakmaster Cycle started this way. Though the protagonist happened to be sensible enough and tried to get rid of the thing that brings overwhelming forces on his head, not that it was easy.
- Parodied in South by Southeast by Anthony Horowitz, which itself is one big Shout-Out to political conspiracy thrillers. The MacGuffin's name even is . . . well.
- In the short story "Paladin of the Lost Hour", Gaspar is dying but needs to find a new, trustworthy guardian for a magical watch. Said watch holds the last hour of the Universe, in which anything can happen, but when it completes, the end of everything. If he dies without passing it on, the watch will begin to tick.
- This trope is basically how Animorphs begins—-Elfangor, an alien from the (more-or-less) good Andalite species, crash-lands on Earth in front of five kids, warning them that the (more-or-less) evil alien Yeerks are invading and giving them the morphing power to fight them. In this case, though the MacGuffin is just information/a power rather than an object. But then, they manage to retrieve an object—-the device that gives the morphing power—-from David later...
- In Green Rider, Karigan comes upon a mortally wounded Rider in the forest and is given a two-part MacGuffin: the message he was supposed to deliver, and his Rider brooch (which, as she later finds out, comes with magical powers).
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has a pretty revelatory one towards the end. Snape, whose loyalties were a matter of some debate, has his throat ripped out by Voldemort's pet snake Nagini, but lives just long enough to give Harry a jarful of memories that reveal Snape's back story, motive, status as The Atoner, and also that Dumbledore's plan hinges on Harry willingly giving himself up to Voldemort. Ack.
- One of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Lythande stories begins with Lythande comforting a dying woman, and getting stuck with the task of returning a magical artifact to the woman's people. (She isn't very enthusiastic about this, but it won't leave her alone until she does...)
- At the beginning of Wyrd Sisters, the crown prince and crown of the recently murdered king are given to the three witches by a royal servant who dies just as he stumbles in. The witches try to get both off their hands ASAP.
Magrat (shivering in the cold of the open moor): "What is there to be afraid of out here?"
Granny (with considerable satisfaction): "Us."
- At the beginning of Tom Holt's Expecting Someone Taller Malcolm Fisher receives the Tarnhelm and the Ring of the Nibelungs from Ingolf, the last of the Frost Giants, cleverly disguised as a badger who he's just run over with his car. Not being educated in Norse mythology or even having seen the opera poor Malcolm has no clue what he's getting himself into.
Ingolf: "Cut my arm and lick some of the blood."
Malcolm: "I'd rather not."
Ingolf: "But you'll be able to understand the language of the birds."
Malcolm: "I don't particularly want to be able to understand the language of the birds."
Ingolf: "You'll understand the language of the birds and like it, my lad!"
- In Josephine Tey's The Singing Sands, the MacGuffin is an unfinished sonnet, which the protagonist, who used to write sonnets in school, takes with him out of idle interest, then considers finishing as a gesture to the dead person; as he studies it, he realizes it is a code.
- Alther Mella in Septimus Heap passes over the Akhu Amulet to Marcia Overstrand before dying.
- In the Star Trek novel The Genesis Wave, book three, an alien fleeing from the Romulans with a portable Genesis Device gives it to a Bajoran monk before dying. Using the Lomarian Mind Control abilities, it convinces the monk it is actually Kai Opaka, and is bestowing upon him the "Orb of Life".
- Twice, in quick succession, in Agatha Christie's 1959 novel Cat Among the Pigeons. A prince who suspects (correctly) that he's about to be assassinated entrusts his faithful servant with one last mission: smuggle some hotly-contested jewels out of the country for him. The servant concludes (also correctly) that the jewels will also make him a target for assassination, so he hides them in his visiting sister's luggage.
- Subverted in Dan Brown's Digital Fortress. As he's dying, Ensei Tankado holds out his ring to a stranger, the chase of which drives the plot. The trick is that the MacGuffin Tankado was actually trying to hold out was his gesture of three fingers - the number 3 is the failsafe code for the titular virus.
Live Action TV
- Angel: Doyle passing on his visions to Cordelia via their Last Kiss.
- Echoed in Season Five, when Cordelia's visions pass on to Angel.
- Chuck: Gets the Intersect in an e-mail from a dying Bryce Larkin.
- Though it turns out Bryce was Not Quite Dead. Oddly enough, though, Bryce passes off the Intersect (this time the 2.0) a second time to Chuck when he dies for real (or at least, dies slightly more permanently).
- Technically, Bryce told Chuck to destroy the Intersect 2.0, but Chuck realized that the Intersect has made him a better man (and brought Sarah into his life), so he activates the machine before destroying it.
- The Colbert Report: Alpha Squad Seven: The New Tek Jansen Adventures, the Show Within a Show, had the better part of a whole episode with someone dying (with a massive crater in his torso, no less) but taking about three minutes talking with Tek Jansen about directions to get to the place that the MacGuffin needed to go, and only finally expired after plenty of fumbling, putzing around, and being interrupted.
- The Lost Room: The Key ends up in Joe's possession after it's previous owner enters his apartment and then dies from gunshot wounds.
- Power Rangers S.P.D.: Starts with one of these (though he gives Jack the plot device a bit before the Mecha-Mooks catch up with him, leading them away.)
- Revolution: In the pilot episode, knowing he is about to be captured, Ben Matheson gives his lanyard to Aaron. Then is accidentally and fatally shot a few minutes later.
- In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "The Forge," Archer meets a Vulcan who then gets struck by sand lightning. Before dying, the Vulcan mind-melds with Archer—transferring the katra of Surak.
- Supernatural: The Colt is the focus of an entire season, and is handed to the main characters by its dying guardian.
- Warehouse 13: Regent Jane (aka Pete's mom, aka Captain Janeway) is given a bracelet by a fellow regent who was trapped by the rubble of the building they were trying to escape. It makes her "The Guardian" of Warehouse 13 and helps them "keep control" of it - details deliberately sketchy at this point.
- In Merlin the Fisher King gives Merlin a vial of water from Avalon's lake just before he dies (this is important in the final episode) and a witch gives Arthur a horn that can bring back the dead just before she dies.
- Oswald in King Lear, after being mortally wounded by Edgar:
Slave, thou hast slain me: villain, take my purse:
And give the letters which thou find'st about me
To Edmund earl of Gloucester; seek him out
Upon the British party: O, untimely death!
- Of course Edgar doesn't give the letters to Edmund, his mortal enemy.
- Panzer Dragoon begins like this, only it's not a MacGuffin: it's a dragon, and its rider is shot and killed while fighting the Dark Dragon.
- This is how you get the kinesis module in Dead Space. A blinded, mortally-wounded woman manages to hang on long enough, alone in a monster infected Ghost Ship, to give Isaac a necessary tool for solving the various puzzles he'll be presented with later.
- Surviving a Zeppelin crash in the intro cinematic of Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, you are given a ring by a dying gnome, and told to "Find the boy".
- Subverted when the rings turns out to be completely unnecessary for anything more than selling it back to its owner for a petty sum. With the game's heavy Lord of the Rings references, this is likely intentional
- If you didn't pick up the Arm Cannon Power up in Mega Man X when Zero Dies at the hands of Vile he gives X his Arm Cannon which then becomes the Arm Cannon Upgrade.
- Ted hands his Soul Eater True Rune to Tir in Suikoden I, and the rest is history.
- Occurs in the tutorial of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, when Emperor Uriel Septim gives your character the Amulet of Kings moments before being cut down by an assassin.
- Space Quest starts out with one. Roger was napping on the job and avoided the brutal Sarien invasion of the Arcada. He ducks into a laboratory, where the dying head scientist gives him the code to a cartridge containing plans to self-destruct the Star Generator, and for Xenon to rebuild the device in order to save their dying sun.
- In Jak II: Renegade, Baron Praxis gives you the Precursor Stone after Kor kills him.
- and by "give", we mean he revealed the bomb containing the stone which would have destroyed the entire world if exploded. Dumb guy.
- Done in EarthBound when Buzz Buzz is fatally wounded by Pokey's mother. Before he dies, he hands you the Sound Stone so you can record the Your Sanctuary melodies. He was going to give it to you in a bit, anyway.
- In the first game, MOTHER 1, after R7038xx destroys EVE, your protector robot, the seventh Melody is found in its body.
- A rather interesting version in Mother 3: taking a MacGuffin is what causes its guardian Magypsy to die ( or rather, disappear). I'm Not Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin?
- In ZHP: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman, you are given the Unlosing Ranger's belt by its previous holder, Pirohiko Ichimonji, as he lays dying after being hit by a car. This is also how Pirohiko himself received the belt, as well as everyone to take on the "Unlosing Ranger" title before him.
- If the dream of being a hero counts as a sort of McGuffin, then Zack and Cloud play this out in the Final Fantasy VII prequel Crisis Core.
- More appropriately is the Buster Sword, handed down from Angeal to Zack after Zack is forced to kill his mentor. And then from Zack to Cloud when Zack is killed by Shinra. Cloud so far has not passed the buster sword on to anyone else
- Dark Souls starts this way. The player encounters a dying knight who gives the player the Estus Flask, the key out of the Undead Asylum and the quest to ring the twin Bells of Awakening.
- Jeanne D Arc opens with an anime Joan of Arc and her sidekick finding a dying man on horseback, carrying two very weird things: an extravagant gold bracer, and a giant purple frog. They proceed to kick ass against the Englishmen who now ally with a demon army. Unfortunately, they don't realize the real potential of these artifacts until one of them is doomed (and eventually executed) and the other is too far away to save her.
- Cave Story has the main character in the Labyrinth trying to escape. Dr. Booster gets teleported in and suffers a big fall. When you talk to them, they give you an item to proceed further into the Labyrinth. Dedicated players will find that the jump is possible without the item and will cause Dr. Booster to reserve his energy to live and give you the item at a later time, after improving it even more. People that play towards the end of the game will find a journal of Dr. Booster that details his wished to make the item, as long as he lives long enough.
- In Resident Evil Outbreak, Raymond the cop notices a gasoline tanker truck just before he's attacked by a zombie. He yells for the player(s) to unleash the gas from the truck and use it to set the zombies on fire, dropping a cigarette lighter in the process.
- In The Noob, Ohforf (the titular “noob”) looks all set up for this as a high-level player reminisces about his achievements and how he is now in his final hours of his playing the game (the speech is a spoof of the Famous Last Words from Blade Runner). But haha, no, that would just be too easy on the poor newbie. Besides, the reality of it being in an MMO would make it quite unlikely he could be anyone important.
- This is how the power of The Tiger got passed along to its current holder in Spinnerette.
- The Order of the Stick used this as the origin story for Redcloak as the high priest of the Dark One. He was given his namesake mantle because the other priests couldn't escape when paladins sacked the goblin village for EXP.
- Appears in this strip of Penny Arcade, adapted from the beginning of a Dungeons & Dragons adventure Tycho ran back in 2009.
- In Transformers Generation 1, the Matrix of Leadership is like the present in a Pass The Parcel game. The previous holder dies but just has time to pass it on to their most trusted friend. This happens multiple times, not just in the movie but in the third season too.
- This carries over to Transformers Prime as well where Primus himself gave Optimus the Matrix before shutting down. In season 3, a dying Optimus tries to pass the Matrix to Smokescreen. However, Smokescreen subverts this and instead uses an artifact to revive Optimus.
- Lampshaded in Stroker and Hoop. A dying karate instructor entrusts the handle of a magic sword to Stroker's son Keith and warns that reuniting the handle with the pieces of the blade would be disastrous. Stroker asks why, if it's such a big deal, the sword wasn't destroyed completely, even suggesting flushing it down the toilet or something.
- When the sword is reassembled, it's nothing more than an over sized flashlight. Hoop, who was fighting with the villain using the sword, noted that when the sword was broken and separated centuries ago, that people in ancient China would've seen that as amazing or terrifying.
- Of course, when you shine the light on the dead...
- A dying Race Bannon gives a sample of a deadly bioweapon to Brock Samson and the Venture boys in The Venture Bros. episode "Ice Station- Impossible"
- One episode of Adventure Time begins with Finn and Jake finding a very old Gnome Knight who was transformed into a frog and spent his life guarding a trio of magic beans, due to a prophecy that the fruit of one of the three beans would turn out to be pure evil. Finn agrees to take up the Gnome's tireless quest to guard the beans, allowing the Gnome to die, and Finn guards them... for about thirty seconds, until he and Jake decide to just grow all the beans and destroy the evil that comes out.
- In the pilot episode of Batman Beyond, Harry Tully, an associate of Warren McGinnis, Terry's father, passes on an infodisk about a new mutagenic nerve gas that's being developed by Wayne-Powers, after being "accidentally" exposed to it. After Warren gets killed for finding out about it, Terry finds the same infodisk hidden in a picture, which he brings to the elderly Bruce Wayne.