Must be Monday. New podcast! Just click on the fancy logo below.
I'm not the only girl on Earth, ya know.
"She could have been a briefcase and nothing would have changed in this movie.
They say Helen of Troy
had a face that could launch a thousand ships: well, the Living MacGuffin has a similar ability to launch a thousand quests
in search of them. The Living MacGuffin isn't an inanimate MacGuffin
made flesh (that's MacGuffin Girl
), or a kidnapped Damsel in Distress
or President's Daughter
; what the Living MacGuffin is
is a character who is quite free, in little to no danger, desperately sought after and out of the hero's reach. She may be a heart wrenchingly beautiful princess whose hand can only be won with miraculous feats
, a long lost (or left
) parent, sibling
, close friend
or Love Interest
, or some variation of The Chosen One
who is needed for some greater purpose. (But remember, if that person serves another purpose later in the story, they're Chekhov's Gunman
In terms of traits, they are usually "desirable" or "questable" for any of a hundred reasons. Common ones include: great beauty
, great goodness
, kindness and loving or being loved by the hero
, being royalty
, knowing the answer to an urgent problem
, etc. (Thus, they can easily
cross over into Mary Sue
territory.) Alternately, they may carry the negative trait of having kicked the hero's dog
at one point, and so they want to find them (or a way close to them) for revenge
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Nunnally from Code Geass gets a role as a living MacGuffin. This is partially because she's the protagonist's little sister, partially because she's so sweet and seemingly helpless that most characters want to protect her, and partially because she's a princess.
- C.C. also gets used as a living MacGuffin, as evidenced by the existence of a special canister designed to contain her. In Code Geass R2, she has this role because she has a special power that is needed in order for The Emperor's master plan to work.
- Lelouch in early R2 also qualifies, before he gets his memories back.
- Saint Seiya Next Dimension: Saori becomes one after she is transformed into a baby.
- In the original series, Seiya's sister Seika was played up as this, despite only turning up at the end of the series and not appearing in the sequel, yet.
- Inori of Guilty Crown. At first, she's just the Mystical Waif, but Inori is later revealed to be the vessel for the apocalypse... so, yeah.
- Kagura in Speed Grapher, the daughter of a supermodel-turned-financial-superpower, can also turn people's fantasies to real superpowers with her kiss. The entire series is about rescuing her from her family.
- While it's debatable whether the torches in Shakugan no Shana are "alive", Yuuji Sakai is generally treated as living by the main characters. That's partially because unlike other torches, he isn't going to just go out one day. But it's also because he's managed to validate his humanity, even before he found out he wasn't going to become Ret Gone.
- Insane Casca during the Retribution arc in Berserk. Not only does Guts, who has a right to her being her protector, want her, but everybody is taking Casca in this arc, primarily the pagans who want to make her their queen and the Holy See who want to burn her at the stake.
- In Haruhi Suzumiya, Itsuki Koizumi plays this role in "The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina". Yuki Nagato wants to steal his hidden esper powers, and the eponymous Mikuru Asahina is charged to protect Itsuki.
- Witch Hunter: The Hero, Tasha Godspell, is revealed to be both the key to the Big Bad's plans for wiping out humanity, but also the key to stopping these plans and saving mankind. Exactly how this works has yet to be explained. There are also several other witches out to capture him, including his own sister.
- Naruto. Sasuke becomes this after he leaves the Leaf Village. Jinchurikis provide a straighter example.
- The first half of Last Exile concerns Claus and Lavie (and later, the entire crew of the Silvana) trying to keep Alvis out of the clutches of the Guild. Why they're hunting her isn't revealed until the last episode. Turns out she's a living "ignition key" for the eponymous space ship.
- It's currently unknown why, however Eren in Attack On Titan is hunted by everybody so that he either gets to be humanity's greatest weapon, dissected, executed, or be brought back to fellow Titans.
- Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and many other fairy tale heroines were Living MacGuffins in the Disney films and in those iterations of these fairy tales inspired by the Disneyfication.
- In the pre-Disney versions of those fairy tales, the nameless prince was the Living MacGuffin; for example, Cinderella competed with her wicked stepsisters for the hand of the prince, who is treated as a non-entity who exists in the story only to provide the winner with a castle, title, and wealth.
- Older Than Feudalism: Helen of Troy from The Iliad is a prime example. Helen wasn't attacked by Paris or the Trojans during the whole war, and in fact went willingly because she fell in love with Paris. Or was made to, by Aphrodite.
- Queen Guinevere is also not in distress, as most versions have her go willingly with Lancelot. The whole kingdom goes down because the vassals have to choose sides, help Arthur get her back, or help Lancelot keep her.
- Most of the variations this troper has encountered have the vassals torn between personal loyalty to Arthur (who would pardon his beloved and his best friend, despite the pain they have caused him) and loyalty to the law itself which demands she and Lancelot be tried for treason against their king (with the lawful side being spear-headed/manipulated by one enemy or another of Arthur's).
- The French chef Anatole in PG Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster stories; the universal desire to lay claim to his peerless talents led to the hatching of many a Zany Scheme.
- Jeeves himself is highly sought-after; Bertie notes that plenty of his friends want to steal him and make him their valet, and this is borne out in Thank You, Jeeves when Jeeves quits and Bertie's pal Chuffy snatches him up almost instantly. Later in the book, Jeeves goes to work for American multimillionaire J. Washburn Stoker, who offers him a position, before returning to Chuffy and finally settling down with Bertie again.
- A few crop up during the course of the Prydain Chronicles — Hen Wen the pig in The Book of Three, Princess Eilonwy in The Castle of Llyr, and Taran's long-lost parents in Taran Wanderer.
- In Tobias Buckell's Crystal Rain, Oaxyctl is looking for John deBrun because he wants to torture "the code" to a spaceship out of him. We later find out that John is the code — he has to be bodily present (and alive) to open the spaceship.
- It could be argued that The White Rabbit is one. The entire reason Alice ends up in Wonderland is her curiosity about the Rabbit. And it's often the Rabbit, constantly hurrying from one place to the next, which brings her from scene to scene.
- Bree Pym is this for Lori and Bill's college chum Cameron; they spend most of the novel Aunt Dimity Down Under pursuing the girl over New Zealand's North and South Islands to deliver the Pym sisters' letter and convince her to meet Ruth and Louise before they die.
- Brutally deconstructed in the Sword of Truth: while fully half of the main cast are some level of this trope, the Confessors have it notably bad. Confessors can't control their ability during moments of passion (read: sex), so they can't have kids with someone they like, or they'll destroy their mind. Male confessors are such a threat that all male children of Confessors have to be strangled at birth, and for their troubles, the Confessors are feared and hated, and since they're raised secluded, have almost no friends. By the time Kahlan met Richard, all of her few friends had been murdered by D'Haran assassination teams. Yeesh.
- Wizards are able to create these in general; the Rahl bloodline is the result of such an experiment, as are Slides, Dreamwalkers, Mriswith, the Sliph, and a whole host of other exciting pieces of work.
- The Dresden Files has the Archive, a repository of all written works from all of human history. Because knowledge is very literally power in the Dresdenverse, she's a terrifyingly powerful wizard when called upon. While most wizards see her only as the Archive, Harry calls her 'Ivy'. Names have power in the Dresdenverse, so calling her that actually makes her more human and less scary-supercharged-twelve-year-old.
- Towards the end of Maddigan's Quest, it's revealed that Jewel, not the talisman, is what gives Eden his powers.
- Poor John Crichton. By the end of the series, half the Galaxy which he's close to blowing up with his knowledge of Wormholes is after him. He's close to a Ginger Snaps moment.
- Mr. Big in Sex and the City, to the point that they don't even bother to give him a real name. You find yourself wondering what is wrong with Carrie Bradshaw and then you remember ... oh yeah, she's Carrie Bradshaw.
- Lampshaded in Red Dead Redemption where in a co-op mission you must rescue the daughter of "Farmer MacGuffin."
- Here's a negative version of the Living MacGuffin: Sephiroth during the first half of Final Fantasy VII. Both Cloud's party and Shin-Ra are hell-bent on finding the guy, and he acts as the game's main antagonist to boot.
- At the beginning of Yoshis Island, Kamek kidnaps Baby Luigi (who becomes the Distressed Dude), but the stork forces Kamek to drop Baby Mario, who falls onto Yoshi. Baby Mario becomes a free MacGuffin, whose only role is to point the way to Baby Luigi, while the Yoshis perform the MacGuffin Escort Mission that will reunite the babies and rescue Baby Luigi.
- Then in Yoshi's Island DS, Kamek and the Toadies kidnap Baby Luigi again, and several more babies. The Big Bad (adult Bowser from the future) is searching for the seven star children.* The villain never gets all seven; some remain free. The star children turn out to be Baby Mario, Baby Luigi, Baby Peach, Baby Donkey Kong, Baby Wario, Baby Bowser, and Baby Yoshi. The last two were never captives; Baby Yoshi is still in the egg, and hatches at the very end of the credits.
- The Princesses of Heart in Kingdom Hearts.
- Ventus in Master Xehanort's first attempt to snag Kingdom Hearts.
- In the Neverwinter Nights fan-made module "The Bastard of Kosigan," Alex is a mix of this and Damsel in Distress. And a Chekhov's Gunman at the end. Annoyingly, despite being one of the coolest characters in the series (as evinced by her cunning plan to take over Kosigan by killing the entire ruling family), if you didn't choose to kill her at the end of the second module she dies near the end of the fourth.
- In Blaz Blue Calamity Trigger, Ragna the Bloodedge is treated this way since he supposedly wields the Azure Grimoire. In the sequel Continuum Shift Noel gets this treatment after it's revealed that she is the true wielder of the Azure Grimoire and Ragna's Grimoire is a flawed imitation.
- A variant occurs in Professor Layton and the Curious Village. Layton knows that he needs to find the Golden Apple of Baron Reinhold. What he doesn't know is that the Golden Apple is really Flora, the Baron's daughter.
- Bio Shock:
- BioShock 2 is centered around the quest of the player, a Big Daddy formerly bonded to a Little Sister, to find that Little Sister - who happens to be Big Bad Sophia Lamb's daughter and the messiah of the religion she founded. Subverted near the end, when she becomes a Big Sister and helps you fight your way out of the city, and is incredibly powerful.
- In Bio Shock Infinite Elizabeth is this for no less than three factions in the game at various points: the player character, Booker DeWitt, has been instructed to rescue her from Columbia under the orders of a client offering to pay off his gambling debts; the main villains of the game, Father Comstock and The Founders, want to keep her imprisoned (and later, recaptured) so that she can one day take up Comstock's mantle and bring the apocalypse to "the Sodom below"; and by the end of the game, the Vox Populi are out to kill her simply because she was such an integral part of the Founder's belief system. During the ending, Booker's goals are subverted all to hell when it turns out that his memories have been badly mangled by dimensional travel, and he's not out to pay off his debts at all; he's out to rescue his daughter.
- Prince Alexander is a sucker for this one. In his first game, he spends half of it trying to find a way to off his Bad Boss before Bad Boss offs him. The second half of the game comes when the Oracle tells him that he's got a twin sister that's soon to meet her end as a Human Sacrifice. In his second game, he's trying to reach the Princess he's fallen for before the Grand Vizier pulls a scheme to marry her, kill her, and take the throne for himself. Runs in the family, as that's how his dad went looking for his mom...
- Similar to the TRON: Legacy example above, Tron 2.0 had this in the form of Ma3a, who carried the correction algorithims needed for Jet and Alan to get back to the analog world. However, the terrible trio from F-Con were also seeking those algorithims in order to digitize an army into cyberspace and Take Over the World.
- Ryu from Street Fighter is treated this way for most of his plot involvement. Bison is after him in Street Fighter Alpha to use him as a new host body while Seth wants to use his Satsui no Hadou to complete his bio weapon.
- The Destined Children from Romancing Sa Ga 3 The Abyss Lords want them to open the gate to the Abyss so they can escape. Both also serve to summon the Destroyer to end existence if both are in the abyss at once. Abyss Lords used the Devil King for them to rule the world for 3 centuries before the Holy King sent them packing.
- In Mac Guffins Curse, Alphonse becomes a Living MacGuffin when he turns into a werewolf himself and goes on a rampage.
- Princess Zelda in The Legend Of Zelda is a very strong example of this trope. In fact, Word Of God says that Zelda is the title character because of how crucial she is in Link's adventures.
- Charlie in Shikkoku No Sharnoth serves largely as comatose Macguffin to make Mary go through the plot. Except in the end, when she's actually an opponent.
- In A Moment Of Peace, the subject of one of the gods' quests is a glowing entity named Gloria on the Mountain.