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MacGuffin Guardian
"Infidels! You have touched the forbidden treasure! Now you will never again see the light of day!"
Cave of Wonders, Aladdin

Our brave hero has outsmarted the guards, sneaked into the ancient and mysterious crypt and now is about to lay his hands on the object of his long quest and/or about to open the grim-looking gate leading to said object.

But wait! As he approaches, a sudden roar chills the blood in his veins and a towering, nameless creature suddenly appears to stop him. It's the Guardian!

This happens really often, with any kind of possible keeper. Monsters, Living Statues, Dragons or Demons summoned by portals and runes. It can be tracked back in old myths where a monstrous guardian keeps a treasure or a person, usually for his master. Of course, it doesn't need to be revealed in that exact way to qualify, but has just to be a monster keeping a treasure. A variation is a monster who guards not an artifact but rather the path/gate which our heroes must take.

Usually the monstrous/inhuman nature of the keeper is justified by its skills: monsters tend to be stronger and more resilient, with hard skin or maybe Combat Tentacles or enhaced senses or Breath Weapon or whatnot.

A combination found so often it is its own subtrope is a dragon guarding a treasure hoard.

Sometimes overlap with Teleporting Keycard Squad, especially if the room appeared totally bare just a moment ago. See also Forgot to Feed the Monster when the spooky guardian is here... and already dead or incapacitated.

Don't confuse with Threshold Guardians which usually is there to test the hero, while the MacGuffin Guardian is here to eat the hero. It may, however, be the test of said Threshold Guardians.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Jidanbo from Bleach may count, if you wish to include overgrown humans.
  • In Yaiba, Onimaru's Fortress is guarded by the Four Evil Kings, four demonic monsters acting as keepers.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam AGE has a mechanical variant in SID, an unmanned, AI-controlled mobile armor that guards the EXA-DB. And since it uses weapons taken from the EXA-DB, its weaponry and defenses are decades, if not centuries, ahead of anything anyone else possesses.
  • In InuYasha there are several examples, including Gozu and Mezu, the invincible guardians of the gate leading to the underworld, and a three-headed, fire-breathing wolf made of stone guarding the holy treasure of the Yoro Tribe, the Goraishi.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The golden sword in The Man Who Saves the World is guarded by two golden living statues. Or, to be honest, two guys wearing golden suits.

    Gamebooks 
  • Plenty in the Lone Wolf series, especially during the quest for the Lorestones. They often act as Final Boss for a given book.
    • Lord Haakon himself, and the monsters he summons, must be vanquished to retrieve the Book of the Magnakai at the end of book 5, Shadow on the Sand.
    • The monstruous Dakomyd guards the first Lorestone in book 6, The Kingdoms of Terror.
    • The Crocaryx and the Zadragon in book 9, The Cauldron of Fear.
    • Book 20, The Curse of Naar, can be said to be mostly a series of MacGuffin Guardians, as several Demon Lords must be beaten to retrieve each time a new Plot Coupon.

    Literature 

    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology has various guardian monsters like Ladon (the dragon that guarded the Apples of the Hesperides) and another dragon that guarded the Golden Fleece.
  • In The Epic of Gilgamesh there's a fire-breathing giant Kumbawa who guards a forest of precious trees. Unlike other examples however, Gilgamesh's objective is the guardian himself, as he wishes to kill him for fame.
  • In Egyptian Mythology the Book of Thoth is guarded by serpents and scorpions and a Serpent that cannot be slain, meaning it can come back together if its head is chopped off.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Doctor Who arc "The Keys of Marinus", one of the keys is in a block of ice and guarded by several warriors who come to life when it is thawed out.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Stormbringer supplement Demon Magic, adventure "The Velvet Circle''. The box the adventurers are seeking is guarded by a demon named Tyik Tyva. Inside the box is a Melnibonean Wheel worth 500,000 large bronze pieces.

    Theatre 

    Video Games 
  • Battle for Wesnoth
  • The Guardians of Temen-Ni Gru in Devil May Cry 3 may count. Most of them at least.
  • In Final Fantasy II, each MacGuffin necessary for the plot advancement was guarded by a fearsome monster, including the Sergeant, Adamantoise and Shrieker.
  • Grand Jewel, Polter Armor and The Last Kraken from The Legend of Dragoon.
  • Onimusha has the huge hound Gertrude in the third game. The sequel features the gigantic, bug-looking keeper of Sawayama.
  • Tobi from Ōkami. Unlike other examples, however, he must be defeated in a race.
  • The second Rayman game has its share, including the Guardian of the Cavern of Bad Dreams.
  • The huge Kraken in Tomb Raider: Underworld was probably left behind as a guardian.
  • MARDEK: Chapter 3 features guardians in each of the elemental temples you visit. Fire had a wise, flaming dragonlike guardian named Girru who tests you by combat and finds you worthy, Water had a giant lobster-seahorse thing with a human rider, and Earth had the Rock Mole. Darkness was guarded by a wolflike alien mage called Solaar, but she had already been taken out by a villain when you get there and in fact joins your party in hopes of catching the thief.
  • In God of War, Kratos must fight several Guardians during the course of the three games, including Pandora's Guardian, the Mole Cerberus and Skorpio.
  • In EarthBound, each of the Sanctuaries is guarded by some sort of monster.
    • In MOTHER 3, one of the needles is protected by the Barrier Trio, a group of posing, PSI-using golems.

    Web Comics 
  • The Order of the Stick
    • The outdated monsters guarding Dorukan's Talisman. Justified, since it's the Talisman itself which lured them there.
    • The Black Dragon guarding the Starmetal fragment in the Wooden Forest.
    • Kraagor's Gate is said to be protected by a bunch of monsters.

    Western Animation 
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants episode, "The Lost Mattress" had Mr. Krabs' prized money-filled mattress guarded by a ferocious worm at the junkyard, after it got thrown away.
  • Played for laughs in one Simpsons episode where the secret exit from the Nuclear Power Plant is guarded by a Giant Spider with a taste for human flesh.
  • Wakfu
    • Grougaloragan's Dofus is guarded by a giant Stone Golem, able to switch its head (and power) for another if beheaded.
    • Phaeris the Powerful, another dragon, is guarding Shinonome's dofus, thus forbidding any access to the Crimson Claws Island.
    • In the special episode The Legend of Ogrest, a Giant Squid is guarding a pirates treasure and another Dofus .
  • A rare heroic example is in Legend Of Chima as the lions guard the pool of chi that falls from Mount Cavora, and unlike most MacGuffin Guardian are willing to share what there guarding.
  • In The Smurfs episode "The Enchanted Quill", the eponymous quill inside Castle Quill is guarded by griffins.


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