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Gift of the Magi Plot

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TV's Frank: I shaved my head and got you a watch fob.
Dr. Forrester: Oh, you sold your hair and bought me this beautiful watch fob?
TV's Frank: ...Sold my hair? No.

A plot reproducing "The Gift of the Magi", where two people buy a present for each other — each gift meant to go with something the other highly values — and then find that both of them had to sell their respective treasures to pay for each other's gift, making the gifts simultaneously priceless and worthless.

In a common variation, the story is given a Lighter and Softer ending in which both characters get back the items they sacrificed. This is likely if they both sold their precious objects to the same person who realises what is happening, and even more likely if that person is a mutual friend or relative.

This is a Sub-Trope of Whole-Plot Reference, Prized Possession Giveaway and Sell What You Love, and a multiple person subtrope of Two Rights Make a Wrong. In homage to the original it's often used in a Christmas Episode, though it doesn't have to be.

Compare Tragically Misguided Favor and Outhumbling Each Other. A Sister Trope to Christmas Every Day, Yet Another Christmas Carol, It's a Wonderful Plot, How the Character Stole Christmas, Always Need What You Gave Up, and The Parody Before Christmas. Has nothing to do with The Gift.

For works in which the actual Magi show up bearing gifts, see The Three Wise Men.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Miyako of Hidamari Sketch invoked this as Hiro and Sae exchanged gifts... Of course nobody understood what she said.
  • Subverted and lampshaded in the dub of a Lupin III: Part II, where Fujiko replies to an episode's Worthless Treasure Twist with "Is this like the Gift of Magi? Because I hate that story."
  • In chapter 4 of Franken Fran, a high school couple unknowingly swap genitals. The girl was raped as a child and has an irrational reaction to being touched by a man, and the boy gets a sex change operation for her sake. So does she, and it's all treated as a joke at the end. Namely, the girl catches on that intention, and so Fran gives them each other's organs.
  • In YuYu Hakusho, this is part of Hiei's backstory. One of the conditions the demon surgeon made Hiei agree to before implanting Hiei's Magical Eyes was that Hiei could never reveal his true identity to his Separated at Birth sister—the same sister that Hiei wanted to find using the magical eyes. When Hiei meets the surgeon again and has to duel him, the surgeon agrees to rescind the condition if Hiei wins. While Hiei claims that he had no intention of ever revealing himself to his sister, the surgeon believes that actually meeting her might have changed Hiei's mind.
  • One of the Christmas Chapters of Poor Poor Lips has the characters referencing this story. Ren's mother comes to the conclusion that the moral of the story is "People should discuss what presents they plan to get one another".
  • In Pokémon Adventures, the author says that he based Ruby and Sapphire's relationship off of this story. Except it comes off as a surprisingly cruel Deconstruction. When the two were six years old, Ruby was a tough guy obsessed with battling while Sapphire was a girly girl obsessed with beauty and cute things. Sapphire got attacked by a wild Salamence and Ruby fended it off, getting injured in the process. When Ruby saw how scared she was, he thought she was scared of his strength and decided to give up on battling and focus on beauty, believing that when they met again that he would dazzle her with his beauty and grace. Sapphire berated herself for being too weak to defend herself and getting Ruby hurt, so she decided to give up on beauty and focus on strength, believing that when they met again that she would impress him with her battling prowess. When they meet again five years later, they fail to recognize each other due to the personality swap and completely get off on the wrong foot.
  • The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. features such a plot. Since Saiki's parents have consecutive birthdays, they go out shopping for each other. Saiki's father gets a giant teddy bear, thinking his wife will enjoy using her sewing and craft supplies on it. Saiki's mother gets a display case for her husband's action figures. It later turns out that Saiki's father sold his action figures to pay for the bear, while Saiki's mother got rid of her supplies to make room for the shelf. They're still extremely touched by the gestures, however.

    Comic Books 
  • In an Archie Comics story, Betty gives up the money she's saved all year for a new dress to buy Archie snow tires for his car. Archie decides to buy Betty an expensive diamond pin to go with her new dress but ends up forced to sell his car to afford it. Fortunately, Veronica realizes what is going on, and when Christmas comes presents Betty with the dress and Archie with his car. Moral of this story: have a millionaire friend.
    • Another story starring Cheryl Blossom's family, Cheryl's dad, fed up with the 'who-can-buy-the-most-expensive-gift' contest Cheryl and Jason have going, refuses to fund their Christmas shopping and tells them to sacrifice something for the holiday. After some initial confusion on the definition of sacrifice, the Blossom siblings get to it. Since Cheryl loves bossing people around so much, Jason gets her a staff for a beach home she owns, selling his new car to pay them. Cheryl, meanwhile, sells that very home to buy a tricked-out garage for Jason's new car. In the end, the kids simply ask their father for new things to replace the stuff that was sold.
    • A halfway version occurs in another comic. Archie sells his video game system to buy presents for the Lodge family, and their presents to him are games for said system. Upon learning of this, Veronica and Hiram work together to rectify the issue and get him his system back.
  • The anthology Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children, issue #5, features "The Crypt of the Magi". Sylvia sells her eyes to a medical school to buy Claude some brass knuckles to protect him from bullies, but Claude has lost all of his fingers in an accident at the machine shop where he has been moonlighting—to afford colored contact lenses to cover Sylvia's ghastly jaundiced eyes.
  • A single panel in a The Simpsons comic featuring Grandpa Simpson's garbled Christmas stories shows us Gerald (the baby with the Big Ol' Unibrow) having sold his eyebrow to a wig maker to buy Maggie a pacifier-cosy when she's sold her pacifier to buy him eyebrow wax. (Yes, they're both preverbal. Roll with it.) The story's title is "Gift of the Maggie".
  • A strip in a '50s horror anthology has a variation, combined with the legend of Pygmalion. A misogynistic woodcarver is ordered to carve a female figurehead for Napoléon Bonaparte's flagship, then falls in love with it. To his astonishment, the figurehead briefly comes to life and tells him that she loves him too. Unfortunately, she can only speak once a month while the clock is striking midnight. The woodcarver steals a potion from a gypsy that will turn him into wood so that he can be by his true love's side on the figurehead. Unfortunately, just as he's turning permanently to wood, his beloved turns permanently to flesh and blood - the gypsy's revenge for his theft.
  • Teen Titans Go!: For Christmas, Beast Boy bought Cyborg stainless steel custom monogrammed hubcaps for the T-car and says they're for the new tires Cyborg just bought. Unfortunately, Cyborg returned those tires and used the money to buy Raven an antique made of genuine petrified wood from the black forest because her books are taking over her room. Ironically, she sold some of her books to buy Starfire a food processor in hopes it'll help her cook better. Cyborg even brings up The Gift of the Magi to describe the situation.
  • In the Disney Princess comics, Aladdin trades his canteen for a telescope holder and Jasmine shows up to say she traded her telescope for a canteen holder.
    Aladdin and Jasmine: [to each other] I wanted to get you a gift.
    Jasmine: I guess great minds do think alike.
    Merchant: They do this every week.
  • In Marvel Comics Holiday Special 1994, Marvel's then-executive editor Mark Gruenwald sells his ponytail to buy editor-in-chief Tom DeFalco a lighter, but DeFalco sold his cigars to buy Gruenwald a hairbrush. Then they remember they both have company credit cards.
  • Animaniacs: In Issue #43 of the comic, the Warner siblings give Plotz accessories for his Ferrari. Dot gave an air freshener, Wakko gave a pink, fuzzy steering-wheel cozy, and Yakko gave sexy lady mudflaps. Unfortunately, for Plotz, Wakko sold the Ferrari's tires to buy the cozy, Dot sold the steering wheel to buy the air freshener, and Yakko sold the frame to buy the mudflaps.
  • One vignette in the horror anthology Uncanny Tales has an ugly man insecure about the love his new girlfriend has for him, so he gets plastic surgery that makes him handsome. His girlfriend laments his lack of faith in her love for him, because she went to a plastic surgeon to make herself ugly to prove herself to him.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • In Fate Revelation Online (a Sword Art Online/Fate/stay night crossover fic), Asuna and her friends discover the Chain of Deals quest they took has this plot, just with extra intervening steps involved. They don't see the final gift exchange due to Zolgen eating the wife. A follow-up quest reveals the husband went looking for his wife and was also eaten by Zolgen.
  • Defied in the Pokémon Reset Bloodlines Holiday Special, with Guzma specifically telling his cash-strapped followers to not give their stuff away for each other and just steal if worst comes to worst.

  • The Trope Maker is O. Henry's Short Story "The Gift of the Magi". Della sells her long hair to a wigmaker to buy a chain for her husband Jim's heirloom watch, only to discover on Christmas that Jim pawned the watch to buy her combs for her hair. While it's a "Shaggy Dog" Story and there's no indication that Jim ever gets the watch back, the point is that, Dramatic Irony aside, they loved each other more than they loved their most treasured possessions.
  • Inverted in Philip K. Dick's "Oh to Be a Blobel!" This story happens in the aftermath of a war between Earth and Titan. Earth has humans, Titan has Blobels, and spies in the war are made Involuntary Shapeshifters. After the war, a human and Blobel spy decide to get married as they are able to spend most of the day in the same form. Their nature causes them a lot of anguish and problems which eventually leads to them filing for divorce. The Blobel wife, in order to save their marriage, decides to undergo a new medical treatment which turns her permanently human. But the human husband has already left to pursue a business opportunity on another planet, and in accordance with the local laws had himself turned permanently into a Blobel...
  • There is a parody sequel to the story where the husband trades his arms to an armless French hatmaker for a fancy hat, and the wife sells her head to the wigmaker so she can buy him a wristwatch.
  • There was a short story in the children's magazine Cricket in which the protagonist sold an heirloom decorative plate to buy her boyfriend a bike helmet, and he sold his bike to buy her a carved wooden display stand for the plate. They were both rescued by her little brother, a money-grubbing brat who bought the bike and plate from the pawnshop for Christmas gifts.
  • In the Steve Martin short-short story "Gift of the Magi Indian Giver", Carolyn sells her cuticles to buy Roger shinbone polish, while Roger, of course, sells his shinbones to buy Carolyn cuticle frames.
  • In The Princess Diaries, Mia sells one of her Buffy figurines to get her boyfriend something. Her boyfriend sold the thing that her present to him was supposed to compliment to get her the last figurine in her collection. Whoops.
  • "The Little Blue Dishes", a traditional story, comes at this sideways. Only Peter knows what Gretchen wants. He has only a penny so he buys her candy instead. Hans eats the candy and makes up for it with the blue dishes — the only thing in the store that he can afford.
  • An odd variation in Christopher Moore's The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror. At the start of their relationship, Molly finally agreed to stay on her antipsychotic medication, which among other things prevents delusions of being an After the End Action Girl (It Makes Sense in Context), and in return Theo finally gave up his pot habit. But when Christmas comes Theo wants to get her a priceless antique sword that would be absolutely perfect for her Action Girl persona. To afford it, he starts growing pot again to sell it and falls off the wagon. Meanwhile, she's getting him a massive, elaborate bong. To afford that, she stops taking her meds.
  • Subverted in Hogfather, when the Dean gives the Bursar a box to keep his dried frog pills in. The Bursar, naturally, doesn't have any pills to put in it... because the Dean already swiped them from the Bursar's room, so he wouldn't have to shell out any more money to give him a full pillbox.
  • In the Cars story "The Best Present Ever", Mater longs to go to Kersploosh Mountain for Christmas to try out the one-day ice slide, but Lightning has to go to Russia to compete in an Ice Racers Cup that week. Thus, Mater decides to celebrate early — he races a customer from Luigi's Casa Della Tires and trades him his junkyard sled for the snow tires he bought; meanwhile, Lightning has called to reschedule the race for the week after Christmas and buys Mater tickets to Kersploosh Mountain. When they receive their presents, they reveal to each other about the switch-up and are upset having left with presents they can't use, but are happy to be best friends and spending Christmas with each other is a true gift. Fortunately, the problem gets resolved at the end when they use the tires to make a new two-person sled so they can go to Kersploosh Mountain after all.
  • The final book of The Saddle Club series has a three-way variation between the three members of the eponymous club. All three of them want to ride in a prestigious horse show a few days after Christmas, but it's a seventy-five dollar entry fee, their parents won't or can't pay, and Carole and Stevie are forced to spend their savings on a new bridle and new boots respectively (Carole's bridle was falling apart and Stevie's boots no longer fit), while Lisa didn't have the money to begin with. Meanwhile, Spoiled Brat Veronica DiAngelo — who has more money than she knows what to do with — is openly coveting Stevie's new boots and Carole's new bridle (both of which were the last of each item in the store), and has also missed the deadline to order the application form for the aforementioned show. Come Christmas, it's revealed that each of them sold Veronica something for exactly seventy-five dollars in order to give one of the others the entry fee money as a Christmas gift; Stevie sold Veronica her boots to give Carole the entry fee, Carole sold Veronica her bridle to give Lisa the entry fee, and Lisa sold Veronica her application to give Stevie the entry fee. It ultimately works out for them; the show turns out to be a moot issue because the three of them and the horses get snowed in at Pine Hollow and would have had to miss the show anyway, Stevie and Carole use the money they got to buy back the boots and bridle, and Lisa decides to use her seventy-five dollars to treat the club to something special.
  • Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas has a variation: Emmet has to put a hole in his mother's washtub, and she has to sell his tools, for both of them to enter a talent contest to win money to buy gifts for each other. The washtub and tools were unrelated to the gifts they had in mind, but they were the only means either of them had to make a living. In a rather depressing variation on the tale, they both lose. Everything gets resolved when, at the end of the movie, the owner of a local restaurant hires them as his house band.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One episode of Alice has Flo selling her Black Velvet Elvis to buy her son some gift — unbeknownst to her, her son has bought a frame for the Elvis portrait. The other characters end up similarly screwed, until Mel comes in dressed as Santa Claus, and corrects the problem.
  • An episode of The Single Guy has the single guy and one of the female characters encountering this situation, the exact gifts being a Russian Doll and a comic book. In the end, the single guy makes a quip that someone should write a book about this. Lampshade Hanging, anyone?
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000:
    • Parodied and subverted in the "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" episode, when TV's Frank gives Dr. Forrester a watch band as a gift but reveals that he paid for it by selling Dr. Forrester's watch. Dr. Forrester then gives Frank a copy of Final Exit (a controversial book about assisted suicide) and reveals he paid for it by stealing Frank's blood while he slept and then selling it "so I wouldn't have to use my own money". To which Frank responds, "Oh, Henry!"
    • Parodied again in the Santa Claus (1959) episode: Frank shaved his head and bought Dr. Forrester a watch fob (one half of the original Gift of the Magi story), but Dr. Forrester had neglected to buy Frank anything. He tried to save face with a $25 savings bond, but Frank was, to say the least, not pleased with the results. ("My hair! My beautiful head of TV's Frank hair!")
  • There was a one-way version of this in an episode of The Honeymooners. Frantic to find Alice a Christmas present, Ralph sold the bowling ball he had bought recently to get money. On Christmas morning, Ralph opens his present from Alice to discover that it's a bowling ball bag.
  • In the 3rd season Christmas Episode of 7th Heaven, Eric sells his old records to buy a chain for a cross Annie's mother left her, while Annie sells her cross to buy Eric a jukebox. In the end, the pawnshop owner comes over on Christmas morning to set things right.
  • Little House on the Prairie had a Christmas episode in which Charles buys Laura a saddle for her horse and works refurbishing a set of wagon wheels to buy Caroline a stove. Before he can pick up the stove, Laura sells her horse to pay for it. (Laura does get the horse back, a year or two later.)
  • On the original run of Saturday Night Live, John Belushi is the husband, and Laraine Newman the wife. As per the story, he sells his watch, and she sells... the brush she used to brush her long hair, for a much cheaper gift than he got her. Breaking into a standard Belushi rage, he begins to strangle her.
    • The opening sketch for a Christmas Episode in 1988 centered around Donald and Ivana Trump exchanging their Christmas gifts to one another. Donald got Ivana a gold-plated, bejeweled door for her mansion, and Ivana got Donald a gold-plated, bejeweled anchor for his yacht. Shortly afterward, Ivana breaks down in tears, explaining that she had to sell her mansion to afford the anchor, to which Donald says that he had to sell his yacht to afford the door.
    • Parodied on an SNL Christmas special hosted by Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon. Tina sold something of hers to buy Jimmy an amp for his guitar. When she gives it to him, he mentions that he got her a present as well. Tina says, "Don't tell me you sold your guitar." Jimmy says, "No. Here's your present." A beer helmet.
  • Barney & Friends used this plot in a Season 11 Christmas Episode. After Barney and his friends decide to do a "Secret Santa" thing, B.J. gets drumsticks for Riff by trading his baseball. Riff, on the other hand, gets B.J. a baseball glove by trading his drum. In the end, Barney (dressed as Santa) returns the items back to the two dinos. To make the reference even more obvious, the episode is titled "Gift of the Dinos".
  • Happened between Ponch and Jon on CHiPs on the anniversary of them starting to work together. Ponch has been moonlighting on a security job for a movie to earn extra cash. At the end of the episode, he reveals that the extra cash was to buy Jon a new pair of speakers for his stereo. Jon then reveals that he sold his stereo to buy Ponch a new turntable for his own stereo. Ponch then reveals that his side job didn't actually pay enough and he had to sell his stereo too.
  • One episode of The Twilight Zone (1959), "The Long Morrow", has a variation of this: A young couple is faced with the issue of the man having to go on a 40-year-long space mission that involves suspended animation which will keep him young while she ages back on Earth. The woman decides to put herself into suspended animation so that she will still be young when he comes back, only to learn that he took himself out of his own suspended animation so that he would be as old as her when he came back.
  • The Playhouse Disney educational skit series Out of the Box presents the fable in its holiday special.
  • One of the Net Movies for Kamen Rider × Super Sentai × Space Sheriff: Super Hero Taisen Z has the characters trying to figure out how bamboo pole salesmen stay in business; Gavan's suggestion is a riff on this tale, with the young couple played by Urataros (who sells his pole instead of a watch) and Miss America. Rinko Daimon considers the story so moving that she declares Gavan's explanation the best.
  • Kind of the basis of the iCarly episode "iDon't Want to Fight", on one side. It's Carly and Sam's 5th friendship anniversary, and Carly gives Sam a Special T-Shirt, while Sam promises to give Cuddlefish concert tickets, so she trades the T-Shirt to "Ripoff Rodney" for the tickets. Unlike most examples, Carly is furious that Sam would give away her gift, even if it was for something Carly really wanted, and this causes them to be mad at each other the whole episode.
  • An interesting variant of the trope happens in Doctor Who while Peter Capaldi is the Doctor and Jenna Coleman's Clara Oswald is his companion. During the Christmas Special "Last Christmas", the Doctor finds out that Danny Pink, Clara's significant other from the previous season, is permanently dead. Clara reveals that she lied about him being alive so that the Doctor would go home to his planet and continue the search for Gallifrey instead of worrying about her. The Doctor then reveals that he lied about finding Gallifrey so that Clara could live peacefully with Danny instead of galivanting off on adventures with him.

  • Swing-rock band Squirrel Nut Zippers' Christmas album Christmas Caravan features a track called "Gift of the Magi", a straight telling of the original story as a song.
  • AJJ references this in "Gift of the Magi 2: Return of the Magi", although it doesn't quite work like in the story as both people sell the same thing.
    "She sold her soul to buy some tits and I sold my soul to grow a dick"
  • Used in "My Mom" by Kimya Dawson (specifically referring to the Sesame Street example below):
    "You traded all your paper clips for a soap dish, that way
    "Your best friend's rubber ducky wouldn't slip and slide away
    "But he traded all his rubber duck for a cigar box to place your paper clips in"

  • In the Big Data Christmas special, to give Troy a day off, Linda infected people so they couldn't eat meat and so wouldn't go to his Arby's. However, she now can't eat meat herself and cannot eat the ham Troy was going to use his day off to bring to her.
  • The final episode of the The Thrilling Adventure Hour's "Down on Moonshine Holler" segments reveals that the whole time Jasper Manorlodge was riding the rails as hobo Banjo Bindlestuff to find his beloved Hobo Princess, said Hobo Princess was doing exactly the same thing. She infiltrated high society to try and find Jasper.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Bert and Ernie did this in the 1978 TV special Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. Bert trades his paperclip collection to Mr. Hooper for a soap dish for Ernie's rubber duckie. Ernie, meanwhile, trades his rubber duckie for a fancy box to hold the paperclip collection. Of course, Mr. Hooper stops by the apartment on his way home to bring them gifts... the items they traded. Watch!
  • Parodied in It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie. First Rizzo tells Gonzo he sold his rare cheese to buy a crystal petri dish for Gonzo's mould collection, but Gonzo sold the mould to buy a diamond-tipped cheese slicer ("Did you keep the receipt?"). Then Beaker sold his autographed periodic table to buy a stand for Bunsen's electron microscope, but Bunsen sold his microscope to buy Beaker rare mutagenic elements. Then Sal Minella explains that he sold his moped to get Johnny Fiama a solid gold record player. Much to Sal's outrage, Johnny's response is an offhanded, "Oh. Thanks, Sal."

  • Our Miss Brooks: In "Easter Parade", Miss Brooks works during her Spring Break in order in earn money so she can accompany Mr. Boynton to the Easter Parade in a new dress. Meanwhile, Mr. Boynton's working to earn money for a new suit to wear when he takes Miss Brooks to the Easter Parade. Due to Tax Deductions, Miss Brooks doesn't earn enough for the new dress. Mrs. Davis lends her the extra money, and Miss Brooks doesn't learn the money is actually coming from Mr. Boynton. Mr. Boynton no longer has enough money for the new suit and must wear his old one to the parade. Miss Brooks' new dress is messed up when she accidentally sits on a couple of Easter Eggs Mrs. Davis hid under the sofa cushions. So she too goes to the parade in her old dress of which she's positively ashamed.
  • Adventures in Odyssey: Had a Christmas episode called "Gifts for Madge and Guy" which was basically a (much more hilarious) retelling of the original.

    Video Games 
  • In Dark Souls III, Slave Knight Gael gives himself to the Dark Soul so that the Painter could use his blood to finish her painting knowing he would be driven insane by it, counting on you to finish him off and deliver the blood. This works...but it turns out that the Painter was painting the new world because she wanted to give Gael a new home. Not a completely straight example as the painting would be a home for everyone living in the Painted World.
  • Parodied in a blog post for Team Fortress 2's 2016 "Smissmas Update":
    In the classic Smissmas story "The Gift of the Magi", a girl sells all of her hair to a hair warehouse to buy her boyfriend a watch chain, but in a shocking twist, he looks at his watch and remembers she's bald and it's time to break up with her.
  • The original is discussed by Jeanne d'Arc Santa Alter Lily in her debut event in Fate/Grand Order. She's not a fan of the ending:
    Personally, the truly moving moment kinda falls flat! Hair can grow out, but the special family watch is gone forever! From the way the story goes, the husband prolly won't be getting a new watch. And every time the wife uses the combs, she'd feel real bad, and every time the husband sees the combs, he'd feel kinda dumb. And that's bad. 'Course they wanted to be nice, but their gifts didn't make them magi, they made them dummies!

    Web Animation 
  • Parodied in Episode 7 of Blamimation, where Scott's air conditioner dies during a heatwave. At the end we see that Scott has sold the air conditioner to buy a snowcone for Kris and that Kris has bought refrigerant for the air conditioner... and sold his head, leaving him unable to enjoy the snowcone.

    Web Comics 
  • This Count Your Sheep strip is an interesting variation on the trope.
  • xkcd inverts it in the appropriately titled "Theft of the Magi". Black Hat Guy sold his girlfriend's Roomba to buy himself Left 4 Dead, but it turns out his girlfriend had already sold his Xbox to buy herself a harness for her Roomba.
  • In Roomies!, It's Walky!, Joyce and Walky!, Walkerton doesn't quite get it right.
  • A transformation-based version happens in The Dragon Doctors. Euryale, a gorgon, pays a wizard to turn her into a human so she won't turn her boyfriend to stone, but at the same time, he's paid someone else to turn him into a rock-skinned being so she wouldn't have to worry about doing the same. Luckily Euryale had earned infinite credit with the wizard in question, so they can easily get it fixed, and just laugh it off.
  • In Sluggy Freelance, Torg and Riff buy each other a flannel shirt and a new overcoat... but they both sold their shoulders to science to pay for the other's gift. Or that's what Torg says anyway. They actually do have their shoulders afterwards ("They grew back.")
  • The Non-Adventures of Wonderella gives us half a gift. The other half involves toy hamsters.
  • This Nedroid strip has Beartato and Reginald do the trope straight, but then they regret selling their possessions after finding out what happened.
  • In Stubble Trouble, Liasonya the foxtaur sells her hair to buy a gift for her boyfriend. It doesn't turn out so well...
  • Prezleek Comics: Prez and his female friend Alla do this with their primary weapons, which leads to them being kicked out of their raid group. They shrug it off and decide to go fishing instead.
  • Parodied in the "Geeks of the Magi" arc in Dork Tower, where Matt and Igor are both fairly obsessive collectors. They find the perfect capstones to each other's collections, but they'd have to sell their own collections to afford it... except that because neither is actually willing to give up said collections, Matt raids the rent jar instead and Igor gets the money by stealing blood plasma from Carson and selling itnote . Ken doesn't take it at all well.
    Carson: Happy Haddumah, Merry Cridmid! Why is the room spinning?
    Ken: If anyone needs me, I'll be seeking the Spirit of Christmas Spirits. 98 proof.
  • Cruelly parodied in a Housepets! one-off strip. Bino shaves his fur to buy Duchess a cover for her iPhone. Duchess gets him a ten dollar gift voucher, then complains that the cover doesn't fit her phone.
  • In the NSFW Oglaf strip "Performance Anxiety", a pair of newlyweds each hired a prostitute to give the other a good first time. They end up holding hands and smiling at each other while watching the prostitutes have sex.
    Wow, look at us go.
  • Parodied with Bug Martini's Gift Of The Magi arc.

    Web Original 
  • A Neopedia article in Neopets about two brothers follows this plot.

    Web Videos 
  • Parodied in the Baby Lamb & Friends Season 4 Christmas episode "Gift of the Fools", where Baby Lamb trades his toy Trolley at a pawn shop to buy a case for Cow to put his special moonrock that he got from his father. However, Cow ends up trading his moonrock at the same pawn shop to purchase a set of tracks for Baby Lamb to use for his Trolley.
  • Partially parodied in the 2012 Christmas Special of PatTheNESPunk. Pat gives up a recently purchased Fairchild Channel F videogame console to get his neighbor, Frank, a book with pictures of The National Park. Frank's gift to Pat were games for the Fairchild, prompting the latter to assume that he sold his van (which was mentioned to be missing from outside) to afford the games. Frank laughs at the assumption, as he merely sold a shovel to get the money and that the van is in the shop getting fixed.

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied in a Show Within a Show in SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Idiot Box", during Squidward's Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere sequence: "I couldn't afford a present this year, so I got you this box." "That's what I got you!"
  • In the first Rugrats Christmas special, "The Santa Experience", Angelica puts Phil and Lil in a "Gift Of The Magi" Plot situation as part of a prank: she trades Lil a Reptar space helmet to give to Phil in exchange for her favorite coloring book, and takes Phil's Reptar doll in exchange for a box of crayons that he can give to Lil. Upon discovering that bad kids don't get presents, however, Angelica struggles to fix the situation, and ultimately gives them their original presents back as their Christmas gifts.
  • Parodied in Futurama: Zoidberg gave combs to Amy, who sold her hair to buy combs for Hermes, who sold his hair to buy combs for Zoidberg (who he hates more than anyone, and who is bald). Zoidberg thanks him, saying this will go great with his new hair—then removes his hat to reveal Hermes' and Amy's hair.
    Zoidberg: Finally! I look as pretty as I feel!
  • The Looney Tunes short "Really Scent" saw the object of Pepé Le Pew's affections finally realize that Pepe was the only male giving her attention at all. So, in an attempt to make the relationship work, she hung around a limburger factory to gain a bad smell. Meanwhile, Pepe finally realized that it was his stench that had put the cat off and hung around a perfume factory to gain a good smell. The end of the short sees a nice turnaround to the Mad Love scenario: the cat chasing the skunk.
  • Subverted in the CatDog episode "Brothers Day": At first, Dog gave up his pool of mud that he and Cat wrestled in to buy Cat a loofa case. Cat sold his loofa to get Dog a mud wrestling costume. Winslow noticed both, and refused to stop them because he thought it was funny. Then Dog reveals that he sold the loofa case and got Cat a mud wrestling outfit as well, because "I looked up the recipe for mud, and it's really easy to make!" They both then put their outfits on and start wrestling Winslow together.
  • Played with in the Phineas and Ferb Christmas Special. Jeremy gives Candace a pair of earrings that she wanted (and was going to have her good necklace made into a pair like them), but he sold his guitar (which he was going to trade in for a silver one) to pay for them. Candace, meanwhile, buys the silver guitar by selling her good necklace, so instead of them both losing something they valued for a pointless gift they both ended up with the same things they would have if neither bought any presents at all.
    • One comic story in the Phineas and Ferb magazine has the titular stepbrothers making gifts for each other for National Inventor's Day. Phineas has his wrenches melted down to make a steel carrying case for Ferb's blueprints, while Ferb cuts his blueprints into a pegboard for Phineas' wrenches.
  • Robot Chicken had a great parody of this story- the wife naturally sells her hair to buy a chain for her husband's pocket watch. When we see the husband trying to buy his wife some combs, the shopkeeper suggests he sell his watch to afford them... only for the husband to point out that his watch is an antique in perfect working condition and is worth way, way more than a pair of combs, no matter how fancy. "What are they, solid gold?" note  He buys her some lingerie instead.
  • One of the stories told in Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas sees Minnie Mouse selling her watch to buy Mickey a case for his harmonica, while Mickey has pawned his harmonica to get her a chain for her watch. As in the original short story, no setting-right takes place come Christmas morning.
  • The short series The Mix-Ups had a short in which each of the main characters sells a possession to buy another a birthday present. They all end up receiving presents meant to go with the things they sold but fortunately manage to find new uses for them.
  • A non-Christmas example happens in an episode of Horseland. Two of the girls, who are siblings, sell clothes that will match things they own for a parade. Unlike the original story, they solve the problem that the thing that matches each clothing item was sold by having them sell something else that wasn't clothing to buy fabric.
  • In the Teen Titans Go! episode "Opposites", Cyborg and Jinx's respective teams wouldn't allow them to date. Jinx managed to convince the HIVE Five to turn good, but Cyborg convinced the Titans to turn evil, so they were still enemies.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "The Gift of the Maud Pie" uses only half of this trope, with Pinkie Pie selling her party cannon to get her sister Maud a rock pouch, while Maud simply bought Pinkie confetti to use for the cannon. Upon learning what happened, Maud re-exchanges the pouch so her sister can have her cannon back.
  • In the Squidbillies episode "Pile M for Murder," the Cuylers sell all the dirt on their land to buy gas so they can go mudding... in the mud they no longer have.
  • In The Simpsons episode "White Christmas Blues", Lisa gives Bart a book for Christmas, not because she knew he would like it, but because she wanted to make herself feel good, which he calls her out on while burning said book. Lisa later makes up for it by buying Bart a kindle, which she got by selling the gift Bart had given her. She states she got the idea from a book, "The Gift of the Magi" which she downloaded onto the kindle. This only makes Bart assume that Maggie actually gave him the gift, but Lisa is passing it off as her own.
  • In Star vs. the Forces of Evil finale, Star is prepared to leave her world and everyone in it forever in order to be with Marco on Earth, only to find that the portal had already closed. However as it turned out, Marco had done the exact same thing in an attempt to be with Star.
  • Parodied at the end of the Family Guy episode "Bri, Robot" where Peter reveals that he took a masseuse job to buy Lois a fancy comb for her hair. Only for Lois to reveal that she is wearing a wig because she sold her hair to buy Peter a bottle of massage oil.
    Peter: Great. Now I'm an unemployed masseuse with a bald wife. Merry fucking Christmas.

    Real Life 
  • In one of his volumes of kidspeak, Rabbi Chaim Potok shares a letter from a young boy who sold his fancy and expensive calculator to buy ink for his father's beloved fountain pen. His reasoning is that his father's birthday is coming up and that his calculator's battery, which is a rare and hard to obtain type, has run out. When his father's birthday comes, he presents his father with his gift, only for the father to reveal that he has sold his pen to buy batteries for the calculator.


Video Example(s):


Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas

Mickey trades his harmonica to get the chain for Minnie's watch, while Minnie trades her watch to get a harmonica case for Mickey, so their gifts are useless now. However, their love for each other is all they'll truly need.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / GiftOfTheMagiPlot

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