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MacGuffin Guardian

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"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.

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.

Compare Gate Guardian.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In 3×3 Eyes, the gate to the Sanctuary in the Egyptian Kunlun is guarded by a small army of sand golems shaped as the Egyptian pantheon and a massive, Anubi-shaped Golem with petrification powers. Later, the Tomb of the Water General and the nexus of energy withing are protected by a mass of sentient, corrosive water. Though never stated, it is implied that the other four Generals' resting places are guarder by similar, elemental entities.
  • Jidanbo from Bleach may count, if you wish to include overgrown humans.
  • Buster Keel! has the humongous snake monster Anaconda living in an Absurdly Spacious Sewer and guarding Gomeijii's treasure chest, revealed to be a more formidable Twin Heads when confronted by the heroes.
  • 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.
  • 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 Yaiba, Onimaru's Fortress is guarded by the Four Evil Kings, four demonic monsters acting as keepers.

    Comic Books 
  • Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman: In "Morning Coffee" Diana is quite frustrated when she realizes that Catwoman, who she's just apprehended, stole the golden fleece when the fleece's draconic protector attacks them.
  • The Transformers: Lost Light: Before the fall of Garrus-9, the Magnificence was placed inside Grimlock's chest, on the grounds it was the safest place in the universe. It took Scorponok a long time, and an incredible amount of torture, to get it out of Grimlock's chest.
  • X-Men: The M'Kraan Crystal, which contains within it "the end of all that is", is guarded by the tiny Jahf. Who can hit hard enough to send a man with an adamantium skeleton flying at escape velocity. Should someone, somehow, defeat Jahf, he's immediately replaced by the much larger Modt. And should Modt fall, he assures that he'll be replaced by someone even stronger, and so on until whoever tries getting to the Crystal dies or runs away. (Or manages to talk their way past.)

    Fan Works 
  • Avengers of the Multi-verse: In Episode 8, "Dawn of the Dragons", the five keys that unlock the Leviathan's prison are hidden in different parts of the world, and are each protected by a legendary creature — the Mother Phoenix in China, the Quetzalcoatl in Mexico, the Yowie-Yahoo in Australia, the King Hydra in Greece, and the Sphinx in Egypt.
  • The Equestrian Wind Mage: Since the second season plays out more like a proper Zelda story than the first, Ganondorf places each of the Elements of Harmony under the protection of a powerful monster — the Element of Honesty is guarded by Grey Hoof and a Stallord, the Element of Kindness by Volvagia, the Element of Generosity by the Gohma Queen, the Element of Loyalty by Shanzom, and the Element of Laughter by Twinrova, while Ganon keeps the Element of Magic on his person.
  • In the Pony POV Series, it turns out Moochick was this for the Rainbow of Light until he gave it to the Paradise Ponies and Megan, while Heathspike (Spike's ancient ancestor) was the guardian of the Rainbow of Darkness. Unfortunately, Heathspike dying in battle killing the evil dragon Smaug resulted in Lord Tirek getting his Rainbow thanks to a younger, far more apathetic Luna.
  • Queen of All Oni:
  • Shadows Awakening uses this a lot:
    • The Chamber of Wishes, containing the Ring of Kur-Asan, is protected by a giant scorpion.
    • The Hidden Shadowkhan Temple is guarded by an army of The Undead.
    • The Unseen Enclave, where Solomon's Archive is located, is guarded by an efreet.
    • The hidden Himalaya shrine where the Jewel was hidden is protected by yeti with ice powers.
  • In The Ultimate Evil, unlike in canon, the Book of Ages has Guardian who Shendu and Valerie must outwit in order to access it.

    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.

  • Blood Sword mostly plays this straight but has a curious inversion in Book 5: at one point you (or your party) are sailing down an underground river where you stumble on a small island containing a shrine to the ancient pagan deity Kraken. If you decide to profanate the altar and take the coins on it... Kraken won't appear, because you've shown that you hold no fear for a forgotten relic. If you leave the altar intact, Kraken will attack you as soon as you leave the island.
  • Fighting Fantasy series has plenty of such enemies, sometimes intentionally left behind to guard the chest/item you need (for example the Thassallos from Vault of the Vampire or the Cat o Ninetails in Bloodbones) but sometimes as either decoys or traps on their own. For example, the stone Golem from The Citadel of Chaos, who is guarding three treasure chests which don't contain actual treasure.
  • In La Saga du Prêtre Jean, several plot-relevant items are guarded by some monster. Book 1 alone has two pieces of the magical armor guarded by a massive octopus and a Hawk-man you have to trick or fight. At least two of them (one in Book 2, the other in Book 4) are also the Final Boss of the story.
  • 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 monstrous 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.


    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.

    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.
  • Japanese Mythology has a retroactive example in the Yamata no Orochi, when Susanowo finds out that Orochi's eighth tail actually holds inside the magnificent Ama-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi (or Kusanagi), superior to his own sword.

    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.


    Video Games 
  • Plenty of these in the Baldur's Gate series. It's played with in one particular instance, where you can reason with the guardian and argue that its orders were to guard the chest, not necessarily the chest's contents. Since it was getting bored with guarding the thing anyway, it lets you take the item and leave without a fight.
  • Battle for Wesnoth:
    • Spoofed to no end with the presence of a Giant Squid in a pool just outside the entrance of the Dwarven Kingdom is lampshaded. In a particular campaign said gag was brought up a notch.
    • Used more seriously in The Hammer of Thursagan where the tome needed to open the secrets gates in the final level is guarded by several vicious huge spiders.
  • The Guardians of Temen-Ni Gru in Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening may count. Most of them at least. The other halves are Gate Guardian instead.
  • Doom³: As soon as you step into the room where the Soul Cube was sealed in Hell, a massive dinosaur-like blind demon (aptly named "The Guardian") emerges from a hellish portal and proceeds to engage the nameless Marine, serving as a Puzzle Boss.
  • Jonathan Kane: The Protector has the giant Living Statue boss, who turns out to be guarding a powerful doomsday artifact - an Evil Mask who grants it's wearer ultimate power - from falling into the wrong hands. In a Nice Job Breaking It, Hero moment, Jonathan destroying the statue in a boss fight allows the villains to retrieve the mask.
  • Mother:
    • EarthBound (1994): Each of the Sanctuaries is guarded by some sort of monster.
    • Mother 3: One of the needles is protected by the Barrier Trio, a group of posing, PSI-using golems.
  • Final Fantasy II: Each MacGuffin necessary for the plot advancement was guarded by a fearsome monster, including the Sergeant, Adamantoise and Shrieker.
  • God of War: Kratos must fight several Guardians during the course of the original three games, including Pandora's Guardian, the Mole Cerberus and Skorpio.
  • The Legend of Dragoon: Grand Jewel, Polter Armor and the Last Kraken. The first is the keeper of the Dragon-Blocking Staff, the Polter Armor possess Dart's Infinity +1 Sword and the Last Kraken was engineered specifically by the Wingly Savan to protect the Sigil of his city. Too bad Big Bad Zieg manages to hijack its mind.
  • 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.
  • Musashi Samurai Legend: Each of the five areas has a boss which you have to defeat in order to unlock the power of your elemental swords. The earth Sword has Gorpus, the water Sword has Scarlet Kraken, the fire Sword has Vallord, the wind Sword has Arachnoblia and the void Sword has Ashura. Vallord and Arachnoblia though are slight exceptions, there's more background to them than just mere guardians.
  • Odin Sphere: The mighty dragon Wagner, who has little love for other races due to the genocide against his kind, agrees to keep the Ring of Titrel safe in his stomach at Velvet's request due to a combination of Velvet besting him in combat, amusement at putting a spanner in several other character's plans, and because he's not interested in The End of the World as We Know It that Titrel could be the key to. Unfortunately, Odin really wants the Ring for his own ambitions, so he eventually tasks Oswald to kill Wagner in exchange for a castle, a Psypher spear, and the enchanted-sleeping Gwendolyn (Oswald wasn't interested at all until the last one was added). Granted, Wagner would love nothing more than to kill Oswald regardless since Oswald killed his friend Hindel. Oswald kills Wagner, but keeps the ring for himself (since he thinks it would actually be a nice gift for his to-be wife) and notes to Odin he only wanted a dragon slain with no mention of "rings".
  • Onimusha series:
  • Pony Island: The three daemons: Azazel, Beelzebub and Asmodeus.
  • Rayman: The second game has its share, including the Guardian of the Cavern of Bad Dreams.
  • Seven Samurai 20XX: The Library of Avalon is protected by Guardians, pitch black demon-like entities with horns, long bladed tails an dimensional powers who were created to defend the place, even if their original makers are long dead.
  • Titan Quest has some important quest items guarded by unique, powerful monsters:
    • Act I, you must slay Arachne to obtain the olive tree branch you must offer to the Oracle of Delphi.
    • Act II, you have to kill Scarabeus to recover the Scroll of Invocation, and then you must defeat the Pharaoh's Guard and Nehebkau to recover the Eye of Truth and the Hand of Chaos needed for the ritual.
    • Act III, a giant Chimera guards over the Sickle of Chronos, but by the time you kill it, the sickle is missing.
    • Act IV, in order to access to Hades you must recover the Eye of the Gray Sisters for Medea. This means killing the Grays themselves. In Hades, the Bloated One guards the magic mirror you need to release Orpheus, while a sidequest involves recovering the ashes of a Titan by slaying the huge reptilian demon watching over them.
    • Act V: Troll King Goldtooth has stolen the golden sickle of a local druid. In order to recover it, you must fight Goldtooth and kill him.
    • Act VI: Each of the items required to travel to Atlantis have a guardian you have to dispose of, including King Arganthonius, The Ancient One and Ladon.
  • The huge Kraken in Tomb Raider: Underworld was probably left behind as a guardian.
  • Warcraft III: Arthas hears of a sword called Frostmourne, which may be the key to killing the Dreadlord Mal'ganis. The Guardian tries to repel him but fails, leading to Arthas taking the sword, becoming Ner'zhul's pawn and then the Lich King.
    Arthas: Still trying to protect the sword, are you?
    Guardian: No... Trying to protect you... from it...

  • 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.
  • Pawn: This was the circumstance through which Ayanah meets (and outsmarts) Baalah.

    Western Animation 
  • Fangbone! (and the original Fangbone! Third Grade Barbarian books) has the titular Fangbone the Barbarian, and his friend from Earth, Bill. They're both tasked with guarding the big toe of Venomous Drool, making sure he never retrieves it to regain his full power.
  • A rare heroic example is in Legends of Chima, where the lions guard the pool of chi that falls from Mount Cavora, and unlike most MacGuffin Guardians, are willing to share what they're guarding.
  • Magi-Nation has Snout & Peepers, a two headed hyren that lives in the Hall of Heros and protects the Book of Elders whenever it shows up there. Snout prefers to roast intruders on sight.
  • The Simpsons: Played for Laughs in "Duffless", in which the secret exit from the Nuclear Power Plant is guarded by a Giant Spider with a taste for human flesh.
  • The Smurfs (1981): In the episode "The Enchanted Quill", the eponymous quill inside Castle Quill is guarded by griffins.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "The Lost Mattress", Mr. Krabs' prized money-filled mattress is guarded by a ferocious worm at the junkyard after it gets thrown away.
  • 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. This is mainly to ensure Qilby can't get back to her.
    • In the special episode The Legend of Ogrest, a Giant Squid is guarding a pirates treasure and another Dofus.
    • At end of the OVAs, Yugo entrusts Goultard with guarding the Six Eliatrope Dofus as a favor. Unfortunately, Adamai and Oropo are not only able to steal them, but the former uses them to power up and defeat Goultard before unleashing his Dark Vlad personality to turn him into a minion.


Video Example(s):


Graveyard Guardian

It is revealed that the Looking Glass Graveyard is traditionally protected by an Illusionist to keep the Galderstones from being stolen. Since illusion magic is the only form of magic that isn't amplified by the stones, this makes Illusionists perfect for the job since they won't be tempted to use them for ill-purposes.

How well does it match the trope?

4.08 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / MacGuffinGuardian

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