Follow TV Tropes


MacGuffin Title

Go To
A work has a title that refers to a specific object. Because the object is so specific in the title, you know without knowing anything else about the story, that, obviously, the heroes will have to quest to find this object, or protect it from the bad guys, or recover it from the forces of evil, or destroy it somehow. This often leads to a Title Drop.

Something of a pet trope for fantasy novels and video games, but can occur elsewhere. Sometimes results in an Artifact Title if the series moves on. Can involve a Character Name and the Noun Phrase title, especially if the Noun Phrase in question is nothing more than a MacGuffin itself.

Super-Trope of Character Name and the Noun Phrase.


    open/close all folders 

     Anime & Manga 
  • In a surprising twist, Attack on Titan is this in the original Japanese. "Shingeki no Kyojin" was intentionally mistranslated to hide the fact that it actually refers to Eren, the current host of the "Attacker Titan".
  • Cardcaptor Sakura has some of this, since the main character has to capture cards.
  • Dragon Ball: The seven orbs that summon a wish-granting dragon.
  • One Piece: The legendary lost treasure of the pirate Gold Roger.
  • Death Note: The Artifact of Doom that has fueled Light's ascension to Villain Protagonist.

    Comic Books 
  • The Sixth Gun refers to a sixshooter of unearthly power that ends up in the ends of the heroine, and that many other people want.
  • Swordquest is about two heroes on a quest for a sword.
  • Tintin has three titles that refer to stolen MacGuffins:
    • The Broken Ear has a pre-Columbian fetish with a broken ear stolen at the beginning of the story.
    • In King Ottokar's Sceptre, the titular sceptre is the most important article of Syldavian royal regalia, and is stolen by conspirators as pretext for a coup.
    • The Castafiore Emerald belongs to Bianca Castafiore, who is paranoid about having her jewels stolen. The emerald disappears only after several false alarms.

    Films — Animation 
  • Barbie & The Diamond Castle: The Diamond Castle is the desired location of the protagonists.
  • BIONICLE: Mask of Light follows two friends from the fire-based village of Ta-Koro on a quest to find the owner of the Mask of Light, a mystical artifact that can potentially defeat Makuta, an evil entity threatening the island.
  • The Black Cauldron: The Horned King is searching for a mystical relic known as the Black Cauldron, which is capable of creating an invincible army of undead warriors, the "Cauldron-Born".
  • Pokémon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life: The Jewel of Life is a jewel that Arceus forged from his life plates, and which was stolen by Damos. Now Sheena, a descendant of Daros, is planning to return the jewel to Arceus to pass judgement.
  • The Sword in the Stone: After the King of England, Uther Pendragon, dies, leaving no heir to the throne, a sword magically appears inside an anvil in London.
  • Titan A.E.: The Titan is a Lost Superweapon which can convert energy into new planets, which the heroes seek to reverse the destruction of the Earth at the hands of the villainous Drej.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Theodor Fontane's novel L'Adultera doubles as a Foreign Language Title; on the surface it refers to a painting by Tintoretto ("The Adulteress before Christ").
  • Maggie Furey's Artifacts Of Power series has titles like "The Harp of Winds" and "The Sword of Flame".
  • In Alexandre Dumas père's The Black Tulip, the protagonist is obsessed with winning a prize offered for breeding a perfectly black tulip.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia has The Silver Chair, which doesn't turn up until quite late in the book, but still counts. It refers to the "vile engine of sorcery" (an actual chair made of silver) that is fashioned by the Queen of Underland to contain Prince Rilian for the one hour per night that he returns to his senses.
  • The Chronicles of Prydain includes The Black Cauldron, which the heroes spend much of the book trying to acquire.
  • The Darksword Trilogy centers around the forging and use of a powerful Anti-Magic sword In a World… of magic users.
  • Deltora Quest by Emily Rodda follows the adventures of three companions as they journey across the fictitious land of Deltora, endeavouring to recover the seven gems stolen from the magical Belt of Deltora and defeat allies of the evil Shadow Lord.
  • The eponymous Dragon Bones appear very early in the book, but if you didn't pay attention to the title, or read a translation with a different title, you'll think they are just a dragon skeleton in the basement, sad and embarrassing to have there, but not important. It later turns out that the dragon bones are what the villains were after the whole time, and it is of vital importance to make sure they don't get them.
  • The Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers references the drawing of beer, i.e. the famous (and magical) Herzwesten Dark beer.
  • In The Elenium trilogy, the heroes spend almost two-thirds of the series attempting to find The Sapphire Rose, which is the name of the third book.
  • Interstellar Pig by William Sleator refers, first, to a fictional board game titled "Interstellar Pig," and second, to an entity called The Piggy which is central to both the board game and the plot as a whole. The board game Interstellar Pig wouldn't seem extremely important when it first appears, but of course the title is something of a giveaway that it is important.
  • Keeper of the Swords by Nick Perumov sounds like a Word Salad Title at first, but later you learn that the eponymous Swords are the MacGuffin. The first book in this series, Diamond Sword, Wooden Sword, plays the trope completely straight.
  • The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, in the same vein as the film it inspired; the title makes it clear that whatever the Maltese Falcon is, it's going to be important. Of course, just as with the film, most people know what it is nowadays.
  • Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn does this recursively: Not only does the series-name refer to the three MacGuffins, but the titles for individual books (The Dragonbone Chair, The Stone of Farewell and To Green Angel Tower) all refer to various important objects.
  • The Moonstone: A debased Englishman steals the moonstone, a sacred gem, from India. It brings bad luck to each of its English possessors. When the gem disappears from a young Englishwoman's room and three sinister Hindus menace her family, the careful, methodical Sergeant Cuff is assigned to the case.
  • The Name Jar: The title comes from a jar full of names that's given to Unhei by her classmates at her new school when she says she hasn't picked a new name yet (some kids on the bus couldn't pronounce it, and Unhei didn't want that to happen again).
  • The Radix, a book about people chasing after a holy plant called Radix (or Radix Ipsius, "the root of itself") that belonged to Jesus.
  • Wings of Fire: the third part of book 5 is titled The Eye of Onyx, referring to a MacGuffin that the protagonist is looking for to end the continent-wide war.
  • The central object of The Affix is a gem that throws probability completely askew, glows by night when it's "awake", and chooses a keeper that it will repeatedly return to. The sequel is also titled for its MacGuffin.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: The title of the show is a reference to the One Ring, the Three Rings for the Elves, the seven rings for the Dwarves Lords and the nine Rings for the Kings of Men.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Paranoia: John M. Ford's adventure The Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues. There is, indeed, a black box.
  • The Spelljammer setting of Dungeons & Dragons is named after a powerful, magical, sentient ship that everyone in the setting dreams of finding and commanding. The captain who successfully claims it as his own will be unstoppable. It is also named for the generic name for spacefaring ships, and for the people crewing them. Spelljamming and spelljammer have lots of related meanings in Spelljammer.
  • Warhammer Fantasy was named for Ghal Maraz, the dwarf-made warhammer belonging to the Emperor. However, it shows up little in canon, and is something of an Artifact Title now.

  • The Golden Apple: Paris is called upon by Mrs. Juniper, Miss Minerva and Lovey Mars to decide which of the ladies should win the golden apple proffered by Mother Hare.

    Video Games 
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light: The Fire Emblem is the incomplete form of the Binding Shield, an artifact that keeps the Earth Dragons sealed away. The Blade of Light is the Falchion, a weapon that is capable of killing dragons. Both items are obtained so that Marth can def These two items also show up during the game's sequel, Mystery of the Emblem, as well as Fire Emblem: Awakening, where they are once again used to defeat Medeus and Grima respectively.
    • Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade: The Fire Emblem is a gem that is able to unlock the Binding Blade, a powerful sword that was used during the Scouring. Princess Guinivere gives the Fire Emblem to Roy so that he may retrieve the Binding Blade to use against Zephiel. The Fire Emblem also shows up in The Blazing Blade, where it is stolen before Zephiel's coming-of-age ceremony, preventing him from becoming heir to the throne of Bern until Eliwood, Hector and Lyn recover it.
    • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade: The Blazing Blade is the Durandal, the legendary weapon of Lycia that is given by Athos and Bramimond to Eliwood in order to defeat Nergal.
    • Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones: The Sacred Stones are five stones that serve to drive away the dark influence of the Demon King. One of the stones also contains the soul of the Demon King; said stone is referred to as the Fire Emblem. Eirika's and Ephraim's mission during the story is to prevent the destruction of the Sacred Stones.
    • Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance: Lehran's Medallion is an artifact which contains the dark god who brought about the Great Flood. Only beings of order are capable of directly touching the medallion without going insane, and in times of conflict, the chaotic energy within the medallion grows stronger, making it emit blue flames that give the medallion its alternate title of the Fire Emblem. Should the chaotic energy of war grow strong enough, the dark god will be released, and the ultimate goal of the heroes of Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn is to prevent this.
    • Fire Emblem Fates: The Yato is a blade that is only usable by Corrin. Over the course of the story, the Yato is upgraded, with its final form, the Omega Yato, also going by the title of the Fire Emblem.
    • Fire Emblem: Three Houses: The Crest of Flames is the Crest of Sothis, the Progenitor Goddess of Fodlan. Byleth possessing this Crest is proof of their connection to the Goddess. Edelgard also possesses the Crest of Flames, due to the Crest-implanting experimentation performed on her. Also, the Sword of the Creator, another relic tied to Sothis and usable only by Byleth.
    • Fire Emblem Engage: The game is spent seeking out the Emblem Rings, which allow whoever wields them to summon the spirit of a hero from another world. There's twelve of them, one for each previous Fire Emblem game (excluding remakes and with Marth representing both Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light and its direct sequel Mystery of the Emblem), but a thirteenth Emblem Ring is created by the other twelve transforming a recently deceased Alear into a living Emblem. Naturally for this trope, this last Emblem is also known as the Fire Emblem.
  • The Legend of Zelda series has several of these as subtitles, to various extents:
    • Ocarina of Time, the titular ocarina being a magical instrument required to progress the plot in many areas of the game.
    • Majora's Mask refers to the Artifact of Doom stolen by the Big Bad, which is inhabited by the Final Boss.
    • The Wind Waker, which is also the name of the conductor's wand used to control the winds and travel in the game.
    • Four Swords refers to the sword the main character uses to fight this game's specific antagonist. Well, sort of — it's actually named the "Four Sword", singular, but it splits the hero and itself into four, so there are in fact four of them.
    • Phantom Hourglass refers to the item that, when filled with the Sands Of Hours recovered from bosses (which, interestingly, includes the Big Bad), protects Link from the curse laid on the Hub Level.
    • The Minish Cap refers to Ezlo, who is a Minish turned into a Minish-made cap. He ends up being the reason behind Link's iconic hat.
    • Skyward Sword is an interesting variation, as Link's main weapon, the Goddess Sword, was referred to as "the Skyward Sword" during development.
  • Kingdom Hearts, strangely, has three separate things referred to by the series title. The Mind Screw here is whether the first two examples to be shown are just cases of mistaken identity.
  • Metal Gear is both the collective name for the franchise and the classification of doomsday weapon that Snake spends most of his life trying to render extinct.
  • The Meteor, the Stone and a Long Glass of Sherbet: The meteor/stone is a Plot Device that various people are interested in.
  • Nuclear Throne: Each playthrough of the game is a dangerous journey through an unforgiving post-nuclear wasteland to reach the titular Nuclear Throne.
  • Nyakori's Rabbit Doll is what Nyarutoru and Nyakori are trying to find inside the haunted mansion after it was stolen from Nyakori.
  • Several titles in the Professor Layton series, such as The Diabolical Box, The Last Specter, and The Miracle Mask. These are each significant items (or, in the case of Specter, an apparition) which the heroes are trying to find in order to deal with the problems they're causing. Overlaps with Character Name and the Noun Phrase.
  • Transistor: The Weapon Title that allows defeating the Process, but can be used more broadly to stop the Process as a whole instead of fighting its incarnations one-on-one.

  • Demonseed Redux: The Demonseed is Title Dropped a couple of times and is a part of Big Bad's plan. In effect, it's Galadrel's genes that would allow making Nephilims for the war, which Chico as his son also has. How it works is not made clear, and [[Orphaned Series unlikely will] be.
  • In Undead Friend the series focuses on the characters who are stuck in the supernatural game, Undead Friend.

    Western Animation