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MacGuffin Title

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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.


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     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.
  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Films — Animation 
  • 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.
  • Barbie & The Diamond Castle: The Diamond Castle is the desired location of the protagonists.
  • 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".
  • 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 
  • Brick. The title refers to a brick of heroin, the theft of which sets off the film's entire plot.
  • The Rover: the hero is trying to get back the Range Rover that some bandits stole, though it's a Double-Meaning Title: He's actually only interested in the dead dog in the trunk.
  • The framing device of VHS is centered around a group of criminals trying to find a certain VHS tape.
  • Witchboard is titled in reference to the Ouija board used in the film.
  • Schindler's List is titled after the list of indispensable workers Schindler used to save so many Jews.
  • The Fifth Element has the protagonists working to get the titular Fifth Element, Leloo, to the other four elements to save the universe.

  • 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 Radix, a book about people chasing after a holy plant called Radix (or Radix Ipsius, "the root of itself") that belonged to Jesus.
  • 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.
  • 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").
  • 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.
  • The Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note series often has titles of this type; the first three books which have an Animated Adaptation are The Missing Bicycle Knows, The Egg Hamburg Steak Knows, and The Backyard Knows.
  • 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.
  • The Fire's Stone is a magic stone keeping a volcano in check that needs to be retrieved by Prince Darvish to save his country from an imminent eruption.
  • 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).

    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 
  • 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.
  • Paranoia: John M. Ford's adventure The Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues. There is, indeed, a black box.
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • Elden Ring: A Ring of Power that has been scattered into several Great Runes throughout the land.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross each refer to their respective time-altering artifacts.
  • 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.

  • 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