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Memento MacGuffin

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An object which is the embodiment or representation of the solid, happy relationship between two characters, or of an important memory or period in someone's life. But unlike an ordinary Tragic Keepsake or Friendship Trinket, the Memento MacGuffin plays a critical role in the story.

Sometimes it's as obvious as a piece of jewelry like an engagement/wedding ring, or a wedding video, or a photograph of a beloved, or a prized heirloom. It can also be a love note or just some small gift, such as a stuffed toy. It can even be a location, such as a childhood home or a favorite corner market, an old building imbued with poignant memories or an entire town. Such a memento can represent romantic partners, deep friendships, familial relationships or even esoteric connections. Whatever the item, and whatever the nature of the relationship, there is a symbolic yet very real form of Synchronization between the Memento MacGuffin and the relationship, and because of that, it tends to also be a #1 Dime.

These items tend to give a lot of exposition and, rather than being true MacGuffins, can play a central role in the plot. Unfortunately, they also tend to be rather luckless. On the other hand, if a character deliberately disposes of the item, it's because It's All Junk. Also, if the character acquires it through a very sad experience, it's a Tragic Keepsake that might be held during a Cradle of Loneliness.

If, however, a character's parents are conspicuous by their absence, or completely unknown, that "treasure" the character carts around with them is probably a specific type of Memento MacGuffin—the Orphan's Plot Trinket. Expect it to be important.

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    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): The Kaiju Thor recites harmonics as a bittersweet reminder of the ancient peoples who once worshipped him, including a galdr that was meant as a protective charm against the undead. In a Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane way, this galdr ends up being critical in the last battle, where hearing it helps Thor to summon his willpower against an infectious Undead Abomination and against Keizer Ghidorah.
  • Blood and Honor: Sanguis has a mask which she inherited from her mother. She begins wearing it early in the story, at Darth Baras's suggestion, and it becomes important to her in several ways - as a physical connection to her past, a means of intimidating her enemies, and a shield behind which she can hide her feelings. It's eventually shattered in an explosion which nearly kills her and she grieves its loss, refusing to wear another.
  • Code Geass: Paladins of Voltron: Lelouch entrusted Sayoko with the only possession he ever obtained from his mother after her death, which he won from a noble before learning of its heritage. Said possession is the only remnant Lelouch has of his maternal grandparents, having been given to Marianne by her father, who gained it from his wife. It's a Blade of Marmora knife.
  • Smith's simple denim jacket in The Matrix Slashfic Bringing Me To Life, signifies the beginning of Smith and Neo's fresh start as a couple together. It's even more important to the plot because one of the characters has a Reincarnation Romance Flashback from seeing Smith pull it out and wear it.
  • Lydia's spider brooch, which is also a Call-Back to the show, serves as this leading up to the climax in Cinderjuice. BJ is de-powered and almost definitely walking into a fatal trap, but looking at the brooch reminds him why it's worth the risk. The brooch appears at least once in each of the sequels; it's extremely important to Lydia.
  • In the Fate/Zero fanfic Fate: Zero Sanity, Avenger gives Rin his Casull in the form of a silver cross after he saves her life because she managed to impress him with her courage. She wears it throughout the remainder of the fic and is always shown wearing it afterwards.
  • Chapter 5 of the RWBY fic Going Through The Motions makes Blake's bow into this; Adam gave it to her as a sign of his love.
  • In the Harry Potter fanfic The Peace Not Promised, Severus gives Lily a crystal bottle for her seventeenth birthday, containing a silver liquid that takes the shape of a doe - his Patronus form, reminding her that she's in his heart always. What she doesn't know at the time is that it's literally imbued with memories - her own memories, from the week where she was aware of his first life, wiped from her mind to keep her safe and waiting for the right time to be shown to her again.
  • In Say It Thrice, the wedding ring from the film Beetlejuice serves this function; Lydia suffers from Laser-Guided Amnesia until it's returned to her. A flashback reveals that it originally belonged to Betelgeuse's mother.
  • The necklace given to Vale by her sister Maybelle in the Hunger Games fanfic Some Semblance of Meaning. It's not really plot-relevant in any way, aside from the fact that it provides Vale with a tangible link to her family, and she sometimes imagines that clutching onto it gives her some of the fiery Maybelle's strength. In the end, the last time she clutches it before she dies, she thinks that this time, she is "drawing not upon her sister's strength, but on her own."
  • Sonic X: Dark Chaos: The red gem that Cosmo wears on her chest is revealed to be a very powerful and rare Doma Emerald that her family kept as a symbol of the Seedrians back on her homeworld. It allows her to communicate with the spirit of her mother Hertia and her father Dark Oak.
  • Madoka's ribbons in the Puella Magi Madoka Magica fanfic To the Stars, which have never worn after hundreds of years, one of which Homura has and the other which she gave to Kyouko. The latter resides in the Cult of Hope’s main base, open to all magical girls to see. The ribbon is also said to give visions of the future and a glimpse of the Goddess herself.
  • Mon Arc-en-Ciel: Turns out that the journal that would eventually become Le Journal de Ladybug was given to him by his mother as he was in the hospital, using as a form of art therapy for his fragile emotional state after what happened to him. This adds a lot more weight to when Nathaniel ripped it up in "Reverser".
  • Throughout the Batman Dusk to Dawn novels, Selina Kyle never takes off a pendant with a penny set in it. Damian deduces early on it must be sentimental, and he's right. The coin was a parting gift from her sister Maggie when they last saw each other as girls. It represents their connection, and Selina touches it whenever faced with a moral dilemma. When Maggie returns as a Corrupt Church's Super-Soldier, the penny serves as proof that Selina has always loved her, and breaks Maggie's conditioning in time to save her sister's life. After joining the Batfamily, Selina adds to the necklace to represent them: A knight chess piece for Bruce, an enamel bluebird for Dick, a jade carving of a tiger for Damian, and a little cat bell for her daughter, Helena.

    Films — Animation 
  • Anastasia has the "Together in Paris" pendant, which is the Orphan's Plot Trinket that unlocks the music box given to her by her grandmother.
  • The Bad Guys (2022): Diane Foxington's diamond ring is eventually revealed to be this. It's actually the Zumpango Diamond, a legendary artifact she had stolen during her years as the legendary thief Crimson Paw. When she and Mr. Wolf are captured by Professor Marmalade, he steals the diamond from her just to be petty. But when he's caught with it later, he's mistaken for being the true identity of the Crimson Paw and is arrested.
  • Barbie & The Diamond Castle: Liana and Alexa make necklaces from two heart-shaped stones to represent their friendship, unaware that these stones are actually diamonds from the magical Diamond Castle. After the two have a fight midway through the movie, Alexa takes off her necklace, and becomes susceptible to the villain's magic. Later, Liana replaces the necklace and is able to undo the villain's spell by chanting a friendship mantra they made up earlier while wearing the necklaces.
  • Coco: Ernesto de la Cruz's guitar. Believing Ernesto to be his great-great grandfather, Miguel tries to steal it for the talent contest, leading to him being stuck in the Land of the Dead. It's not until the big Plot Twist does he find out that the guitar really did belong to his great-great grandfather, but it was actually stolen by Ernesto de la Cruz when he killed Héctor, becoming his iconic guitar throughout his career.
  • The treestar in The Land Before Time is Littlefoot's memento of his mother. It gets crushed by Sharptooth when he attacks.
  • Princess Mononoke: The crystal necklace Ashitaka gets from his sister as a (permanent) farewell gift. He gives it to San as a token of affection/remembrance. She later stabs him with it in a fit of despair, but without serious consequences.
  • In The Prince of Egypt, Ramses gives Moses a scarab ring to mark his promotion to chief architect. Later, as Moses starts his self-imposed exile, he discards all of the princely trappings from his wardrobe, but can't manage to throw away the ring. He keeps it until he returns to Egypt, then gives it back to Ramses as a symbol that he has returned as an enemy, not a brother.
  • In Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa, Ricky's teddy bear is one of the few memories he has of his late mother. Despite that, he still gives it away to Nicole as a Christmas present, but she throws it into the trash. Most of the movie revolves around her and some friends trying to recover the bear from the trash after she learns about its significance.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Battle Royale Shinji Mimura wears a necklace given to him by his late father, that is secretly a detonator he can use to build a bomb on the island.
  • Braveheart:
    • William Wallace's ceremonial cloth that he got from his wife. He carries it with him and when it gets lost on the battle ground, Robert the Bruce picks it up and returns it to William.
    • Also the thistle, that young Murron gave William at his father's burial. He has kept it pressed in a book.
  • "Rosebud", in Citizen Kane. People assume the titular's referring to The Lost Lenore. It's actually a toy sled, owned by him as a child.
  • Godzilla vs. Kong: Bernie's flask in a holster, which his late wife left him. He tells Madison and Josh early on that if he ever empties the flask, it means that he's given up. At the climax, when Mechagodzilla which is possessed by Ghidorah's subconsciousness is about to kill Kong (at which point there'll be nothing to stop the Ghidorah-possessed machine from killing a weakened Godzilla and becoming the new Alpha), Bernie is about to down the flask's contents, which gives Josh the idea to nab the flask off of him and pour its contents into the Mechagodzilla computer's hard drive, damaging it just in time to save Kong.
  • The eponymous character of Hancock woke up in a hospital with no memories and no possessions except some gum and two movie tickets quite some time before the start of the movie. He treasures these items, as they're his only connection to the past he can't remember.
  • Cobb in Inception uses a top as a totem, which used to be the totem of his dead wife Mal.
    • The pinwheel that Fisher finds in his father's safe in the lowest level of the dream.
  • The Evenstar in the The Lord of the Rings movies.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Iron Man: Features Tony's prototype Arc Reactor (originally used to power a medical device keeping his heart healthy) which he wanted to throw away, but his assistant instead puts it in a cute little case, as "Proof that Tony Stark Has A Heart". Comes in damn handy when his more advanced version gets stolen.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): There's Quill's Sony Walkman cassette player—or, more specifically, the "Awesome mix part 1" tape inside. It inspires him to start a dance-off with the Big Bad at the film's climax.
  • The Mask of Zorro: The first Zorro gifts Alejandro Murrieta and his brother a silver medallion when they help him fight off Don Rafael's guards. Years later he recognizes Alejandro because of it and recruits him to become the new Zorro.
  • The Big Bad of Pan's Labyrinth has his father's pocket watch, which he wishes to pass on to his own son.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
    • The paired set of music box/locket from movies two and three.
    • The Aztec gold talisman itself from the first film is an Orphan's Plot Trinket which Elizabeth takes from Will.
    • Bootstrap Bill's knife. It's given to Will as a gift from the no-longer-dead Bootstrap.
  • In Popeye, the titular character carries an empty picture frame with the words "ME POPPA" painted on the empty backing. He kisses it goodnight every night. His father also has a similar empty frame with the words "ME SON."
  • The watch in Pulp Fiction. Its significance is commonly misunderstood: many people think that it's there to symbolise Butch's respect for his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, but arguably, the most important person in the story of the watch is the door gunner, Winocki, who Butch's grandfather gives the watch to and asks to hand it on to his son, Butch's father. Winocki is completely unconnected to Butch's family and has never met Butch's grandfather before but he keeps the promise, thereby illustrating that the watch is not a symbol of family honour or loyalty, but of doing the right thing, regardless of the consequences or how much it inconveniences you.
  • According to Word of God, the shoelace necklace that Ramona wears in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is something that once belonged to her dead younger brother.
  • The Spirit movie features this, with the locket given to Sand Saref.
  • From the Star Wars prequel trilogy, the japor snippet Anakin gave to Padmé.
  • The locket that belonged to Joe's mother in Super 8.
  • The Young Poisoner's Handbook: When Molly is dying (because she is being poisoned by Graham), she gives her stepson Graham his mother's ring. At the time, this act does no more than mark Molly as genuinely nice person, and one who does not deserve her fate. Years later, Graham has been convicted and is prison serving multiple life sentences for his murders. In his cell, he picks up the box containing the ring, opens it, and spends some time staring at it. The viewer then discovers that he has replaced the diamond in the ring with the 'Newton's Diamond' made of antimony, which he uses to commit suicide.


    Myths & Religion 
  • In Japanese Mythology, a girl named Hachikatsugi-hime is told by her dying mother to always keep a huge wooden bowl on her person, wearing it as a hat. With good reason: the bowl is actually a Bag of Holding that contains all kinds of treasures (kimonos, gold coins, hairpins, etc.) and proves Hachikatsugi's noble heritage. All of it is vital to the plot, since it lets her bypass a Parental Marriage Veto.
  • In the Kebra Nagast, Solomon gives a ring to the pregnant Queen of Sheba before she leaves. When their son Menelik goes to seek out his father, she gives him the ring to show as proof of his paternity.

  • In The Golden Apple, Penelope spends the years waiting for her husband's return by constructing a patchwork quilt out of bits of fabric symbolizing their married life.
  • The handkerchief in Djanet Sears' Harlem Duet (an updating of the love story from Othello, which also featured a handkerchief).

    Visual Novels 
  • Sort of in Daughter for Dessert. Amanda named the jukebox in the diner “Lainie” after her late mother.
  • Archer's pendant in Fate/stay night. It's the same one that Tohsaka left on Shirou when she saved his life. He carried it with him his entire life and through death, where it was used as a catalyst symbolizing her that drew Archer to her as her Servant. Also, it's the final proof to Tohsaka's suspicion that Archer and Shirou are the same person from different points in time. He gives it back to her early in the story and Shirou uncovers it, but does not realize its significance.
    • Also Sakura's hair ribbon, which was actually the first ribbon ever made by Rin, which she had given to Sakura before her adoption by the Matou family. It is the only real sign of their true feelings for each other (Sakura describes it as only one of two gifts she has ever received from people who are important to her, and after Rin finally realises that she can't kill her sister, she comments that she is glad Sakura had always worn it).
  • A couple in Melody:
    • Melody’s acoustic guitar, a gift from her mother prior to her death from cancer.
    • In a more negative example, his house keeps Arnold trapped in memories of his late wife that drag him down.
  • In Spirit Hunter: NG, Ami's headphones were gifted to her by Yuri shortly before the latter was killed in a supernatural hit-and-run. After Ami herself is kidnapped by the same spirit, Akira uses his Bloodmetry on the headphones to get his first clue to Ami's location.
  • When Shiki returns to the Tohno mansion in Tsukihime he brings a white ribbon with him that was given to him by a girl he knew when he was leaving. Bad things happen when Shiki falls for the Twin Switch and gives it to Hisui instead of Kohaku.


    Western Animation 
  • From Adventure Time, Marceline's most treasured possession - her stuffed toy, Hambo, was given to her by Simon Petrikov, AKA Ice King, and is a tangible reminder of when he became her guardian as a girl. Naturally, she is furious when her boyfriend trades it for a new wand.
  • Arcane:
    • Jayce keeps the magical crystal that an unknown mage used to save him and his mother when he was a child. He keeps it as part of his drive to harness magic via science. Viktor handing it to him completes the Talking Down the Suicidal and convinces Jayce to work with him.
    • Vi once had a toy bunny she loved and was thrown into the power lines by bullies. When she retrieves it and gives it to Powder, it makes Vander realize she planned to give herself up to protect the rest of the group if she was going to give such a meaningful gift to Powder. Years later, after Powder has become Jinx, she crucifies the toy bunny to show her distancing herself from the trauma of feeling abandoned by Vi.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Katara's necklace, which belonged to her mother who was killed by the Fire Nation, originally was given to her grandmother by Master Pakku. It is this realization that allows Katara to learn waterbending from a master of the Northern Tribe.
    • Also, Zuko's knife, which his uncle gave him and has the words "Never give up without a fight" on it. It plays a role in Zuko learning about the horrors of war from a common perspective, when he realizes it was taken from a soldier in the Earth Kingdom.
  • Ron's titanium-reinforced belt in Kim Possible helped Kim remember that they were dating in "Clean Slate."
  • The Phoenix Gate (a small, metal plate decorated with the image of a phoenix) from Gargoyles was split between Goliath and Demona as a token of the love they shared at the time. When the halves are joined, it creates a time traveling device.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • All throughout season 4, the Mane 6 each receive an item from someone they teach their respective elements to. The items are given as thanks, but at the season finale, the items turn out to be keys for the magic box that sprouted from the Tree of Harmony, which grants them Rainbow Power.
    • In Twilight's Kingdom Part 2, the medallion that Tirek received from Scorpan before his imprisonment, and gave to Discord before betraying him, proves to be the final key for the chest at the Tree of Harmony when Discord learns his lesson about true friendship.
  • The Phineas and Ferb episode "Finding Mary McGuffin" revolves around Candace's titular doll accidentally being sold at a yard sale and her wanting it back. Dr Doofenshmirtz had been looking for the doll for his daughter Vanessa since she was 7 years old, which gives the doll a lot of sentimental value for her as it proves how much he cares for her. The two eventually meet up and fight over the doll until it ends up in the hands of a little girl. Candace decides that she's too old for dolls anyway, while Vanessa ponders whether she should give up the doll that means so much to her. She doesn't.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: The First Ones crystal Entrapta uses to power up Hordak’s new armor in Season 3. Its inscription means “Loved”. Hordak sadly touches the crystal as he watches She-Ra destroy the portal he and Entrapta built. During Season 4, the crystal becomes his Achilles' Heel, because Catra rips it off twice to reduce Hordak into submission: one, to blackmail him into turning her his second-in-command, and two, when she fights for her life after Hordak learns she sent Entrapta to Beast Island. Somehow, Entrapta retrieves the crystal and shows it to a clone in “Save the Cat”, mistaking him for Hordak the clone attacks her, but Bow accidentally disconnects him from the Hive Mind and he joins the rebels, being named “Wrong Hordak”. After the rebels’ departure, Hordak finds the crystal, recovering part of his memories stolen by Horde Prime.
  • In The Simpsons, the episode "A Father's Watch" deals with a pocket watch belonging to Abe which, having long been coveted by Homer, proves a source of tension when Abe leaves it to Bart instead. Although its dramatic role in the story fits the bill in every respect as it represents longed-for paternal encouragement to all the characters involved, its literal status as a "Simpson family heirloom" is Played for Laughs as it's only been in the family since the 80s, when, according to Abe, it was stolen off a corpse at Gettysburg.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: After Domino Squad receive their graduation medals, newly-minted clone trooper Hevy gives his medal to maintenance clone 99 out of gratitude for convincing him to stay and as a reason to return to Kamino.

    Real Life 
  • Skydivers wear the parachute closing pin as a necklace. You are allowed to wear it after your first free fall.