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Mysterious Waif

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"I've seen enough movies to know I'm safer siding with the mystery girl with the crazy powers than the army of dudes trying to kill her."
Jacob Freeman, Shadownova

A plot device that walks and talks. Usually, a Mysterious Waif shows up to develop the plot of an adventure story. For some reason, they draw the eye and attention. Often it's because they are The Woobie and so The Hero decides to protect her and/or help her on her quest. She often serves as a Call to Adventure.

Most often she's of royal birth, or a goddess in disguise. Sometimes unknowingly, as she will often have amnesia. But occasionally you'll just have a common birth waif.

There are two key parts.

First, she's a "waif." It's usually a she, but sometimes a young boy might fill the role — in this case the hero is likely a heroine.

To quote the other wiki: "The word waif (from the Old French guaif, stray beast) refers to a living creature removed, by hardship, loss or other helpless circumstance, from his or her original surroundings. The most common usage is to designate a homeless, forsaken or orphaned child, or someone whose appearance is evocative of same."

So she's somehow been removed from her normal routine and can't go home for some reason. (This is where The Woobie bit comes in.)

The second is that she's mysterious. We (and the hero) usually don't know much about her past, at least until The Reveal at the end. But for some reason, we are drawn to her. She's mysteriously alluring — partly because of the mystery around her. Where did she come from? Why can't she go home? Why won't she tell us about these things? (She's usually scared and doesn't want to talk about her past). A Mysterious Waif is frequently visually distinct from the other characters in some way and likely to double as an Oracular Urchin because odd, fey personalities are common with this trope and making cryptic remarks that only raise more questions goes hand in hand with the Mysterious part of Mysterious Waif. Outright Psychic Powers, or being so good at reading people that you might think they're psychic, are also frequently found in Mysterious Waifs.

Before you know what is happening the hero is getting caught up in trying to help her without really knowing what is happening or what he's getting into. (Expect him to have a serious moment of doubt once he discovers he's gotten into something big and dangerous.) Often involves a Big Brother Instinct aspect. Expect her to be chased by a villainous authority of some sort, usually an Evil Empire, that needs her for some nefarious purpose.

Particularly common in the RPG genre for video games. This character often has other additional elements of appearance and gameplay. See the subtrope Mystical Waif for more details about this variant.

Often wears an Ethereal White Dress. See also Waif Prophet, Oracular Urchin, and Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Mysterious Woman is usually sexy instead of Moe. Subtrope of Mysterious Stranger.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Doubly subverted in Aruosumente. When Legna finally turns his attention to Moeran, Moeran seems quiet, fey and mysterious, and a foreigner, too. Legna even assumes Moeran is writing something mysterious because he cannot read the writing. Turns out Moeran's handwriting is simply terrible, he just prefers to be quiet and never talks to Legna because he hates Oracles. Except he actually is an important clue to what happened ten years ago, as he witnessed Oracle Kian's death, saw his own teacher die and was only let free on the promise of never telling anyone what he saw. Oh yeah, and he's male but looks suspiciously like a girl with his long hair and white flowy robes.
  • Ennis from Baccano! is a more modernized example. She's kind of a subversion because her powers are nothing new in the series but other than that she has all the traits; Ethereal and beautiful, captivates the hero and the audience, is connected with the Big Bad against her will, and is very sympathetic.
  • In Brave10, from the moment she walks into his life, there are countless questions plaguing Saizo about Isanami. Why is Isanami, a simple miko, so important she's pursued by ninjas with a Leave No Witnesses order? Why was her temple destroyed? What is the source of her Defence Mechanism Superpower? The answer's a bit dark.
  • Chainsaw Man: Makima has delicate features and a bit of an "ethereal" feel to her despite her height and her dominating personality, and is shrouded in mystery, raising more questions than answers.
  • CC from Code Geass can be considered this, as much of her backstory is hidden until later in the Anime. Even her name is never explicitly spoken, except when Lelouch speaks it after a battle which she is injured (of course, his voice is muted before we can hear it). She also is able to grant the power of Geass to people, which is a type of psychic power (Example: Lelouch was granted the power to make people do his bidding).
  • Kazusa from Descendants of Darkness. She's suddenly orphaned, she's being pursuied by a demon, can somehow see the demon's true form and invokes a protective impulse in the main characters.
  • Kari Kamiya/Yagami Hikari from Digimon Adventure and Digimon Adventure 02, the human lightbulb. Also Delicate and Sickly at times (really, she gets sick twice during the series and twice offscreen as backstory — a lot compared to the zero of most of the rest of the cast, but that adds up to a minuscule portion of her screentime — far from the invalid she's remembered as by fans.), she is the only one to have a Crest (Light) that doesn't refer to an innate virtue or trait. The powers of this Crest usually manifest themselves in weird ways, and she has been shown as both 1) unusually self-sacrificing and 2) drawn to the Dark Ocean, because of her powers and walled-in emotional problems. She's also empathetic to the point of being borderline psychic, which sends her into two Heroic BSODs in 02 (and during the last one, her best friend Miyako even goes and literally slaps her back to sanity).
  • Dororo (2019): Hyakkimaru's initial blindness, deafness, and muteness prevent him from explaining his unusual circumstances to others or knowing the full extent of them himself. His character design is even retooled to reflect this role, now resembling an eerie porcelain doll.
  • Lucy/Nyuu from Elfen Lied, who Kouta and Yuka discover naked and standing on a beach, and is being pursued by the Big Bad Director Kakuzawa and the unethical research facility he runs. Unlike most examples, however, the audience already knows how she ended up there, though she still has many mysteries surrounding her. She also has a Split Personality and, in her Lucy persona, is a much more violent Villain Protagonist variation of this trope.
  • Ruru of Gaiking: Legend of Daiku Maryu appeared five years ago to Daiya after he lost his father at sea, saved him from being killed by a Kaiju, and gave him a small disc made of metal and glass, and then disappeared. In the future, as Daiya's hometown was attacked, she reappeared, bringing with her the titular Super Robot and calmly teaching Daiya its attacks after his Falling into the Cockpit.
  • Tiffa Adil, the Mysterious Waif of Gundam X fits the psychic part of this trope to a tee. She is a Newtype with precognition that is used to find the others like her, how does she find them? Through drawing their potential location. In addition, she has been shown to be the most powerful newtype in Gundam X and has been mentioned via crossovers to potentially be the most powerful newtype in Gundam, period.
  • ID: Invaded: Narihisago takes on the role of a Brilliant Detective named Sakaido investigating the death of a girl named Kaeru, whose murder always points towards the path of solving the case.
  • Vivio of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, the main character's adopted 6-year-old daughter who has heterochromia and was found trudging through the sewers while chained to a pair of cases containing Relics.
  • The title character from Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is a lot better at holding her own than a typical example, and her relationship with The Hero is somewhat more... volatile... than usual, but she definitely has the mysterious past and the "mysterious allure" (though not in a moe way) that persuades The Hero to throw his lot in with her. Her past also ties into why the antagonists are hunting her, although she's not an outright Living MacGuffin.
  • Noir has Yumura Kirika, a melancholic and very cute protagonist who has no memory of her past. She also happens to be a deadly assassin.
  • Persona 4: The Golden Animation: The mysterious new character Marie becomes the main focus of the overall plot in this adaptation of Persona 4.
  • Mytho is a Rare Male Example from Princess Tutu, at least to Fakir. When Fakir first found him, Mytho was an Empty Shell dressed in rags who couldn't even remember his name, let alone his past ("Mytho" isn't his real name). Turns out he's a prince from a book, but he can't return until he defeats the Raven.
  • Sailor Moon:
    • Chibi-Usa first appears in this type of role. Convincing her that she can trust the Sailor Senshi is a major plot element.
    • Hotaru Tomoe/Sailor Saturn from Sailor Moon. She is mysterious, ready for self-sacrifice, and wears unusually dark clothes; she also has several mysterious powers even outside of her Sailor Senshi identity (although many of the other girls did too). Her situation is somewhat different, as there are three sides involved: Sailor Moon, who wants to save her; the Guardians of the Outer Solar System, who want to get rid of her as she poses a threat to the world; and the evil Death Busters, who want to destroy the world with her help. A couple of seasons later, she joins the main cast, and her powers overlap somewhat with those of the White Magician Girl Cool Big Sis, Sailor Pluto.
  • Eto of Tokyo Ghoul is a rare evil example, a member of Aogiri Tree who is the lost daughter of Kuzen Yoshimura and his human wife, Ukina, as well as the One-Eyed Owl and one of two regents for the semi-mythical One-Eyed King. Her small body is loaded with more secrets, power and insight than almost anyone else in the series and she's the Big Bad in control of a massive amount of the plot. She also foretells many events and revelations throughout the collection of Tokyo Ghoul works, through her books written with the pen name Sen Takatsuki.
  • Kisara of Yu-Gi-Oh!, the white-haired and blue-eyed Egyptian and homeless, quiet, vaguely psychic, mysterious keeper of the spirit of the Blue-Eyes White Dragon who sacrificed herself to protect the only person who ever showed her kindness, High Priest Seto... even 3,000 years later. Only present day example would be against losing to Isis during Battle City. Otherwise, Kaiba typically sees Blue-Eyes White Dragon as his personal BFG.
  • Zoids: Chaotic Century: Protagonist Van Flyheight finds a young girl with no memory of her past inside a container, and names her "Fiine" because it's the first word she said when he asked her name. All she can remember are the words "Zoid Eve", and from then on they set out to try and figure out what they mean. It's eventually revealed during Guardian Force that she's an Ancient Zoidian and one of the last survivors of an apocalypse from the distant past.

    Asian Animation 
  • Throughout the series Ling Long Incarnation there are rumors that a female warrior of great skill with Mystical White Hair still lives on the surface armed with a sword. Some characters believe she rescued them once, years ago, during a near-disastrous monster encounter. Most members of the Lighthouse leadership dismiss the legend on principle, since no one is supposed to be able to live there anymore, but we the audience are eventually shown that she is indeed real, and she's not alone, as she is part of a whole group of surface humans.

    Comic Books 
  • "I'm Layla Miller. I know stuff."
  • Giraffes On Horseback Salad: The Woman Surreal is an in-universe example; the story begins with a group of socialites gossiping over her identity, her rumored fortune, and the otherworldly spectacles that follow her everywhere she goes.
  • Miho in Sin City is a much more violent version of this trope.
  • X-23 fills this role in her comics debut, NYX. She doesn't show up until the third issue, but ultimately ends up driving the plot as the group she falls in with spends the rest of the series dealing with her abusive pimp's (who conveniently also gunned down protagonist Kiden Nixon's father in front of her when she was a child) attempts to track her down.

    Fan Works 

  • An early example is the servant girl from The Seventh Seal. She is a mute that follows the knight and his squire after they save her from a rapist.
  • Waterworld has Enola, an orphan with a map to dry land tattooed on her back.

  • 1Q84: Fuka-Eri is a beautiful seventeen-year-old girl who used to be apart of the religious organization, Sakigake. She managed to escape the commune and make a living in the outside world, but her experiences in Sakigake left a permanent mark. She has a peculiar speaking style- short sentences, lack of inflection when asking questions, etc.- and, if she doesn't want to answer a question or inquiry, she'll simply ignore whoever is speaking to her.
  • Errand in The Belgariad starts out as a 'total innocent,' passed from one evil sorcerer to another, until he falls in with the heroes, having learned only one word (that being "Errand".) He turns out to be a replacement God for Torak
  • Chronicles of the Kencyrath: Kindrie is a Gender Inverted example. With his Mystical White Hair, strong Shanir (read: magical) powers, and mysterious origins, Kindrie is definitely a Mysterious Waif in the first few books he appears in. He turns out to be a Chosen One, and an avatar of the second face of God—the only one of the three of them who was ever really unknown in that regard — and their cousin.
  • Ivy, the current Archive in The Dresden Files. The Archive is the repository of all human knowledge. Anything that has been written down, anywhere, she knows. She also happens to be a young girl. When we first see her, she's seven — and unconcernedly tells Harry that if she has to, she'll kill him. We've seen her blasting vampires into oblivion and (at twelve) keeping almost 10 Denarians entertained without much effort. But she's still a kid, and will render official documents in crayon and Squee over a cat.
  • Flute, in The Elenium trilogy by David Eddings, is a small girl who is revealed, slowly, to have greater magical powers than anyone else in the party. She can control time and animals, among other things. Eventually they find out that Flute is actually the goddess Aphrael, which explains everything.
  • Luna Lovegood in Harry Potter. Last of her line. Mother died when she was 9. Orphan's plot trinket = Butterbeer cork necklace and Dirigible plum earrings. Also pure-hearted and kind, distracted at times, weird, persecuted, absolutely adorable!
  • Haugtussa: When her second sight takes hold the poems state Veslemøy is going around by herself, mumbling dark words, at times scaring even her own mother.
  • Sorry from the first volume of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. She's a young Emotionless Girl who shows up out of nowhere and knows more than a recruit ever should. She mostly keeps to herself, lets an occasional comment slip and seems to have some kind of agenda. Deconstructed because aside from teenage thief Crokus who is enthralled by her, everyone is creeped out, even the assassin and the mage of the squad. The war-hardened soldiers refuse to accept her into the squad or even see her as human and get nervous when she hasn't been seen for a certain time. Sorry is in fact a fisher girl displaced from her home, possessed by the Patron God of Assassins and turned into a Psycho for Hire. Cotillion eventually is made to withdraw from the possession, leaving behind a girl with a mix of memories of both a fisher girl and a Professional Killer. She loses her Mysterious Waif appeal, but finally draws people to her who are willing to help her return home.
  • Neverwhere has Door, who falls at Richard Mayhew's feet on the street one night, bleeding and begging for help. He takes her home to clean her up and let her sleep, and suddenly, he finds himself neck-deep in trouble — being tracked by Croup and Vandemar, being dragged around by the Marquis de Carabas, and stumbling upon London Below.
  • Kah-Poel from The Powder Mage Trilogy. She's a "savage" from a faraway land, orphaned by invading soldiers. She's also an Ethnic Magician who packs enough punch to keep a god in a coma.
  • Owl from The Witchlands. She's a young, mute girl who's extremely important to the Big Bad for some reason and who has a mountain bat (this world's version of a dragon) under her control, which is a witchery that no-one has ever seen or thought possible before.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Andromeda: Trance Gemini, a recent member of Beka's crew who seems very innocent and naive and whose origins are a complete mystery because no one else is familiar with her species (human-shaped, pointy-eared, purple-skinned, blonde, with a forked tail) and increasingly gives hints of being much older and wiser than she looks. She turns out to actually be the avatar of a sun, one of many - and therefore as old as the universe - sent by her people to steer the Andromeda crew so that they can defeat the Magog swarm, whose "god", the Spirit of the Abyss, is the avatar of black holes. And she can see possible futures to judge which course of action is best, as symbolized by that bonsai tree she keeps pruning.
  • Jessie from Dancing on the Edge, a non-supernatural example, but whose background is shrouded in mystery and who is described by another character as "a mysterious little creature."
  • Dark Matter (2015): Even on a show where the initial premise is that six people awaken on a starship with no memory of who they are or why they're there, the past of teenage girl Five (played by Jodelle Ferland) is the most mysterious of them all. While the adult crew (One, Two, Three, Four and Six, named in order of waking) all learn their given names at the end of the pilot episode and that they were all hardened criminals and lowlife mercenaries guilty of mass murder, kidnapping, assault and piracy, Five has no wanted file in the ship's database, and so although the others choose not to use their original names, Five doesn't even know hers. She bemoans to the Android in the second episode that at least the others know they belong on the ship, though she quickly demonstrates a prodigy-level aptitude for mechanics and programming that allows her to fill the role of Teen Genius and The Smart Guy. Adding to the mystery are the disturbing non sequitors she sometimes utters that make it clear she has the others' memories buried in her subconscious. The rest of the crew can't even be sure whether their original selves kidnapped this girl, or she stowed away, but regardless of their original relationship, they're all very protective of her now. Five's exact age is unknown even to her, until it's established as sixteen at the beginning of Season 2.
  • Clara from Doctor Who, the Impossible Girl who was born to save the Doctor
  • River from Firefly, who was tricked into leaving home for the Academy and can't go back home because her rescue by her brother turned them both into hunted fugitives. She's now both psychic and insane, and she was already a genius polymath, so she definitely knows more about what goes on than anyone else but she's not equipped to tell anyone about it in a non-cryptic fashion. Also, she can shoot people dead without looking at them and take out entire rooms of enemies with Waif-Fu.
    • After Serenity, it seems she's getting better. Not 100% better (she still reads minds) but better than before.
  • Natsuki in GoGo Sentai Boukenger has a couple of Spider-Sense moments, so far a part you wonder if The Powers That Be forgot about the skull thingy way back in episode one, but when her powers are used against the Boukengers by bad guys, you get mass destruction. It's... really more trouble than it's worth.
  • Rebecca from How to Get Away with Murder, a girl at the centre of a murder trial, with a mysterious background and waif-like appearance (slender frame, long dark hair, soulful brown eyes).
  • Freya from Merlin, a Druid runaway who is under a Curse.
  • Kes from Star Trek: Voyager though her past is well-explained (if not her subsequent Face–Heel Turn) given that she's only lived a couple of years when the crew encounters her.
  • Eleven on Stranger Things is a mysterious, nameless adolescent girl with a shaved head, No Social Skills, and a perpetually frightened and vulnerable appearance who one day shows up in the life of a group of middle-school-aged D&D nerds right after one of their own, Will Byers, goes missing. Turns out both she and Will's disappearance are connected: she's a psychic living weapon raised by a sinister government program, and her powers tore a hole in reality that brought into our world the monsters that kidnapped Will. The "mysterious" part goes away in later seasons as she befriends the protagonists and grows more comfortable around others, though the psychic powers don't.
  • Rose Wilson from Titans (2018). She more or less starts the plot of Season 2. Homeless, after running away from her homicidal father; Mystical White Hair; evoking the main hero's desire to protect her; a lot of mystery about her true motivations; cryptic backstory.

  • Claude Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande is built around this trope. Pelléas keeps asking Mélisande questions, and never gets any concrete answers. Example:
    Pelléas: How old are you?
    Mélisande: I'm beginning to feel cold.

  • November from The Chimera Program arc of Cool Kids Table. She releases everyone at the titular facility for the escape, but only Papyrus and Wyvern are able to remember her after she leaves their line of sight. She also gets a hold of everyone's file during the breakout.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • ANNO: Mutationem:
    • Sigrid is first discovered by Ann around Freeway 42 after she had collapsed from hunger. It's later shown she's actually a Reality Warper that was taken there as part of C's Uriah Gambit to prevent her from being used against him.
    • In the Mysterious Console DLC storyline, Noni is The Speechless who has been living within a device for an unspecified amount of time waiting for contact from her parents. Noni is really a digital construct of the real Noni who succumbed to chronic disease and was created by an Anonymous Benefactor who was paid by her parents.
  • Machi Tobaye in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. Blind, can't speak English, and falsely accused of cold-blooded murder. Only the last's true, although his English is pretty awkward. The Reveal from Tobaye's part only makes his partner, Lamiroir, even more Mysterious Waif than she already is, since she's the one who is blind. Other than that, the woman hides her face, speaks a foreign language, has amnesia, an angelic singing voice, two dead husbands, a long lost son and daughter, and a stage magician background. She's also recruited as one of the test jurors who literally decide the game's ending.
  • Elizabeth from BioShock Infinite is the quarry of the Columbian government, ruled by a fiery preacher (and Elizabeth's "father", so to speak), and the private eye sent to smuggle her out of the city. She seems to have an invisible touch: She can open "tears", or windows to alternate realities and even the future; she is also the root cause of the tears — or at least, her body's electrical field is somehow generating them without her consent — hence, her popularity. She is kept under close surveillance in a laboratory tower. The epilogue reveals that the infant Elizabeth lost her finger when an (artificially-created) tear closed over it. The missing 'piece' was let behind in an alternate reality, which upset the balance of reality and gave her the portal ability.
    Booker: They won't stop until they have you.
    Elizabeth: Why?! What did I do to them?
    Booker: You frighten them.
    Elizabeth: Good.
  • In BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm, Catie and Arianna are heroic and villainous examples of this trope, respectively. Although Catie’s mystique has died down a bit in-universe since the first game.
  • Final Fantasy:
  • The Fire Emblem franchise has several:
  • FromSoftware enjoys inserting one of these girls into many of its games. Usually, she'll stick to the main hub area, provide the PC some invaluable help (like level ups), and be undyingly loyal to them.
    • Demon's Souls has the Maiden in Black, a powerful and ancient demon chained to the Nexus.
    • Dark Souls II features the Emerald Herald, a Fire Keeper-like figure who hangs around at Majula and tells you to seek out King Vendrick for unclear reasons. Near the end of the game, she reveals that her name is Shanalotte, and she was created by Aldia and Vendrick as a cure for the curse of undeath, but failed and given to be raised by the dragons.
    • Dark Souls III has the Fire Keeper, who aids the Ashen One in their quest to rekindle the First Flame. She levels you up, reacts to the PC's emotes, can cure you of hollowing if given the right item, and if given another plot item, the Eyes of a Fire Keeper, she'll give you the End of Fire ending, where she extinguishes the First Flame and finally brings about the Age of Dark.
    • Bloodborne has the Plain Doll, an animate porcelain doll found in the Hunter's Dream who cares for all Hunters who pass through. It's heavily implied that Gherman created her as a Replacement Goldfish for a loved one; the DLC reveals her template to be Lady Maria of the Astral Clocktower, Gherman's student and the penultimate boss.
    • Elden Ring institutionalizes this in the form of Finger Maidens, women who help the Tarnished on their quest to reach the Elden Ring and who's purpose is to burn to death to open a path for them. The Tarnished is initially dismissed as Maidenless, but later meets the maiden Melina, who, while not a true Finger Maiden, is willing to serve the role for the Tarnished.
      • The Tarnished may also later run into Hyetta, a blind girl in training to become a Finger Maiden for which she has to eat Shabriri Grape to receive guidance. She's actually being groomed by the followers of the Three Fingers, the Evil Counterpart to the Two Fingers. If the player follows her questline, they can unlock the game's Downer Ending where the Three Fingers, through Hyetta, sends them to burn the world to ash.
  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn: Himi is a wise young Shrine Maiden prone to prophecy-induced seizures. However, contrary to the usual use of a Mysterious Waif to begin the hero's quest, she's the 11th-Hour Ranger whose visions provide the key to saving the day.
  • Hotel Dusk: Room 215: Mila is a mysterious young girl who shows up at the hotel some time after Kyle's arrival. Nobody seems to know what she's looking for, and the fact she can't talk doesn't help matters.
  • Princess Yorda of ICO definitely qualifies. Though the castle appears to be her home, it's more accurately described as her prison. She's utterly helpless (so much so that she has to be led by the hand by the player character) for most of the game, unintelligible, acts childlike, glows with an ethereal light, and has some kind of magical power. Oh, and the Queen has a particular interest in preventing her from leaving the castle.
  • Inazuma Eleven GO Chrono Stone:
    • Fei Rune who serves as a male example, at first all we know about Fei is that he came from the same time period as El Dorado, he's gotten his hands on a technology called Mixi-Max which allowed him to fuse his aura with a T. rex, and he has a clear interest in protecting soccer at all costs from El Dorado.
    • Kinako from the same series also fits the bill, she became a member of Raimon's soccer club after the defeat of Protocol Omega 2.0 in Nobunaga's era with little to no explanation, and she's shown to be wearing Tsurugi's number after she's won a duel against Tsurugi for it. She also somehow even knew about the Keshin that Fei goes through lengths to hide, and the doll that Fei got from his father.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • Despite her outgoing personality and being the main protagonist's childhood friend, Kairi is definitely this. She arrived as an amnesiac refugee from another world. Then she loses her new home and is taken by the villains. We later learn that she is one of the Princesses of Heart, seven maidens who are needed to open the final keyhole and the titular Kingdom Hearts.
    • Kairi's Nobody, Naminé averts the displaced from home part (as strange as it might sound, Castle Oblivion is her birthplace) but otherwise she fits smack-dab into this trope. She has a mysterious origin and an equally mysterious power to alter memories. Also, unlike Kairi, Naminé is an Extreme Doormat, letting herself become the villains' pawn in her own home.
  • Lufia:
  • Mega Man Battle Network: Iris in the sixth game. She pops up from time to time offering Lan aid, but it's never really clear who she is or where she comes from until her true identity is revealed in the final chapter.
  • In romance interactive novel, Moonrise, the character of Alice shows up, doesn't want to talk about her past, and utterly upends the player's life.
  • Nintendo Wars: Isabella/Catleia from Advance Wars: Days of Ruin. Moe, Laser-Guided Amnesia, found in wreckage and rescued by the main character, instinctively knows mysterious knowledge she shouldn't without explanation, and the Big Bad seems to know who she is and is unusually interested in her.
  • Persona:
    • Persona 3: A mysterious boy named Pharos introduces himself to the protagonist and makes him sign a contract. It's not until the end of the game that you learn that he's an Appriser of Nix, the game's Big Bad, whose Evil Plan you have been unknowingly been fulfilling by destroying Shadows throughout the game.
    • Persona 5: A mysterious girl, Lavenza, appears to the protagonist as a glowing blue butterfly each time he's about to die in the story, urging him to overcome his impending doom. It's not until the end of the game that you learn the truth of who this girl is namely the Twins, two girls suffering Identity Amnesia who are Lavenza's true personality split in two, or what she's really been urging you to overcome the real Big Bad's Evil Plan, which you have been playing a part in for the entire game.
  • Nei from Phantasy Star II is a Cute Monster Girl. An outcast of the society who is recued by a government agent Rolf. After that, she follows him around trying to aid his quest including performing a Heroic Sacrifice fighting her Evil Twin.
  • Fina from Skies of Arcadia is a member of the Silvite, a civilization that lives on the silver moon. She was sent to gather and secure the Moon Crystals capable of awakening and controlling ancient giants created as weapons of mass destruction. Due to this she's pursued by the game's villain, the Valua Empire, which seeks to find the crystals in order to take over the world. Later in the game it's revealed that the Silvites' true goal was using the crystals to destroy the world and wipe the slate clean. They had kept this detail a secret from Fina, making her an Unwitting Pawn. Interestingly she has a male counterpart of sorts in Ramirez, who had been previously sent on the same quest by the Silvite, but ended up turning on them and joining Valua.
  • Elh of Solatorobo fits as well, having a quiet, distant personality, MacGuffin amulet, and Doomed Hometown, though in this case the waif is a young male - or rather, is confused for one. Elh is really a girl, much to everyone's surprise. They just never asked.
  • In Super Mario Galaxy, Rosalina has this role as Mario encounters her on a small planet after he was thrown into space by Bowser's forces. It turns out that Bowser had stolen her power stars, which are her energy source for the Comet Observatory. As you play through the game, you unlock her backstory in the form of a storybook.
  • Neither are straight examples, but Kanna and Anderson from Three the Hard Way qualify. They are both enigmatic characters of unknown origins who attract much attention from others due to their cryptic personalities and lack of concrete backstories. Both of them are very powerful (albeit in very different ways — Kanna is an ancient alchemist/sorceress, while Anderson is a gladiator), and they are more knowledgeable about the game's universe than the rest of the cast combined, due to their possible ties with the previous War. To clarify further:
    • Kanna is an immortal alchemist belonging to a legendary ancient Order and seem to be know the Big Bad quite well. Her first in-game appearance has her blow up an entire battle field, almost killing the heroes, but later joins the heroes' party for dubious reasons. However, Kanna turns out to be more of a subversion, as she is not as cryptic as she initially seems, and is more naive and clueless to her Order's purposes than being actively secretive.
    • Anderson seems to be deeply involved with almost every faction known in the game: He frequently hangs out with the Zebulun Cult despite claiming that he's not a member. He is well-acquainted with King and is implied to have met him during the first war. Older Kaibutsu Lords refer to him as their "brother". He knows a lot more about the Govan order than some of the Govan members themselves and is implied to know its original founder, Candor. Despite these vague hints, virtually nothing of his identity have been truly confirmed.

    Web Comics 
  • The appropriately named Moé the ninja from The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!
  • The Noordegraaf Files: The majority of the orphans could count, but Katrina takes the cake. Theo first sees her in a robe, attempting to break into a locked closet. When this happens, the whole plot is set in motion. To this day, still absolutely nothing is known about her. Even for her biography, all that is said about her(besides physical characteristics) is: "No information currently available."
  • Rumors of War has three in the main cast: Elysia, Illyra, and Occela. All three have homes they can't return to; one's searching for her Missing Mentor, one pulls a double-shift as The Lad-ette, and the third's a Broken Bird.
  • Played with in Shadownova. Iris is actually the main character and we know exactly why she can't go home but she does have some incredible and plot important powers that everyone either wants or wants killed. She's implied to have lost a lot of faith in humanity over some traumatic event in her past that she refuses to elaborate on besides hinting that it involved the death of her father.

    Western Animation 
  • Steven Universe: Lapis Lazuli was poofed and imprisoned into a mirror for thousands of years after being mistaken for an enemy soldier. She is on the short side, frail, barefoot doe-eyed, and her gem got cracked while imprisoned. However, she's incredibly powerful with near-complete control of water. All Lapis can't do with a cracked gemstone is form her wings to fly back to Homeworld, her only desire, so she tries to build herself an elevator home with Earth's oceans. Fortunately, Steven manages to heal her. Unfortunately, Lapis hadn't counted on Homeworld having changed so much during her imprisonment and that her return would be dangerous.

    Real Life 
  • The Afghan Girl, real name Sharbat Gula, was photographed in an Afghan refugee camp. At the time the picture was taken, the photographer didn't know her name, and in 2002, she was successfully located and formally identified. Her photograph is the most recognized in National Geographic history.note 
  • More than one young female Catholic saint is represented like this in media. A good example would be Saint Solange; she's depicted as a beautiful young shepherdess blessed by God to the point of having Healing Hands and exorcising demons with a sole touch. Too bad the poor kid ended up decapitated by a would be rapist... but then Solange performed her last miracle: calmly picking up her own severed head and walking back home.
  • A popular practice in the classic "Anastasia lives" stories is to present "Anna Anderson" (in real life yet another Anastasia impersonator) as this — in these depictions, she'll be Anastasia as an adult with amnesia who finds out that she's fallen royalty.