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Take Back Your Gift

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Brenda: Don't you throw that ring at me. It's such a cliché, I'll barf.
Nate: [throws it] There. Barf.
Six Feet Under, "I'll Take You"

A character has had a falling out with a loved one, such as breaking up with their partner or a friendship turning sour. Consequently, they decide to return what had been a personal gift given to them by their loved one, as a physical symbol that whatever relationship they had is over. This is a good way to rub salt in the wound, even when done politely or without the intention of causing harm. Sometimes, the person may give back the gift in person, or they might leave it somewhere for the original gift-giver to find.

It may be done as an act of spite from the gift-recipient, though in other cases it's because keeping it is too painful as it reminds them of what they once had with the gift-giver; if it was something that held a lot of personal meaning to gift-giver, such as a family heirloom, the recipient may feel it's wrong for them to keep it. In some instances the other person may insist they keep the gift, either out of wounded pride or to show they bear them no ill will. If the person does end up taking back the gift, it may end up becoming a Tragic Keepsake.

Although it's most common to romantic relationships, it can apply to friendships, familial relationships or any kind of close relationship that has gone awry. A platonic variant may involve returning a Friendship Trinket.

For variants involving a person breaking off an engagement or leaving their spouse by returning a ring, see Returning the Wedding Ring. It can potentially involve a Dramatic Necklace Removal. Compare and contrast Breakup Bonfire, Unwanted Gift Plot and Gift-Giving Gaffe.

Seeing as this trope involves break-ups or dramatic shifts in relationship dynamics, be wary of unmarked spoilers.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Doraemon: Nobita's Drifts in the Universe have Doraemon and gang befriending the Space Knights cadet, and Shizuka giving the fairy-like alien, Freya, a gift - a homemade sweater she originally made for her dolls, to thank Freya for saving her in a planet of hostile tree-aliens earlier. But Freya outrights rejects the sweater, insisting that her race is forbidden from receiving presents, and quickly flies away when Shizuka tries to reply. Of course, that's because Freya is actually The Mole serving the villains - and the reason why Doraemon and gang nearly get devoured by those tree-aliens in the first place. Though she did have a Heel–Face Turn later on.
  • In Future GPX Cyber Formula ZERO, Asuka throws her engagement ring at Hayato after he decides to return to racing, thereby breaking his promise to not to race again after a near-fatal crash and she runs away crying. They reconcile their relationship later.
  • Near the beginning of Monster, Dr. Tenma's fiance does this with her engagement-ring, and a decidedly unpleasant smile, after Tenma's fall from grace - and adds insult to injury by dropping it at his feet, before walking inside to immediately start flirting with the guy who got Tenma's promotion instead of him.
  • In Naruto, Ino gave Sakura a ribbon to pull back her hair so that she couldn't hide behind it. Sakura later broke off their friendship after realizing they were both crushing on the same guy and Sakura also realizing that she needed to break off from Ino's shadow; after they graduated from the academy, Sakura returned her ribbon, using her hitai-ate as a headband instead. Even though they'd already been rivals for a while by that point, Ino's still visibly taken aback by her giving it back.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, Soujiro returns the wakizashi Shishio gave him when they first met after deciding to cut ties with him. Shishio is so enraged that he crushes the wakizashi in his hands.

    Comic Books 
  • Subverted in one issue of Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen; Jimmy starts throwing away pieces of his Superhero Trophy Shelf, which are gifts from Superman, much to the hero's confusion and hurt. However, after collecting all of them, he notices a bizarre pattern which adds up to a secret message — one recent gift had been a sapient, telepathic living gem, which had been hypnotizing Jimmy in hopes of getting an SOS out. Supes returns the alien to its own planet and Jimmy happily takes back the discarded mementos.
  • In Watchmen, when Janey Slater breaks up with Dr. Manhattan, she throws the pair of earrings he gave her at him.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Luann, when Quill and Luann started becoming serious as a couple (and while he was still worried about suddenly being called back to Australia) he gave her a necklace with a boomerang pendant, signifying in his words "I'll always come back to you." When she later broke up with him he insisted that she'd eventually be back, to which she responded by throwing the necklace in his face and walking out the door.

    Fan Works 
  • The Black Prince: When Eggsy leaves Harry, he also leaves behind the gifts Harry gave him, as well as Harry's signet ring that he had been wearing around his neck.
  • Constellations: As part of her efforts to make a clean break with her former friend Taylor, Emma gives her the earrings they traded back when they got their ears pierced together.
  • moral of the story (Nyame): Aside from a few photos involving their childhood and pictures of Thea, Laurel packs up everything Oliver had given her over the course of their relationship, including the "Dear John" Letter he left her and the small photo of herself she gave him right before the Gambit, and hands it off to John to give it all back to Oliver right before she leaves for Gotham. The sole exception is the jewelry he gave her, which she sells instead for some extra cash to help fund the move. This is to enforce to Oliver that there really is nothing he can do to make things up to her, and that she really does want him out of her life.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Bruce Wayne's fiance, Andrea Beaumont, breaks up with him with a "Dear John" Letter that also enclosed the engagement ring.
  • In The Prince of Egypt, Moses returns the ring to Ramses when he refuses to free his people symbolizing that Moses must carry on God's mission, even if it means breaking their brotherhood.

    Films — Live Action 
  • Used to exorcise the ghost in 100 Feet. The wedding ring was the only object keeping Mike present in the world and upon its return, he leaves.
  • In Cast Away, Chuck returns the pocket watch his then-girlfriend Kelly gave to him before he spent 3 years on a deserted island and Kelly got married to another man during that time. He explains to her that it's a family heirloom that should stay with her family.
  • Zigzagged in Contact with the compass Joss gives to Ellie, at first she refuses the gift but then he leaves it on her bedside along with his number, several years later she gives it back to him after Drumlin is chosen over Ellie to go on the machine because of a question Joss asked her regarding her faith, but later just before Ellie goes on the second machine he gives the compass back to her.
  • In Fantastic Four (2005), Ben Grimm's fiancee silently indicates that she can't love a seven-foot-tall mound of sentient orange rock by taking off the engagement ring he gave her and setting it on the pavement before walking away. To further twist the knife, Grimm's fingers are now so thick that he can't even pick up the discarded ring.
  • In Grease, Danny asks Sandy to wear his high school ring and she accepts. Almost immediately afterward, he tries to cop a feel and they have a tussle, which ends with her getting out of the car and throwing the ring at him before storming away.
  • The Goonies has Andy returning Troy's jacket to him as a wordless breakup.
  • In a flashback in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Elrond briefly convinces Aragorn that the latter's relationship with Arwen is doomed, and Aragorn tries to end it by returning the necklace she gave him in the prior movie. Arwen replies, "It was a gift. Keep it."
  • In Tibetan culture, returning a gift is a great insult. This is portrayed in the movie Seven Years in Tibet, where the main character returns a gifted jacket on purpose, because he wanted to make clear they really weren't friends anymore.
  • Star Trek Beyond. After they break up, Uhura tries to return the Vulcan necklace Spock gave her, as it's a family heirloom. However Spock says it's not a Vulcan tradition to return a gift once it has been given. Which is just as well.
  • Upldr has Sophia returning her engagement ring to Victor as well as all of the other stuff.

  • Diana Villiers does this to Stephen in one of the Aubrey-Maturin novels; when he receives the letter in which she breaks their engagement, he can feel the ring inside the envelope before he even reads the message.
  • An interesting variant is found in the short story "Editha" by William Dean Howells. The title character returns her engagement ring, along with every other gift he ever gave her, to her fiance before he goes off to war. Her intentions are good, if overdramatic; she tells him she wants him to love their country first, even before herself. He's killed in action, and she finds out from his mother that her act basically stripped him of the will to live.
  • In the Carl Hiassen novel Lucky You, a major character had been engaged six times, broke the engagement six times, and returned the ring five times. The time she kept the ring was because the breakup was over the man developing a disturbing fascination with body piercings, and she was afraid of what he'd do with it if it was returned.
  • In the Otto Prohaska novels, the protagonist is injured in a flying accident and is likely to lose his leg. Countess Sophie, the wife of Archduke Ferdinand, visits Otto in hospital and presents him with a religious medal to urge him to keep faith. After she leaves Otto throws the medal in the rubbish bin in a fit of anger. Turns out she's arranged for the royal train to convey him express to Vienna where a surgeon is able to save his leg. Otto feels guilty for the rest of his life, worried that someone might have found the medal and returned it to her. The countess and her husband are assassinated in Sarejevo (triggering World War One) so he never had a chance to apologise or thank her.
  • A Peter David Star Trek novel, Q-In-Law, has a friendly alien woman give Wesley Crusher a handmaiden in return for some favor or other. The handmaiden is beautiful, enthusiastic - and devastatingly clumsy, and Crusher swiftly grows chagrined by her antics. Naturally he can't give back the gift without inciting an incident. It turns out that the woman was lying about returning a gift being an insult - she was using the situation as an excuse to get rid of the kind-hearted but annoying handmaiden. In the end, after the girl helps keep the woman from killing her betrothed husband (it's a long story), the woman takes her back.
  • In Sense and Sensibility, Willoughby puts the final nail in the coffin when he returns all of Marianne's letters and the lock of hair that he'd asked from her, and then marrying a Miss Gray for her fortune after having giving everyone the serious impression that he was going to propose to Marianne. This turns out to be the least caddish of his actions.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Seen in The 100 when Raven returns a metal pendant Finn made her when she finds out he slept with Clarke.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When Cordelia breaks up with Xander on Valentine's Day, he demands the return of the necklace which he gave her earlier. She pretends to go to her locker to fetch it, to hide the fact that she's still wearing it.
  • Greek has an inversion: When Evan breaks up with Casey, he coldly demands his lavalier back in the most publicly humiliating way imaginable.
  • M*A*S*H:
    • The trope gets inverted in "Margaret's Engagement". While she and Frank Burns were lovers, she gave Frank a ring that's a family heirloom. After she gets engaged to Donald Penobscot, she asks Frank to return the ring so she can give it to Penobscot. He refuses, so she slips into the Swampnote , goes through his footlocker, finds it and takes it back herself.
    • Reversed and inverted in the Grand Finale. Charles demands that Margaret return to him a book that he gave her as a present. She grudgingly obliges. Then at their final farewell, he returns the book to her, this time with a heartfelt message written inside.
  • Downplayed in the 2002 miniseries Napoléon. After his defeat at Waterloo, Napoléon Bonaparte's Polish mistress returns a diamond necklace he gave her, but makes a point of saying there's no rancor in the act — Napoleon may have to flee France soon and will need money.
  • The Odd Couple (1970): In "The Fight of the Felix", Felix ends up forced into a boxing match with violent hockey player Splint McCullough after the latter catches his girlfriend Irma kissing Felix for calling her a lady. When Splint still intends to punch out Felix after his back freezes up (and does punch Oscar, who gets in the way), Irma tells Splint that she's leaving him and hands back the season tickets to his games, saying that she never wants to see him or his hockey games again.
  • Lampshaded in Six Feet Under, as seen in the page quote. During an argument with Brenda, Nate takes his engagement ring off. She is upset.
    Brenda: (tearfully) Don't you throw that ring at me. It's such a cliché, I'll barf.
    Nate: (throws it) There. Barf.
  • The Untamed: Jiang Cheng gifts Wen Qing with a decorative comb to show his romantic interest in her, also telling her to come back to Lotus Pier with him so he can protect her. After Cheng doesn't intervene when she and the surviving Wen Clan members are oppressed and mistreated by the other clans, and he rudely tells her she won't change his mind, Qing returns the comb to him and tells him she cannot keep it after all. Cheng is hurt by this, but he still doesn't change his course of action.

  • Mentioned in the Herman's Hermits post-breakup song "Mrs Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter"
    She wants to return the things I bought her,
    Tell her she can keep them just the same.
  • Played With in the Taylor Swift song "All Too Well": The ex-boyfriend mails back everything except the most personal item, a scarf that got left at his place.

  • In the opera Carmen, the last thing Carmen does before Don Jose stabs her to death is remove a ring he gave her and throw it at his feet.
  • In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge's fiancee breaks up with him by returning his ring and saying, "Since you love nothing so much as gold, you should be pleased to have it back."
  • The song "Take Back Your Mink" from Guys and Dolls inspired the trope name.
  • A fairly passive version is done in Hamlet, when a meeting between Ophelia and Hamlet is organized and she greets him by offering to give back several items he had recently given her (most likely love tokens, given that they were courting). Given that Hamlet was not in the best mental state and soliloquizing about suicide and death just before the meeting, he doesn't take it well.
  • In The King and I, after Anna's tragic confrontation with the King, she tells the Kralahome that she will be on the next boat leaving Bangkok, takes off the ring which the King not long before the confrontation had insisted she put on, and tells the Kralahome to return it to him. The script calls this "the final humiliation for his King to suffer."
  • In The Moon is Blue, Patty decides to give David back the six hundred dollars he gave her (an amount equivalent to fifteen weeks of her salary) when she overhears a remark implying that she ought to have remained beholden to him for that duration.
  • In The Most Happy Fella, the last thing Rosabella does for Tony before leaving him is handing him back the amethyst tie-pin which he left her as a tip when she was working as a waitress and he first saw her. When they reconcile by doing a Relationship Reboot, he gives it to her again, this time in person.

    Video Games 
  • A variant is seen in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - a tradition among Skyrim's jarls is to send their neighbor an axe if their relations are strained or uncertain. If he or she accepts the gift, all is well, but if they reject and return the weapon, it means the leaders have business to settle on the battlefield.

    Visual Novels 
  • At the beginning of Melody, when Bethany breaks up with the protagonist, she disdainfully tells him to take along a guitar he gave her as a gift a few years back. Indeed, she never played it, meaning that it’s essentially brand new. He sells it to Amy, who wants to give it to Melody, thus kicking off the plot.

    Web Original 
  • This Tumblr post humorously shipping US/UK interprets the Boston Tea Party in this manner.
    "Fine. You know what, fine. Here, just, see all this goddamn tea you gave me? Well you can take it back. Here, fish it out of the harbor for all I care."
    "Don't do this."
    "I have no choice. I'll never be anything more than a colony to you."

    Western Animation 
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers:
    • "The Conqueror" has a platonic example. Gaia's Evil Counterpart, Zarm, pretends to be benevolent and offers the Planeteers power upgrades. He corrupts everyone except Ma-Ti, turning Gaia into a mortal. Nonetheless, she still goes after the rogue Planeteers, managing to convince them of Zarm's real nature. When they throw off the corruption, Kwame, Gi, Linka and Wheeler signify it by taking off and throwing away the gauntlets of conquest Zarm gave them.
    • "Kwame's Crisis" does it in an equally platonic, but more heartbreaking way. When Sly Sludge's latest scheme makes Kwame feel dejected, his ring stops working. Gaia shows up as a hologram to convince him not to give up hope, but he replies that it's too late and she should give the ring to someone else, before throwing it at the hologram.
      Later subverted. After Gaia finds him crying in a forest and makes him realize that not all is lost yet, he goes to rescue his friends from Sludge. Unfortunately, at one point, he slips and winds up in real danger of getting crushed by a huge trash compactor. With the only alternative being to give up and die, he clenches his fist as if to use his ring, and shouts, "Earth!" – which causes the ring to reappear on his finger and creates a slope that stops the compactor.
      Kwame: Where did my ring come from?
      Gaia (showing up as a hologram): You hung in there, even though you knew you might fail. That's hope. And that's why you have your ring back.
      Kwame (teary-eyed): Thank you, Gaia.