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Trail of Bread Crumbs

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Character leaves a trail of things behind, à la Hansel and Gretel.

Sometimes, as in the aforementioned tale, the trail is left to find one's way back. Other times, it's used by someone else to follow them. This is usually to represent a character's resourcefulness either as a tracker or as a planner for when/if the need to backtrack is found.

Bread Crumbs need not be consumable or even material; sometimes the trail is one of footprints, golden twine, even an aroma of a special perfume. It, however, is usually not permanent, capable of being destroyed or tampered with by outside forces, such as wild birds or trickster-like beings, although even this is not the one rule.

Compare to Trail of Blood, where the "things" left behind are blood drops. If a video game does this, it's Follow the Money. Unrelated to Story Breadcrumbs.


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  • There was an advertisement in the United States where some kids in a city left a trail of food behind them. After the food disappeared, they discovered their location with some kind of GPS device.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In a Crayon Shin-chan spoof of Hansel and Gretel in which the titular character plays the younger brother to a pair of Hansel and Gretel Expy, the Gretel expy said she's not foolish enough to leave behind breadcrumbs "to be eaten by animals, like the two idiots Hansel and Gretel" and opts to drop tiny metal beads. Unfortunately, all the beads gets picked up by a gambler who's on his way to a pachinko machine club, so they still end up getting lost in the woods.
  • In Flip Flappers, Cocona tries to make a trail of bread crumbs to track her and Papika's trail in the forest. Papika eats the crumbs unfortunately.
  • Naruto:
    • It was deliberately invoked by Kabuto, who left a trail of dead bodies for the Konoha-tracker-nins all the way to Madara's base, leaving both the trackers and the readers confused as to his true loyalties.
    • In Chapter 498, we learn that when Kushina was kidnapped, she left a trail of her hair for someone to follow. Minato was the only one who spotted the trail, which led to their eventual Rescue Romance.
  • Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro has an example of a child using the food trail type to keep from getting lost in a forest. The main characters, themselves lost and trying to find their way to the girl's village, are decidedly dejected because they are certain that animals have already eaten the crumbs.
  • In YuYu Hakusho, Kurama uses Lamp Weeds to mark his trail.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • One episode of Pokémon: The Original Series has the Team Rocket capture all the Pokémon in a gathering, including Ash's and his friend's; they were tracked down by following a trail of ink shot by Misty's Horsea on the road.
    • In Pokémon Journeys: The Series, at one point James tries to lead Morpeko into the wild to get rid of it, but the little glutton uses a small trail of snacks to find its way back to him.
  • In the first appearance of Naga in the Slayers OVA, Lina and Naga have to navigate a maze and Lina marks their trail with chalk marks so they can find their way out. Then she learns that Naga thought it was just graffiti and wiped the marks off.
  • In Excel♡Saga, Hyatt uses a trail of medicine to lead Excel to her kidnappers. Unfortunately, birds then start eating the pills... and promptly die. Excel then follows the trail of dead birds back to Hyatt.
  • In the final episode of Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, Stocking, apparently a demon all along, chops Panty into 666 pieces. Corset reappears and tells Brief that he must follow the pieces into a new city where the Hell's Monkey has been relocated. And thus ends season one.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Marik brainwashes Bandit Keith to steal Yugi's Millennium and lure him into a trap. Keith leaves stickers with arrows on walls and fences to lead Yugi to his trap. After Yugi follows him, Yami Bakura moves the stickers to make them point in every direction, slowing down Yugi's friends when they try to help.

    Comic Books 
  • In the first issue of Bone, after getting separated from his cousins, Fone Bone follows a trail of cigar butts left behind by Smiley Bone into the Valley. Given that Smiley tends to act like The Ditz, this was likely unintentional.
  • One Usagi Yojimbo story has Usagi finding a wounded warrior. The man claims to be a bounty hunter seeking a bandit named Toshi, and asks Usagi to take him to his hideout nearby. When they get to the hideout, Usagi is mobbed by bandits, and the warrior reveals himself to be Toshi. Before they can kill Usagi, a pack of real bounty hunters attack the hideout. Usagi reveals that on the way, he left a trail of broken twigs for anyone to follow. If Toshi had been a real bounty hunter as he claimed, it would mean nothing, but it's a good thing Usagi had been Crazy-Prepared, eh?
  • In The Smurfs comic book story "Bathing Smurfs", the Smurfs trick Gargamel into leaving his camping area near the Smurf Village by saying that his house is on fire, and then set up a bonfire behind the house to make it look like the house was on fire. Gargamel tries to one-up the Smurfs by leaving a trail of cherries behind him so that he can find his way back to the camping spot, but on his return, he sees that a bear is scooping up the cherries and eating them.
  • DC Comics Bombshells: When Batwoman and Renee Montoya explore a labyrinth, they take apart several baseballs and tie the stitches together so that they can use the line to mark their trail. Unfortunately, Black Adam finds the line and uses it to find them.
  • In the Uncle Scrooge story, "McDuck of Arabia," one of the nephews is kidnapped by the villains and is taken out into the infamous "Empty Quarter" desert of Arabia to force a friend to lead them to the treasure of the Queen of Sheba. Along the way, the nephew seems to be throwing about stones randomly. In reality, he is able to secretly create an arrow out of those stones and thus gives his pursuing brothers and a local troop of Junior Woodchucks some idea of where the villains are going.
  • Asterix and the Banquet. When La Résistance leader Jellibabix leads the troops of Prefect Poisonus Fungus on a wild goose chase that gets them hopelessly lost in Lugdunum's labyrinthine streets, the prefect decides to go in after them but leaves a trail of pebbles so that he can find his way out again. Then, as Asterix and Obelix leave the city, we see the prefect's plan hit a snag...
    Legionary: Oh, was it you who dropped all those pebbles, O Prefect Poisonus Fungus? Here, I've been picking them up for you!
    Poisonus Fungus: [very loud Symbol Swearing]

    Comic Strips 
  • In Garfield, Odie one time used a trail of jelly beans to lure Garfield out of bed and directly towards a manhole so that Odie can give him a big lick in the face. This comic earned an animated adaptation in Garfield and Friends.

    Fairy Tales 
  • "Hansel and Gretel" is the Trope Maker and Trope Codifier. The breadcrumbs didn't work; as you might expect, they were eaten by birds. The first time, they tried a trail of stones, which did work. The Wicked Stepmother got wise to this and prevented them from using it a second time, so they had to resort to bread.
  • "Hop-o'-My-Thumb" seems to be Hansel and Gretel's eternal rival. In France, this trope is more associated with him than them.
    • Likewise in Spain.
  • In the Grimm folktale "Spindle, Shuttle and Needle," a poor orphan girl who was using the titular items while the king's son was out looking for a girl who was "at once the poorest and the richest" started singing a little rhyme her godmother had taught her: "Spindle, spindle, one two three, Bring my suitor home to me." At which point the spindle jumped out of the window and chased off after the prince, leaving a golden thread for him to follow back to her.
  • In "The Grateful Prince", the prince leaves peas behind as he goes with the old man. When he returns with the Damsel in Distress, they follow them.
    As the prince had expected the peas had taken root, and grown into a little hedge, so that they were sure they would not lose the path.
  • In The Tinder Box, the Queen finds out how the Princess has been leaving the palace each night by tying a bag of flour to her that has a hole in it. They follow the trail to the soldier's house.

    Fan Works 
  • Things I Am Not Allowed to Do at the PPC: Rule 598 initially forbids using trails of breadcrumbs to navigate Headquarters, then gets sidetracked with forbidding the usage of specific other substances before placing a blanket ban on leaving trails of anything for navigational purposes.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Balto, when Balto attempts to rescue the lost dog sled team, he scratches every tree he passes to mark his trail. Out of spite, Steele sabotages his mission by scratching every tree in the area. Fortunately, after Balto calms down and gathers himself, he sniffs the scratches and is able to tell which ones belong to him.
  • In The Land Before Time V: The Mysterious Island, when the herd leave the Great Valley after its vegetation is devoured by the "swarming leaf-gobblers", Littlefoot and the gang leave in search for food themselves, leaving behind footprints so the herd will follow their tracks and not having to split up.
  • In Madeline: Lost in Paris, Madeline drops beads as she's being taken away by her "uncle" so that her friends can follow her.
  • Secret Magic Control Agency: In reference to the original Hansel and Gretel tale, one of the magical gadgets that the SMCA gives the siblings is a set of small stones that can be dropped while travelling, and later activated so they shine a beacon of light into the sky allowing the user to retrace their steps. Hansel is seen dropping the stones at various points during the film.
  • In Pooh's Heffalump Movie, Piglet leaves behind a trail of pink jellybeans so he can find his way back during the expedition. Unfortunately, Pooh eats them.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Aliens. Ripley dropped flares behind her while entering the xenomorphs' nest so she could find her way out.
  • Bird Box. In the non-flashback scenes, Melanie has a reel of fishing line attached to her belt so she can find her way back while blindfolded.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Will Turner leaves a trail of bodies strapped to barrels in order to lead Beckett to Shipwreck Cove. At least until Jack interferes and sends Will with them. The "birds eat the trail" aspect is inverted, as scavenging seabirds that flock around the bodies actually make it easier for Beckett to spot them and follow.
  • The Hallelujah Trail: Oracle Jones stakes out a safe path through Quicksand Bottoms with torn-up strips of his red long-johns. Then Cora Massingale and the ladies of Group C move his stakes.
  • Played with in the Korean horror film Hansel and Gretel (2007).
  • In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Mac is seen secretly dropping little blinking radio beacons so the Russians can follow him. Why he couldn't just keep one on him and have them track that is unclear, maybe they have limited range.
  • Discussed in I, Robot, though not played straight. An off-hand mention of breadcrumbs causes Detective Spooner to have a "Eureka!" Moment - Lanning, unable to give him any explicit information about what's happening at USR, has instead left a trail of clues - "breadcrumbs" - that will allow him to unravel the mystery once followed. He even name-drops the Trope Maker while explaining the idea to Dr. Calvin.
    Spooner: Alright, old man, breadcrumbs followed. Show me the way home.
  • In The Bourne Ultimatum, when Nicky Parsons sees Desh coming to assassinate her, she immediately grabs her phone and disassembles it while making her escape into a crowded market street, throwing the separate pieces onto the ground as a trail for Jason, who is about a minute behind them, to follow.
  • In First Knight, when Guinevere is kidnapped, she tears strips from her dress to mark the way for Lancelot to rescue her.
  • In Leprechaun 2, Bridget is kidnapped by the evil leprechaun and taken to his lair. While trying to escape the maze-like area, she leaves a trail of stones in an effort to not get lost, but the stones disappear as soon as she puts them down, rendering the tactic useless.
  • Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome: When Jebediah steals Max's caravan with his pet monkey inside, the simian tosses out various items to leave a trail for Max to follow.
  • Veronica Lake's character in This Gun for Hire is a stage magician, who drops playing cards as breadcrumbs when she is kidnapped.
  • The Hunger Games: Katniss tracks a blood trail leading out to the riverbank, and discovers a camouflaged (and injured) Peeta.
  • Labyrinth: Sarah tries to do this by drawing arrows on the ground with her lipstick. Unfortunately, every time she does, a tiny and extremely angry gremlin lifts the tile she marked, curses her out, and then puts it down facing the wrong direction.
  • In Grave Encounters 2, the film students propose leaving a trail of lit glowsticks behind them as they explore the Abandoned Hospital. In this case, it's the Alien Geometries of the building that makes the trail useless.
  • In The Mummy Returns, Alex leaves behind part of his clothing and a sandcastle of an ancient structure where they are heading to help the heroes tail them. Lock-nah eventually catches him doing this.
  • Dave Made a Maze: The seeds the cameraman is constantly spitting on the floor? The sound man uses them like breadcrumbs to find his way back to the entrance after getting lost. Unfortunately, the minotaur follows them too.
  • Paranormal Prison: When Sara notices that one of the four roses that represent Mary Beth Flake is missing (which is supposed to indicate that something bad is about to happen), she finds a trail of rose petals in the prison yard and decides to follow it. They lead her to Mary Beth Flake's cell, where Sara finds a blurprint of the prison.

  • Averted, then played straight in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Tom and Becky Thatcher became lost in the local caves because they didn't leave a trail (of candle-smoke marks) to find their way back. Then a couple pages later, when he was exploring side passages to try to find a way out, he used a big piece of kite string to keep from getting even more lost.
  • After Doomsday. When the female captain of the Europa is kidnapped by androids, she happens to be holding a bottle of perfume which she tips over her head, exploiting the fact that her captors have no noses. Her crew just follow the scent.
  • Arly Hanks: At the end of Madness In Maggody, Lamont Petrel is tarred-and-feathered by a gang of high school boys and then flees into the woods with his business partner Jim Bob hot on his trail. While the boys hadn't heated the tar enough to do Petrel serious injury, he unwittingly leaves a trail of tar-smears and chicken feathers behind for a furious Jim Bob to follow.
  • Beaufort by Ron Leshem. The Israeli soldiers are taught to leave a trail of torn-off buttons and other items if they're kidnapped.
  • Brother Cadfael: In The Virgin In The Ice, a boy taken captive by brigands punctures a large wineskin when his captors aren't watching, causing them to unwittingly leave a trail of red wine-drips frozen in the snow.
  • Invoked example: In The Buried Life, a laundress literally stumbles over a murder victim's body, then is rendered unconscious by an unseen attacker. The attacker ensures that the crime scene will be discovered quickly by taking clothes from the cart she'd left nearby and laying a trail of discarded garments leading from the nearby street.
  • Danny Dunn and the Fossil Cave: Danny and his friends are exploring an underground cave system. Danny tries to mark their path by dropping a radioactive substance behind them, intending to find their way back with a Geiger counter. His plan fails when some of the substance gets caught in his upturned trouser cuff, causing multiple false-positive readings when he tries to backtrack.
  • The Famous Five:
    • In Five on a Treasure Island, Julian makes chalk marks on the walls of the dungeons, so they do not get lost. These marks are referred to again in Five Run Away Together.
    • In Five Go To Smuggler's Top, Mr Barling uses string to show the way through the secret tunnels. He does this for the benefit of Block, but the children find it.
    • In Five Fall Into Adventure, the Five get lost in a wood. Jo tells them they are daft for not marking the trees to show their way back.
    • In Five Go To Billycock Hill, the Five visit caves which contain roped tunnels, with a sign warning them to beware of losing their way in the unroped tunnels.
  • In the Father Brown story "The Blue Cross", Father Brown leaves a trail of odd events for the police to follow; every time the policemen ask someone if they've seen something unusual, they're quick to remember the peculiar actions of the priest.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: One of the stories in Oathblood has a more up-scale version of this. Two kidnapped children lay a trail of silk and pearls so that their teachers can find them.
  • Humanx Commonwealth In For Love Of Mother-Not, Flinx comes home to find that Mother Mastiff has been kidnapped. Searching her shop for clues, he discovers that a large bottle of perfume has been emptied because she'd doused herself with it to ensure that tracking animals employed by any would-be rescuers will have a clear scent trail to follow.
  • InCryptid: In the short story "Snakes and Ladders", a kidnapped Alice Healy gets the Aeslin mice with her to leave a trail of candy corn so Fran and Mary can find her.
  • In In Desert And Wilderness Staś tries to leave a trail the moment he realizes they've been kidnapped. Unfortunately Gebhr proves Genre Savvy.
  • In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Pippin purposely drops the brooch from his cloak so that Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli can know that he and Merry were prisoners, on top of the footprints he left, where they would not be obscured by orcish footprints.
  • The Magician's Nephew: When Polly and Digory are in the Wood between the Worlds, with identical pools leading to other worlds, they mark the pool to their own world by cutting a strip out of the ground.
  • In the October Daye novel Rosemary and Rue, Toby observes that she's wished for this in the Shadowed Hills.
  • In Ollie's Odyssey, Billy leaves a trail of action figures to mark his trail back home while searching for Ollie.
  • In Pyrates, while in the process of being kidnapped, Shannon leaves a trail of cookie crumbs as a hint for her friends.
  • In Rose Madder, Rosie uses seeds to mark her path through the maze.
  • In The Sapphire Rose, Sparhawk and his friends track Adus through a maze by following the blood trail he was leaving from a wound he received shortly before entering the maze. Then they realize that given the length of the trail, she should have already bled to death and discover that at some point the red splatters they had been following had switched from blood to paint.
  • Spiral Arm: Up Jim River, the scarred man explains to the harper that her mother would have left a trail of breadcrumbs — and then has to explain the idiom.
  • The Tinder Box: The Queen attaches a leaking bag of flour to the Princess, to catch the soldier who sends for her in the night.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: During the Season 5 finale, Daenerys drops her engagement ring from Hizdar to lead Jorah and Daario to her when she is taken by a Dothraki Khalasar. There's no need for any further clues when you have thousands of Dothraki riding across the grasslands.
  • On NCIS, when Ziva and Tony are trapped in a shipping container on the back of a lift, Ziva leaves a trail of money behind them in the hopes that Gibbs will follow it and find them. Or, for that matter, that someone else will do so, if only to gather up the money for their own benefit.
  • In the CSI episode "Gum Drops", while searching for a missing child only he believes is alive, Nick finds pieces of gum that he believes she dropped intentionally. This is emphasized by a picture in her room of her dressed as Gretel.
  • In the TV movie Get Smart Again, Professor Helmut Schmelding left a trail of books from the entrance of the warehouse that the KAOS agents were hiding in to the actual entrance of their base, starting with a copy of Hansel and Gretel.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Fifth Doctor searches the Tardis for a "Zero Room" to recuperate in after regenerating. As he's still a little potty from the process, he leaves a trail to find his way by ripping off pieces from his clothing. As this included unravelling the Fourth Doctor's iconic scarf, some fans found it rather upsetting.
    • In "In The Forest Of The Night", Maebh drops various items so Clara and the Doctor can find her as she runs to the source of the forest. Hansel and Gretel get a mention.
  • Artemus Gordon of The Wild Wild West comes up with several different devices which leave a trail for the good guys to follow, including a trick briefcase which bleeds luminescent dust and special tape which adheres to carriage wheels and leaves a trail only visible through special lenses.
  • In Grimm, a kidnapped girl drops pieces of a necklace for would-be rescuers to follow. Given the nature of the series, it should come as no surprise that the character in question is named Gretta.
  • In an episode of Merlin Guinevere tears shreds of her blouse and leaves them on twigs so that Arthur can track her through the forest (being in the company of Brainwashed and Crazy knights at the time).
  • Supernatural: Dean and his Girl of the Week are snatched by a wendigo, so he leaves a trail of Peanut M&Ms. Sam muses that they're better than breadcrumbs because the brightly-colored sweets stand out more in the forest.
  • In Kenan & Kel, the duo are climbing up the stairs of CS Tower and Kel leaves a trail of bread crumbs to help them find their way back. Kenan has to remind them that they are going upstairs and will go back downstairs.
  • A metaphorical example in Penny Dreadful, in which Evelyn Poole says of Vanessa Ives: "let her follow the breadcrumbs to me."
  • In a side story on Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Goldar and Rito are inside the command centre, planning to plant a bomb inside it, but they wind up getting lost. Goldar then leaves a trail of popcorn to help him find his way, but then Rito eats it.
  • Star Trek: Voyager
    • In "Faces", the trope is lampshaded when subspace transponders are used so an Away Team won't get lost in a Mobile Maze.
    • In "Collective", Harry Kim leaves a trail of playing cards as he goes into the Borg cube to sabotage its shield generator. However one of the Borg children ends up finding the trail and uses it to track down Harry.
    • In "The Fight", beacons are being released to help Voyager navigate its way out of Chaotic Space, only the ship runs into the first beacon they released an hour earlier.
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys:
    • In the first season movie "The Maze of the Minotaur", Hercules and two companions drag a spear in the ground to mark their trail. When one of the companions loses his nerve and tries to flee, he discovers to his horror that the Minotaur has already messed up the trail, with lines in the dirt going out in all of the Maze's branches.
    • In "Surprise", Hercules navigates another maze by somehow leaving a trail of oil from a rather small jar. When it's time for him to leave, he throws down a torch that ignites the oil, creating a flaming trail back to the entrance.
  • In the pilot episode of Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, Seamus Harper causes the Eureka Maru to leave a trail of pions (positively charged ions) so that he can be tracked by the eponymous starship.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In "Nightmares", a Monster Clown lures Xander into an ambush with a trail of candy bars.
  • On Untold Stories of the E.R., a patient having a bad reaction to prescription medication is brought to the ER in a state of disorientation. She slips out of her assigned treatment bay while the nurses aren't looking, but leaves a trail of tissues behind until the box she'd wandered off with runs out.
  • In the third part of The Brady Bunch Hawaii special, Greg, Peter, and Bobby are traveling through the woods to find a cave where they can return the cursed tiki idol. Worried that they will get lost, Greg decides to use the popcorn Bobby is eating to leave a trail they can follow back. It later helps Carol and Mike find them.
  • In Taskmaster, one of the tasks in the fifth series involves the contestants being taken out to the middle of a field wearing a blindfold and asked to walk in a random direction, still blindfolded, for three minutes before having another three minutes to find their way back to the starting point. In a clear nod to Hansel and Gretel they are given as literal slice of bread, with the unspoken and implicit suggestion that they should use it to mark their starting point and leave a trail for themselves. Amusingly, only Bob Mortimer actually twigs to the fairy tale reference and uses the bread in the intended fashion from the start; two others, Aisling Bea and Mark Watson, only realise the purpose of the bread once they've already started and are some distance away from the starting point (and Mark's bread trail ends up being eaten by a dog before he can use it), whereas two others — Sally Phillips and Nish Kumar — never actually figure it out and just end up wandering around aimless and bewildered. Perhaps not surprisingly, Mortimer is the only one who finds his way back to the starting point and wins the round.
  • A kidnapped child on Unforgettable leaves a trail of jelly beans behind when he slips free of his bonds and attempts to find his way out of a maze of passages under the abandoned factory he'd been confined under.
  • The X-Files. In "Detour", the FBI agents mark their trail in the woods with white stones. The Monsters Of The Week steal them almost as soon as they're put down.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The probable Ur-Example: in the Greek myth of the Minotaur, the hero Theseus is able to find his way out of King Minos' labyrinth by using a ball of thread given to him by Ariadne. He ties one end to the entrance and unwinds it as he walks, so he can follow it out afterwards.

  • In the Pink Panther pinball, the Pink Panther follows the jewel thief by following a trail of small gems she drops behind her.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Some player character parties will use chalk to mark areas in dungeons they explore, either to find their way back to the entrance or to mark places they've been before so they don't go around in circles.

    Video Games 
  • According to the manual, the banana trails in Donkey Kong Country were left by retreating Kremlings as they wheeled away DK's fruit hoard.
  • Team Fortress 2: Exiting a teleporter will cause you to leave a trail of glowing particles for 18 seconds. The enemy team might use this as a clue to identifying the teleporter's location.
  • In EarthBound Beginnings, you can eat the Bread item to recover some HP. However, if you Use it instead, you get Crumbs, and by using Crumbs, you return to the spot you were in when you used the bread. Handy!
  • In old adventure games that contained unmappable mazes of identical passages, players often resorted to leaving a trail of objects to find their way around.
  • The Track psyenergy in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn allows you to follow a scent path to find your way around. However the only times it's useful are in the first dungeon you can use it in (and it isn't necessary if you know how to traverse it), and a puzzle in the final dungeon that requires you to follow the hidden scent path to unlock a gate.
  • Fable II uses a glowing trail on the ground to point the way to the player's active objective, rather than a blip on a radar screen. It's even referred to as a "breadcrumb trail."
  • Dead Space has a similar effect, though rather than being always on, it's invoked by a button press, when then shows a specific path the player must take.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest has a player-activated glowing trail that leads the player to his next quest objective.
  • In the Facebook flash game Indiana Jones Adventure World, one of the scenarios involves tracking down a kidnapped Sallah, who leaves a trail of his clothes. Chibi-Indy snarks that he hopes Sallah still has his pants when he's done making the trail.
  • In the indie adventure game Resonance, Anna in a dream sequence can leave a trail of pesos in order to find her way while crawling through a creepy Air-Vent Passageway.
  • After Commissioner Gordon is taken hostage in Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman tracks him down by the trail of tobacco clumps Gordon was leaving behind. Throughout the games, Batman also tracks down certain places and people by following various DNA evidence, although in those cases they weren't intentionally leaving a trail.
  • In the original Zork, solving the "maze of twisty little passages, all alike" by dropping items can work, though the thief might take some of them.
  • In World of Warcraft, a quest that takes you to another quest hub is called a "breadcrumb" quest, especially those that involve somebody saying to do nothing more extensive than "Talk to X: He has Jobs for you."
  • In HyperRogue, the Orb of Yendor quest requires you to follow a trail that leads to a key. Then you must get back to the Orb of Yendor that spawned the key. Since the game uses hyperbolic geometry, the only way to return is to set up some sort of breadcrumbs trail so you could go back exactly the same way — otherwise you'll become hopelessly lost.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, a priest named Jocien Ancois, who was kidnapped by Ashlanders tore out the pages of his history book, and left a trail for any potential rescuer to follow. Naturally, the Player Character has to be that rescuer.
  • One method of exploring Minkata, a nearly-featureless desert Age from Uru Live, without getting hopelessly lost is to leave a trail of markers with one's KI, as if creating a Marker Mission.
  • TinkerQuarry: Peter notes that everywhere Lori goes, the red hairs on her neck ruff fall out. When she runs away, she leaves a trail of hairs which Peter and Adeline follow.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In Flander's Company season 4, Nadège uses a trail of potato chips to lure dim-witted Gladys toward Damien's brain, in order for his personality to possess her.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Aang leaves a trail of Appa's shedded fur for Azula to follow in "The Chase", deciding to confront her personally at a place of his choice. In a Genre Savvybut ultimately bad — decision, Azula follows the trail herself but sends her minions to search for the other members of Team Avatar.
  • Mandark from Dexter's Laboratory who has a crush on Dee-Dee lured her into his house using candy.
  • In the Garfield and Friends episode, "Hansel and Garfield", Garfield retells Hansel and Gretel as having used cream cheese bagels instead of bread crumbs to make a trail that can help them find their way back home in cast they get lost, on their path to look for food. Nermal then asks why did they even look for food when they already had bagels, to which Garfield tells him they passed by a deli.
  • Johnny Bravo:
  • Adventure Time:
    • In "The Limit", Jake uses his elastic powers to serve as a guide through a huge, winding maze for Finn and Hot Dog Princesses' knights. But between various traps and the Hot Dog Knights egging him on, Jake wears himself out and is stretched to his absolute limit by the time they reach the center of the maze.
    • In "The Hard Easy", Jake leaves a trail of lollipops to help him and Finn navigate through a swamp while tracking down a monster. Unfortunately, Jake eventually runs out of lollipops, and the Mega-Frog's trail is so winding that they end up getting lost anyway.
  • In an episode of Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Gi, Ma-Ti, and another kid are kidnapped. Gi breaks her beaded necklace and leaves a trail of beads. Wheeler spots the beads and finds them in the swamp.
  • Super Friends episode "The Mysterious Moles". While Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder Dog are exploring underground, Marvin leaves chalk marks on the walls so they can find their way back to the surface.
  • In The Rabbit with the Checkered Ears' episode "Kriszta, the Indian", Kriszta gets a bit overenthusiastic while pretending to be an American Indian and takes her friend Menyus prisoner. When the series' title character flies to Menyus' rescue, there is a trail of broken cookies from a bag he had bought earlier leading from the corner where Kriszta took him captive back to her house. (In a nod to Hansel and Gretel, some of the cookies are attracting the attention of the local bird population, but not enough to break the trail.)
  • Parodied in an episode of Catscratch, where Blik and Waffle dress up as a unicorn and Waffle leaves behind eggs to help them find their way back.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends does a variant in "Dinner is Swerved". When Mac and Bloo get lost in a maze of hallways in Foster's, Bloo decides to leave a trail of laundry from the laundry room to help them keep track of where they've been. Unfortunately, Wilt, Coco, and Eduardo (who are looking for Mac and Bloo) see the laundry and decide to pick it up. Hilariously, at one point, Coco eats some of the clothing, making it literally bread crumbs in a sense.
  • Hey Arnold!:
    • "Wheezin' Ed" has Arnold and his friends exploring a cave on an island where Arnold leaves a trail of jellybeans to help them find their way back, which they use to help them escape the cave and two counterfeiters. Along the way, they find Harold eating the jellybeans.
    • In "Abner Comes Home", the employees of Pigskins R Us lay out a trail of dog biscuits to lure Abner, Arnold's pet pig, to their company, so they can turn him into a football. Fortunately for Abner, Arnold manages to lure him back to the Boarding House with a pile of smelly garbage.
  • In The Smurfs (1981) episode "The Smurfiest of Friends", Brainy inadvertently leaves behind a trail of books in the forest that Clumsy follows to find his friend when he ends up being captured by an imp who simply wants him around to power his pampering machines.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Amending Fences", Twilight uses a trail of books to lead antisocial shut-in Moondancer to a party in her honor.
  • A Running Gag on Family Guy is that whenever James Woods shows up, he inevitably is going to be led to a box trap by a trail of candy.
    James Woods: "Ooh, a piece of candy!"
  • In one episode of The Jetsons, when George goes to the moon with Elroy's space scout troupe, he gets lost with his boss's son, Arthur. Elroy and the other scouts leave them a trail of torn map for them to follow back to camp, but it gets sucked up by a random moon cleaner. Even worse, when George tries to ask him for directions, the guy has no idea where the moon's landmarks arenote .
  • Ready Jet Go!: In "Earth Camping", Carrot marks the hiking trail with Mitchell's jellybeans so the group can find their way back to camp. However, Floyd the squirrel eats them all, rendering the group lost.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: In "The Beacon", while navigating the Whispering Woods, She-Ra uses her sword to draw an "X" on things she passes. Eventually, she runs into the first boulder she marked. She screams in frustration that she had been walking in a straight line and smashes it.
  • Hilda: In episode 4, Hilda makes a trail with pieces from her sandwich while searching for Frida in some underground passages. Naturally, they get eaten.
  • In the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode, "Musta Been a Beautiful Baby", Dr. Robotnik's decrepitizer, which he intended to use to age Sonic into a senior, is put in reverse and turns Sonic, Tails, and eventually Robotnik himself into babies. The three are eventually found by Miss Saccharine and put in a daycare center. One of the traps Robotnik sets involves him leaving a trail of red jelly beans to a merry-go-round rigged to go off when a dog tied to it starts running. It gets foiled when Miss Saccharine Sonic and Tails go brush their teeth. After complaining that the only jelly beans he has to eat are black and green ones he doesn't like, Robotnik sees the trail of red jelly beans and starts eating them and gets tricked into getting spun on the merry-go-round when the dog wakes up.
  • In the Dennis the Menace episode, "Big Baby", Alice has Dennis look after Sylvester, the infant son of Mrs. Atkins. Around the same time, PeeBee goes to Dennis' house to show Dennis his new super growth formula, which he keeps in a baby bottle since just one drop makes things bigger. Sylvester gets ahold of the bottle and drinks most of the formula, causing him to grow to an enormous size. As PeeBee works on the antidote, Sylvester crawls off to a water treatment plant. To lead Sylvester back to his house, Dennis uses what's left of the super growth formula on some jelly beans and leaves a trail of them for Sylvester to follow.
  • In the Thomas & Friends episode, "Nia and the Unfriendly Elephant", Nia is tasked with delivering a new elephant to the Animal Park. However, this elephant is stubborn and doesn't want to get into Nia's wagon. One of Nia's attempts to get her in involves her taking a wagon of apples from Percy so the elephant's keeper can leave a trail of apples to lead her into the wagon. This appears to work at first, but halfway through the trail, the elephant gets tired and lies down.
  • Molly of Denali: In "Little Dog Lost," Molly tries leaving a trail of dog biscuits for Anka to follow, but a fox gets to them first.

    Real Life 
  • Amber McCarthy, a thief from East Sussex, made the mistake of spilling cornflakes all over herself while absconding with the contents of a shop's till. Police followed the trail of cereal all the way to her hotel room.
  • Among web designers, "breadcrumbs" is the term for a small trail of links that appears at the top of a page to show which categories and subcategories you are browsing, which can help you retrace your virtual steps back to the home page and keep you from getting lost on a Wiki Walk.
  • In a variant, there's the true story of a hapless thief who, pursued by the police one night, ran into a local park figuring he'd be able to easily hide amidst the foliage. But no matter where he went, the police stayed right on him. Almost as if they could see in the dark. They were having no trouble following him. After he was caught and handcuffed, the police pointed out to him that he was wearing those special sneakers that flash lights with every step...


Video Example(s):


The Button Trail

Abby leaves a trail of sewing buttons so she and the Fuzzlies won't get lost.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

Main / TrailOfBreadCrumbs

Media sources: