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Orphans Plot Trinket / Literature

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  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel First & Only, Gaunt received his father's ring from his father's commanding officer, when he was orphaned. Later, he uses it for its security codes.
  • Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality has a few, most notable the living ring Sning, who's passed around quite a lot, down to Orlene (who gives it to her lover Norton, before he becomes the incarnation of Time). The catch is, Orlene's not an orphan (though she thinks otherwise), both her parents are Immortal Incarnations. War and Nature respectively. And her grandmother is Fate.
  • Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files: Harry's pentagram-shaped pendant, from his dead mother.
    • Though in a surprising move, Butcher actually managed to make an Orphan's Plot Trinket...well, plot-relevant. In Fool Moon, Harry realized at the last second that said pendant was inherited silver, the one thing that could kill a loup-garou. Probably the most badass thing any Orphan's Plot Trinket has ever done.
    • It's also used in Blood Rites when Thomas uses his pendant to prove they're half-brothers.
      • And again in Changes When it turns out to also double as half of a map of the nigh-unmappable Never-Never.
  • In Jim Butcher's other series, Codex Alera, protagonist orphan Tavi has one even though he doesn't know it. His guardian Isana keeps a ring that had belonged to his father on a chain around her neck. Tavi grew up thinking Isana was his aunt, but in fact she was his mother, and the ring belonged to his father, the dead prince.
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  • Oliver Twist's locket, which belonged to his mother Agnes and was the proof of his identity. Sally the nurse stole it, then she gave it to Bumble's wife, and then she and Bumble gave it to Oliver's half-brother Edward Leeford aka Monks... who threw it into the Thames to ruin Oliver's chance to inherit the fortune of their father. It didn't work, since Nancy and Mr. Brownlow still managed to help Oliver.
  • Esmeralda's necklace/baby slipper in The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo.
  • Subverted in Esther Forbes's Johnny Tremain — Johnny knows what the Orphan's Plot Trinket does, but when he tries to use it to reconnect with his relatives, they refuse to see him. They change their minds eventually.
  • Tia's box in Alexander Key's Escape to Witch Mountain.
  • Subverted in Terry Pratchett's Feet of Clay. Nobby Nobbs, who comes from a poor family, has a shiny, golden ring, and could be a descendant of the throne to Ankh-Morpork. It later turns out that it is all a cunning plan, and the ring (and other valuable items he owns) were probably stolen by the countless generation of thieving Nobbses.
    • Well, except that at the end of the book he mentions he has several other similar trinkets.
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    • Also, Carrot Ironfoundersson is a) an orphan, b) has an old sword (beat up and completely nonmagical, but by Discworld logic this makes it an Infinity Plus One Weapon), and c) has an almost magical aura of leadership, but d) is not even slightly interested in being King.
      • Of course, given The Machiavellian Patrician, claiming to be the true heir is a good way to end up dead. However, the Patrician has fulfilled some rather major... requests for him over the years.
      • The Patrician knows better than to act against Carrot Ironfoundersson so long as he has any other option. The Discworld runs by Narrativium. If he and Carrot ever went up against each other, well, everyone knows the long lost heir to the throne who inherited an ancient sword that proves his identity will always overthrow the evil tyrant who has usurped the power of the king. Luckily, so long as Carrot doesn't decide Vetinari *is* evil, he's happy to let him keep the job.
  • J. K. Rowling uses this in the Harry Potter stories:
    • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: Harry himself has the Invisibility Cloak he inherited from his father, James.
    • Considering all these necklaces, it's only fitting that the cruelest twist on the trope should come in locket form. It fits the letter of the trope exactly, but the spirit is a different matter altogether. Slytherin's Locket belonged to Voldemort's mother, Merope Gaunt, who sold it for a few galleons while pregnant, and which her son later stole and turned into one of his Horcruxes. Voldemort also used to "collect" (that is, steal, after harming or killing their owners) "trophies," some of which were later turned into Horcruxes as well.
  • In A Wizard of Earthsea, Ged ends up on an island inhabited only by an orphaned brother and sister, and the latter gives him some piece of a bracelet she kept for years. The sequel reveals the two were the last descendant of a royal family, and the trinket was half of a MacGuffin.
  • Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale features a lovely aversion. An orphan is found with a page of Jane Eyre in his clutches... But the page is only barely peripherally relevant and offers no clue at all to his origins.
  • Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain. Orphaned Princess Eilonwy has only one thing that belonged to her mother's family - her "bauble," later revealed to be the Golden Pelydryn, an artifact of great power. To her, it's just a glowing ball that she's played with since she was little. Subverted in the fact that Eilonwy has always known that she's descended from the House of Llyr, and the Golden Pelydryn doesn't allow her to find her family; it does, however, grant her access to her magical heritage until she willingly gives up that access to save her friends.
  • In Devon Monk's Dead Iron, Rose Small was left on the steps with a device.
  • In Gene Stratton-Porter's Freckles, Freckles himself thinks very little of the clothing on him as a Doorstop Baby, but Angel is quite certain that it will reveal how much his mother loved him. He's adequately convinced that when she returns with them, he asks whether his mother loved him.
    Mothers who love and want their babies don't buy little rough, ready-made things, and they don't run up what they make on an old sewing machine. They make fine seams, and tucks, and put on lace and trimming by hand. They sit and stitch, and stitch—little, even stitches, every one just as careful. Their eyes shine and their faces glow. When they have to quit to do something else, they look sorry, and fold up their work so particularly. There isn't much worth knowing about your mother that those little clothes won't tell. I can see her putting the little stitches into them and smiling with shining eyes over your coming. Freckles, I'll wager you a dollar those little clothes of yours are just alive with the dearest, tiny handmade stitches.
  • The necklace Tash's mother gave her before Galaxy of Fear is not particularly plot important, but looking at it reminds her of the love she had for her parents, and that convinces her that she isn't a clone - all the Tash-clones have different emotional responses to her memories.
  • The Sword Bearer has a string with a locket and a ring, from John Wilson's mother and father respectively.
  • The title item serves as this for the heroine in The Keepsake Ring by Helen Fern Daringer.
  • The elaborate baby clothes Margaret Thursday wore when she was found as an abandoned baby in Thursday's Child by Noel Streatfeild. Someone also left money for her keep every year.
  • Posy's ballet slippers in Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild.
  • Vin's earring in Brandon Sanderson's original Mistborn trilogy. A two-in-one orphan trinket, as it is a reminder of the brother who left her, and the only token of her dead mother. And a three-in-one plot trinket as it is a Hemalurgic spike which grants her the unique ability to pierce copper clouds, the means by which Ruin can communicate with her, and the thing preventing her from tapping the power of the mists.
  • Laxdæla saga: Before Olaf departs for Ireland, his mother Melkorka, formerly a slave, gives him a golden arm ring which she got from her father Myrkjartan as a child. In Ireland, King Myrkjartan recognizes the ring and is therefore convinced that Olaf's tale is true and that he is really his grandson.
  • Robin's pendant in The Girl from the Miracles District. Apart from granting him a magical Deflector Shield, it's also the only thing his parents have left him with when they dropped him off at the Order's doorstep. Only not really; he's way too old for this to be his true backstory, and the pedant is the only thing he has left after the Order wiped out his memories.
  • Hinterlands, book 2 of The Godslayer Chronicles by James Clemens features an orphan girl named Dart who has a mysterious invisible demon dog that followers her around. In a twist of the trope Dart ends up being the plot trinket. As the daughter of two Rogue Gods, she is the only complete God left in existence. As such only her blood is capable of empowering the titular Godslayer sword. And if the author ever gets around to writing the 3rd book her importance towards the future of the Gods may become even greater.
  • Played with in the Avatar: The Last Airbender prequel novel, The Rise of Kyoshi. Kyoshi has a journal and a locked trunk left by her bandit parents when they abandoned her. She absolutely hates them for doing that to her and seriously contemplated destroying or otherwise getting rid of the trinkets at different points in her life. When the plot kicks into gear, she's running away from one of the best-connected politicians in the Earth Kingdom, so calling on the resources of her parents' criminal lifestyle is a neat way to dodge his influence. She goes to the hideout indicated in the journal and says all the passwords and demands access to teachers, safehouses, and other resources— only to be told that, while the bandits are willing to honor their commitment to her parents by helping her, her parents' deaths a few years back coincided with a drastic decrease in their profitability and fortunes, and they simply don't have the quality of resources she wants. They reluctantly become Fire-Forged Friends as the book goes on, and they serve as her teachers, however. The items in the trunk end up becoming Kyoshi's distinctive iconography— her gold fans that help her focus her bending and sidestep her control issues, her golden headdress and her white and red face makeup.


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