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Gift from my prince...

I know these don't mean anything to you, but they're everything to me. They're proof I got parents.
Annie, Annie (1999)

Orphans get a disproportionate amount of attention from the plot of any given story, and is it any wonder why? Orphanhood is a plot gold mine.

Right up there with a propensity to stare wistfully out windows, orphans collect an alarming number of plot-relevant knick-knacks. They will usually be a necklace or locket, and generally be a clue to the orphan's family, though they may have some other plot purpose, but they will always be inherited from the family in question. Mysterious swords and the like are very common. If the trinket saves the orphan's life by blocking an attack, it's also a Pocket Protector. If it wards off evil, it's a Protective Charm.

Why living families are so lacking in portrait lockets and the like may forever remain a mystery.

Examples of Orphan's Plot Trinket include:

Anime and Manga

  • Pictured above: Candace "Candy" White Andree's locket in Candy Candy, given to her by "her Mountain Prince". Who reappears several years later... and turns out to be Albert, her protector and the leader of the Andree clan.
  • Sheeta's pendant in the anime Laputa: The Castle in the Sky.
    • Pazu's photograph of Laputa, also. That's part plot trinket, part metagag: the Joke is that in the English version, Pazu's father is strongly implied to be Gulliver. Yes, that Gulliver.
  • The similarly inspired Blue Water held by Nadia in Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water
  • Sara's musical necklace from Soukou no Strain.
  • Arika's pendant in Mai-Otome.
  • Mikoto and Reito's matching pendants in Mai-HiME. Mikoto's even flares up when she goes into "beast mode".
  • Fullmetal Alchemist (first anime only). Two Ishbalan orphans carry a locket as a reminder of their dead mother, whom the older brother believes to have abandoned them during a raid. When he casts it to the ground out of bitterness, it pops open to reveal eye medicine, causing him to realize she was secretly blind. Not to mention the fact that it saves the younger brother's life in the very same episode.
  • Suzaku Kururugi's old pocket watch (that belonged to his Disappeared Dad) in Code Geass, which was also a Memento MacGuffin and saved his life by shielding him from a bullet. When his girlfriend Euphemia dies, he leaves it with her corpse during her funeral.
  • Nadja Applefield's brooch in Ashita no Nadja. The other mementos that either were sent to her in the beginning or she received later also fit to a degree, especially the pink Gorgeous Period Dress and the Nostalgic Music Box.
  • Mireille's old watch in Noir.
  • The titular Michiko Malandro and Hana "Hatchin" Morenos from, well, Michiko to Hatchin share the same tattoos on their stomachs.
  • Bunny Drop provides the somewhat mundane example of the plot trinket being a baby book with Rin's early medical information. It contains the first clue towards Rin's mother (the name "Masako") and is discovered to be where Daikichi's late grandfather hid his will.
  • Eris' bracelet in Night Wizard.
  • The reason why Cleao Everlasting tagged along with Orphen in Sorcerer Stabber Orphen was because the sword he intended to use in the spell that would bring Azalie back to human form after having been Bloody August the dragon for years is a family heirloom that belonged to Cleao's recently deceased father; she wants to make sure Orphen will give it back to her and the Everlastings when the ritual's done.
    • Also, toyed with in regards to Lycoris Nielsen's headband. She can't remember who gave it to her due to her Fake Memories, but it's later shown that her older sister Esperanza did so. It doesn't become a 100% Orphan's Plot Trinket, since Esperanza still lives (sorta, until she is killed and Lycoris's dad Marco Reika performs an Heroic Sacrifice in the Grand Finale.
  • In Onegai Twins three orphans all have the same photograph of two toddlers in a swimming pool.
  • In Blassreiter one of protagonists is an orphan. When he met his sister, she recognized him by the cross he wore, the only thing left from his dead parents.
  • Gundam Seed Destiny — Shinn Asuka and his sister Mayu's handphone. It even parallels the music-playing-locket trope with his sister's last voice mail.
  • Kannazuki no Miko — Himeko's pink clam shell necklace, although not until The Stinger.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena — After Utena becomes orphaned, she receives a rose-crested ring from a prince and decides to become a prince herself.
  • In Space Carrier Blue Noah Collin's father gives him a pendant to unlock the "Thundersub".
  • Naruto. Naruto's knick-knack, a swirl talisman always worn on his shoulder, has drawn fan attention but has never even been mentioned in the story, let alone give a purpose.
    • Actually, it is not averted at all. The spiral pattern that Naruto wears (which is echoed in the emblem on the chuunin/jounin vests and some other outfits) is a relic of Leaf's association with the former Whirlpool, which is where Naruto's mother Kushina is from.
  • The Dragon Ball series has Goku's Si Xing Qiu, or Four Star Ball, which he inherited from his deceased grandfather Son Gohan.
  • Legend of Himiko: Himiko Himejima's pendant, given to her by the Boza when she was a newborn... right before the realm of Yamatai got invaded and she was spirited away to Earth.
  • GoLion and Lion Voltron have Saint/Garrett's necklace, given to him by his father Raible/Coran right before he and his mother went missing. In a cruel subversion, the real Saint/Garret is either dead (GL) or long gone (LV), and his clone/a lookalike robot carries it instead to impersonate him better.

Comic Books

  • Billy and Mary Batson, separated as children, each had half of a locket; they realized they were siblings when they found that the halves matched.
  • In Marvel Comics, Kevin and Parnival Plunder were each given half of a silver medal while they were young. Kevin would soon after go missing. As adults, they met again as Ka-Zar and the Plunderer, realizing their identities after putting the two halves together. It turns out it's actually the a chunk of vibranium, the first of its kind, and that anyone who possesses it can make more and virtually rule the world. I.e., it's also a prime MacGuffin.


  • Annie: Annie's half-a-locket. It's supposed to be used to identify her parents, but they've been dead for years, and Ms. Hannigan already has the other half.... Obviously there are older examples, but arguably the Trope Codifier, at least for a certain age group.
  • One of the few things played mostly straight in Spaceballs: Lone Starr's medallion.
  • Will Turner's piece of treasure in Pirates of the Caribbean.
  • An odd variation appears in the film Waterworld. The orphan character doesn't own any trinkets left her by her parents, although she does have that tattoo on her back. She does, however, hum a distinctive tune as she works on her drawings — no one asks her about it, but presumably she doesn't remember where she got it from. At the end of the movie, we come to a house on the only piece of dry land in the film, and the characters find a music box that plays the exact same song. The two skeletons lying on the nearby bed, then, are her parents.
  • "Your father's lightsaber. This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight."
  • In the Super Mario Bros. movie, Princess Daisy wears a meteorite fragment around her neck that she never takes off since it was the only thing left with her when she was left in the human world. The meteorite fragment is the one thing Koopa needs to orchestrate his takeover of our world.
  • Sinbad's medallion in the 1947 film of Sinbad the Sailor.
  • Anastasia's necklace in the animated movie. It also functions as a Plot Coupon.
  • In Kung Pow! Enter the Fist, The Chosen One continues to carry the baby booties he wore when Master Pain/Evil Betty killed his family, mostly so he can wave them at Betty when he confronts him
  • From Pollyanna, the prisms... and maybe the doll.
    • To a lesser extent, the necklace she wears bearing the quote from Abraham Lincoln, which makes the reverend see the error of his ways.
  • In Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Aladdin's only real heirloom is a dagger his Disappeared Dad Cassim left with his mother before leaving to seek a fortune for the family. Said dagger is what proves he is who he says he is when he meets his dad again.


  • 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.
  • In Jim Butcher's other series, the 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.
  • Making this trope Older Than Radio, 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 before dying, 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 late father Edwin Leeford. It didn't work, since Mr. Brownlow (who happened to be Edwin's best friend) and Nancy still managed to uncover and then reveal everything.
  • Esmeralda's necklace/baby slipper in The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo.
  • Subverted in Esther Forbes' 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.
    • 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.
  • 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 Tombs of Atuan, the second Earthsea Trilogy book, Ged finds the MacGuffin on an island inhabited only by an orphaned brother and sister who turn out to be of royal descent.
  • 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 Prydain Chronicles contain an interesting subversion. 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. The subversion comes 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 Door Step 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.


Live-Action TV

  • "Professor Yana" in the Doctor Who episode Utopia has a very significant pocket watch he was found with as an "orphan in the storm."
  • Andros' and Karone/ Astromena's matching lockets in Power Rangers in Space.
    • Also, Dillon's locket from Power Rangers RPM, which can play a song when a key is inserted into it. Once he finds the other key (which belongs to his missing sister) to it and figures out how it's supposed to go in, it plays "The Farmer in the Dell"...the same song Tenaya 7 is always whistling.
    • Inverted with Power Rangers SPD and Z's necklace, which was only relevant for the single episode that it was returned in.
    • For non-locket examples, look no further than Cole's ripped photograph and Nick's baby blanket.
  • Friends: Chandler invokes this trope when he suggests that he and Monica give up one of their adopted children (which were unexpectedly twins):

 Chandler: We'll give each of them half a medallion. Then, years from now, they'll find each other and put that medallion together, and be reunited. Now that's a fun day for everyone.

    • Chandler clearly watches much too much television.
  • A Zig-Zagging Trope in Tin Man. DG does have a locket, with a picture of Hank and Em. She loses it upon arriving in Oz (pardon me...The Outer Zone). Turns out they weren't her parents at all, and the locket tips off the Big Bad. The REAL Orphan's Plot Trinket comes in at Milltown where Father Vu puts a magic sigil on DG's hand (an homage to the protection spell cast on Dorothy in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), the sigil activating her long-repressed magic abilities.
  • The Separated at Birth twins from The Gemini Factor had yin-yang rings.
  • Emma's baby blanket on Once Upon a Time

Tabletop Games


Video Games

  • Cless's pendant in Tales of Phantasia.
  • Lucia of Lunar: Eternal Blue is friendless rather than an orphan, but her pendant is an important trinket nevertheless.
  • Rena's pendant in Star Ocean the Second Story.
  • Relm's Memento Ring in Final Fantasy VI. It can also be worn by Shadow.
    • Also Terra's Pendant. Though it's never really referred to in the plot, it is sitting there in your Key Items inventory.
  • The Holy materia in Final Fantasy VII which belonged to Aerith's (biological) mother before her.
  • In Final Fantasy IX
    • Eiko and Mog have a matching pair of ribbons given to them by her grandfather before he passed away leaving her all alone, save the moggles, in the ruins of their hometown. After a certain Heroic Sacrifice, it becomes a very useful accessory that she can learn her most powerful summon from.
    • Not a physical trinket, the song that Princess Garnet is always humming turns out to be a lullaby from Madain Sari, the lost village of summoners, revealing that Garnet is actually one of only two surviving summoners in the world, and not the true princess of Alexandria, who died before Garnet came on the scene. Which makes this somewhat of a subversion, as Garnet didn't actually know she was an orphan.
  • In Final Fantasy V, Faris' pendant is not a Plot Coupon, but does serve as a really obvious foreshadowing to Luke, I Am Your Father.
  • The user-named girl's pendant in Mystic Quest (a.k.a. Final Fantasy Adventure, the first game in the Seiken Densetsu / Mana series).
  • Apollo's bracelet in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, although it is never acknowledged as such by the character in question. Also, he's not exactly an orphan.
  • Ephraim and Eirika, the main characters of Fire Emblem the Sacred Stones, honorary orphans as of the opening cutscene, have the Lunar and Solar Bracelets, which are very handy for opening sacred shrines and giving the two of them their class promotion.
    • Don't forget Neimi's handmirror. If not for it, you wouldn't have the also very recently orphaned Colm and Neimi in your party, since he tries to retrieve it after it's stolen by the same bandits that destroyed their hometown and she joins the party to find him before the bandits kill him; also, several of Neimi's supports allude to how important it is for her. It was owned by Neimi's deceased mother, a high-ranked cleric. Actually the only reason they decide to help her is that Eirika and Seth are chasing after her bracelet, which had been stolen by Colm.
      • Neimi's supports with Retired Badass Garcia reveal that she actually has two OPT's. The second is her archery gauntlet, which belonged to her dead grandfather Zethla; she modified it for her use, and we get a nice talk about Zethla's legendary archery skill and legacy when Garcia sees it.
    • In Path of Radiance, while Ike and Mist do become orphans at the beginning of the game, their mother Elena died before the game's events. As such they have two mementos from her: a medallion that she carried and left for Mist, and a lullaby she used to sing. The pendant is this universe's Fire Emblem alias Lehran's Medallion; the lullaby is the Galdr of Release, taught to Elena by the Heron Princess Lilia.
    • In the second part of Genealogy of the Holy War, the mages Arthur and Tine have matching pendants given to them by their dead mother, Princess Tailtiu of Freege. It's thanks to said pendants that they recognize each other, after having been separated for years. And if the players don't get these two charas, their expies Amid and Linda will have similar pendants handed by their mom, Tailtiu's sister Ethnia
    • Fire Emblem Awakening has the Second Generation's rings, which are actually the engagement rings given to their moms by their dads. Additionally, Lucina's tiara is one from her mother (whoever she is) and the Falchion is one from her father Chrom.
  • Tetra's charm in The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker, which turned out to actually be a piece of the Triforce, passed down by the royal family, meaning she's really the current Queen — er, Princess Zelda.
  • Dante and Vergil's lockets in Devil May Cry. Also, their swords — Yamato, Rebellion, and Force Edge — to a lesser extent.
  • Shing's Soma in Tales of Hearts is inherited from his grandfather. Kohak Hearts carries his memento of his mother, and The Ace Chalcedny carries the memento of her mother.
  • Lloyd's Exsphere in Tales of Symphonia which was grown on his mother and refined perfectly, allowing him to have angel wings in the finale.
  • Played straight in Castle of the Winds with the Amulet of Kings.
  • Dart from Legend of Dragoon retrieved a shiny red stone which belonged to his father from the ashes of his Doomed Hometown. It turns out that the stone is one of several Dragoon stones which allow you to turn into a dragoon, his father was 600 years old (and fought in a war to save humanity) and, isn't really dead.
  • The Dragon's Tear from Breath of Fire II.
  • Kid's Astral Amulet in Chrono Cross. Also a Memento MacGuffin.
  • Jet Enduro from Wild Arms 3 got something a little more practical than a piece of jewelry: a freaking machine gun. Called Airgetlamh (a Continuity Nod to a legendary sword from an earlier game), it is the only ARM that Jet can use because he is an Artificial Human. Regular people are able to use ARMS because they are descended from demons. Being a sample of the planet itself, Jet cannot wield the power of demons.
  • The Kid in Jak II had an amulet around his neck, marking him as Haven City's lost heir to the throne. As it turns out, it was an indicator of Jak's heritage and proof positive that he was Damas's son.
  • Summon Night Craftsword Story 2 combines Orphan's Plot Trinket with Memento MacGuffin/Transformation Trinket, seeing as Edgar/Aera's father and mother are both dead when the story starts.
  • Subverted in Mother 3. The first time you see Kumatora, she drops a magical pendant. Later on, when she joins your party, you find out the pendant is just a defensive item with awful stats.
  • Invoked by Elh in Solatorobo to get into the canals in Spinon, telling the worker that they dropped a pendant from Elh's dead mother in there. Of course, as soon as the worker opens the sewers for them, the waterworks immediately stop and it's back to business as usual, causing Red to comment on how creepy it is for someone to be able to turn their emotions on and off like that.


  • Agatha's locket in the webcomic Girl Genius has pictures of her missing parents, and also suppresses her mad scientist abilities.
    • More recently, the locket serves to suppress the mind control abilities of her not-so-dead mother, Lucrezia Mongfish. You have to wonder if that wasn't really what it was made for in the first place, and the other thing just a side effect.
  • Parodied in Guttersnipe, wherein Lil' Ragamuffin, the proud street urchin, admits to her pet rat that she wishes she could find her parents one day, and produces a locket with their pictures in it: her only clue to finding them. Rat then informs her that those are just the placeholder photos that come with the locket.
  • Archipelago: Credenza was given a hairband with a skull on it, from the one person who had been a friend to her, while both were bound as a slave to the world's most psychotic submarine pirate, the same one who's raid killed her parents...

Western Animation

  • Titan A.E. is made of this trope, since the worthless ring the hero wears as his only parting gift from his father before the Destruction Of Earth turns out to be the key to unlocking the Titan world-creation device, verbal instructions from his dad, and a genetically encoded star-map rolled into one.
  • The animated feature Anastasia had the title character's "Together in Paris" necklace.
  • Gosalyn's lullaby in the pilot for Darkwing Duck.
  • Esteban's medallion in The Mysterious Cities of Gold.
  • In The Land Before Time, Littlefoot is given a Treestar (star shaped leaf) by his mother before she dies. The significance is that there is almost no food in the area and the little there is is dying. This one leaf was still very green. However half way through the movie, Littlefoot is forced to leave it behind when the Big Bad attacks and it gets crushed.
  • Robyn Starling from Tom and Jerry: The Movie had one. And, as an exception to the opening paragraph above, hers is actually a locket with a photo of her Indiana Jones-esque dad. Who turns out to be alive in the end.
  • Even Winnie the Pooh gets in on this action in The Tigger Movie, in which Tigger is suddenly revealed to own an empty locket that supposedly connects him to his long-lost family. They turn out not to exist. We never find out where the locket came from.
  • The writers pulled one out of their asses for Leela.
  • Barbie as Rapunzel: Rapunzel finds a hairbrush that has a blessing from her parents, and a painting of the evil lady she's been living with dancing with someone at a ball. It doesn't make sense to her since she's always been told by the lady that she was abandoned when she was a few days old. She then heads to town and gives the brush to blacksmith, who says that it was made by his brother, who lives in another kingdom that the kingdom she's living in now is feuding with. Turns out that Rapunzel herself is part of the reason there's a feud: the lady kidnapped her as a baby because she was spurned by the other person in the painting; now he's the king of the other kingdom, who's been accusing the other king of kidnapping Rapunzel herself.
  • Although she's technically only half an orphan (her father Hakoda is still alive, but off fighting a war in another part of the world), Katara's grandmother's necklace functions as this on a couple of occasions in Avatar: The Last Airbender: lost on a prison platform, found by Zuko, used to track the band by scent, retrieved by Aang; revealed Gran-Gran Kanna's history with the Northern Water Tribe and the man who becomes Katara's waterbending master, Master Pakku... who is actually the one who made that necklace with his own hands, as a gift for Kanna when they were arranged to be married..
  • In An American Tail Fievel's hat serves as one, which is a family heirloom that he inherits shortly before becoming separated from his family.
  • Subverted with Keith's Blade of Marmora knife in Voltron: Legendary Defender. His mother Krolia gave it to his father, who told him to give it to Keith when he was older. Keith's father died when he was still a child, and in the series proper he mentions having had the knife as long as he can remember. It turns out to be the key in awakening his Galra heritage in season 2, and then several seasons later it turns out Krolia is alive after all.

Real Life

  • The Foundling Hospital in London has cabinets of these tokens, left by mothers surrendering their children in the 1700s. Particularly heartbreaking, as the tokens were never returned to the children, thus none of the children could actually trace their heritage.
    • Still happening recently in China: Author and journalist Xue Xinran "writes of mothers wanting to provide their children with legacy mementoes when they give them up for adoption: some write letters to their babies on their clothing; others leave their fingerprint in blood. But orphanages routinely toss the clothing out."