I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

A minor character has a MacGuffin and is being pursued by some Mooks. They fatally wound the minor character, who then hands the MacGuffin over to the main character(s) before dying. The main character(s) continue the dead person's mission to get the MacGuffin to wherever it's supposed to get to before the bad guys get it.

A good way to keep the true story a mystery (and to keep the audience interested) is to have the main character be an Unlikely Hero that has NO idea what's going on or who to trust.

The old bearer of MacGuffin may double as a Sacrificial Lamb, and is quite often a Pursued Protagonist.

Compare with It May Help You on Your Quest, Plot Coupon, and MacGuffin Escort Mission. See also Almost-Dead Guy, who passes on information instead of plot coupons. For when the transaction involves human beings, see Take Care of the Kids.

May be a Harbinger of Impending Doom. Contrast Come with Me If You Want to Live.

Sub-Trope of Take Up My Sword, itself a Sub-Trope of Herald. Compare The Chooser of the One.

Note that this trope is not "somebody gives a character a MacGuffin". The person who's giving the MacGuffin has to die in the process.

As a Death Trope, Spoilers ahead may be unmarked. Beware.

Examples of I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin include:

Anime and Manga

  • The man with the data card in the first episode of Dirty Pair Flash.
  • In Saint Seiya, a dying knight of Sagittarius handles baby Athena and the Golden Armor to Dr. Kido.
  • Ralph Wednesday, the vanship courier with Alvis Hamilton in Last Exile.
  • The vaccine file in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Notably, the offer was rejected. To give some more context the file in question was a list of people who had received a vaccine for an otherwise incurable illness (the vaccine was rejected due to pressure from certain individuals and organizations who wanted to prevent their products from being rendered useless). The current owner of the file tries to give it to Togusa after the building's attacked by The Dragon and his Mooks. Togusa tries to get him to escape with it instead (he's caught and shot, meaning the protagonists have to make do with a video of what Togusa saw).
  • Happens from time to time on Ranma ½, and usually it's Happosai who gets the MacGuffin.
  • Kakashi in Naruto gets his Sharingan this way.
  • So begins the execrable anime adaptation of Gray Lensman.
  • In the manga Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, after her ship crashes Nausicaa obtains the control crystal for the God Soldier from a dying (important) passenger.
  • The end of the first episode of Gundam Unicorn.
  • A terribly wounded Saki tries to give her heart (and power source) to Steel Angel Kurumi, but it ends up as a Fusion Dance somehow.
  • In the Cowboy Bebop episode Sympathy for the Devil, a dying bounty head gives Spike a ring and tell him that he's the only one who can save "him" now. Cue the crew spending the rest of the episode figuring out what the guy meant and what they're supposed to do with the ring.
    • Gateway Shuffle starts off with this, with Faye finding a fatally wounded police officer drifting through space. He tells her to take a briefcase to the I.S.S.P, and tells her not to open it. She does neither, and the object in the briefcase is sought after by the antagonist of that episode. She manages to steal it back and pocket it, only for it to come back into play at the very end of the episode to ruin her plans.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's: It's revealed that Yusei's dying father gave the 3 Signer Dragon cards he had to Rex Godwin (a fourth—Ruka's -- got lost en route).
  • In Metal Armor Dragonar, the Power Trio comes across a badly wounded man carrying the discs needed to activate the titular Humongous Mecha. In a subversion, he begs them to give the discs to Giganos, obviously not realizing that the boys are Federation trainees.
  • One Piece has a rather interesting variation of this. The former Pirate King Gold Roger, well aware of his impending death due to disease, turns himself in. He then challenges everyone to find his MacGuffin and proclaims that whoever finds it can have it. Made even more interesting by the fact that nobody knows for sure whether it really exists, much less what it actually might be.
    • Although Whitebeard claims that it's real...

Comic Books

  • This tends to happen to Usagi quite a bit. More often than not, it turns into a MacGuffin Escort Mission.
  • The somewhat-obscure Marvel Comics hero The Torpedo (see ROM Spaceknight and New Warriors) got his supercostume from the dying scientist who had made it for an evil organization but then changed his mind... while he was waiting for an elevator. Then he just decided to put it on right then and there, which got him into a fight with Daredevil, who had been pursuing the scientist moments before!
  • This is how John DiFool got The Incal, via a dying Berg disguised as a mutant.
  • The Green Lantern corps recruit new members by passing their ring on before they die.


  • Parodied multiple times in Takeshi Kitano's Getting Any?, where a dying gangster (it's the same gangster, dying multiple times) comes up to the protagonist and gives him something (a gun, a car, etc.) and says "Guard this for me, will you?" Hilarity Ensues.
  • Innerspace: After being shot, a scientist uses the last of his strength to inject nearby passer-by Jack with the syringe containing the miniaturized submersible.
  • The Fifth Element: Four of the Elements needed to save the galaxy are held by Diva Plavalaguna (inside her body!) who hands them over to Dallas as she is dying.
    • The key that one of the aliens gives the monk in the pre-WWII prologue also serves as one.
  • In the 1981 movie Diva, a prostitute stashes a cassette implicating a high ranking official as a mob boss in a postman's bag just before being murdered.
  • Disney's Treasure Planet. Billy Bones is not a long-term lodger, but instead crashes his ship on the inn's doorstep and dies almost immediately on setting foot inside, with the pirates right behind. Before he dies, he opens the chest and shoves the treasure map into Jim's hands.
  • Billy Bones does this to Jim in Muppet Treasure Island as well.
  • Foul Play: A dying agent slips Goldie Hawn a microfilm cassette in a pack of cigarettes, unbeknownst to her. The bad guys try to kill her for the microfilm she doesn't know she has. The microfilm is eventuallydestroyed in a fire before anyone can view it.
  • All the adaptations (and most parodies) of John Buchan's The Thirty-Nine Steps. The best known (1935) version was directed by Hitchcock.
  • Enemy of the State involves a researcher with an incriminating videotape who dies soon after passing on the MacGuffin.
  • This is kinda-sorta the plot of Shoot'Em Up, with the baby as the McGuffin, handed off from the woman who's just given birth to it after she gets shot.
  • In The Net, Dale sends Angela a disk and later flies down in his Cessna to meet her. The bad guys mess with the radar, causing Dale to the crash his plane.
  • In Casablanca, Ugarte entrusts the letters of transit to Rick, only to be taken into custody and killed later that night.
  • The Maltese Falcon, which might be the Trope Codifier, hits the viewer hard with this trope. Everyone is after the titular bird (which is insanely valuable Pirate Booty but has been covered in lead to hide the value). For the first half of the movie the police (who don't know about the bird) suspect the main character of unrelated murders (which were actually committed by the Big Bad while looking for the bird). Then, about forty minutes into the film, the bird has only been discussed up until now and nobody knows where the thing actually is or who's hiding it. The body count is mounting and people start saying the bird might be cursed because of all of the people who get the bird die right afterward. Then The Ghost suddenly bursts into the room, riddled with gunshots, carrying the bird, then dies at the protagonist's feet without any explanation. Now the main character not only has the statue that a bunch of violent people are after but also has yet another dead body to explain to the police, this time of a guy he's been going around town asking people about. This plot is a weird case of I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin, Pirate Booty, a possible Artifact of Doom, a sort of Artifact of Attraction (since the bird looks worthless), and a Clingy MacGuffin (since he can't let anyone know about the bird) all at the same time. The rest of the movie involves him trying to exonerate himself without letting anyone (especially the police, who would just decide he'd killed everyone with the bird as his motive) find out he has the statue.
  • Men with Brooms has Donald Foley arranging to have his ashes placed in the last of the Magellan Stones, and his will is basically him guilt-tripping his old curling team into reuniting and trying to win the Golden Broom.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean At Worlds End, while Elizabeth Swann is on Sao Feng's boat, they get attacked. Sao Feng gets stabbed by a giant piece of wood and hands over a seemingly useless trinket which later turns out to be one of the Pieces of Eight needed for the meeting, and for releasing Calypso from Tia Dalma.
  • Hitchcock's second version of The Man Who Knew Too Much. The man who knows too much doesn't exactly know just what it is he knows.


  • The Maltese Falcon, for the same reason listed under Film.
  • The Thirty-Nine Steps starts with a dead man leaving his little black notebook containing the cryptic title phrase to Richard Hannay.
    • In the sequel, Greenmantle, a dying man staggers into a Kashnir outpost carrying a bit of paper on which is scrawled, 'Kasredin', 'v1' and 'cancer'. Cue race against time to decipher same...
  • The Cloakmaster Cycle started this way. Though the protagonist happened to be sensible enough and tried to get rid of the thing that brings overwhelming forces on his head, not that it was easy.
  • Parodied in South by Southeast by Anthony Horowitz, which itself is one big Shout-Out to political conspiracy thrillers. The MacGuffin's name even is . . . well.
  • This trope is basically how Animorphs begins---Elfangor, an alien from the (more-or-less) good Andalite species, crash-lands on Earth in front of five kids, warning them that the (more-or-less) evil alien Yeerks are invading and giving them the morphing power to fight them. In this case, though the MacGuffin is just information/a power rather than an object. But then, they manage to retrieve an object---the device that gives the morphing power---from David later...
  • In Green Rider, Karigan comes upon a mortally wounded Rider in the forest and is given a two-part MacGuffin: the message he was supposed to deliver, and his Rider brooch (which, as she later finds out, comes with magical powers).
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has a pretty revelatory one towards the end. Snape, whose loyalties were a matter of some debate, has his throat ripped out by Voldemort's pet snake Nagini, but lives just long enough to give Harry a jarful of memories that reveal Snape's back story, motive, status as The Atoner, and also that Dumbledore's plan hinges on Harry willingly giving himself up to Voldemort. Ack.
  • One of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Lythande stories begins with Lythande comforting a dying woman, and getting stuck with the task of returning a magical artifact to the woman's people. (She isn't very enthusiastic about this, but it won't leave her alone until she does...)
  • At the beginning of Wyrd Sisters, the crown prince and crown of the recently murdered king are given to the three witches by a royal servant who dies just as he stumbles in. The witches try to get both off their hands ASAP.

Magrat (shivering in the cold of the open moor): "What is there to be afraid of out here?"
Granny (with considerable satisfaction): "Us."

Gandalf: I tried to save your father, but it was too late. He was witless and wandering, and had forgotten almost everything except the map and the key.

  • At the beginning of Tom Holt's Expecting Someone Taller Malcolm Fisher receives the Tarnhelm and the Ring of the Nibelungs from Ingolf, the last of the Frost Giants, cleverly disguised as a badger who he's just run over with his car. Not being educated in Norse mythology or even having seen the opera poor Malcolm has no clue what he's getting himself into.

Ingolf: "Cut my arm and lick some of the blood."
Malcolm: "I'd rather not."
Ingolf: "But you'll be able to understand the language of the birds."
Malcolm: "I don't particularly want to be able to understand the language of the birds."
Ingolf: "You'll understand the language of the birds and like it, my lad!"

  • In Josephine Tey's The Singing Sands, the MacGuffin is an unfinished sonnet, which the protagonist, who used to write sonnets in school, takes with him out of idle interest, then considers finishing it as a gesture to the dead person; as he studies it, he realizes it is a code.
  • Alther Mella in Septimus Heap passes over the Akhu Amulet to Marcia Overstrand before dying.

Live-Action TV

  • Alpha Squad Seven: The New Tek Jansen Adventures, the Show Within a Show on The Colbert Report, had the better part of a whole episode with someone dying (with a massive crater in his torso, no less) but taking about three minutes talking with Tek Jansen about directions to get to the place that the MacGuffin needed to go, and only finally expired after plenty of fumbling, putzing around, and being interrupted.
  • Doyle passing on his visions to Cordelia in Angel
  • The Key in The Lost Room ends up in Joe's possession after it's previous owner enters his apartment and then dies from gunshot wounds.
  • Chuck gets the Intersect in an e-mail from a dying Bryce Larkin.
    • Though it turns out Bryce was Not Quite Dead. Oddly enough, though, Bryce passes off the Intersect (this time the 2.0) a second time to Chuck when he dies for real (or at least, dies slightly more permanently).
  • Power Rangers SPD starts with one of these (though he gives Jack the plot device a bit before the Mecha-Mooks catch up with him, leading them away.)
  • The Colt in Supernatural is the focus of an entire season, and is handed to the main characters by its dying guardian.
  • In Warehouse 13, regent Jane (aka Pete's mom, aka Captain Janeway) is given a bracelet by a fellow regent who was trapped by the rubble of the building they were trying to escape. It makes her "The Guardian" of Warehouse 13 and helps them "keep control" of it - details deliberately sketchy at this point.


  • Oswald in King Lear, after being mortally wounded by Edgar:

Slave, thou hast slain me: villain, take my purse:
If ever thou wilt thrive, bury my body;
And give the letters which thou find'st about me
To Edmund earl of Gloucester; seek him out
Upon the British party: O, untimely death!

Of course Edgar doesn't give the letters to Edmund, his mortal enemy.

Video Games

  • Panzer Dragoon begins like this, only it's not a MacGuffin: it's a dragon, and its rider is shot and killed while fighting the Dark Dragon.
  • This is how you get the kinesis module in Dead Space. A blinded, mortally-wounded woman manages to hang on long enough, alone in a monster infected Ghost Ship, to give Isaac a necessary tool for solving the various puzzles he'll be presented with later.
  • Surviving a Zeppelin crash in the intro cinematic of Arcanum, you are given a ring by a dying gnome, and told to "Find the boy".
  • If you didn't pick up the Arm Cannon Power up in Mega Man X when Zero Dies at the hands of Vile he gives X his Arm Cannon which then becomes the Arm Cannon Upgrade.
  • Ted hands his Soul Eater True Rune to Tir in Suikoden I, and the rest is history.
  • Occurs in the tutorial of The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion.
  • Space Quest starts out with one. Roger was napping on the job and avoided the brutal Sarien invasion of the Arcada. He ducks into a laboratory, where the dying head scientist gives him the code to a cartridge containing plans to self-destruct the Star Generator, and for Xenon to rebuild the device in order to save their dying sun.
  • In Jak II, Baron Praxis gives you the Precursor Stone after Kor kills him.
    • and by "give", we mean he revealed the bomb containing the stone which would have destroyed the entire world if exploded. Dumb guy.
  • Done in EarthBound when Buzz Buzz is fatally wounded by Pokey's mother. Before he dies, he hands you the Sound Stone so you can record the Your Sanctuary melodies. He was going to give it to you in a bit, anyway.
    • In the first game, MOTHER 1, after R7038xx destroys EVE, your protector robot, the seventh Melody is found in its body.
    • A rather interesting version in Mother 3: taking a MacGuffin is what causes its guardian Magypsy to die ( or rather, disappear). I'm Not Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin?
  • In ZHP: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman, you are given the Unlosing Ranger's belt by its previous holder, Pirohiko Ichimonji, as he lays dying after being hit by a car. This is also how Pirohiko himself received the belt, as well as everyone to take on the "Unlosing Ranger" title before him.
  • If the dream of being a hero counts as a sort of McGuffin, then Zack and Cloud play this out in the Final Fantasy VII prequel Crisis Core.
  • Dark Souls starts this way. The player encounters a dying knight who gives the player the Estus Flask, the key out of the Undead Asylum and the quest to ring the twin Bells of Awakening.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • In Transformers Generation 1, the Matrix of Leadership is like the present in a Pass The Parcel game. The previous holder dies but just has time to pass it on to their most trusted friend. This happens multiple times, not just in the movie but in the third season too.
  • Lampshaded in Stroker and Hoop. A dying karate instructor entrusts the handle of a magic sword to Stroker's son Keith and warns that reuniting the handle with the pieces of the blade would be disastrous. Stroker asks why, if it's such a big deal, the sword wasn't destroyed completely, even suggesting flushing it down the toilet or something.
    • When the sword is reassembled, it's nothing more than an over sized flashlight. Hoop, who was fighting with the villain using the sword, noted that when the sword was broken and separated centuries ago, that people in ancient China would've seen that as amazing or terrifying.
      • Of course, when you shine the light on the dead...
  • A dying Race Bannon gives a sample of a deadly bioweapon to Brock Samson and the Venture boys in The Venture Brothers episode "Ice Station- Impossible"