It Was a Gift
How to indicate something The Hero owns is cool, or important, or plot-significant—there are a lot of ways, but one of the most common is to make it a gift from another character. Two birds with one stone, since it can delineate character, and the relationship between two of them, as well as play up the importance of this object. If it is part of the Backstory, often the character will relate it with great pride, which makes a good Framing Device. Even an otherwise useless gift may help you on your quest. It can also be used to disguise the MacGuffin's plot-device status (particularly the Memento MacGuffin) or to introduce Chekhov's Gun in an subtle way.
May also explain an incongruous possession.
The Powers That Be make the most impressive sources, but ordinary characters can serve. Mentors, Anonymous Benefactors, the Reasonable Authority Figure, and parents are likely to present such an item, which may be a physical manifestion of So Proud of You—as is the Dead Little Sister. When the gift comes from an equal, it is likely to be reciprocal, often marking Fire-Forged Friends. It is not unknown for them to have strings that only become evident later.
Ancestral Weapon sometimes falls into this, but only if the character was particularly chosen to receive or inherit the weapon. The Cool Sword is particularly likely to be a gift. Partly, no doubt, because there are so many Cool Swords out there. Take Up My Sword and Passing the Torch often involve such a gift, a concrete expression of what is being passed on. The Lady's Favour is a subtrope.
Anime & Manga
- In the Anime series Inuyasha, Inu Yasha and Sessomarou's swords were not only gifts from their demonic father, they were carved from his very fangs. Ownership of each sword and the skill to properly wield them become a major point of contention and conflict between the half-brothers.
- Vivio's Sacred Heart in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid was a gift from her Nanoha-mama after she had deemed her skilled enough at using magic.
- Rolo's heart-shaped locket charm on his cellphone in Code Geass was a birthday present from his older brother Lelouch. Despite being a ridiculously girly gift ( Lelouch was thinking of Nunnally when he got it), Rolo refuses to part with it and is extremely protective and sentimental about it.
- One Piece: Luffy's straw hat is a gift from Shanks. Luffy treats this hat as his treasure.
- While not as largely plot-impacting as the rest of the things from this page, it can be seen in a few chapters of Gunslinger Girl that Rico has a cuddling pillow. Considering the cold, aloof fish that Jean is, it seems out-of-character for him to give her something like that, until we see in a flashback that Enrica has one too, likely a gift from her Aloof Big Brother. This serves to show us cracks in Jean's Jerkass Facade.
- Anime Vash the Stampede says this about his iconic oversized revolver, which is both the means for converting his right arm into a humongous laser gun and apparently a pretty shitty actual firearm. His Evil Twin made one for each of them with the stated intention of wiping out the human blight. Vash is not very into that. But he's holding onto the gun, in memory of his promises.
- Hana no Mizo Shiru: Misaki's flower necklace turns out to be a gift from Kawabata, so he can look at it and remember someone is there for him after his grandfather's death. He appreciates the sentiment, and also has feelings for Kawabata, so he wears it every day under his shirt. Then their relationship sours and Kawabata rips it off his neck - breaking the necklace, and almost choking Misaki. Arikawa later fixes it, but he understandably doesn't want it any more.
- The incongruous possession variety pops up in an advertisement for Progressive auto insurance. Flo comments "And no more holding her purse!" to a husband who is shopping for auto insurance with his wife and the husband replies "It's a European shoulder bag. It was a gift," while making eye motions towards his wife.
- When Kyon goes with Yuki to buy her a phone in Kyon: Big Damn Hero Yuki acknowledges that, even if she could emulate the functions of a phone without effort, she would treasure it as a gift from him.
- Undercover Brother. The title character was given a medallion by his father so he would never forget who he is or what he stands for (protecting black people from racism).
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The hat the young Indiana Jones received from the criminal archeologist (named "Fedora" in the credits).
Fedora: You lost today, kid. But it doesn't mean you have to like it.
Inspector Frank Bumstead: It was a gift from my mother. She died recently. I keep it with me to remind me of her.
- Subverted in that it's probably just a prop assigned to him by the Strangers; his memories of it being a gift are fake.
- In Pirates of the Caribbean, Commodore Norrington's sword was a gift from the governor (and originally forged by Will Turner). That was its first appearance; it continued to make plot-significiant appearances throughout the trilogy.
- The medallion Alejandro's brother receives as a child in The Mask of Zorro plays a significant role later on.
- In Star Wars: While most notably an Ancestral Weapon, Luke Skywalker's first lightsaber was also a gift from Obi-Wan Kenobi, his friend and mentor. When he lost it in Empire Strikes Back he lost his only physical link to two of the most important figures in his life.
- Excalibur is sometimes said to be a gift from the Lady of the Lake to King Arthur.
- In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel False Gods, Horus carries a golden sword, forged for him by a battle brother when he was made Warmaster.
- In Graham McNeill's Fulgrim, Ferrus Manus carries a golden sword. When he had first met his brother primarch Fulgrim, they had challenged each other, and Fulgrim had made the sword, while Ferrus Manus made a warhammer. Astounded by the other's skills, they had given each other the weapons they had made to seal their friendship. When Fulgrim fails to sway him to Horus's side, they fight, and Ferrus Manus breaks the sword, making Fulgrim realize that the break is irrevocalbe. Fulgrim takes back the warhammer and has his ships open fire on the Iron Hands.
- William King's Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf novel Wolfblade recounts a story that, among other things, tells how Ragnar got his frostblade. Indeed, in the Frame Story, explaining it is the motive for telling the story.
- In Simon Spurrier's Warhammer 40,000 novel Lord of the Night's Backstory, the Night Haunter had named Sahaal his heir and decreed that he should receive the Corona Nox as a symbol of that. Which was why it's being lost was so important.
- In Chris Roberson's Warhammer 40,000 Blood Ravens novel Dawn of War II, the governor tries to justify having the Space Marine sword Wisdom by claiming it was a gift. It doesn't save him.
- In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel, Ibram Gaunt's swords are both gifts. His first came from the hand of his dead mentor. When it is ruined in battle, he receives the power sword of Hieronymo Sondar, the founder of Vervunhive, while he tries to defend it in Necropolis, and carries that sword thereafter.
- At the end of Lloyd Alexander's The Book of Three, the main character are given gifts that they will carry through the series.
- And in the middle of the fourth book, Tara Wanderer, Dorath demands Taran's sword as "payment" for "protection." Taran refuses because it was given to him by his guardian Dalben and first put on him by the girl he loves. After a fight in which Dorath's sword is broken, Dorath treacherously pulls a dagger and steals it. At the end of the book this proves to be symbolic, because Taran faces Dorath again, this time fighting with a sword Taran had forged himself, and when the two swords meet, it is the sword of his childhood that shatters.
- In Tamora Pierce's "Protector of The Small" quartet, Kel receives gifts from a then unknown "benefactor". Some of these items are rather pricey.
- Not only are they pricey, they are particularly useful to a girl in knight-training. Among them are magical bruise balm, exercise equipment to strengthen her arms, a saddle for her horse, and a new knife and matching sword. The "mysterious benefactor" turns out to be Sir Alanna, the first lady knight, who presumably, as the sole heir of two large estates, has money to burn. It's implied that these gifts are things Alanna wished she had as a page/squire.
- An exceptionally notable and heartwarming payment was when Kel got to keep Peachblossom for four years.
- Alanna herself has her own gift: the mirror with roses on it that her oldest son gave her when he was little. She still uses it to scry twelve years later.
- In JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings the One Ring was a gift from Bilbo to Frodo.
Filthy Baggins lies! It was our birthday present, precious. * gollum* Gives it back to us!
- And there are the cool gifts that Galadriel gave the members of the Fellowship, including the Phial.
- At the beginning, Bilbo hands out gifts at his birthday party. At the end, Bilbo gives the hobbits all gifts—including his writing, which means Passing the Torch to Frodo. At the very end, Frodo gives the book to Sam.
- Not to mention that in the movie, Arwen actually says It Was a Gift when insisting that Aragorn keep her necklace.
- In CS Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Peter, Susan, and Lucy receive magical gifts from Father Christmas. When they find themselves back at Cair Paravel in Prince Caspian, the first thing they retrieve from their treasury was the Gifts.
- Subverted in The Three Musketeers, where d'Artagnan starts out with three gifts from his father: a sword, a horse, and a letter of introduction so he can join the Musketeers. He loses all three of them in the first chapter.
- Not the horse - the only item he wouldn't have minded losing, as it was an ancient nag with a ridiculous colour. He manages to sell it in Paris.
- In Terry Pratchett's A Hat Full of Sky and Wintersmith, the silver necklace that Roland gives Tiffany features significantly in both plots. In the latter it proves to be a Clingy MacGuffin.
- There's also Vimes' silver cigar case in Night Watch, given to him by Sybil.
- Numerous items in Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and The Olympians are given as gifts. Those from the gods are particularly likely to be important. Though the knife that Luke gave Annabeth proved to be the most important.
- In Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, the broomstick acquires significiance as a gift—and the little owl, too.
- In A Wrinkle in Time, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which give the children gifts before sending them off, which proves crucial.
- In Norman Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth, Milo receives many gifts: words, a calculating pencil, laughter, a telescope that shows what things really are. These prove essential when facing the demons of ignorance.
- In Sherwood Smith's Crown Duel, the ring the heroine receives from an anonymous admirer, and still more the ring she had made to reciprocate, move the plot in several instances.
- In Jim Butcher's Dresden Files novel Fool Moon, because both Harry and Murphy have received gifts of silver from family, they can fight the loup-garou.
- In Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, Ged finds an island with an old man and woman. He deduces from the dress the woman shows him—rich, for a child—that they had been abandoned there. She gives him half of an armring. In The Tombs of Atuan, this gift is his driving motivation for his actions.
- In Patricia C. Wrede's Thirteenth Child, when Miss Ochiba leaves, she gives William and Eff books to study, and when Eff cries, gives her a handkerchief as well.
- In Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno, their father offers Sylvie a choice of lockets for her birthday present: one says, "All will love Sylvie" and the other "Sylvie will love all." Sylvie choses the latter. In the end, it turns out they were one locket. Nevertheless, she made the right choice.
- Humpty Dumpty's "unbirthday present" in Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There
- In Cordelia's Honor, Cordelia finds Aral in a drunken stupor and a colorful tropical shirt. The shirt turns out to be a gift from the men who served with him at a former post, most of whom are dead.
- In John C. Wright's The Golden Transcedence, Phaethon, Helion, Daphne, and Diomedes are all given gifts by the Transcedence.
- In Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games, the pin Madge gives Katniss makes the mockingjay an immensely significant symbol. All the more so when she learns in Catching Fire that the aunt it had belonged to died in the Games.
- Also, the pearl Peeta gives her in Catching Fire.
- In Beowulf both the king and queen honor him with a gift of a ring.
- In John C. Wright's Chronicles of Chaos Mrs. Wren gave them—peculiar birthday gifts.
- Romus also gives Amelia and Quentin gifts in Fugitives of Chaos.
- In Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga book A Civil Campaign, Miles shows Ekaterin the scalps in the attic—presumably presented to his grandfather by his subordinates. As they are presents, doing anything with them is complicated.
- In Diana Wynne Jones's Year of the Griffin, referring to a notebook
- In L. Jagi Lamplight's Prospero Lost, when the woman in a thrift shop asks if Miranda wants to sell her Edwardian dress, Miranda contents herself with saying it was a gift from her sister for why not.
- In Robert E. Howard's Kull/Bran Mak Morn story "Kings of the Night", the Mineral MacGuffin was given to Bran's ancestor by Kull.
- In Shadows of the Apt, the sword Tisamon gives Tyrisa. He had carried it for year believing the woman he originally meant it for had betrayed him.
- In Jasper Fforde's Something Rotten, Thursday gives Hamlet a gift at the end: Alan the dodo.
- In Teresa Frohock's Miserere an Autumn Tale, Lucian still carries the Psalter his mother gave him, wrapped in a scarf that Rachael gave him.
- A Song of Ice and Fire has a number of swords like this. Usually these are Ancestral Weapons and in many cases such gifts become Take Up My Sword, but a few don't fall under either category:
- Very early in the first book, Jon has a small sword tailor made for Arya. It becomes her most valuable and prized possession.
- Jon gets one himself after saving the life of Lord Commander Mormont. Mormont gives Jon his valuable heirloom Longclaw and has the bear, the sigil of house Mormont, on the pommel carved into a wolf, the sigil of house Stark (specifically designed to resemble Jon's direwolf Ghost). The criteria of Take Up My Sword isn't fulfilled until some books later.
- In Michael Flynn's Up Jim River, the harper's mother gave her a necklace. It proves significant in the quest for the mother.
Live Action TV
- On Supernatural, the pendant that Dean always wears around his neck was a gift from his brother Sam, who gave it to him to show that Sam considered Dean more of a parent than their father John. (The pendant was originally to be a Christmas gift for their father.
- "Always", that is, until season five, when it turns out to be a tool for locating God, and he reluctantly lends it to Castiel.
- Used for Getting Crap Past the Radar in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Tara offers Willow a dolls-eye crystal that belonged to her grandmother, but Willow refuses on the grounds that it's a valuable family heirloom. But after they spend the night "casting spells", Willow turns up at her dorm the following morning holding the crystal, implying that she accepted it as a love token.
- The Merchant of Venice: One of Shylock's most notable human moments is buried in his 'wicked old miser-Jew' ranting about how his daughter, who reacently eloped with an enemy of his, taking all his money and jewels with her were dead if it meant he could have his riches back—the scene is a friend of his reporting her progress across the Mediteranean, and he gets especially vitriolic after finding out that Jessica traded the turquoise ring for a pet monkey. Turns out that particular ring was a gift from his dead wife, before they married.
- In fairness to Jessica, she probably didn't know this.
- In A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, a set of three rings showing a gaggle of geese (at least seven), given by a father to his two children, stolen in infancy by pirates, play an important part in the denouement.
- Played for Laughs in Tales of Vesperia. When Judith meets Yuri, she notices the Sorcerer's Ring (commonly used in the series to solve puzzles) and asks if it was a gift from a girl. When Yuri admits that it was, Judith comments that they must have a "special bond", which causes the 21-year-old Yuri to groan that he hopes not—it was given to him by the Hot-Blooded 15-year-old mage Rita.
- In one of the endings to Street Fighter Alpha 2, Ken gives Ryu his famous red headband (which Ken had been previously using as a hair tie). Previous to this, Ryu had been wearing a white headband.
- As is eventually revealed in Final Fantasy VII, the Buster Sword was a gift from a dying Zack to Cloud, which sort of explains why it can never be sold (polygonal limitations explains the rest). In Crisis Core, the Buster Sword was a gift from a dying Angeal to Zack, who then used it exclusively (but only the blunt side, in order to "prevent wear, tear, and rust"). Even before that, the Buster Sword was a gift from Angeal's very poor parents to Angeal when he joined SOLDIER.
- Mentioned briefly in Dissidia Final Fantasy:
Cloud: "It's not heavy, it's a memento."
- Tidus of Final Fantasy X also had his signature weapon, the Brotherhood, as a gift from Wakka, who originally made it for his dead little brother Chappu, who coincidentally (and remarkably) resembled Tidus.
- Gwendolyn's magic spear was given to her by her mortally wounded sister in Odin Sphere. So it's understandable why she gets upset when she learns her father gave it away to the Shadow Knight, Oswald, as part of a bribe. Luckily Oswald lets her keep it.
- On the flip side, Gwendolyn single-handedly invades the fairy kingdom of Ringwood to retrieve the magic ring Titrel which was the only gift Oswald was able to give to her as a sign of his love.
- Mega Man ZX has Livemetal/Biometal Model Z, under the ownership of The Obi-Wan Giro. When he dies a little later into the game, he entrusts the metal in the hands of his apprentice(s) Vent/Aile.
- Professor Layton's Nice Hat is a gift from his girlfriend.
- In a twist on this trope, Nero is already in possession of Yamato, Vergil's sword, but Dante lets him keep it at the end of Devil May Cry 4. When Nero protests, Dante insists that Nero consider it his gift, and that a gift that costly is "the only kind worth giving." Of course, Dante merely wants it to stay in the family...
- The incongruous possession variant occurs in Eternal Sonata—if you have Retto explore Viola's bedroom, he finds a teddy bear, which strikes him as odd. Then he spots the gift tag.
- In the webcomic Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures, Daniel Ti'Fiona long wore a signature robe; in a flashback we finally learn it was given to him by his friend Wildy San when he graduated from Adventurers School.
- The ring in Girl Genius. "Some kind of connector from the gas system turned to a ring by Gil during his abortive marriage proposal, to give to Agatha, worn by Agatha until she needed to fake her death, found by Gil on what appeared to be her body, worn by Gil on a chain about his neck thereafter. She was quite touched when she realized that.
- Gunnerkrigg Court: The blinker stone, from Mort to Antimony. She is not pleased when she learns its significance. Followed by more complications when she learns why.
- Antimony asks Reynardine to take better care of the stuffed animal he is currently inhabiting because it was a gift from her dead mother. Reynardine agrees (out of regard for her mother).
- Homestuck: thanks to time travel shenanigans, John ends up receiving the same present three times, with added modifications each time. The final version (a cybernetically enhanced toy rabbit (the one from Con Air, no less) carrying an array of lethal weapons) is both instrumental in the rise of power of the main villain, and John's victory in his first battle against said villain.
- At the same time, the presents sent by John to his friends prove instrumental in defining Dave's appearance, Rose's weapon of choice, Jade's liking for wearing blue and gardening, and the very reason that the four kids know each other in the first place.
- The Dreamland Chronicles: Joey gets one
- In Squid Row Randie gives one.
- In Underling Eshita "interprets" a fallen sword as a gift.
- Fetch Quest: Saga of the Twelve Artifacts It is special because it is a gift.
- Thistil Mistil Kistil: Defending yourself to Odin.
- Zoe's chest tattoo in Sluggy Freelance was a necklace given to her by Torg. It was revealed to be cursed the first time it activated and turned her into a camel, bonding to her skin. The necklace was found later as evidence of Zoe's death.
- In The Adventures of Shan Shan, Cassie has a lunchbox from her Disappeared Dad.
- In Erstwhile, the prince gives Maid Maleen a necklace. This lets him know of the Bride and Switch.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Katara's necklace, from her grandmother by way of her mother. Important in that it gets stolen partway through the first season, then retrieved again; has plot significance in "The Waterbending Master" as well. Also, "The Avatar State" opens with a gifting scene reminiscent of (and slightly parodying) Galadriel's gifting of the party in The Lord of the Rings.
Master Pakku: (in a serious and ceremonial manner) Katara, I want you to have this. (Cut to a close-up of the amulet, showing that it is a triangle with a wave-shaped pattern of blue color with a crescent moon on the top.) This amulet contains water from the Spirit Oasis. (Cut to behind Master Pakku as he hands the amulet to Katara, who is standing in front of Appa and next to Aang.) The water has unique properties. Don't lose it. (His face softens.)
Katara: (respectfully) Thank you, Master Pakku. (She embraces him and then walks off screen. Aang steps forward and Master Pakku produces an intricately-decorated brown box.)
Master Pakku: Aang, these scrolls will help you master waterbending, but remember they're no substitute for a real master.
(Aang looks up at Katara, who is on top of Appa, and then exits to the left as Sokka steps forward.)
Master Pakku: Sokka. (Sokka looks at him proudly and expectantly.) Take care, son. (Pakku pats Sokka's arm, giving him nothing. Sokka's expression becomes very dejected and embarrassed.)
- Inverted in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode Krab Borg. Spongebob and Squidward are smashing Mr. Krabs' stuff,and he's screaming about the costs and they get to a blender. Mr. Krabs stops screaming, saying it was a gift, in disregard.