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Oh, woe is The Pollyanna! Her humble aspirations are practically a Tragic Dream because she's poor / an orphan / meant to suffer at the whims of the cosmos. But what's this? She wakes up one morning to discover the exact thing she wanted / needed at the foot of her bed!
Method of delivery may vary, but this gift is the hallmark of the Anonymous Benefactor, someone whose "altruistic" motives and identity are a mystery. Usually it's someone who knows her (or him) and wants to help her while maintaining anonymity. This may be because they: would rather not lose their Jerkass reputation by revealing their good nature, want to avoid breaking some stuffy officious rule by showing favoritism, or to avoid getting caught by the authorities if they're a fugitive.
Of course, not all gifts are ultimately good, and some may herald incredible changes to the recipient. If the gift is the Sword of Plot Advancement given to the The Chosen One, it signals the start of their adventure-- whether they want to go or not.
Of course, the Anonymous Benefactor might have less altruistic motives and send a Trojan Horse with the intent to harm her, or as a means to ensure the hero gets the MacGuffin so they can steal it. Other possibilities include the Anonymous Benefactor helping a minor villain or non-evil rival to the heroine. In which case this is usually a ploy by the Big Bad to give the hero someone else to chew on while their own Evil Plan advances.
Usually their identity is discoverd or revealed at the end of the story, at least by the viewer. More often than not, it's a parent, sibling, or someone the heroine helped long ago. A good many characters may decide not to look this gift horse in the mouth despite having known enemies.
See also Help Your Self in the Future and Unexpected Inheritance. Related to the Mysterious Employer, where the benefactor offers the character in question steady work, at the cost of not asking too many questions.
Anime and Manga
- Hayate in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's has the mysterious uncle who provides for her every need ever since her parents died. He's later revealed to be Admiral Gil Graham, who knew that she possessed the Book of Darkness and was planning to permanently seal the book with her when the time is right.
- It seems to mainly be a case of Hayate not referring to him by name when she mentions him to Signum in Episode 6, as she specifically asks Shamal to send her package to "Graham-oji-san" in the last episode of A's, and mentions him being responsible for raising her in Episode 13 of StrikerS, which would suggest she knows her benefactor's name.
- In Mai-Otome, Sergay Wang supports Arika while she is at school without her knowing who he truly is. When she and Nina find out he was her benefactor all along in the middle of Nagi's attack, this sets the stage for Nina's Face Heel Turn.
- J. Jonah Jameson is a notorious skinflint, obnoxious boss, and all around Jerkass to Peter Parker (and worse to his alter-ego Spider-Man). But when Peter was accused of murder Jameson made sure he got the best defense attorney money could buy - on the condition that Peter never find out who was paying the bills. He also secretly bankrolled the alternative newspaper Front Line during the Civil War, despite it competing directly with the Daily Bugle, because his former top reporter was using it to criticize the pro-Registration side (something Jameson couldn't do directly).
- Happened in an early Archie Comics Sonic the Hedgehog comic. In one story, a distraught Tails tells Antoine that he lost a backpack with a Power Ring that Sonic told him to hold onto, and he can't go get it because it's late and dangerous and other, concerned-for-his-safety Freedom Fighters will never let him out of Knothole at this hour, but he can't ask Sonic for help because he's petrified of disappointing his hero. Antoine, sympathetic to his plight and gratified that his first choice for a Plan B was the town laughingstock, agrees to help. Throughout his search, Antoine is saved numerous times from certain doom by contrived coincidences he appears not to notice. Once he's returned with the backpack and sent Tails off to bed, he thanks Bunnie for running interference, who protests feebly but isn't fooling him.
- In Great Expectations, Pip assumes that the wealthy, eccentric Miss Havisham, guardian of his Unrequited Love Estella, is his benefactor. To his dismay, he learns that it's really Abel Magwitch, the escaped convict who had intimidated him years ago into stealing food for him.
- He's much nicer now. Raising sheep in Australia will do that apparently.
- In Harry Potter, Harry receives his Invisibility Cloak from an anonymous benefactor as a Christmas present his first year. Two years later (exactly), he's given an expensive, top-of-the-line broomstick from another benefactor. Both times, he discovers who it was by the end of the year.
- Later, in Goblet of Fire, a "benefactor" enters Harry into the Triwizard Tournament and gives him assistance by proxy, although his motives are less than benevolent.
- A Little Princess has one for the main character.
- In Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small series (a follow-up to her Song of the Lioness quartet), Kel, the main character, receives gifts from an anonymous benefactor. These gifts, like specially-made armour and a sword, help her in her quest to become the realm's second Lady Knight (the first being SotL's Alanna). At the end of the third book, after two books worth of build-up, we learn the Anonymous Benefactor is... Alanna herself. Kinda let-down, in the end.
- Not really all that surprising. After the scene at the beginning of the series where Alanna is told she can't contact Kel and is clearly not happy about it, it doesn't take much Genre Savvy to see that one coming.
- The entire plot of Daddy Long Legs is that orphan Judy gets sent to college by an anonymous benefactor that she is required to write letters to.
Live Action TV
- A Christmas Episode of M*A*S*H has Charles Winchester as the Anonymous Benefactor, carrying on a Family Tradition from back in Boston. They'd leave a Christmas feast for some poor family at their doorstep. In Korea Charles left candy at the orphanage, which the head of the orphanage subsequently sold on the black market. Charles discovered this and confronted him; he said he traded it for blankets, etc., which the orphans really needed, much moreso than candy. Charles realized that was the point of his tradition, to help ease the suffering. However, the rest of the unit didn't know about the tradition, and treated Charles like a greedy Scrooge since they were unaware he was the Anonymous Benefactor, or even that there was one.
- All except Klinger, who overhears Charles talking with the orphanage head. The scene where he reveals his knowledge to Charles is one of the show's true Crowning Moments Of Heartwarming.
- A Christmas episode of The Jeffersons had George doing this for the family that lived in the same crummy apartment he grew up in.
- In Bones, the scholarship program that allows Wendell to keep his internship is about to shut down, but is saved at the end of the episode by an anonymous donor. Turns out it's Dr. Brennan. And Hodgins. Independently.
- In the Christmas Episode of Glee Season 2, the person who gives Artie the Re-Walk exoskeleton - thus sort-of fulfilling Brittany's Christmas wish that he be able to walk again - is not identified, but is strongly implied by the direction to be Coach Beiste.
- The G-Man and his Employers from Half Life could be counted, seeing as how he is pulling the strings behind pretty much everything.
- In Greek Ninja, Sasha and her team are helped by an unknown person when they get in a pinch with centaurs.
- Villain example. In The Spectacular Spider-Man, Kraven the Hunter receives anonymous tips about Spider-man, convincing him that Spidey is the only Worthy Opponent he'll ever find and that he should hunt him. It turns out this was all part of the Master Planner aka Doc Ock's plan to recruit Kraven for his new Sinister Six.
- In Danny Phantom, Valerie's life is ruined after ghosts ruin her father's laboratory. As she pines for a way to destroy all of ghost-kind in revenge, a mysterious box from the DALV Corporation grants her a high-tech suit and Hover Board, both loaded to the gills with weaponry, so she can do just that. She doesn't recognize the DALV Corporation at all, but she's more than happy to accept their gifts.
- The User:Unknown Troper.
- Around Christmas time, 2011, department stores from all over the U.S. reported people going to the Layaway counter and either making considerable payments on other people's layaways, or paying them off entirely, allowing those families to provide Christmas presents to their children that they would not otherwise be able to.