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And if you win you get this shiny fiddle made of gold, but if you lose, the Devil gets your soul...
—Charlie Daniels, "The Devil Went Down To Georgia"
Sometimes it's The Final Temptation, or sometimes the Big Bad is just trying to sucker The Hero out of his soul/girlfriend/superpowers. So he tempts the hero: not with a long and happy life, not with power, wisdom or practical wealth, but with a sparkling, gem-encrusted tool of his trade. The trick is that, while shiny, the object is of no practical value; its sole purpose is to look appetizing to the temptee.
Often, the temptuous object is placed alongside a similar but less sparkly object, and the hero is forced to choose between them; in such a case, he is expected to realize that the object in question is basically worthless, or worse; an Artifact of Death.
Compare Artifact of Doom (which is crafted not from Temptation but from pure evil), MacGuffin (which can be crafted from anything; we don't care), and Deal with the Devil. If something is actually made of temptation, see Insubstantial Ingredients. See also The Final Temptation.
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade features an entire room of Temptation-Crafted Holy Grails, ranging from plain metal to huge, gem-covered chandelierettes. The real Grail was, of course, a small, wooden cup.
- Dealing with Dragons: There are two dippers next to the Water of Healing. The correct one to use is plain tin. The other is gold and gem-encrusted, and turns you to stone if you pick it up. The prince knew that he wasn't supposed to use the gold one and just picked it up to look instead of using it, which is why he ended up a mobile statue instead of being Taken for Granite like the others.
- Turkish Delight from The Chronicles of Narnia.
- Johnny's golden fiddle. One wonders what he did with it, anyway.
- The sequel shows that Johnny held on to it, as a symbol of his sinful pride at beating the devil, who comes for a rematch. The song is ambiguous as to who wins the rematch.
- The Zeroth Law of Trope Examples: This occurs in The Merchant of Venice, where Portia must challenge her suitors to choose between three caskets Made of Temptation in order to successfully woo her.
The Oldest Ones In The Book
- The Argonauts' Golden Fleece.
- Eris' golden apple from the story of Troy was not a particularly valuable prize for divine beings to squabble over, but it was inscribed "For the most beautiful" and thus each Goddess (vain Aphrodite, jealous Hera, and even wise Athena) felt sure it was meant for her.
- The cave in Aladdin is, according to many tellings, full of all kinds of wondrous and shiny things that will cause certain death if touched and serve only to distract visitors from the real treasure (the lamp).
- The Disney film, in fact, has Abu looking at a huge, sparkling ruby. After he touches it, the cave starts collapsing.
- The folktale Honest Axe.
- Another folktale (a variation on Honest Axe?) features a shepherd who, after rescuing a dwarf from a well, is offered a string of increasingly elaborate and sparkly shepherd's crooks as reward. Realizing that he has no use for them, the shepherd refuses each one, driving the dwarf to reveal that had the shepherd accepted, he would have been transformed into a tree.
- There is an old Japanese myth about a Kitsune which tempted a farmer with riches and prosperity, and even changed into a woman and promised to marry him "as a reward for his honorable behavior". Of course, even after he turns that down, it turns out that was also a part of the Kitsune's trick, and in the end he is given all he really needed: peace of mind. Also, all the riches and stuff he was originally tempted with, but those are just details. In the earliest kitsune-story he actually and marry the kitsune. But not in later versions.
- One of the traditional Robin Hood stories has the Sheriff of Nottingham set a trap for Robin by arranging a shooting contest and promising that the winner will receive a golden arrow (a silver arrow is a common variation).
- Most adaptations (including, surprisingly, Disney) tell that Robin does it specifically so he can show up the Sheriff by winning and escaping.
- In at least one adaptation the temptation is not the arrow itself but Maid Marian presenting it.
- And in another adaptation, Robin Hood just couldn't resist an archery contest.