Thieving Magpie YKTTW Discussion
Magpies are kleptomaniacs with a fetish for shiny things.
At the moment this is mentioned in passing on the page for One for Sorrow, Two for Joy, but doesn't have anything to do with that rhyme except for both being about magpies. This TRS discussion concurred that it deserves its own trope. "Other birds collect twigs for their nests. Magpies steal jewels for theirs." Flavor Text for Thieving Magpie, Magic: The Gathering An Animal Stereotype: Magpies (and by extension other corvids such as Ravens and Crows) have a compulsion to steal, particularly in regard to shiny things. This stereotype is based on the fact that magpies collect shiny objects to line their nests in order to attract a mate. Easy to see how people might think this was like a small-scale version of a Dragon Hoard. This stereotype has also provided a handy Animal Motif for the occasional fictional jewel thief (because cats are such a cliché). See also One for Sorrow, Two for Joy, which is about the association of certain numbers of magpies with bad luck and the rituals for warding it off.
- Tintin story "The Castafiore Emerald" takes its plot resolution from La gazza ladra (see Opera below). It's also the show Bianca Castafiore is due to perform in, which gives our hero the Eureka Moment that solves the case.
- A minor Batman villain was named Magpie for her kleptomania and the unfortunate birth name Margaret Pye.
- Alluded to in Blacksad with Cotton, a blind magpie who's always dreamed of going to Las Vegas.
- Quoth the Raven of Discworld, a familiar of Death and friend to the Death of Rats, always pounces on shiny things in the vain hope that they might be eyeballs. He claims that this tendency is where his genus' reputation for thievery comes from.
- In the Arabian Nights tale "The Stolen Necklace", said necklace is actually stolen by a magpie, but a holy woman is unjustly accused.
- Invoked in The Magic of Oz where Kiki Aru, having learned a transformative magic word, turns himself into a magpie in order to steal a piece of gold from an old man.
- Lenore, Dethany's raven in On the Fast Track has a fondness for shiny things, including stealing people's keys.
- The Trope Namer (and probably Trope Codifier) is Rossini's La gazza ladra "The Thieving Magpie", which is also something of a Spoiler Title; the titular magpie is revealed to be responsible for the thefts of silver cutlery that initially set off the plot. The music has been used as a Leitmotif for thieving characters in both A Clockwork Orange and Sherlock.
- Magic: The Gathering has a "Thieving Magpie" card; whenever it deals damage to an opponent, you get to draw a card (representing something that the magpie picked up).
- The "Freedom City" setting for Mutants & Masterminds has a Gentleman Thief named Magpie who can teleport, but never would he teleport into a building— he savors the challenge of breaking in the hard way. His power is used only for last-second escapes, and even then only if he can't vanish any other way.
- Both normal and giant magpies were described in the Creature Catalog, a monster book for Basic/Expert/etc Dungeons & Dragons. Their stats made them weak in combat, but excellent filchers of unattended shiny objects; in effect, they were a potential hook for the DM to lure parties into other encounters, by having a magic item snatched up by this trope's embodiment and forcing them to pursue it.
- The Blood Ravens chapter in Warhammer 40K received the Fan Nickname of "Blood Magpies", as they have a startling amount of wargear that originally belonged to other chapters in their possession. Given a nod in one of the novels, where a visitor sees their trophy room and notes that it looks like a magpies' nest.
- One Summoning familiar in Runescape is the Magpie, which is useful for thieves. Its special ability can boost the player's thieving skill.
- Blackwing, Vaarsuvius' raven familiar in The Order of the Stick, has a penchant for "shinies". It's mostly Played for Laughs, though at one point he does snag a useful ioun stone when he attacks an enemy caster.
- In Swedish the name of the bird is skata, which can be read as "will take". It's not the actual meaning of the word, but is sometimes pointed out as an accurate interpretation. The word skata was actually an euphemism or a "noa word" of skjora/skjura. If you used their real name they could come and steal your soul.
- Rooks have a similar reputation: an archaic/dialect word for a den of thieves or pickpocket-infested neighbourhood is a "rookery", and to "rook" someone is to steal from them or defraud them.
- A person might be described as a "magpie" if they're an obsessive hoarder or Collector of the Strange (not necessarily of stolen goods).