Created By: johnnye on December 27, 2013 Last Edited By: johnnye on January 18, 2014
Troped

Thieving Magpie

Magpies are kleptomaniacs with a fetish for shiny things.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
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.

Examples

Comic Books

Literature
  • 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.

Newspaper Comics
  • Lenore, Dethany's raven in On the Fast Track has a fondness for shiny things, including stealing people's keys.

Opera

Tabletop Games

Video Games
  • One Summoning familiar in Runescape is the Magpie, which is useful for thieves. Its special ability can boost the player's thieving skill.

Webcomics
  • 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.

Western Animation Occurred in an episode of Clifford the Big Red Dog, where a crow snatched shiny things and kept them in his nest, leaving Clifford to get blamed for stealing.

Real Life
  • 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).
Community Feedback Replies: 23
  • December 27, 2013
    Dalillama
    This is covered by One For Sorrow Two For Joy.
  • December 27, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ That trope should be renamed badly.
  • December 28, 2013
    Arivne
    ^ I think you mean "That trope badly needs to be renamed." <grin>
  • December 28, 2013
    DAN004
  • December 28, 2013
    Snicka
    In other words, magpies tend to have Sticky Fingers (which may or may not be literal Feather Fingers).
  • December 28, 2013
    Dalillama
    Rooks do as well, in folklore, fiction, and real life. In some dialects of English a 'rookery' is either a place where rooks nest, or a crime-ridden slum, especially one with large numbers of pickpockets. One For Sorrow Two For Joy is renamed, Magpies And Rooks might be good. Compare to Ravens And Crows.
  • December 29, 2013
    SciFiMs
    Yes, this is already One For Sorrow Two For Joy, and maybe like some have suggested, it should be renamed. I'll check whether it's already in the Trope Repair Shop, and if not, I'll add it.
  • January 4, 2014
    SciFiMs
    Based on the discussion in the Trope Repair Shop entry on "One for Sorrow, Two for Joy" [1], the concepts of "One For Sorrow Two For Joy" (which I hope will be renamed) and "Thieving Magpies" would represent two separate tropes. Therefore, this possible trope is restored, and I'm going to add a hat. (I'm doing this based on my belief that the criteria for a hat—ie, "...the description is not ambiguous, it doesn't duplicate an existing trope, there are at least three examples, and the title makes sense"—are all met.)
  • January 4, 2014
    KarjamP
    Wouldn't it be easier if this trope's instead named Kleptomaniac Magpie?
  • January 4, 2014
    Snicka
    ^ "Thieving" implies pretty much the same as "kleptomaniac", and is a shorter and less foreign-sounding word. So I vote for the former.
  • January 4, 2014
    freesefan
    Wait, was it a coincidence that this thread was started at the same time that One For Sorrow Two For Joy was beng talked about in TRS?

    Anyway, this example is already listed on the Arabian Nights page but would need to be moved to Thieving Magpies. And "Thieving Magpies" is the much better name.

    Literature
    • In Arabian Nights tale "The Stolen Necklace", said necklace is actually stolen by a magpie, but a holy woman is unjustly accused.
  • January 4, 2014
    johnnye
    ^ I think Sci Fi Ms took it to TRS after seeing this YKTTW. Thanks for the example.

    ^^^ Not all thieves are kleptomaniacs, but all kleptomaniacs are thieves. (Well, I'm sure there are kleptomaniacs "on the wagon" in real life, but you know what I mean...)
  • January 5, 2014
    SciFiMs
    Yes, Johnnye is correct, I proposed a rename for "One for Sorrow, Two for Joy" after seeing this YKTTW. All in all, I now think we're dealing with two tropes, one that's essentially "magpies as portents of the future" and the one in this YKTTW, for which I'd be happy with the name Thieving Magpie.
  • January 5, 2014
    Megacles
    One Summoning familiar in Runescape is the Magpie, which is useful for thieves. It's special ability can boost the player's thieving skill.
  • January 5, 2014
    randomsurfer
    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.
  • January 12, 2014
    SciFiMs
    Re "Magic: The Gathering," http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=45252 gives the following Flavor Text: "Other birds collect twigs for their nests. Magpies steal jewels for theirs."
  • January 12, 2014
    DaibhidC
    Newspaper Comics
    • Lenore, Dethany's raven in On the Fast Track has a fondness for shiny things, including stealing people's keys.
  • January 12, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    Namespaced the examples.
  • January 14, 2014
    HellKillUsAll
    Occurred in an episode of Clifford The Big Red Dog, where a crow snatched shiny things and kept them in his nest, leaving Clifford to get blamed for stealing.
  • January 15, 2014
    johnnye
    Brilliant, this is coming along nicely.

    Some options for images:
    1. Magic card
    2. Funny line drawing
    3. [1]
    4. [2]

  • January 15, 2014
    Chabal2
  • January 18, 2014
    SciFiMs
    Deleted post (sorry).
  • January 18, 2014
    johnnye
    Launching as Thieving Magpie
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=26ftt6943otp19h9bgfmbsb7&trope=ThievingMagpie