Created By: Xtifr on August 11, 2012 Last Edited By: Xtifr on August 15, 2012
Troped

Magical Seventh Son

The seventh son of a seventh son has magical powers

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
"I can heal the sick, an' even raise the dead--
And make you little girls talk outta your head!"
-- Willie Dixon, "Seventh Son"

The number seven is often considered magical, and in folklore, the seventh son of a seventh son is often considered to have inherent magical powers like second sight. In fiction, and sometimes song, this is often shortened to just the seventh son, even though seventh sons are so common that this makes little sense.

A common version of the legend says that the seventh son of a seventh son will be born with a caul, a fleshy, unattached covering over his face, to signify the Seer-like powers.

Characters often claim to be a seventh son of a seventh son, to help convince others that they have magical powers, even in stories where magic is not real.

Almost Always Male, possibly because "seventh daughter of a seventh daughter" doesn't quite roll off the tongue.

A subtrope of Rule of Seven, related to Lucky Seven.

Examples:

Comic Books
  • Johnny Thunder, an early member of the Justice Society of America, got his powers from being the seventh son of a seventh son, born on the seventh hour of the seventh day of the seventh month of 1917.

Film
  • In The Seeker, a movie based on Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series, Will is the seventh son of a seventh son, and destined to save the world from darkness.

Literature
  • In Orson Scott Card's The Tales of Alvin Maker, Alvin is the seventh son of a seventh son, born with a caul, and is a powerful "maker"--a rare and powerful form of magic. The first novel in the series is even named Seventh Son.
  • In the Discworld series, the magic number is eight, not seven, but the eighth son of an eighth son is a wizard.
    • In Equal Rites, Eskarina is the eight daughter (eighth child, actually) of an eighth son, which isn't supposed to work, but somehow it does. Women are supposed to be witches, not wizards, but Eskarina is simply too wizardy.
    • In Sourcery, we learn that the eighth son of an eighth son of an eighth son becomes a super-powerful "sourcerer", a being in touch with the source of magic, and almost too powerful for the world to bear. (This is one of the reasons wizards are discouraged from having sex.)
  • In Septimus Heap, Septimus is a powerful wizard, and the seventh son of a seventh son.
  • In The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, when Sybel is puzzled that Coren, an ordinary human, knows so much about the magical beasts under her care, he simply explains that he's the seventh son of a seventh son.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel The Guns of Tanith, Soric reveals that his great-grandmother was a witch, and that his father said it would come to him, as the seventh son of a seventh son. On the other hand, what it causes him doesn't seem very lucky at all...
  • In Patricia C. Wrede's Thirteenth Child, Lan is the seventh son of a seventh son, and so a natural magician. Others point out to Eff that she's a seventh daughter, even if she is a thirteenth child.
  • In The Last Apprentice, being the seventh son of a seventh son is literally a job requirement to be a spook.
  • In Mercedes Lackey's Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series, Sasha has some small magics, in part because he's a seventh son. Also, in One Good Knight, Gina mentions that three of her siblings have magical abilities.
    "That kind of startled my parents, they had no idea that there was magic in their blood,but the sibs in question are the seventh born, the ninth born, and the thirteenth born, so that probably explains it."
  • In The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Perenelle Flamel is a female example. Being the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter allows one to speak to ghosts.
  • In the Daughter of the Forest, the first book in the The Sevenwaters Trilogy, Sorcha is the seventh daughter of Lord Colum. Her six brothers are bound in a curse to be forever swans by her stepmother that only the seventh child can lift.

Live Action TV
  • The Doctor Who episode, "Terror of the Zygons" has a landlord who claims to have the power of second sight because he's the seventh son of a seventh son.
  • In the Soap Opera Days of Our Lives, a shadowy crime lord called "The Phoenix" claims to be the seventh son of a seventh son and to have magical powers.
  • In Charmed, a seventh son of a seventh son is revealed to be The Chosen One.
  • In The Twilight Zone episode "Still Valley", a Confederate soldier met an old man who had magical powers because he was the seventh son of a seventh son. He also had a Deal with the Devil thing going on.

Music
  • Willie Dixon's classic and much covered blues song, "Seventh Son" claims various powers for the singer.
  • Iron Maiden's album Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, and the title track, are all about this trope; the album was inspired by Orson Scott Card's novel, Seventh Son (see Literature).

Tabletop Games
  • In the tabletop role-playing game Changeling: The Lost, being the seventh son of a seventh son is one of the conditions that can help someone penetrate a Changeling's glamour.

Community Feedback Replies: 20
  • August 11, 2012
    Xtifr
    Wow, no comments, but someone already gave me a hat? I guess that's a sign I did my groundwork. Still, I'd like to have more examples. I know they're out there.
  • August 11, 2012
    Generality
    You have enough to launch already, but hopefully a few more will trickle in. The only other example I can think of is a passing mention in the Sting song "Love is Stronger than Justice", a pastiche of The Magnificent Seven in which the gunmen are all brothers.
  • August 11, 2012
    Kellor
    In The Twilight Zone episode "Still Valley", a Confederate soldier met an old man with magical powers because he was the seventh son of a seventh son. He also had a Deal With The Devil thing going on.
  • August 11, 2012
    chicagomel
    This was brought up in Highlander with Duncan. The psychic didn't know he was immortal, and really didn't even realize she had real powers until the encounter with Duncan. It was likely mostly a reference to him being immortal at that time, the whole Ahriman thing only surfaced several seasons later.
  • August 11, 2012
    Xtifr
    ^ Er, so which, if any, was a seventh son? Duncan or the psychic? And what "whole Ahriman thing"? We really need some context here.

    ^^^This thing is still zero days old; I couldn't launch it even if I wanted to. Which is fine, I'd much rather take a little extra time and launch a first-rate trope than hurry and half-ass it.
  • August 12, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    My mother has a bunch of Johnny Rivers albums, and I think he has a whole song about this. I believe it's even called "Seventh Son" (it might be a cover of the page quote?).
  • August 12, 2012
    kjnoren
    Will is the seventh son of a seventh son in the The Dark Is Rising books too. I believe it's mentioned to be something in common for most magicians there.
  • August 12, 2012
    Xtifr
    ^^ Yeah, the Johnny Rivers version is a cover of the already mentioned Willie Dixon song. I'd rather not list every cover; there's too many of them.

    ^ Thanks, I wasn't sure, though I suspected. :)
  • August 12, 2012
    JoeG
    • In The Last Apprentice, being the seventh son of a seventh son is literally a job requirement to be a spook.
  • August 13, 2012
    Antigone3
    Another Tales Of The Five Hundred Kingdoms example is in One Good Knight, when Gina mentions that three of her siblings have magical abilities.
    That kind of startled my parents, they had no idea that there was magic in their blood,but the sibs in question are the seventh born, the ninth born, and the thirteenth born, so that probably explains it.
  • August 14, 2012
    StarBright
    Another note on Alvin Maker: In that universe, it's important that all six elder brothers still be alive at the seventh son's birth. Alvin's oldest brother is in an accident but manages to cling to life just long enough for Alvin to be born. This means that, although most people overlook it, Alvin's younger brother Calvin also counts as a seventh son.
  • August 14, 2012
    Xtifr
    Ok, this is looking pretty decent, and it's got five hats, and I didn't even have to use my own! :) I'm going to give it another day to catch any last second additions, and will launch tomorrow, unless I get a negative hat and explanatory comment.
  • August 14, 2012
    Xtifr
    Whoops, almost forgot. Still don't have an explanation for the Highlander example in the fourth comment. If anyone can provide some details there, it would be greatly appreciated.
  • August 14, 2012
    zarpaulus
  • August 14, 2012
    ccoa
    Whole bunch of examples at the wikipedia article.
  • August 14, 2012
    Xtifr
    Yeah, I actually looked through that before I started. A lot of them seem to be missing the magical part, or, at least, I couldn't find any evidence of the magical part. I picked what I thought were the best examples, and figured that any I skipped would get added eventually if they actually qualified.

    That article is the only reason I have the Days Of Our Lives example. I never would have come up with that on my own! :) (It's also where I found out that the Iron Maiden album was based on the Orson Scott Card book, which I had never known.)
  • August 14, 2012
    ccoa
    Woops, sorry. :P

    EDIT: Wait, I know a literature example.

    • In the Daughter Of The Forest, the first book in the The Sevenwaters Trilogy, Sorcha is the seventh daughter of Lord Colum. Her six brothers are bound in a curse to be forever swans by her stepmother that only the seventh child can lift.
  • August 14, 2012
    Xtifr
    "...only the seventh child can lift [the curse]." Yeah, I suppose that counts as being magical. Seems a bit like the What Kind Of Lame Power Is Heart Anyway ticket in the seventh-child Superpower Lottery, but it works. :D
  • August 15, 2012
    ccoa
    That's only the tip of the iceberg - not only can only she lift the curse as the 7th daughter, but in order to do it she has to weave 6 shirts from raw nettles and never complain, cry out, or cry. And she can't tell anyone about her situation. Poor girl.
  • August 15, 2012
    Xtifr
    Ok, just about time to launch, but since I got a couple more examples when I said "launching tomorrow", this time I'm going to say "launching in a few hours" and see if that produces any more last-minute examples.

    p.s. still hoping someone can provide some explanation of the Highlander: the Series example mentioned in post four, because as it is, I can't tell if it is an example.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=a0vusl14c5igg18girgfbz75&trope=MagicalSeventhSon