Created By: TheMuse on August 21, 2011 Last Edited By: TheMuse on March 4, 2012

The Firstborn Son

The eldest child of the family is (almost) always male

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The older bother is (almost) always male. Usually if a girl is a big sister, she is at least the middle child to an older brother. If a daughter is first born she is either an only child or is only senior to a sister.

Harry Potter: Ginny Weasley is the youngest daughter of six brothers. Hermione is an only child

Community Feedback Replies: 20
  • August 21, 2011
    halfmillennium
    The description seems a bit off (an older brother is male by necessity). If it's a trope (and I'm not sure if it is), perhaps giving it a name that references a firstborn son specifically would help?
  • August 21, 2011
    Nocturna
    I think this is possibly tropeable:

    From time immemorial, females have been viewed as the weaker sex, in need of the protection of a male. This prejudice has trickled into fiction in numerous ways. One of the more subtle ways it appears is in the fact that the eldest child among mixed-gender siblings is almost Always Male: an older brother is seen as the natural protector for younger siblings, and particularly for younger sisters.

    In situations where the eldest child is female, she is likely to either be an only child or have only sisters. Also, such plots are likely to focus on the difficulty that the sisters fall into.

    The more central the family (or a character in a family) is to the plot, the more likely that this trope will be used; it is not too uncommon for minor characters to invert the trope.

    Examples:

    Anime and Manga
    • Bleach: Ichigo Kurosaki is very protective towards his younger sisters, Yuzu and Karin. Similarly, Byakuya Kuchiki is protective of his (adopted) younger sister Rukia.
    • Inuyasha: Inversion: Kagome is older than her brother Souta.

    Film

    Literature
    • The Lord Of The Rings/The Silmarillion: Even Tolkien's more developed, powerful women follow this trope: Idril and Luthien Tinuviel are both only children; Galadriel, Elwing, Nienor Nienna, Arwen, and Eowyn all have older brothers.
    • Harry Potter: Ginny has six older brothers, all of which are quite protective of her. Hermione is an only child, as are Luna and Tonks. Fleur only has a sister. Mrs. Weasley had older brothers. The Black sisters (Narcissa, Bellatrix, and Andromeda) had no brothers.
    • The Chronicles Of Narnia: Peter is the eldest of the Penvensie children, and he takes his role as protector quite seriously.
    • Firebird Trilogy: Firebird Angelo has only sisters, and in fact comes from a long line of female-only families--a fact which is seen as a divine punishment on the Angelo family.
    • Jane Austen: None of her female protagonists have brothers.
    • Wuthering Heights: The elder Cathy had an older brother. The younger Cathy is an only child.
    • Jane Eyre: Jane is an only child.

    Western Animation
    • Avatar The Last Airbender: Toph is an only child. Katara and Azula are the younger sisters of Sokka and Zuko, respectively. (Although Zuko and Azula play with the trope, as Zuko is hardly Azula's protector.)
    • Code Lyoko: Inversion: Yumi has a younger brother. Played straight: Aelita is an only child.
    • Teen Titans: Starfire has an older sister and no brothers; Raven is an only child.

    (Edit: Fixing red-links.)
  • August 21, 2011
    peccantis
    Whether the younger siblings are boys of girls, the eldest is most usually a girl only if she's to replace the Missing Mum. While firstborn sons can also take up the role, firstborn daughters rarely have other roles.
  • August 21, 2011
    halfmillennium
    Nocturna: The description just mentions the firstborn being a son. Fair enough, mention that it's common for the firstborn son to be protective, but we don't have to accuse people of prejudice for creating a fictional family who had a boy first.

    If this trope is what the original author seems to be going for, simply where the firstborn is male, is that a trope?
  • August 21, 2011
    Nocturna
    ^I don't think it's a modern prejudice, or even conscious on the part of the author. However, I do think its prevalence goes back to the idea that women need protectors, or at least to the time when a woman without a husband/brother/father was very vulnerable. Feel free to reword my description; I was more trying to get ideas out there.

    A simple list of "these are cases where the firstborn is male" is not a trope, no. But if there are reasons and/or plot significance and/or characterization behind its occurrence, then it is a trope. I was trying to expand on possibilities for the latter in my post.
  • August 21, 2011
    halfmillennium
    The safest way to do this would be just to mention the situation.

    A trope for a protective older brother regardless of the sexes of his siblings, if it isn't already covered by Big Brother Instinct and similar tropes, could be a trope.
  • August 21, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    Could be a result of Most Writers Are Male. Or Most main characters are male. Or most main characters are eldest siblings.
  • August 21, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    There's a lot of psychology stuff on birth order that attributes certain heroic characteristics to first-borns: extreme confidence, high achiever, driven, self-assured, feel the pressure of parental expectations, used to attention, being eager to please, even being more organized. I think that sort of characterization is what we're getting at here, though CommanderPanda may also have a point.
  • August 21, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    ^ I hadn't considered that. That probably explains my third hypothesis.
  • August 21, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    Considering the current description takes the form of a flowchart, it could make sense to call this the "Rule of" or "Law of" Something Something Sibling Dynamics.
  • August 21, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    Rule of Birth Order?
  • August 21, 2011
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    The Starfire is only true for the DCAU in which Teen Titans takes place. In DC Comics continuity, Starfire has a brother named Ryand'r (though he is the baby of the family. Blackfire aka Komand'r is the eldest, and Starfire in the middle, if memory serves).
  • August 21, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    In an attempt to flowchart-ize the current description:

    The firstborn is a:

    Is that more or less clear than what we have already?
  • August 21, 2011
    Psychobabble6
    Jeez. I was going nuts looking for this YKTTW. Didn't realize the name had been changed.

    I wrote up a list of a whole bunch of sibling sets (anything that came to mind) and noticed a few patterns:

    • In large (five+) families, the oldest can be either female or male; it's about evenly split.
    • I found almost no instances of the oldest being a different gender than the rest in sets of three or more - this is true of boys and girls.
    • In the cases of two siblings, it is primarily boy-girl, with the boy being older. Boy-boy and girl-girl occasionally happen, and girl-boy is less common but not unheard of (I found five such examples out of the sixty on my list, as opposed to the sixteen boy-girl scenarios).

    In total, twenty-six had a firstborn girl and thirty-four had a firstborn boy. Boys are more common. This is just based on a rough list I compiled, but I think statistically it'll transfer relatively evenly to other examples. Nocturna's examples skew it in the direction of Firstborn boys.

    In other words, I do think that this is a trope, but it's not impossible for a girl to be the oldest if she has younger brothers or isn't a surrogate mother. It's not even rare.
  • August 21, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    ^ Nice research =D
  • August 21, 2011
    Nocturna
    ^^In terms of examples, I was going through the first series/books/etc that popped into my head. And, actually, out of the 40 families mentioned in my examples list, 24 are girls only (whether only child or all-girls); of the rest, 13 are boys-as-oldest (although in my examples I ignored instances where it was all boys, as that automatically requires a boy to be eldest), and 3 have the sister as the eldest. So yeah, it's not exactly "all fictional families have boys as the eldest".

    Also, it's possibly worth noting that five of the books/book series on my list (plus a few of the Disney movies) are from before the middle of the 20th century; I honestly wouldn't be surprised if boys-as-firstborn was more prevalent before independent women were a common occurrence.


    @CommanderPanda: "Caretaker" might not be the best word to use under Son point B, as it generally indicates guardianship or a parent-like level of responsibility (at least in my experience), but I think you've summed up the mentioned ideas nicely otherwise.


    On a different note, do you think that it might be worth expanding this trope (or starting a separate trope) to cover the way family dynamics are treated in fiction? More-or-less like what's proposed above, but also covering girls-as-elder-over-brothers and the roles of younger siblings (or is that way too broad)?
  • August 21, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    ^ After the deconstruction everyone put together, that seems like the only suitable course of action.

    Also, changed caretaker to protector. Better vibe?

    Also Also, Nice research =D
  • August 21, 2011
    Psychobabble6
    ^^ And I tend toward more modern media, which could explain why I had more eldest girls. And I agree, delving more deeply into family dynamics would certainly make for an interesting page, even if it means separating it into multiple pages.

    ^^^ Thank you!
  • August 22, 2011
    halfmillennium
    Yes, a page about families in general could work, but only if it's done carefully . List the tropes that commonly apply and some examples of them being used; speculation only opens it up to arguments.
  • March 4, 2012
    CrystalBlue
    bump.
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