"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, though seventh sons were common enough (up until the 20th Century) 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 (actually a loose flap of amniotic sac) over his face, to signify
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
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
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- 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.
- The villain Man-Witch from Common Grounds is a deliberate case; when his mother found out her husband was a seventh son she decided to have seven sons to see if it worked. It did. Incidentally, it really is seven sons; they had somewhere around fifteen children because girls kept messing up the math.
- In The Seeker, a movie based on Susan Cooper's novel The Dark Is Rising, Will is the seventh son of a seventh son, and destined to save the world from darkness.
- In Ernest Scared Stupid, Old Lady Hackmore says "you're the seventh son of the seventh son" when listing all the auspices that make Ernest The Chosen One for fulfilling his ancestor's legacy and defeating Trantor the Troll once and for all. (It's not clear if she's being metaphorical or not, though, especially since she refers to him as the direct descendant of Phineas Worrell.)
- Taken Up to Eleven in Orson Scott Card's The Tales of Alvin Maker. Alvin is not only a seventh son, he is the seventh son of a seventh son, his parents' thirteenth child, and to top it all off was 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.
- Alvin's younger brother, interestingly, is also (sort of) the seventh son of a seventh son, because their oldest brother died just after Alvin was born. Calvin doesn't have quite Alvin's level of power, but he's more powerful than average by a good bit.
- And their father, Alvin Sr., is also above average.
- In the Discworld series, the magic number is eight, not seven, so the eighth son of an eighth son is a wizard.
- In Equal Rites, Eskarina is the eighth daughter 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 a wizard becomes a super-powerful "sourcerer", a wizard that is actually a 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 Frontier Magic, 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. The Always Male part of the trope is averted by the series, as double-seventh daughters are also magically gifted. It just takes a while for anyone to realize that the seventh daughter of a seventh son counts as a double-seven - all previously recorded double-sevens are seventh sons of seventh sons or seventh daughters of seventh daughters.
- In The Wardstone Chronicles, 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 (himself a seventh son). Her six brothers are bound in a curse to be forever swans by her stepmother that only the seventh child can lift.
- Oonagh and Colum's son Ciarán is the seventh son of a seventh son. Even Sorcha herself comments on this when she hears about the birth.
- In The Secret of Platform 13, Odge the hag is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter. Her family is fairly disappointed that aside from having heterochromia and one blue tooth, she looks like a normal human girl and not a normal hag (no extra toes or long fingernails or the like).
- In Susan Cooper's novel The Dark Is Rising, Will is the seventh son of a seventh son, and was born with a caul. He has a major role to play in the battle between the Light and the Dark.
- It doesn't come up as an important plot point in Harry Potter, but Word of God notes that Ginny being the seventh child in her family (albeit the first daughter) was supposed to symbolize her as someone special. She is also the first girl born into the Weasley family in several generations.
- A variant in the Piers Anthony novel Fractal Mode - Nona is the ninth born of the ninth generation, granting her the ability to have truer and stronger magic then other girls, and the potential to flip the magical patriarchy to a matriarchy. Which will flip again when there is born a male ninth of the ninth.
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 to defeat a powerfull witch, by using her own wand against her.
- 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.
- In Highlander, the fortune teller mentions Duncan being this. The mystical part is probably in connection with his immortality.
- 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.
- In Mage: The Awakening, "Magical Traditions" introduces Southern Conjure as a "flavor" which offers a special merit called "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" that basically turns any mage into a walking, talking Fate Arcana magnet.
- The New World of Darkness book Skinchangers gives us the Lobison, an Argentinian werewolf story wherein the seventh child of a family, if a boy, will be cursed to change into a bloodthirsty wolf-creature when stressed. (In real life, the tale of the lobison led to so many children being abandoned or killed that the government had to step in.)