Now available in a three way version
, for when one destined love interest just isn't enough.
Take the guesswork out of love.
More than Love at First Sight
, more than simply two Soulmates destined to be together, the Red String of Fate
is some perceivable clue that identifies your destined True Love.
The trope namer is an East Asian belief originating from Chinese legend called the Red String of Fate (akai ito
or unmei no akai ito
). The concept is that two people who are destined to be together are attached by an invisible red string bound from a male's thumb to a female's pinky finger (though nowadays it's become more common to show both
parties attached at the pinky).
But the Red String of Fate
need not be a literal red string. It could be a timer counting down to alert you at the exact moment that you meet the perfect person for you. It could even be an unusually meaningful birthmark showing your destined’s name in their own handwriting. But whether magic or Magitek
, whether you’re born with it or have to have it installed, whether it actively pulls you together or serves only as a passive identifier, the match it suggests for you is your True Love Because Destiny Says So
Warning: Choking Hazard
. May be related to the Pinky Swear
. Usually involved in Reincarnation Romance
. See also Fate Drives Us Together
and Forgotten First Meeting
. Compare Love Before First Sight
and Mindlink Mates
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Anime and Manga
- In the Naruto fanfic "One Small Step", a young Naruto can't find a partner to play Cat's Cradle - a game that involves using string to create complex patterns between the fingers - (the game also functions as an exercise to prepare students for ninja handsigns.) . After searching for someone to play the game with him, he finds Hinata and asks for her help. The two end up tying each other's hands together (with red string, naturally), which leads to them becoming childhood friends and starting to develop feelings for each other.
- Quite a few Axis Powers Hetalia fanarts of America and Canada show a red string attached around their hands. Could be to represent their relationship which in real life is one of the closest and most productive international relationships in the world. Or it's to play up the Ho Yay.
- In the Sherlock fic "With Your Crooked Heart”, most people (except those supposedly incapable of love) have words on their forearm which appear as if by magic at some point in their lives, usually during childhood. The words are in the handwriting of your True Love and may be a name, address, or cryptic clue like a poem or obscure reference. When the clue is obvious, like an address, you can hurry fate along by turning up on their doorstep, but if its as vague as a line of poetry, you may have to get to know your True Love before the clue begins to make sense.
- In the TiMER-inspired Sherlock fic “Blue Veins”, everyone has a magical configuration of veins near the surface on the inside of the wrist that count down to the moment you meet your True Love.
- In the Sherlock fic “Put a Smile in Your Name”, everyone is born with the first name of their True Love in their True Love’s handwriting on their palm. Databases of this information exist and, for a fee, matchmaking companies will check for any matches between your name and the name on your palm.
- In the Sherlock fic "Finding John”, everyone is born with the first name of their True Love like a tattoo on the inside of one finger. With only a limited number of first names, it’s usually not enough information (unless you’re The British Government) to lead you to a person but once you meet your True Love, they’ll have your name too and the particular color and shade of your names will match.
- This trope is defied in the Sherlock fic, "To the Limits of Your Choice" when Sherlock chooses not to care, or perhaps not to accept the consequences of acknowledging the person symbolized by the soulmate mark on his wrist. When John finds his soulmate, Sherlock asks John to choose between camaraderie with him and romance with her and John also defies this trope, choosing to continue adventuring with Sherlock.
- In The Shrine, a Puella Magi Madoka Magica fic, Madoka's ribbons are pink instead of red. This is the main hint that they (and the person wearing them) are much Older Than They Look.
- To the Stars: Homura leaves one of Madoka's ribbons with her fellow magical girls, who consider it a religious relic and place it in the Church of Hope. The protagonist, a distant relative of Madoka, has a plot-relevant vision upon touching it.
- In Kamen Rider: The First, a partially-suicidal Haruhiko runs away from the hospital to a field where he can grieve alone, only to realize that a red string had somehow caught on his clothes. Behind him walks up Miyoko, his love interest, and the string was a thread from the red sweater she was wearing which had caught and began unraveling as he ran. She directly quotes the concept, and he proceeds to hug her for all he's worth. Unfortunately, since they were both terminally ill, things don't turn out very well.
- In The Secret Of NIMH, in what may or may not be an intentional usage: when Mrs. Brisby first meets Jeremy, he is tangled in red string which he is retrieving to build a "love nest" for his future Ms. Right
- The end of the film has Jeremy and his love interest flying and holding the two ends of the string
- In TiMER, Magitek timers installed on the wrist by a friendly Mega Corp. countdown to the day you’ll meet your True Love and beep when you finally set eyes on each other. Angst Alert: you could get your timer and find out you have decades to wait until you’ll meet Mr or Ms Right or it could remain blank because your True Love is a Luddite without a timer of their own.
- In Paulo Coelho's Brida, the titular girl is informed that Witches can recognize who their destined soulmate is because they can see a special twinkle in the eyes, while Mages do so by seeing a star over the shoulder of their destined. Brida, who becomes an aspiring Witch, recognizes the twinkle in her actual boyfriend's eyes and is pleased; but the Mage she initially consulted has seen the star over Brida's shoulder, and is conflicted. This is carried to a long scene where the Mage finally decides to confess his visions and feelings and use the star to try to find Brida in a crowd... and then he finds Brida's boyfriend, who also has the damn star over his shoulder. This being a No Bisexuals setting, the Mage steps out and lets the happy couple be.
- In the novel "On a Pale Horse", Zane is offered a Lovestone, a magic stone which will lead him to his true love. He borrows the stone and follows its glow. The good news is he finds her. The bad news the proprietor of the store bought the encounter, in exchange for the Wealthstone, so HE gets the lovely and extremely wealthy girl. The results of this encounter start the main plot.
- In Rumo & His Miraculous Adventures, the 'Silver Thread' is something that wolpertings can actually perceive through smell, and it leads to their soulmate. Unfortunately for the protagonist, he's also hopelessly uninformed about relationships, and didn't even know that girls existed until he came to Wolperting, meaning it isn't all that much use.
- In L.J. Smith's Night World series, soulmates who are destined to be together often describe a silver thread connecting the two of them together.
- Also in L.J. Smith's Vampire Diaries, Elena remembers stories of "the souls of true lovers" being connected by "a silver string from heart to heart or a red cord from pinky to pinky", but it's the first one that she's able to find (and follow). Stefan and Elena are bound together by the silver cord from soul to soul, implying that they are destined soul mates.
- Continuing with L.J. Smith, in Secret Circle, Adam and Cassie are bound together by a silver cord, like Stefan and Elena from Vampire Diaries.
- In Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester has this to say: "...it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous Channel, and two hundred miles or so of land, come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapped; and then I've a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly."
Live Action TV
- In FlashForward (2009), three characters (Bryce, Keiko, and Olivia) see themselves in love with someone they haven't met yet in their flash forwards leading to two of them (Bryce and Keiko) on a quest to find each other and a third to doing everything she can to avoid her apparently-fated love interest. The recurring question of fate versus free will is never really resolved and it is heavily suggested that Olivia avoiding her match with Lloyd might actually doom the entire world.
- The horror series The Vampire Diaries, which has Stefan and Elena's relationship. They are soul mates whose destinies are intertwined for eternity.
- The 2012 series Touch, in which a young boy appears to be able to sense patterns in the larger world through numbers, specifically calls out to the Chinese legend, though implies connections beyond just love (a person saving someone's life, a person having an object another person desires but wouldn't have met otherwise, etc.)
- In an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, an Enterprise crew member starts having dreams of a beautiful woman. When the Enterprise meets with a plague-infested ship, he finds the woman is there and has been having dreams of him, and created portraits of him. He decides to go with them to help them treat the plague.
- In the latter half of the third season of Teen Wolf, while it hasn't been outright confirmed as being "the red string of fate," Stiles and Lydia (the show's slowest burn ship) share a tender moment in Stiles's room wherein he uses some of the red yarn with which he connects clues on his wall of investigation material to slowly wrap around Lydia's fingers. Gazing ensues.
- The Irish band the Frames have a song called "Red Chord" on their album "Fitzcarraldo" that is based around this idea.
- The Civil Wars' song "Tip of My Tongue" references this.
You're a red string
Tied to my finger
A little love letter
I carry with me...
- The cellist and singer Kanon Wakeshima, has the song named: L'espoir ~Mahô no Akai Ito~ (The Hope, Magical Red String) the song talks about a girl trying to get a guy to love her and talks about the Red String as a trap for her love, the song opens with this verse:
This trap that I tended to you
This cherry colored thread
Fall inside, slave of my love
You won't be able to escape
- The Red String of Fate is shown in the video for "Brilliant Star" by Nana Mizuki.
- The flash PV of IOSYS's Make Us Your Brides plays with the imagery by tying Marisa and Reimu to Suika.
- In the song "Adolescence" by the Vocaloids Kagamine Rin and Len, a mention is made about how it seems Rin and Len's hands are tied together with a thread.
- "Just Be Friends" by Vocaloid Megurine Luka. Most of the pictures have her and another boy tied together with a red string. Which just adds to the whole sadness of the video and the song...
- This video, using "Makka Na Ito" by Plastic Tree, which is about a couple joined by a red string who aren't together anymore, possibly implying that one of them is dead.
- Thievery Corporation's video for "That Time We Lost Our Way" has Lou Lou Ooldouz Ghelichkhani singing while following one, with Rob & Eric playing bongos & a squeezebox nearby.
- Root Five's video for "Love Doctor" shows the members tangled in red strings.
- "Are You Still Waiting" by Hee Young. She has a red string tied around her pinky at the start, and walks around the block to find the guy gone and the other end of the string on the ground.
- The picture book The Red Thread by the children's author and illustrator Grace Lin uses this trope to tell a fairy tale about adoption, of all things. In this case, it connects the adoptive parents and their child; magic glasses which enable the parents to see it allow them to find her. It's pretty sweet if you don't read this article first and end up thinking "Wait, isn't that the thing that they use to justify idiotic relationships in anime?"
- In 7th Sea, when a Fate Witch sees red strands between people with her sorte magic, those represent conflict (Swords). Blue actually represents romance (Cups).
- Changeling: The Lost uses red bands in a person's aura as a signifier of a pledge. When people who've made a pledge are near each other, the bands are connected with red threads.
- In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the long-dead Apis shifters served as Gaia's matchmakers. One power of theirs let them see the red threads that bound people with a common destiny - though they couldn't tell whether it would be good or bad.
- The recent Pokémon games have a red ball of string as an item (called "Destiny Knot" in the English version). Appropriately, if the monster holding this item becomes infatuated, the foe that it "loves" will be infatuated as well.
- In the Anime based fighting game Naruto, Narutimate Hero Accel 2, the character of Chiyo has an Ougi where her attack puppets (Mother and Father, which are actually modified exhumed corpses) are joined by a literal red string, which is then used to viciously lacerate the opponent.
- Tears to Tiara's Honest John's Dealership Epona has a mysterious red string worth 99999 gold for sale at her shop. It turns out that she was using it as Schmuck Bait to get the Player Character to buy it, as it has a Love Potion effect on the people it attaches. Yes, it's that kind of game.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. In an interesting bit of Foe Yay during their second battle, Ghirahim appears again to tell Link that the reason they keep bumping into each other is because they are bound by a red thread of fate. He also gets behind Link, invading his personal space again, and whispers in his ear. He tells Link to come to him after licking his lips and says they're bound by that red thread of fate, that they're destined to fight. He also says that the thread of fate will be soaked crimson with Link's blood.
- Gepetto from the Shadow Hearts series uses this literally as his ultimate weapon. It's acquired after his sidequest, where it's revealed that his dead daughter's soul lies within his puppet, saving him from a demon. The string manifests as their filial love; Her devotion to her father, and his to his daughter (For reference, he attacks with the puppet, and puppet strings are the weapons, adding attack power and the like)
- In Ilivais X, Iriana created a Blood Oath bond with Mille, making the string out of each other’s blood in a kind of haphazard transfusion. Since every cell of Iriana is designed to return to her, this essentially means Mille will always innately know where she is and be drawn to that location.
- This lovely piece of art here. Perhaps not a traditional example, but it's there, and it's most likely romantic.
- In contrast, a red string in India is usually a Rakhi and is a physical demonstration of a bond between a brother and sister. It can be tied to any boy a girl considers to be like her brother and is usually used effectively to kill unwanted romantic/love interests. The ramifications of an Indian girl trying this with a Japanese boy have yet to be explored.
- The Red String belief is so well known in Japan that this trope is invoked through linguistic gestures: holding up the thumb is used as shorthand for girlfriend and holding a pinky up would indicate a boyfriend.