"Bare is the back without a brother to it."
...Blood, that is. About six times thicker
Blood relations have a claim on each other. In fiction, as in Real Life
, characters will put up with a lot from relatives that they would never endure from unrelated people. Even when the blood relation comes out of the blue (Luke, I Am Your Father
, Long-Lost Relative
, Luke, You Are My Father
), even when the characters were Separated at Birth
. And they will leap to each other's defense. Indeed, the Big Screwed-Up Family may object to any of its members being mistreated in a far more mild manner than they routinely subject this relative to
And other characters will expect this of them, too. Failure to acknowledge the bond is a serious flaw, even if it can be outweighed by other moral considerations. Youngsters may learn this in An Aesop
Pushed too far, this results in Moral Myopia
. A character who must sacrifice blood ties to other responsibilities
may find his relative shocked
that he would do such a thing, no matter how flagrantly in the wrong the relative is. Pushed as far in the inverse, characters will use it to justify
Also frequently invoked ironically, by taking the Stock Phrase
. And other — substances can substitute. Often countered by the add-on "but not as refreshing".
Avoiding this trope is a major factor in Conveniently an Orphan
. Relatively Flimsy Excuse
draws on this to make the (false) excuse. When the blood ties are pushed their farthest limit, Species Loyalty
Opposite of No Blood Ties
. Compare Nepotism
, In the Blood
, Family Honor
Somewhat Truth in Television
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Robin Hood comes to his death when he trusts a prioress because she is his cousin.
- When Connor Hawke showed up in Green Arrow, that Oliver Queen did not want to deal with him was regarded as a grievous flaw; Connor was a stranger, but also his son.
- Connor wasn't really a stranger at that point, though. Ollie's anger and refusal to want to deal with Connor at that point stemmed from the fact that Connor had concealed the fact that he was Ollie's long-lost son. He had introduced himself to Ollie as a fan of Green Arrow and Oliver had no clue that his new sidekick was his long-lost son until the fact was accidentally dropped by a Parallax-possessed Hal Jordan. Given that Ollie was a wanted fugitive at the time, his paranoia about Connor lying to him because he wanted something or was working with the people hunting him is understandable if not particularly justified.
- In RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse, Night Light refuses to believe that Twilight could have done anything wrong. He sees his daughter's fugitive status as being entirely Trixie's fault - it's actually both of theirs - and is entirely willing to let Ponyville remain in ruins to get back at the latter. At the Grand Galloping Gala, Ditzy calls him out on it by using her own motherhood to give herself the high ground and deflect his attempts to use this.
- In The Masks We Wear, Zuko refuses to betray his father despite the fact that he (Ozai) burned him.
- Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "Wet Saturday"
Alfred Hitchcock: I presume that story was intended to illustrate that blood is thicker than water. I always find it heartwarming to see a family standing shoulder to shoulder in the face of adversity. Unfortunately, the authorities were not thrilled by this sight, and were seen tossing about such phrases as, "obstructing justice," "accessory after the fact," "murder in the first degree."
- Knight Rider
Michael Knight: Kitt, she's Charlie's daughter. Blood's thicker than water.
- Star Trek
Ferengi Rule of Acquisition 171.: Blood is thicker than water, and Latinum is thicker than both. - an example of using another substance, also an inversion.
- Star Trek: Voyager
Captain Kathryn Janeway: There's an old saying: "Blood is thicker than water". It means that the ties of family run deeper than any other kind of relationship. We'll often do things for members of our family we'd never dream of doing for anyone else.
- Blood Over Water interprets this a little differently: Are you more loyal to the friends that treat you like family, or to the water bottling company that will pay you hundreds of thousands of dollars to shoot them dead so they don't rat the company out? Also, that blood is shed over water.
- The Waltons
Narrator: [narration as John 'John Boy' Walton, Jr. reading from his journal] In those grey and grinding days of the Depression we often found comfort in the old familiar proverbs. We knew that in unity there was strength, that blood was thicker than water, that to err was human, and to forgive, divine. Usually we never examined these truths too closely, but in the autumn of 1934 I discovered, through pain and remorse, just how profoundly true they were.
- The Wire: Avon Barksdale will do anything for kin. Stringer Bell... Not so much.
"But there go a life that had to be snatched, Avon (...)
Twenty years above his fucking head. He'd flip, man!
They got you, me, and Brianna! No fucking way, man! Hell, no! Now, I know you family, you loved that nigga, but you wanna talk that 'Blood is thicker than water' bullshit, you take that shit somewhere else, nigga! That motherfucker would've taken down the whole fucking show, starting with you, killer!"
- Comes up frequently in The Sopranos, during Tony's confrontations with his mother, uncle, and nephew at various points. A particularly notable story arc finds him agonising over giving up his cousin Tony Blundetto (guest star Steve Buscemi) to be killed by fellow crime boss Johnny Sack. Blundetto has provoked this by killing one of Sack's men, but Tony (S) knows his cousin would have a drawn out, torturous death. In the end he compromises by shooting Blundetto himself, quickly and painlessly.
- Firefly: Picking on either Tam sibling when the other is around is not good for one's health. "Not madness... something far more dangerous."
- In the Doctor Who episode Planet of Fire, Turlough is immediately interested in Malkon, and when Malkon is injured, Turlough's ready to kill. The Doctor says it would do no good, whereupon Turlough reveals that they are brothers. And this when they were parted so young that Malkon has no memories of Turlough. Later, Turlough, on seeing the healing gases from the volcano, carries his brother into them when everyone else is afraid of being burned.
- In The Mutants, Varan choses his own son for the assassin, which he cites as proof of his absolute reliability.
- In The Face of Evil, Leela's father takes the test for her.
- In The King's Demons, Ranulf's cousin does something because Ranulf had asked for it.
- The Dukes of Hazzard: Boss Hogg's Catch Phrase to his local relatives was that "Blood is thicker than water, but money is thicker than blood."
- His nephew Hughie gives it an Ironic Echo in "The Return of Hughie Hogg", in which Boss Hogg signs over all his possessions to Hughie (as a tax dodge or something) and Hughie then refuses to give them back.
- On Dallas, whenever a group of non-Ewings was ready to give JR what he had coming, Bobby would usually stand up to them and talk them down, despite the fact the JR messed with Bobby's personal and professional life more than everyone else combined.
- The trailers for the new series also have this gem from (who else?) JR: "Blood may be thicker than water, but oil is thicker than both."
- Angel: Subverted with Angel and Connor. Later played straight in the Season Four finale when Angel agrees to mind wipe his team (and, in fact, the world) in exchange for saving Connor's life. Wesley is rightly steamed when he uncovers this. And like it or not, Darla is the closest thing to family Angel has. Even his team comes second.
- On Buffy, Tara has this attempted on her by her family after it's proven that she is not a demon. It fails spectacularly.
- On soaps, it's common for characters to quickly bond with their newly discovered family and completely forget about the non-blood relatives they grew up with.
- Sanford and Son: Lamont is very patient with Fred's plots and schemes due to the father son relationship. During Season 3, Redd Foxx goes on strike and its written that Fred is visiting relatives in St. Louis. Grady goes to watch the house for Fred. Lamont doesn't extend his tolerance to Grady and is much more openly angered by Grady's plots than he is with Fred's.
- Done in a disturbed way by most of the Winchesters in Supernatural, especially the main characters.
- Subverted in The West Wing. The senior staff are not related, but are so tight-knit that when it comes to defending one of their own, even at political cost, they explicitly invoke this trope by comparing their friendships to flesh-and-blood family ties in order to explain why throwing a co-worker under the bus is not an option. (Bartlet has actually point-blank declared that the senior staff are part of his family, and shall be treated as such).
- In Merlin, the reason for Arthur's trust in his Obviously Evil Uncle Agravaine is handwaved by the show with this excuse; that he is Arthur's mother's brother, and therefore trustworthy.
- In season three of Justified, Detroit mob boss Theo Tonin raised Robert Quarles as an adopted son. However, when Quarles pointed a gun at Theo's biological son Sammy, Theo did not hesitate to put a bounty on Quarles' head and send mooks to kill him.
- Days of Our Lives is fond of this one. In addition to all the myriad ways characters are related due to marriage and divorce and remarriage and all the half-/step-siblings running around and the ways in which they use those ties to take advantage of one another, it's often a good test of paternity: when a man is unable to comfort the infant he's raised from birth, but another, seemingly random man is able to stop the baby from crying in an instant, you can bet dollars to donuts the second man is secretly the biological father. It's as if being blood relatives gives you magic powers over fussy children.
- Although the titular character's family in Malcolm in the Middle are dysfunctional, obnoxious, fight constantly, and make each other miserable, it is by far the most important thing in their lives, which is a recurring theme of the series. Despite their dysfunctionality, the characters can always count on one member of their family or another to pick up the pieces of their failures. In the finale, it is revealed that they have all been scheming to make sure Malcolm fulfills his potential and becomes successful for years, because they know he is the only one of them who has the capacity to do great things. Malcolm in turn, dedicates his valedictorian speech to them and dedicates his life to making them proud, even though his mother brutally screwed him over in order to force him to go to Harvard and aim to change the world rather than waste his genius on a high-paying corporate job.
- Subverted in the story Dewey tells his brother Jamie. In the story, Dewey and Jamie decide to defeat their evil parents and free their brother Francis from their clutches. At the end of the story, Dewey abandons Jamie and leaves him to be captured. The story ends with Dewey's moral: everyone in this family would turn on you at the drop of a hat.
- The family from Married... with Children fight and crap on each other all the time. But God help the outsiders who come after, mess with, or screw over one of them, for they shall invite the full white-trash wrath of the Bundys upon them.
- In Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined), John's mother is extremely dissapointed in her Cylon son and how many terrible things he has done out of pettiness and rage at his parents for giving him a human body. She calls her petulant son out on his jealousy and sadism, but despite all of John's crimes like fratricide, genocide, and even raping her, says that he isn't broken and could still be redeemed if he accepted what he was. She states she still loves him because she made him.
- The Bee Gees: In the early 1970s, the three elder Gibb brothers temporarily disbanded due to creative and personal differences. Realizing they had a good thing going and the fact they were brothers they realized they had to shore up their relationship. They did, and by the end of the decade, music was never the same again.
- For Barry, Robin and Maurice's little bro', Andy, literally as he had a No. 1 pop smash in March 1978 with "(Love Is) Thicker Than Water."
- Kagamine Len's character Allen in the "Daughter of Evil" series and both Rin and Len in "Synchronicity."
- Dream Theater's song "Honor Thy Father" is all about the narrator being frustrated at his father for not thinking of his family. It's discussed below.
We're thought unconditional love,That blood is thicker than water, That a parent's world should revolve always around their son or their daughter.
Mythology & Legend
- Classical Mythology:
- When Theseus comes to Athens, his step-mother, Medea, tries to poison him, but Aegeus recognized the Orphans Plot Trinkets he had left for Theseus, saves him, and exiles Medea — although he had never even seen his son before.
- King Midas finally learns his lesson not when he can't eat for turning food to gold, but when he turns his daughter to gold.
- Subverted by Ariadne, who betrays her father, King Minos, and helpes Theseus kill the Minotaur, who is her half-brother.
- Once again subverted by Medea, who helps Jason steal the Golden Fleece from her father. She also kills her own brother and scatters his remnants to make it easier for her and Jason to escape.
- One of the central tropes in Greek theater, especially the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles. Often dramatized as a conflict between "familial piety" (upheld by the Furies) and devotion to the gods (particularly Apollo in these texts). Does morality mean staying loyal to your family or doing what the gods (or reason) dictate?
- The reason Antigone cites for burying her brother though it is against the law is precisely that he's her brother; "filial piety" demands that one put the just claims of one's relations above the law.
- Aeschylus' Oresteian trilogy pretty much fits the above description to a tee. It chronicles Orestes' attempts to rid his family of a longstanding curse on the orders of Apollo. Unfortunately for him, getting rid of the curse involves killing his mother (who had killed his father who had killed his sister...yeah, it's that kind of story); which of course brings the Furies down on him in full force.
- This serves as a rather hilarious Deus ex Machina in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. After Pseudolus' attempt to save Philia from an unhappy Arranged Marriage to Miles ends in an Epic Fail and it looks like he's in big trouble, Erronius shows up and notices that Miles and Philia are wearing rings which mark them as his long-lost children. Philia's betrothal to Miles is obviously nullified by the unexpected revelation that they're siblings, and she is able to marry Hero, resulting in Pseudolus being granted his freedom.
- Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood is ALL about this trope (hint: the title is a clue). The whole story is basically about the three McCall brothers dealing with their differences in all the wrong ways until the very end. In fact, the tagline of the game could be "We are a family".
- The loyalty missions in Mass Effect 2 are supposed to resolve the deepest internal conflicts and motivations of their respective characters. Not surprisingly, half of them revolves around family matters: Grunt finds a tribe for himself; Jacob deals with his Disappeared Dad; Miranda rescues her twin sister; Samara tracks down her daughter; Tali has to deal with the blowback of her father's covert misdeeds; and Thane tries to return to his paternal duties.
- Then there's Legion, who may not necessarily have blood, but in a weird way his loyalty mission does involve his family.
- And it was hardly the first time BioWare played that card. The "messenger" quests in Knights of the Old Republic serve much the same function. Carth's Dark Jedi son, Bastila's mother, Mission's deadbeat brother, the utter clusterfuck on Kashyyyk regarding Zaalbar's family...And while it probably isn't blood related, the Mandalorian concept of "family" would put the Jagi and Canderous on this, too.
- The original Dragon Age: Origins has a sidequest which subverts this. Alistair knows he has a half-sister and he's always wanted to visit her, but when he does, she wants nothing to do with him and denounces him for trying to intrude on her life without giving her financial support.
- Especially nastily averted with Morrigan and Flemeth. Blood ties are fine and dandy but they're not going to dissuade Flemeth from stealing Morrigan's body or Morrigan from having Flemeth killed. (It's not clear even to Morrigan whether Flemeth is Morrigan's biological or adoptive mother, but Morrigan considers this detail irrelevant.)
- The City Elf Origin has got an example, with slight variations depending on the Warden's gender. In either case it consists of an elf and the Warden's cousin breaking into the Arl of Denerim's estate to rescue the kidnapped female wedding guests, and then the Warden teaming up with the aforementioned cousin to rescue a third cousin from the heart of the estate.
- Dragon Age II plays this trope straight sometimes. You can be a complete ass to Carver, drive him to join the Templars, and at the end he will still step between Merideth and Hawke and say "I will not kill my own brother/sister".
- It is however averted in the case of Bartrand and Varric, as well as with Merrill and her clan.
- Gamlen comes close to referencing this trope by name while averting it, actually.
- In Radiant Historia, the Big Bad's familial love for his nephew Stocke eventually drives him to sacrifice himself in Stocke's place in the Golden Ending.
- Archibald Ironfist is not a good man (for starters, his scheme to get the crown involves arranging for the murder of the Royal Seer, and then continuing to murder the successors until he can put the blame on his brother Roland). He also clearly feels a familial connection to Roland (note that he could just have arranged for his brother's murder to get the throne, but doesn't; and even if you side with Archibald and defeat Roland, he still merely locks Roland up rather than execute him), culminating in Archibald risking his neck to save Roland from a horrible fate in Might and Magic VII.
- In Shellshock 2, Nate's main motive throughout the game is not the orders he has been given or even a desire to stop The Virus. He just wants to find and help his brother Cal. In the end, he has to choose between a) saving Cal; and b) saving the villain so as to make him provide a cure. It's up to the player, but if players do choose to stick to this trope, the epilogue tells them that Cal dies a few weeks after his rescue anyway, while the zombie plague rages on.
- In Lost Horizon, Lord Weston, governor of Hong Kong, takes this approach towards his missing son. He initially pretends otherwise, making a show out of downplaying his personal investment in the disappearance - he says he can't let the identity of the missing officer affect his duties. In reality, though, he has been secretly cooperating with the Nazis as a backup plan in case Fenton can't (or won't) rescue Richard. He eventually betrays Fenton to the Nazis for this reason.
- This is a major theme of the Heaven's Feel route of Fate/stay night, as one of the plotlines explores Rin's conflicted feelings over her sister Sakura. On the one hand, she is prepared to take any measure to fight against evil, and as Sakura's shadow form gradually gains control, she becomes a major threat to the city. On the other hand, she cares about her sibling at heart, and she feels guilty over having had her sister taken from her as a child and subject to horrifying abuse at the hands of her foster family. She goes back and forth between these feelings over the course of the route, and only resolves it when, as she has a surefire killing shot on Sakura in the final battle, she realizes she loves her sister too much to harm her, and instead embraces her telling her how much she cares about her, all the while bleeding from Sakura's dagger which she was unable to avoid. This, however, gives Sakura the confidence to fight against her dark side again.
- Zigzagged with Weiss Schnee, of RWBY. She dislikes the pressure her father puts on her to be perfect, and tries to avoid talking to him and her sister. But she doesn't tell her friends this, and always acts the dignified heiress in public- presumably because of this trope.
- During the first volume, fans often argued whether Weiss was a proud snob acting like a nice person, or it was the other way around. Canon has not yet settled the debate, but it implies that both aspects of Weiss' personality are important to her.
- Averted in Avatar: The Last Airbender: Even after she's tried to kill him, Zuko believes Iroh subscribes to this in regards to Azula. Iroh corrects him on that part.
Iroh: No, she's crazy, and she needs to go down.
- By the time of the comics, Zuko himself decides to follow this belief. Most notably in The Search, he still gives his father and sister tea. His friends and allies think he's being too sentimental towards those who made his life completely miserable.
Fry: Sorry, everyone, but need I remind you? Blood is thicker than water.
: Really? [writing]
Blood ... thicker ... water.
- And in the Beast with a Billion Backs we find out Fry's is as thick as pancake syrup
- Hey Arnold!
Big Bob: "It'll make me a ton money, and what's good for me is good for all the Pataki's, if you catch my drift, Helga."
Helga: (to herself) "Alas, I ran again, torn between two forces. Arnold's foolish idealism... and my father's unbridled greed. And this time, I fear blood is thicker than water. Oh, curse the day I was born a Pataki!"
- Kim Possible — Shego gets hold of a staff that contains all of Team Go's powers, and then loses it rather easily:
Wade: Boy, it sounds like it got ugly. Do you really think Shego would have gone through with it?
Kim: We're talking about Shego? (thoughtful) But I've got to say it was pretty easy to get that power staff from her....
(cut to Drakken and Shego)
Drakken: Now that I know the whole story, I think you secretly wanted to lose.
Drakken: That's right. You wanted your brothers to get their powers back. You don't really have it in you to betray them.
- My Life as a Teenage Robot
Jenny: After all the bad stuff I said...
XJ8: That's what sisters are for.
XJ6: Oil is thicker than water.
XJ4: But so much harder to get out of a carpet.
XJ5: A few harsh words aren't going to break up the XJs.
- Rocky and Bullwinkle:
- Static Shock: Averted in one episode when a hero faces down his evil brother.
Ebon: "Hey, this ain't no way to treat a brother, brother."
Rubber-Band Man: "Don't hand me that 'brother' stuff. You played me, Ivan."
Ebon: "Come on, blood is thicker than water."
: And right and wrong are thicker than blood
. * cue Curbstomp Battle
- Young Justice had Aqualad comment on this.
Aqualad: "Blood is thicker than salt water."
- In one episode of Action League Now, The Flesh meets a couple who claim to be his long-lost parents; actually, they're a pair of crooks who want his Super Strength to rob a house. When the rest of the League comes to tell him this, Flesh is forced to choose between his friends or the parents he's always wanted. The Lemony Narrator asks at the Dramatic Cliffhanger, "Is action blood thicker than action water? And what exactly does that mean?" In the end, Flesh chooses his faux-parents, but by this time they're so fed up with his destructive bungling that they confess to the ruse anyway.
- In The Legend of Korra, after a failed assassination attempt on Unalaq, Tonraq (his brother and the accused for being part of the rebellion) says that even though he and his brother have their differences, he would never harm him in any way. Unalaq, however...doesn't feel the same way. In keeping with the trope, Tonraq chooses to comply with whatever decisions his brother has made in order to prevent conflict, but once he finds out Unalaq was behind his banishment all along, all compromises are off.
- Adolf Hitler had a younger sister, Paula. After the war, she was interrogated by US intelligence officers, where she said this about Adolf: "The personal fate of my brother affected me very much. He was still my brother, no matter what happened. His end brought unspeakable sorrow to me, as his sister" Contrast to of his family. Several joined the U.S. military, and most changed their names. See the other wiki for more info.
- Inverted in the origin of the phrase. It meant that the blood of the battlefieldnote is thicker than the water of the womb. So the person who you fought with should be treated better then your own family. It came from originally a German proverb in the year 1180. The phrase really entered popular lexicon when American Commodore Josiah Tattnall uttered the phrase when he found his squadron accidentally engaged in the attack on Taku Forts when Anglo-French allies had attempted to breach a Chinese position. Tattnall made the split decision to aid the British (mostly by helping to evacuate the wounded and did not perform in a combat capacity) despite American neutrality. When superiors demanded to know what he had been thinking in violating America's strict neutrality, Tattnall simply uttered the phrase and thus it entered the common consciousness.
- Invoked and defied in an apocryphal exchange between Czar Nicholas I and Napoleon III. It was customary for European monarchs to refer to each other as "brothers" (mon frere). When Napoleon III declared himself emperor, the Russian Czar addressed him as a "friend" (mon ami) rather than a "brother," to show his displeasure. Napoleon III, however, replied by declaring God gives us our brothers, we choose our friends.