The Red Thread

Every now and then I’ll come across the same thing (story, image, name or character, etc.) several times at once in different iterations. This time it was a simple throwaway (or so I thought, because the material was in a light-hearted Japanese story I was reading), but had I been of East Asian origin, I may have been familiar with it. In the story, one of the protagonists was struck by infatuation over a young woman. He claimed that he could find her by following the “red sting of love that connected their fingers”. It wasn’t until I saw this in another story out of Japan that I realized it must be referencing something. 

In fact, the tale is familiar to those in China, Korea, and Japan. It is a tale of the Red Thread of Fate. Here is one such tale.

Walking home one night, a young boy sees an old man standing beneath the moonlight. After talking to the stranger, it was revealed that he was Yuè Xià Lâorén, the moon god of matchmaking and marriage.  The man explains to the boy that he is attached to his destined wife by a red thread. Yue Xia Lao shows the boy the young girl who is destined to be his wife. Being young and having no interest in having a wife, the young boy picks up a rock and throws it at the girl, running away. Many years later, when the boy has grown into a young man, his parents arrange a wedding for him. On the night of his wedding, his wife waits for him in their bedroom, with the traditional veil covering her face. Raising it, the man is delighted to find that his wife is one of the great beauties of his village. However, she wears an adornment on her eyebrow. He asks her why she wears it and she responds that when she was a young girl, a boy threw a rock at her that struck her, leaving a scar on her eyebrow. She self-consciously wears the adornment to cover it up. The woman is, in fact, the same young girl connected to the man by the red thread shown to him by Yue Xia Lao back in his childhood, showing that they were connected by the red thread of fate.

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