The Ancient Legend of the Red Thread

It doesn't matter how far you are from your loved one. If they're the one, the red thread that binds us to them will prevail in the face of adversity and distance.
The Ancient Legend of the Red Thread

Last update: 18 February, 2021

“You will never be able to escape your heart, so you better listen to what it has to say.” This is a very short fragment of The Alchemist, the famous novel by the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho. In it, he synthesizes the plot of an ancient oriental myth to which this article is dedicated: the legend of the red thread.

This story tells that all human beings are united to the love of their life by this object. It doesn’t matter if it gets tangled, if it stretches or if it circles the planet twenty thousand times. No matter how far away they are from each other, two linked people will always end up finding each other.

Brief introduction

The thread is with you from birth, and it spins throughout your life. Some people say that the moon emerges every evening to meet newborns and unite these new souls with a red thread tied around one of their fingers.

This way, you’d never lose them, even at the ends of the earth. Hence, this thread accompanies them from birth and, although in the course of life it may only become entangled, it’ll always guide them along the right path.

It has one owner, destiny. This is the one in charge of making sure that this thread of the color of passion never breaks, no matter what happens.

It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to meet this person, or how long you spend apart. Even if you live on other sides of the world, the thread will stretch far enough that your hearts stay connected.

The legend of the red thread

A spool of red threat ready to be used.

As per the legend:

Long, long time ago, an emperor learned that there was a powerful witch who lived in one of the provinces of his kingdom. She had the ability to view the red thread of fate, so he sent for her presence.

When the witch arrived, the emperor ordered her to look at the other end of his red thread, and tell him who would one day become his wife. The witch agreed and began to follow his thread.

The search led to a market, where a poor peasant woman with a baby in her arms was selling her wares. The witch stopped in front of this peasant and asked her to stand up.

She then beckoned to the young emperor and said, “Here ends your thread.” When he heard this, the emperor was furious and, thinking that the witch was playing a trick on him, he pushed the peasant woman aside with the child in her arms.

The fall caused a wound on the child’s forehead that would stay with it forever. He ordered his guards to detain the witch and had her beheaded.

Many years later, it was time for the emperor to marry, and his court suggested that he wed the daughter of a powerful general in the kingdom and he agreed.

Eventually the wedding day arrived. On that day, he saw his future wife’s face for the first time. When she arrived to the court she wore a beautiful white gown.

It had a veil that covered her face completely. When he lifted it, he saw that her beautiful face was marred by an unusual scar on her forehead. In spite of everything, he perceived it as a beautiful face.

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The background of the legend

A couple kissing each other.

This legend is so well-known among Eastern cultures. It’s perfectly normal to see millions of people wearing a piece of red string around their wrists, even today.

As for the exact origin of the story, it’s unclear whether it originated in China or Japan. The legend began with the discovery that the ulnar artery connects your ring finger to your heart.

The red thread can connect the love between a mother and father, a brother and sister, friends, or partners. The goal is always the same: to find that special, unbreakable bond.

A contemporary interpretation by Paulo Coelho

They say that throughout your life you have two great loves: one is the person who you marry or live with forever, and might become the mother or father of your children…It’s the person you’ll spend the rest of your life with.

But they also say there’s a second great love, the person you will always lose. Someone who you were born connected to, so bound together that the chemical forces defy reason. But destiny will also prevent you from reaching a happy ending.

One day you’ll stop trying… You’ll give up your search and seek out the other person. But don’t forget: you’ll never go another night without longing for their touch, a kiss, the chance to talk with them one more time.

You know who I’m talking about because as you read those words, their name came into your head. You might have left them behind, tried to end your suffering and find peace (which will come).

But there won’t be a single day that you don’t wish they would appear once more to visit you. Because sometimes it seems that fighting with someone you truly love takes more energy from you than being with someone you simply care for.

 Paulo Coelho

A couple holding hands.

Final reflections about the red thread

Every now and then, these two types of love match within the same person. But they generally come separately, constantly causing some form of grief. Both kinds of love are essential to life itself. Furthermore, you should be thankful for the ability to feel so deeply.

The arrival of what one could refer to as “red thread loves” marks a before and an after in life that’s impossible to ignore completely.

So embrace them and experience them, but also let them go when you feel like it. There are many kinds of love. However, the real one will always be the one that makes you feel better about yourself and the world around you.

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  • Coelho, P. (2012). El alquimista. Barcelona: Planeta.
  • _______. (2006). La bruja de Portobello. Rio de Janeiro: Planeta.
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