The theme of superstition and fate is one that the playwright—in the voice of the Narrator—brings up over and over again throughout the musical. Near the beginning of the play, the devious Mrs. Lyons tells Mrs. Johnstone that if two long-lost twins ever learn that they are related, they will both die instantly—and at the end of the play, despite the improbability of Mrs. Lyon’s made-up superstition, this is exactly what comes to pass. The Narrator also spends many of his songs referencing various other superstitions, such as breaking a mirror or spilling salt on a table. Although he, an omniscient character, clearly knows that Mrs. Lyons has invented her superstition about twins, he is essentially saying that by making it up, she has made it real.
The threat of this false superstition is made to seem even more powerful by the contrasting mothers in the play: Mrs. Johnstone and Mrs. Lyons. Somewhat gullible, but also steadfast and loving, Mrs. Johnstone believes the fake warning wholeheartedly, and many of her actions throughout the play are motivated by her fear of her children dying. Mrs. Lyons, meanwhile, knows that the superstition isn’t true, but eventually comes to partially believe it anyway. She has allowed a belief—one that she knowingly created to control another person—to control her own mind. This is ultimately proof of her instability and eventual insanity.
The end of the play, of course, brings about the deaths of both Mickey and Edward, seemingly confirming that the superstition was correct—and that from the moment of their separation, the twins were fated to die. Yet the play actually suggests a far more interesting question. Through their various actions—which were themselves motivated by fear and superstition—the mothers within the play actually cause their sons’ deaths. Russell is proposing, therefore, that we as humans essentially make our own fate by believing in fate—that through our fear of the future and our irrational beliefs, we make our worst nightmares come to pass.
Superstition and Fate ThemeTracker
Superstition and Fate Quotes in Blood Brothers
So did y’hear the story of the Johnstone twins?
As like each other as two new pins,
Of one womb born, on the self same day,
How one was kept and one given away?
An’ did you never hear how the Johnstones died,
Never knowing that they shared one name,
Till the day they died…?
MRS. JOHNSTONE: Oh God, Mrs. Lyons, never put new shoes on a table…You never know what’ll happen.
MRS. LYONS: Oh…you mean you’re superstitious?
MRS. JOHNSTONE: No, but you never put new shoes on a table.
In the name of Jesus, the thing was done,
Now there’s no going back, for anyone.
It’s too late now, for feeling torn
There’s a pact been sealed, there’s a deal been born.
How swiftly those who’ve made a pact,
Can come to overlook the fact.
Or wish the reckoning to be delayed
But a debt is a debt, and must be paid.
MRS. LYONS: You do know what they say about twins, secretly parted, don’t you?
MRS. JOHNSTONE: What? What?
MRS. LYONS: They say…they say that if either twin learns that he once was a pair, that they shall both immediately die. It means, Mrs. Johnstone, that these brothers shall grow up, unaware of the other’s existence. They shall be raised apart and never, ever told what was once the truth. You won’t tell anyone about this, Mrs. Johnstone, because if you do, you will kill them.
You’re always gonna know what was done
Even when you shut your eyes you still see
That you sold a son
And you can’t tell anyone.
But y’know the devil’s got your number,
Y’know he’s gonna find y’,
Y’know he’s right behind y’,
Yes, y’know the devil’s got your number
And he’s knocking at your door.
MICKEY: What’s your birthday?
EDWARD: July the eighteenth.
MICKEY: So is mine.
EDWARD: Is it really?
MICKEY: Ey, we were born on the same day…that means we can be blood brothers. Do you wanna be my blood brother, Eddie?
EDWARD: Yes, please.
You see, you see why I don’t want you mixing with boys like that! You learn filth from them and behave like this like a, like a horrible little boy, like them. But you are not like them. You are my son, mine, and you won’t..you won’t ever…Oh my son…my beautiful, beautiful son.
MRS. LYONS:…If we stay here I feel that something terrible will happen, something bad.
MR. LYONS: Look, Jen. What is this thing you keep talking about getting away from? Mm?
MRS. LYONS: It’s just…it’s these people…these people that Edward has started mixing with. Can’t you see how he’s drawn to them? They’re…they’re drawing him away from me.
Happy, are y’. Content at last?
Wiped out what happened, forgotten the past?
But you’ve got to have an endin’, if a start’s been made.
No one gets off without the price bein’ paid.
MRS. LYONS: Where did you get that…locket from, Edward? Why do you wear it?
EDWARD: I can’t tell you that, Ma. I’ve explained, it’s a secret. I can’t tell you.
MRS. LYONS: But…but I’m your mother.
EDWARD: I know, but I still can’t tell you. It’s not important, I’m going up to my room. It’s just a secret, everybody has secrets, don’t you have secrets?
MRS. LYONS: Afraid he might eventually have forgotten you? Oh no. There’s no chance of that. He’ll always remember you. After we’d moved he talked less and less of you and your family. I started…just for a while I came to believe that he was actually mine.
MRS. JOHNSTONE: He is yours.
MRS. LYONS: No. I took him. But I never made him mine. Does he know? Have you told…
MRS. JOHNSTONE: Of course not!
MRS. LYONS: Even when—when he was a tiny baby I’d see him looking straight at me and I’d think, he knows…he knows. You have ruined me. But you won’t ruin Edward!
MRS. JOHNSTONE: YOU’RE MAD. MAD.
MRS. LYONS: I curse the day I met you. You ruined me.
MRS. JOHNSTONE: Go. Just go!
MRS. LYONS: Witch. I curse you. Witch!
MRS. JOHNSTONE: Go!
And who’d dare tell the lambs in Spring,
What fate the later seasons bring.
Who’d tell the girl in the middle of the pair
The price she’ll pay just for being there.
There’s a man gone mad in the town tonight,
He’s gonna shoot somebody down,
There’s a man gone mad, lost his mind tonight
There’s a mad man running round and round.
Now you know the devil’s got your number.
He’s runnin’ right beside you,
He’s screamin’ deep inside you,
And someone said he’s callin’ your number up today.
MRS. JOHNSTONE: Mickey. Don’t shoot Eddie. He’s your brother. You had a twin brother. I couldn’t afford to keep both of you. His mother couldn’t have kids. I agreed to give one of you away!
MICKEY: You. You! Why didn’t you give me away? I could have been…I could have been him!
And do we blame superstition for what came to pass?
Or could it be what we, the English, have come to know as class?