I’ll admit it: this is one of my favorite cards. I can’t help it—there’s such a joyous bit of mischief to this thief. I love the way he sneaks off with five of seven swords, holding them with an alarming combination of grace and carelessness. (Don’t let those blades slip!)
Because this is the suit of Swords, we’re dealing with the mind and the intellect—and this thief, I think, prefers to fight with those weapons rather than go all out for blood. Besides, disarming an enemy through theft is one way to win a battle.
Remember the sword fight between Mercutio and Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet? In some stagings, Mercutio is out to distract Tybalt from his anger with Romeo. He fights with the man in a playful way instead of in deadly earnest, and almost succeeds in disarming him with his charm and wit before Romeo, with the best of intentions, interferes and causes Tybalt’s sword to slip.
The 1968 film goes with this interpretation to some extent, as you can see in the scene below. Although in this version it’s questionable if Mercutio really needed to distract Tybalt in the first place. But he just couldn’t help himself.
Come to think of it, getting carried away with his own wit and charm and grace may be a shortcoming of the thief in this card. I’m back to that careless way he’s holding the swords. Is that really necessary?
And now I’m thinking of thief extraordinaire Neal Caffery from White Collar, who was also known to get carried away with his exceptional talents. Huh. Even Walt Disney’s Robin Hood (you remember—the cartoon fox) tried to steal too much from Prince John and almost went down because of it.
I’m sure you can think of lots of other witty, fictional thieves. It’s a trope. A fun trope. Which may be why I like this card so much. But there are two other reasons it ranks among my favorites.
The first is a religious reason. As a, um, Vaishnava Jew, I’m fascinated by the fact that the name Hari, another name for Vishnu, can be translated as thief—as in God stealing our hearts. In that sense, there’s a bit of the Divine shining through this card.
The second is a more writerly perspective. There’s nothing new under the sun as far as stories go—we’ve all heard that, right? I buy it. We’re all retelling and remixing and reimagining the same stories that have been with us for a long, long time. This thief is well aware of that. And those swords he’s stealing represent ideas—age old ideas that he’ll mix up and twist around until he comes up with just the right tale.
How about you? What kind of character or story does this card represent to you? How do you interpret it? As always, if the card inspires a meta or poem or story of your own, please leave a link in the comments!
Okay, we’ll need a card for next week: The Six of Coins.