The Power of Three

Ever hear that all good things come in threes? Or bad things? Why is that?

I’ve seen a lot of stories that involve love triangles. Not too many involve other shapes from geometry. (Imagine the back of a book cover, describing the book as Twilight, but with a love dodecahedron instead. Yikes.) Why? Is it too difficult to juggle the romantic involvements of more than three teens? Perhaps the story falls apart when the fourth one gets added; the characters decide that it’s too much of a headache and go their separate ways.

Movie series seem to revolve around trilogies. Add a fourth and odds are it’ll suck. Star Wars – trilogy of original movies, followed by a trilogy of prequels. And think of the movie series where they made three, then rebooted. Spiderman had three movies set in high school through early adulthood. The next movie in the series will be with different actors, and take Peter Parker back to high school again. (Man, would that suck in real life or what?) There were three X-Men movies, and now a prequel. Supposedly there will be three Christian Bale Batman movies, then it’ll reboot yet again.

It carries over into books even more so. In urban – and even epic – fantasy, it’s exceedingly common to pick up a novel and find that it’s part of a trilogy. If the author continues after those three, you could almost group them into sets of three in terms of either main or subplots. How many books have you read where it’s three characters solving a problem? Or three storylines that merge at the end?  It seems most satisfying fantasy stories have that common denominator of three in them somewhere.  Three items that must be obtained, three champions that must be defeated, etc.

I mean, I get the number two; we’re symmetrical creatures, and have two of most things. I get the number five, as in the number of fingers on our hands, and by extension the number ten and its use as a basis for a numbering system. But three? Name something you have three of. Correction. Name something you should have three of (for those of you who’s family tree doesn’t fork).

Goldilocks and the Three Bears – which held an entire story built around threes: three bears, three chairs, three bowls of porridge, three beds. Goldilocks tries three things of each bear: porridge, chair, and bed.

The Three Little Pigs

Three Billy Goats Gruff

Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit

The Three Amigos

The Three Musketeers

Triplicate forms

Hugh Hefner’s attraction to triplets

Where does it end? And where did it start?