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The Magic of Threes in fiction

Olivia Barone

Anchor Contributor

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A dynamic trio has been dominating the world of fiction since the first narrative was scrawled onto paper. Seen prominently in popular works such as “The Three Musketeers” and “Harry Potter,” a recurring triad of characters has unwittingly wormed its way into the hearts of story-enjoyers. Some of the most beloved characters of the current generation have blossomed as part of a trio, golden or otherwise, resulting in some of the most recognizable icons of literature to date. But why this odd-numbered dynamic has withstood the test of time is its own mystery to unravel.

Most famously, the wizarding world of “Harry Potter” has introduced a massive audience to Harry Potter himself, his endearing friend, Ron Weasley, and the young prodigy, Hermione Granger. It goes without saying that the Golden Trio has remained an idol within pop-culture since the first installment’s release in 1997. Their relationship was what captured the attention of many first-time fans as their outstanding personalities seemed to create a trifecta.

Harry is popularly known as the figurehead of the group, always getting into and out of trouble with the extraordinary help of plot-armor. If he is the hero, Ron is his lovable sidekick, loyal until the end and often a source of comic relief. But to ensure their safety, and to add some intellect to their ventures, no trio is complete without the genius, namely Hermione Granger. Harry and his friends create a prime example of the perfect literary triad of characters, allowing audiences to recognize other groups of three across the realm of fiction.

Despite possibly being the most well known, Potter and his friends were not the first to create this three-sided dynamic. Another fictional trio, The Three Musketeers, offer a very similar relationship that has remained successful in narrative culture. Prior to the arrival of their fourth Musketeer, Athos leads his two friends courageously on their ventures, while valuing intellect and precision. Porthos is his first companion and is commonly described as humorous while a little vain. Aramis completes this trio as a romantic and lover of theatrics. Again, the dynamic trio is reincarnated in the form of The Three Musketeers, but why?

The sacredness of the number three is seen beyond literature, as its representation of harmony, wisdom and understanding was recognized by ancient cultures, like the Greeks, who often incorporated trios into their beliefs. This effect can be recognized in the form of the Fates: three elderly goddesses with prophetic abilities who played an essential role in Greek mythology, often serving as the bringers of destiny to some of the culture’s greatest heroes, while spinning the threads of life and death for the mortal world. Similarly, Greek mythology offers Zues and his brothers, Hades and Poseidon, as the overseers of the universe; a trio of siblings that are recognized as some of mythology’s most powerful deities. It has since been understood that a group of three is balanced, introducing consonance to any relationship.

In the instance of Harry Potter, Ron Weasely and Hermione Granger could not be more opposite but they still exist to balance Harry’s world. Ron serves as the character the audience is supposed to adore while Hermione offers an alternative wisdom and problem-solving skills the group could not survive without. Together, the trio offers a holistic, and even satisfying relationship for the audience to enjoy.

Some of the world’s favorite characters come in threes, and it is these dynamics that make their stories so iconic. From the beloved “Percy Jackson” to “Charlie’s Angels” and so many more, fiction continues to prove the magic of the number three through the relationships of the famous trios we know and love.


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