From ancient mythology and religious texts to Star Trek and Harry Potter, trinities – or trios – have always been a common motif. Why is the power of three so potent and what tropes do we tend to see? 

To help us delve into this subject, we have enlisted the help of an author of not one but TWO brilliant fantasy trilogies, both with a central trinity of characters – Jen Williams.

Whether a trio of characters is used to provide a variety of viewpoints, for increasing the dramatic tension, or to represent three archetypal personalities, there’s no denying they work. 

Charmed: The power of three

It will come as no surprise to listeners of this podcast that women seem to come off worst in these scenarios – playing the role of buzzkill who is actually the most intelligent and capable member of the group despite getting none of the credit or all-female trinities where women are seen as maid, mother, or crone. 

Whatever their faults, trinities remain powerful archetypal and storytelling tools, ones which for better or worse have defined the roles women play.

Mentioned in this episode:

  • Shaun of the Dead
  • Star Wars
  • Harry Potter
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Charmed
  • Ghostbusters
  • The Matrix
  • Star Trek (obvs)
  • Buffy (obvs)
  • Charlie’s Angels
  • Orphan Black
  • Terry Pratchett’s Discworld
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • Avatar: Legend of Korra
  • The Dragon Prince
  • The Princess Bride
  • Supernatural
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • The Three Musketeers
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks (I know I know)
  • Gravity Falls
  • Steven Universe
  • Phineas and Ferb
  • The Lion King
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas

Jen Williams lives in London with her partner and their cat. A fan of pirates and dragons from an early age, these days she writes character-driven fantasy novels with plenty of banter and magic, and in 2015 she was nominated for Best Newcomer in the British Fantasy Awards. The Copper Cat trilogy consists of The Copper PromiseThe Iron Ghost and The Silver Tide – all published by Headline in the UK – and the first two books in the trilogy are now available in the US and Canada, published by Angry Robot. Both The Iron Ghost and The Silver Tide have been nominated for British Fantasy Awards. Her second series, the Winnowing Flame trilogy, kicked off with The Ninth Rain and The Bitter Twins, and ends with The Poison Song. The Ninth Rain won the British Fantasy Award for Best Fantasy Novel in 2018. She is partly responsible for founding the Super Relaxed Fantasy Club, a social group that meets in London to celebrate a love of fantasy, and is partial to mead, if you’re buying.

Find her on twitter – @sennydreadful