The Hecate Sisters
Power Trio and cousin to The Three Faces of Eve. The three aspects of a triune goddess or trinity of goddesses appear as sisters. They are the maiden (often blonde and beautiful, and either a naive ditz or a budding seductress), the matron/mother (often plump and rather eccentric, or pregnant, as the page image shows) and the crone (often sharp-witted, sharp-tongued, bitter and unsentimental). In terms of a Freudian Trio, the maiden is the Id, the crone is the Superego, and the mother is the Ego. Even though they are the same being, they seem to know and think different things, so they bicker. In fantasy stories, these characters may be exactly what they appear, or they may be a trio of witches or wise women who reflect the aspects of the goddess. This trope has the unusual distinction of being either Older Than Feudalism, or Newer Than They Think: Most of what we know about triple-goddess mythology comes from the author and mythologist Robert Graves, who, like many of his early 20th-century contemporaries, tended to add his own ideas wherever he felt they were needed. In Greek mythology and religion, the three Moirae presided over the birth, destiny, and death of all human beings: Clotho (the Maiden) spins a person's life thread, Lachesis (the Mother) measures the thread, and finally, Atropos (the Crone) cuts the thread, thus ending the person's life. The maiden is like the sexy one, the mother like the admirable one, and the crone like the mannish one of the Four Girl Ensemble. Compared to The Three Faces of Eve, the maiden combines the naivety of the child with the sexuality of the seductress, the mother combines the liveliness of the child with the maturity of the wife, and the crone maps most closely to the wise, levelheaded wife. However, the sexuality of the Hecate Sisters is very likely mutable — if the Maiden is a young girl, then the mother might take on the role of an experienced and sensual woman, who happens to be maternal as well. If, as is often the case, the three are witches, the maiden (and sometimes the mother) will usually be a Hot Witch, while the crone almost always conforms to at least the visual stereotype of the Wicked Witch. Age wise, compare the Three Successful Generations. Also compare The Three Faces of Adam and Same-Sex Triplets.
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Anime and Manga
- In the anime movie Kiki's Delivery Service, Kiki the Witch (Hecate is the Goddess of Witches) is befriended by three women — Osono (a pregnant woman — "Mother"), the college-student/artist Ursula (young woman in her late teens/early 20's — "Maiden") and "Madame", a sweet old lady (quite elderly — "Crone"). Whether or not the authors intended it, there it is.
- Slayers: Princess Amelia, a just young woman with clear-cut morals is the maiden, Lina, an intelligent yet short-tempered sorceress, is the mother, and Milina, a snarky, cold mercenary, is the crone.
- Inverted in the anime of Trapeze: Irabu is male, and his youngest incarnation is a Deadpan Snarker, with his oldest incarnation being an adolescent manchild.
- The Marui triplets in Mitsudomoe slot nicely into the roles. Futaba is the maiden, Mitsuba is the mother, and Hitoha is the crone.
- Which goes to show that age doesn't have anything to do with the roles: setting aside that they are triplets, Futaba is the middle, Mitsuba is the oldest, and Hitoha is the youngest. Again, though, they were all born within the same day, so it's mostly superficial.
- In the third Tenchi Muyo! OVA it is revealed that there are three all-powerful sister goddesses who created the Universe to try and find the unknowable entity that created them. These godesses are revealed to be Lady Tokimi, the Man Behind the Man of seasons two and three, Tsunami, the personification of the Jurai Royal Tree who used her powers in order to save Sasami's life, and now the two are merging into one being, and finally Washu, who sealed her own powers and memories into three gems, which she later gave to Ryoko, and became mortal to analyze the mysteries of the universe.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! (the Toei series), one episode revolved about three identical triplets trying to steal Yugi's "Violet Hecate" card. Later, in a duel, the other two Hecate sisters appeared.
- In Hekikai No Ai ON is the trio of heroines. Yuzuki is The Ditz maiden, Shizuki is the sensual and eccentric mother and Seine is the bitter crone. It doesn't help that the two first are Goddesses In Human Form and the last is called a witch sometimes.
- In The Sandman universe they exist in a variety of overlapping forms, as the Fates (Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos), as the faces of Hecate, as three witches, the Furies and three normal women. They seem also to acknowledge that they are in some way three faces of Eve and will not harm Eve, even in their aspect as the Furies. In some of the issues in which they appear, each of the three seems to shift between the three roles.
- The Sandman Hecateae (or at least one aspect of them) were previously host of a horror comic, The Witching Hour, under the names Mordred (crone), Mildred (mother), and Cynthia (maiden). In their first appearance in The Sandman, Mordred complains that her name doesn't make sense, and Mildred explains she got Mordred and Morgause confused.
- The spin-off series Witchcraft was divided into three parts, Maiden, Mother and Crone, each overseen by a different face of Hecate and each featuring a different incarnation of a martyred witch at a different stage in her life.
- The sequel La Terreur featured three women, one young and beautiful, one middle-aged and plump, one old and wizened, working magic at the time of the French Revolution.
- Eve herself explains that "Adam had three wives": Lilith, who was created as part of the original human being, a hermaphrodite ("Male and female created He them", Genesis 1:27); an unnamed second wife, whom Adam rejected because he saw her during construction and got Squicked, as described in medieval Rabbinic lore; and Eve, who grew old but never died. (Genesis 5:5 says, "And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died", but Eve doesn't get an obituary.) In order, these are Mother, Maiden and Crone.
- Women in Sandman often fall into sets of three. In the issue in which Dr. Destiny psionically tortures to death the hapless people in a diner, the hostess and two patrons become Crone, Mother and Maiden; when Dr. Destiny has them tell his fortune, they become the Wyrd Sisters. Later, in A Game of You, we meet Foxglove (Maiden), Hazel (Mother, thanks to a drunken one-night stand), and Thessaly (Crone). The climax of the Sandman Myth Arc in The Kindly Ones has Morpheus facing off against the Furies, whom the ancient Greeks tried to placate by calling them "kindly", but the ones who end up doing Morpheus a kindness are Nuala (Maiden), Lyta (Mother) and Thessaly (Crone, again).
- Dream calls Foxglove and Hazel "Little Maiden" and "Little Mother" respectively. For the Game of You example, Thessaly even states it almost explicitly: they need menstrual blood, and they have to get it from Foxglove, since Hazel is pregnant and Thessaly hasn't menstruated in a looong time. Later Nuala, Lyta and Thessaly aren't aware of it, but they are connected by each making a separate contribution to Dream's death. Lyta was the one who gave the Furies the order to kill him; Thessaly protected her from getting killed by outside interference at the Ladies' request; and Nuala called him away at a critical moment, indirectly causing his death.
- Moreover the lovers of Dream who show up as such in the course of the main series fall into the pattern: Nada (maiden, that being a plot point), Calliope (Mother, specifically as the mother of Dream's son, Orpheus), and Thessaly (Crone, yet again).
- Somewhat lampshaded in the Sandman, as Lyta's friend is working on a book about the appearance of the triple goddess in TV sitcoms.
- The original Sabrina the Teenage Witch has Sabrina and her aunts. In the earlier comics, Hilda is portrayed dressed as and behaving in a more stereotypical witch manner, including being cranky, disliking mortals (particularly Sabrina's boyfriend Harvey), and prone to using her powers for revenge or resolving petty disputes. In the earlier comics, Zelda (like Hilda) also was dressed in stereotypical witch's clothes, but unlike Hilda, was the more compassionate and kindly of the two. In the original comics, Zelda was short and stout with green hair. Sabrina is a well-meaning girl, but she struggles with constant pressure to be "bad" from all the other witches around her, especially her aunts, as well as learning to master her powers.
- Fables: The witches of the 13th floor consist of Frau Totenkinder (the Crone), Mother Birdie (the Mother), and Ozma of Oz as the Child.
- Team Jinx, consisting of Magica De Spell (mother), Neraja (maiden) and Garma (crone), serve this role in Wizards of Mickey.
- The new rulers of Asgardia in Thor — Freyja the Crone, Gaea the Mother, and Idunn the Maiden. Together, they're the All-Mother.
- The Casper the Friendly Ghost comic reboot Casper and the Spectrals has Wendy's aunts, the Witch Sisters who were completely redesigned to be this.
- Disney's Hocus Pocus has the Sanderson sisters, a coven of three witches along these lines: Sarah is a ditzy young blond, Mary is a fat goofball, and Winifred is the scheming leader of the group who takes herself too seriously.
- In the movie Running With Scissors, The Psychiatrist's wife, and two daughters make up this threesome perfectly. The youngest is dressed as a slut, and blonde. The older, Gywneth Paltrow's character, is quirky and unsentimental (though she does dig up her dead cat, but not for sentimental reasons exactly), and the mother is well, not initially motherly, but eventually motherly.
- In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, we have Jen as the maiden, who is young and beautiful. Shu Lien is the mother, trying to guide Jen to the right path. And Jade Fox as the crone, elderly and certainly bitter.
- Dario Argento's Three Mothers Trilogy, which consists of 1977's Suspiria, 1980's Inferno and 2007's Mother of Tears, takes its inspiration from De Quincey's poem (see Literature below), with each film featuring one of the titular women as an evil witch. Controlling the world from their bastion-like homes, the three include a crone (Mater Suspirioum/Helena Markos), a middle aged woman (Mater Tenebrarum, though she's technically supposed to be the youngest), and a maiden (Mater Lachrymarum).
- The three Drag Queens from To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar have this dynamic. First there's Vida Boheme who's the Team Mom, then we have bitchy Noxeema Jackson for that and last but not the least there's Chi-Chi Rodriguez who's the Drag Princess rather than full grown Queen.
- Considering To Wong Foo is a Follow the Leader to The Adventures Of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert, who has its Hecate Drag Queens...
- Heroic Trio has Thief Catcher as the maiden (the youngest and a bit of a ditz), Wonder Woman as the mother (she's the moral guardian of the team and is an actual mother by the end of the movie), and Invisible Girl as the crone (bitter and pretty evil at first). Averted in that they are all beautiful.
- Practical Magic has Sally Owens, widow and mother of two, her free spirited sister Gillian Owens, and their aunts Frances and Jet together each make a part of the crone.
- Halloweentown has the witchy generations of the daughter Marnie Piper, main character and interested in witchcraft, the mother Gwen Piper who tries to proctect her children from witchcraft, and the grandmother Aggie Cromwell, a skilled witch.
- Goldie Hawn's character in The First Wives Club, an actress approaching middle age, gives a much more cynical view of the trio in terms of how Hollywood views women: "Babe, District Attorney, Driving Miss Daisy."
- In George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, the Mother (who is gentle, loving, and a source of feminine strength), Maiden (beauty, innocence, and romanticism personified) and Crone (old, wise, and stern) are worshipped as three of The Seven. The others are the Warrior(hunter), Smith(lord) and Father(prophet) - The Three Faces of Adam - and the Stranger, an ambiguously gendered death god.
- Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain features a pseudo-Celtic version of the Fates, named Orwen, Orddu and Orgoch. They weave a tapestry rather than spinning a thread. Oddly they all appear either as young beauties (at night) or old crones (in daylight). They do not seem to have a 'Mother' face. However, in The Film of the Book, they were middle-aged redheads all the time, and clearly marked as ugly. Stranger still, they seem to take turns at being each 'sister' ("No, it's my turn to be Orwen now, you've been her long enough!"). Orgoch appears to be the Atropos of the group. She never shows her face, wearing a deep hood in both beauty and hag forms and she is strongly implied to be a cannibal. However, the sisters seem to enjoy nothing more than to confuse, befuddle and unnerve their mortal visitors, so it is hard to take anything they say or do at face value.
- In Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series, the Anthropomorphic Personification of Fate is like this; three individuals who take on the roles of Clotho (maiden), Lachesis (mother), and Atropos (crone). One character actually gets to be both Clotho and Lachesis at different times. In the seventh book of the series, And Eternity, Fate needs a new Atropos, and circumstances combine to make a male candidate the best choice. Even the remaining Aspects, Clotho and Lachesis, comment that this is highly unusual.
- The Dresden Files had one of these for the Winter and Summer Courts of fairies — Each court is ruled by three Queens—Queen Mother (The Queen Who Was), Queen (The Queen Who Is), and Lady (The Queen Who Is To Come) who are also grandmother, mother, and daughter.
- Explicitly pointed out in Skin Game, when the crew encounters two statues of Hecate in the Underworld, displaying the three Queens of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts respectively. It also leads to a CMOF, as Harry does a truly awful job of concealing Molly's ascension to Winter Lady from her father when he points out the similarity.
- Death Masks in particular has a gender-flipped version with the Knights of the Cross. You have Shiro as the calm, experienced one, Michael as the Father and Sanya as the youngest, most progressive (bulletproof vest instead of Michael's plate armor) and the "naive" one, having been tainted as a former Denarian himself.
- Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar series features a fourfold goddess of the Tayledras and Shin'a'in peoples, who adds the Warrior to the standard trio of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. As patron of main character Tarma in the Vows and Honor books and a fairly active diety in other stories, the Warrior is the only aspect seen. The three sister goddesses Agnetha, Agnira, and Agnoma, as mentioned in By the Sword, may also fit the trope with Agnira as Maiden/Warrior, Agnetha as Mother, and Agnoma (who is not described beyond the fact that snowflakes are her emblem) as the likely Crone. To complement the fourfold Goddess there is a Fourfold male deity, with faces matching that of the Goddess: the Rover, to match the Maiden, for East; the Guardian to match the Warrior, in the South; the Hunter, to match the Mother, in the West; and lastly the Guide, to complement the Crone, for North. Vkandis Sunlord of Karse is hinted to be the same or related to this male diety, and is mentioned to have aspects corresponding the passage of the sun across the sky, appearing in disguise as a child ("sun-in-morning") to Alberich.
- In Gregory Maguire's novel Wicked, the birth of Elphaba (who will become the Wicked Witch of the West) is attended by a maiden, a mother, and a crone. To add to the "Fates" theme (remember, Elphaba is Doomed by Canon), she's born inside a puppet theater.
- The witch families in Anne Bishop's Tir Alainn trilogy appear as this. Usually a grandmother, mother and daughter living together. None ever seem to be able to keep the men around. Well, at least not at the start of the story anyway.
- Pamela L. Travers, author of the Mary Poppins books, describes Mary Poppins herself this way, as a mixture of a vain young lady, a wise mother, and a sharp-tongued old lady. This was probably deliberate.
- Harry Potter:
- The three generations of Weasley women are 107 year old Great-Aunt Muriel who is rude to everyone, Ginny, who hears Auntie Muriel say that Ginny's dress is far too low cut and responds by grinning and winking at Harry, and Ginny's mother Molly, who is fiercely protective of her family.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Harry enters the Room of Requirement while the Battle of Hogwarts is going on he finds the room empty except for three women who had not yet joined the fight. The first to exit is Mrs. Longbottom who goes to assist her grandson. The second is Tonks who left her baby with family out of concern for her husband. The third is Ginny who eagerly joins the fight being responsible for no one but herself.
- It's stated repeatedly in the Discworld novels that it's "only right" for a coven to have three witches — "the maiden, the mother, and the... other one." The coven begins as Magrat Garlick (maiden), Nanny Ogg (mother), and Granny Weatherwax ("other one"). When Magrat gets married and takes up being a queen, Agnes Nitt joins up as the maiden. When Granny gets incapacitated by a vampire attack, Magrat rejoins the coven temporarily, making the order Agnes (maiden), Magrat (mother of Princess Esmeralda Margaret Note Spelling of Lancre), and Nanny, who's not too happy about being the "other one". ("I can't start being a hag at my time of life,’ she muttered. ‘None of my bras'll fit.’")
"Oh, you can have more than three witches in a coven. Anywhere up to five or six, really." "What happens after that?" "Great bloody row, usually."
- Another bit of note is that actual technical qualifications can matter less than your temperament. Nanny mentions a witch who is the "maiden" of her coven, despite having six children, because she still can't hear talk of conjugal matters without going red. Likewise, Nanny and Granny are exactly the same age, but people consistently call in Nanny to deliver babies — and they call on Granny to escort a dying soul to their rest.
- In I Shall Wear Midnight, the three girls of (or around) Tiffany's age make up one of these trios: Tiffany is the Crone, Letitia is the Maiden, and Amber is the Mother.
- In the book series Night World, witches' rank is described as mother, maiden, or crone. The heads of the witch clan are also split up into this, with each being described as head of their third of the group.
- The mythological figure of Hecate is used in The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, where she starts each morning as the maiden and progressively ages throughout the day - Josh even asks the older Hekate where her granddaughter is. The motif appears later in the series when Sophie, Perenelle, and Tsagaglalal are trying to revive Nicholas—Sophie is the maiden, Perenelle is the matron, and Tsagaglalal is the crone.
- In Thomas De Quincey's prose poem, "Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow", the narrator describes three women, who, like the Fates, Graces and Muses, are personifications of human abstraction, in this case sorrow. Here, the mother theme is dominant, with Mater Suspiriorum (the Mother of Sighs, representing despair), Mater Tenebrarum (the Mother of Darkness, representing insanity), and Mater Lachrymarum (the Mother of Tears, representing grief). In terms of age, Lachrymarum is described as the eldest (crone), and Tenebrarum the youngest (maiden).
- Diane Duane's The Tale of the Five plays this completely straight down the line for the common Neopagan / Wiccan form.
- The three main characters of The Princess Series fit this trope:
- Snow - maiden (though she's really not a maiden anymore)
- Danielle - mother
- Talia - crone
- The Big Bad Immacolata and her ghost sisters the Magdalene and the Hag qualify as this in Clive Barker's Weaveworld. Immacolata — maiden (due to her belief in Virgin Power), Magdalene — Mother of a Thousand Young, Hag — crone (duh).
- The goddess Lillinara in David Weber's War God series is one individual, but her temples include separate towers for her Maiden, Mother and Crone aspects.
- Heart of Darkness features two women at the Company who represent two of the three Fates (the spinster and the allotter).
- Symbolized in White as Snow in particular by gowns Arpazia wears over the course of the story, one white, one russet and one black. Arpazia is forced out of her maidenhood too soon because of Coira's birth, and she rejects motherhood, leaving her to become a crone at all of thirty-three. Most notably, when Coira appears in a white gown, Arpazia is wearing a black one. Demeter and Persephone are also re-imagined as this trio. Coira (Kore) the maiden, Demetra (Demeter) the mother and Persapheh (Persephone) the crone.
- In Tales of Kolmar, humans worship the Lady Shia, the Goddess called Mother Of Us All who has three aspects. The Old One is associated with the sky and the moon, the Mother with the ground, and the Laughing Girl Of The Waters... well, Exactly What It Says on the Tin. When the Goddess speaks to a character sitting on the ground under a full moon with a stream nearby, said character feels "lines of light" from each aspect, but hears the Goddess as a single entity.
- The Great Mother Goddess, commonly referred to simply as the Goddess, is the female ruler of the gods in Tamora Pierce's Tortall Universe books. She has three aspects: maiden, mother, and crone. These three aspects correspond to women's stages of life.
- Hecate, in her negative aspect as Goddess of Insanity and madness, is the ticking clock in Dennis Wheatley's horro novel The Haunting of Toby Jugg
- In The Houndsofthe Morrigan, the villain is the Irish version of Hecate, the three-sisters-in-one Morrigan. (see below)
- In Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane, the Hempstock family consists of a young girl, her mother and an old woman. Neil Gaiman is fond of this trope (see Sandman above).
- In Lisa Goldstein's Dark Cities Underground, the corn sisters fit the maiden-mother-crone archetype.
- Bella of Twilight is described as an old soul because she's more responsible than her mom and she keeps to herself. When she found out she had conceived she was determined to carry the child despite the danger the pregnancy could bring her. Rosalie and Esme were the two women who were on her side on this because they understood Bella's desire to have children. Esme has always had strong maternal instincts that she shows through kindness to her surrogate children and the family's allies. Rosalie is described as always having been beautifully elegant and proud of it but she would trade her beauty for the chance to grow older and become a mother.
- The Last Dragon Chronicles features Lucy Pennykettle as the maiden, Liz Pennykettle as the mother and Gwilanna as the crone.
- Elsa Beskow, a Swedish children's books writer, wrote five books about three sisters. Tant Grön ("Aunt Green") is the oldest-looking and most sharp-witted one (the crone), Tant Brun ("Aunt Brown") is the plump and domestic one (the mother) and Tant Gredelin ("Aunt Mauve") is the youngest-looking and most emotional one (the maiden).
- The Girls Series by Jacqueline Wilson has Ellie draw herself and her friends as such during an art lesson. Although it's not stated which is which, Magda would be the Maiden, Ellie the Mother, and Nadine the Crone.
- In American Horror Story: Coven, We have Fiona, the Crone (though she uses every trick in the book to avoid looking like one), Cordelia, the wannabe Mother, and Zoe, the Sex Equals Death maiden.
- The Merlin (1998) series, though it isn't really seen in detail except in the novelizations, where it is explicitly stated that Queen Mab was once a triple goddess who consisted of Maiden (Titania), Mother (Melusine), and Warrior (Mab-Morrigan). Merlin unwittingly tries to contact her Maiden aspect in his adolescence after seeing a statue of her in a pond, and only gets through to Nimue (before meeting her).
- The Secret Circle gives us Cassie, Diana and Faye, with Cassie as the Maiden, Diana is the Matron and Faye as the Crone.
- Xena: Warrior Princess features numerous appearances by The Three Fates, (classically known as the Moirae), who are responsible for determining the course of all mortal's lives. In appearance, they are three women in various stages of life; Clotho (the Maiden) spins a person's life thread, Lachesis (the Mother) measures the thread, and finally, Atropos (the Crone) cuts the thread, thus ending the person's life.
- Intentional or not, the Opera House visions in Battlestar Galactica (2003) are experienced by Caprica-Six (maiden), Athena (mother) and Laura Roslin (crone). They are also experienced by Athena's daughter Hera who runs from Athena to Caprica in the visions while Roslin is known to be dying of cancer, which could reflect a progression of the cycle to Hera (maiden), Caprica (mother), and Athena (crone).
- Bill's three wives in Big Love: Barb (the matriarch), Nicki (the brooding manipulator) and Margene (the naive young beauty).
- The witch version appears in new Doctor Who, although it's more like maiden, crone, crone. The episode is "The Shakespeare Code", so it's a Shout-Out (see under 'theater' below).
- Supernatural had one of the Fates show up. With a minor research flub, the one that showed up was Atropos, and she claimed that "her two sisters are bigger and badder than [Atropos] in every way."
- Charmed really deserves a mention here as the three sisters filled the roles without much of an age difference - however, Prue was always the responsible leader (Crone), Piper the cautious caretaker (Mother) and Phoebe, tellingly enough named after one of Artemis's epithets, was the 'wild child' Maiden. After Prue's departure, Piper and Phoebe 'moved up one' role and half-sister Paige filled the Maiden's position. On a larger generational scale, the three sister were all Maidens to their more magically experienced ghostly Mother and living Grandmother-Crone.
- The West Wing: Mrs. Landingham is the Old Retainer and Servile Snarker (Crone), C.J. is a Cool Big Sis type (Mother), and Donna is a youthful energetic Girl Next Door (Maiden).
- The first three episodes of 7th Heaven are about the life cycle. In the pilot, daughter Lucy is sensitive about starting her period and thus becoming a woman. She says that her type is Prince Charles because she bets that he is sensitive and shy. The second episode has mother Annie using her intuition and welcoming nature to learn that Matt's friend is a pregnant teenager. In the third episode grandmother Jenny is visited by Annie who is concerned because Jenny has Leukemia. Annie finds that Jenny is spending her final days living life to its fullest. When Annie expresses her concerns about Jenny resting and watching her cholesterol, Jenny says that she'll be resting soon enough and she's not supposed to be watching it anymore.
- The three witches in the early episodes of the BBC/Starz series The White Queen, Jacquetta Woodville, her daughter Queen Elizabeth (consort of Edward IV, not the more famous daughter of Henry VIII), and her daughter, also named Elizabeth, form this trio. Jacquetta, the grandmother and the most knowledgeable in witchcraft, and with the steadiest, most phlegmatic temperament, is the crone. Queen Elizabeth, the beautiful (and that is historically accurate, as the accounts all agree that she was gorgeous) young wife of the king, with the most passionate temperament of the three, and already with multiple children, is the mother. Little Elizabeth, being at that time only a child, and for a long time not really understanding what they are doing when they use witchcraft together, is the maiden. As time passes, and she becomes more mature and "grow[s] beautiful," as her uncle King Richard III puts it, she develops more of the seductress aspect of the Maiden.
- The Sword song "Maiden, Mother and Crone" has the narrator seeking out the Fates to learn his future. The Maiden (found by a reflecting pool) and Mother (working in a field) both refuse to help him ("Walk not down that road, I cannot tell you where it goes/Ask me no more questions, some things you aren't meant to know"), but the Crone (found in a forest) tells him to swear himself to the goddess of which they are facets, with the promise that if he is worthy he'll learn what he seeks.
- The Pretenders song Hymn to Her from their 1986 album Get Close references the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone.
Myth, Religion and Legend
- In Real Life, while there have since been several triple-goddesses, the idea of Maiden, Mother and Crone is almost certainly modern, invented in the 20th century. In ancient times, goddess triplets were depicted as equally old. The trope's widespread application to numerous goddesses from multiple pantheons is certainly entirely modern.
- There was an ancient Greek sect that included a similar idea to that of the maiden-mother-crone trinity in its teaching. Pausanias wrote in the 2nd century C.E. that the Stymphalians worshipped Hera under three names: Girl, Grown-up, and Widow. Hera is a single goddess, however, not three.
- Hecate. Sometimes depicted as either one or three women facing different directions. There have been examples of four women, but one or three were much more common. Her earliest depictions were always singular, but over time she became heavily associated with the number three. Classical Greek statues tended to give her three separate bodies, while the Romans more often depicted her with a single body and three faces.
- The Celtic goddess of war known as the Morrigan was often (but not always) depicted as a triple entity; the most common combination is the Badb, Macha and Nemain, but other accounts name Fea, Anann, and even Erinn (literally Ireland). They can be shown as Mother, Maiden and Crone, or all one facet.note
- In the older versions of Snow White Snow White's mother wishes for a daughter as white as snow (maiden) as red as blood (mother) and black as ebony (crone). She gets her wish, but her daughter who displays all these aspects of womanhood is too perfect, arousing the jealousy of the queen.
- The Arthurian romances have the perfect example of the triad in the three 'Damosels' encountered by Sirs Gawain, Ywain and Marhaus. One is a maiden of fifteen; one a woman of thirty or so; and the final 'Damosel' is an old woman of sixty years.
- Wicca (or rather some forms of it) centers around the triple goddess: Maiden, Mother and Crone. There is also a variation of this this concept with four goddesses or forms of the Goddess: Maiden, Mother, Matriarch/Priestess, or Crone (see the text about Hecate above).
- It's tempting to read this into Greek Mythology, though one must remember that the explicit plotting of Maiden, Mother, and Crone is a more recent invention. However, there are several intriguing triads: the Moon Goddess is said to appear in three aspects, Artemis, the protector of chastity, on earth, Selene, the mother of the stars and devoted spouse of Endymion, in the heavens, and Hecate, the aged and crafty guardian of the crossroads, in the Underworld. There is a legend that the goddess Hera was given the titles Maiden, Mother, and Widow over her life, which, considering that she was a protectress of all women, would certainly make sense. Lastly, Hecate returns as the go-between of Demeter, the E Arth Mother goddess, and her daughter, youthful Persephone, queen of the Underworld.
- Prior to Mohammed and Islam, the Arab world appeared to worship a triple moon-goddess in a cult based on Mecca. Judging by the way the "Three Sisters" are excoriated in the Koran, Mohammed must have had very great difficulty in eradicating her worship and exterminating or expelling her followers from the Islamic hegemony.
- On The Fastrack The company Fastrack,Inc. is run by the CEO Rose Trellis (crone), her executive assistant Wendy Welding (the working mom) and (the maiden) Dethany Dendrobia.
- The Circle of The Crone, one of the covenants from Vampire: The Requiem, is a group of pagan Goddess-worshiping vampires who believe that their existence is perfectly natural. In their social structures they have roles that are similar to The Hecate Sisters, but with a vampiric twist. First there's The Maiden (a.k.a. The Virgin) who is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, but for vampires being a Virgin means never having killed someone. They're typically newly Embraced, and their role is to remind the others of their former humanity, although they themselves struggle to control their own urge to kill. Next is The Mother, whose duty is to advise and comfort. Mothers don't have much power on their own, so they often rely on subtle manipulation. And to complete the trinity they have The Crone, a rare and potent role. They symbolize destruction and act as judges and executioners within the Circle.
- In The Werewolves of Miller's Hollow, the village is protected by a little girl, a fortune teller and a witch.
- In the Forgotten Realms setting of Dungeons & Dragons, Selûne the Moonmaiden is a major goddess who appears in these three aspects.
- The Neverborn of Malifaux are led by Pandora (Maiden), Lilith (Mother), and Zoraida (Crone).
- The Elven pantheon of gods in Warhammer has three very straight-up examples in Lilaeth the Moon Maiden, Isha the Earth Mother and Morai-Heg the Crone. All three have influence on aspects of magic, fate and nature. They also have dark counterparts in Atharti the Seductress, Ereth Khial the Pale Queen and Hekarti Mistress of the Dark.
- In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the Black Furies honor a trio of jaggling spirits called the triptych, who represent the maiden, mother, and crone archetypes. The Furies themselves also assign maiden, mother, or crone rank to members, depending on what stage in life they've reached.
- The Pathfinder setting Golarion features the Artrosa—three giant statues created by Baba Yaga in the land of Iobaria—each depicting a woman in one of the three stages of life (maiden, mother, crone).
- Of course, William Shakespeare's Macbeth features three witches referred to as the Weird (or Wyrd) Sisters, a name given to the Norns (the Norse version of the Fates) and who worship Hecate. Usually, however, they are all represented as crones.
- Roman Polanski's film adaptation there was a maiden witch. That version also gave the witches an extended role, in the form of a Twist Ending where Donalbain is seen to visit them, implying that he will go down the same path as Macbeth.
- In the 2006 present-day version, the three witches are played by teenage girls.
- The Norns in Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung, the last of the four operas in the Ring cycle.
- Vanities: The three characters somewhat fit these archetypes. Mary=maiden, Joanne=mother, Kathy=crone.
- The three women in the cast of Fools. Sophia the Maiden, Lenya the mother and Yenchna the crone.
- As an exploration of themes regarding femininity, it is fitting that the women of On The Verge form this trinity: Alex (Maiden), Fanny (Mother), and Mary (Crone).
- The Shadow Sirens from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. Vivian is the "maiden" for the most part (but only in the Japanese version), Marilyn roughly fits the "mother" archetype as an extremely obese physical powerhouse who rarely says anything but the word "Guh", and Beldam epitomizes the "crone" to such an extent that she's named after it. Really. Go look up "Beldam" in the dictionary.
- The Fates in God of War 2: Inasmuch as you can call a six-foot tall warrior valkyrie with one breast visible, a giant, grotesquely fat woman with many arms and breasts and a stick-thin woman that seems to be partially made of darkness a mother, maiden, and crone respectively. The three are a dark representation of the original concept in Greek mythology.
- The Shin Megami Tensei games include the Fates - Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos - as separate demons that can be recruited. In some games, the three can be fused together in a special process to produce Norn, which is depicted as three goddesses united around a clock. Hecate is also present in several games as a triple headed goddess.
- In Mass Effect, some asari (including squad member Liara T'Soni) worship the goddess Athame, who cycles between maiden, matron, and matriarch stages. This was once the most popular religion among asari, but it has been supplanted by siari. Asari themselves cycle through these stages during their lengthy lifespans, with each stage being about three hundred years long.
- The three female party members in Dragon Age: Origins are Leliana (maiden), Wynne (mother), and Morrigan (crone). With Shale, they become a Four Girl Ensemble.
- If anything, it seems a warping of the typical traits. Leliana seems the maiden, but is far more worldly and experienced than her light-hearted nature would suggest. Morrigan, for all her sarcasm and antisocial nature, falls quite squarely into the mother role and takes care of the party whether she likes it or not, not to mention her potentially getting deliberately knocked up towards the end. And Wynne, the old lady of the group, is quite the optimist and stronger than she seems.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- In Skyward Sword, Zelda is the maiden, Impa is the mother, and Impa the old woman the crone.
- In The Witcher, the Goddess Melitele is represented as a young maiden, a pregnant mother, and an old woman.
- In King's Quest VII, Valanice summons herself into a pocket dimension in Etheria, and finds the Three Fates generally minding their own business and doing their cosmic work. Atropos is an enthusiastic, spiky-haired teenager (who happily severs the fates of women and men), Clotho is an elegant, mysterious and soft-spoken woman (who spins the thread of fate), and Lachesis (the only one of the three with significant dialogue, and who measures the length of the thread) is a matter-of-fact, somewhat harsh older lady.
- The 7th Guest has the young(ish) chanteuse Martine, the pudgy, motherly Elinor, and the old, acerbic Julia competing against one another.
- The yuri Visual Novel Akai Ito mixes this with some other stuff. As seen from the viewpoint of the protagonist, Kei:
- Crone: Sakuya and Nozomi
- Mother: Yumei and Sakuya
- Soulmate: Uzuki and Yumei(!)
- Daughter: Tsudura and Nozomi
- Also, Kei herself can fit into any of the above role, depending on the route:
- In Planescape: Torment, bringing both Annah and Fall-From-Grace with you when you visit Ravel Puzzlewell causes her to lampshade this trope. Fiery, yet naive, Annah is the maiden, calm and nurturing Fall-From-Grace is the mother (in a figurative sense, she is the Team Mom), and Ravel is the (very obvious) crone. Ravel uses her shapeshifting ability to appear in front of you in all three guises.
- Lusternia directly references the Moirae of Greek mythology: Clotho, the maid (who spins the threads of life), Lachesis, the mother (who measures the threads) and Atropos, the crone (who cuts the thread upon death). They govern the destinies of all mortals who are marked by the Portal of Fate - namely, every player character.
- Lisaera also takes on the form of the maiden, mother and crone as and when it pleases her.
- Alma in FEAR: Project Origin has three appearances she manifests in: Her child form, representing last memory of herself before she was locked in the psychic insulator and her need for help and contact with others (the maiden), an emaciated, pale and haggard woman representing how her body actually looked when she died and her desire for vengeance on those who did it to her (the crone), and an idealised, healthy-looking woman who turns out to represent Alma's desire to have a 'real' family by seducing the main character (the mother).
- In The Legend of Dragoon, Rose is the crone, Shana is the woman, and Meru is the maiden.
- Referenced in Puzzle Quest 2; the Mother narrates sections of the game. The Maiden adorns the splash screen when you win, and the Crone adorns the splash screen when you lose.
- Animal Crossing: New Leaf has Kapp'n's family: his daughter Leila (Maiden), his wife Leilani (Mother), and his grandmother (Crone). The imagery is even mentioned in one of Katrina's "good luck in love" fortunes.
- In Fallen London, there's an island called Hunter's Keep that houses three enigmatic sisters: Lucy (maiden), Phoebe (mother), and Cynthia (crone). You even get an opportunity to decide if you view them as being akin to the benign Graces (which fits with Lucy's optimistic, cheery view of the world), the ruthless Furies (which fits with Cynthia's cynical, world-weary view), or the more neutral Hecates of Greek myth (which fits with Phoebe's more balanced worldview) with no definite answer stated.
- The Weird Sisters of Gargoyles all take the same form at the same time, appearing as a trio of creepy little girls, old crones, aged female gargoyles, or voluptuous young 20-somethings, as befits who they are speaking to at the time.
- You can still tell them apart, however, by hair color (blonde, black, white).
- This is an interesting example as it is made clear that different people see them differently. The little girls are seen by the Manhattan clan, the old crones are seen by Macbeth, and the old gargoyle hags are seen by Demona. Meanwhile the 20-somethings are their preferred form, seen by the audience and other Children of Oberon as well as any characters not implied to see them differently (although humans will see them in period/job appropriate attire). Word of God has stated that only the Third Race and the audience ever see them for what they truly are.
- The Fates appear in Disney's Hercules, though they are depicted as the Graiae. In one episode of the TV series, when Hercules and Phil travel north and meet the Norse pantheon (with a bizarre/brilliant appearance by Garrison Keillor as Odin), it is revealed that they also fill in as the Norns.
Phil: I'm tellin' ya, they're double dipping!
- To clarify about the Fates, they're an odd and possibly unintentional example. While they all look like Crones, they each have the personalities of the three sisters; Clotho is the Maiden (giggles like a giddy schoolgirl when Hades tries to flatter her into revealing the future and is the first to try without any hesitation), Lachesis is the Mother (scolds Clotho for trying to reveal the future and reminds her that it's against the rules) and Atropos is the Crone (the oldest looking one—and that's saying something—and usually the one to say something sarcastic).
- Although they are all roughly the same age, Ozai's Angels in Avatar: The Last Airbender fit this to a T. Ty Lee is the maiden, innocent, optimistic and bubbly. Azula is the mother - the more controlling and manipulative aspects of the mother archetype, since she's clearly the leader; not so much the gentle, caring aspects. Mai is the crone, the eldest, the most apathetic and cynical, the least emotional, and a real Deadpan Snarker.
- In the original My Little Pony, the witch Hydia and her daughters inverted this trope. Reeka has aspects of all three types, Hydia is The Crone and the more manipulating aspects of The Mother, and Draggle is The Maiden.
- The three witches in Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King seem to be an embodiment of this. There is the hot and vivacious 'Cat Witch', the plump and good-natured 'Owl Witch', and the sarcastic crone-like Grand Witch.
- Pinkie Pie's sisters in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. The shy and quiet Marble Pie is the Maiden, the stoic but caring Maud Pie is the Mother, and the abrasive and hot-tempered Limestone Pie is the Crone.