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The Numbered Things

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Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne

In this story, there are a group of whatsits. There are n of them, to be precise, and they form a set. But nobody likes infodumps, so there has to be a way to succinctly get across that this set of n whatsits is important. In fact, there is one simple and direct technique:

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Everybody in the story refers to them as "The N Whatsits". And they probably capitalise the phrase, too.

To be clear, simply having a set of n whatsits isn't enough to qualify as this trope - they have to be normally referred to as "The N Whatsits".

Three and Seven are particularly common values of n. Compare The Notable Numeral. High overlap with "Number of Objects" Title, when they appear in the title.


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Examples:

Anime & Manga

  • Soul Society in Bleach is defended by the Thirteen Court Guard Squads.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex features a mysterious group of terrorists known as the Individual Eleven in the second season. 11 random Japanese citizens who carried out various criminal acts ranging from defrauding a charity, blowing up banks, killing a popular musician who resonated with the youth, and even attempting a hit on the Prime Minister— all in the hopes of riling up the disparaged refugee population who are being unfairly treated just because they have nowhere else to go in the aftermath of the last war. Hideo Kuze steps up to become the defacto leader of the group, but ends up breaking free of the virus that was planted into their cyberbrains when ultimately kill themselves in a ritual suicide.
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  • The world of One Piece has Three Superpowers, each balancing one another. Further, two out of three of them are also an example of the trope - Seven Warlords of the Sea, and Four Emperors.

Comic Books

  • The premier super"hero" team in The Boys are called The Seven. Even when they have fewer than seven members.
  • Iron Man's enemy, the Mandarin, wields the Ten Rings.

Films — Live-Action

  • In Now You See Me, the four stage magicians go by the name the Four Horsemen.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, the Nine Pirate Lords (each one ruling over a different portion of the world's oceans and seas) possess the Nine Pieces of Eight, the sigils of their office. Despite the name, though, only one of the pieces (Jack's) is an actual coin; the others are seemingly random objects, including a pair of eyeglasses, a playing card, and even Ragetti's wooden eye. Joshamee Gibbs explains that the first Pirate Lords "were, to a one, skint broke" and so had to use whatever they had on hand as the Pieces. It's eventually revealed that the Nine Pieces of Eight were designed to seal the sea goddess Calypso in a mortal form.

Folklore

  • There is a Russian fairytale Seven Simeons about seven brothers sharing the same name and referred to as Seven Simeons by other characters.

Literature

  • Tolkien's Legendarium is full of this - there are the Two Lamps, the Two Trees, the Five Wizards, the Three Rings, the Seven Rings, the Nine Rings, and, of course, the One Ring.
  • The main setting of A Song of Ice and Fire is the Seven Kingdoms. The empire's main religion has seven gods, who are collectively referred to as The Seven.
  • The Wheel of Time's Backstory has the Hundred Companions, of whom there were actually 113.
  • Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves has the Forty Thieves.
  • Princesses of the Pizza Parlor: The main continent where the story starts is called "The Hundred Kingdoms" by elves, since there's a lot of kingdoms and they keep shifting, so the elves just put a nice round number on it, and call it a day.
  • In "The Queer Feet", a Father Brown story, the plot focuses on an exclusive club called The Twelve True Fishermen. Though there are indeed twelve of them, the only fish-related thing they do is eat an exclusive fish dish in an exclusive hotel.
  • In The Three Fat Men by Yuri Olesha, the titular villains are often referred to simply as the Three Fat Men by the characters as well.
  • Toyed with in James Howe's The Misfits. The protagonist and his best friends refer to themselves as the Gang of Five, but there are only four of them. The narrator says that it's to leave space in case they find someone else who would make a good addition to the groupnote .
  • In That Hideous Strength, Merlin refers to the Seven Bears of Logres.
  • One of Enid Blyton‘s series features a group of child detectives who call themselves the Five Find-Outers.
  • Rhythm of War: The Nine, who are the leaders of the nine brands of the Fused.
  • Dark Skies: The Twelve—the twelve ruling houses of Mudamora, which together create the Council of Twelve and choose the new ruler from among themselves.
  • The Basic Eight: The Basic Eight is the name of Flannery's friend group consisting of 8 people.

Live-Action TV

  • In Power Rangers Mystic Force the final group of villains the Rangers face are known as the Ten Terrors.
  • In Babylon 5 there are ten brothers, all named Zathras.
  • Blackadder Goes Forth: In "Major Star" the show put on to entertain the troops includes a comedy act called The Three Silly Twerps. As their act is not shown on screen, the biggest clue we get as to their calibre is that there are only two of them.
  • One episode of Last of the Summer Wine has the trio attempt to cycle a route known as "the Three Pubs".

Music

Myths & Religion

  • The Poetic Edda mentions the Nine Realms.
  • The Bible describes the Twelve Tribes of Israel, the Ten Commandments, the Twelve Apostles, the Seventy Disciples, and the Four and Twenty Elders.
  • In the Christian Sacred Tradition, especially in the hagiographies, groups of saints are referred to in this manner. To name the other best-known ones:
    • "The Three Holy Hierarchs" refers to St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom. There is a special feast to celebrate the memory of all three at once.
    • By the Forty Martyrs, people usually mean the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, a soldier division (plus a prison guard) martyred under Licinius.
  • Some flavours of Buddhism include the Four Heavenly Kings.
  • The Pleiades of Greek Mythology, also called the Seven Sisters.
  • St Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica lays out five arguments for the existence of God. They are commonly known as the Five Ways.

Podcasts

  • The governing body of the Federated Alliance in Mission to Zyxx is the Seven Best Friends.

Tabletop Games

  • Blades in the Dark: The Six Towers is a district of Duskwall named after the grand mansions that the city's six most prominent noble families had once built there. Even though only one of the original Towers still stands today, the district name has stuck.

Video Games

  • One of the most opaque plot points in Destiny is the enigmatic group known only as “the Nine.” It’s not until Year 2 of Destiny 2 that it’s revealed what they’re even nine of.
  • Fire Emblem uses this trope quite a bit.
  • The Mother trilogy features a numbered set of Plot Coupons in each game:
    • EarthBound Beginnings has the Eight Melodies, which Ninten and his friends must collect to sing to Queen Mary. They're also your weapon against the Final Boss, Giegue.
    • EarthBound has a different set of Eight Melodies, which Ness and his friends collect by defeating the eight Sanctuary Guardians and record using the Sound Stone. This allows Ness to go to Magicant, a land inside his mind,
    • In Mother 3, Lucas and his companions must locate the Seven Needles, which are in various places across the Nowhere Islands. Lucas must use PK Love to pull the needles from the ground, awakening the dragon sleeping under the islands, who only listens to the person who pulls the final needle.

Web Original

Real Life

  • Several squares in Russia (one in Saint Petersburg, one in Murmansk and one in Nizhny Novgorod) are known as the Five Corners.
  • The American states of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado come together at a point called the Four Corners. Tourists commonly have their picture taken while stretched out with a limb in all four states at once.
  • The Seven Sisters are, (depending on who you ask), seven historically-female colleges in the United States (Distaff Counterpart to the male-dominated Ivy League at the time), seven Stalinist high-rises in Moscow, seven oil companies that formed a de facto cartel from the 1940s to the 1970s, or seven big law firms based in Toronto.
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