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Rule Of Three / Fairy Tales

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The Rule of Three in fairy tales.


  • Common. A selection:
    • "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" is built around this trope. The chairs are too hard, too soft, and just right, the porridges are too hot, too cold, just right, and so on.
    • In "The Three Billy Goats Gruff", the 3rd and largest goat defeats the troll.
    • "Cinderella" traditionally goes to the ball 3 times before losing her shoe. Later, the 2 step-sisters each try the shoe on before Cinderella steps forward.
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    • The "Three Little Pigs": the first 2 pigs' houses fail to ward off the Big Bad Wolf, while the 3rd's brick house remains sturdy.
    • In the Grimms' "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" story, the wicked Queen makes three attempts on Snow White's life (a cursed comb, strangling her with a bodice lace, and the famous poisoned apple).
    • In "Rumpelstiltskin", the title character gives the miller's daughter three days to guess his name. After he spun for her for three nights.
    • In "Jack and the Beanstalk", Jack steals three treasures from the giant: a bag of gold, a goose that lays golden eggs, and a singing harp.
    • "The Honey Princess": Three princes are set to accomplish three tasks in order to win three princesses' hands in marriage.
    • "The Three Spinners" help a girl against an impossible spinning task.
    • In "Brother and Sister", it is the third stream that Brother drinks from; it is the third time he goes out to hunt that the king finds Sister; it was the third time she returned from the dead that her husband caught her and brought her back to life.
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    • In "East of the Sun, West of the Moon", the heroine meets three women who give her gifts; she uses them to bribe her way to her husband, and the third time, he is not drugged to sleep.
    • In "Maid Maleen", when she is pretending to be the bride, she speaks to three objects; the bride must find out from her three times what she said, and the bridegroom figures out the substitution.
    • In "The True Sweetheart", the heroine goes to the ball three times.
  • Anecdotes have plenty of examples. For an example, three nation anecdotes.
  • In "The Three Aunts", the three aunts help her on three successive nights.
  • In Iron Hans, the prince gets three chances to watch the well. He fails all the three, but only on the third is he sent away.
  • In Bearskin, the hero tells the youngest daughter to wait for him three years — if he doesn't return then, he's dead and she's free to marry as she wishes.
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  • In The Love of Three Oranges — well, three oranges. Or citrons or whatever.
  • In The Rose Tree, the girl loses three sets of candles, and later gets three gifts.
  • In The Feather of Finist the Falcon, the daughter asks three times for a gift, meets three old women along the way, and at the end, bribes the bride three times before she manages to wake Finist.
  • In Boots Who Made the Princess Say 'That's a Story!', Boots is the youngest of three brothers to try the engagement challenge.
  • In The Gold Mountain the hero must endure three nights of escalating beatings to break the curse. Later, he finds three giants arguing over three magic items, which he steals and uses to get his kingdom and his family back.
  • In The Brothers Grimm's The Golden Goose, three sons, and three innkeeper's daughters
  • In "The Princess on the Glass Hill", three brothers, three horses, and three golden apples.
  • In the story Crying Wolf an actual wolf appears only after the first two times the boy cried wolf.
  • In The Black Thief and the Knight of the Glen, there are three princes, and the thief tells three stories to ransom them, and the first story features three witches.
  • In The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was the youth has two spent three nights in a Haunted Castle.
  • In Soria Moria Castle, he rescues three princess, from trolls with three, or six, or nine heads.
  • In Asbjørnsen and Moe's The Seven Foals, three drinks from the flask are needed to lift the sword.
  • In The Jezinkas, there are three jezinkas.
  • In Jesper Who Herded the Hares, he has two older brothers, and is set three tasks.
  • In Tsarevich Petr and the Wizard, he was one of three brothers, and finds three princesses.
  • In The Three Little Men in the Wood, the little men.
  • In Pintosmalto, Betta bribes the queen three times for three nights.
  • In the fable of the Honest Woodsman, a woodsman loses his ax in an accident when it flies into the river. When a water spirit appears, he tells her of his dilemma, and then she dives into the river to find his ax. It takes three such dives before the woodsman recognizes the ax as his. As a reward for his honesty, he also gets to keep the other two axes the spirit had dug up.
  • In The Princess Who Wore A Rabbit Skin Dress, a queen had three husbands — the first was the father of her daughter, the second gets no details and makes no impact on the story, and the third, after her death, wants to marry her daughter.


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