Three is a magical number, a mystical one, full of hidden meaning and mystery. It’s the number of the Holy Trinity, of the Trimurti and of the three witches. Why do you think 3 Idiots clicked, or The Three Stooges did so well, or why we’re third time lucky? It’s because of the power of three.
Imagine the number of things that wouldn’t exist if we didn’t have three. We would all have grown up without knowing The Three Little Pigs, or Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or the Three Blind Mice. We would all have skipped a year, going directly from age two to four and we wouldn’t be 13 or 23 or 30 or 33 or 43 and so on and so forth—just think of all the years we would be missing in our lives. We would fail miserably most of the time, because we wouldn’t be able to try, try and try again. Merely trying and trying again doesn’t work. Where would we all be without the three wishes? Only a miserly fairy godmother would grant one wish or two, while granting four wishes would be sheer extravagance.
We would be deprived of three-legged races, the hop, skip and jump and the view from 30,000 feet. In the stock markets, we wouldn’t have a triple witching day, which is when the contracts for stock index futures, stock index options and stock options all expire on the same day. We could have single or double witching days, of course, but it wouldn’t be the same thing. Ask the three witches.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
On the flip side, there are some things about three that are not entirely kosher. The Third Reich, The Third World and third class would not have happened if we didn’t have three. It’s true that three o’clock at night is not a good time. On the other hand, if George the Third was not on the throne of England during the American War of Independence, perhaps the US would have remained a British colony.
More importantly, if three didn’t exist, we wouldn’t have been able to see The Lord of the Rings trilogy, or read about its three Rings of Power. Would the three wise men have visited the infant Jesus and would He have ascended to Heaven on the third day? Would Judas have betrayed his Master if he didn’t get 30 pieces of silver? What would have happened to Shiva’s third eye? Would the Dormouse have been able to tell us the story of the three sisters who lived in the treacle well? All great men were three years old once.
In a three-less world, we would have had no tri-umphs. A di-umph would hardly compensate. The tricolour, the trident and threesomes would not exist. The only good thing would be that trigonometry would be thrown out of the window, although gonometry might turn out to be equally obnoxious. Why, we would never be able to say three cheers again, merely shouting “Hip, hip” and leaving out the “Hurray”.
You’ve also all read Charles Dickens’ Tale of Three Cities and Enid Blyton’s Famous Three series and heard of the Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse. You are all familiar with cricketers hitting the ball for three runs, triple helixes and triple entendres. Alexandre Dumas had the right approach—he called his story The Three Musketeers, although there were actually four.
And finally, we all know there are three kinds of people—those who can count and those who can’t.