"Two is company, three a crowd" the saying goes, but whoever said it missed the point. Trios are fantastic precisely because they're inherently unstable. Romantic tales become rich in conflict when a love triangle emerges. Adventure stories take on new depth when three heroes with different strengths and weaknesses take the stage and wrestle over which direction to go. The trio reminds us that the world is never simply black and white, but a shifting mixture of colors that can become blindingly bright one minute and devastatingly dark the next.
When I began writing my swashbuckling fantasy novel, Traitor's Blade, I knew right from the start I wanted three heroes -- each with their own view of how best to survive the onslaught of enemies and conspiracies surrounding them. Falcio's desperate idealism is countered by Brasti's devil-may-care attitude which is in turn a contrast to Kest's cool-headed pragmatism. It's that unique dynamism that a trio brings to a story that gives us so much unexpected conflict and excitement.
Don't believe me? Take a look at some of these famous trios and ask yourself if those stories would be half as good with only two of the characters.
1. Harry, Ron and Hermione
Harry's struggle to define himself is aided by the presence of Hermione, the girl always struggling to be the best and who takes everything very, very seriously, and Ron, the boy who's perfectly happy to be average as long as he has a bit of fun in the process. Harry is perpetually choosing a path between these two philosophies and ultimately becomes the best of both, even as the deep friendship that blossoms between these three characters gets them through everything from troll attacks to uncovering the secrets of horcruxes.
2. Aragorn, Legolas Gimli
These three members of the Fellowship of the Ring are probably the most unlikely to have struck up a close friendship. Aragorn the human Ranger wielding an ancient sword reforged, Legolas the elven prince with amazing archery skills and an otherworldly manner, and Gimli the dwarf with a gruff nature and bearing an ax. They are different races, they fight differently, and yet when they united against Sauron they found they had more in common than not. Many years after the War, when Aragorn died, Legolas and Gimli left for the Undying Lands, not wanting to remain in Middle-Earth without him.
3. Kirk, Spock and Bones
The Captain. The Vulcan. The Doctor (no, not that Doctor). One of Science Fiction's most beloved trios, they work together so well because they each represent a facet of a well-rounded person. Kirk is the heart, often acting on intuition and with extreme emotion. Spock is the brain, relying on logic and science. Bones is the conscience, reminding Kirk and Spock of all of their limitations. He is the glue that binds this trio together. None of the three would have been as successful, or as beloved, on their own.
4. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman
Sometimes called "the Big Three", Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are the most iconic heroes in the DC universe. They also represent a spectrum of ideas about the role of the super hero. Batman's grim vengeance-fueled view of the world and Superman's small-town idealism are balanced by Wonder Woman's combination of compassion and determination to see justice done whatever the cost. Though the trio has appeared together in comics and in animation many times, it's with DC's most ambitious movie project to date, "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" that fans will see all three characters together on the big screen for the first time.
5. Iron Man, Captain America and Thor
Sure, it's fun to watch a genius, billionaire playboy philanthropist trade barbs with a boy scout super-soldier and a haughty demi-god, but this trio is so much more than that. Tony Stark, the Invincible Iron Man, represents the limitless power of technology; Thor, God of Thunder, reminds us that there are forces beyond our understanding. But it's Steve Rogers, as Captain America, who shows us the power of the human heart to help us surpass our limitations. When these three come together, you get not only amazing action and the third highest grossing movie of all time, but a reminder that unlikely friendships are often the ones you need to face life's most devastating challenges.
6. Buffy, Willow and Xander
When Buffy discovers she's "the chosen one", she soon learns that the normal life of a teenage girl will forever be denied to her. In fact, her life would be unbearable if it weren't for the love, support, and commitment of her two best friends, shy computer genius (and later powerful witch) Willow and bumbling but unflinchingly loyal Xander. For all of Buffy's great power, it's because of Willow and Xander that she is able to survive against vampires, demons, and worst of all: high school.
7. Vizzini, Fezzik and Inigo
The Sicilian who considered himself smarter than Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates, the giant who didn't even exercise, and the swordsman who trained for twenty years to avenge his father's murder teamed up to start a war between Florin and Guilder. In the process, they gave the world some of the most quotable lines in movie history. Though this trio only exists for a short part of the story, to leave them off this list would be inconceivable.
8. Athos, Porthos and Aramis
The Three Musketeers, despite the name, actually have very little in common as individuals. Athos, the oldest, is often the father figure of the group but hides his darkest secrets from them. Porthos loves food, wine, and fine clothes. Aramis vacillates between the path of the priesthood and the life of a soldier (to say nothing of his love of women.) So what unites these three very different individuals? It is a shared belief in the binding power of friendship and duty, encapsulated for the ages in the phrase, "All for One, and One for All."
9. Falcio, Kest and Brasti
Falcio, Kest, and Brasti grew up on stories of the Greatcoats -- the legendary sword-wielding magistrates who travelled the land to bring the King's justice to those living under the capricious rule of the Dukes. But with the King dead and the Greatcoats branded as cowards and traitors, the trio must now fulfill their final mission with nothing but the coats on their backs and the swords in their hands. Falcio's belief in his dead King's genius is constantly questioned by Brasti's roguish cynicism and Kest's cold logic, but despite their differences, all three of them know that when it's time to fight, they can count on each other to the very end.