“Once upon a time … a queen was sitting and sewing by a window with an ebony frame. While she was sewing, she looked out at the snow and pricked her finger with the needle. Three drops of blood fell onto the snow” (Snow White 81). This is a quote which many may recognize as the opening to the famous fairy tale Snow White. But how many would take notice of the number three in the last sentence of the quote and question its significance? Why, specifically, did three drops of blood fall from the queen’s finger? The quote from Snow White is just one example of many in which the number three presents itself as a significant part of the story. This pattern also occurs across other fairytales, folklore, and mythologies; often the number three is involved, but the numbers four and seven are also quite popular. While this is a common enough occurrence that it can be quite easily spotted, there is little information about why these numbers are so significant. Is it simply tradition? Does it relate to the culture or religion practiced by the people who live in the area the tale originated from? Is it something related to storytelling as an art? Or is does the answer lie in hidden psychological meanings? These were only a few of the questions that I pondered as I began this project.
Fairytales, folklore, and mythologies all carry with them the values and beliefs of their culture of origin. This was one of the main observations that I made during this research. As certain regions share only certain aspects of their cultures, I will be going through story by story, analyzing the occurrences of three, four, and seven in each one and then moving on to a different story in that region, until I have analyzed all of the selected stories for that region. The regions the stories come from are Europe, Eurasia, North America, and Latin America. I feel I must disclaim here that not all of the connections I make will be sourced. This is a topic that has surprisingly little written in the way of scholarly texts, so many of the conclusions I draw will be my own. This is especially true for the European tales, as I delve into my personal knowledge of the Bible for many of the connections.
Liabenow, Alonna, "The Significance of the Numbers Three, Four, and Seven in Fairy Tales, Folklore, and Mythology" (2014). Honors Projects. 418.