Three Ladies
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Basic Information

The three ladies, also known as the "three faces of Eve" are the distaff counterparts of the three faces of man and represent the sequential roles that a woman lives through in her life. Specifically they consist of:

  • The maiden: a girl or young woman who serves as a muse and inspiration to men as she seeks to establish herself. She is the distaff counterpart to the Knave.
  • The mother: an adult woman and mother who provides caring and nurture - generally a helper or donor archetype. She is distaff counterpart to the knight.
  • The crone: an elder woman who provides wise advice and council. Like her spear counterpart the King, she is a mentor archetype.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the female archetypes tend to be more passive than their male counterparts - if one of them is a protagonist, it will generally be the maiden (Russian folk tales seem quite fond of the maiden-protagonist), who will generally succeed by her conspicuous virtue - kindness to all sorts of random characters and creatures who later serve as donors and helpers, or generally because whatever state she is put into cannot disguise her gentility and beauty. She may also serve to tame a corrupted male archetype.

Some versions of Nordic mythology present the goddesses responsible for fate - the Norns - in this form, with Urd as the crone, Verthandi as the mother and Skuld as the maid (often a Valkyrie). Reputedly Urd spins the cord of fate for a man, Verthandi winds and measures it and, when the time comes, Skuld severs it. The Greco-Roman versions (who may have had an influence on these myths) are the Roman Parcae and the Greek Moirai - specifically Nona/Clotho (the spinner), Decima/Lachesis (the measurer) and Morta/Atropos (who cuts). However, to the Romans, Nona was the Mother - governing pregnancy, and the Greeks made Clotho the youngest of the Moirai. Other mythopieae also used the three ladies as a divine archetype. The Greeks also had a few other triplicate groupings of goddesses, see the Hecate Sisters for details.

The corrupted versions of these archetypes are generally the seductress (who leads men astray), the bad mother (who betrays her husband and children) and the witch (who misuses her learning for evil purposes).

See Also::


2. comic : The Witching Hour — DC Horror comic from the '70s, hosted by a trio of witches named Mordred, Mildred and Cynthia. They have occasionally appeared as characters elsewhere in the DC Universe, most notably in Neil Gaiman's Sandman comic1.
3. novel: Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett The central characters are a coven of witches based on these archetypes. They appear in a number of Pratchett's other Discworld novels and the later work Carpe Jugulum actually invokes this trope as plot developments threaten the attachments of the three central witches to their roles in the triad.

Game and Story Use

  • Not to be confused with the Cockney rhyming slang for £15 - which might be three ladies if you consider a "fiver" (£5 note) to be a "Lady Godiva". £15 is a Commodore (after the 70s band who had a hit with the song Three Times a Lady).
  • Usually if you want to include witches in a story, you either go with a solitary hag, or a set of three. The three might be interchangeable, as in MacBeth's witches, but using this archetype gives them more variety and can make your witches more memorable. (Another option is a whole coven of witches, that traditionally being thirteen in number.)
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