The Rule of Three

Four-leaf clover

Four-leaf clover

A four-leaf clover is considered lucky because it’s a rare oddity. But its fortune-bringing reputation contradicts traditional beliefs regarding numbers because three is generally considered luckier.

The Rule of Three is a principle that applies in communications as diverse as horror stories, comedy sketches, speeches and fairy tales. Three is the smallest number needed to establish a pattern, so while the first and second elements build up expectation, the third releases it by means of a twist.

Take for instance ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ where everything disappoints until the third attempt with Baby Bear’s things, or horror stories where the third noise isn’t the wind or a harmless cat but something much more dangerous.

Four is the number of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Four in Asian culture is like number thirteen in the West – the number of mischance and death. Japanese blocks of flats sometimes even omit the fourth floor.

So perhaps the run-of-the-mill three-leaf clover is just as much a lucky charm – maybe even more so.