What Comes After a Trilogy? A Complete Guide to Serialized Works

What Comes After a Trilogy? A Complete Guide To Serialized Works

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If you are a fan of fiction in book, movie, and video game forms, you probably know what trilogies are. But what about compound works of four, five, or even six works? This article might not make you more fun at parties, but it’s a useful piece of trivia to know. So we’re bringing you the answer to the eternal question: What comes after the trilogy?

A serialized work of four parts is known as a tetralogy, followed by pentalogy, which is a compound work made of 5 parts. Pentalogy is followed by hexalogy, a 6-part series. And at last, we have a heptalogy which is a serialized work made out of 7 parts.

Now that you know how to call compound works made out of several entries it’s time to learn about the history and usage. So let’s go.

A history of trilogies

The term trilogy was first used in ancient Greece during the Dionysia festival, in fact, the word trilogy comes to us from the Greek language – τριλογία trilogia. A trilogy refers to a set of three works that are connected and share an ongoing theme. Trilogies are most common in movies, literary works, and video games. You might be familiar with the Lord of the Rings series? The first published edition from 1968. was single-volume, as was Tolkien’s original intent.

For various reasons, but mostly economic and due to paper shortage after the Second World War,  That single-volume work was divided into three books: The Fellowship of the Ring, Two Towers, and Return of the King.   Nowadays Lord of the Rings series is considered hexalogy but we will discuss this later in this article. 

Sometimes trilogies can be built upon later – and added more works. Such was the case with the original Star Wars trilogy. What was at first a trilogy of movies made between 1977 and 1983 eventually evolved into a “trilogy of trilogies“.

So, what comes after a trilogy?

When a compound work of three parts gets added a part it becomes a Tetralogy. Tetralogies got their name from the greeks: τετρα- tetra-, “four” and -λογία -logia, “discourse”.  The earliest tetralogies were performed in the Attic Theater during ancient times, where the trilogy of plays was performed followed by a satyr play made by the same author. In modern times you might be familiar with the movie Tetralogies such as The  Avengers Tetralogy, Followed by Matrix, Shrek, Superman, and Batman tetralogies. You might notice a pattern here, most of the tetralogies are works of fiction, in the movie, book, and video game form. They rarely, if ever, appear in the other forms of artistic expression.

What comes after a tetralogy?

A serialized work of five parts is called Pentalogy (πεντα- penta-, “five” and -λογία -logia, “discourse“). As with examples of other compound works, Pentalogy is made when a set of 4 works gets added with one more entry. Historically, pentalogies were mostly created by English, German and French playwriters whose plays were divided into five parts. For example, William Shakespeare’s every single created play has 5 acts.

In a modern sense when it comes to famous representatives of Pentalogies Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Author Rick Riordan comes to mind. As well as the bestseller (depending on who you ask) Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer. Tetralogies are also famous in movie form, some notable examples are Rambo, Evil Dead, The Exorcist, and Pirates of the Caribbean.


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What comes after a pentalogy?

So when pentalogy (which is already a huge enough series) gets added upon it becomes a hexalogy. You might notice a pattern here with names and greek numbering. So you guessed it, it does come from ἑξα- hexa-, “six” and -λογία -logia, “discourse”. We’re going back to the Lord of the Rings series again, we’ve mentioned before that Tolkien envisioned Lord of the rings to be a single-volume work. That was his intent, yes, but he had internal classification for his books. He considered it to be a hexalogy.  His original vision for his volumes is best seen in this quote from his personal letters.

P.S. The book is not of course a ‘trilogy’. That and the titles of the volumes was a fudge thought necessary for publication, owing to length and cost. There is no real division into 3, nor is any one part intelligible alone. The story was conceived and written as a whole and the only natural divisions are the ‘books’ I-VI (which originally had titles)

J.R.R. Tolkien

At last, a compound work of seven parts

Well, this one is a bit tricky, series made of seven connecting works is called both heptalogy and septology. It might not surprise you that heptalogies are not so popular with writers.  Works that are considered heptalogies usually have extremely detailed and developed backstories, worlds, histories, etc. which are usually created over a long time period.

The most well-known representative of the heptalogy (or septology!!!!) group is Harry Potter Series Created by J.K. Rowling. Followed by George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Currently, at the time of writing this article, A Song of Ice and Fire is still not technically Heptalogy it’s only a „planned heptalogy“. This means that the last two works The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring haven’t been released (or finished) yet.

And there you have it, a complete guide to compound works and how to call them. We probably got a bit too technical and you might lose yourself in all of the greek numbers but at least you learned something new today. It’s easier to say (and remember) A Harry Potter Book series than A Harry Potter heptalogy.

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