Thinking about how Star Wars saga starts at Episode IV, that is a very smart way of making room for yourself to create a set of prequels if it sells well and make it look like you had it all planned beforehand.

Is Star Wars the first instance of this or otherwise what’s the first instance of a fiction work on Movies or Writting which follows this schema?

Clarification: referring to situations where the order is specified as a number indication on the title itself.

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    Doesn't this apply to anyone who writes a successful book and then adds prequels? Like, say, LotR and The Silmarillion?
    – DavidW
    Sep 16, 2021 at 22:30
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    I think it depends on your criteria. The Chronicles of Narnia were published 2, 4, 5, 6, 3, 1, 7. 3 takes place during 2, and 1 is effectively a prequel. But they were written one a year, and the 'main' series completed after the two earlier ones, so I don't know if it would count? That was 1950, so there's probably something earlier anyway. Sep 16, 2021 at 22:48
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    @JorgeCórdoba The original movie wasn't initially labelled as Episode IV. That didn't happen until a few years later.
    – Sam Azon
    Sep 17, 2021 at 1:25
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    @BeginTheBeguine ... But then the OP's example is a bad one for the question, because Star Wars was also retconned the same way. Still, it was an interesting question, even if the OP hasn't got things quite right. :) I say "it was" because the "clarification" actually makes it very uninteresting. Asking about series which start in media res is interesting. Any series which explicitly puts a number on the title because they think readers are too stupid to remember chronology is almost inevitably a crappy formulaic bit of writing, and hence an uninteresting question.
    – Graham
    Sep 17, 2021 at 10:11
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    Almost nobody puts "numerical order" into titles, so I think you're being overly restrictive Sep 17, 2021 at 13:10

2 Answers 2


This sort of thing has been done for as long as there has been fiction. Some of the earliest surviving texts have out of order narrative.

It isn't necessarily the earliest, but a good example is the three Theban plays by Sophocles.

  • Oedipus the King, first in story order, second written and performed (429 BCE)
  • Oedipus at Colonus, second in story order, last to be written and performed (401 BCE)
  • Antigone, last in story order, first to be written and performed. (441 BCE)

Oedipus The King itself has an out of sequence narrative. It starts with him already the king. It then provides descriptions of earlier events, the prophecies, the murder of the former king, and so on.

Additional info:

If you don't accept Oedipus, then how about the Iliad instead? It is definitely written as part 2 of a longer saga. It starts at a point late in the war, and ends before the end of the war.

Homer's other Trojan poem, The Odyssey, takes place after the war ends. Basically it's part 7 of the saga.

Other poems by other authors, now lost, tell other parts. Cypria by Stasinus, tells of the start of the war, but was written later.

Of course, none of them had numbers in the title.

  • 2
    Hi, I don’t mean stories told out of order, I mean specifically labelling the book or movie so that the reader knows it is intended to be out of order Sep 16, 2021 at 23:20
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    @JorgeCórdoba But Pete's answer is so much more interesting than your question that you should rephrase your question to match it. Sep 16, 2021 at 23:57
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    @JorgeCórdoba If you're looking for explicitly numbered works, Shakespeare wrote the three Henry VI plays before writing Henry V. (The Henry IVs were likely before either of them, and nobody's quite sure about when Henry VIII was written, and there are no plays for any of the other Henrys.) Sure, the number in this case is part of the respective Henrys' titles, but they're plays with a number in the title by the same author, written and published out of order. Sep 17, 2021 at 13:23
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    @DarrelHoffman you should make than an answer lol Sep 17, 2021 at 15:29
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    @InvisibleTrihedron that's... like, the opposite of the point of a Q&A site...
    – somebody
    Sep 17, 2021 at 15:59

Since OP has added the restriction that the title of the work must include a number indicating an episode, let me proffer this movie from 1987.

Leonard Part 6.

Movie poster for Leonard Part 6

  • 6
    And what about The Magnificent 7, they never did get around to making the 6 prequels.
    – Pete
    Sep 18, 2021 at 0:37
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    @Pete, or Ocean's Eleven, where Twelve, Thirteen and 8 were also made, but 9, 10 and all from 1-7 are still missing... :P
    – ilkkachu
    Sep 18, 2021 at 11:51
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    Now you're being silly.
    – Pete
    Sep 18, 2021 at 11:53
  • The Madness of George III was also written before The Madness of George I and II (which they never got round to writing). Sep 18, 2021 at 23:19
  • 1
    The OP asked for scifi works released out of order, but if there's only 1 of them in the whole series, it can't be out of order. Sep 22, 2021 at 13:12

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