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Story No. 86

The Three Brothers

Book Name:

Gypsy Folk Tales

Tradition: Gypsy, Roumania, Bukovina, Ukraine

There was, there was not, a lord; and he had three sons. And one was the eldest son, and he said to his father, 'We will go somewhere to seek a livelihood.'

'Well, go, my sons,' said their father.

When they went, he baked loaves for each one to put in his wallet. Then they went a long way, and the youngest had most bread. And that youngest brother said, 'Brothers mine, I cannot carry this wallet, so first we will eat from my wallet, brothers mine.'

When they had eaten, they then went a long way further, and then those two brothers ate, and gave not to the third. He now had nothing, and says, 'Brothers mine, why don't you give me to eat? You ate up mine, and now you don't give me to eat.'

'If you'll let one of your eyes be taken out, then we will give you to eat,' said the two elder brothers. And then they took out his eye, and then gave him to eat. When they had eaten, they went a long way further. And there again those two brothers eat, and the third one says, 'Why don't you give me to eat? Now you've taken my eye out, and yet give me nothing to eat.'

'If you'll let your other eye be taken out, then we will give you to eat.'

And he, the youngest, says, 'Just do with me what you will.'

Then they took out his eye; then they gave him to eat; then that eyeless one said, 'Lead me under the cross; maybe some one will give me something.'

They led him not under the cross, but under a gallows, and there hung a dead man. And then thither came three crows, and thus talked one with another:

'What's the news in your country?' thus they asked one of them. 'What's the news?'

'In my country there is no water.'

'And in your country what's the news?'

'There's a dew there, if a blind man rubs his eyes with it, he forthwith sees.'

'And in your third country what's the news?'

'In my country there is a princess sick.'

And then those three crows went to the lad, and then they asked him what he was doing under the gallows. And he said, 'My brothers brought me here.'

And then those three crows flew away. And that lad feels in the grass with his hands, then he put it on his eyes, then he moistened his eyes; forthwith he saw. And then that lad departed to the king. That lad was then the king's servant, and went then to a city, and went up above the city, and saw there such a great rock, and struck that rock as with a rod; forthwith the water came from the rock. And then that water flowed into the city, where there was no water, there flowed that water, and the people were greatly rejoiced. And then he, that lad, cried that the water will always flow; then were the people greatly rejoiced that that water was flowing.

And then that boy went to another city, and there was a sick princess. He went to that king, and asked him, 'What's this princess got?'

'What's she got! she's sick.'

'If you will give me her to wife, then I will help her,' said that lad to the king.

'Do but help her, then we will give you her to wife.'

When he had healed her, then he took her to wife; and then they held the bridal seven whole years. And then he became young king.

That young king said to his soldiers, 'Hark ye, soldiers, go after my two brothers.'

Then those soldiers went after those two brothers, and then they brought the brothers. Then that young king asks them, 'How many brothers had you?'

And they said, 'We are only two.'

The king says, 'Hah! were there ever more of you?'

Then those two brothers say, 'We were three.'

Then, 'What have you done with the third one?'

'Done with him! He demanded of us to eat, then we took out his eyes.'

Then, 'I am he,' thus did that young king say. 'Now, what am I to do with you?'

Those two brothers say, 'Lead us under that cross.'

He led them under that very cross. When he had led them, there came again those same three crows. When they had come, again they asked one another, 'What is the news in your country?'

'In my country now is the princess well.'

'And in your second country what is the news?'

'In my country now is much water.'

'And in your third country what is the news?'

'There now is no such dew as they rubbed the eyes with.'

Then those three crows came to those two lads, and then there those crows say, 'We will tear these two lads.' And they tore and devoured them. And then those three crows flew away, and flew into the sky.


With its then's and its that's, a very imperfect, schoolboyish version. It does not tell how the hero cured the princess, or that his two brothers were blinded. Non-Gypsy variants of this widespread story are Grimm's The Two Travellers' (No. 107, ii. 81), Cosquin's 'Les Deux Soldats de 1689' (No. 7, i. 84), Denton's Servian story of 'Justice or Injustice' (p. 83), Wratislaw's 'Right always remains Right' (Lusatian, No. 14, p. 92), Hahn's 'Gilt Recht oder Unrecht' (No. 30, i. 209), and others cited by Clouston (i. 249-261) from Norway, Portugal, the Kabyles, the Kirghiz, Arabia, Persia, and India. The borrowing the bushel occurs in the 'Big Peter and Little Peter' group of stories (cf. Clouston, i. 120, ii. 241-278; and Campbell's Santal Folk-tales, pp. 30, 100), of which we have a Welsh-Gypsy version (No. 68. 'Jack the Robber'), and which have a certain affinity with 'The Rich and the Poor Brother.' 'Prince Half-a-Son' in F. A. Steel's Indian Wide-awake Stories, p. 290, is plainly analogous. On p. 277 we have 'a great rich wedding that lasted seven years and seven days.'


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