The Brown Fairy Book
How the Little Brother Set Free His Big Brothers
In a small hut, right in the middle of the forest, lived a man, his wife, three sons and a
daughter. For some reason, all the animals seemed to have left that part of the country,
and food grew very scarce; so, one morning, after a night of snow, when the tracks of
beasts might be easily seen, the three boys started off to hunt.
They kept together for some time, till they reached a place where the path they had been
following split into two, and one of the brothers called his dog and went to the left, while
the others took the trail to the right. These had not gone far when their dogs scented a
bear, and drove him out from the thicket. The bear ran across a clearing, and the elder
brother managed to place an arrow right in his head.
They both took up the bear, and carried it towards home, meeting the third at the spot
where they had parted from him. When they reached home they threw the bear down on
the floor of the hut saying,
'Father, here is a bear which we killed; now we can have some dinner.'
But the father, who was in a bad temper, only said:
'When I was a young man we used to get two bears in one day.'
The sons were rather disappointed at hearing this, and though there was plenty of meat to
last for two or three days, they started off early in the morning down the same trail that
they had followed before. As they drew near the fork a bear suddenly ran out from behind
a tree, and took the path on the right. The two elder boys and their dogs pursued him, and
soon the second son, who was also a good shot, killed him instantly with an arrow. At the
fork of the trail, on their way home, they met the youngest, who had taken the left-hand
road, and had shot a bear for himself. But when they threw the two bears triumphantly on
the floor of the hut their father hardly looked at them, and only said:
'When I was a young man I used to get three bears in one day.'
The next day they were luckier than before, and brought back three bears, on which their
father told them that HE had always killed four. However, that did not prevent him from
skinning the bears and cooking them in a way of his own, which he thought very good,
and they all ate an excellent supper.
Now these bears were the servants of the great bear chief who lived in a high mountain a
long way off. And every time a bear was killed his shadow returned to the house of the
bear chief, with the marks of his wounds plainly to bee seen by the rest.