The Grey Fairy Book
The Twin Brothers
Once there was a fisherman who had plenty of money but no children. One day an old
woman came to his wife and said: ‘What use is all your prosperity to you when you have
‘It is God's will,' answered the fisherman's wife.
‘Nay, my child, it is not God's will, but the fault of your husband; for if he would but
catch the little gold-fish you would surely have children. To-night, when he comes home,
tell him he must go back and catch the little fish. He must then cut it in six pieces--one of
these you must eat, and your husband the second, and soon after you will have two
children. The third piece you must give to the dog, and she will have two puppies. The
fourth piece give to the mare, and she will have two foals. The fifth piece bury on the
right of the house door, and the sixth on the left, and two cypress trees will spring up
When the fisherman came home at evening his wife told him all that the old woman had
advised, and he promised to bring home the little gold-fish. Next morning, therefore, he
went very early to the water, and caught the little fish. Then they did as the old woman
had ordered, and in due time the fisherman's wife had two sons, so like each other that no
one could tell the difference. The dog had two puppies exactly alike, the mare had two
foals, and on each side of the front door there sprang up two cypress trees precisely
When the two boys were grown up, they were not content to remain at home, though they
had wealth in plenty; but they wished to go out into the world, and make a name for
themselves. Their father would not allow them both to go at once, as they were the only
children he had. He said: ‘First one shall travel, and when he is come back then the other
So the one took his horse and his dog, and went, saying to his brother: ‘So long as the
cypress trees are green, that is a sign that I am alive and well; but if one begins to wither,
then make haste and come to me.' So he went forth into the world.
One day he stopped at the house of an old woman, and as at evening he sat before the
door, he perceived in front of him a castle standing on a hill. He asked the old woman to
whom it belonged, and her answer was: ‘My son, it is the castle of the Fairest in the
‘And I am come here to woo her!'
‘That, my son, many have sought to do, and have lost their lives in the attempt; for she
has cut off their heads and stuck them on the post you see standing there.'