The Pink Fairy Book
The Three Brothers
There was once a man who had three sons, and no other possessions beyond the house in
which he lived. Now the father loved his three sons equally, so that he could not make up
his mind which of them should have the house after his death, because he did not wish to
favour any one more than the others. And he did not want to sell the house, because it had
belonged to his family for generations; otherwise he could have divided the money
equally amongst them. At last an idea struck him, and he said to his sons: 'You must all
go out into the owrld, and look about you, and each learn a trade, and then, when you
return, whoever can produce the best masterpiece shall have the house.'
The sons were quite satisfied. The eldest wished to be a blacksmith, the second a barber,
and the third a fencing-master. They appointed a time when they were to return home,
and then they all set out.
It so happened that each found a good master, where he learnt all that was necessary for
his trade in the best possible way. The blacksmith had to shoe the king's horses, and
thought to himself, 'Without doubt the house will be yours!' The barber shaved the best
men in the kingdom, and he, too, made sure that the house would be his. The fencing-
master received many a blow, but he set his teeth, and would not allow himself to be
troubled by them, for he thought to himself, 'If you are afraid of a blow you will never get
When the appointed time had come the three brothers met once more, and they sat down
and discussed the best opportunity of showing off their skill. Just then a hare came
running across the field towards them. 'Look!' said the barber, 'here comes something in
the nick of time!' seized basin and soap, made a lather whilst the hare was approaching,
and then, as it ran at full tilt, shaved its moustaches, without cutting it or injuring a single
hair on its body.
'I like that very much indeed,' said the father. 'Unless the others exert themselves to the
utmost, the house will be yours.'
Soon after they saw a man driving a carriage furiously towards them. 'Now, father, you
shall see what I can do!' said the blacksmith, and he sprang after the carriage, tore off the
four shoes of the horse as it was going at the top of its speed, and shod it with four new
ones without checking its pace.
'You are a clever fellow!' said the father, 'and know your trade as well as your brother. I
really don't know to which of you I shall give the house.'
Then the third son said, 'Father, let me also show you something;' and, as it was
beginning to rain, he drew his sword and swung it in cross cuts above his head, so that
not a drop fell on him, and the rain fell heavier and heavier, till at last it was coming
down like a waterspout, but he swung his sword faster and faster, and kept as dry as if he
were under cover.