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A fairy-tale about three brothers and their adopted father

 

Once upon a time there lived three brothers who lost both their father and their mother. Neither did have a house to live in or a field to till. They had no choice but to start looking for someone who would hire them so that they could make a living. Soon after they had set off on their way, they met a very old man who was trudging along the road. The old man with a long white beard stopped when he saw them coming and asked, Where are you heading, good boys?

And the young men replied, We are orphans, we have no one and nothing left in this world, so we are off to see if anyone would hire us. We hope we shall find a good man for whom we would do any work he tells us to do to the best of our ability. We also hope he would be like a father to us.

The old man hearing this said in reply, You seem to be nice boys, I wish I had sons like you. So if you obey me, Ill be like an adopted father to you, and I will teach you how to live, how to tell truth from lie, how to be men of integrity.

The brothers did not take long to decide  they said they would obey the old man and do as he would tell them to do. Follow me then, said the old man.

They kept walking on and on, through dense, dark forests and across open, sunny fields.

After a long while they come to a place where they see a nice house, with white walls, neat roof, with a cherry garden around it, and a lot of flowers all around. As they come closer, the door opens and a young girl, beautiful as a flower, comes out.

When the brothers see her, the eldest one says. I wish I had some oxen and cows  then I would feel I could propose to this girl!

I can help you, says the old man. Lets go and talk to that girl. She will believe me that you are a man of substance and will agree to take you for husband. Live well and happy but always remember to be true and kind.

The old man comes up to the girl, tells her something, she smiles and invites the brothers to come in. The eldest brother proposes to her, she accepts the proposal. They are wed, and after the wedding party the two younger brothers and the old man move on, leaving the eldest behind with his wife in their nice white house.

They keep on walking through dense and dark forests and across open sunny fields until they come to a nice house with a water mill and a pond close by. They see a young girl who looks very industrious doing something by the house. The middle brother says, How nice it would be if I could marry that girl! Id work at the mill, Id fish at the pond and we would live well!

All right, my boy, you will get what you want. Lets go! The old man comes up to the girl, starts talking to her, she smiles and invites them to come to the house. She accepts the middle brothers proposal of marriage and they are wed. Soon after the wedding party, the youngest brother and the old man get ready to leave.

Work hard, my boy, says the old man, live well and happy but always remember to be true and kind.

And then they left, the old and the youngest brother.

They keep on walking through dense and dark forests and across open sunny fields until they come to a small, ramshackle house, and there is a girl, young and beautiful as a shining star, who sits at the threshold. The girls dress is neat but very poor, all patched up.

I wish I could marry this girl, says the youngest brother. Id repair the house, Id work in the field, Id work hard and we would have bread and other things to live on. And we would give what we can to those who are poor and have nothing to eat.

All right, my boy, you will get what you want. Lets go! The old man comes up to the girl, starts talking to her, she smiles and invites them to come to the house.

She accepts the youngest brothers proposal of marriage and they are wed. Soon after the wedding party, the old man gets ready to leave.

Work hard, my boy, says the old man, live well and happy but always remember to be true and kind.

And the old man left.

The eldest brother became so rich that he had a much bigger house built. The money kept rolling in, and he was saving the gold coins in a big trunk and kept thinking about nothing else but how to get more of those gold coins. He never helped anybody who asked for help. He was very stingy and tight-fisted.

The middle brother also got to be quite wealthy. He began to hire people to work for him, spending his days lying on his big bed and giving orders. And the youngest brother worked hard, grew vegetables and corn, and he and his wife lived in good harmony. Whenever someone asked for help, they helped with whatever they could.

One day, the old man comes back after being away wandering in the world for quite some time. The eldest brother was the first he came to pay a visit to and see how he lived. The old man who just a short while looked stately and richly dressed, now looks a miserable beggar in rags, comes up closer to the house near which stands the eldest brother.

He does not recognize the old man. He looks haughtily at a poor beggar bent with age who stands before him, begging.

Ive got nothing to give you, old man. Besides, you are not that old and can earn your living. Go find work and do not beg!

The old man looks around and sees nice big houses, barns, pigsties, and warehouses full of goods.

Go, old man, go! shouts the eldest brother.

And the old man leaves. He climbs a nearby hill, stops, turns back and looks at the prosperous farm of the eldest brother. And then, all of a sudden, the houses, the barns, the haystacks, the warehouses and the rest of it are engulfed in flames.

The old man walks on. He walks through dense and dark forests and across open sunny fields until he comes to the place where the middle brother lives. The house, the mill, and the pond all look very nice and very well taken care of. The old man sees the middle brother standing by the mill, looking contently around. The old man who just a short while looked stately and richly dressed, now looks a miserable beggar in rags, comes up closer, bows low and says, I see you own a mill and so you must have a lot of flour to make bread from. Good man, could you please give me a piece of bread? I am very hungry.

I have not made enough flour to make bread for myself, to say nothing of the likes of you. There are too many beggars hanging around. Move on, old man, move on!

And the old man moved on. He walks some distance, then stops, turns and looks intently at the house and at the mill, and then all of a sudden everything goes up in flames.

The old man walks through dense and dark forests and across open sunny fields until he comes to the place where the youngest brother lives. His house is old and small but in good repair. The old man who just a short while looked stately and richly dressed, now looks a miserable beggar in rags, comes up closer and seeing the younger brother come out the door, starts begging, Im starving! Could you please give me something to eat?

Come into the house, please. Well feed you and we will give something to take with you to eat later.

The old man walked into the house and when the younger brothers wife saw what a sorry condition the old man was in, she rushed to the pantry and brought out whatever food there was in it. She also found trousers, shoes and a shirt for the old man to put on instead of his rags. When the old man was putting on the shirt, the woman saw that there was an open wound on his chest. She cried out, Let me dress your wound!

Dont bother, says the man. This kind of wound to the heart cannot heal. Ill soon die of it, maybe tomorrow.

What a misfortune! But how did you get wounded? Is there really no cure for it?

Yes, there is, and many people have medicine for it but nobody wants to give that medicine to me.

Try us, cries out the younger brother. Maybe we have what you need, and if we do, we shall gladly give it to you! Tell us what it is!

All right, says the old man. If you burn your house and everything else on your farm to ashes, then gather the ash and stuff it into my wound, then it will heal. But I dont think theres anyone in this world who would do such a thing!

The younger brother, who was taken aback, bowed his head and did not answer right away. Then, after a while, he raised his head and asked his wife, My dear wife, what do you think, can we save this man?

Yes, we can, says the good woman. Well build a new house for ourselves, and if this good man dies, you cannot bring him back to life.

All right, then. Lets get the children and whatever else you want to save out of the house.

As soon as the children were out of the house and whatever few goods and chattels they had were brought out, the younger brother arranged dry hay all around the house to set fire to it. But at the last moment he felt a great pity for his house, and his hand holding a burning torch, trembled. But then he looked at the old man and felt even a greater pity for him. And then he set fire to his house. The fire was so powerful it destroyed the old house in no time. But lo and behold  a new handsome house arose on the spot where the old house stood!

And the old man who was standing close by, looking stately and neatly dressed, smiled and said, I see, my good boy, that you are the only one among your brothers who have remained true and kind. Live well and happy!

It was only then that the younger brother recognized who the old man was. He rushed towards him to embrace him but the old man vanished into thin air.

 

Art by Oleksandr MELNYK

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