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Old site version

Three Brothers

 

Art by Oleksandr MELNYK

 

Once upon a time there lived three brothers whose parents died when they were young. Neither did they have a house to live in nor 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 find a good man for whom we would do any work he tells us 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, and 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, tell the truth from a lie, and be men of integrity.

The brothers did not take long to decide. They said they would obey the old man and do as he told them. 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 came to a place where they saw a nice house, with white walls, a neat roof, a cherry garden, and a lot of flowers all around. As they came closer, the door opened and a young girl, as beautiful as a flower, came out.

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

I can help you, said 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 a husband. Live well and happy, but always remember to be true and kind.

The old man came up to the girl, told her something, she smiled and invited the brothers to come in. The eldest brother proposed to her, and she accepted the proposal. They were wed, and after the wedding party, the two younger brothers and the old man moved on, leaving the eldest behind with his wife in their nice white house.

They kept on walking through dense and dark forests and across open sunny fields until they came to a nice house with a water mill and a pond close by. They saw a young girl who looked very industrious doing something by the house. The middle brother said, 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 came up to the girl, started talking to her, she smiled and invited them to come to the house. She accepted the middle brothers proposal of marriage and they were wed. Soon after the wedding party, the youngest brother and the old man got ready to leave.

Work hard, my boy, said 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 kept on walking through dense and dark forests and across open sunny fields until they came to a small, ramshackle house, and there was a girl, as young and beautiful as a shining star, sitting at the threshold. The girls dress was neat but very poor, all patched up.

I wish I could marry this girl, said 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 could 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 came up to the girl, started talking to her, she smiled and invited them to come to the house.

She accepted the youngest brothers proposal of marriage and they were wed. Soon after the wedding party, the old man got ready to leave.

Work hard, my boy, said 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 saved the gold coins in a big trunk and kept thinking about nothing else but how to get more of them. He never helped anybody who asked for help. He was very stingy and tight-fisted. The middle brother also became quite wealthy. He began to hire people to work for him, spending his days lying on his big bed and giving orders.

The youngest brother worked hard, grew vegetables and corn, and he and his wife lived in harmony. Whenever someone asked for help, they helped with whatever they could. One day, the old man returned after wandering in the world for quite some time. The eldest brother was the first he came to visit and see how he lived. The old man, who just a short while ago looked stately and richly dressed, now looked a miserable beggar in rags, came closer to the house near which stood the eldest brother.

He did not recognize the old man. He looked haughtily at the poor beggar bent with age who stood 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 looked around and saw nice big houses, barns, pigsties, and warehouses full of goods.

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

And the old man left. He climbed a nearby hill, stopped, turned back and looked 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 were engulfed in flames.

The old man walked on. He walked through dense and dark forests and across open sunny fields until he came to the place where the middle brother lived. The house, the mill, and the pond all looked very nice and very well taken care of. The old man saw the middle brother standing by the mill, looking contentedly around. The old man, who just a short while ago looked stately and richly dressed, now looked a miserable beggar in rags, came closer, bowed low and said, 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 walked some distance, stopped, turned and looked intently at the house and the mill, and then all of a sudden everything went up in flames.

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

Come into the house, please. Well feed you and we will give you 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 there was an open wound on his chest, and cried out, Let me dress your wound!

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

What a misfortune! But how were you 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, cried out the younger brother. Maybe we have what you need, and if we do, we will gladly give it to you! Tell us what it is!

All right, said 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, said the good woman. Well build a new house for ourselves, but 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 that 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 has remained true and kind. Live well and be happy!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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