The Two Brothers is a Grimm’s tale that has many similarities to many other tales. You’ll also find echoes of history in this tale. I don’t want to write too much about this tale before I do the summary because it is going to be a long, long summary.
Go to the bathroom now, I’ll wait…..do…do….dodo…do. Ok are you finished? Ok, we can begin the summary now.
Once upon a time there were two brothers. One was rich and the other was poor. The rich bother was a gold-smith and was evil at heart. The poor brother was a broom-maker and was pure in heart. He happened to have two sons who were twins. They were alike in every way.
One day the poor brother was out in the woods looking for wood to make into brooms. He saw a golden bird. He threw a rock at the bird thinking to capture it, but instead he got one feather. He took the feather to his rich brother who paid him a bunch of money for the one feather, because it was made of pure gold. The next day he searched for the bird again, but found its nest. In the nest was a golden egg. He took it to his rich brother who gave him lots of money for the egg. The rich brother told the poor brother that he would actually like to have the bird. The poor brother went the next day to find the bird, he did. He took it to the rich brother who paid him a lot of money for the bird. The poor brother went home happy because he now had a lot of money to help provide for his family.
The rich brother knew a secret about the golden bird. He knew that if he ate the heart and the liver of the golden bird a gold piece would be under his pillow every morning for the rest of his life. He had his wife prepare the golden bird for eating.
The twin nephews of the rich man were free to come and go in his house often. They went into the kitchen while the wife was away for a moment. They were hungry and decided to eat the two little pieces of meat that fell out of the bird. These pieces were the heart and live. The wife came back into the kitchen and saw that the heart and liver were gone. She shooed the boys away and killed a chicken and cooked up its heart and liver. She was afraid he husband would be very angry if he knew that his nephews had eaten the heart and liver instead of him.
The next morning the rich man felt beneath his pillow, but there was no any gold there. In the poor man’s house, the twins each found a piece of gold in their beds in the morning. They showed their father. Each morning for a while, each of the twins found a gold piece beneath their pillows. Finally, the poor brother told the rich brother the strange story of how this all happened. The rich brother knew immediately what had happened. He told the poor brother that the twins were under the influence of the evil one and that he must not touch the gold. He must also get rid of the twins.
The poor man greatly feared the evil one and left his twins in the forest.
The twins were in the forest and sought the way home, but could not find it. A hunter happened to find them. He asked them to whom they belonged and they told him they belonged to the broom maker. They also told him they could not stay at home because they found gold under their pillows in the morning. The hunter told them none of that was that bad. They could come and live with him. As long as they worked he would raise the twins as his own.
The hunter was good to his word. He put the gold pieces away each morning in case the twins would have need of them in the future. He taught the twins to hunt. When they were old enough he tested them by asking them to shoot geese out of a formation. When they had done so, they were declared official hunters and no longer under apprenticeship. They requested of their foster-father that they should be able to go out into the world. He agreed readily.
When the day came for the twins to leave home, the foster-father gave each of them a gun and a dog. He also gave them a knife. He told them that if they ever parted ways they should stick the knife in a tree when they parted. The knife would tell each of them how the other twin fared. If one side of the knife was rusty that meant that twin was dead.
They began their journey. After a few days they were hungry. They caught a hare, but the hare said something to them.
“Dear huntsman, do but let me live,
Two little ones to thee I’ll give.”
The twins agree to this. The hare brings out two small hares for the twins, but they felt pity for the animals and could not kill them. So they kept the hares and the hares followed along behind the twins. They soon came upon a fox, which they were going to shoot, but the fox said the same thing. The twins agreed. Now the twins had two hares and two foxes following them. Then they came upon a wolf who pleads the same plea. Then a bear asks the same favor. Finally, a lion asks the same favor of the twins. In the end the twins have two hares, two foxes, two wolves, two bears and two lions following them. You can imagine they were quite the crew.
It became apparent that it would be very hard for the large group to travel together. The brothers parted ways, each of them taking one of each animal. They put their knife in a tree as they parted ways.
The younger twin came to a town hung in black crape(for mourning) and asked for lodging for himself and all of his animals. He did find an inn that would put him up. The hare and fox were able to catch what they could find and the wolf, lion, and bear dined on a cow. The younger twin asked why the town was in mourning. The innkeeper said that the princess was going to die tomorrow. The brother asked if she was sickly and the innkeeper said, no, she was quite healthy. There was a dragon with seven heads that must have a pure virgin as a sacrifice. All the maidens in the area had already been sacrificed and the only girl left was the princess. The brother asks if anyone has tried to kill the dragon and the innkeeper tells him that lots of men have tried, but they have all died.
Younger brother decides to take a crack at this dragon. Before the dragon’s hill he finds a church. Inside the church is an altar with three cups on it. The altar bears an inscription stating that whosoever empties the cups shall be strong enough to wield the sword buried before the threshold. The brother first tried to pull the sword out of the ground, but could not. He then went and drank from the three cups. After he did so, he was able to pull the sword out of the ground and wield it quite easily. He waited on the dragon to appear.
The hour of the princess’s sacrifice was at hand. She saw the brother standing on the dragon’s hill and assumed it was the dragon. She did not want to go up to the hill because she knew she was going to her death, but she also knew that if she did not go up to the hill, the entire village would be destroyed by the dragon. She resigned herself to her fate and went up the hill.
The huntsman was on the hill. He took the princess and hid her in the little church. The dragon soon came to the hill and asked why the man was there. He says he is there to fight with the dragon. The dragon breathed out fire all around, but the huntsman’s animals stamped the fire out. The dragon rushed at the huntsman, but the huntsman swung his sword and chopped off three of the dragon’s heads. The dragon was angry and rose up into the air. He rushed at the huntsman again, but, once again, the huntsman swung his sword and chopped off three more heads belonging to the dragon. The dragon was weak and sunk down to the ground. The huntsman used his sword to cut off its tail. He called his animals forth and they rushed in and tore the rest of the dragon to pieces.
After this, the huntsman went to get the princess. She had been beside herself, but once she saw the dragon was dead she was very happy. She knew that her father had promised her hand in marriage to whomever killed the dragon. She was happy to be marrying the huntsman. The princess decided to reward the huntsman and his animals. To the huntsman she gave her handkerchief that had her name embroidered upon it. She then divided her coral necklace. To each animal she gave some of the beads as a collar. The lion got the gold clasp which had held the necklace together. The huntsman went to the dragon and cut each of the tongues out of each one of its mouths.
The huntsman decides that he is very tired and that he and the princess should rest. He lies down to go to sleep and tells the lion to keep watch. The lion gets tired after a while and tells the bear to keep watch while he sleeps. The bear gets tired after a while and tells the wolf to keep watch. The wolf gets tired after a while and tells the fox to keep watch. The fox gets tired after a while and tells the hare to keep watch. The hare gets tired after a while, but does not have anybody to keep watch and simply falls asleep.
While everyone is asleep, a marshal observes that everyone is sleeping. He comes up with a cunning plan. He knows that whosoever slays the dragon can marry the princess. He decides to usurp the huntsman’s place. He takes his sword and cuts off the head of the huntsman while he is sleeping. He then takes the princess and threatens her saying that she should not tell anyone that he did not actually kill the dragon.
The marshal takes the princess back to the castle. The king is overjoyed that she is alive. The king asks her if the marshal really killed the dragon and the princess has to say yes. The king is ready to throw a wedding, but the princess says she wants to wait a year and a day before she marries. She thinks that perhaps her huntsman will come back during this time. She doesn’t know that he is dead.
The animals were still asleep and a bumblebee flew to where they were sleeping. It lighted on the hare’s nose, but the hare swatted it away in his sleep. The bumblebee rested on the hare’s nose again and the hare swatted it away again. The third time, the bumblebee stung the hare on the nose. Once the hare was awake everyone else woke up as well. They were all horrified to learn that their master was dead. They all tried to blame each other for the master’s death.
The hare felt the blame rested solely with him and felt the others would kill him. The hare told the other animals not to kill him. He knew of a herb which would bring the master back to life. The lion tells the hare that he better be back with the herb in twenty-four hours. The hare runs as fast as he can. He gets the herb. The animals place the master’s head back on his body and place the herb in his mouth. The master comes back to life and thinks the princess has left him. The lion had made a mistake when placing the master’s head back on. He had placed it backwards and the master realized this when he was going to eat. The animals had no choice, but to come clean.
The animals tore the master’s head off again, put it on correctly, then gave him the herb to bring him back to life. The huntsman was kind of depressed and decided to travel around for a while. He made his animals dance for money. The huntsman came back to the same town where he had rescued the princess exactly a year after the day. The town was hung in red for celebration. He asks what is going on. He says that the princess is getting married.
The huntsman makes a bet that by the end of the day he will eat bread from the king’s table. The huntsman sends his hare to ask for a loaf of bread from the princess. The hare does so. He sneaks below the princess’s chair and scratches at her feet. She recognizes the hare because of its collar made of the coral necklace she had divided amongst the animals. She asked the hare what it needed and the hare told her it needed a loaf of bread from the king’s table. The princess figures this is something she can do. The hare gets the loaf of bread and takes it back to his master. The innkeeper has to pay up on his bet. The huntsman says that he will next have roast from the king’s table, but he doesn’t want to make any more bets.
He sends the fox to get the roast. The fox finds the princess and she recognizes him by his collar. She sends him back to his master with some roast. The huntsman then wants some vegetables. He sends his wolf to get those. The huntsman then wants some pastry from the king’s table. He sends the bear. The castle guards understandably don’t want to let a bear into the wedding, but he just kind of barges his way in anyway. He speaks to the princess, who sends him away with pastries. Then the huntsman decides that he wants wine from the king’s table. He sends the lion, because the lion apparently knows a thing or two about wine.
After roaring his way into the castle, the lion talks to the princess who agrees to help him get some wine. The king’s servant tries, at first, to give the lion the wine the servants drink. The lion knows what good wine should taste like and tastes the wine. He tells the servant that this is not the correct wine. The servant takes the lion to some different wine, but the lion also tastes this wine. It’s not the correct wine. Finally, the servant breaks down and takes the lion to a little room where the king’s good wine is stored. The lion tastes it and knows this is the king’s wine. He then takes the wine back to his master.
Once the huntsman has all of his food and drink he sits down to eat it all. He shares with his animals. The huntsman then tells the innkeeper that he will marry the princess. The innkeeper pretty much says, “Yeah, right, she’s already got a boyfriend.” He shows the innkeeper the handkerchief and tells him that it will help him get the princess.
The king asks his daughter why a bunch of animals kept coming to see her. She says she doesn’t know, but that the king should send for the master of all of the animals. He does so, but the huntsman demands to be carried to the castle in a fine carriage with clothes meant for a king. The king asks his daughter if he should agree to this and the princess says that he should. So he sends a carriage with six horses and rich clothes for the huntsman.
The huntsman arrives and is seated near the princess. The seven heads of the dragon are brought in as proof of the deed the marshal has supposedly done. Someone remarks that there are no tongues in the mouths of the dragons. The marshal tries to cover up quickly saying that dragons have no tongues because they are liars. Well, it’s time for the huntsman to prove him wrong. He pulls out the seven dragon tongues which he had in the princess’s handkerchief. He also shows the handkerchief which belongs to the princess. He also shows the collars that the animals wear. The princess admits to the handkerchief and coral belonging to her. The huntsman says that the marshal cut off his head while he was sleeping in order to claim the princess. The king asks the princess if this is all true, and she says yes.
The king has his councilors judge the marshal who is sentenced to death by bulls. The huntsman and the princess are married. They are happy for a while, until the huntsman begs the king to let him hunt in an enchanted forest. The king finally relents and says ok. While hunting in the forest, the huntsman sees a pure white deer. He follows it and is soon so lost no one care hear him yell or blow his horn.
He decides to stay the night in the forest and sits down underneath a tree. He hears a voice, “OH, oh, oh, how cold I am!” He looks up in the tree and sees that a woman is there. He tells her to come down to warm herself by his fire. She says that if she comes down his animals will kill her. She throws down her wand and tells the huntsman to tap each of them on the back so they do not attack her. The huntsman does this and one by one, each of his animals are turned to stone. The woman, who is a witch, comes down from the tree and also turns the huntsman into stone.
The witch hid the stones in a crypt where there were many such stones already.
Meanwhile the young queen is very worried about her husband he has not returned. The other twin turns back up in the story. He happens to be going through the same forest where he and his brother parted. He looks at the knife and notices that his brother’s side is half shiny and half rusted. He knows something terrible must have happened. He finds his way to the village where his brother lives. There people mistake him for the king and he decides to go with it. He pretends to be the king, even sleeping in the king’s bed with the king’s wife, but he always places a double-edged sword between he and his brother’s wife in the night.
He uses his position as the supposed king to find out information. He asks around about everything. He finally finds out about the forest where the hunting trip was. He says that he would very much like to go back there. The queen begs him not to go, but he goes anyway. Once there he chases the white deer deep into the forest. No one can follow him, but his animals. He decides to stay the night in the forest, but hears the same voice call down from the tree. The other brother isn’t falling for that wand bull-crap. He tells her that if she does not come down he will come up to get her. She pretty much says, “Make me,” and sticks out her tongue, not really. He then says he will shoot her. She says she does not fear his bullets.
The other brother does shoot at the witch and as she says, bullets do her no harm. The huntsman then takes three silver buttons off of his coat and loads them into his gun. He shoots the witch with these knowing that they will cause her damage. She falls from the tree when he shoots her. He pins her to the ground and threatens her with a fiery death if she does not tell him where his brother is. She tells them they are in a vault with all the other stone pieces. He compels her to go to this vault, where he then compels her to turn everyone back into living creatures. There are many people an animals that must now take up their lives again. The brother finally meets up with his twin after such a long time. They seize the witch and throw her into the fire.
The brother tells his twin how he pretended to be him while he was at the castle. The first brother gets angry and kills his brother over this fact, but then he laments knowing that his brother saved his life. He uses the special herb to bring him back to life. His brother never remembers that his own brother has cut off his head.
They then decide to go back to the castle. They decided to enter into two completely different gates, just for kicks. The people of the castle and court are a little confused because the king came in two different gates at the same time. The two brothers look just alike. The king asks his daughter to pick which man is hers. She says it is the man whom the lion follows. She is correct. That night, after celebrating, she asks her husband why he had placed a double-edged sword in between them in the bed. When the first brother heard this, he knew that his brother had been faithful to him.
The End (finally)
This story is so long. I would really like to dissect this tale properly, but there really isn’t the time or energy to do so. This post is getting scarily close to four-thousand words with just a summary.
Ok, let’s be quick. The seven-headed dragon reminds me of the hydra from Greek mythology. Remember that its heads must be cut off. I also seem to remember that it might have wanted a virgin sacrifice.
I don’t know why silver is always considered the pure metal. Notice that both gold and silver are mentioned in this tale. Silver is mentioned in relation to purity and gold is mentioned in relation to greed.
Notice there are guns in this tale. That means this tale has a newer origin than many of the other Grimm’s tales which do not mention firearms at all.
The story has similarities to some British history in my opinion. I am thinking, of course, of the two boys who were supposedly killed by King Richard in the tower of London. The twins are very much in the same situation in this tale. I would actually like more time to go into the similarities, but this post is already much too long as it is.
Was anyone else remembering the White Witch from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? She turned people an animals into stone. I do have to wonder if C.S. Lewis used this tale as some of his inspiration for the character of the white witch. This tale would predate Lewis’s tale by a good hundred years, at least.
The number two is a huge theme in this tale. We not only have twin brothers, but also two brothers, the father and the uncle, in the beginning of the tale. We have two organs which must be consumed. There are two pieces of gold total each morning. There are two of each animal for the brothers. The number two goes on and on. In many ways, we consider the number two to be one. When we talk about two people who are dating or are married, we say they are a “couple.” That’s a singular term. These two people have combined into one unit. These brothers are one unit and they must split at one point in the story. Notice they only receive one enchanted knife from their foster-father. That knife symbolizes their oneness.
The double-edged sword is something mentioned in the Bible. It can cut both ways so you have to be careful wielding it. The second brother uses this sword so he will not be tempted and that his brother’s wife will not be tempted. It takes two to tango, baby.
Bran’s broken, can’t think of anything to type here.