The Four Skillful Brothers

Authored by:Brothers Grimm
Chapter 1 / 2

Section 1

Once upon a time, a destitute fellow had four offspring, and upon their maturation, he expressed to them, "My beloved progeny, it is now incumbent upon you to venture out into the world, as I possess nothing to bestow upon you. Therefore, embark on your journey, traverse far and wide, acquire a craft, and ascertain how you may thrive." Consequently, the quartet grasped their canes, bid their father adieu, and proceeded in unison through the city gate. After wandering for some time, they reached a juncture that branched off into four divergent paths. The eldest then declared, "At this juncture, we must part ways, but let us convene here once again after a period of four years. Meanwhile, let us endeavor to find our fortunes."

Afterward, they all parted ways, and the eldest encountered a person who inquired about his intended destination and purpose. "I aim to acquire a skill of trade," he replied. The other person then proposed, "Come with me and become a thief." "No," he rebuffed, "That is no longer a reputable vocation, and it ultimately leads to being hanged." "Fear not," the man countered, "I will teach you to obtain things that no one else can, without detection." So the eldest relented, and while in the company of the man, he became a proficient thief, so skilled that nothing was secure from him if he desired to possess it. The second brother encountered a person who posed the same inquiry regarding his aspirations in life. "I am uncertain as of now," he answered. The man then suggested, "Accompany me, and become an astronomer; there is nothing superior to it, for nothing remains concealed from you." The proposal appealed to him, and he developed into such an adept astronomer that when he had acquired all the knowledge, and was about to continue his journey, his mentor gifted him a telescope and uttered, "With this, you can observe everything that transpires either on earth or in the heavens, and nothing can elude your sight." The third brother was taken under the tutelage of a huntsman, who provided him with exceptional training in all aspects of hunting, enabling him to develop into a seasoned hunter. Before departing, his mentor presented him with a gun and proclaimed, "It will never disappoint you; you shall hit whatever you aim at." As for the youngest brother, he also encountered a person who conversed with him and inquired about his intentions. "Would you not fancy becoming a tailor?" he suggested. "Not particularly," the youth responded, "Sitting hunched over all day, incessantly pushing the needle and the goose back and forth, does not appeal to me." "Ah, you are speaking from a place of ignorance," the man replied, "With me, you shall learn a different kind of tailoring, which is dignified, proper, and mostly honorable." Thus, the youth succumbed to persuasion and accompanied the man, beginning his apprenticeship from the very basics. Upon their parting, the man presented the youth with a needle and stated, "With this, you shall sew together anything given to you, regardless of whether it is as delicate as an egg or as sturdy as steel, and it shall become one piece of stuff, rendering no seam visible."

Upon the conclusion of the four-year term, the four brothers congregated at the crossroads at the designated time, where they hugged and embraced one another before returning to their father's home. "Ah, so the wind has carried you back to me," their father exclaimed with delight. The brothers recounted their experiences and the acquisition of their respective trades. As they sat under a large tree in front of the house, their father proposed a test. Looking up to the top of the tree, he addressed his second son, "Between two branches up there, there is a chaffinch's nest. Tell me, how many eggs are inside?" The astronomer drew out his telescope, peered upward, and replied, "There are five eggs." Next, their father instructed the eldest, "Retrieve the eggs without causing any disturbance to the bird which is sitting hatching the eggs." With his thieving skills, he scaled up and seized the five eggs without the bird taking notice, leaving her to continue sitting peacefully. He then brought them down to his father. The father took the eggs and placed them on the four corners of the table, and the fifth in the center. He then instructed the hunter, "You shall split all five eggs in half, through the middle, with a single shot." The huntsman aimed at the eggs and fired, causing all five eggs to split precisely as the father had requested, all in a single shot. The hunter must have had a specialized type of gunpowder that allowed him to shoot around corners with accuracy. "Now it's your turn," the father said to the youngest son. "You must sew the eggs back together, along with the young birds inside so that they are not hurt by the shot." The tailor retrieved his needle and thread and sewed the eggs back together exactly as his father had instructed.


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