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Thread: The Three Raven Brothers

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    Senior Member Veršandi's Avatar
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    The Three Raven Brothers

    Inspired by the paintings of Franz Stassen as posted by J.Belenger, I want to bring you a story of Three Raven Brothers. This is a story I grew up with as a child in Slovakia. Until I started to do a little research for this article, I did not realize that it is actually a part of a brothers Grimm collection.

    According to Wikipedia there are at least 31 variations of the story. While Franz Stassen illustrated the story of Seven Raven Brothers, this version is with three brothers, and the pictures for most part, follow the story. Here it is.

    Once upon a time there lived a mother who had three sons and a beautiful daughter. The boys were older and the girl in the crib. The boys were a handful; they would fight each other every day, seek out and eat everything she would bring into the house and they were very faddish. One day, the mother started to cook the lunch and left to go to church. When the meat was cooked a little, the boys pulled it out of the pot and ate it. When the mother came back and looked into the empty pot she got really angry and yelled:

    “I wish you would turn into ravens! You can fight and rip each other to the meat and blood!”

    In that moment, the boys turned into the ravens. They flapped their wings, croaked and fought as they fleew up. The mother, still unaware what she was doing, leaned out of the window and yelled after them:

    “Fly through the world you greedy brats until your closest family won’t set you free.”

    The ravens croaked even more and flew off. When the mother came to her senses she cried. She felt sorry for her sons, but she could not take the curse back. The years went by and there was no word about the boys. Their sister grew into a beautiful girl. One evening she heard the story of her brothers from their neighbour.

    “Mother, where are my brothers?”

    Her mom started to cry and told her everything.

    “Don’t cry, dear mother” she said, “I am their closest family I will set them free.”

    And what the pretty sister said, she did. On the third day she gave her mother a goodbye and set on her journey. She traveled through vast fields and deep forests until she came to the dwelling of Moon’s mother.

    “Good evening, mother” she bowed.

    “And to you,” thanked the Moon’s mother, “what are you doing here?”

    “I came to ask you, if you don’t know anything about three ravens, my cursed brothers.”

    “I am sorry, I really don’t know. If you wait until my son comes home I will ask him. Hide under this bathtub so you don’t come to harm.”

    The beautiful girl hid under the tub and waited. Not long after, the Moon came home from his travels. Just as he set his foot into the house he yelled:

    “Mother, I smell human! Tell me where she is, I will eat her!”

    But the Moon mother’s soothing words calmed him down, and after a good supper he was all ready to go to bed. To help him fall asleep she caressed his head. She then grabbed one of his hairs and pulled it out.

    “Mother! Why are you hurting so much?”

    “I am sorry, son. I must have nodded off a little. And in that moment I had a dream that somebody was asking if you have not seen three raven brothers.”

    “I have not seen any, but the Sun has better eyes, he could have.”

    After the Moon had slept, he left for another journey. His mother said to the beautiful traveller:

    “I cannot help you here. Go and seek out Sun’s mother, she would help you.”

    And so the sister left again, and travelled through deep forests and vast fields until she found Sun’s mother. There she spent another scary night under the bathtub, but even then she could not get more help. On the next day, Sun’s mother sent her to Wind’s mother.

    And she traveled some more until she found Wind’s mother living between two mountains.

    “Good evening, mother,” the sister bowed.

    “And to you,” the mother replied, “What are you doing here? Not even birds come this way, let alone humans.”

    “I came to ask your son if he has heard about my three raven brothers.”

    “I will ask him, pretty girl, but come here and hide under the bathtub, so he does not hurt you.”

    The door flew open wide as the sister hid.

    “Mother, I smell human! Tell me where she is. I will eat her!”

    And he stomped through the room and blew angrily so that the mother had a hard time to calm him down. After a good diner, the Wind started to fall asleep. His mother, holding his head, grabbed one of his hairs and pulled it out.

    “Why are you not more careful, mother?” the Wind asked angrily.

    “I am sorry my son, I must have fallen asleep a little for I was dreaming that somebody was asking me if you have seen three raven brothers?

    “I saw them,” answered the Wind sleepily, “They live in The Glass Mountain.”

    After a good night sleep, the Wind left the house. Wind’s mother let the girl out and said:

    “My dear, your brothers live in the Glass castle. It is so far away that I don’t even know how to exactly get there. I will cook you a chicken for the road. Eat the meat, but keep the bones. When you get to the castle, you can make ladder out of them to get inside.”

    The sister thanked her, took the cooked pheasant and left. She has travelled far and long until one day she reached the castle. The castle was beautiful and smooth without any gates or stairs leading into it. She made the ladder from the bones and made it inside through a window. She walked into a big room in the middle of which there was a big table set for three people.

    “It must be a supper for my brothers,” she thought.

    She ate a little of the soup from the first plate and hid under the bed.

    Not long after that, three ravens flapped their wings and through the window they flew into the room. The moment they touched the ground they changed into three handsome men. They washed out the wounds they inflicted on one another with water and they sat behind the table. The oldest said:

    “Hey brothers! Don’t touch the food, there is somebody here who ate from my soup!”

    But the brothers ridiculed him, they argued and there was almost a fight. At last the oldest said:

    “Enough of this. We will find him after the dinner.”

    But they all forgot after they ate. In the morning they leapt onto the window sill, transformed into ravens and flew off croaking and tearing the flesh from each other.

    As the evening approached there were again three beds made and supper on the table. The sister came from under the bed and she ate a little form the second plate and drunk a little wine from the second cup. After this she went back under the bed.

    In the evening, the brothers flew in and changed into men. They wash their wounds and sat by the table.

    Before they ate the middle one said:

    “Don’t touch your food, brothers, there is somebody here who ate from my plate and drunk form my wine. Yesterday, you were right brother.”

    The youngest, however, started an argument, and they almost fought again. Two oldest promised to search the castle after the supper, but they forgot again after the meal.
    Next day, the sister ate from third plate, drunk some wine from the third cup and lay in the third brother’s bed. The brothers came home in the evening, turned back to men and washed out their wounds. As they sat down to eat, the third brother proclaims:

    “Hey brothers! Don’t touch the food, there is somebody here who ate from my soup and drunk from my wine!” He then noticed his bed then and added: “And somebody lay in my bed. Enough of this, I’ll find him now!”

    He grabbed his sword and started searching the room. When he looked under the bed, he saw a beautiful girl underneath.

    “There you are! Come on out, so we can see if you mean harm or not!”

    “I mean no harm,” replied the girl as she crawled from underneath the bed. “I am your sister and I came to take the curse off you. Just tell me what I need to do.”

    There was a lot of joy in the room. After they all greeted each other the oldest brother said:

    “My dear sister, if you want to set us free, you cannot utter a word for sever years, sevens months, seven days and seven hours. If you would, there is no help for us ever again.”

    “I know it is hard,” replied the sister, “but I left home with the intention of setting you free and I’ll do what needs to be done.”

    The brothers were full of joy. To make the task a little easier for her, they hollowed out a room in a big tree and left only a small window through which they would bring her food.

    Two or three years later, a young king traveled through the country. His four horses galloped under the Glass castle, but when they traveled around the big tree, the horses stopped and would go no further. There was no help; they had to go back. The same thing happened the next day. On the third day, the king harnessed his best horses and when these also stopped on the same spot, he said:

    “This is not right. Lets find out what is going on here.”

    The king got out of his chariot and started to look around the tree. Suddenly he noticed a little window in the tree and the face of beautiful girl looking back at him. He then grabbed his sabre and together with his guard started chopping on the tree. The splinters flew in every direction and soon the girl was freed. When she was out and the king saw her in full, he liked her so much he married her.

    They lived happily for some time despite that the queen did not speak. Then, the war had started. Sad as king was, he had to leave his wife at home and lead his troops. He left her in the care of an old woman who lived in the castle. She was a witch.

    This witch had a daughter but she was ill mannered and bad. She wanted to marry her to the king, but he didn’t want her. So the witch prepared a revenge.

    Not long after the king left, the queen gave birth to a beautiful boy. He had golden hair and a golden star on the forehead. At night, the witch switched the baby for a puppy.

    She ran with the boy to the window to drown him in the water under the castle. In that moment, a raven flew by and the witch threw the baby to him:

    “Here, you father of all ravens, have him for breakfast.”

    The raven grabbed the baby and flew behind the horizon.

    The witch spread the news the very same morning, that the queen gave birth to a puppy. She also wrote it to the king. But the king loved her wife and wrote back to take care of his wife and the puppy.

    When the king came home, he found his wife very sad. Poor girl could not say a thing but they soon found the happiness again.

    However, the king had to leave for war again. Again he left his queen in the care of the old witch. A couple of months later the queen gave birth to her second son. He, as well, had golden hair and a golden star on the forehead. The witch stole this one as well and threw a little kitten to to queen. She wanted to drown the boy in the water under the castle. As she was about to throw him in the water, a raven flew by.

    “Here, you old raven, eat the boy for lunch.”

    The raven grabbed the little boy and flew over the mountain.

    The witch spread the news the very same day that the queen gave birth to a kitten. She also wrote to the king. The king, very saddened, still loved his wife, and when he came back from the war he loved her as before.

    The king, however, had to leave to go to war again for the third time. When he was gone, a beautiful girl was born to the queen. She had golden hair and a golden star on the forehead. The witch stole the girl as well, then replaced her with wooden log. She was going to drown her as she was going to do with her brothers, but a raven flew under the window in that moment.

    “Here, ugly raven, eat the girl for dinner.”

    The raven took the girl and flew away into the distance.

    The witch, happy with herself, wrote a letter to the king that the queen gave birth to a wooden log. When the king read the letter, he was angered.

    “What is too much, is too much. Neither does she speaks, neither is she a human mother. Her head will roll.”

    He hurriedly came home and condemned his queen to death. All that time the queen did not say a word to defend herself, she wanted to free her brothers so much.

    So they took her out to the field where she was to be beheaded. In the moment the hangman lifted his sword, a raven flew in with a boy in his beak. He had golden hair and a golden star on his head.

    “Hey, wait up hangman, here is a handsome boy. Play with him a little,” the raven said.

    The hangman and the king were so occupied with the little boy, they forgot why they were there. After a while, the king snapped out of it and said:

    “Hangman, do your job!”

    And the hangman lifted the sword again. Then, another raven flew by and carried another boy with golden hair and a golden star on his head.

    “Hey, hangman, stop. Here is a little boy. Play with him for a bit,” the second raven said.

    And the hangman and the king played with the boy until the king said:

    “Do your job, hangman!”

    The hangman lifted his sword one more time. As he was about to swing it, a third raven flew by carrying a beautiful girl. The raven say:

    “Hey, hangman, stop! And you sister, speak up!”

    Seven years, seven months, seven days and seven hours were up. The ravens turned into three handsome men. The queen sighed heavily and spoke up.

    “Thank god, my brothers are finally set free. I can now tell you everything, my king.”

    And so she told him all about how their children were born and how the witch stole them, threw them out of the window and gave her a puppy, a kitten and a wooden log.

    The brothers then spoke about their curse. They thanked their sister for her selflessness and dedication. When they took the children, they cared for them at the Glass castle.

    The king cried tears of joy. He begged his queen for forgiveness and with great glory he took his wife, all the children and the brothers to the castle.

    They sat the witch into a barrel, nailed a lot of nails from outside and rolled the barrel down a big hill.

    The brothers stayed with them and they brought their old mother as well. And they all lived happily together until their death.


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    This is a wonderful story. I haven't heard of this fairytale before. It should be made into a film. Thanks so much for posting it.

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