The Fifth Brother
Expanded Story of the Moravian tale of ‘Four Brothers’
It was once told some time ago that there were four brothers that were the son of a huntsman that had saved a princess from a dragon. The four brothers had each mastered gainful trades with skills beyond any other with their craft. The eldest brother was a cobbler, who could fix anything by saying, “mend it”. The second brother was a thief, who could have anything by saying, “take it”. The third brother was an astrologer, who could see anything by saying, “find it”. And the youngest brother was a hunter like his father, who could slaughter any creature by saying, “kill it”.
As the story is told, and re-told, and told again, the brothers were granted kingdoms and riches by saving the princess from the perilous dragon. What is not told is the story of the mysterious fifth brother, the son of the father and the harlot, who the other brothers had never known.
After the dragon was slain, the brothers had lived happily in their kingdoms, showered with gifts and riches and beautiful wives. Their father traveled to each of his four son’s homes at each season to live a happy life, rejoicing in the success of his sons.
After a short time, the father thought to himself, ‘I have had four sons who have all brought blessings upon my house and upon my name. I am nearing old age and I am deserving of more blessings yet. I should have another son to increase my joy.’
The father no longer had a wife, who had died a number of years ago, and set out to find the mother of his youngest son. After propositioning several women with his intended plan and being turned down more times than appendages he had, the father became discouraged. That is until a woman at an alehouse told him that she desperately wanted a child. She offered to carry his child for a bit of coin as long as they remained unwed and he remained absent from the child’s life until adulthood. The father agreed, feeling as though he had no other choice. The father had no issue in paying the woman for her deed, as each of his other sons was rich and gave him money freely.
The deed was done and the father did not come to the alehouse anymore, dying before his youngest son reached adulthood. On his deathbed, he told the eldest son, the cobbler, of what he had done.
The eldest son vowed to find his littlest brother and quickly met with his three younger brothers that were still monarchs in their kingdoms. Upon hearing the news, the astrologer said, “find it”, and shared that the fifth brother was still at the alehouse, full of grief from the life that he had endured. The brothers set off on a three-day journey to meet their youngest sibling with hopes of showering the boy, who was clearly a pauper, with the riches of their family.
Along the path, the brothers were met by a hoodlum of bandits. The bandits threatened to kill them and their horses if they did not turn over their riches. The huntsman, thinking of his little brother’s woe, did not want to be delayed by the bandits. He condemned justice and said, “kill it”, and they all fell dead.
On the second day, when stopping for a midday meal, the horses became spooked and fled away from the camp. The brothers rushed to grab the reins but were unsuccessful as horses can gallop quite quickly. The cobbler, huntsman, and astrologer became panicked as the horses increased their distance from the camp. The thief simply smiled at his brothers and said, “take it”, and the horses were back at the brothers’ side. Together, they continued their journey.
On the third day, at the alehouse, the pauper agreed to meet with the four brothers and listen to the story of their father. The pauper responded by saying, “My mother died in birthing me and I have always wondered at whom my father was that abandoned me. I wonder at whether your story brings me joy or pain, but my heart breaks in sadness.”
The cobbler said, “mend it”, and the fifth brother’s heart was whole. The pauper soon found himself overwhelmed with happiness and joy that had never been known before. He welcomed the riches of his brothers and embraced them as kin.
“What is your trade?” the cobbler finally asked their youngest.
“I am minstrel but not like any other minstrel. Whenever I say ‘sing it’, my song is heard by the whole world.”
And, the minstrel did just that, telling the story of his four brothers that had lifted him from his despair into gladness. From that time forward, the five brothers brought all the more blessings to their house and to their name.