How Three Brothers Sought Their Fortunes
Three orphan-brothers had land which was so sour and full of stones that they decided to travel to some distant place to find rich soil. They had been raised in a poor and unimportant village, and had learned to love each other. The oldest brother possessed an unusual gift. He could often tell, by dreams and other signs, what would happen in the future.
The second brother was a warrior and a hunter, a tall and powerful man who could spear a kola nut at fifty paces or walk with a bullock on his back for three nights and days.
Then youngest brother was the handsomest of them all, as handsome as a godling and skilled in the arts which women most admire. All women fell in love with him, and his own love for women knew no end; so angry were the husbands in that village that he was wise to leave them when he did.
The three brothers journeyed east through foreign lands for many weeks, and came to a large white city on a plain below a mountain. On the mountain lived a hairy monster with teeth the size of elephant tusks and seven legs like palm trunks. Each year the monster ate a thousand people, so the Chief of the white city had offered a quarter of his lands to the warrior who would rid the country of this awful creature.
When the three brothers arrived the Chief was absent on a journey; and the youngest brother fell in love with the Chief’s first wife. Each night he went to her, although he knew he would be killed if ever the Chief found out; and his brothers feared for him. Each day the eldest brother counted the nuts on a palm beside his door; several fell each day, and when but one was left he said to his youngest brother:
“Beware! Take care! The Chief returns tomorrow.”
This good advice was ignored. On the following night the young man went as usual to the palace; but he knocked on the door in vain. At length he took a stone and beat upon the door suddenly the Chief rushed out, made angry by such noise, cut off the lover’s hand with a single sword-stroke and slammed the door in his face.
The elder brother tenderly treated the wound with clean red clay and healing herbs, and the middle brother, who was the warrior, pondered what he should do. He decided to hunt and kill the monster, if he could, for this was the only way they could now find favor with the Chief.
That very night he found the monster on the mountain top crunching the bones of an elephant; and here they fought by the light of the moon till trees were splintered and rocks were cleft, and blood lay on the ground. The warrior’s flesh was gashed and slashed by fangs and flailing talons: the monster’s hide was gouged and ripped by spear and knife, and several of his seven legs were broken.
The mountain groaned and trembled, and moon hid fearfully in black steam clouds and high winds came to howl and shriek about the scene of battle. The hideous fight wore on through midnight until dawn, and the gods of men assembled in the shadows in silent admiration of their man.
At length the warrior leapt astride the failing monster’s hairy neck, stabbed out his eyes and plunged his broken spear into the brain. The monster shuddered, and so died.
As the sun rose over the edge of the plain and gilded the mountain top the warrior stumbled tiredly down the mountain side to report to his two brothers. As he entered the city, heralds were abroad announcing g that no man could leave the city until it was discovered who had knocked at the palace door the previous evening. The eldest brother tended the warrior’s wounds, then went up to the palace and stood before the Chief.
“O Chief,” he began, “I am the eldest of three brothers who came from a foreign land, and it was my youngest brother who knocked on your door last night.”
“So! Then let him be brought before me.”
“Let him be brought indeed,” agreed the elder brother.
“Let also our other brother be brought here: for it was he who slew your monster on the mountain top. And when our youngest brother came here to report, you cut his hand off. Is that a just reward, O Chief?”
These words amazed the Chief.
“You say the monster is dead?”
“My younger brother slew it.”
“And it was your youngest brother who came here to report?”
“You cut his hand off.”
“Then indeed, you are the worthiest of all men, and have been severely wronged. The three of you shall share half the lands which I possess, rich and fruitful lands, and half my gold as well.”
But for the rest of his life the lack of a hand reminded the youngest brother that he should not toy with the wives of other men.