The Three Brothers
by Garrick Sherman
Note: The following is a translation of a fairy tale written for a class assignment, based on Freud’s ideas of the family romance and the origins of the social contract (a story where prehistoric brothers kill and eat their father, then deify him out of guilt and deny themselves his harem of women, instigating the incest taboo). Written after the style of 17th century fairy tales, written down by Charles Perrault, which were often violent and cynical. Original French is here.
Once upon a time there were three brothers, triplets, who were very hungry because their family was poor. Their father worked a lot, but he could never earn enough food for the whole family. The brothers wanted to work with their father, but he told them that they were too young. So the three little ones stayed at home, but they made their own plan to have more to eat.
One evening, when the father was asleep, when his snores resonated through the small house, the three brothers stayed in bed, sleepless because of their empty stomachs, for they had only eaten a bit of broth for dinner. Finally, one of the brothers got out of his bed, and he went to find an axe. When he came back with the hatchet, the three sons discretely opened the door to the room where their parents slept. Just one of the brothers would not have been strong enough, so the three of them together lifted the axe, and with a great blow they decapitated their father. The mother, who woke up, began to scream with terror. So one of the three sons showed her the head of the father and said to her, “If you don’t be quiet right now, mom, you’ll end up like our father.”
“But why?” she asked the brothers, “Why kill your dad?”
“Mom, we couldn’t sleep because our stomachs were so empty. Our father, on the other hand, snored comfortably. He owed us food,” responded one of the brothers.
“But how can he give you food if he is dead?” said the mother.
“We are going to eat him.”
The mother, seeing that her sons were not joking, gave another cry and fainted. One of the brothers suggested that they should eat the mother too, since she didn’t stop shouting, but the others told him that, without her, who was going to prepare the meat? And anyway, she was only skin and bones, while their father was covered in muscles. When the mother woke up, therefore, they ordered her to cook the father for them.
The children dined better than ever in their lives. The mother had cooked the meat very well, and when the brothers could eat no more, they told their mother that they could not move and that she must carry them to bed.
But the brothers did not sleep, for they had a very bad stomach ache. After some hours without sleep, they heard a voice. The voice said, “Hey! You kids! I am really angry with you!”
The brothers didn’t know who spoke to them. They looked through their entire room for the source of the voice, but, after several minutes of silence, the brothers decided that perhaps they had imagined the voice, and they tried again to sleep. But, again, the voice spoke to them: “You are traitors! To kill your own father? Think of your mother! What will she do now?”
This time, the children recognized the voice of their father! “Dad?” they said, “Where are you?”
“I’m here, in your stomachs, what do you think?” responded the father. The brothers were very scared to find that their father was still alive. They decided that they had to go find a fairy who could help them. So, they said good bye to their mother, and they left the house.
The three brothers with their father in their guts walked for several hours in the forest, looking for a fairy. Their father would not stop shouting insults and reprimands, and the three brothers were silent with shame.
After some time, the father’s cries attracted the attention of an ogre who was hunting deer in the woods. The ogre followed the sound of the voice, and he found the three little brothers, but he didn’t see an adult who could account for the man’s voice. So the ogre said, “Hello you three little ones. Where is your father?”
“He’s not here. He’s dead,” said the brothers, who feared the ogre and did not want to complicate the situation.
“Ah, good,” said the ogre. “In that case, I am going to eat you three, since you’re all alone.” The brothers, of course, tried to escape the ogre, but he stopped them with a net that was woven with a magical fabric that was impossible to rip.
When the ogre lifted one of the brothers up to eat him whole, the father spoke softly to one of the others: “We must save your brother. Tell the ogre that there is treasure at our house, but that he must leave you three uneaten if he wants to have all the gold.”
The child did as his father told him. The ogre, like everyone would, wanted to have the money that the brother had spoken of, so he placed the child back on the ground, and he ordered that the brothers take him to their home.
When they arrived at the little house, their mother came to see what was happening. When she saw that her three children were threatened by an ogre, she ran in the house, and she came back out with the axe, because she knew that she had to defend her children. But the little mother was too weak to attack an ogre, and he stopped her easily, with a single hand.
Nevertheless, the ogre very much liked the mother’s intensity, and when he looked at her, he realized that she was the most beautiful woman that he had ever seen. The ogre fell in love with her, and even when they told him the truth, that they were poor and had no treasure, the ogre was so infatuated with the mother that he decided to marry her.
The ogre proved to be a good husband and a good step-father for the family. He was a very good hunter, and he fed his new family with very large game so that the brothers were never hungry again. But their father, who was still in the stomachs of the brothers, said to them sometimes, “Your new father, he is an ogre, and ogres like to eat children. He feeds you so well so that you will become fat, and then he is going to eat you for a feast!” So, the children ate very well, but they were also very afraid for the rest of their lives.