HERE was once a man who had three sons, but no fortune except the house he lived in. Now, each of them wanted to have the house after his death; but their father was just as fond of one as of the other, and did not know how to treat them all fairly. He did not want to sell the house, because it had belonged to his forefathers, or he might have divided the money between them.
At last an idea came into his head, and he said to his sons: “Go out into the world, and each learn a trade, and when you come home, the one who makes best use of his handicraft shall have the house.”
The sons were quite content with this plan, and the eldest decided to be a farrier, the second a barber, and the third a fencing master. They fixed a time when they would all meet at home again, and then they set off.
It so happened that they each found a clever master with whom they learned their business thoroughly. The farrier shod the King’s horses, and he thought, “I shall certainly be the one to have the house.”
The barber shaved nobody but grand gentlemen, so he thought it would fall to him.
The fencing master got many blows, but he set his teeth, and would not let himself be put out, because he thought, “If I am afraid of a blow, I shall never get the house.”
Now, when the given time had passed, they all went home together to their father; but they did not know how to get a good opportunity of showing off their powers, and sat down to discuss the matter.
Suddenly a hare came running over the field.
“Ah!” cried the barber, “she comes just in the nick of time.”
He took up his bowl and his soap, and got his lather by the time the hare came quite close, then he soaped her and shaved her as she raced along, without giving her a cut or missing a single hair. His father, astonished, said: “If the others don’t look out, the house will be yours.”
Before long a gentleman came along in his carriage at full gallop.
“Now, father, you shall see what I can do,” said the farrier and he ran after the carriage and tore the four shoes off the horse as he galloped along, then, without stopping a second, shod him with new ones.
“You are a fine fellow, indeed,” said his father. “You know your business as well as your brother. I don’t know which I shall give the house to at this rate.”
Then the third one said: “Let me have a chance, too, father.”
As it was beginning to rain, he drew his sword and swirled it round and round his head, so that not a drop fell on him. Even when the rain grew heavier, so heavy that it seemed as if it were being poured from the sky out of buckets, he swung the sword faster and faster, and remained as dry as if he had been under a roof.
His father was amazed, and said: “You have done the best; the house is yours.”
Both the other brothers were quite satisfied with this decision, and as they were all so devoted to one another, they lived together in the house, and carried on their trades, by which they made plenty of money, since they were so perfect in them.
They lived happily together to a good old age, and when one fell ill and died, the others grieved so much over him that they pined away and soon after departed this life.
Then, as they had been so fond of one another, they were all buried in one grave.