The Three Children of Fortune – a Grimm tale

Once upon a time, a father said to his three sons:

‘I am growing old and about to die;

I am poor and have no money

But I will give you each a gift.

Go to a place where your gift is unknown

And there you will make your fortune.’

He gave a cockerel to the eldest son,

Who set out immediately,

But in every town on his journey,

He could hear cockerels crowing

And he could see above the trees

A cockerel on a church steeple,

Turning in the breeze:

They were well known to common people.

After some time he arrived on an island

Where cockerels were unknown

And nobody could tell the time.

The young man said ‘I have here a noble knight,

A creature bedecked with a bright

Red crest and spurs; he crows three times

At stated hours every night

Before sunrise and sometimes

He screeches during the day

As a warning that the weather will change.’

The islanders were overjoyed

And stayed awake all night to hear

The strident crow of Chanticleer

At two, four and six o’clock;

They marvelled at the splendid cock

And asked if it could be sold,

Prepared to pay for it in gold,

As much as his donkey could carry.

The son returned home in a hurry,

To the great wonder of his brothers.

The father had given the second son

A scythe, with which he left his home;

Far and wide he had to roam

Until he arrived at an island where

The good people had never seen a scythe;

As soon as the corn was ripe in the field,

They pulled it up in their fists.

The second son started to wield

His scythe, mowing the crop so fast,

The islanders were aghast

And offered to pay for the marvellous thing,

Loading his horse with gold coins and rings.

The third brother was given a cat;

He wondered what he could make of that

And travelled far and wide

In the local countryside,

Where there were plenty of cats.

He arrived on an island so overrun with mice

That they danced upon the table

And the islanders were not able

To rid themselves of the rodents.

Even the palace was full of them:

In every corner they were squeaking

A nightmare for the King, who was willing

To pay in jewels and in gold

To be rid of the infestation.

The cat soon began her chase,

Feasting on mice in the palace,

Until she had reduced their number

And was ready to curl up and slumber.

But she was not only dusty and dirty,

She was also very thirsty,

Demanding a drink with a loud ‘Miaow!’

When the king and his subjects heard the strange cry,

They held a council to decide

What was to be done with the wild creature.

At length an agreement was made

And the King sent a royal page

To ask the cat to leave the palace.

But the thirsty feline could only reply

With her haunting wail, which the page

Misunderstood as the cat’s intention to defy.

He returned with the answer to the king,

Who retaliated with guns ablazing,

Setting the palace on fire.

When the flames reached the cat

That elegantly sat

On the royal throne,

Cleaning her whiskers and paws,

She leapt out of the window without a sound

While the mouse-free palace burned to the ground.


© Kim M. Russell, 2016

The Three Children of Fortune

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