Once upon a time there were four brothers. One day, their father said, “Sons, I am poor and I have nothing to give you. Go into the world and find your fortune. Learn a trade. Go and find an occupation.”
The four brothers accepted what their father told them. They said goodbye to him and walked together out of their town. When they had gone through the town gate, they came to a crossroads that split in four directions. The eldest brother said, “Here we must separate, but on this day in four years, we will meet each other again at this spot. In the meantime, we will seek our fortunes.” All the brothers made a promise to return in four years.
The eldest brother took the first road on the left. After walking for a while, he met an old man, who shouted to him, “Young man! Do you have an occupation?”
“No,” replied the brother. “I’m looking for one.”
“Come with me,” replied the old man. “I will teach you to be an excellent thief.”
“Being a thief is not an honourable occupation,” said the brother. “And if the police catch you, they will hang you by the neck until you are dead.”
“No. You don’t understand” said the old man. “I am an honourable thief. I steal from the rich and give to the poor – just like Robin Hood. If you take my training, the police will never be able to catch you. And you will be able to get your hands on things that other humans can never touch.”
The young man thought about it, but because he did not have a better plan, he followed the old thief. After training with him for four years, he became very skillful and the police never got close to him.
The second brother took the second road on the left. After walking for a while, he also met an old man at the side of the road.
“Young man, what do you want to learn in life?” asked the old man.
“Learn? Well, I don’t know… but I would like to learn something useful,” replied the second brother.
“Then come with me. I will teach you how to see things that other humans cannot see. I am an astronomer. I will teach you about the stars.”
The second brother liked what he heard, so he followed the old man. After four years of training, he became an excellent astronomer. Then, his master told him, “It’s time for you to become independent. I have taught you all I know. But take this gift before you leave,” and the old man gave him a beautiful telescope.
The third brother took the first road on the right. After walking for quite a long time, he also met an old man at the side of the road.
“You look hungry!” shouted the man.
“Yes, I’m starving,” replied the third brother.
“Come with me. Let’s hunt together!”
“Hunt? But I cannot shoot!” said the young man.
“I am an expert hunter. I can teach you how to shoot. After your training, whatever you aim at, you will hit.”
So, the young man followed him and learned how to be an excellent hunter. After four years, his master gave him the gift of a rifle.
The youngest brother took the second road on the right. After a while, he also met an old man standing at the side of the road.
“Young man! Your clothes are old and shabby.”
“These are the only clothes I have,” said the youngest brother.
“Would you like to be a tailor?” asked the old man.
“No, I wouldn’t,” replied the young man. “Tailors use a needle from morning until night. It’s hard work.”
“Being a tailor is a very honourable occupation,” said the old man. “You can make people look magnificent. You can change the way they look. The work is hard but worthwhile.”
Since the youngest brother did not have a better plan, he followed the old man and he became a very skillful tailor. After four years, his master told him, “It’s time for you to become independent.” Before he left, the tailor gave him a gift. “This is a gift for you. It is a very special needle. You can sew whatever you want with it.”
Exactly four years passed and the brothers met again at the crossroads. Then they walked to their father’s house, where their father was overjoyed to see them.
“Father, I had great adventures!” said the eldest brother.
“Father, I discovered my talents!” said the second.
“Father, I learned a good trade!” said the third.
“Father, I love my occupation!” said the last.
The father was very happy. “I’m so proud of you all,” he said. Then the family enjoyed a feast in their kitchen.
The next day, there was a lot of noise in the town. All the neighbours were talking about something, so the father went outside to find out what was going on. “There has been a tragedy!” said one of the neighbours. “The king’s daughter has been kidnapped – by a dragon! The king says whoever rescues the princess will marry her.”
The father rushed back to the house and said to the brothers, “My sons, this is your chance to become a prince! You are skilled! Go and kill the dragon!” The four brothers were excited and ran outside. “Let’s rescue the princess!” they all said. “Where is she?” they asked the people around them.
“Nobody knows where the dragon has taken her,” was the reply.
“How can we find the princess if we don’t know where she is?” they said.
“Wait! I have an idea!” said one of the brothers.
“I can find the princess!” said the second brother. He climbed the tallest tree in the town, then took out from his bag the beautiful telescope that his master had given him. Then he looked through the telescope.
“There she is!” he said. “She’s on a small island in the middle of the lake. And she is with the dragon…”
“We need a boat to get to the island,” said one of them. So, the four brothers went to the king’s palace and told him they knew where his daughter was. The king gladly gave them a boat and said to the brothers, “Please, please, please bring my daughter back safely!”
The brothers got on the king’s boat and sailed towards the island. When they got close, they could see the princess and the dragon. The dragon was asleep.
Then, three of the brothers looked at the other one and said to him, “You can really help us!”
“Quick! Shoot the dragon!” they all said. So the third brother picked up his rifle and aimed at the dragon’s head.
“Wait!” he said. “This is too dangerous. The princess is right behind the dragon’s head. If I shoot the dragon, the bullet might hit her, too. I cannot shoot.”
“I have an idea. I can help!” said one of the other brothers.
The eldest brother said, “If I can get on to the island, I can pick up the princess and steal her from the dragon while he is sleeping.” Then he jumped into the lake and swam to the island. Very carefully and very quietly, he walked towards the princess, picked her up, then carried her back to the boat, which was waiting at the beach.
Then the brothers started sailing the boat away from the island. They had rescued the princess! Hurrah! However, they soon heard a horrible cry. The dragon had woken up and noticed that the princess was not there. It was very angry. It roared and roared, then flew into the air and flapped its wings. It started chasing the boat and breathed fire into the air and then breathed fire at the boat.
“Now I can shoot it!” said the third brother. He picked up his rifle and aimed at the dragon’s head.
“Hurry!” said the others. Our boat is in flames! We are going to burn to death!”
The brother didn’t miss. The dragon fell into the lake like a stone. When the heavy dragon hit the water, there was a huge splash, which created a big wave. The wave crashed against the boat and extinguished the flames. The fire was out! The brothers were overjoyed, but then they noticed that the boat’s sail was full of holes.
“We’ll never get back to the king’s palace with a sail like that,” they said. “We are going to drown!”
“Wait! I have an idea!” said one of the brothers.
The youngest brother took out the special needle that his master had given him and started sewing up the holes in the sail. He worked quickly and skillfully and soon the sail was catching the wind. The sail was repaired and the brothers and the princess could sail back to the king’s palace. The king was so happy to be reunited with his daughter again.
“You four brothers were magnificent!” said the king. “Thank you very much indeed. As I promised, one of you can marry my daughter. But only one of you…”
“I should marry the princess!” said the astronomer. “If I hadn’t used my telescope, we would never have found her!”
“Wait!” said the thief. “If I hadn’t stolen the princess from the dragon, we would never have rescued her!”
“Wait!” said the hunter. “If I hadn’t shot the dragon, we would have burned to death!”
“Wait!” said the tailor. “If I hadn’t sewn the sail, we would have drowned in the lake!”
The brothers had spent four years away from home, learning a trade. They had learned a lot about the world. They had learned a lot about life. They looked at each other with loving eyes.
“This debate is stupid,” said the eldest. “We all contributed equally to rescuing the princess. So, none of us can marry the princess.” Then he spoke to the king. “Instead of marrying your daughter, we ask that you give each of us a palace.”
“Well, I have four palaces. Yes, I can do that,” was the reply.
The king gave them the palaces and a large fortune. The father and the four brothers lived together in wealth and happiness for the rest of their days.