Fairy Tale Friday: The Three Brothers


and Other Maiden in the Tower Tales From Around the World

Since it’s May I will be focusing exclusively on Rapunzel or ATU 310 Maiden in the Tower tales.

The Three Brothers (285-286)


ATU 310 Maiden in the Tower

ATU 653 The Skillful Brothers

This fairy tale is a little different from other conventional Rapunzel tales by  being exclusively an ATU 310 tale. Meaning the main story is about, as you might expect from the title, the three brothers.

The tale opens with a time frame – the brothers’ father dies when the youngest, Tito, is five. They grow into “sturdy young men.” (285). Seeing that they are grown up, their mother tells them to go off for nine years and return and show her “‘what [they] have learned'” (285). As happens when brothers separate to go searching for anything or learning a skill, they agree to meet nine years later at a designated crossroads.

Each learns a special skill after falling in with three different sorts of people. The oldest, An-no, learns glassblowing. The middle, Berto, learns shipbuilding. And the youngest, Tito, learns thievery.

After returning home, they hear news that the king’s daughter Amelia has been kidnapped. Guess who’s in the tower?

Anyone who can find her and rescue her will be allowed to marry her. I was rather tickled by this part, since it encourages the brothers to “use their knowledge and skill to find the missing princess” (285). This is similar to what happens early on in “Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Peri-Banu,” where Ahmed and his brothers have to use all three of their marvelous discoveries to save their cousin.

An-no finds the princess using “a spy-glass in which everything hidden from the eyes of men could be seen” (285). (This also exists in the story mentioned above.) From it they learn she is, of course, “confined to a tower on an island” (286). To get there, Berto builds the ship that sails them to the island. Once there, they find “the tower very closely guarded armed soldiers” (286). Now, Tito’s steals the princess, though the tale doesn’t give us details as to how he does. It only says that “[t]hrough his skill he succeeded in rescuing her” (286). I would have liked a little more details on the how of it.

Either way, the princess is brought home safely and the brothers quarrel about who gets to marry her. The king, actually being sensible and realizing they each contributed to Amelia’s rescue, “decided not to bestow his daughter on any of them. Instead he gave half his wealth to be divided equally between An-n0, Berto, and Tito” (286).

This ending is divergent than what usually happens (which would be the youngest marrying her). I do wonder if Amelia would have wanted to marry any of them. Fortunately, she doesn’t have to.

Additionally, as regards the king giving away half his wealth, what will the princess have? The remaining half? Will she inherit when the king dies? Does she have to marry? Or will she rule on her own?

Although she doesn’t have a lot of time in the story, the princess in the tower would be an interesting character to explore, at least in terms of her political power and how and why she was kidnapped in the first place. (And how Tito convinced her to leave with him. And did she want to be rescued. I’m assuming she did, just for the sake of that the story implies it was good for her to be.)


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