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"There were once three brothers who were travelling along a lonely, winding road at twilight —"
— Hermione Granger reading the story aloud[src]

The Tale of the Three Brothers was a fairy tale often told to wizarding children. Believed to be written by Beedle the Bard, it was published as part of a collection of his works called The Tales of Beedle the Bard.[1][2] While most wizards viewed this story as one that taught children morals, such as humility and wisdom, others believed that the story referred to the Deathly Hallows, three highly powerful magical artefacts coveted by generations of wizards.[1]

Many also believed that the three Peverell brothers were the inspiration for the story and that they first obtained the artefacts known as the Hallows. Anyone who managed to possess all three hallows was said to be a Master of Death.[1]


Three brothers, travelling along a lonely, winding road at twilight reached a deep treacherous river where anyone who attempted to swim or wade would drown. Learned in the magical arts, the brothers conjured a bridge with their wands and proceeded to cross.[1][2]

The Tale of the Three Brothers illustration

Death on the bridge

Halfway through the bridge, a hooded figure stood before them. The figure was the enraged spirit of Death, cheated of his due. Death cunningly pretended to congratulate them and proceeded to award them with gifts of their own choosing.[1][2]

The eldest brother, a combative man, asked for a wand more powerful than any in existence. Death granted his wish by fashioning the Elder Wand from a branch of a nearby elder tree standing on the banks of the river. The second brother, an arrogant man, chose to further humiliate death, and asked for the power to recall the deceased from the grave. Death granted his wish by crafting the Resurrection Stone from a stone picked from the riverbank. The third and youngest brother, who was the most humble and wise, did not trust Death and asked for something to enable him to go forth without Death being able to follow. A reluctant Death, most unwillingly, handed over his own invisibility cloak.[1][2]

The three brothers took their prizes and soon went on their separate ways.[1][2]

The eldest brother travelled to a village where a wizard whom he had quarrelled lived. He sought out a duel and fought the wizard using the wand, instantly killing the latter. Leaving his enemy dead upon the floor, the eldest brother walked to an inn not far from the duelling site and spent the night there. Taken by his conscience and lust of the Elder Wand's power, the eldest brother boasted of this wand gifted by Death and his own invincibility. That very night, an unknown murderous wizard crept up to the eldest brother as he slept, drunk from wine. The wizard stole the wand, then murdered the oldest brother by slitting his throat for good measure. That was when Death took the first brother for his own.[1][2]

O Conto dos Três Irmãos2

"Greeting Death as an old friend, they departed this life as equals."

The middle brother returned to his home where he lived alone. Turning the stone thrice in his hand the figure of the girl he had once hoped to marry before her untimely death appeared at once before him, much to his delight. Yet she was sad and cold, separated from him as by a veil. Though she had returned to the mortal world, she did not truly belong there and suffered. Finally, the middle brother, driven mad with hopeless longing, committed suicide by hanging so as truly to join her. That was when Death took the second brother for his own.[1][2]

Death searched for the youngest brother as years passed but never succeeded. It was only when the third brother reached a great age, he took off the Cloak of Invisibility and gave it to his son. Greeting Death as an old friend, they departed this life as equals.[1][2]

The Deathly Hallows[]

Main article: Deathly Hallows
"Death had an Invisibility Cloak?"
— Harry Potter, listening to the story[src]
Tale of the Three Brothers by Jonny Duddle

Death and the Three Brothers with the Deathly Hallows

The three objects mentioned during the tale were believed by some to be the Deathly Hallows, the most powerful magical objects of their kind in existence. The Elder Wand was the unbeatable wand of the first brother, the Resurrection Stone was the stone given to the second brother that could bring back the dead, and the Cloak of Invisibility was the cloak given to the third brother that could hide the wearer even from Death.[1]

It was believed that whoever succeeded in uniting all three of the Hallows would become the Master of Death. Xenophilius Lovegood, Gellert Grindelwald, and Albus Dumbledore were among those who believed in the existence of the Hallows and sought to reunite them.[1]

The fate of the Hallows[]

The eponymous three brothers were believed to have been modelled after three actual wizard brothers born somewhere around the British wizarding village of Godric's Hollow during early 13th century: Antioch, Cadmus, and Ignotus Peverell.[1]

Antioch was the oldest brother, who likely crafted as well as possessed the Elder Wand, which passed down through combat and became the property of whoever won it from its previous master, thus holding a long and bloody history.[1] Mykew Gregorovitch was known to have possession of the wand until it was stolen by Gellert Grindelwald, who lost it in a duel with Albus Dumbledore, who sought to change its infamous reputation and use it for the good of others.[3] After his death, the wand came into the possession of Draco Malfoy, who won the wand by disarming Dumbledore the night he died. Soon after, Harry Potter became the master of the wand after disarming Draco at Malfoy Manor. After Harry defeated Lord Voldemort and came into physical possession of the Elder Wand, he decided to keep it safe in the White Tomb so that upon his death, it would become masterless and cause no further harm to the world.[4]

Cadmus was the middle brother, who likely crafted and possessed the Resurrection Stone, which passed down through his descendants until it came into the Gaunt family, who placed it within their signet ring. Marvolo Gaunt was known to have possession of the stone, and passed it down to Morfin Gaunt until it was stolen by Tom Riddle, who turned it into a Horcrux and hid it away under the floorboards of the Gaunt Shack in Little Hangleton, placing a powerful curse on it as protection.[5] The ring was ultimately discovered by Albus Dumbledore, who contained the curse in his hand and bequeathed the stone to Harry Potter,[6] who intentionally lost it in the Forbidden Forest.[7]

Ignotus was the youngest brother, who likely crafted and possessed the Cloak of Invisibility. This Cloak was passed down initially through his male descendants, but entered the Potter family after the marriage of his granddaughter Iolanthe Peverell to Hardwin Potter, and was eventually given to James Potter. Before James died, Albus Dumbledore had asked to see the Cloak, and still had possession of it until he passed it to Harry Potter on Christmas Day during Harry's first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,[8] and remained in his possession throughout the Second Wizarding War.


"One of the things that got me excited about it in the early stages was the question of what it should look like. We knew it was going to be stylised, but not exactly how. The producers came along with the suggestion of creating something in the vein of Lotte Reiniger, an Austrian-born animator working in the 1930s and 50s doing silhouette style animations. What we got out of that was a certain simplicity and naivety. We knew it had to be told very graphically with bold silhouettes. But Ben and I were keen to make sure it wasn’t only that, that there was something else we could add."
— Dale Newton, supervisor of animated sequence[src]

This three-minute animated sequence has been created by Framestore, directed by Ben Hibon and supervised by Dale Newton.[9]

Behind the scenes[]

  • Albus Dumbledore wrote an essay on the story.[2]
  • It is possible that this story's moral is that "one will meet their demise untimely if it was for extreme greed", as the power-hungry Antioch Peverell asked for a wand more powerful than any in existence and he was the first to die. Cadmus was also greedy but not as much as Antioch; he was the second brother to die. But the youngest brother, who was a humble man, asked for a thing that he could use to live a long and happy life. And thus, because of this, he attained a great age and passed The Cloak of Invisibility to his son.
  • It is also possible that the moral is that one cannot escape death but only delay it and that one must eventually accept death in old age and "depart as equals."
  • In the book The Tales of Beedle the Bard that was released into the Muggle community, Dumbledore notes that the belief that possessing all three Hallows will give you power over death contradicts the story entirely.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, the scene where Hermione Granger reads this story is replaced with an animated shadow-play sequence which Hermione narrates. It was the first and only time a fully animated scene was used in all 8 movies.
    • In The 50 greatest Harry Potter moments documentary, Emma Watson said that she found the narration difficult to do because her lines had to be right with the animation.
  • The scene in the video game is the same as that in the movie, but the figures in the shadow play are interpreted differently - the characters have more flesh, and death is represented by a skeleton.
  • LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 features a playable section based off this story. It features the three brothers walking down a road to a village and using the powers of their respective Hallows to progress past obstacles. At the end of the section, Death flies in and literally takes the three brothers away, with Ignotus only barely having time to pass the Cloak off to his son.
  • Quite a lot of fairy tales feature three brothers. The one commonly known as The Three Brothers concerns not about cheating death but which of three sons would inherit a house.
  • According to J. K. Rowling, The Tale of the Three Brothers is loosely based on Geoffrey Chaucer's The Pardoner's Tale.[10]
  • The story itself also may have been based off the fairy tale, "Three Billy Goats Gruff", in which the characters were depicted as animals who managed to systematically outsmart the danger that lurked beneath the bridge, a troll, by exploiting its inherent stupidity. The only difference is, while the goats managed to avert the danger by cooperating as one, the Peverells took down their own path of life. It also takes some inspiration from the "Three Little Pigs", where it depicts what happened afterwards upon the siblings after what happened on the encounter over the bridge and how they fared after it.
  • There have been some speculations that the three brothers correspond to Harry Potter, Severus Snape, and Tom Riddle, with Harry corresponding to Ignotus (who lives to an old age), Severus corresponding to Cadmus (who dies for lost love), and Tom corresponding to Antioch (who dies for power). This also corresponds with the order of the ages of the brothers. An extension of this theory suggests that Albus Dumbledore corresponds to Death, the figure that all three brothers meet on their journey. When a user on Twitter asked J.K. Rowling what her favourite fan theory was, she responded with this one saying, "It's a beautiful theory and it fits."[11]
    • Alternatively, it can be argued that Dumbledore is the third brother since he both greeted death voluntarily and handed the cloak to Harry as the story states that the 'father' gave the cloak to his 'son'. Father here being Dumbledore and Son being Harry.
    • Another possible interpretation may be that the role of Snape as Cadmus is replaced by Albus Dumbledore, whose death was caused by attempting to use the Stone, especially since it was ultimately his choice to end his life.
      Death at WWoHP

      Death in the 'Tale of Three Brothers' show at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

  • A short film adaptation of The Tale of the Three Brothers was produced by students of the New England School of Communications with permission from Warner Bros.
  • The Tale of the Three Brothers was featured as one of the Tales of Beedle the Bard performed by the Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts as live entertainment in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley. It featured puppetry and props fabricated by Michael Curry (The Lion King on Broadway).[12]


Notes and references[]

The Tales of Beedle the Bard
By Beedle the Bard
Tales of Beedle the Bard

Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump · The Fountain of Fair Fortune · The Warlock's Hairy Heart · The Tale of the Three Brothers · The Wizard and the Hopping Pot


Altheda · Amata · Amata's lover · Antioch Peverell · Antioch Peverell's enemy · Antioch Peverell's killer · Asha · Babbitty · Brigade of Witch-Hunters · Cadmus Peverell · Cadmus Peverell's fiancée · Captain of the Brigade of Witch-Hunters · Charlatan · Death · Evil sorcerer · Gigantic white worm · Ignotus Peverell · Ignotus Peverell's son · King · Maiden · Maiden's kinsfolk · Old man · Old man's donkey · Old man's family · Peasant woman · Peasant woman's granddaughter · Sabre · Sir Luckless · Warlock · Warlock's family · Warlock's friends · Wizard · Wizard's father · Young woman · Young woman's child


Altheda's potion · Altheda's wand · Cloak of Invisibility · Creepers · Crystal casket · Elder Wand · Fountain · Gold statue of Babbitty · Hairy Heart · The Hopping Pot · Poisonous toadstool · Poultice for warts · Resurrection Stone · Silver chalice


Altheda's home · Cadmus Peverell's house · Enchanted garden · Lonely, winding road · Never-ending hill · River