The Tale of the Three Brothers is a fairy tale told to wizard children. Supposedly written by Beedle the Bard, it is published as part of a series of works that collectively are called The Tales of Beedle the Bard. While most wizards view this story as one that teaches children morals (e.g., humility, wisdom), some believe that the story refers to the Deathly Hallows, three highly powerful magical artefacts coveted by generations of wizards.

Many also believe that the three Peverell brothers were the inspiration for the story, and that they first obtained the artefacts known as the Hallows. 'The Tale of the Three Brothers' also has a different variation, referring to twilight as midnight to make it more suspenseful for the entertainment of children, but in Dumbledore's original copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard it refers to the journey taking place at twilight.


Peverell brothers with the Deathly Hallows

The Peverell brothers receive the items, and then go their separate ways to meet their fates.

The story revolves around three wizard brothers who once conquered death for a short time by defeating a deadly obstacle with their magic. The personification of Death appeared out of anger because he felt that they had cheated him, but pretended to congratulate them by awarding them gifts of their choosing: The Elder Wand, The Resurrection Stone and the Invisibility Cloak. Two of the three brothers wished to conquer Death beyond what they had done already, and foolishly chose their gifts accordingly, leading to their early demise. The third brother was wiser, and hid under the Invisibility Cloak that allowed him to postpone death until he was ready; he lifted the veil that had helped him to evade the afterlife and was welcomed by Death.

The Deathly Hallows

Death, Ignotus Peverell and the cloak of invisibility

Death, Ignotus Peverell, and the Cloak of Invisibility

Main article: Deathly Hallows
Harry: "Death had an Invisibility Cloak?"
Ron: "Sometimes he gets tired of running at people flapping his arms and shrieking—sorry Hermione."
— Death's Cloak of Invisibility[src]

The three objects mentioned during the tale are meant to be the Deathly Hallows, the most powerful magical objects in existence. The Elder Wand is the unbeatable wand of the oldest brother, the Resurrection Stone is the stone given to the second brother, and the Cloak of Invisibility is the cloak given to the third brother that could hide the wearer even from Death. It is believed that whoever succeeds 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 these items and their continued existence.

The Peverell Brothers

Main article: Peverell family
Ignotus Peverell's grave

Ignotus Peverell's grave in Godric's Hollow

The story is believed to refer to three actual brothers. These three men are Antioch, Cadmus, and Ignotus Peverell. Antioch was the oldest brother and possessed the Elder Wand, which was not passed down in any true order. It became the property of whoever took from its previous master. It held a long and bloody history, until it came into the hands of Albus Dumbledore, who sought to change its infamous reputation and use it for the good of others. Cadmus was the middle brother and possessed the Resurrection Stone, which passed down until it came into the Gaunt family. Marvolo Gaunt was known to have possession of it, and then it changed hands to his son Morfin, and then to his grandson Tom Riddle. Ignotus was the youngest and possessed the Cloak of Invisibility. This Cloak was passed down through his family, 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.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows animation

"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.[1]

The Tale of the Three Brothers (HD)

The Tale of the Three Brothers (HD)

Behind the scenes

  • In the film adaptation of 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.
  • The story itself also may had 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.
  • According to J. K. Rowling, The Tale of the Three Brothers is loosely based on Geoffrey Chaucer's The Pardoner's Tale.[2]
  • It is possible that this story's moral is that if you are greedy you will die early, 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 can not escape death, but only delay it, and that eventually one must 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.
  • There have been some speculations that the three brothers correspond to Harry Potter, Severus Snape, and Lord Voldemort, with Harry corresponding to Ignotus (who lives to an old age), Severus corresponding to Cadmus (whose loved one dies), and Lord Voldemort corresponding to Antioch (Power hungry). This also corresponds with the order of the ages of the brothers. Although 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 ultimately it was his choice to end his life. It can also be argued that Dumbledore represents the figure that all three brothers meet on their respective journeys, with Harry and Dumbledore meeting on the afterlife, or "death" as equals at the King's Cross in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
  • 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.
  • A short film adaptation of The Tale of the Three Brothers is being produced by students of the New England School of Communications with permission from Warner Bros.
  • The Tale of the Three Brothers will be featured as one of the tales from Beedle the Bard performed by the Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts as live entertainment in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley. It will feature puppetry and props fabricated by Michael Curry (The Lion King on Broadway)


Notes and references

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