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"The Tale of the Three Brothers" by J.K.Rowling

The Tale of the Three Brothers
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter Twenty-One
Listen to the audio:

tumblr_mkyc9tjYfK1ruf3ijo1_r1_1280“There were once three brothers who were traveling along a lonely, winding road at twilight. In time, the brothers reached a river too deep to wade through and too dangerous to swim across. However, these brothers were learned in the magical arts, and so they simply waved their wands and made a bridge appear across the treacherous water. They were halfway across it when they found their path blocked by a hooded figure.

And Death spoke to them. He was angry that he had been cheated out of three new victims, for travelers usually drowned in the river. But Death was cunning. He pretended to congratulate the three brothers upon their magic and said that each had earned a prize for having been clever enough to evade him.

So the oldest brother, who was a combative man, asked for a wand more powerful than any in existence: a wand that must always win duels for its owner, a wand worthy of a wizard who had conquered Death! So Death crossed to an elder tree on the banks of the river, fashioned a wand from a branch that hung there, and gave it to the oldest brother.
Then the second brother, who was an arrogant man, decided that he wanted to humiliate Death still further, and asked for the power to recall others from Death. So Death picked up a stone from the riverbank and gave it to the second brother, and told him that the stone would have the power to bring back the dead.

And then Death asked the third and youngest brother what he would like. The youngest brother was the humblest and also the wisest of the brothers, and he did not trust Death. So he asked for something that would enable him to go forth from that place without being followed by Death. And death, most unwillingly, handed over his own Cloak of Invisibility.

Then Death stood aside and allowed the three brothers to continue on their way, and they did so, talking with wonder of the adventure they had had, and admiring Death’s gifts. In due course the brothers separated, each for his own destination.

The first brother traveled on for a week or more, and reaching a distant village, sought out a fellow wizard with whom he had a quarrel. Naturally with the Elder Wand as his weapon, he could not fail to win the duel that followed. Leaving his enemy dead upon the floor, the oldest brother proceeded to an inn, where he boasted loudly of the powerful wand he had snatched from Death himself, and of how it made him invincible.

That very night, another wizard crept upon the oldest brother as he lay, wine-sodden, upon his bed. The thief took the wand and, for good measure, slit the oldest brother’s throat.

And so Death took the first brother for his own.

Meanwhile, the second brother journeyed to his own home, where he lived alone. Here he took out the stone that had the power to recall the dead, and turned it thrice in his hand. To his amazement and his delight, the figure of the girl he had once hoped to marry, before her untimely death, appeared at once before him.
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 second brother, driven mad with hopeless longing, killed himself so as truly to join her.

And so Death took the second brother for his own.

But though Death searched for the third brother for many years, he was never able to find him. It was only when he had attained a great age that the youngest brother finally took off the Cloak of Invisibility and gave it to his son. And then he greeted Death as an old friend, and went with him gladly, and, equals, they departed this life.”

Vocabulary exercises
ex. 1 Find English equivalents
достигать, равный, на полпути, высокомерный, вдобавок, свести с ума, однако, непобедимый, хитрый, место назначения, достойный кого-либо, унижать кого-либо, позволять, хвастаться о чем-либо, принадлежать, воскрешать
ex. 2 Fill in the gaps 
  • halfway
  • to reach
  • however
  • cunning
  • worthy of somebody
  • arrogant
  • to humiliate
  • to recall
  • enable
  • destination
  • to boast of something
  • invincible
  • for good measure
  • to belong
  • to drive somebody mad
  • equal
  1. I feel that I don't _______ in this country, I need to leave.
  2. I had been always good at maths at school. _______ what they taught at the university was incredibly difficult.
  3. People should treat each other as _______.
  4. Don't forget to call me, as soon as you _______ the station.
  5. To make her happy he cleaned the house and _______ prepared her favorite pancakes.
  6. This woman is _______. She pulls the strings and spreads gossip to get what she wants.
  7. This is definitely a crown _______ of a prince.
  8. This armor was so strong that it made you almost _______.
  9. Gosh, I can't stand him! He is so _______.
  10. I don't like when people try to _______ me by pointing out my physical defects.
  11. The knowledge of English will _______ you to communicate with people all over the world!
  12. It is impossible to _______ the dead.
  13. He left at 6pm, caught a 6.30pm train but never reached his _______.
  14. Her habit of _______ about her painting skills irritated us.
  15. When we were _______ to the cinema, I remembered that I had forgotten the tickets.
  16. She was such a pain in the neck, she could _______ anyone _______.
ex. 3 Describe the three brothers using the following adjectives. Add three of your own.
cunning, arrogant, clever, combative, quarrelsome, boastful, vain, haughty, wise, far-sighted, humble, aggressive
  • 1st brother:
  • 2nd brother:
  • 3rd brother:
ex. 4 Match the words with definitions. Supply the opposites.  
  • to reach
  • cunning
  • arrogant
  • to humiliate
  • to recall
  • enable
  • destination
  • to boast of something
  • invincible
  • to belong
  • equal
  1. to speak in proud terms of one's possessions, skills, or superior qualities
  2. unable to be defeated
  3. to be a part of something, to be a property of somebody
  4. to arrive at or get to (a place, person, etc)
  5. clever, shrewd, sly
  6. the predetermined end of a journey
  7. overbearingly proud
  8. to hurt the dignity or pride of somebody
  9. identical, the same; having the same rights, status etc.
  10. to bring back, to restore or revive
  11. to make something possible, to give somebody opportunity to do something
ex. 5 Make your own sentences with the following words:
  • however
  • to be worthy of something/somebody
  • to enable
  • to boast of something
  • to belong
  • to drive somebody mad
ex. 6 Use the correct prepositions
  1. Mark often boasted __ his children's success.
  2. It was getting late and we entered the garden __ the twilight.
  3. __ my surprise the method that I had chosen worked!
  4. Death was angry __ the three brothers.
  5. The oldest brother wanted a wand worthy __ a great wizard.
  6. The second brother wanted the power to bring __ the dead.

Comprehension exercises
ex. 1 True or False
  1. The three brothers reached the river and were halfway across the bridge that had been built over it when they saw a hooded figure.
  2. Death was happy to finally find people who could evade him.
  3. The oldest brother wanted the Elder wand to be more powerful than any other wizards.
  4. Death gave the second brother a stone that enabled him to speak with the dead.
  5. The youngest brother asked for the Cloak of Invisibility but Death refused.
  6. The oldest brother was murdered and robbed after he had boasted about the wand.
  7. The second brother was killed by the ghost of his fianc?e.
  8. The Cloak made the youngest brother immortal.
ex. 2 Answer the questions
  1. Who were the three brothers?
  2. Why did Death give the three brothers the valuable prizes?
  3. What did the oldest brother ask for? Why?
  4. What did the second brother ask for? Why? Was it a good choice?
  5. What did the youngest brother ask for? What did Death give him?
  6. What happened to the oldest brother?
  7. What happened to the second brother?
  8. What happened to the third brother?
  9. Why does the author call the youngest brother Death's "old friend" and "equal"?
ex. 3 Discussion points
  • What would you ask for if you were in the similar situation?
  • Why was it not wise to ask for the Elder wand and the stone that could recall the dead?
  • How did the Cloak enable the youngest brother to avoid Death?