HOUSEHOLD STORIES from The BROTHERS GRIMM

51 Tales translated to English by Lucy Crane & Illustrated by Walter Crane

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THE TWELVE BROTHERS.                           57
" Yes, go with your eleven brothers out into the world, and let one of you always sit on the top of the highest tree that can be found, and keep watch upon the tower of this castle. If a little son is born I will put out a white flag, and then you may safely venture back again; but if it is a little daughter I will put out a red flag, and then flee away as fast as you can, and the dear God watch over you. Every night will I arise and pray for you—in winter that you may have a fire to warm yourselves by, and in summer that you may not languish in the heat."
After that, when she had given her sons her blessing, they went away out into the wood. One after another kept watch, sitting on the highest oak tree, looking towards the tower. When eleven days had passed, and Benjamin's turn came, he saw a flag put out, but it was not white, but blood red, to warn them that they were to die. When the brothers knew this they became angry, saying,
" Shall we suffer death because of a girl! we swear to be revenged ; wherever we find a girl we will shed her blood."
Then they went deeper into the wood; and in the middle, where it was darkest, they found a little enchanted house, standing empty. Then they said,
" Here will we dwell; and you, Benjamin, the youngest and weakest, shall stay at home and keep house; we others will go abroad and purvey food."
Then they went into the wood and caught hares, wild roes, birds, and pigeons, and whatever else is good to eat, and brought them to Benjamin for him to cook and make ready to satisfy their hunger. So they lived together in the little house for ten years, and the time did not seem long.
By this time the Queen's little daughter was growing up; she had a kind heart and a beautiful face, and a golden star on her forehead. Once when there was a great wash she saw among the clothes twelve shirts, and she asked her mother,
" Whose are these twelve shirts ? they are too small to be my father's." Then the mother answered with a sore heart,
" Dear child, they belong to your twelve brothers." The little girl said,
" Where are my twelve brothers ? I have never heard of them." And her mother answered,