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Apr 3, 2014

The Tale of the Three Brothers, from The Tales of Beedle the Bard, by J.K.Rowling

So, I'm writing a paper for a class I'm taking.  I'm looking at how the ideological messages are transmitted in a piece of writing and have chosen to use the Tale of the Three Brothers from The Tales of Beedle the Bard, by J.K. Rowling.  Now, what are ideological messages, you may ask?  They are the ideas beyond what is written, like the moral of a fable, the hidden message.  So, not only am I looking for the hidden message, but for how that hidden message is given to the reader.

A little background.  Three brothers come to a raging river.  They use their magic to make a bridge across the river.  Death gets angry because usually people die trying to cross the river.  So, Death meets the three brothers midway on the bridge and offers them each a gift of their choosing for having outwitted him.  The eldest, belligerent brother asks for a wand to beat all others in battle.  The middle brother asks for something to return those who have died.  Then, Death asks the youngest brother what he wants.  The youngest brother asks for something that would allow him to go from that place unseen by Death and avoid Death until he was ready to meet him.  Death gave the eldest brother a wand of elder, the middle a river washed stone, and the youngest received Death's own invisibility cloak.

Well, the eldest brother goes to a fellow who he's had trouble with in the past and they duel and he wins.  He goes to the local watering hole and boasts of the power of the wand Death gave him, gets drunk, passes out in a room above the pub.  A pickpocket decides to steal the wand while that brother sleeps, and for good measure, slits his throat.

The middle brother goes home, and uses the stone to bring back his dead fiancee.  She'd died just before their wedding.  They can't quite connect because of being on different dimensions of time and space, he goes mad, and kills himself to be with her.  So Death has two of the three brothers.

The youngest brother lives to an old age, gives the invisibility cloak to his son, and meets Death as a friend and they walk off into the sunset.

So that's the tale in a much abbreviated manner.  The hidden meanings in the story are: 1, you have nothing to fear from Death if you live sensibly, 2, your end will come about from the way in which you live your life, and, 3, as Dumbledore wrote in his commentary, Death is inevitable for all humans.

So, the question then becomes how did Rowling put those messages into the story?  Let's take the second meaning of the tale, that your end will come about from the way in which you live your life.  How did I get that meaning from the story?  Well, each brother died in a way related to what he asked of Death.  The eldest brother asked for a wand to best all wands.  He died in a combative situation, had he not been drunk from too much wine.  The second brother wanted the power to bring back the dead.  He was pinning for the past, and assumed that the girl wanted to be back with him rather than where ever it was she was.  He was lost in the past with his longing for her when he killed himself.  He never enjoyed living in the present after leaving Death on the bridge.  The youngest brother just asked to be allowed to go from there on his way.  He didn't ask for any special power, just for freedom to pass.  Then as his time of life grew long and full, he went to Death when it was the right time, rather than losing his life too soon.  Thus, each brother died according to what he asked of Death, and this tells us that your way of Death will come about because of how you live your life.

Ahh!  I just had an insight.  Dumbledore tells Harry "It is not what happens to us that makes us who we are, but our choices that make us who we are."  Just as our death will come from the choices we make about how we live our lives.