The Story Finder

Voices in Fairy Tales

by Michelle Tocher

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Bullied Brother

Themes: Abuse | Departure | Kinship

My mother told me and my sister that the river brought us to her when we were babies. We were lying in a crystal cradle. Father took us home and brought us up with eight other children.

Our foster parents love us, but our brothers and sisters don’t. The boys are always playing tricks on me, and so my sister and I spend most of our time on the banks of the river. We take the bits of bread we have saved from our breakfast and crumble them for the birds. In return, the birds have taught us many things. We know the inspiration of dawn. We know how to sing bird songs, and we know how to speak their language.

Lately my brothers have become intolerable bullies. This morning my eldest brother said, “It is all very well for you to pretend that you are so much better than us, but we at least have a father and mother. All you’ve got is the river, like the toads and frogs.”

My sister and I did not answer, but we told one another in whispers that we would not stay there any longer. We would go to the river and seek our fortunes.

Orphaned Brother in The Bird of Truth, Orange Fairy Book. Picture by Margaret Tarrant.

Bullied Brother