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Friday, May 04, 2012

#FridayFlash: The Three Builders

You’ll recognize these characters from Accidental Sorcerers — this takes place about eight or nine years prior.

The Three Builders
(a fable of Termag)

The nurse stood as Bailar entered Sura’s bedroom, stumbling a little. “All is well?” he asked.

“All is well, and gods willing, all shall be well.” The nurse often wondered how such a clumsy oaf could yet be a sorcerer, but there he stood. But a kindly man he is, and a good ‘un to give a home to a girl left at his door. She smiled and departed.

“I helped in the kitchen today, Father!” said Sura, sitting on her bed. Her round eyes gleamed in the candlelight. Rain drummed on the house, a comfortable sleepy sound.

“Nurse told me. She said you did well.”

She grinned. “I did! She said I would get cut or burned, but I was very careful. I’m almost five, I’m a big girl! I can help.”

“Indeed you can.”

“Yes. And then I’ll grow up to be a great sorcerer like you.”

“I’m sure you’ll be an even better one.” Bailar smiled to himself. He was no great sorcerer, but for a river town like Exidy he was adequate.

“A story, Father?” Sura bounced a little. “I’m not too big for a story.”

“Of course.” He sat on the bed and began:

Once, in the time of Camac That Was, in the Faraway West, was a fishing village. The village was remote, and they had to mostly provide for themselves. Most families had a fishing boat, and a garden, and could see the sun set over the ocean. Theirs was not an easy life, but it was the only life they knew and they were content with it.

Source: openclipart.org
One day, a raider, a big and strong man from the North, sailed by in his boat. He saw the little village, and saw how long it would take for the Queen’s navy to come to its aid. He found a place to hide his boat nearby and began to plunder the houses of the village by dark of night. What he could not carry away, he destroyed. The chief offered a great reward to anyone who could kill the raider, but none succeeded and many who tried did not live to try again.

Into this turmoil came three young men from other places, sent out from their families to make their homes. The first man said, “I shall build my house of rocks, with narrow windows and a sturdy brass door. This raider shall not break in.” When the raider came, he pounded at the brass door but could not batter it down. Then he took his great hammer, and smashed through the wall. He carried away the young man’s possessions, leaving behind a rubble.

The second man said, “I shall build my house of sturdy logs, with a great wooden door. This raider shall not break in.” When the raider came, he pounded at the great wooden door but could not batter it down. He took his great hammer and beat at the log walls, but made only some splinters. Then he took oil, poured it on the side of the house, and set it on fire. When the young man ran from his burning house, carrying what he prized most, the raider took it and more besides, leaving behind a smoking char.

The third man said, “I shall build my house from straw mats. I am a poor man, and what little I have the raider may not want.” When the raider came, he looked upon the flimsy house and laughed. “I shall simply walk through the wall and take what I will,” said he. But when he pushed the wall down, the entire house fell onto the raider, trapping him in the tough mats. As the raider struggled to escape, the young man took his hunting-spear and spitted the raider upon it. He dragged the raider’s body to the chief, who rejoiced with all the village and gave him the promised reward. The chief made him an advisor, and the village prospered.

“For it is not what you are given in this world that matters, but how you use it. The end.” Bailar smiled and stroked his foster daughter’s hair.

“That was good,” said Sura. “So you don’t have to be big and strong to win the battle?”

“Not if you are clever and use the talents you were created with,” said Bailar. “Now it’s time for the sorcerer’s daughter to go to sleep. We go to market tomorrow.”


  1. I like this much better than the Three Little Pigs. More violent, sure, but the tone sounds authentic enough that the violence suits its moral and implied culture.

  2. Charming story! The backdrop also comes through well. @FayneRiverdale

  3. I like how this worked on its own as a story but also works by playing off our knowledge of The Three Little Pigs.

    Good work!

  4. Hi all!

    JohnW, are you sure it's more violent? Two of the pigs got eaten, and the wolf ended up getting boiled alive!

    Fayne, thanks much and welcome to the free-range insane asylum!

    Thanks, Peter — I must have had fun writing this but I'd forgotten all about it until I stumbled across it last week! I added Bailar and little Sura to give it some context.

  5. Three little pigs: remixed. Well done, Larry, the story within a story works well, and why shouldn't a fantasy world have as many fables as legends? =)

  6. This has got to be my favorite version of the Three Little Pigs. I like the way it's been modified for the raider and the moral is perfect.

  7. ohh a different version of the three little pigs. enjoyed it lots.

  8. A very nice tale, and a good lesson attached to it. ^_^ I did think of the three little pigs as I read this, but I like your mix up of it into something more meaningful.

  9. When faced with superior strength, appearing to yield can quite often be the key to winning. Interesting slant on the old tale Larry. I like the "Story within a story" concept too.

  10. I think it might actually be this story from which the etymology of the phrase "straw man" originated. The third builder deliberately makes a flimsy straw house so that the raider could easily knock it down, becoming entrapped in straw and imperiling his doom. The chief then punishes the builder for recklessly constructing a dangerous structure in violation of the village’s building codes. Over time, this myth morphed into a tale about three little pigs, and eventually Eric Clapton popularized the story's moral in his 1986 hit song "It's In The Way You Use It" [Color of Money soundtrack]. *wink* :)

    Thanks for the chance to reminisce on this great story with a unique history, perfectly presented. Nice job, Larry. :)

  11. Morning all from the cool North Carolina mountains, where I'm visiting Mom…

    JohnX, I think this is an aspect of fantasy, especially YA fantasy, that doesn't get enough attention. We have legends and songs, but what's the bedrock stuff that they want their kids to learn through bedtime stories?

    Thanks, Aidan. Sometimes, the strongest materials aren't the best. ;-)

    Thanks, Tim!

    Sonia, I kind of turned it upside down, yes. ;-)

    Thanks, Helen — glad it worked so well!

    Steve, glad to know that worked. I used Bailar and Sura to add some context to the fable, and to provide a little more backstory.

    Rachel, that's pretty funny! I can now hear one line to that song. I'll probably have to go find it online to get it back out of my head. ;-) And thanks much!

  12. I specially liked that the young man/pig with the straw house won out in the end - in the original that was the lazy pig who got eaten first.

  13. I'm glad you found this one Larry! Carmac is one rich world and I also liked the reversed 3 pigs story :).

  14. Hi there Larry -- I like this reverse 'three pigs' tale and the structure of telling it through a story for a child. Rattles along, gave everything I want from a 'fairy tale', and the big bad raider got it in the end. Nice, too, that it's a tale within a tale. St.

  15. Hi all!

    Yes, Brinda, there may be reasons other than laziness for choosing non-code building materials. ;-)

    Thanks Craig — and thanks again for reminding me I'd found them. Saved my #FridayFlash bacon for sure!

    Glad you liked it, Stephen. It's always comforting to know the big bad guy gets his comeuppance!

  16. Yep, sometimes it's the modest man who wins the day. Although the result may not have been his original intention! Lovely little tale.

  17. Lovely twist on the old pigs tale.. sadly though it seems the big shots are getting all the gold at the moment..but a great reminder all the same of what's really important. And when it comes down to it, the meek will always inherit the best things in life.

  18. Fabulous! I love new versions of old fairy tales.

  19. Love this one, Far! I agree, a well handled updating of the classic tale. Well done!


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