After travelling a very long time, his good fortune brought him to the cross-roads where he had parted with his brothers. Instantly he rushed to the oak to see if the knives were still sticking in it, but his own knife alone stood in the tree. The two others had fallen out, and he was much grieved at this, believing that his brothers were dead or that they were in great danger. In his trouble he had quite forgotten the wonderful hair and stone which he possessed. He resolved to go and search after his brothers, and therefore went along the same road his youngest brother had taken when they parted.
As he travelled he remembered the hair which the winged horse had given him, and the stone which he had found at the inn; but these did not much console him, he was so exceedingly sorry for his brothers. After travelling some time he found himself before a large palace, the door-keeper of which asked him if he would take charge of the king's goats. He said he would, if the king could only tell him something about his two brothers, who had travelled that way with a similar company to that which he had. The king said that no men with such a company had passed that way during his reign; and this was quite true, inasmuch as he had only recently mounted the throne, the old king, under whom the two brothers had served, having lately died. However, though the eldest brother could learn nothing of his two younger brothers, he decided to stay some time there, and so engaged himself to the king as goat-keeper.
As he drove the goats out, day by day, he looked about on all sides for some trace of his brothers; for, although their knives had fallen out of the oak-tree, he tried to believe that they were not dead.
One day, as he thus wandered about with his goats, he met an old man, who was going to the forest, with his axe on his shoulder, to cut wood.
So he asked him if he had seen anything of his two brothers. The old man answered, "Who knows? Perhaps they have been lost on that mountain where so many other men have lost their lives. Drive your goats up that high hill; from its top you will see a much higher mountain, which smokes, and never ceases to smoke. On that mountain many people have been lost; perhaps your brothers also have perished there. I will, however, give you one piece of good advice. Do not go, for anything in the world, to the place where it smokes. I am now an old man, but I never remember to have seen one man return who went there. Therefore, if your life is dear to you, do not go up that mountain." So saying the old man went off.
The goat-keeper drove his goats up the hill, and from its top he saw, as he had been told, a very high mountain which smoked. He tried to discover if any living creature was thereon, but he could not see the traces of a single one there. He considered within himself whether he should go there or not, and, after re volving it over in his mind, he at length determined to go.
In the evening, when he drove the goats home, he told the king of his intention. The king tried hard to dissuade him, and promised to raise his wages if he would stay with him; however, nothing could turn him from his resolution. So the king paid him, and he went away.
Having come to the mountain he found the fire, and wondered who lit it. As he thought over this he heard a woman's voice, saying, "Hy, hy!" So he looked up, and was astonished at seeing, in the branches of the beech-tree over his head, an old woman huddled together. Her hair was longer than her body, and as white as snow. When he looked up, she said to him, "My son, I am so cold. I should like to warm myself, but I am afraid of your beasts. I made that fire myself, but, seeing you coming with your animals, I was frightened, and got up here to save myself".
"Well, you can now come down again, and warm yourself as much as you please," said he. However, she protested, "I dare not - your beasts would bite me. But I will throw you a hair, and you shall bind them with it. Then I can come down." The eldest brother thought to himself: the hair must be a very singular hair indeed, if it could bind his bear, his wolf, his dog, and his cat. So, instead of throwing it over the animals, he threw it into the fire. Meanwhile the old woman came down from the tree, and they both sat by the fire. But he never moved his eyes from her.
Very soon she began to grow, and grow, and in a short time she was ten yards high. Then he remembered the words of the old wood-cutter, and trembled. However, he only said to her, "How you are growing, auntie." "Oh, no, my son," she answered, "I am only warming myself." She still grew taller and taller, and had grown as tall as the beech-tree, when he again exclaimed, "But how you are growing, old woman!"
"Oh, no, my son. I am only warming myself," she repeated as before.
But he saw that she meant him mischief, so he shouted to his companions, "Hold her, my dog! hold her, my little bear! hold her, my little wolf! hold her my pussy!" Thereupon they all jumped on the old woman, and began to tear her. Seeing she was unable to help herself, she begged him to save her from her furious enemies, and promised she would give him whatever he asked. "Well," said he, "I demand that you bring back to life my two brothers, with their companions, and all those you have destroyed. Besides that, I demand ten loads of ducats. If you will not comply with these demands, I shall leave you to be torn to pieces by my animals." The old woman agreed to do all this, only she begged hard that one man should not be brought back to life, because she had said, when she had turned him to ashes, "When you arise, may I lie down in your place!" and, therefore, she was afraid she should be turned to ashes herself if he came back to life.
As the eldest brother, however, thought that she was trying to cheat him, he would not comply with her request.
Finding that she could not otherwise help herself, she at length said to him, "Take some ashes from that heap under the tree, and throw them over yourself and your company, and whilst you do so say, 'Arise up, dust and ashes - what I am now may you also be! '"
Wonder of wonders! The moment he did as she told him, there arose up crowds of men - more than ten thousand of them. On seeing such a multitude of people coming from under the tree, he was almost struck senseless with astonishment. But he explained to them briefly what had happened. Most of them thanked him heartily; some, however, of them would not believe him, and said with anger, "We would rather you had not awakened us." Then they went away in crowds; some took one way, some another, until they were all dispersed. Only his two brothers remained behind; though they, too, for some time could not believe that he was their brother. However, when they saw that their animals recognised his, they remembered that no one but themselves had had such a strange company of beasts. Having recognised each other, the brothers fell into each other's arms, and embraced affectionately. Then they divided the ducats which the old woman had given to the eldest, loaded their animals with their treasures, and went straight away towards the place where they were born, and where their parents had died. As for the old woman, when the last man arose from the ashes under the oak-tree, she herself crumbled into ashes under it.