Andersen Fairy Tales, Andersen-Hans Christian



There were once five brothers who all wanted to do something in the world. One wanted to be a brick maker, another a builder, another an architect, another wanted to be an inventor of sorts, but the fifth wanted to be a critic.

The first went off and became a brick maker. He made money and was kind with the extra that he had. He gave broken bricks and whole bricks, to a widow to build herself a house. He was a kind man who was sorely missed when he died.

The second brother did become a builder and built many houses. He was admired in the area. He too died well liked.

The third brother did become an architect and designed the houses his brother built. The street was even named after him. He received many titles and was well liked, but he too died.

The fourth brother became a great idea man. He wanted to build a large building, a tower, but it did not work and fell down with him on it and he died young, but people erected a monument to him. Overall, he was also well liked and stood for something.

The fifth brother lived the longest of them all. He criticized everything they did. He never really did anything, but because he did nothing and got paid for it, people considered that he was something. One day he too died.

At the gates of heaven, the brother was going to enter with an old widow woman. He asked her what she had done in her life. She said she had not done much. She had lived by a body of water where people skated in the winter. One day a great storm came up. She knew it would break up the ice and all the people skating on it would die. She tried shouting at them, but they did not hear her. She could not think of any other way to get them off the ice but to burn her own house down.

She set her house aflame with her in it. The skaters saw it and came rushing to her aid, but it was too late, the old woman died, not in vain though. The storm did come and it did break up the ice. All those who had been on it only moments before would have perished. The woman saved them all by losing her life.

The critic didn’t quite know what to make of this and had nothing to say. The angel at the gate questioned him upon his merit and the old woman told the angel that the critic’s own brother had given her materials to build her house and that was something. The angel said the critic could come into heaven if he could perform one act of repentance outside of the gates of heaven. The critic thought about it and that was something.


I didn’t know there were people who made money as critics back in Hans’ day, but I guess there were.

I have to wonder if the storm that broke up the ice was a tornado. Are there tornadoes in Denmark?


Each of these men all aspired to do something and they all did, in their own way. The critic was respected, but probably did the least amount of something out of all the brothers. In all actuality, the critic did do a lot, but he didn’t do a lot that helped other people.

I once watched a documentary about people who had near death experiences. One of the people mentioned that while he was “dead” he saw that our lives were measured by how we touched other people. Our help to other people would ripple out like a web and connect us and our deeds and our merit. If you think of this story on those terms, it makes sense.

The first four brothers and did things that affected other people. They all managed to do something that helped people. The first brother made bricks to create home for people. The second brother made homes for people. The third brother designed homes for people. The fourth brother, although his life was short, gave people something to look up to. The fifth brother criticized people and who really likes that? Criticism is considered such a bad word because most criticism you get is negative. Negative can be necessary, but generally, negative is not a good thing in people’s eyes. Negative is stressful and it can deeply hurt people. It wouldn’t be something that would be praised in the eyes of the angel admitting people to heaven. If anything, this brother spread a web of negativity about him in his life.


Be something.

Weigh In

Did you choose your profession with an eye to how it would affect other people?

Do you think most people choose professions with thoughts of other people or not?


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