The Tale of the Three Brothers

The final of the Beedle tales, the Tale of the Three Brothers is the crux of the entire final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, as it the origin of the legend of the three deathly hallows, the indestructable Invisibilty Cloak, the Resurrection Stone, and the Elder Wand.

CategoryInformation
AuthorJ.K. Rowling
TitleThe Tale of the Three Brothers
Part of CollectionThe Tales of Beedle the Bard
Published DateDecember 2008
Referenced in BooksHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Referenced in MoviesHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Overview

The Tale of the Three Brothers holds a position of prominence within The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a revered collection of wizarding fairy tales by J.K. Rowling. First published in December 2008, this anthology has established itself as a fundamental component of the rich tapestry of wizarding folklore. “The Tale of the Three Brothers” is particularly integral to the Harry Potter series, making a notable appearance in the seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and is vividly brought to life in the corresponding film adaptation.

Plot Summary

The story begins with three brothers who, while traveling together, encounter a river too treacherous to pass. Using their magic, they conjure a bridge to cross. Upon reaching the middle of the bridge, they meet Death, who is upset for being cheated of three potential victims. Appearing as a humble old man, Death cunningly congratulates them and offers each brother a gift of their choosing as a reward for their powerful magic.

The eldest brother asks for the most powerful wand ever made, so Death crafts him one from an elder tree nearby. The middle brother, who is filled with sorrow over a lost love, asks for the power to bring the dead back to life. Death gives him a resurrection stone. The youngest brother, who is more humble and wise, doesn’t trust Death and asks for something that will allow him to leave without being followed by Death. Reluctantly, Death hands over his own invisibility cloak.

Soon after, the eldest brother boasts about his powerful wand and gets murdered in his sleep, and the wand is stolen. The middle brother uses the resurrection stone to bring back his lost love, but she is sad and distant in the mortal world, leading him to take his own life in despair. The youngest brother, however, lives a full and happy life, and only when he is old and satisfied does he greet Death as an old friend, going with him willingly and as equals.

The story symbolizes the theme of mortality and the acceptance of death. Each brother’s choice reflects different attitudes towards death, with the youngest brother’s choice being celebrated for its wisdom and humility, as he chooses to live a meaningful life without fearing or defying death.

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A long time Potterhead and gamer, I keep up to date with everything in the Wizarding World from Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts to Hogwarts Legacy.

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Nyx
Nyx
15 years ago

In the seventh book we learned that the tale of the three brothers were true. If so, are the other stories true?

Anonymous
Anonymous
15 years ago

We learn in the seventh book that the Deathly Hallows and the Peverell brothers actually existed, not that the whole tale is true. As Dumbledore says in his commentary, a large amount of magic used in the stories cannot really be performed. Only in Babbity Rabbity and Her Cackling Stump does Beedle follow laws of magic, except for the fact that Babbity can talk when she is a rabbit. Dumbledore also says in DH that the three brothers of the tale did not actually meet Death on a lonely road, but were probably very powerful wizards who created the hallows. I think Beedle got inspiration for his tales form the world around him and may have been based on events he heard of, but they are unlikely to be true, or as close to true, as The Tale of the Three Brothers.

miss cissy
miss cissy
15 years ago

I think, like Anonymous said, that Beedle merely followed his surroundings and turned them into stories. As to how the brothers really created the hallows is my question.

Katrine
Katrine
15 years ago

I like the story but it is not, the best.

Pamela Sue
Pamela Sue
15 years ago

If it was not death’s true objects, then how did they retain their powers all these years. Plus the cloak never got thread bare or faded, cloth that does that has strong magic. I always thought death had a cloak like that. How else could he sneak up on someone.

Yellow Beard (with red streak in it)
Yellow Beard (with red streak in it)
15 years ago

Miss Cissy
I don’t think the brothers created the hallows. I always thought that the hallows were death. Hallows=Death. Death made them so they had to be hallows. They were not created by the brothers, but by death itself.

Dave Haber
Dave Haber
15 years ago

That’s a bit of self-fulfilling logic, I’m afraid. The legend says they were created by Death, so, because of the mythology, they are referred to as the Hallows. Just because they’re popularly called Hallows doesn’t prove Death created them. It just indicates it’s commonly believed he did.

Craig Edwards
Craig Edwards
15 years ago

Dave,

It’s not commonly believed he did, as this is meant to be for children I think like Dumbledore that this idea that death created these objects were the result of these objects being created themselves.

Dave Haber
Dave Haber
15 years ago

What I meant was, anyone who calls them the Hallows believes death created them. Otherwise, readers of the story who think it’s only a fairy tale but perhaps with a basis in reality would probably think that the brothers created the magical objects, they wouldn’t be called hallows by these people.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
15 years ago

But Dumbledore refers to them as the Hallows. Yet he is sceptical about the legend of Death creating them.

Dave Haber
Dave Haber
15 years ago

Very good point. Hallows is defined more loosely than I was suggesting.

miss cissy
miss cissy
15 years ago

okay

hallows=death
death=hallows
brothers=real
real=brothers/myth?

yellow beard with red streak
yellow beard with red streak
15 years ago

Personally, yes I think the brothers are totally true. And their past. I think that the hallows were created by death and given to the brothers only so death could track them and kill them since they deserved to be dead since they made the bridge.

Craig Edwards
Craig Edwards
15 years ago

As Dumbledore states in his last comments, people pick exactly what is worst for them. It was only a matter of time before people noticed the first brother winning every duel he did, even if he didn’t boast about his wand.

This is a story for kids and the object the first brother picked is bound to attract trouble anyway.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
15 years ago

Yellow Beard, I think the story is more intended to illustrate that death is inevitable and that dire consequences await those arrogant enough to try and defy it. I don’t think the brothers deserved to die because they made the bridge. That was simply using a bit of commonsense. No sin there. But Death turns up to test them. Once the first brother wanted to be master of death by owning a wand that would always win and used it to kill, he was setting himself up to be Death. Same with the second brother wanting to reverse death. He was trying to negate Death’s power. Both these brothers failed Death’s test by interfering with the natural moral law; one committing murder, the other dragging the peaceful dead back to life.
The third brother though, only used his gift to ensure that he lived out his normal span of years. He neither tried to usurp Death’s power, nor reverse it. He merely tried to make sure he put off Death’s summons for as long as possible. This is a perfectly normal, human, and sinless attitude. Voldemort on the other hand was not merely trying to live a long life, he was trying to achieve immortality. If you think about it, these are the three sins you can commit with Death; murder, trying to reverse death and trying to achieve immortality. All three are direct challenges to the natural order.

The reasons for not committing murder are fairly self-evident, but the last two are perhaps the hardest lessons for younger readers. I can remember when I was about 12, my ninety year old grandmother saying that she’d lived her life, had her turn and that all her friends and her husband were gone and that she was done, ready to join them at the right time. She was not unhappy in the least. On the contrary she was a very cheerful and giggly old lady. But at 12 I could not understand her acceptance of death. Now, somewhat older(!) I can understand what she meant; that everything in the natural order has its beginning, its life-span and an ending. Birth, life, and death. You can’t have the first two without the last bit. If only to leave some room on this planet for those coming after. I don’t say it’s an easy lesson – it sure isn’t easy trying to explain it to a four year old grieving for a pet dog and then a grandfather – but it’s a necessary one.

One of the strangest things about the whole series is that Harry in the end has something that no other mortal has ever had; an absolute knowledge, from his own experience, that there is indeed an afterlife. It’s something the rest of us, if we believe it at all, have to take on faith, and he only gets to this point because he accepts his own death. Maybe, like his ancestor Ignotus, that is Harry’s ultimate reward for accepting his own mortality.

Anonymous
Anonymous
15 years ago

Don’t all wizards have absolute knowledge of an afterlife? I mean, Harry going through the King’s Cross chapter with Dumbledore could be something entirely made up by his brain, while ghosts, on the other hand, are real absolute proof that people can exist after death.

Mahinus Hawk
Mahinus Hawk
15 years ago

I liked the story; though I dunno if the Peverell brothers were exist. I think the story was the only way to create the Deathly Hallows.

Nat D. Aiken
Nat D. Aiken
15 years ago

to me the “Deathstick” was just that, a wand (stick) that caused death, primarily its owners. The death stone(?) made you long for death. The cloak does seem neutral, but if used excessively, you’d get lonely, or hear something that might make you long for death. Still, WHOEVER made these items, were, as Dumbledore said, extremely dangerous, wizard(s).

Anonymous
Anonymous
15 years ago

Mahinus: If the Peverell brothers didn’t exist, how did Harry see his grave? How did Harry acquire the Invisibility Cloak, as it was said to have belonged to Ignotus Peverell. Harry is a descendant of Ignotus Peverell, and the Invisibility Cloak is the only one in the world that will not fade after years of use.

Curious
Curious
15 years ago

Anonymous
How do we know that Harry was a descendant of Ignotus Peverell?

Ginny Granger
Ginny Granger
15 years ago

THe Peverell brothers definitely existed. 100%. Harry WAS a descendant of Ignotus. So that would mean that Harry inherited the Cloak from him. Dumbledore took the cloak to examine it, BECAUSE it is one of the Hallows. I did think that Dumbledore was an idiot when he put the ring on in book 6. I mean, way to be stupid! Anyway, i have a question: Would Dumbledore be related to Harry, because they were both born in Godric’s Hollow? or is that just a coincidence?

Pamela Sue
Pamela Sue
15 years ago

Ginny, Dumbledore wasn’t born in Godric’s Hollow. He came there with his mother, sister, and brother after his father went to prison.

Geoffrey
Geoffrey
15 years ago

We know for a fact that The Peverell Brothers DID exist, and that Harry is a descendant of Ignotus. We also know that the 3 Hallows exist and they have a very real power.
But to say they were given to them by death…I don’t think so.
At the beginning they want to cross a river and to do so they conjure a bridge to go to the other shore.
Well that river is figuratively death that crosses life, before them everyone was taken away the Bridge symbolises the desire of mankind to do anything in its power to cheat death (in our case using magic). But you can’t cheat death for long. I think the 3 brothrs created the Hallows but the the magic they used wold bring them back soon enoughtin it’s fold “one step forward two steps back”. Mankind by nature NEEDS to die, we are made in such manner that I don’t think our minds would simply be able to handle immortality. Look what happened to Voldemort, he changed his nature, he wasn’t man anymore and even he, in the end didn’t succeed in cheating death. There is no use denying death it is what makes life possible. We should enjoy and cherish every last second that has been gifted to us regardless of what comes after.
Back to the Peverells strangely enough I don’t think Ignotus was any better than Antioch and Cadmus. He was just far less conceited than his brothers. I mean, had he outright accepted death he would have had no need for the cloack right? That only came after the many years he had to ponder over that question. As much as the Wand and the Stone can be seen as symbols of arrogance the cloak can lead to a bad tendency to avoid hardships. One cannot keep hidding for his whole life; fortunately for him it seems Ignotus got it. Better late than never.

Anonymous
Anonymous
15 years ago

How do we know harry is a descendant of Ignotus?

Craig Edwards
Craig Edwards
15 years ago

Anonymous,
the cloak of Ignotus has passed on from generation to generation and Harry recieved it from his dad who had it before him. He could have stole it from someone or someone before him might have done we just don’t know.

Alpha Harris
Alpha Harris
15 years ago

Deathly hallows are supposed to protect their owners from death. If the invisible cloak was a true deathly hallows, why did Ignotus die? (James Potter had not the cloak at the time of his dying).

Anonymous
Anonymous
15 years ago

But Dumbledore specifically tells Harry at King’s Cross that the cloak has been passed down through the family, down to Ignotus’s descendent – Harry.

ithil
ithil
14 years ago

Alpha, the Deathly Hallows for the first 2 brothers were to get them to die. Also it says that Ignotus went peacefully, as an old friend with Death.

Igor
Igor
14 years ago

Dear All, There is one major question touching th Deathly Hallows: The Elder Wand is passing through generations by defeating the previous owner. It is the supposed principal. Without it it is supposed to lose its special qualities, its enormous abilities to provide magic. But: Gellert Grindelwald stole the Elder Wand from Gregorowitch! He did not conquer him. So – how it is possible for the Elder wand to keep its special features for its posessor? Or was it without these qualities and there was only the legendary aura remaining and giving its posessor psychological support? It explains, by the way, why was in 1945 Albus Dumbledore able to defeat in a duel Gellert Grindelwald – the owner of the Unbeateble wand in that time.
There are many complicated things in the magic world (as in the non-magical world, too).

Craig Edwards
Craig Edwards
14 years ago

No, Igor I think i agree with Hermione on the point that wands are as powerful as the wizard or witch who uses them. At least, with some wizards. Dumbledore himself states that he and Grindleward were evenly matched, probably him being a bit more skillful. This being the case, it doesn’t neccessarily mean that this is the reason why he beat Grindlewald.

�zzet
�zzet
14 years ago

Igor, here is your answer. The wand should be “won” by the new owner. Grindelwald took(stole) the wand from Gregorovitch without the will of Gregorovitch, so he fully posesses the wand.

Nyx
Nyx
14 years ago

WOW
Alpha-
Deathly Hallows are not made to help the owner survive. Deathly Hallows are a trick made my death to make the dying process quicken up. hallows are automatic death magnets. horocruxs protect their owner from death unless they are destroyed

James Jarvis
James Jarvis
14 years ago

If it was not death’s true objects, then how did they retain their powers all these years. Plus the cloak never got thread bare or faded, cloth that does that has strong magic. I always thought death had a cloak like that. How else could he sneak up on someone.’

Posted by Pamela Sue from Ark on March 3, 2009 09:43 AM

Good Question. I agree. They MUST have been deaths objects, other wise, how could they have stayed enchanted after centuries of magical use?

Igor, I agree with you. Unless Grindewald WASN’T the true wand owner, Dumbledore couldn’t have beaten him, because the wand is unbeatable.

‘WOW Alpha- Deathly Hallows are not made to help the owner survive. Deathly Hallows are a trick made my death to make the dying process quicken up. hallows are automatic death magnets. horocruxs protect their owner from death unless they are destroyed’

Posted by Nyx on June 17, 2009 07:01 AM

Judging by your lack of knowledge, you know nothing about the Deathly Hallows. Horcrux’s are an evil, lowly thing to do to preserve your essence on Earth. The Hallow’s were created by three very powerfull wizards, the Peverell Brothers. The Objects were not created by death, but according to Dumbledore, just made through extraordinary feats of magic. They do not attract death, only through their actions to they bring death on themselves.

Ria
Ria
14 years ago

The Tale of 3 Brothers–
I assume that the bridge the Peverell Brothers made was a symbol of a battle/situation in the Peverell’s life when they almost died (thus cheated Death). Believing that they were invincible to Death, they created 3 powerful objects after that situation as a ‘reward’ for evading death. The Peverells were 3 powerful wizards who put all their effort and knowledge on those Hallows.. each object reflected the personalities of the brothers, and I think each brother represented the different ways of how wizards tried to avoid death. Reckless and sorrowful living did not do anything good to Antioch and Cadmus. And Ignotus was a wise wizard that’s why he lived full and happy with his life, and died peacefully.

I think the lessons of the story boils down to these: All of us will die in the end. No one can evade death. There is no such thing as immortality. And that our choices and way of living depends on how we will die.

Igor–
Wandlore indicates that to become a new master of a wand, it has to be conquered or taken by force. Ollivander said that this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to kill or duel with that person.

Grindelwald became the true master of the Elder Wand because he stole the wand from Gregorovitch, which I think the wandmaker did not use for personal purposes (i.e, duels), rather for duplicating its remarkable qualities only. So the wand bent its will to Grindelwald. On the other hand, Voldemort never became the true master of the Elder Wand (though he took it forcefully from Dumbledore) because it already recognized Draco as its master before Dumbledore died.

Luna Lovegood
Luna Lovegood
14 years ago

Craig Edwards,
No one stole the cloak. Dumbledore himself said that the cloak didn’t work as well for him as it did for Harry because Harry was the rightful owner of the cloak.

Alpha Harris,
Ignotus died because he had one Hallow. The three together were to make you the master of death. Also, he was willing to die. In the story of The Three Brothers, it said that the third and youngest brother took off his cloak of invisibility. passed it on to his son, and greeted death like an old friend. Ignotus died a natural death.

Yzzet and Igor,
The wand was not truly Grindelwalds because he didn’t defeat Gregorovitch. It didn’t work properly for him. Just like it didn’t work properly for Voldemort. He defeated the wrong person.

Anonymous
Anonymous
14 years ago

I think the ELder Wand was truly Grindelwald’s. He stuns Gregorovitch before he escapes, and that seems to count as defeating him because that is the only way Dumbledore can win mastery of it. Remember after Dumbledore defeats Grindelwald he becomes the true master of the Elder Wand. We know this is true because Draco becomes the true master after dissarming Dumbledore and Harry becomes the true master after overpowering Draco. Since Dumbledore only becomes the wand’s master after winning in the duel against Grindelwald, Grindelwald had to have been the master in the first place.

Sirius Black
Sirius Black
14 years ago

Luna Lovegood
The wand was Grindelwalds. We know this because the wand was Dumbledores who defeated Grindelwald. We know that because at the end Harry uses the Elder Wand to mend his Phoenix wand which otherwise couldn’t be mended.

Igor
I really doubt that the Elder Wand makes someone truly invincible. If it did how could anyone conquer it from the last owner? Like Dumbledore said, the story about it being an completely unbeatable wand is just what would be expected from an object like that. It is clear that the Elder Wand boosts a wizards power enormously however.

Craig Edwards
Craig Edwards
14 years ago

I have a theory as to why Dumbledore beat Grindlewald. I noticed that it doesn’t say whether Gregorvitch actually ‘won’ the wand from anyone, it says he found it. The trail went cold after Abraxas last had the wand. What if he lost it and it was found by Gregorvitch?

If this is the case, the wand was not ‘won’ by Gregorvitch and, therefore was not won by Grindlewald when he stole it from him, which is why it wouldn’t work to its full potential. Then, when Dumbledore won the duel, he had also won the wand.

Craig Edwards
Craig Edwards
14 years ago

and im sorry, i meant Loxias

Chandler
Chandler
14 years ago

I love th fountain of fair fortune and the tale of the 3 brothers. They are the best stories I’ve ever read they make you think about what you want to do with your life.

LONG LIVE HP!

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
14 years ago

They are wonderful stories, Chandler, and you could do a lot worse than live according to the principles they embody. Just imagine if we all cared for and helped each other, used our talents to the full for the good of all, and accepted the limits of our mortality as a gift… not a bad sort of world, really.

Siena
Siena
14 years ago

But if we were all good, we wouldn’t need stories like Beedle’s anymore…

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
14 years ago

“But if we were all good, we wouldn’t need stories like Beedle’s anymore…”

Do you think maybe we’d need the occasional reminder?

Siena
Siena
14 years ago

Yes, of course – as we are all so flawed. I was just thinking that all these stories like HP and Beedle are so successful because we need them so much – they function as a mirror for us, showing us our own faults and what we need to work on. But given the utopia state of us being able to embrace all these virtues – and obviously after our disgraceful fall fom Paradise (to speak in biblical terms here ) we aren’t capable of that anymore… – we wouldn’t need reminders, and thus moral stories would be superflous?

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
14 years ago

I think you have a point, Siena. Human nature, being what it is, is why we need these stories. Speaking of which, if I am not going too egregiously off-topic, for anyone looking for a fun and meaningful movie which actually sticks to the story line in the book (Hint, hint Potter movie-makers; it CAN be done!) I’ve just taken my kids to see A Christmas Carol – 3D. Very, very good. In fact I muttered to my eldest that I wished they’d done the HP movies as well.

Siena
Siena
14 years ago

I was just pondering over something you said earlier on, Elizabeth – if I may quote: “The third brother though, only used his gift to ensure that he lived out his normal span of life, he neither tried to ursurp Death’s powers, nor reverse it. He merely tried to make sure he put off Death’s summons for as long as possible. This is a perfectly normal human, sinless attitude. ” This comment just struck me – while I have to agree that it is indeed a human attitude and perfectly normal to wish to live as long as possible – but is it really sinless what the third brother did? It seems to me as if he tried to outsmarten Death just as much by deciding when HE felt he would like to take off the cloak, pinpointing Death to get him when HE was ready for it instead of letting Death decide. He did not commit a sin against other human beings though like his brothers – but still, it seems to me he cheated just as much. It reminded me a bit of Dumbledore really – he preached that to embrace Death would make one the Master of it while he himself played destiny and planned his own. Admittedly he never said he was Master of Death, he considered himself to be only worthy of the humblest of all the Hallows – the Elder Wand.

(Must check out the Christmas Carol if it’s good by the way – but I haven’t even read the story yet so maybe i should do that first.)

Cai
Cai
14 years ago

There is some truth in what you are saying, Siena – though I doubt whether Rowling meant it to be looked at in this way. I think what she meant was that the third brother outsmarted death as such that death wouldn’t catch him prematurely – obviously, this is what death sometimes does, think of terminal illnesses or fatal accidents. It is of course debatable whether these premature deaths can be called destiny or not – it is the ongoing discussion between the church who often claims that it was God’s wish to “call a person to him” and the dead person’s mourning loved ones to whom those words are empty words and often have no comfort at all.

Siena
Siena
14 years ago

I went to see “A Christmas Carol” – I enjoyed it, it was quite as dark as the story, no cute Disney pics at all! But I didn’t enjoy the digitally altered characters, I thought it looked a bit too artificial. Is it called “performance capture” where they film the real actors and then alter them digitally? I suppose I don’t like the effects and would prefer real faces in HP. But otherwise I loved how “A Christmas Carol” stayed true to Dickens. Thank you for recommending it, Elizabeth.

anonymous
anonymous
14 years ago

well..about how the three brothers retained the power of their hallows…i think the whole matter is about what the owner of 1 of these hallows believes..e.g..the wand according to dumbledore could be defeated many times…and if it was unbeatable then dumbledore wouldnt have got hold of it or defeated grindelwald..why? probably cos grindelwald knew what dumbledore was capable of,,or maybe coz he(grindelwald) didn’t want to actually hurt dumbledore coz they were friends..and far from the wand there is the stone according to the story the brother who acquired the stone could see the woman who he thought he loved be cause he believed he would be able to see her..same happened to harry when he was about to go to voldemort to make him kill him (harry)..he didn’t just think he would be able to see his parents,sirius and lupin..he KNEW he would be able to..as to the cloack i dont have a clue..but after all i might be mistaken about the other two hallows…sorry 4 my horrible English:S

Siena
Siena
14 years ago

Maybe the Elder Wand only delivers its full power to the person who is worthy of it, worthy to guard it properly, like Dumbledore. Dumbledore was a worthy owner of this particular hallow, because when he won it he no longer sought power for the sake of it. He merely wished to own the wand to keep it from falling into the wrong hands again. I think it all comes down to Grindelwald not really being a worthy owner of the wand. He stole the wand which is a despicable act. He did not earn its merits by a noble act like Dumbledore or Harry did.

I think as for at least two of the hallows, the Wand and the Stone, it comes down to being a worthy and understanding person in order to be the master of them. The Stone never revealed its power to either the Gaunts or Voldemort, because they were too interested in other stuff like heritage, power and immortality. With these immoral traits it wouldn’t work for them properly. Harry is the master of the Stone because he has learnt during his journey in life ( starting when he first looked into the Mirror of Erised and finishing with his willingness to sacrifice his life for the sake of others) that it is no use bringing back the dead. The spirits he saw emerging in the forest were neither ghost nor living bodies but Harry’s very own feelings and manifestations of Lily, James, Sirius and Lupin in his very own heart. They seemed to be part of him it says in the book. Indeed they were him.

anonymous you are right in saying that the cloak seems to stand out a bit. It would probably hide anyone in the same way, although maybe its full power wouldn’t work for an unworthy person. Harry said that the cloak wouldn’t have protected Lily and James against Voldemort the night the Fidelius Charm broke. But on the other hand we know that it did hold off the revealing spell the Death Eaters performed when they suspected Harry of entering Hogsmeade in the chaper “The Missing Mirror” in DH. So it does seem to have that power to protect. But maybe it still wouldn’t have been curse proof. Still, Voldemort was never interested in the cloak, he didn’t think it useful as he could conceal himself so well. He didn’t understand its full power then and again wasn’t worthy of it. Harry was worthy of all three – he sought their power not for gain, but for moral purposes.