This story is my own, based on a tale I heard once. There’s a similar variation told by Mary Celestia Parler that I’ll post tomorrow.
Once there were three brothers who set off together across the hills. As it was getting dark around them they decided to look for a place to bed down for the night. All of a sudden one of the brothers saw a light shining deep in the woods. The three brothers followed the light until they came upon an old log cabin. “How about we bed here for the night?” Asked one of the brothers, the other two just nodded in agreement.
Well one of the brothers knocked on the cabin door and an old woman opened it up and told them to come inside. The brothers told the old woman that they were a-going through the woods but needed a place to bed for the night. The old woman told them that they were welcome in her house and said that each one could sleep in the bed of each of her three daughters.
After supper the three brothers started feeling tired so the old woman showed them to the room where her daughters slept and gave each of the brothers a night cap and night shirt to wear in bed. “Goodnight and I’ll see y’all in the mornin’.” said the old woman before blowing out the lamp and going to bed herself.
The brothers suspected trouble, so they each took their night cap and put it on the head of the daughter they were sleeping with. Sure enough, before long they could hear the creaking of the floorboards as the old woman approached the room. The door slowly opened and in walked the old woman, knife in hand. Since it was dark the old woman felt around for the night caps, and whenever she found one she slit the throat of the wearer. After the old woman was finished she crept back out of the room.
The brothers didn’t sleep a wink but as soon as they heard the old woman a-snoring in the next room they crept out the window and ran toward the rising sun.
When the brothers got far enough from the house they stopped to cook up some bacon on the fire. All of a sudden they hear the most awful screaming coming through the woods. “Is it an owl?” asked one of the brothers. “Is it a painter?” asked another. But the third brother knew it was that old witch discovering that she had cut the throats of her own daughters.
Pretty soon they heard the screaming and hollering approaching through the woods along with a thump! Thump! Thump! Noise that sounded like trees falling. The three brothers started running down the mountain. One brother looked back and saw the old witch flying through the air cutting down entire trees with her axe.
The brothers stopped quick at an old ravine, they couldn’t go no further. So they climbed up a tree hoping to evade the old witch. Well she sniffed them out and started cutting down the tree. “Cut! Cut! I cut you down!” she yelled as she chopped off great chunks of timber. “Cut! Cut! I cut you up!” Yelled one of the brothers as the great chunks of timber reattached themselves to the tree.
This went on for hours, but unlike the brothers the old witch wouldn’t tire. Finally, the oldest brother made his escape. He jumped out of the tree and turned into a hawk that flew down to the bottom of the ravine. “Cut! Cut! I cut you down!” the old witch yelled. The middle brother then made his escape. He jumped out of the tree and turned into a boar that ran away into the woods. “Cut! Cut! I cut you down!” the old witch yelled. The youngest brother then made his escape. He jumped out of the tree and turned into a wolf that ate the old witch up. There wasn’t a scrap of her left save her boots and the axe.
No one knows what happened to the brothers, but some say they’re still out in the woods a-looking for each other.