The Three Old Men – A Christmas Read-Aloud Story

Translated into English by Robin Garrity and Olivia Núñez.

weihrauch114_v-contentkleinOnce upon a time, a long, long time ago, there was a family that lived in a dark, damp cave on a lonely mountain. Almost all the members of that family were old, and they didn’t know a living soul on their mountain, or in the wild forest that surrounded them.

It was so long, so very long ago, that there were no schools, no roads, and no traffic lights. There were even no jellybeans, because they had not been invented yet, and there were no toys either, because, to the sadness of all, no child had been born for a long time.

No one in the family knew how to make a fire, so in winter, especially at night, they were very, very cold in their cave, where they had to hide to protect themselves from terrifying animals such as dinosaurs.

Once it snowed for many days in a row and never looked like stopping.

«If this continues, we will starve or freeze to death» said the youngest of the family who was called «Nada» because, when he was born, his mother had nothing to put on him. «I’m going out to find something to eat» he added in a louder voice, as if trying to cheer everyone up.

«Don’t go out, don’t go out! You will get lost and freeze to death » the others cried, terrified at the thought.

«I don’t care, I’d rather die than stay in here, freezing, starving and without any hope» Nada answered while fixing some old animal skins on his feet as protection against the snow and ice, and wrapping up his body with more skins and some dry straw to keep warm.

Soon after leaving the cave, Nada’s feet sank into the snow and his eyes were blinded by the millions of white flakes that were dancing in the sky. As he did not know where to go, he decided to let himself be guided by the only light he could glimpse among the snowflakes: a feint orange ball, which was the Sun struggling to penetrate the gloom.

He toiled for hours and hours heading towards the hopeful Sun until everything began to get very dark and he became afraid because he was getting colder and colder and had nowhere to spend the night.

It was then, in the deepest of the darkness and at the end of hope, he saw another light. This was a much smaller light, and he knew it was not the Moon, because it did not come from the sky but from the horizon. He didn’t know how far away that light was, but he felt it was his last hope, so he gathered his last strength and struggled towards it.

When he finally reached the place where the light came from, he was exhausted, but managed to look at the source of the light, and he was overcome by the wonder that was before his eyes.

Would you like to know what he saw?

What he saw was like a cave, but made of wood, as he had never seen before. And in front of that wooden cave, which we would call cabin, there was a young girl next to a fire into which she was throwing small branches.

Seeing Nada emerge from the darkness, the young woman became frightened and picked up a large stick, but she did not run, since her belly was very fat and she seemed very tired. Nada made her understand with gestures, since they did not speak the same language, that he did not want to hurt her. After a while, the young woman left the stick on the ground and put her hands on her stomach while she cried as if in pain.

Nada had never seen someone capable of making a fire, let alone of keeping it under control. Once, on a day with very black clouds, he saw, with a great roar, a blinding light falling into the forest that burned many trees, causing the animals to flee in terror. For Nada and his family, fire was a threat and they would have never imagined keeping such a terrifying thing in front of their cave.

Nada was so scared of the fire, he would not dare to approach the young woman while she was beside it. It was like this, standing scared and in wonder, at a distance and among the strange shadows shed by the fire, that he witnessed something that left him more amazed than anything he had ever seen before it his whole life.

Would you like to know what Nada saw?

He watched, dumbstruck, as the girl stood up, bent over more and more as if in pain, until she was squatting, shouting louder and louder until it became a scream, and holding her breath, fighting to control herself.

Suddenly, something appeared from under the young woman’s fabrics – because the young woman was wearing fabrics, and not skins and straw like Nada. In a matter of seconds, what had appeared under the fabrics of the girl fell on the ground, where the girl had put a kind of soft blanket. Now calmer, the young woman began to cleanse, with her hands and her tongue, the newly-appeared form that, to Nada’s shock and amazement, began to cry! It was then that Nada realized that he had just witnessed the birth of a baby!

Once she was clean, the young woman lovingly put her newborn son to her breast to warm him and feed him with her milk.

Overcoming his fear, Nada approached the young woman looking at her with tenderness, and even dared to throw into the fire some twigs, which burned at once, throwing friendly sparks. The girl was not frightened, and, throughout the night, Nada kept the fire alive while the young woman and the baby rested. When daylight came, the three entered the cabin, now heated by the feint heat of the Sun.

Despite not understanding any of the words they said to each other, the girl explained to Nada, with gestures and drawings made on the earth, that she was lost and that she did not know where to start looking for her family. Nada made her understand, hitting his chest with his closed fists, that she was not to worry, that he would take care of her and the baby. Nada repeated his name several times and, by gestures, he asked her for hers. The girl told him that her name was «Ave», the name her mother had given her because just at the time she was born a beautiful bird appeared on the spot, the most beautiful of the avian kind.

Nada asked Ave not to move from there, to wait for him until he returned with food. Nada was so lucky that, shortly after getting away from the cabin, he saw some squirrels coming in and out of a hole in a large tree. Nada climbed the tree and put an arm in the hole, which was full of walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and other nuts that existed in those days we do not know about now.

The squirrels had stored those nuts in the hole of the tree to have food for the winter. Nada took only the nuts that he and the young woman would need so as not to starve, leaving the squirrels enough food for the rest of the winter.

On his way back, Nada also saw bees, which he followed until he found the hive they had inside a dry tree. After asking the bees for forgiveness, Nada took several handfuls of honey that he put inside the large leaf with which he had wrapped the nuts after taking them out of their shells.

When he returned to the hut, Nada opened the leaf and showed Ave the rich honey and nut paste, and which, centuries and centuries later, would be called «turron».

The young girl really liked the food Nada had made, and so did the baby, who sucked from the leaf with her rosy lips and her tiny tongue.

After spending two days and two nights recovering strength, thanks to the turron and the heat of the fire, Nada told Ave that he had to return to his family and asked her, still using gestures, to accompany him, to which the young woman happily agreed.

Nada was guided again by the Sun, but this time in the opposite direction. On the way, they made several stops to collect honey and nuts. Fortunately, it was not snowing and before the night came, Nada recognized in the distance the lonely mountain where his family’s cave was.

It was not until the next day that they reached the entrance to the cave. The cries of joy that Nada gave to announce his arrival turned into silent concern when, emerging from the back of the cave, the three oldest members of the family appeared, sobbing desperately.

«Where are the others?» asked Nada, really worried.

“The day after you left”, one of the old people answered, “they also decided to leave. They thought you were right and that there was no hope if they stayed. We three had no choice but to stay, since we do not have enough strength”.

Nada said that he would soon go in search of the others, following the trail they would have left in the snow. Before leaving, he introduced them to Ave and the baby, and let them taste the honey with nuts that, to the three old men, tasted like nectar from heaven, despite their having almost no teeth. The three elders were even more astonished were when Ave picked up some dry branches from the bottom of the cave and, by vigorously rubbing them together, lit a fire.

The old men had never seen anything like it before. They were delighted to learn that there were people beyond their forest and even more so to learn that those people were able to make fire and cover their bodies with something other than animal skins and straw. But, above all, what most pleased the old people was seeing the baby, which to them meant there was a future.

The three old men were so happy that they decided to give the baby the most valuable things they had. They lined up in front of him and, on their knees, offered him their presents.

The first of the old men gave him some bright yellow stones he had found by chance in a river. They were very beautiful stones and, even though he and others had looked for more stones of that type, they hardly found any. Hence, those who possessed them could exchange them for food and furs.

The second of the old people gave the baby some pieces of bark from a very rare tree that someone had brought from far, far away and that smelled very good when rubbed together. As he approached the baby to give her his gift, one of the pieces of that bark fell into the fire and the smoke that came off when it burned smelled so good that it left everyone in awe.

The third of the old men, who was dark skinned because he had been under the sun more than the other two, knelt before the baby and told him that he had no shiny stones or odorous twigs. «I am afraid” he added in an earnest manner “that one day the children of your children will fight over the rocks and the barks since the one who has them does not need to go to the forest to look for skins or food. Do you see this bit of Earth?” putting a little pile of mud at the baby’s feet, “That is how I found it at birth and how it will remain when I die. Thanks to it there will always be trees that will bear fruits and animals that can live. Leaving the Earth to our children as we find it is the best gift we can give them”. With the help of a stick, Nada drew a circle on the floor around the three gifts and, inside the circle, drew a baby, so that Ave would understand that the gifts of the three old men were for her baby.

That night all six of them were warm around the fire that Ave had lit. With a big smile, the three old men dreamt of flying to a big and pretty star, where their parents were waiting for them with open arms, together with their parents’ parents. The next morning, Nada found the bodies of the three smiling old men, but could find neither their looks nor their voices, because those had remained in the star. Nada and Ave decided to leave together, with the baby, in search of their respective families. It took a long time, I can’t really tell how long, because at that time there were neither clocks nor calendars.


The three old men, although happy to be in the star with their parents and their parents’ parents, began to miss Ave’s baby, with whom they had had such good times, so they decided to return to Earth to visit him. They thought it should be easy to locate him, even though he would no longer be a baby, but a child. However, when they went down to Earth, a great surprise awaited them… they did not find a single child, but many and many children, as well as many and many babies.

What had happened was that Nada and Ave, after earnest efforts, had managed to find their families, and both families had become one.

It was then that the three old men decided that, from then on, they would from time to time visit all the children of the World in their homes. And from then on, once a year, in memory of Ave’s baby, the three old men distribute, to all the children, during a dark and cold night, three types of gifts: toys that can be bought with money, but that are soon forgotten in closets and drawers; perfumes that, although pleasant, soon stop smelling together with clothes that, although they fit at first, soon become too small; and books that teach children the things that really are valuable, like respecting Nature and learning from it.

For the three old men, all children are equally important, and they love them all the same, even though some children – like you – are special.

Two thousand years ago, a baby named Yeshua was born (some called him «Jesus»), who was special because he brought with him something that no other baby had ever brought: the message that it is better to love one another and to not be jealous. The shepherds that were present at the time when the three old men visited Yeshua reported that they gave him gold, so that he could buy whatever he wanted, incense, for the good smell, and a very humble substance called myrrh. As the three old men were dressed very smartly, a little shepherd called them «The three kings”.

By the way, Yeshua’s family had a very, very old book in their house that already talked about Nada and Ave. This book was written in a very old language, and it must be read from right to left instead of left to right like our books. In that book, Nada and Ave are mentioned as Adan and Eva. In the same book, they speak of a very bad snake, and of an apple that will make you sick if you eat it, as well as of wars and other things that are scary to listen to. But, as far as I know, nobody has ever heard the three old men tell stories that scare either the children, or the adults.

Anyway, when, in many, many years, it is your turn to go to the star where your parents and your parents’ parents will be waiting for you, the three old men will be there to tell you that you should not be afraid to live, and that Nada and Ave were happy enjoying whatever little they had, and so were their children, and their children’s children, over whom the three old men watched, and will always continue to watch over, for ever and ever.

tres reyes

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