The Three Strangers

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"The Three Strangers"
Author Thomas Hardy
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series Wessex Tales
Genre(s) Short story
Published in Longman's Magazine
Harper's Weekly
Publication type Periodical
Media type Print
Publication date 1883
Followed by "The Withered Arm"

"The Three Strangers" is a short story by Thomas Hardy from 1883.

Plot Summary[edit]

A party of 19 people is assembled in Higher Crowstairs, a shepherd's cottage near Casterbridge. A stranger joins them to seek shelter for the rough weather. A second stranger comes in and sings a song that reveals he's a hangman. A third strangers enters briefly, but then flees.

They are interrupted by a gunshot, a signal that means a prisoner has escaped. The people leave the cottage to seek the third stranger and arrest him. They bring him back to the shepherd's house, but he turns out to be the wrong man. The first stranger was the actual convict, Timothy Summers, an impovershed man who stole sheep. The third stranger was his brother. The conclusion is: there won't be a hanging in the morning.


The story is a pastoral history[1] told by an omniscient narrator more than 50 years after the event. The sheep-stealer is a kind of folk hero who stole to survive and escaped by outsmarting his hangman.

Casterbridge was the name for Dorchester in Thomas Hardy's Wessex.[2]


"The Three Strangers" was published in Longman's Magazine and Harper's Weekly in March 1883.[3] Five years later it became the first of five stories in Hardy's Wessex Tales.


  1. ^ Kristin Brody (1982). The Short Stories of Thomas Hardy. New York. 
  2. ^ "Thomas Hardy: Placenames". 
  3. ^ Pinion, F. B. (1978). A Hardy Companion. London.