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The Glass Mountain

from The Yellow Fairy Book





From the Polish. Kletke.

Once upon a time there was a Glass Mountain at the top of which
stood a castle made of pure gold, and in front of the castle
there grew an apple-tree on which there were golden apples.

Anyone who picked an apple gained admittance into the golden
castle, and there in a silver room sat an enchanted Princess of
surpassing fairness and beauty. She was as rich too as she was
beautiful, for the cellars of the castle were full of precious
stones, and great chests of the finest gold stood round the walls
of all the rooms.

Many knights had come from afar to try their luck, but it was in
vain they attempted to climb the mountain. In spite of having
their horses shod with sharp nails, no one managed to get more
than half-way up, and then they all fell back right down to the
bottom of the steep slippery hill. Sometimes they broke an arm,
sometimes a leg, and many a brave man had broken his neck even.

The beautiful Princess sat at her window and watched the bold
knights trying to reach her on their splendid horses. The sight
of her always gave men fresh courage, and they flocked from the
four quarters of the globe to attempt the work of rescuing her.
But all in vain, and for seven years the Princess had sat now and
waited for some one to scale the Glass Mountain.

A heap of corpses both of riders and horses lay round the
mountain, and many dying men lay groaning there unable to go any
farther with their wounded limbs. The whole neighbourhood had
the appearance of a vast churchyard. In three more days the
seven years would be at an end, when a knight in golden armour
and mounted on a spirited steed was seen making his way towards
the fatal hill.

Sticking his spurs into his horse he made a rush at the mountain,
and got up half-way, then he calmly turned his horse's head and
came down again without a slip or stumble. The following day he
started in the same way; the horse trod on the glass as if it had
been level earth, and sparks of fire flew from its hoofs. All
the other knights gazed in astonishment, for he had almost gained
the summit, and in another moment he would have reached the
apple-tree; but of a sudden a huge eagle rose up and spread its
mighty wings, hitting as it did so the knight's horse in the eye.

The beast shied, opened its wide nostrils and tossed its mane,
then rearing high up in the air, its hind feet slipped and it
fell with its rider down the steep mountain side. Nothing was
left of either of them except their bones, which rattled in the
battered golden armour like dry peas in a pod.

And now there was only one more day before the close of the seven
years. Then there arrived on the scene a mere schoolboy--a
merry, happy-hearted youth, but at the same time strong and
well-grown. He saw how many knights had broken their necks in
vain, but undaunted he approached the steep mountain on foot and
began the ascent.

For long he had heard his parents speak of the beautiful Princess
who sat in the golden castle at the top of the Glass Mountain.
He listened to all he heard, and determined that he too would try
his luck. But first he went to the forest and caught a lynx, and
cutting off the creature's sharp claws, he fastened them on to
his own hands and feet.

Armed with these weapons he boldly started up the Glass Mountain.

The sun was nearly going down, and the youth had not got more
than half-way up. He could hardly draw breath he was so worn
out, and his mouth was parched by thirst. A huge black cloud
passed over his head, but in vain did he beg and beseech her to
let a drop of water fall on him. He opened his mouth, but the
black cloud sailed past and not as much as a drop of dew
moistened his dry lips.

His feet were torn and bleeding, and he could only hold on now
with his hands. Evening closed in, and he strained his eyes to
see if he could behold the top of the mountain. Then he gazed
beneath him, and what a sight met his eyes! A yawning abyss,
with certain and terrible death at the bottom, reeking with
half-decayed bodies of horses and riders! And this had been the
end of all the other brave men who like himself had attempted the
ascent.

It was almost pitch dark now, and only the stars lit up the Glass
Mountain. The poor boy still clung on as if glued to the glass
by his blood-stained hands. He made no struggle to get higher,
for all his strength had left him, and seeing no hope he calmly
awaited death. Then all of a sudden he fell into a deep sleep,
and forgetful of his dangerous position, he slumbered sweetly.
But all the same, although he slept, he had stuck his sharp claws
so firmly into the glass that he was quite safe not to fall.

Now the golden apple-tree was guarded by the eagle which had
overthrown the golden knight and his horse. Every night it flew
round the Glass Mountain keeping a careful look-out, and no
sooner had the moon emerged from the clouds than the bird rose up
from the apple-tree, and circling round in the air, caught sight
of the sleeping youth.

Greedy for carrion, and sure that this must be a fresh corpse,
the bird swooped down upon the boy. But he was awake now, and
perceiving the eagle, he determined by its help to save himself.

The eagle dug its sharp claws into the tender flesh of the youth,
but he bore the pain without a sound, and seized the bird's two
feet with his hands. The creature in terror lifted him high up
into the air and began to circle round the tower of the castle.
The youth held on bravely. He saw the glittering palace, which
by the pale rays of the moon looked like a dim lamp; and he saw
the high windows, and round one of them a balcony in which the
beautiful Princess sat lost in sad thoughts. Then the boy saw
that he was close to the apple-tree, and drawing a small knife
from his belt, he cut off both the eagle's feet. The bird rose
up in the air in its agony and vanished into the clouds, and the
youth fell on to the broad branches of the apple-tree.

Then he drew out the claws of the eagle's feet that had remained
in his flesh, and put the peel of one of the golden apples on the
wound, and in one moment it was healed and well again. He pulled
several of the beautiful apples and put them in his pocket; then
he entered the castle. The door was guarded by a great dragon,
but as soon as he threw an apple at it, the beast vanished.

At the same moment a gate opened, and the youth perceived a
courtyard full of flowers and beautiful trees, and on a balcony
sat the lovely enchanted Princess with her retinue.

As soon as she saw the youth, she ran towards him and greeted him
as her husband and master. She gave him all her treasures, and
the youth became a rich and mighty ruler. But he never returned
to the earth, for only the mighty eagle, who had been the
guardian of the Princess and of the castle, could have carried on
his wings the enormous treasure down to the world. But as the
eagle had lost its feet it died, and its body was found in a wood
on the Glass Mountain.

. . . . . . .

One day when the youth was strolling about in the palace garden
with the Princess, his wife, he looked down over the edge of the
Glass Mountain and saw to his astonishment a great number of
people gathered there. He blew his silver whistle, and the
swallow who acted as messenger in the golden castle flew past.

'Fly down and ask what the matter is,' he said to the little
bird, who sped off like lightning and soon returned saying:

'The blood of the eagle has restored all the people below to
life. All those who have perished on this mountain are awakening
up to-day, as it were from a sleep, and are mounting their
horses, and the whole population are gazing on this unheard-of
wonder with joy and amazement.'





Next: Alphege Or The Green Monkey

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