The Glass Mountain

: 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 sh

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


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.'