There was once upon a time an old king who had an only son. This son he one day summoned before him, and spoke to him thus: “My son, you see that my head has become white; ere long I shall close my eyes, and I do not yet know in what condition I shall leave you. Take a wife, my son! Let me bless you in good time, before I close my eyes.” The son made no reply, but became lost in thought; he would gladly with all his heart have fulfilled his father”s wish, but there was no damsel in whom his heart could take delight.
Once upon a time, when he was sitting in the garden, and just considering what to do, all of a sudden an old woman appeared before him–where she came, there she came.
Go to the glass hill, pluck the three lemons, and you will have a wife in whom your heart will take delight,” said she, and as she had appeared so she disappeared. Like a bright flash did these words dart through the prince”s soul. At that moment he determined, come what might, to seek the glass hill and pluck the three lemons. He made known his determination to his father, and his father gave him for the journey a horse, arms and armour, and his fatherly blessing.
Through forest-covered mountains, through desert plains, went our prince on his pilgrimage, for a very, very great distance; but there was nothing to be seen, nothing to be heard of the glass hill and the three lemons. Once, quite wearied out with his long journey, he threw himself down under the cool shade of a broad lime-tree. As he threw himself down, his father”s sword, which he wore at his side, clanged against the ground, and a dozen ravens began croaking at the top of the tree. Frightened by the clang of the sword, they rose on their wings, and flew into the air above the lofty tree. “Hem! till now I haven”t seen a living creature for a long while,” said the prince to himself, springing from the ground. “I will go in the direction in which the ravens have flown maybe some hope will disclose itself to me.”
He went on–he went on anew for three whole days and three nights, till at last a lofty castle displayed itself to him at a distance. “Praise be to God! I shall now at any rate come to human beings,” cried he, and proceeded further.
The castle was of pure lead; round it flew the twelve ravens, and in front of it stood an old woman–it was Jezibaba –leaning on a long leaden staff. “Ah, my son! whither have you come? Here there is neither bird nor insect to be seen, much less a human being,” said Jezibaba to the prince. “Flee, if life is dear to you; for, if my son comes, he will devour you.” “Ah! not so, old mother, not so!” entreated the prince. “I have come to you for counsel as to whether you cannot let me have some information about the glass hill and the three lemons.” “I have never heard of the glass hill; but stay! when my son comes home, maybe he will be able to let you have the information. But I will now conceal you somewhat; you will hide yourself under the besom, and wait there concealed till I call you.”
The mountains echoed, the castle quaked, and Jezibaba whispered to the prince that her son was coming. “Foh! foh! there is a smell of human flesh; I am going to eat it!” shouted Jezibaba”s son, while still in the doorway, and thumped on the ground with a huge leaden club, so that the whole castle quaked. “Ah, not so, my son, not so!” said Jezibaba, soothing him. “There has come a handsome youth who wants to consult you about something.” “Well, if he wants to consult me, let him come here.” “Yes, indeed, my son, he shall come, but only on condition that you promise to do nothing to him.” “Well, I'll do nothing to him, only let him come.”
The prince was trembling like an aspen under the besom, for he saw before him through the twigs an ogre, up to whose knees he didn”t reach. Happily his life was safe-guarded, when Jezibaba bade him come out from under the besom. “Well, you beetle, why are you afraid?” shouted the giant.
“Whence are you? What do you want?” “What do I want?” replied the prince. “I've long been wandering in these mountains, and can”t find that which I am seeking. Now I've come to ask you whether you can”t give me information about the glass hill and the three lemons.” Jezibaba”s son wrinkled his brow, but, after a while, said in a somewhat gentler voice: “There”s nothing to be seen here of the glass hill; but go to my brother in the silver castle, maybe he”ll be able to tell you something. But stay, I won”t let you go away hungry. Mother, here with the dumplings!” Old Jezibaba set a large dish upon the table, and her gigantic son sat down to it. “Come and eat!” shouted he to the prince. The prince took the first dumpling and began to eat, but two of his teeth broke, for they were dumplings of lead. “Well, why don”t you eat? maybe you don”t like them?” inquired Jezibaba”s son. Yes, they are good; but I don”t want any just now.” Well, if you don”t want any just now, pocket some, and go your way.” The good prince–would he, nould he–was obliged to put some of the leaden dumplings into his pocket. He then took leave and proceeded further.
On he went and on he went for three whole days and three nights, and the further he went, the deeper he wandered into a thickly wooded and gloomy range of mountains. Before him it was desolate, behind him it was desolate; there wasn”t a single living creature to be seen. All wearied from his long journey, he threw himself on the ground. The clang of his silver-mounted sword spread far and wide. Above him four and twenty ravens, frightened by the clash of his sword, began to croak, and, rising on their wings, flew into the air. “A good sign!” cried the prince. “I will go in the direction in which the birds have flown.”
And on he went in that direction, on he went as fast as his feet could carry him, till all at once a lofty castle displayed itself to him! He was still far from the castle, and already its walls were glistening in his eyes, for the castle was of pure silver. In front of the castle stood an old woman bent with age, leaning on a long silver staff, and this was Jezibaba. “Ah, my son! How is it that you have come here? Here there is neither bird nor insect, much less a human being!” cried Jezibaba to the prince; “if life is dear to you, flee away, for if my son comes, he will devour you!” “Nay, old mother, he will hardly eat me. I bring him a greeting from his brother in the leaden castle.”
Well, if you bring a greeting from the leaden castle, then come into the parlour, my son, and tell me what you are seeking.” “What I am seeking, old mother? For ever so long a time I've been seeking the glass hill and the three lemons, and cannot find them; now I've come to inquire whether you can”t give me information about them.” “I know nothing about the glass hill; but stay! when my son comes, maybe he will be able to give you the information. Hide yourself under the bed, and don”t make yourself known unless I call you.”
The mountains echoed with a mighty voice, the castle quaked, and the prince knew that Jezibaba”s son was coming home. “Foh! foh! there”s a smell of human flesh; I'm going to eat it!” roared a horrible ogre already in the door-way, and thumped upon the ground with a silver club, so that the whole castle quaked. “Ah! not so, my son, not so; but a handsome youth has come and has brought you a greeting from your brother in the leaden castle.” “Well, if he”s been at my brother”s, and if he has done nothing to him, let him have no fear of me either; let him come out.” The prince sprang out from under the bed, and went up to him, looking beside him as if he had placed himself under a very tall pine. “Well, beetle, have you been at my brother”s?” “Indeed, I have; and here I've still the dumplings, which he gave me for the journey.” “Well, I believe you; now tell me what it is you want.” “What I want? I am come to ask you whether you can”t give me information about the glass hill or the three lemons.” “Hem! I've heard formerly about it, but I don”t know how to direct you. Meanwhile, do you know what? Go to my brother in the golden castle, he will direct you. But stay, I won”t let you go away hungry. Mother, here with the dumplings!” Jezibaba brought the dumplings on a large silver dish, and set them on the table. “Eat!” shouted her son. The prince, seeing that they were silver dumplings, said that he didn”t want to eat just then, but would take some for his journey, if he would give him them. “Take as many as you like, and greet my brother and aunt.” The prince took the dumplings, thanked him courteously, and proceeded further.
Three days had already passed since he quitted the silver castle, wandering continuously through densely wooded mountains, not knowing which way to go, whether to the right hand or to the left. All wearied out, he threw himself down under a wide-spreading beech, to take a little breath. His silver-mounted sword clanged on the ground, and the sound spread far and wide. “Krr, krr, krr!” croaked a flock of ravens over the traveller, scared by the clash of his sword, and flew into the air. “Praise be to God! the golden castle won”t he far off now,” cried the prince, and proceeded, encouraged, onwards in the direction in which the ravens showed him the road. Scarcely had he come out of the valley on to a small hill, when he saw a beautiful and wide meadow, and in the midst of the meadow stood a golden castle, just as if he were gazing at the sun; and before the gate of the castle stood an old bent Jezibaba, leaning on a golden staff “Ah! my son! what do you seek for here?” cried she to the prince. “Here there is neither bird nor insect to be seen, much less a human being! If your life is dear to you, flee, for if my son comes, he will devour you!” Nay, old mother, he”ll hardly eat me,” replied he. “I bring him a greeting from his brother in the silver castle.” “Well, if you bring him a greeting from the silver castle, come into the parlour and tell me what has brought you to us.” “What has brought me to you, old mother? I have long been wandering in this mountain range, and haven”t been able to find out where are the glass hill and the three lemons. I was directed to you, because haply you might be able to give me information about it.” “Where is the glass hill? I cannot tell you that; but stay! when my son comes, he will counsel you which way you must go, and what you must do. Hide yourself under the table, and stay there till I call you.”
The mountains echoed, the castle quaked, and Jezibaba”s son stepped into the parlour. “Fob! foh! there”s a smell of human flesh; I'm going to eat it!” shouted he, while still in the doorway, and thumped with a golden club upon the ground, so that the whole castle quaked. “Gently, my son, gently!” said Jezibaba, soothing him; “there is a handsome youth come, who brings you a greeting from your brother in the silver castle. If you will do nothing to him, I will call him at once.” “Well, if my brother has done nothing to him, neither will I do anything to him.” The prince came out from under the table and placed himself beside him, looking, in comparison, as if he had placed himself beside a lofty tower, and showed him the silver dumplings in token that he had really been at the silver castle.
“Well, tell me, you beetle, what you want!” shouted the monstrous ogre; “if I can counsel you, counsel you I will; don”t fear!” Then the prince explained to him the aim of his long journey, and begged him to