The Princess on the Glass Hill by Unknown
ONCE upon a time there was a man who had a meadow
which lay on the side of a mountain, and in the meadow
there was a barn in which he stored hay. But there
had not been much hay in the barn for the last two years, for
every St. John's eve, when the grass was in the height of its
vigor, it was all eaten clean up, just as if a whole flock of
sheep had gnawed it down to the ground during the night.
This happened once and it happened twice, but then the man
got tired of losing his crop, and said to his sons—he had
three of them, and the third was called Cinderlad—that one
of them must go and sleep in the barn on St. John's night,
for it was absurd to let the grass be eaten up again, blade and
stalk, as it had been the last two years, and the one who went
to watch must keep a sharp lookout, the man said.
The eldest was quite willing to go to the meadow. He
would watch the grass, he said, and he would do it so well
that neither man nor beast, nor even the devil himself, should
have any of it. So when evening came he went to the barn
and lay down to sleep; but when night was drawing near there
was such a rumbling and such an earthquake that the walls
and roof shook again, and the lad jumped up and took to his
heels as fast as he could, and never even looked back, and the
barn remained empty that year just as it had been for the
Next St. John's eve the man again said he could not go
on in this way losing all the grass in the outlying field year
after year, and that one of his sons must just go there and
watch it, and watch well, too. So the next oldest son was
willing to show what he could do. He went to the barn and
lay down to sleep, as his brother had done; but when night
was drawing near there was a great rumbling, and then an
earthquake, which was even worse than that on the former
St. John's night; and when the youth heard it he was terrified,
and went off, running as if for a wager.
The year after it was Cinderlad's turn, but when he made
ready to go the others laughed at him and mocked him.
"Well, you are just the right one to watch the hay, you who
have never learned anything but how to sit among the ashes
and bake yourself!" said they. Cinderlad did not trouble
himself about what they said, but when evening drew near
rambled away to the outlying field. When he got there he
went into the barn and lay down, but in about an hour's time
the rumbling and creaking began, and it was frightful to hear
it. "Well, if it gets no worse than that I can manage to
stand it," thought Cinderlad. In a little time the creaking
began again, and the earth quaked so that all the hay flew
about the boy. "Oh! if it gets no worse than that I can manage
to stand it," thought Cinderlad. But then came a third
rumbling and a third earthquake, so violent that the boy
thought the walls and roof had fallen down; but when that
was over everything suddenly grew as still as death around
him. "I am pretty sure that it will come again," thought
Cinderlad; but no, it did not. Everything was quiet and
everything stayed quiet, and when he had lain still a short
time he heard something that sounded as if a horse were
standing chewing just outside the barn door. He stole away
to the door, which was ajar, to see what was there, and a
horse was standing eating. It was so big and fat and fine
a horse that Cinderlad had never seen one like it before, and a
saddle and bridle lay upon it, and a complete suit of armor
for a knight, and everything was of copper and so bright that
it shone again. "Ha! ha! it is thou who eatest up our hay,
then," thought the boy; "but I will stop that." So he made
haste and took out his steel for striking fire and threw it over
the horse, and then it had no power to stir from the spot, and
became so tame that the boy could do what he liked with it.
So he mounted it and rode away to a place which no one knew
of but himself, and there he tied it up. When he went home
again his brothers laughed and asked how he had got on.
"You didn't lie long in the barn, if even you have been so
far as the field!" said they.
"I lay in the barn till the sun rose, but I saw nothing and
heard nothing, not I," said the boy. "Heaven knows what
there was to make you two so frightened."
"Well, we shall soon see whether you have watched the
meadow or not," answered the brothers; but when they got
there the grass was all standing just as long and as thick as
it had been the night before.
The next St. John's eve it was the same thing once again.
Neither of the two brothers dared to go to the outlying field
to watch the crop, but Cinderlad went, and everything happened
exactly the same as on the previous St. John's eve.
First there was a rumbling and an earthquake, and then there
was another, and then a third; but all three earthquakes were
much, very much more violent than they had been the year
before. Then everything became still as death again, and the
boy heard something chewing outside the barn door, so he
stole as softly as he could to the door, which was slightly
ajar, and again there was a horse standing close by the wall
of the house, eating and chewing, and it was far larger and
fatter than the first horse, and it had a saddle on its back,
and a bridle was on it, too, and a full suit of armor for a
knight, all of bright silver, and as beautiful as anyone could
wish to see. "Ho! ho!" thought the boy, "is it thou who
eatest up our hay in the night? But I will put a stop to that."
So he took out his steel for striking fire and threw it over the
horse's mane, and the beast stood there as quiet as a lamb.
Then the boy rode this horse, too, away to the place where he
kept the other, and then went home again.
"I suppose you will tell us that you have watched well
again this time," said the brothers.
"Well, so I have," said Cinderlad. So they went there
again, and there the grass was, standing as high and as thick
as it had been before; but that did not make them any kinder
When the third St. John's night came, neither of the two
elder brothers dared to lie in the outlying barn to watch the
grass, for they had been so heartily frightened the night that
they had slept there that they could not get over it; but Cinderlad
dared to go, and everything happened just the same as
on the two former nights. There were three earthquakes, each
worse than the other, and the last flung the boy from one wall
of the barn to the other, but then everything suddenly became
still as death. When he had lain quietly a short time he heard
something chewing outside the barn door. Then he once
more stole to the door, which was slightly ajar, and behold! a
horse was standing just outside it, which was much larger and
fatter than the two others he had caught. "Ho! ho! it is
thou, then, who art eating up our hay this time," thought the
boy; "but I will put a stop to that." So he pulled out his
steel for striking fire and threw it over the horse, and it stood
as still as if it had been nailed to the field, and the boy could
do just what he liked with it. Then he mounted it and rode
away to the place where he had the two others, and then he
went home again. Then the two brothers mocked him just
as they had done before, and told him that they could see that
he must have watched the grass very carefully that night,
for he looked just as if he were walking in his sleep; but
Cinderlad did not trouble himself about that, but just bade
them go to the field and see. They did go, and this time,
too, the grass was standing, looking as fine and as thick as
The King of the country in which Cinderlad's father dwelt
had a daughter whom he would give to no one who could not
ride up to the top of the glass hill, for there was a high, high
hill of glass, slippery as ice, and it was close to the King's
palace. Upon the very top of this the King's daughter was to
sit with three golden apples in her lap, and the man who could
ride up and take the three golden apples should marry her
and have half the kingdom. The King had this proclaimed
in every church in the whole kingdom, and in many other
kingdoms, too. The Princess was very beautiful, and all who
saw her fell violently in love with her, even in spite of themselves.
So it is needless to say that all the princes and knights
were eager to win her and half the kingdom besides, and that
for this cause they came riding thither from the very end of
the world, dressed so splendidly that their raiments gleamed
in the sunshine, and riding on horses which seemed to dance
as they went, and there was not one of these princes who did
not think that he was sure to win the Princess.
When the day appointed by the King had come, there was
such a host of knights and princes under the glass hill that
they seemed to swarm, and everyone who could walk or even
creep was there, too, to see who won the King's daughter.
Cinderlad's two brothers were there, but they would not hear
of letting him go with them, for he was so dirty and black
with sleeping and grubbing among the ashes that they said
everyone would laugh at them if they were seen in the company
of such an oaf.
"Well, then, I will go all alone by myself," said Cinderlad.
When the two brothers got to the glass hill all the princes
and knights were trying to ride up it, and their horses were
in a foam; but it was all in vain, for no sooner did the horses
set foot upon the hill than down they slipped, and there was
not one which could get even so much as a couple of yards
up. Nor was that strange, for the hill was as smooth as glass
windowpanes and as steep as the side of a house. But they
were all eager to win the King's daughter and half the kingdom,
so they rode and they slipped, and thus it went on. At
length all the horses were so tired that they could do no more
and so hot that the foam dropped from them, and the riders
were forced to give up the attempt.
The King was just thinking that he would cause it to be
proclaimed that the riding should begin afresh on the following
day, when perhaps it might go better, when suddenly a
knight came riding up on so fine a horse that no one had ever
seen the like of it before, and the knight had armor of copper,
and his bridle was of copper, too, and all his accouterments
were so bright that they shone again. The other knights
all called out to him that he might just as well spare himself
the trouble of trying to ride up the glass hill, for it was of
no use to try; but he did not heed them, and rode straight off
to it and went up as if it were nothing at all. Thus he rode
for a long way—it may have been a third part of the way
up—but when he had got so far he turned his horse round
and rode down again. But the Princess thought that she had
never yet seen so handsome a knight, and while he was riding
up she was sitting thinking, "Oh, how I hope he may be able
to come up to the top!" And when she saw that he was turning
his horse back she threw one of the golden apples down
after him, and it rolled into his shoe. But when he had come
down from off the hill he rode away, and that so fast that no
one knew what had become of him.
JUST AS CINDERLAD TURNED HIS HORSE AROUND, THE PRINCESS THREW
THE GOLDEN APPLE
So all the princes and knights were bidden to present themselves
before the King that night, so that he who had ridden
so far up the glass hill might show the golden apple which
the king's daughter had thrown down. But no one had anything
to show. One knight presented himself after the other,
and none could show the apple.
At night, too, Cinderlad's brothers came home again and
had a long story to tell about the riding up the glass hill. At
first, they said, there was not one who was able to get even
so much as one step up, but then came a knight who had
armor of copper and a bridle of copper, and his armor and
trappings were so bright that they shone to a great distance,
and it was something like a sight to see him riding. He rode
one third of the way up the glass hill, and he could easily
have ridden the whole of it if he had liked; but he had turned
back, for he had made up his mind that that was enough for
once. "Oh! I should have liked to see him too, that I should,"
said Cinderlad, who was as usual sitting by the chimney among
the cinders. "You, indeed!" said the brothers. "You look
as if you were fit to be among such great lords, dirty creature
that you are to sit there!"
Next day the brothers were for setting out again, and this
time, too, Cinderlad begged them to let him go with them
and see who rode; but no, they said he was not fit to do that,
for he was much too ugly and dirty. "Well, well, then I
will go all alone by myself," said Cinderlad. So the brothers
went to the glass hill, and all the princes and knights began
to ride again, and this time they had taken care to rough the
shoes of their horses; but that did not help them. They rode
and they slipped as they had done the day before, and not
one of them could even get so far as a yard up the hill. When
they had tired out their horses, so that they could do no more,
they again had to stop altogether. But just as the King was
thinking that it would be well to proclaim that the riding
should take place next day for the last time, so that they might
have one more chance, he suddenly bethought himself that it
would be well to wait a little longer to see if the knight in
copper armor would come on this day too. But nothing was
to be seen of him.
Just as they were still looking for him, however, came a
knight riding on a steed that was much, much finer than that
which the knight in copper armor had ridden, and this knight
had silver armor and a silver saddle and bridle, and all were
so bright that they shone and glistened when he was a long
way off. Again the other knights called to him, and said that
he might just as well give up the attempt to ride up the glass
hill, for it was useless to try; but the knight paid no heed to
that, but rode straight away to the glass hill, and went still
farther up than the knight in copper armor had gone; but
when he had ridden two thirds of the way up he turned his
horse round and rode down again. The Princess liked this
knight still better than she had liked the other, and sat longing
that he might be able to get up above, and when she saw
him turning back she threw the second apple after him, and
it rolled into his shoe, and as soon as he had got down the
glass hill he rode away so fast that no one could see what had
become of him.
In the evening, when everyone was to appear before the
King and Princess, in order that he who had the golden apple
might show it, one knight went in after the other, but none
of them had a golden apple to show.
At night the two brothers went home as they had done the
night before, and told how things had gone, and how everyone
had ridden, but no-one had been able to get up the hill.
"But last of all," they said, "came one in silver armor, and
he had a silver bridle on his horse and a silver saddle, and oh,
but he could ride! He took his horse two thirds of the way
up the hill, but then he turned back. He was a fine fellow,"
said the brothers, "and the Princess threw the second golden
apple to him!"
"Oh, how I should have liked to see him too!" said
"Oh, indeed! He was a little brighter than the ashes that
you sit grubbing among, you dirty, black creature!" said the
On the third day everything went just as on the former
days. Cinderlad wanted to go with them to look at the riding,
but the two brothers would not have him in their company,
and when they got to the glass hill there was no one who
could ride even so far as a yard up it, and everyone waited
for the knight in silver armor, but he was neither to be seen
nor heard of. At last, after a long time, came a knight riding
upon a horse that was such a fine one its equal had never yet
been seen. The knight had golden armor and the horse a
golden saddle and bridle, and these were all so bright that they
shone and dazzled everyone, even while the knight was still at
a great distance. The other princes and knights were not able
even to call to tell him how useless it was to try to ascend the
hill, so amazed were they at the sight of his magnificence. He
rode straight away to the glass hill, and galloped up it as if
it were no hill at all, so that the Princess had not even time
to wish that he might get up the whole way. As soon as he
had ridden to the top he took the third golden apple from the
lap of the Princess, and then turned his horse about and rode
down again, and vanished from their sight before anyone was
able to say a word to him.
When the two brothers came home again at night they had
much to tell of how the riding had gone off that day, and at
last they told about the knight in the golden armor too. "He
was a fine fellow, that was! Such another splendid knight is
not to be found on earth!" said the brothers.
"Oh, how I should have liked to see him too!" said
"Well, he shone nearly as brightly as the coal-heaps that
thou art always lying raking among, dirty black creature that
thou art!" said the brothers.
Next day all the knights and princes were to appear before
the King and the Princess—it had been too late for them to
do it the night before—in order that he who had the golden
apple might produce it. They all went in turn, first princes
and then knights, but none of them had a golden apple.
"But somebody must have it," said the King, "for with our
own eyes we all saw a man ride up and take it." So he commanded
that everyone in the kingdom should come to the palace
and see if he could show the apple. And one after the
other they all came, but no one had the golden apple, and
after a long, long time Cinderlad's two brothers came likewise.
They were the last of all, so the King inquired of them
if there was no one else in the kingdom left to come.
"Oh, yes, we have a brother," said the two, "but he never
got the golden apple! He never left the cinder-heap on any
of the three days."
"Never mind that," said the King. "As everyone else has
come to the palace, let him come too."
So Cinderlad was forced to go to the King's palace.
"Hast thou the golden apple?" asked the King.
"Yes, here is the first, and here is the second, and here is
the third too," said Cinderlad, and he took all the three apples
out of his pocket, and with that threw off his sooty rags and
appeared there before them in his bright golden armor, which
gleamed as he stood.
"Thou shalt have my daughter and the half of my kingdom,
and thou hast well earned both!" said the King. So there
was a wedding, and Cinderlad got the King's daughter, and
everyone made merry at the wedding, for all of them could
make merry, though they could not ride up the glass hill, and
if they have not left off their merry-making they must be at