The Legend of Gw‚shbr‚ri, the Glacier-Hearted
by Flora Annie Steel
Once upon a time, ever so long ago, when this old world was young, and
everything was very different from what it is nowadays, the mighty
Westarw‚n was King of all the mountains. High above all other hills
he reared his lofty head, so lofty, that when the summer clouds closed
in upon his broad shoulders he was alone under the blue sky. And
thus, being so far above the world, and so lonely in his dignity, he
became proud, and even when the mists cleared away, leaving the fair
new world stretched smiling at his feet, he never turned his eyes upon
it, but gazed day and night upon the sun and stars.
Now Har‚mukh, and Nang‚ Parbat, and all the other hills that stood in
a vast circle round great Westarw‚n, as courtiers waiting on their
king, grew vexed because he treated them as nought; and when the
summer cloud that soared above their heads hung on his shoulders like
a royal robe, they would say bitter, wrathful words of spite and envy.
Only the beautiful Gw‚shbr‚ri, cold and glistening amid her glaciers,
would keep silence. Self-satisfied, serene, her beauty was enough for
her; others might rise farther through the mists, but there was none
so fair as she in all the land.
Yet once, when the cloud-veil wrapped Westarw‚n from sight, and the
wrath rose loud and fierce, she flashed a contemptuous smile upon the
rest, bidding them hold their peace.
'What need to wrangle?' she said, in calm superiority;' great
Westarw‚n is proud; but though the stars seem to crown his head, his
feet are of the earth, earthy. He is made of the same stuff as we
are; there is more of it, that is all.'
'The more reason to resent his pride!' retorted the grumblers. 'Who
made him a King over us?'
Gw‚shbr‚ri smiled an evil smile. 'O fools! poor fools and blind!
giving him a majesty he has not in my sight. I tell you mighty
Westarw‚n, for all his star-crowned loftiness, is no King to me. Tis
I who am his Queen!'
Then the mighty hills laughed aloud, for Gw‚shbr‚ri was the lowliest
of them all.
'Wait and see!' answered the cold passionless voice. 'Before
to-morrow's sunrise great Westarw‚n shall be my slave!'
Once more the mighty hills echoed with scornful laughter, yet the
icy-hearted beauty took no heed. Lovely, serene, she smiled on all
through the long summer's day; only once or twice from her snowy sides
would rise a white puff of smoke, showing where some avalanche had
swept the sure-footed ibex to destruction.
But with the setting sun a rosy radiance fell over the whole world.
Then Gw‚shbr‚ri's pale face flushed into life, her chill beauty glowed
into passion. Trans-* figured, glorified, she shone on the
fast-darkening horizon like a star.
And mighty Westarw‚n, noting the rosy radiance in the east, turned his
proud eyes towards it; and, lo! the perfection of her beauty smote
upon his senses with a sharp, wistful wonder that such loveliness
could beóthat such worthiness could exist in the world which he
despised. The setting sun sank lower, reflecting a ruddier glow on
Gw‚shbr‚ri's face; it seemed as if she blushed beneath the great
King's gaze. A mighty longing filled his soul, bursting from his lips
in one passionate cryó'O Gw‚shbr‚ri! kiss me, or I die!'
The sound echoed through the valleys, while the startled peaks stood
Beneath her borrowed blush Gw‚shbr‚ri smiled triumphant, as she
answered back, 'How can that be, great King, and I so lowly? Even if
I would, how could I reach your star-crowned head?óI who on
tip-toe cannot touch your cloud-robed shoulder?'
Yet again the passionate cry rang outó'I love you! kiss me, or I
Then the glacier-hearted beauty whispered soft and low, the sweet
music of her voice weaving a magical spell round the great
Westarw‚nóYou love me? Know you not that those who love must
stoop? Bend your proud head to my lips, and seek the kiss I cannot
choose but give!'
Slowly, surely, as one under a charm, the monarch of the mountains
stooped-nearer and nearer to her radiant beauty, forgetful of all else
in earth or sky.
The sun set. The rosy blush faded from Gw‚shbr‚ri's fair false face,
leaving it cold as ice, pitiless as death. The stars began to gleam
in the pale heavens, but the King lay at Gw‚shbr‚ri's feet, discrowned
And that is why great Westarw‚n stretches his long length across the
valley of KashmÓr, resting his once lofty head upon the glacier heart
of Queen Gw‚shbr‚ri.
And every night the star crown hangs in the heavens as of yore.