Robin Redbreast

Robin Redbreast
Birds can represent the fluttering, darting thoughts of intuition. This is why little birds helped Cinderella help herself.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cinderella #150 The Princess on the Glass Hill (Lang, 1889/1965


Illustration by H.J. Ford & G.P J. Hood

"Once upon a time there was a man who had a meadow which lay on the side of a mountain, and in the meadow 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 eaten clean up." No one knew the beast that could devour the field in one night, and it seemed there was naught that could be done. Well, the first time it was bad, and the second time worse.  The third time would be pure shame, so the man declared he would end the mystery.  He ordered the eldest of his three sons to sit watch overnight, and forbid the creature its meal. But  that one sat in the barn and kept the watch, and when the earth quaked and the walls roared with the vibrations, he covered his eyes and stopped his ears.  In the morning, the field was as barren as before. Now the next St. John's eve, the man set his second son to watch. And this one swore that the devil himself would not get past him, and mocked his brother for his failure. But this one too felt the earth quake at midnight, and the walls shiver at the coming step of the beast.  He screwed shut his eyes and stuffed his stockings in his ears and in the morning, the field was as barren as it was before.  The third year came and now the man said that his youngest son, known as Cinderlad, must take his turn on the watch. But "the others laughed at him and mocked him. 'Well, you are just the right one to watch the hay, you who have never learnt anything but how to sit among the ashes and bake yourself.' said they. Cinderlad, however, did not trouble himself about what they said, and but when evening drew near, rambled away to the outlying field." He  concealed himself in the barn, and sure enough, at midnight he felt a shake and then a quake and then a terrible thundering roar.  The very ground reverberated with the pounding step of some beast. Cinderlad bade himself sit calmly, and listened.  Now the earth shook again and he heard the sound of trees splitting.  He nodded to himself, and payed extra close attention to the sounds.  A third deafening roar came, and the walls of the barn rippled like water.  Cinderlad thought sure they'd crush him beneath, and sat serenely, waiting to see what would happen.  He drew a deep breath, in preparation for the blow he thought would follow, but none came.  There was only silence. For some moments, Cinderlad remained still, and the he heard the sound of a horse "standing and chewing just outside the barn door. " And when he stepped out of the barn, indeed there was a horse, the finest that he had ever seen.  Its saddle and bridle were all of shining copper, and there was  a suit of armor set upon it, as though waiting for a rider. So Cinderlad "took out his steel for striking fire, then 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 put on the armor and rode the horse toward home, but before he got there, dismounted.  Now he hid the horse and the armor, and walked on home. When he got there, his brothers mocked him and abused him, berating him for the loss of the  crop. But when he told them it still stood, they ran to see, and sure enough, "when they got there, the grass was all standing just as long and thick as it had been the night before."  The following St. John's eve, neither of the elder brothers would confess to the other that they had the fear in them from their time in the barn before. Neither would go, so instead they jeered and cajoled at Cinderlad, and he volunteered to go once more. Now the noises and the roaring and the shivering the shaking were twice as bad this time, and Cinderlad was sore put to remain calm.  Yet he did so, and when the creaking and crashing had ceased at last, he could hear, once more, the sound of a horse eating just outside the door. And this time he found a beast twice as fine as the last, with saddle and bridle of silver, and a suit of armor that was silver besides.  So he once again threw his steel over the steed's head, and charmed it into stillness. Then he put on the suit  of silver armor and mounted the horse, and rode to the place where the other horse and the suit of copper armor were stored, and he left them there, and then walked home.  And his brothers mocked him again, yet he let the words roll off his back like water from a duck. The year rolled past and it was St. John's eve yet again, and once more it seemed that Cinderlad would go alone to face the fearsome creature.  The events which would pass being now familiar to him, Cinderlad ate a good supper, then went to the outlying field to keep watch.  Sure enough, as midnight came, so came the roaring, the earthquaking, the air shaking cacophony only three times louder than ever before.  Yet once again, when the air stilled, all Cinderlad could hear was the sound of a horse, chewing. He looked out the door, and would you know that there was the finest horse yet, with a saddle and bridle of gold, and a golden suit of armor in the saddle, just waiting for a rider.  And Cinderlad donned the armor, rode the horse to his hiding place, and hid both armor and horse well.  Then he went home, and was abused as usual.  Though he had saved the crop three years in a row, "it did not make [his brothers] any kinder to Cinderlad."  Now, "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." His daughter lived in a little house at the top of it. She sat in the garden every day, with "three golden apples in her lap".  The one who could ride up and take them would have her for his bride.  The King let this be proclaimed, so princes and nobles, courtiers and gallants "came thither from the very end of the world". Of course Cinderlad's brothers went to the contest, taking the best horses from the stable. When their younger brother begged to go, they simply laughed at him, and left him alone.  "Well then,' said the lad quietly, 'then I will go all alone, by myself." And he went to the place where he kept his horse that was saddled with copper, and put on the copper armor, and went before the king.  And all the other knights, who had worn themselves raw with slipping and sliding, and staggering, and attempting to climb the glass hill told him that "he might just as well spare himself the trouble of trying to ride up" but he paid them no heed, and rode forward. He rode straight up the glass hill, and when he was one third of the way up, the princess looked down and saw him.  Then she "threw one of the golden apples down after him, and it rolled into his shoe." Then Cinderlad rode down again, and away, before anyone could stop him.  That evening the King called a council: let all the contenders come together, and he who had gotten the golden apple should show it. But no man came forward, though all had seen the apple roll into one man's shoe. The next day, the contest continued. All day the young men strained and clutched, and used their most cunning moves to try and gain a toe hold on the glass mountain, but they could not do it.  Just as the sun was about to set, along came a knight in silver armor, riding a finer horse than any had seen.  This man rode straight past the crowds of cheering youths, and, without pause, rode straight up the glass hill. When he was two thirds of the way up, the princess saw him, and thought to herself that she liked this knight still better than the last. She threw him another apple, "and it rolled into his shoe, and as soon as he got down the glass hill, he rode away so fast that no one could see what became of him." That night the brothers came home, and found Cinderlad sitting amongst the ashes in the kitchen. They chided him for his dirty ways, and told him of the bright knight in silver armor who had come that night.  When Cinderlad longed to be allowed to go the following day, which he knew was to be the last day of the contest, they laghed and said, "Oh indeed! He was a little brighter than the ashes you sit grubbing among!" And when they had left him alone the next day, he went to the place where he kept his horses, and now fastened on the golden armor, and rode the steed with the saddle and bridle of gold. And when he had ridden past all of the other competitors, he made straight for the glass hill.  It glinted in the sunlight where the beams still shone upon it, seeming to be made rather of brilliant cut diamonds than mere glass. But at the bottom, where the shadows of night were falling, the cold, smooth hill was as black as the bottom of the sea. Cinderlad rode straight to the top of the hill.  There sat the princess, with a single golden apple in her lap. He snatched this from her, doffed his cap, and turned and rode back down the hill. When he got to the bottom, he galloped away, and was gone before anyone knew which way to look. The next day, the King commanded that all men in the kingdom appear before him, that he who had the three golden apples would show himself.  So "they all went in turn. First princes , and then knights, but none of them had a golden apple."  The King and many men had seen the princess toss the apples, and had seen with their own eyes the fruit roll into the knight's shoe.  Yet no man would show the apple. One after the other, the young men lined up.  Cinderlad's brothers were last in line. When they had turned their pockets out, and sworn they had no golden apple, the King asked them if they had not one more brother at home. They did have a brother there they said, but "he never left the cinder heap on any of those days.'  'Never mind that,' said the king. 'As everyone else has come to the palace, let him come too." And Cinderlad came and the King asked, "Hast thou the golden apple?' 'Yes, here is the first and here is the second and here is the third!" he cried out, and "threw off his sooty rags and appeared there before them in his bright, golden armor."  So the King gave him half of his kingdom, and the princess came down from the glass hill, and there was a wedding. "And if they have not left off of their merrymaking, they must be at it still."
Notes: This story is an oddy but a goody! Here we have glass again, in hill form no less. Yet Cinderlad must fine a way to climb it, and so makes use of his copper, silver, and and gold armor, and fine trio of horses. This is, I suppose, what the average little boy must have dreamed of owing one day. In the 21st century, we know, of course, that some little boys will dream of three dresses, and some little girls want the armor and the horses, and that is how it will always be. My question is how in the world did Cinderlad ride down the glass hill with an apple in his shoe?
Montessori Connection: Literature/Creative Writing 
1. Read this story and list the main characters: Father, three sons, King, knights, princess.
2. List the main settings: empty barn, meadow, palace, glass hill.
3. Summarize the plot of The Princess on the Glass Hill. 
4. Invent a plot of your own, using the same characters.
5. Change the characters and/or the setting, and have fun! 
6. Put on a Cinderella play: Cinderella (Curtain Up)

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