"Ah! Medio Pollito," replied the wind, "when I was caught in the branches of the chestnut tree you would not help me. Now you are punished." And he swirled Medio Pollito over the roofs of the houses till they reached the highest church in the town, and there he left him fastened to the top of the steeple.
And there stands Medio Pollito to this day. And if you go to Madrid and walk through the streets till you come to the highest church, you will see Medio Pollito perched on his one leg on the steeple, with his one wing drooping at his side and gazing sadly out of his one eye over the town.
THE THREE BROTHERS
By Hermann R. Kletke
THERE was once upon a time a witch who in the shape of a hawk used every night to break the windows of a certain village church. In the same village there lived three brothers, who were all determined to kill the mischievous hawk. But in vain did the two eldest mount guard in the church with their guns; as soon as the bird appeared high above their heads sleep overpowered them, and they only awoke to hear the windows crashing in.
Then the younger brother took his turn of guarding the windows, and to prevent his being overcome by sleep he placed a lot of thorns under his chin, so that if he felt drowsy and nodded his head they would prick him and keep him awake.
The moon was already risen and it was as light as day, when suddenly he heard a fearful noise, and at the same time a terrible desire to sleep overpowered him.
His eyelids closed and his head sank on his shoulders, but the thorns ran into him and were so painful that he awoke at once. He saw the hawk swooping down upon the church, and in a moment he had seized his gun and shot at the bird. The hawk fell heavily under a big stone, severely wounded in its right wing. The youth ran to look at it and saw that a huge abyss had opened below the stone. He went at once to fetch his brothers, and with their help dragged a lot of pine wood and ropes to the spot. They fastened some of the burning pine wood to the end of the rope and let it slowly down to the bottom of the abyss. At first it was quite dark, and the flaming torch only lit up dirty gray stone walls. But the youngest brother determined to explore the abyss, and letting himself down by the rope he soon reached the bottom. Here he found a lovely meadow full of green trees and exquisite flowers.
In the middle of the meadow stood a huge stone castle, with an iron gate leading to it, which was wide open. Everything in the castle seemed to be made of copper, and the only inhabitant he could discover was a lovely girl, who was combing her golden hair; and he noticed that whenever one of her hairs fell on the ground it rang out like pure metal. The youth looked at her more closely, and saw that her skin was smooth and fair, her blue eyes bright and sparkling, and her hair as golden as the sun. He fell in love with her on the spot, and kneeling at her feet he implored her to become his wife.
The lovely girl accepted his proposal gladly; but at the same time she warned him that she could never come up to the world above till her mother, the old witch, was dead. And she went on to tell him that the only way in which the old creature could be killed was with the sword that hung up in the castle; but the sword was so heavy that no one could lift it.
Then the youth went into a room in the castle where everything was made of silver, and here he found another beautiful girl, the sister of his bride. She was combing her silver hair, and every hair that fell on the ground rang out like pure metal. The second girl handed him the sword, but though he tried with all his strength he could not lift it.
At last a third sister came to him and gave him a drop of something to drink, which she said would give him the needful strength. He drank one drop, but still he could not lift the sword; then he drank a second and the sword began to move; but only after he had drunk a third drop was he able to swing the sword over his head.
Then he hid himself in the castle and awaited the old witch's arrival.
At last as it was beginning to grow dark she appeared. She swooped down upon a big apple tree, and after shaking some golden apples from it she pounced down upon the earth. As soon as her feet touched the ground she became transformed from a hawk into a woman. This was the moment the youth was waiting for, and he swung his mighty sword in the air with all his strength and the witch's head fell off, and her blood spurted upon the walls.
Without fear of any further danger, he packed up all the treasures of the castle into great chests and gave his brothers a signal to pull them up out of the abyss. First the treasures were attached to the rope and then the three lovely girls. And now everything was up above and only he himself remained below. But as he was a little suspicious of his brothers, he fastened a heavy stone on to the rope and let them pull it up. At first they heaved with a will, but when the stone was halfway up they let it drop suddenly, and it fell to the bottom broken into a hundred pieces.
"So that's what would have happened to my bones had I trusted myself to them," said the youth sadly; and he cried bitterly, not because of the treasures, but because of the lovely girl with her swanlike neck and golden hair.
For a long time he wandered sadly all through the beautiful underworld, and one day he met a magician who asked him the cause of his tears.
The youth told him all that had befallen him, and the magician said:
"Do not grieve, young man! If you will guard the children who are hidden in the golden apple tree I will bring you at once up to the earth. Another magician who lives in this land always eats my children up. It is in vain that I have hidden them under the earth and locked them into the castle. Now I have hidden them in the apple tree; hide yourself there, too, and at midnight you will see my enemy."
The youth climbed up the tree and picked some of the beautiful golden apples, which he ate for his supper. At midnight the wind began to rise and a rustling sound was heard at the foot of the tree. The youth looked down and beheld a long thick serpent beginning to crawl up the tree. It wound itself round the stem and gradually got higher and higher. It stretched its huge head, in which the eyes glittered fiercely, among the branches, searching for the nest in which the little children lay. They trembled with terror when they saw the hideous creature and hid themselves beneath the leaves.
Then the youth swung his mighty sword in the air, and with one blow cut off the serpent's head. He cut up the rest of the body into little bits and strewed them to the four winds.
The father of the rescued children was so delighted over the death of his enemy that he told the youth to get on his back, and thus he carried him up to the world above.
With what joy did he hurry now to his brothers' house! He burst into a room where they were all assembled, but no one knew who he was. Only his bride, who was serving as cook to her sisters, recognized her lover at once.
His brothers, who had quite believed he was dead, yielded him up his treasures at once and flew into the woods in terror. But the good youth forgave them all they had done and divided his treasures with them. Then he built himself a big castle with golden windows, and there he lived happily with his golden-haired wife till the end of their lives.
THE GLASS MOUNTAIN
By Hermann R. 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 she was 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 halfway 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 further with their wounded limbs. The whole neighborhood had the appearance of a vast churchyard. In three more days the seven years would be at an end, when a knight in golden armor and mounted on a spirited steed was seen making his way toward the fatal hill.
Sticking his spurs into his horse he made a rush at the mountain and got up halfway, 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 armor 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 school boy-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 halfway 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 ascent.
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 lookout, 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 toward 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 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."
HUNTSMAN THE UNLUCKY
By John T. Naake
ONCE upon a time there lived a huntsman. He would go every day in search of game, but it often happened that he killed nothing, and so was obliged to return home with his bag empty. On that account he was nicknamed "Huntsman the Unlucky." At last he was reduced by his ill fortune to such extremities that he had not a piece of bread nor a kopek left. The wretched man wandered about the forest, cold and hungry; he had eaten nothing for three days, and was nearly dying of starvation. He lay down on the grass determined to put an end to his existence; happily better thoughts came into his mind; he crossed himself, and threw away the gun. Suddenly he heard a rustling noise near him. It seemed to issue from some thick grass close at hand. The hunter got up and approached the spot. He then observed that the grass partly hid a gloomy abyss, from the bottom of which there rose a stone, and on it lay a small jar. As he looked and listened the hunter heard a small voice crying-