Once upon a time there were two brothers whose father had left
them but a small fortune. The eldest grew very rich, but at the
same time cruel and wicked, whereas there was nowhere a more honest
or kinder man than the younger. But he remained poor, and had many
children, so that at times they could scarcely get bread to eat. At
last, one day there was not even this in the house, so he went to
his rich brother and asked him for a loaf of bread. Waste of time!
His rich brother only called him beggar and vagabond, and slammed
the door in his face.
The poor fellow, after this brutal reception, did not know which
way to turn. Hungry, scantily clad, shivering with cold, his legs
could scarcely carry him along. He had not the heart to go home,
with nothing for the children, so he went towards the mountain
forest. But all he found there were some wild pears that had fallen
to the ground. He had to content himself with eating these, though
they set his teeth on edge. But what was he to do to warm himself,
for the east wind with its chill blast pierced him through and
through. "Where shall I go?" he said; "what will become of us in
the cottage? There is neither food nor fire, and my brother has
driven me from his door." It was just then he remembered having
heard that the top of the mountain in front of him was made of
crystal, and had a fire for ever burning upon it. "I will try and
find it," he said, "and then I may be able to warm myself a
little." So he went on climbing higher and higher till he reached
the top, when he was startled to see twelve strange beings sitting
round a huge fire. He stopped for a moment, but then said to
himself, "What have I to lose? Why should I fear? God is with me.
So he advanced towards the fire, and bowing respectfully, said:
"Good people, take pity on my distress. I am very poor, no one
cares for me, I have not even a fire in my cottage; will you let me
warm myself at yours?" They all looked kindly at him, and one of
them said: "My son, come sit down with us and warm yourself."
So he sat down, and felt warm directly he was near them. But he
dared not speak while they were silent. What astonished him most
was that they changed seats one after another, and in such a way
that each one passed round the fire and came back to his own place.
When he drew near the fire an old man with long white beard and
bald head arose from the flames and spoke to him thus:
"Man, waste not thy life here; return to thy cottage, work, and
live honestly. Take as many embers as thou wilt, we have more than
And having said this he disappeared. Then the twelve filled a
large sack with embers, and, putting it on the poor man's
shoulders, advised him to hasten home.
Humbly thanking them, he set off. As he went he wondered why the
embers did not feel hot, and why they should weigh no more than a
sack of paper. He was thankful that he should be able to have a
fire, but imagine his astonishment when on arriving home he found
the sack to contain as many gold pieces as there had been embers;
he almost went out of his mind with joy at the possession of so
much money. With all his heart he thanked those who had been so
ready to help him in his need.
He was now rich, and rejoiced to be able to provide for his
family. Being curious to find out how many gold pieces there were,
and not knowing how to count, he sent his wife to his rich brother
for the loan of a quart measure.
This time the brother was in a better temper, so he lent what
was asked of him, but said mockingly, "What can such beggars as you
have to measure?"
The wife replied, "Our neighbour owes us some wheat; we want to
be sure he returns us the right quantity."
The rich brother was puzzled, and suspecting something he,
unknown to his sister-in-law, put some grease inside the measure.
The trick succeeded, for on getting it back he found a piece of
gold sticking to it. Filled with astonishment, he could only
suppose his brother had joined a band of robbers: so he hurried to
his brother's cottage, and threatened to bring him before the
Justice of the Peace if he did not confess where the gold came
from. The poor man was troubled, and, dreading to offend his
brother, told the story of his journey to the Crystal Mountain.
Now the elder brother had plenty of money for himself, yet he
was envious of the brother's good fortune, and became greatly
displeased when he found that his brother won every one's esteem by
the good use he made of his wealth. At last he determined to visit
the Crystal Mountain himself.
"I may meet with as good luck as my brother," said he to
Upon reaching the Crystal Mountain he found the twelve seated
round the fire as before, and thus addressed them:
"I beg of you, good people, to let me warm myself, for it is
bitterly cold, and I am poor and homeless."
But one of them replied, "My son, the hour of thy birth was
favourable; thou art rich, but a miser; thou art wicked, for thou
hast dared to lie to us. Well dost thou deserve thy
Amazed and terrified he stood silent, not daring to speak.
Meanwhile the twelve changed places one after another, each at last
returning to his own seat. Then from the midst of the flames arose
the white-bearded old man and spoke thus sternly to the rich
"Woe unto the wilful! Thy brother is virtuous, therefore have I
blessed him. As for thee, thou art wicked, and so shalt not escape
At these words the twelve arose. The first seized the
unfortunate man, struck him, and passed him on to the second; the
second also struck him and passed him on to the third; and so did
they all in their turn, until he was given up to the old man, who
disappeared with him into the fire.
Days, weeks, months went by, but the rich man never returned,
and none knew what had become of him. I think, between you and me,
the younger brother had his suspicions but he very wisely kept them
There was once a married pair who loved each other tenderly. The
husband would not have given up his wife for all the riches in the
world, while her first thought was how best to please him. So they
were very happy, and lived like two grains in one ear of corn.
One day while working in the fields, a great longing came over
him to see her: so without waiting for the hour of sunset he ran
home. Alas! she was not there. He looked high and low, he ran here,
there, and everywhere, he wept, he called to her; in vain! his dear
wife was not to be found.
So heartbroken was he that he no longer cared to live. He could
think of nothing but the loss of his dear wife and how to find her
again. At last he determined to travel all over the world in search
of her. So he began to walk straight on, trusting God to direct his
steps. Sad and thoughtful, he wandered for many days, until he
reached a cottage close by the shores of a large lake. Here he
stopped, hoping to find out news. On entering the cottage he was
met by a woman, who tried to prevent him entering.
"What do you want here, unlucky wretch?" said she. "If my
husband sees you, he will kill you instantly."
"Who is your husband then?" asked the traveller.
"What! you do not know him? My husband is the Water-King;
everything under water obeys him. Depart quickly, for if he finds
you here he will certainly devour you."
"Perhaps after all he would take pity on me. But hide me
somewhere, for I am worn and weary, and without shelter for the
So the Water-Queen was persuaded, and hid him behind the stove.
Almost immediately after the Water-King entered. He had barely
crossed the threshold when he called out, "Wife, I smell human
flesh; give it me quickly, for I am hungry." She dared not disobey
him, and so she had to tell him of the traveller's hiding-place.
The poor man became terribly frightened, and trembled in every
limb, and began to stammer out excuses.
"I assure you I have done no harm. I came here in search of news
of my poor wife. Oh, do help me to find her; I cannot live without
"Well," replied the Water-King, "as you love your wife so
tenderly I will forgive you for coming here, but I cannot help you
to find her, for I do not know where she is. Yet I remember seeing
two ducks on the lake yesterday, perchance she is one of them. But
I should advise you to ask my brother the Fire-King; he may be able
to tell you more."
Happy to have escaped so easily, he thanked the Water-King and
set out to find the Fire-King. But the latter was unable to help
him, and could only advise him to consult his other brother, the
Air-King. But the Air-King, though he had travelled all over the
earth, could only say he thought he had seen a woman at the foot of
the Crystal Mountain.
But the traveller was cheered at the news, and went to seek his
wife at the foot of the Crystal Mountain, which was close to their
cottage. On reaching it he began at once to climb the mountain by
making his way up the bed of the torrent that came rushing down
there. Several ducks that were in the pools near the waterfall
called out, "My good man, don't go up there; you'll be killed."
But he walked fearlessly on till he came to some thatched
cottages, at the largest of which he stopped. Here a crowd of
wizards and witches surrounded him, screaming at the top of their
voices, "What are you looking for?"
"My wife," said he.
"She is here," they cried, "but you cannot take her away unless
you recognise her among two hundred women all exactly like
"What! Not know my own wife? Why, here she is," said he, as he
clasped her in his arms. And she, delighted to be with him again,
kissed him fondly. Then she whispered:
"Dearest, though you knew me to-day I doubt whether you will
to-morrow, for there will be so many of us all alike. Now I will
tell you what to do. At nightfall go to the top of the Crystal
Mountain, where live the King of Time and his court. Ask him how
you may know me. If you are good and honest he will help you; if
not, he will devour you whole at one mouthful."
"I will do what you advise, dear one," he replied, "but tell me,
why did you leave me so suddenly? If you only knew what I have
suffered! I have sought you all over the world."
"I did not leave you willingly," said she. "A countryman asked
me to come and look at the mountain torrent. When we got there he
sprinkled some water over himself, and at once I saw wings growing
out of his shoulders, and he soon changed his shape entirely into
that of a drake; and I too became a duck at the same time, and
whether I would or no I was obliged to follow him. Here I was
allowed to resume my own form; and now there is but the one
difficulty of being recognised by you."
So they parted, she to join the other women, he to continue his
way to the Crystal Mountain. At the top he found twelve strange
beings sitting round a large fire: they were the attendants of the
King of Time. He saluted them respectfully.
"What dost thou want?" said they.
"I have lost my dear wife. Can you tell me how to recognise her
among two hundred other women all exactly alike?"
"No," said they, "but perhaps our King can."
Then arose from the midst of the flames an old man with bald
head and long white beard, who, on hearing his request, replied:
"Though all these women be exactly alike, thy wife will have a
black thread in the shoe of her right foot."
So saying he vanished, and the traveller, thanking the twelve,
descended the mountain.
Sure it is that without the black thread he would never have
recognised her. And though the Magician tried to hide her, the
spell was broken; and the two returned rejoicing to their home,
where they lived happily ever after.
There was once a widow who had two daughters, Helen, her own
child by her dead husband, and Marouckla, his daughter by his first
wife. She loved Helen, but hated the poor orphan, because she was
far prettier than her own daughter. Marouckla did not think about
her good looks, and could not understand why her stepmother should
be angry at the sight of her. The hardest work fell to her share;
she cleaned out the rooms, cooked, washed, sewed, spun, wove,
brought in the hay, milked the cow, and all this without any help.
Helen, meanwhile, did nothing but dress herself in her best clothes
and go to one amusement after another. But Marouckla never
complained; she bore the scoldings and bad temper of mother and
sister with a smile on her lips, and the patience of a lamb. But
this angelic behaviour did not soften them. They became even more
tyrannical and grumpy, for Marouckla grew daily more beautiful,
while Helen's ugliness increased. So the stepmother determined to
get rid of Marouckla, for she knew that while she remained her own
daughter would have no suitors. Hunger, every kind of privation,
abuse, every means was used to make the girl's life miserable. The
most wicked of men could not have been more mercilessly cruel than
these two vixens. But in spite of it all Marouckla grew ever
sweeter and more charming.
One day in the middle of winter Helen wanted some
"Listen," cried she to Marouckla; "you must go up the mountain
and find me some violets, I want some to put in my gown; they must
be fresh and sweet-scented—do you hear?"
"But, my dear sister, who ever heard of violets blooming in the
snow?" said the poor orphan.
"You wretched creature! Do you dare to disobey me?" said Helen.
"Not another word; off with you. If you do not bring me some
violets from the mountain forest, I will kill you."
The stepmother also added her threats to those of Helen, and
with vigorous blows they pushed Marouckla outside and shut the door
upon her. The weeping girl made her way to the mountain. The snow
lay deep, and there was no trace of any human being. Long she
wandered hither and thither, and lost herself in the wood. She was
hungry, and shivered with cold, and prayed to die. Suddenly she saw
a light in the distance, and climbed towards it, till she reached
the top of the mountain. Upon the highest peak burnt a large fire,
surrounded by twelve blocks of stone, on which sat twelve strange
beings. Of these the first three had white hair, three were not
quite so old, three were young and handsome, and the rest still
There they all sate silently looking at the fire. They were the
twelve months of the year. The great Setchene (January) was placed
higher than the others; his hair and moustache were white as snow,
and in his hand he held a wand. At first Marouckla was afraid, but
after a while her courage returned, and drawing near she said:
"Men of God, may I warm myself at your fire? I am chilled by the
The great Setchene raised his head and answered:
"What brings thee here, my daughter? What dost thou seek?"
"I am looking for violets," replied the maiden.
"This is not the season for violets; dost thou not see the snow
everywhere?" said Setchene.
"I know well, but my sister Helen and my stepmother have ordered
me to bring them violets from your mountain: if I return without
them they will kill me. I pray you, good shepherds, tell me where
they may be found?"
Here the great Setchene arose and went over to the youngest of
the months, and placing his wand in his hand, said:
"Brother Brezene (March), do thou take the highest place."
Brezene obeyed, at the same time waving his wand over the fire.
Immediately the flames rose towards the sky, the snow began to melt
and the trees and shrubs to bud; the grass became green, and from
between its blades peeped the pale primrose. It was Spring, and the
meadows were blue with violets.
"Gather them quickly, Marouckla," said Brezene.
Joyfully she hastened to pick the flowers, and having soon a
large bunch she thanked them and ran home. Helen and the stepmother
were amazed at the sight of the flowers, the scent of which filled
"Where did you find them?" asked Helen.
"Under the trees on the mountain slope," said Marouckla.
Helen kept the flowers for herself and her mother; she did not
even thank her step-sister for the trouble she had taken. The next
day she desired Marouckla to fetch her strawberries.
"Run," said she, "and fetch me strawberries from the mountain:
they must be very sweet and ripe."
"But who ever heard of strawberries ripening in the snow?"
"Hold your tongue, worm; don't answer me; if I don't have my
strawberries I will kill you."
Then the stepmother pushed her into the yard and bolted the
door. The unhappy girl made her way towards the mountain and to the
large fire round which sat the twelve months. The great Setchene
occupied the highest place.
"Men of God, may I warm myself at your fire? The winter cold
chills me," said she, drawing near.
The great Setchene raised his head and asked:
"Why comest thou here? What dost thou seek?"
"I am looking for strawberries," said she.
"We are in the midst of winter," replied Setchene; "strawberries
do not grow in the snow."
"I know," said the girl sadly, "but my sister and stepmother
have ordered me to bring them strawberries; if I do not they will
kill me. Pray, good shepherds, tell me where to find them."
The great Setchene arose, crossed over to the month opposite
him, and putting the wand into his hand, said:
"Brother Tchervene (June), do thou take the highest place."
Tchervene obeyed, and as he waved his wand over the fire the
flames leapt towards the sky. Instantly the snow melted, the earth
was covered with verdure, trees were clothed with leaves, birds
began to sing, and various flowers blossomed in the forest. It was
summer. Under the bushes masses of star-shaped flowers changed into
ripening strawberries. Before Marouckla had time to cross herself
they covered the glade, making it look like a sea of blood.
"Gather them quickly, Marouckla," said Tchervene.
Joyfully she thanked the months, and having filled her apron ran
happily home. Helen and her mother wondered at seeing the
strawberries, which filled the house with their delicious
"Wherever did you find them?" asked Helen crossly.
"Right up among the mountains; those from under the beech trees
are not bad."
Helen gave a few to her mother and ate the rest herself; not one
did she offer to her step-sister. Being tired of strawberries, on
the third day she took a fancy for some fresh red apples.
"Run, Marouckla," said she, "and fetch me fresh red apples from
"Apples in winter, sister? why, the trees have neither leaves
"Idle slut, go this minute," said Helen; "unless you bring back
apples we will kill you."
As before, the stepmother seized her roughly and turned her out
of the house. The poor girl went weeping up the mountain, across
the deep snow upon which lay no human footprint, and on towards the
fire round which were the twelve months. Motionless sat they, and
on the highest stone was the great Setchene.
"Men of God, may I warm myself at your fire? The winter cold
chills me," said she, drawing near.
The great Setchene raised his head.
"Why com'st thou here? What dost thou seek?" asked he.
"I am come to look for red apples," replied Marouckla.
"But this is winter, and not the season for red apples,"
observed the great Setchene.
"I know," answered the girl, "but my sister and stepmother sent
me to fetch red apples from the mountain; if I return without them
they will kill me."
Thereupon the great Setchene arose and went over to one of the
elderly months, to whom he handed the wand, saying:
"Brother Zaré (September), do thou take the highest place."
Zaré moved to the highest stone and waved his wand over the
fire. There was a flare of red flames, the snow disappeared, but
the fading leaves which trembled on the trees were sent by a cold
north-east wind in yellow masses to the glade. Only a few flowers
of autumn were visible, such as the fleabane and red gillyflower,
autumn colchicums in the ravine, and under the beeches bracken and
tufts of northern heather. At first Marouckla looked in vain for
red apples. Then she espied a tree which grew at a great height,
and from the branches of this hung the bright red fruit. Zaré
ordered her to gather some quickly. The girl was delighted and
shook the tree. First one apple fell, then another.
"That is enough," said Zaré, "hurry home."
Thanking the months, she returned joyfully. Helen marvelled and
the stepmother wondered at seeing the fruit.
"Where did you gather them?" asked the step-sister.
"There are more on the mountain top," answered Marouckla.
"Then why did you not bring more?" said Helen angrily; "you must
have eaten them on your way back, you wicked girl."
"No, dear sister, I have not even tasted them," said Marouckla.
"I shook the tree twice; one apple fell each time. I was not
allowed to shake it again, but was told to return home."
"May Perum smite you with his thunderbolt," said Helen, striking
Marouckla prayed to die rather than suffer such ill-treatment.
Weeping bitterly, she took refuge in the kitchen. Helen and her
mother found the apples more delicious than any they had ever
tasted, and when they had eaten both longed for more.
"Listen, mother," said Helen. "Give me my cloak; I will fetch
some more apples myself, or else that good-for-nothing wretch will
eat them all on the way. I shall be able to find the mountain and
the tree. The shepherds may cry 'Stop,' but I shall not leave go
till I have shaken down all the apples."
In spite of her mother's advice she put on her pelisse, covered
her head with a warm hood, and took the road to the mountain. The
mother stood and watched her till she was lost in the distance.
Snow covered everything, not a human footprint was to be seen on
its surface. Helen lost herself and wandered hither and thither.
After a while she saw a light above her, and following in its
direction reached the mountain top. There was the flaming fire, the
twelve blocks of stone, and the twelve months. At first she was
frightened and hesitated; then she came nearer and warmed her
hands. She did not ask permission, nor did she speak one polite
"What has brought thee here? What dost thou seek?" said the
great Setchene severely.
"I am not obliged to tell you, old greybeard; what business is
it of yours?" she replied disdainfully, turning her back on the
fire and going towards the forest.
The great Setchene frowned, and waved his wand over his head.
Instantly the sky became covered with clouds, the fire went down,
snow fell in large flakes, an icy wind howled round the mountain.
Amid the fury of the storm Helen added curses against her
step-sister. The pelisse failed to warm her benumbed limbs. The
mother kept on waiting for her; she looked from the window, she
watched from the doorstep, but her daughter came not. The hours
passed slowly, but Helen did not return.
"Can it be that the apples have charmed her from her home?"
thought the mother. Then she clad herself in hood and pelisse and
went in search of her daughter. Snow fell in huge masses; it
covered all things, it lay untouched by human footsteps. For long
she wandered hither and thither; the icy north-east wind whistled
in the mountain, but no voice answered her cries.
Day after day Marouckla worked and prayed, and waited; but
neither stepmother nor sister returned, they had been frozen to
death on the mountain. The inheritance of a small house, a field,
and a cow fell to Marouckla. In course of time an honest farmer
came to share them with her, and their lives were happy and