THE THREE CITRONS
NCE upon a time there was an aged king who had an only son.
One day he called the prince to him and said: "My son, you
see that my head is white. Soon I shall be closing my eyes
and you are not yet settled in life. Marry, my son, marry
at once so that I can bless you before I die."
The prince made no answer but he took the king's words to
heart and pondered them. He would gladly have done as his
father wished but there was no young girl upon whom his
affections were set.
One day when he was sitting in the garden, wondering what to
do, an old woman suddenly appeared before him.
"Go," she said, "to the top of the Glass Hill, pluck the
Three Citrons, and you will get a wife in whom your heart
will delight." With that she disappeared as mysteriously as
she had come.
Her words went through the prince's soul like a bright dart.
Instantly he determined, come what
 might, to find the Glass
Hill and to pluck the Three Citrons. He told his father his
intention and the old king fitted him out for the journey
and gave him his blessing.
For a long time the prince wandered over wooded mountains
and desert plains without seeing or even hearing anything of
the Glass Hill and the Three Citrons. One day, worn out
with his long journey, he threw himself down in the shade of
a wide-spreading linden tree. As his father's sword, which
he wore at his side, clanked on the ground, twelve ravens
began cawing from the top of the tree. Frightened by the
clanking of the sword, they raised their wings and flew off.
The prince jumped to his feet. "Those are the first living
creatures I have seen for many a day. I'll go in the
direction they have taken," he said to himself, "and
perhaps I'll have better luck."
So he traveled on and after three days and three nights a
high castle came in view.
"Thank God!" he exclaimed, pushing joyfully ahead. "I shall
soon have human companionship once more."
The castle was built entirely of lead. The twelve ravens
circled above it and in front of it stood an old
leaning on a long leaden staff. She was a Yezibaba. Now
you must know that a Yezibaba is an ugly old witch with a
hooked nose, a bristly face, and long scrawny hands. She's a
bad old thing usually, but sometimes, if you take her fancy,
This time when she looked the prince over she shook her head
at him in a friendly way.
"Yi, yi, my boy, how did you get here? Why, not even a
little bird or a tiny butterfly comes here, much less a
human being! You'd better escape if life is dear to you, or
my son, when he comes home, will eat you!"
"No, no, old mother, don't make me go," begged the prince.
"I have come to you for advice to know whether you can tell
me anything about the Glass Hill and the Three Citrons."
"No, I have never heard a word about the Glass Hill,"
Yezibaba said. "But wait until my son comes. He may be
able to tell you something. Yes, yes, I'll manage to save
you somehow. Go hide under the besom and stay there until I
The mountains rumbled and the castle trembled and Yezibaba
whispered to the prince that her son was coming.
"Phew! Phew! I smell human meat! I'll eat it!" shouted
Yezibaba's son while he was still in the
 doorway. He struck
the ground with his leaden club and the whole castle shook.
"No, no, my son, don't talk that way. It's true there is a
pretty youth here, but he's come to ask you about
"Well, if he wants to ask me something, let him come out and
"Yes, my son, he will, but only when you promise me that you
will do nothing to him."
"Well, I won't do anything to him. Now let him come out."
The prince hidden under the besom was shaking like an aspen
leaf, for when he peeped through the twigs he saw an ogre so
huge that he himself would reach up only to his knees.
Happily the ogre had guaranteed his life before Yezibaba
ordered him out.
"Well, well, well, you little June bug!" shouted the ogre.
"What are you afraid of? Where have you been? What do you
"What do I want?" repeated the prince. "I have been
wandering in these mountains a long time and I can't find
what I'm seeking. So I've come to you to ask whether you
can tell me something about the Glass Hill and the Three
Yezibaba's son wrinkled his forehead. He thought
 for a
moment and then, lowering his voice a little, he said: "I've
never heard of any Glass Hill around here. But I can tell
you what to do: go on to my brother in arms who lives in the
Silver Castle and ask him. Maybe he'll be to tell you. But
I can't let you go away hungry. That would never do!
Hi, mother, bring out the dumplings!"
Old Yezibaba placed a large dish on the table and her giant
son sat down.
"Well, come on! Eat!" he shouted to the prince.
When the prince took the first dumpling and bit into it, he
almost broke two of his teeth, for the dumplings were made
"Well," shouted Yezibaba's son, "why don't you eat? Doesn't
the dumpling taste good?"
"Oh, yes, very good," said the prince, politely, "but just now
I'm not hungry."
"Well, if you're not hungry now you will be later. Put a
few in your pocket and eat them on your journey."
So, whether he wanted them or not, the prince had to put
some leaden dumplings into his pocket. Then he took his
leave of Yezibaba and her son and traveled on.
He went on and on for three days and three nights.
 The farther he went, the more inhospitable became the
country. Before him stretched a waste of mountains behind
him a waste of mountains with no living creatures in sight.
Wearied with his long journey, he threw himself on the
ground. His silver sword clanked sharply and at its sound
twenty-four ravens circled above him, cawed in fright, and
"A good sign!" cried the prince. "I'll follow the ravens
So on he went as fast as his legs could carry him until he
came in sight of a tall castle. It was still far away, but
even at that distance it shone and flashed for it was built
of pure silver.
In front of the castle stood an old woman, bent with age,
and leaning on a silver staff. This was the second
"Yi, yi, my boy!" she cried. "How did you get here? Why,
not even a little bird or a tiny butterfly comes here, much
less a human being. You'd better escape if life is dear to
you, or my son, when he comes home, will eat you!"
"No, no, old mother, he won't eat me. I bring greetings
from his brother of the Leaden Castle."
"Well, if you bring greetings from the Leaden
 Castle you are
safe enough. Come in, my boy, and tell me your business."
"My business? For a long time, old mother, I've been looking
for the Glass Hill and the Three Citrons, but I can't find
them. So I've some to ask you whether you could tell me
something about them."
"No, my boy, I don't know anything about the Glass Hill.
But wait until my son comes. Perhaps he can help you. In
the meantime hide yourself under the bed and don't come out
until I call you."
The mountains rumbled and the castle trembled and the prince
knew that Yezibaba's son was coming home.
"Phew! Phew! I smell human meat! I'll eat it!" bellowed
the mighty fellow. He stood in the doorway and banged the
ground with his silver club until the whole castle shook.
"No, no, my son," said Yezibaba, "don't talk that way! A
pretty little chap has come bringing you greetings from your
brother of the Leaden Castle."
"Well, if he's been at the Leaden Castle and came to no
harm, he'll have nothing to fear from me either. Where is
The prince slipped out from under the bed and stood before
the ogre. Looking up at him was like looking at the top of
the tallest pine tree.
 "Well, little June bug, so you've been at my brother's eh?"
"Yes," said the prince. "See, I still have the dumplings he
gave me for the journey."
"I believe you. Well, what do you want?"
"What do I want? I came to ask you whether you could tell
me something about the Glass Hill and the Three Citrons."
"H'm, it seems to me I used to hear something about them,
but I forget. I tell you what you do: go to my brother of
the Golden Castle and ask him. But wait! I can't let you
go away hungry. Hi, mother, bring out the dumplings!"
Yezibaba brought the dumplings on a large silver dish and
put them on the table.
"Eat!" shouted her son.
The prince saw they were silver dumplings, so he said he
wasn't hungry just then, but he'd like to take some with him
for the journey.
"Take as many as you want," shouted the ogre. "And give my
greetings to my brother and my aunt."
So the prince took some silver dumplings, made suitable
thanks, and departed.
He journeyed on from the Silver Castle three days and three
nights, through dense forests and over rough
 mountains, not
knowing where he was nor which way to turn. At last all
worn out he threw himself down in the shade of a beech tree
to rest. As the sword clanked on the ground, its silver
voice rang out and a flock of thirty-six ravens circled over
"Caw! Caw!" they croaked. Then, frightened by the sound of
the sword, they flew away.
"Praise God!" cried the prince. "The Golden Castle can't be
He jumped up and started eagerly off in the direction the
ravens had taken. As he left a valley and climbed a
little hill he saw before him a beautiful wide meadow in the
midst of which stood the Golden Castle shining like the sun.
Before the gate of the castle stood a bent old Yezibaba
leaning on a golden staff.
"Yi, yi, my boy," she cried to the prince, "how did you get
here? Why, not even a little bird or a tiny butterfly comes
here, much less a human being! You'd better escape if life
is dear to you, or my son, when he comes, will eat you!"
"No, no, old mother, he won't eat me, for I bring him
greetings from his brother of the Silver Castle!"
"Well, if you bring greetings from the Silver Castle you are
safe enough. Come in, my boy, and tell me your business."
 "My business, old mother? For a long time I've been
wandering over these wild mountains in search of the Glass
Hill and the Three Citrons. At the Silver Castle they sent
me to you because they thought you might know something
"The Glass Hill? No, I don't know where it is. But wait
until my son comes. He will advise you where to go and what
to do. Hide under the table and stay there until I call
The mountains rumbled and the castle trembled and Yezibaba's
son came home.
"Phew! Phew! I smell human meat! I'll eat it!" he roared.
He stood in the doorway and pounded the ground with his
golden club until the whole castle shook.
"No, no, my son," said Yezibaba, "don't talk that way! A
pretty little fellow has come bringing you greetings from
your brother of the Silver Castle. If you won't harm him,
I'll call him out."
"Well, if my brother didn't do anything to him, I won't
So the prince crawled out from under the table and stood
before the giant. It was like standing beneath a high
tower. He showed the ogre the silver dumplings as proof
that he had been at the Silver Castle.
 "Well, well, well, my little June bug," shouted the
monstrous fellow, "tell me what it is you want! I'll advise
you if I can! Don't be afraid!"
So the prince told him the purpose of his journey and asked
him how to get to the Glass Hill and pluck the Three
"Do you see that blackish lump over yonder?" the ogre said,
pointing with his golden club. "That is the Glass Hill. On
that hill stands a tree. From that tree hang Three Citrons
which send out fragrance for seven miles around. You will
climb the Glass Hill, kneel beneath the tree, and reach up
your hands. If the citrons are destined for you they will
fall into your hands of their own accord. If they are not
destined for you, you will not be able to pluck them no
matter what you do. As you return, if you are hungry or
thirsty, cut open one of the citrons and you will have food
and drink in plenty. Go now with God's blessing. But wait!
I can't let you go away hungry! Hi, mother, bring out the
Yezibaba set a large golden dish on the table.
"Eat!" her son shouted. "Or, if you are not hungry just
now, put some in your pocket and eat them on the way."
The prince said that he was not hungry but that
 he would be
glad to take some of the golden dumplings with him and eat
them later. Then he thanked the ogre most courteously for
his hospitality and advice and took his leave.
He trudged quickly on the hill to dale, from dale to hill
again, and never stopped until he reached the Glass Hill
itself. Then he stood still as if turned into stone. The
hill was high and steep and smooth with not so much as a
scratch on its surface. Over its top spread out the
branches of the magic tree upon which hung the Three
Citrons. Their fragrance was so powerful that the prince
"Let it be as God wills!" he thought to himself. "But however
the adventure is to come out, now that I'm here I must at
least make the attempt."
So he began to claw his way up the smooth glass, but he
hadn't gone many yards before his foot slipped and down he
went so hard that he didn't know where he was or what had
happened to him until he found himself sitting on the
In his vexation he began to throw away the dumplings
thinking that perhaps their weight had dragged him down. He
took one and threw it straight at the hill. Imagine his
surprise to see it fix itself firmly in the glass. He threw
a second and third and there he
 had three steps on which he
was able to stand with safety!
The prince was overjoyed. He threw dumpling after dumpling
and each one became a step. First he threw the leaden ones,
then the silver ones, and last of all the golden ones. On
the steps made in this way he climbed higher and higher
until he reached the very summit of the hill. Then he knelt
under the magic tree, lifted up his hands, and into them the
Three Citrons dropped of their own accord!
Instantly the tree disappeared, the Glass Hill sank until it
was lost, and when the prince came to himself there was neither
tree nor hill to be seen, but only a wide plain.
Delighted with the outcome of his adventure, the prince
turned homewards. At first he was too happy even to eat or
drink. By the third day his stomach began to protest and he
discovered that he was so hungry that he would have fallen
ravenously upon a leaden dumpling if he had one in his
pocket. But his pocket, alas, was empty, and the country
all about was as bare as the palm of his hand.
Then he remembered what the ogre of the Golden Castle had
told him and he took out one of the Three Citrons. He cut
it open, and what do you suppose
 happened? Out jumped a
beautiful maiden fresh from the hand of God, who bowed low
before him and exclaimed:
"Have you food ready for me? Have you drink ready for me?
Have you pretty clothes ready for me?"
"Alas, beautiful creature," the prince sighed, "I have not.
I have nothing for you to eat or to drink or to put on."
The lovely maiden clapped her hands three times, bowed
before him and disappeared.
"Ah," said the prince, "now I know what kind of citrons you
are! I'll think twice before opening one of you again!"
Of the one he had opened he ate and drank his fill, and so
refreshed, went on. He traveled three days and three nights
and by that time he began to feel three times hungrier than
"God help me!" thought he. "I must eat something! There
are still two citrons and if I cut open one there would still be
So he took out the second citron, cut it in two, and lo, a
maiden twice as beautiful as the first stood before him.
She bowed low and said:
"Have you food ready for me? Have you drink
 ready for me?
Have you pretty clothes ready for me?"
"No, lovely creature, I haven't! I haven't!"
The maiden clapped her hands thrice, bowed before him, and
Now there was only one citron left. The prince took it in
his hand, looked at it, and said: "I won't cut you open
until I'm safe at home in my father's house."
He took up his journey again and on the third day he came to
his native town and his father's castle. He had been gone a
long time and how he ever got back he didn't know himself.
Tears of joy rained down the old king's cheeks.
"Welcome home, my son, welcome a hundred times!" he cried,
falling on the prince's neck.
The prince related the adventures of his journey and they at
home told him how anxiously they had awaited his return.
On the next day a great feast was prepared. All the nobles
in the land were invited. The tables were spread with food
and drink the most expensive in the world and many rich
dresses embroidered in gold and studded with pearls were
The guests assembled, seated themselves at the
 tables, and
waited. Music played and when all was ready, the prince
took the last citron and cut it in two. Out jumped a
beautiful creature, three times lovelier than the others.
"Have you food ready for me?" she cried. "Have you drink
ready for me? Have you pretty clothes ready for me?"
"I have indeed, dear heart!" the prince answered. "I have
everything ready for you!"
He led her to the gorgeous clothes and she dressed herself
in them and every one present marveled at her great beauty.
Soon the betrothal took place and after the betrothal a
So now the old king's wish was fulfilled. He blessed his
son, gave the kingdom to him, and not long afterwards he
The first thing that faced the young king after his father's
death was a war which a neighboring king stirred up against
him. So the young king stirred up against him. So the
young king had to bid farewell to the bride whom he had won
so dearly and lead his men to battle. In order that nothing
happen to his queen in his absence, he built a golden throne
for her in the garden beside the lake. This throne was as
high as a tower and no one could ascend
 it except those to
whom the queen let down a silken cord.
Not far from the king's castle lived an old woman who, in
the first place, had told him about the Three Citrons. She
knew well enough how the young king had won his bride and
she was deeply incensed that he had not invited her to the
wedding and in fact and in fact had not even thanked her for
her good advice.
Now this old woman had a gipsy for a servant whom she used
to send to the lake for water. One day when this gipsy was
filling her pitcher, she saw in the lake a beautiful
reflection. She supposed it was a reflection of herself.
"Is it right," she cried out, "that so lovely a creature as
I should carry water for that old witch?"
In a fury she threw the pitcher on the ground and broke it
into a hundred pieces. Then she looked up and discovered
that it wasn't her own reflection she had seen in the water
but that of the beautiful queen.
Ashamed of herself, she picked up the broken pitcher and
went home. The old woman, who knew beforehand what had
happened, went out to meet her with a new pitcher.
"It's no matter about the pitcher," the old woman said. "Go
back to the lake and beg the lovely lady
 to let down the
silken cord and pull you up. Tell her you will comb her
hair. When she pulls you up, comb her hair until she falls
asleep. Then stick this pin into her head. After that you
can dress yourself up in her clothes and sit there like a
It was easy enough to persuade the gipsy. She took the
pitcher and the pin and returned to the lake.
As she drew water she gazed at the lovely queen.
"Oh, how beautiful you are!" she whined, leering up at the
queen with an evil eye. "How beautiful you are! Aye, but
you'd be a hundred times more beautiful if you but let me comb
out your lovely hair! Indeed, I would so twine those golden
tresses that your lord would be delighted!"
With words like these she beguiled and coaxed the queen
until she let down the silken cord and drew the gipsy up.
Once on the throne, the wicked gipsy combed out the golden
tresses and plaited them and arranged them until the queen
fell sound asleep. Then the gipsy took the pin and stuck it
into the queen's head. Instantly a beautiful white dove
flew off the golden throne and not a trace was left of the
lovely queen except her rich clothing. The gipsy dressed
herself in this, sat in the queen's place, and gazed down
into the lake. But in the lake no lovely reflection showed
 itself, for even in the queen's clothes the gipsy remained a
The young king waged a successful war against his enemies
and made peace. Scarcely had he got home when he hurried to
the garden to see whether anything had happened to
his heart's delight. Who can express in words his
astonishment and horror when instead of his beautiful wife
he saw the evil gipsy!
"Ah, my dearest one, how you have changed!" he murmured and
tears flowed down his cheeks.
"Yes, my dear, I have changed, I know I have," the gipsy
answered. "It was grief for you that has broken me."
She tried to fall on his neck but the king turned quickly
away and left her.
From that time forth he had no peace but day and night he
mourned the lost beauty of his wife and nothing consoled
Grieving in this way and thinking always the same sad
thoughts, he was walking one day in the garden when suddenly
a beautiful white dove flew down from a high tree and
alighted on his hand. She looked up at him with eyes as
mournful as his own.
"Ah, my poor dove," the king said, "why are you so sad?
Has your mate also changed?"
 As he spoke he stroked the dove gently on the back and on the
head. On the head he felt a little lump. He blew aside the
feathers and discovered the head of a pin. He pulled out
the pin and instantly the sad dove changed into his own
She told him what had happened to her, how the gipsy had
deceived her and stuck the pin into her head. The king had
the gipsy and old witch caught at once and burnt at the
From that time on nothing happened to mar the king's
happiness, neither the plots of his enemies nor the spite of
evil people. He lived in love and peace with his beautiful
wife and he ruled his kingdom wisely. In fact he's
ruling it still if he hasn't died.
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