Grimm’s Fairy Tale No. 197: The Crystal Ball
There once lived a sorceress, she had three sons who were filled with brotherly love for each other. But the old woman did not trust any of them and thought they wanted to rob her of her powers. She turned the oldest son into an eagle. He had to sit high up on a rocky cliff and often could be seen circling the heavens, soaring up and down. She turned the second into a whale who lived deep in the ocean. You could only see him when he blew a mighty blast of water into the air. Both brothers took their human shape for only two hours each day. The third son fled in secret, because he feared the sorceress would also turn him into some wild beast, a bear or wolf perhaps. He had heard that an enchanted princess sat in the castle of the golden sun, waiting for her redemption. Each suitor had to risk his life and twentythree gallants had already died a miserable death. There was only one left and after him, no one else would come. Because his heart knew no fear, the youth made a decision to seek out the castle of the golden sun.
He had already been looking for some time and had not found it, when he lost his way in a deep forest and did not know which way out. At once he saw two giants in the distance, they waved at him with their hand and when he approached they said “We are fighting over a hat, and because we are both equally strong we cannot decide who should own it. One of us cannot overcome the other. You smaller people are smarter than we are. That is why, we will leave the decision up to you.”
“How could you fight over an old hat?” the youth said.
“You don’t know the qualities of this hat, it’s a wishing hat. Whoever wears it can wish to go wherever he wants. In that very moment, he will be there.”
“Give me the hat,” the youth replied. “I will walk a short distance, and when I call you, run a race. Whoever reaches me first, will own the hat.”
He put on the hat, walked away and thought about the king’s daughter, forgot the giants and continued walking. Once he sighed from the depths of his heart and said “Oh, I wish I were in the castle of the golden sun!” The words had barely passed over his lips and he stood on a large mountain before the gate of the castle.
He entered and went through all the rooms until he found the king’s daughter in the last one. But how frightened he was when he saw her: she had an ashen face full of wrinkles, cloudy eyes and red hair. “Are you the king’s daughter, whose beauty is famous throughout the land?” he cried.
“Oh,” replied the maid. “This is not my true form. The eyes of men can only see me in this frightful state. But so that you know how I look, gaze into the mirror and don’t be confused. I will show you my true image there.”
She gave him the mirror in hand and he saw the image of the most beautiful maiden in the world. He saw how the tears rolled down her cheeks in sadness. He spoke “How can you be redeemed?” I will not avoid any danger.”
She answered “Whoever finds the crystal ball and holds it before the sorceress, that person shall break her power and I can return to my true form. Oh,” she added, “so many have already died before you and I am fearful for your young blood, if you should place yourself in this great danger.”
“Nothing can stop me,” he said, “but tell me what I must do.”
“You should know everything,” the king’s daughter replied, “When you descend the mountain on which the castle stands, there will be a wild ox standing at the spring below. You must fight with him. And when you are able to kill him, a fire bird will rise out of his carcass. The bird carries a firey egg in its body and in the egg there is an egg yolk, which is the crystal ball. The bird will not let go of the egg until he is forced. But if it falls to the earth, it will ignite and burn everything nearby. The egg itself will melt, along with it the crystal ball and all your efforts will be for naught.”
The youth walked down to the spring where the ox snorted and bellowed. After a long battle, he stuck his sword in its side and the beast sank to the ground. At that moment the fire bird flew up and wanted to fly away, but the eagle, the brother of the youth who flew between the clouds, commenced the chase. It flew after him to the ocean and picked him with his beak so that in his need, the fire bird let the egg drop. But it didn’t fall into the ocean but onto a fisherman’s hut on shore. The hut immediately began to smoke and was about to burst into flames. But waves as big as the house rose up from the ocean, crashed down on the hut and extinguished the flames. The other brother, the whale, swam up to shore and blew water into the air. When the fire was extinguished, the youth looked for the egg and luckily found it. It had not yet melted but the shell was cracked because of the sudden cooling by cold water. He was able to remove the crystal ball without damaging it.
When the youth returned to the sorceress, she accused him and said “My power is destroyed and you are now the king of the castle of the golden sun. You can also return your brothers’ human forms.” The youth hastened to the king’s daughter and when he entered her room she stood before him in the full splendor of her beauty. Filled with joy, they both exchanged rings.