The Glass Box
Once there was a poor man. His name was Hans. He had no money, no house and no food, but he was happy. ‘I’ll find something,’ he said. ‘I’ll walk down this road to the next town.’ After a short time, a very old woman called to him from across the road.
‘What do you want?’ asked Hans.
‘What do you want?’ said the old woman.
‘What do I want? I want money.’
‘You can have money,’ said the old woman. ‘Take this magic blue coat and climb to the top of that tall tree. Then climb down inside it. You will come into a large room with three hundred lights. There are three doors. Go through the first door and you will see a big box. On the box sits a dog with eyes as large as eggs. Don’t be afraid – it won’t hurt you. Put my blue coat on the floor. Take the dog and put it down on the coat in front of the box. Open the box and you will see money. Take some.
‘Go through the second door and you will see a bigger box. On the box sits a dog with eyes as large as oranges. Don’t be afraid – it won’t hurt you. Put the dog down on the coat in front of the box. Open the box and you will see gold. Take some.
‘Go through the third door. There you will see the biggest box. On the box sits a dog with eyes as large as plates. Don’t be afraid – it is friendly. There are jewels in its box. Take some.’
‘This is wonderful,’ said Hans. ‘But what can I do for you?’
‘I don’t want any money or gold or jewels,’ said the old woman. ‘I only want one little thing. In the third room, there is a small glass box. My grandmother lost it there. Bring me that box.’ Hans climbed up the tree and then down inside the tree. He went down and down and down. Then he saw the three hundred lights and the three doors. He opened the first door and went into a little room. There, on a box, was a dog with eyes as large as eggs.
‘Good dog!’ said Hans. He remembered the old woman’s words. He put her blue coat on the floor. He took the dog and put it down on the coat in front of the box. He opened the box and he got very excited. He took some money and put it in his hat. He put the dog back on the box and went into the second room.
There, on a box, was a dog with eyes as large as oranges.
‘You’re a fine dog!’ said Hans. He put the dog down in front of the box, and opened the box. His eyes were suddenly as yellow as the gold in the box. Hans took some gold and put it in his hat.
Then he went into the last room. This dog’s eyes were as large as plates. ‘You are a very fine dog!’ he said. Hans looked at the jewels in the box. His eyes were suddenly red, blue, yellow, green and gold. He took some jewels and put them in his shoes. Then he remembered the old woman’s glass box. He found it on the floor next to the dog.
He climbed up inside the tree again. It was harder this time with the heavy gold and jewels, but he got out of the tree.
‘Throw down the box,’ called the old woman when she saw him. But he did not throw it. Suddenly a stone hit him on the head.
‘Help! I’m going to fall and die,’ he thought. But he put out a hand and he did not fall.
‘Did you throw that stone?’ he called.
‘Yes. Now give me the box.’ She was not very friendly now.
‘I’m not going to give it to you,’ he answered.
The old woman got very angry and her face was very ugly. He climbed to the ground and walked away down the road. She called him names but he did not answer. She could do nothing.
It was night when he came to the town. He found a very nice room and asked for the best food. The next day he went out and bought beautiful clothes. He was a very important and rich man, people thought. He suddenly had many friends.
One day somebody asked him, ‘Do you know about the princess?’
‘What princess?’ asked Hans. ‘Who is she? Where does she live?’
‘You cannot see her,’ answered the man.
‘Because she is in a big house and she can’t leave it. There is only one door. The windows are high up. She never goes out. The king says nobody can see her.’
‘Why does she live in that way?’ asked Hans.
‘Because a clever old man said to the king, “Your daughter will marry a poor man.” The king was very angry. He built the big house with high windows and shut the princess in it.’
‘I want to see the princess,’ said Hans. He found the house and went to the door. But the king’s servants quickly sent him away. Then he put on his most expensive clothes and went to the king’s home. The king was very angry. ‘Don’t come near my house again,’ he shouted. ‘I will cut off your head and put it on a stick.’
Hans lived well at this time and quickly used his money. One day he only had two jewels. He left his nice room. He found a poor house and lived in it. Hans was poor now. Nobody cooked his food. Nobody cleaned his shoes. His rich ‘friends’ did not invite him to their homes. He tried to find the tree with the three dogs again, but he couldn’t find it.
After a short time Hans had no money. No money for food. He looked round his room. What could he sell? There, on the table, he saw the little glass box.
‘Perhaps I can buy some bread with this,’ he thought. ‘Why did the old woman want it? It is glass but I can’t see into it. Perhaps there are jewels or gold inside.’ He tried to open the box but he couldn’t. He hit it once with his hand. Suddenly the dog with eyes as large as eggs appeared in front of him.
‘What do you want?’ asked the dog.
‘What do I want!’ cried Hans. ‘I want money!’
The dog went away. It quickly came back with a bag of money in its mouth.
Hans thought. Then he said, ‘I know! The first dog comes when I hit the box once. The second dog will come when I hit the box again. The third dog will come when I hit the box three times.’
He hit the box – one, two – and the dog with eyes as large as oranges brought gold. He hit the box three times – one, two, three – and the dog with eyes as large as plates brought jewels.
Hans was rich again. He bought beautiful clothes and moved to a big house. All his ‘friends’ came back.
‘Why didn’t you visit us?’ they said. ‘Where were you?’
Hans did not like these friends. He thought only of the sad princess.
‘She can never go out,’ he thought. ‘She can never walk in the garden. Her mother is dead. She can only speak to the servants and the old king. She has an unhappy life.’
One night Hans could not sleep. Suddenly he had an idea and he got up from his bed. He took the glass box and hit it once. The dog came.
‘It is night – a beautiful night,’ said Hans, ‘and nobody will see. I know that the princess would like a walk in my garden. Bring her here.’
Very quickly the dog came back. The princess was asleep on its back. Her beautiful face was sad.
Hans woke her and took her into the garden.
‘Where am I?’ she cried. ‘What is happening?’ She was afraid.
‘You are walking with me in my garden,’ said Hans. ‘Look – the flowers are asleep.’
‘A garden!’ cried the princess. ‘Am I outside? With the ground under my feet and the sky over my head? No walls? No windows? I can hear the sounds of the night round me!’
They walked for a long time. Then the sun started to appear. ‘I have to go,’ she said. ‘But how did I get here?’ Hans told her about the glass box and the dogs. She hit the box and called the dog.
‘Good dog!’ she said, when it appeared. ‘You have beautiful eyes. Take me home. I don’t want anybody to see us. Thank you for this night, Hans.’ The princess climbed on the dog’s back and fell asleep.
The next day the princess did not remember anything but she felt different. Her servant, Anna, a jealous and unkind woman, woke her. She said, ‘Wake up, princess, it is the middle of the day. The king is waiting for you.’
‘Is he?’ said the princess and she jumped happily out of bed. ‘Look, Anna, it’s a beautiful day.’
Anna started to think. A number of things were strange. First, the princess always got up at seven o’clock, but today it was twelve o’clock. Second, the princess was always sad, but today, she was happy. Third, the bottom of the princess’s nightdress was dirty. Fourth, there was a beautiful white flower on the princess’s bedroom floor, but there were no white flowers in the king’s garden.
Anna went to the king.
‘Let’s wait and watch,’ said the king. ‘When she goes out again, well follow her.’
Hans was in love with the princess. He thought about her all day and all night. After three days, he couldn’t wait. He hit the glass box – one, two – and the dog with eyes as large as oranges appeared.
‘Please bring the princess to my garden,’ he said.
The dog went to the princess. But Anna was there, too. The dog carried the princess away on its back and Anna followed. The dog stopped at the door of a big house and went in. Anna wrote the letter ‘X’ on the door and went home.
Hans and the princess walked in the garden. Hans told the story of the old woman and the tree and the three dogs and the glass box. He told the princess about his poor mother and about his three brothers and three sisters. The princess loved his stories. She talked about her parents.
‘My father was a great man and a good king,’ she said. ‘But when my mother died, he changed. Suddenly he was old and tired and sad. He shut me in that house. Now he gets angry about little things. He doesn’t want to be king. He wants white flowers in his garden. My mother loved white flowers. But now his flowers always die.’
The red of the morning sun started to light up the sky. The princess said goodnight to Hans. He hit the box – one, two – and the second dog appeared. With its eyes as big as oranges, this dog could see everything. It saw the ‘X’ on the door and it told Hans.
‘Ho ho!’ laughed Hans. ‘Come with me quickly and we will write “X”s on every door in this street, and the next ten streets!’
The next day, Anna told the king the story of the night. The king took Anna and some men to Hans’s street.
‘Here is the house,’ cried Anna.
‘No, here it is,’ cried the king.
One of the men ran to them. ‘The house is in the next street,’ he said. ‘There is an “X” on the door.’ Every house had an ‘X’ on its door. The king was very angry and went home.
Later that day, Anna thought of another plan. She went into her room and shut the door. She made a small bag and she put little white stones in the bag. She made a small cut in the bottom of the bag and then put it in the princess’s clothes. ‘Now,’ she said, ‘when the princess goes out, the little stones will fall onto the road. We can follow the stones to the house.’
That night Hans called the princess again with the glass box. They walked in the garden. The dog with eyes as large as plates waited at the front of the house.
‘I would like to be a prince,’ said Hans.
‘I would like not to be a princess,’ said the princess.
‘Why?’ asked Hans. She didn’t answer. ‘I want to be a prince,’ he said, ‘because I want to marry you.’ They sat down under a tree. Hans put the glass box on the ground next to him.
‘Don’t be a prince,’ she said. ‘I can’t love a prince. I will be a poor girl and you will be Hans.’
At that minute the dog saw the king and Anna with a hundred servants. They came out of the king’s house and looked at the little white stones. The white stones shone in the dark and they followed them. The dog ran to the princess.
‘The king! The king is coming!’ it cried. ‘Come quickly!’ The dog ran away through the streets with the princess on its back.
The king, Anna and the servants arrived at Hans’s house. ‘Is the princess here?’ cried the king. Hans didn’t answer. Suddenly the king saw his daughter’s little shoe on the ground next to some beautiful white flowers. He couldn’t speak for a minute. Then he said angrily to Hans, ‘My wood-cutter will cut off your head at twelve o’clock tomorrow.’ The servants took Hans to the king’s house and shut him in a room.
Hans looked for his glass box. Where was it? Lost! He could not call the dogs. Then he remembered. It was under the tree.
When the sun came up, Hans went to the window and looked out. He was very high up. He saw a little boy below him and called to him.
‘Hey! Little boy!’
‘What do you want?’ cried the boy.
‘Would you like three pence?’
‘Yes, please,’ said the boy.
‘Then run to my house. Say to my servant, “Hans has a little glass box. It is in the garden under a tree. He wants me to bring it to the king’s house.” When you bring me the box, I will give you three pence.’
The boy disappeared. A little time later he came back with the box.
‘Throw it up to me,’ called Hans. The boy threw up the box and Hans caught it. Then he threw down the money.
At that minute, the door opened and the king’s men came in. They took Hans to a big square in the centre of the town. Everybody from the town was there. They wanted to watch. The king stood in the middle of the square with the important people of the town round him. In front of Hans stood a big strong wood-cutter. He wore a long red coat and a tall black hat.
‘Are you ready?’ said the king to the wood-cutter.
‘Are you ready?’ said the wood-cutter to Hans.
‘No!’ cried Hans, and he took out the glass box.
‘Are you ready?’ said the wood-cutter to Hans.
‘No!’ cried Hans, and he hit the box once. He hit the box again – one, two – and then again – one, two, three. The three dogs stood in front of him.
‘Take the wood-cutter away,’ he said to the dog with eyes as large as eggs. ‘Throw him in the river.’ The dog ran away with the wood-cutter on his back.
‘Take the king’s men away,’ Hans said to the dog with eyes as large as plates. The dog got bigger and bigger. Everybody watched with open mouths. Now the dog was as big as a house. The king’s men were very afraid and ran away.
‘Bring the princess here,’ Hans said to the dog with eyes as big as oranges. Where is the king?’ he cried.
In a short time the princess and the king stood in front of Hans with the dogs behind them.
‘Do you want to be king?’ Hans asked the old king.
‘No,’ said the king. ‘I only want to have white flowers in my garden, and a happy daughter.’
‘When the princess and I marry, white flowers will live in your garden again and the princess will be happy.’
And so Hans married the princess. The new king and queen lived happily for many years. They had six children and a very big garden. The old king lived his last years near them. His garden was a sea of white flowers all year.