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Old Rinkrank

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A retelling by J. Kearns

A man builds a glass mountain, then when he has completed it, his daughter falls into it and disappears.

here was once a man who made a mountain of glass. Don't ask me how he got the determination to do it, I don't know. But when his daughter was newborn he began work on his mountain all of glass, sand fired and melted drop upon drop, inch by inch, foot by foot, all the while his daughter was growing working upon the mountain which first was a mound of glass, then a hill of glass, and still he continued, until finally, when his daughter had become a young woman, the man was standing atop a mountain of glass. His daughter having finished growing, the man decided his mountain was tall enough. Carefully, he made his way back down to the bottom, and as he went he removed the ladders and scaffolds which he had used for going up and down all the years he had been working.
The mountain was tall as the tallest pyramid of Egypt. In the light of the sun it blazed white fire. As the sun set, it glowed fiery volanic red. And because it was made all of glass, when the mountain wasn't burning one's eyes with the brillance of the sun, it would disappear into the surrounding landscape, reflecting the countryside and the various moods of the sky. People came from miles around to see the glass mountain, and when they asked why he had done this thing, the man said that he had made it for his daughter. Whomever could climb up the mountain, cross over and descend it without falling, could have her for his wife, he said, but unless one was able to accomplish this feat, they were unworthy for a woman of his only daughter.


The glass maker's daughter came to be known as Glass Mountain Woman.
A number of men, who had no love for the daughter at all, attempted to climb the mountain because each one simply wanted to be the first to accomplish this seemingly impossible deed. Not a single one succeeded.
There was one, however, who loved the daughter and asked her father if he might have her for his wife.
"Yes, you can have her for your wife," the father said, "that is, you can have her for your wife if you can cross the glass mountain without falling. Then you can marry her."
The daughter, who loved the man, said, "I will go with him and hold him if he looks like he may fall."
So, the daughter and her beloved set out to climb the glass mountain together, but when they were half way up the mountain the daughter slipped and fell, and the glass mountain opened and shut her up inside it.
This happened so fast, the mountain opening and closing back up again, that the daughter's lover hadn't seen to where the woman had fallen inside the mountain. Over its smooth surface, he ran his hands looking everywhere for a crack, but found none. Everywhere he searched, he saw only the sky and his own face looking back at him. Miserable with grief, the woman's father searched as well. Also unable to find so much as a crack, he broke the glass mountain open where it seemed his daughter had been lost, but his efforts were no use. The woman was nowhere to be found.
Now, the reason the woman's lover and father were unable too find her in the glass mountain is because she wasn't in the mountain, she was deep in the earth beneath. When the glass mountain had opened and swallowed her, a chasm in the earth had opened as well, so she fell through the mountain and down into the earth, landing in a great cave.
Standing, Glass Mountain woman looked around and saw there in the cavern beneath the earth a man with a long gray beard. "Who are you?" she asked. "And what am I doing here?"
"Glass Mountain Woman," said Gray Beard, "if you will be my servant, you must do everything I tell you to do. If you will not be my servant and do everything I tell you to do, I will kill you."
As Glass Mountain Woman could see no way out of the deep chasm, she agreed.


The next morning, Glass Mountain Woman watched as Gray Beard took out of his pocket a ladder. With it, he climbed up the chasm. From his house deep in the earth, she watched as he then climbed to the top of the glass mountain, by means of the ladder, and when he was at the top, he drew the ladder up after him and put it back in his pocket. Glass Mountain woman kept his house, did all his work, and at the end of the day had Gray Beard's dinner waiting. Again, she watched as he, returning, took from his pocket the ladder, let it down so the foot of the ladder rested against the cavern's floor, and climbed back down. When at the bottom, he put the ladder back into his pocket.
He brought back with him a heap of gold and silver.
The next morning, again, Gray Beard removed from his pocket the ladder and climbed to its top, leaving Glass Mountain Woman alone at the bottom of the cavern as he drew the ladder up after him and replaced it in his pocket. Again, Glass Mountain Woman kept his house, did his work and had dinner prepared for Gray Beard when he returned in the evening with more treasure. And so it went, day after day, the routine never altering.
Gray Beard must have been already quite old when Glass Mountain Woman fell into the cavern or his beard would not have been as long and gray as it was. As the years passed, Mountain Glass Woman living with Gray Beard, he became older still, his beard growing and growing, a measure of the years.
But Mother Mansrot's hair never grew.
When he had become quite old and his beard was very, very long, Gray Beard began to call the Glass Mountain Woman, Mother Mansrot, and she called him Old Rinkrank.
One day, Old Rinkrank having gone out, Mother Mansrot made his bed and washed his dishes. Then she shut the doors of his cavern house which she had kept for him all this time, and shut fast too all the windows, except for a small high one through which the little light in the cavern shone in. When Old Rinkrank returned that evening, having pocketed his ladder, he went to his door and finding it locked, he knocked on it.
"Mother Mansrot," Old Rinkrank called, "open the door for me!"
"No, I won't open the door," Mother Mansrot called back.
To which Old Rinkrank said,

"Here stand I, poor Rinkrank,
On my seventeen long shanks,
On my weary, worn-out foot,
Wash my dishes, Mother Mansrot."


I have already washed your dishes," Mother Mansrot replied.
Again Old Rinkrank said,

"Here stand I, poor Rinkrank,
On my seventeen long shanks,
On my weary, worn-out foot,
Make me my bed, Mother Mansrot."

"I have already made your bed," Mother Mansrot replied.
Again Old Rinkrank said,

"Here stand I, poor Rinkrank,
On my seventeen long shanks,
On my weary, worn-out foot,
Open the door, Mother Mansrot."

Then Old Rinkrank ran all around the house. Seeing the little window that had been left open, he thought, "Ah, through that window I can look in and see what she can be about, and why she won't open the door for me." But when he climbed up to it and tried to peep in, he was unable to get his head through on account of his long gray beard. Determined now to get in through that one open window, Old Rinkrank gathered the full length of his beard together and pushed it through, his head following, but Mother Mansrot took a cord which she had tied to the window, and pulling the window down she shut it fast, catching Old Rinkrank by his beard in the window sash.
"Mother Mansrot, I am caught in the window! Let me loose!" Old Rinkrank pleaded, sobbing, for it hurt him very much, being caught in the window sash like that by his gray beard.
"Not until you give me your ladder," Mother Mansrot replied.
As he had no other choice if he did not want to remain stuck in the window, Old Rinkrank gave the woman the ladder he had daily used to ascend the mountain. Instead of releasing him however, the woman tied to the window a long ribbon made of her own hair that she had been making all the days of her servitude, and following exactly as she had observed Old Rinkrank do every day, she set up the ladder and climbed to the top of it. Then, at the top, she pulled the long hair ribbon and opened the window, releasing him.


In that way did the woman escape. Returning to her father and lover, she had them dig up the Glass Mountain where underneath was found Old Rinkrank who they killed there beside his accumulation of treasure heaped high, and took it for themselves.

Retold by j. m. Kearns after "Old Rinkrank" in Tales Collected by the Brothers Grimm.

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