The Golden Mountain, by Meyer Levin, , at sacred-texts.com
There was a King who had six sons and but one daughter he loved his daughter more than any of his other children, and passed many hours in her company; but one day while they were together the princess displeased the King, and he cried out, "May the devil take you!"
There seemed nothing amiss that night when the princess went to bed. But in the morning she could not be found.
Then the King tore his hair for grief and guilt. "It is because of what I cried out," he said, "that she is gone."
Then the Second to the Throne, seeing the King in despair, arose and cried, "Give me a servant, and a steed, and gold, and I will go out and seek the princess."
For a long time he rode through waste land and desert in search of the missing maiden. Once as he passed in a desert he saw a road at the edge of the sand, and he thought, "I have ridden so long in the desert without meeting anyone. Perhaps the road will lead me to the city."
The road led him to a great castle guarded by hosts of warriors. The prince was afraid they would not allow him to enter the castle, but nevertheless he dismounted from his steed, and went up to them; and they allowed him to pass through the gate. Then he came in upon a magnificent courtyard, and saw a marble palace before him. He went into the palace, and walked through halls that were studded with
alabaster pillars. Guards stood in all the passageways, but no one questioned him, and he went from room to room until he came to the chamber of the throne, and there a king was seated. Tables laden with delicate foods were along the walls of the room; the prince ate of the delicacies; then he lay down in a corner of the chamber where he might not easily be seen, and he watched to see what would happen.
Musicians played upon their instruments, and sang before the king; soon the king held out his hand and commanded that the queen be brought. Then the music became more joyous, and people danced in the court, and made merry, and drank, for the queen would soon appear.
When the queen came into the chamber she was given a smaller seat next to the throne; the wanderer looked upon her and saw that she was indeed the princess he sought. And as she looked out over the room she saw the man withdrawn into an obscure corner, and she recognized him. She got down from her throne and went to him and said, "Do you not know me?"
"You are the princess!" he said. "But how have you come to this place?"
"The King let fall an angry word," she said. "He cried, 'May the evil one take you!' and this is the palace of evil."
"The King is grief-stricken because of what he has done, and I have sought for you these many years," the wanderer told her. "How may I take you away?"
"You cannot take me from this place," she said, "except that you first go and select a place for yourself, and there you must remain for an entire year,
thinking only of my deliverance, longing and hoping to rescue me, and on the last day of the year you must not eat a particle of food, but must fast, and on the last night of the year you must not sleep; then you may come to me."
He did as she told him to do. He went into the desert and remained there an entire year, and at the end of the year he did not sleep, and did not eat, but returned toward the palace of the evil one. On the way, he passed a beautiful tree heavily laden with ripe fruit, and a terrible desire came over him to taste of the apples, so he went and ate. At once he fell into a deep sleep, and he slept for a very long time. When he awoke he saw his servant standing beside him, and he cried out, "Where am I?"
"You have slept many years," the servant said; "I have waited by you, while I lived on the fruit."
Then the wanderer went to the palace and came to the princess; and she cried, "See what you have done! Because of a single day, you have lost eternity! For if you had come on that day, you might have rescued me. I know that it is difficult to refrain from eating, and it is especially difficult on the last day, for the evil spirit was strong in you on that last day. But you must go again and choose a place and remain there another year, praying, and longing, and hoping to deliver me; on the last day of that year you may eat, but you must drink no wine, for wine will cause you to sleep, and the most important thing of all is not to sleep."
He went back to the wilderness, and did as she had told him to do, but on the last day, as he was returning toward the palace, he saw a flowing spring. He said to his servant, "Look, the fountain of water is
red, and it has an odour as of wine!" Then he knelt and tasted of the spring, and at once fell to the ground and slept. He slept for many years.
And in that time a great army of warriors passed on the road, among them were mounted riders, and carriages, and at last there came a great carriage drawn by fourteen steeds. The princess was in that carriage; but when she saw the wanderer's servant on the road, she ordered the carriage to be halted, and she went down and saw the wanderer sleeping, and she sat by him and wept. "Poor man," she said; "so many years you have sought me, and wandered so far, and endured so much pain, and yet because of a single day you have lost me, and see how you must suffer, and how I suffer because of that day!" Then she took her veil from her face; she wrote upon the veil with her tears, and left it beside him; and she got into her carriage and rode away.
After he had slept seventy years, the man awoke and asked his servant, "Where am I?" The servant told him what had happened, of the army that had passed, and how the princess had wept over him. Just then the wanderer saw the veil lying beside him, and he cried, "Where does this come from?"
"The princess left it for you," the servant said. "She wrote upon it with her tears."
He who was Second to the Throne held the veil up to the sun, and saw the marks of her weeping, and read of her grief at finding him so, and read that she was gone from the first palace of the evil one, but that he must now seek her in a palace of pearls that stood on a golden mountain. "Only there, you may find me," the princess had written.
Then the wanderer left his servant and went alone in search of the princess.
For many years he wandered among mankind, asking and seeking for the palace of pearls upon the mountain of gold, until he knew that it was to be found upon no chart, and in no land inhabited by men, and in no desert, for he had been everywhere. But still he searched in the wilderness, and in the wilderness he came upon a giant who carried a tree that was greater than any tree that grew in the world of men. The giant looked upon the wanderer and said, "Who are you?"
He answered, "I am a man."
"I have been so long in the wilderness," said the giant, "that it is many years since I have seen a man." And he looked at the man.
The man said, "I seek a palace built of pearls upon a golden mountain."
The giant laughed, and said, "There is no such place on earth!"
But the man cried, "There is! There must be!" and he would not give up his seeking.
Then the giant said, "Since you are so obstinate, I'll prove to you that there is no such place on earth. I am the lord over all the animal kingdom, and every beast that runs over the earth, from the greatest to the tiniest, answers to my call. Surely if there were such a place as you seek, one of my creatures would have seen it." So he bent and blew on the ground, making a sound that was narrow as the call of wind in the grass, and wide as the rustling of leaves; his call spread like spreading water, and at once the beasts of the earth came running, leaping toward him: the
timid gazelle and the wild tiger and every creature from the beetle to the great elephant, all came, and he asked of them: "Have you seen a palace of pearls built on a golden mountain?"
The creatures all answered him, "No."
Then the giant said to the man, "You see, my friend, there is no such place at all. Spare yourself, and return home."
But the man cried, "There is, there must be such a place! And I must find it!"
The giant pitied him, and told him, "I have a brother who is lord over all the creatures of the air; perhaps one of them has seen this place, for birds fly high."
Then the man went further into the wilderness, until he found another giant who carried a great tree in his hand. "Your brother has sent me to you," he said. And he told the giant of his quest. The giant whistled into the air, and his cry was like the sound of all the winds that murmur and shriek high over the earth; at once every winged creature, insect and eagle, answered his call. But none had seen a palace of pearls upon a golden mountain.
"You see," said the giant, "there is no such place at all. You had better return home, and rest yourself."
But the man cried, "There is, there must be such a place, and I will not rest until I find it!"
At last the second giant said, "I have a brother who is lord over all the winds. Go to him, perhaps he can help you."
After many years the wanderer came to the third giant, who carried a still greater tree in his hand; and the wanderer told the giant what he sought.
Then the giant opened wide his mouth, and the call he hurled over the world was like the tumult of colliding heavens. In that instant, all the winds over the earth came rushing to him, and he asked them, "Have you seen a palace of pearls upon a mountain of gold?" But none of them had seen such a thing.
"Someone is jesting with you, and has sent you on a fool's quest," the giant said to the man. "Better go home, and rest yourself."
But the man cried, "There is, there must be such a place!" Just then another wind came hastening to the giant, and lay breathless and weary at his feet.
"You have come late!" the giant cried angrily, and he lifted the great tree to lash the wind. "Why did you come tardily to my call?"
"Master," the wind said, "I came as soon as I could, but I could not come sooner, for I had to carry a princess to a mountain of gold on which there stands a palace built of pearls."
The man heard, and was overjoyed. "Can you take me there?" he begged. The wind answered, "I can."
Then the master of the winds said to the man, "You will have need of gold, where you are going, for in that city all things are of high worth." And he took a wonderful purse, and gave it to the wanderer. "Whenever you put your hand into this bag," the giant said, "you will find it filled with gold, no matter how much gold you draw out of it."
Then the wind took up the wanderer and set him down upon the golden mountain.
The wanderer saw the palace of pearls that stood within a wonderful city, and the city was surrounded by many walls guarded by warriors. But he put his
hand into his marvellous purse, and gave them gold, and they let him pass, and when he came into the city he found that it was a pleasant and beautiful place. Then he lived there for a long while, and there the princess lived, but in the end, with wisdom and righteousness, he took her home to the King.