Once upon a time, when men as they are today were but in the seeds of
the future, when the Lord still walked with his holy feet upon the
stones of the wilderness - once upon a time lived an emperor pensive
and dark as midnight, married to a woman young and radiant as the light of day.
For fifty years the emperor had been at war with his neighbor. The
neighbor had died and had bequeathed to his sons and grandsons the
hatred and bloodshed. After fifty years the emperor still felt alone,
an old lion weakened by battles and suffering, who had never
laughed and would never smile, not at the innocent songs of children,
nor at the loving glance of his young wife, nor at the stories and
jokes of his soldiers, aged by troubles and war. He felt weak,
he felt death near, and had no one to pass his hatred on to. Sadly he awakened near his young wife in his royal bed, a bed
made of gold, but empty and unblessed. Sadly he went to
war with an untamed heart, while his wife lamented her solitude with
widow tears. Her golden hair fell on white, round breasts, and
tears flowed out of her large blue eyes like watery
jewels, onto a face whiter than lilies
and silver, blue veins faintly showing
as on a living marble.
She stood up from her bed and knelt on stone steps in front of a
vault. Inside, above a candle which released a thin smoke, kept watch
the silver-clad icon of the Mother of Grief. Softened by the prayers
of the kneeling woman, the cold icon's eyebrows moistened, and a
tear fell from the black eye of the mother of God. The empress stood, touched the cold tear with her dry lips and sucked it deep
inside her soul.
Then she became pregnant.
A month passed, then two, then nine; and she gave birth to a son with skin white as milk, and hair golden as moonlight.
The emperor smiled, the sun also smiled in his kingdom of fire, and then
stood still, so for three days there was no night, but only clear skies
and revelry. Wine flowed from broken casks and shouts of joy pierced
And his mother called him Prince of Tears.
And he grew tall as the pines of the forest. In a month he grew like others in a year.
When he had grown old enough, he asked for an iron mace, threw it up so
it pierced the sky, then as it fell caught it on his finger, and the
mace broke into pieces. Then he asked for a heavier one, and threw it
all the way near the moon's palace of clouds; and as it fell from the
clouds, it did not break on his finger.
Then the prince bid goodbye to his parents, and he went alone to fight
the armies of the emperor who was his father's enemy. He wore
shepherd's clothing, a white shirt woven in his mother's tears, a hat
with flowers and beads from the necklaces of daughters of kings,
and a green girdle with two flutes, one for dances and one for songs of yearning.
When the sun was two spears up in the sky, he left into the wide world.
On his way he sang songs happy and sad, and he threw his mace into the
clouds, so that it fell far, one day's journey away. Mountains and
valleys marveled at his songs, springs stirred their depths and
lifted their waters higher, so each wave could hear him, so each could
sing like him when they would whisper to valleys and flowers. Rivers,
roaring below the waists of melancholy boulders, learnt from the prince
songs of love, while eagles, sitting motionless on the dry, gray
summits, learnt the voice of lament and longing.
All stood still as the royal shepherd passed, singing. Girls' black
eyes were filled with tears of desire; and in the chests of young
shepherds - one elbow on a rock, one hand on their club - a deeper,
darker, greater yearning was seeded, for courage and adventure.
All stood still, only he moved on, chasing his own heart's
yearning with his song, and with his eyes his mace, glimmering through
air and clouds like a steel eagle, like a lucky star.
The evening of the third day, as the mace fell, it hit a brass door
with a long, deep sound. The door was shattered and the prince went
through. The moon had risen between the mountains and reflected into a
large lake, clear as the sky. Golden sand was shining at the bottom;
and in its midst, on an emerald island, surrounded by a green canopy of
trees, was a beautiful palace made of milky marble, smooth and white -
so smooth, that the palace walls mirrored their surroundings, forest
and meadows, water and shores. By the gate, a golden boat floated on
the clear waters; and beautiful, serene songs trembled in the evening air. The Prince of Tears climbed into the boat and rowed to
the marble stairs of the palace entrance. As he walked up he saw
chandeliers with a hundred arms, and in each arm burnt a star of fire.
He entered a hall. The ceiling was high, held by columns and arches of
gold, and in the midst of the hall was a large table, covered in white,
all plates carved out of a single large jewel; and the nobles sitting at the table in shining costumes, on chairs of red silk, were
handsome and merry like the days of youth. Especially one of them,
with a crown of gold and diamonds on his forehead, shone like
the moon on a midsummer night. But the Prince of Tears was even more handsome.
'Welcome, Prince!' said the emperor. 'I've heard about you, but never seen you before.'
'Good meeting you, emperor, though I fear I will not leave with good, for enough you have plotted against my father.'
'I never plotted against your father, I always faced him in fair battle. But with you I will not fight. Rather, tell the singers to sing
and the servants to fill our cups with wine, and we will swear to be
brothers to each other for as long as we live.'
And the princes kissed each other while the nobles cheered, and they drank, and they took counsel.
The emperor asked the Prince of Tears:
'Whom do you fear most in this world?'
'I fear no one but God. And you?'
'I fear no one but God and the Forest Witch. She is an old ugly hag,
who brings death and destruction to my kingdom. Wherever she passes by,
the earth dries up, villages are scattered, cities fall into ruins. I
have tried to battle her but failed. To save my kingdom, I had to promise her a tenth of my subjects' children. And today she
is coming to take her tribute.'
When the clock rang midnight, the faces of the revelrers darkened; for
there was the mad Forest Witch, riding the midnight, with wings of
tempest, face wrinkled like a drunken rock, with a forest in place of
hair, howling through the drab air. Her eyes were two stormy nights,
her mouth a bottomless chasm, her teeth rows of grinding rocks.
As she came howling, the Prince of Tears grabbed her by the waist and
hurled her into a large stone tub; on top of it he cast a rock, and he
tied it with seven iron chains. The witch blasted and struggled inside
like captive wind, but to no avail.
He returned to the feast. Then, through the window arches, under the
moonlight, they saw two mountains of water. It was the Forest Witch,
who, unable to get out, was flying away, dragging the stone after her
through the water. And she kept running, a crag from hell, making her
way through the forest, digging deep furrows on the face of the earth,
until she vanished into the night.
The prince feasted a while, but then he took his mace and followed the
trail of the witch. He reached a beautiful white house, which reflected
moonlight in the midst of a garden. Flowers in green
lanes shone blue and crimson and white, and butterflies
roamed between them, like twinkling golden stars. Fragrance, light,
and an endless drone, sweet and slow, rose out of the flight of bees
and butterflies, filling the garden and the house. In front there were two barrels of water, and on the porch a beautiful
girl was weaving. Her long, white dress seemed a cloud of rays and
shadows, golden braids were falling on her back, and a diamond wreath
adorned her smooth forehead. Under the moon rays, she seemed immersed
in aureate air. White wax fingers were weaving thin, bright, silvery wool on a golden loom, like living moonlight gliding through the
The girl heard the light steps of the Prince of Tears and lifted her wave-blue eyes.
'Welcome, Prince' she said with clear half-closed eyes, 'it's been
a long time I have been dreaming of you... While my fingers were
weaving a thread, my thoughts were weaving a dream, a beautiful dream,
where we were making love; Prince, I was weaving out of silver thread
an enchanted garment for you, made of happiness; take it... to make
love to me. Out of my thread I would make you a garment, out of my
days, a life of bliss.'
Ashamed of what she had spoken, she let the loom fall on the ground.
She stood up and lowered her eyes, like a remorseful child. He went
near her, held her waist with one hand, gently stroked her hair and
forehead with the other, and whispered:
'So beautiful you are, so much I love you! Who are you?'
'I am the daughter of the Forest Witch', she answered with a sigh. 'Will you
love me now, when you know who I am?' She embraced him with bare arms and looked deeply into his eyes.
'I don't care who you are', he said, 'I love you.'
'If you love me, then let us run away', she said, drawing closer to
him, 'for if my mother finds you, she will kill you, and if you die, I
will also die or go mad.'
'Don't be afraid', he said smiling and freeing himself from her embrace. 'Where is your mother?'
'Since she came, she is struggling inside the rock where you locked
her, and gnaws with her fangs at the chains that imprison her.'
'No matter!' he said, rushing to find her.
'Prince', said the girl, two large tears shining in her eyes, 'don't go
yet! Let me teach you how to defeat mother. See these two barrels? One
is filled with water, the other with strength.
Let's switch their places. When mother gets tired while fighting an
enemy, she shouts: 'Let us pause, and drink some water!' Then she
drinks strength, while her opponent only drinks water. Therefore let us
move the barrels; then she will not know and will drink water when
So they did.
Then he went around the house and spoke to the witch.
'How are you, hag?'
In her anger, the witch suddenly broke the chains and stretched herself tall and thin, all the way to the clouds.
'Ah, welcome, Prince of Tears', she said, making herself short again, 'now let us fight, see which one of us is stronger!'
'Let's fight', he answered.
Then the witch grabbed him by the waist, stretched herself and lifted
him to the clouds, then knocked him into the ground, and he sank
ankle-deep into earth.
Then the prince knocked her, and she sank knee-deep.
The witch was tired. 'Let us pause, and drink some water!', she said.
They paused and breathed deeply. The witch drank water, the Prince of
Tears drank strength, and a living fire haunted and cooled his tired
muscles and veins.
With iron hands and doubled strength he grabbed the witch by the waist
and sank her into earth up to her neck. Then he hit her in the head
with the mace and shattered her brains. The sky clouded, the wind
started to moan coldly, shaking the walls and the roof of the house.
Red snakes blasted and tore the black clouds, waters barked, the
thunder sang deeply like a prophet of doom. Through the dense,
impenetrable darkness, the prince saw a wandering, pale shadow, with
golden hair and raised arms. He took her in his arms. Frightened she
fell on to him, and hid her cold hands into his lap. He kissed her eyes
to awaken them. On the sky, clouds were breaking into shards, and the
fiery red moon appeared between them. And on his breast, the Prince of
Tears saw two rising stars, blue, clear, dazed, the eyes of his bride.
He took her in his arms and ran with her through the storm. She seemed
to have fallen asleep. When he reached the emperor's garden, he lay her
gently into the boat, rowed across the lake, then made a bed of grass
and fragrant hay and flowers and lay her there as in a nest.
The sun rose from the east and glanced lovingly at them. Her clothes,
moist from the rain, revealed her sweet, round body. Her face was pale,
her small hands rested on her chest, her hair stretched on the hay, her
large eyes were closed and sunk into her forehead, so she seemed
beautiful but dead. On that smooth, white forehead, the Prince of Tears
dropped a few blue flowers, than sat next to her and sang slowly. The
clear sky - a sea, the sun - a burning face, the fresh grass, the moist
fragrance of flowers kept her sleeping long and smoothly, guided on
dream paths by the sad voice of the flute. At noon, nature was quiet
and the prince was listening to her warm, happy breathing. Slowly he
bent over her and kissed her cheek. Then she opened her eyes, still
filled with dreams, stretched sleepily, then smiled and spoke softly:
'You are here?'
'No, I'm not here, can't you see I'm not here', he said, crying with joy.
As he sat near her, she raised her arm and embraced him.
'Come, rise, it's already noon', he said, gently stroking her.
She rose, combed her hair, then holding each other they passed through the flower beds and entered the emperor's marble palace.
He took her to the emperor and told him she was his bride. The emperor
smiled, then took his hand as if he wanted to tell him something, and
drew him to a large window, facing the wide lake. He said nothing, he
only stared at the shining waters and his eyes filled with tears. A
swan had lifted her wings like silver sails and with her head immersed
ripped the lake's clear surface.
'You cry, emperor?' said the Prince of Tears. 'Why?'
'Prince, you have done me good that I could not repay, not even with the
light of my eyes, no matter how much I cherish it. And yet, I would ask
you for more.'
'What for, emperor?'
'Do you see that swan whom the waves hold dear? Being young, life
should hold me dear, and yet, so many times have I tried to take mine
own life... I love a beautiful girl with pensive eyes, sweet like
the dreams of the ocean - daughter of the Genar, a proud and savage man
who spends his life hunting through ancient forests. He is as rough as
his daughter is beautiful. All my attempts to steal her were in vain.
You try it!'
The prince would have liked to stay, but he had sworn brotherhood, and
like noble spirits, he cherished this more than his life, more than his
'Bright Emperor, of all the luck you've had, this was the greatest,
that the Prince of Tears is your sworn brother. So be it then, I will
go steal the daughter of the Genar.'
And he took fast horses with souls of wind. Before he left, his bride -
her name was Ellen - kissed him softly and whispered in his ear:
'Prince, do not forget, that while you are away, I shall not stop crying.'
He looked at her with regret, kissed her, but then he pulled away from
her embrace, jumped on the saddle and left for the wide world.
He passed through wild forests, through mountains with snowy foreheads,
and when the pale moon would rise between ancient rocks, like the face
of a dead girl, once in a while he would see a huge rag hanging from the
sky, surrounding some mountain top - a cracked night, a ruined past,
an abandoned castle of stones and broken walls.
When dawn came, the Prince of Tears saw the mountains descend into a
wide, green sea, alive in thousands of clear, bright waves, which were
reaping its surface slowly and harmoniously, all the way to where the
eye lost itself in sky blue and sea green. At the end of the mountain
range, a tall granite rock reflected into the sea, and a magnificent
castle rose from its midst, like a white eagle's nest, wrapped in
silver. Out of its arched walls rose shining windows, and through an
open window he could see, between flowers, the head of a girl, dark and
dreamy like a summer night. She was the daughter of the Genar.
'Welcome, prince', she said, running to open the gates of the great
castle, where she lived alone like a genie in the middle of the desert.
'Last night I thought I spoke with a star, and the star told me you
come from the emperor who loves me.'
In the main hall of the castle, in the ashes in the hearth, a
seven-headed cat kept watch. When he howled from one head he would be
heard one day's path away, when he howled from all seven heads he would
be heard seven days' path away.
The Genar, lost in his savage hunting, was one day away.
The Prince of Tears took the girl in his arms, jumped on his horse, and
they started flying together through the seashore wilderness, like two
almost unseen visions of the air.
But the Genar, a tall and strong man, had a magic horse with two hearts.
The cat in the castle howled from one head, and the horse neighed with
his brass voice.
'What is it?' asked the Genar. 'Have I been too good to you?'
'You haven't been too good to me, but it's bad for you. The Prince of Tears is stealing your daughter.'
'Do we need to hurry to catch them?'
'Hurry or not, we will catch them anyway.'
The Genar jumped in the saddle and chased the fugitives like
ancient terror. He soon reached them. The Prince of Tears could not
fight him, for the Genar was Christian and his power came not from the
spirits of darkness, but from God.
'Prince', said the Genar, 'you are young and handsome and I will take
pity on you. I shall spare you this time... but next time, beware!'
Then he took his daughter and vanished in the wind, as if he had never been there.
But the prince was brave and knew the way back. He returned and once
more found the girl alone. Her face was pale for she had been crying,
but this time she looked even more beautiful. The Genar was hunting two
days away. The prince took horses from the Genar's stables.
This time, they left at night. They ran like moon rays above the deep
waves of the ocean, they ran through the cold bare night like two
dreams of love. While they ran they heard the long moans of the cat in
the castle hearth. Then it seemed they could not move further, as if in
a dream they wanted to run but they couldn't. Then they were wrapped in
a cloud of dust, because the Genar was approaching in a mad gallop.
His look was stern, his face terrifying. Without a word, he grabbed
the prince and tossed him into the dark storm clouds. Then he vanished
with his daughter.
Burnt by lightning, all that remained from the prince was a hand of
black ashes which fell in the hot dry sand of the desert. The ashes
turned into a clear stream, flowing on a bed of diamonds, near tall,
green trees with cool fragrant shadows. If someone could comprehend the
voice of the stream, they would know it sang a long lament about Ellen,
the fair bride of the Prince of Tears. But who would listen to the
stream in the middle of the desert, where no human had stepped before?
But in those times the Lord still walked the earth. One day, two men
could be seen traveling through the desert. The face and garments of
one of them shone like sun's bright rays; the other, humbler, seemed the shadow of the shining one. They were the Lord and Saint Peter.
Their feet, burnt by the hot sands of the desert, stepped in the cool,
clear stream. They reached the source, and the Lord drank the water and
washed his shining holy face and his hands, makers of miracles. Then
they both rested in the shade, the Lord thinking of his heavenly
father, Saint Peter listening to the song of the stream. When they were
ready to leave, he said: 'Lord, let this stream be what it used to be.'
'Amen', answered the Lord, lifting his holy hand. Then they left
towards the sea, without looking back.
Magically the stream and the trees vanished and the Prince of Tears,
awakened as after a long sleep, looked around him. He saw the bright
face of the Lord, walking on the waves of the ocean, which bowed before
him; and he saw Saint Peter walking behind him, yielding to a human
feeling and looking back and moving his head in a sign for the prince.
His eyes followed them until Peter's face vanished on the
horizon, and he only saw the shining face of the Lord, which cast a stream
of light on the water, so that it seemed the sun was setting, even
though it was only noon. The prince then understood the miracle of his rebirth and bowed before this holy sunset.
But then he remembered he had promised to steal the daughter of the Genar, and promises he could hardly leave undone.
So he returned on the road and towards dusk he reached again the
castle, which was shining in the twilight like a huge shadow. He
entered. The girl was crying; but when she saw him her sadness
departed. He told her the story of his resurrection. Then she said:
'You cannot steal me until you have a horse with two hearts, like my
father's. I will ask him tonight where he got it, so that you can get
one too. He must not find you here, so I will change you into a
flower.' He sat on a chair, she whispered a soft spell, and when she
kissed his forehead he changed into a flower, dark red like ripe
cherries. She placed him among the flowers by her window, and started
singing happily, and her song filled the old castle.
Then the Genar arrived.
'You are happy, daughter? Why are you happy?'
'Because there is no more Prince of Tears to steal me', she answered laughing.
They sat for dinner.
'Father, where did you get your horse, the one you go hunting with?'
'Why do you want to know this?', he said, and furrowed his brow.
'You know well I only want to know it just like that, to know it, since now there is no more Prince of Tears to steal me.'
'You know I always fulfill your wishes', said the Genar.
'Far away from here, by the sea, lives an old woman with seven mares.
She hires men to guard them for a year (though her year is only three
days long), and if a man guards them well, he may choose a horse for
his wages, and if he doesn't, she kills him and puts his head on a
pole. But even if someone guards them well, she tricks him, because she
takes the hearts out of all horses and puts them all into a single
horse, so the man usually ends up with a horse without a heart, which
is worse than an ordinary one... Are you content, my daughter?'
'Yes, father', she answered smiling.
But the Genar tossed in front of her a red scarf, light and fragrant.
The girl glanced for a long time in the eyes of her father, as awakened
from a dream which she could not remember. She had forgotten all that
her father had told her.
But the flower by the window kept watch between its leaves like a red star between clouds.
The next morning the Genar went hunting again.
The girl kissed the red flower and the prince appeared in front of her.
'So, have you learnt anything?' he asked.
'Nothing...' she said sadly, touching her forehead with her hand, 'I forgot everything.'
'But I heard it all. Fare you well, we will soon meet again.'
He jumped on a horse and vanished into the desert.
Midday heat... Near the edge of the forest, he saw a mosquito struggling to escape from the burning sand.
'Prince of Tears, help me and carry me to the forest, and I will help you too when you need me. I am the king of mosquitoes.'
So the prince carried him to the forest.
Out of the forest, as he walked through the desert by the sea, he saw a
crab trying to get back to the water. The sun had burnt it so badly it
could barely move.
'Prince, help me get back to the sea, and I will help you too when you need me. I am the king of crabs.'
The prince threw him into the sea and continued his journey.
Towards the evening, he reached an ugly hut, covered with dung. It had
no fence, only seven poles with sharp ends, six of them with a head on
top. The seventh had no head, and it kept bending in the wind and
saying: 'Head! Head! Head! Head!'
An old, wrinkled hag sat on the porch. She was stretched on an old
coat, and her head was in the lap of a beautiful young servant, who has
tidying up the old woman's hair and searching it for lice.
'Good evening' said the prince.
'Welcome, young man' said the hag and stood up. 'Why have you come? What do you want? Perhaps you want to guard my mares?'
'My mares go to pasture only at night... Look, you can take them out
right now. Girl! Give the lad some of the food I cooked and get him
Near the hut there was an underground cellar. He entered and saw seven
shining black mares - like seven nights, who had never seen the light of the
sun. They were neighing and stirring their legs.
He had not eaten for the whole day, so he quickly ate the food he was
given and then, riding one of the mares, he drove the others into the
dark, cool night air. But slowly he felt a leaden sleep creeping into
his veins, his eyes closed and he fell motionless on the grass. He
woke up at dawn. The mares were nowhere to be seen. He thought his head
would end on the pole, when he suddenly saw the mares running out of a
distant forest, chased by an endless swarm of mosquitoes, and he heard
a thin voice:
'You've done me good, I've done you good too.'
The old woman was mad when he saw him coming back with the horses, and
started roaming around the house and hitting the girl for no reason.
'What's wrong, mother?' asked the prince.
'Nothing, I was just feeling weird. Nothing against you... I am very
content with your work.' Then she went to the stables and started
beating the mares and shouting at them: 'God's vengeance on you, hide
in a better place next time, so that he won't find you, curse on him,
may death get him!'
The following night he went out with the horses, but again he fell and
slept until down. Desperate, he was about to run away, when he saw the
mares rising out of the bottom of the sea, bit by a multitude of crabs.
He heard the voice of the king of crabs:
'You've done me good, I've done you good too.'
His coming enraged the old hag again.
Before dinner, the servant girl came near him, took his hand and whispered:
'I know you are the Prince of Tears. Don't eat the food that she cooks for you, it is made with sleeper... I will give you food of another kind.'
Secretly she made food for him, and in the evening, when he left with the horses, his head felt clear and awake.
At midnight he returned, drove the mares inside the stables, locked
them and went into the hut. A few coals still glowed between the ashes
in the hearth. The old woman was stretched on the bed, stiff like a
corpse. He shook her but she did not move. He woke the girl, who slept
on the oven.
'Look', he said, 'she's dead.'
'No way! Her, dead?' she sighed. 'The truth is, now she is like dead.
At midnight, a deep sleep seizes her body... but who knows at how many
crossroads her soul is waiting, on how many paths of dark magic she
walks... Until the rooster sings the end of the night, she sucks the
hearts of the dying, or empties the souls of the wretched. Master,
tomorrow your year is over, take me with you and I will help you. I
will save you from many dangers that she has in store for you.'
Out of an old chest she took a comb, a brush and a scarf.
Next morning his year was over. The hag had to give him a horse and let
him depart with God. While they had lunch, she went to the stables,
took the hearts out of all horses and put them into one who looked weak
and gaunt, and whose ribs were showing. The prince finished lunch and
went to choose a horse. The heartless horses were bright black, the one
with the hearts rested on a pile of garbage.
'This one I choose', said the prince, pointing to the weak one.
'But why? You want to have worked for nothing? Take your reward, choose
one of these beautiful horses - I will let you have any one of them.'
'No, I want this one' he said.
The hag gnashed her teeth, and closed her windmill of a mouth, not to let out the poison clutching her heart.
'All right, take it!' she finally said.
He took his mace and jumped on the horse. It seemed the face of the
desert followed him and he flew like a thought, like a tempest, leaving
behind a curtain of sand.
The runaway girl was waiting in a forest. He lifted her on the horse
and they kept running. The cold blackness of the night had flooded the
'My back is burning!' said the girl.
He looked back. From a tall green mist they could see two still ember
eyes, whose red rays of fire were burning the girl's breast.
'Throw the brush' she said.
So he did. Suddenly a black forest rose behind them, dense and dark,
trembling with the rustling of leaves and the howling of hungry wolves.
'Forward!' shouted the prince, and the horse flew like a demon pursued
by a curse through the night mist. The pale moon passed through the
ashen clouds like a bright face in the midst of obscure and barren
dreams. They kept flying, flying without end.
'My back is burning!' said the girl with a moan, as if she had been struggling not to say it.
He looked back and saw a huge owl, gray but for sparkling red eyes, like two bolts of lightning chained within a cloud.
'Throw the comb' said the girl.
So he did. And a huge wall rose, stone gray, straight and still, a motionless giant reaching the clouds.
They ran so fast it felt like they were not running, but falling from the sky into an unseen chasm.
'It's burning' said the girl.
The witch had pierced the wall and passed through in the shape of a rope of smoke, whose forward end burnt like a coal.
'Throw the scarf' said the girl.
So he did. Suddenly they saw behind them a wide, clear, deep lake, a
mirror in where bathed the silver moon and stars of fire.
The prince heard a long spell in the air and looked through the clouds.
Two hours away, lost in the blue, ethereal heights, old Midnight
floated slowly with her wings of brass.
As the crazed witch was swimming in the middle of the lake, the prince
cast his mace into the clouds and hit Midnight's wings. Like lead she
fell to the ground and croaked gloomily twelve times. The moon hid
behind a cloud and the witch, seized by her iron sleep, sank into the
unknown, enchanted depths of the lake. In its midst rose a long, black
grass. It was the doomed soul of the witch.
'We have escaped', said the girl.
'We have escaped', said the horse with seven hearts. He added: 'Master,
you have hit Midnight and it fell onto earth two hours early, and I
feel the sand stirring under my feet. The skeletons buried under the
burning sands of the desert will now awaken and rise to the moon for
their feast. It is dangerous to walk now. The cold poisonous air of
their dead souls could kill you. Better go to sleep, and I will return
to my mother to drink once more the white fire milk of her breasts, to
become once again handsome and bright.'
The prince took his advice. He jumped on the ground and spread his mantle on the still warm sand.
But strange... the girl's eyes had sunken within their sockets, her
bones had come out, her skin turned blue and her hands cold like ice.
'What is it?' he asked her.
'Nothing, nothing' she answered with a faint voice, and she lay on the sand, shivering.
The prince let the horse go, then lay on his mantle and fell asleep.
And yet, he felt like he was awake. His inner eye turned red like fire,
and through it he thought he could see the moon slowly descending
towards the earth, becoming larger, until it seemed a holy city of
silver, hanging from the sky, shining and shivering, with proud, white
palaces, with thousands of rosy windows. And from the moon descended
onto earth a royal road, paved with silver sand and stardust.
And out of the endless desert rose tall skeletons, with heads of dry
bones... wrapped in long white cloaks woven from silver thread,
translucent so you could see through their bones bleached by drought.
On their heads they wore crowns made of rays of light and golden
thorns... and riding on skeletons of horses, they moved slowly, in long
rows, shifting stripes of shimmering shadows, climbing up the road to
the moon, getting lost in its still palaces, whose windows let out the
music of the moon, a music of dreams.
Then it seemed like the girl near him also rose slowly... that her body
scattered in the air, leaving only her bones, that she also took the
bright path of the moon, wrapped in a silver cloak. She was returning
to the diffuse kingdom of shadows which she had left for earth, lured
by the spells of the witch.
Then his eye turned green... then black, and he saw no more.
When he opened his eyes, the sun was high up in the sky. The girl was
missing. But in the barren desert his beautiful horse was neighing,
bright, drunk with the golden light of the sun, which he was now seeing
for the first time.
The prince jumped in the saddle, and in the span of a few happy
thoughts he reached the Genar's rocky castle. This time, the Genar was
hunting seven days away.
He lifted the girl on the horse, in front of him. She held her arms
around his neck and hid her head on his chest. The end of her long
dress brushed the sands of the desert. They moved so fast, it seemed
the desert and the ocean waves were running, and they were standing
still. They could barely hear the seven-headed moan of the cat.
Lost in the woods, the Genar heard his horse neighing.
'What is it?' he asked.
'The Prince of Tears is stealing your daughter.'
'Can we catch them?' the Genar asked, surprised, because he knew he had killed the prince.
'No, we cannot, because he is riding a brother of mine, who has seven hearts, while I only have two,'
The Genar sank his spurs deep into his horse's ribs, and they ran
shaking like a storm. When he saw the prince in the desert, he said to
'Tell your brother to throw his master into the clouds and come to me,
and I will feed him nuts and give him sweet milk to drink.'
The horse neighed to his brother, and his brother told it to the Prince of Tears.
'Tell your brother', said the prince, 'to throw his master into the
clouds, and I will feed him burning coals and give him fire to drink.'
His horse neighed this to his brother, and when he heard, he threw the
Genar into the clouds. The clouds stood still and turned into a
beautiful palace, and through eyelids of clouds, two sky-blue eyes
were seen, sparkling with bolts of lightning. They were the eyes of the
Genar, exiled into the realm of the air.
The prince slowed down and put the girl on her father's horse. The next day, they reached the emperor's majestic palace.
The people had thought the prince was dead, so when the news of his
arrival had spread, there was celebration everywhere, and men waited
for him murmuring, like a wheat field whispering with the wind.
But what had his bride Ellen done all this time?
After he had left, she had locked herself inside a garden with high
iron walls, lay on cold rocks and cried, her diamond tears falling in a
golden bath at her side. In the deserted garden, unkempt and unwatered,
flowers had grown from the barren rocks, from the daytime heat and
nighttime drought, flowers with yellow leaves and pale color like the
eyes of the dead, flowers of pain.
She was blinded by tears, but she thought she could see, reflected in
the bath, the face of her lover. Her eyes dried up after a while. Her
long yellow hair spread on her cold breast like a golden mantle, silent
pain was chiseled into all features of her face. She looked like a
motionless fairy of the waves.
As she heard the clamor of his arrival, her face brightened. She
watered the garden with tears from the bath. Like magic, the yellow
leaves turned emerald green. The sad flowers whitened like bright
pearls, and baptized with tears, they were named teardrops.
The white blind woman walked slowly across the garden picking teardrops, and out of them she made a bed of flowers.
Then the prince came in.
She ran to embrace him, but overcome with joy, she could only look at
him with blind, extinguished eyes. She took his hand and showed him the
bath of tears.
The bright moon blossomed like a golden face on the deep, clear sky. In
the night air, the Prince of Tears washed his face with her tears, then
slept in the bed of flowers, wrapped in the mantle she had woven for
him out of moonlight. She slept at his side, and she dreamt the Mother
of God had taken two morning stars from the sky and placed them on her
In the morning, when she woke up, she could see.
Next day, the emperor married the daughter of the Genar.
The following day was the wedding of the Prince of Tears.
Rays descended from the sky and taught the singers to sing like angels
when saints rise to heaven, and swarms of waves rose from the depths
of the earth and taught them to sing like fairies forging a happy
fate. So the singers crafted high dances and deep wishes.
Fiery roses, silver lilies, white teardrops, all flowers
gathered, each talking in her own fragrance, and held counsel on how to
adorn the bride's wedding dress. Then they told the secret to a
courteous blue butterfly splashed with gold. He flew in wide circles
above the head of the sleeping bride, and made her dream of how she
should be dressed. She smiled to dream herself so beautiful.
The groom wore a bright shirt made of moonlight, girdle of pearls, a cloak white as snow.
And they had a beautiful and magnificent wedding, as there never was one on the face of the earth.
And then they lived in peace for many happy years. And if what is being
said is true, that for Princes of Tears age never ages, then perhaps
they are still alive today.