The Ice Maiden The eagle's nest Andersen's fairy tale

From the mountain path there sounded lively yodeling that meant good humor and gay courage. The yodeler was Rudy; he was going to see his friend Vesinand.

"You must help me," he said. "We'll take Ragli with us. I have to capture the eaglet up there on the top of the cliff!"

"Better try to capture the moon first. That would be about as easy a job," said Vesinand. "I see you're in good spirits."

"Yes; I'm thinking about marrying. But now, seriously, you must know how things stand with me."

And soon Vesinand and Ragli knew what Rudy wanted.

"You're a daring fellow," they said. "But you won't make it. You'll break your neck."

"One doesn't fall, so long as one doesn't think of it!" said Rudy.

They set out about midnight, with poles, ladders and ropes. The road led through brushwood and over loose stones, up, always up, up through the dark night. The water roared below, and the water trickled down from above; damp clouds swept heavily along. At last the hunters reached the edge of the precipice, where it was even darker, for the rock walls almost met, and the sky could only be seen through the narrow opening above. Close by was a deep abyss, with the hoarsely roaring water far beneath them.

All three sat quite still. They had to await daybreak, for when the parent eagle flew out, they would have to shoot it if they were to have any hopes of capturing the young one. Rudy was as still as if he were a part of the rock on which he was sitting. He held his gun ready; his eyes were fixed steadily on the highest part of the cleft, where the eagle's nest was hidden under the projecting rock. The three hunters had a long time to wait.

But at last they suddenly heard high above them a crashing, whirring sound, and the air was darkened by a huge object. Two guns took aim at the enormous eagle the moment it left the nest. A shot blazed out; for an instant the outspread wings fluttered, and then the bird slowly began to sink. It seemed that with its tremendous size and wingspread it would fill the whole chasm, and in its fall drag the hunters down with it. The eagle disappeared in the abyss below; the hunters could hear the crashing of trees and bushes, crush by the fall of the bird.

And now the men began to get busy. Three of the longest ladders were tied tightly together. They were supposed to reach the last stepping place on the margin of the abyss, but they did not reach far enough; and the perpendicular rock side was smooth as a brick wall on up to where the nest was hidden under the highest projecting rock overhang. After some discussion they agreed that the only thing to do was to tie two more ladders together, let them down into the chasm from above, and attach these to the three already raised. With immense difficulty they dragged the two ladders up, binding them with ropes to the top; they were then let out over the rock and hung there swaying in the air over the bottomless abyss. Rudy was already seated on the lowest rung. It was an icy-cold morning, and the mist was rising heavily from the dark chasm below. Rudy was like a fly sitting on some bit of a straw that a bird, while building its nest, might have dropped on the edge of a tall factory chimney; but the insect could fly if the straw gave way, while Rudy could only break his neck. The wind howled about him, while far below in the abyss the gushing water roared out from the melting glacier - the palace of the Ice Maiden.

He then made the ladder swing to and fro, like the spider swings its body when it wants to catch anything in its slender thread; and when he, for the fourth time touched the top of the ladders set up from below, he got a good hold on them, and bound them together with sure and skillful hands, though they swayed as if they hung on worn-out hinges.

The five long ladders, which now reached the nest, seemed like a swaying reed knocking against the perpendicular cliff. And now the most dangerous part of the job was to be done, for he had to climb as a cat climbs. But Rudy could do that, for a cat had taught him. He never noticed the presence of Dizziness, who floated in the air behind him, and stretched forth her embracing arms toward him. At last he reached the last step of the highest ladder, and then he found that he was still not high enough even to see into the nest. He would have to use his hands to raise himself up to it; he tried the lowest part of the thick, interwoven branches, forming the base of the nest, to learn if it was sufficiently strong; then having secured a firm hold on a heavy, strong branch; he swung himself up from the ladder, until his head and chest were level with the nest. Then there swept over him a horrible stench of carrion, for putrefied lambs, chamois, and birds littered the nest.

Dizziness, who had little power over him, blew the poisonous odor into his face to make him faint; while down below, on the dank, foaming waters of the yawning ravine, sat the Ice Maiden herself, with her long pale-green hair, staring at him with eyes as deadly as two gun barrels. "Now I will catch you!"

In a corner of the nest Rudy could see the eaglet sitting - a big powerful bird, even though it could not yet fly. Staring straight at it, Rudy somehow held on with one hand, while with the other he cast a noose around the bird. Thus it was captured alive; its legs were held by the tightened cord, and Rudy flung the noose over his shoulder, so that the bird hung a good distance below him. Then he held on to a rope, flung out to help him, until his toes at last touched the highest rung of the ladder.

"Hold tightly; don't be afraid of falling and you won't fall!" That was his early training, and Rudy acted on it. He held tightly, climbed down, and believing he couldn't fall, he didn't fall.

Then there arose loud and joyous yodeling. He stood safely on the firm rocky ledge, with his eaglet.

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