Rock Crystal Story by A. Stifter
Pictured above: Albert Bierstadt, Strom Among the Alps.
Long, long ago — perhaps maybe some time in the seventeenth century somewhere in the Alps, two valleys with a village each – Gschaid and Millsdorf – lay next to each other, ringed by high mountains and linked by a sole, lonely path. Due to this separation, the inhabitants considered each other as strangers. Yet it came to pass that the shoemaker from Gschaid married the Millsdorf dyer’s daughter, and the couple had two children, Conrad and Sanna.
One unusually warm Christmas Eve, the two children set out on the path from the northward valley, through pine forest and over the pass, to visit their grandmother in the valley to the south. Their mother had sent Conrad and Sanna to their grandparents in Millsdorf to give them Christmas greetings and presents. Conrad and little Sanna set out early, arrived in time for lunch, and were kissed and showered with gifts by their adoring grandmother. Yet she insisted that they start for home early. The temperature was dropping, and ice was forming on the puddles in the road. As Conrad and Sanna climbed the path back toward home, a significant snowfall began. It was a snowfall the villagers later called once in a century: “unprecedented, unwearying, and voracious.” The children climbed and climbed, but their path never descended as it should; they never find their familiar landmark.
On the way home, they “fell into” heavy snowfall which became so dense that they could see only the very nearest trees. They looked for their usual signpost.
“Shall we see the post today?” asked the girl. “The snow will fall on it and the red color will be white.”
“We shall be able to see it,” replied the boy; “even if the snow falls upon it and makes it white all over we are bound to see it, because it is a thick post, and because it has the black iron cross on its top will surely stick out.”
Yet they did not see the signpost, and instead of going down into the valley, the children wound up wandering up into the bare rock and ice region. The big brother who made a little roof out of the shawl that his sister was wearing to keep the snow off her face; meanwhile, the sister, maintained her brother’s courage simply by how much she trusted him. Meanwhile, it had been growing dark. At last they climbed into a stone cave to spend the night there. To shield themselves against the cold, they drink from the coffee their grandmother had packed for their parents. The exceedingly strong extract took effect at once and all the more powerfully as the children had never in their lives tasted coffee. Despite the dangers, Conrad, the elder of the siblings, was overwhelmed by the great canvas of nature before them. They saw a northern light wafting in the night sky, and the stars gleamed and shone and twinkled. Only an occasional shooting star traversed them.. At dawn, Konrad and Sanna set off to find a way down the valley. At last the boy thought he saw a flame skipping over a far-away snow-slope. It bobbed up and dipped down again. Now they saw it, and then again they did not. They remained standing and steadfastly gazed in that direction. The flame kept on skipping up and down and seemed to be approaching, for they saw it grow bigger and skipping more plainly. It did not disappear so often and for so long a time as before. After awhile they heard in the still blue air faintly, very faintly, something like the long note of a shepherd’s horn. As if from instinct, both children shouted aloud. A little while, and they heard the sound again. They shouted again and remained standing on the same spot. The flame also came nearer. The sound was heard for the third time, and this time more plainly. The children answered again by shouting loudly. After some time, they also recognized that it was no flame they had seen but a red flag which was being swung. At the same time, the shepherd’s horn resounded closer to them and the children made reply.
“Sanna,” cried Conrad, “there come people from Gschaid. I know the flag.”
Then the children saw on the snow-slope opposite them several men with the flag of Millsdorf.
During the night, men had set out from both villages, Gschaid and Millsdorf, to look for the children. When they were now at last found, they were driven home on a sledge. In the parents’ house, all friends and neighbors were gathered — even the grandmother from Millsdorf has arrived.
The common salvation of the children became a topic of conversation in the inn. The inhabitants of the two mountain villages, who had previously regarded each other as strangers and treated each other accordingly, reconciled themselves due to this joint rescue operation. From that day on, the children became the property of the village, and were viewed as natives of both villages who had miraculously been delivered from the mountain. Even the mother from Millsdorf was now considered a true native of Gschaid.
Comparison – Contrast Composition Directions:
You may have followed the story in the news a couple of years ago about the 12 boys on a soccer team and coach from Thailand who were trapped in a cave for two weeks. Countless people around the world were captivated by the rescue of the young Thai soccer team from a flooded cave. (Locate an article on the Internet and read about this event and how it ended.)
The news about the Thai soccer team was recent fact; the account of the two children lost in the snow and rescued by the men of the two villages is a story from 1845 – “Rock Crystal.” Yet there are some common points between the two narratives.
Write a composition of two paragraphs of five sentences each comparing and contrasting the fictional story of the two children lost in the mountains and their rescue with what happened to the Thai soccer team. Use specific examples from both narratives.