Fairy Tale Friday: Semsi Mountain

Source: ImaginationKids on Etsy

Once upon a time…

Every child knows those words as the cue to a wonderful story. Most of the stories end with happily ever after, but not this week’s tale. Semsi Mountain is one the Brothers Grimm’s lesser known works. It is a bit morally ambiguous—is it really OK to steal something that was stolen in the first place?— but it’s a great cautionary tale on the dangers of greed. This is my own retelling, but you can read the original here.

Once upon a time…

There were two brothers. One, through no merit of his own, was very rich and the other, through no fault of his own, was very poor.

The rich brother lived the high life in a great mansion where there was plenty to eat and drink, but always sought to gain more, more likely by deceit than with honor.

The poor brother worked hard every day of his life on his little farm to make ends meet. His cottage was run-down, his wife was shabbily dressed, and his children rarely had enough to eat. Still, he loved his family and his life and was willing to work hard for them.

The rich brother never thought to help and indeed, even had the poor brother asked, he would have refused.

One day the poor brother was walking through the wood near the mountain when a band of thieves rode by.

Where could they be going? he thought to himself.

He watched as they rode up to the side of the mountain.

Simele Mountain, Simele Mountain, open! they commanded and a great hole opened in the side of the mountain. In they rode, and the poor brother waited. He scarcely had time to wonder at what he had seen when out they rode, horses now laden with gold and jewels. He kept himself hidden behind a tree when he heard them shout again.

Simele Mountain, Simele Mountain, close yourself!

And the mountain sealed itself off once again as the thieves rode off with their treasures.

The poor man was curious, and when he was sure they were far down the road, he crept up to the side of the mountain.

Simele Mountain, Simele Mountain, open! he commanded, and the mountain open. In he went and no sooner had he entered than torches flared up on the walls  and he could scarcely believe his eyes.

All around him were glistening jewels and piles and piles of gold. Treasures unimaginable surrounded him, countless coins and gems and wonders. He scooped up a small handful and placed it in his pocket and then crept out of the mountain.

Back in the sunlight he turned again to face the crack in the side of the mountain.

Simele Mountain, Simele Mountain, close yourself! And the mountain sealed itself once again. The man went home with enough gold for a year and several months to spare. His home was not so shabby now, and his wife had a new apron and his children’s cheeks grew fat from good food. And the rich brother grew a little suspicious, wondering at his poor brother’s good fortunes.

He made several more trips to the mountain, always taking just a pocketful of treasure. But he grew frightened of discovery by the brigands and on his next trip he first stopped at his rich brother’s estate to ask for the loan of a wheelbarrow to carry the treasure. Grudgingly, the brother agreed, but he also decided to follow him and see what he was doing.

He watched as the poor brother walked up to the mountain and cried Simele Mountain, Simele Mountain, close yourself! He is waited and saw his brother leave the mountain with the barrow full of glistening treasure. So fascinated was he with the gold he saw and so determined to get the treasure for himself, he did not listen carefully to his brother’s parting words.

When his brother was far down the road, he approached the mountain and cried the words he heard his brother say. Simele Mountain, Simele Mountain, open! In he went, and he began stuffing every pocket with jewels and coins. He filled his shirt, his socks, his hat. So busy was he that he did not notice the mountain had sealed itself again.

And when he was ready to leave, he cried Semsi Mountain, Semsi Mountain, open! But the mountain, not recognizing the name by which it had been called, would not open. And the torches guttered out and the man because more and more anxious and more and more confused. The thieves had long since moved on to other treasures and the poor brother was poor no longer, having enough treasure to last several lifetimes. And so the rich brother was stuck there in the mountain forever, for no came searching for him.

Snip, snap, snout,
This tale is told out.


So, that’s our story. No “happily every after” unless you’re the poorer brother. In the original the thieves come back and cut off the head of the rich brother, but that seemed a little bloodthirsty even if you are telling this story to an older crowd of 7 or 8, and I typically tell it around 5 or 6. When I told it to Katie Grace, I told it with the original ending. She was not pleased, and dictated a new ending the next day.

…and the little brother came along for fourths and said, “Semsi Mountain, open!” And it opened. He saw the big brother and said, “If you are good and have a loving heart from now on, I will let you out.” And they both lived happily ever after.

This fairy tale lends itself to some nice large motor activities. One that we’ve done for several children is to chant “Simele Mountain, Simele Mountain, open!” and the children jump into an open stance, legs apart and arms up and wide. Then we say “Simele Mountain, Simele Mountain, close yourself!” and they jump back into closed position, arms straight above them. This is also a good time to do a “wheelbarrow walk” with your child, holding their legs up while they walk on their hands. You can also turn it into a “Simon Says” type game where if you say “Semsi Mountain” they do nothing.
These are pictures from forever ago, back when Katie Grace was in kindy and Nicholas was just 3!

A mountain can easily be made by a letter M, making this a good story for introducing that part of the alphabet.

(I am not sure how dinosaurs got on the mountain, LOL!)

Mountains are also fairly easy to paint, even for the littlest hands.

This is also a good story for breaking out the glitter (or for the less brave, the glitter glue). Make shiny circles with gold for coins and diamond shapes with silver for gems.

And of course, there are always blanket forts… I mean mountains.. with concealed doors, secret passageways, and treasures hidden within.

And finally, you and your little one can bake a gold cake together!

Have you told a fairy tale this week? Come share what you did on Waldorf Wednesday! We had a glitch, but it’s back and we’d love to hear from you!

1 Comment

  1. //

    How fun! Such great activities to go along with the story. This was my son’s favorite from first grade.


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