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The King Of The Golden Mountain

There was once a merchant who had only one child, a son, that wasvery young, and barely able to run alone. He had two ri...

The King Of The Golden Mountain

There was once a merchant who had only one child, a son, that wasvery young, and barely able to run alone. He had two richly ladenships then making a voyage upon the seas, in which he had embarked allhis wealth, in the hope of making great gains, when the news came thatboth were lost. Thus from being a rich man he became all at once sovery poor that nothing was left to him but one small plot of land; andthere he often went in an evening to take his walk, and ease his mindof a little of his trouble.

One day, as he was roaming along in a brown study, thinking with nogreat comfort on what he had been and what he now was, and was like tobe, all on a sudden there stood before him a little, rough-looking,black dwarf. «Prithee, friend, why so sorrowful?» said he to themerchant; «what is it you take so deeply to heart?» «If you woulddo me any good I would willingly tell you,» said the merchant. «Whoknows but I may?» said the little man: «tell me what ails you, andperhaps you will find I may be of some use.» Then the merchant told himhow all his wealth was gone to the bottom of the sea, and how he hadnothing left but that little plot of land. «Oh, trouble notyourself about that,» said the dwarf; «only undertake to bring mehere, twelve years hence, whatever meets you first on your goinghome, and I will give you as much as you please.» The merchantthought this was no great thing to ask; that it would most likely be hisdog or his cat, or something of that sort, but forgot his little boyHeinel; so he agreed to the bargain, and signed and sealed the bond todo what was asked of him.

But as he drew near home, his little boy was so glad to see him thathe crept behind him, and laid fast hold of his legs, and looked up inhis face and laughed. Then the father started, trembling with fear andhorror, and saw what it was that he had bound himself to do; but as nogold was come, he made himself easy by thinking that it was only ajoke that the dwarf was playing him, and that, at any rate, when themoney came, he should see the bearer, and would not take it in.

About a month afterwards he went upstairs into a lumber-room to lookfor some old iron, that he might sell it and raise a little money; andthere, instead of his iron, he saw a large pile of gold lying on thefloor. At the sight of this he was overjoyed, and forgetting all abouthis son, went into trade again, and became a richer merchant thanbefore.

Meantime little Heinel grew up, and as the end of the twelve yearsdrew near the merchant began to call to mind his bond, and became verysad and thoughtful; so that care and sorrow were written upon hisface. The boy one day asked what was the matter, but his father wouldnot tell for some time; at last, however, he said that he had, withoutknowing it, sold him for gold to a little, ugly-looking, black dwarf,and that the twelve years were coming round when he must keep his word.Then Heinel said, «Father, give yourself very little trouble aboutthat; I shall be too much for the little man.»

When the time came, the father and son went out together to theplace agreed upon: and the son drew a circle on the ground, and sethimself and his father in the middle of it. The little black dwarfsoon came, and walked round and round about the circle, but could notfind any way to get into it, and he either could not, or dared not, jumpover it. At last the boy said to him. «Have you anything to say tous, my friend, or what do you want?» Now Heinel had found a friend in agood fairy, that was fond of him, and had told him what to do; for thisfairy knew what good luck was in store for him. «Have you brought mewhat you said you would?» said the dwarf to the merchant. The old manheld his tongue, but Heinel said again, «What do you want here?» Thedwarf said, «I come to talk with your father, not with you.» «You havecheated and taken in my father,» said the son; «pray give him up hisbond at once.» «Fair and softly,» said the little old man; «right isright; I have paid my money, and your father has had it, and spentit; so be so good as to let me have what I paid it for.» «You musthave my consent to that first,» said Heinel, «so please to step inhere, and let us talk it over.» The old man grinned, and showed histeeth, as if he should have been very glad to get into the circle ifhe could. Then at last, after a long talk, they came to terms. Heinelagreed that his father must give him up, and that so far the dwarfshould have his way: but, on the other hand, the fairy had toldHeinel what fortune was in store for him, if he followed his owncourse; and he did not choose to be given up to his hump-backed friend,who seemed so anxious for his company.

So, to make a sort of drawn battle of the matter, it was settledthat Heinel should be put into an open boat, that lay on the sea-shorehard by; that the father should push him off with his own hand, and thathe should thus be set adrift, and left to the bad or good luck of windand weather. Then he took leave of his father, and set himself in theboat, but before it got far off a wave struck it, and it fell withone side low in the water, so the merchant thought that poor Heinelwas lost, and went home very sorrowful, while the dwarf went his way,thinking that at any rate he had had his revenge.

The boat, however, did not sink, for the good fairy took care ofher friend, and soon raised the boat up again, and it went safelyon. The young man sat safe within, till at length it ran ashore uponan unknown land. As he jumped upon the shore he saw before him abeautiful castle but empty and dreary within, for it was enchanted.«Here,» said he to himself, «must I find the prize the good fairytold me of.» So he once more searched the whole palace through,till at last he found a white snake, lying coiled up on a cushion inone of the chambers.

Now the white snake was an enchanted princess; and she was very gladto see him, and said, «Are you at last come to set me free? Twelve longyears have I waited here for the fairy to bring you hither as shepromised, for you alone can save me. This night twelve men will come:their faces will be black, and they will be dressed in chain armour.They will ask what you do here, but give no answer; and let them dowhat they will—beat, whip, pinch, prick, or torment you—bear all;only speak not a word, and at twelve o’clock they must go away. Thesecond night twelve others will come: and the third nighttwenty-four, who will even cut off your head; but at the twelfth hourof that night their power is gone, and I shall be free, and will comeand bring you the Water of Life, and will wash you with it, and bringyou back to life and health.» And all came to pass as she had said;Heinel bore all, and spoke not a word; and the third night theprincess came, and fell on his neck and kissed him. Joy and gladnessburst forth throughout the castle, the wedding was celebrated, and hewas crowned king of the Golden Mountain.

They lived together very happily, and the queen had a son. And thuseight years had passed over their heads, when the king thought of hisfather; and he began to long to see him once again. But the queen wasagainst his going, and said, «I know well that misfortunes will comeupon us if you go.» However, he gave her no rest till she agreed. Athis going away she gave him a wishing-ring, and said, «Take thisring, and put it on your finger; whatever you wish it will bring you;only promise never to make use of it to bring me hence to your father’shouse.» Then he said he would do what she asked, and put the ring on hisfinger, and wished himself near the town where his father lived.

Heinel found himself at the gates in a moment; but the guards wouldnot let him go in, because he was so strangely clad. So he went upto a neighbouring hill, where a shepherd dwelt, and borrowed his oldfrock, and thus passed unknown into the town. When he came to hisfather’s house, he said he was his son; but the merchant would notbelieve him, and said he had had but one son, his poor Heinel, who heknew was long since dead: and as he was only dressed like a poorshepherd, he would not even give him anything to eat. The king,however, still vowed that he was his son, and said, «Is there no markby which you would know me if I am really your son?» «Yes,» said hismother, «our Heinel had a mark like a raspberry on his right arm.’Then he showed them the mark, and they knew that what he had said wastrue.

He next told them how he was king of the Golden Mountain, and wasmarried to a princess, and had a son seven years old. But the merchantsaid, «that can never be true; he must be a fine king truly whotravels about in a shepherd’s frock!» At this the son was vexed; andforgetting his word, turned his ring, and wished for his queen andson. In an instant they stood before him; but the queen wept, and saidhe had broken his word, and bad luck would follow. He did all he couldto soothe her, and she at last seemed to be appeased; but she was notso in truth, and was only thinking how she should punish him.

One day he took her to walk with him out of the town, and showed herthe spot where the boat was set adrift upon the wide waters. Thenhe sat himself down, and said, «I am very much tired; sit by me, Iwill rest my head in your lap, and sleep a while.» As soon as he hadfallen asleep, however, she drew the ring from his finger, and creptsoftly away, and wished herself and her son at home in their kingdom.And when he awoke he found himself alone, and saw that the ring wasgone from his finger. «I can never go back to my father’s house,» saidhe; «they would say I am a sorcerer: I will journey forth into theworld, till I come again to my kingdom.»

So saying he set out and travelled till he came to a hill, wherethree giants were sharing their father’s goods; and as they saw himpass they cried out and said, «Little men have sharp wits; he shallpart the goods between us.» Now there was a sword that cut off anenemy’s head whenever the wearer gave the words, «Heads off!’; acloak that made the owner invisible, or gave him any form hepleased; and a pair of boots that carried the wearer wherever hewished. Heinel said they must first let him try these wonderful things,then he might know how to set a value upon them. Then they gave himthe cloak, and he wished himself a fly, and in a moment he was a fly.«The cloak is very well,» said he: «now give me the sword.» «No,» saidthey; «not unless you undertake not to say, “Heads off!” for if youdo we are all dead men.» So they gave it him, charging him to try iton a tree. He next asked for the boots also; and the moment he had allthree in his power, he wished himself at the Golden Mountain; andthere he was at once. So the giants were left behind with no goods toshare or quarrel about.

As Heinel came near his castle he heard the sound of merry music; andthe people around told him that his queen was about to marry anotherhusband. Then he threw his cloak around him, and passed through thecastle hall, and placed himself by the side of the queen, where noone saw him. But when anything to eat was put upon her plate, he tookit away and ate it himself; and when a glass of wine was handed to her,he took it and drank it; and thus, though they kept on giving her meatand drink, her plate and cup were always empty.

Upon this, fear and remorse came over her, and she went into herchamber alone, and sat there weeping; and he followed her there. «Alas!’said she to herself, «was I not once set free? Why then does thisenchantment still seem to bind me?»

«False and fickle one!» said he. «One indeed came who set thee free,and he is now near thee again; but how have you used him? Ought he tohave had such treatment from thee?» Then he went out and sent away thecompany, and said the wedding was at an end, for that he was come backto the kingdom. But the princes, peers, and great men mocked at him.However, he would enter into no parley with them, but only asked themif they would go in peace or not. Then they turned upon him and triedto seize him; but he drew his sword. «Heads Off!» cried he; and withthe word the traitors» heads fell before him, and Heinel was oncemore king of the Golden Mountain.

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