Good morning. You won’t need any notebooks. Just make yourselves very comfortable.
In a secluded and mountainous part of Stiria there was in olden days a valley of the most surprising fertility. This valley was surrounded by great rocky mountains that rose up on all sides, jutting right up into the sky, and whose very summits were always snow-covered, rising amongst the clouds. So that being with snow upon them, there were flowing great streams that fell in cataracts over the precipices.
One such rode to the west where it came out onto a precipice, and fell from a great height in a great waterfall. And such was its position that from the whole area, up from this valley, that when the whole valley was in the darkness of evening, or the darkness of predawn, that the Sun would strike this cataract as it fell, and the whole stream would appear to be gold, and was lit up, and thrown up by the ways of fire of sunlight all around it. And so it stood out long after the rest of the land was all in shadow and darkness. So it appeared with its rainbows over it, linking it to the mountains. It appeared completely brilliant, and became known as the Golden River.
It is very strange that all of these cataracts and this golden river did not flow into the valley itself. They always flowed into the other side, where they flowed away down the mountains into
the plains and away over the lands through the cities towards the seas. But, so beautiful were these mountains and the great peaks covered with snow, that they drew the clouds at all times of the year. And that even when the whole of the rest of the country around was dried up and arid with heat of summer, so the rains would fall in this valley most beautifully and gently.
Therefore, in this valley so great were the crops, so high the hay, so red and rosy the apples, so blue the grapes, so rich the wine and so sweet the honey, that it became known as Treasure Valley.
It was always called by everybody the Treasure Valley.
Now this valley was owned by three brothers: Schwartz, Hans and Gluck. Schwartz and Hans were much the two elder, and they were really rather gauche and angry creatures—they were very enormously built, they were very strong—but they had very bristly eyebrows that they always forced down and looked out from under, so that you couldn’t see into their eyes at all. And yet you always felt that they were looking rather too far into your eyes. They were also, of course, farmers. They farmed this valley, and they farmed it very well indeed. For they destroyed everything that didn’t pay for its keep. For instance, they shuffled the black birds out of hand, because they ate the fruit. And likewise the hedgehogs, less they should suffer the cows. And of course they wiped out all of the grasshoppers, less they should get into the grain, and the cicadas, because they would be annoying and sing all day in the trees.
Of course, also, they had never known to be charitable. They never gave anything to the poor, and they certainly never went to Mass, and they objected to tithes. They also treated their work people very harshly, and gave them as little as they possibly could, and took everything from what they earned. And so, amongst all of these people they became known as the Black Brothers.
Likewise of course they were very clever. Because during the period when the rest of the country dried up, and the crops were poor, this valley was always of course a treasure. So all the people from all over the vicinity came to the farm. And of course they had to beg, and they had to pay. And they went away cursing the Black brothers. So it was assumed that they were very well named.
Now the other brother of course was very young, he wasn’t yet fourteen, but he was of an entirely opposite nature. He was very generous and very, very kind-hearted to all living things. And as you can imagine, of course, he didn’t see eye to eye with his brothers, and of course certainly they didn’t see eye to eye with him. So that he was continuously rained with blows, had his ears boxed, and was generally deployed for everything unpleasant. Had all the household duties to do like scrubbing the floors, cleaning the food, preparing the food, cleaning the boots, for which of course he got endless cuts and curses.
Life went on like this over a number of years. And so it happened that one year was particularly bad, and the whole of the vicinity had had heavy rains throughout the summer and that all of the crops had failed. They had not been able to reap the crops in before the rain came, the fruit did not ripen, and the hay was all ruined. And again they had to come to the Black Brothers farm, and again they were met with the same treatment: extortion. Even to the degree that those who were absolutely starving were left at the door with nothing.
It was on such a morning and on such a day, which followed, that Gluck had been left to look after the house, with the usual provocative warning to let nobody in and to give nothing out. That the doors had been closed and a cold winter was setting in, and Gluck was sitting by the hearth, very close to the hearth, for the walls were rather damp and running, stonewalls.
He had been sitting tending a leg of mutton, on the spit, which was turning over the hearth. And it was just beginning to smell rather delicious and looking a little bit brown, and he couldn’t help thinking in his mind’s eye—his sparkling blue eyes—he couldn’t help thinking how pleasant and different it would be if only his brothers realized how delightful it would be to ask a lot of the neighbors in to share this wonderful piece of mutton. When after all, everyone else was living on terribly dry bread, whilst they had such incorruptible supplies, and this beautiful piece of mutton, which they couldn’t possibly divest of themselves. Just as he was thinking thee things: knock knock on the front door. “Gracious me,” Gluck thought. “That’s very strange.” And yet it was a very soft knock knock, as though the knocker was actually muffled. Then again, he thought it must be the wind, for who would dare to knock twice on their knocker? He was just thinking these
things when lo! It was not the wind, there it was again: KNOCK KNOCK. But now there was no question about it, it was as though the knocker was in a great hurry. So he jumped up and ran into the wing of the house where he could open the window and look out to see who it was.
Gluck saw the most extraordinary man he had ever seen in his life. There, standing at the door, was a little man with a very long nose—almost the color of brass—with very gay eyes, twinkling out of behind long lashes, hair down below his shoulders, like mustard and peppered silk, and two moustachios, which came out from either side under his nose, and twirled down like a couple of corkscrews, and seemed to go down into his pockets. He was not above four-foot-six, and he was dressed most extraordinarily. Somehow all his clothes ended at the back, sticking out like a swallowtail. And over the door was a great cloak, which normally must have been six times too long for him, that the wind, which was blowing enormously and was carrying out behind him right away into the bushes and trees down the farm.
On top of his head pulled over his hair was a hat going up into a point that was at least four feet high, which was as high as he was himself. And out of that going on up was a black feather at least three foot more, that, out of wet and rain and wind, was somewhere hanging down beneath his swallowtail like a beaten puppy dog’s tail. Gluck simply stayed motionless, gazing out of the window at this extraordinary little man. And so he just gazed. And so it would have just gone on.
But the little man, having knocked another concerto very rapidly, who was aware that his cape was flying around some trees in the back, and turning ‘round to take in a few turns of the cloak, perceived Gluck’s face looking out of the window. So the little man said, “Hello young man. That’s no way to answer a knock at the door. Let me in. I’m wet.” Gluck simply stared. The man said, “Did you hear me? I said, let me in! I am wet.” Gluck said, “I am very sorry sir, I can’t do that.” The little man said, “Can’t do that? Why not?” Gluck said, “It would be the death of me. My brothers would kill me! They’d beat me to death when they came back. I am not allowed to let anyone in.” The man said, “I am very wet, and cold. You’ve got a wonderful fire dancing on the walls in there, I can see it. I need to dry myself. Now let me in.”
Gluck, who’d been leaning out the window for some considerable time, discovered that he himself was very wet and very cold. He climbed back through the window and closed it. And then he noticed the mutton, and then he noticed the fire. Then he noticed the fire playing on the walls. And he thought of the little man wet at the door. “Oh well, it doesn’t matter if they beat me again. I’ve had enough beatings, haven’t I?” So he ran to the door, and he opened it. And at that
moment, the little man came in with such a swish, a huge gust of wind literally shook the walls, the whole roof reverberated and even the chimneys rattled. He closed the door quickly. The next thing was, the little man was sitting by the hearth very comfortably, but of course he had to put his hat
up the chimney, because it didn’t fit in the ceiling.
So after a few minutes silence, as Gluck was expecting the silence to be broken by the visitor, and finding it not so, he said to the little man, “You will soon dry there sir.” He went on turning the mutton, and sat by the hearth also. But as Gluck watched and turned the mutton—and didn’t like to stare at the man, of course—he was aware that the little man was not drying at all. That water was beginning to run between all of the cobbles of the stones of the room, up the kitchen. There were streams, that were beginning to grow into almost rivers. And that when he looked at the little man, he saw that this water was pouring off the hat, down over the shoulders, into gullies all down his cape. And what was worse, that there were two spouts coming out of these corkscrew mustaches, which were whirling around like two fountains into his pockets, and bubbled out. Bubbly water spilled all over the floor and produced these enormous streams. And Gluck said, “Pardon me sir, may I take your hat?” “No thank you.”
He turned the mutton. Now his feet were in water. He looked all around, he said, “Excuse me sir, but can I take your cloak?” “No thank you, I am perfectly comfortable.” “Could I do something to help make you dry?” “No, no, perfectly comfortable. It’s all right.” “But it’s not all right. You see, the whole place is swimming in water.” “Good,” said the little man.
Gluck said, “Well, excuse me sir, but you see, if my brothers come back and find you here, they really will beat me to death.” “Oh, I’ll see to that,” said the little man. “Oh sir, please no! You mustn’t talk to them. You mustn’t wait until they come. You must go before they come back.” “Oh,” said the little man, “is that so? How long can I stay?” “Well…not long, as soon as the mutton is done, you must go. The water, you see…” “Oh,” said the little man, “It’s perfectly alright.” But Gluck said, “It’s not alright, you see. It’s all wet!”
There was silence again. After a little, he tried to take no notice of the water, and turned the mutton again, and it really was brown and smelling very delicious. And the little man with twinkling eyes looked at him and said, “Couldn’t I have a little piece?” “Oh impossible, sir!” “Oh, but just a little piece. If you took it off near the knuckle.” “No sir, indeed sir. That is…I couldn’t do that. They would really kill me by beating me if I did that.” The man said, “You see, I’m very hungry. I really am very hungry. And I’m very old.” Gluck said, “Well sir, tell you what, they did promise me one slice today. You could have that.” So he went and warmed the plate, and got the carving knife and fork, and he cut a nice big slice out, by the knuckle.
Bang! Bang! Bang! at the door. “Oh!” Gluck quickly put it back, trying to fit it so as it would look like as if it had never been cut, and fit perfectly. And then, as he rushed to the door, the little man swirled off of his seat into the middle of the room, and started twirling ‘round. Gluck rushed to the door and opened it, and in came Schwartz and Hans. Schwartz drove his umbrella straight into Gluck’s face, and Hans butted him on his ears, and said, “What the devil did you keep us waiting at the door for all this time, when we knocked? Can’t you let us…bless my soul, who the devil is this?” Gluck said, “Well, brother, excuse me but um…” “Excuse me nothing,” said his brother, “What do you mean by it? Who is this? Who are you, sir?” The little man said, “A very good morning to you, sirs,” and started bowing with his great hat and twirling his feather up and down extremely politely.
Gluck said, “Brother, please, you see, he was very wet, and cold, and at the door and so I…” At that moment Schwartz picked up the rolling pin and went to hit Gluck on the head, at that same moment the little man interposed his long conical hat. At the very moment the rolling pin— which alighted, of course, on the hat, and not Gluck’s head—water squelched like an absolute cataract in every direction, and at the same moment the rolling pin turned a fast series of summersaults throughout the air, flew into the corner, against one wall and then the other, and fell down in the corner on the floor.
There was some amazement over this. The brothers quickly recovered, by Hans coming to, and going up to the little man, and said, “Exactly what are you doing here? Explain yourself.” The man said, “Well, you see, I was very wet and very cold, and I asked your brother to let me in. I wanted to get warm.” Hans said, “Well, you have your clothes on, your hat, you’ve got a great feather: go out! Walk!” Schwartz also inter-joined likewise. The man said, “Excuse me sirs, but I am also very hungry. I am also very old.” At each of these comments they interposed, and told him to get out. At which he became more polite, and more begging, and pointed out to them the deficiencies of his age, and of how wet he really was, and that he had not eaten for days, and was indeed wanting food.
And at last, since he did not move, Hans went to him, and said, “Are you going to get out?” and went to seize him upon the collar to throw him out, where upon the moment that he touched the collar he too did a fast series of summersaults twirling in the air, struck the corner, one wall and then the other, and then fell down on top of the rolling pin. Schwartz was en-livened by this, and rushed at him enraged, and said, “How dare you treat my brother…” at the same moment, as he was about to strike him, to carry him out, he likewise did a vast series of summersaults, went twirling through the air, flew at the most horrific speed into the corner, and fell on top of his brother, where they sat in consternation.
Gluck stood with his mouth and eyes wide open. The little man meantime, in the center of the room, had started to rotate in the opposite direction, so that the whole of his costume began to wind around him. He then seized his hat, with its feather sticking stout straight, and with a very gigantic bow, he said, “I wish you good morning, gentlemen. I will call again at twelve o’clock tonight. You will understand that after the hospitality that I received this morning, that will be my last visit to this valley.”
Schwartz and Hans both attempted to disable themselves from each other’s mix up. And with gaspings and groanings and furious ejaculations, were about to rise and curse, when a cloud evolved into the middle of the room, and the door banged. And the cloud passed the windows, and it seemed to go into the most extravagant shapes, floating down amongst the bushes and trees of the valley, and disappeared over the horizon.
They picked themselves up and approached Gluck. They said, “Well, what do you have to say for yourself?” And of course Gluck made no reply. Whereupon Schwartz said, “Very well. Mutton. Let’s serve the mutton.” So the mutton was brought and Schwartz took a carving knife and fork, and of course, “Ah, I see. So, it’s already been cut. By you?” “Yes.” said Gluck. “I see. So that you would get the biggest helping and all the gravy. Typical.” Bang-bang, bang-bang: box on the ears. “Time to go to the coal cellar and stay there.” Gluck retreated to the coal cellar where he stayed. The two brothers ate themselves silly, put away and locked in the cupboard what they couldn’t eat, drank themselves thoroughly, and went to bed, having shuttered up the house.
So the hands of the clock went round, and acutely at midnight, the most incredible commotion of noise, like an earthquake. Schwartz and Hans sat up on their bolsters in bed. This incredible noise. The whole place shook, everything was in water, the stars were above them, and they were sitting on a bed in the open. At that moment Schwartz managed to ejaculate on sufficiently waking up, “What is this?” And suddenly, in the middle of it all, seated on a revolving cushion as it were, was the little man, completely dressed with this hat on, smiling on his cushion. And he said, “I am so sorry to discommode you, gentlemen, but you will remember this morning that I did say that I would visit you at midnight, and that it would be my last visit. Well I would recommend you, for if you look at the floor and you see that you have no roof, you will go to Gluck’s room, where you will find that I have left the roof on for him, and that you would spend the rest of the night there, perhaps.” At that moment the cushion began to spiral very rapidly, and in a great commotion, swept away and vanished into the night.
When the brothers did wake up in the morning, and looked about, they looked out the window, all that was left, literally of the whole cottage and building was just the one room with the roof on it. But when they looked out of the window there was the tragedy. There was not a tree nor a shrub nor a plant in the entire valley. The waters had swept right through. And there was nothing but a red mire of mud throughout the whole valley. They searched the house, there was nothing whatever left of the house or in it their possessions. Everything was gone. All of the crops, cereals, even the pile of gold, which they kept, locked in a room. There was only one thing left, the kitchen table. And on the kitchen table a small white card. And on the card in rather spidery scrawl was written: Southwest Wind, Esquire.
Well, Southwest Wind was as good as his word. For not only had he ravaged the entire valley, but also his connections with all the other winds—in particular the west winds—had all come to agreement on the same matter. And of course they did not visit. So that now from then on there were no rains in Treasure Valley at all. No rains whatever came. And as there was no river, there was no moisture. And the whole valley was from that time onwards a desert.
The brothers had nothing to farm, there was nothing they could raise, they spent what little money they had left, and they had no means of living or existence. So they decided on a profession. They decided to go to the city, and since they had stowed away some ill-gotten treasure in the way of gold ornaments, to which they had invested their ill-gotten gains, they decided that it was a very good knaves’ profession to become goldsmiths.
After they talked it over, they decided to proceed with this, since they had all these gold objects. And so they hired a furnace, and set it out. So they turned the gold objects of their ill- gotten gain into salable gold, and made money. And the unfortunate part of it was that they were— in the middle of a knavish practice—they were stowing into the gold, which was sold, mostly copper inside. When people came to know that, of course they didn’t deal. And there was another matter, which again disapproved the whole issue, and that was, although Gluck worked the furnace, and attended the operations very satisfactorily, that all the gold that was sold, they spent as money drinking and eating, and looking after themselves. So that they very quickly spent that gold issue, and had nothing again. Nothing whatever. Except one last item. And that one last item happened to be an extremely valuable gold mug, which belonged to Gluck.
Which Gluck was extortionately fond of it, for very secret reasons. Not that he drank anything particular out of it, other than water or milk, or such things, but because of who gave it to him. It was an old uncle who told him a very fascinating story about it, and also it was solid gold, that it was incredibly valuable, and most exquisitely wrought. And Gluck had always been very, very, very deeply, secretly fond of it. However, the two brothers, as you can imagine in their manner, merely laughed in his face, seized the mug from him, and tossed it into the furnace. They went out to drink, and left Gluck to attend to the melting of this pot, until it was ready to be poured into a mold, so that it could be sold.
Gluck was very upset. He went to the furnace; he opened the lid, he looked and he saw this beautiful little mug. It was really a very large mug, and it had always been, even with his brothers, extortionately admired, for whenever they drank their Rhenish wine from it, they had always found that this curious design on it, and its molding, had a reaction. For the two handles that were on either side were in the form of the most excruciatingly delicate woven silk golden hair. And that made the handles. That hair flew up and turned around, and came down and joined under a face. A very curious face that was both frightening and yet beautiful. And that that face was hardly visible in the molding other than two eyes, which seemed to glint. The curious thing was that when you drank out of it, you were always caught by your eyes being caught on the glint of these two eyes on the side of the mug. And that after a period they seemed to weep. So it was very, very strange all together.
So it was that at looking at this again, in the furnace, and seeing it begin to melt, that Gluck was very upset and disconsolate. He then he looked and he saw that the nose and the molding of the face was beginning to run and turn into liquid gold. So he closed the lid and walked away from the furnace, towards the windows were it was cooler, where he could sit and contemplate, for this window looked right on to those mountains that I told you about.
He looked right up at those great mountains, rising up into the sky, snowcapped, and it was evening time now. The furnace was molting the gold into this crucible. And he looked up into the mountain and he saw the whole beauty of the evening. The whole valley was in darkness; the rest of the countryside was all dark. The stars were glimmering out and yet where this water shot over this precipice, this exquisite gold was shining. This golden water, all sparkling, throwing up the most incredible light.
And he couldn’t help thinking out loud: “Oh dear, if only that river really were gold. How nice it would be.” “No it wouldn’t, Gluck my boy!” said a voice right at his ear. Gluck jumped up. There was nobody there. He looked all around, kept turning to the back, but there was nobody there. He looked under the table, but there was nobody. He couldn’t make out what…
He went and sat down again and looked up, and was again caught by the exquisiteness, which nobody could evade, of this waterfall and this gold, which was now more brilliant than ever. But now he thought, but not out loud this time, he thought silently to himself, “It really would—if you come to look at it—it really would be nice if that were gold.” “No it wouldn’t, my boy!” said the voice. Gluck really now couldn’t make it out. He jumped up, kept twirling around to see if somebody was hiding behind his back. He twirled. He ran to the door. He looked up the stairs, he went to the basement, he looked down the stairs. And then suddenly, there was the voice, going: la la lily lily la, la la la lily lily la, tra la la lalala, rather like a kettle on the boil. Wherever he went, he couldn’t find out where it was. Seemed like an echo. Then at last he was quite sure it was nearer the furnace. He ran to the furnace. Yes, it was! It’s coming from the furnace.
So he opened the furnace door, and out came the voice. Then he opened the crucible, and the voice stopped. And then in quiet clear tones came the voice, “Let me out.” Gluck was quick to slam the door. He went back to the window and stood with both his hands to his jaw, in a real fright with his mouth open, and his eyes literally falling out. “Gluck, let me out, I say, I’m ready.” Gluck rushed to the fire, pulled the crucible out, and unstoppered it. And now it was pure molten gold. There was no mug left. But instead of reflecting Gluck’s face, Gluck was looking into the face that was on the mug, which was looking straight into his eyes. And again Gluck was so terrified
that he backed straight to the windows. And again the voice came to him, “Pour me out, I am ready.” No move. “Gluck, I said, pour me out, I am too hot.” No move.
“Gluck, look, be a good boy and pour me out.” Gluck eventually managed to pull his nerves together, took the crucible, and tilted it to pour the gold out. Instead of which, what happens? Out comes a pair of legs attached to a body, two arms, a head, and there is a little dwarf a foot and a half high, dressed in the most exquisite shining gold raiment, with the most articulate, incredible, and terrifying eyes and expression. Beatific and malefic, connected to the last degree.
Gluck simply stood aghast. Whereupon, this little one and a half foot dwarf tries his a arms, tries the movements of his head, and then, stretches one leg out straight in the air, and brings it down—rather like a ballet dancer—and bangs it on the floor. Having made quite sure that everything was in good order, approaches Gluck and says, “Nothing to be alarmed about.” And so Gluck not knowing what to do, said, “No sir, of course not.” The little man now takes three steps of at least three feet, poising his feet in the air, and bringing them down, and then turns and comes straight up to Gluck. And says, “Do you know who I am?” And Gluck can’t answer.
So the little man turns away and takes six steps at least six feet long, and points his feet in the air, brings them down on the ground, and then comes and stands flat in front of Gluck, as though expecting him to say something. And as Gluck does not say anything: “You will be surprised to know that I am the King of the Golden River.” And again does one of his six-foot stampings, up and down, and then again faces Gluck again. Whereupon Gluck, who feeling as he must come out of an idiotic silence, says, “I trust Your Majesty is very well.”
The golden dwarf took no notice of this remark whatever. He said, “Yes, I am what you mortals call the King of the Golden River. I have been, as you have known me in the mug, for a long time, by enchantment. And it is your actions, and what you have done, that have liberated me from that enchantment. And because of that, I am glad to and prepared to be of service to you. Therefore, attend! Any person who will take three drops of holy water and drop them in the source of the outflow of the Golden River, up at the cataract, for him, for that person, the river shall be turned to gold. But nobody shall make a second attempt. And anybody who drops three drops of unholy water will be turned into a black stone.”
Without another word, the little dwarf pirouetted, walked straight into the furnace, turned red, then yellow, then white, and disappeared. Gluck ran to the furnace and looked in, looked up the chimney, and he ran to the window and looked up at the mountain, and he ran to the furnace. And then said, “Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! My mug! Where is my mug?”
At that moment Schwartz and Hans came in, in no good mood. And indeed of course when they found what had happened to the mug, that mood changed to black anger. They pounded Gluck for his prevarications and lies, excuses, for there was no answer as to where was the lost mug. Having pounded him for a quarter of an hour, ’twas night time and they all went to sleep.
What was a surprise in the morning when they approached Gluck for the truth, and he held steadfastly to the whole story which he had related to them, concerning the dwarf, the King of the Golden River, and the prophesy. For he related it acutely word to word correctly, and he could not be lying. Whereof they were both very excited and elated about such a possibility, and started an argument as to which of the two brothers should be the first to go and try the gold of the river. And this argument grew into a quarrel, and this quarrel resulted in drawn swords, and a fight took place outside the house. The neighbors rushed in, and unable to separate, called the justice. Hans ran away and hid, and Schwartz was captured. Taken, tried, fined, and as he had no money to pay the fine, was put in prison. This greatly delighted Hans as you can imagine. Hans immediately decided to take the opportunity and be the first to get the gold.
The question of course, was how to get the holy water. However, he pretended to go to evening services, and in doing so, stole the water from the font, and put it in a phial. And so the next morning, long before dawn, he prepared a basket, plenty of food, bread, two bottles of wine, and of course of all things, hung at his belt a phial of holy water.
It was a beautiful day. The sky was blue, the sea was exorbitant. But somehow he had a great worry on his mind. In any case, he had to go through the town on the way to climb the mountain, and he passed the prison and looked in through the grill and laughed at Schwartz.
He then went on, and started to climb. He looked up and he could just see, in the vagueness of the morning light, the great cataract. And he entirely set his whole thinking on that, so he didn’t observe the beauty of the day, but only one thing was in his mind. So he set out at a very incongruous pace, and climbed, and suddenly struck a glacier which he hadn’t been aware of before.
And he found this glacier almost impossible to cross. It was full of jaggedness. It was nothing concerning ice about it: it was almost as though it was full of human incongruousness. All the time there were voices and creakings and crackings of the ice that were not like ice, but like humans in dissipation. This caused a nostalgia to creep all over him. And he slipped, and fell and cut himself, and hurt himself very badly. And shortly he lost the basket with the food and the wine. He managed for several hours to literally creep on all fours across this glacier and threw himself on the turf on the other side, where he was expecting a better route.
However, when he had recovered sufficiently, he realized that he was extremely thirsty, that his wine was gone, the basket of food was gone, and that there was nothing to resort to, but to suck some pieces of ice. And this he did. When he looked at the path, he realized that it was not the beautiful path that he anticipated, but it was all slime. There were no plants, there were no flowers, there were no insects, there were no trees, it was terribly steep, and he slipped the whole time. And it got worse, and it got worse, and yet as he went up it got hotter, and the Sun scorched and burned. After an hour, he couldn’t tolerate it, because he was absolutely parched. And still he was trying and pressing on with what strength he had.
And he suddenly thought he couldn’t go on any further, without something to drink. Then he bethought of him of the phial of holy water, “Well, there’s quite a lot there. It is only three drops that I need. And if I don’t get there, what’s the use of the three drops anyway?” So he thought that out, “I’ll have a sip.” So he took the phial from his girdle, and at the same moment lying almost at he feet, that he hadn’t noticed was a little dog. And the dog was paralyzed, unable to move, at the last stages of existence. Ants were crawling over its tongue. At the same moment, his eyes flickered and looked up at him, into his eyes, and to the flask. He kicked it with his boot, out of the way, so he couldn’t see it, and took several gulps, recorked the flask, hung it on his belt, and climbed better.
But the way got harder. It became more dark, more purple, and there were clouds collecting. And yet, the Sun, the heat of the Sun, became hotter, and he became more and more exhausted. He tried to hurry and couldn’t. And after another hour, it was already well past noon, he was struggling on, and realized that he couldn’t possibly go any further, but what he must have water for his throat.
At last he gave up struggling and stopped, and took the flask again and when he looked at it, there was plenty to spare, to have a good sip. So he uncorked it. And at that moment there was a child, almost the same condition as the dog. Its eyes actually opened and looked into his eyes, and looked at the phial. He quickly turned away, so he couldn’t see it, and took a long drink. And corked it up.
When he looked up, he saw that he had not so far to go to get to the cataract, and so he climbed on grabbing with his hands. Now it was harder than ever it seemed. And a thunderstorm came up, and was building into great darkness, and he became frightened in himself. He was only five hundred feet below the cataract, looking up at it, and he thought he couldn’t even make that. And so he looked at the phial, he saw there was still enough to spare, to have the three drops, and that he would at least have the power to get there. At the same moment, there, stretched over a rock, was very, very old man, almost breathless, who groaned, and glanced at the phial, and glanced in his eyes. And again he turned hurriedly away, and there was a violent flash of lightning, and the thunder roared. It became extremely dark. Purple clouds set over everything. In darkness, he became bewildered with fright.
He hung the phial quickly at his belt, and struggled on up, and grasped the rocks, and pulled, and each one was harder. And he groaned and screamed, and pulled, and eventually, he was right beside the roaring torrent. Standing on the very edge, and there was the water swirling, gushing over the cascade of the precipice, with this great cataract. He was about to turn the whole thing into gold, and he took the phial, and there was a great crash of lightening and thunder. He flung the three drops in the phial into the great river, and there was a terrifying shriek and a flash, and he fell into the water.
And there was a great black rock with water gushing over it. A shining great black rock. When Hans did not return, Gluck was very frightened. What might have happened? And eventually he went to the prison and told Schwartz. And of course Schwartz was extremely happy and glad, but pretended to be upset. He told Gluck that he could not possibly go on while in the prison, and that something must be done to liberate him. So Gluck promised, as they had nothing whatever, that he would go to a goldsmith’s, since he knew something now about furnaces and smelting, he would go to a goldsmith and hire himself out, and raise enough money to liberate Schwartz.
This he did, and worked hard and diligently, and was poorly paid, but very quickly had enough money, and he went and paid the justice. Schwartz pretended to be very grateful indeed, and was liberated. Immediately Schwartz thought in his mind of what must have happened. He felt that the only thing that could really have gone wrong—for he knew Hans’ strength and capacity— was that he had been probably turned to a black stone because of some misdemeanor over the holy water.
So Schwartz took some of the money and bought from a bad man, holy water. He put this in the phial in his girdle, and early the next morning he prepared for the journey. He took also with him a basket, with the loaves and the bread and the food, and the wine, and set off. And again it was a beautiful day. But again this man had the one thought in his mind. He looked up and saw this cataract, and that that was the whole of his goal, and that was his attainment. And he too likewise climbed too fast, exhausted himself, and found the horrors unsuspected of this glacier, where he also fell, where he also lost his provision.
Schwartz just managed to get to the other side and fell upon the bank, and used the ice. He then too began to climb and found it more difficult than he had ever known or expected. It was all slippery and slime, and there were no plants, nothing to hang onto—no bushes, no trees. And after an hour, he couldn’t tolerate it any more. And he had the same thought as Hans, and he undid the phial from his belt, and looked and said, “Well, I have ample in here. At least I can moisten my throat sufficiently.” And at the same moment, in opening the stopper, perceived the child, and the child immovable, in the throws of death. The child’s eyes opened and looked into his, and looked at the phial, and he too spurned it and turned away, and took the drink. And restoppered, and as he restoppered, it was as though a cloud came over the whole setting.
He became terrified and frightened inside. And that fright spread through his veins, and it was harder and harder every step to climb. And after another hour he couldn’t go on any further, he was exhausted and terrified. He stopped again and looked at the phial, and was about to unstopper it, when there was the old man even beckoning for a drink. And again he turned away and spurned, and drank. Stoppering up the phial, he climbed again, and he too eventually reached, in the last extremities of his capacity, five hundred feet beneath the cataract. And he realized that by some means he could get there. He looked at the phial, and to be sure to get there, he only had to have a sip. And as he unstoppered the phial, he thought he saw Hans, and he laughed in the gurgling dryness of his throat, and said, “Huh! Do you remember when you looked through the bars of the prison? Did you ask for water then?” And he kicked with his boot, and he drank, and he climbed.
Again the storm came, and the lightning and the thunder, and it became black, and pitch. Eventually he was on the edge of the great cataract, with the stream tearing by with its crystal clear waters. And he knew that in one moment he was going to turn the whole thing into gold, and this enormous crash of thunder and this great flash of lightening, and he quickly threw the phial into the water, and the whole sod fell away from under him, and with a great shriek, he was a black stone, beside the other.
For a long, long time Gluck was terrified. He couldn’t imagine what could have happened, and had all sorts of terrifying thoughts. And so he went and worked, and was very poorly paid with his goldsmith. And during that time he cogitated, and he kept remembering what the little dwarf had told him, how friendly and kind he had been and seemed. Eventually he was overwrought by this and felt that he must make an attempt. So he went to the priest and asked if he might have, and the priest gladly gave him the holy water, and he prepared the phial at his belt. He did take some water and some bread in a basket. And very early in the morning, a most exquisite morning, full of sunlight arriving, and the stars were disappearing, he set off and started to climb.
As he looked about, he found it very beautiful. And he climbed. And when he came to the glacier, he was indeed very frightened, and was alarmed at these extraordinary sounds that were more human than natural. But he plucked up his courage, and eventually crossed. But in doing so, he too fell, and hurt himself badly, and lost all his provender. Eventually got to the other side and rested. And he used the ice to suck, to recover.
And then he looked up, and he bethought him of what he was going to do, and he was hoping to restore and find Schwartz and Hans, and all of the other things that were in his mind. And as he looked at the path, he saw that there was grass, and that there were little plants, and they had flowers, and that there were butterflies and dragonflies about, and there were roots to hang on to. And as he climbed it got a little easier, and each climb got a little easier, with more bushes, and more stepping stones and rocks. But after an hour, he too was exhausted by the energies, and couldn’t go on for being absolutely parched, gasping in the throat. And he too thought of the phial, and he too thought whether it would be reverent or not to do such a thing. And then he felt he would not be able to attain his goal if he didn’t do this.
So he took it, and as he was unstoppering it, an old man with a staff came ‘round the corner of the path, and begged of him water. And Gluck looked at him and shook his head, but the man looked into his eyes. And Gluck unstoppered the phial, handed it to him, and said, “But be careful! Only very little. Very little, please!” But the man drank fully half, and thanked him, and as Gluck looked around, he saw him hurrying down the hill.
Now as Gluck turned, his throat wasn’t dry, and he was happier. He thought what a beautiful day it was; it was one of the most beautiful days he’d ever known. And the plants became more and more enchanting, and he enjoyed them. And all the colors as he looked up, and the sky was blue, and he began to enjoy it and adore. So he managed another hour, but then he too was parched again, and literally couldn’t move, and felt paralyzed all over. And he took the phial and looked at it and saw that there was still half, and that three drops was what was wanted.
And so he pulled the stopper, and at the same moment, he saw out of the corner of his eye, stretched on a rock, the little child, in the last throes. And that the eyes met his, and looked at the phial. And he went up to her, and opened her mouth, and poured in all except three drops. And as he put the stopper back carefully, he saw that there was enough left, he hung it at his side, and as he hung it at his side, he saw movement. As he turned ‘round to see what the movement was, the child was running down the hill. And he found that he wasn’t dried up and parched, and he could climb a little more, although he was suffering greatly.
And so he set off. The path was easier now. Everything was brighter, and birds were singing, and he even felt happier somehow, inside. He climbed a little faster. And then he got to that position, when at last, he looked about him and there at that position five hundred feet above, was the cataract, with the water falling over. And yet, he literally couldn’t move, he couldn’t stir another limb. He couldn’t even make an ejaculation from his throat. And there, as he looked at the phial, and saw only three drops, he realized he couldn’t move any more.
And there out of the corner of his eye on the left now, he saw the little dog, lying prostrate. And it looked into his eyes, and it looked at the phial. And he turned away. He tried to walk. But he stumbled. He couldn’t move. And he turned, he looked at the dog, and he tried to turn away, but couldn’t.
Suddenly out of his cracked, parched throat: “Bother! Bother the King of the Golden River! And the gold too!” And he seized the stopper, pulled it out, and put the phial in the dog’s mouth and poured it in. The little dog jumped up on all fours, and then it stood up on its hind legs, and its tail disappeared. Its ears grew longer, and longer, and longer, and vanished. And quite suddenly, it began to turn into a dwarf. And in three seconds, standing in front of him, very erect, very severe, was the golden dwarf, King of the Golden River.
Gluck realized what he had said. And the dwarf shook his head. He said, “Don’t worry.” And Gluck said, “I needed the three drops…” And the King of the River suddenly looked totally different. He looked more severe and more stern, to the very rocks in the mountains in their severity. And he said, “Your two brothers have been turned into black stones.” And Gluck jumped aside and said, “Oh, but you couldn’t do that! So cruel.” And the King of the Golden River said, “Do you think I am allowed to permit such behavior?” Then he grew more stern still, and he said, “When the water of purity is refused to the weary and the dying, it is unholy, even though it is blessed by all the angels of heaven. And when the water of charity is given, it is holy, even though it is defiled by death.
At which the golden dwarf stooped, and plucked a lily, upon whose three petals were three crystal drops of dew. These he shook into the phial which Gluck was holding. And thereupon said, “You will take these and drop them into the river, and then you will descend on the other side of the mountain. And Godspeed.” And in a few moments, he had turned through gold, to red, to white, and thus as he had been a rainbow. The King of the Golden River had vanished.
Gluck took the crystal drops in the phial, and climbed, and he climbed and he reached the side of the river. And there it was flowing, in its crystal water. He was full of elixir and happiness.
He threw the three drops into the river. And then he stood in astonishment. For it had not turned into gold. Indeed, it was strange, that the level of the river even dropped, and seemed to drop into a hole. With a beautiful musical sound.
But again he was obedient, and after looking at the mountain, he traveled around the peak, and traversed downwards on the other side of the mountain, as told. He eventually came around towards the foot of the mountain, and suddenly had a view of Treasure Valley. And now he saw what had happened.
The Golden River, still cascading over, had also dropped into the ground, and was coming out half-way down the mountain, and turning into a cascade in the valley for the first time. It was running in rivers into rivulets into streams throughout the valley.
He waded his way, down the valley, to the home. And in a few weeks and months, all the grasses had sprung up, and the plants, and the weeds; and the bushes and then trees. He propagated the crops, and he lived in the house. And everyone came to the door and was received. And so, the whole valley was again a garden. And what had been lost by selfishness was restored by devotion.
*This story was written in 1841 by John Ruskin (1819-1900) and published ten years later under the title The King of the Golden River or The Black Brothers: A Legend of Stiria.