Gateway to the Classics: The Oak-Tree Fairy Book by Clifton Johnson
The Oak-Tree Fairy Book by  Clifton Johnson

The King of the Golden Mountain

A CERTAIN merchant sent two richly laden ships on a voyage. He invested all his property in them, and he hoped to make great gains; but the ships were wrecked, and the merchant was reduced from wealth to poverty and had to live in a poor little cottage.

One day, as he was walking along by the seashore thinking sadly of his future, a rough-looking dwarf stood before him and asked why he was so sorrowful.

"I would tell you," said the merchant, "if it would do any good."

"Who knows but that it may?" said the little man. "Tell me your troubles and perhaps I can be of some service."

Then the merchant related how all his wealth had gone to the bottom of the sea.

"Oh, well, don't mourn any longer about that," said the dwarf. "Only promise that twelve years hence you will bring to me here whatever meets you first on your return home, and I will see that you shall never want for gold."

The merchant promised and thought he had the best of the bargain; but when he approached his home, who should come running to meet him but his little boy. The merchant was greatly distressed to think that he had bound himself to give his boy to the dwarf. "Very likely, though, the dwarf was only joking," said he; "for I see no sign of that gold he told me I was to have."

A few days afterward the merchant was cleaning out an old lumber-room, and under a heap of rubbish in a corner he found a box full of gold pieces. Then he was fearful that the dwarf was in earnest. However, there was the gold, and what was he to do with it? He concluded to go into business once more, and he was not long in becoming richer than he had been before.

Time went on, and the son grew up and the end of the twelve years drew near. The merchant was very anxious now, and one day he told his son about his promise to the dwarf.

"Well," said the son, "I would not worry; perhaps things may not turn out as badly as you think."

When the appointed date came they went together to the sea-shore, and there they found the little dwarf. The merchant begged the dwarf not to insist on taking his son from him, and they argued for a long time. At last the dwarf said, "I will yield up my rights on one condition, which is that your son shall get into an open boat and be set adrift on the sea without sail or oars."


"Oh, cruel dwarf!" said the merchant. "If I must choose between the sea and you I choose the sea."

Then the dwarf led the way to a boat that was drawn up on the beach near where they had been talking. They dragged the boat to the water, the son got in, and the dwarf pushed it off.

The merchant hoped his son would drift to shore, but the wind and currents carried the little boat farther and farther away until he could see it no longer. Then he hoped his son would be rescued by some vessel, but the weeks and months slipped away without his hearing anything from him, and finally he gave his son up for lost.

However, the young man was not drowned in the sea as his father thought. He sat securely in the little boat, and it rocked along over the waves until it was wafted to the shores of a country the merchant's son had never before seen. Not far from where he came to land was a lofty mountain, and the color of the mountain was yellow, like gold, and on its summit was a beautiful castle.

So the merchant's son walked away from the sea and climbed the golden mountain; but when he reached the castle he discovered that it was empty and desolate, for it was enchanted. He went all through the great building and saw not a living thing till he entered one of the chambers where he found a white snake; and this white snake spoke to him.

"Oh, how glad I am to see you!" it said. "I am not really a snake. A wicked dwarf has enchanted me. I am the Queen of the Golden Mountain. Twelve long years have I waited for a deliverer."

"If you will tell me in what way I can be of service to you," said the merchant's son, "I will do anything I can to disenchant you."

"Then listen to me," said the queen. "This night twelve black men will come and they will ask you why you are here; but be silent. Give them no answer. Let them do what they will, even if they beat and torment you. Speak not a word, or you cannot save me. At twelve o'clock they will go. The second night twelve other black men will come, and they will do as did the first twelve. The third night twelve more black men will come and they will try their worst to make you speak; but if you withstand them till the twelfth hour of that night I shall be free."

"Have no fear," replied the young man; "your wishes shall be obeyed."

Everything came to pass as the queen had said, and the merchant's son was threatened and beaten and tormented. Yet he spoke not a word, and at twelve o'clock on the third night the black men hastened away howling with rage and disappointment. Then the white snake became a beautiful young queen. The castle, too, was disenchanted and was all that the home of a queen should be; and the merchant's son fell in love with the queen, and she fell in love with him. So it was not long before a wedding was celebrated in the castle, and the merchant's son became the King of the Golden Mountain.

Eight years passed, and then the king said, "I must go to visit my father. In all the years I have been here he has had no word from me, and he must think I am dead."

"No, no," said the queen, "do not go."

But the king grew more and more anxious to return to his father, and at last the queen consented. When he was about to start she gave him a wishing-ring, and said, "Take this ring and put it on your finger. You have but to turn it around when you wish and whatever you wish for will be granted. Only promise that you will not make use of it to bring me hence to your father's."

He promised what she asked and put the ring on his finger. Then he wished himself near the town where his father lived. A moment later he found himself at the town gates; but the clothes he wore were so different from those worn by the people of that region that the town guards were suspicious and would not let him in. So he walked off across the fields trying to think what he would do next.

Presently he came to a shepherd's hut. "I will make an exchange of clothes here," said he, and he sought out the shepherd and offered him a golden guinea for some of his old garments.

The shepherd was very glad to part with them at that price, and when the king put them on and left his own fine apparel behind, the shepherd could only think that the poor man had lost his wits.

The king now went back to the town, and, in his shepherd's garb, the guards supposed him to be a peasant and let him pass without question. He hastened to his father's house, and told the merchant that he was his son.

"But my son is dead, long since," said the merchant; and he would not believe it possible that this ragged fellow was his son, whom he had seen disappear eight years previous in the little boat.

"Is there no mark by which you would know if I am really your son?" the king asked at length.

"Yes," replied the merchant, "my son had a mark like a raspberry on the under side of his right arm, just above the elbow."

Then the king pulled up the sleeve on his right arm and showed the mark, and the merchant was satisfied that the young man was his son, and he listened with wonder while the son related how he had married a queen and was King of the Golden Mountain.

"What!" cried the merchant, "you tell me you are a king? That cannot be true, else you would not be travelling about in a shepherd's frock."

The son was very much troubled when his father did not believe him. "I will prove to you that I speak the truth," said he, and forgetting his promise to his queen he turned his ring and wished to have her there with him.

Instantly she stood before him in her royal robes, and the merchant could not doubt longer that his son was King of the Golden Mountain as he had said. But the queen wept because the king had broken his word. She stopped crying presently, yet she did not forget his broken promise, and that night while he was asleep she drew the ring from his finger and wished herself at home in her kingdom. When the king awoke he was alone, and the ring was gone from his finger. He was very sorrowful then, and he said, "I will journey forth into the world and perhaps I can find my kingdom again."

So saying, he set out and travelled for many days. At last he came near to a hill on the top of which he heard loud and angry voices. "I must find out what is going on here," said the king, and he climbed the hill and crept along till he was near enough to see that two giants were disputing over the possession of a cloak and a pair of boots.

He listened and learned that the cloak made its wearer invisible, and that the boots carried the person who put them on wherever he wished to go. The giants began a desperate struggle, when one of them said, "Why should we kill each other? Let us bury the things that make the trouble between us right here and have no more to do with them."

"Yes," said the other, "let us bury them."


So they scraped a hole in the dirt, threw in the cloak and boots, covered them up and went off. Then the king ran to the spot where the cloak and boots were buried and dug them up, and when he had shaken the dirt out of them he put them on. They fitted perfectly, for they were magic garments that increased or decreased in size to suit the stature of the wearer. "Now," said he, "I wish I was back at the Golden Mountain."

He was there at once; but no one knew he had come because the cloak he had on made him invisible. He found the queen very melancholy on account of her long separation from him. "I would wish him back," said she, looking at the ring on her finger, "if he had not broken his promise."

This she said again and again, and at length the tears gathered in her eyes and she said, "I cannot bear to have him away any longer," and she turned the ring and said, "I wish he was here."

But the king was already there, only she could not see him. She looked about disappointed. "Can it be that the magic is gone from my ring?" she exclaimed. "I will try again."

She turned the ring once more and this time she said, "I wish to be carried to the king."

As the king was in the same room there was nothing for the ring to do, and she remained just where she was. Then the king took pity on her and threw off the cloak he was wearing, and the queen saw him and they ran to each other's arms. The king was happy and the queen was happy, and they lived happily together on the Golden Mountain ever after.

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