I do apologize for missing several posts this week – it’s been busy! A happy (belated) Canadian Thanksgiving to you all! I stuffed myself silly with delicious turkey, stuffing, and the works. I also realized that I have a lot of great things going on in my life, and I am truly thankful to be blessed with amazing family and friends.
On to my Fairy Tale feature!
Today’s Fairy Tale features Faithful John, again from the Grimm Brothers. Here is my summary / re-telling:
Once upon a time, an old king lay on his deathbed. He called his servant, Faithful John, to his bedside, who was a man true to his name.
“My faithful John,” the old King implored, “my end is near. Please promise me to take my son, who is still young, and guide him, teach him all he should know, and be his foster father?”
Faithful John dutifuly agreed, indicating, “I will serve him faithfully, even if it costs me my life.”
The old King continued, “After I die, show my son the whole castle and all of its treasures, but you must not show him the last room in the long galley. In that room is a portrait of the Princess of the Golden Dwelling, and she is so beautiful that the prince will faint and fall desperately in love with her. He will go through much danger for her, but you must prevent that.” Faithful John promised to do the king’s bidding, and the old king died peacefully.
After the funeral and mourning were finished, Faithful John went about his duties and showed the young King all of the castle and all it’s treasures. He promised the King to be faithful, even unto his own death. They went all over the palace but avoided that one room in the long galley.
The young King noticed and remarked, “Why don’t we open this door? We always pass it but never go inside.”
“We cannot, for it contains something that would terrify you. I promised your father we would not go inside,” replied Faithful John. The young king was not dissuaded. He attempted to muscle his way inside and to break down the door but Faithful John pulled him back.
“If I don’t go in,” replied the King, “it will certainly be my destruction. I will not rest nor leave the palace until I have seen it myself. You must unlock the door!”
Faithful John saw that there was no help for it, so with a very heavy heart he took out the great key and unlocked the door, rushing to stand in front of the King so the young man would not see the portrait of the princess inside. The King peeked around John’s shoulder and immediately fell into a dead faint at the sight of the picture inside. Faithful John picked him up and carried him to his bed, anxious over what misfortune would now come their way.
When the King woke, he exclaimed, “Who is that beautiful maiden?”
“The princess of the Golden Dwelling,” replied Faithful John.
“I love her more than anything in the world, more than words can express. I would give my life to be with her! You must help me, Faithful John, to win her hand!”
Faithful John gave the matter some thought, and concocted a brilliant plan. Knowing that it was difficult to even catch sight of the princess, John proposed his plan to the King, who immediately agreed and set it into motion.
The princess of the Golden Dwelling was surrounded by gold – even the tables, chairs, and dishes of her residence. The King called in all his goldsmiths, who took the gold from the treasuries and crafted it into all kinds of beautiful pieces to please the princess. The goldsmiths worked tirelessly through the day and night and finally all was ready. The magnificent works were loaded onto a ship. Faithful John and the King dressed as merchants and sailed across the sea to the town where the princess of the Golden Dwelling lived.
“Stay here,” Faithful John implored, “I will go and see if I can bring the princess back with me. Make sure everything is ready – bring out all the golden pieces and decorate the ship.”
Faithful John took an apron-ful of some of the beautiful gold pieces and went to the palace. There he saw a girl with two golden buckets drawing water from the well. She saw him and asked who he was.
“I’m a merchant,” he replied, and showed her some of the pieces.
“These are gorgeous! The princess will want to see these, for she loves golden things, and will buy all you have.” The girl, who was a waiting-maid, took Faithful John to the princess, who was delighted with the golden treasures.
“I will buy them all,” the princess declared.
“I am only a servant of a rich merchant,” said John, “and he has so many more beautiful and valuable golden pieces in his ship.”
“Bring them here,” suggested the princess.
“There are so many pieces it would take a number of days. There are too many pieces to exhibit, you do not have room,” explained Faithful John.
“Take me to your ship, for I want to see these treasures myself,” exclaimed the princess.
Faithful John led the princess to the ship. The princess was even more beautiful than the portrait suggested, and the King thought his heart would burst with love. He took her within, to show her the golden treasures. John stayed above and ordered the Captain to push off. The ship began to sail, but the princess did not notice as she was so captivated by the golden pieces that hours passed. At length, the princess decided it was time to go home, only to discover that they were at sea!
“I am betrayed,” she cried, “for I have fallen into the power of a merchant – I would rather die!”
“I am no merchant,” exclaimed the King, “I am a king, and I am deeply so deeply in love with you that when I first saw your portrait I fainted to the ground!”
The princess was comforted and consented to be his wife.
As they were making their way home, Faithful John happened to be lounging at the front of the ship (making some music) when three Ravens flew overhead. He paused and listened (for he understood the Ravens) and was greatly troubled by their talk. The ravens noted that the King was carrying home the princess of the Golden Dwelling, but there were many challenges ahead for the King.
The first raven revealed that when the King arrived home, a chestnut horse would leap forward to meet him. If the King should mount the horse, it would run away and rise up into the air and he would never see his maiden again. But if someone else quickly mounted the horse and took the pistol in it’s holster and shot it dead, the king would be saved. If this person were to warn the king, or ever tell him, they would be turned to stone from knees to toes.
The second raven then declared that if the king should be saved from the horse, they would go home. At the castle, a beautiful bridal suit would be waiting in a dish, looking as if it were made of gold and silver. If the king would wear it, the sulphur and pitch of it’s real composition would burn him to bone and marrow. If someone with gloves were to take the garment and throw it into the fire and burn it, the King would be saved. But if that person were to warn the king, or ever tell him, they would be turned to stone from heart to knees.
The third raven now indicated that the king’s troubles would not be over. After the wedding, the young queen would fall down as if she was dead, and if someone did not lift her up and suck three drops of blood from her right breast and spit them out again, she would die. But if that person were to warn her or the king, or ever to tell, they would be turned to stone from the top of their head to the bottom of their feet.
Faithful John was very troubled by this knowledge, but steeled himself, because he would save his master even if it meant his own death.
When the ship came to shore, all the raven’s predictions came true. A great chestnut horse was waiting, and sprang forward to the King.
“He shall carry me to the palace,” the King declared, but Faithful John was too quick. John mounted the horse, took the pistol from it’s holster, and shot the horse dead. The other attendants were upset and confused, but the King stood by John.
“Leave him alone,” the King told the others, “John is the most faithful of my servants. Who knows what good may come of his actions?”
They continued on to the palace, and in the hall stood a dish with a beautiful bridal garment for the king. It looked made of gold and silver, but Faithful John pulled on gloves and seized it quickly, throwing it into the fire where it burned before the King could touch it. Again, the other attendants were upset and confused, but the King stood by John.
“Leave him be! Who knows what good may come of his actions?”
At last, the King was wed, and at the wedding dance the bride suddenly turned pale and fell to the ground as if dead. Faithful John lifted her up, bringing her into another room where he lay her down, sucked three drops of blood from her right breast, and spat them out. Immediately the new Queen breathed again and recovered. The King, however, having seen John manhandle his new wife (and not understanding the reasons for it) was angry and cried, “Throw him into the dungeon!”
Faithful John was condemned, and stood at the gallows waiting for his execution. Faithful John asked for one last speech, and the King consented. So John relayed the tale of the ravens and their predictions, explaining his actions and his unjust condemnation.
“Oh, my most faithful John! Pardon! He is pardoned!” exclaimed the King, hearing John’s tale. It was too late, for John had turned to stone from head to toe.
The King and Queen were greatly upset, and mourned the ill-use of John’s faithfulness and fidelity. The king ordered John’s statue to be placed beside his bed, and often he looked upon it and wept, “If only I could bring you back to life, Faithful John!”
After a time, the Queen gave birth to twins. Her two sons were the light of her life, and gave the royal family much joy. One day, when the Queen was out, the king was watching his sons as they played near John’s statue.
“Oh, if only I could bring you back to life, Faithful John,” the King said with a sigh.
“You can bring me to life again if you sacrifice what is dearest to you,” said the stone statue. The king was astonished.
“I will give everything I have in the world for you!”
“If you cut of the heads of your two children with your own hand and sprinkle me with their blood, I shall be restored to life,” said the stone statue.
The King was terrified, for he loved his dearest children, but he thought of Faithful John’s fidelity and how John had died for him. So he took his sword and lopped off his son’s heads with his own hand. After he had smeared their blood on the statue, it transformed back into Faithful John.
Now restored, Faithful John said, “Your fidelity will be rewarded.” Then Faithful John took the children’s heads, put them back on their bodies, and rubbed the wounds with their blood. The two children became whole and healthy immediately, jumping about and playing as if nothing had occurred.
The King was full of joy! When he saw the Queen was coming, he asked Faithful John and the two boys to hid in a big wardrobe.
“I have been thinking of Faithful John and the misfortune that fell on him because of us,” sighed the Queen.
“We can save him, my love,” said the King, “but it will cost us our two little sons, whom we must sacrifice.” The Queen, hearing this, turned pale.
“We owe it to him, for his great fidelity,” she said, though her heard was full of terror.
The King rejoiced that the Queen thought as he had, and he opened the wardrobe. Out sprang the two boys and Faithful John.
And they all lived happily ever after.
My thoughts on this tale:
- Faithful John is pretty faithful, that’s for sure.
- Wasn’t the king SNEAKY in getting his wife? Plus John. I’m pretty sure that is kidnapping. I guess it worked out, since the princess seemed to be okay with the whole arrangement in the end, but what choice did she really have?
- How come John understood the ravens? Does he have secret powers? Apparently so, since he came back to life! AND mended two headless boys.
- I’m pretty sure that if I were the king, I would think I was hallucinating when the stone statue spoke to me. I’m pretty surprised the king didn’t think he was going mad. It’s a good thing the kids got their heads back in the end!
- The moral of the story: faithfulness / fidelity = good.