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Something Completely Different II

Posted by acdtest on January 15, 2004

And Now For Something Completely Different II

Faithful John

A New But Unmodern Translation of The Tale
From The Collection of The Brothers Grimm

I.

here was once upon a time a king who had fallen mortally ill and knew he was about to die, and so he called for his favorite servant who was named Faithful John because his whole life long he had been in the king’s service and was as true to the king as one man could ever be to another.

And when Faithful John came to the bedside of the king, the king said to him, “My most faithful John, I feel my end is fast approaching, and my only concern is for my son and only child. He’s still young and does not always know the best way to guide himself. I ask you to give me your solemn oath to be as a father to him and teach him what he must know so that he may become a courageous, just and noble king.”

And Faithful John replied, “On my oath, I swear to do what you ask and serve the prince as truly as I have served you, and I will never forsake him should it cost me my own life.”

At this the king was well pleased and thanked his faithful servant from the depths of his noble heart.

And then the king said to him, “It’s my wish that after my death you show my son all that is his, all the rooms and chambers in the palace, and all the vaults and the great treasures that lie within. But on your oath swear to me you will never permit him entrance to the chamber which lies at the end of the great gallery, for within that chamber is the picture of the princess of the Golden Dwelling, and should he see it he will be so smitten by her beauty that he will faint dead away and go through great dangers for her sake, and from this he must be protected.”

And Faithful John said, “On my oath, I will do all that you ask if it be in my power to do so.”

The king then once more thanked his faithful servant and said, “Now I may die in peace,” and with that he laid his head on his pillow and died.

Within the week the old king was laid in his grave, and there was great sorrow and mourning throughout the kingdom for he was a good king and was well-loved by all his subjects. And when the period of mourning came to an end Faithful John told the young king all that he’d sworn to his father, and said to him, “On my oath, I swear to serve you as truly as I served your father, and I will never forsake you should it cost me my own life.” But of the old king’s wish concerning the chamber at the end of the great gallery he said nothing.

And then Faithful John said to the young king, “It’s now time for you to see your inheritance,” and he took him through the palace and showed him all the rooms and chambers, and all the vaults with the great treasures that lay within, but he did not show him the chamber which lay at the end of the great gallery. The king, however, took notice of this, and said, “Why is it that you show me all the apartments in the palace, all the vaults, together with the great treasures that lie within, but pass by the door of the chamber which lies at the end of the great gallery?”

And Faithful John answered, “It’s forbidden me to show it to you, for on his deathbed I swore an oath to your father whose wish it was that the chamber remain unopened.”

But the king would have none of this answer and pressed Faithful John to unlock the chamber saying that if he could not see what was within he would have no rest day or night. He then tried to break open the door by force, and Faithful John pulled him away, saying, “My king, leave off, for within the chamber is something so dangerous and terrifying it would cause you to faint dead away, and bring the greatest misfortune on you.” And by saying this, he hoped to deter the young king. But the king would hear none of it and swore he would stay by the door of the chamber day and night until he was given entrance.

Now, the picture within the chamber was of such great beauty and charm that there was nothing like it in the whole world, and it was so admirably painted that it seemed to have breath and life of its own, and was so placed within the chamber that when the door was opened it was immediately visible. Faithful John knew of this, and as he saw that the king was determined to gain entrance to the chamber and there was no help for it, he contrived a plan whereby he would enter the chamber ahead of the king and stand in front of the picture so that the king could not see it.

And so, with misgivings and heart heavy as lead, Faithful John sought out the key to the chamber on the great ring of keys which never left his side. He then unlocked the door, went in front of the king, and stood before the portrait to block the king’s view of it. But the king was not to be denied, and he peered over Faithful John’s shoulder and beheld the picture. And when he gazed on the image of the princess of the Golden Dwelling, whose beauty was even more radiant than the great quantity of gold and jewels that surrounded her, he was indeed smitten as his father had foretold, and fell to the ground in a faint.

Faithful John lifted him up and carried him to his bedchamber and refreshed him with wine until he was himself again. And the king’s first words were, “Whose image is it that has so smitten me?” And Faithful John replied, “It’s that of the princess of the Golden Dwelling.” Then the king declared that his love for her was so great that if all the leaves on all the trees in all the world were tongues they would not be able to proclaim it. “I would give my life to win her,” he cried, “and you, my most faithful John, must help me.”

When he spoke thus, Faithful John knew the young king’s heart was as noble and courageous as his father’s, and that nothing he could say would deter the king from his quest, and so he gave himself up to the king’s wish, for he had sworn to guide and protect him from all harm, even should it cost him his own life.

Faithful John considered long and hard with himself how best to accomplish the task the young king had set before him, for he knew that to catch but a glimpse of the princess was a difficult matter. After some time he decided on a way that the task might be accomplished, and he said to the king, “Everything around the princess of the Golden Dwelling is made of gold — dishes, glasses, bowls, even the household furniture. Among the great treasures in your vaults are five large trunks of gold. Summon all the goldsmiths in the kingdom and have them fashion all the gold in one of the trunks into all manner of objects — vessels, household goods, and the shapes of beasts of all kinds — such that they may be pleasing to the princess, and we will travel to her with these and see what luck we will have.”

Then the king summoned all the goldsmiths in his kingdom and commanded them to fashion all that Faithful John had instructed him. And they worked day and night until, at last, a great number of magnificent golden things had been wrought, and the treasure was ordered to be placed aboard a ship, and the king and his faithful servant sailed with the ship far across the sea to the land wherein lived the princess of the Golden Dwelling.

II.

When they reached their destination, Faithful John put on the dress of a merchant, and bade the king remain aboard ship and wait for him there. “If luck is with us,” he said to the king, “I will return with the princess of the Golden Dwelling. Therefore be sure that all is in order. Have all the golden objects set out below deck, and the ship made rich and merry with decoration. And put off your kingly raiment, and dress you in merchant’s robes.”

Then the king wished his faithful servant all speed, and Faithful John departed with a quantity of beautiful golden goods that he had placed in a casket which he carried upon his back.

He made straight for the royal palace, and when he arrived he entered the courtyard and found one of the princess’s waiting-maids drawing water from a well in two golden buckets. When she saw the stranger, she asked him who he was and what his business there might be. Faithful John replied that he was a merchant and had many beautiful golden wares to sell, whereupon he placed the casket on the ground and opened it so that the waiting-maid could see. Then she was amazed, and put down the golden buckets and examined each of the golden trinkets, one by one. Then she said, “My mistress must see these,” and she led Faithful John upstairs to the apartments of the princess.

When the princess saw the golden objects she was delighted by them, and said, “They are so beautifully wrought that I will buy all you have.”

But Faithful John said, “I’m merely the servant of a rich merchant. What I have here is but a trifle and not to be compared with that which my master has aboard his ship. They are exquisite golden things the likes of which the world has never seen.”

The princess was greatly excited by this, and would have him bring all to her. But Faithful John said, “There are so many that it would take a procession of a thousand men a thousand days to bring them to you, and they would fill the palace so to overflowing that there would be no room remaining in which to live.”

On hearing this the princess became even more excited, and she longed so to see such a fabulous treasure that she agreed to go with him to the ship.

When Faithful John heard this he was greatly pleased with himself, for this was just what he had set out to accomplish. And so he led the princess of the Golden Dwelling to the ship.

When the young king beheld her he saw that she was even more beautiful than her picture, and he thought his heart would burst with desire. But the princess did not recognize that he was a king, for as Faithful John had instructed him he was dressed as a merchant. He therefore contained his desire and led the princess below to show her the golden things that had been wrought. Faithful John, however, remained on deck with the steersman, and when the king and the princess had gone below he ordered the steersman to set out to sea at all possible speed, and the princess was unaware of it, for her excitement and delight in the golden things she was being shown were so great that she took no notice of the movement of the ship over the sea.

Many hours went by, and when the princess had seen the last of the golden creations she thanked the king (whom she still thought a merchant) and took her leave. But when she went up to the deck of the ship she saw they were on the high seas far from land and were hurrying onward under full sail.

“Ah!,” she cried in alarm, “I am betrayed! I have been stolen away and am in the power of a devious and evil merchant. I would rather die!” and she made to throw herself over the side of the ship. The king, however, seized her hand, and said, “I am neither devious, evil, nor a merchant, but a king, and my blood is as noble as your own. If I have resorted to guile to carry you off it was because of my great love for you. When I first beheld your portrait I was so overcome by your beauty that I fell fainting to the ground, and knew then that I must have you for my queen.”

When the princess of the Golden Dwelling heard all this she lost her fear, and her heart was drawn to him, and she then willingly consented to be his wife and queen.

III.

Now it so chanced one day, as they were sailing across the seas back to the king’s native land, that Faithful John was sitting in the fore part of the ship, whiling away the time by making music on a pipe. Suddenly, he heard a busy rustling in the air high above the masts, and looking up, saw three ravens heading toward the ship. They landed on the fore deck, and began to have a little conversation together. Faithful John ceased his piping, and listened to them, for he could understand the speech of birds.

The first raven said to the others, “I see he is carrying home the princess of the Golden Dwelling.” And the second said, “Even so, the king will not have the princess of the Golden Dwelling for his bride.” Then said the third, “But she is sitting beside him at this very moment.” Then spoke the first again. “No matter, for when they reach land, a magnificent chestnut horse will be waiting there, and will spring forward to meet the king, and he will want to mount it, and when he does it will fly into the sky, and the king will see the princess of the Golden Dwelling no more.” Then asked the third, “Is there no escape for him?” And the first answered, “There is but one way: If another mounts the horse first and shoots it dead with the gun which is in its harness, the king will be saved. But who would know of this? And if someone did know and told what he knew, he would be turned to stone from his toe to his knee,” and with that, the ravens flew off.

Faithful John marked all they said and was deeply troubled by it. He thought, “If I do not warn the king he will be lost, and if I tell him how things stand I will be turned to stone from toe to knee and will surely die.”

But Faithful John was sworn to protect the king from all harm, and so he resolved to save his master, even should it cost him his own life.

When they at last reached land, Faithful John saw that the ravens had spoken truly, for waiting there on the shore was a magnificent chestnut horse which sprang forward to meet the king. The king was greatly pleased, and said, “I will ride with my betrothed to the palace on this beautiful animal,” and he was about to mount the horse when Faithful John pushed him aside, mounted the beast in his stead, withdrew the gun from its harness, and shot the horse dead.

Then the king’s attendants, who were secretly envious of Faithful John, exclaimed, “Shame, shame! He has wantonly killed the beautiful animal that was to carry the king and his betrothed to the palace.” But the king quieted them, and said, “He is my most faithful John, and what he has done he has surely done for my good.”

Then no more was said of the business, and another steed was brought for the king, and all proceeded toward the palace.

Now it so chanced that Faithful John stayed back a little from the procession, thinking on what had happened, when he again heard a busy rustling in the air. He looked up, and circling above him were the three ravens, and they were having another conversation together.

The first raven said to the others, “I see the chestnut horse has been shot dead.” And the second said, “Even so, the king will not have the princess of the Golden Dwelling for his bride.” Then said the third, “But they are already close by the palace.” Then spoke the first again. “No matter, for when they arrive at the palace a magnificent wedding tunic will be waiting for the king in his chambers, and it will appear as if it were woven of purest gold and silver, and the king will want to put it on. But in truth the tunic is nothing but sulfur and pitch, and when the king puts it on it will burn his body to the very bone.” Then asked the third, “Is there no escape for him?” And the first answered, “There is but one way: If another with gloves on takes the garment and quickly throws it into the fireplace and burns it, the king will be saved. But who would know of this? And if someone did know and told what he knew, he would be turned to stone from his knee to his heart,” and with that, the ravens again flew off.

Again Faithful John marked all that they said, and was deeply troubled by it. He thought, “If I do not warn the king he will be lost, and if I tell him how things stand I will be turned to stone from knee to heart and will surely die.”

But Faithful John was sworn to protect the king from all harm, and so he resolved to save his master, even should it cost him his own life.

When they arrived at the palace, again it was just as the ravens said, for waiting there in the king’s chamber was a magnificent wedding tunic, looking as if it were woven of purest gold and silver. The king was greatly pleased by it, and made to put it on, whereupon Faithful John pushed him aside, seized the tunic, and with gloves on, threw it into the blazing fireplace where it was consumed.

The king’s attendants cried, “Look now at the man’s impertinence! He even dares to burn the king’s wedding tunic,” and the king again quieted them, and said, “He is my most faithful John, and what he has done, he has surely done for my good.”

Then no more was said of the business, and all went to prepare for the wedding ceremony and the great ball which was to take place that very evening.

As the evening approached, it so chanced that Faithful John was standing atop the castle tower, thinking on all that had happened, when he once again heard a rustling in the air. He looked up and saw the three ravens flying toward the western wall of the tower, and when they alighted they began another conversation together.

The first raven said to the others, “I see the wedding tunic has been burned.” And the second said, “Even so, the king will not have the princess of the Golden Dwelling for his bride.” Then said the third, “But the wedding is to take place this very evening.” Then spoke the first again. “No matter, for when the wedding is over the bride will dance with her husband, and when the dance begins she will suddenly turn pale and fall down as if dead, and if someone does not lift her up and suck three drops of blood from her right breast and then spit them out, she will die. But who would know of this? And if someone did know and told what he knew, he would be turned to stone from head to toe,” and with that, the ravens once again flew off.

And once again, Faithful John marked all they said, and was deeply troubled by it. He thought, “If I do not instruct the king what he must do, his bride will die, and that will as good as kill him too; but if I tell him how things stand I will be turned to stone from head to toe and will surely die.”

But Faithful John was sworn to protect the king from all harm, and so he resolved to save his master’s bride from certain death, even should it cost him his own life.

That evening, the wedding of the king and the princess of the Golden Dwelling was solemnized with great ceremony, and when the grand ball began the bride and her husband the king danced together, and Faithful John watched the queen closely.

Suddenly, she turned ghostly pale and fell to the floor as if dead. Faithful John ran quickly to her, lifted her up, bore her into the king’s chamber and laid her on the bed. He then knelt by her side, and sucked three drops of blood from her right breast and spit them out. Immediately, the color returned to her cheeks and she began to breathe normally again.

But the king, watching all this, and ignorant of why it was done, was greatly angered, and ordered that Faithful John be thrown into the dungeon. The next morning the king condemned him to death, and Faithful John was led away to the gallows.

When the rope was about to be placed about his neck, he said, “Every man who is condemned to death is permitted one last word. May I also claim that right?”

And the king answered, “It shall be granted you.”

Faithful John then said to the king, “I am unjustly condemned, for I have always been true to you,” and he revealed to him all that the three ravens had spoken, and how he was bound by his oath to do all he did.

Then the king wept, and cried, “Oh!, most faithful John, my most faithful servant! Forgive me!, Forgive me!” and ordered him to be brought down at once. But it was too late, for when Faithful John uttered his last words he had turned to stone from head to toe, and stood cold and lifeless on the gallows.

Then did the king and his new queen cry aloud in anguish, and the king, striking himself on the breast, cried, “With great evil have I repaid great loyalty,” and he ordered that the stone figure be taken up and placed in his bedchamber so that it would be the first thing he saw on arising, and the last when retiring. And henceforth, each time he looked on the stone figure he wept and said, “If I could but restore you to life again, my most faithful John, I would gladly give up my most precious possession.”

IV.

Years passed, and in time the queen was delivered of a fine son, and he grew into a strong and handsome boy, and was a source of great joy to his father and mother.

It so happened one day, when the queen was at church, that the king was sitting in his chamber with his young son playing at his feet. He looked longingly at the stone figure as he had every day for many years, and was once again filled with grief, and said, as he had every day for as many years, “If I could but restore you to life again my most faithful John, I would gladly give up my most precious possession.”

Then spoke the stone figure for the first time, and said, “If you will give up what is most precious to you, I shall be restored to life.”

Then cried the astonished king, “I would give up anything in the world for you my most faithful John.”

And the stone figure spoke again, saying, “If you cut off the head of your only child with your own hand, and anoint me with his blood, I shall be restored to life.”

The king started in horror at the words, but when he thought of the great injustice done Faithful John at his own hands, and that Faithful John had willingly risked his life for him and his queen, the king then drew out his sword, and with a single stroke cut off his young son’s head and anointed the stone figure with the blood.

No sooner had he done this than the stone softened, and took on the coloring of flesh, and in a moment Faithful John stood before him, strong and healthy and restored to life. And he said to the king, “Truly, you are a courageous, just and noble king, as your father wished you to be, and you shall not be made to suffer because of it.”

And with that, Faithful John took up the severed head of the young boy, joined it to the body from which it had been severed, and smeared the wound with its own blood, whereupon the young prince became whole again, and went on playing as if nothing at all had happened.

Then the king was filled to overflowing with joy, and when he saw the queen coming he bade Faithful John take the young prince, and hide with him in a closet within the chamber.

When the queen entered, the king said to her, “Have you been at prayers?” She replied that she had, and had, as always, thought of Faithful John and the great injustice done him at their hands, and she had wept and prayed that he was at peace.

Then the king said, “A miraculous thing has been told to me. We can restore our faithful John to life, but in order for it to be accomplished it will cost us the life of our only child.”

The queen turned pale and her heart filled with terror, but she said, “Was Faithful John not faithful to us, and did he not willingly risk his own life so that we might live? We owe him no less.”

Then the king rejoiced that the queen felt as he had, and he went and opened the closet wherein Faithful John and their son were hiding, and said, “Our faithful John is restored to us, and our son has suffered no harm,” and he then related to the queen all that had happened, and from that day forth they all dwelt together in the palace in great happiness and contentment until the end of their days.

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