Faithful John or Trusty John
John becomes foster father of prince, helps him win wife, saves his life, becomes stone in the process. King returns loyalty and redeems him.
There was once on a time an old king who was ill, and thought to himself, "I am lying on what must be my death-bed." Then said he, "Tell Faithful John to come to me." Faithful John was his favourite servant, and was so called, because he had for his whole life long been so true to him. When therefore he came beside the bed, the King said to him, "Most faithful John, I feel my end approaching, and have no anxiety except about my son. He is still of tender age, and cannot always know how to guide himself. If thou dost not promise me to teach him everything that he ought to know, and to be his foster-father, I cannot close my eyes in peace." Then answered Faithful John, "I will not forsake him, and will serve him with fidelity, even if it should cost me my life." On this, the old King said, "Now I die in comfort and peace." Then he added, "After my death, thou shalt show him the whole castle: all the chambers, halls, and vaults, and all the treasures which lie therein, but the last chamber in the long gallery, in which is the picture of the princess of the Golden Dwelling, shalt thou not show. If he sees that picture, he will fall violently in love with her, and will drop down in a swoon, and go through great danger for her sake, therefore thou must preserve him from that." And when Faithful John had once more given his promise to the old King about this, the King said no more, but laid his head on his pillow, and died.
When the old King had been carried to his grave, Faithful John told the young King all that he had promised his father on his deathbed, and said, "This will I assuredly perform, and will be faithful to thee as I have been faithful to him, even if it should cost me my life." When the mourning was over, Faithful John said to him, "It is now time that thou shouldst see thine inheritance. I will show thee thy father's palace." Then he took him about everywhere, up and down, and let him see all the riches, and the magnificent apartments, only there was one room which he did not open, that in which hung the dangerous picture. The picture was, however, so placed that when the door was opened you looked straight on it, and it was so admirably painted that it seemed to breathe and live, and there was nothing more charming or more beautiful in the whole world. The young king, however, plainly remarked that Faithful John always walked past this one door, and said, "Why dost thou never open this one for me?" "There is something within it," he replied, "which would terrify thee." But the King answered, "I have seen all the palace, and I will know what is in this room also," and he went and tried to break open the door by force. Then Faithful John held him back and said, "I promised thy father before his death that thou shouldst not see that which is in this chamber, it might bring the greatest misfortune on thee and on me." "Ah, no," replied the young King, "if I do not go in, it will be my certain destruction. I should have no rest day or night until I had seen it with my own eyes. I shall not leave the place now until thou hast unlocked the door."
Then Faithful John saw that there was no help for it now, and with a heavy heart and many sighs, sought out the key from the great bunch. When he had opened the door, he went in first, and thought by standing before him he could hide the portrait so that the King should not see it in front of him, but what availed that? The King stood on tip-toe and saw it over his shoulder. And when he saw the portrait of the maiden, which was so magnificent and shone with gold and precious stones, he fell fainting on the ground. Faithful John took him up, carried him to his bed, and sorrowfully thought, "The misfortune has befallen us, Lord God, what will be the end of it?" Then he strengthened him with wine, until he came to himself again. The first words the King said were, "Ah, the beautiful portrait! whose it it?" "That is the princess of the Golden Dwelling," answered Faithful John. Then the King continued, "My love for her is so great, that if all the leaves on all the trees were tongues, they could not declare it. I will give my life to win her. Thou art my most Faithful John, thou must help me."
The faithful servant considered within himself for a long time how to set about the matter, for it was difficult even to obtain a sight of the King's daughter. At length he thought of a way, and said to the King, "Everything which she has about her is of gold --- tables, chairs, dishes, glasses, bowls, and household furniture. Among thy treasures are five tons of gold; let one of the goldsmiths of the kingdom work these up into all manner of vessels and utensils, into all kinds of birds, wild beasts and strange animals, such as may please her, and we will go there with them and try our luck."
The King ordered all the goldsmiths to be brought to him, and they had to work night and day until at last the most splendid things were prepared. When everything was stowed on board a ship, Faithful John put on the dress of a merchant, and the King was forced to do the same in order to make himself quite unrecognizable. Then they sailed across the sea, and sailed on until they came to the town wherein dwelt the princess of the Golden Dwelling.
Faithful John bade the King stay behind on the ship, and wait for him. "Perhaps I shall bring the princess with me," said he, "therefore see that everything is in order; have the golden vessels set out and the whole ship decorated." Then he gathered together in his apron all kinds of gold things, went on shore and walked straight to the royal palace. When he entered the courtyard of the palace, a beautiful girl was standing there by the well with two golden buckets in her hand, drawing water with them. And when she was just turning round to carry away the sparkling water she saw the stranger, and asked who he was. So he answered, "I am a merchant," and opened his apron, and let her look in. Then she cried, "Oh, what beautiful gold things!" and put her pails down and looked at the golden wares one after the other. Then said the girl, "The princess must see these, she has such great pleasure in golden things, that she will buy all you have." She took him by the hand and led him upstairs, for she was the waiting-maid. When the King's daughter saw the wares, she was quite delighted and said, "They are so beautifully worked, that I will buy them all of thee." But Faithful John said, "I am only the servant of a rich merchant. The things I have here are not to be compared with those my master has in his ship. They are the most beautiful and valuable things that have ever been made in gold." She wanted to have everything brought to her there, but he said, "There are so many of them that it would take a great many days to do that, and so many rooms would be required to exhibit them, that your house is not big enough." Then her curiosity and longing were still more excited, until at last she said, "Conduct me to the ship, I will go there myself, and behold the treasures of thy master."
On this Faithful John was quite delighted, and led her to the ship, and when the King saw her, he perceived that her beauty was even greater than the picture had represented it to be, and thought no other than that his heart would burst in twain. Then she got into the ship, and the King led her within. Faithful John, however, remained behind with the pilot, and ordered the ship to be pushed off, saying, "Set all sail, till it fly like a bird in air." Within, however, the King showed her the golden vessels, every one of them, also the wild beasts and strange animals. Many hours went by whilst she was seeing everything, and in her delight she did not observe that the ship was sailing away. After she had looked at the last, she thanked the merchant and wanted to go home, but when she came to the side of the ship, she saw that it was on the deep sea far from land, and hurrying onwards with all sail set. "Ah," cried she in her alarm, "I am betrayed! I am carried away and have fallen into the power of a merchant--I would die rather!" The King, however, seized her hand, and said, "I am not a merchant. I am a king, and of no meaner origin than thou art, and if I have carried thee away with subtlety, that has come to pass because of my exceeding great love for thee. The first time that I looked on thy portrait, I fell fainting to the ground." When the princess of the Golden Dwelling heard that, she was comforted, and her heart was inclined unto him, so that she willingly consented to be his wife.
It happened, however, while they were sailing onwards over the deep sea, that Faithful John, who was sitting on the fore part of the vessel, making music, saw three ravens in the air, which came flying towards them. On this he stopped playing and listened to what they were saying to each other, for that he well understood. One cried, "Oh, there he is carrying home the princess of the Golden Dwelling." "Yes," replied the second, "but he has not got her yet." Said the third, "But he has got her, she is sitting beside him in the ship." Then the first began again, and cried, "What good will that do him? When they reach land a chestnut horse will leap forward to meet him, and the prince will want to mount it, but if he does that, it will run away with him, and rise up into the air with him, and he will never see his maiden more." Spake the second, "But is there no escape?"
"Oh, yes, if any one else gets on it swiftly, and takes out the pistol which must be in its holster, and shoots the horse dead with it, the young King is saved. But who knows that? And whosoever does know it, and tells it to him, will be turned to stone from the toe to the knee." Then said the second, "I know more than that; even if the horse be killed, the young King will still not keep his bride. When they go into the castle together, a wrought bridal garment will be lying there in a dish, and looking as if it were woven of gold and silver; it is, however, nothing but sulphur and pitch, and if he put it on, it will burn him to the very bone and marrow." Said the third, "Is there no escape at all?"
"Oh, yes," replied the second, "if any one with gloves on seizes the garment and throws it into the fire and burns it, the young King will be saved. But what avails that? Whosoever knows it and tells it to him, half his body will become stone from the knee to the heart."
Then said the third, "I know still more; even if the bridal garment be burnt, the young King will still not have his bride. After the wedding, when the dancing begins and the young Queen is dancing, she will suddenly turn pale and fall down as if dead, and if some one does not lift her up and draw three drops of blood from her right breast and spit them out again, she will die. But if any one who knows that were to declare it, he would become stone from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot." When the ravens had spoken of this together, they flew onwards, and Faithful John had well understood everything, but from that time forth he became quiet and sad, for if he concealed what he had heard from his master, the latter would be unfortunate, and if he discovered it to him, he himself must sacrifice his life. At length, however, he said to himself, "I will save my master, even if it bring destruction on myself."
When therefore they came to shore, all happened as had been foretold by the ravens, and a magnificent chestnut horse sprang forward. "Good," said the King, "he shall carry me to my palace," and was about to mount it when Faithful John got before him, jumped quickly on it, drew the pistol out of the holster, and shot the horse. Then the other attendants of the King, who after all were not very fond of Faithful John, cried, "How shameful to kill the beautiful animal, that was to have carried the King to his palace!" But the King said, "Hold your peace and leave him alone, he is my most faithful John, who knows what may be the good of that!" They went into the palace, and in the hall there stood a dish, and therein lay the bridal garment looking no otherwise than as if it were made of gold and silver. The young king went towards it and was about to take hold of it, but Faithful John pushed him away, seized it with gloves on, carried it quickly to the fire and burnt it. The other attendants again began to murmur, and said, "Behold, now he is even burning the King's bridal garment!" But the young King said, "Who knows what good he may have done, leave him alone, he is my most faithful John."
And now the wedding was solemnized: the dance began, and the bride also took part in it; then Faithful John was watchful and looked into her face, and suddenly she turned pale and fell to the ground, as if she were dead. On this he ran hastily to her, lifted her up and bore her into a chamber--then he laid her down, and knelt and sucked the three drops of blood from her right breast, and spat them out. Immediately she breathed again and recovered herself, but the young King had seen this, and being ignorant why Faithful John had done it, was angry and cried, "Throw him into a dungeon." Next morning Faithful John was condemned, and led to the gallows, and when he stood on high, and was about to be executed, he said, "Every one who has to die is permitted before his end to make one last speech; may I too claim the right?" "Yes," answered the King, "it shall be granted unto thee." Then said Faithful John, "I am unjustly condemned, and have always been true to thee," and he related how he had hearkened to the conversation of the ravens when on the sea, and how he had been obliged to do all these things in order to save his master. Then cried the King, "Oh, my most Faithful John. Pardon, pardon--bring him down." But as Faithful John spoke the last word he had fallen down lifeless and become a stone.
Thereupon the King and the Queen suffered great anguish, and the King said, "Ah, how ill I have requited great fidelity!" and ordered the stone figure to be taken up and placed in his bedroom beside his bed. And as often as he looked on it he wept and said, "Ah, if I could bring thee to life again, my most faithful John." Some time passed and the Queen bore twins, two sons who grew fast and were her delight. Once when the Queen was at church and the two children were sitting playing beside their father, the latter full of grief again looked at the stone figure, sighed and said, "Ah, if I could but bring thee to life again, my most faithful John." Then the stone began to speak and said, "Thou canst bring me to life again if thou wilt use for that purpose what is dearest to thee." Then cried the King, "I will give everything I have in the world for thee." The stone continued, "If thou wilt cut off the heads of thy two children with thine own hand, and sprinkle me with their blood, I shall be restored to life."
The King was terrified when he heard that he himself must kill his dearest children, but he thought of faithful John's great fidelity, and how he had died for him, drew his sword, and with his own hand cut off the children's heads. And when he had smeared the stone with their blood, life returned to it, and Faithful John stood once more safe and healthy before him. He said to the King, "Thy truth shall not go unrewarded," and took the heads of the children, put them on again, and rubbed the wounds with their blood, on which they became whole again immediately, and jumped about, and went on playing as if nothing had happened. Then the King was full of joy, and when he saw the Queen coming he hid Faithful John and the two children in a great cupboard. When she entered, he said to her, "Hast thou been praying in the church?" "Yes," answered she, "but I have constantly been thinking of Faithful John and what misfortune has befallen him through us." Then said he, "Dear wife, we can give him his life again, but it will cost us our two little sons, whom we must sacrifice." The Queen turned pale, and her heart was full of terror, but she said, "We owe it to him, for his great fidelity." Then the King was rejoiced that she thought as he had thought, and went and opened the cupboard, and brought forth Faithful John and the children, and said, "God be praised, he is delivered, and we have our little sons again also," and told her how everything had occurred. Then they dwelt together in much happiness until their death.
Then faithful John saw that it could not be helped, and with a heavy heart and many sighs he sought out the key from the great covenant. When he had opened the door, he entered first, thinking to cover the image so that the king would not see it before him. But what good did that do? The king stood on his toes and looked over his shoulder. And when he saw the image of the Virgin, so glorious and shining with gold and precious stones, he fainted and fell to the ground. Faithful John picked him up and carried him to his bed, thinking with sorrow, "the misfortune has happened, Lord God, what will happen now"? Then he strengthened him with wine until he came to himself again. The first word he spoke was: "ah, who is the beautiful picture"? "It is the king's daughter from the golden roof," answered faithful John. Then the king spoke further: "my love for her is so great - if all the leaves on the trees were tongues, they could not tell; my life I stake on getting her as my wife. You are my faithful John, you must stand by me."
The faithful servant thought long and hard about how to approach the matter. Finally, he thought he had found a solution and spoke to the young king: "everything she has around her is of gold, tables, chairs, bowls, cups, bowls and all household utensils. To your treasure belong five tons of pure gold. Have one of them made by the goldsmiths of the kingdom into all kinds of vessels and utensils, birds, game and wonderful animals. This will please her. Let us go there with it and try our luck." The king sent for all the goldsmiths. And they had to work day and night until finally the most glorious things were ready. When everything was loaded onto a ship, faithful John put on merchant's clothes, and the king had to do likewise in order to be unrecognizable. Then they sailed across the sea. They sailed until they came to the city where the king's daughter of the golden roof lived.
Faithful John asked the king to stay behind on the ship and wait for him. "Perhaps," he said, "I will bring the king's daughter with me. In the meantime, see to it that everything is ready. Have the gold vessels set up and the whole ship decorated." Thereupon he gathered all kinds of gold things in his little apron, went ashore and straight to the royal castle. When he came into the castle courtyard, a beautiful girl was standing by the fountain. She had two golden buckets in her hand and was scooping with them. And, as she was about to carry away the flashing water and turned around, she saw the strange man and asked who he was. He answered: "I am a merchant", and opened his apron and let her look inside. Then she exclaimed: "What beautiful gold stuff!", put down the buckets and looked at one after the other. Then the girl said, "The king's daughter must see this. She takes such delight in the gold things that she will buy everything from you." She took him by the hand and led him upstairs, for she was the chambermaid. When the king's daughter saw the goods, she was quite delighted and said, "it is so beautifully made that I want to buy it all from you." But the faithful John said: "I am only the servant of a rich merchant. What I have here is nothing compared to what my master has on his ship. And this is the most artistic and beautiful thing that has ever been worked in gold." She wanted it all brought up, but he said, "that would take many days, so great is the quantity, and so many halls would it need to set it up that your house would not have room for it." Then her curiosity and desire were stimulated more and more, so that at last she said, "lead me to the ship, I will go myself and behold your master's treasures."
Then faithful John led them to the ship and was quite joyful. And so was the king when he saw her. He saw that her beauty was even greater than the image had depicted. He thought his heart wanted to burst. Now she got on the ship, and the king led her in; but faithful John stayed behind with the helmsman and launched the ship. "Spread all the sails, that it may fly like a bird in the air." But the king showed her inside the golden dishes, every one, the bowls, cups, bowls, the birds, the game, and the wonderful beasts. Many hours went by while they looked at everything. And in her joy, she did not notice that the ship was sailing away. After she had looked at the last one, she thanked the merchant and wanted to go home. But when she came to the edge of the ship, she saw that it was far from land on the high seas and was sailing away with full sails. "Alas," she cried in horror, "I have been deceived, I have been kidnapped, and I have fallen into the hands of a merchantman; I would rather die!" The king, however, seized her by the hand and said: "I am not a merchant, I am a king and not less in birth than you are: but that I have kidnapped you with cunning, that has happened out of excessive love. The first time I saw thy likeness, I fainted to the earth." When the king's daughter of the golden roof heard this, she was comforted and her heart was inclined toward him, so that she gladly consented to become his consort.
It happened that while they were sailing on the high seas, faithful John, sitting in the front of the ship and playing music, saw three ravens flying in the air. Then he stopped playing and listened to what they were saying to each other, for he could understand them. One of them called out, "Ei, there he leads home the king's daughter from the golden roof." "Yes," answered the second: "he hasn't got her yet," said the third. "But he has her; she is sitting with him in the ship." Then the first began again, exclaiming, "what good will that do him? When they come ashore, a chestnut horse will jump out at him. There he will want to mount. And if he does, it will gallop away with him and into the air, so that he will never see his maiden again." Said the second, "Is there no salvation at all?" "O yes, if another sits up quickly, takes out the fire-gun that must be in the holsters, and shoots the horse dead with it, the young king is saved. But, who knows? And if anyone knows and tells him, he will turn to stone from his toes to his knee." Then the second one said, "I know even more! Even if the horse is killed, the young king does not keep his bride. For, when they come into the castle together, there lies prepared for him a wedding gown in a bowl. It looks as if it were woven with threads of gold and silver. But it is nothing but sulfur and pitch. When he puts it on, it burns him to the marrow and bone." Then said the third, "is there no salvation at all"?
"Oh, yes," answered the second, "if someone with gloves grabs the shirt and throws it into the fire so that it burns, the young king is saved. But what is the use? Whoever knows it and tells him, half his body will turn to stone from knee to heart!" Then the third one said: "I know even more. Even if the wedding shirt is burned, the young king still does not have his bride. When the dance begins after the wedding and the young queen dances, she will suddenly turn pale and fall down as if dead. And if someone does not pick her up and suck three drops of blood from her right breast and spit them out again, she will die. But if one who knows betrays it, his whole body will turn to stone - from the vertebra to the toe of his foot." When the ravens had spoken this to each other, they flew on. And the faithful John had understood everything well. From that time on he was silent and sad, for if he concealed what he had heard from his master, he would be unhappy. If he told him, he himself had to give up his life. Finally, however, he said to himself: "I will save my master, and I myself will perish over it.
When they came ashore, it happened as the raven had said before, and a magnificent chestnut horse galloped along. "Well," said the king, "he shall carry me to my castle," and wanted to sit up. But the faithful John beat him to it, swung himself quickly onto it, drew his rifle from its holster, and shot the horse down. Then the other servants of the king, who did not like faithful John, cried out, "how shameful to kill the beautiful animal that was to carry the king to his castle!" But the king said, "be silent and let him go, it is my faithful John, who knows what it is good for!" Now they went into the castle. There stood a bowl in the hall, and the made wedding shirt lay in it. It looked as if it were made of nothing but gold and silver. The young king went up to it and wanted to take it. But the faithful John pushed him away, grabbed it with his gloves, carried it quickly into the fire and let it burn. The other servants began to grumble again and said, "look, now he is even burning the king's bridal shirt." But the young king said, "who knows what it is good for, let him go, it is my faithful John."
Now the wedding was celebrated. The dance had just begun and the bride was about to join them. Faithful John kept a close eye on her. Suddenly she turned pale and fell to the ground as if dead. Then he hurriedly jumped in, picked her up and carried her into a chamber. He laid her down, knelt by her, and sucked the three drops of blood from her right breast and spat them out. Immediately she breathed again and recovered. But the young king had witnessed it, and did not know why faithful John had done it. He became so angry that he cried out, "throw him into prison!". The next morning faithful John was condemned and led to the gallows. And when he stood on the top to be judged, he said, "everyone who is to die may speak again before his end, shall I have the right also?" "Yes," answered the king, "it shall be granted thee." Then faithful John said, "I am unjustly condemned, and have always been faithful to thee," and told how he had heard the conversation of the ravens on the sea, and how, to save his master, he should have done all this. Then the king cried, "O my most faithful John, mercy! Mercy! lead him down." But faithful John, at the last word he had spoken, had fallen down lifeless and turned to stone.
The king and queen were very saddened by this, and the king said, "Alas, I have rewarded great faithfulness so badly!" and had the stone image picked up and placed in his bedchamber next to his bed. As often as he looked at it, he wept and said, "oh, if I could bring you back to life, my most faithful John." Some time passed, and the queen gave birth to twins, two little sons. They grew up and were her joy. Once, when the queen was in the church and the two children were sitting and playing with their father, he looked again at the stone image full of sorrow, sighed and cried: "oh, if I could bring you back to life, my faithful John." Then the stone began to speak and said: "yes, you can make me alive again, if you give your dearest for it." Then the king cried, "all that I have in the world I will give for thee." Said the stone further: "if you cut off the head of your two children with your own hand and brush me with their blood, then I will receive life again." The king was frightened when he heard that he should kill his dearest children himself. But he thought of the great faithfulness, and that faithful John had died for him. He drew his sword and with his own hand cut off the children's heads. And when he had smeared the stone with their blood, life returned, and faithful John stood before him again fresh and healthy. He said to the king, "Your faithfulness shall not go unrewarded," and he took the heads of the children, put them on, and smeared the wound with their blood. They were healed in an instant, jumped around and continued to play as if nothing had happened to them. Now the king was full of joy, and when he saw the queen coming, he hid the faithful John and the two children in a large closet. As she entered, he said to her "did you pray in church?". "Yes," she answered, "but I have been thinking constantly of faithful John, that he has become so unhappy through us." Then he said, "dear lady, we can restore him to life, but it will cost us our two little sons, and we must sacrifice them." The queen turned pale and was frightened in her heart, but she said, "We owe it to him because of his great faithfulness." Then he was glad that she thought as he had thought, and he went and opened the closet, and took out the children and the faithful John, and said, "Praise be to God, he is redeemed, and we have our little sons again," and told her how everything had happened. There they lived together in bliss until the end of their lives.