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 to 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 thine 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 so 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 will 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.
丧事办完以后，忠实的约翰对他的小主人说："现在你应该看看你所继承的财产了，我带你去你父亲的宫殿里看看吧。"接着他引导小主人在王宫上上下下的各个地方都巡视了一遍，让他看过了所有的财富和豪华的房厅，唯独挂着图像的那间房子没有打开。 因为 ，那里面挂着的画像只要门一打开就看得见。 那画像画得实在是太美了，让人看了会有种呼之欲出的感觉，世界上再也没有什么东西比画上的女子更可爱、更美丽了。 年青的国王发现忠实的约翰总是直接走过这间房子，却并不打开房门，就问道："你为什么不打开这间房子呢？"他回答说："里面有会使你感到恐惧的东西。"但国王说："我已把整个王宫看完了，也想知道这里面是什么。"说完，他走上去用力要打开那扇房门，可忠实的约翰拉着他的后背说："在你父亲临终前我发过誓，无论如何也不能让你走进这间房子，否则你和我都会大难临头的。"年青的国王固执地说道："对我来说，最大的不幸就是不能进去看看，只要没有进去看，我就会日夜不得安宁，所以你不打开它，我就不走。"
忠实的约翰看到他再怎么劝说，年青的国王就是不肯离去，心里有了不祥的预感，沉重地叹了叹气，从一大串钥匙中找出一片钥匙，打开了这个房子的门。 门一打开，约翰便先走了进去，站在了国王和画像之间，希望能挡着画像不让国王看见，但年青的国王却踮着脚尖从他的肩头看过去，一下子就看到了公主的肖像。 目睹画上穿金戴银的少女如此美丽动人、娇艳妩媚的容貌，他心情激动极了，竟马上倒在楼板上昏了过去。 忠实的约翰赶紧将他扶起，把他抱到他自己的床上，心里一个劲地想："唉--！不幸已经降临在我们的头上，上帝啊！这可怎么办呢？"
对于如何来帮助年青的国王，满足他的愿望，约翰思考了很久，最后他对国王说："据传说，她周围的一切用具都是金子做的：桌子、凳子、杯子、碟子和屋子里的所有东西都是金质的 ，并且她还在不停地寻求新的财宝。 你现在贮藏了许多金子，找一些工匠把这些金子做成各种容器和珍禽异兽，然后我们带着这些财宝去碰碰运气吧。 "于是，国王下令找来了所有技艺高超的金匠，他们夜以继日地用金子赶制各种工艺品，终于把金子都做成了最漂亮的珍玩。忠实的约翰把它们都装上一条大船，他和国王都换上商人的服饰，这样别人也就不可能认出他们了。
一切准备停当后，他们扬帆出海了。 经过昼夜不停的航行，他们终于找到了金屋国王管辖的领地。 船靠岸后，忠实的约翰要国王待在船上等着他回来，他说："或许我有可能把金屋公主带来，因此，你们要把船内收拾整齐，将金器珍玩摆设出来，整条船都要用它们装饰起来。"接着他把每样金制品都拿了一个放进篮子里，上岸向王宫走去。
当他来到城堡的大院时，看见一口井边站着一个漂亮的少女，她正提着两只金桶在井里打水。 就在少女担着金光闪闪的水桶转过身时，她也看到了这个陌生人，她问他是谁。 他走上前去说道："我是一个商人。"说罢打开篮子，让她来看篮子里的东西。 少女一看，惊奇地叫道："嗬！多么漂亮的东西呀！"她放下水桶，把一件又一件金器看过之后说道："国王的女儿最喜欢这些东西了，应该让她看看，她会把这些全都买下的。"说完，她牵着他的手，把他带进了王宫，因为她是国王女儿的一名侍女，她向卫兵说明情况之后，他们就放行了。
忠实的约翰非常高兴，引着她来到岸边。 当国王看见她时，他觉得自己的心都要跳出嗓子眼了，情不自禁地马上迎了上去。 公主一上船他就引她进船舱去了。 忠实的约翰来到船尾找着舵手，令他马上起航，"张满风帆！"他喊道，"让船在波涛中像鸟儿在空中飞行一样地前进。"
国王把船上的金制品一件一件地拿给公主过目，其中有各种各样的碟子、杯子、盆子和珍禽异兽等等。 公主满心欢喜地欣赏着每一件艺术珍品，一点也没有察觉船离岸起航。 几个小时过去了，在看完所有的东西后，她很有礼貌地对这个商人表示了谢意，说她应该回家了。 可当她走出船舱、来到船头时，才发现船早已离岸，此刻船正张满风帆在茫茫大海上飞速航行。 公主吓得尖声叫道："上帝啊！我被诱骗了，被拐走了，落进了一个流动商贩的掌握之中，我宁可死去。"但国王却拉着她的手说道："我不是一个商人，我是一个国王，和你一样出身于王室。用这种蒙骗你的方法把你带出来，是因为我非常非常地爱你。当第一次看到你的画像时我就情不自禁地昏倒在地上。"金屋公主听完后，这才放下心来。 经过交谈了解，她很快也倾心于他，愿意嫁给他做妻子了。
但就在他们在茫茫大海上航行之时，却发生了这样一件事情。 这天，忠实的约翰正坐在船头吹奏他的长笛，突然看见三只渡鸦在天空中向他飞过来，嘴里不停地叽叽喳喳。 约翰懂得鸟语 ，所以，他马上停止吹奏，留心听着渡鸦之间的对话。 第一只渡鸦说："他去了！他赢得了金屋公主的爱，让他去吧！"第二只渡鸦说："不！他这一去，仍然得不到公主。"第三只渡鸦说："他这一去，一定能娶她，你们看他俩在船上并肩在一起的亲热样子吧！"接着第一只渡鸦又开口说道："那对他有什么用？不信你就看吧，当他们登上岸后，会有一匹红棕色的马向他跑来。看到那匹马，他肯定会骑上去。只要他骑上那匹马，那马就会载着他跳到空中去，他就再也别想看到他的爱人了。"第二只渡鸦接着说道："正是这样！正是这样！但有什么办法吗？"第一只渡鸦说："有，有！如果有人坐上那匹马，抽出插在马鞍里的匕首把马刺死，年青的国王才能得救，可有谁知道呢？就是有人知道，谁又会告诉他呢？因为只要他将此事告诉国王，并因此而救了国王的命，那么，他的腿从脚趾到膝部整个都会变成石头。"第二只渡鸦说："正是这样，正是这样！但我还知道别的哩！尽管那马死了，国王还是娶不到新娘。因为当他们一起走进王宫时，就会看到睡椅上有一套新婚礼服，那套礼服看起来就像用金子和银子编织而成的，其实那都是一些硫磺和沥膏。只要他穿上那套礼服，礼服就会把他烧死，一直烧到骨髓里面去。"第三只渡鸦说道："哎呀呀！难道就没救了吗？"第二只渡鸦说："哦！有，有！如果有人抢上前去，抓起礼服把它们扔进火盆里去，年青的国王就得救了。但那有什么用呢？要是有谁知道，并告诉了这个人，他按这种办法救了国王，那他的身体从膝盖到胸部都会变成石头，谁又会这样干呢？"第三只渡鸦又说道："还有，还有！我知道的还要多一些哩！即使礼服被烧掉了，但国王仍然娶不成新娘。因为，在结婚典礼之后，当舞会开始时，只要年青的王后上去跳舞，她马上会倒在地上，脸色苍白得像死人一样。不过，这时要是有人上前扶起她，从她的右乳房中吸出三滴血，她才不会死去。但要是有谁知道这些，又将这个方法告诉某个人，这个人按这个方法救了新娘，那他的身体从脚尖到头顶都会变成石头。"接着，渡鸦拍着翅膀飞走了。 忠实的约翰已听懂了一切，他开始犯愁了，可他并没有把他听到的事情告诉他的主人。 因为他知道如果告诉了他，他一定会舍生救自己，最后他自言自语地说："我一定要忠实地执行我的诺言，那怕付出自己的生命也要救我的主人。"
在他们上岸后，渡鸦的预言应验了，岸边突然跳出一匹神俊的红棕色马来，国王喊道："快看，他一定会把我们送到王宫去的。"说完就要去上马。 说时迟，那时快，忠实的约翰抢在他之前骑上马，抽出匕首把马杀死了。 国王的其他仆人原来就对他很嫉妒，这一来，他们都叫道："他杀死送国王回宫的骏马，太不像话了！"但国王却说道："让他去做吧，他是我忠实的约翰，谁知道他这样做不是为了有好的结果呢？"
当他们来到王宫，看见有间房子的靠椅上放着一套漂亮的礼服，礼服闪烁着金色和银色的光芒。 年青的国王走上前去准备把它们拿起来，但忠实的约翰却把它们一把抓过，扔进火里烧掉了。 其他的仆人又咕哝着说："看吧，现在他又把结婚礼服给烧掉了。"但国王还是说道："谁知道他这么做是为了什么呢？让他做吧！他是我忠实的仆人约翰。"
结婚盛典举行后，舞会开始了，新娘一走进舞场，约翰就全神贯注地盯着她的脸，突然间 ，新娘脸色苍白，就像死了一样倒在地上。 约翰迅速地弹身向她跃去，将她挟起，抱着她来到内室一张靠椅上，从她的右乳房中吸出了三滴血。 新娘又开始呼吸，并活了过来。 但年青的国王看到了全部过程，他不知道忠实的约翰为什么要这样做，只是对他的胆大妄为非常气愤，便下令说道："把他关到牢房里去。"
当听完约翰的叙述，国王大声呼喊道："哎呀！我最忠实的约翰！请原谅我！请原谅我！快把他放下来！"但就在忠实的约翰说完最后一句话之后，他倒下去变成了一块没有生命的石头。 国王和王后趴在石像上悲痛不已，国王说道："天哪！我竟然以这种忘恩负义的方法来对待你的忠诚呀！"他令人将石像扶起，抬到了他的卧室，安放在自己的床边，使自己能经常看到它、哀悼它。 他对石像说："唉--！我忠实的约翰，但愿我能让你复活！"
过了一年，王后生下了两个双胞胎儿子，看着他们慢慢长大，她心里高兴极了。 有一天，她去了教堂 ，两个儿子和国王待在王宫里。 小家伙到处玩耍，国王对着石像唉声叹气，哭泣着说道："唉，我忠实的约翰，但愿我能够让你复活！"这一次，石像竟开始说话了，它说道："国王啊！要是你为我能舍弃你最亲爱的人儿，就能让我复活。"国王一听，坚定地说道："为了你，我愿付出世界上的任何东西。""既然这样，"石像说道，"只要你砍下你两个孩子的头，将他们的血洒在我身上，我就会复活了。"听到这里，国王马上震惊起来，但他想到忠实的约翰是为他而死去的，想到他对自己忠心耿耿、誓死如归的高尚品行，便站直身来，拔出佩剑，准备去砍下他两个孩子的头，将他们的血洒在石像上。 但就在他拔出佩剑的一刹那，忠实的约翰复活了，他站在国王的面前，挡住了他的去路，说道："你的真心诚意应该得到报答。"两个孩子仍欢蹦活跳、喧闹嘻戏着，就像什么事也没有发生过一样。
国王满心欢喜。 当他看到王后回来了，就想试一试她。 他把忠实的约翰和两个儿子藏进了一个大衣橱里面。 当走她进房子后，他对她说："你去教堂祈祷了吗？"王后回答："是的，我总是思念着忠实的约翰，想着他对我们的忠诚。"国王说道："亲爱的夫人，我们能够使约翰复活，但必须以我们小儿子的死作代价，要救他就得舍去他们。"王后听了大吃一惊，脸唰地变得毫无血色，但她仍坚定地说道："只好这样了，没有他无私的忠心与真诚，就没有我们的今天，没有我们的小孩。"国王欣喜若狂地欢呼起来，因为妻子和自己的想法完全一样。 他马上跑去打开衣橱，把两个孩子和忠实的约翰放了出来，说道："上帝也会为此而感到骄傲！他又和我们在一起了，我们的儿子也安然无恙。"接着他把全部经过告诉了她，大家高高兴兴欢地欢聚一堂，生活又充满了幸福和快乐。