The king of the golden mountain


Il re del monte d'oro

There was a certain merchant who had two children, a boy and a girl; they were both young, and could not walk. And two richly-laden ships of his sailed forth to sea with all his property on board, and just as he was expecting to win much money by them, news came that they had gone to the bottom, and now instead of being a rich man he was a poor one, and had nothing left but one field outside the town. In order to drive his misfortune a little out of his thoughts, he went out to this field, and as he was walking forwards and backwards in it, a little black mannikin stood suddenly by his side, and asked why he was so sad, and what he was taking so much to heart. Then said the merchant, "If thou couldst help me I would willingly tell thee." - "Who knows?" replied the black dwarf. "Perhaps, I can help thee." Then the merchant told him that all he possessed had gone to the bottom of the sea, and that he had nothing left but this field. "Do not trouble thyself," said the dwarf. "If thou wilt promise to give me the first thing that rubs itself against thy leg when thou art at home again, and to bring it here to this place in twelve years' time, thou shalt have as much money as thou wilt." The merchant thought, "What can that be but my dog?" and did not remember his little boy, so he said yes, gave the black man a written and sealed promise, and went home.

When he reached home, his little boy was so delighted that he held by a bench, tottered up to him and seized him fast by the legs. The father was shocked, for he remembered his promise, and now knew what he had pledged himself to do; as however, he still found no money in his chest, he thought the dwarf had only been jesting. A month afterwards he went up to the garret, intending to gather together some old tin and to sell it, and saw a great heap of money lying. Then he was happy again, made purchases, became a greater merchant than before, and felt that this world was well-governed. In the meantime the boy grew tall, and at the same time sharp and clever. But the nearer the twelfth year approached the more anxious grew the merchant, so that his distress might be seen in his face. One day his son asked what ailed him, but the father would not say. The boy, however, persisted so long, that at last he told him that without being aware of what he was doing, he had promised him to a black dwarf, and had received much money for doing so. He said likewise that he had set his hand and seal to this, and that now when twelve years had gone by he would have to give him up. Then said the son, "Oh, father, do not be uneasy, all will go well. The black man has no power over me." The son had himself blessed by the priest, and when the time came, father and son went together to the field, and the son made a circle and placed himself inside it with his father. Then came the black dwarf and said to the old man, "Hast thou brought with thee that which thou hast promised me?" He was silent, but the son asked, "What dost thou want here?" Then said the black dwarf, "I have to speak with thy father, and not with thee." The son replied, "Thou hast betrayed and misled my father, give back the writing." - "No," said the black dwarf, "I will not give up my rights." They spoke together for a long time after this, but at last they agreed that the son, as he did not belong to the enemy of mankind, nor yet to his father, should seat himself in a small boat, which should lie on water which was flowing away from them, and that the father should push it off with his own foot, and then the son should remain given up to the water. So he took leave of his father, placed himself in a little boat, and the father had to push it off with his own foot. The boat capsized so that the keel was uppermost, and the father believed his son was lost, and went home and mourned for him.

The boat, however, did not sink, but floated quietly away, and the boy sat safely inside it, and it floated thus for a long time, until at last it stopped by an unknown shore. Then he landed and saw a beautiful castle before him, and set out to go to it. But when he entered it, he found that it was bewitched. He went through every room, but all were empty until he reached the last, where a snake lay coiled in a ring. The snake, however, was an enchanted maiden, who rejoiced to see him, and said, "Hast thou come, oh, my deliverer? I have already waited twelve years for thee; this kingdom is bewitched, and thou must set it free." - "How can I do that?" he inquired. "To-night come twelve black men, covered with chains who will ask what thou art doing here; keep silent; give them no answer, and let them do what they will with thee; they will torment thee, beat thee, stab thee; let everything pass, only do not speak; at twelve o'clock, they must go away again. On the second night twelve others will come; on the third, four-and-twenty, who will cut off thy head, but at twelve o'clock their power will be over, and then if thou hast endured all, and hast not spoken the slightest word, I shall be released. I will come to thee, and will have, in a bottle, some of the water of life. I will rub thee with that, and then thou wilt come to life again, and be as healthy as before." Then said he, "I will gladly set thee free." And everything happened just as she had said; the black men could not force a single word from him, and on the third night the snake became a beautiful princess, who came with the water of life and brought him back to life again. So she threw herself into his arms and kissed him, and there was joy and gladness in the whole castle. After this their marriage was celebrated, and he was King of the Golden Mountain.

They lived very happily together, and the Queen bore a fine boy. Eight years had already gone by, when the King bethought him of his father; his heart was moved, and he wished to visit him. The Queen, however, would not let him go away, and said, "I know beforehand that it will cause my unhappiness;" but he suffered her to have no rest until she consented. At their parting she gave him a wishing-ring, and said, "Take this ring and put it on thy finger, and then thou wilt immediately be transported whithersoever thou wouldst be, only thou must promise me not to use it in wishing me away from this place and with thy father." That he promised her, put the ring on his finger, and wished himself at home, just outside the town where his father lived. Instantly he found himself there, and made for the town, but when he came to the gate, the sentries would not let him in, because he wore such strange and yet such rich and magnificent clothing. Then he went to a hill where a shepherd was watching his sheep, changed clothes with him, put on his old shepherd's-coat, and then entered the town without hindrance. When he came to his father, he made himself known to him, but he did not at all believe that the shepherd was his son, and said he certainly had had a son, but that he was dead long ago; however, as he saw he was a poor, needy shepherd, he would give him something to eat. Then the shepherd said to his parents, "I am verily your son. Do you know of no mark on my body by which you could recognize me?" - "Yes," said his mother, "our son had a raspberry mark under his right arm." He slipped back his shirt, and they saw the raspberry under his right arm, and no longer doubted that he was their son. Then he told them that he was King of the Golden Mountain, and a king's daughter was his wife, and that they had a fine son of seven years old. Then said the father, "That is certainly not true; it is a fine kind of a king who goes about in a ragged shepherd's-coat." On this the son fell in a passion, and without thinking of his promise, turned his ring round, and wished both his wife and child with him. They were there in a second, but the Queen wept, and reproached him, and said that he had broken his word, and had brought misfortune upon her. He said, "I have done it thoughtlessly, and not with evil intention," and tried to calm her, and she pretended to believe this; but she had mischief in her mind.

Then he led her out of the town into the field, and showed her the stream where the little boat had been pushed off, and then he said, "I am tired; sit down, I will sleep awhile on thy lap." And he laid his head on her lap, and fell asleep. When he was asleep, she first drew the ring from his finger, then she drew away the foot which was under him, leaving only the slipper behind her, and she took her child in her arms, and wished herself back in her own kingdom. When he awoke, there he lay quite deserted, and his wife and child were gone, and so was the ring from his finger, the slipper only was still there as a token. "Home to thy parents thou canst not return," thought he, "they would say that thou wast a wizard; thou must be off, and walk on until thou arrivest in thine own kingdom." So he went away and came at length to a hill by which three giants were standing, disputing with each other because they did not know how to divide their father's property. When they saw him passing by, they called to him and said little men had quick wits, and that he was to divide their inheritance for them. The inheritance, however, consisted of a sword, which had this prperty that if any one took it in his hand, and said, "All heads off but mine," every head would lie on the ground; secondly, of a cloak which made any one who put it on invisible; thirdly, of a pair of boots which could transport the wearer to any place he wished in a moment. He said, "Give me the three things that I may see if they are still in good condition." They gave him the cloak, and when he had put it on, he was invisible and changed into a fly. Then he resumed his own form and said, "The cloak is a good one, now give me the sword." They said, "No, we will not give thee that; if thou were to say, All heads off but mine,' all our heads would be off, and thou alone wouldst be left with thine." Nevertheless they gave it to him with the condition that he was only to try it against a tree. This he did, and the sword cut in two the trunk of a tree as if it had been a blade of straw. Then he wanted to have the boots likewise, but they said, "No, we will not give them; if thou hadst them on thy feet and wert to wish thyself at the top of the hill, we should be left down here with nothing." - "Oh, no," said he, "I will not do that." So they gave him the boots as well. And now when he had got all these things, he thought of nothing but his wife and his child, and said as though to himself, "Oh, if I were but on the Golden Mountain," and at the same moment he vanished from the sight of the giants, and thus their inheritance was divided. When he was near his palace, he heard sounds of joy, and fiddles, and flutes, and the people told him that his wife was celebrating her wedding with another. Then he fell into a rage, and said, "False woman, she betrayed and deserted me whilst I was asleep!" So he put on his cloak, and unseen by all went into the palace. When he entered the dining-hall a great table was spread with delicious food, and the guests were eating and drinking, and laughing, and jesting. She sat on a royal seat in the midst of them in splendid apparel, with a crown on her head. He placed himself behind her, and no one saw him. When she put a piece of meat on a plate for herself, he took it away and ate it, and when she poured out a glass of wine for herself, he took it away and drank it. She was always helping herself to something, and yet she never got anything, for plate and glass disappeared immediately. Then dismayed and ashamed, she arose and went to her chamber and wept, but he followed her there. She said, "Has the devil power over me, or did my deliverer never come?" Then he struck her in the face, and said, "Did thy deliverer never come? It is he who has thee in his power, thou traitor. Have I deserved this from thee?" Then he made himself visible, went into the hall, and cried, "The wedding is at an end, the true King has returned." The kings, princes, and councillors who were assembled there, ridiculed and mocked him, but he did not trouble to answer them, and said, "Will you go away, or not?" On this they tried to seize him and pressed upon him, but he drew his sword and said, "All heads off but mine," and all the heads rolled on the ground, and he alone was master, and once more King of the Golden Mountain.
Un mercante aveva due figli, un maschietto e una femminuccia, che erano piccoli e non camminavano ancora. Egli mandò in mare due navi cariche di merci e lì c'erano tutti i suoi beni; e mentre sperava in un cospicuo guadagno, giunse la notizia che erano colate a picco. Invece di essere un riccone, egli era adesso un pover'uomo, e non gli restava altro che un campo fuori dalla città. Per dimenticare un po' i suoi guai, andò nel campo; e mentre passeggiava su e giù, si trovò accanto all'improvviso un omino nero, che gli domandò perché‚ fosse così triste e che cosa lo affliggesse tanto. Il mercante disse: "Se potessi aiutarmi, te lo direi." - "Chissà," rispose l'omino nero, "forse posso; parla!" Allora il mercante gli raccontò che tutta la sua ricchezza era andata persa in mare e che gli rimaneva soltanto quel campo. "Oh! Non preoccuparti per questo," rispose l'omino. "Se mi prometti di portare qui fra dodici anni la cosa che a casa ti verrà fra le gambe per prima, avrai denaro a volontà." Il mercante pensò: E' ben poca cosa: che mai altro può essere se non il mio cane? Non pensò al suo piccino, acconsentì e lasciò all'uomo una promessa scritta con tanto di sigillo; poi se ne andò a casa.

Quando giunse a casa, il suo bambino fu così contento che reggendosi alle sedie, gli andò incontro barcollando, e gli si aggrappò alle gambe. Allora il padre si spaventò e capì quale promessa avesse fatto, ma poiché‚ di denaro non ne vedeva, pensò che si fosse trattato di uno scherzo da parte dell'omino. Circa un mese più tardi andò in solaio per cercare del vecchio vasellame di stagno, che voleva vendere per ricavare qualche soldo; e vide per terra un gran mucchio di denaro. A quella vista si rallegrò, fece degli acquisti, divenne un mercante ancora più ricco di prima, e lasciò correre le acque per la loro china. Nel frattempo il bambino cresceva e divenne un giovane giudizioso. Ma più si avvicinavano i dodici anni, più il mercante si affliggeva, tanto che gli si leggeva in faccia il tormento. Così, un giorno il figlio gli domandò cosa avesse. Il padre non voleva dirlo, ma il ragazzo insistette tanto, finché‚ egli rivelò di averlo promesso a un omino nero, senza sapere cosa stesse facendo, e di aver ricevuto in cambio molto denaro. Aveva rilasciato una promessa scritta e sigillata, e allo scadere dei dodici anni doveva consegnarlo. Il figlio disse: "Babbo, non abbiate paura: tutto andrà bene, l'uomo nero non ha alcun potere su di me."

Il figlio si fece benedire dal sacerdote e, quando venne il momento, andò nel campo con il padre; tracciò un cerchio e vi entrarono tutti e due. Allora venne l'omino nero e disse al vecchio: "Hai portato ciò che mi hai promesso?" Ma l'uomo taceva e il figlio domandò: "Che cosa vuoi tu qui?" Disse l'omino nero: "Devo parlare con tuo padre, non con te." Il figlio rispose: "Tu hai adescato e ingannato mio padre, restituisci la promessa scritta." - "No," rispose l'omino nero, "non rinuncio al mio diritto." Parlarono ancora a lungo insieme, e finirono col mettersi d'accordo: il figlio non apparteneva più al Nemico, ma neanche a suo padre; doveva salire su una barchetta, su un fiume che scorreva giù per la china; proprio il padre avrebbe scostato la barca con il piede, abbandonando il figlio alle acque. Così il giovane prese congedo dal padre, salì su una barchetta e il padre stesso dovette scostarla con il piede. La barchetta si capovolse, sicché‚ la chiglia venne a galla e il ponte finì sott'acqua; il padre credette che il figlio fosse morto, andò a casa e si mise in lutto.

Ma la barchetta non affondò, continuò tranquillamente il suo viaggio, e il giovane se ne stava là dentro al sicuro; la barchetta navigò a lungo, finché‚ si arenò su una riva sconosciuta. Allora il giovane scese a terra e vide un bel castello davanti a s‚, e vi si diresse subito, ma quando entrò si accorse che il castello era stregato; le stanze erano vuote meno l'ultima, nella quale si imbatté‚ in una serpe. Ma la serpe era una principessa stregata che si rallegrò al vederlo e gli disse: "Vieni, mio liberatore! Ti ho atteso per dodici anni; questo regno è stregato e tu devi liberarlo. Questa notte verranno dodici uomini neri carichi di catene che ti chiederanno cosa sei venuto a fare qui; tu sta' zitto e non dare loro risposta, lascia che facciano di te quello che vogliono: ti tormenteranno, ti picchieranno e ti trafiggeranno; tu lasciali fare e taci: a mezzanotte devono andarsene. La seconda notte ne verranno altri dodici; e la terza ventiquattro, che ti taglieranno la testa; ma a mezzanotte cessa il loro potere, e se tu hai resistito e non hai detto neanche una parola, allora sono libera. Verrò da te e porterò l'acqua della vita, ti fregherò con quella e tornerai vivo e sano come prima." Egli disse: "Ti libererò volentieri-. E tutto si svolse com'ella aveva detto: gli uomini neri non poterono strappargli neanche una parola, e la terza notte la serpe si mutò in una bella principessa che venne con l'acqua della vita e lo risuscitò. Allora ella gli saltò al collo e lo baciò, e in tutto il castello vi fu grande gioia. Fu celebrato il loro matrimonio ed egli divenne re del monte d'oro. Vivevano felici insieme e la regina partorì un bel maschietto. Erano già passati otto anni, quando il giovane si ricordò di suo padre; il suo cuore si commosse e desiderò andarlo a trovare. La regina però non voleva lasciarlo partire e diceva: -So già che ciò sarà la mia disgrazia-. Ma egli non le dette pace, finché ella acconsentì. Quando si salutarono, ella gli diede un anello magico e disse: -Prendi questo anello e mettilo al dito; sarai subito trasportato dove desideri andare; ma devi promettermi di non desiderare che io venga da tuo padre-. Egli promise, si mise l'anello al dito e desiderò di trovarsi davanti alla città dove viveva suo padre. Ci fu immediatamente, ma quando arrivò davanti alla porta della città, le guardie non volevano lasciarlo entrare, poiché‚ le sue vesti erano sfarzose ma bizzarre. Allora egli andò su di un monte dove c'era un pastore che custodiva le pecore; scambiò gli abiti con lui, indossò il vecchio vestito da pecoraio e così entrò indisturbato in città. Quando giunse da suo padre, si fece riconoscere, ma il mercante disse che non voleva credere che egli fosse suo figlio; ne aveva avuto sì uno, ma era morto da un pezzo. Ma siccome vedeva che era un povero pastore bisognoso, gli avrebbe dato volentieri un piatto di minestra. Allora il pastore disse ai suoi genitori: -Io sono davvero vostro figlio: non sapete se sul mio corpo c'è qualche voglia dalla quale possiate riconoscermi?-. -Sì- rispose la madre -nostro figlio aveva una voglia di lampone sotto il braccio destro.- Allora egli rimboccò la manica della camicia, essi videro la voglia di lampone e non dubitarono più che fosse loro figlio. Poi egli raccontò che era il re del monte d'oro, che sua moglie era una principessa e che avevano un bel bambino di sette anni. Disse il padre: -Non lo crederò mai! Bel re davvero che se ne va in giro con un vestito da pecoraio!-. Allora il figlio andò in collera e, senza pensare alla sua promessa, girò l'anello e desiderò di avere con s‚ la moglie e il bambino. In un attimo essi comparvero, ma la regina piangeva e si lamentava, dicendo che egli non aveva mantenuto la sua parola e l'aveva resa infelice. Egli la placò e cercò di rabbonirla; ella finse di chetarsi, ma in realtà aveva intenzioni cattive. Egli la condusse fuori dalla città, nel campo, e le mostrò il fiume dove la barchetta era stata allontanata; poi disse: -Sono stanco; siediti, voglio dormire un po' sul tuo grembo-. Le mise la testa in grembo ed ella lo spidocchiò un poco, finché‚ egli si addormentò. Quando si fu addormentato, ella gli sfilò l'anello dal dito, ritrasse il piede che era sotto di lui e lasciò soltanto la pantofola. Quindi prese con s‚ il bambino e desiderò di ritornare nel suo regno. Quand'egli si svegliò, si ritrovò solo: la moglie e il bambino erano scomparsi, e così pure l'anello che portava al dito; soltanto la pantofola era ancora là, come segno. "Non puoi più ritornare a casa dai tuoi genitori" pensò. "Direbbero che sei uno stregone. Devi metterti in cammino e andare, finché‚ arrivi nel tuo regno." Così se ne andò finché‚ giunse a una montagna dove tre giganti si stavano dividendo l'eredità paterna. Quando lo videro passare lo chiamarono e dissero che gli ometti sono assennati: egli doveva perciò ripartire l'eredità fra di loro. Essa consisteva in una spada: se uno la prendeva in mano e diceva: -Giù tutte le teste, meno la mia- tutte le teste cadevano a terra. Poi c'era un mantello: chi lo indossava era invisibile. Infine un paio di stivali: chi li infilava, e desiderava di essere da qualche parte, vi era all'istante. Egli disse che dovevano dargli i tre oggetti, perché‚ potesse constatare se erano ancora in buono stato. Allora gli diedero il mantello; egli se lo mise addosso, desiderò di essere invisibile come una mosca e subito lo divenne. -Il mantello va bene- disse. -Adesso datemi la spada.- Essi dissero: -No, non te la diamo, perché‚ se tu dicessi: "giù tutte le teste, meno la mia" le nostre teste cadrebbero, e soltanto tu conserveresti la tua-. Ma poi gliela diedero lo stesso a condizione che la provasse su di un albero. Così fece, e constatò che anche la spada funzionava bene. Allora egli volle provare anche gli stivali, ma i giganti dissero: -No, non te li diamo, poiché‚ se tu li infilassi e desiderassi di essere in cima al monte, noi staremmo quaggiù a mani vuote-. -No- diss'egli -non lo farò.- Ed essi gli diedero anche gli stivali. Quand'egli ebbe tutti e tre gli oggetti desiderò di trovarsi sul monte d'oro, ed ecco che già si trovava laggiù; i giganti erano spariti e così fu divisa quell'eredità. Avvicinandosi al castello udì suon di flauti e violini, e la gente gli disse che sua moglie stava festeggiando le nozze con un altro principe. Allora egli indossò il mantello, e mutatosi in una mosca, andò a mettersi dietro alla sua sposa, invisibile a ognuno. Quando le mettevano nel piatto un pezzo di carne, egli lo prendeva e lo mangiava; e quando le versavano un bicchiere di vino, lo prendeva e lo beveva; per quanto continuassero a servirla, non aveva mai nulla nel piatto. Ella si vergognava, così si alzò e andò in camera sua a piangere, ed egli la seguì. Ella disse fra s‚: -E' il diavolo che mi sta addosso? Non è ancora venuto il mio liberatore?-. Allora egli le diede due belle sberle e disse: -Non è venuto il tuo liberatore? E' lui, perfida, che ti sta addosso! Ho meritato questo da te?-. Poi andò nella sala e annunciò che le nozze erano finite poiché‚ lui era ritornato. Allora fu schernito da re, principi e consiglieri che erano riuniti là. Ma egli non fece tante parole e domandò se si decidevano ad andarsene o no. Quelli volevano catturarlo, ma egli trasse la spada e disse: -Giù tutte le teste, meno la mia!-. Allora tutte le teste rotolarono per terra, ed egli fu di nuovo re del monte d'oro.

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