The King of the Golden Mountain involves another person who promises one thing expecting it to be another. Why promise something you are unwilling to deliver?
Once upon a time there was a rich merchant who had ships laden with goods sailing upon the sea. The ships sank and the man’s wealth was lost. He had two children a boy and a girl who were very young. He wanted to take his mind off of his misfortunes, so he went into his field and walked to and fro. He saw a little black mannikin who asked him his woes. The man told the mannikin he had lost everything when his ships sank. The mannikin promised to help the man regain his wealth if only he promised to give the mannikin the first thing that brushed up against his leg when he got home. The man agreed thinking it could only be his dog, but forgot that he had children.
When the man got home, his son grabbed onto his leg and he remembered the promise he made to the mannikin. The man checked the money chest in the attic, but it was empty and figured the mannikin had only been jesting. In a month or so, the man went looking in the attic in order to find things to sell for a bit of cash. He was surprised to find money in the chest. The merchant had money once more and used it to return to a wealthy position.
Years went by and the boy grew tall and strong. After the twelfth year, the man became preoccupied with the promise he had made the mannikin. The son became concerned and asked his father what the matter was. The man told the son of his promise to the mannikin and his son assured him that the mannikin would have no power over him. The son had himself blessed by a priest and when the mannikin came near the son drew a circle and placed himself and his father inside of it.
The mannikin demanded his payment but the father and son weren’t going to give it up. He had actually written the promise down on a piece of paper and the merchant demanded that he give it up. The mannikin said he was not going to give up his rights. Finally, it was agreed that the son would sit on a boat in the water flowing away from the group and the father would push the boat off himself. They did this, but the boat capsized and the merchant believed his son to be lost. He went away disappointed.
The boy was not dead and the boat floated on for a while. He floated a long time until he came to a foreign shore. There he found a great castle. He went inside. In room after room, there was nothing. In one room he finally found a snake coiled upon the floor. The snake was an enchanted princess. The snake told him that he could break the curse on the castle and on the princess. The boy asked what he must do. The snake told him that twelve black men would come in the night. They would beat the boy severely and also stab him. This would happen for three nights. On the third night twenty-four men would come, who would cut off the boy’s head. He would break the curse if he would take these beatings while saying nothing. After the men had cut off the boy’s head the snake promised to bring him back to life.
This all happened and the boy went along with it. On the third night, the snake became a beautiful princess who revived the boy after he had his head cut off. They were married and the boy became the king of the golden mountain. The queen bore a son and eight years went by. After eight years, the man thought of his father and wanted to visit him. His wife told him no because it would only bring her sorrow. The man bugged his wife so much that she finally consented to let him go. She gave him a magic ring that could wish him to any place he thought of, but she made him promise that he would not use the ring to wish her away from her home and to his father’s home.
The man got to his home town, but they wouldn’t let him inside because he was dressed in such fine clothes. He found a shepherd out-of-town and asked to switch clothes with him. They let him in the town and the man went to see his father. His father had believed him dead and so did not believe that this man was his son. He said his son would do much better than a shepherd. The man said that he was not really a shepherd but a king. The father finally said that his son had a raspberry mark under his arm. The son showed him the mark, and the father knew this strange man was his son.
The son told his father that he was the king of gold mountain. His father pretty much called him a liar and the man wished his wife and son to his side without thinking. The wife was quite angry at all of this. Things cooled down a bit and the son showed his wife where his father had pushed him away in a boat. The wife let her husband lie his head on her lap and she picked his lice. He fell asleep. She took the ring from his finger and wished herself and her son back at home.
The man woke up and saw that his wife and son were gone. He knew he couldn’t go back to his father’s house because they might think he was a wizard. So he left on his own two feet. He came to three giants arguing over the inheritance their father had left them. Among the inheritance was a sword in which the bearer could say, “All heads off but mine,” and everyone else would lie on the ground, an invisibility cloak, and a pair of boots that would transport the wearer to anywhere he so desired. The man prodded the giants and told them he should check each item for quality. One by one, they gave the items to the man until he was holding all three. He wished her were at gold mountain and soon he was there because of the magical boots.
When he got to Gold Mountain there was much celebration and he asked someone why. It turned out the queen was getting ready to marry another. The man became quite angry. He made himself invisible with the cloak and went into the wedding feast. He found the queen. Whenever she tried to drink something, he took it from her and drank it. Whenever she tried to eat something, he took it from her and ate it. This went on the entire feast. The queen didn’t get anything to eat or anything to drink. She became upset and went to her chambers. There the man made himself known. He slapped his wife in the face and rebuked her for what she had done.
He went into the great hall and told everyone that the true king had returned and that the wedding was called off. All the nobles and guests mocked him. He became angry. He said, “All heads off but mine,” and everyone was dead except him. There he ruled Gold Mountain quite alone.
This guy became a jerk. Maybe he was always tricky. I don’t know. He certainly would not have gone down the same path had his father kept his promise.
I have no idea why the mannikin and the villains in the story are described as black. I will mention that at one point in folklore people would describe the devil as “the black man,” whether they actually believed the devil to be black or it was just believed to be an observation of the evilness of the devil is not something I know.
This story reminded me of the Deathly Hallows from the Harry Potter series, three magical elements that seemingly make a sole possessor indestructible. I wonder if J.K. based her little side story on this story. It even has an invisibility cloak.
I’ve heard the circle thing before. Some say you can draw a circle around yourself to protect yourself from various evils. I can’t say that I’ve ever had the opportunity to try it out or the desire for that matter. It’s just a bit of folklore that has been passed around. The father and son do see the mannikin as evil. They assume this circle will protect them, and it actually sort of does, they are only drawn out of it by words. This is when the mannikin can cause the boat to capsize.
The wife isn’t the nicest person, but you have to admit, it was kind of an, “I told you so,” type of situation. She does get punished for it though.
The king of golden mountain is king of nothing. I seem to remember there is a Metallica song called “King Nothing.” If you are king of nothing, does it really matter if you are king at all? If you have no subjects, does it matter if you call yourself the king? Can a king really be a king without anyone to rule over? A title like “king” only matters if there is someone to compare the title to. A title like “president” only matters if there are citizens to be presided over.
You can ship wreck yourself on a deserted island and call yourself the king, but it doesn’t matter. There is no one to be king over. No one will care about your rule. Perhaps being a king was your most sincere desire, but if you have gotten rid of everyone who might be below you, then the title doesn’t matter.
This idea can be applied to other things. Think about desires. Let’s say you want to be the next Lady Gaga, or really the next Madonna, whatever. This desire is the burning passion of your life. You work at being weird like a pro. You wear weird things. You do anything to further your position as the next Lady Gaga. You break friendships. You snap at family. You do things that you told yourself you would never do. You insult people you never wanted to insult. You stepped on people who cared for you and helped you along your way. Maybe you do become the next Lady Gaga, but what is left? Where is your family? Where are your friends? Where are all of those who helped you along the way? You pushed them away to fulfill your burning desire.
Let’s not minimize the dream. Dreams are a wonderful thing to have and they are a wonderful thing to put everything towards. Dreams are worthy of pouring your blood, sweat, and tears into, but sometimes people go overboard. They delve so deeply into the dream that their reality is forgotten. Those people whom you loved and who loved you, don’t want to be around you anymore. You have broken their hearts with your frivolous behavior. Sure, now you’re the next Lady Gaga, but who are you going to share it with? Who is by your side to celebrate?
The man in this tale gets what he desired. He wanted his kingdom back. He got it, but there was no one left to celebrate with when it happened.
This tale is a little weird, but I do kind of like it for its cautionary leanings. I like the idea of remembering reality. I also like the idea of fulfilling this spectacular desire, but not without cost.