|The Fairy Ring|
|by Kate Douglas Wiggin|
|A delightful collection of 63 fairy tales, selected from Scandinavian, English, French, Spanish, Gaelic, German, Russian, and East Indian sources. The authors read thousands of fairy tales to locate the best of the less familiar tales to include in this volume. Numerous black and white illustrations accompany the text. Ages 6-9 |
FAITHFUL JOHN, THE KING'S SERVANT
HE old King lay dying and was very much worried in his
mind because he was leaving behind him, as his
heir, his son, who was a headstrong and willful youth,
not yet come to years of wisdom. He called to his
faithful John, who had been his servant ever since he
boy, and charged him thus:
"I am going to my last rest, and am sorrowful because
my boy is left alone in a high position, and will have
no other guidance but yours. Be his guardian and
counselor, and serve him faithfully even as you have
served me, or I cannot die happily."
"Master, I will," answered faithful John, "even if it
cost me my life."
"Now I can rest in peace," said the King. "When I am
dead you must lead him all over the castle, and show
him the halls and chambers and the vaults and the
treasures therein. But one room he must never enter,
the last room in the long corridor, for there hangs the
portrait of the daughter of the King of the Golden
Palace, and she is so beautiful that who-ever gazes on
her picture will fall down in a swoon for love of her,
and will go through great perils for her sake.
There-fore he must never enter that room."
The trusty servant pressed his master's hand and
prom-ised to do his commands, and soon afterwards the
King laid his head on the pillow and died.
 After the old King was laid in his grave, the faithful
John told the young King of the commands his father had
laid upon him, and swore to serve him faithfully, even
When the days of mourning were over he told the young
King that it was now time for him to see his
inheritance; SO they went all over the castle, up into
the towers and down into the vaults, and saw all the
great treasure the old King had collected; and they
went into all the grand halls and splendid chambers,
into all save one—the last room at the end of the long
corridor, wherein hung the portrait.
The King noticed that they always passed this door, and
asked John why.
"There is something there that it is dangerous to see,"
"But," answered the King, " I have seen everything else
that I possess, and you must not imagine I am going
away without seeing this."
Faithful John tried to argue him out of it, but it was
of no use, and the obstinate King even made an effort
to force the door open, and declared that he would not
leave the spot till he had seen the contents of the
So John, seeing that there was nothing for it but to
yield sorrowfully took the key from the bunch and put
it in lock. He turned it suddenly and hurried in,
hoping to cover over the portrait before the King saw
it; but he was close on his heels, and John was too
late to prevent the catastrophe, for no sooner had his
master set eyes on the wonderful painting which
appeared to be living, breathing flesh, than he fell on
the floor in a swoon.
Poor John carried him tenderly to his bed, deeply
bewailing the misfortune that had come upon them, and
by dint of forcing wine down his throat he brought him
round again. The first words that he uttered were:
"Who is the lady of the beautiful picture?"
"She is the daughter of the King of the Golden Palace,"
"Then," said the King, "we must seek her at once, for I
 am filled with so great a love for her that if all the
leaves on the trees had tongues they should not gainsay
Then trusty John thought for a long, long time as how
to set about the matter, for it was very difficult to
reach the presence of the beautiful Princess. At last
he thought of a plan, and he said to the King:
"I have thought of a way by which you may achieve your
end; all the things the Princess uses, and all the
things about her, are gold—chairs, tables, dishes, pots
and pans, all are fashioned of gold. There are five
tons of gold bars in your cellars; you must have them
wrought into articles of every kind, even into beasts
and flowers, and then we will set out and seek her
So the King sent for all the goldsmiths in the kingdom,
and they worked day and night till all the gold was
made into most wonderful and beautiful forms of the
finest workmanship. Then they took them all aboard a
great ship and set sail. They sailed for many days,
till they came to the city where dwelt the daughter of
the King of the Golden Palace.
The faithful John had decided that it was better for
him to go ashore, so he told the King to remain on
board and have all things in readiness, the treasures
displayed and all in order, lest he should bring the
Princess back with him. Then he tied up some of the
smaller things in a handkerchief and rowed ashore.
When he entered the courtyard of the palace, he saw a
beautiful girl filling two golden pails at the well.
When they were full she turned, and, perceiving the
stranger, demanded his business. So he untied the
handkerchief and showed her the dainty trinkets. She
was delighted with them, and at once said:
"The Princess must see these, for she has a passion for
golden things, and will, no doubt, buy them all." So
she took him by the hand and led him to the King's
daughter. The Princess was even more beautiful than
report had made her, and John was dazzled. The lady
was very gracious to him,
 and was charmed with his treasures, which she wished to
purchase. But John said:
"I am only a servant. My master is a rich merchant who
has even more beautiful things than these aboard his
"Let them be brought hither," replied the Princess; but
"That would take many days and nights, their number is
so vast, and even if they were all brought hither there
is no room in the palace large enough to show them to
The Princess's curiosity was very much excited by this
time and she said:
"Bring me to the ship, and I will see them there."
Faithful John was overjoyed at the success of his plans
and conducted her thither immediately. When the King
saw her, he was so overcome with her beauty that he
could hardly help her aboard, but he managed to control
the violent beatings of his heart, and led her down
into the cabin. John remained on deck, and commanded
the helmsman to steer out sea, and put on all the sail
he could, so that they might leave the land far behind.
Down below the Princess was enjoying herself immensely,
looking at all the beautiful and curious things, and
several hours passed before she bethought her that it
was time to go ashore. So she went on deck prepared to
land immediately, and behold! no land was to be seen,
nothing but the wide sea all around her.
"Ah!" she screamed, in sudden terror, "I am entrapped
by a strange merchant. I would rather die than
remain in his power!"
The King reassured her, and taking her hand he said: "I
am no merchant, I am a king of royal blood like
yourself. I have carried you off because my love for
you is so great that I cannot live without you. You
must know that when I saw your
portrait, I was so stricken with love for you that I
fell in a
swoon before it."
When the King's daughter heard this her fear
 and love grew in its place and she was willing to be
One day, when John was sitting on deck piping sweet
music, three crows flew over the ship, talking hard all
the time. John understood every word they said, and
this is what he heard:
"There he is, sailing home with the daughter of the
King of the Golden Palace," said the first, "Ah! they
are not home yet," said the second. "But she is with
him in the ship," said' the third. "What matters that?"
began the first again; "when they land there will come
a beautiful fox-colored horse, and he will spring upon
it and the horse will bound away with him up into the
air and he will never be seen again."
"But is there no way to save him?" the second one
"Yes, if one springs up quickly behind him and seizes
pistols which are in the holsters and shoots the
horse, then the King will be saved. But nobody knows,
if one knew and told him, he would be turned into stone
toe to knee."
Then the second crow spoke again:
"I know still more, for even if the horse be shot he
will not keep his lovely bride. When they arrive at the
castle a bridal shirt will be brought to him on a dish,
looking as though were made of silver and gold, but it
is only sulphur and pitch, and when he puts it on he
will be burned to the marrow of his bones."
"Is there no way to save him?" asked the third crow.
"Oh, yes! if one were to take up the shirt with his
gloves on and throw it on the fire before the King
touches it, he will be saved. But what matter? for
no one knows that, and if one knew and were to tell, he
would be turned into stone from his knee to his heart."
Then the third crow spoke again:
"I know even more. Even if the shirt be burned the King
will not keep his bride. After supper a dance will be
held and suddenly, when she is dancing, the Queen will
 and fall in a faint; and if some one does not raise her
up and take three drops of blood from her little finger
and throw them away, she will die. But if anyone knows
that and tells it, he will be turned into stone from
the crown of his head to the toes of his feet."
Then the crows flew away, leaving John very quiet and
sad; for if he concealed what he knew, misfortune would
fall upon his master, and if he told, he must lose his
own life; but he decided that whatever happened to
himself he must save his master.
When they landed it happened just as the crows had
said, and a beautiful fox-colored horse appeared in
front of the King. He exclaimed with pleasure:
"Splendid! this shall carry us to the castle." And
he sprang into the saddle.
But John sprang up after him, and finding the pistols,
shot the horse dead. The other servants who were
jealous of John, began to grumble at this, and said:
"Shame to kill such a lovely animal, which was fit to
bear the King!"
But the King said:
"Peace; be silent. He is my faithful servant and I
trust him. Who knows what he has saved us from?"
Then they went on to the castle, and in the hall it
happened just as it had been foretold—a beautiful
bridal shirt was brought to the King. He was just
about to pick it up and put it on when John threw
himself in front of him, and Seizing the shirt, carried
it to the fire and burned it.
Again the other servants set up a murmur:
"What is he about? See, he has burned the bridal
But the King silenced them and said:
"He is my faithful John, and I trust him. Who what
danger he has averted?"
After the wedding supper a grand ball was given, and
John watched the Queen very carefully while she danced.
Suddenly he saw her turn pale and fall in a faint.
He hurried toward her, and lifting her up he carried
her away to her
Then he knelt down, and drawing three drops of blood
from her little finger he threw them away. Soon the
Queen stirred, and then sat up, quite herself again.
But the King had watched all this, and this time he was
furiously angry with faithful John, and ordered him to
be thrown into prison. Next day he was brought to trial
and condemned to be hanged at the gallows. When he was
about to be executed he asked for the usual privilege
of a condemned prisoner, to speak once what was in his
mind. The King granted it, and faithful John began:
"I am innocent of any crime against you, and have
always served you faithfully."
Then he told what he had heard the crows saying at sea;
and how he had done all these things to save his
Then the King cried: "Pardon, pardon, my faithful
friend; you are innocent!"
But at the last word he had spoken John had fallen
down, turned into stone.
After this there was great sorrow and lamentation in
the palace, and they had the statue raised and taken to
their cham-ber and placed near the bed, and often the
King looked at it and said:
"Ah! my trusty John, could I but bring you back to life
Some time afterwards, to their great joy, twins were
born to them, two healthy boys. One day the Queen was
at church and the King was at home playing with his
children, when he looked up at the statue and said:
"Ah, my poor faithful John, what would I not do to
bring you back to life!"
To his surprise the statue answered him and said:
"If you will sacrifice what is dearest to you, you can
restore my life to me."
"I will do anything in the world for you, only tell me
what," answered the King.
Then the statue spoke again:
 "Cut off the heads of your children, and sprinkle me
with their blood, and I will be restored to life."
The poor King was horrified when he heard this, for how
could he do such an awful deed as to kill his own
children? But he thought of all John had done for him,
and how much he had sacrificed, and, without flinching,
he drew his sword to cut off their heads.
But as he was about to kill the little princes,
faithful John became alive again, crying:
"Stop, stop, my master! Your faith in me is rewarded,
and I am free."
The King was now as happy as he could be, and he
thought to give his wife a pleasant surprise; so when
he heard her coming he hid faithful John and the twins
in a cupboard. When she came in he asked her if she had
prayed for all her friends.
"Yes," she answered; "but I have been thinking of poor
John, who is past our prayers."
Then the King said:
"We can restore him to life again, but we must
sacrifice both our sons."
The Queen turned very pale at this and nearly fainted;
but she thought of how it was their fault that John had
suffered, and she said bravely that if it was to
restore him to life it must be done.
The King was overjoyed to find that she thought as he
did, and he threw open the cupboard door and disclosed,
not only the twins, but faithful John also. Then they
all rejoiced and were happy together to the end of
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