The Story Finder

Voices in Fairy Tales

by Michelle Tocher

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Faithful John

I promised the dying king that I would instruct his little son in all that he should know. I would be a father to him, serve him faithfully, and never desert him.

Those were easy promises to make, but there was one more. The king said: “After my death you must show my son his ancestral castle, all the rooms and apartments and vaults, and all the treasures that lie in them. But you must not show him the last room in the long passage, where the picture of the Princess of the Golden Roof is hidden. When he beholds that picture he will fall violently in love, and for her sake he will encounter many dangers. You must guard him from this.”

When I gave the king my word, the old man became silent, laid his head on the pillow, and died.

After the time of mourning was over, I said to the boy: “It is time you should see your inheritance. I will show you your ancestral castle.” So I took him to see all the riches and splendid apartments. He saw everything but the room where the picture hung. I had seen the picture, of course. It was placed so that when you opened the door, you gazed straight upon it. It was so beautifully painted that you imagined she lived and moved, and you never saw a more lovable and beautiful vision in the whole world.

The boy noticed that when we went around the castle, we kept passing that door. He asked, “Why are you not you opening that one for me?”

”There is something inside that would appall you,” I said.

Faithful John in Trusty John, Blue Fairy Book. Painting by Hugh van der Goes.

Faithful John