Summary (Masterplots: Revised Category Edition, British Fiction Series)
In the ancient country of Stiria, there lay a beautiful and fertile valley called Treasure Valley. Surrounded on all sides by high mountainous peaks, the region never knew famine. No matter what droughts or floods attacked the land beyond the mountains, Treasure Valley produced bountiful crops of apples, hay, grapes, and honey. Above the valley, beautiful cataracts fell in torrents. One of these shone like gold in the sunlight and thus was named the Golden River.
Treasure Valley was owned by three brothers, Schwartz, Hans, and Gluck. Schwartz and Hans, the older brothers, were stingy and mean. They farmed the valley and killed everything that did not bring them money. They paid their servants nothing, beating them until the servants could stand no more and then turning them out without wages. They kept their crops until they were worth double their usual value in order to sell them for high profits. Gold was stacked up on the floors, yet they gave never a penny to charity. Often people starved at their doorstep without receiving even a morsel of food. Neighbors nicknamed them the Black Brothers.
The youngest brother, Gluck, was a good and honest twelve-year-old lad. Although his heart was filled with pity for the poor, he was helpless against his brothers. He did all of their scrubbing and cooking and received nothing for his pains but an educational cuffing or kicking. One year when all the country was flooded and only the brothers had a...
(The entire section is 1447 words.)
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The King of the Golden River is in many respects a conventional folktale. The two Black Brothers, Hans and Schwarz, who cruelly abuse their innocent, good hearted younger brother, Gluck, recall the evil step-sisters in Cinderella. Ruskin himself refers to the story as "a fairly good imitation" of fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm and of the novels of Charles Dickens, the popular nineteenth- century novelist. In fact, Ruskin himself did not take The King of the Golden River very seriously. Later in his life, he wrote in his autobiography that, although the story has pleased children, he considered it of little note. Some scholars have agreed with him and judged the tale trite and conventional. Others have sought traces of Ruskin's mental disorders in the characters and events of the story.
Nevertheless, despite Ruskin's own misgivings and those of some critics, many readers have felt otherwise. The King of the Golden River is one of the most popular of Ruskin's works. In fact, it is one of the most popular children's stories ever written. By the end of the nineteenth century, eight editions had been published in England, and it had been translated into German, Italian, and Russian. Since then The King of the Golden River has been translated into Welsh, Japanese, Afrikaans, and even into the African tribal language, Kikuyu. Since the first edition in 1851, over 130 editions of Ruskin's fairy tale have been published.
(The entire section is 509 words.)