The King of the Golden River Characters

John Ruskin

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Gluck, a good youth who, with his two brothers, owns and farms Treasure Valley in the ancient kingdom of Stiria. His brothers make Gluck work hard at the worst tasks but give him nothing. After his brothers fail to change the Golden River into gold, he tries. He succeeds because he is kind; he earns the help of the King of the Golden River, who had in turn tested each brother’s mercy toward a thirsty child, an old man, and a dog. Only Gluck shared his water. All of his life, Gluck proves that he is charitable and thoughtful, even after he becomes a rich man.


Schwartz and


Hans, nicknamed the Black Brothers. They are stingy and mean, mistreating Gluck, killing anything that brings in no money, cheating their servants, and giving nothing to charity although they are very rich. Both the brothers, because they are evil men, fail to turn the Golden River into gold and are themselves metamorphosed into black stones.

The South-West Wind

The South-West Wind, a strange little old man befriended by Gluck when he appears at the brothers’ house. Gluck gives the man shelter and offers him his own meager portion of food. When Hans and Schwartz try to throw the little man out of the house, he causes a storm to ruin the entire valley and permits no more rain to fall, so that the valley becomes a wasteland.

The King of the Golden River

The King of the Golden River, who is imprisoned in a gold mug until released by Gluck. He tells Gluck how to turn the Golden River into gold by dropping holy water into it. When Gluck succeeds, the river irrigates Treasure Valley for him, making it fertile and a source of wealth.

Themes and Characters

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The moral of the story is that goodness, specifically a kind of Christian charity and love of God's creation, will triumph over arrogance and...

(The entire section is 798 words.)