The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The King of the Golden River: Or, The Black Brothers, a Legend of Stiria was published anonymously in 1851, a decade after it had been composed for a twelve-year-old girl who would later become the authors wife. John Ruskin was one of the most influential critics of the Victorian era. This novella, his only work of fiction, is a moral tale in which nature punishes the cruel and rewards the compassionate.

Hans and Schwartz are the harsh and greedy masters of Treasure Valley, a fertile farm high in the mountainous region of Stiria. Gluck, their guileless youngest brother, suffers much abuse but retains his good-heartedness. Left alone one rainy winter afternoon, Gluck allows a peculiar stranger into the house and cuts him a portion of mutton. Such hospitality is strictly forbidden, and Gluck knows that he shall go hungry himself and shall probably be beaten. His older brothers return home and attempt to expel their guest. It immediately becomes apparent, however, that the stranger is no ordinary traveler. In the morning, when the storm has washed away their wealth and devastated the valley, the strangers calling card is found upon the kitchen table: North West Wind, Esquire. The wind never again brings rain to the valley, the farm fails, and the three brothers are forced to move to the village.

Hans and Schwartz become goldsmiths, though not very honest ones. When Glucks beloved gold mug is melted, it turns out to be an enchanted dwarf,...

(The entire section is 574 words.)