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Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Once upon a time there was an old king who was ill. He thought, "I am lying on what must be my deathbed," then said, "Have faithful Johannes come to me."
Faithful Johannes was his favorite servant, and was so called, because he had been so loyal to him for his whole life long. When he approached the bed the king said to him, "Most faithful Johannes, I feel that my end is near. My only concern is for my son. He is still young and may not always have the best judgment. I will not be able to close my eyes in peace if you do not promise to teach him everything that he ought to know, and to be his foster father."
Faithful Johannes answered, "I will not forsake him, and will serve him faithfully, even if it costs me my life."
At this, the old king said, "Then I will die in comfort and peace," adding, "After my death, show him the entire castle -- all the chambers, halls, and vaults, and all the treasures which lie therein. But do not show him the last chamber in the long gallery, which contains the portrait of the Princess of the Golden Roof. If he sees that picture, he will fall violently in love with her, will fall down unconscious, and will put himself at great risk for her sake. You must protect him from that."
After faithful Johannes had once more given his promise to the old king about this, the latter said no more, but laid his head on his pillow and died.
After the old king had been carried to his grave, faithful Johannes told the young king all that he had promised his father on his deathbed, and said, "I will surely keep my promise, and will be loyal to you as I have been loyal to him, even if it should cost me my life."
When the mourning was over, faithful Johannes said to the young king, "It is now time for you to see your inheritance. I will show you your father's castle." Then he took him everywhere, up and down, and let him see all the riches and the magnificent chambers. But there was one chamber which he did not open, the one that contained the dangerous portrait. Now the portrait was so placed that when the door was opened one looked straight at it. It was so masterfully painted that it seemed to live and breathe and to be the most charming beautiful thing in the whole world.
The young king noticed that faithful Johannes always walked past this one door, and said, "Why do you never open this one for me?"
He replied, "There is something in there that would frighten you."
The king answered "I have seen the entire castle, and I want to know what is in this room as well." And he was about to break open the door by force.
Faithful Johannes held him back, saying, "I promised your father before his death that you should not see inside this chamber. It could bring great misfortune on you and on me."
"Oh, no!" replied the young king. "If I do not go in, it will be my certain downfall. I shall have no rest day or night until I have seen inside with my own eyes. I shall not leave here until you have unlocked the door."
Faithful Johannes saw that there was no other way. With a heavy heart and many sighs, he took the key from the large ring. After opening the door, he went in first, thinking that he could block king's view of the portrait, that the king would not see it in front of him. But what good did it do? The king stood on tiptoes and saw the portrait over faithful Johannes's shoulder. After seeing the girl's portrait, which was so magnificent and glistened with gold and precious stones, he fell unconscious to the ground.
Faithful Johannes picked him up, carried him to his bed, and sorrowfully thought, "Misfortune has befallen us, dear Lord. How will it end?" Then he strengthened the king with wine, until he regained consciousness.
The king's first words were, "Oh, whose portrait is that beautiful picture?"
"That is the Princess of the Golden Roof," answered faithful Johannes.
The king continued, "My love for her is so great, that if all the leaves on all the trees were tongues, they would not be able to express it. I will risk my life to win her. You are my most faithful Johannes. You must help me."
The faithful servant thought to himself for a long time how to approach the matter, for it was difficult even to come into view of the king's daughter. Finally he thought of a way, and said to the king, "Everything which she has about her is of gold -- tables, chairs, dishes, cups, bowls, and household implements. Among your treasures are five tons of gold. Have the royal goldsmiths fashion one ton into all manner of vessels and utensils, into all kinds of birds, wild beasts, and strange animals. She will like these things, and we will go there with them and to try our luck."
The king summoned all the goldsmiths, and they had to work night and day until at last the most splendid things were prepared. When everything had been loaded on board a ship, faithful Johannes disguised himself as a merchant, and the king had to do the same thing in order to make himself quite unrecognizable. Then they sailed across the sea, and sailed on until they came to the city where the Princess of the Golden Roof lived.
Faithful Johannes had the king stay behind on the ship and wait for him. "Perhaps I shall bring the princess with me," he said. "Therefore see that everything is in order. Have the golden vessels set out and the whole ship decorated." Then he put all kinds of golden things into his apron, went on shore and walked straight to the royal castle. When he entered the courtyard of the castle, a beautiful girl was standing there by the well with two golden buckets in her hand, drawing water with them. She was just turning around to carry away the sparkling water when she saw the stranger and asked who he was.
He answered, "I am a merchant," opening his apron, and letting her look in.
"Oh, what beautiful golden things," she cried, putting her buckets down and looking at the golden wares one after the other. Then the girl said, "The princess must see these things. She takes such great pleasure in golden things, that she will buy all you have." Taking him by the hand, she led him upstairs, for she was the princess's chambermaid.
When the princess saw the wares, she was quite delighted and said, "They are so beautifully made that I will buy them all from you."
But faithful Johannes said, "I am only the servant of a rich merchant. The things I have here are not to be compared with those my master has in his ship. They are the most beautiful and valuable things that have ever been made in gold." When she wanted to have everything brought up to her, he said, "There is so much that it would take a great many days to do that, and so many rooms would be required to exhibit them, that your house is not big enough."
This made her all the more curious and desirous, so at last she said, "Take me to the ship. I will go there myself and see your master's treasures."
Faithful Johannes happily led her to the ship, and when the king beheld her, he saw that she was even more beautiful than the portrait, and he thought that his heart would surely break. Then she boarded the ship, and the king led her inside. But faithful Johannes remained with the helmsman and ordered the ship to be pushed off, saying, "Set all the sails and fly like a bird in the air."
Inside, the king showed her the golden vessels, every one of them, and also the wild beasts and strange animals. Many hours went by while she was looking at everything, and in her delight she did not notice that the ship was sailing away. After she had looked at the last item, she thanked the merchant and wanted to go home, but when she came to the side of the ship, she saw that it was on the high seas far from land, and speeding onward at full sail.
"Oh!" she cried in alarm "I've been betrayed. I've been kidnapped and have fallen into the power of a merchant. I would rather die!"
Taking her by the hand, the king said, "I am not a merchant. I am a ...