Tuesday, June 12, 2012

John Ruskin & The King of the Golden River

Did you know that John Ruskin wrote a fairy tale? The other afternoon I read The King of the Golden River or The Black Brothers: A Legend of Stiria, written by Ruskin in 1841 for 12 year old Effie Gray (the lady he later married). The story wasn't published for another 10 years, but when it finally hit the shelves it sold out in three editions. It's a bit of a change from the ghostly tales of Charlotte Riddell I wrote about last week; this time there are no chilling ghosts, but we do encounter the Southwest wind - a little man with curling facial hair and a long hat - a beer tankard that transforms into a magical dwarf King (who you can spot in one of the illustrations above), and a distant river that is rumored to flow with gold. Though I found this fairy tale quite predictable, there was a lot I liked about it. The language generates pictures, and gently guides the reader along with its fable-esque quality. Ruskin stresses the importance of the imagination, and emphasises that wealth is not necessarily synonymous with gold. He is also keen to highlight the protagonist's selflessness and kindness to others, themes we might expect in a good, wholesome fairy tale for Victorian children. I can imagine that children would still be enchanted by Ruskin's little story today, and it was encouraging to read about how this tale stands out for some people as that first special book they fell in love with. Have you read any Ruskin, or any other Victorian fairy tales? I'd be happy to hear.

p.s. a video from a theatrical production of this story (which goes over most of the plot by the way), and  an interesting article about how John Ruskin's voice might help a capitalist society


  1. Great story!! Thanks for sharing!!!

    Hello to Ireland that I love!

    Have a fairy day

    1. Lovely to hear from you, and I'm so glad you enjoyed the post:)