The Metal King





A GERMAN FOLE-TALE



(ADAPTED)



Once long ago there was a high mountain whose rocks were veined with

gold and silver and seamed with iron. At times, from a huge rent in the

mountain-side, there shot out roaring, red flames, and clouds of black

smoke. And when the village folk in the valley below saw this, they

would say: "Look! the Metal King is at his forge." For they knew that in

the gloomy heart of the mountain, the Metal King and his Spirits of the

Mines wrought in gold and iron.



When the storm raged over the valley, the Metal King left his cavern

and riding on the wings of the wind, with thundering shouts, hurled

his red-hot bolts into the valley, now killing the peasants and their

cattle, now burning houses and barns.



But when the weather was soft and mild, and the breezes blew gently

about the mouth of his cavern, the Metal King returned to his forge in

the depths of the mountain, and there shaped ploughshares and many other

implements of iron. These he placed outside his cavern door, as gifts to

the poor peasants.



It happened, on a time, there lived in that valley a lazy lad, who

would neither till his fields nor ply a trade. He was avaricious, but he

longed to win gold without mining, and wealth and fame without labor. So

it came to pass that he set out one day to find the mountain treasure of

the Metal King.



Taking a lighted lantern in one hand, a hatchet in the other, and a

bundle of twigs under his arm, he entered the dark cavern. The dampness

smote his cheek, bats flapped their wings in his face. Shivering with

fear and cold, he pressed on through a long passage under an arched

and blackened roof. As he passed along he dropped his twigs, one after

another, so that they might guide him aright when he returned.



He came at last to a place where the passage branched off in two

directions,--to the right and to the left. Choosing the right-hand path,

he walked on and at length came to an iron door. He struck it twice with

his hammer. It flew open, and a strong current of air rushing forth put

out his light.



"Come in! Come in!" shouted a voice like the rolling of thunder, and the

cavern echoes gave back the sounds.



Almost overcome by terror and shivering in every limb, the lad entered.

As he stepped forward a dazzling light shone from the vaulted roof

upheld by massive columns, and across the crystal side-walls flittered

curious, shadowy figures.



The Metal King, huge and fierce-eyed, surrounded by the misshapen

Spirits of the Mines, sat upon a block of pure silver, with a pile of

shining gold lying before him.



"Come in, my friend!" he shouted again, and again the echoes rolled

through the cavern.



"Come near, and sit beside me."



The lad advanced, pale and trembling, and took his seat upon the silver

block.



"Bring out more treasure," cried the Metal King, and at his command the

Mountain Spirits fluttered away like dreams, only to return in a moment

and pile high before the wondering lad bars of red gold, mounds of

silver coin, and stacks of precious jewels.



And when the lad saw all that wealth he felt his heart burst with

longing to grasp it, but when he tried to put out his hand, he found

that he could not move his arm, nor could he lift his feet, nor turn his

head.



"Thou seest these riches," said the Metal King; "they are but a handful

compared with those thou mayest gain if thou wilt work with us in the

mines. Hard is the service but rich the reward! Only say the word, and

for a year and a day thou shalt be a Mountain Spirit."



"Nay," stammered the lad, in great terror, "nay, I came not to work. All

I beg of thee is one bar of gold and a handful of the jewels that lie

here. If they are mine I can dress better than the village lads, and

ride in my own coach!"



"Lazy, ungrateful wretch!" cried the Metal King, rising from his seat,

while his figure seemed to tower until his head touched the cavern roof,

"wouldst thou seize without pay the treasures gained through the hard

labor of my Mountain Spirits! Hence! Get thee gone to thy place! Seek

not here for unearned riches! Cast away thy discontented disposition and

thou shalt turn stones into gold. Dig well thy garden and thy fields,

sow them and tend them diligently, search the mountain-sides; and thou

shalt gain through thine industry mines of gold and silver!"



Scarcely had the Metal King spoken when there was heard a screeching

as of ravens, a crying as of night owls, and a mighty storm wind came

rushing against the lad; and catching him up it drove him forth along

the dark passage, and down the mountain-side, so that in a minute he

found himself on the steps of his own house.



And from that time on a strange change came over the lad. He no longer

idled and dreamed of sudden wealth, but morning, noon, and evening

he labored diligently, sowing his fields, cultivating his garden,

and mining on the mountain-side. Years came and went; all he touched

prospered, and he grew to be the richest man in that country; but never

again did he see the Metal King or the Spirits of the Mines.





The Messenger The Metal Pig facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Feedback