Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Chapter 5
The Wood and the Sphinx
© Eso A.B.

There is a Habsburgian fairy tale about a King Goldenlocks and his son, who was, not surprisingly, also called Prince Goldenlocks. The story is about how King Goldenlocks met and imprisoned King Greentop; and how Prince Goldenlocks, son of King Goldenlocks, liberated King Greentop.

Many years ago, one sunny autumn day, after the acorns had fallen to the ground and the wild pigs had fattened themselves on them for the winter months ahead, King Goldenlocks of the famed Habsburgs (aka ‘The Haveburgs; in German ‘haben’ means  ‘to have’) decided to go wild pig hunting. As is the wont of kings, King Goldenlocks did not go on the hunt alone, but invited the princes of Havsburg and Havsburg’s neighbors to join him.

As behooves a host, King Goldenlocks was the first to ride into the Waldensee (Sea of Trees) Wood. A little behind the king rode the king’s retainers.

The king rode along a well known road. On both sides of the road stood an honor guard of tall oaks with trunks thick enough to measure two meters (six feet) in diameter. Interspersed among the oaks were beech trees. The beach trees, too, grew many nutritious and tasty nuts.

After King Goldenlocks had entered the wood, his retainers started to blow their horns, and these were soon answered by the horns of the other hunting parties to their right and left. It was not long before the king came to a small clearing. The clearing was surrounded by large trees, some birches, some spruce. In the centre of the clearing was a small depression, which held within its bowl a small swamp. One could see that during the previous summer, the wild hogs had upturned the swamp mud and then had then laid themselves into the mud to cool their thick hides. This bathroom in the wood was known as a ‘hogs wallow’.

King Goldenlocks was surprised and taken aback to see on the other side of the clearing leaning against a gigantic oak tree, an unkempt and frightful looking giant. The giant looked almost like a man, except in place of hair, he had sprigs of oak leaves, and the soles of his shoes were made of thick pieces of oak bark, which were laced to his feet with pig tails and snakes. King Goldenlocks guessed that he had come upon the famed Giant of the Wood, the one everyone called King Greentop. This was the first time, either of the Kings met on their own.

King Goldenlocks hastened to assert himself and spoke first: “Hoa!” the King cried as his stallion, taking fright, reared and made ready to bolt.

“Hoa!” answered King Greentop. He reached out his arm and took hold of the stallion’s bridle. Then he asked: “Where goest Thou, King Goldenlocks?”

“I am going pig hunting,” answered King Goldenlocks. “Will you make way for me and my hunting party, and let go of my horse!?”

“Sure, King Goldenlocks,” answered King Greentop and let loose of the stallion’s briddle, “but first I would like to receive a present from you.”

“Are you asking me to pay you a bribe?” asked King Goldenlocks in a not very pleasant voice. “I would like to remind you that I, not you, am king of this wood.” Then as if relenting a little, he added: “Just out of curiosity, what is the present you want?”

“It is a small present,” answered King Greentop. “Since you want not only the flesh of my pigs, but also their souls, it is your little pinky that I want in exchange. You can bite it off and make a present of it to me. Here is a large leaf you can put it on.” King Greentop passed to King Goldenlocks a large, turned yellow, oak leaf.

“What an uncouth Giant you are,” replied King Goldenlocks and began to blow on his hunting horn as loudly as he knew how. His retainers joined him; and a loud braying of horns ensued.

King Greentop, however, was not moved. He cupped his hands over his mouth and called out in a voice that echoed from one end of the wood to the other: “King Goldenlocks, you and your party will not pass! If you want one of my wild boars, you must offer for him your bloody pinky.”

“Toot! Toot! Too! Toot! Toot!” went the horns of King Goldenlocks. Soon from all directions of the forest into the clearing rushed some of the most famous kings and princes of the time. At that time, Germany had so many princes that one could never count them all. Their horns, also, blared: “Toot! Toot! Too! Toot! Toot! ”

“Make way!” cried King Goldenlocks at King Greentop and brandished his long lance. Seeing that he was about to be attacked, King Greentop stepped behind the nearest tree, and with no further ado uprooted it, then threw the trunk with all the leaves into the clearing.

It took King Goldenlocks and his guests some time to extricate themselves from the swamp mud, branches, and leaves that they suddenly found themselves in the middle off. Some of them were unfortunate enough to have to limp around with broken legs and arms for some time, some cursed King Greentop for the rest of their lives.

Needless to say, a fierce battle ensued, which did not make much sense, except to mask the loss of further pretense for King Goldenlocks. It was fortunate for the King of Havsburg that his castle was not far away. During the battle, he sent many of his retainers to his barns and boathouses to bring him ever more bundles of rope. Evidently, he had a plan.

In the end, King Goldenlocks of Havsburg, captured the King of the Wood in a net of ropes, tied him to an uprooted tree, and had a hundred horses drag King Greentop, tree, and all to the yard of the Havsburg Castle. There, on short notice, a hundred smiths from the entire kingdom hammered together a special iron cage.  This is where King Goldenlocks then imprisoned King Greentop, upon which the chorus of the Castle of Havesburg sang “O Fortuna!”

The Havsburg king’s plan was to keep King Greentop in the cage, and leave him without water until he dried up. When the Giant’s skin and bark began to peel, the emperor planned to announce a big festival, at which he would saw the limbs of the Giant into logs. The straighter logs he planned to burn in the fireplace of his cabinet, while those of irregular size would be dumped in a pit and the heat of the fire was going to be used to bake bricks with which the King of Havsburg planned to build himself the finest castle the world had ever seen.

After King Greentop was put in his prison, King Goldenlocks went to take a nap. Meantime, the King’s two young children, Princess and Prince Goldenlocks, who were not involved in the hunt in any way, went to play in the yard. Their toy was a rubber ball covered with gold leaf. They were told not to play with it, because gold leaf was expensive and did not adhere to rubber very well. Nevertheless, because they were children and did as children do, they played with the ball all the same.

Princess Goldenlocks kicked the ball first. She did not kick the ball to pass through the Court gate, where her brother had suggested she kick. The Princess aimed the ball for the well that stood at the end of the Court. Unfortunately, her foot was turned wrong and the ball seemed to have a mind of its own. It flew instead into the cage of King Greentop.

The Princess ran up to the cage and asked the Giant to return the ball.

“Of course, I will, my beautiful princess,” answered King Greentop, “but first, I would like you to give me a drink of water. I am dying of thirst.”

“I would, King Greentop,” answered Princess Goldenlocks, “but there is no rope or chain at the well to pull the water up with”. Indeed, no winch, or chain, or crock were to be seen anywhere near the well.”

“That’s alright,” sighed King Greentop, “maybe when the moon is full, it will come down for a drink, and leave its ladder behind. Meanwhile, a kiss from you will make me happy.”

Princess Goldenlocks allowed King Greentop to kiss her. He returned the golden ball to her.

Next it was the turn of Prince Goldenlocks to kick the ball. This time the ball also flew into the Giant’s cage.

This time King Greentop asked the Prince to open the gate of his prison for him.

Prince Goldenlocks did not want to do it, because he knew his father would be angry if he did. Besides, he was the next Havsburg in line to become king, which meant that he was supposed to agree with his father’s ways of ruling the kingdom.

King Greentop told the Prince not to worry. “If you let me out,” said King Greentop, “I will show you how you can balance on your head by balancing on a ball and your head.”

“But if it starts rolling, I will fall off it,” protested Prince Goldenlocks.  proud to show off how smart he was.

“Don’t worry,” answered King Greentop. “I will also teach you how you can wiggle your ears and make the ball move.”

After thinking the offer over, the temptation to know how to stand on his head on a ball and move forward by wiggling his ears, proved too great. Prince Goldenlocks was after all a boy, and he wished to stand out among Havsburgia’s princes. He therefore opened the prison door and let King Greentop leave.

“Thank you, children,” said King Greentop as he disappeared into the Waldensee Wood. “If you ever need my help, just run into the wood and call three times: ‘Giant! Giant! Giant!’  I will come and help you.”

When King Goldenlocks awakened from him nap, and came into the yard to look at his prisoner (he wanted to make sure that the capture had not been a dream), he was shocked to discover that King Greentop was no longer in his cage.

“Who let the prisoner out!” screamed Emperor Goldenlocks. “Who let the prisoner out? Who did this? I will pay thirty big pieces of gold to whoever tells me who did this!”

No one answered. It was as if no one had seen or knew anything. But then, unexpectedly, everyone heard the croak of a frog. The creature had crawled or jumped out of the well in ways no one knew how. It now sat on the rim of the well and was looking straight at the Emperor of Havsburg.

The frog croaked:“It was Prince Goldenlocks who opened the prison! Croak! Croak! Where is my gold?”

Emperor Goldenlocks had the thirty pieces of gold brought from the cellars of Havburg to him immediately. He immediately had it brought to the frog, who immediately swallowed it. Once the gold had sunk to the bottom of its belly, the frog became so heavy that it fell backward, back into the well.

No comments:

Post a Comment