The richness of the Treasure Valley, high in the mountains of Stiria is lost through the evil of the owners, the two elder "Black Brothers", Hans and Schwartz, who in their foolishness mistreat Southwest Wind, Esquire, who in turn floods their valley, washing away their "liquid assets", and turning their valley into a dead valley of red sand. Forced into a trade other than farming, Hans and Schwartz become goldsmiths. They cruelly melt their younger brother Gluck's prize heirloom, a golden mug. This action releases the King of the Golden River for Gluck to pour out of the crucible as a finely dressed little golden dwarf. The dwarfish king offers a proposition to brothers: if someone were to climb up to the source of the Golden River high in the mountains and throw into it at least three drops of "holy water", it would become, for that person only, a river of gold. That person must do it on his first and only attempt or be overwhelmed by the river to become a black stone.
John Ruskin (1819-1900) was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, as well as an art patron, draughtsman, watercolorist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist. He wrote on subjects as varied as geology, architecture, myth, ornithology, literature, education, botany and political economy. His writing styles and literary forms were equally varied. He penned essays and treatises, poetry and lectures, travel guides and manuals, letters and even a fairy tale. Ruskin wrote his only work of fiction, the fairy tale, The King of the Golden River to answer a challenge set down for him by twelve-year-old Effie Gray, whom he later married.
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