In a land far away there was a very tall snow- covered mountain. At the top of the mountain sat a huge gray castle with tall walls and many rooms. This castle was the largest castle in Austria and was located near the city called Salzburg. This awesome castle was majestically surrounded by several mountain ranges dating back to the 11th century.
There lived in this castle a man named Richard who was king and on most days was a pretty nice fellow. His soldiers kept guard over the castle to be sure no one entered it that had evil intentions. It was guarded by day and by night. It was very difficult for most people to even get up the mountain to reach the castle who really were good and honest people. The climb was more than most people could bear so the mountain itself protected the castle somewhat.
King Richard would walk down the long stone hallway every day and look out over the valley below. He could see the common people’s homes. He could see the quaint village in which they bought and sold their goods. Some days he could hear the sounds of the young people’s voices as they sang or made music. King Richard grew lonely in this tall castle and grew tired of sleeping in his big bed all alone. He longed for a wife but he had not been able to find one that was as beautiful as his heart had dreamed of.
Each day he would ask the guards if they had seen the most beautiful lady in the land and if so where he might look. Day after day he was told no one had found such a person to fit his requirements. She had to be thin, have long dark hair, fair skin without spot or wrinkle and she had to have the voice of an angel. Often he would add other requirements and the list continued to get longer.
The king made it clear he wanted to have children so the lady of his dreams must be able to bear children. As he sat quietly in his room at night he would visit an enormous cabinet and pour himself a drink. The wine seemed to help him sleep better and soothe his lonely heart.
One day a peddler approached the castle with a wagon full of all colored glass bottles. Some were red, some blue, some yellow, some green, some purple, some laced with golden ribbons. The peddler asked the guards to tell the king of his bottles and even gave each of them a drink to show them he was an honest gentleman.
When the word reached the kings ears he summons the peddler and his bottles to come to him in the guest room. The peddler was quick to take one bottle of each kind to see the king.
The peddler was escorted by two guards into the king’s chambers so no harm was allowed to come to the king. After all there were very evil people who would have loved to take the life of such a powerful man.
“Ah come into my chambers and show me your collection of glass bottles.” The king called out when he saw the old white-haired man at the door.
“I am honored to come and I’m more honored to show you the most incredible collection of wine on earth.” The rugged old man replied.
“Why do you call your bottles incredible? I have drunk from the finest bottles in the land.” King Richard asked as he stood to his feet to get a better look.
“Bring them over to the table and explain to me why I should even give you any of my precious time. I don’t see peddlers often and I would not have seen you if you not peaked my curiosity.” The king grinned as he lighted up his pipe.
“Well sir I have not only collected the most beautiful bottles in the world but I have also made the wine myself from the finest grapes to be had. I have spent endless hours making sure each bottle was perfect and its wine the best tasting wine in the world. Here allow me to pour you one drink from this scarlet bottle and you will see just how good my drink is.” He walked over to the king and opened his deep red bottle. The guard took a silver goblet from the cabinet and the king waited for the drink to be poured.
“You drink my wine and you will never want to drink anyone else’s brew!” The old peddler said softly.
With this being said he filled the silver goblet with a very red liquid and stood back to see what the king would say.
The king lifted the goblet and took a big drink. He made somewhat of a frown and then lifted the goblet again to his lips.
“Well my man you have made a very smooth tasting drink. What is the difference in all of these bottles? I have noticed all the colors. Are some colored bottles holding better drink than others?”
“Yes my king!” The peddler answered. “This bottle is the best and most powerful of them all. However you cannot drink but one drink from this bottle each day. You may drink from any of the other bottles as often as you wish but not this dark red bottle with the strange glass handles.”
“Why in the world would one not be able to drink but one drink each day? No drink can possibly be that powerful. Just fill my cabinet with a bottle of each color but leave me two bottles of this red one. We will see in a month which is the best.” He gave a nod to the guards who quickly put all the bottles in the king’s cabinet.
“I’ll stop by next month and see what you think of them unless you require me before then. If so, just have someone to come to the village and I will be happy to bring more to you.” The peddler smiled.
“Very well and what is the charge for all of these bottles?” The king asked reaching into his pocket for gold coins.
“One gold coin for each bottle but six gold coins for the red bottles!” The peddler replied.
“Why so much for the red bottles. Six gold coins is quite a large amount for one bottle of wine. I tell you what I will do. I will pay you for one red bottle and you leave this bottle from which I have drunk. If it is as good as you say, then next month I shall pay you even more for the red bottle.” King Richard purposed to the peddler.
With a nod of his head, the peddler accepted the coins reminding the king once more not to drink but once a day from the red bottles. Having said this he hobbled out the door and left the castle grounds. He disappeared as quickly as he had come.
King Richard began to drink from all of the bottles until he had emptied them all but the red ones. He had done as the peddler had asked but now his supply had dwindled and the month was not over. Quickly he called for his guards to find the peddler in the village and have him come as the next day and re-supply his cabinet. The guards searched for the old peddler but no one seemed to know where he was. One guard stayed in the village
to search and one guard returned to the castle to inform the king that they had not been successful in finding the peddler.
Days passed and King Richard became impatient. His eyes gazed upon the red bottles and the urge to drink from them was more than he could bear. His lips longed to taste the delicious red wine and before long he had emptied both bottles.
At last the guards were able to find the peddler and brought him to the castle with a large supply of bottles.
The king paid him for all the bottles and an extra six gold coins for the red bottles.
“I am going to fill your cabinet for I have a journey to make. I will be gone for a little while so I’m leaving you enough until I return. I encourage you to drink all the other colored bottles first and leave the red bottles until last.” The peddler said. “Pretty soon you will know just how powerful the red bottles wines are!”
“Very well I suppose we shall see!” The king replied. “Just make sure you refill my cabinet the moment you return. I do not like waiting.” He scolded. “Where and why are you going away? I can pay you more than enough to keep you near the village where I can find you.”
“I am going to pay for my daughter’s release. She is being held by the king in a distant land and she wants only to be free of him. She is as beautiful as the morning sun and has the voice of a sweetest song bird.” The peddler admitted lowering his head hoping the king would not look further into his saddened eyes.
“Then you go and find her. Bring her here and let me see her. Take as many guards as you need to rescue her. No princess needs to be held against her will in another land. She deserves to be free of this tyrant.”
The peddler left with a dozen of the kings best guards.
Months passed and there was no word from the peddler or the guards. So the king having emptied his bottles sent more guards to the village to find out what had happened to the peddler. One guard returned to the castle to tell the king that the other guards were combing the village, hills and dales for the peddler.
One sunny morning as the king was looking out of the castle down into the village below he spotted the peddlers wagon slowly making its way up the rugged mountain. It appeared he was alone. He wondered why and what had happened to his guards. Anxious as anxious could be he ran down from the castles gate to see for himself if indeed the peddler was alone. He wanted to see first if he had another supply of magic bottles and then if he had been successful in rescuing his beloved daughter.
As his feet touched the grass just outside the gate, he saw the old peddler and his wagon full of bottles.
“Oh I am so glad to see you!” He gasped being out of breath from the long walk.
“Yes I have your bottles and I am happy to report I did find my daughter. She is more beautiful today than I have ever seen her. Her eyes are as blue and the sky and her touch as gentle as a baby lamb.” The peddler smiled.
“This is wonderful news. Let’s get the bottles up to the cabinet and you tell me why you did not bring your daughter here so I could see her. You do know I have been searching for the most beautiful woman in the land. If she is indeed as beautiful as you say and as good as your wine, then I want to see her. She might be just the one I choose to be my queen.” The king said with a wink and a nod.
“I have as much wine here as I could bring. My wagon was so full I had no room to bring her.” The peddler replied as he watched his bottles be taken up to the king’s parlor room.
“Stay here tonight and leave for the village tomorrow. Then bring your daughter back by the end of the week. Please tell me what happened to my guards. They have not returned. Were they taken by the enemy or killed?” The king asked as he filled up his goblet from the red bottle.
“Some of the guards were killed by the evil king and some could not endure the long trip. Some fell by the wayside I am sorry to say.” The peddler continued.
The week passed quickly and the king being excited drank more and more. The peddler returned with his beautiful daughter just like he promised to do. Indeed she was as beautiful as the velvet rose and her smile immediately captured the heart of the king. The moment his eyes met hers he knew this was the lady he had searched for all of his life. Surely his life would be blessed and they would have many beautiful children to fill the castle halls.
However when the peddler’s daughter saw King Richard her eyes quickly turned away.
“You have been drinking from the red bottles haven’t you?” She asked softly.
“Yes but I was lonely. I needed it to soothe my nerves. Now all will be fine. I will no longer need a wine to take away my loneliness. You will be here with me and I will make you the happiest woman in the world.” The king quickly answered as he slowly approached the peddler’s daughter. His eyes could not believe just how beautiful she was.
“I’m very sorry but I cannot be your queen for you have been destroyed by the magic red bottle!” She said gazing into the eyes of the king.
“You see the red bottles destroy your body, soul and mind. You will never be able to give birth to children. You have broken a promise you gave to my father. He asked you to only drink from the magic red bottle once each day. I lived with a king who drank from the red magic bottles all the time and he became as mean as the devil himself. I cannot endure more pain from any man. I’d rather live alone than to be abused by another man.” Her eyes filled with the tears that ran quickly down her face.
“No I am not like the other one. I am a kind, gentle man. I would never ever harm one single hair on your head. I’d rather be dead and tossed in the field for the birds to pick my bones than to harm someone as beautiful as you are. I will give back all the bottles if you will just give me the chance to prove to you I am a good honest king.” King Richard begged.
“You have one month to prove that you can live without the drink from the red bottle. If you can do that, then I will give you the chance you so desire.” She smiled as she wiped the tears away with the hem of her dress.
“So be it!” The king replied.
One day went by, and then one week passed. The king became very depressed and longed for a small drink from the red bottle. He was so tempted. Two weeks passed and then three weeks passed. At the end of the third week he reached for the red bottle and poured a small drink of wine into the goblet. Surely this would help him to overcome this weakness he had acquired. The fourth week passed and the king called for the peddler’s daughter to come and see how well he had done.
As she stood before the king she could tell he had not been able to go the entire month for the red bottle he had kept in his cabinet was no longer full.
“Do not lie to me or tell me that you have not drunk from the red bottle. The blue birds have visited my room each day and they have told me the truth. You were not able to stop drinking from the magic bottle. I hate that red bottle and it is not a good magic that it holds. It is evil and deadly. It robs one of every good thing. I must leave this place and return to the village. I will wait there for you to stop for one more month. If you have not stopped drinking the birds will indeed pick your bones sooner than you might think. I will pray and ask God to help you giving you the strength to rid this evil from your body. I hope the next time I see you; you will be free of this demon. Only then can I give you my hand in marriage.” She turned quickly and left before another word could be added.
The peddler continued to come to the castle to fill the king’s cabinet. The blue birds sang upon the ledge of the beautiful ladies room. Weeks passed and there was no word from the king.
At the end of the month the king called for the peddler’s daughter. As her feet moved along the stone hallway she prayed that she would see the king in his entire splendor free from the evil of the red bottle. Slowly she opened the heavy door to the parlor where the king sat. He lifted his head to see who was entering his chambers. He stood and motioned for her to come closer to him.
“Your prayers have kept me pure. I have not sipped from the red bottles and I have sent them back to your father. He will tell you himself I am a good and honest king. Please stay with me and be my queen.” He spoke softly and tenderly reaching his hand out to her.
“You do not even know my name.” She whispered lowly. “My name is Kristina and my father’s name is Rouceft. If you will give my father enough money so he doesn’t have to peddle those colorful glass bottles I will give you the chance to prove yourself. If you fail to do so, I have asked God escort you to His throne before the birds can pick your bones. I do want to have children to fill these empty halls. “She replied.
“Your wish is my command. You will see my love for you is greater than any wine. We shall have children for I too have prayed.” He caressed her hand and drew her closer to him. “These halls will be filled with your beautiful voice, the scent of your body and the laughter of our many children. This is my promise to you!”
The loneliness left the king and before long the halls were filled with the sounds of laughter. King Richard and Queen Kristina live happily in the castle on the top of the very tall mountain. There are no red bottles kept in the king’s cabinets. Only love can break the curse from the magic red bottles.
Question: Was the red bottle filled with real magic?
Written by Sybil Shearin
All Rights Reserved
King James Bible – Proverbs 23:29-35
29 Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes?
30 They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.
31 Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.
32 At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.
33 Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.
34 Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast.
35 They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.