In his old age Ferdham, faithful servant to King Gundrum of Franconia, liked to entertain people with the story of King Gundrum and the crawling mouse. In it he tells of the day when he was a young man he witnessed a mouse crawl out of King Gundrum mouth while he sleeping on his throne. Ferdham followed the mouse as it left the castle, scurried across a nearby field, then pause as it came to a stream it could not cross. Ferdham says he took out his sword and laid it across the stream for the mouse to use as a bridge, though most realize this is a fanciful exaggeration. As a servant Ferdham wouldn’t have been outfitted with a sword and so most assume he used a stick he found laying by to create a bridge for the little mouse.
No one questions the mouse coming out of Gundrum’s mouth however.
The little mouse scurried on until it came to the base of a mountain where it worked its way into a small opening at its base. Ferdham watched and waited for the mouse to return, and after a while it did, returning back to the castle with great haste. Ferdham could barely keep up with the small creature but arrived in time to see the mouse jump back into King Gundrum’s mouth. The King woke suddenly and sat up.
“I just had the strangest dream. I dreamed I crossed a great plane, traversed a mighty bridge over a raging river, climbed into a mountain cave and discovered the greatest pile of blazing gold ever amassed!”
Ferdham then told King Gundrum of all that had happened, the mouse and the stream and the mountain, and so they set out to find and claim the gold. As Ferdham was a trusted servant, and the King was slightly paranoid that someone else might claim the gold, the two ventured alone to the mountain. Using his dream as a guide, the King led the way and Ferdham was able to point out the stick across the stream and other markers as proof of his witnessing. When they arrived at the mountain and discovered the hole the mouse had used it was clear the King would not be able to enter the same way. After some careful consideration the King noted that there was a much larger cave up the side of the mountain, and so they climbed.
The cave had a narrow opening that sloped down and then opened to a wide cavern below. There was a flicker of light coming from below, a glimmering reddish glow. “Imagine the amount of gold it would take to shine like that in a mountain as big as this!” King Gundrum said, and while the logic of it fails out ears today in the moment Ferdham could do nothing but agree. The King shimmied on his belly into the cave, closer and closer to where the floor dropped into the main chamber. “I’m almost there! I can practically feel the heat of all that gold!” Again, while this rings false, in the moment Ferdham was certain that the King knew what he was talking about. Finally, the King reached the edge of the precipice and leaned over shouting “It’s beautiful! It is just as I dreamed it! So much–”
And then he was gone. The King had fallen over the edge without another word.
Cautiously, Ferdham crept to the edge where he’d last seen the king and looked down. His eyes watered from the heat, but as they adjusted he realized that King Gundrum had been misled by his dreams. Just as the great plane had been a field, the mighty river a stream, the great bridge merely a stick, what the mouse had seen as a great cache of gold inside the mountain was nothing more than a bubbling mound of lava inside an old volcano. King Gundrum’s passion and blindness for gold had, quite literally, consumed him in the end.
Though no one believes Ferdham’s account and the mountain that bares Gundrum’s name is, indeed, a sleeping volcano, there has been no other explanation for the mysterious disappearance of King Gundrum.
The New Grimmoire is my continuing series of Grimm fairy tales reworked and retold. From The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm translated and edited by Jack Zipes this is tale 259. Given that I’m working my way backward, at the rate of one story a week, I only have 4.96 years to go!