The Genie of the Golden River: Ruskin’s Fairy Tale and The Thousand and One Nights

Haythem Bastawy

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    John Ruskin is known for his influential writings on a various and vast spectrum of topics, and more importantly for his art criticism. Little attention or regard however is addressed towards his one and only story, or rather fairy tale, The King of the Golden River, or The Black Brothers; a Legend of Stiria (1841). Even when the story is considered, it is often read as a mere reproduction of the tale of ‘The Water of Life’ in The Brothers Grimm, with little or no connection to any other literary works, let alone The Thousand and One Nights. Critics like Ulrich C. Knoepflmacher and Jane Merrill Filstrup attempt to compensate for the shortcomings of such a reading by using psychological and autobiographical elements from Ruskin’s life and his other writings, and wrestle with facts to prove a valid but rather incomplete point. Closely examining Ruskin’s tale makes it apparent however that The Brothers Grimm appearance of The King of the Golden River is only a frame, and the filling is actually a Thousand and One Nights one with strong and undoubtable evidence. Further to this discovery, the present paper assesses why Ruskin attempted to hide his consumption and reproduction of tales from the Thousand and One Nights in The King of the Golden River on the one hand, whilst conspicuously framing his fairy tale in a Brothers Grimm framework on the other.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publication Tradition(s) – Innovation(s) en Angleterre au XIXe Siecle
    EditorsFrancoise Baillet, Odile Boucher-Rivalain, Stéphane Guy, Francois Robert
    Place of PublicationParis
    Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2017


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