In a little town not far from where I live there was once a young man who was unlucky at every turn. His father's name
was Jinx so he they named him Jinx too. Both parents died when he was young and his tall, slender aunt who took him
in would spank him every time she came home from Mass. Because she went to Mass every morning she would put him
over her knee every day. But he really had bad luck at every turn. If he was carrying a glass it would probably slip from
his hands; and if he, while crying, wanted to pick up the pieces, he would always cut his finger.
That is the way it went with everything. But one day his aunt died, and around her gravesite he planted many bushes
and trees as if he wanted to take from them all the branches she had broken on his back; but his unlucky star seemed
to loom larger with each passing year. He was so depressed that he decided to leave home and go out into the world.
Things could never get worse, he thought. This way they have a chance of getting better. So he put all his possessions
in a bag and walked out through the town gate.
On the stone bridge before the gate he remained standing for a moment and leaned over the railing. He looked down at
the rippling water swirling around the piers and felt faint at heart. It almost seemed to him that it would bring bad luck
if he left the town he had grown up in and lived in for so long. He might have stood there longer if the wind had not
suddenly blown his hat off which landed in the river. He woke from his dream but his hat was already under the bridge
and had made its way over to the other side of the river; and every time a wave came along it seemed to be calling
back devilishly: "Good bye, Jinx! I am traveling; you stay at home if you so desire."
So Jinx went on his way without his hat. Boisterous apprentices often went by singing and merry-making and they
would invite him to go along with them on their journey. But he would always shake his head sadly and say: "I do not
fit in with you, and I would not bring you good luck! And besides that my name is Jinx!" As soon as they heard his
name the merry group became confused and earnest and hurried off as fast as they could. When he reached an inn in
the evening in his tired condition he sat down in a corner all alone and cushioned his head in his hands. Before him
stood a pitcher of wine that never seemed to be empty. The daughter of the innkeeper came over to him quietly and
tapped him on the shoulder and when he turned around in surprise she asked him why he was so sad. When he had
told his story or even made mention of his name she would shake her head and go back to her spinning wheel and
leave him sitting there alone with his thoughts.—
After Jinx had been on the road for several weeks without ever really knowing where he was headed, he came one day
to a wonderful garden that was fenced in by a high, gilded parapet. Through the parapet one could see old trees and
low bushes here and there on a huge lawn. A stream wound its way down through the middle, over which there were a
number of small bridges. Tame deer were moving about on sandy yellow paths and they would come over to the fence,
put their heads through and nibble at the bread that he handed to them. Behind the trees in the middle of the garden
rose a stately castle. Its silver roof dazzled in the sunlight and from its towers colorful flags and banners were
fluttering. He walked along the parapet; finally he saw a great, wide-open gateway that opened onto a long shaded
avenue that led up to the castle. Everything was quiet in the garden. Not a soul could be seen or heard. At the gate
there was a notice. "Aha!" he thought, "that's the way it always is. Once you arrive at a beautiful garden where the
gate is standing open and inviting, you always find a notice that says that entry is forbidden." To his surprise he saw
that he had deceived himself: for the notice only said: "Crying is not allowed here!"— "So, so", he thought, "what a
strange sign," and he took his handkerchief out of his pocket to rub eyes a little, for he was not quite sure if a tear
were hindering his vision. After that he went to the garden. He was unsure whether he should take the wide path that
led straight to the castle, so he took a path along the side through the high jasmine and rosebushes. He followed this
path and came to a little wooded area beyond which a twisting path led him to a hill. When he turned around he saw
the top of the hill before him and up there he saw a charming girl seated in the grass.
She had a golden crown on her lap which she kept blowing on. Then she took her silken apron, rubbed the crown with
it, and when she saw it glistening she clapped her hands for joy, arranged her long hair behind her ears and set the
crown on her head once more. When poor Jinx saw that he was overcome with a strange fear. His heart beat so loud
he thought it would burst. He went behind the bushes and bent down. But it was a barberry bush and one of its
branches was blocking his view. And when the wind gently blew the bush this way and that, a thorn proceeded to tickle
him on the tip of his nose, so that he was forced to give out a loud sneeze. Frightened, the girl with the crown turned
around and saw Jinx squatting behind the bush.
"Why are you hiding?" she called. "Do you have something evil in mind, or are you afraid of me?"
Jinx came out from behind the bush trembling like a leaf.
"You are not going to hurt me!" she added, laughing. "Come here and sit with me a while; my playmates have all run
away and left me alone. You can tell me some nice stories, but only stories I can laugh about! Do you hear?— But you
look so sad! What is the matter with you? If you did not put on such a sad face you would be quite a handsome fellow."
"If you really want me to," answered Jinx, "I would be glad to sit with you. But who are you? I have never seen anyone
as beautiful and delightful as you!"
"I am Princess Fortuna, and this is my father's garden."
"What are you doing here all alone?"
"I am feeding the deer and faun and polishing my crown."
"Then I will feed my goldfish!"
"And when you are finished with that?"
"Then my playmates will come again and we will all laugh and sing and dance!"
"Ah, what a happy life you have! And is it like that all the time?"
"Yes, every day! Now please tell me who you are and what your name is."
"Ah, beautiful Princess, please do not demand that of me!
"I am the most unhappy person under the sun and have the most horrible name."
"Phooy!" she said, "I cannot stand horrible names! In my fathers realm there is a man called Duckfeed and another
named Greasespot; your name is not like that, is it? "
"No," he answered, Duckfeed is not my name and neither is Greasespot. Mine is worse that that. My name is Jinx."
"Jinx? I cannot stop laughing! Couldn't you take a different name? Listen, I would like to think up some nice name for
you and then I will ask my father to allow you to use it. My father can do anything he wishes; he is the king. But I will
do it only on the condition that you brighten up your face. Take your hand away and stop hiding behind it; and there is
no need to be brushing your nose with your fingers! You have a nice nose and you will only be doing it harm. And
brush your hair from your forehead. Yes, like that! Now you look rather refined.— But tell me, why are you so sad? I
am always pleasant and I make every person cheerful with whom I speak. Only with you it seems I am unable to do
"Why am I so sad? Because I have been that way all my life and I have always had bad luck. You are always cheerful?
How can that be?"
"At my baptism I was held over the baptismal font by a fairy godmother that my father once did a great service for.
She took me by the arm, kissed me on the forehead and said: "You will always be happy and you will make everyone
else happy. If you look at someone who is sad, that person will forget its unhappy condition. Your name shall be
Fortuna!"— But there was no fairy godmother who kissed you, was there?"
"No, no!" he answered quickly, "never!"
Then the princess paused and became thoughtful and looked at him so intently with her big blue eyes that he
shuddered. Then she said:
"Must it always be a fairy godmother ? A princess is somebody, too. Come here and kneel down, for you are too tall for
Then she stood in front of him and gave him a kiss and ran away laughing.
Before Jinx came to himself she was gone. Slowly he got to his feet. It seemed to him as if he had awoken from a
dream; and yet he felt that it was not a dream because a wonderful lightheartedness took hold of him. "If only I had
my hat", he said, "I would sent it sailing in the air. Maybe it would start to trill and fly away like a lark! That is the way I
feel. All at once I think I know what it means to be merry. It all seems so strange."— He picked a big bouquet of flowers
in the garden and sauntered off along the road, singing.
As soon as he reached the next town he bought a red velvet vest and a beret with a long white feather, looked at
himself in the mirror and said: "Is Jinx my name? I want to see if I can get another name. The nicest one possible,
otherwise I will refuse to take it." Then he mounted a horse and spurred it on so that it pranced along light-footed, and
he continued on his journey.
But Princess Fortuna, after she had given Jinx a kiss, ran on and on. Finally she slowed down and seated herself on a
bench not far from the castle and began to cry bitterly. When her playmates returned they found her still crying. They
tried to console her but it was all in vain. Beset with fear they ran to the king and called out: "Good heavens, King! A
misfortune for the realm! Princess Fortuna is sitting in the garden crying and no one can help her."When the king heard
that he turned pale with fright and ran down the stairs as fast as he could and out into the garden. There on a bench
sat the princess crying and she had her crown on her lap, and so many tears had fallen on it that it glistened in the sun
as if it were set with a thousand diamonds. The king took his daughter in his arms and tried to console her; but she
would not stop crying. He led her into the castle and told her she could have whatever beautiful and precious things
she wanted in his realm; but she could not get over her sadness, and no matter how often he asked her to tell him
what heartbreak she had experienced, she remained silent. But the king kept on asking and finally she had to tell him.
She told how she was sitting in the garden and a young man who looked so sad had approached her and that she had
kissed him to see if that might make him a bit happier.
The king clapped his hands together over his head. "A stranger, a stray vagabond, most likely a common apprentice!
With poor clothes; and without a hat most likely! Unbelievable!"
"I felt so sorry for him!"
"Why would a princess take the first best person that comes along and kiss him! And you say his name was Jinx?
Outrageous! But I must get my hands on that fellow and when I do I will give him a good thrashing. That is the only
punishment he will understand!"
The king ordered his riders to spread out across the realm in all directions and to be on the lookout for that miserable
youngster. "When you find a young man who looks as if the mice had stolen his bread and eaten it, a fellow who is not
wearing a hat, then that's the one! Bring him here to me at once. And the riders spread out like straw blown by the
wind and searched in every town. Some of them rode right past Jinx who was mounted on his horse and proudly
wearing his expensive clothes; but they failed to recognize him and most of them returned to the castle with nothing
to report, and the king reproached them and said they were foolish, incompetent rascals who were of no use to
anybody. The princess could not overcome her sadness and every day at noon she came to lunch with tears in her
eyes. The king did not say a word but would look at his downcast daughter from time to time and let his soup and
roast get cold.
It went on for weeks like that. One day, however, there was suddenly a great uproar in the courtyard. Everyone came
running, and before the king had time to appear at the window to see what was going on, two riders were taking poor
Jinx to the king's quarters. They had tied his hands behind his back, but his face was all lit up, as if this were
something pleasant that he had been waiting for all his life. He bowed down before the king and then stood up straight
with pride and waited to see what would happen.
"We have taken this footloose person prisoner, Your Majesty!" said the elder of the two riders. "But he must have
pulled himself together in the meantime, for this fellow fits your description perfectly. Certainly we would never have
found him had not some stupid fellow we met at an inn told us all about him. And let me tell you what he did after we
took him prisoner and bound his eyes? He kept on laughing and singing! And when we set him on his horse between
ours and brought him here he got angry and insulted us and said we should get a move on! As if he could not wait to
be beheaded. If he is supposed to be the saddest person in all Christendom, Your Majesty, then I would like to see the
merriest. There was no end to the outrageous things he did when we were bringing him here!"
When the king heard that he went up to Jinx and with folded arms on his breast he said: "So you are the one who
took it upon yourself to be kissed by the princess."
"Yes, Your Majesty!" And ever since that kiss I am the happiest man in the world!"
"Throw him in the tower; tomorrow he will be beheaded!"
Then they led Jinx out and locked him in the tower; but the king paced back and forth thoughtfully in his room. "What
an awful affair," he thought. "I have him now, and he will be beheaded; but if I let that happen my Fortuna will never be
happy again." Then he went quietly to his daughter's chamber, looked through the keyhole, shook his head, paced
back and forth for a long while. Then he sent for his Royal Councilor. When the latter had heard everything he thought
the matter over and said:
"Your Majesty, I am not sure if this will help, but the attempt ought to be made. We know that Jinx was sad before
being kissed and that now he is in good spirits; in the same way our fair princess was always merry and now she is
sad. It seems most likely that the kiss is responsible for all that change. So, Jinx must give the kiss back to the
princess. That is my humble suggestion!"
"That is utterly impossible," responded the king angrily, "and it is altogether against our principles!"
"Your Majesty must look upon the affair as a matter of state, then it is in order, and no one can have anything against
The king considered for a while and then said: "All right, we shall try it. Call all the barons and knights together in the
throne room and have the prisoner brought in!"
After that the king came dressed in his royal apparel and sat down on his throne. Beside him stood the princess whom
the king had not dared to tell why he had called her, and around him stood all the members of the court; all the elegant
gentlemen in their gilded clothing with stars and sashes. There was not a sound to be heard. The door opened and
Jinx was brought in.
"Tomorrow you will be beheaded," the king growled at him, "but before that you will, here and now, in sight of all these
noble and honored men, give back to my daughter the kiss that she, not knowing what she was doing, gave you!"
"If that is all you wish, Your Majesty," replied Jinx, "I will do it most gladly, and if it is possible that a person can be
happier than I am now, then I will be that person!"
"That is what we would like to see," interrupted the king harshly. "Your calculation might be wrong this time!"
Then Jinx approached the princess, embraced her and gave her a kiss. Then she took his hand, looked at him with love
shining in her eyes, and both of them remained standing there before the throne.
"Are you happy again, my dear daughter?" asked the king.
"A little bit, Father," she replied. "But I am sure that will not last very long."
"Yes, yes," said the king sadly, "I can see it already. He has not become sad again like he should have, had things gone
as planned. He just keeps standing there and smiles and has that shameless pleasant look on his face! What should I
The princess lowered her eyes and said softly:
"I have the answer, Father, and I want to tell you; but I must whisper it in your ear."
Then the king went off with the princess to the antechamber, and when they returned he took Jinx's hand, put it in the
princess's and said to the gathering of gentlemen and barons:
"It cannot be changed, may God's will be done; this is my dear son who will become king when I die."—
And Jinx became a prince and later on king. He lived in the golden castle and gave the princess so many kisses that she
was made happier than she had been before. Princess Fortuna gave him a new name, the best name, instead of the
horrible one he had; and every day a new one. Only now and then when she was in the best of spirits would she say to
him: "Do you remember what your name was?" And then she would break down laughing. But he would hold her
mouth closed and say: "Be quiet! What will the people think when they hear that? They won't respect me any more!"—
|Jinx and Fortuna
Richard von Volkmann-Leander
Illustrations: Hans von Volkmann (Son)
|Reveries at French Firesides
Copyright © 2012