Illustration: The Golden Key, Claudia Bettinardi, 1999

“The Golden Key” is another tale from Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm and was traditionally the last story in the second volume, which may explain the rather abrupt ending.

Usually I give you a synopsis of the story, but this one’s so short, I’ll let you read it yourself.

In the winter time, when deep snow lay on the ground, a poor boy was forced to go out on a sledge to fetch wood. When he had gathered it together, and packed it, he wished, as he was so frozen with cold, not to go home at once, but to light a fire and warm himself a little. So he scraped away the snow, and as he was thus clearing the ground, he found a tiny, gold key. Hereupon he thought that where the key was, the lock must be also, and dug in the ground and found an iron chest. “If the key does but fit it!” thought he; “no doubt there are precious things in that little box.” He searched, but no keyhole was there. At last he discovered one, but so small that it was hardly visible. He tried it, and the key fitted it exactly. Then he turned it once round, and now we must wait until he has quite unlocked it and opened the lid, and then we shall learn what wonderful things were lying in that box.

Not the typical Grimm tale, well except for the poor child being forced to go out into the cold, that part sounds right. At first I thought, “Well, that’s a stupid little story.” But thinking about it some more, I kind of like the ending.

Not knowing what’s in the box lets us imagine whatever we want, presumably something that will make the boy’s life perfect, or at least better. Or maybe it’s a tiny dancing man. Or maybe it’s that gold glow from Pulp Fiction.

What would you hope was in the box if you found it?

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.