The Story of the Invisible Kingdom
by Richard Leander
IN a little house half-way up the mountain-side, and
about a mile from the other houses of the village,
there lived with his old father a young man called
George. There was just enough land belonging to the
house to enable the father and son to live free from
Immediately behind the house the wood began, the
oak trees and beech trees in which were so old that
the grandchildren of the people who had planted them
had been dead for more than a hundred years, but in
front of the house there lay a broken old mill-stone—who
knows how it got there? Any one sitting on the
stone would have a wonderful view of the valley down
below, with the river flowing through it, and of the
mountains rising on the other side of the river. In the
evening, when he had finished his work in the fields,
George often sat here for hours at a time dreaming,
with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands;
and because he cared little for the villagers, but generally
went about silent and absorbed like one who is thinking
of all sorts of things, the people nicknamed him "George
the Dreamer." But he did not mind it at all.
The older he grew, the more silent he became, and
when at last his old father died, and he had buried
him under a great old oak tree, he became quite silent.
Then, when he sat on the broken mill-stone, as he did
more often than before, and looked down into the lovely
valley, and saw how the evening mists came into the
valley at one end and slowly climbed the mountains,
and how it then became darker and darker, until at
last the moon and the stars appeared in the sky in
their full glory, a wonderful feeling came into his heart.
The waves of the river began to sing, quite softly at
first, but gradually louder, until they could be heard
quite plainly; and they sang of the mountains, down
from which they had come, and of the sea, to which
they wished to go, and of the nixies who lived far
down at the bottom of the river. Then the forest began
to rustle, quite differently from an ordinary forest, and
it used to relate the most wonderful tales. The old
oak tree especially, which stood at his father's grave,
knew far more than all the other trees. The stars, high
up in the sky, wanted so much to tumble down into the
green forest and the blue water, that they twinkled and
sparkled as if they could not bear it any longer. But
the angels who stand behind the stars held them firmly
in their places, and said: "Stars, stars, don't be foolish!
You are much too old to do silly things—many thousand
years old, and more. Stay quietly in your places."
It was truly a wonderful valley! But it was only
George the Dreamer who heard and saw all that. The
people who lived in the valley had not a suspicion of
it, for they were quite ordinary people. Now and then
they hewed down a huge old tree, cut it up into firewood,
and made a high stack, and then they said: "Now
we shall be able to make our coffee again for some
time." In the river they washed their clothes; it was
very convenient. And even when the stars sparkled
most beautifully, they only said, "It will be very cold
to-night: let us hope our potatoes won't freeze." Once
George the Dreamer tried to bring them to see differently,
but they only laughed at him. They were just quite
Now, one day as he was sitting on the mill-stone and
thinking that he was quite alone in the world, he fell
asleep. Then he dreamt that he saw, hanging down
from the sky, a golden swing, which was fastened to
two stars by silver ropes. In the swing sat a charming
Princess, who was swinging so high that each time she
touched the sky, then the earth, and then the sky again.
Each time the swing came near the earth, the Princess
clapped her hands with joy and threw George the
Dreamer a rose. But suddenly the ropes broke, and
the swing, with the Princess, flew far into the sky, farther
and farther, until at last he could see it no longer.
Then he woke up, and when he looked round, he saw
a great bunch of roses lying beside him on the mill-stone.
The next day he went to sleep again, and dreamt
the same thing, and when he woke up the roses were
lying on the stone by his side.
This happened every day for a whole week. Then
George said to himself that some part of the dream
must be true, because he always dreamt exactly the
same thing. So he shut up his house, and set out to
seek the Princess.
After he had travelled for many days, he saw in the
distance a country where the clouds touched the earth.
He hastened towards it, but came, on his way, to a large
forest. Here he suddenly heard fearful groans and cries,
and on approaching the place from which they seemed
to come, he saw a venerable old man with a silver-grey
beard lying on the ground. Two horribly ugly, naked
fellows were kneeling on him, trying to strangle him.
Then George the Dreamer looked round to see whether
he could find some sort of weapon with which to run
the two fellows through the body; but he could find
nothing, so, in mortal terror, he tore down a huge tree-trunk.
He had scarcely seized it when it changed in
his hands into a mighty halberd. Then he rushed at
the two monsters, and ran them through the body, and
they let go the old man and ran away howling.
Then George lifted the old man up and comforted
him, and asked him why the two fellows had wanted
to choke him. The old man said that he was the King
of Dreams, and had come by mistake into the kingdom
of his greatest enemy, the King of Realities. The latter,
as soon as he noticed this, had sent two of his servants
to lie in wait for him and kill him.
"Have you then done the King of Realities any
harm?" asked George the Dreamer.
"God forbid!" the old man assured him. "He is
always very easily provoked, that is his character. And
me he hates like poison."
"But the fellows he sent to strangle you were quite
"Yes, indeed," said the King, "stark naked. That is
fashion in the land of Realities; all the people, even the
King, go about naked, and are not at all ashamed. They
are an abominable nation. But now, since you have
saved my life, I will prove my gratitude to you by
showing you my country. It is the most glorious country
in the whole world, and Dreams are my subjects."
Then the Dream-King went on in front and George
followed him. When they came to the place where the
clouds touched the earth, the King showed him a trap-door
that was so well hidden in the thicket that not
even a person who knew it was there would have been
able to find it. He lifted it up and led his companion
down five hundred steps into a brightly lighted grotto
that stretched for miles in undiminished splendour. It
was unspeakably beautiful. There were castles on islands
in the midst of large lakes, and the islands floated about
like ships. If you wished to go into one of them, all
you had to do was to stand on the bank and call out:—
Little castle, swim to me,
That I may get into thee.
Then it came to the shore by itself. Farther on were
other castles, on clouds, floating slowly in the air. But
if you said:—
Float down, little castle in the air,
Take me up to see thy beauties rare,
they slowly floated down. Besides these, there were
gardens with flowers which gave out a sweet smell by
day, and a bright light by night; beautifully tinted birds,
which told stories; and a host of other wonderful things.
George could do nothing but wonder and admire.
"Now I will show you my subjects, the Dreams,"
said the King. "I have three kinds—good Dreams
for good people, bad Dreams for bad people, and also
Dream-goblins. With the last I amuse myself now and
then, for a King must sometimes have a joke."
So he took George into one of the castles, which
was so queerly built that it looked irresistibly comical.
"Here the Dream-goblins live: they are a tiny, high-spirited,
roguish lot—never do any harm, but love to
tease." Then he called to one of the goblins: "Come
here, little man, and be serious a moment for once in
your life. Do you know," he continued, addressing
George, "what this rogue does if I, once in a way,
allow him to go down to the earth? He runs to the
next house, drags the first man he comes across, who
is sound asleep, out of bed, carries him to the church
tower, and throws him down, head over heels. Then
he rushes down the stairs so as to reach the bottom
first, catches the man, carries him home, and flings him
so roughly into bed that the bedstead creaks horribly.
Then the man wakes up, rubs the sleep out of his
eyes, and says: 'Dear me! I thought I was falling
from the church tower. What a good thing it was
only a dream.'"
"Is that the one?" cried George. "Look here, he
has been to me before; but if he comes again, and I
catch him, it will be the worse for him." He had
scarcely finished speaking when another goblin sprang
out from under the table. He looked like a little dog,
for he had a very ragged waistcoat on, and he let his
tongue hang out of his mouth.
"He is not much better," said the King. "He barks
like a dog, and is as strong as a giant. When people
in their dreams are frightened at something, he holds
their hands and feet so that they cannot move."
"I know him, too," interrupted George. "When you
want to run away, you feel as stiff and stark as a piece
of wood. If you want to move your arms or your
legs, you can't do it. But often it is not a dog, but a
bear, or a robber, or some other horrid thing."
"I will never allow them to come to you again,
George the Dreamer," the King assured him. "Now
come and see the bad Dreams. But don't be afraid,
they won't do you any harm—they are only for bad
Then they passed through a great iron door into a
vast space, inclosed by a high wall. Here the most
terrible shapes and most horrible monsters were crowded
together; some looked like men, others like animals,
others were half men and half animals. George was
terrified, and made his way back to the iron door. But the King spoke kindly to him, and persuaded him to
see more closely what wicked people have to dream.
Beckoning to a Dream that stood near—a hideous
giant, with a mill-wheel under each arm—he commanded
him to tell them what he was going to do that night.
Then the monster raised his shoulders, wriggled about
with joy, grinned until his mouth met his ears, and
said: "I am going to the rich man, who has let his
father starve. One day, when the old man was sitting
on the stone steps before his son's house, begging for
bread, the son came and said to the servants: 'Drive
away that fellow.' So I go to him at night and pass
him through my mill-wheels, until all his bones are
broken into tiny pieces. When he is properly soft and
quivering, I take him by the collar and shake him and
say, 'See how you tremble now, you fellow!' Then
he wakes up with his teeth chattering, and calls to his
wife to bring him another blanket, for he is freezing.
And when he has fallen asleep once more, I begin it
When George the Dreamer heard this, he rushed out
through the door, dragging the King after him, and
crying out that he would not stay a moment longer
with the bad Dreams. They were too horrible!
The King next led him into a lovely garden where
the paths were of silver, the beds of gold, and the flowers,
beautifully cut precious stones. Here the good Dreams
were walking up and down. The first he saw was a
pale young woman, with a Noah's Ark under one arm,
and a box of bricks under the other.
"Who is that?" asked the Dreamer.
"She goes every evening to a little sick boy, whose
mother is dead. He is quite alone all day, and no one
troubles about him, but towards evening she goes to
him, plays with him, and stays the whole night. She
goes early, because he goes to sleep early. The other
Dreams go much later. Let us proceed; if you want
to see everything, we must make haste."
Then they went farther into the garden, into the
midst of the good Dreams. There were men, women,
old men, and children, all with dear, good faces, and
most beautifully dressed. Many of them were carrying
all sorts of things: everything that the heart can possibly
wish for. Suddenly George stood still and cried out so
loudly that all the Dreams turned round to look.
"What is the matter?" said the King.
"There is my Princess—she who has so often appeared
to me, and who gave me the roses," George the Dreamer
answered, in an ecstasy.
"Certainly, certainly, it is she," said the King. "Have
I not sent you a very pretty Dream? It is almost the
prettiest I have."
Then George ran up to the Princess, who was sitting
swinging in her little golden swing. As soon as she
saw him coming she sprang down into his arms. But
he took her by the hand and led her to a golden bench,
on which they both sat down, telling one another how
sweet it was to meet again! And when they had
finished saying so, they began again. The King of
Dreams meanwhile walked up and down the broad path
which goes straight through the garden, with his hands
behind his back. Now and then he took out his watch,
to see how the time was getting on; for George the
Dreamer and the Princess never came to an end of
what they had to say to one another. At length he
went to them, and said:
"That's enough, children. You, Dreamer, are far from
your home, and I cannot keep you here over-night, for
I have no beds. You see, the Dreams never sleep, but
have to go up every night to men on the earth. And
you, Princess, must make yourself ready; dress yourself
all in pink, and then come to me, so that I may tell
you to whom you must appear to-night, and what you
When George the Dreamer heard this, he felt more
courageous than ever before in his life. Standing up,
he said firmly: "My lord the King, I will never more
leave my Princess. You must either keep me here below
or let her go up with me to the earth: I love her much
too much to live without her." Then a tear big as a
hazel-nut came into each of his eyes.
"But George, George," answered the King, "it is the
prettiest dream I have. Still, you saved my life; so
have your own way; take your Princess up with you.
But as soon as you have got on to the earth take
off her silver veil, and throw it down to me through
the trap-door. Then she will be of flesh and blood
like every other child of man; now she is only a
George the Dreamer thanked the King most heartily,
and then said: "Dear King, because you are so very
good I should like to ask for one thing more. I have
a Princess now—but no kingdom. A Princess without
a kingdom is impossible. Cannot you get me one, if
it is only a small one?"
Then the King answered: "I have no visible kingdoms
to give away, Dreamer, only invisible ones; one of the
latter you shall have, one of the biggest and best that
Then George asked what invisible kingdoms were
like. The King told him he would find that out, and
would be amazed at their beauty and magnificence.
"You see," he said, "it is often very unpleasant to
have anything to do with ordinary, visible kingdoms.
For example: suppose you are an ordinary King, and
early one morning your Minister comes to your bedside
and says: 'Your Majesty, I want a hundred pounds
for the kingdom.' Then you open your treasury and
find not even a farthing in it! What are you to do?
Or again, you wage war and lose, and the King who
has conquered you marries your Princess, and shuts you
up in a tower. Such things cannot happen in invisible
"But if we cannot see it, of what use would our
kingdom be to us?" asked George, still somewhat puzzled.
"You strange man," said the King, and pointing to
his forehead, he continued: "You and your Princess
see it well enough. You see the castles and gardens,
the meadows and forests which belong to your kingdom.
You live in it, walk in it, do what you like with it. It
is only other people who do not see it."
Then the Dreamer was highly delighted, for he was
beginning to be afraid lest the village people should
look enviously at him if he came home with his Princess
and was King. He took a very touching leave of the
King of Dreams, climbed the five hundred steps with
his Princess, took the silver veil off her head and threw
it down. Then he wanted to shut the trap-door, but
it was so heavy that he could not hold it. So he let
it fall, and the noise it made was as great as the noise
of many cannons shot off at the same time, and for a
moment he became unconscious. When he came to
himself again he was sitting in front of his cottage with
the Princess sitting on the mill-stone at his side, and
she was of flesh and blood like any other person. She
was holding his hand, stroking it, and saying: "You
dear, good, stupid man, you have not dared tell me
how much you love me for such a long time. Have
you been very much afraid of me?"
And the moon rose and illumined the river, the waves
beat against the banks, and the forest rustled, but they
still sat there and talked. Suddenly it seemed as if a
small black cloud was passing over the moon, and all
at once something like a large folded shawl fell at their
feet; then the moon stood out again in her full glory.
They lifted up the cloth and began to spread it out.
But they took a long time over this, for it was very
fine and folded many hundred times. When it was
quite spread out, it looked like a large map; in the
middle was a river, and on both sides were towns,
forests, and lakes. Then they noticed that it was a
kingdom, and knew that the good Dream-King must
have sent it down to them from the sky. And when
they looked at their little cottage it had become a
beautiful castle, with glass stairs, marble walls, velvet
carpets, and pointed blue-tiled towers. Then they took
hands and went into the castle, where their subjects
were already assembled. The servants bowed low, drums
and trumpets sounded, and little pages went before them
strewing flowers. They were King and Queen.
The next morning the news that George the Dreamer
had come back, and had brought a wife with him, ran
like wildfire through the village. "She is probably
very clever," the people said. "I saw her early this
morning, when I went into the forest," said a peasant;
"she was standing at the door with him. She is nothing
special, quite an ordinary person, small and delicate-looking,
and rather shabbily dressed. What did he see
in her? He has nothing, and she probably has nothing!"
So the stupid people chattered, for they could not see
that she was a Princess; and in their stupidity they
did not see that the house had changed into a great,
wonderful castle—for the kingdom that had come down
from the sky for George the Dreamer was an invisible
one. So he did not trouble about the stupid people,
but lived happily and contentedly in his kingdom with
his Princess, who presented him with six children, each
one more beautiful than the other, and they were all
six Princes and Princesses. But no one in the village
knew it, for they were quite ordinary people, and much
too silly to notice it.