A merchant' son went on a spree and ended up without a penny in his pocket. So he took a spade and went to the market place to see if anyone would hire him. Along came a rich merchant in a gilded carriage. At the sight of him all the men looking for work scurried off and hid. Only the youth was left in the square. "Do you want a job, my lad? Come and work for me," said the rich merchant. "Gladly, that is why I have come here." "What shall I pay you?" "A hundred rubles a day will be enough!" "Why so much?" "If it's too much, find someone cheaper. You saw how the men looking for work ran away when you appeared." "Very well, come to the jetty tomorrow." Next morning the youth went to the jetty, where the merchant had been waiting for some time. They got into a boat and sailed out to sea.
On and on they sailed until they saw an island with high mountains and something blazing brightly on the shore. "Is that a fire?" asked the youth. "No, it is my palace of gold." They landed and went ashore. The rich merchant was met by his wife and daughter who was fair as fair, beyond compare. They greeted one another and went to the palace, taking the new workman with them. Then they sat down at table and began to eat, drink and make merry. "Come what may, we'll feast today and get to work tomorrow," said the merchant. Now the youth was a good-looking lad, tall, broad-shouldered and ruddy. He pleased the fair maiden greatly. She slipped away to another chamber, called him to her secretly and gave him a flint and steel, saying: "Take this to help you when you're in trouble."
The next day the rich merchant went off with his workman to the mountain of gold, up which you could neither climb nor crawl. "Let's drink first," he said, giving the youth a sleeping draught. The youth drank it and fell fast asleep. Then the merchant drew out a knife, killed and gutted an old nag, sewed up the sleeping lad and his spade in the horse's belly and went to hide in the bushes. All of a sudden the jet-black ravens with beaks of steel swooped down, seized the carcass, flew up the mountain with it and began to feast. They polished off the horse and were about to start on the youth, when he woke up, shooed the jet-black ravens away, looked about him and asked: "Where am I?" "On the mountain of gold," replied his master. "Pick up your spade and start digging."
So he dug and dug, tossing down the gold, while the merchant loaded it onto carts. By evening there were nine cartloads ready. "That's enough!" shouted his master. "Thank you for your labours and farewell!" "But what about me?" "That's your look-out! Ninety-nine of you have perished up there on the mountain; you will make the hundredth!" said the merchant and off he rode. "What am I to do?" thought the youth. "There is no way of getting down. I shall die of hunger." He stood on the mountain, the jet-black ravens with beaks of steel hovering over him, waiting for their prey. Thinking back about how it had come to pass, he suddenly remembered that the fair maiden had given him the flint and steel, saying "Take this to help you when you're in trouble."
"Those words were not in vain! Let's have a try." The youth took out the flint and steel, struck it and out jumped two strapping young men: "What is your wish, master?" "Take me down the mountain to the seashore." No sooner had he uttered this, than they picked him up and bore him safely down the mountain.
The youth was walking along the seashore, when he saw a boat sailing past the island. "Ahoy, there, good mariners. Take me on board with you." "No, lad! We have no time to stop. It would cost us a hundred leagues." All of a sudden, as the boat sailed on past the island, it was buffeted by strong winds and a terrible storm arose. "That was no ordinary man," cried the mariners. "We'd best return and take him on board." So they turned back to the island, stopped by the shore, took the youth on board and carried him to his native town.
By and by the youth took a spade, went to the market place and waited to be hired. Along came the rich merchant in the golden carriage again. At the sight of him all the others scurried away and hid. Only the youth was left. "Come and work for me," the rich merchant said to him. "Gladly, sir, but it will cost you two hundred rubles a day." "Why so much?" "If it's too much, go and get someone cheaper. You saw how all the men waiting for work ran away when you appeared." "Oh, very well. Come to the jetty tomorrow."
Next morning they met at the jetty, got into a boat and sailed to the island. There they made merry one day, and went to the mountain of gold the next. When they arrived, the rich merchant handed his workman a goblet, saying: "First have a drink!" "Wait, sir! You are the master, you should drink first. Let me pour you some of my own." The youth had brought a sleeping draught; he poured a full glass and handed it to the rich merchant, who drank it and fell into a deep slumber. Then the youth cut open and gutted the oldest nag, sewed up his master and the spade in the horse's belly and hid in the bushes.
All of a sudden the jet-black ravens with beaks of steel swooped down, seized the carcass, flew up the mountain with it and began to feast. The rich merchant woke up and looked about him. "Where am I?" he asked. "On the mountain. Take the spade and start digging. If you dig a lot I'll teach you how to get down." The rich merchant picked up the spade and dug and dug until there were twelve cartloads of gold. "That's enough," said the youth. "Thank you for your labours and farewell!" "But what about me?" "That's your lookout. Ninety-nine of you have perished up there on the mountain; you will make the hundredth!" Taking the twelve cartloads, the youth went to the palace of gold, married the rich merchant's fair daughter, took possession of all his wealth and went with the whole family to live in the capital. And the rich merchant was left on the mountain, where the jet-black ravens with beaks of steel pecked him to death.