This post originally appeared a few years ago (in slightly different form) on a Friday when most people weren't doing a Forgotten Books post. Recently I was thinking about the teacher mentioned below and what an influence she had on my life, so I was reminded of this post and decided to repeat it. Teachers seldom know the extent of their influence, and it's far too late for me to tell Miss Hughes about it. It's not too late for me to tell you, though.
"In a secluded and mountainous part of Stiria there was, in old time, a valley of the most surprising and luxuriant fertility. It was surrounded, on all sides, by steep and rocky mountains, rising into peaks, which were always covered with snow and from which a number of torrents descended in constant cataracts. One of these fell westward, over the face of a crag so high, that, when the sun had set to everything else, and all below was darkness, his beams still shone full upon this waterfall, so that it looked like a shower of gold. It was, therefore, called by the people of the neighborhood the Golden River."
I can remember almost the exact circumstances under which I first read those words. I was ten years old and in Miss Ellie Hughes' fifth grade classroom at Ross Avenue Elementary School in Mexia, Texas. When we who finished some assignment early Miss Hughes allowed us to read whatever we wanted to, and in one of our books, all the way at the back, was The King of the Golden River. I turned to it one day, and my life changed. The story of Gluck and his two cruel brothers was a wonderful experience for me, not just because of the appearance of The King of the Golden River but because of the language, which wasn't like that of anything I'd read up until that time. It fired my imagination, and if I learned anything from the moral of the story, well, that was all to the good. I've been a fan of imaginative fantasy ever since.