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Good King Wenceslas

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King WenceslausMany people love the Christmas Carol, Good King Wenceslas, and sing it every year without quite figuring out the story that it tells.

This Musical Christmas Double brings you the story and the song together so that you can compare the two.

Listen out for the beautiful rendition of the carol sung at the end of the story by Gabriella Burnel with Jamie McCredie on the guitar.

And the story is told by our very own Natasha. You can read Natasha’s reflections on this special Christmas story in her Post Recording Review.

Proofread by Claire Deakin.
The adaptation of the tale for Storynory is by Bertie.

A bit of history…

King Wenceslas (or Wenceslaus) was the Duke of Bohemia in the years 921-935. He is now patron Saint of the Czech Republic and his statue stands in Wenceslaus Square in Prague. His feast day is September 28.

The chronicler, Cosmas of Prague, writing in about the year 1119, says, “Rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched.

The episode in our story involving the pagan woman is a bit fanciful, by the way, and not history – although it was a time of conflict between Christians and Pagans. The Duke’s mother, Drahomíra, was the daughter of a pagan tribal chief of Havolans and was baptised at the time of her marriage.

On Christmas day, as was his custom on this special day every year, Duke Wenceslas visited each of the servants and soldiers in his castle, and pressed a gold coin into his or her hand.

The Duke walked through the cold stone passageways in the lower depths of his castle. As he stepped through the kitchen door, a fierce heat struck his face, and the smell of roast meat filled his nostrils. Two servants were turning swans on a giant spit over the fire. Elsewhere, men and women, young and old, were busy with fetching, rolling, shouting, stuffing, stirring, scouring, scraping, and all the other tasks of the kitchen. Those who saw him enter stopped their work and bowed deeply.

His page called out, “Line up, line up for the Duke.”

The kitchen staff scuffled around arranging themselves in order of rank, from the head cook to the young scullery maid who was just eleven years old.

Each of the servants received a gold coin from the hand of their ruler with the words; “May the Lord Jesus Christ, our saviour who was born on this day, bless you and watch over you.”

After the kitchen, the Duke proceeded to the guard house, and then to laundry, and then to the maids of the bed chambers, and to the stables. Last of all, he visited the dungeons. The jailers received his blessings and gold, and the prisoners received just his blessings.

He spoke last to an old woman prisoner; “May the Lord Jesus Christ, our saviour who was born on this day, bless you and watch over you.”

He looked into the woman’s eyes and saw that they were piercing blue. She must have been quite a beauty in her youth. He felt sorry that her life and folly had brought her to this dark prison cell on Christmas day.

“What is her crime?” He asked the jailer.

“My Lord, she is a priestess of the old school. She performed pagan rites and lead the people in the worship of false gods.

At this Duke Wenceslas said sadly, “’Tis a pity. Had she been guilty of a lesser crime… Had she been guilty of murder even, I would have set her free to go home to die in her bed among her family.”

Then he turned to the old woman;

“Do you not see now how the Christian religion teaches mercy and kindness? This Christmas day I have pressed gold into the hands of the lowliest servant in my castle. Are you not impressed by my good works in the name of Jesus Christ? Do you not renounce the devil and your gods and come to the true savior? Only say the words “I do” and you shall be rid of your chains this Christmas day.”

The priestess lifted her grey head and fixed the Duke with her blue eyes;

“The scummiest jailer in your castle is a lord in comparison to the peasants outside. You have no idea what it means to live in a hovel, to freeze in depths of winter. To have rags for clothes and a few sticks for a fire. Throw coins to your grovelling servants if it makes you feel good before you stuff yourself with rich food. Only don’t talk to me of your false charity.”

As it was Christmas day, the Duke did not order the woman to be whipped. He just shook his head at her insolence and her missed chance of freedom.

As he climbed the winding stone stairs back to the lighter world of his busy castle, her words were turning in his heart. When he saw his servants going about their work briskly, but smiling, he thought “Yes, you are the lucky few.”

He no longer felt satisfied with his Christmas routine. He ordered his servant to bring him his fur-lined cloak, boots, gloves and hat. Another servant strapped a sword to his side. The head stable boy brought his horse out into the courtyard and placed a small ladder against its side. Snow was already flecking the Duke’s beard as he stood and waited for all to be ready. Then he clambered onto his mount and rode through the gates of the castle, followed by just a page on a grey mare.

“Boy,” he called back to the page, “Were you born in a village?”

“Oh no sire. I was born in the castle,” replied the boy.

“Do you have any relatives in a village?”

“Oh yes sire. My grandmother lives in a village not far from here.”

“Well take me there.” said the Duke.

When they arrived in village, they found the boy’s grandmother at the drinking well, known as the fount of St. Agnes. She was using a long pole – a branch broken off a birch tree, and was ramming it down into the well to break the ice.

“Here, give the good lady some gold,” said the duke – which the page gladly did. At this, the other peasants of the village, who until now had been plodding through the snow on their business, came rushing over from all sides to beg the Duke for money.

“Back, back!” cried the page boy. The Duke took a handful of coins and scattered them on the ground. The peasants dived on them like a flock of birds on some crumbs of bread.

The Duke returned to the castle to resume his Christmas worship and festivities, but instead of feeling better for his generosity, he somehow felt troubled by it. As he celebrated the last Christmas of the millennium, the image of the priestess in the dungeon was always in his mind.

The next day, the feast day of St. Stephen, there was boxing and jousting in the tiltyard. Music, dancing and merrymaking continued throughout the afternoon and evening – but the Duke’s heart was still not fully in the celebrations. He stood up from his place in the banqueting hall, and went up onto the ramparts of the castle to take in the cold, fresh air. It was a clear moonlit night. He looked out towards the village that he had visited the day before. He saw a peasant wandering across the fields, bending down every now and then to pick up sticks for the fire.

“Page, page!” he called out – for his attendant was never far away. “Bring me food from from the table – the best bits, and bring wine, and fetch some logs for the fire. I intend to go out and give these things to that man. Hurry, hurry now. I shall wait for you by the gates of the castle.”

The Duke took the winding stairs down to the courtyard. Servants brought him his fur-lined clothes and boots. “No no,” he said. “I shall go without them”. Instead, he took off his shoes and stood on the snow covered cobble stones. His feet were entwined in woolen strips, but they were their only coverings.

The stable boy stood by with the Duke’s horse.

“Follow me,” the Duke said to the page, “we are going on foot.” Seeing that that his master was not wearing a coat or hat, the poor page felt so disrespectful as he put on his own clothes – but the master did not seem to take notice.

The Duke and the boy walked out through the gates of the castle, their arms filled with gifts. The servants shook their heads, convinced that not only had their Duke gone mad, but that he would catch his death of cold.

The peasant was heading for the village, and the Duke and the boy hurried after him. The Duke’s almost bare feet sank deep into the snow, but he did not seem to notice the cold. He strode on, propelled by some sort of super-human strength. The poor page boy felt the chill coming up through the soles of his boot and through his whole body. The wind cut into his face and he rubbed his nose to stave off frostbite.

“Sire, sire,” he called out. “My strength is failing me.”

At first the Duke did not hear him. Only when the boy called out, “I cannot go on,” did he halt his progress across the snow. He turned round and saw the boy had fallen to his knees.

Duke Wenceslas looked back to the castle. Although the night had grown darker, he could clearly see his footsteps all the way back. They were luminous like the moon.

“Good boy,” he said. “Stand up and place your feet in my footsteps.

The page, who was used to obeying his Duke’s every command, gathered his strength and rose to his feet.

“Here, here,” said the Duke. “This is my step. Place your foot on top of it.”

The boy, seeing the pale blue glowing footsteps, placed his foot on the spot where the Duke’s foot had sank into the snow. Then he lifted his other foot and placed it in the footstep behind. Instead of cold, he felt warmth and energy rising through his body. The Duke carried on ahead, and the boy followed behind, now feeling as as full of life and energy as if he was striding across a meadow full of lambs, one day in spring.

The Duke and the page caught up with the man just before he reached his village. They gave him their gifts, for which he thanked and blessed them. On his return to the castle, the Duke set the pagan priestess free from the gaol.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath’ring winter fuel

“Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know’st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither.”
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude winds wild lament
And the bitter weather

“Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing.

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94 Responses to “Good King Wenceslas”

  • Alex says:

    THIS STORY ROCKS, Bertie can you make more storys like thus because i live them

  • nasira says:

    Please use the aramaic names. Isa (Jesus’s real name) was the Messiah, God’s messenger, and called people to the selfless worship of the One true God, the Creator Himself. God blessed Isa, and He will bless us too when we live our life selflessly.

  • Cc says:

    Oh my gosh Natasha!
    Yourm Voice is like a angle!
    Sounds like a lulaby.

  • kenneth says:

    I loved it i am a 12 year old writer writing that story it was amazing she was a great singer and teller when she said deek? she meant duke right

  • Molly says:

    Joke: how does good king wenceslas like his pizza?

    Answer: deep and crisp and even!

    Ha ha ha

  • Bertie says:

    Hi Charlotte, glad you like this. It’s one of our favourites.

  • charlotte says:

    It was punishable by death for anyone to hunt on the kings land or cut any trees on the kings land and the king pretty much owned everything. They grew what they ate and were lucky if a deer came into their yards and they were able to kill it. King Wenceslaus saw how hard they had it and changed that law. It was a sort of dark age grench story except the king thought he was doing right. My favorite Christmas carol. Nice guy. His father must have been strong willed too to marry a pagan princess.

  • Ethan.O says:

    I like your singing

  • emma says:

    this was so cool i love it

  • Mike says:

    This is a wonderful Christmas Story about a famous Christmas carol. I also watched on television the Mormon Tbernacle Choir perform this in December 2012.

    I wanted to learn more about the story; you have done an outstandig job with this.

    Thank you
    Mike & Innoko

  • Emma says:

    Very good story for Christmas. reminds me of the story about the happy prince. The old lady revealed the flaws of king wenceslas. He gave in pride to those already provided for. Its good that he changed.

  • Sherman says:

    Watched the Tabernacle Choir (Mormon) perform the story and was interested in learning more. I suspected it was written about a historical figure and not just a song lyric. Clearly the song has survived for hundreds of years and continues to divinely intrigue. Merry Christmas and Happy Boxing Day

  • Slenderman3 says:

    This book was good

  • good king says:

    I have a Q.why does the song say “last looked down on the east of stevens?is it becaouse he died. That day

  • Dennis says:

    A good Christmas carol but it proves one thing, money does not buy everything.

  • Dennis says:

    A good Christmas carol but it proves one thing, money does not but everything.

  • Tyler says:


  • Tyler says:

    you spelled jail wrong

  • Ιάσονας χάρηty says:

    Ο Θεός να ευλογεί storynory.

  • Ιάσονας χάρηty says:

    Καλύτερη ιστορία ποτέ!

  • blessed says:

    the Bible says if you are not born again then you wont enter the Kingdom of GOD John 3:3.GOD BLESS!MERRY CHRISTMAS!

  • baba says:

    wao! what a beautiful story. Ilearned that wether you have it little or not just give and in return the LORD JESUS will bless you.

  • katie says:

    it was great iloved it

  • Awesome says:

    This is my favourite saint story dear Bertie what is your favourite

  • annabel says:

    ths story is the gratest story ive read! the author is commited!

  • vinpach says:

    the king is not christian? and i like the story

  • [...] *Good King Wenceslas – Listen to the Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas and the story behind the song. [...]

  • Elisa says:


  • Elisa says:

    Thanks for you. I from Spain and I read this story for my classs of english. I don’t speak very well english

  • Natasha says:

    Hello thanks for your comment
    Good king wenceslas was a good king wasn’t he
    Thanks for listening and happy new year

  • Elisa says:

    Is what I was looking

  • Bertie says:

    Dear Gweneth REES FANS!!! The spelling in the comments is truly dreadful, but we have children visiting us from all over the world, and many don’t have English as a first language. I plan to investigate how we might include a spell checker in the comment window box and see if that helps.

  • Dear people who leaved a comment, I noticed that some of you have big mistakes in your comments!!!!for e.g.:

    My name is …………:writee, tis storee ,is your mistake.
    Bertie(on story nory):goal?
    Kia:fee instead of feel?
    I don’t remember:now instead of know?

  • Natasha says:


    Yes Good King Wenceslas was a nice king. He brings a poor man in from the snow and this is a nice and kind thing to do. It is something which is has gained King Wencelas respect as a king over the years this Story has been told and sung.

    Bye Bye
    N *


  • ruavidai says:

    how nice is he! best ever king

  • Natasha says:


    This is a wonderful christmas story. There is also a famous christmas song that tells the Story in verse form.

    Good King Wenceslas
    Last looked out
    On the feast of Stephen
    When the snow laid round about
    Deep and crips and even.

    Brightly shone the moon that night though the frost was cruel
    When a poor man came in sight
    Gathering winter fuel

    Thanks for listening
    Bye Bye
    N *

  • Daisy says:

    I Loved it,best story ever!!!

    king wenceslas realy was a good king.

  • Natasha says:


    This is super news. When Good King Wenceslas looks out on the feast of Stephen and helps the blind man from the bitter snow he shows just how kind he can be. Maybe you can find this emotion of the story in the rhythm of the words as you play. Christmas Carols can be played with all sorts of instruments
    If you have a guitar you can also sing the lyrics out loud. You might like to try playing ‘God Rest you Merry Gentleman’ featured in the recent ‘Bertie’s Lost Christmas’ story too.

    Bye Bye
    N *

  • Seafloor says:

    I’m learning to play this on the violin!

  • [...] Good King Wenceslas – Storynory free audio story Posted on December 21, 2011 Good King Wenceslas – Storynory download a free audio story. [...]

  • Bertie says:

    Hi Lauren…. Which Babushka story? (Babushka is Russian for Grandma) Let us know and we will take a look.

  • lauren says:

    I LOVE STORYNORY but can you do the story of babushka?

  • ELIZABETH says:

    GREAT! this is the BEST! keep going NATASHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • bhavani says:

    nice one

  • ELIZABETH says:

    I LOVE this story i love this saint

  • maddy says:

    did you know how the king felt when he saw the woman ?

  • ben says:

    great realy great

  • Tyler says:

    I like this story and the song.Bertie can you find more saints stories?Good king Wenceslas was a good king
    because he helped the page keep on walking and free the jailor.I loved this story.

  • tasha says:


  • Bertie says:

    Hi Martha, there is a certain amount of invention in this story – the episode with the pagan has some history behind it since there was great conflict between pagans and Christians in the time of Wenceslas – but the details of that sub-plot are made up.

    I would not say that Wenceslas was mean in this story – he was self-rightious and perhaps caught up in his own image of himself as a really wonderful, righteous and religious person. This is what strikes me when, in the legend and the carol, he drags the poor page boy with him while he does his (token) good works and the boy nearly freezes to death. And that’s why I emphasised that aspect of his character in the story with the sub-plot of the pagan woman.

    Of course he was a Saint too, and that’s what raises him above his faults and in the end he not only does a miracle (heating up the footsteps) but becomes a great man (and lets the pagan go free).

    I suppose what I am trying to say (in our version on the story) is that being a Christian does not make you a good person on its own. Self riotousness is the abiding sin of too many religious people. You have to be broadminded and respect all faiths, and in your desire to show the world how good you are, you should’t drag other people along with you and make them suffer too.

  • Martha says:

    did you know that he was mean?

  • Lucio says:

    I liked it it was nice at first i didnt but i like the song 4 out of 5 stars guys

  • Coral says:

    I think it is very nice! I like storynorys. They have a lot of exitment. Agen I think storynory is very nice!



  • zoe says:

    Natasha is awsome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Anna says:

    i think its a really good story love it! you should also have the princess and the pauper

  • Bertie says:

    Hi Alice, This isn’t really a sad Story. The King helps the old man, and the page boy is okay because of the miracle where the footsteps heat up. Even the pagan woman is finally set free.

  • Alice says:

    sad story.??

  • dow says:

    to bertie:

    are you really a frog? (seriosly)

    from Dow

  • Natasha says:

    Dear Kidz,

    Thank you for your comments
    Wenceslas is a great one to sing around the Christmas Tree
    and to download with family and friends
    Are there any Special Christmas Stories with songs
    you sing at Christmas time?

    let me know if you do
    I’ll get back to you!

    Merry Christmas

  • Bertie says:

    Dear Sta, Sorry, “Paige” is our mistake. I’ll change it now.

  • Sta?a says:

    Good morning. Can you explain me difference between “page” and “paige”? In this story you use both of them. I learn English and I found only “Paige” which is used as given name but meaning is similar as “page”.

  • Nethmini says:

    nice story like to read more

  • Jedediah says:

    THE BEST STORIE EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • megan says:

    i liked this story :)

  • Dorado says:

    I am learning English and these stories is help me thanks.

  • Kia says:

    what is the next, new story going to be called? Oh and when will you do another Alice throught the Looking Glass? I’m growing tired of waiting as Alice is my most favourite character of ALL time, and so am desperate to know the end…..PLEASE bring it ot soon, and I’m sure that most people feel the same as me….If you are reading this comment and fee the same add ALICE to the end of your comment…Like an online petition….I’m glad you now how your’e audience now feels Bertie….

  • my name is .............. says:

    how long is tis storee?

  • jamie says:

    could u pl do another story

  • katie says:

    Please do another story

  • my name is .............. says:

    Luv tis storee natasha!!!!! Please writee back

  • lorraine says:

    I now know the story. Thank-you.

  • Bertie says:

    Dear Shadow, we can only do out of copyright stories or our own.

  • shadow93995 says:

    i wish you could put stories like magic tree house sieres by mary pope osbrone and storys like it. but thank you please write back

  • Bertie says:

    Thank you Tara. I so glad this brought back good memories.

  • My name is Tara says:

    I just left my comment, the one with my childhood days.
    Thanks again Natasha of Storynory

  • I love this story says:

    When I was a child in school, I was in a choir that sang many Christmas carols, and this was one of them. I haven’t heard this in many years. Beautiful, it brings back a lot of memory, not only of my childhood days, but of my father who passed away when I was only ten years old. I am now a special education teacher in the US.
    Thank you Natasha

  • gwenna says:

    I realy like this book because it tought me so much and I know the song so ya i think i’ll read it again.

  • ju says:

    It’s hard to find a good website like this… but I’ve found one…so glad…The give is the world gift.

    I wish you a happy life forever

  • nev says:

    super story !!!!!
    We all as a family sang along to the song!!!

  • nick says:

    Great story!!!

  • joshua says:

    well read, natasha!

  • mary says:

    This has always been one of my favorite Christmas stories. Thanks for sharing!

  • Anonymous says:

    I enjoyed this thank you.

  • Bertie says:

    Dear Iris, it’s really nice that you can play this tune!

  • iris says:

    i can play this on the piano!!

  • Anonymous says:

    Wonderful story!
    Thank you!!

  • mike says:

    nice king!!!

  • mike says:

    so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so awsome!!!!!

  • jasper says:

    wow natasha!

  • kayleigh says:

    cool :) bahahhaha i got the first commate! :D PEACE OUT SUCKERS WHO LOVES THE FIRST COMMATE LOL

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