Read a full summary of Gilded, book #1 in Marissa Meyer’s Gilded series. This page is full of spoilers, so beware. If you are wondering what happened in Gilded, then you are in the right place!
Special thanks to Joyce den Bak for providing this recap! Follow on Instagram @bookish.joyce!
***** Everything below is a SPOILER *****
What happened in Gilded?
The story is set in a world where demons and monsters once roamed the earth before they were trapped behind the veil. Now, they only enter the human world on full moons when the wild hunt rides in search of lost souls. Our main character, Serilda Moller, lives in a small village called Märchenfeld, on the skirts of the town, with her father, a miller.
The book starts with the story of Serilda’s birth. Nineteen years ago, on a rare Endless Moon (a full moon occurring on the winter solstice), the seven gods were forced to take their beastly forms. They are nearly impossible to catch, but anyone who captures one of them is granted a wish. The Erlking, leader of the wild hunt, is after such a wish and shoots one of the gods down. The wounded god manages to hide until sunrise forces the wild hunt back behind the veil. The following morning, a young miller finds them and pulls the arrow out. The beast transforms back into Wyrdith, the god of stories, who grants the miller a wish. The miller wishes for a child for him and his soon-to-be wife. The following winter solstice, a girl is born, bearing the mark of Wyrdith: a golden wheel of fortune shimmers in her eyes. The god of stories, however, is also the god of lies, and as soon as the girl learns to speak, she starts telling incredible stories. She is shunned and distrusted by everyone in the village, and eventually, even her mother leaves her, vanishing into the night.
These days, nobody knows if the story of Serilda’s gods cursed birth is true, but she likes telling the story. She works as a teacher’s assistant, getting on Madam Sauer’s nerves with her storytelling, but the children are some of the few people in the village who do not distrust or vilify her for the mark in her eyes.
It is a full moon, and the wild hunt will ride tonight. There hasn’t been an Endless Moon since the year before Serilda’s birth, but this year’s winter solstice, there will be another one.
As Serilda hurries home from school, she is ambushed by a snow fight by five of the children: Hans, Anna, Fricz and Nickel, and Gerdrut. The children beg for another story, and she tells them of Perchta, the Erlking’s lover and a great huntress, who used to lead the wild hunt in his stead. Perchta desperately wanted a child, but the Erlking and Perchta, being demons, or dark ones, were more death than life and thus unable to procreate. The Erlking sought out Eostrig, the god of fertility, but was denied their help. On his way back, he found a human baby boy in the Aschen wood, just north of Märchenfeld. He took it for Perchta, who doted on the child until it grew up and was no longer small, and so the Erlking killed the boy and found Perchta a new baby. And so the stories of the wild hunt taking naughty children originate.
Serilda makes her way home, back to her anxious father and the safety of their cottage. She cannot sleep that night, however, and hears the howls of the wild hunt. She also hears frightened voices and finds two moss maidens outside, in need of a place to hide. Serilda hides them just in time but is caught outside by the wild hunt. She scrambles to explain why she’s outside and tells the Erlking she was harvesting straw to spin into gold. The Erlking mistakes the golden wheel in her eyes for a spinning wheel, the mark of Hulda, the god of labor, and believes her story. The hunt leaves, and the moss maidens repay Serilda’s kindness with two gold pieces of jewelry: a necklace and a locket bearing a crest with a tatzelwurm curled around a capital R and the likeness of a little girl inside.
Serilda quickly discovers nobody, not even her father, believes her story about her run-in with the Erlking. She finds that her memory of that night dims as the weeks pass until one day, she spots another mythical creature, a Nightkrapp, in the woods and realizes a full moon cycle has passed.
That same night, as they are eating their dinner, Serilda and her father hear someone knocking. At the door is a ghost announcing that Serilda has been summoned by the Erlking. Her father protests heavily, but Serilda has no choice but to go. She is transported to a castle situated on a small island in a lake, next to a quiet little town. The Erlking tells Serilda she’s arrived at Adalheid, a castle once belonging to a royal family, now the residence of the Erlking and his court, consisting of ghosts and dark ones, demons escaped from Verloren. He reveals he knows Serilda hid the moss maidens during the last hunt and submits her to a test. He has her locked up in a dungeon with a spinning wheel and an abundance of straw and tells her to spin the straw into gold. If she spoke the truth about her ability, he will forgive her for the deceit. If not, she will be killed. He leaves her and says she has until one hour before sunrise.
Serilda is desperately trying to spin, crying for help, when a copper-haired boy of her age appears out of thin air. He initially mocks her despair but quickly agrees to help her in exchange for Serilda’s gold locket. He is drawn to the picture of the little girl inside, saying she feels familiar to him. As he spins the straw Serilda hands him, he tells her his name is Gild, and to pass the time, Serilda, in turn, tells a story.
She tells the story of the wild hunt and how, every decade or so, the Erlking sought out a new child to give to Perchta when she grew tired of the last one. One time, he took a little princess, pretty and charming, and presented her to Perchta. As Perchta was taking the child inside their residence, Gravenstone, she was shot by an arrow fired by the princess’s brother, who had seen the kidnapping and pursued the wild hunt. As if guided by Tyr, the god of war and archery, the arrow pierced Perchta’s heart. Overcome with fury, the Erlking left his lover to die and snatched the little princess, stabbing her with a gold-tipped arrow just as the sun rose and took the wild hunt back behind the veil.
Gild complains about the sad ending, but Serilda explains she doesn’t control the stories’ endings. The stories come to her, and she can only tell them. When the Erlking returns just before dawn, Gild has finished spinning and vanishes again. Serilda is released from the dungeons, brought to a bedroom, and sleeps for a few hours. Upon waking, she finds herself back on the right side of the veil, where Adalheid Castle is little more than a ruin. She hears a noise and follows it to the remains of a hallway with seven stained-glass windows depicting the seven gods and a door with a soft, glowing light behind it. Just as she wants to enter, she is attacked by a drudge, a nightmarish, batlike creature. Saved by an invisible force, Serilda runs out of the castle gates and into the city. On this side of the veil, it is a bustling, thriving town, where she is initially met with fear and suspicion but quickly makes friends at the local tavern. She meets Lorraine, tavern owner and town mayor, who believes her story of the Erlking’s test and arranges transport back to Märchenfeld. She also meets Leyna, Lorraine’s daughter, and Frieda, the town’s librarian.
Serilda returns home to a relieved Papa. They theorize about the Erlking’s intentions with the spun gold, make plans to run from the hunt next full moon to prevent Serilda from being taken again, and her father confesses her mother didn’t just vanish into the night: she, too, was called by the wild hunt, never to be seen again.
On the next full moon, Papa and Serilda flee to Mondbrück and hide in vain: the hunt seeks her out all the same, and they are both taken. During the hunt, Serilda loses her father, who is thrown off his horse. At Adalheid, she is locked up again and told to spin even more straw. Gild appears, comforts her, and promises to help again. This time, she pays him with the ring. They talk of how Gild seems different from the other ghosts: corporeal, with no memory of his past, and they bond as they work together. Just before the Erlking returns, Gild kisses her and disappears again. The Erlking warns her not to run again, and once he is back behind the veil after sunrise, Serilda explores the ruins of Adalheid and ends up back at Lorraine’s tavern. Leyna tells her about the Feast of Death at the spring equinox when Adalheid prepares a large feast at night for the wild hunt, the dark ones, and the ghosts. In turn, they leave the town alone. Leyna also tells her of Vergoldetgeist, a ghost who leaves little gold trinkets for the townspeople to find after the feast. The Gilded Ghost. Gild.
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Eventually, Serilda finds her way back home and waits the rest of the month for Papa, but he doesn’t return.
Though it is not yet a full moon, Serilda returns to Adalheid on the spring equinox to sneak into the castle to talk to Gild on the dark side of the veil when it is opened during the Feast of Death. Inside the castle, she is drawn to that glowing light in that hidden room again and finds a tapestry inside. It is of a girl, a princess; it is the girl from the locket she got from the moss maidens and paid Gild with. Before she sees any more, she is attacked by the drude again and narrowly saved by Gild. He saved her the first time, too, when she noticed the invisible force. Serilda realizes the drudes are here to protect something the Erlking doesn’t want anyone to find and resolves to find out anyway. Gild has saved her with a gold sword and explains that magical creatures are averse to gold. They spend the rest of the night hiding from the hunt and kissing.
The next day, Serilda visits the town library in search of information on the castle’s history. Strangely, there’s nothing there, and so she tries the cemetery instead. There is a separate area with very ornate graves, but all the names have been erased from the headstones. She does find the crest that was on the ring, the R with the tatzelwurm.
Serilda helps out at the inn and keeps researching. At full moon, she goes up to the castle to meet the Erlking just as he is about to leave with the wild hunt. She tells them she’s heard rumors of a tatzelwurm in a faraway area, hoping to send them on a wild goose chase. As the hunt leaves, she’s taken to a new room full of even more straw. Gild wants to help, but the payment he needs for his magic to work is complicated this time: Serilda has nothing left to give. In desperation, she offers him her firstborn child, and Gild reluctantly accepts and starts to work. Serilda continues her story.
The Erlking had taken the princess, having stabbed her, and left the prince and a dying Perchta on the right side of the veil. Velos, the god of death, took Perchta to Verloren, while Pusch-Grohla, the Shrub Grandmother, ruler of the forest folk, sealed the gate to Verloren. She took the prince into the woods and nursed the prince back to health. The Erlking, however, plotted revenge, and when the prince set out to return home under the next full moon, he was captured by the hunt.
When Gild finishes spinning, Serilda puts a bobbin of spun gold in her pocket to see if the gold will remain on the other side of the veil. The two dream of running away together, but Gild complains he cannot leave the castle grounds. They end up making love, and Serilda wakes alone when the Erlking returns. He takes her to the stables to show her some of the mythical beasts he has captured, including his newest acquisition: a tatzelwurm, caught precisely where Serilda said it’d be. And captured, he reveals, with ropes fashioned from the gold spun by her, the only thing capable of binding a magical being. Right then, the sun rises, and Adalheid transforms back into its ruined state. On her way out, she stumbles across a broken statue of a king and queen, wearing a ring with that same R and tatzelwurm crest. Their names, too, are erased, but Serilda sees a link with Adalheid’s royal history nonetheless. As she crosses the drawbridge, she is beckoned by a schellenrock, a water creature, and follows him inside a tunnel. He leads her to the Shrub Grandmother, who makes Serilda tell her everything about her dealings with the Erlking. As she tells Pusch-Grohla of the beasts, the Erlking is capturing with the spun gold, the Shrub Grandmother realizes his plan: when the Endless Moon returns this year, he will want to capture a god for their wish and wish for Perchta’s return from Verloren. They agree that the Erlking can’t be given more gold and that Serilda has to be kept out of his hands. The Shrub Grandmother promises her a potion to trick him into thinking Serilda has died, a potion safe for her ‘in her condition’. Serilda agrees before she fully realizes this means she’ll never see Gild again. She’s brought to her father’s mill to await the potion, and when she hears sounds inside, she finds her father back in the mill. Her joy lasts only a second because when he immediately goes after her, she knows he has become a nachzehrer, a type of undead that comes back from the dead to devour family members. She is saved by the schoolteacher Madam Sauer, who beheads Papa and is revealed to be a witch who is on good terms with the Shrub Grandmother, fully informed on all Serilda has been through, and sent to prepare her potion. Together, they set to work.
How did Gilded end?
On the next full moon, Serilda calls the ravens the Erlking uses to spy on her and shows them her death potion. Though the birds try to prevent it, she takes it and dies, tethering her soul to the land of the living with a branch of ashwood. The hunt comes to look for her and finds only her dead body. The Erlking leaves a gold arrow in her hand. In the morning, Madam Sauer gives her body the antidote, and Serilda’s soul returns. Then a village boy comes riding in, bringing the news that the five school children have been taken from their beds this night. Serilda quickly mounts a horse as she realizes the Erlking wasn’t fooled by the potion at all, not really hearing Madam Sauer’s warning that she shouldn’t be riding, and rides for Adalheid once again. To her horror, she finds four of the children’s brutalized bodies on the way. Only the little Gerdrut is still missing and, hopefully, alive. When she arrives, the sun has risen, and the veil is back in place, and Serilda is forced to find a way in. Thinking hard, she realizes every story she once told has come true: fairytales that turned out to be history, that time she told the Erlking about the tatzelwurm, and he caught it where she said it’d be. She wonders if she can make a story come true and begins telling one.
Once upon a time, there was a prince who tried to rescue his sister but ended up wounded in the woods of the Shrub Grandmother. When he finally returned home, he found only death. All the servants, guards, and his family had been murdered, and the Erlking had taken over his home. When the prince tried to fight the Erlking, he, too, was shot with a gold arrow. The Erlking then cursed him: Your soul is now tethered to this castle. You’ll be alone and tormented forever, just as you’ve left me without my Perchta. Everyone, including you yourself, will forget you and your family.
Serilda now knows the truth: the prince is Gild, and he doesn’t remember what happened. But all the death in this place has created a tear in the veil, and she sees it clearly enough to step through it. On the other side, the Erlking is waiting for her, with the four little ghosts of the children. Gerdrut is still missing. Behind them, Gild is bound against the wall because he dared to steal a bobbin of spun gold, the Erlking tells her. He commands her to spin gold again, right there in the courtyard, and she looks at Gild for courage. The love in his eyes gives her hope, and at that moment, she realizes she is pregnant. In private, she tells the Erlking she has lost her magical ability to spin the gold because the magic has now transferred to her unborn child.
The Erlking comes up with a plan: Serilda is to wed him, and pretend the child is his. She suspects that he indeed plans to get Perchta back during the Endless Moon and wants to present her with Serilda’s supposedly Hulda-blessed child. The Erlking threatens her and Gerdrut to make sure she will be convincing in their ruse, and Serilda agrees if he will free little Gerdrut. He stabs her with a gold arrow and curses her as he did Gild, tethering her soul to the castle. They return to the courtyard to announce the betrothal. Gerdrut is summoned – but only her ghost appears. She, too, has been murdered, and Serilda has been betrayed. Serilda tries to hurt the Erlking, but he overpowers her and mockingly grants her the five children as her entourage to further sell the lie of their engagement.
Gild finds her that night and asks why she is to wed the Erlking. She can’t bring herself to tell him about their baby, but she does tell him the truth about his past, his curse, and the prince’s story. His sister, the princess, might still be at Gravenstone, trapped similarly. Gild asks if she knows his real name, but she doesn’t. But she reminds him to encourage them both: they are not dead, just cursed. And curses can be broken.
There you go! That’s what happened in Gilded. We hope you enjoyed this Gilded summary with spoilers.
Special thanks to Joyce den Bak for providing this recap! Follow on Instagram @bookish.joyce!
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