The Fish and the Ring

The Fish and the Ring

Once upon a time there lived a rich and powerful baron who was also a great magician. One of his magical gifts was his ability to see into the future.

This great lord had a little son. When he was four years old, the baron used his powers to see what would become of his son. He was quite distressed about what he saw: His precious child was to marry a common maiden, a woman with no noble blood at all!

So the baron set to work using his magical powers to discover if this maiden was already born, and if so, where she lived. He found out that she had just been born in a very poor house, and the poor parents were already burdened with five children. The baron called for his horse and galloped to the man's house, where he found him sitting at his doorstep, looking very sad.

“What is the matter, my friend?” asked the baron.

The poor man replied, “May it please Your Honor, we've just been blessed with a child, but we have five already. We don't know where we'll get the food to feed another child.”

“Maybe I can help you,” said the baron. “Don't be downhearted. I am looking for a little girl to be a friend to my son. I'll give you ten crowns for her.”

This cheered the sad man up right away. Not only was he getting money, but his daughter was getting a good home, or so he thought.

The baron wrapped the baby in his cloak and rode away. But when he got to the river, he flung the little thing into the turbulent stream and said to himself as he galloped back to his castle, “There goes fate!”

But the little girl didn't drown. The stream was very swift, and her clothes kept her afloat until she caught in a net just opposite a fisherman.

The fisherman and his wife had no children, and they had been longing for a baby. So when the good man saw the little lass he was overcome with joy and took her home to his wife, who received her with open arms. And there she grew up, the apple of their eyes, into the most beautiful maiden ever seen.

Fifteen years later, the baron and his friends went hunting along the banks of the river and stopped to get a drink of water at the fisherman's hut. And who should bring the water out but the fisherman's daughter.

Now the young men of the party noticed her beauty. One of them said to the baron, “She should marry well. Read us her fate since you are so good at seeing into the future.”

Then the baron, barely looking at her, said carelessly, “I could guess her fate! She's just a poor girl meant to marry a peasant. But to please you, I will read her future in the stars. Tell me, girl, what day you were born?”

“That I cannot tell, sir,” replied the girl, “for I was picked up in the river about fifteen years ago.”

Then the baron grew pale, for he guessed at once that she was the little lass he had flung into the stream and that fate had been stronger than he was. But he kept silent and said nothing at the time. Afterward, however, he thought of a plan, so he rode back and gave the girl a letter.

“See you!” he said. “I will make your fortune. Take this letter to my brother, who needs a good girl, and you will be settled for life.”

The fisherman and his wife were growing old and needed help getting by, so the girl said she would go with the letter to try and find her fortune.

Meanwhile, the baron rode back to his castle, saying to himself once more, “There goes fate!” Or so he hoped!

This is what the letter said: “Dear Brother, take the bearer of this letter and put her to death immediately.” But once again he was mistaken. On the way to the town where his brother lived, the girl had to stop to spend the night in a little inn. That very night a gang of thieves broke into the inn and, not content with carrying off all that the innkeeper possessed, they searched the pockets of the guests. They found the letter that the girl carried. And when they read it, they agreed that it was a mean trick and a shame. So their captain sat down and taking pen and paper wrote instead: “Dear Brother, take the bearer of this letter and marry her to my son without delay.”

Then, after putting the note into an envelope and sealing it, they gave it to the girl and told her to go on her way. When she arrived at the brother's castle, he read the baron's note. Although he was rather surprised at the contents of the note, he gave orders for a wedding feast to be prepared. The baron's son, who was staying with his uncle, saw the girl's great beauty and was pleased to marry her.

When the news was brought to the baron, he was furious. So he rode quickly to his brother's castle and pretended to be quite pleased about the recent marriage. One day, when no one was near, he asked the young bride to come for a walk with him. When they were close to some cliffs, he seized hold of her and tried to throw her over the edge. But she begged for her life.

“It is not my fault,” she said. “I have done nothing. It is fate. If you will spare my life, I promise that I will fight against fate also. I will never see you or your son again until you desire it. That will be safer for you, since the sea may save me, as the river did.”

The baron agreed to this. So he took off his gold ring from his finger and flung it over the cliffs into the sea and said, “Never dare show me your face again unless you can show me that very ring.”

The girl wandered and wandered, until she came to a nobleman's castle. They needed a girl to help in the kitchen, so she began to work there. One day as she was cleaning a big fish, she looked out of the kitchen window and saw the baron and his young son, her husband, arriving for dinner. At first, she thought that to keep her promise she must run away. But she remembered they would not see her in the kitchen, so she went on cleaning the big fish.

Suddenly, she saw something shiny inside the fish, and there, sure enough, was the baron's ring! She was glad enough to see it and slipped it onto her thumb. But she went on with her work, dressing the fish as nicely as she could and serving it up as pretty as could be.

The guests liked it so well that they asked the host who cooked it. And he called to his servants, “Send up the cook who prepared that fine fish.”

When the girl heard she was wanted, she made herself ready. With the gold ring on her thumb, she went boldly into the dining room. All the guests were struck dumb by her beauty. The young husband started up gladly; but the baron, recognizing her, jumped up angrily and looked as if he would kill her. Without a word, the girl held up her hand and the gold ring glittered on it.

Then the baron understood that fate had been too strong for him. So he took her by the hand, and, placing her beside him, turned to the guests and said, “This is my son's wife. Let us drink a toast in her honor.”

And after dinner he took her and his son home to his castle where they lived happily ever after in the life fate had planned for them.

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