The Fisherman and His Wife

The Fisherman and His Wife

Once upon a time a fisherman lived with his wife in a little hovel close by the sea. The fisherman used to go out all day fishing. One day, he pulled a great fish out of the water. The fish said to him, “Please, let me live. I am not really a fish. I am actually an enchanted prince. Let me go.”

“Oh!” said the man, “I have never seen a talking fish before. There must be something special about you. Go on your way now.” He then put the fish back into the water, and the fish darted away.

When the fisherman got home to his wife, he told her how he had caught a great fish and how it had told him it was an enchanted prince, and that on hearing it speak he had let it go again.

“Did you ask it for anything?” said the wife.

“No,” said the man, “what should I have asked for?”

“We live in a very wretched hut. Ask the fish for a little cottage.”

The fisherman didn't want to ask the fish for a favor, but his wife insisted so off he went. He stood at the edge of the water, calling the great fish.

The fish came swimming to him and said, “What do you want?”

“My wife wants a little cottage.”

“Go home, then,” said the fish. “She is in the cottage already.”

So the man went home and saw his wife standing at the door of a cottage. It was a lovely cottage with a living room and bedroom and a colorful garden.

Everything was okay for a week or two, and then the fisherman's wife insisted her husband ask the fish for a stone palace.

The fisherman went, but his heart was very heavy. He was content with their cozy cottage and felt greedy asking for more. When he came to the edge of the sea, it looked blue and gloomy, though it was quite calm. He called for the fish.

“Well, what is it now?” asked the fish.

“My wife wants to live in a stone castle.”

“Go home then,” said the fish. “She is standing at its door already.”

So away went the fisherman. When he arrived home, he found his wife standing before a great castle. There were many servants and the rooms were all richly furnished and full of gilt chairs and tables.

The fisherman was quite content but, once again, his wife grew restless.

“I want to be king,” she cried. “Go demand this of the fish.”

The fisherman's heart was heavy as he trudged to the ocean to ask the fish. Reluctantly, he called for the great fish.

“What must she have now?” said the fish. The ocean look troubled.

“My wife wants to be king.”

“Go home,” said the fish. “She is king already.”

Then the fisherman went home. As he came close to the palace, he saw a troop of soldiers and heard a trumpet fanfare. When he entered he saw his wife sitting on a high throne of gold and diamonds, with a golden crown upon her head. She was, indeed, a king.

Unfortunately, the wife's satisfaction at being king was short-lived.

“l think I should like to be emperor,” she announced. “Go demand this from the fish.”

The fisherman was obliged to go because the king, his wife, demanded that he do so. He muttered as he went along, “This will come to no good. It is too much to ask.”

He soon arrived at the sea, and the water was quite black and murky, and a mighty whirlwind blew above it. But he went to the shore and called for the fish.

“What does she want now?” asked the fish.

“She wants to be emperor.”

“Go home,” said the fish. “She is emperor already.”

So he went home again. As he came near, he saw his wife sitting on a very lofty throne made of solid gold, with a great crown on her head two yards high. On each side of her stood her guards and attendants in a row. Before her stood princes and dukes and earls. The fisherman went up to her and she was, indeed, emperor.

Yet, she became dissatisfied even more quickly this time.

“Husband,” she said, “I will be the Pope next!”

So the fisherman went to ask the fish to make his wife the next Pope. When he came to the shore the wind was raging, and the sea was tossed up and down like boiling water. It looked as if a dreadful storm were rising. At this the fisherman was terribly frightened. He trembled, but he went to the shore and called for the great fish.

“What does she want now?” asked the fish.

“My wife wants to be the Pope.”

“Go home,” said the fish. “She is the Pope already.”

Then the fisherman went home and found his wife sitting on a throne that was two miles high. She had three great crowns on her head, and around her stood all the pomp and power of the Church. She was truly the Pope.

Now, though, she wanted even more power.

“Husband, go to the fish and tell him I want to be lord of the sun and moon.”

The fisherman was half asleep, but the thought frightened him so much, that he fell out of bed. As ordered, he went to ask the great fish for this favor. As he was going down to the shore, a dreadful storm arose, so that the trees and the rocks shook and the thunder rolled. The fisherman called the great fish.

“What does she want now?” said the fish.

“She wants to be lord of the sun and moon.”

“Go home,” said the fish, “and see your wife.”

The fisherman went to his home and found his wife at the very same wretched hovel where they had spent so many years. And there they live to this very day, a little wiser, perhaps.

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