The Fisherman and His Wife
Can you have it all? How much is enough? Well, let's hear what we can learn from The Fisherman and His Wife.
Long, long ago in a village not far from here, there lived a fisherman with his wife in a pigsty close by the sea. The fisherman used to go fishing all day. One day, as he sat on the shore with his fishing rod, looking at the sparkling waves and watching his line, his float was suddenly dragged away deep into the water: and in drawing it up he pulled out a great fish. Just as he was about to carry it home the fish opened its mouth and said, 'Please let me live! I am not a real fish; I am an enchanted prince: put me in the water again, and let me go!' 'Oh, ho!' said the man, 'you need not make so many words about the matter; I will have nothing to do with a fish that can talk: so swim away, sir, as soon as you please!' Then he put him back into the water, and the fish darted straight down to the bottom. When the fisherman went home to his wife in the pigsty, he told her how he had caught a great fish, and how it had told him it was an enchanted prince, and how, on hearing it speak, he had let it go again. 'Didn't you ask it for anything?' said the wife, 'we live very wretchedly here, in this nasty dirty pigsty; go back and tell the fish we want a snug little hut.' The fisherman did not much like the idea: however, he went to the seashore; and when he came back there the water looked all yellow and green. And he stood at the water's edge, and said: O man of the sea! Hearken to me! My wife Isabel Wants somewhere to dwell And would like a small boon of thee! Then the fish came swimming to him, and said, 'Well, what is her will? What does your wife want?' 'She says that when I had caught you, I ought to have asked you for something before I let you go; she does not like living any longer in the pigsty, and wants a snug little hut.' 'Go home, then,' said the fish; 'she is in the hut already!' So the man went home, and saw his wife standing at the door of a nice trim little hut. 'Come in, come in!' said she; 'is this not much better than the filthy pigsty we had?' The fisherman walked in and saw that there was a lounge, and a bedroom, and a kitchen; and behind the hut there was a little garden, planted with all sorts of flowers and fruits; and there was a courtyard behind, full of ducks and chickens. 'Wow!!' said the fisherman, 'how happily we shall live now!' 'We will try to do so,' said his wife. Everything went right for a week or two, and then Isabel said, 'Husband, there is not near room enough for us in this hut; the courtyard and the garden are a great deal too small; I should like to have a large stone castle to live in: go to the fish again and ask him to give us a castle.' 'Wife,' said the fisherman, 'I don't like to go to him again, for perhaps he will be angry; we ought to be content with this pretty hut.' 'Nonsense!' said the wife; 'he will do it very willingly, I know it; go along and try!' The fisherman went, but his heart was very heavy: and when he came to the sea, it looked blue and gloomy, though it was very calm; and he went close to the edge of the waves, and said: O man of the sea! Hearken to me! My wife Isabel Would like her own will And would like a small boon of thee! 'Well, what does she want now?' said the fish. 'Erm...!' sighed the man, dolefully, 'my wife would like to live in a stone castle.' 'Go home, then,' said the fish; 'she is standing at the gate of it already.' So away went the fisherman, and found his wife standing before the gate of a great castle. 'See! 'is this not grand?,' she said., ' With that they went into the castle together, and found a great many servants there, and the rooms all richly furnished, and full of golden chairs and tables; and behind the castle was a garden, and around it was a park half a mile long, full of cows, goats, sheep, gazelles and zebras; and in the courtyard were stables and barns. 'Well,' said the man, 'now we will live cheerful and happy in this beautiful castle for the rest of our lives.' 'Perhaps we may,' said the wife; 'but let us sleep upon it, before we make up our minds to that.' The next morning when Isabel awoke she jogged the fisherman with her elbow, and said, 'Get up, husband, for we must be king of all the land.' 'Wife!,' said the man, 'why should we wish to be the king? I will not be king.' 'Then I will,' she said. 'But, wife,' said the fisherman, 'how can you be king—the fish cannot make you a king?' 'Husband,' said she, 'say no more about it, but go and try! I would like to be king.' So the man went away quite sorrowful to think that his wife should want to be king. This time the sea looked a dark grey colour, and was overspread with curling waves and ridges of foam as he cried out: O man of the sea! Hearken to me! My wife Isabel Will have her own will And would like a small boon of thee! 'Well, what would she have now?' said the fish. 'Alas!' said the poor man, 'my wife wants to be king.' 'Go home,' said the fish; 'she is king already.' Then the fisherman went home; and as he came close to the palace he saw a troop of soldiers, and heard the sound of drums and trumpets. And when he went in he saw his wife sitting on a throne of gold and diamonds, with a golden crown upon her head; and on each side of her stood six fair maidens, each a head taller than the other. 'Well, wife,' said the fisherman, 'are you king?' 'Yes,' she said, 'I am king.' And when he had looked at her for a long time, he said, 'Ah, wife! what a fine thing it is to be king! Now we shall never have anything more to wish for as long as we live.' 'I don't know how that may be,' she said. 'Never is a long time. I am king, it is true; but I begin to be tired of that, and I think I should like to be emperor.' 'Alas, wife! why should you wish to be emperor?' said the fisherman. 'Husband,' said she, 'go to the fish! I say I want to be emperor.' 'Oh, wife!' replied the fisherman, 'the fish cannot make an emperor, I am sure, and I should not like to ask him for such a thing.' 'I am the king,' said Isabel, 'and you are my slave; so go at once!' So the fisherman was forced to go; and he muttered as he went along, 'This will come to no good, it is too much to ask; the fish will be tired at last, and then we shall be sorry for what we have done.' He soon came to the seashore; and the water was quite black and muddy, and a mighty whirlwind blew over the waves and rolled them about, but he went as near as he could to the water's brink, and said: O man of the sea! Hearken to me! My wife Isabel Is not acting too well And would like a small boon of thee! 'What would she have now?' said the fish. 'Ah!' he moaned, 'My wife wants to be emperor.' 'Go home,' said the fish; 'she is emperor already.' So he went home again; and when he got in he saw his wife Isabel sitting on a very lofty throne made of solid gold, with a great crown on her head; and on each side of her stood her guards and attendants in a row, each one smaller than the other, from the tallest giant down to a little dwarf no bigger than my finger. And before her stood princes and elders and her royal advisers: and the fisherman went up to her and said, 'Wife, are you emperor?' 'Yes,' she said, 'I am emperor.' 'My!!' said the man, as he gazed upon her, 'what a fine thing it is to be emperor!' 'Husband,' said she, 'why should we stop at being emperor? I will be pope next.' 'O!!' he groaned, 'how can you be pope? there can only be one pope.' 'Husband,' said she, 'I will be pope today.' 'But the fish cannot make you pope,' he protested. 'What nonsense!' she retorted; 'if he can make an emperor, he can make a pope: go and try him.' So the fisherman went. But when he came to the shore the wind was raging and the sea was tossed up and down in boiling waves, and the boats were in trouble, and rolled fearfully upon the tops of the billows. In the middle of the heavens there was a little piece of blue sky, but towards the south all was red, as if a dreadful storm was rising. At this sight the fisherman was dreadfully frightened, and he trembled so that his knees knocked together: but still he went down near to the shore, and said: O man of the sea! Hearken to me! My wife Isabel Is under a spell And would like a small boon of thee! 'What does she want now?' said the fish. 'My wife wants to be pope.' 'Go home,' said the fish; 'she is pope already.' Then the fisherman went home, and found Isabel sitting on a throne that was ten feet high. And she had three great crowns, and around her stood all the pomp and power of the Church. And on each side of her were two rows of burning lights, of all sizes, the greatest as large as the highest and biggest tower in the world, and the least no larger than a small candle. 'Wife,' said the fisherman, as he looked at all this greatness, 'are you pope?' 'Yes,' said she, 'I am pope.' 'Well, wife,' replied he, 'it is a grand thing to be pope; and now you must be easy, for you can be nothing greater.' 'I will think about that,' said the wife. That night as she lay in bed, Isabel tossed and turned all night as she kept thinking what she should be next. At last, as she was falling asleep, morning broke, and the sun rose. 'Ha!' thought she, as she woke up and looked at it through the window, 'after all I cannot prevent the sun rising.' At this thought she was very angry, and woke her husband, and said, 'Husband, go to the fish and tell him I must be lord of the sun and moon.' The fisherman was half asleep, but the thought frightened him so much that he started and fell out of bed. 'Alas, wife!' he said, 'can't you be satisfied with being pope?' 'No,' she said, 'I am very uneasy as long as the sun and moon rise without my permission. Go to the fish at once!' Then the man went shivering with fear; and as he was going down to the shore a dreadful storm arose, so that the trees and the very rocks shook. And all the heavens became black with stormy clouds, and the lightnings played, and the thunders rolled; and you might have seen in the sea great black waves, swelling up like mountains with crowns of white foam upon their heads. And the fisherman crept towards the sea, and cried out, as well as he could: O man of the sea! Hearken to me! My wife Isabel Has put me through hell And would like a small boon of thee! 'What does she want now?' said the fish. 'She wants to be lord of the sun and moon,' he answered. 'Go home,' said the fish, 'to your pigsty again.' And there they have lived to this very day.
Text copyright 2020 by Hadithi Afrika.
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