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The Fisherman And His Wife

There was once a fisherman who lived with his wife in a pigsty, closeby the seaside. The fisherman used to go out all da...

The Fisherman And His Wife

There was once a fisherman who lived with his wife in a pigsty, closeby the seaside. The fisherman used to go out all day long a-fishing; andone day, as he sat on the shore with his rod, looking at the sparklingwaves and watching his line, all on a sudden his float was draggedaway deep into the water: and in drawing it up he pulled out a greatfish. But the fish said, «Pray let me live! I am not a real fish; Iam 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; Iwill 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 thefish darted straight down to the bottom, and left a long streak ofblood behind him on the wave.

When the fisherman went home to his wife in the pigsty, he told her howhe had caught a great fish, and how it had told him it was anenchanted prince, and how, on hearing it speak, he had let it go again.«Did not you ask it for anything?» said the wife, «we live verywretchedly here, in this nasty dirty pigsty; do go back and tell thefish we want a snug little cottage.»

The fisherman did not much like the business: however, he went tothe seashore; and when he came back there the water looked allyellow and green. And he stood at the water’s edge, and said:

«O man of the sea! Hearken to me! My wife Ilsabill Will have her own will, And hath sent me to beg a boon of thee!»

Then the fish came swimming to him, and said, «Well, what is herwill? What does your wife want?» «Ah!» said the fisherman, «she saysthat when I had caught you, I ought to have asked you for somethingbefore I let you go; she does not like living any longer in thepigsty, and wants a snug little cottage.» «Go home, then,» said thefish; «she is in the cottage already!» So the man went home, and sawhis wife standing at the door of a nice trim little cottage. «Come in,come in!» said she; «is not this much better than the filthy pigsty wehad?» And there was a parlour, and a bedchamber, and a kitchen; andbehind the cottage there was a little garden, planted with allsorts of flowers and fruits; and there was a courtyard behind, fullof ducks and chickens. «Ah!» said the fisherman, «how happily weshall live now!» «We will try to do so, at least,» said his wife.

Everything went right for a week or two, and then Dame Ilsabillsaid, «Husband, there is not near room enough for us in thiscottage; the courtyard and the garden are a great deal too small; Ishould like to have a large stone castle to live in: go to the fishagain and tell 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; weought to be easy with this pretty cottage to live in.» «Nonsense!’said the wife; «he will do it very willingly, I know; go along andtry!»

The fisherman went, but his heart was very heavy: and when he came tothe sea, it looked blue and gloomy, though it was very calm; and he wentclose to the edge of the waves, and said:

«O man of the sea! Hearken to me! My wife Ilsabill Will have her own will, And hath sent me to beg a boon of thee!»

«Well, what does she want now?» said the fish. «Ah!» said theman, dolefully, «my wife wants to live in a stone castle.» «Go home,then,» said the fish; «she is standing at the gate of it already.» Soaway went the fisherman, and found his wife standing before the gateof a great castle. «See,» said she, «is not this grand?» With that theywent into the castle together, and found a great many servants there,and the rooms all richly furnished, and full of golden chairs andtables; and behind the castle was a garden, and around it was a parkhalf a mile long, full of sheep, and goats, and hares, and deer; andin the courtyard were stables and cow-houses. «Well,» said the man,«now we will live cheerful and happy in this beautiful castle for therest of our lives.» «Perhaps we may,» said the wife; «but let us sleepupon it, before we make up our minds to that.» So they went to bed.

The next morning when Dame Ilsabill awoke it was broad daylight, andshe jogged the fisherman with her elbow, and said, «Get up,husband, and bestir yourself, for we must be king of all the land.’«Wife, wife,» said the man, «why should we wish to be the king? I willnot be king.» «Then I will,» said she. «But, wife,» said the fisherman,«how can you be king—the fish cannot make you a king?» «Husband,» saidshe, «say no more about it, but go and try! I will be king.» So theman went away quite sorrowful to think that his wife should want tobe king. This time the sea looked a dark grey colour, and wasoverspread with curling waves and the ridges of foam as he cried out:

«O man of the sea! Hearken to me! My wife Ilsabill Will have her own will, And hath sent me to beg a boon of thee!»

«Well, what would she have now?» said the fish. «Alas!» said the poorman, «my wife wants to be king.» «Go home,» said the fish; «sheis king already.»

Then the fisherman went home; and as he came close to the palace he sawa troop of soldiers, and heard the sound of drums and trumpets. And whenhe 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 stoodsix fair maidens, each a head taller than the other. «Well,wife,» said the fisherman, «are you king?» «Yes,» said she, «I amking.» 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 haveanything more to wish for as long as we live.» «I don’t know how thatmay be,» said she; «never is a long time. I am king, it is true; but Ibegin to be tired of that, and I think I should like to beemperor.» «Alas, wife! why should you wish to be emperor?» saidthe fisherman. «Husband,» said she, «go to the fish! I say I will beemperor.» «Ah, wife!» replied the fisherman, «the fish cannot make anemperor, I am sure, and I should not like to ask him for such athing.» «I am king,» said Ilsabill, «and you are my slave; so go atonce!»

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 betired at last, and then we shall be sorry for what we have done.» Hesoon came to the seashore; and the water was quite black andmuddy, and a mighty whirlwind blew over the waves and rolled themabout, 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 Ilsabill Will have her own will, And hath sent me to beg a boon of thee!»

«What would she have now?» said the fish. «Ah!» said the fisherman,«she wants to be emperor.» «Go home,» said the fish; «she is emperoralready.»

So he went home again; and as he came near he saw his wifeIlsabill sitting on a very lofty throne made of solid gold, with agreat crown on her head full two yards high; and on each side of herstood her guards and attendants in a row, each one smaller than theother, from the tallest giant down to a little dwarf no bigger thanmy finger. And before her stood princes, and dukes, and earls: and thefisherman went up to her and said, «Wife, are you emperor?» «Yes,» saidshe, «I am emperor.» «Ah!» said the man, as he gazed upon her, «what afine thing it is to be emperor!» «Husband,» said she, «why should westop at being emperor? I will be pope next.» «O wife, wife!» said he,«how can you be pope? there is but one pope at a time inChristendom.» «Husband,» said she, «I will be pope this very day.’«But,» replied the husband, «the fish cannot make you pope.» «Whatnonsense!» said she; «if he can make an emperor, he can make a pope: goand try him.»

So the fisherman went. But when he came to the shore the wind wasraging and the sea was tossed up and down in boiling waves, and theships were in trouble, and rolled fearfully upon the tops of thebillows. In the middle of the heavens there was a little piece of bluesky, but towards the south all was red, as if a dreadful storm wasrising. At this sight the fisherman was dreadfully frightened, andhe trembled so that his knees knocked together: but still he went downnear to the shore, and said:

«O man of the sea! Hearken to me! My wife Ilsabill Will have her own will, And hath sent me to beg a boon of thee!»

«What does she want now?» said the fish. «Ah!» said the fisherman,«my wife wants to be pope.» «Go home,» said the fish; «she is popealready.»

Then the fisherman went home, and found Ilsabill sitting on a thronethat was two miles high. And she had three great crowns on her head, andaround her stood all the pomp and power of the Church. And on eachside of her were two rows of burning lights, of all sizes, thegreatest as large as the highest and biggest tower in the world, andthe least no larger than a small rushlight. «Wife,» said thefisherman, as he looked at all this greatness, «are you pope?’«Yes,» said she, «I am pope.» «Well, wife,» replied he, «it is agrand thing to be pope; and now you must be easy, for you can benothing greater.» «I will think about that,» said the wife. Then theywent to bed: but Dame Ilsabill could not sleep all night forthinking what she should be next. At last, as she was droppingasleep, morning broke, and the sun rose. «Ha!» thought she, as shewoke up and looked at it through the window, «after all I cannotprevent the sun rising.» At this thought she was very angry, andwakened her husband, and said, «Husband, go to the fish and tell him Imust be lord of the sun and moon.» The fisherman was half asleep, butthe thought frightened him so much that he started and fell out ofbed. «Alas, wife!» said he, «cannot you be easy with being pope?» «No,’said she, «I am very uneasy as long as the sun and moon rise without myleave. Go to the fish at once!»

Then the man went shivering with fear; and as he was going down tothe shore a dreadful storm arose, so that the trees and the very rocksshook. And all the heavens became black with stormy clouds, and thelightnings played, and the thunders rolled; and you might have seen inthe sea great black waves, swelling up like mountains with crowns ofwhite 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 Ilsabill Will have her own will, And hath sent me to beg a boon of thee!»

«What does she want now?» said the fish. «Ah!» said he, «she wants tobe lord of the sun and moon.» «Go home,» said the fish, «to yourpigsty again.»

And there they live to this very day.

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