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Main > German folktales > Fairy tale "The Fisherman and his Wife"

The Fisherman and his Wife

There was once a fisherman who lived with his wife in a ditch close by the seaside. The fisherman used to go out all day long a-fishing, and one day as he sat on the shore with his rod, looking at the shining water and watching his line, all of sudden his float was dragged away deep under the sea. In drawing it up he pulled a great fish out of the water. The fish said to him—

"Pray 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!" said the man, "you need not make so many words about the matter. I wish to have nothing to do with a fish that can talk, so swim away as soon as you please."

Then he put him back into the water, and the fish darted straight down to the bottom, and left a long streak of blood behind him.

When the fisherman went home to his wife in the ditch, 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 not ask it for anything?" said the wife.

"No," said the man; "what should I ask it for?"

"Ah!" said the wife, "we live very wretchedly here in this nasty miserable ditch, do go back and tell the fish we want a little cottage."

The fisherman did not much like the business; however, he went to the sea, and when he came there the water looked all yellow and green. He sat at the water's edge and said—

"O man of the sea, Come listen to me, For Alice my wife, The plague of my life, Hath sent me to beg a boon of thee!"

Then the fish came swimming to him and said—

"Well, what does she want?"

"Ah!" answered the fisherman, "my wife says that when I had caught you, I ought to have asked you for something before I let you go again. She does not like living any longer in the ditch, and 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.

"Come in, come in," said she. "Is not this much better than the ditch?

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