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Main > German folktales > Fairy tale "The Sturgeon"

The Sturgeon

The Convent of Schwartz-Rheindorf was founded in the year of our Lord 1152 by the Bishop of Cologne, Arnold Graf von Wied, for the reception of noble ladies alone, and was placed by him under the strict rule of St. Benedict. The prelate, who died in the year 1159, lies buried beneath the high altar of the church.

Among the many other rights and privileges conferred on the convent by the Bishop was the right of fishing in the river, within certain limits above and below the convent's territorial boundaries. This was a most valuable right for a long period.

The certainty of a profitable fishing was always heralded by the appearance of two immense sturgeon. They came at the commencement of each year, harbingers of good luck, and they were ever succeeded by shoals of river fish, in such numbers as to be absolutely inexhaustible until the expiration of the season. Of these sturgeon the one, a huge male, always allowed himself to be taken by the fishermen, but the female was never captured. It was understood by those who knew all about these matters that on her freedom depended the fisher's success. This good fortune lasted for centuries.

It was, however, remarked that as the discipline of the convent became more and more relaxed, and grace grew to be less and less among its inmates, the fishing became more and more unprofitable. The sturgeon, it is true, still made their appearance, but they were spent and thin, and altogether unlike those which had been wont of yore to visit the fishing-ground of the sisterhood. The abbess and the nuns, however, either could not or they would not perceive the cause of the falling off in the take, or the change in the appearance of the sturgeon, but the common people who dwelt in the vicinity of the convent, and especially those poor persons to whom the river had been heretofore a source of support, were neither slow in seeing the cause nor in publishing the consequences to the world. Thus stood matters: dissoluteness of life on the one hand, distress on the other; profligacy and poverty, extravagance and starvation, linked inseparably together.

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