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Main > Russia folktales > Fairy tale "A Chapter of Fish"

A Chapter of Fish

And bream and perch are big fish. It was worse for the little ones.

What was to be done? The bream and the perch put their heads together in a quiet pool. It was clear enough that the great pike would eat everyone of them. So they called a meeting of all the little fish, and set to thinking what could be done by way of dealing with the great pike, which had such sharp teeth and was making so free with their lives.

They all came to the meeting—bream, and perch, and roach, and dace, and gudgeon; yes, and the little ersh with his spiny back.

The silly roach said, "Let us kill the pike."

But the gudgeon looked at him with his great eyes, and asked, "Have you got good teeth?"

"No," says the roach, "I haven't any teeth."

"You'd swallow the pike, I suppose?" says the perch.

"My mouth is too small."

"Then do not use it to talk foolishness," said the gudgeon; and the roach's fins blushed scarlet, and are red to this day.

"I will set my prickles on end," says the perch, who has a row of sharp prickles in the fin on his back. "The pike won't find them too comfortable in his throat."

"Yes," said the bream; "but you will have to go into his throat to put them there, and he'll swallow you all the same. Besides, we have not all got prickles."

There was a lot more foolishness talked. Even the minnows had something to say, until they were made to be quiet by the dace.

Now the little ersh had come to the meeting, with his spiny back, and his big front fins, and his head all shining in blue and gold and green. And when he had heard all they had to say, he began to talk.

"Think away," says he, "and break your heads, and spoil your brains, if ever you had any; but listen for a moment to what I have to say."

And all the fish turned to listen to the ersh, who is the cleverest of all the little fish, because he has a big head and a small body.

"Listen," says the ersh. "It is clear enough that the pike lives in this big river, and that he does not give the little fish a chance, crunches them all with his sharp teeth, and swallows them ten at a time.

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