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Main > Russia folktales > Fairy tale "The Golden Fish"

The Golden Fish

The old man went home slowly, for he did not know what his wife would do to him if the golden fish did not make her into a Tzaritza.

But as soon as he came near he heard the noise of trumpets and the beating of drums, and there where the fine stone house had been was now a great palace with a golden roof. Behind it was a big garden of flowers, that are fair to look at but have no fruit, and before it was a meadow of fine green grass. And on the meadow was an army of soldiers drawn up in squares and all dressed alike. And suddenly the fisherman saw his old woman in the gold and silver dress of a Tzaritza come stalking out on the balcony with her generals and boyars to hold a review of her troops. And the drums beat and the trumpets sounded, and the soldiers cried "Hurrah!" And the poor old fisherman found a dark corner in one of the barns, and lay down in the straw.

Time went on, and at last the old woman was tired of being Tzaritza. She thought she was made for something better. And one day she said to her chamberlain,—

"Find me that ragged old beggar who is always hanging about in the courtyard. Find him, and bring him here."

The chamberlain told his officers, and the officers told the servants, and the servants looked for the old man, and found him at last asleep on the straw in the corner of one of the barns. They took some of the dirt off him, and brought him before the Tzaritza, sitting proudly on her golden throne.

"Listen, old fool!" says she. "Be off to your golden fish, and tell it I am tired of being Tzaritza. Anybody can be Tzaritza. I want to be the ruler of the seas, so that all the waters shall obey me, and all the fishes shall be my servants."

"I don't like to ask that," said the old man, trembling.

"What's that?" she screamed at him. "Do you dare to answer the Tzaritza? If you do not set off this minute, I'll have your head cut off and your body thrown to the dogs."

Unwillingly the old man hobbled off. He came to the shore, and cried out with a windy, quavering old voice,—

"Head in air and tail in sea, Fish, fish, listen to me.

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