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The Fisherman And His Wife

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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