The Brothers Grimm – The Fisherman and His Wife

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There was once upon a time a fisherman who lived with his wife
in a pig-stye close by the sea, and every day he went out fishing.
And he fished, and he fished. And once he was sitting with his
rod, looking at the clear water, and he sat and he sat. Then
his line suddenly went down, far down below, and when
he drew it up again, he brought out a large flounder. Then the
flounder said to him, hark, you fisherman, I pray you, let me
live, I am no flounder really, but an enchanted prince. What
good will it do you to kill me. I should not be good to eat, put
me in the water again, and let me go. Come, said the fisherman,
there is no need for so many words about it - a fish that can
talk I should certainly let go, anyhow. And with that he put
him back again into the clear water, and the flounder went to the
bottom, leaving a long streak of blood behind him. Then the
fisherman got up and went home to his wife in the pig-stye.
Husband, said the woman, have you caught nothing to-day. No, said
the man, I did catch a flounder, who said he was an enchanted
prince, so I let him go again. Did you not wish for anything
first, said the woman. No, said the man, what should I wish
for. Ah, said the woman, it is surely hard to have to live
always in this pig-stye which stinks and is so disgusting. You
might have wished for a little hut for us. Go back and call
him. Tell him we want to have a little hut, he will certainly
give us that. Ah, said the man, why should I go there again.
Why, said the woman, you did catch him, and you let him go again.
He is sure to do it. Go at once. The man still did not quite
like to go, but did not like to oppose his wife either, and
went to the sea.
When he got there the sea was all green and yellow, and no
longer so smooth, so he stood still and said,
flounder, flounder in the sea,
come, I pray thee, here to me.
For my wife, good ilsabil,
wills not as I'd have her will.
Then the flounder came swimming to him and said, well what does
she want, then. Ah, said the man, I did catch you, and
my wife says I really ought to have wished for something.
She does not like to live in a pig-stye any longer. She would
like to have a hut. Go, then, said the flounder, she has it
already.
When the man went home, his wife was no longer in the stye,
but instead of it there stood a hut, and she was sitting on a
bench before the door. Then she took him by the hand and said
to him, just come inside. Look, now isn't this a great deal
better. So they went in, and there was a small porch, and a
pretty little parlor and bedroom, and a kitchen and pantry,
with the best of furniture, and fitted up with the most
beautiful things made of tin and brass, whatsoever was wanted.
And behind the hut there was a small yard, with hens and ducks,
and a little garden with flowers and fruit. Look, said the
wife, is not that nice. Yes, said the husband, and so it shall
remain - now we will live quite contented. We will think about
that said the wife. With that they ate something and went to
bed.
Everything went well for a week or a fortnight, and then the
woman said, hark you, husband, this hut is far too small for us,
and the garden and yard are little. The flounder might just as
well have given us a larger house. I should like to live in a
great stone castle. Go to the flounder, and tell him to give
us a castle. Ah, wife, said the man, the hut is quite good
enough. Why whould we live in a castle. What. Said the
woman. Just go there, the flounder can always do that. No,
wife, said the man, the flounder has just given us the hut,
I do not like to go back so soon, it might make him angry.
Go, said the woman, he can do it quite easily, and will be glad
to do it. Just you go to him.
The man's heart grew heavy, and he would not go. He said to
himself, it is not right, and yet he went. And when he came
to the sea the water was quite purple and dark-blue, and grey
and thick, and no longer so green and yellow, but it was still
quiet. And he stood there and said,
flounder, flounder in the sea,
come, I pray thee, here to me.
For my wife, good ilsabil,
wills not as I'd have her will.
Well, what does she want, now, said the flounder. Alas, said
the man, half scared, she wants to live in a great stone castle.
Go to it, then, she is standing before the door, said the
flounder.
Then the man went away, intending to go home, but when he
got there, he found a great stone palace, and his wife was
just standing on the steps going in, and she took him by the
hand and said, come in. So he went in with her, and in the
castle was a great hall paved with marble, and many servants,
who flung wide the doors. And the walls were all bright with
beautiful hangings, and in the rooms were chairs and tables
of pure gold, and crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling,
and all the rooms and bedrooms had carpets, and food and wine
of the very best were standing on all the tables, so that they
nearly broke down beneath it. Behind the house, too, there
was a great court-yard, with stables for horses and cows, and
the very best of carriages. There was a magnificent large
garden, too, with the most beautiful flowers and fruit-trees,
and a park quite half a mile long, in which were stags, deer,
and hares, and everything that could be desired. Come, said
the woman, isn't that beautiful. Yes, indeed, said the man,
now let it be, and we will live in this beautiful castle
and be content. We will consider about that, said the woman,
and sleep upon it. Thereupon they went to bed.
Next morning the wife awoke first, and it was just daybreak,
and from her bed she saw the beautiful country lying before
her. Her husband was still stretching himself, so she poked
him in the side with her elbow, and said, get up, husband,
and just peep out of the window. Look you, couldn't we be the
king over all that land. Go to the flounder, we will be the
king. Ah, wife, said the man, why should we be king. I
do not want to be king. Well, said the wife, if you won't be
king, I will. Go to the flounder, for I will be king. Ah,
wife, said the man, why do you want to be king. I do not like
to say that to him. Why not, said the woman. Go to him this
instant. I must be king. So the man went, and was quite
unhappy because his wife wished to be king. It is not right,
it is not right, thought he. He did not wish to go, but yet
he went.
And when he came to the sea, it was quite dark-grey, and the
water heaved up from below, and smelt putrid. Then he went
and stood by it, and said,

flounder, flounder in the sea,
come, I pray thee, here to me.
For my wife, good ilsabil,
wills not as I'd have her will.
Well, what does she want, now. Said the flounder. Alas, said
the man, she wants to be king. Go to her. She is king
already.
So the man went, and when he came to the palace, the castle
had become much larger, and had a great tower and magnificent
ornaments, and the sentinel was standing before the door, and
there were numbers of soldiers with kettle-drums and trumpets.
And
when he went inside the house, everything was of real marble
and gold, with velvet covers and great golden tassels. Then
the doors of the hall were opened, and there was the court in
all its splendor, and his wife was sitting on a high throne
of gold and diamonds, with a great crown of gold on her head,
and a sceptre of pure gold and jewels in her hand, and on
both sides of her stood her maids-in-waiting in a row, each
of them always one head shorter than the last.
Then he went and stood before her, and said, ah, wife, and
now you are king. Yes, said the woman, now I am king. So
he stood and looked at her, and when he had looked at her thus
for some time, he said, and now that you are king, let all else
be, now we will wish for nothing more. No, husband, said the
woman, quite anxiously, I find time passes very heavily, I can
bear it no longer. Go to the flounder - I am king, but I must
be emperor, too. Oh, wife, why do you wish to be emperor.
Husband, said she, go to the flounder. I will be emperor.
Alas, wife, said the man, he cannot make you emperor. I may not
say that to the fish. There is only one emperor in the land. An
emperor the flounder cannot make you. I assure you he cannot.
What. Said the woman, I am the king, and you are nothing but
my husband. Will you go this moment. Go at once. If he can
make a king he can make an emperor. I will be emperor. Go
instantly. So he was forced to go. As the man went, however, he
was troubled in mind, and thought to himself, it will not end
well. It will not end well. Emperor is too shameless. The
flounder will at last be tired out.
With that he reached the sea, and the sea was quite black and
thick, and began to boil up from below, so that it threw up
bubbles, and such a sharp wind blew over it that it curdled, and
the man was afraid. Then he went and stood by it, and said,
flounder, flounder in the sea,
come, I pray thee, here to me.
For my wife, good ilsabil,
wills not as I'd have her will.
Well, what does she want, now, said the flounder. Alas, flounder,
said he, my wife wants to be emperor. Go to her, said the
flounder. She is emperor already.
So the man went, and when he got there the whole palace was made
of polished marble with alabaster figures and golden ornaments,
and soldiers were marching before the door blowing trumpets,
and beating cymbals and drums. And in the house, barons, and
counts, and dukes were going about as servants. Then they opened
the doors to him, which were of pure gold. And when he
entered, there sat his wife on a throne, which was made of one
piece of gold, and was quite two miles high. And she wore a great
golden crown that was three yards high, and set with diamonds and
carbuncles, and in one hand she had the sceptre, and in the
other the imperial orb. And on both sides of her stood the
yeomen of the guard in two rows, each being smaller than the one
before him, from the biggest giant, who was two miles high, to the
very smallest dwarf, just as big as my little finger. And
before it stood a number of princes and dukes.
Then the man went and stood among them, and said, wife, are you
emperor now. Yes, said she, now I am emperor. Then he stood
and looked at her well, and when he had looked at her thus for
some time, he said, ah, wife, be content, now that you are
emperor. Husband, said she, why are you standing there. Now, I
am emperor, but I will be pope too. Go to the flounder. Oh,
wife, said the man, what will you not wish for. You cannot be
pope. There is but one in christendom. He cannot make you pope.
Husband, said she, I will be pope. Go immediately, I must be
pope this very day. No, wife, said the man, I do not like to
say that to him. That would not do, it is too much. The flounder
can't make you pope. Husband, said she, what nonsense. If he
can make an emperor he can make a pope. Go to him directly.
I am emperor, and you are nothing but my husband. Will you go
at once.
Then he was afraid and went, but he was quite faint, and
shivered and shook, and his knees and legs trembled. And a high
wind blew over the land, and the clouds flew, and towards evening
all grew dark, and the leaves fell from the trees, and the water
rose and roared as if it were boiling, and splashed upon the
shore. And in the distance he saw ships which were firing guns
in their sore need, pitching and tossing on the waves. And yet
in the midst of the sky there was still a small patch of blue,
though on every side it was as red as in a heavy storm. So,
full of despair, he went and stood in much fear and said,
flounder, flounder in the sea,
come, I pray thee, here to me.
For my wife, good ilsabil,
wills not as I'd have her will.
Well, what does she want, now, said the flounder. Alas, said the
man, she wants to be pope. Go to her then, said the flounder,
she is pope already.
So he went, and when he got there, he saw what seemed to be a
large church surrounded by palaces. He pushed his way through
the crowd. Inside, however, everything was lighted up with
thousands and thousands of candles, and his wife was clad in
gold, and she was sitting on a much higher throne, and had three
great golden crowns on, and round about her there was much
ecclesiastical splendor. And on both sides of her was a row of
candles the largest of which was as tall as the very tallest tower,
down to the very smallest kitchen candle, and all the emperors
and kings were on their knees before her, kissing her shoe.
Wife, said the man, and looked attentively at her, are you now
pope. Yes, said she, I am pope. So he stood and looked at her,
and it was just as if he was looking at the bright sun. When he
had stood looking at her thus for a short time, he said, ah,
wife, if you are pope, do let well alone. But she looked as
stiff as a post, and did not move or show any signs of life.
Then said he, wife, now that you are pope, be satisfied, you
cannot become anything greater now. I will consider about that,
said the woman. Thereupon they both went to bed, but she was
not satisfied, and greediness let her have no sleep, for she
was continually thinking what there was left for her to be.
The man slept well and soundly, for he had run about a great
deal during the day. But the woman could not fall asleep at
all, and flung herself from one side to the other the whole
night through, thinking always what more was left for her to
be, but unable to call to mind anything else. At length the
sun began to rise, and when the woman saw the red of dawn,
she sat up in bed and looked at it. And when, through the
window, she saw the sun thus rising, she said, cannot I, too,
order the sun and moon to rise. Husband, she said, poking him
in the ribs with her elbows, wake up. Go to the flounder, for
I wish to be even as God is. The man was still half asleep,
but he was so horrified that he fell out of bed. He thought
he must have heard amiss, and rubbed his eyes, and said, wife,
what are you saying. Husband, said she, if I can't order the
sun and moon to rise, and have to look on and see the sun
and moon rising, I can't bear it. I shall not know what it is
to have another happy hour, unless I can make them rise myself.
Then she looked at him so terribly that a shudder ran over
him, and said, go at once. I wish to be like unto God. Alas,
wife, said the man, falling on his knees before her, the flounder
cannot do that. He can make an emperor and a pope. I beseech
you, go on as you are, and be pope. Then she fell into a
rage, and her hair flew wildly about her head, she tore open her
bodice, kicked him with her foot, and screamed, I can't stand
it, I can't stand it any longer. Will you go this instant.
Then he put on his trousers and ran away like a madman. But
outside a great storm was raging, and blowing so hard that he
could scarcely keep his feet. Houses and trees toppled over,
the mountains trembled, rocks rolled into the sea, the sky was
pitch black, and it thundered and lightened, and the sea came
in with black waves as high as church-towers and mountains, and
all with crests of white foam at the top. Then he cried, but
could not hear his own words,
flounder, flounder in the sea,
come, I pray thee, here to me.
For my wife, good ilsabil,
wills not as I'd have her will.
Well, what does she want, now, said the flounder. Alas, said
he, she wants to be like unto God. Go to her, and you will
find her back again in the pig-stye. And there they are still
living to this day.

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