The Magic Fish
There are several things to like about this story. I liked the fisherman calling to the magical fish. The chant he uses is the same each time. I like that the Fish/Prince always comes. I also like the idea of a Magical Fish and wondered what an enchanted Prince would look like as a “special” Flounder?
Any one who has ever gone shore fishing at the Ocean or Sea knows that it can be cold and damp, especially in the early morning or as in our story, at the end of a long day. While sitting and waiting, watching your fishing pole, listening to the sounds of the surf, trying to keep warm it is easy to wonder what kinds of fish live in the deep waters. When the fisherman catches the talking fish, we know the fairytale has begun. The fish tells the fisherman that he isn’t an ordinary fish but an enchanted prince and he demands to be returned to the sea.
I was surprised when the fisherman gladly complied. Perhaps the fisherman, who was trying to catch something to eat was befuddled, unable to make a mind shift from eating to a talking fish, so he let the fish go. This gave me pause. Why wouldn’t the fisherman be fascinated by a talking fish? The Fisherman is a dullard. On the other hand why didn’t the Prince/fish thank the Fisherman for giving back his life?
In fact throughout the story no one is ever thankful, not the fish, not the fisherman, not the wife. The fisherman on occasion says something to his wife about being satisfied but he never thanks the fish nor apologizes. Perhaps this tale is all about gratitude. Perhaps the reason the Fish Prince was turned into a bottom feeding fish, a Flounder, because he was not grateful. There is a sense of entitlement shown by the fish and by the greedy wife.
At first when the wife insists the Fisherman go back and ask the fish for a small cottage to live in I wondered if the fish’s magic could comply. Like the genie in the lamp or the leprechaun caught by a human the question becomes will the wish be granted, will there be some kind of trick. or is there a loop-hole that makes the discovery of the magical one null and void?
In the beginning when the Wife gets what she asks for and each gift is even more wonderful than imagined, you wonder when the fish is going to say “No!” When is he going to say, “enough is a enough?”
The story ends as it began, “O man of the Sea, hearken unto me. My wife Iisabill will have her own will, and hath sent me to beg a boon of thee!” And the Fish Prince replies, “Well, what does she want now?” After the fisherman tells the fish of his wife’s demand, the fish’s reply is the same, “Go home” he tells the Fisherman. But now the change … “Go Home to your pigsty again.” Finally!
It isn’t until the wife asks to become a God that the Fish Prince puts down his foot. All the wife’s gifts are forfeited, the husband and wife are sent back to square one where they started. The ending line, “And there they live to this day,” clearly implies, game end, enough is a enough, story over.