The Fisherman's Son


Along time ago, when impossible things were possible, there was a fisherman and his son. One day when the fisherman hauled in his net he found a huge gleaming red fish amongst the rest of his catch. For a few moments he was so excited he could only stare at it. This fish will make me famous, he thought. "Never before has a fisherman caught such a fish".

"Stay here", he said to his son, "and look after these fish, while I go and fetch the cart to take them home".

The fisherman's son, too, was amazed by the great red fish, and while he was waiting for his father, he stroked it and started to talk to it.

"It seems a shame that a beautiful creature like you should not swim free", he said, and no sooner had he spoken than he decided to put the fish back into the sea. The great red fish slipped gratefully into the water, raised its head and spoke to the boy.

"It was kind of you to save my life. Take this bone which I have pulled from my fin. If ever you need my help, hold it up, call me, and I will come at once".

The fisherman's son placed the bone carefully in his pocket just as his father reappeared with the cart. When the father saw that the great red fish was gone he was angry beyond belief.

"Get out of my sight", he shouted at his son, "and never let me set eyes on you again".

The boy went off sadly. He did not know where to go or what to do. In time he found himself in a great forest. He walked on and on, till suddenly he was startled by a stag rushing through the trees towards him. It was being chased by a pack of ferocious hounds followed by hunters, and it was clearly exhausted and could run no further. The boy felt sorry for the stag and took hold of its antlers as the hounds and then the hunters appeared.

"Shame on you", he said, "for chasing a tame stag. Go and find a wild beast to hunt for your sport".

The hunters, seeing the stag standing quietly by the boy, thought it must be a pet and so they turned and rode off to another part of the forest.

"It was kind of you to save my life", said the stag, and it pulled a fine brown hair from its coat. "Take this and if ever you need help, hold it out and call me. I will come at once".

The fisherman's son put the hair in his pocket with the fishbone. He thanked the stag which disappeared among the trees and wandered on once more.

As he walked he heard a strange flutteting sound overhead and, looking up, he saw a great bird - a crane - being attacked by an eagle. The crane was weak and could fight no more, and the eagle was about to kill it. The kind-hearted boy picked up a stick and threw it at the eagle, which flew off at once, fearful of this new enemy. The crane sank to the ground.

"It was kind of you to save my life", it said as it recovered its breath. "Take this feather and keep it safe. If ever you need help, hold it out and call me, and I will come".

As the fisherman's son walked on with the feather in his pocket, he met a fox running for its life, with the hounds and the huntsmen close behind. The boy just had time to hide the fox under his coat before the hounds were all around him.

"I think the fox went that way", he cried to the huntsmen, and they called off the hounds and went in the direction the boy was pointing.

"It was kind of you to save my life", said the fox. "Take this hair from my coat and keep it safe. If ever you need help, hold it out and call me. I will come at once".

The fisherman's son went on his way, and in time he reached the edge of the forest and found himself by a lovely castle.

"Who lives there?" he asked.

"A beautiful princess", he was told. "Are you one of her suitors? She plays a curious game of hide-and-seek with all who come, and says she will marry the first man who hides so well that she cannot find him".

The fisherman's son thought he would try, so boldly he went to the castle and asked to see the princess. She was indeed very beautiful, and he thought what a fine thing it would be if he could marry her.

"Princess, I will hide where you cannot find me", he said, "but will you give me four chances?"

The princess was intrigued by this shabby boy, and agreed, thinking she would at least have some fun looking for him. The fisherman's son went straightaway to the place where he had last seen the fish and, taking the fishbone from his pocket, he called its name.

"I am here", said the great red fish. "What can I do for you?"

"Can you take me where the princess will never find me? If you do, I shall be able to marry her".

The red fish took the boy on its back and swam deep down into the sea to some caverns where it hid him.

Now the princess had a magic mirror which she used in her games of hide-and-seek. With it she could see far and wide even through houses and hillsides. She looked in her mirror, but could not find the fisherman's son.

"What a wizard he must be", she said to herself, as she turned her mirror this way and that. Then she saw him sitting in a rocky cavern deep down in the sea and she laughed.

The next day when the boy came to the palace she smiled and said, "That was easy. You were deep down in a cavern under the sea. You will have to do better than that if you are going to marry me!"

"What an enchantress she must be", said the boy to himself, and he resolved to win this contest.

He went next to the forest and held out the stag's hair and called. When the stag came he told it that he wanted to hide and the stag took him on its back far far away to the other side of the mountains and hid him in a little cave. The stag then stood in front of the cave so that no one could see inside.

Once more the princess took out her mirror and searched far and wide for the boy. "How clever he is", she said to herself, and then the mirror picked him out hiding in the cave.

The next day she said to the boy, "Pooh! It was easy to see you in that cave".

The boy became even more determined to marry her and he set out to summon the crane. It came as soon as the boy waved the feather and called its name.

"Come with me high up into the clouds", said the crane, and took the boy on its back. All day long they hovered in the sky, while the princess searched this way and that in her mirror.

Just as she was about to give up, she spied him above her. "He is cleverer, than I thought!" she said to herself.

But the next day when the boy came to the castle, she laughed and said, "You thought I would never find you among the clouds, but I spotted you easily. You only have one more chance to outwit me!

The boy now went to the forest and, holding up the fox's hair he called the fox. When it came he explained what he wanted. "Ask her to give you fourteen days", said the fox, "and I should be able to hide you where she cannot find you".

The princess agreed, and for fourteen days the fox tunnelled and dug beneath the princess's castle until it had made a hole large enough for the boy to hide in right under the princess's room. Down he went and lay there quietly. The princess took out her mirror and searched. She looked to the north, to the south, to the east, to the west; she looked high and low, round and round, and at last, exasperated, she called out:

"I give up. Where are you, fisherman's son?"

"Here!" he called. "Just below you!" And he jumped out from the hole the fox had dug.

"You win, wizard", she said, and was happy to marry the fisherman's son.

He was delighted to marry such a beautiful princess. They had a great wedding in the castle, and the celebrations went on for many days.