An old man lived with his good-wife
By the shore of the deep blue ocean
In a hovel of clay and wattle;
They had lived there for three years and thirty.
The old man netted fishes,
The good-wife sat at her spinning.
Once he cast his net on the waters;
The net came up-full of sea-slime.
Again he cast the net on the waters;
The net came back-full of sea-weed.
A third time the net sank in the waters
And came up with one fish in it.
No common fish, but a golden.
The golden fish begged for mercy
And spoke with the voice of a human:
"Old man, throw me back in the ocean,
I will pay you a splendid ransom:
I will grant you whatever you wish for."
The old man was amazed and awestruck:
He had fished here for three years and thirty
But never once heard a fish talking.
Freeing the fish from the meshes
He gave him fair words and gentle:
"Golden fish, go your ways in peace now
There is no need to pay me a ransom;
Go back to your deep blue seas
And swim there and splash as you please."
The old man returned to his good-wife.
And what do you think? A palace
Now houses the shrewish old woman.
She sits in state at her table.
Great nobles and lords wait upon her,
Serve her wine in a golden goblet
While she nibbles at crested sweet-meats;
Stern sentries mount guard about her
Each with an axe at the ready.
The old man took one look-his knees failed him!
He bowed to the ground before her
But spoke out: "All hail, dread Empress!
Tell me, is you heart content now?"
Not a glance did his good-wife spare him
But ordered her men to remove him.
Again he went down to the ocean
And saw-a black storm had arisen:
Angry waves reared up to meet him,
All a-quake, all a-swirl, all a-roaring.
But he raised his voice and shouted,
And the golden fish came swimming:
"What is it, old man, come, tell me! "
With a low bow the old man made answer:
"Be gracious, Lord of Fishes!
What can I do with the woman?
The old fool will no longer be Empress,
She will rule over Sea and Ocean;
In the Deep she will make her stronghold
And have you yourself to serve her
And swim back and forth on her errands."
The golden fish said nothing;
With a flick of its tail in the water
It swam away, back to the deep sea.
The old man by the shore stood waiting
For a long time, but got no answer.
At last, he returned to his good-wife.