The Red Fish

A Tale from Turkey Adapted by Laura Simms ©2001.

A kind fisherman once caught a bright shining red fish. It was so lovely, he took pity on it and instead of cooking it or selling it, he decided to take the fish home as a pet. He dug a hole in the floor of his house, filled it with water, and put the fish safely within it. From that day onwards, the fisherman had very good luck.

One day, he came home early, and discovered the source of his good fortune. It was the fish. He saw it leap from the hole, shed its’ fish skin and turn into a beautiful young woman. She was a fish fairy and she promised to live with him.

Soon, the King, who was a greedy man, heard about the fish fairy and wanted to marry her himself. The fisherman begged the King to let him keep the fish fairy. The clever King said, “Build me a gold palace in the sea in four days and you can keep her!” When the fisherman returned home, there was a gold palace on an island in the sea. The fish fairy had called upon the fish to build it.

The King called for the fisherman again and demanded, “If you want to keep the fish fairy then make me a crystal bridge that stretches from the shore to the palace in two days!” Again when the fisherman returned home, the crystal bridge had been built.

The King grew angry. “If you and your fish fairy are so clever, then bring me an egg with a flying donkey inside by tomorrow morning. When the fisherman told the fish fairy, she gave him an ordinary egg and told him to throw it into the sea. He did and a huge white egg flew out of the waves into his arms. He took it to the King. Out jumped a flying donkey. It leapt onto the King’s back and rode him around the palace screeching, “Hee-haw, hee-haw, hee-haw!” The King screamed, “Get this donkey off my back.”

Then the King threatened the fisherman, “If you do not bring me a one-hour-old baby that is wiser than the wisest person in the world in two hours, I will cut off your head and take the fish fairy.”

Hardly was the fisherman back in the door of his house, when the fish fairy said, “My sister has just given birth to a baby. Go to the sea and call for him.” The fisherman went to the sea where the waves churned and up rose a one-minute-old baby. The baby stamped its little feet on the ground and demanded to be taken to the King.

Once in the palace, the baby jumped on the King’s knees and smacked the King again and again saying, “How dare you have a baby taken away from its mother before it is two minutes old. And how dare you ask for impossible and greedy things.” The baby smacked the king again and again saying, “I am wiser than the wisest person and I know you are a fool.” Finally, the King begged the fisherman to keep the fish fairy. So the baby returned to the sea and the fisherman married the fish fairy and they lived happily ever after.

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