The King Of The Fishes

: Europa's Fairy Book

Once upon a time there was a fisherman who was very poor and felt

poorer still because he had no children. Now one day as he was fishing

he caught in his net the finest fish he had ever seen, the scales all

gold and eyes as bright as diamonds; and just as he was going to take

it out of the net what do you think happened? The fish opened his jaws

and said, "I am the King of the Fishes, and if you throw me back into

ater you will never want a catch." The fisherman was so surprised

that he let the fish slip into the water, and he flapped his big tail

and dived under the waves. When he got home he told his wife all

about it, and she said, "Oh, what a pity, I have had such a longing to

eat such a fish."

Well, next day the fisherman went again a-fishing and, sure enough, he

caught the same fish again, and it said, "I am the King of the Fishes,

if you let me go you shall always have your nets full." So the

fisherman let him go again; and when he went back to his home he told

his wife that he had done so. She began to cry and wail and said, "I

told you I wanted such a fish, and yet you let him go; I am sure you

do not love me." The fisherman felt quite ashamed of himself and

promised that if he caught the King of the Fishes again he would bring

him home to his wife for her to cook. So next day the fisherman went

to the same place and caught the same fish the third time. But when

the fish begged the fisherman to let him go he told the King of the

Fishes what his wife had said and what he had promised her. "Well,"

said the King of the Fishes, "if you must kill me you must, but as you

let me go twice I will do this for you. When the wife cuts me up throw

some of my bones under the mare, and some of my bones under the bitch,

and the rest of my bones bury beneath the rose-tree in the garden and

then you will see what you will see."

So the fisherman took the King of the Fishes home to his wife, to whom

he told what the fish had said; and when she cut up the fish for

cooking they threw some of the bones under the mare, and some under

the bitch, and the rest they buried under the rose-tree in the garden.

Now after a time the fisherman's wife gave him two fine twin boys,

whom they named George and Albert, each with a star on his forehead

just under his hair, and at the same time the mare brought into the

world two fine colts, and the bitch two puppies. And under the

rose-tree grew up two rose bushes, each of which bore every year only

one rose, but what a rose that was! It lasted through the summer and

it lasted through the winter and, most curious of all, when George

fell ill one of the roses began to wilt, and if Albert had an illness

the same thing happened with the other rose.

Now when George and Albert grew up they heard that a Seven-Headed

Dragon was ravaging the neighbouring kingdom, and that the king had

promised his daughter's hand to anyone that would free the land from

this scourge. They both wanted to go and fight the dragon, but at last

the twins agreed that George go and Albert stop at home and look after

their father and mother, who had now grown old. So George took his

horse and his dog and rode off where the dragon had last been seen.

And when he came to Middlegard, the capital of the kingdom, he rode

with his horse and his dog to the chief inn of the town and asked the

landlady why everything looked so gloomy and why the houses were

draped in black. "Have you not heard, sir," asked the landlady, "that

the Dragon with the Seven Heads has been eating up a pure maiden

every month? And now he demands that the princess herself shall be

delivered up to him this day. That is why the town is draped in black

and we are all so gloomy." Thereupon George took his horse and his dog

and rode out to where the princess was exposed to the coming of the

Dragon with Seven Heads. And when the princess saw George with his

horse and his sword and his dog she asked him, "Why come you here,

sir? Soon the Dragon with Seven Heads, whom none can withstand, will

be here to claim me. Flee before it is too late." But George said,

"Princess, a man can die once, and I will willingly try to save you

from the dragon." Now as they were talking a horrible roar rent the

air and the Dragon with the Seven Heads came towards the princess. But

when it saw George it called out, "Can'st fight?" and George said, "If

I can't I can learn." "I'll learn thee," said the dragon. And

thereupon began a mighty combat between George and the dragon; and

whenever the dragon came near to George his dog would spring at one of

his paws, and when one of the heads reared back to deal with it

George's horse would spring to that side, and George's sword would

sweep that head away. And so at last all the seven heads of the dragon

were shorn off by George's sword, and the princess was saved. And

George opened the mouths of seven of the dragon's heads and cut out

the tongues, and the princess gave him her handkerchief, and he wrapt

all the seven tongues in it and put them away next his heart. But

George was so tired out by the fight that he laid down to sleep with

his head in the princess's lap, and she parted his hair with her hands

and saw the star on his brow.

Meanwhile the king's marshal, who was to have married the princess if

he would slay the dragon, had been watching the fight from afar off;

and when he saw that the dragon had been slain and that George was

lying asleep after the fight, he crept up behind the princess and,

drawing his dagger, said, "Put his head on the ground or else I will

slay thee." And when she had done that he bade her rise and come with

him after he had collected the seven heads of the dragon and strung

them on the leash of his whip. The princess would have wakened George

but the marshal threatened to kill her if she did. "If I cannot wed

thee he shall not." And then he made her swear that she would say that

the marshal had slain the Dragon with the Seven Heads. And when the

princess and the marshal came near the city the king and his courtiers

and all his people came out to meet them with great rejoicing, and the

king said to his daughter, "Who saved thee?" and she said, "this man."

"Then he shall marry thee," said the king. "No, no, father," said the

princess, "I am not old enough to marry yet; give me, at any rate, a

year and a day before the wedding takes place," for she hoped that

George would come and save her from the wicked marshal. The king

himself, who loved his daughter greatly, gave way at last and promised

that she should not be married for a year and a day.

When George awoke and saw the dead body and found the princess there

no longer he did not know what to make of it but thought that she did

not wish to marry a fisherman's son. So he mounted his horse, and with

his faithful hound went on seeking further adventures through the

world, and did not come that way again till a year had passed, when he

rode into Middlegard again and alighted at the same inn where he had

stopped before. "How now, hostess," he cried, "last time I was here

the city was all in mourning but now everything is agog with glee;

trumpets are blaring, lads and lasses are dancing round the trees, and

every house has flags and banners flowing from its windows. What is

happening?" "Know you not, sir," said the hostess, "that our princess

marries to-morrow?" "Why, last time," he said, "she was going to be

devoured by the Dragon with Seven Heads." "Nay, but he was slain by

the king's marshal who weds the princess to-morrow as a reward for his

bravery, and every one that wishes may join the wedding feast to-night

in the king's castle."

That night George went up to the king's castle and took his place at

the table not far off from where sat the king with the princess on

one side of him and the marshal on the other; and after the banquet

the king called upon the marshal once more to tell how he had slain

the Dragon with the Seven Heads. And the marshal told a long tale of

how he had cut off the seven heads of the dragon, and at the finish he

ordered his squire to bring in a platter on which were the seven

heads. Then up rose George and spoke to the king and said, "And pray,

my lord, how does it happen that the dragon's heads had no tongues?"

And the king said, "That I know not; let us look and see." And the

jaws of the dragon's heads were opened, and behold there were no

tongues in them. Then the king asked the marshal, "Know you aught of

this?" And the marshal had nothing to say. And the princess looked up

and saw her champion again. Then George took out from his doublet the

seven tongues of the dragon, and it was found that they fitted. "What

is the meaning of this, sir," said the king. Then George told the

story of how he had slain the dragon and fallen asleep in the

princess's lap and had awoke and found her gone. And the princess,

when asked by her father, could not but tell of the treachery of the

marshal. "Away with him," cried out the king, "let his head be taken

off and his tongue be taken out, and let his place be taken by this

young stranger."

So George and the princess were married and lived happily, till one

night, looking out of the window of the castle where they lived,

George saw in the distance another castle with windows all lit up and

shining like fire. And he asked the princess, his wife, what that

castle might be. "Go not near that, George," said the princess, "for I

have always heard that none who enters that castle ever comes out

again." The next morning George went with horse and hound to seek the

castle; and when he got near it he found at the gate an old dame with

but one eye; and he asked her to open the gate, and she said she would

but that it was a custom of the castle that who ever entered had to

drink a glass of wine before doing so; and she offered him a goblet

full of wine; but when he had drunk it he and his horse and his dog

were all turned into stone.

Just at the very moment when George was turned to stone Albert, who

had heard nothing of him, saw George's rose in the garden close up and

turn the colour of marble; then he knew that something had happened to

his brother, and he had out his horse and his dog and rode off to find

out what had been George's fate. And he rode, and he rode, till he

came to Middlegard, and as soon as he reached the gate the guard of

the gate said, "Your highness, the princess has been in great anxiety

about you; she will be so happy to know that you have returned safe."

Albert said nothing, but followed the guard until he came to the

princess's chamber, and she ran to him and embraced him and cried

out, "Oh, George, I am so delighted that you have come back safe."

"Why should I not," said Albert. "Because I feared that you had gone

to that castle with flaming windows, from which nobody ever returns

alive," said the princess.

Then Albert guessed what had happened to George, and he soon made an

excuse and went off again to seek the castle which the princess had

pointed out from the window. When Albert got there he found the same

old dame sitting by the gate, and asked if he might go in and see the

castle. She said again that none might enter the castle unless they

had taken a glass of wine and brought out the goblet of wine once

more. Albert was about to drink it up when his faithful dog jumped up

and spilt the wine, which he began to lap up, and as soon as he had

drunk a little of it his body turned to marble, just by the side of

another stone which looked exactly the same. Then Albert guessed what

had happened, and descending from his horse he took out his sword and

threatened the old witch that he would kill her unless she restored

his brother to his proper shape. In fear and trembling the old dame

muttered something over the four stones in front of the castle, and

George and his horse and his hound and Albert's dog became alive again

as they were before. Then George and Albert rode back to the princess

who, when she saw them both so much alike, could not tell which was

which; then she remembered and went up to Albert and parted his hair

on his forehead and saw there the star, and said, "This is my George";

but then George parted his own hair, and she saw the same star there.

At last Albert told her all that had happened, and she knew her own

husband again. And soon after the king died, and George ruled in his

place, and Albert married one of the neighbouring princesses.