The Old Woman And The Fish
: STORIES FROM SCANDINAVIA
: Boys And Girls Bookshelf
There was once upon a time an old woman who lived in a miserable cottage
on the brow of a hill overlooking the town. Her husband had been dead
for many years, and her children were in service round about the parish,
so she felt rather lonely and dreary by herself, and otherwise she was
not particularly well off either.
But when it has been ordained that one shall live, one cannot think of
one's funeral; a
d so one has to take the world as it is, and still be
satisfied; and that was about all the old woman could console herself
with. But that the road up which she had to carry the pails from the
well should be so heavy; and that the axe should have such a blunt and
rusty edge, so that it was only with the greatest difficulty that she
could cut the little firewood she had; and that the stuff she was
weaving was not sufficient--all this grieved her greatly, and caused her
to complain from time to time.
So one day, when she had pulled the bucket up from the well, she
happened to find a small pike in the bucket, which did not at all
"Such fish does not come into my pot every day," she said; and now she
could have a really grand dish, she thought. But the fish that she had
got this time was no fool; it had the gift of speech, that it had.
"Let me go!" said the fish.
The old woman began to stare, you may be sure. Such a fish she had never
before seen in this world.
"Are you so much better than other fish, then?" she said, "and too good
to be eaten?"
"Wise is he who does not eat all he gets hold of," said the fish; "only
let me go, and you shall not remain without reward for your trouble."
"I like a fish in the bucket better than all those frisking about free
and frolicsome in the lakes," said the old woman. "And what one can
catch with one hand, one can also carry to one's mouth," she said.
"That may be," said the fish; "but if you do as I tell you, you shall
have three wishes."
"Wish in one fist, and pour water in the other, and you'll soon see
which you will get filled first," said the woman. "Promises are well
enough, but keeping them is better, and I sha'n't believe much in you
till I have got you in the pot," she said.
"You should mind that tongue of yours," said the fish, "and listen to my
words. Wish for three things, and then you'll see what will happen," he
Well, the old woman knew well enough what she wanted to wish, and there
might not be so much danger in trying how far the fish would keep his
word, she thought.
She then began thinking of the heavy hill up from the well.
"I would wish that the pails could go of themselves to the well and home
again," she said.
"So they shall," said the fish.
Then she thought of the axe, and how blunt it was.
"I would wish that whatever I strike shall break right off," she said.
"So it shall," said the fish.
And then she remembered that the stuff she was weaving was not long
"I would wish that whatever I pull shall become long," she said.
"That it shall," said the fish. "And now, let me down into the well
Yes, that she would, and all at once the pails began to shamble up the
"Dear me, did you ever see anything like it?" The old woman became so
glad and pleased that she slapped herself across the knees.
Crack, crack! it sounded; and then both her legs fell off, and she was
left sitting on the top of the lid over the well.
Now came a change. She began to cry and wail, and the tears started from
her eyes, whereupon she began blowing her nose with her apron, and as
she tugged at her nose it grew so long, so long, that it was terrible to
That is what she got for her wishes! Well, there she sat, and there she
no doubt still sits, on the lid of the well. And if you want to know
what it is to have a long nose, you had better go there and ask her, for
she can tell you all about it, she can.