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King of the fishes.
From The Europa Fairy Book by Joseph Jacobs.
Start of Story
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
the water 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.
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.