Sunday, January 4, 2009

January 4: A Flounder Fish Story (Vol. 17, pp. 83-90)

Jacob Grimm, the older of the famous Grimm brothers, was born on this date in 1785. We tend to forget how rich and perceptive their stories were. Today's selection, "The Fisherman and His Wife," is a wonderful tale of what happens when greed runs amok.

One day, a fisherman catches a talking flounder. The fish successfully pleads for its release and the fisherman goes back and tells his wife about what happened. She recognizes an opportunity to rise above the impoverished life they lead, and tells her husband to go back and find the flounder and ask him for a new cottage.

The fish returns, and grants the wish. But the wife isn't satisfied. She now wants a great stone castle. Again, the fisherman passes on the request to the flounder, and the wish is granted. But once again, the wife wants more. She wants to be king. That wish is granted. Still not enough. She wants to be an emperor, and then a Pope and then God. Even the fisherman is starting to think his beloved is asking for a bit too much, but he again goes back to seek the magical flounder.

When the fisherman tells the flounder, "She wants to be like unto God," the flounder replies, "Go to her, and you will find her back again in the dirty hovel." Alas, the Grimms don't tell us the wife's reaction to this development. Then again, they don't really need to. They more than get their point across about greed in this story.

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