de la Mare, Walter. Told Again: Old Tales Told Again. A. H. Watson, illustrator. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1927.
Illustration by A. H. Watons from Told Again: Old Tales Told Again by Walter de la Mare, 1927.

“The Maiden and the Fish” is a tale similar to Cinderella. It’s from Portuguese Folk-Tales by Consiglieri Pedroso, translated by Henrietta Monteiro, 1882.

We have a widower who has three daughters. The youngest is his favorite, of course, but likes to spend her time helping manage the house and working with the servants in the kitchen while her older sisters cared only about parties and pretty dresses. One day the father caught a fish, brought it home, and gave it to the youngest girl to cook. The fish was a pretty yellow color and the girl asked her father if she could keep it as a pet instead and he agreed.

First she keeps it in a pot in her room, but at the fish’s request she puts it in the well. Yes, the fish talks – this is a fairy tale. The next day,  she takes a walk in the garden to see the fish in the well. As she gets close to the well, she hears the fish calling, “Oh! maiden, come into the well!” It scares her so she runs away. Seems like a reasonable reaction to me. The following day, when her sisters go to a festival, she goes back to the garden. Again, the fish calls out, and this time she goes into the well. Thankfully, she doesn’t drown. When she reaches the bottom, he takes her into a beautiful palace, and tells her to go into a chamber and put on the elegant robe she’ll find there. Don’t ask me why there’s a castle at the bottom of the well – fairy tale. So she puts on the gorgeous clothes and leaves the well. The fish provides a carriage that takes her to the festival. He warns her to leave before her sisters do.

She leaves quickly after the festival ends, but of course, loses her shoe in the process. I told you it was like Cinderella.  When her sisters return home, she’s already back to work in the kitchen. They tell her all about the feast and the beautiful, mystery woman. She also learns that the king has kept the shoe and has said he will marry the woman who it belongs to. When the sisters hurried away to the palace to try on the slippers, the youngest sister went to the well. As soon as she got there, the fish asked her to marry him. At first she says no, but then she relents and agrees to marry him. That kind of thing only happens in fairy tales, in real life, I don’t think any young woman is going to agree to marry a fish, even if it does talk and is quite persuasive. The fish immediately turns into a man and tells her he is the prince and he has been under an enchantment. He encourages her to go to the castle, try on the slipper, and when the king asks her to marry him, to tell him she is already betrothed to the prince. I was a little worried at this point, because I didn’t know if the king had had something to do with the spell or not. She goes to the palace as he told her to, and the king is delighted to hear the his son is has been saved from his enchantment.

The king immediately sends a group of folks out to retrieve his son from the well. The prince and the maiden were married and there was great rejoicing throughout the kingdom. The older sisters were filled with jealousy and bitterness and were punished. I’m not sure if they’re punishment was for teasing the youngest sister, for trying to trick the king, or for wanting to eat the fish when their father first brought it home. The couple lives happily ever after and eventually the prince becomes king.

If you enjoy Cinderella stories, stop by my stop on the Fairy Tale Magic Blog Hop. I’m giving away a copy of Charlie Glass’s Slippers by Holly McQueen. You can also find a list of other participating blogs.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.


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