Young Folks' Treasury: Myths and Legendary Heroes HTML version

Why The Fish Laughed
As a certain fisherwoman passed by a palace crying her fish, the Queen appeared at one
of the windows and beckoned her to come near and show what she had. At that moment a
very big fish jumped about in the bottom of the basket.
"Is it a he or a she?" inquired the Queen. "I wish to purchase a she-fish."
On hearing this the fish laughed aloud.
"It's a he," replied the fisherwoman, and proceeded on her rounds.
The Queen returned to her room in a great rage; and on coming to see her in the evening,
the King noticed that something had disturbed her.
"Are you indisposed?" he said.
"No; but I am very much annoyed at the strange behavior of a fish. A woman brought me
one to-day, and on my inquiring whether it was a male or female, the fish laughed most
"A fish laugh! Impossible! You must be dreaming."
"I am not a fool. I speak of what I have seen with my own eyes and have heard with my
own ears."
"Passing strange! Be it so. I will inquire concerning it."
On the morrow the King repeated to his vizier what his wife had told him, and bade him
investigate the matter, and be ready with a satisfactory answer within six months, on pain
of death. The vizier promised to do his best, though he felt [pg 107] almost certain of failure. For
five months he labored indefatigably to find a reason for the laughter of the fish. He
sought everywhere and from every one. The wise and learned, and they who were skilled
in magic and in all manner of trickery, were consulted. Nobody, however, could explain
the matter; and so he returned broken-hearted to his house, and began to arrange his
affairs in prospect of certain death, for he had had sufficient experience of the King to
know that his Majesty would not go back from his threat. Among other things, he advised
his son to travel for a time, until the King's anger should have somewhat cooled.
The young fellow, who was both clever and handsome, started off whithersoever fate
might lead him. He had been gone some days, when he fell in with an old farmer, who
also was on a journey to a certain village. Finding the old man very pleasant, he asked
him if he might accompany him, professing to be on a visit to the same place. The old
farmer agreed, and they walked along together. The day was hot, and the way was long
and weary.