This story is copyrighted by Rosemary Lake. All Rights Reserved.
The Once Upon a Time When the Princess(tm) series

 

The Fisher-Girl and the Magic Flounder

 

There was once a little fisher-girl named Calyssa who lived with her grouchy old stepfather in a mud hovel by the sea-shore. Every day he sent her out with her hook and line to catch fish, and she angled and angled; though for herself she preferred to eat fried mushrooms and sourdough toast.

One day Calyssa was sitting with her rod and looking into the clear water, and she sat and sat.

At last down went the line to the bottom of the water, and when she drew it up she found a great Flounder on the hook. And the Flounder said to her: "Fisher-girl, listen to me; let me go. I am not a real fish but an enchanted prince. What good shall I be to you if you land me? I shall not taste well; so put me back into the water again, and let me swim away."

"Well," said Calyssa, "no need of so many words about the matter. Since you can speak I had much rather let you swim away."

Then she put him back into the clear water, and the Flounder dove to the bottom and swam away. Then the fisher-girl got up and went home to her stepfather in the hovel.

"Well, girl," he growled, "have you caught no fish today?"

"No," said Calyssa. "That is, I did catch a Flounder, but he said he was an enchanted prince, so I let him go again."

"Then you didn't wish for anything?" demanded the stepfather.

"No," she said. "I never thought of that."

"Stupid girl!" yelled the stepfather. "You never think! Go back to the sea and call to the Flounder and demand a reward. A nice stone cottage!"

Calyssa didn’t want to do this, but her stepfather yelled and yelled, and she had learned long ago it was no good to oppose him. So she went back, and the sea was green and yellow, and she stood and said:

O man, O man! -- if man you be,
Or Flounder, Flounder, in the sea--
Such stepfather I have got,
For he wants what I do not.

Then the Flounder came swimming up, and said, "Well, what does he want?"

"Oh," said Calyssa, "my stepfather says that I should have asked for a reward when I turned you loose."

"You will have to go and ask the Sea-Queen about that," said the Flounder. "And if anything calls out to you for help, carry it along to her." And he pointed to a path that led in among the rocks nearby.

So Calyssa went along the path. The path led up and down, down and up, among the rocks and cliffs, and after a while she sat down on top of a cliff to rest in the sun; and while she was resting, she heard a tiny little voice calling out, "Please help, please help me."

Looking around, Calyssa found the voice was coming from a mass of tangled seaweed drying on top of the rock. Looking closely, she saw that many shells and starfish were trapped inside the tangle. "Please carry us to the Sea-Queen," they said. "She can untangle us and get us back home."

So Calyssa picked up the mass of sea-weed and slung it round her shoulders. It was dry and prickly, but not too heavy. Then she continued along the path, up and down, till she came down into to a rocky little cove with a little sandy beach. On the sand sat a big Mud-Turtle.

"Good day, good Turtle," she said. "Can you tell me where to find the Sea-Queen?"

The Mud-Turtle said, "Ride on me and I will take you to her. But you must sit firmly on my back or you will drown."

So Calyssa sat on the turtle’s back, and the turtle walked slowly along the bottom of the sea, along and along, through mazy twisty coral passages, and finally into a big rocky cave; and all the time the girl could breathe the water just fine, because she was sitting on his back. She looked around the big cave, which was full of all kinds of sea-treasure: pearls and coral and ambergris and all kinds of lovely shells and graceful dancing anemones. Then she looked upwards to the surface of the water above. There sat the Sea-Queen, a beautiful giant lady sitting on a giant lotus flower which floated quietly on the surface of the water above them. The Queen smiled kindly down, and said: "Hello, good Mud-Turtle. And what is your name, little Land-Girl? What brings you here?"

"Er, I am Calyssa. Er, how do you do? Er, M’am?" said Calyssa. She was so dazzled by the Queen's beauty and kind smile, that she forgot all about her stepfather. "Er, er, here, M'am, I have brought you these creatures in the seaweed." Calyssa felt very silly and tongue-tied. But she was so overjoyed just to be in this beautiful place that she could not remember what she was supposed to do.

"Thank you," the Sea-Queen said kindly. Changing herself into the form of a great Octopus, she reached down three tentacles and began gently untangling the seaweed.

It was a wonderful thing to watch!

Gently the tips of her tentacles pried open each dried shell, letting warm water flow into it. As the water filled the dry cavities, out floated many tiny trapped creatures, happy to be free. There were also little sea-snakes who had dried into knots, all tangled up with each other, like dried sea-weed. These she gently moved so that the warm water could flow around and under them and soften them, so they could move and wriggle and untangle themselves. Finally she opened the shells of the hermit crabs, and let fresh warm water fill their cavities around them; for they did not want to come out.

When all the creatures were soaking wet and happy again, the Queen resumed her human shape and said to Calyssa: "Thank you very much for rescuing my subjects, both the sea-weed creatures and the Flounder. How may I reward you?"

"Er, er— " Calyssa scrathed her head.. "There was something I was supposed to ask for—some nasty person wanted something...." Finally she managed to remember! "Er, my stepfather wants a stone cottage."

"Go and tell the Flounder to give him one, with my compliments," said the Sea-Queen.

So the Mud-Turtle carried Calyssa back to the shore, and there was the Flounder still waiting. So Calyssa told him, "The Sea-Queen said for you to give my stepfather a stone cottage, with her compliments."

"Go home with you," said the Flounder. "He has it already."

So the fisher-girl went home and found, instead of the mud hovel, a nice little stone cottage, and her stepfather sitting on a bench before the door.

"Now this is a little better!" her stepfather growled. "Why didn't you do this in the first place?"

Calyssa thought the cottage was a whole lot better than their old mud hovel. There was a neat small porch, and a pretty little parlor and bedroom, and a kitchen and pantry, with the best of furniture, all fitted up with the most beautiful pots made of tin and brass, whatsoever was wanted. And behind the hut there was a small yard, with hens and ducks, and a little garden with flowers and fruit. "This is all just as nice as could be," Calyssa agreed.

"I'll think about that," said her stepfather.

Everything went well for a fortnight, and then the stepfather happened to bump into the the doorframe. "It is all your fault!" he said. "You should have asked for a bigger house. Go back and ask for a big stone mansion!"

Calyssa did not want to trouble the Flounder again, but her stepfather ordered her, so she went.

When she came to the sea the water was quite purple and dark-blue, and grey and thick, and no longer so green and yellow, but it was still quiet. And Calyssa stood there and said,

O man, O man! -- if man you be,
Or Flounder, Flounder, in the sea--
Such stepfather I have got,
For he wants what I do not.

"Now then, what does he want?" said the Flounder.

Calyssa sighed. "He wants a big stone mansion."

"Go home with you," said the Flounder, "he is already standing before the door."

Then Calyssa went home, and when she got there, she found a great stone palace, and her stepfather standing before the door. In the mansion was a great hall paved with marble; and there were many servants, who flung wide the doors. And the walls were all bright with beautiful hangings, and in the rooms were chairs and tables of pure gold, and crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling; and all the rooms and bedrooms had carpets, and food and wine of the very best were standing on all the tables. Behind the house, there was a great court-yard, with stables for horses and cows, and the very best of carriages. There was a magnificent large garden, too, with the most beautiful flowers and fruit-trees, and a park quite half a mile long, in which were stags, deer, and hares, and everything that could be desired.

"Now, this is getting better," her stepfather growled.

"It is all just as nice as could be," Calyssa said.

"I'll think about that," said her stepfather.

Next morning the stepfather took Calyssa up to the top of the mansion where he could see far and wide over the beautiful country lying on all sides. "This land needs a new king," he growled. "Go back to the Flounder and tell him I want to be king."

"Look," said Calyssa, "you had better stop this. You’ve changed your wish once already. I don’t think the Flounder and the Sea-Queen are going to like this."

But her stepfather became angry and ordered her to go and ask, so she went.

When she came to the sea, it was quite dark-grey, and the water heaved up from below, and smelt putrid. And she stood there and said,

O man, O man! -- if man you be,
Or Flounder, Flounder, in the sea--
Such stepfather I have got,
For he wants what I do not.

"Now then, what does he want?" said the Flounder.

Calyssa sighed. "He wants to be king."

"Go home with you," said the Flounder, "he is king already."

Then Calyssa went home, and when she got there, the mansion had become a palace, and had a great tower and magnificent ornaments, and a sentinel was standing before the door, and there were numbers of soldiers with kettle-drums and trumpets.

And when she went inside the house, everything was of real marble and gold, with velvet covers and great golden tassels. Then the doors of the hall were opened, and there was the court in all its splendor, and her stepfather was sitting on a high throne of gold and diamonds, with a great crown of gold on his head, and a sceptre of pure gold and jewels in his hand. And on both sides of him stood his footmen waiting in a row, each of them one head shorter than the last.

"Now, this is getting better," her stepfather growled.

"It is all just as nice as could be," Calyssa said.

"I'll think about that," said her stepfather.

Next morning the stepfather said, "I am getting bored. Go back to the Flounder and tell him I want to be emperor."

"That's ridiculous!" said Calyssa. "It wouldn't be safe! Each time the sea is more and more angry--"

"You will do as I command!" said her stepfather. "I am the king!" And he had his guards surround her and they marched her to the sea at spear-point.

When they came to the sea, it was quite black and thick, and began to boil up from below, so that it threw up bubbles, and such a sharp wind blew over it that it curdled, and all the guards were afraid and fell back. And Calyssa stood there and said,

O man, O man! -- if man you be,
Or Flounder, Flounder, in the sea--
Such stepfather I have got,
For he wants what I do not.

"Now then, what does he want?" said the Flounder.

Calyssa whispered. "I think he is crazy. He wants to be emperor. What should I do?"

"It is not your fault," said the Flounder. "Just tell us what he says. – Go home with you, now; he is emperor already."

Then Calyssa went home, and when she got there, there was a new palace made of polished marble with alabaster figures and golden ornaments, and soldiers were marching before the door blowing trumpets, and beating cymbals and drums. And in the palace, barons and counts and dukes were going about as servants.

At the throne room the royal servants opened the doors to her, which were of pure gold. And when she entered, there sat her stepfather on a throne, which was made of one single large block of gold. And he wore a great golden crown that was three feet high and set with diamonds and carbuncles; and in one hand he had the sceptre, and in the other the imperial orb. And on both sides of him stood the yeomen of the guard in two rows, each being smaller than the next, from the biggest giant to the very smallest dwarf. And before the throne stood a number of princes and dukes.

"Now, this is getting better," her stepfather growled.

"It is all just as nice as could be," Calyssa said.

"I'll think about that," said her stepfather.

So Calyssa excused herself, and snuck down to the treasure rooms, and filled her pockets with jewels, and took and hid them under the rocks by the seashore. She thought about running away right then, but the weather was so dark and stormy that she decided to wait till morning.

Next morning her stepfather said, "An emperor is too materialistic. Go back to the Flounder and tell him I want to be pope."

"That's -- that's impious!"

"You will do as I command!" said her stepfather. "I am the emperor!" And he had his guards surround her and they marched her to the sea with their diamond spears.

And a high wind blew over the land, and the clouds flew, and towards evening all grew dark, and the leaves fell from the trees, and the water rose and roared as if it were boiling, and splashed upon the shore. And in the distance she saw ships pitching and tossing on the waves. And yet in the midst of the sky there was still a small patch of blue, though on every side it was as red as in a heavy storm.

So, full of despair, Calyssa went and stood in much fear and said,

O man, O man! -- if man you be,
Or Flounder, Flounder, in the sea--
Such stepfather I have got,
For he wants what I do not.

"Now then, what does he want?" said the Flounder.

Calyssa whispered. "I know he is crazy. He wants to be pope. What will you do?"

"The Sea-Queen will take care of it," said the Flounder. "Go home with you, now; he is pope already."

Then Calyssa went home, and when she got there she saw what seemed to be a large church surrounded by palaces. She pushed her way through the crowd. Inside, everything was lighted up with thousands and thousands of candles, and her stepfather was clad in gold, and he was sitting on a much higher throne, and had three great golden crowns on, and round about him all was great ecclesiastical splendor. And on both sides of him was a row of candles the largest of which was as tall as the domed ceiling, and all the emperors and kings were on their knees before him, kissing his shoe (taking turns, of course).

"Now, this is getting better," her stepfather growled.

"It is all just as nice as could be," Calyssa said.

"I'll think about that," said her stepfather.

So Calyssa excused herself, and went and packed her bag, and a lunch, and got ready to run away that very day. But just then the guards surrounded her, saying, "The pope has summoned you," and picked her up and carried her to him.

"Ah, there you are!" he growled. "I have been trying to think what there is left to wish for."

"Nothing," she said.

Just then the sun was going down, and the rays came in the window and glared upon his face.

"I've got it! I want to command the sun when to rise and when to set! I want to be a God."

Calyssa jumped to the floor and ran for dear life. But the guards caught her, and carried her to the seashore.

And outside a great storm was raging, and blowing so hard that they could scarcely keep their feet. Houses and trees toppled over, the mountains trembled, rocks rolled into the sea, the sky was pitch black, and it thundered and lightened, and the sea came in with black waves as high as church-towers and mountains, and all with crests of white foam at the top.

The guards set her by the water and poked her with their diamond spears till she cried out, though the wind blew so loud she could not hear her own words:

O man, O man! -- if man you be,
Or Flounder, Flounder, in the sea--
Such stepfather I have got,
For he wants what I do not.

"Now then, what does he want?" said the Flounder.

"Oh," Calyssa sobbed, "I cannot even say it. He wants…"

"You can tell us," the fish said gently.

"To be a God."

The lightning cracked once and the winds stopped. Mist closed in.

"Your stepfather is sitting in his old mud hovel," said the Flounder. "Now, you come home with us."

"May I really?" said Calyssa.

"Yes, please do," said the Flounder. "We have talked it all over, the Mud-Turtle and the little Snakes and all of us, and it is the Sea-Queen's wish and command to have you join us."

And there was the Mud-Turtle waiting, who at once took Calyssa on his back; and he carried her through the water, down and up, and came out on the shore of a beautiful green warm sunny island full of spicy scents; and the sun was shining without a cloud in the sky. There the Sea-Queen was waiting, and embraced Calyssa. (The Queen smelled like flowers, though she was rather wet.) The Queen led her to a beautiful cottage in a flower garden, just big enough for one, and a hundred times prettier and neater than the one they had given before.

"Here you must stay," the Queen said. And all her subjects gathered round to welcome Calyssa, and brought her wonderful fruits of the sea, and fetched the jewels Calyssa had hidden under the rock back on the old beach so far away, and they all played at tossing them and trading them back and forth for sea-jewels.

And so they played together for many happy days. And soon the Flounder's time of enspellment was over, and he became a handsome prince and Calyssa’s best friend. He often took her to visit his own country, far beyond the sea; but she liked best to stay in her own little cottage on her own little green island.

So for the rest of their lives, Calyssa and the sea-creatures all lived together in peace and merriment, and Calyssa never had to catch any more fish. And as for the grouchy old fisherman, he must have learned his lesson, for he was never seen nor heard of again.

 

The End

Source material from a story from Grimm. -- RL

 

This story is copyrighted by Rosemary Lake. All Rights Reserved.
The Once Upon a Time When the Princess(tm) series
Once Upon a Time When the Princess Rescued the Prince,
Once Upon a Time When the Princess Beat the Dragon
Once Upon a Time When the Princess Cast the Spell
Once Upon a Time When the Princess Got the Treasure

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