The Fisherman and the Goldfish by A. Pushkin is a classic children’s story translated from the Russian by L. Zelikov and illustrated by B. Dekhtertov. It was printed and republished in 1958 by the Union of the Soviet Republic as part of their Soviet Literature for Young People series.
- Pushkin wrote the tale in the Autumn of 1833 and it was first published in the literary magazine Biblioteka dlya chteniya two years later, in May 1835.
The tale is about a fisherman who manages to catch a “Golden Fish” which promises to fulfill any wish of his in exchange for its freedom. The storyline is similar to the Russian fairy tale The Greedy Old Wife and the Brothers Grimm tale The Fisherman and His Wife.
In Pushkin’s version, an old man and woman have been living poorly for many years. They have a small hut; and every day the man goes out to fish. One day, he throws in his net and pulls out seaweed, two times in succession; but on the third time, he pulls out a golden fish. The fish pleads for its life, promising any wish in return. However, the old man is scared by the fact that this fish can speak. He says he does not want anything and lets the fish go. When he returns and tells his wife about the golden fish, she gets angry and tells her husband to go ask the fish for a new wash-trough, as theirs is broken. He does so and the fish happily grants this small request. The next day, the wife asks for a new house, and the fish grants this also. Then, in succession, the wife asks:
- for a palace,
- to become a noble lady,
- to become the ruler of her province,
- to become the tsarina and finally;
- to become the “Ruler of the Sea” and to subjugate the golden fish completely to her boundless will.
As the man goes to ask for each item, the sea becomes more and more stormy, until his last request becomes almost impossible because the man can hardly hear himself think. When he asks that his wife be made the “Ruler of the Sea”, the fish cures her greed by putting her back in the old hut and giving back the original broken trough.
Like most fairy tales, this story comes with a moral to its tale – that greediness and the thirst for more can never be quenched and will ultimately lead to nothing. This was also expressed in earlier times when Socrates said:
“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”
So ends the moral to this story.