A Fish Story – Pre-Intermediate Level

Perhaps you think that fishes were always fishes, and never lived anywhere but in the water. However, if you talked to the black people in the sandy deserts of Australia, you would learn something quite different. They would tell you that long, long ago you would have met fishes on the land. They went from place to place, hunting all sorts of animals. If you think about how fishes are made, you will understand how difficult this must have been. They had to be very clever to do it. In fact, they were so clever that they would still be hunting there today if a terrible thing had not happened.

One day the fish tribe were very tired after a long hunt. They looked about for a nice cool place to rest. It was very hot, and they thought that they could not find a better place than under a large tree which grew by the side of a river. They made a fire to cook some food on the very edge of the river bank. The bank was steep, and there was a deep pool of water in the river below.

While the food was cooking, they all sat down lazily under the tree. Some of them were just dropping off to sleep when a big black cloud which they hadn’t noticed before covered the sun. Then heavy drops of rain began to fall, almost putting out their fire. This is a very serious thing in countries where they have no matches, for it is very hard to light it again. To make things worse, an icy wind began to blow. The poor fishes felt as if the cold wind was blowing right through their bodies.

‘This will never do,’ said Thuggai, the oldest of all the fish tribe. ‘We shall die of cold unless we can light the fire again.’ He told his sons to rub two sticks together in the hope of making a flame. But though they rubbed till they were tired, they could not get the sticks hot enough to burn.

‘Let me try,’ cried Biernuga, but he had no better luck. Then others tried, but none of them could start the fire.

‘It is no use,’ cried Thuggai, at last. ‘The wood is too wet. We must just sit and wait till the sun comes out again and dries it.’

Then a very little fish, not more than four inches long and the youngest of the tribe, came shyly before Thuggai. ‘Ask my father, Guddhu, to light the fire,’ he said. ‘He is better at magic than most fishes.’ So Thuggai asked Guddhu.

Guddhu took some pieces of bark off a tree and placed them on top of the smoking ashes. Then he knelt by the side of the fire and blew at it for a long time. Slowly, a small red glow appeared on the bark and its edges showed signs of curling up. When the rest of the tribe saw this they came closer, keeping their backs to the wind so that it wouldn’t blow out the fire. But Guddhu told them they must go to the other side, as he wanted the wind to fan his fire. Soon the glow grew into a flame, and they heard the happy crackling sound of burning wood.

‘More wood,’ cried Guddhu. They all ran and brought wood to put on the fire, which was now burning strongly.

‘We shall soon be warm now,’ said the people to each other. ‘Truly Guddhu is great’; and they came nearer to the fire again, nearer and nearer. Suddenly, a strong wind blew down from the hills and pushed the flames towards them. They quickly jumped back, quite forgetting where they stood. All fell down the steep bank, turning over and over till they rolled into the deep pool that lay below. Oh, how cold it was in that dark water into which the sun never shone! Then, in a moment, they felt warm again. The fire, driven by the strong wind, had followed them right down to the bottom of the pool. It was burning there as brightly as ever. The fishes stood round it as they had done on the river bank above. And they found the flames to be as hot as before. That fire has been burning since that day. It has never gone out like those upon land. And now you know why, if you dive deep down into water on a very cold day, you will find it warm and pleasant underneath.