The Fish and the Ring – Pre-Intermediate Level
Once upon a time, there was a rich and powerful baron in the North Country who was also a magician. His magic was so great that could see things that would happen in the future.
One day, when the Baron’s little boy was four years old, he used his magic to read the boy’s future. He was surprised to find that his son would marry a girl who had just been born to a very, very poor family who lived nearby. This made him very unhappy. He had always planned for the boy to marry the daughter of an important person, perhaps even a princess.
The Baron knew the father of the little girl, and that this man had five children already, so he set out to stop the marriage. He called for his horse and rode to the father’s house. He found the father sitting by the door, looking sad and worried. The Baron got down off his horse and went up to him. “What is the matter, my good man?” he asked.
“Well, sir,” he said, “the fact is that I’ve five children already, and now a sixth’s come. It’s a little girl, and where to get the bread from to fill their mouths, that’s more than I can say.”
“Don’t be sad, my man,” said the Baron. “If that’s your trouble, I can help you. I’ll take away the last little one, and you won’t have to worry about her.”
“Thank you kindly, sir,” said the man. He went in and brought out the little baby and gave her to the Baron, who got on his horse and rode away with her.
When he came to the bank of the river Ouse, he stopped and threw the poor little thing into the river. Then he rode off to his castle.
But the little girl didn’t sink! Her clothes kept her up for a time. She floated on top of the water until the wind pushed her onto the bank on the other side of the river, just in front of a fisherman’s hut. The fisherman found her and felt sad for the child. He took her into his house, and she lived there till she was fifteen years old. She grew into a fine handsome girl.
One day it happened that the Baron went out hunting with some friends along the banks of the River Ouse. He stopped at the fisherman’s hut to get a drink, and the girl came out to give it to them. They all noticed her beauty.
“You can read the future,” one of the hunters said to the Baron. “Who do you think this pretty girl will marry?”
“Oh! that’s easy to guess,” said the Baron; “some poor country boy or other. But I’ll look into her future and see. Come here girl, and tell me on what day you were born?”
“I don’t know, sir,” said the girl, “I was picked up just here after having been brought down by the river about fifteen years ago.”
Then the Baron knew who she was. The next day he came back alone. “Listen carefully!” he said to the girl. “I would like to help you and the kind fisherman who has cared for you over last fifteen years. Take this letter to my brother in Scarborough, and you and the fisherman will both be happy for the rest of your life.” The girl thanked the Baron and took the letter.
Now this was what he had written in the letter:
“Dear Brother, Take the person who carries this letter and put her to death the day she gives it to you.”
The next day the girl set out for Scarborough. It was a long journey, so she stopped to sleep for the night at a small hotel. That very night a band of robbers broke into the hotel, looking for gold and money. They searched everyone inside including the girl. Seeing that she had no money but carried a letter, they opened this and read it. The leader of the robbers, who knew of the Baron, was angry at the trick he was playing on the girl. He took a pen and paper and wrote a new letter:
“Dear Brother, Take the person who carries this letter and marry her to my son the day she gives it to you.
And then he gave it to the girl, telling her to continue on her way. So she went on to the Baron’s brother at Scarborough, a fine honest man, with whom the Baron’s son was staying. When she gave the letter to his brother, he gave orders for the wedding to be prepared at once. They were married that very day.
Soon after, the Baron himself came to visit his brother. He was very surprised to find that the thing he had tried to stop had come to pass. But he was not to be put off. He took the girl out for a walk along the high cliffs beside the ocean. When he got her all alone, he took her by the arms and was going to throw her over.
Seeing what was going to happen, the girl begged hard for her life. “I have not done anything,” she said. “If you will only let me live, I will do whatever you wish. I will never see you or your son again till you wish it.” Then the Baron took off his gold ring and threw it into the sea. “Never let me see your face till you can show me that ring again,” he said, and he let her go.
The poor girl left Scarborough and walked on and on, till at last she came to the castle of another great noble. She asked if they had any work she could do, and they gave her a job in the kitchen.
One day, the noble decided to have a party. And who should the girl see coming up to the door but the Baron, his brother, and his son… her husband. She didn’t know what to do, but thought they would not see her in the castle kitchen. So she went back to her work and set to cleaning a huge big fish that was to be cooked for their dinner. As she was cleaning it, she saw something shine inside it.
What do you think she found? Inside was the Baron’s ring, the very one he had thrown over the cliff at Scarborough. She was very happy to see it, you may be sure. Then she cooked the fish as nicely as she could and sent it up to the dining room.
When the fish came on the table, the guests liked it so much that they asked the noble who cooked it. He said he didn’t know, but called to his servants to send up the cook that cooked that fine fish.
They went down to the kitchen and told the girl she was wanted in dining room. She washed and put on a clean dress, then put the Baron’s gold ring on her thumb and went into the room.
When the guests saw such a young and beautiful cook, they were surprised and smiled at her. However, the Baron did not smile. He looked at her angrily as if he might punish her for breaking her promise.
But before the Baron could do or say anything, the girl went up to him with her hand in front of her with the ring on it. Then she took off the ring and put it down before him on the table.
At last the Baron saw that no one could fight against Fate, and he took her to a seat and made it known to all the table that this was his son’s wife. He then took the girl and his son home to his castle, where they all lived as happy as could be ever afterwards.