The Fisherman and His Wife

and other folktales
about dissatisfaction and greed
translated and/or edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2000-2013

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.


  1. The Fisherman and His Wife (Germany).

  2. Hanns Dudeldee (Germany).

  3. The Old Man, His Wife, and the Fish (Russia).

  4. The Stonecutter (Japan).

  5. The Bullock's Balls (India).

The Fisherman and His Wife


There was once upon a time a fisherman and his wife who lived together in a piss pot near the sea. Every day the fisherman went out fishing, and he fished a long time. Once he was sitting there fishing and looking into the clear water when his hook went to the bottom, deep down, and when he pulled it out, he had caught a large flounder. Then the flounder said to him, "I beg you to let me live. I am not an ordinary flounder, but an enchanted prince. Put me back into the water, and let me swim."

"Well," said the man, "there's no need to say more. I can certainly let a fish swim away who knows how to talk." Then he put it back into the water, and the flounder quickly disappeared to the bottom, leaving a long trail of blood behind him.

The man then went home to his wife in the piss pot and told her that he had caught a flounder that had told him he was an enchanted prince, and that he had let it swim away. "Didn't you ask for anything first?" said the woman. "No," said the man. What should I have asked for?"

"Oh," said the woman. "It is terrible living in this piss pot. It is filled with stench and filth. Go back and ask for a little hut for us."

The man did not want to, but he went back to the sea, and when he arrived it was all yellow and green, and he stood next to the water and said:

Mandje! Mandje! Timpe Te!
Flounder, flounder, in the sea!
My wife, my wife Ilsebill,
Wants not, wants not, what I will

The flounder swam up and said, "What does she want then?"

"Oh," said the man, "I did catch you, and my wife says that I really should have asked for something. She doesn't want to live in a piss pot any longer. She would like to have a hut."

"Go home," said the flounder. "She already has it."

The man went home, and his wife was standing in the door of a hut, and she said to him, "Come in. See, now isn't this much better." And there was a parlor and a bedroom and a kitchen; and outside there was a little garden with all kinds of vegetables, and a yard with hens and ducks.

"Oh," said the man. "Now we can live well."

"Yes," said the woman, "we'll give it a try."

Everything went well for a week or two, and then the woman said, "Husband. This hut is too small. The yard and the garden are too little. I want to live in a large stone castle. Go back to the flounder and tell him to get a castle for us."

"Oh, wife," said the man. The flounder has just given us the hut. I don't want to go back so soon. It may make the flounder angry."

"I know he can do it," said the woman, "and he won't mind. Just go!"

So, with a heavy heart, the man went back, and when he came to the sea, the water was quite purple and gray and dark blue, but it was still, and he stood there and said:

Mandje! Mandje! Timpe Te!
Flounder, flounder, in the sea!
My wife, my wife Ilsebill,
Wants not, wants not, what I will.

"What does she want then?" said the flounder.

"Oh," said the man sadly, "my wife wants to live in a stone castle."

"Go home. She's already standing before the door," said the flounder.

So the man went home, and his wife was standing in front of a large palace.

"See, husband," she said. "Isn't this beautiful?" And with that they went inside together. There were many servants inside, and the walls were all white, and there were golden chairs and tables in the parlor, and outside the castle there was a garden and a forest a half mile long, and there were elk and deer and rabbits, and there were cow and horse stalls in the yard.

"Oh," said the man, "now we can stay in this beautiful castle and be satisfied."

"We'll think about it," said the woman. "Let's sleep on it." And with that they went to bed.

The next morning the woman awoke. It was daylight. She poked her husband in the side with her elbow and said, "Husband, get up. We should be king over all this land."

"Oh, wife," said the man, "why do you want to be king? I don't want to be king."

"Well, I want to be king."

"Oh, wife," said the man, "how can you be king? The flounder won't want to do that."

"Husband," said the woman, "Go there immediately. I want to be king."

So the man, saddened because his wife wanted to be king, went back. And when he arrived at the sea it was dark gray, and the water heaved up from below. He stood there and said:

Mandje! Mandje! Timpe Te!
Flounder, flounder, in the sea!
My wife, my wife Ilsebill,
Wants not, wants not, what I will.

"What does she want then," said the flounder.

"Oh," said the man, "my wife wants to be king."

"Go home. She's already king," said the flounder.

Then the man went home, and when he arrived at the palace, there were so many soldiers, and drums, and trumpets, and his wife was sitting on a high throne of gold and diamonds, and she was wearing a large golden crown and on either side of her there stood a line of maidens-in-waiting, each one a head shorter than the other.

"Oh," said the man, "are you king now?"

"Yes," she said, "I am king."

And after he had looked at her awhile, he said, "It is nice that you are king. Now we don't have to wish for anything else."

"No, husband," she said, "I have been king too long. I can't stand it any longer. I am king, but now I would like to become emperor."

"Oh," said the man, "why do you want to become emperor?"

"Husband," she said, "go to the flounder. I want to be emperor."

"Oh, wife," said the man, "he can't make you emperor. I can't tell him to do that."

"I am king," said the woman, "and you are my husband. Now go there immediately!"

So the man went, and on his way he thought, "This is not going to end well. To ask to be emperor is shameful. The flounder is going to get tired of this." With that he arrived at the sea. The water was entirely black and dense, and a strong wind blew over him that curdled the water. He stood there and said:

Mandje! Mandje! Timpe Te!
Flounder, flounder, in the sea!
My wife, my wife Ilsebill,
Wants not, wants not, what I will.

"What does she want then," said the flounder.

"Oh," he said, "my wife wants to become emperor."

"Go home," said the flounder. "She's already emperor."

Then the man went home, and when he arrived, his wife was sitting on a very high throne made of one piece of gold, and she was wearing a large golden crown that was two yards high, and guards were standing at her side, each one smaller than the other, beginning with the largest giant and ending with the littlest dwarf, who was no larger than my little finger. Many princes and counts were standing in front of her. The man went and stood among them and said, "Wife, are you emperor now?"

"Yes," she said, "I am emperor."

"Oh," said the man, taking a good look at her. "Wife, it's good that you are emperor."

"Husband," she said. "Why are you standing there? I'm emperor now, and I want to become pope as well."

"Oh, wife!" said the man. "Why do you want to become pope. There is only one pope in all Christendom."

"Husband," she said, "I want to become pope before the day is done."

"No, wife," he said, "the flounder cannot make you pope. It's not good."

"Husband, what nonsense! If he can make me emperor, then he can make me pope as well. Now go there immediately!"

Then the man went, and he felt sick all over, and his knees and legs were shaking, and the wind was blowing, and the water looked like it was boiling, and ships, tossing and turning on the waves, were firing their guns in distress. There was a little blue in the middle of the sky, but on all sides it had turned red, as in a terrible lightning storm. Full of despair he stood there and said:

Mandje! Mandje! Timpe Te!
Flounder, flounder, in the sea!
My wife, my wife Ilsebill,
Wants not, wants not, what I will.

"What does she want then?" said the flounder.

"Oh," said the man, "my wife wants to become pope."

"Go home," said the flounder. "She's already pope."

Then he went home, and when he arrived there, his wife was sitting on a throne that was two miles high, and she was wearing three large crowns. She was surrounded with church-like splendor, and at her sides there were two banks of candles. The largest was as thick and as tall as the largest tower, down to the smallest kitchen candle. "Wife," said the man, giving her a good look, "are you pope now?"

"Yes," she said, "I am pope."

"Oh," said the man. "It is good that you are pope. Wife, we can be satisfied, now that you are pope. There's nothing else that you can become."

"I have to think about that," said the woman. Then they both went to bed, but she was not satisfied. Her desires would not let her sleep. She kept thinking what she wanted to become next. Then the sun came up. "Aha," she thought, as she watched the sunrise through her window. "Couldn't I cause the sun to rise?" Then she became very grim and said to her husband, "Husband, go back to the flounder. I want to become like God."

The man, who was still mostly asleep, was so startled that he fell out of bed. "Oh, wife," he said, "go on as you are and remain pope."

"No," said the woman, tearing open her bodice. "I will not be quiet. I can't stand it when I see the sun and the moon coming up, and I can't cause them to rise. I want to become like God!"

"Oh, wife," said the man. "The flounder can't do that. He can make you emperor and pope, but he can't do that."

"Husband," she said, looking very gruesome, "I want to become like God. Go to the flounder right now!"

The man trembled with fear at every joint. Outside there was a terrible storm. Trees and mountains were shaking. The heaven was completely black, and there was thunder and lightning. In the sea he could see black waves as high as mountains, and they were capped with white crowns of foam. He said:

Mandje! Mandje! Timpe Te!
Flounder, flounder, in the sea!
My wife, my wife Ilsebill,
Wants not, wants not, what I will.

"What does she want then," said the flounder.

"Oh," he said, "she wants to become like God."

"Go home. She is sitting in her piss pot again."

And they are sitting there even today.

Hanns Dudeldee

Germany, Albert Ludewig Grimm

A long time ago, many hundreds of years ago, there lived a fisherman with his wife. His name was Dudeldee. They were so poor that they did not have a real house, but lived in a hut made of boards without any windows. They looked out through the knot holes. In spite all this, Dudeldee was satisfied, but not his wife. She wished for this or that and constantly tormented her husband because he could not give it to her.

Dudeldee usually said nothing, thinking only to himself, "If only I were rich," or "If only I could have everything I wished for."

One evening he was standing with his wife before their front door looking around their neighborhood. There were a number of handsome farmhouses nearby. Then his wife said to him, "If we only had a hut as good as the worst of our neighbors' houses. We could have such a one, but you are too lazy. You can't work the way other people work."

Dudeldee asked, "What? Don't I work as hard as other people? Don't I stand there fishing the entire day?"

"No!" answered his wife. "You could get up earlier and catch as many fish before daybreak as you now get during the whole day. But you are too lazy. You don't want to do anything." And thus she scolded him on and on.

So the next morning he got up early and went out to the lake to fish. By the time he saw people going to their fields to work he still had caught nothing. Noon came, and the mowers sat in the shade and ate their noon meals, and still he had caught nothing. Sadly he sat down and pulled his moldy bread from his pocket and ate it. Then he went back to fishing. The sun moved downward, and the mowers went home, the shepherds drove their herds into their enclosures, the cow herds returned home, and the fields grew quiet. But Dudeldee still stood there, and still he had not even one little fish.

It was almost dark when he thought about going home. He would throw out his net just one more time and try to catch something. He threw it out, and as if were trying to lure the fish into it, he called out:

"Little fish, little fish, in the sea!"
"What do you want, Hanns Dudeldee?"

asked a little fish that had swum up, sticking his head a little above the water.

Poor Hanns Dudeldee was startled to see the little fish, but he collected himself and thought, "If all I have to do is to want something, you will not have to ask me again."

He looked around to see what he might wish for. On the other side of the lake there stood a handsome palace from which he could hear the beautiful music of horns resounding. At the same time he thought of his wife's wish to have a better house, so he said, "I would like a country house like that one over there. I would like such a palace instead of my little board hut."

"Just go home," said the little fish. "Your board hut is now such a palace."

More running than walking, Hanns Dudeldee returned home. Already at some distance, he saw that at the place where his house formerly stood there was now a splendid palace with brightly illuminated rooms. Entering, he saw that everything was so splendid that he did not know how to behave. The entryway was paved with marble. The living-room floor was of inlaid wood, and polished with wax. The walls were covered with wallpaper. Magnificent chandeliers hung in the high halls. In short, everything was so beautiful that Hans Dudeldee did not dare to walk around inside. He could not believe that this was his property. He thought he had entered the wrong house and would have left, if his wife had not met him on the steps. He had scarcely seen her when he asked her, "Now are you satisfied with the house?" and he told her what had happened.

"What?" she answered. "Do you think that what we have here is a miracle? I saw much better houses in the city when I was in service there. It is passable, but how could you be so stupid? You forgot the best things. Just look at our clothes against this nice house! See how they stand out! At the same time you should have wished for beautiful clothes for me and for you. But you are too stupid and lazy. You don't even make use of the little bit of intelligence that you have." And thus she continued to scold and bicker until she fell asleep.

The next morning at daybreak Hanns Dudeldee went back to the same place, once again threw out his net, and once again called out:

"Little fish, little fish, in the sea!"
"What do you want, Hanns Dudeldee?"

Thus replied the little fish once again, and Dudeldee did not have to think long before saying that he wanted beautiful clothing for his wife and for himself, clothing that was appropriate for their new house.

"You have it," said the little fish, and Dudeldee stood there wearing a cloth jacket with gold braid, silk stockings and shoes, and an embroidered vest, everything in keeping with the fashion of the time.

Returning home, he would have scarcely recognized his wife in her silk clothing, but she looked out the window and asked, "Hanns, is that you?"

"Yes," he answered. "Are you satisfied now?"

"We'll see!" she answered.

Thus they lived peacefully for a time. But one day, when her husband wanted to go out fishing again, she said, "Why do you need to go fishing? Give that up and instead wish for yourself a chest filled with gold."

"Hmm, that is true!" thought Dudeldee, and he went out to the lake, once again threw out his net and called out:

"Little fish, little fish, in the sea!"
"What do you want, Hanns Dudeldee?"

asked the little fish once again.

"Oh, a chest filled with gold," he said.

"Just go home," said the little fish

And when he arrived home, standing in his bedroom was a chest filled with gold pieces.

Thus they lived high and well. She bought herself a coach and horses, and a riding horse for her husband. They often drove into the cities, and they engaged a cook and servants.

The neighbors always called her the arrogant fishwife. This annoyed her greatly, so she told her husband to make her the ruler over all the neighbors. Once again he went out with his net, threw it into the water, and called out:

"Little fish, little fish, in the sea!"
"What do you want, Hanns Dudeldee?"

asked the little fish.

"I would like to be a nobleman or a count and to rule over all my neighbors."

"Just go home. It is so."

When he arrived home the neighbors were paying homage to his wife. She already had had a few of the neighbor women locked up who previously had called her the arrogant fishwife.

Now they often drove to the capital city where the king resided, wanting to join company with other counts. But they did not know how to conduct themselves with the manners of nobility, and everyone ridiculed them. Some countesses would refer to her only as Fish Countess and him as Fish Count Dudeldee.

So she again spoke to her husband, "Go out and have yourself made king. I do not want to be called Fish Countess any longer. I want to be queen."

However, Hanns Dudeldee advised her against this, saying, "Just remember how it was when we were poor, and we wished for a little hut as good as the worst of our neighbors' houses. Now we have a surplus of everything. Let us call it enough."

But his wife did not want to call it enough, and she said, "What? I am to put up with being called Fish Countess? I am to bear the city women's pride? No! They must know who I am. I shall show them! And yet you want to be so simple as to accept all this?" And thus she scolded forth, until he promised to make her queen.

Consequently he went out to the sea, repeated once again his little verse, and the little fish again appeared and again asked, "What do you want, Count Dudeldee?"

He presented the request, that he would like to be king. The little fish said, "You are!"

Returning home, he found that his palace had changed magnificently. It was now much larger. Marshals and ministers with a golden star and golden keys received him with deep bows. His head suddenly became very heavy. He wanted to take off his hat, but behold! Instead of a hat he had a heavy golden crown on his head. And when he saw his wife, he hardly recognized her, so much did her gown glisten with gold and jewels.

When he asked her if she was now satisfied, she said, "Yes, until I once again come to know something better. I would be a fool if I could be better off, and did not do so."

Thus they lived contentedly for a time, and Dudeldee's wife did not wish for anything further, for she had everything that she possibly could want. She had even taken revenge on the countesses who had called her Countess Fish. But finally she came to lack something. She read in the newspaper about the luxury and the expenditures at other kings' courts, and heard that there were other kings and emperors who ruled over many more people and over much more powerful kingdoms than did Dudeldee. Consequently she again approached him, and tormented him until he promised her to become the most powerful king on earth.

Once again he threw out his net, and called out:

"Little fish, little fish, in the sea!"
"What do you want, King Dudeldee?"

asked the little fish, and Dudeldee said, "Just make me the most powerful king or emperor on earth." And immediately that is what he was.

When he arrived home ambassadors and deputies from all the kingdoms and all the parts of the earth were there. Poor poets with poems to Atlas awaited him. Schoolmasters who needed better salaries were there with their petitions. Chamberlains, with their hats under their arms, walked back and forth. Peasants engaged in lawsuits wanted an audience. Guards walked up and down. A coach with ten horses, twenty cavaliers, and six couriers was standing there, ready to depart. In an adjacent courtyard there were peacocks and guinea fowls. In short, everything was there that would please such a great emperor. There were even two court jesters who were always near him.

 The new Emperor Dudeldee was of course angry that these two foolish people were always following him about wherever he might go, and he complained to his wife about them, for after all, he would rather be in the company of reasonable people than of fools. But she told him that he did not understand. It just had to be that way. All important gentlemen preferred to be with fools. Now he was not going to be a fool himself and make an exception.

Finally he gave in, and was happy that his wife was satisfied, but their happiness did not last long. One day he came to her and found her very sad.

"What is wrong?" he asked her.

"Oh," she said, "I am unhappy about the rainy weather. It has lasted four days now, and I would like to have some sunshine. In fact, I wish that I could do everything that God can do, so that I could have spring and summer and fall and winter exactly when I wanted them."

Thus she spoke to him, and he liked her idea as well. "Why," he thought, "then I could go out in the rain and come home in the sunshine that my wife had made. I could even get rid of the fools." Thinking this to himself, he immediately took his fishing net and slipped out a back entrance into the rain. He went to the sea, threw in his net, and again said, as before:

"Little fish, little fish, in the sea!"
"What do you want, Emperor Dudeldee?"

the little fish asked.

"Oh," he said, "only that my wife would like to be able to do whatever God can do: make rain and sunshine, and have spring and summer and fall and winter exactly when she wants them."

"So! Is that all?" asked the little fish. "No, no, Emperor Dudeldee, I see that nothing is good enough for you and your wife. Therefore become the old fisherman Dudeldee once again, for then you were not as proud and unsatisfied as you are now.

Then the little fish disappeared. Hanns Dudeldee called out repeatedly:

"Little fish, little fish, in the sea!"

But no little fish asked:

"What do you want, Hanns Dudeldee?"

And there he stood, as before, without a jacket, wearing only his dirty leather trousers. And when he returned home, the palace was gone. His little board hut was standing there again, with his wife inside in her dirty clothing and looking out through a knothole, as before, and once again she was the wife of Fisherman Dudeldee.

The Old Man, His Wife, and the Fish


There once lived in a hut on the shores of the Isle of Buyan an old man and his wife. They were very poor. The old man used to go to the sea daily to fish, and they only just managed to live on what he caught. One day he let down his net and drew it in. It seemed to be very heavy. He dragged and dragged, and at last got it to shore. There he found that he had caught one little fish of a kind he had never before seen, a golden fish.

The fish spoke to him in a man's voice. "Do not keep me, old man," it said; "let me go once more free in the sea and I will reward you for it, for whatever you wish I will do."

The old man thought for a while. Then he said, "Well, I don't want you. Go into the sea again," and he threw the fish into the water and went home.

"Well," said his wife, when he got home, "what have you caught today?"

"Only one little fish," said the man, "a golden fish, and that I let go again, it begged so hard. 'Put me in the blue sea again,' it said, ' and I will reward you, for whatever you wish I will do.' So I let it go, and did not ask anything."

"Ah, you old fool!" said the wife in a great rage, "what an opportunity you have lost. You might, at least, have asked the fish to give us some bread. We have scarce a crust in the house."

The old woman grumbled so much that her husband could have no quiet, so to please her off he went to the seashore, and there he cried out:

Little fish, little fish, come now to me,
Your tail in the water, your head out of sea!
The fish came to the shore. "Well, what do you want, old man?" it asked.

"My wife," said the man, "is in a great passion, and has sent me to ask for bread."

"Very well," said the fish, "go home and you shall have it."

The old man went back, and when he entered the hut he found bread in plenty.

"Well," said he to his wife, "we have enough bread now."

"Oh yes!" said she, "but I have had such a misfortune while you were away. I have broken the bucket. What shall I do the washing in now? Go to the fish, and ask it to give us a new bucket."

Away went the man. Standing on the shore he called out:

Little fish, little fish, come now to me,
Your tail in the water, your head out of sea!
The fish soon made its appearance. "Well, old man," it said, "what do you want?"

"My wife," said the man, " has had a misfortune, and has broken our bucket. So I have come to ask for a new one."

"Very well," said the fish, "you shall find one at home."

The old man went back. As soon as he got home his wife said to him, "Be off to the golden fish again, and ask it to give us a new hut. Ours is all coming to pieces. We have scarcely a roof over our heads."

The old man once more came to the shore, and cried:

Little fish, little fish, come now to me,
Your tail in the water, your head out of sea!
The fish came. "Well, what is it?" asked the fish.

"My wife," said the man, "is in a very bad temper, and has sent me to ask you to build us a new cottage. She says she cannot live any longer in our present one."

"Oh, do not be troubled about that," said the fish. "Go home. You shall have what you want."

The old man went back again, and in the place of his miserable hovel he found a new hut built of oak and nicely ornamented.

The old man was delighted, but as soon as he went in his wife set on him, saying, "What an idiot you are! You do not know how to take good fortune when it is offered to you. You think you have done a great thing just because you have got a new hut. Be off again to the golden fish, and tell it I will not be a mere peasant's wife any longer, I will be an archduchess, with plenty of servants, and set the fashion."

The old man went to the golden fish.

"What is it?" asked the fish.

"My wife will not let me rest," replied the man; "she wants now to be an archduchess, and is not content with being my wife."

"Well, it shall be as she wishes. Go home again," said the fish.

Away went the man. How astonished was he, when, on coming to where his house had stood, he now found a fine mansion, three stories high. Servants crowded the hall, and cooks were busy in the kitchens. On a seat in a fine room sat the man's wife, dressed in robes shining with gold and silver, and giving orders.

"Good day, wife!" said the man.

"Who are you, man?" said his wife. "What have you to do with me, a fine lady? Take the clown away," said she to her servants. "Take him to the stable, and whip some of the impudence out of him."

The servants seized the old man, took him off to the stable, and when they had him there beat him so that he hardly knew whether he was alive or not. After that the wife made him the doorkeeper of the house. She gave him a besom, and put him to keep the yard in order. As for his meals, he got them in the kitchen. He had a hard life of it. If the yard was not swept clean, he had to look out.

"Who would have thought she had been such a hag?" said the old man to himself. "Here she has all such good fortune, and will not even own me for her husband!"

After a time the wife got tired of being merely an archduchess, so she said to her husband, "Go off to the golden fish, and tell it I will be a czarina."

The old man went down to the shore. He cried:

Little fish, little fish, come now to me,
Your tail in the water, your head out of sea!
The fish came swimming to the shore. "Well, old man!" it said, "what do you want?"

"My wife is not yet satisfied," said the man; "she wants now to be a czarina,"

"Do not let that trouble you," said the fish, "but go to your house. "What you ask shall be done."

The man went back. In place of the fine house he found a palace with a roof of gold. Soldiers were on guard around it. In front of the palace was a garden, and at the back a fine park, in which some troops were parading. On a balcony stood the czarina surrounded by officers and nobles. The troops presented arms, the drums beat, the trumpets blew, and the people shouted.

In a short time the woman got tired of being czarina, and she commanded that her husband should be found and brought to her presence. The palace was all in confusion, for who knew what had become of the old man? Officers and noblemen hurried here and there to search for him. At length he was found in a hut behind the palace.

"Listen, you old idiot!" said his wife. "Go to the golden fish, and tell it that I am tired of being czarina. I want to rule over all the ocean, to have dominion over every sea and all the fish."

The old man hesitated to go to the fish with such a request.

"Be off!" said his wife, "or your head shall be cut off."

The man went to the seashore and said:

Little fish, little fish, come now to me,
Your tail in the water, your head out of sea!
The fish did not come. The man waited, but it was not to be seen. Then he said the words a second time. The waves roared. A short while before it had been bright and calm, now dark clouds covered the sky, the wind howled, and the water seemed of an inky blackness. At length the fish came.

"What do you want, old man?" it asked.

"My old wife," answered he, "is not satisfied even now. She says she will be czarina no longer, but will rule over all the waters and all the fish."

The fish made no reply, but dived down and disappeared in the sea. The man went back. What had become of the palace? He looked around, but could not see it. He rubbed his eyes in wonder. On the spot where the palace had stood was the old hut, and at the door stood the old woman in her old rags.

So they commenced to live again in their old style. The man often went a-fishing, but he never more caught the golden fish.

The Stonecutter


Once upon a time there lived a stonecutter, who went every day to a great rock in the side of a big mountain and cut out slabs for gravestones or for houses. He understood very well the kinds of stones wanted for the different purposes, and as he was a careful workman he had plenty of customers. For a long time he was quite happy and contented, and asked for nothing better than what he had.

Now in the mountain dwelt a spirit which now and then appeared to men, and helped them in many ways to become rich and prosperous. The stonecutter, however, had never seen this spirit, and only shook his head, with an unbelieving air, when anyone spoke of it. But a time was coming when he learned to change his opinion.

One day the stonecutter carried a gravestone to the house of a rich man, and saw there all sorts of beautiful things, of which he had never even dreamed. Suddenly his daily work seemed to grow harder and heavier, and he said to himself: "Oh, if only I were a rich man, and could sleep in a bed with silken curtains and golden tassels, how happy I should be!"

And a voice answered him: "Your wish is heard; a rich man you shall be!"

At the sound of the voice the stonecutter looked around, but could see nobody. He thought it was all his fancy, and picked up his tools and went home, for he did not feel inclined to do any more work that day. But when he reached the little house where he lived, he stood still with amazement, for instead of his wooden hut was a stately palace filled with splendid furniture, and most splendid of all was the bed, in every respect like the one he had envied. He was nearly beside himself with joy, and in his new life the old one was soon forgotten.

It was now the beginning of summer, and each day the sun blazed more fiercely. One morning the heat was so great that the stonecutter could scarcely breathe, and he determined he would stop at home till the evening. He was rather dull, for he had never learned how to amuse himself, and was peeping through the closed blinds to see what was going on in the street, when a little carriage passed by, drawn by servants dressed in blue and silver. In the carriage sat a prince, and over his head a golden umbrella was held, to protect him from the sun's rays.

"Oh, if I were only a prince!" said the stonecutter to himself, as the carriage vanished around the corner. "Oh, if I were only a prince, and could go in such a carriage and have a golden umbrella held over me, how happy I should be!"

And a prince he was. Before his carriage rode one company of men and another behind it; servants dressed in scarlet and gold bore him along, the coveted umbrella was held over his head, everything his heart could desire was his. But yet it was not enough. He looked around still for something to wish for, and when he saw that in spite of the water he poured on the grass the rays of the sun scorched it, and that in spite of the umbrella held over his head each day his face grew browner and browner, he cried in his anger: "The sun is mightier than I; oh, if I were only the sun!"

And the mountain spirit answered: "Your wish is heard; the sun you shall be."

And the sun he was, and felt himself proud in his power. He shot his beams above and below, on earth and in heaven; he burnt up the grass in the fields and scorched the faces of princes as well as of poorer folk. but in a short time he began to grow tired of his might, for there seemed nothing left for him to do. Discontent once more filled his soul, and when a cloud covered his face, and hid the earth from him, he cried in his anger: "Does the cloud hold captive my rays, and is it mightier than I? Oh, that I were a cloud, and mightier than any!"

And the mountain spirit answered: "Your wish is heard; a cloud you shall be!"

And a cloud he was, and lay between the sun and the earth. He caught the sun's beams and held them, and to his joy the earth grew green again and flowers blossomed. But that was not enough for him, and for days and week he poured forth rain till the rivers overflowed their banks, and the crops of rice stood in water. Towns and villages were destroyed by the power of the rain, only the great rock on the mountainside remained unmoved. The cloud was amazed at the sight, and cried in wonder: "Is the rock, then, mightier than I? Oh, if I were only the rock!"

And the mountain spirit answered; "Your wish is heard; the rock you shall be!"

And the rock he was, and gloried in his power. Proudly he stood, and neither the heat of the sun nor the force of the rain could move him. "This is better than all!" he said to himself. But one day he heard a strange noise at his feet, and when he looked down to see what it could be, he saw a stonecutter driving tools into his surface. Even while he looked a trembling feeling ran all through him, and a great block broke off and fell upon the ground. Then he cried in his wrath: "Is a mere child of earth mightier than a rock? Oh, if I were only a man!"

And the mountain spirit answered: "Your wish is heard. A man once more you shall be!"

And a man he was, and in the sweat of his brow he toiled again at his trade of stone cutting. His bed was hard and his food scanty, but he had learned to be satisfied with it, and did not long to be something or somebody else. And as he never asked for things he did not have, or desired to be greater and mightier than other people, he was happy at last, and never again heard the voice of the mountain spirit.

The Bullock's Balls


In a certain place there lived a large bullock by the name of Tîkschnabrischana, which means "having substantial balls." Because of his excessive pride, he left his herd and wandered about in the forest, tearing up the banks as he pleased and devouring the emerald-colored grass.

In this same forest there lived a jackal by the name of Pralobhaka, which means "the greedy one." One day he was sitting pleasantly with his wife on an island in the river. Tîkschnabrischana came up to this island to have a drink of water. When the jackal's wife saw the balls, she said to her husband, "Master, just look! This bullock has two pieces of meat hanging down. They will be falling off immediately, at the least in a few hours. Take heed of this, and follow him."

The jackal answered, "Loved one, there is nothing certain about their falling off. Why do you ask me to set forth on such a futile task? Let me stay here with you, and together we can eat the mice that come here to drink. This is their pathway. If I leave you to follow the bullock, then someone else will come here and take over this spot. It is not a good idea, for it is said: He who gives up a sure thing for an uncertainty will lose the sure thing, and the uncertainty will remain just that."

The jackal's wife said, "Oh, you are a low-spirited creature. You are satisfied with the worst things that you can find. They also say: It is easy to fill a little brook and also the paws of a little mouse. Ordinary people are easily satisfied. They are pleased with the smallest things. For this reason a good man must always be active. They also say: With every beginning there is a will to act. Avoid idleness, and join the community of the intelligent and the powerful. Think not that fate alone rules. Cease not to work. Without effort the sesame seed will not give up its oil. And further: A foolish man is happy with little. His heart is satisfied just thinking of wealth. It is thus not appropriate for you to say, 'It is uncertain, whether or not they will fall off.' It is also said: Active people deserve praise. Those with pride will be praised. What sort of scoundrel will wait until Indra brings him water? Furthermore, I am mightily tired of eating mouse meat. These two pieces of meat look as though they will soon fall off. You must follow him. Nothing else will do!"

After hearing all this, the jackal left his mouse catching, and followed after Tîkschnabrischana. They rightly say: A man is master in all things, until he lets his will be turned by a woman's words. And further: The impossible seems possible, the unachievable easily achieved, and the inedible edible to the man who is spurred on by a woman's words.

Thus, together with his wife, he followed the bullock a long time, but the two balls did not fall off.

In the fifteenth year, the jackal finally said wearily to his wife, "Fifteen years, my love, I have kept my eyes on those hanging things to see whether or not they are going to fall off, but they still hold fast. Nor will they fall off in the future. Let us return to catching mice!"

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Revised March 22, 2013.