***Note Spoilers ahead***
Despite being a fan of faerytales told by Walt Disney, I also enjoy other forms of storytelling using poems, folklore, and fables. Fables are a form of storytelling with a hidden moral for lesson for the reader to learn. Jacob and William Grimm wrote many fables that were later used as the inspiration or adaption of Walt Disney’s stories.
The Brothers’ Grimm typically use fantasy creatures in their stories to tell trials the protagonist must endure that are relatable to this day. The Fisherman and his Wife explores the idea of greed. They want the reader to learn the value of appreciating what we have in life and not trying to accumulate too much wealth or material items.
The Fisherman and his Wife, tells the tale of a fisherman who stumbles upon a golden flounder while fishing for food to feed him and his wife. The flounder tells the poor fisherman that he is an enchanted prince and begs to be set free. The fisherman agrees and returns to his wife empty handed but shares the story of the magical fish when asked why he released it back to sea.
The wife, tired of living in their shack, thinks her husband ought to be granted a wish for sparing the prince’s life. The husband reliantly returns to a muddled sea when it was once clear. He makes up a rhyme to summon the fish and says his wife wishes for a cottage. The flounder tells the fisherman to go home and the wish will be granted.
He goes home to find his wife standing out a cottage taking in their new home and land. The fisherman seems content with their new home, but the wife wants more. She insists that if the flounder could grant them one wish surely it could grant them more. Her husband tries to plead with her and get her to be content with what they have, yet each time he is sent to ask for something else.
The fisherman notices that with each wish, the sea becomes more turbulent and begins to storm. It isn’t after that the wife asks to become God wanting to control the sun and moon that the flounder tells the fisherman, to go home, she is living in her shack once more, and with that the sea becomes clear and calm again.
The Brothers’ Grimm are trying to tell the reader that they should value the things they are given in life, and that material wealth cannot grant contentment. Each time the flounder grants the wife’s wife, she fails to seem happy or content, hence asking for something grander until thinking she should be equal to God.
The husband on the other hand, seems content with his standing in life and wonders why his wife can’t be happy with what they are given. After each wish she says isn’t their new accumulation of wealth grand, and he agrees but fails to understand why they needed it in the first place. In fact, at the end when they are stripped of their wealth the husband does not complain nor get angry at the fish.
I can understand why the wife would expect her husband to receive a reward for doing a good deed. It is rare that others will do a favor for others out of the kindness of their heart and not for the sake of being rewarded for it. I think it was fair of the flounder to take their wealth away if the wife couldn’t be grateful for what they did have.
Furthermore, we should appreciate the things we have in life, since there are those that are not as fortunate. Trying to obtain wealth cannot offer you happiness in exchange. Material possessions can only offer you joy for a short period of time before you realize it is not enough. Bringing oneself joy can be attained by paying it forward and enriching the lives of others.