Józsi the Fisherman
Once upon a time, beyond seven times seven lands, there lived a poor man. His name was Jozsi the Fisherman. He was so poor that all he had to his name was a small cottage and a few nets with which he went fishing every day. They called him Jozsi the Fisherman for fishing provided his livelihood. He had a young son who was so lazy that he never wanted to do anything. He just passed the time, went out into the street, and there he stayed playing in the dust. Yet he was getting to be quite big. His father always said to him:“Oh, my dear son, what will become of you when I die? You never want to do any work. You see, I am getting old and fishing is becoming too much for me.” And the boy answered: “Don’t worry, dear father, there will be time for me to work once you are dead.”Well, the boy didn’t want to work, but the poor man went fishing every day; every third day he caught a fish or two, and they lived on that all day. It went on like this for a long time.Then one day Jozsi the Fisherman said: “Wife, I feel I am going to die; I am very ill. What will happen to you when I go?”“Well, I don’t know what will happen, but it won’t be good.”The poor man died that day and they buried him. They were so poor that they had nothing to eat. Then the woman became ill, and she, too, died. Jozsi was left alone. But even then he didn’t shape up, he just returned to sit by the side of the road and puttered around in the dust. Well, the women were kind-hearted-many times they felt sorry for him and brought him a piece of bread or two. But when they realized that not for anything would he go to work, and all he ever did was laze about, they became angry and decided not to bring him any more bread. Once he really got very hungry, he would find work and earn something, they thought. And that is what happened. Jozsi had nothing to eat. So, all of a sudden, one day he looked for the creel and the net left by his father, put them on his shoulder and he went off to the water. He stepped into it, cast his net, drew it out, but all he caught was a frog. He cast it again, pulled it out-still nothing.“It would have been better if I had gone with my father at least once; I would have learned how to fish.”He cast the net for a third time: “Maybe I’ll strike it lucky.” He cast the net and drew it out. This time he caught a fine goldfish, it was beautiful. He gazed at it, the little fish was bouncing around in the bottom of his net. Then Jozsi grabbed it, put it in his hat and carried it home. He carried it home, placed it into a bowl and said: “Well, little fish, I’ll take you to the squire and offer you to him as a present. He’ll be happy and perhaps he’ll exempt me from three days of labor or so, from what I owe him.”But as he put it in a bowl and was about to go out the door, the little fish spoke up: “Jozsi, don’t take me anywhere! One good turn deserves another!”So Jozsi put the bowl down, and the little fish flipped around and turned into
such a beautiful fairy maiden that one could sooner look at the sun than at her.She said: “Well, Jozsi, I’ll be your wife. You are mine and I am yours, and nothing but death can part us.”This made Jozsi very happy. He was so overjoyed at having such a beautiful wife that he didn’t know what to do. But the thought that they had to eat, too, didn’t occur to him, yet they had nothing, for they were very poor.Then the fairy said to him: “Józsi, I am hungry. We should eat something.” “We should, sure, we should, I could eat too, but today I didn’t go fishing so there is no food.”“Jozsi, are you that poor? Hasn’t your father left anything? Didn’t you inherit from him?”“All I have is the creel and the net.”“And what did you live on?” she asked.“Well,” he said, “my father went fishing every day, and every day he caught three fish, and three fish daily were sufficient for us.”“Why Józsi, didn’t you have any land, or cattle, or anything?”“We did have a hectare or so of land,” he said, “but, do you see that big mountain? It is as steep as the Calvary. The land was never ploughed and only bird droppings were spread on it. It’s not accessible by carriage, so it couldn’t be cultivated, or fertilized, it’s completely barren. It’s very hard to climb up on that mountain, on that ladder.” “Still, let’s go, the two of us, let’s look at it.”“Let’s go, I don’t mind.”So they set out for the mountain together. They left in the morning and by nightfall they were at the top. But the mountain was so steep that Józsi had to scramble up on all fours. The fairy flew but Józsi got so tired that when they reached the peak, he threw himself on the ground. He said he needed to rest for he could hardly speak.