Mike Lyon Kansas City, Missouri USA
The Fisherman and His Wife
Once upon a time a simple fisherman and his wife lived by the sea in a filthy
little hovel. Every day, the fisherman would row his little boat out to sea
and cast his nets. Sometimes he was lucky. When he was not, the couple went
hungry. Their life together was very hard.
One day, the fisherman pulled in his net to discover an enormous fish struggling
inside. As the fisherman tried to get it into his boat, the fish began to plead
with him, begging to be released back into the sea. The fisherman had never
before heard any fish speak and he was very surprised! He felt pity for the
fish and released it right away and the fish quickly swam away.
Even though he had caught nothing else that day, he was very excited looked
forward to telling his wife all about that unusual fish.
When she heard his story, the fisherman's wife became angry and a bit abusive. "Here
we are, not even a crust of bread to eat much less any fish, you worthless
idiot of a husband! That fish was magical! You should have made it grant you
a wish in return for letting it go! Now you get yourself right back out to
sea and find that fish and tell it we want a nice clean little cottage instead
of this filthy hovel, and don't come back until it's done!" she shouted
"But it's cold and it's very dark and I won't be able to find the fish," whined
"GO!" shouted his wife, and there was no changing her mind, nor shutting
her up, so he went, even though it was the middle of the night and he'd had
no sleep and nothing to eat for several days.
As he rowed, it became even darker and the sea rolled very large and this frightened
the fisherman, but his wife frightened him even more, so he called out, "Fishy,
fishy, in the sea, won't you grant a wish for me?"
And after a while the fish popped his head out of the waves and said, "What
is your wish, then?"
And the little fisherman was so surprised he almost fell right out of the boat!
But after stuttering and stammering for a while, he was able to explain that
his wife insisted that in return for setting hime free, she wanted the fish
to give them a nice cottage so their life needn't be so hard. And the fish
said, "Go home, fisherman, your wife already has what she wants."
So the fisherman rowed home and in place of the filthy hovel, there now stood
a beautiful little cottage, freshly white-washed, with shutters and smoke coming
out of it's brick chimney. When he opned the door, he could hardly believe
his eyes! Hot food on the table, and his wife happily showing off her brand
new clothes. And she seemed satisfied for a while.
But one day the wife said, "Husband -- that fish could have granted any
wish at all, but all he gave in return for his life was this tiny little cottage.
Now you get yourself back out to sea and find that fish and you tell him…"
There was no talking her out of it, so the poor fisherman finally trudged back
into his boat and rowed out to sea calling, "Fishy, fishy, in the sea,
won't you grant a wish for me?"
And after a time the fish poked his head out of the water and said, "Well,
what is your wish now?"
And the fisherman stammeringly explained that his wife wanted to be a queen
and live in a castle and have servants and guards and on and on. Although the
fish looked very stern, he said, "Go home, Fisherman. Your wife already
has what she desires."
And when the fisherman got to shore, in place of the little cottage there was
a big castle with turrets and flags and soldiers on horseback riding back and
forth blowing shiny brass bugles. When he tried to enter the castle, guards
with halberds barred his way and wouldn't allow him to pass until, eventually,
his wife, the queen of the castle, finally ordered them to bring him in. She
looked very royal in her fancy velvet clothes with gold embroidery and jeweled
crown and scepter and the fisherman was afraid even to look at her. So he tried
very hard to make himself small and beneath anyone’s notice and he hoped
that his wife would now be content.
But it wasn't long before she sent the guards to find him and bring him before
her. And he was made to kneel down as she commanded him to row back out to
sea and she gave him her very precise orders.
As the little fisherman rowed out in his little boat, the skies grew very dark
and the wind howled and lightening flashed all around and the waves were so
huge they threatened to overturn the boat at any moment. But he called out
anyway, "Fishy, fishy, in the sea, won't you grant a wish for me?"
And after a while the fish popped his head out of the waves and said quite
angrily, "Well, fisherman, what do you want this time?"
And the little fisherman was so frightened he could barely speak at all, but
he managed to explain that his wife was no longer satisfied just being queen.
Now she wanted to be ruler of the universe and lord of creation. And at this,
so much lightening crackled all around that the little fisherman was truly
in fear for his life.
But the fish just blinked once and said, "Go home, fisherman, your wife
has what she deserves." And the little fisherman rowed back to shore and
instead of the huge castle there was a filthy little
falling-down hovel and his wife standing outside dressed in
her and the old rags, and it was there they spent the rest of their days.
Moku-hanga (traditional Japanese woodblock print). Five blocks printed in
fifteen impressions using hon-baren. Dry pigment, pigment suspension, rice
Iwano Ichibei (Japanese Living National Treasure of papermaking) hosho. The
blocks were carved in June 1996 in parody of Hiroshige's 100 Views of Edo (mimicking
point of view and red/yellow/blue palette, with black cartoony outlines. I'd
never really editioned these blocks and hadn't gotten great prints from them,
either - but I like the design and it fit the fairy tale theme, so I improved
the carving to reduce blotching and have reprinted the original color scheme
but with now greater facility in the medium. These are more or less my original
intention actually - it's only taken a dozen years!