Mike Lyon, Kansas City, MO USA

'The Fisherman and His Wife'

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    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 at him.
    "But it's cold and it's very dark and I won't be able to find the fish," whined the fisherman.
    "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 paste, sumi.
    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!