The Golden-Headed Fish

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The Golden-Headed Fish is an Armenian fairy tale. Andrew Lang included it in The Olive Fairy Book.


A king was going blind. A traveller said that if a golden-headed fish, found in the Great Sea, was brought to him within a hundred days, he would prepare an ointment from its blood to save the king's sight, but he had to leave in a hundred days. The prince took men and fished for it. He finally caught it, too late to bring it back. He intended to bring it back to show his father what he had done, and decided not to, because the doctors would try to make the ointment and so kill the fish uselessly.

The king refused to believe he had tried, and ordered his execution. Servants warned the queen who gave her son common clothing and gold and sent him off to a distant island with a warning to take no man in his service who wanted to be paid every month. At the island, he bought a house and rejected many servants, who wanted to be paid by the month, and finally took on an Arab who wished to be paid every year.

On this island, a monster left half of it a wasteland, and whoever went to fight it fell asleep. The Arab asked the governor what he would give for killing it, and the governor offered half the land and his daughter; the Arab asked instead that he share in whatever he gained. The governor agreed. The Arab killed the monster and told the prince to take the credit. The governor gave him a ship at his request, and secretly filled it with jewels.

They sailed to a far country. The Arab urged the prince to ask the king for his daughter. The king warned the prince that she had been married one hundred and ninety times, and all the bridegrooms had not lived out twelve hours, but the Arab urged him to marry her anyway. They were married, but at night, he saw men digging a grave for him. Then a small black snake wiggled into the bridal chamber, but the Arab saw it and killed it. After that, the princess lived happily with her new husband.

One day, he was summoned home with the news his father was dead. He ruled there. One day, the Arab told him he had been summoned home and must leave him. The new king wished to reward him, because he had saved his life, but the Arab refused all, because he was the Golden-Headed Fish.

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