Bibliographic Information (best version for telling): “The Goldfish.” In Russian Fairy Tales by Aleksandr Nikolaevich Afanas’ev. Translated by Norbert Guterman. Pantheon, 1945, 528-532.
Ethnic Origin: Russian
Running Time: 7 minutes
1) The first time the fish speaks
2) The moment the wife demands to be the ruler of the sea
3) First sight the old man has of the original old hut in place of the castle
Why I chose these power centers:
1) When the fish first speaks it is surprising not only to the old man but to the audience as well because fish do not speak like humans. This sets the magical tone of the story.
2) The moment the wife demands to be the ruler of the sea brings about a strong feeling of astonishment because it is hard to believe that she could be so greedy as to want more from the old man and the gold fish.
3) The old man’s first sight of the old hut in place of the castle brings a strong emotional rise because it is at this moment that the audience realizes what the wife’s greed actually got her. Also, this moment is when the audience may discover a moral to the story.
Characters: The old man, his wife, the gold fish, and the servants
1) The old hut-the opening; by the ocean on the shore of an island
2) The ocean-where the old man first encounters the gold fish
3) The old hut-when the wife asks for bread
4) The ocean-where the old man summons the fish and asks for bread
5) The old hut-where the wife demands to live in a new house& be governor
6) The ocean-where the old man asks the fish for a new house &role
7) The new house-where the governor later demands to be the ruler of the sea
8) The ocean-where the old man asks the fish to make his wife the ruler and queen of the sea and all the fish in it
9) The old hut-the closing; just as things began in the opening
Synopsis: An old man and his wife are very poor and live in a dilapidated hut. One day the old man, who is a fisherman, catches a talking gold fish in the ocean. In exchange for throwing him back, the fish says he will give the man anything he wants. When the wife hears the story about the fish she demands that her husband gets bread from the fish. The wife becomes so greedy that over time she demands the old man to ask the fish for a new house, to make her governor, and finally to make her the ruler and queen of the sea. When the man asks the fish to make his wife the ruler and queen of the sea, it disappears without answering, the sea becomes angry, and the old man returns home. When he arrives home, the old man realizes that his new home has been replaced with the old hut and his life with his wife goes back to the way it was before he ever caught the gold fish.
Rhymes/Special Phrases/”Flavor”: There is one phrase that is repeated over and over in “The Goldfish”. The phrase, “[g]oldfish, goldfish, stand with your tail to the sea and your head to me” is always said by the old man. Its rhyme and repetition gets the audience’s attention and reinforces the magical tone of the story because it is a spell-like phrase.
Audience (appropriateness): This story is fitting for an audience of preschoolers for many reasons. According to Charlotte Huck in the handout we received in class, children between the ages of three and five see the fantasy world as real and begin to understand judgments of right and wrong. “The Goldfish” complements these characteristics because the setting of the story is fantasy, therefore real to an audience of preschoolers. Also, children of this age are old enough to understand that the wife’s greed in the story was wrong and may have caused the fish to take away its magic. Piaget’s Developmental Stages, also from the handout we received in class, states that repetition is important to children from the ages of two to seven. “The Goldfish” uses repetition to prove the wife’s greed, therefore making it fitting for preschoolers. Finally, Erikson states in the handout, that children between the ages of three to six use imagination to help them gain a sense of the roles and institutions of society. “The Goldfish” uses imagination to show how certain social roles (like being a peasant or a governor) have different effects on styles of living but do not necessarily relate to happiness and goodness.
Bibliographic information on other versions: “The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish.” In The Russian Wonderland by Alexander Poushkin. Translated by Boris Brasol. The Paisley Press, Inc., 1936, 17-24.
The Fool and the Fish retold by Lenny Hort. Dial Books, 1990. ISBN 0-8037-0861-0
Brief comparison of versions in terms of language, rhythm, “tell-ability” “flavor,” content, etc: The differences between “The Goldfish” and “The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish” that the second version of the story is written in prose with more of a rhythm that the first. The negative thing about its rhythm is that it would be more difficult to tell because it would have to be more memorized. Also, this version uses an old English vocabulary that would be harder for children to comprehend. One major defining difference between these versions is the repetitive phrases used in them. In “The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish” it is the fish that repeats the phrase, “Do not worry, old man! May G-d bless thee!”. The contextual differences between these versions comes down to the demands that the wife makes of her husband and the fish. The wife asks for many more things in the second version before she asks to become the ruler of the sea. This would make telling “The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish” version of the story longer and a bit too exhausting for a preschool aged audience.
Another version, “The Fool and the Fish”, differs even more stylistically and contextually with “The Goldfish”. This version uses more ethnic flavor in its vocabulary and telling than the first version. The characters have Russian names and refer to Russian attire of the time period the story comes from. The Russian style makes it somewhat more obvious what culture it is representing. On the other hand, the language of this version is very modern. The negative thing about the modern language is that it oversimplifies the story and ends up making it seem less authentic despite the references to Russian names and other things. The line repeated in this version of the story is, “Fish, fish, fish! Grant my wish”. Contextually, this version differs in that it is about a young man, his brothers, and their wives instead of an old man and his wife. This version is less tell-able for preschoolers because in its ending the main character is actually rewarded for his lazy, greedy behavior, which does not do much to teach children right from wrong.