Once upon a time, there lived a king with his two sons. While the younger son was tall and handsome, the elder son was short and ugly, with his eye on his forehead. The king wanted his younger son to be his heir, for he regarded his elder son as a dwarf who lacked the skills to rule the country.

Desirous of inheriting the kingdom, the king’s elder son shared his wish with his cunning wife. True to his expectations, she came up with a plan almost instantly. She arranged for a banquet and invited her brother-in-law as well. After enjoying the scrumptious meal, the two brothers sat on the balcony overlooking the river.

The elder brother’s wife stealthily poured a magical potion on the king’s younger son, turning him into a tiny fish. The elder son immediately grabbed the fish and flung it into the river. Going down the river, the younger son was too flustered to make sense of what was going on. However, it soon dawned on him that his brother and sister-in-law had morphed him into a fish. Feeling helpless, he swam far away until he was out of his father’s kingdom.

One day, he was caught by a fisherman, who took him to the palace. As he looked too small, a maid in the kitchen placed him in a bowl. She took the fish to the queen, who always looked forlorn and unhappy. The little fish amused the queen and she grew fond of him like her son. She named him Athon-Rajah, or the Fish Prince. When the fish grew bigger in size, she even built a tank for him.

One day, the queen asked the Fish Prince if he felt comfortable living inside the tank. To this, he replied that he felt very lonely in there. The queen decided to get him married. There was a problem, though: no one would agree to marry their daughter to a fish.

The Fish Prince’s monster-like appearance did him no favors either, scaring away any potential brides. Even when the queen announced a bag of gold in reward, no one came forward to give their daughter in marriage.

Finally, a beggar agreed to marry his daughter Maya to the Fish Prince. Tormented by her step-mother, Maya thought she would be better off with the Fish Prince than at home.

Before leaving for the palace, Maya went to the river bank to meet her friend, a seven-headed cobra. The cobra advised her to pick three pebbles from the riverside and carry them with her. The cobra instructed her to hit the Fish Prince with one pebble at a time to relieve him from the spell.

When she reached the palace, the queen took her to the little room built inside the tank. After a while, the monster fish swam out with his mouth wide open. Trembling with fear, Maya opened the door of the room and hit the fish with the first pebble.

When the first pebble hit the Fish Prince, it went straight down his throat and made him sink. However, he managed to come up. The second pebble hit him on his head and down he went once again. This time, he charged at her angrily. Thinking that she had spurned two chances, Maya tossed the last pebble at her husband. Luckily, it hit him on the tip of his fin.

This time, however, the fish did not sink. It turned into a handsome prince instead. He took her in his arms and thanked her for helping him break free of the spell. The former Fish Prince then took her to the palace and they lived happily ever after.

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Kalai Selvi, Folk Tale writer at Ameya
Kalai

Kalai is passionate about reading and reinterpreting folk tales from all over the country. Write to her at kalai.muse@gmail.com to know more about her.

Folk tale adopted and abridged from The Project Gutenberg.