'The Girl, the Fish & the Crown'

Story Time

June 30, 1999|By Marilee Heyer

Editor's note: After a young girl disobeys the words of a magic fish, she is turned into a fish herself and sent to live in the sea. The queen of the fishes reveals the only way she will be turned back into a girl -- by retrieving the queen's crown from an evil giant.

"I will give you the power to change yourself into any creature whose skills may help you best. You have only to strike your forehead and call out its name."

The journey to land seemed much shorter than had the one to the palace. When the little fish reached the shore, she struck her forehead sharply with her tail and cried, "Deer, come to me!"

The deer, quite out of breath, reached the foot of the mountain which the queen had told her about, and her heart sank as she gazed at the smooth, glasslike surface that stretched up toward the sky. And high on top, barely visible, was perched the giant's castle. But then she plucked up her courage and cried, "Ant, come to me!"

On and on she went, that determined little creature! The mountain appeared as large as the universe itself in comparison with her own body, yet at last she reached the top and was over the wall of the castle and into the courtyard on the other side. Here she paused to consider what to do next.

"Monkey, come to me!" cried the ant. And up went an agile monkey, higher and higher. In no time at all she was swinging herself from the topmost branch into the room where the giant lay snoring.

She thought for a moment and then called softly, "Parrot, come to me!"

Then a pink and gray parrot hopped up to the giant, who by this time was stretching himself and giving yawns that shook the castle. The parrot waited a little, until the giant was really awake, and then she said quietly that she had been sent to retrieve the crown, which was his no longer.

On hearing these words the giant leaped out of bed with an angry roar and sprang at the parrot, ready to wring her neck with his great hands.

But the bird was too quick for him, and, flying behind his back, said, "I beg you to have patience! My death would be of no use to you."

"I am not so foolish as to give you that crown for nothing."

"You shall have the crown if you will bring me a necklace of blue stones from the Arch of Saint Martin, in the Great City."

So the parrot bowed to the giant and flew out the window, where he could not see her. Then she called quickly, "Eagle, come to me!"

She swept along over land and sea until she beheld the Arch of Saint Martin sparkling in the sun far below. Then she swooped down and began to dig out the nearest blue stones with her beak. When the necklace was finished, she hung it around her neck and soared upward into the sky and back to the giant's castle. The she called again, "Parrot, come to me!" and flew inside the stand before the giant.

"Here is the necklace you asked for," said the parrot.

He knew he was beaten.

"Your power is greater than mine. Take your queen's crown -- you have won it fairly!"

Gliding through the water came the little fish, holding the crown tightly in her mouth, and the others moved back to let her pass. On she went right up to the queen, who bent and, taking the crown, placed it on her head. Then a wonderful thing happened. The queen's tail dropped away -- or, rather, it divided and grew into two legs and a pair of the prettiest feet in the world, while her ladies, who were grouped around her, shed their scales and became human again. They all turned and looked first at one another, and next at the little fish, who had regained her human shape and was now a young woman, more beautiful than all the rest.

"It is you who has given us back our life -- you, you!" they cried, and fell to weeping with joy.

From THE GIRL, THE FISH AND THE CROWN, by Marilee Heyer. Copyright ( c )1995. Reprinted by arrangement with Viking Children's Books, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc.

Pub Date: 06/30/99

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