Queen of the Fishes

Mary, poor, hungry children – desperate for work – gutting fish on boat – saves life of beautiful-looking fish.
Captain sees her throw it back – fires her.
Mary meets devil, who offers her a cow to feed her children.
Will come in three years to ask her 3 questions.
If she answers them, can keep cow. If not, won’t ask for for anything she can’t give him.

Mary prospers from cow’s milk and cream – even opens a small tea-room.

After three years, devil comes – tea-room empty but for one woman in corner.
Devil: “Well, Mary, ready to answer?”
Woman interrupts: “Tell him you are, Mary.”
Devil: “Can we get on with the questions now?”
Woman: “That’s your second question.”
Devil (really angry now): “And who is this interfering woman?”
Woman: “Tell him I’m the Queen of the Fishes – and that you’ve answered his three questions!”
Devil disappears in fury – and Mary can keep cow.

Those are the barest of bones: clothe them into a story as you wish.

There are various versions told. One online Irish tale, Emerald and Silver, tracked down by good friend and cyber-sleuth Karen Chace, has a male protagonist who is rescued by the King of the Fishes.

As I tell the tale more, I’ll find out exactly how my version shapes up.

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For those who are teachers: Telling stories in the classroom: basing language teaching on storytelling