The Talking Mirror Fish

 

Once upon a time there lived a beautiful princess named Stephanie. She lived in a magic castle that was enchanted, and the minute she left the castle she would become a frog. She liked to hop around her realm and search for things of value.

One day, as she was hopping by a pond, she met a fish.

"Hello fish," she said merrily.

"Good day to you, Frog," replied the fish.

Stephanie looked down at the fish and saw shimmering reds, blues, golds, and greens all at once! The fish was truly beautiful. She gasped a froggy little gasp. "You're beautiful!" she said to the fish raptly.

"Why thank you," said the fish. "So are you."

Now she laughed a froggy little laugh. "Nonsense," she replied modestly. "I am just a frog."

The fish looked wisely back at her. "How old are you, frog?"

A bit taken aback, Stephanie thought. "I am in my nineteenth year," she replied finally.

"A good year for a frog," said the fish. "Now, how old do you think I am?" And the fish swam up closer to the edge.

Stephanie gazed at the fish, and her eyes were nearly blinded by the shimmering colors. He was so beautiful. But then she looked at the fish's eyes, and saw they were so deep she almost felt lost. The fish seemed older than time, and yet youthful and vibrant.

"I-- I don't know," she said at last. "You're either very young or very old, but I can't decide which."

"Well spoken," said the fish. He flicked his tail smartly. "You see my many colors? You think I am beautiful? If that is what you think, then you must be the most beautiful frog I've ever met."

Stephanie sat with a puzzled look on her froggy face.

The fish continued. "Have you never heard of the Talking Mirror Fish?"

Stephanie replied that she hadn't.

"I am that fish. To myself I look very much like a normal fish, but everyone else that looks at me sees themselves as they are on the inside. If you thought I was a shriveled old catfish, then you must have a shriveled heart that scavenges off the remains of others. But you evidently see me as a very beautiful fish, and that must mean that you yourself are very beautiful inside."

Stephanie was amazed. Surely that amazing beauty could not be her own!

But the fish was not finished. He smiled. "Yes, my dear frog, you see yourself as you are on the inside. And you can trust me, everyone else sees your beauty too, even though you may be a frog."

The princess wanted to tell the fish that she wasn't really a frog, but it was a bit too late for that. She wished there were some way to stop being a frog.

"Will my outside ever catch up with my inside?" she asked the fish.

"Ah, you have asked a dangerous question," the fish said. "Common, but dangerous."

The Talking Mirror Fish eyed her carefully. "I have the power to make your outside match your inside, and for you, it would make you exceedingly beautiful. You would be the most beautiful girl in the land, and people all across the land would hear of your incomparable beauty. From all over the world would come men seeking your hand in marriage and giving you gifts. With your smile you could inspire millions, and with your displeasure cause them to despair. If you would like this, you have but to say the word and I shall do it. But think hard on it." The fish eyed her. "Once it is done, it cannot be undone."

The princess pondered this very carefully. She could not help staring at the fish, amazed that his beauty was really her own. Then she looked down at her own slimy green frog body and nearly made up her mind right then. But then she remembered the seriousness of the decision, and thought a little longer.

Eventually she turned to the fish. "Talking Mirror Fish," she began. "I have no desire to be so beautiful on the outside as to ever cause anyone to despair, nor do I wish to be wanted so much that I cannot be content with the beauty that is already mine. I have only one request to make of you, and if you cannot do it, I shall be on my way."

The fish seemed pleased, but merely looked at her expectantly.

She went on. "If you please, I am under an enchantment right now, so neither the frog you see nor the fish I see are what I really look like on the outside. If there is any way you could make me look exactly as I normally look when I am inside my castle, I would ask that of you. Do not remove any of my blemishes, nor smooth any wrinkles, for they are part of who I am too. Merely return me to the body that is mine."

The fish seemed deep in thought. He swam a few little circles in the pond. At last he turned back to her. "You are truly as beautiful as you think I am," he said. "Your choice to remain as you are reflects wisdom, and wisdom is one of the three most beautiful things there is. Your decision to ask of me this question reflects hope, and hope is another of the most beautiful things there is."

"What is the third thing?" asked Stephanie.

The fish's eyes sparkled. "Jump in the pond," he said, flicking his tail again.

She jumped in with a big splash.

She shook her head, amazed that there was such a big splash. Her head! She had a head! She looked at herself, and realized she was standing on the muddy bottom of the pond, her own human body restored, the enchantment broken! She let out a joyous yell, and splashed her hands in the water.

The fish swam up beside her. "Faith," he said. "The third of the most beautiful things."

She wanted to hug the fish, but she could not so she merely thanked him many times.

"Thank you for restoring my faith in humankind," replied the fish seriously. "I myself am more beautiful for knowing you." And he flicked his tail once more, and vanished.

Stephanie was delighted. She ran home and determined not to let the fish down, and so she made a practice of gaining wisdom, cherishing hope, and demonstrating faith.

It wasn't long before men from all over the land heard of this wise and charming girl who seemed somehow to inspire all those around her to greater things. From all over the world they came, and all of them agreed. She was the most beautiful girl in the land.The Compendium

© 1998-2021 Zach Bardon
Last modified 7.19.2019
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