Fairy Tales for Kids: The Fisherman and His Wife

The Fisherman and his Wife: An engaging retelling by the team at The Learner's Nook.

The Fisherman and his Wife is a fairy tale that was collected by the Brothers Grimm. It is a German fairy tale that teaches us about being happy with what we have and not getting too greedy.

If you are interested in reading an English version more faithful to the original, here is a great version from the University of Pittsburgh. 

Our version of this story has been edited so that it is easier for people who are learning English. We try to keep most vocabulary fairly simple, with any difficult words hyperlinked to a dictionary for your convenience. 

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This is our first story on the Learner’s Nook that uses the simple past tense. If you or your child are not yet ready for this kind of story, you might want to check out one of our other fairy tales by clicking here or on the image below.

Explore More Fairy Tales (click here)

The Fisherman and His Wife

a small home on the beach

Once upon a time, there was a poor couple.
They lived in a small home by the ocean.
The man went to the water every day to fish.

a man fishing

One day, there were no fish at all.
He sat for hours and hours.
Until he finally felt a bite.

The talking fish at the end of the dock.

He pulled and pulled and pulled.
Finally, a giant fish flopped on to the dock.

The talking fish says, "Let me swim, please!"

But, this was a magic fish.
The fish turned to the fisherman and said,
“Let me go, fisherman. I am a magic fish. Let me swim, please.”

The fish disappears back into the water.

The fisherman was kind and did not want to eat a fish that could talk.
So he released the fish back into the water.
Then, the man went home.

The wife wants money from the fish.

At home, the man told his wife about the magic fish.
She asked, “You are dumb, husband. Did you ask him for anything?”
“No, I didn’t,” the man said.
“Go back and ask for lots of money,” demanded his wife.

The fish says, "It is done!"

So, the man returned to the ocean and called for the fish.
The fish returned and asked, “What do you want, fisherman?”
The fisherman responded, “My wife wants lots of money.”
The fish nodded and said, “It is done.”

The wife is happy with her bars of gold.

The fisherman returned home.
Inside his home, he found his wife with lots and lots of gold.
That night, the man and his wife went to bed happy.

The wife wants a palace from the fish.

The next day, the man’s wife was angry.
“You are dumb, husband,” she said. “Why didn’t you ask the fish for a nice house as well?”
“I am happy with our home,” said the man.
“I am not,” she replied. “Go ask the fish for a palace.”

The fish says, "It is done!"

So, the man returned to the ocean and called for the fish.
The fish returned and asked, “What do you want, fisherman?”
The fisherman responded, “My wife wants to live in a palace.”
The fish nodded and said, “It is done.”

A palace appears on the beach where their small house used to be.

The fisherman returned home and found a palace.
That night, the man and his wife went to bed happy.

The wife wants to be a queen.

The next day, the man’s wife was angry.
“You are dumb, husband,” she said. “Why didn’t you ask the fish to be King?”
“I am happy being a fisherman,” said the man.
“I am not,” she replied. “Go ask the fish to make us a King and Queen.”

The fish says, "It is done!"

So, the man returned to the ocean and called for the fish.
The fish returned and asked, “What do you want, fisherman?”
The fisherman responded, “My wife wants us to be a King and Queen.”
The fish nodded and said, “It is done.”

The palace now has guards and a flag.

The fisherman returned home and found that his palace now had many servants.
That night, the man and his wife went to bed happy.

The wife wants to be a god.

The next day, the man’s wife was angry.
“You are dumb, husband,” she said. “Why didn’t you ask the fish to be a God?”
“I was happy being a fisherman,” said the man.
“I was not,” she replied. “Go ask the fish to make me a God.”

The fish says, "It is done!"

So, the man returned to the ocean and called for the fish.
The fish returned and asked, “What do you want, fisherman?”
The fisherman responded, “My wife wants to be a God, but I just want to be happy.”
The fish nodded and said, “It is done.”

The wife is happy out on the beach beside her small home.

The fisherman returned home and found his old house.
There were no servants.
His wife was happy and smiling.

Fishing gear sitting above a sea with plenty of fish.

Every day that he went out fishing, he caught lots and lots of fish.
They both lived happily ever after.

List of Important Vocabulary

A Couple – husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend

Went – the past tense of to go

To Fish – a verb meaning to try to catch fish

Until – up to (a certain time)

Pulled – the past tense of to pull

Dock – A, usually, wood structure that connects the land with the sea

Could – the past tense of can

Told – the past tense of to tell

Was/Were – the past tense of to be

Did – the past tense of to do

To Want – a verb meaning to desire something

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Things to Study with this Fairy Tale

Simple Past Tense Verbs

One of the reasons we wrote this story was so that people could practice recognizing past tense verbs. Half the battle of learning the past tense is becoming familiar with the conjugations. Sometimes it can be obvious, and other times it is not, so it requires a lot of practice.

If you want to learn more about the simple past tense, you can take a look at our simple past tense grammar page. Or, if you just want to focus on the conjugations, we have a past tense conjugations page to help you with that as well.

What do/does he/she/you want?

For young children, teaching sentence patterns is just as important as focusing on vocabulary or grammar. One way we do this is by teaching them sentences that will help them in their everyday lives. Teaching someone “What do you want?” can go a long way in helping them use English more often.

Activities for Kids

What Would You Wish For?

In this fairy tale, the magic fish grants the fisherman’s many wishes. What would you wish for if you found a magic fish? You can ask these questions, or you can turn it into an art project and practice writing skills as well.

Practice these sentences with this activity:

What would you wish for?
I would wish for …

Or, if would is too difficult for your child, then use a want sentence. 

What do you want?
I want…

Art Project: The Magic Fish

No one really knows what a magic fish could look like. We did our best in our illustrations, but it’s possible that we are wrong. Have your child draw, color, and decorate their own magic fish.

You can use this exercise to practice basic adjectives like big, small, colors, pretty, ugly, etc.

YouTube Versions of the Story

Not all people learn well when it comes to reading. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t practice reading, but it does mean that it may be beneficial to switch things up with a video of the Fisherman and his Wife. 

Below are two English versions of this story and two versions that come in different languages (Hindi and Mandarin). 

Hindi 

Mandarin 

Learn More with The Learners Nook

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