Once upon a time there lived a poor ﬁsherman called Li. Every day he went down to the shore. There he stood on the rocks and threw the nets into the icy waters and waited. When he pulled the nets in, he would take any ﬁsh back to the market and sell them.
One day he caught a huge ﬁsh. It had silver scales that glittered red and gold. It was so beautiful that Li stood amazed, staring at the ﬁsh as it thrashed about in the net. Li suddenly felt guilty. It was so beautiful, and surely it must have a family . . .
So he scooped the ﬁsh up and set it free. Li stood watching as the ﬁsh swam out to sea. Then to his amazement, it turned and spoke to him.
‘Li, you have saved the King of the Fishes. I grant you one wish. Come back here when the moon is high in the sky and tell me what you would like.’ With that, the King of the Fishes was gone.
Immediately, Li hurried home, wondering what on earth he should wish for. There were so many things that his family needed.
First he asked his old father. ‘Father, if you had one wish, what would it be?’ There was a silence and then his father said, ‘Why son, I would wish for new eyes, for I am blind and will never see again.’
Next he asked his old mother. ‘Mother, if you had one wish, what would it be?’ There was a silence and then his mother said, ‘Why son, I would wish for money, for the roof needs mending and the winter winds whip through the house and make my bones shiver so.’ Finally he asked his wife. ‘Wife, if you had one wish, what would it be?’ There was a silence and then his wife said, ‘Why Li, I would wish for a baby, for who will care for us when we are old? Yes, nothing would be more precious than a child.’
Poor Li could not make up his mind – they needed the money certainly, but then his father was blind and that was a terrible thing. He also knew that a child would bring such joy to them all.
All evening Li paced up and down trying to decide what the wish should be.
Suddenly, he stopped pacing and grinned. Yes, he had it! He rushed out of the house, through the forest and down to the sea. The moon was high in the sky and so it was the time to talk to the King of the Fishes. Li ran down onto the rocks and stood there with the foam crashing about him. He could see the moon’s reﬂection on the waves, and then there was the King of the Fishes.
‘What do you wish for, Li?’ called the King in his high, silvery voice.
‘I wish for my father to see our son in a cradle made of gold,’ shouted Li. There was a silence and the great ﬁsh disappeared. The waves stilled and Li could see the stars like silvery freckles in the dark night sky. Then out of the darkness he heard a noise, drifting down through the forest. It was a baby crying . . .