The Wise Fish

An instructive allegory for Young and Old

Guest article by Erika Hahn

Introduction by Occult Mysteries

As we discuss in several of our articles, there is no ancient myth or folk-tale which does not contain some historical fact, moral principle or occult teaching concealed under the cloak of allegory. This is true of many (but not all) so-called 'fairy-tales' too. This story sent to us by Erika Hahn is no exception. The author has sensitively crafted her instructive allegory from a short fairy-tale recounted in Winged Pharaoh by Joan Grant, which novel we review on our occult fiction books page. Erika's story contains a number of occult truths in a concealed manner not found in Joan Grant's Egyptian fairy-tale. In our customary afterword we explain what allegory is and its importance in occultism.

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N THE FORGOTTEN corner of an overgrown and neglected garden there was once a very large and beautiful pool. It was edged by carefully laid stones, and fresh water ran into it through the mouth of a little stone frog and out again through a very small, metal grating at the other end. The pool was home to many fishes of all sizes, colours, shapes and temperaments. Some were timid, others aggressive, but many more were rather fat, lazy and self-important.

Among them swam one tiny little golden fish, which, as we shall see, was destined to have a very unusual adventure.

The timid fishes spent most of their time hiding amidst the reeds to escape the attention of the aggressive fishes which were in constant competition with them for food and shelter. Not there was much food to be had, for the big fat fishes gobbled up all the juiciest worms and had long since appropriated the nicest corners of the pool where they idled their time away snapping at flies and enjoying the shade of the lily leaves. Which left the poor little golden fish with very little to eat and nowhere to escape the hot sun that beat down upon his scales all day long. As he didn't want to spend his time lazing around like the other fishes and was not afraid of the ferocious ones, he had to do a lot of serious thinking to keep himself from being sad. So he explored every nook and cranny of the pool, until he knew exactly how many rocks and pebbles there were, the names of all the reeds and weeds, and which lily was going to open next.

The fat fishes got greedier and fatter, and the little golden fish got thinner and lonelier, until one day, when he was swimming past the grating, he knew that he was thin enough to squeeze between the bars. It was quite a struggle getting through the grating and he lost quite a few scales in the process, but at last he was free. He swam down a long canal until he reached a meandering stream. Then he swam until he got to a great river, and he kept right on swimming (with short rests, of course) until he came to the sea. There he discovered lots of things that were very beautiful (and very frightening), and many other things that were quite beyond his comprehension.


Once he saw a fish so big that it could have drunk the whole of the little golden fish's pool for breakfast and still remained thirsty. The great fish was swimming along with his mouth open, collecting his breakfast, just like a fisherman drawing in his net, and the poor little golden fish went right down his throat into the awful churning darkness of the great fish's belly. That might have been the end of him, but being a very aspiring fish, as well as brave and determined, he prayed very hard to the god of the fishes; and the god heard him in spite of his being in such a very dark place. And the god made the big fish have hiccoughs; and he hiccoughed the little golden fish back into the sea again.

So he swam on, further and further across the great sea until he was confronted by a great reef of jagged rocks which stretched out in all directions. After swimming to and fro along the reef for a very long time looking for a way through he found the entrance to a cave. As he peeped inside he glimpsed a pale, golden light shining in the far distance. As you may imagine it took him even longer to pluck up the courage to enter that dark and mysterious tunnel. Eventually with many earnest prayers to the god of the fishes and with his trembling heart in his mouth, he plunged in. I cannot begin to tell you about all the nasty, furtive creatures he encountered along the way, some of whom were much bigger than him and armed with sharp claws and slimy tentacles which stretched out to make a tasty meal of him as he hurried by.

As he swam further along the tunnel the light grew steadily brighter until, exhausted, bruised and chastened, the little golden fish emerged on the other side of the reef. Not long afterwards, he came to a beautiful coral palace in the clear, green, depths of the sea. Never in all his life had he seen anything so lovely. All around him bloomed the most amazing coral flowers in all the colours of the rainbow and many more he couldn't name and had never seen before. To his everlasting delight (and relief!) he was immediately surrounded by a glittering shoal of lovely little fishes with shimmering blue and silver spots who brought him the most succulent fat oysters on mother-of-pearl plates.

He enjoyed it all so much he might have stayed there forever; but he wanted to return to his own home pool and tell the big fat fishes all the wonderful things they were missing by being too lazy and too big to swim through the grating. So with many sad farewells, he left the beautiful coral palace in the sea, passed through the dangerous reef and swam back up the river. On the way he had many more adventures, both beautiful and frightening, but there simply isn't time to tell you all about them. And so he swam up the long river and along the meandering stream; and on up the canal, until he came back to the grating, but now he was so thin from all his adventures, that he slipped through it without losing a single, golden scale.


You might have thought that everyone would be really surprised to see the little golden fish again after his long absence, but none of the big fat fish even noticed he had been away whilst the lazy and aggressive fishes were far too busy on their various self-important errands to care. Only the timid fishes expressed a mild interest in the golden fish's visit to the beautiful coral palace, but when he told them about the difficulties and dangers of getting there, their eyes grew as big as saucers with fright and they scuttled back to the safety of the reeds as quick as their fins could propel them.

Undaunted by his indifferent reception, the little golden fish swam right up to the ugly nose of the fattest and greediest fish in the whole pool, and said: "Stop stuffing your face and blowing bubbles and listen to me you fat and foolish fish! I have come to tell you about all the amazing things that happened to me on the other side of the grating; and I shall teach you to grow thin, too, so that you can make the same journey and become as wise as I am."

The fat fish, which was truly enormous, swam lazily toward the grating, and when he saw that the bars were so close together that not even his smallest fin could slip between them, he blew a great stream of angry bubbles and turned scornfully on the little golden fish, saying: "You silly little minnow! How dare you disturb my lunch with your foolish fancies? I am much older and wiser than you, for I am the king of all the fish in this pool! How could you have got through the grating when I can't even put my smallest fin through it? Be off with you before I add you to my menu!"

With a derisory flick of his enormous tail, the big, fat greedy fish swam back to the shadows under the lily leaves to finish his lunch. The little golden fish was very sad that nobody would listen to him; so he slipped quietly away through the grating and swam back out towards the sea.


Quite soon afterwards there was a drought, and the canal ran dry; and no more water gushed into pool from the mouth of the stone frog. The water level in the pool got lower and lower, and the big, fat fishes, the timid fishes and even the aggressive fishes got more and more frightened, until the day came when they all lay gasping in the mud at the bottom of the pool. And then they died. The pool has long since been filled in and all memory of it has vanished from the world of men and fish.

But the little golden fish is still living very, very happily, far, far away in the beautiful coral palace under the sea.


NOTE: If you have enjoyed this story you may also like the other stories the author has written for us, a full list of which can be found in the Further reading suggestions in the sidebar, listed in order of publication, oldest first.


Story © Erika Hahn. Introduction and Afterword © Copyright All worldwide rights reserved. Published 3 February 2018. Updated 11 February 2024.

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