Stories & Tales
The Fisherman's Emerald

On the banks of a great river, very near a dense forest of tall pines was a small village. The village had small, wooden huts in it where local fishermen and their families lived, and though they were poor, the people of this village were happy.

Every Thursday night the fishermen would build a huge campfire and would stay up until dawn, dancing and singing around it. At the end of the celebration, the oldest of the fishermen would announce the name of the man who had caught the largest and best fish of the week. The winner got money for a prize as well as a whole week’s holiday to do whatever his heart desired.

Tharthar and Sayyar were two brothers who lived in the village and were as different as brothers could be. Tharthar the elder was lazy and often told lies to get himself out of work or out of trouble. He never thought anything of hurting others and liked to cause trouble between his fellow fishermen. Sayyar, the younger brother, however, was honest, hardworking, and always kind to anyone in need.

Whenever the brothers went fishing together, Tharthar would cast his net at the most convenient spot near the shore and then spend the day sleeping under a tree. When it was time to go home he would pull out the net and if there were too many heavy fish in it he would put them back in the water in order to carry a lighter load home. But Sayyar always looked for the best fishing spot no matter how difficult it was to get to, nor how far it was from the riverbank. He never worried about getting tired and only cared about catching the biggest fish possible.

One day the brothers went fishing together. Sayyar was determined to catch the biggest fish in the river so he rowed out a long way in his little boat. Tharthar refused to go with him, instead threw his net into the water near the shore, and fell asleep under a tree as usual. The long day went by and all the fishermen returned home but Sayyar still had not caught a big fish. He decided to stay in his boat and fish through the night. He cast his net, sat quietly contemplating the moon and the stars above, and whenever he pulled the net out and found it full of small fish he threw them straight back and tried once again.

Eventually the young fisherman became very tired and fell asleep in the bottom of his boat. When he finally woke up and checked the net, it felt much heavier than usual. He pulled at it with all his might and heaved it into the boat. Inside the net was a large and very unusual looking creature. It took Sayyar a few moments to realize that it was a fish. Its eyes were two red rubies, its fins were made of shimmering gold, and its scales were covered with precious stones of all colors and sizes. Sayyar rowed hard and fast back to shore, but just as he was about to lift the strange fish out of the net he heard it speak quietly: “O, kind fisherman… why are you taking me out of the river to die?” The fish had the voice of a sad young girl. It continued: “If you are poor, then I promise to make you a rich man. If you let me go I promise to give you a precious jewel once every month, but of you leave me to die you will regret it for the rest of your life.”

Sayyar was too shocked to answer. He sat down and thought for a few moments. Then he picked up the fish and threw it back into the water. Just as he was about to step out of the boat he noticed something shining in the spot where the fish had been. He reached down and touched it. It was a large and beautiful emerald the color of the river at night, a brilliant dark green. Sayyar jumped up for joy, put the jewel in his pants pocket and ran back home.

When he got back to the village, the other fishermen were still sitting around the campfire and he remembered that it was Thursday night. Sayyar sat down a little away from the group and had to make a great effort to contain his happiness. When the others came up to speak to him, he only nodded and smiled.

Then Tharthar, who had already drunk a jug of wine, began to tease his brother. He walked around Sayyar and made fun of his fishing skills because he had not managed to catch anything. Then Sayyar took the emerald from his pocket and began to tell the story of the strange fish.

While everyone was busy listening to Sayyar, his brother sneaked away and out of the village. He was having another one of his wicked ideas and was anxious to carry it out as soon as possible. He would go see the Grand Vizier and tell him what Sayyar had found.

Tharthar reached the Grand Vizier’s palace early the next morning. He greeted the Vizier with an elaborate bow.

“Oh, great leader,” Tharthar said. “I have come on a matter of great importance. My brother, a poor and humble fisherman like myself, came home last night with a huge emerald in his pocket. I’m afraid that he has either stolen this jewel, or there is something very strange going on that you should know about.”

The Vizier ordered some of his soldiers to accompany him and rode into the little fishing village to find Sayyar. He had the young fisherman arrested and took away the emerald.

The next day the Vizier released Sayyar and asked Tharthar to come and see him. He rewarded the wicked brother with a few pieces of gold and said:”I have let Sayyar go because I want you to watch him closely over the next few weeks. He is bound to lead us to the source of the emerald.”

Exactly one month later Tharthar, who had kept close watch over his brother all along, followed Sayyar to the river. He saw Sayyar cast his net ad suddenly a strange but beautiful fish jumped out of the water, threw another emerald into the boat and then disappeared into the river again.

While Sayyar made his way home, Tharthar went to the Vizier’s palace and told him what had happened. The Vizier sent out his soldiers to take the jewel from the younger brother.

Sayyar became very worried for the fish in case the greedy Vizier should try to catch it. He decided to warn the fish and advise it to swim away where it would not be caught.

The following month, Sayyar got into his little boat and rowed out on the river. When the fish jumped up to give him the emerald, he called out: “You must stop coming here. You must leave this place.” Then he told the fish all about his wicked brother and the Vizier. The fish replied: “Don’t worry young man. I have a solution to the problem. This time I shall give you an emerald that is filled with poison. Whoever touches it will develop a terrible skin rash. I will also give you a hazelnut, which is the only cure for the poison. You will have power over both these things and may use them as you wish.”

When Sayyar went back home the Vizier and his men were waiting for him. As soon as the Vizier touched the emerald his skin began to itch, and by the time he got back to the palace every part of his body was covered with nasty red blotches that became very painful. None of the Vizier’s doctors could find a cure for the terrible condition and finally the King came to pay him a visit. The Vizier told him the story and the King called for the two brothers.

After he had heard Sayyar’s of the story of the fish and its generosity as a reward for Sayyar’s kind heart, the King sent Tharthar to prison. He gave Sayyar back his jewels and wished him well. Before leaving, Sayyar asked permission to see the Vizier. When he saw the poor man writhing in pain, unable to lay still Sayyar, gave him the hazelnut, and the Vizier was cured. The King was so impressed with Sayyar’s act of kindness that he asked him to stay and take over as Grand Vizier of the Kingdom and Sayyar lived happily ever after.