During my most recent trip to Liberia, I had several people along my path to write about. Well, the experience is entirely different when I find myself in an English speaking country as opposed to a Russian speaking location. I met a couple of artists whom I would have loved to know better. It didn’t happen. I really wanted to know the story behind a kid I call “Peter the Great”. He was a teenager and had lived at the orphanage most of his life. Perhaps someday I will learn more of his story. But, with limited English encountered on this trip, my translator Olga delighted me as she crossed my path.
One of my painters in Liberia, Yassah, also gave me a cooking lesson. So, the idea was in the back of my head that maybe, possibly, I could invite myself over to Olga’s home for a little home-cooked experience. I thought about it from day one, but I hadn’t worked up the courage to invite myself over. It also took me a few days to ask Yassah. But before I mustered up the courage, Olga asked, “If you’re free on Sunday, my mother would like to invite you to her home for a traditional meal.” I tried to not gush too much all over her as I accepted the invitation. I was so pleased and excited about the thoughtful invitation.
Now, if a home cooked meal wasn’t reason enough to adore Olga, she also shared a local folk tale with me,
...................... "The Fisherman and the Golden Fish".
This tale is about a fisherman along the sea. But, if you look at a map, Moldova is a landlocked nation just slightly separated from the Black Sea. But, it wasn’t always the case. The borders have changed over the years as Goths, Huns, Avars, Magyars, Kievan Rus, Pechenegs, Cumans, Mongols, Bulgarians, Ottomans, Austrians and Russians invaded or claimed parts or all of the region. At various times in Moldovan history, they did have claim to part of the Black Sea coastline.
Other sources claim that this is actually a Russian folktale. That could provide a whole lot more water for the Golden Fish to swim in. A little more research showed that the Russian poet and author Aleksandr Pushkin penned the poem in 1883 called “The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish”. He placed the fisherman on the mythical island of Buyan. Before that time, the Brothers Grimm collected the German tale “The Fisherman and His Wife”. I know the Grimm Brothers came before Pushkin’s poem because they were both dead before 1883.
Now, as I read the story, in the back of my mind I remembered vaguely hearing and possibly even writing the story before. And, sure enough, I gathered it as a tale from Nicaragua five years ago. Who knows how that story ever ended up in Central America? There’s no use reinventing or rewriting the wheel when I did a good job the first time. I’m going to include that version here.
Regardless of the origin of the story, I hope you enjoy the retelling.
2016 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.