The Fisherman and the Genie
Over 1,000 years ago, somebody - we don’t know who - collected folk tales from Persia, India, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt and even Greece. The book was called “One Thousand and One Nights”, or “The Arabian Nights” and was first printed in English over 300 years ago. It’s where we get the stories of Aladdin, Sinbad, and Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves.
Every morning, before the sun came up, a fisherman went out to sea. Every morning, he threw out his nets, hoping for a good catch. And almost every morning, he was disappointed. Fishing was hard, life was tough and he was sad.
One spring morning - which he thought was just like every other spring morning - he glumly threw his nets into the sea. As he pulled them in, he felt a tug, and his heart leapt with excitement. "I've caught something!" he laughed.
He pulled in the net - heave ho, heave, ho, heave ho.
But when it came out of the water, his heart sank. What had he caught? A dead camel. And it had ripped a hole in his best net. The fisherman was gloomier than ever. Why had he ever dared to hope?
But he had to carry on. With a heavy sigh, the fisherman flung his second best net into the sea.
But again, he felt a tug! And again, his heart soared, because deep down, he hoped that that good things come if you are patient.
He pulled in the net - heave ho, heave, ho, heave ho. But when he pulled the net into his boat, it was just a basket of rubbish. He looked at the heavens and shook his fist. "How can a poor man feed his family?" he cried.
Gloomier than ever, he cast his net for the third time that morning. Before long, it tugged again. Heave ho, heave, ho, heave ho. And this time?
Yes, yes, did he dare to hope? There was definitely something there - what had he got? This time, instead of a fish, he found a rusty copper vase. And it was very heavy. “It’s probably just full of mud," he muttered, his gloomy mood squashing all the hope he ever had. But still, he took a closer look.
The jar had a cap and on the cap, to keep it tight shut, was the wax seal of Wise King Solomon.
“HOORAY!” yelled the fisherman. “If wise King Solomon has something to do with this heavy jar, I can sell it for money!” Then he had another thought. What could be inside? "Perhaps it’s coins,” he thought and shook it. But it didn’t make a sound.
His imagination caught fire. What could it be? [What do YOU think might be in there?]
A secret treasure map? A promise of gold from a wealthy sultan? A tapestry? Diamonds and sapphires?
He knelt on the sand and studied the vase, and after a while, hope rising hot in his heart, he took out his fishing knife and cut open the seal of Wise King Solomon.
The fisherman stuck his finger in the jar. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing at all. He turned it upside down. It was empty! “Typical!” he whinged. “Just my luck. What a fool I was, for getting my hopes up.”
But just as he spoke, a thick cloud of smoke billowed out of the vase and swirled high, high into the air. It twisted and swirled, it wandered and whooshed. And before very long, its smoky mist stretched far over the sand and the sea, as far as the fisherman’s eye could see.
It twisted and twirled until it took the shape of a genie: a fiery-looking spirit with a very grumpy face. The fisherman stared in wonder and his knees trembled with fear.
The genie spoke to the fisherman, some very surprising words: “Oh, powerful, wonderful King of the genii!" he said, making the fisherman’s eyes almost pop out his head with surprise. “Please forgive me, Great King. I shall never disobey you again!"
This made the fisherman felt a little bit braver. Him? A King of the genii? And so he asked, “Good morning, to you, Genie. Why are you shut inside this vase?”
“Hang on a mo,” said the genie. “You’re not the Genie King! And so, I have to kill you.”
“Eh?!" said the fisherman. “That’s a bit sudden, isn’t it? You just said you’d never disobey me a second ago, and now you’re going to kill me? That’s no way to treat the man who set you free! Shouldn’t you give me a reward?”
“Harrumph. Alright. I will grant you one thing," replied the genie. “You can choose how you will die.”
“But why are you going to kill me?" asked the fisherman. It really wasn’t his day.
“If you listen, you’ll understand," said the genie. “Long, long ago I did everything the genii king told me not to do.” said the genie. “I was rude, I was mean, I was selfish, I was thoughtless. I didn’t share, I didn’t help and I never, ever made my bed.”
“You never made your bed?!” gasped the fisherman in disbelief. “It only takes 30 seconds!” The genie blushed and then frowned really hard. “I KNOW!” he boomed and then carried on. “To punish me,” he said, “the King shut me in this jar and sealed it tight shut and flung it into the sea!”
“Oh, dear,” said the fisherman.
The genie continued. “For the first 100 years I was stuck in the jar, I said I’d reward whoever freed me with many, many riches.”
“That sounds great,” said the fisherman.
The genie continued. “But no one rescued me.”
“Oh,” said the fisherman.
“During the next 100 years, I vowed that I’d give them all the treasures in the world!”
“Very generous,” said the fisherman.
“BUT!” said the genie, “No-one let me out.”
“Oh,” said the fisherman.
“For the third hundred years,” said the genie, “I swore I’d make them king or queen of all the world, stay with them at all times and grant them 3 wishes every day.”
“Wow,” said the fisherman. Maybe the killing-him thing was just a joke and he was going to have a genie and lots of wishes…
“BUT!” boomed the genie.“No-one came.”
“Ah.” said the fisherman.
“My anger grew so great,” continued the genie, “I vowed that whoever set me free would be punished with death, and their only wish would be to choose how they would die. And so,” ended the genie, “you must choose.”
The fisherman thought of his family. He thought of his little girls’ and boys’ smiling faces and their happy laughter. He thought of their mischief and he thought of their kindness. He was full of love for his children and their mother, a very wise woman who was always very good at dealing with her family whenever any of them got particularly grumpy or had a tantrum - himself included.
He thought how miserable he had been that morning and how he had felt so sorry for himself when in fact he had a wonderful life filled with love. He thought.
Then he burst out laughing, clutching his belly and pointing at the genie as though he had heard the best joke ever. “Oh, haha, very good, very very good. I get it. You win!” he said with a big, relaxed smile. The genie looked confused.
“What do you mean?” asked the genie.
“Who put you up to this? Was it Ali, or Sinbad, or Zena? You’re very good, I almost believed you! You had me completely fooled!” the fisherman smiled and shook his head in what looked like admiration.
“Who put me up to this? No-one put me up to this! I’m not a piece of street-magic! I’m not a circus side-show! I’m a real, evil genie and I am going to kill you!”
The fisherman just folded his arms and smiled, just shaking his head and laughing. “You almost had me fooled, you know! But magic? MAGIC? MAGIC?!! Hahaha. So how did you make the smoke, and where were you hiding before I opened the jar? Under my boat, was that it? Eh? Eh?”
The genie’s face went redder and redder and redder. He started to look a like he might burst into tears. “I’M A GENIE!” he bellowed, trying his very best to look scary and wicked and deadly.
“LOOK - I’ll prove it!”
And with a swirl of mist, and a lot of smoke, the Genie started to fade and swirl and shrink and curl until POOF! he had sucked himself back down into the tiny thin neck of the copper bottle.
“Now do you believe me?!” said a tiny voice from deep inside the copper jar.
The fisherman grabbed the bottle stopper and popped it back on as tight as he could. “Oh, yes,” he whispered, “Now I believe you!” and he hurled the vase deep into the sea, and watched it sink deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper into the dark, blue ocean.
• How did the fisherman feel about himself & his life before he caught the jar?
• What happened to the genie’s feelings as he spent longer in the bottle?
• Why did the genie choose to be angry? What other feelings could he have chosen?
• Was he being fair on the fisherman, to throw his anger at him? What could the genie have done?
• How did the fisherman make himself safe?
• What stopped the genie thinking clearly and made him fall into the fisherman’s trap?
• Do you think the fisherman should have thrown the bottle back in the water?
• How could we stop the genie being so angry and destructive so he didn’t have to go back in the bottle?