The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish (Сказка о рыбаке и рыбке, 1950) by Mihail Tsehanovskiy

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The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish
The Fisherman and the Goldfish
Сказка о рыбаке и рыбке
Skazka o rybakye i rybkye (ru)
Приказката за рибаря и рибата (bg)
Pohádka o rybáři a rybce (cs)
La fabelo pri fiŝo kaj pri fiŝisto (eo)
Muinasjutt kalamehest ja kalakesest (et)
Le Conte du Pêcheur et du Petit Poisson (fr)
Bajka o ribaru i ribici (hr)
Rozprávka o rybárovi a rybke (sk)
Bajka o ribaru i ribici (sr)
Truyện ngư ông và cá vàng (vi)

Year 1950
Director(s) Tsehanovskiy Mihail
Studio(s) Soyuzmultfilm
Language(s) Russian
Genre(s) Folklore & myth (Rus./East Slavic)
Literature (Rus./East Slavic)
Animation Type(s)  Drawn (cel)
Length 00:31:54
Wordiness 9.87 profile Ru, En
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A fisherman catches a talking goldfish from the sea. Based on the verse-poem by A. S. Pushkin.

One of the most beloved animated films of its era.

The videos above are at 25 frames per second rather than the original 24.




This tale was quite famous in the minds of Vietnamese generations who have grown up since the 1970s, which is the time when Soviet culture flooded Vietnam through the book and newspaper aid policy. It has led directly to a familiar saying : "Return to the old tub" (trở về với cái máng cũ). This saying is satirical about someone who, after great success, begins to encounter bitter failures. An example : "When the Italian team returned to the old tub".

However, there is a slight translation problem : In the habits of Vietnamese farmers, the tub is a tool to store food for pigs ("máng lợn" ; what the Britishs understand is hog trough or pig feeder). Therefore, Vietnamese translators in the 1970s instilled that awareness into the translation itself, and the result was that the crowd completely misunderstanded.

Replies: >>2


>However, there is a slight translation problem : In the habits of Vietnamese farmers, the tub is a tool to store food for pigs ("máng lợn" ; what the Britishs understand is hog trough or pig feeder). Therefore, Vietnamese translators in the 1970s instilled that awareness into the translation itself, and the result was that the crowd completely misunderstanded.

So they didn't use a tool such as this for washing clothes? Were clothes washed directly in a river/lake instead?
I wonder, how did you solve this in your translation?

...actually, if you look at the Russian Wikipedia article, a корыто could be used for either washing clothes or feeding livestock, or for gathering produce, or for salting food, for bathing young children, for cooling beer, or kneading bread... although it would sometimes be called different names depending on what it was used for (which would be useful if you owned more than one, to avoid mixing them up!).

Replies: >>3



Yep, I have watched this film since I was a child. A short paragraph describing the scene of the old man catching a goldfish and going home to meet his wife was included in the 6th grade textbook in Vietnam, from the time I was studying until now. Of course, although in class the teacher said it was a pig feeder (máng lợn), when I got home to watch a cartoon, I saw the old woman washing the shirts and splashing water on her husband's face. :D Therefore, I later translated it as wash-tub (máng giặt). It is true that bathing in a tub was a habit brought to Vietnam by the French. Even swimming pools, Vietnamese people have no concept of it.

The climate in Northern Vietnam only has two or three cold months a year, but in the past, because there were many rivers and lakes, the rainfall was extremely high. Thus, you could'nt feel the lack of water to drink or bathe or wash. Poor people have a habit of building houses near rivers to have water for daily use, but if they don't have it, they will dig ponds. This lifestyle easily reminds you of the movie "The 13th Warrior", when 10 Vikings shared a basin of water. But of course it's just a film, because in reality, pond water in the past was not as dirty as it is today, because industrial activities had not yet appeared 1 2. Rich people or intellectuals often bathe in very large wooden basins or wash their faces in the morning with a small copper basin. However, I still find that hygiene awareness at that time was still too simple compared to now, just because the climate and environment were cleaner. Back to our story :

The reason why the 1970-80s translators could not believe that the tub was simply a washing tool, because Vietnam is one of the oldest pig-raising areas in the world (I know that Vietnamese piglets are also raised by Americans as pets). It's me, when I was a kid, my dad still called me as "Cường the Piglet" (realname + nickname), which means I'm a blockhead (like Ivanushka). In the past, whether in cities or countrysides, with abundant water sources, every family dug a well for convenience 3 4. Legend has it that if the well runs out of water, the homeowner will be considered unlucky. So in my opinion, having a house near the river is better. :D It must be added that drawing water from wells and carrying water are both very difficult, so it used to be a lucrative job for impoverished people (orphans, persons with slow physiological development, women with many children). But in return, they are susceptible to shoulder and calf deformities (like Quasimodo). Bathing, washing and drinking water are like that, so how do Vietnamese people go to the toilet ?

Because Vietnam is a country that values agriculture, livestock and human feces are also things that need to be protected. For now I won't discuss collecting animal feces, because that's too simple and is often left to children. In the past, Vietnamese people still called toilet as "cầu tiêu" (bridge for waste). Actually, in the corner of the garden, we will dig a deep hole, then put a board on it, that place will be temporarily called as "nhà ủ phân" (house for compost). According to what I learned from a young age, raw manure cannot be used to fertilize fields, but must wait for it to ripen after about 10-15 days, meaning when microorganisms have destroyed its structure. The darker the color of the fertilizer, the better it is for the fields. So farmers still call it as "phân ngon" (delicious manure). This habit has taken root in the minds of Vietnamese people, so today the toilet is often politely called as "bồn cầu" (bridge's tub).



Regarding the consequences of greed on family happiness, I continue to tell a Vietnamese folktale : The Origin of the Sand Bubbler Crabs (Sự tích con dã tràng). This is probably the smallest crab in the world, what live on the beach and often roll sand into balls similar to the behavior of scarab beetles. The legend of these crabs may have originated from some records about Gongye Chang (公冶長), the student and son-in-law of Kong Fuzi. Here, his name in Vietnamese is Công-dã Tràng (surname + name), which is homophone with "công dã-tràng" (the career of Dã-Tràng). This story is long but very easy to understand and engaging.

❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀

Long time ago, there lived a hunter named Dã Tràng. Everyday he would take his bow and arrows and head to the forest in search for a worthy prey. He follows the same trail everytime he hunts, passing by the same shrine along the way where lived two spotted serpents, which he feared at first, but as they never harmed him, he became accustomed of their presence. Later, he grew fascinated of their graceful movements and the remarkable beauty and shimmer of their scales.

On the way to hunting one day, Dã Tràng heard a great noise coming from the shrine, so he came close to see. Witnessing a furious struggle between the two spotted serpents and a huge deadly snake, he quickly took his bow and arrow and fired at the unfamiliar fiery creature, cutting through its neck while it quickly slithered off into the forest. One of the spotted snakes set out in pursuit of the wounded attacker while the other laid lifeless on the ground. Full of pity, Dã Tràng buried it before the shrine.

During his sleep that night, Dã Tràng dreamt about receiving a strange visit from the surviving serpent. It thanked him for saving them from danger and for giving its mate an honorable burial. As a token of gratitude, the serpent dropped a shiny white pearl from its mouth and said, “Place this pearl beneath your tongue as this will help you understand the language of animals. This will greatly help you as you hunt”.

Dã Tràng woke up and found a beautiful pearl beside his pillow. Recalling everything the serpent had told him in his dream, he placed the peal beneath his tongue as he set out for the forest to hunt that day. The first animal that he chanced upon was a deer. But when his arrow missed, the deer ran off to hide. To his surprise, a crow screamed, “I see the deer’s flight, it’s a hundred paces to the right”.

Having understood the crow’s language, he realized that what the serpent said about the pearl was indeed true. So he followed the crow’s advice and easily brought down his prey. Again, the crow spoke to Dã Tràng asking for its reward. In return, the hunter gave the bird all the deer’s parts which served him no use. Since then, Dã Tràng and the crow agreed to hunt together. As the bird leads him to the prey, the hunter would have to leave the entrails on the ground for the crow to feed on.

And everyday, both Dã Tràng and the crow would keep their part of the bargain and help each other hunt. One afternoon, Dã Tràng had shot and killed a wild pig. As usual, he cut the pig open and left its entrails on the ground for the crow but another bird came and stole them. When the crow arrived and discovered nothing had been left, it angered the bird greatly and assumed that Dã Tràng failed to leave his share.

Quickly, it flew to the hunter’s house and protested. Dã Tràng insisted that he left the entrails as promised. But the bird did not believe him and accused him of being a liar. The young man became angry by this. He fired an arrow at the crow, but missed. The crow seized the arrow with its claws, furiously screaming its revenge, and flew off. Several days later, Dã Tràng was arrested. A poisoned arrow bearing his name had been discovered in the body of a drowned man. In spite of his protests of innocence, he was thrown to jail.

The young man then spent days and weeks in prison. One day, he noticed a parade of ants on the prison walls, hurrying by with food on their shoulders. Curious to know the reason for such hurry, he called out to the ants and inquired. The tiny creatures told him that a great flood is coming. Dã Tràng told the guard to pass on the warning, who, reported this to the warden and hastened to inform the king. Though skeptical, the king ordered that the necessary measures be taken. And indeed, three days later, a very big flood swept across the land.

Grateful for having saved everyone in the kingdom, the king ordered Dã Tràng to be released from prison and appointed the young man as his adviser. Dã Tràng used his abilities to keep the kingdom safe from storms and floods, and to receive news from the birds and horses when enemy armies are approaching from a distance. But he never revealed the source of his powers.

On one beautiful spring morning, as Dã Tràng went sailing with the king, he heard strange voices beneath the waves. Looking over the side, he saw a cuttlefish swimming alongside the royal barge, singing a joyous tune. The sight of the cuttlefish singing and rolling along with the waves amused the young man greatly. Dã Tràng began to laugh, and soon he was laughing uncontrollably. As he did, the pearl slipped from his mouth and fell into the water.

Appalled, Dã Tràng leaped from the boat and began desperately searching the waters. He quickly called out to the king and told him of his precious pearl and that his men should help him find it. So the king ordered dozens of his men to wade out into the shallows and churn the waters in search of the pearl, but their efforts were fruitless.

The following day, Dã Tràng continued his search. Still, he found nothing. Day after day, week after week, he never stopped searching. Months and years passed, Dã Tràng stayed by the seashore, still searching and sifting through handfuls of sand, but he never found the pearl again. He wept endlessly over his irretrievable loss. He retreated to misery, and soon, Dã Tràng died an unhappy and discontented man.

He passed on his inconsolable soul to the tiny sand crabs, which, if you notice, scurry from hole to hole, endlessly turning every grain of sand in an attempt to search for the magic pearl. This story serves as a reminder to those who attempts to go beyond the limits of their human abilities and pursue and impossible task which reaps no rewards. Just like Dã Tràng, who transformed himself into millions of sand crabs to roll the sand in perpetuity, but never achieved his goal.



Since ancient times, a story has been passed down that a Chinese king once went to the river to fish. He saw a male crab taking care of a female crab that was in the process of shedding her shell very painfully, but after her recovery, she colluded with another male crab to kill her husband. The king immediately returned to the palace to issue this order : Any woman who dares to behead her partners will be rewarded. Soon after, thousands of women brought their spouses' heads to the royal palace. The king again issued a similar order to men. However, after a year he found that no one came to receive the reward. There was a poor farmer who went to the palace and asked the king to lend him a sword to kill his wife. But when he returned home, he heard his wife's voice lulling their child very plaintively, so he returned to the palace and asked the king to kill him because he had not completed it. The king immediately praised him and gave him a big reward.

The story is officially written like that. However, in other popular versions : Dã Tràng killed the snake's wife for adultery, so the husband gave him a blood-colored gem, which could help him understand the language of birds. Because he understood the sounds of birds, he once again helped the goose family not to be separated after an acquaintance wanted to treat him to goose meat. The geese gave him a pearl, which enabled him to walk under water like Moshe. The geese also swore that they would never eat shrimps again, because the small shrimps died in their place (the meal that should have had goose meat was replaced with roasted shrimps). Dã Tràng took the pearl without care, causing the sea to tremble, so the Dragon King condescended to give him many precious things. After that, the Dragon King lied to Dã Tràng's wife and said he wanted to marry her on the condition that she steal the gems, then brought them to the aquarium. After the incident broke out, Dã Tràng, out of anger, carried sand to fill the sea until he died. That's why there is a verse that says : Dã Tràng rolls sand in the East Sea ; Although it was very tiring but that was of no use (Dã Tràng se cát biển Đông ; Nhọc nhằn mà chẳng nên công cán gì). That's it !


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