The Fisherman and His Wife:

A Puppet Play

Adapted by Barrie Teague Alguire from a traditional folktalke.


  • A fisherman
  • The fisherman's wife
  • An enchanted fish

Staging Suggestions

Regardless of the kind of puppet stage you own, you can create a background by mounting pictures of the shack, the big house, and the mansion on separate sheets of poster board. Glue sturdy wooden sticks on the back of each so they can be held up in the background at appropriate points in the play. You could also use an easel with a ledge to support each picture.

Hand puppets with arms will give the characters a chance to express themselves through movement. The story can also be presented with stick puppets or performed by live actors and a fish puppet.

Use blue cloth or paper on the side of the puppet stage where the fish appears to indicate the sea, and green or brown cloth or paper on the other side of the stage to indicate the shore.

Play music at the beginning and end. Also select a brief piece of music to play when the fisherman is going back and forth between his house and the fishing pier to create the impression that he is traveling a fair distance.


Fishing rod


FISHERMAN: (speaking to audience)

Hello, my name is Hans. I am a fisherman, yah. I live in a small tumbledown shack with my loving wife, Helga, right at the edge of the sea. The house needs to be repaired, but the roof keeps the rain off our heads. We don't have much, but we are content. I have to tell you, it was not always this way. For a while we lived in a splendid palace. But we found that beautiful surroundings and riches don't always bring happiness. I will tell you what happened. It all started one day when I was fishing and I caught a most wonderful fish.

(Fisherman casts his line and waits. He feels a tug on the line.)

FISHERMAN: Oh, a bite! I've caught something. I'll reel it in and see if I have caught a fish for our supper.

(Pulls back and forth on the line several times.)

FISHERMAN: (pulling back) Oh, how strong it is!

(being pulled forward) Oops! Almost pulled me in!

(pulling back) Now I've got it!

(being pulled forward) No I don't!

(pulling back) Ah! I've got you at last!

FISHERMAN: (pulls up fish) What a beauty! We'll have several suppers from this one.

FISH: Fisherman, fisherman! Spare me! I am a prince of the sea. If you will spare my life, I will grant you anything you wish.

FISHERMAN: Spare you! If I did that, what would we eat for supper?

FISH: Anything you like. I have magic powers. I can grant you anything you wish for.

FISHERMAN: Well, then, let me think. (suddenly realizes he's talking to a fish.) Wait a minute! You're a fish. You can't talk. Someone around here must be playing a trick on me.

FISH: No one is playing a trick on you. I can talk. I told you, I am a prince of the sea. If you set me free, I can make any wish come true.


FISH: Really.

FISHERMAN: Really???

FISH: Really!!!

FISHERMAN: Hmm. It doesn't seem right to eat a prince. Very well, then, your highness, back into the sea you go.

FISH: Thank you, fisherman. You won't regret your kindness. Remember, I will grant you anything you wish.

(Fish disappears into the sea. As the fish dives into the water, use a squirt gun to squirt a little water into the audience.)

(Fisherman goes home, stage left.)

FISHERMAN: Wife, wife! You won't believe what happened today. I caught a marvelous talking fish. He told me that he was a prince of the sea and if I let him go, he would grant me anything I wished for.

WIFE: (entering stage left) You caught a fish and you let him go? (sadly) Now we have no supper.

FISHERMAN: But he told me he would grant me anything I wished for.

WIFE: Anything?

FISHERMAN: Anything.

WIFE: Anything??

FISHERMAN: Anything! (beginning to doubt) At least, I think so.

WIFE: Then go and ask him for a larger house. We will have children one day, and I want a fine house for my family. We will be so happy!

FISHERMAN: All right, dear. If it will make you happy, I will ask him first thing tomorrow morning.

WIFE: Tomorrow! No! I am too excited to wait! Go now. Please go right now!

FISHERMAN: Very well. For you, my beautiful Helga, I will do anything.

(Fisherman returns to the pier)

FISHERMAN: Prince of the Sea, please listen to me.

Majestic fish, grant my wish.

My loving spouse wants a new house.

FISH: (appears from the sea) Well, fisherman. You weren't gone very long. What is it you wish?

FISHERMAN: My wife says our house is too small. She wishes for a bigger one.

FISH: Return home, my friend. Your wish has been granted.

(Fish dives back into the sea. Fisherman returns to his house. A large spacious house appears in the background.)

WIFE: Husband! Husband! Look! What a wonderful new house we have. The living room, the dining room, a lovely kitchen, three bedrooms for when we have children, a yard where they can play, and a garden. I feel like a grand duchess. We will be so happy here!

FISHERMAN: (to audience) You would think that was the end of the story. My wife now had a large and beautiful house. But, alas, she soon became dissatisfied.

WIFE: Hans, when we first got this house, I thought it was wonderful. I felt like a duchess. But now, I realize this house is not as grand as I thought. To be fine lady, and for our children to be young ladies and gentlemen, we need a mansion.

FISHERMAN: But, Helga dear, this house is already larger than we need. I hate to ask for more.

WIFE: Oh, Hans, don't you love me? If you really loved me, you would not deny me. (Starts to cry.)

FISHERMAN: Don't cry, my love. I will do as you ask.

(Fisherman goes to the fishing pier stage right)

FISHERMAN: Prince of the sea, please listen to me.

Majestic fish, grant my wish.

My loving spouse wants a bigger house.

(Fish appears)

FISH: How nice to see you, fisherman. Does your wife like her new house?

FISHERMAN: Well, your royal fishness, she did like it — at first. But now she says to be a fine lady, she needs a mansion.

FISH: A mansion! Very well. Go home, my friend. Your wish is granted.

(Fish dives back into the sea.)

(Fisherman returns stage left)

WIFE: Hans! Hans! Look! Look at our mansion! It has a living room, a drawing room, a ballroom, 10 bedrooms, servants' quarters, stables for horses, and a formal garden. I feel like a queen! Now our children will live like princes and princesses!

FISHERMAN: (to audience) Do you think that is the end of the story? My wife now had a mansion and servants. She didn't have to cook or clean or sew or tend the garden. She wore beautiful clothes and gave lavish parties. She was happy for a while, but, alas, not for long. Soon she became dissatisfied again.

WIFE: Husband! Husband! When we first got this mansion, I thought it was wonderful. I felt like a queen. But now, I realize this house is too small. To be a real queen, I need a palace. Then our children will be real princes and princesses. Go back and tell the fish I need a magnificent palace.

FISHERMAN: No, Helga. I cannot do that. The fish gave us a beautiful house and then he gave us a fabulous mansion. I cannot ask him for a palace. It is too much.

WIFE: (starting to cry) Oh, Hans, you do not love me. I want to be a queen. I have to be a queen. I need a palace.

FISHERMAN: But, dear —

WIFE: If you really loved me, you would ask the fish to grant me this. Please, husband, dear, please. Pretty please, pretty please with sugar on it, pretty please with sugar and honey on it, pretty please.

FISHERMAN: (interrupting) Okay, okay. I will ask the fish for a palace if it will make you happy.

WIFE: Thank you, dear. I'm so excited. Go right now and ask him.

(Fisherman returns to the pier.)

FISHERMAN: Prince of the sea, please listen to me.

Honorable fish, grant me one more wish.

FISH: (appearing from the sea) Ah, my friend the fisherman. Did your wife send you to thank me for her fabulous new mansion?

FISHERMAN: I am sorry to come to you again. My wife would like to be a queen. She asks for a magnificent palace. I don't know what to think. She used to be thoughtful and loving. Now she only thinks about her palace, clothes, jewels, and parties. She has so much, yet she is no longer happy. Oh, fish, I wish we could be happy again.

FISH: My friend, you have a kind and generous heart. You have asked for many wishes for your wife, yet you have not asked for your own heart's desire. What do you want?

FISHERMAN: I wish life were the way it used to be. We lived simply, but we were happy.

FISH: I will grant your wish, fisherman. You will return to life as it used to be. Your wife was blinded by greed but you gave in to her demands. Both of you need to remember what is really important in life.

(Fish dives back into the sea.)

FISHERMAN: And so I returned home to find my dear wife once more in our tumbledown shack. No palace, no mansion, not even a large and beautiful house. But I have my wife back the way she used to be. She is loving.

WIFE: Hans, dear, welcome home. How was your day? (gives Hans a big kiss)

FISHERMAN: And thoughtful.

WIFE: (happily) Hans, there was a beautiful sunrise this morning. I painted a picture of it to hang on the wall.

FISHERMAN: Once again, she is my princess.

WIFE: (hugging Hans) Oh, Hans! And you are my prince!

FISHERMAN: (together) And we are happy!

WIFE: (together) And we are happy!

(Hans and Helga bow and then exit.)


Texas Reading Club 2007 Programming Manual / Sail Away with Books!

Published by the Library Development Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Page last modified: June 14, 2011