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15. Dolls

In a certain town there lived a couple. The husband would bring home a bushel of fish every day. His wife would eat up all the middles of the fish and leave him only fish heads and fish tails. She did this every day.

What did he do? He had a sister in town. He went to her house one day and said, “Sister, every day I bring home a bushel of fish. When I come to eat, the fish have only heads and tails, no middles. What shall I do?”

His sister told him, “If that's the case, Brother, go to the carpenter, and ask him to make three dolls for you. Place one doll next to the cooking fire. Place another with the pots and pans. Put the third one in the niche in the wall. After you've done that, bring home as usual your bushel of fish and then leave. Let's see what happens.”

He did exactly what his sister told him to do. He went to the carpenter and got three dolls made. He placed one near the cooking fire, a second one among the pots, and another in the wall niche. And he brought in his daily bushel of fish, gave it to his wife, and went out as usual.

She cooked the fish in a hurry, and was going to pick up a platter when the doll among the pots piped up and asked, “Why a platter?”

The doll in the wall answered, “To eat like a thief.”

The doll near the cooking fire added, “Without her husband!”

She gasped, “They talk, and like that!”

She was scared of the dolls and rushed out of the house, and didn't get back till her husband came home. When he came home, she fed him, and then ate her own dinner. The fish were whole, as whole as when they were brought.

Her husband said nothing. He finished his meal, and went to his sister's house. He said to her, “Sister, I did as you told me to. Today, all the fish were whole.”

Types and Motifs

Type AT 1373.


This type seems to me to represent the growth of conscience in a person who has none. This growth is accomplished by planting three dolls who speak up when the wife in No. 15 is about to do something wrong. They objectify her own conscience, or superego, if you will, when she greedily sets about eating the best parts of the fish. Such tales seem to express an understanding of the phenomenon of “projection,” in which a rejected inner voice or impulse is attributed to an external object or person.

[NKTT, but cf. Motif W 125.2, Gluttonous wife eats all the meal while cooking it (IO).]

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