THE fishes had for a long time been discontented because no order
prevailed in their kingdom. None of them turned aside for the others,
but all swam to the right or the left as they fancied, or darted between
those who wanted to stay together, or got into their way; and a strong
one gave a weak one a blow with its tail, which drove it away, or else
swallowed it up without more ado. "How delightful it would be," said they,
"if we had a king who enforced law and justice among us!" and they met
together to choose for their ruler, the one who could cleave through
the water most quickly, and give help to the weak ones.
They placed themselves in rank and file by the shore, and the pike gave
the signal with his tail, on which they all started. Like an arrow, the
pike darted away, and with him the herring, the gudgeon, the perch, the
carp, and all the rest of them. Even the sole swam with them, and hoped
to reach the winning-place. All at once, the cry was heard, "The herring
is first!" "Who is first?" screamed angrily the flat envious sole, who
had been left far behind, "who is first?" "The herring! The herring,"
was the answer. "The naked herring?" cried the jealous creature, "the
naked herring?" Since that time the sole's mouth has been at one side
for a punishment.