The Magic Fishbone by Charles Dickens


Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812 – 1870), also known under the pen name of Boz, is the creator of some of the most famous fictional characters in the world. He is also a favourite on the blog.

This is the second of four stories, which were published in a children’s magazine in 1867. The stories came under the general heading and title of Holiday Romance.

It’s important to note that the story is supposed to be perceived as if a child had written it. Not so much in a literary or language sense, but more from an imaginary scenario, ergo storytelling point of view. In her head Alicia is the cinderella like princess and her parents are the King and Queen. She has to live up to her parents expectations, which means being an adult before she actually is one.

There was once a King, and he had a Queen; and he was the manliest of his sex, and she was the loveliest of hers. They had nineteen children, and were always having more. Seventeen of these children took care of the baby; and Alicia, the eldest, took care of them all. Their ages varied from seven years to seven months.

One day the King was on the way to the market to buy some fish for dinner. The royal couple and their children weren’t exactly the norm. In fact they were quite unusual, almost like an ordinary family with ordinary day-to-day problems.

Of course in fact that is what they are really, an ordinary family. Alicia sees her father, the head of the household, as the King and the mother as her Queen.

The King went on towards the office in a melancholy mood, for quarter day was such a long way off,

With many mouths to feed and growing children to clothe the King isn’t sure how he or they will make it to pay day.Whilst shopping for food, for salmon to be precise, for his family a young errand boy makes the King aware of an old lady in the shop with them.

Now, the King had not seen any old lady, because this old lady had been invisible to him, though visible to Mr Pickles’s boy.“King Watkins the First, I believe?” said the old lady. “Papa, if I am not mistaken, of the beautiful Princess Alicia?” said the old lady.

The King is taken aback by her familiarity with his family members. Who could she be? How does she know his eldest daughter?

The first thing King Watkins thought of was that this woman must be a fairy. A well-dressed fairy smelling of lavender.

“You are right,” said the old lady, answering his thoughts, “I am the Good Fairy Grandmarina.When the beautiful Princess Alicia consents to partake of the salmon—as I think she will—you will find she will leave a fish-bone on her plate. Tell her to dry it, and to rub it, and to polish it till it shines like mother-of-pearl, and to take care of it as a present from me.”

The King was curious as to the reason for this strange request. What was so special about this fishbone and more importantly why Alicia?

“The reason for this, and the reason for that, indeed! You are always wanting the reason. No reason. There! Hoity toity me! I am sick of your grown-up reasons.”

On that note she disappeared and left the King to go home and prepare the salmon for the evening meal with strict instructions on how to serve the fishbone to the young girl.

the Princess Alicia took care to dry the bone, and to rub it, and to polish it till it shone like mother-of-pearl. The morning after the Queen became ill and fainted. Remembering where the smelling-bottle was, she climbed on a chair and got it, and after that she climbed on another chair by the bedside and held the smelling-bottle to the Queen’s nose,

Even in this emergency situation Alicia was determined to help her mother by herself, and save the magic for something more important. She decided to try everything except the magic fishbone.

Princess Alicia hurried up-stairs to tell a most particular secret to a most particularly confidential friend of hers, who was a Duchess. People did suppose her to be a Doll; but she was really a Duchess, though nobody knew it except the Princess.

The Queen’s condition worsened and Alicia took her place in the household. Taking care of her siblings, her father and stepping up to be the mother in the house.

“Alicia,” said the King, one evening when she wished him Good Night.“Yes, Papa.”“What is become of the magic fish-bone?”“In my pocket, Papa.”“I thought you had lost it?”“O, no, Papa.” “Or forgotten it?”“No, indeed, Papa.”

The King is confused as to why Alicia hadn’t used the magic, despite the fact her mother is so ill. Surely if anything warranted a divine intervention then it should be her sick mother.

This was the first time the King questioned her, however it wasn’t the last. One of her brothers cut himself really badly, and again she is faced with the choice of whether or not to use the powerful fishbone.

he put his hand through a pane of glass, and bled bled bled.

Once again the King tried to persuade Alicia by questioning her motives or rather her reason for not intervening in a more magical way.

“Alicia.”“Yes, Papa.”“What have you been doing?”“Snipping stitching cutting and contriving,Papa.” “Where is the magic fish-bone?”“In my pocket, Papa.”“I thought you had lost it?”“O, no, Papa.” “Or forgotten it?”“No, indeed, Papa.”

Incident after incident happens. Upsets, accidents and catastrophes, and every time Alicia solves it herself instead of reaching for the fishbone. Over and over again the King asks whether she has forgotten the wish she carries around with her.

Till one day when the need for money and food becomes desperate. The quarterly pay hasn’t come through and the King is unable to provide for his family the way he wants and needs to.

“No way,” said the King. “I have tried very hard, and I have tried all ways.” “Papa,” said she, “when we have tried very hard, and tried all ways, we must have done our very very best?”“When we have done our very very best, Papa, and that is not enough, then I think the right time must have come for asking help of others.”

And this was the secret connected to the wish and the fishbone. Knowing when to reach out and ask for help. Knowing when we have reached our own limitations and shouldn’t fear accepting a kind gesture from others.

So she took out of her pocket the magic fish-bone that had been dried and rubbed and polished till it shone like mother-of-pearl; and she gave it one little kiss and wished it was quarter day.

Suddenly the quarter pay came tumbling down the chimney. From then on the quarterly pay came nine times a year and in leap years it came ten times.

“I suppose you know the reason, now, why my god-Daughter here,” kissing the Princess again, “did not apply to the fish-bone sooner?” said the Fairy. The King made her a shy bow.

Their lives were transformed with that one wish. The children were clothed and fed, the house was full of finery and riches, and Alicia was dressed in silks. The fairy found a prince for the princess, and promised them thirty-five healthy children.

The moral of the story? If you have a magic wish save it for something really important, perhaps a wish that everyone will profit from. On a more basic level it says a lot about the inner strength we all carry around inside us, but are often unaware of.

The Magic Fishbone,The Cricket on the Hearth, Sketches by Boz, Hunted Down, The Battle of Life at Feedbooks. Oliver Twist, Barnaby Rudge, Nicholas Nickleby at the Internet Archive. Alternatively you can listen to Bleak House, The Chimes, David Copperfield, Dombey and Son or The Magic Fishbone at Librivox.

Read A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens’ other Christmas Tale, The Signal-Man, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Somebody’s Luggage, A Christmas Carol or Hunting Down a Killer by Dickens right here on the blog.

Download the fabulous Fishing Wallpaper Pack here. To download the fantastic public domain images (Twitter Headers made by our very own Gen and donated to the public domain) in this post, click here: for the 3rd image in this post and here for the second image. For more Twitter Headers, Wallpapers and images by GenXMedia at the Internet Archive.  

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