Manu and the Fish
Our first myth concerning fish and the sea is taken from the Hindu Vedas and tells of Manu, the first man’s encounter with a fish. Later traditions identified the fish with Matsya, an incarnation of Vishnu.
“There lived in ancient times a holy man called Manu, who, by penances and prayers, had won the favour of the lord of heaven.
One day they brought him water for ablution; then, as he washed his hands a little fish appeared, and spoke in human accents thus:
‘Take care of me, and I will be your saviour.’
‘From what will you preserve me?’ Manu asked.
The fish replied, ‘A flood will sweep away all creatures; I will rescue you from that.’
‘But how shall I preserve you?’ Manu said.
The fish rejoined, ‘So long as we are small, we are in constant danger of destruction, for fish eat fish; so keep me in a jar.
When I outgrow the jar then dig a trench and place me there; when I outgrow the trench, then take me to the ocean—I shall then be out of reach of danger.’
Having thus instructed Manu, straightway rapidly the fish grew larger; then he spoke again:
‘In such and such a year the flood will come; Therefore construct a ship, and pay me homage. When the flood rises, enter the ship and I will rescue you’
So Manu did as he was ordered, and preserved the fish, then carried it in safety to the ocean;
And in the very year the fish foretold he built a ship, and paid the fish respect and there took refuge when the flood arose. Soon near him swam the fish, and to its horn Manu made fast the cable of his vessel.
Thus drawn along the waters, Manu passed beyond the northern mountain. Then the fish, said, ‘I have preserved you, quickly attach the ship to yonder tree; but lest the waters sink from under you, as fast as they subside, so fast shall you descend the mountain gently after them.’ Thus he descended from the northern mountain.The flood had swept away all living creatures; Manu alone was left.
Adapted from the “Satapatha Brāhmana”
Jesus calls his disciples to cast out their nets.
Our second myth is taken from the gospels of Jesus.
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.
He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.