The Little Black Fish (2017)

For Chilren Choir, Tap, Bass Clarinet, Bassoon, Vibraphone and Piano

Based on the text by: Samad Behrangi

Performed by Brooklyn Youth Chorus and ICE (Internation Contemporary Ensemble)

Voices in the tape: Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat, Ouldooz Pouri, Mina Momeni

Visuals: Peter Negrini


January 14-15, 2017

The Little Black Fish - By: Samad Behrangi

Tiny Owl Publication

At the longest night of the year, the first night of winter, an old fish settled herself to tell a story to her twelve thousand grandchildren fish.

Once upon a time there was a Little Black Fish who lived with her mother in a short length of stream between one waterfall and another.  At night the stream went dark, except when the moon was bright in the sky. Little Black Fish saw flickers of moonlight through the thick moss roof of the stone house he shared with his mother. She longed to go out and see the moon properly, but her mother didn’t let her. 

 Little Black Fish often wondered what might be beyond the stream, and this thought gnawed at her. One night she couldn’t sleep for wondering and made a big decision. So, next morning, she said to her mother, “I have decided something, but you won’t like it. I want to see if the stream goes on and on, or whether it comes to an end. “Oh, that’s silly talk! Our stream has no end. It is the whole world!” said her mother. " Perhaps the world is more than our stream, and perhaps there is more to life than what we’ve gotten used to.”, argued Little Black Fish. Her mother started crying for she feared to lose her only child. “Don’t cry for me, Mother!” called Little Black Fish. “Maybe I will return one day and tell you all what I found!” She went  to the waterfall at the end of their stream and slid down the waterfall - wheeeee!

Little Black Fish dropped into a small pond, where thousands of small black tadpoles were wriggling in that still water. They had never seen a fish before. “What are your names?” Asked Little Black Fish.“We are all the finest sort of tadpoles. We swim around the world all day long, but there are only our parents and us, oh, and some teeny-weeny worms that don’t count anyway.”,they replied. “You don’t go around the world, you know. You just go around this pool,” said Little Black Fish. “‘But this pool is the world,” said the tadpoles.

Little Black Fish continued her journey. The torrents grew stronger and the path wider. Some small fish told her that she was no longer in a stream but in a river. It was still daytime now. In the hot sunshine, she saw a lizard as big as a big man’s hand lay on a rock, basking in the warmth and watching a crab on the sand eating a frog. Little Black Fish asked the lizard, “Dear lizard, I am on my way to find the end of the stream. You sit there and see what goes on in the world. Is there any advice that you can give me?”. “‘Well,”, said the lizard. "if you get as far as the sea, you must look out for sea birds, that swallow little fishes like you in a heartbeat. I can give you a knife that will let you cut your way out of anything, if you like?” said the lizard. ‘Oh, yes please!” said Little Black Fish. The lizard crawled into a crack in the rock and returned with a very tiny knife made from a thorn. “‘Thank you!” said Little Black Fish. “Do you give knives to all the fish you meet?” “Just to the clever ones who ask the right questions,” said the lizard.

In the middle of the night Little Black Fish woke up. He saw moonlight on the water, lighting everywhere with a mysterious silvery light. It was beautiful, and this time Little Black Fish could talk to the moon as he’d so longed to do.  ‘‘Hello, pretty moon,” he said, and the moon replied, “Hello, Little Black Fish. You are a long way from home.” “Yes,” said Little Black Fish. “1 am seeing the world.” Moon smiled. “The world is huge. From down there you can’t see it all as I can.” “I am happy just to see more of the stream,” said Little Black Fish. “I just want to see it to the end.” He was about to ask the moon how the world looked from so far away, but a cloud began to slide over the moon, shadowing the lovely light. “‘Don’t go, Moon! Oh, I wish you could light the world with your light all the time,” called Little Black Fish. The sliver of moon still visible in the sky smiled. “My dear little fish, I don’t actually have any light of my own. I simply shine light from the sun down onto the Earth.” “ I would love to visit you,” said Little Black Fish. “‘Humans have visited me,” said the moon. “Perhaps one day fish too will come to me too. Who knows ?” Little Black Fish wanted to know more, but the dark cloud had finally covered the moon.

Little Black Fish swam down into the depths of the river, where she came across a shoal of thousands and thousands of fish. “ I’ve come from far away, where am I?” said Little Black Fish to one of the fishes. The fish spoke over his shoulder to the other fishes. “Look!” he said. “Here’s another one asking the same question that they all do.” Then he said to Little Black Fish, “This, my friend, is the sea.” “‘The sea!” said Little Black Fish in wonder. “Yes,” said tiny fish. “It is where all streams and rivers end.”

Little Black Fish swam in the sea on her own. She could feel the power of the sea, and she saw the bottoms of boats and seaweed and shells. He swam happily, thinking, “Even if I died right now, I have seen the stream to its end, and I know how it turns into sea. I must try and return to tell my friends all that I now know.”But Little Black Fish’s thoughts were brought to a shocking end as the seabird swooped and snatched her from the sea and swallowed her whole, down into her dark damp stomach. 

Down there Little Black Fish felt that she was not alone. A very tiny little fish was curled in a corner, crying. Little Black Fish consoled him, “Don’t cry. We will escape. “How can we possibly escape?” said the tiny fish. Little Black Fish held up her thorn knife. “I will cut the seabird from inside!”, she said. “But first I must save you, tiny fish. I am going to wriggle to tickle the seabird’s stomach with my tail. She will want to laugh, and that means she will open her beak. You must be ready to jump out as soon as her beak opens.” “But what about you?” asked the tiny fish. “‘Don’t you worry about me. You just swim for your life, back to the shoal where you can be safe,” said Little Black Fish.

Then Little Black Fish started to wriggle this way and that, fluttering her tail to tickle the seabird’s belly. The tiny fish was ready, and as soon as the seabird opened her beak to laugh, the tiny fish jumped out of her mouth and escaped. The tiny fish waited in the water for a while, hoping, hoping to see Little Black Fish escape too, but that didn’t happen and the Little Black Fish was never seen again.

“It’s bedtime now,” the old fish told her twelve thousand grandchildren. The Eleven thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine little fishes said goodnight and went straight to sleep. Grandma Fish fell asleep too. But one little red fish couldn't sleep for thinking about that story. All night she thought about sea .... .