You will die surrounded by family and lemon sauce.
Placement: The Negligible Arcana
Description: Three red fish swim past a pair of monstrous humanoid feet. The fish at the front of this trio is smaller and has a white French peasant-style hat like the type one would find on a Smurf.
In the older, more public domain decks, the illustrations are limited to a dull picture of three fish, which are often not red.
Right side up:
The fish dare each other to go further. The fish in the front of the line is separate from the rest. She or he or they or ze is a third wheel, and trying to push the boundaries of safety in order to prove that she or he or they or se belong.
Threes are of utmost importance in folktales. There was an Atlantian tale called the Three Herring Gulp, the predecessor to what we know as the Three Billy Goats Gruff. On their way to the breeding grounds of their species, the three fish find a hungry seatroll in their path. The fish decide to take turns crossing past him, with the little one going in first. The little fish (here also having a white French peasant hat, which has nothing immediately to do with the story and has other symbolism that I will get into shortly) The seatroll catches the little fish, who tells him that his larger brother is on his way and would make a better meal for the seatroll. The seatroll thinks about this and agrees to let the little fish go in favour of eating his brother when the brother comes around. Sure enough, the middle-sized of the Three Herring Gulp comes swimming in the river under the bridge and the seatroll catches him. The middle-sized fish tells the seatroll the same tale, in that his own big brother is on his way and would make an even better meal for the seatroll. The seatroll takes the bait, as you will, lets the middle sized fish go and then waits for the biggest fish. When he sees the largest of the Three Herring Gulp, he is elated until he realizes how big that big fish really is. The seatroll cannot catch the big fish. The herring believe that they have won, but then the seatroll calls to his own two brothers, each larger and hungrier than the last. The Three Seatrolls Satisfied team up to catch them. Together, they eat all three herring in one gulp.
The moral of the story is that family is a matter of us versus them and that your sole responsibility is to take care of your own.*
As for the hat, this symbolizes pure intentions that trump even the most lopsided of group dynamics. Also, it symbolizes the lack of understanding of hydrodynamics on the part of illustrators in the middle ages.
Caught in a lie. The tale of the Three Herring Gulp is important to the three of fish card when it is reversed as well as when it is right side up. The fish need to keep their stories straight. Two identical lies can be a coincidence. Three makes it more likely to be true. This interpretation of the three of fish reversed is the most common and perhaps the only one worth mentioning, however it is worth noting that in the story of the Three Herring Gulp the third herring does not have to say anything, lie or not. In fact, none of the fish lie. Bigger fish do make for a more filling meal. They did get their stories straight, however, so maybe that is all that matters in the context of the card.
*Atlantis, of course, no longer exists. This may or may not be a coincidence.
Classic Three of Fish deaths:
- Chopped up and thrown into the ocean as bait
- Caught in the crossfire between two feuding families
- A plague on both your houses
- Eating plague-ridden fish at a family feast
Added June 14, 2016