The Trout Summary

Please give me a summary of the short story "The Trout" by Sean O'Faolain.

Sean O'Faolain's story “The Trout” relates the tale of twelve-year-old Julia who finds a trout caught in a well in her favorite summer place, “the Dark Walk.” Inspired by one of her mother's fairy tales, at which she normally scoffs, Julia becomes the fish's “Fairy Godmother” when she washes it back into the river.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Sean O'Faolain's short story of childhood exploration and imagination begins as with a description of one of twelve-year-old Julia's favorite places, the Dark Walk. This overgrown path always fills Julia with a scary sense of delight as she runs from the warm sunshine through the dark damp tunnel of overgrowth. This particular year, she introduces her younger brother Stephen to the Dark Walk. Julia takes extra delight in her brother's excitement and joyful terror as they run back and forth on the path. When they get back to the house, the children share their experiences with the adults. As often happens with competitive siblings, they devolve into name-calling and arguing.

To put an end to the squabbling, one of the grown-ups asks, "Did you see the well?" At first, Julia expects this to be yet another made-up story that adults tell to kids. However, her curiosity gets the better of her, and she returns to the Dark Walk in search of the well. Sure enough, Julia finds a small well carved into the rock, hidden under ferns and fallen leaves. Incredibly, she finds a panting trout in the water. Julia rushes back and retrieves her brother. The trout is so interesting that the two children forget their fear of the place.

The presence of the fish amazes the adults as well. They are all at a loss to come up with a rational explanation of how it came to be trapped in the tiny well. They posit several theories, but nobody is too convinced. Julia goes back to the well to examine the trout further while Stephen stays behind to hear his mother's fantastical tall tale she makes up explaining how the fish came to its place on the Dark Walk.

Julia feels a great deal of sympathy for the trout. Its prison in the rock is so small that it doesn't even have room to turn around. Wondering what it must eat, she brings it food but the fish does not eat.

As the long summer days continue, Julia and Stephen's mother continues to tell them bedtime stories, involving moral lessons and fairy godmothers, to explain the presence of the trout. Stephen is fascinated by them, but Julia refuses to entertain such nonsense.

Unable to sleep, Julia slips out the window with an ewer and heads over to the trout. In a frantic moment of fright, Julia reaches into the watery hole, picks up the fish and puts it into the ewer. Julia runs down to the river and places the fish into the water. In a sense, she has become the trout's fairy godmother.

The next morning, Stephen comes to her announcing that the fish is gone. Instead of explaining what she did the previous night, Julia simply says that it must have been a fairy godmother.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 15, 2021
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Sean O'Faolain's story “The Trout” begins as twelve-year-old Julia returns to her favorite summer spot, “the Dark Walk.” It is a place that inspires Julia to both excitement and terror, for it allows her to experience the movement from daylight to black night in a few minutes as she runs from the sunlit path beneath the tunnel of thick trees and out the other side back into light. This year, she is excited to introduce her younger brother, Stephen, to the delicious terror of “the Dark Walk.”

The two children boast and squabble about their adventures until one of the adults asks, “Did you see the well?” Julia is suspicious. She has never found a well in “the Dark Walk.” She doesn't want to believe any such thing (just like she has stopped believing in Santa Claus and fairy tales), yet she is curious. So Julia returns to “the Dark Walk,” and she finds the little well in the rock. She also finds a panting trout that has somehow found its way into the well and gotten stuck.

Julia brings her brother back to see the trout. The two are now too intent upon the fish to feel the thrill of “the Dark Walk.” None of the adults knows exactly how the trout made it into the well although they have theories. The children's mother makes up a story about the trout to entertain Stephen, but Julia does not appreciate it.

Yet Julia cannot stop thinking about the trout, especially how confined it is and how it has no food. She tries to tempt it with dough and worms, but the fish will not eat. It just floats and pants. One hot night before bed, Julia's mother tells another fairy tale about the trout to Stephen. Julia scoffs at the “moral story” of the Fairy God mother bringing rain to wash the fish out of the well.

But as Julia lies awake, her mind returns to the stranded fish. She sneaks out with her water pitcher and hurries to “the Dark Walk.” At first she has trouble finding the well, but she finally does. She pours water into the well, hoping that the fish will not jump out. Sure enough, the trout washes back down into the river and quickly swims away. Julia hurries back to bed, but she doesn't say anything to her family. In the morning, Stephen shouts that the trout is gone, and Julia merely comments, “Fairy Godmother, I suppose?”

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 15, 2021
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Julia always goes running into the Dark Walk,a tunnel that is covered with bushes, and is not dry on the pathway.  She invites her brother to come along, trying to terrify him as much as she was terrified.  They came back home and boast that they had been through the tunnel.  Julia, age twelve, was asked if they had seen the well.  She doesn't believe there is a well; so she said “Nonsense”.  But she went back to the tunnel to look for the well.  She found a hole, scooped in a rock, and a panting trout.  She brought her brother, Stephen, in to see it. They were so fascinated that they no longer had any fear.  She even brought the kitchen-garden man down to see it.  He asked how the trout could have gotten there.  She lifted the trout up because if she found it, it must be hers.  Her mother and father made up stories as to the existence of the trout.  

It bothered her that the trout was motionless.  She brought him food.but he ignored it.  She heard her mother tell tall tales of the fish including fairy godmothers and other fairy tale things.  She did not believe in that.  One night she goes down and finds the trout and puts him in a pitcher and races to the river’s edge.  She was afraid that he would escape from the pitcher,but she made it safely to the river. She releases him, sees him swim away, and feels a great deal of joy in that act.   In the morning her brother comes running, yelling that the trout was gone and demanding to know where he went.  She told him that the fairy godmother came and got him.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial