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The Rainbow Fish
Rainbow fish original cover.jpg
Original German cover
Author Marcus Pfister
Illustrator Marcus Pfister
Country Switzerland
Language German
Genre Children's book (illustrated)
Publisher NordSüd Verlag
Publication date
ISBN 978-3314015441

The Rainbow Fish is a children's picture book drawn and written by author and illustrator, Marcus Pfister, and translated into English by J. Alison James. The book is best known for its message about selfishness and sharing and for the distinctive shiny foil scales of the Rainbow Fish. Decode Entertainment turned the story into an animated television series of the same name, which aired on the HBO Family television channel in the United States and Teletoon in Canada from 1999 until 2000.


The story is about The Rainbow Fish, a fish with shiny, multi-coloured scales. He has blue, green, purple, and pink scales. Interspersed with these colorful scales are shiny, holographic scales which are his favorites. The other fish from his gang also have scales, but only scales matching to their real colors. However, they wish that they had shiny silver scales like the Rainbow Fish. One day, a small blue fish (wishing he could have shiny silver scales) asks the Rainbow Fish if he could have one of his shiny silver scales. The Rainbow Fish refuses in a very rude manner. The small blue fish tells all the other fish that The Rainbow Fish was being rude, and as a result, the other fish do not want to play with him any more.

His only remaining friend, the starfish, tells him to go visit the wise octopus for advice. When he goes to the cave where the wise octopus lives, he sees the octopus, who says that she has been waiting for him. She explains that the waves have told her his story. Then, she gives The Rainbow Fish her advice: He must share his scales with the other fish. She continues that he might no longer be the most beautiful fish after that, but he will discover how to be happy. The Rainbow Fish says that he cannot share his favorite scales, and the wise octopus disappears in a cloud of ink.

When he encounters the little blue fish for a second time, The Rainbow Fish shares one of his precious silver scales and sees the little fish's joy. With that one shiny scale gone, he immediately feels much better. Very soon, the Rainbow Fish is surrounded by the other fish requesting scales and he shares one of his shiny silver scales with each of them. Soon, everyone in the ocean, has one shiny scale, including The Rainbow Fish. The Rainbow Fish is finally happy even though he only had one shiny scale left.


A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the book a "cautionary tale about selfishness and vanity".

Book series

There are five other sequels in the Rainbow Fish book series:

  • Rainbow Fish to the Rescue: About the acceptance and integration of foreigners.
  • Rainbow Fish and the Big Blue Whale: About arguments and how to settle them.
  • Rainbow Fish and the Sea Monster's Cave: About irrational and rational fears.
  • Rainbow Fish Finds his Way: With the help of his new friends, Rainbow Fish finds his way back home.
  • Rainbow Fish Discovers the Deep Sea: About modesty and happiness.

Short film

On March 25, 1997, an animated adaptation of the story book was released on VHS and DVD (known as The Rainbow Fish and Dazzle the Dinosaur). The home video releases also contain the film Dazzle the Dinosaur which is based on another book written by Pfister and published in 1994. The animated short film features a song called "Giving Makes You Special". In Dazzle the Dinosaur, the imaginary dinosaur named Dazzle is an egg (separated from another family and is at first an orphan). Although it is not specified what kind of dinosaur he is, he is possibly an Ouranosaurus (relative of Iguanodon; or in other words a dinosaur from the Iguanodontidae family). Then he adopts a young female Maiasaura from a Maiasaura family and herd. Her name is Maia the Maiasaura. In this story, they try to get the no-good Dragonsaurus (which terrified the Maiasauruses) to give them back their old home (which had once been in a cave). The duo (Dazzle and Maia) see a Brachiosaurus. Then they tell him the truth about their old home (their cave) which the Dragonsaurus had moved in to. When the Quetzalcoatlus takes Dazzle and Maia to the cave (which the Dragonsaurus had moved in). But he warns them he and his flock leave at sunset. Because he is not staying when the Dragonsaurus comes around (saying to them, "I am never again coming back to that cave once the Dragonsaurus is awake!"). The Dragonsaurus does give it back in the end, and Dazzle, Maia, and all the other Maiasauruses are able to return to their old home. The dinosaurs in this story are Brachiosaurus, Stegosaurus, Quetzalcoatlus, Deinonychus, Tyrannosaurus rex, Ouranosaurus (that being Dazzle), and Dragonsaurus.

Television series

The Rainbow Fish was adapted into a children's animated television series in 1999. However, the television series does not follow the plot of the book; rather it takes the character and the setting and creates a new story with them. Some characters were added and others embellished for the purposes of the show. In the series, the place where the fish live is called Neptune Bay (after Neptune, god of the sea). The fish attend school, which is aptly named "The School of Fish". There is a shipwreck called "Shipwreck Park" in the series that resembles the wreck of the RMS Titanic. It was produced by Decode Entertainment and EM.TV for Sony Wonder. 26 episodes were produced.

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