Big Fish, Big Difference

Big Fish, Big Difference


Big Fish book coverWe hope you’re not the kind to watch a film and skip the book. If you are, though, and Tim Burton’s 2003 seemed to cover it all, you should know that Daniel Wallace cooked a very different fish. To celebrate its exclusive e-book release, Zola has put together a list of episodes from the novel that are similar enough in the movie to suggest inspiration, yet different enough to merit a closer read. Can you spot all the parallels and contrasts?


Hospital Delivery and a Semi-Present Husband

Domestic Delivery and an Absent Husband 

The day he was born someone spotted a cloud […] with something of darkness in it. People gathered to watch. One, two, two times two, suddenly fifty people and more, all looking skyward […]. First real cloud in weeks.

The only person in that whole town not cloud-watching was the wife. She had fallen to the floor, breathless with pain. So breathless she couldn’t scream […], nothing was coming out. Of her mouth. Elsewhere, though, she was busy. With him. He was coming. And where was her husband? Out looking at a cloud.


The Witch Whose Glass Eye Must Be Stolen

The Old Woman Whose Glass Eye Has Been Stolen

[He] found a room in the home of an old woman […] [and] offered to help her in any way he could.

Well, it so happened the old woman had only one eye. The other eye, which was made of glass, she took out every night […]. [S]ome days before my father arrived, a group of youths had broken into the old woman’s home and stolen  [it] […].

It didn’t take long for my father to learn that […] the eye had become the focus of some notoriety […] among certain individuals [he] shrewdly befriended.

It was said the eye had magic powers.

It was said the eye could see. […].

Each night [the eye] was given to a different boy as a rite of initiation […]. Edward expressed his desire to become one of the boys […] and was told to come alone to a barn some miles in the country that very night […].

“[…] [T]ake the eye and place it in the box, and stay with it all through the night, and return it here on the morrow” […].


The barn looked different in the light of day […].

“Do you have the eye? […]

“Yes,” Edward said. “The eye is here.” […]

It was then the barn creaked feebly open, and all turned to watch as the old lady, her eye newly restored, came toward them […] and it was said within the eye each of them could see their future.


Karl the Wanderer

Karl the Farmer

Then from the darkness of the cave rose Karl […]. 

“You must stop coming into Ashland for your food,” my father said […]. “And that is why I have come” […]. “For you to eat me, he said. “I am the first sacrifice.” […]

Karl seemed confounded by my father’s words […]. “I…” he said quite softly, even sadly. “I don’t want to eat you.”

“You don’t?” my father said, greatly relieved.

“No,” Karl said. “I don’t want to eat anybody,” and a giant tear rolled down his beaten face. “I just get so hungry […]. But I’m all on my own now, and I don’t know how to–” […]

“We could teach you,” my father said […]

“Teach me what?”

“To cook, grow food. There are acres and acres of fields here.”

“You mean, I could become a farmer?”

“Yes,” my father said. “You could.”

And this is exactly what happened.


Edward’s Blunt Declaration and Sandra’s “No” 

Edward’s Hesitant Declaration and Sandra’s “Yes”

“Sandra,” he said, picking an inopportune moment–she was just entering the ladies’ room. “You don’t know me. You probably have never seen me before. But I was wondering–if this is something you would consider, I mean–well, that this Friday night maybe we could go out somewhere together. If you want.”

Not surprisingly, at that precise moment she was feeling the same way he was: her body was about to explode, the blood was tight against her skin, and she needed to release the pressure.

“Well, yes,” she said, without thinking much about it […], and just that quickly she disappeared into the ladies’ room.

Yes, she said, even though just that morning Don Price has asked her to marry him.


Edward, Defeated in a Sea of Daffodils

Edward, Victorious on a Mountain Road

Edward Bloom was not a fighter […]. But he could defend himself when forced to, and he was forced to the night he took Sandra Kay Templeton for a drive down the road on Piney Mountain.

[…] [I]n the rearview mirror my father saw a pair of headlights, small at first but getting larger […].

“It’s okay,” he said. “Probably some drunk kid.”

“No,” she said. “That’s Don.”

And my father understood […]. This was a showdown. […]

My father […] pulled ahead and turned the wheel abruptly, blocking the road with his car. Don Price braked just feet away, and both men were out of their cars in an instant, eye to eye and only an arm’s length away.

“She’s mine,” Don Price said […].

“I didn’t know that she belonged to anybody,” my father said.

[…] Don Price came at my father with the fury of ten men, but my father had the strength of many more, and they fought for some time […], but in the end Don Price fell and did not get up, and my father stood over him, triumphant. Then he placed his opponent’s limp and aching body into the back seat of his car, and drove Don Price and my mother off.


Edward the Faithful

Edward the Adulterous

[H]e falls in love with Jenny Hill […]. Though they never marry, Jenny becomes his young wife, Edward a kind of traveling salesman […]. And this time Edward’s gone for a long time, longer than before […]. People go by the house at night and they swear they can see faint yellow lights at the window, two of them, her eyes, glowing in her head […]. [T]he garden goes to hell in a hand basket […]. [I]n a matter of days the vines grow from one side of the house to the other, finally covering it over […]. Then it rains. It rains for days and days […] [and] the house is surrounded on all sides by yards of deep, dark, mossy water. And my father returns […], but by this time the swamp is too deep, the house too far away, and though he sees her glowing there he can’t have her, and so he has to come back to us […] and that is why he is so sad and tired when he comes home, and why he has so little to say.

This article originally appeared on Zola Books.