The Grimms' tale "The Fisherman and his Wife" tells the story of a magical fish that could grant wishes, and the wife who was never satisfied and ultimately ended up back where she started, in a poor little shack by the sea. It essentially imparts the classic moral "be careful what you wish for," which has good uses, although it might bother modern readers because of what the tale seems to say about women (the wife in the story is the greedy, never satisfied one; although the pushover husband is not the most admirable character either).
There is a similar Japanese fairy tale I learned about via the Myths and Legends podcast that both I and the host Jason Weiser prefer to the Grimm version, The Stonecutter. (This tale can also be found in Lang's "Crimson Fairy Book".)
It tells the story of a poor stonecutter who, for many years, was content to work hard, knowledgeable and strong from his years of experience. But one day, delivering a gravestone to a rich man's house, he became envious of the large, cool mansion, allowing him to escape from the heat of the day. He wished out loud that he could be a rich man, and the spirit of the mountain granted his wish.
He lived for a while, happy to enjoy his new wealth. But one day, he saw a prince ride by, and realized that despite his riches, a royal prince had more power than he. So he wished to be a prince.
Yet he was not content as a prince, and he realized the sun had more power than he to give discomfort. He next became the sun, and relished his power, until clouds blocked him from scorching the earth, and he wished to be a cloud.
As a cloud he felt powerful, as he covered the earth with rain, but he realized that though he could drown people and plants, there was a large boulder that remained unaffected by his storms, so he wished to be a rock.
As a rock, he was immovable and powerful-until one day, a poor stonecutter came away and chipped away his pieces. He wished to become a stonecutter, and ended up as his former self, and was content to do his work again.
I like the cyclical nature of power as shown in this fairy tale. First of all it challenges our perception of power, as it shows that all natural forces have their own influence. Also, the stonecutter actually learns his lesson from experience. The fisherman's wife simply climbs up the ladder, is never satisfied, and then is sent back down to the lowest rung of the ladder when she wishes to be like God. She never experiences what that might be like and learns there are negatives to the things we long for, and there's no sense of empowerment to the poor working person. (Note: this is not just in the Grimms' collection, but in another German tale, "Hanss Dudeldee," with essentially the same plot.)
There is a Russian tale that is very similar, but with a slight twist at the ending; rather than wishing to be like God, the fisherman's wife-turned-czarina wishes to have power over the oceans and fish. It makes sense that the magical fish would rather not be at her mercy.
"Fisherman and his Wife" illustrations by Kay Neilsen