|Working For A Better Life (valkyrieofodin) wrote in fansoffolklore,|
@ 2008-05-23 12:03:00
|Entry tags:||fairy tales, favorite stories, the little mermaid, the little sea maid|
My Favorite Story By Hans Christian Anderson: The Little Sea Maid
I thought we'd get this community off and running with a nice rousing story of the original story of The Little Sea Maid which Disney has so corrupted. I remember when I was young a movie that was made that held true to the theme, and was much scarier to me. The animation was very primitive in comparision but still I prefer it due to the veracity of the plot. I hope folks will enjoy this.
Far out in the sea the water is as blue as the leaves of the loveliest cornflower and as clear as the purest glass, but it is very deep, deeper than ever anchor yet reached; many church-towers would have to be piled one on top of the other to reach right from the bottom to the surface of the water. Down there dwell the Sea-folk. Now you must by no means fancy that there is nothing there but a bare white sandbank; no, the most wonderous trees and plants grow there, the stalks and leaves of which are so supple that they move to and fro at the least motion of the water, just as if they were living beings. All the fish, small and great, dart about among the branches just as the birds do in the air up here. In the deepest spot of all lies the Sea-King's palace. The walls are of coral and the long, pointed windows of the clearest sort of amber, but the roof is of mussel-shells which open and shut according as the water flows; it looks lovely, for in every one of the shells lies a glistening pearl. Any one of these pearls would be the glory of a Queen's crown.
The Sea-King down there had been a widower for many years, but his old mother kept house for him; she was a wise woman, but proud of her noble birth, and that was why she always went about with twelve oysters on her tail, the other notabilities being only allowed to carry six. Nevertheless she was very popular, especially because she doated upon the little sea-princesses, her grand-daughters. They were six pretty children, but the youngest was the prettiest of them all; her skin was as delicately tinted as a rose leaf, her eyes as blue as the deepest lake, but, like all the others she had no feet, her body ended in a fish?s tail. The livelong day they used to play in the palace down there in the great saloon where living flowers grew out of the walls. The large amber windows were opened and so the fishes swam into them just as the swallows fly in to us when we open our windows, but the fishes swam right up to the little princesses, ate out of their hands and let themselves be patted.
Outside the palace was a large garden full of blood-red and dark blue trees; the fruits there shone like gold and the flowers like burning fire, and the stalks and leaves were always moving to and fro. The soil itself was of the finest sand, but as blue as sulfur-flames. The wondrous blue gleam lay over everything down there; one would be more inclined to fancy that one stood high up in the air and saw nothing but the sky above and beneath than that one was at the bottom of the sea. During a calm, too, one could catch a glimpse of the sun; it looked like a purple flower from the cup of which all light streamed forth.
Every one of the little princesses had her own little garden-plot where she could dig and plant as she liked; one gave her flower-plot the form of a whale, another preferred hers to look like a little mermaid, but the youngest made hers quite round like the sun and would only have flowers which shone red like it. She was a strange child, silent and pensive, and when the other sisters adorned their gardens with the strangest things from abandoned vessels, all that she would have besides the rosy-red flowers which resembled the sun up above, was a pretty statue of a lovely boy, hewn out of bright white stone, which had sunk to the bottom of the sea during a shipwreck. She planted by this statue a rosy-red weeping willow, it grew splendidly and hung over the statue with it?s fresh branches, right down towards the blue sandy bottom where the shadows took a violet hue and moved to and fro like the branches; it looked as if roots and tree-top were playing at kissing each other.
Her greatest joy was to hear about the world of mankind up-above. She made her old grandmother tell her all she knew about ships and towns, men and beasts; and what especially struck her as wonderfully nice was that the flowers which grew upon the earth should give forth fragrance, which they did not do at the bottom of the sea; and that the woods there were green and the fish which were to be seen among the branches could sing so loudly and beautifully that it was a joy to listen to them; It was the little birds that her grandmother called fishes, they would not otherwise have understood her for they had never seen a bird.
When you have reached your fifteenth year, said her grandmother, you shall have leave to duck up out of the sea and sit in the moonshine on the rocks and see the big ships which said by; woods and cities you shall also see.
In the following year one of the sisters would be fifteen years old, but how about the others? Each one was a year younger than the one before, and so the youngest had to wait five whole years before she could come up from the bottom of the sea and see how things are with us. But each one had promised to tell the others what she had seen and what she had thought the loveliest on the first day; for their grandmother did not tell them half enough, there was so much they wanted to know about.
None of them was so full of longing as the youngest, just the very one who had the longest time to wait and was so silent and pensive. Many a time she stood by the open window and looked up through the dark blue water where the fishes steered about with their fins and tails. She could see the moon and stars; of course they shone quite faintly, but at the same time they looked twice as through the water as a they look to us, and when something like a dark cloud glided across them, she knew it was either a whale swimming over them, or else a ship with many people on board; they certainly never dreamt that a pretty little mermaid stood down below and stretched her white arms up towards the keel.
And now the eldest princess was fifteen years old and might ascend to the surface of the water. When she came back she had hundreds of things to tell about, but the nicest of all, she said, was to lie in the moonshine on a sandbank in the calm sea, and see, close by the shore, the large town where the lights were twinkling, like hundreds of stars, and hear the music and the noise and the bustle of carts and men, and look at the many church towers and spires and hear the bells ringing; it was just because she could not go ashore that she longed so for these things.
Oh! How the youngest sister listened, and ever afterwards, when she stood in the evening close by the open window, and looked up through the dark blue water; she thought of the great city with all its noise and bustle, and then she thought she heard the church bells ringing down where she was.
The next year the second sister got leave to mount up through the water and swim where she liked. She ducked up just as the sun was going down and she thought that the prettiest sight of all. The whole sky had looked like gold, she said and the clouds?well, their beauty she absolutely could not describe. All red and violet they had sailed right over her; but far quicker than they, a flock of wild swans had flown right over the place where the sun stood, like a long white veil; she also swam towards the sun, but it sank; and the rosy gleam it left behind it was swallowed up by the sea and the clouds.
A year after that the third sister came up to the surface; she was the boldest of them all, so she swam up a broad river which ran into the sea. She saw pretty green hillocks with vines around them, castles and country houses peeped forth from among the woods; she heard all the birds singing and the sun shone so hotly that she frequently had to duck down under the water to cool her burning face. In a little creek she came upon a whole swarm of human children; they were running about quite naked and splashing about in the water. She wanted to play with them but they ran away in terror, and a little black beast came up. It was a dog, but she had never seen a dog before; it barked so savagely at her that she got frightened and sought the open sea again, but never could she forget the splendid woods, the green heights and the pretty children who could swim in the water although they had no fishes tails.
The fourth sister was not so bold; she remained out in the middle of the wild sea and said that that was the nicest of all; you could see for miles and miles round about, and the sky above stood there just like a large glass bell. Ships she had seen too, but far away they looked like sea-mews; the merry dolphins had turned somersaults and the big whales had spirted water up out of their nostrils, so that it looked like hundreds of fountains playing all around.
And now it was the turn of the fifth sister. Her birthday happened to be in the winter time, and therefore she saw what the others had not seen the first time. The sea took quite a green colour and round about swam huge icebergs; each one looked like a pearl, she said, and yet was far larger than the church towers which men build. They showed themselves n the strangest shapes and gleamed like diamonds. She had sat upon one of the largest, and all vessels had cruised far out of their reach in terror while she sat there and let the blast flutter he long streaming hair; but towards evening the sky was overcast with clouds, it thundered and lightened while the black sea lifted the large ice-blocks high up and let them shine in the strong glare of the lightening. On all the ships they took in the sails; distress and horror were there, but she sat calmly on her swimming iceberg and saw the blue thunderbolts strike down in zigzags into the shining sea.
The first time any of the sisters rose to the surface of the water she was always enraptured at the new and beautiful things she saw, but when they now, as grown-up girls, had leave to go whenever they chose, they became quite indifferent about it; they longed for home, and in about a month?s time or so would say that it was nicest of all down below, for there one felt so thoroughly at home.
Very often in the evenings the five sisters would take each other?s arms and mount up in a group to the surface of the water; they had nice voices, sweeter than any human voice, and when it was blowing a gale and they had good reason to believe that a ship might be lost, they would swim before that ship and sing so sweetly of how pleasant it was at the bottom of the sea, and bid the sailors not be afraid to come down. But the sailors could not understand their words. They fancied it was the storm, nor did they ever get to see any of the beautiful things down below, for when the ship sank the crew were drowned and only came as dead men to the Sea-King's palace.
Now when her sisters thus ascended, arm in arm, high up through the sea, the little sister would remain behind all alone and look up after them, and she felt as if she must cry; but the mermaid has no tears and so she suffers all the more.
Oh, if only I were fifteen years old! said she. I know that I shall quite get to love the world up above there and the men who live and dwell there.
And at last she was fifteen years old.
Well, now at last we have you off our hands, said the grandmother, the old Queen Dowager. Come here and let me make you look nice like your sisters, and she places a wreath of white lilies on her hair, but every petal in every flower was the half of a pearl, and the old lady made eight large oysters cling fast on to the Princess?s tail to show her high rank.
But it hurts me so! said the little mermaid.
Yes, one must suffer a little for the sake of appearances, said the old lady.
Oh, how much she would have liked to have torn off all this finery and laid aside her heavy wreath, the little red flowers from her garden suited her much better; but she dared not do it. Farewell! she said and mounted, light and bright as a bubble up through the water.
The sun had just gone down as she lifted her head above the sea, but all the clouds were still shining like roses and gold, and in the midst of the pale pink sky sparkled the evening star, so clear and lovely. The air was mild and fresh and the sea as still as a mirror. A black ship with three masts lay upon it, only a single sail was up, for not a breath of wind was stirring and the sailors were sprawling all about on the masts and rigging. Music and singing were going on, and as the evening grew darker hundreds of variegated lamps were lit; it looked as if the flags of all nations were waving in the air. The little mermaid swam right up to the cabin window and every time the water raised her in the air she could look in through the mirror-bright panes where so many stylishly-dressed people were standing. The handsomest of them all was certainly the young Prince with the large black eyes (he could not have been more than sixteen years old); it was his birthday and that was why they were making all this display. The sailors were dancing upon the deck, and when the young Prince stepped out, more than a hundred rockets rose into the air; They shone as bright as day, to that the little mermaid was quite frightened and ducked down beneath the water, but she soon stuck up her head again and then it was a s if all the stars of heaven were falling down to here. Never had she seen such fire-works. Large suns whizzed round and round, splendid fiery fish swung about in the blue air, and everything was reflected back from the clear, calm sea. On the ship itself it was so light that you could see every little rope and spar, to say nothing of the men. But oh! How lovely the young Prince was, and how the music sounded through the lovely night.
It grew late, but the mermaid could not tear her eyes away from the ship and the handsome Prince. The variegated lights were put out. No more rockets rose into the air, no more salvos were fired, but deep down in the sea there was a murmuring and a roaring. She meanwhile sat upon the water and rocked up and down with it so that she could look into the cabin. But the ship now took a swifter course, one sail spread out after the other, the roll of the billows grew stronger, it lightened far away. Oh! There will be a frightful storm, that is why the sailors are now reefing the sails. The huge ship rocked to and fro as it flew along the wild ocean; the water rose like big black mountains, which would roll right over the masts, but the ship ducked like a swan down among the lofty billows and let herself be lifted up again on the towering water. The little mermaid thought it rich sport, but not so the sailors; the ship strained and cracked, the thick planks bent at the violent shock of the sea, the mast snapped right in the middle like a reed, and the ship heeled over on her side while the water rushed into the cabin. And now the little mermaid saw that they were in danger, she herself had to beware of the spars and wreckage of the ship which ship which drove along upon the water. For a moment it was so pitch dark that she could see nothing at all, but when it lightened
It was bright enough for her to see everything on the ship. Everybody there was tumbling about anyhow. She looked out for the young Prince especially and she saw him, when the ship went to pieces, sink down into the deep sea. She immediately became quite delighted, for now he would come down to her, but then it occurred to her that men cannot live in the water and that it was only as a corpse that he could reach her father's palace. Die he must not, oh no; and so she swam among the spars and planks which were drifting about on the sea, quite forgetting that they might have crushed her, ducked down beneath the water and rose aloft again on the billows; and so, at last, she came up to the young Prince, who could scarcely swim a bit more in the raging sea. His arms and legs began to fail him, his beautiful eyes closed, he must have died if the little mermaid had not come up. She held his head above the water and let the billows drive him and her wherever they listed.
When morning dawned the storm had passed away, but not a fragment of the ship was to be seen. The sun rose so red and shining above the water, it seemed as if the Prince's cheeks regained the hue of life, but his eyes remained closed. The mermaid kissed his lofty handsome brow and stroked back his wet locks. He looked just like the marble statue down in her little garden; she kissed him again and wished that he might live.
And now she saw in front of her the mainland, the lofty blue mountains, on the summits of which the snow shone as if it were swans that lay there; down on the shore were lovely green woods and right in front lay a church or cloister, did not exactly know what it was, but it was a building of some sort. Lemon and orange trees grew in the garden there, and in front of the gate stood tall palm-trees. The sea formed a little creek here, it was quite calm but very deep, right up thither she swam with the handsome Prince and laid him on the sand, taking particular care that his head should lie high in the warm sunshine.
And now the bells in the large white building fell a-ringing, and a number of young girls came walking through the garden. Then the little mermaid swam further out behind some lofty rocks which towered up out of the water, laid sea foam on her hair and breast that no one might see her face, and watched to see who would come to the poor Prince.
It was not very long before a young girl came by that way; she appeared quite frightened when she saw him, but only for a moment. Then she went and brought a lot of people, and the mermaid saw that the Prince came to life again, and smiled on all around him, but he did not send a smile to her, for of course he did not know that she had saved him. She felt so grieved that when he was carried away into the large building she ducked down under the water full of sorrow and sought her father?s palace.
She had always been silent and pensive, but now she became still more so. Her sisters asked her what she had seen up there the first time but she told them nothing. Many a morning and many an evening she ascended to the spot where she had seen the Prince. She saw how the fruits of the garden ripened and were plucked, she saw how the snow melted upon the lofty mountains, but the Prince she did not see, and therefore she returned home more and more sorrowful every time. Her only consolation was to sit in the little garden and wind her arms round the pretty marble statue which was so like the Prince. But she did not attend to her flowers at all; they grew as if in a wilderness right over the paths and wreathed their long stalks and leaves among the branches of the trees till it was quite gloomy there. At last she could endure it no longer, but told it to one of her sisters, and so all the others immediately got to know about it; but no one else knew it save they and a couple of other mermaids, who told it to nobody but their closest friends. One of these knew who the Prince was and all about him; she had also seen the merry-making on board the ship and knew whence he was and where his kingdom lay.
Come, little sister! said the other Princesses, and with their arms around each other's shoulders, they rose in a long row above the water in the place where they knew the Prince's palace lay. This palace was built of a light yellow glistening sort of stone with large marble staircases, one of which went straight down to the sea. Gorgeous gilded cupolas rose above the roof, and between the columns, which went round about the whole building, stood marble statues which looked like living beings. Through the clear glass in the lofty windows you looked into magnificent rooms hung with costly silk curtains and tapestries, and all the walls were adorned with large pictures, so that it was quite a pleasure to look at them. In the midst of the largest room plashed a large fountain, the water-jets rose high into the air towards the glass cupola, through which the sun shone upon the water and upon the beautiful plants which grew in the huge basin.
So now she knew where he dwelt, and many an evening and night she rose upon the water there. She swam much nearer to the land than any of the others had ventured to do; nay, she went right up the narrow canal, beneath the magnificent marble balcony which cast a long shadow across the water. Here she used to sit and look at the young Prince, who fancied he was quite alone in the bright moonshine.
Many an evening she saw him sail with music in his splendid boat where the banners waved; she peeped forth from the green rushes, and when the wind played with her long silvery white veil and people saw it, they fancied it was a swan lifting its wings.
Many a night when the fishermen were fishing by torch-light on the sea, she heard them speaking so well of the young Prince , and she was glad that she had saved his life when he was drifting half dead upon the billows, and she thought how fast his head had rested on her breast, and how ardently she then had kissed him; he knew nothing at all about it, he could not even dream about her.
And so she got to love mankind more and more, more and more she desired to be among them. Their world seemed to her far grander than her own; why, they could fly across the sea in ships, ascend the lofty mountains high above the clouds, and the lands they called their own extended with their woods and meadows farther than her eye could reach. There was so much she would have liked to know, but her sisters would not answer everything she asked, and therefore she asked her old grandmother, for she knew all about the upper world, which she very correctly called the lands above the sea.
When men don't drown, asked the little mermaid, can they live forever? Don't they die as we do down in the sea here??
Yes, said the old grandmother, they also must die; and indeed their life is even shorter than ours. We can last for three hundred years, but when at last we do cease to be we become mere foam upon the water, we have not even a grave down here among our dear ones. We have no immortal soul; we never live again; we are like the green rushes, if once they be cut down, they cannot grow green again. Men on the other hand, have souls which always live,live when the body has become earth; they rise up through the air, right up to the shining stars; just as we duck up out of the sea and see the lands of men, so they mound up to beautiful unknown places of which we shall never catch a glimpse.
Why have not we got an immortal soul?? said the little mermaid sorrowfully. I would give all the hundreds of years I have to live to be a human being but for a single day that so I might have my portion in the world above the sky!
You must not bother your head about that! said the old grandmother, we have a much better and happier lot than mankind up there.
So I am to die and scud away like foam upon the sea, hear no more the music of the billows, see no more the pretty flowers and the red sun. Can I then do nothing at all to win an immortal soul??
No! said the old grandmother, only if a man got to love thee so dearly that thou wert more to him than father or mother, if he clave to thee with all his heart and soul, and let the priest lay his right hand in thine and vow fidelity to thee here and in all eternity, then his soul would flow over into your body and thou wouldst have thy portion of human bliss. He would have given thee a soul, and yet have kept his own. But that can never be! The very thing that is so pretty in the sea here, thy fish's tail is looked upon as hideous upon earth; they don?t know any better. Up there one must have a couple of clumsy columns called feet to be thought handsome!
Then the little mermaid sighted and looked sorrowfully at her fish's tail.
Let us be content with out lot, said the old grandmother, we'll hop and skip about to our hearts content in the three hundred years we have to live in. Upon my word we have a nice long time of it, and after it is all over one can rest all the more contentedly in ones grave. We'll have a court ball this very evening! And indeed it was a gorgeous sight such as one never sees on earth. The walls and ceiling of the vast dancing-hall were of glass, thick but clear. Many hundreds of colossal shells, rosy red and grass-greenstood in rows on each side full of a blue blazing fire which lit up the whole saloon and shone right through the walls so that the sea beyond them was quite illuminated. You could see all the countless fishes, both small and great, swimming towards the glass walls; the shells of some of them shone purple red, the shells of others seemed like gold and silver. In the midst of the saloon flowed a broad running stream, and on this danced the mermen and the mermaids to their own pretty songs. Such lovely voices are unknown on earth. The little mermaid sang sweetest of them all and they clapped her loudly and for a moment her heart was glad, for she knew that she had the loveliest voice of all creatures on the earth or in the sea. The old grandmother's memory here played her false. She forgot that there are no graves at the bottom of the sea. But very soon she began once more to think of the world above her; she could not forget the handsome Prince and her sorrow at not possessing, like him, an immortal soul. So she stole quietly out of her father's palace, and while everything there was mirth and melody, she sat full of sorrow in her little garden. Then she heard the bugle-horn ringing down through the water and she thought, Now I know he is sailing up there, he whom I love more than father or mother, he to whom the thoughts of my heart cleave and in whose hands I would willingly lay my life's happiness. Everything will I venture to win him and an immortal soul! While my sisters are dancing within my father's palace, I will go to the sea-witch; I have always been frightened of her, but she perchance, may help and counsel me. So the little mermaid went out of her own sea right towards the raging whirlpool behind which the witch dwelt. She had never gone that way before. No flowers, no sea-grasses grew there, only the bare grey sandy bottom stretched out towards the whirlpools where the water, like a rushing mill-wheel, whirled round and round, tearing everything it caught hold of away with it into the deep; she had to go right through the midst of these buffeting whirlpools to get to the sea-witches domain, and here, for a long stretch there was no other way than across hot bubbling mire which the witch called her turf moss. Right behind lay her house in the midst of a strange wood. All the trees and bushes were polypi, half animal, half vegetable, they looked like hundred-headed serpents growing out of the earth; all their branches were long slimy arms, with fingers like supple snakes and joint by joint they were twisting and twirling from the roots to the outermost tips of their branches. Everything in the sea which they could catch hold of they wound themselves about and never let go of it again. The little Princess was quite terrified and remained standing outside there; her heart thumped for fear, she was very near turning back again, but then she thought of the Prince and of the human soul, and her courage came back to her. She bound her long fluttering hair close to her head so that the polypi might not grip hold of her thereby, then she crossed both hands over her breast, and away she flew through the water as only fishes can fly, right between the hideous polypi which stretched out their long supple arms and fingers after her. She was that every one of them still had something which it had gripped, hundreds of little fingers held it like iron bands. Men who had perished in the sea and sunk down thither peeped forth from the arms of the polypi in the shape of white skeletons. Ships? rudders and coffers too they held fast; there were also the skeletons of land animals and even a little mermaid whom they had caught and tortured to death, and that was to her the most terrible sight of all. And now she came to a large slimy open space in the wood where big fat water-snakes were wallowing and airing their ugly whity-yellow bellies. In the midst of the empty space a house had been raised from the white bones of shipwrecked men; here sat the sea-witch and let a toad eat out of her mouth just as men let little canary-birds pick sugar. She called the hideous fat water-snakes her chicks and let them roll about over her large spongy bosom. ?I know very well what you want! said the sea-witch; you're a fool for your pains! Nevertheless you shall have your own way, for it will get you into trouble my pretty Princess. You want to get rid of your fish's tail, eh? And have a couple of stumps to walk about on as men have, so that the young Prince may fall in love with you and you may get him and an immortal soul into the bargain!? And with that, the witch laughed so loudly and hideously that the toad and the snakes fell down upon the ground and began wallowing there. You have come at the very nick of time, said the witch; if you had put it off till tomorrow, at sunrise, I should not have been able to help you for another year. I'll brew you a potion, but you must swim to land, sit down on the shore, and drink it off before sunrise, and then your tail will split and shrivel up into what men call nice legs; but it will hurt, it will be like a sharp sword piercing through you. All who see you will say that you are the loveliest child of man they ever saw. You will keep your lightsome gait, no dancing girl will be able to float along like you; but every stride you take will be to you like treading on some sharp knife till the blood flows. If you like to suffer all this, I'll help you.I will, said the little mermaid with a trembling voice; she thought of the Prince and of winning an immortal soul. But remember this, said the witch, when once you have got a human shape you can never become a mermaid again! You can never again descend down through the water to your sisters and to your father's palace, and if you do not win the Prince's love so that for your sake, he forgets father and mother and cleaves to you with all his soul, and lets the priest lay your hands together and make you man and wife, you will get no immortal soul at all. The very first morning after he has married another your heart will break and you will become foam upon the water! Be it so! said the little mermaid, but she was as pale as death. But you must pay me too, said the witch, and it will not be a small thing either that I demand. You have the loveliest voice of all the things down below here at the bottom of the sea, you fancy you will enchant him with that, I know; not a bit of it, you must give that voice to me. I meant to have your pest possession in return for my precious potion, for have I not to give you of my own blood in it, so that the potion may be as sharp as a two edged sword. But if you take my voice, what will be left for me?? asked the little mermaid. Your lovely shape, said the witch, your lightsome gait and your speaking eye, you can fool a man's heart with them I suppose? Well! Have you lost heart, here Put out your little tongue and I'll cut it off in payment, and you shall have the precious potion!Be it so, then! said the little mermaid, and the witch put her kettle on to brew the magic potion. Cleanliness is a good thing, said she, and she scoured out the cauldron with the snakes, which she tied into a knot; then she gashed herself in the breast and let her black blood drip down into the cauldron. The steam that rose from it took the strangest shapes, so that one could not but feel anguish and terror. Every moment the witch put something fresh into the cauldron, and when it was well on the boil it sounded like a crying crocodile. At last the drink was ready, it looked like the clearest water! There you are! said the witch, and cut out the tongue of the little mermaid who was now quite dumb; she could neither sing nor talk. If the polypi grip at you when you go back through the wood, said the witch, just you throw a single drop of this potion upon them, and their arms and fingers will burst into a thousand bits! But the little mermaid had no need to do this; the polypi shrank back from her in terror when they saw the shining potion which sparkled in her hand like a dazzling star. So very soon she got through the wood, the morass and the raging whirlpool. She could see her father's palace; the lights in the long dancing-hall had been put out; all within there were doubtless sleeping; but she dared not venture thither to visit them now that she was dumb, and wanted to go away from them for ever. Yet her heart felt as if it must burst asunder for sorrow. She crept down into the garden, plucked a flower from each of her sister's flower-beds, threw a thousand kisses towards the palace, and ascended again through the dark blue sea. The sun had not yet risen when she beheld the Prince's palace, and mounted the splendid marble staircase. The moon was shining bright and beautiful. The mermaid drank the sharp burning potion, and it was as though a two-edged sword pierced right through her body; she moaned with the agony and lay there as one dead. When the sun shone over the sea she woke up and felt a sharp pang, but right in front of her stood the handsome young Prince. He fixed his coal-black eyes upon her, so that she cast her own eyes down and saw that her fish tail had gone, and that she had the prettiest little white legs, but she was quite naked, so she wrapped herself in her large long locks. The Prince asked who she was and how she came thither; and she looked at him with her dark blue eyes so mildly, and yet so sadly, for speak she could not. Then he took her by the hand and led her into his palace. Every step she took was as the witch said it would be beforehand, as if she were treading on pointed awls or sharp knives, but she willingly bore it; holding the Prince?s hand, she mounted the staircase as light as a bubble, and he and every one else were amazed at her graceful, lightsome gait. She was arrayed in the most costly garments, all silk and muslin, none in the whole palace was a lovely as she; but she was dumb, she could neither sing nor speak. Lovely slave girls, clad in silk and gold, came forth and sang to the Prince and his royal parents; one of them sang more sweetly than all the rest and the Prince clapped his hands and smiled at her. Then the little mermaid was troubled, she knew that she herself had sung far more sweetly, and she thought: Oh, would that he might know that for the sake of being near him, I have given away my voice for ever and ever! And now the slave-girls danced the graceful lightsome dances to the loveliest music, and then the little mermaid raised on high her lovely white arms, raised herself on the tips of her toes, and danced and swept across the floor as none ever danced before; at every movement her loveliness became more and more visible and her eyes spoke more deeply to the heart than ever the songs of the slave-girl. They were all enchanted with her, especially the Prince, who called her his little foundling, and she danced more and more, though every time her feet touched the ground it was as if she trod upon a sharp knife. The Prince said she should always be with him, and she got leave to sit outside his door on a velvet cushion. He had a male costume made for her that she might ride out with him. They rode through the fragrant woods where the green branches smote her on the shoulders and the little birds sang behind the fresh leaves. She clambered with the Prince right up the high mountains, and although her tender feet bled, so that the others could see it, she only laughed at it and followed him till they saw the clouds sailing below them like flocks of birds departing to a foreign land. At night, in the Prince?s palace, while others slept, she went out upon the broad marble staircase, and it cooled her burning feet to stand in the cold sea-water, and then she thought of them in the depths below. One night her sisters came up arm in arm, they sang so sorrowfully as they swam in the water, and she nodded to them, and they recongnised her, told her how miserable she had made them all. After that, they visited her every night, and one night she saw, a long way out, her old grandmother who had not been above the sea for many year, and the Sea-King with his crown upon his head; they stretched out their hands towards her, but dared not come so close to land as her sisters. She became dearer to the Prince every day. He loved her as one might a dear, good child; but to make her his queen never entered his mind, and his wife she must be, or she would never have an immortal soul, but would become foam upon the sea upon his bridal morn. Do you love me most of all?? the eyes of the mermaid seemed to say when he took her in his arms and kissed her fair brow. Yes, you are dearest of all to me, said the Prince, for you have the best heart of them all, you are most devoted to me, and you are just like a young girl I once saw but certainly shall never see again. I was on a ship which was wrecked, the billows drifted me ashore near a holy temple, where many young girls were the ministrants the youngest, who found me found me on the sea shore, and saved my life, I saw her only twice; she is the only girl I can love in the world, but you are like her, you almost expel her image from my soul; she belongs to that holy temple and therefore my good fortune has sent me you instead, we will never part!Alas! He knows not twas I who saved his life! Thought the little mermaid. I bore him right over the sea to the wood where the temple stands, I sat behind the foam and looked to see if any one would come; I saw the pretty girl whom he loves better than me! And the mermaid drew a deep sigh, weep she could not. He says the girl belongs to that holy temple, she will never come forth into the world, they will never meet again. I am with him, I see him every day, I will cherish him, love him, sacrifice my life for him! But now the Prince was to be married and take the lovely daughter of the neighbouring king to wife, and that was why he now set about equipping a splendid ship. The Prince is traveling to see the land of the neighbouring king; that is what they said; but it was to see the neighbouring king?s daughter that he went forth with such a grand retinue. But the little mermaid shook her head and laughed; she knew the Prince's thoughts much better than all the others. I must travel, he had said to her, I must see the fair Princess, my parents require it of me; but they shall not compel me to bring her home as my bride. I cannot love her; she is not like the lovely girl in the temple whom you are like. Should I ever choose me a bride, it would rather be you, my dumb foundling with the speaking eyes! And he kidded her red mouth, played with her long hair, and laid his head close to her heart till her heart dreamt of human bliss and an immortal soul. Surely you are not frightened at the sea, my dumb child! said he, as they stood on the gorgeous ship which was carry him to the land of the neighbouring kind; and he told her about storm and calm, about the strange fishes of the deep, and what the divers and seen down there, and she smiled at his telling, for she know better than any one else all about the bottom of the sea. In the moonlight nights when all were asleep save the man at the helm, she sat at the side of the ship and looked down through the clear water and seemed to see her father's palace, and at the very top of it stood the old grandmother with the silver crown upon her head, and stared up at the ship's keel through the contrary currents. Then her sisters came up to the surface of the water; they gazed sadly at her and wrung their white hands. She beckoned to them, smiled, and would have told them that everything was going on well and happily, but the cabin-boy drew near at the moment and her sisters ducked down again, so that she half fancied that the white things she had seen were the foam upon the sea. The next morning the ship sailed into the haven of the neighbouring king?s splendid capital. All the church bells were ringing, they blew blasts with the bassoons from the tops of the high towers, while the soldiers stood drawn up with waving banners and flashing bayonets. Every day had its own special feast. Balls and assemblies followed each other in rapid succession, but the Princess was not yet there, she had been brought up in a holy temple far away, they said, where she had learnt all royal virtues. At last she arrived. Full of eagerness, the little mermaid stood there to see her loveliness; and recognise it she must a more beauteous shape she had never seen. Her skin was so transparently fine, and from behind the long dark eyelashes smiled a pair of dark blue, faithful eyes. Tis thou! said the Prince, thou who has saved me when I lay like a corpse on the sea-shore!? and he embraced his blushing bride. Oh! I am so happy; I don't know what to do! Said he to the little mermaid. The very best I dared to hope has come to pass. You too will rejoice at my good fortune, for you love me more than them all! And the little mermaid kissed his hand, and she felt her heart was like to break. Yes, his bridal-morn would be the death of her, and change her into sea-foam. All the bells were ringing, and the heralds rode about the streets to proclaim the espousals. Fragrant oil in precious silver lamps burned upon every altar. The priests swung their censers, and the bride and bridegroom gave each other their hands and received the bishop's benediction. The little mermaid stood there in cloth of gold and held the bride's train, but her ears did not hear the festal music, her eyes did not see the sacred ceremony, she thought of her night of death, she thought of all she had lost in this world. The same evening the bride and bridegroom went on board the ship, the cannons were fired, all the flags waved, an in the midst of the ship a royal tent was raised of cloth of gold and purple and precious furs; there the bridal pair were to sleep in the still, cool night. The sails swelled out in the breeze, and the ship glided lightly rocking, away over the bright ocean. When it grew dark, coloured lamps were lit, and the mariners danced merry dances on the deck. The little mermaid could not help thinking of the first time she had ducked up above the sea, and seen the self-same gaiety and splendour, and she whirled round and round in the dance, skimming along as the swallow skims when it is pursued, and they all applauded her enthusiastically never before had she danced so splendidly. There was a piercing as of sharp knives in her feet, but she felt it not; the anguish of her heart was far more piercing. She knew it was the last evening she was to see him for whom she had forsaken house and home, surrendered her lovely voice, and suffered endless tortures day by day, without his having any idea of it all. It was the last night she was to breathe the same air as he, and look upon the deep sea and the star-lit sky; an eternal night without a thought, without a dream, awaited her who had no soul and could not win one. And all was joy and jollity on board the ship till long past midnight, and she laughed and danced with the thought of death in her heart. The Prince kissed his lovely bride, and she toyed with his black hair, and arm in arm they went to rest in the gorgeous tent. It grew dark and still on board; only the steersman was there, standing at the helm. The little mermaid laid her white arms on the railing and looked towards the east for the rosy dawn, the first sunbeam, she knew it well, must kill her. Then she saw her sisters rise up from the sea, they were as pale as she was; their long fair hair fluttered no longer in the breeze, it was all cut off. We have given it to the witch that she might bring help so that you may not die to-night! She has given us a knife; here it is, look how sharp it is! Before the sun rises you must thrust it into the Prince's heart, and then, when his warm blood sprinkles your feet, they will grow together in a fish's tail, and you will become a mermaid again, and may sink down through the water to us and live out your three hundred years before you become dead, salt sea-foam. But hasten! Either you or he must die before sun-rise. Our old grandmother has sorrowed so that her hair has fallen off, just as ours has fallen beneath the witch's shears. Kill the Prince and come back to us! Hasten! Don't you see the red strip in the sky yonder? A few minutes more and the sun will rise and you must die. And they heaved a wondrously deep sigh and sank beneath the billows. The little mermaid drew aside the purple curtains from the tent door, and she saw the beauteous bride sleeping with her head on the Prince's breast, and she bent down, kissed him on his fair brow, looked at the sky where the red dawn shone brighter and brighter, looked at the sharp knife, and again fixed her eyes on the Prince, who, in his dreams, named his wife by her name, she alone was in his thoughts. And the knife quivered in the mermaid's hand but then she cast it far out into the billows, they shone red where it fell, it looked as if drops of blood were there bubbling up out of the water. Once again she looked with half-breaking eyes at the Prince, plunged from the sip into the sea, and felt her whole body dissolving into foam. And now the sun rose out of the sea, his rays fell with so gentle a warmth upon the death-cold sea foam, and the little mermaid did not feel death; she saw the bright sun, and right above her hundreds of beauteous, transparent shapes were hovering. Through them she could see the white sails of the ship and the red clouds of the sky, their voices was all melody, but so ethereal that no human ear could hear it, just as no human eye could see them; they had no wings, but their very lightness wafted them up and down in the air. The little mermaid saw that she had a body like them, it rose higher and higher out of the foam. To whom have I come?? said she, and her voice sounded like the voices of the other beings, so ethereal that no earthly music can render it. To the daughters of the air, answered the others; the mermaid has not immortal soul and can never have one unless she wins a man's love, her eternal existence depends upon a Power beyond her. The daughters of the air, likewise, have no immortal soul, but they can make themselves one by good deeds. We fly to the hot countries, where the sultry, pestilential air slays the children of men; there we waft coolness. We spread the fragrance of flowers through the air and send refreshment and healing. When for three hundred years we have striven to do all the good we can, we get an immortal soul and have a share in the eternal destinies of mankind. Thou, poor little mermaid, thou also hast striven after good with thy whole heart; like us, thou hast suffered and endured, and raised thyself into the sphere of the spirits of the air; now, therefore, you canst also win for thyself an immortal soul after three hundred years of good deeds.? And the little mermaid raised her bright arms towards God's sun, and for the first time she felt tears in her eyes. There was life and bustle on board the ship again, she saw the Prince with his fair bride looking for her, and they gazed sadly down upon the bubbling foam, as if they knew she had plunged into the billows. Invisible as she was, she kissed the bride?s brow, smiled upon the Prince and ascended with the other children of the air up to the rosy red clouds which were sailing along in the sky. ?For three hundred years we shall float and float till we float right into God's kingdom.Yea, and we may also get there still sooner, whispered one of them. Invisibly we sweep into the houses of men, where there are children, and every day we find there a good child who gladdens his parents hearts, and deserves their love, God shortens our time of trial. The child does not know when we fly through the room but when we smile with joy over it, a whole year is taken from off the three hundred; but whenever we see a bad, naughty child, we must, perforce, weep tears of sorrow, and every tear adds a day to our time of trial! The version of HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSON'S THE LITTLE MERMAID came from THE LITTLE MERMAID AND OTHER TALES originally published in 1893 by GP Putnam's Sons, New York and Lawrence & Bullen, London. The edition that I obtained came is copyright 1998 Hippocrene Books, Inc. For information address: HIPPOCRENE BOOKS 171 Madison Avenue New York, NY 10016