by Leanne Guenther based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen
Far out in the ocean, where the water is as blue as the prettiest cornflower, and as clear as crystal there lived a beautiful princess named Sara. Sara was very much like other princesses you may have met with one small exception – Sara was a mermaid!
Now, we must not imagine that there is nothing at the bottom of the sea but bare yellow sand. No, indeed; the most amazing flowers and plants grow there; colourful fish, both large and small, glide between the branches, as birds fly among the trees here upon land. In the deepest spot of all, stands the castle of the Sea King. Its walls are built of coral, the roof is formed of shells, that open and close as the water flows over them. Their appearance is very beautiful, for in each lies a glittering pearl.
The mermaid princess, Sara, lived in this castle under the sea with her father the King and her five older sisters. All day long they played in the great halls of the castle. The large amber windows were open, and the fish swam up to the princesses and ate bits of food right out of their hands.
Although Sara loved her family and their peaceful blue world she longed to one day see the sky, the moon and, most especially, the humans she had heard so many stories about.
“When you have reached your fifteenth year,” said her father, “you will have permission to swim up out of the sea, to sit on the rocks in the moonlight, while the great ships are sailing by; and then perhaps you will see the humans you dream of.”
Sara waited impatiently as each of her older sisters turned fifteen and made their voyages to the surface world.
They all told her of the wonders they saw above the surface – about waves crashing on rocks, the warmth of the sun and the sounds of the seagulls in the air. Sara’s favourite story was the one her third sister shared with her; she swam up a broad river that emptied itself into the sea. On the banks she saw green hills where palaces and castles peeped out from amid the proud trees of the forest; she heard the birds singing and felt the warmth of the sun shining in the sky.
In a narrow creek she found a whole group of little human children playing in the water; she wanted to play with them, but they ran away as soon as they saw her. Just as she was about to leave, a little black and white animal came up to her. It had four legs and a waggy tail, but she did not know what it was, for she had never before seen anything like it. The animal made such a loud “WOOF”ing noise at her that she became frightened and rushed back to her home in the sea. But she told Sara she would never forget the beautiful forest, the green hills, and the pretty little children, who could swim in the water although they had no fish’s tails.
At last Sara reached her fifteenth year. “Well, now, you are old enough to make your visit to the surface,” said her father a little sadly; “please be careful for I love you very much.”
Sara hugged her father and said, “Farewell,” then swam as lightly as a bubble to the surface of the water. The sun had just set as she raised her head above the waves; but the clouds were tinted with crimson and gold, and through the glimmering twilight beamed the evening star in all its beauty. A large ship floated calmly in the distance, with only one sail set; for not a breeze blew, and the sailors sat idle on deck or amongst the rigging. There was music and song on board; and, as darkness came on, a hundred colored lanterns were lighted to glow prettily in the night.
The little mermaid swam close to the cabin windows; now and then, as the waves lifted her up, she could look in through clear glass window-panes, and see a number of well-dressed people within. Among them was a young prince, the most handsome of all, with large brown eyes; he was sixteen years of age, and his birthday was the reason for all the celebration.
The sailors were dancing on deck, but when the prince came out of the cabin, more than a hundred rockets rose in the air, making it as bright as day. The little mermaid was so startled that she dived under water; and when she again stretched out her head, it appeared as if all the stars of heaven were falling around her, she had never seen such fireworks before. And how handsome the young prince looked, as he shook the hands of all present and smiled at them, while the music played in the clear night air.
The party was so loud and the lights so bright that the sailors did not notice the lightning flashing in the sky. In what seemed like an instant, a raging storm blew across the ship.
“Look out!” screamed Sara, but no one could hear her over the music and the storm. A fierce black wave crashed into the ship, tossing it violently and, to her horror, Sara saw the young prince was washed overboard, knocking his head against the railing as he fell.
Sara dove deeply under the dark waters, rising and falling with the waves, till at length she managed to reach the young prince; his eyes were closed, and he would have died had the little mermaid not come to his rescue. She held his head above the water, and let the waves drift them where they would.
As dawn broke the storm ceased. Sara pulled the prince onto the shore with the last of her strength. Then she gently cradled him to keep him warm, and sang to him sweetly as the sun rose higher in the sky and the colour came back to his cheeks.
Before the morning had passed, a young girl approached on the beach, and Sara quickly hid.
As the girl drew near, the handsome prince opened his eyes and whispered, “Thank you for saving me, you have a beautiful voice.”
“It isn’t I who rescued you from the sea,” the girl replied, “but I am ever so glad I found you; the whole kingdom has been searching for you since late last night!”
Sara dived down sorrowfully into the water, and returned to her father’s castle. She had always been silent and thoughtful, and now she was more so than ever. Her sisters asked her what she had seen during her first visit to the surface of the water but she was too sad to share her story. For two whole days, she wept alone in her room. On the morning of the third day, Sara woke up having made a decision to go back to see the prince she had rescued, but she knew that her father would never allow her to return to the human world. Sara decided that her only hope was to visit the Witch of the Ocean.
The Witch smiled when she saw the little mermaid approach knowing, in her magical way, what it was the young girl wanted.
“I warn you girl,” said the old woman turning and holding a small bottle of black liquid out to Sara, “in exchange for your wish to be human you will have to give up your pretty voice. Unless your true love makes you his wife, you will never speak again and you shall eventually die.”
The little mermaid carefully took the bottle from the Witch and swam to the shore where she had last seen the prince. She sighed, and looked sorrowfully at her fish’s tail. Then Sara gathered her courage, nodded quietly to herself and drank the magic potion. A searing pain sliced through her and she fainted.
The prince was walking dreamily along the shore. For a moment he thought his dream about a beautiful girl from the sea had come true when he discovered a young girl lying on the beach wearing a most unusual dress of shining scales. He raced up just as the girl’s eyes fluttered open.
“Who are you and how did you come to be here on the beach?” the prince asked gently. But Sara could not answer as her voice was gone with the drinking of the potion so instead she smiled prettily at him and leaned on his arm as he led her to his castle by the sea.
When they arrived at the castle, the lords and ladies looked curiously at the young lady accompanying their prince but before long everyone in the castle became used to the quiet girl’s presence – despite her strange habit of eating nothing but seaweed salads for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The prince was very kind to Sara and treated her like a little sister but to Sara’s sorrow, his thoughts of love were with the human woman who found him on the beach while Sara was hiding.
“She had the most beautiful blue eyes. She was only here for a short while, but I miss her so,” the prince shared with Sara as they were out for a walk in the garden.
After a time, Sara realized that the handsome prince would not be hers to marry. She felt so lonely she thought her heart might break but she was still happy that the prince was such a good friend.
“I shall stay with him for as long as I can,” Sara decided. But she knew that when he finally married the woman he dreamt about that she would die, for the witch’s curse required that she marry her true love in order to become fully human.
As winter ended and spring began the day Sara had been dreading finally arrived. The king from the neighbouring country stopped by to visit and brought with him his lovely daughter.
As soon as the prince saw her, he rushed up and gazed into her eyes.
“You!” he exclaimed, “you are the one who found me on the beach.” And with that the couple quickly fell in love and made plans to marry.
Sara’s sisters had kept track of her throughout her adventure in the human lands and were horrified to think the dear little mermaid would die with the marriage of the happy couple. So they swam down to make their own deal with the Witch of the Sea; in exchange for their hair, the witch gave them a magical knife.
As Sara walked alone along the beach one morning she saw her sisters out to sea. “Whatever happened to your beautiful hair?” she asked sadly.
Her sisters replied, “We traded it with the witch for a magical knife. You must kill the prince with it and you will be returned to us as a mermaid under the sea. We miss you so and don’t wish to see you die!”
Sara smiled to her sisters and waved to them farewell, but threw the knife deep into the ocean for she knew she could never bring herself to kill the handsome prince who she loved with all her heart.
And so the day came when the prince and princess were married. All of the kingdom rejoiced; even Sara who watched silently from the beach near the ocean where once she had swam freely as a mermaid.
Although she felt sorrow, Sara was happy for the days she had spent with the prince and happy that he had married his true love.
As the couple kissed to seal their vows, Sara felt a stab of pain and sank to the sand with the waves washing over her. She thought to herself as she lay there, “So this is the end; how I wish I had longer to watch the humans celebrate their strange and exciting lives. But alas, all that is left is for me to melt into the seafoam and rejoin the ocean that was once my home.”
Happily, the fairies of the air had been watching Sara all this time for they too were curious about the humans and had taken it as their task to watch over them. The eldest of the fairies fluttered down to Sara and touched her lightly on the forehead.
“Fear not, dear girl, for your love and acceptance has earned you a place with us. From now on you shall be a child of the air and watch over the humans with kindness and compassion.” And as the elder fairy lifted her hand, Sara found herself becoming as light as a feather and sprouting wings.
The little mermaid smiled brightly for she could not think of a more wonderful life than fluttering through the air like a butterfly, and watching over the humans that she had first given up the sea to meet.
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