The Little Mermaid
This story is called The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen, adapted and recorded by Library Call. In the ocean, where the water is as clear as a crystal, it is very deep, so deep that no human could reach the bottom. There dwelled the Sea King and his kingdom. The bottom was rich with the most beautiful sea flowers, plants, and fish. In the deepest spot of all stood the castle of the Sea King. Its walls were built of coral, and the long Gothic windows of the clearest amber. The roof was formed of shells that opened and closed as the water flowed over them. Their appearance was very beautiful, in each lies a glittering pearl. Outside the castle there was a beautiful garden, in which grew bright-red and dark-blue flowers, and blossoms like flames of fire; the fruit glittered like gold. The Sea King had six sea princesses to care for. His youngest princess had skin as delicate as a rose leaf, and her eyes as deep as the sea. Her eyes conveyed her curiosity and depth. Nothing gave the little mermaid so much pleasure as to hear about the world above the sea. She made her grandmother tell her all she knew of the ships and of the towns, the people and the animals "When you grow up,” said the grandmother, "you will have permission to rise up out of the sea and sit on the rocks in the moonlight, while the great ships go sailing by. Then you will see both forests and towns." The little mermaid finally grew up and was allowed to rise to the surface of the ocean. The sun had just set when she raised her head above the waves. The clouds were tinted with crimson and gold, and through the glimmering twilight beamed the evening star in all its beauty. The sea was calm, and the air mild and fresh. A large ship sat still on the water; only one sail was set, for not a breeze stirred, and the sailors sat idle on deck. The little mermaid swam close to the cabin windows, and now and then, as the waves lifted her up, she could look in through glass windowpanes and see a number of fashionably dressed people. Among them, and the most beautiful of all, was a young prince with large, black eyes. His birthday was being celebrated with the brightest colors and music. It was very late, yet the little mermaid could not take her eyes from the ship or from the beautiful prince. The little mermaid thought that the crew was in danger. When the ship parted, she had seen him sink into the deep waves, and she was glad, for she thought he would now be with her. Then she remembered that human beings could not live in the water, so that when he got down to her father's palace, he would certainly be dead. No, he must not die! She held his head above the water and let the waves carry them where they would. The sun came up red and shining out of the water, and its beams brought back the hue of health to the prince's cheeks, but his eyes remained closed. The mermaid kissed his high, smooth forehead and stroked back his wet hair. Presently they came in sight of land, and she saw blue mountains on which the white snow rested as if a flock of swans were lying upon them. Beautiful green forests were near the shore. Orange and citron trees grew in the garden. She swam with the handsome prince to the beach. For fear of him seeing her, she swam away before he opened his eyes. Now that the little mermaid knew where the prince lived, she spent many evenings on the water near the palace She wanted nothing more than to be human, so she decided to see the sea witch. She lived in a house built of the bones of shipwrecked sailors. "I know what you want," said the sea witch. "It is not very wise, but you shall have your way, though it will bring you to sorrow, my princess. You want to get rid of your fish's tail and to have two legs instead, like humans on earth, so that the young prince may fall in love with you and so that you may have an immortal soul." And then the witch laughed loud. "You are just in time," said the witch, "for after sunrise tomorrow I should not be able to help you till the end of another year. I will prepare a potion for you, but you must swim to land tomorrow before sunrise and drink it. Your tail will then disappear and shrink up into what humans call legs. "But think again," said the witch, "for when once your shape has become like a human being, you cannot be a mermaid again. You will never return through the water to your sisters or to your father's palace again. And if you do not win the love of the prince, the first morning after he marries another, your heart will break, and you will become foam on the crest of the waves." "I will do it," said the little mermaid, and she became pale. "But I must be paid, also," said the witch, "You have the most beautiful voice of any who dwell here in the depths of the sea, and you believe that you will be able to charm the prince with it. But this voice you must give to me.” "It shall be," said the little mermaid. Then the witch placed her caldron on the fire, to prepare the magic potion. "There it is for you," said the witch. She saw that in her father's palace the lights were out, and everyone was asleep, but she did not say goodbye, that would make her heart break. She swam to the garden, took a flower from the flower bed of each of her sisters, kissed her hand towards the palace a thousand times, and then rose up through the dark-blue waters. Then the little mermaid drank the magic potion. Her tail turned into legs and feet. When the sun rose and shone over the sea, she recovered and before her stood the handsome young prince. The prince asked her who she was and where she came from. She looked at him mildly and sorrowfully with her deep eyes but could not speak. He took her by the hand and led her to the palace. She was very soon arrayed in robes of silk and velvet. The prince said she should remain with him always. They rode together through the sweet-scented woods and the little birds sang among the fresh leaves. "Do you not love me the best of them all?" the eyes of the little mermaid seemed to say when he took her in his arms and kissed her fair forehead. "Yes, you are dear to me, but I am to marry someone else," said the prince. Very soon it was said that the prince would marry the daughter of a neighboring king. "I must travel," he had said to her; "I must see this princess.” The Little Mermaid dreamed of human happiness and an immortal soul. "You are not afraid of the sea, are you?" he said, as they stood on the deck of the noble ship which was to carry them to the country of the neighboring king. Then he told her of strange fishes in the deep beneath them, and of what the divers had seen there. She smiled at his descriptions, for she knew better than anyone what wonders were at the bottom of the sea. The little mermaid kissed his hand and felt as if her heart were already broken. His wedding morning would bring death to her, and she would change into the foam of the sea. When it grew dark, a number of colored lamps were lit, and the sailors danced on the deck. The little mermaid could not help thinking of her first rising out of the sea, when she had seen similar joyful festivities, so she too joined in the dance. She knew this was the last evening she should ever see the prince for whom she had given up her home. She had given up her voice for him, while he knew nothing of the eternal night, without a thought or a dream, that awaited her. The sun rose above the waves, and the warm rays fell on the cold foam of the little mermaid, who did not feel as if she were dying. She saw the bright sun, and hundreds of transparent, beautiful creatures floating around her. Their speech was melodious but could not be heard by mortal ears—just as their bodies could not be seen by mortal eyes. The little mermaid perceived that she had a body like theirs and that she continued to rise higher and higher out of the foam. "Where am I?" she asked, and her voice sounded ethereal, like the voices of those who were with her. No earthly music could imitate it. "Among the daughters of the air," answered one of them. "You may not have obtained an immortal soul with the love of a prince, but you are one of us. We breathe life into the Earth and strengthen those who have lost their voice. The little mermaid lifted her glorified eyes toward the sun and, for the first time, felt them filling with tears. On the ship in which she had left the prince there were life and noise, and she saw him and his bride searching for her. Sorrowfully, they gazed at the pearly foam, as if they knew she had thrown herself into the waves. The Little Mermaid felt sorrow as she met their gaze. She did not feel sorrow for losing him, but rather, the memory of what she had given up for his love. She felt the power of her voice rise through the heavens and she never stopped singing. The End This story is called The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen, adapted and recorded by Library Call.