A beautiful mermaid falls in love with a handsome prince after rescuing him from a shipwreck. She decides to leave her underwater world behind and gives a sea witch her voice in exchange for a potion that allows her to live on land. When she meets her prince, he tells her he cannot love her as he is in love with a maiden who rescued him at sea. Since the mute mermaid can't tell him she is that maiden, the prince marries another woman. When the heartbroken mermaid wants to give up, the fairies of the earth recognize her kind heart and allow her to return to her home in the sea.
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In the deepest part of the furthest
ocean stands the castle of the Sea King.
Within the castle resides the Royal
Sea King, his six young daughters and
all of his subjects. The sea-princesses
were all beautiful children and were
taken care of by their Grandmother.
But the little mermaid, the youngest
of the sisters, was the most beautiful
of them all.
She was quiet and thoughtful, and
cared for nothing but her flowers
and a beautiful marble statue she had
found at the bottom of the sea.
The statue, a handsome boy carved
out of pure white stone, stood in the
young princess’ garden.
Nothing made the little mermaid
happier than to hear about the world
above the sea.
She made her old grandmother tell
her everything she knew about the
ships and the towns and the people
and the plants and the animals.
"On your fifteenth birthday," said
her grandmother, "you can go to
the surface of the sea and sit
on the rocks in the moonlight while
the great ships are sailing by.
Then you can see the forests and
towns with your very own eyes."
At night the little mermaid would gaze
out her window, looking up through
the dark blue water, and imagining
the world overhead. She knew that
the people on those ships never
imagined that such a pretty
little mermaid was floating beneath,
longing to be among them, and
waiting so patiently for the five years
until her fifteenth birthday.
"Oh, if only I were fifteen years old!"
she said. "I know that I will love
the world up above, and all
the people who live there."
At last, her fifteenth birthday arrived.
As the sun was setting, she raised
her head above the waves for the very
first time. The clouds were colored
with crimson and gold, and through
the glimmering twilight the brightest
of the stars began to shine. The sea was
calm, and a ship floated idly nearby.
There was music and song aboard,
and, as darkness fell, the reflections
of a hundred colored lanterns began
to dance merrily on the waves.
The little mermaid swam closer to
the ship. She peered inside the cabin
windows, and saw a group of people
laughing and talking happily together.
Among them was a handsome young
prince, with large dark eyes.
He was turning sixteen years old,
and his birthday was cause for much
celebration. The sailors danced and
sang, and when the prince arrived
on deck, more than a hundred rockets
shot up into the air, bursting with light
and showering the little princess
with falling stars.
Night was falling, yet the little mermaid
could not take her eyes off the ship, or
the beautiful prince. Soon, the lights
were put out, and the sea started to
become restless and the wind blew
faster and harder. Still, she remained,
rocking up and down on the water,
gazing at the ship.
After a while, the sails were hastily
unfurled, and the noble ship began
to move once again. The waves
rose higher and higher, heavy clouds
darkened the sky, and the lightning
appeared in the distance.
A dreadful storm was approaching.
The ship fought the storm, rushing
between the threatening waves.
But before long, the ship groaned
and creaked; the thick planks gave
way under the lashing of the sea
and the waves broke over the deck.
They snapped the mast and soon
the ship lay over on her side with
the water rushing in.
The little mermaid now saw that
the crew was in danger. It was so
pitch dark that she could not see
a single object, but a flash of lightning
revealed the whole scene; she could
see everyone except the prince.
She searched the water, and spotted
him sinking into the deep waves.
She swam frantically among the beams
and planks that littered the surface,
grabbed hold of him, held his head
above the water, and let the waves
drift them towards the shore.
By morning the storm had passed
and the sea was calm, but not a single
piece of the ship was to be seen.
With the prince still in her arms, the
mermaid kissed his forehead and
stroked back his wet hair. He reminded
her of the marble statue in her little
garden, and she kissed him again,
wishing that he might live.
Soon they came in sight of land.
Carrying the prince, she swam to
the beach and there she laid him
on the sand in the warm sunshine.
The little mermaid swam away from
the shore but kept her eyes on
the poor prince.
Before long, a young girl approached
the spot where the prince lay. She ran
for help, and soon the prince awoke
again. The prince was carried away,
without knowing who had saved him,
and the little princess sadly dived
into the water, returning to her
The little mermaid had always been
a silent and thoughtful child, but
now she was quieter than ever.
Her sisters asked her what she had
seen at the surface of the water,
but she would tell them nothing.
Many an evening and morning
she swam to the place where she had
left the prince. It was her only comfort
to sit in her own little garden, and fling
her arms around the beautiful marble
statue that reminded her of him.
But she gave up tending her flowers,
and they grew in wild confusion over
the paths, twining their long leaves
and stems round the branches of the
trees, so that the whole place became
dark and gloomy.
Finally she could bear it no longer,
and told one of her sisters about
the prince. Then the others heard
the secret, and very soon it became
known to two mermaids who
happened to know who the prince was.
They had also seen the festival on
board the ship that night, and told
the sisters where the prince’s palace
stood. His castle was built of bright
yellow shining stone, with long flights
of marble steps, one of which reached
quite down to the sea. Now that she
knew where he lived, the little mermaid
spent many nights on the water near
the palace. She would swim much
nearer the shore than any of the others
ventured to do to watch the young
prince in the bright moonlight.
Over time, she grew more and more
fond of human beings, and wished
more and more to be able to wander
among them in their great wide world.
No matter how hard she tried she
could not forget the charming prince.
She crept away silently out of her
father's palace one day, and sat in
her own little garden, sad and alone.
Then she heard a bugle sounding
through the water, and thought:
"That must be him up above. Oh, how
I would give everything I have for him,
and for an immortal soul so that I
could be with him forever and always!
I will go to the sea witch. I know
I should not, and she does scare me
more than anything else. Maybe
she can help me."
So the little mermaid left her garden,
and swam down the road to the
foaming whirlpools where the witch
lived. She entered a marshy clearing
in the middle of the forest where
large, fat, ugly water-snakes rolled
around in the thick black muck. Here
stood a house, built with the pieces
of all the broken ships ever to be
destroyed in the ocean. The sea witch
sat nearby and noticed the pretty
little mermaid approaching her hut.
"Well hello little princess. Don’t bother
explaining, I know what you want,"
said the sea witch in a raspy voice.
"It is very stupid of you, but you shall
have your way, and it will only bring
you sadness, my pretty princess.
You want to get rid of your fish's tail,
and to have legs instead, like a human
being, so that the young prince may
fall in love with you.”
"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. You
must swim to land before sunrise, and
sit down on the shore and drink it.
Your tail will shrink into a pair of legs.
It will be painful, like you have never
known before, but everyone will say
that you are the prettiest little human
being they ever saw. Are you sure
you want to risk your happiness for
this fleeting moment?" she asked.
"Yes, I will," said the little princess
in a trembling voice, as she thought
of the prince.
"But think again, for once you have
become a human you can never be
a mermaid again, you can never return
to your sisters, or to your father's
palace, and if you do not win the love
of the prince, then you will be
The first morning after he marries
another your heart will break, and
you will become nothing more than
foam on the crest of the waves.”
"I will do it," said the mermaid,
turning pale as she said this.
"Ah, but I must be paid," cackled the
witch, "and it is not a trifle that I ask.
You have the sweetest voice of all,
and you must give it to me."
"But if you take away my voice," said
the little mermaid, "what is left of me?”
"Your beautiful form, your graceful
walk, and your expressive eyes.
Surely with these you can win
a man's heart. Well, have you lost
your courage? It is a small price
to pay for your prince."
"O-Ok," nodded the little mermaid.
Then the witch placed her cauldron
on the fire, to prepare the magic drink.
The witch threw tons of ingredients
into the pot, one after another, and
when it began to boil, the sound was
like the weeping of a crocodile.
When at last the magic potion was
ready, it looked like the clearest water.
"There it is," said the witch.
The little mermaid turned to leave,
with the crystal clear potion in her
hand like a twinkling star.
She swam quickly back through the
woods and the marsh, and between
the rushing whirlpools. She saw that
in her father's palace the torches in
the ballroom had gone out, and
everyone was asleep. She turned her
back, knowing that she would never
see them again, and felt as though
her heart was about to split into
a thousand pieces.
The sun had not yet risen when she
came in sight of the Prince's palace.
There, she drank the magic potion
immediately passing from its strong
magic. When the sun arose over the
sea, she awoke to find the handsome
young prince gazing down at her.
He fixed his coal-black eyes upon her
so earnestly that she had to look away,
and then became aware that her fish's
tail was gone, and that she had a
pretty pair of white legs and tiny feet.
The prince asked her who she was,
and where she came from, and she
looked at him mildly and sadly with
her deep blue eyes. Oh, how she
wanted to tell him everything, but
she could not speak! He helped her
to her feet, and every step she took
was more painful than the last, but
she endured it, and stepped lightly
and gracefully by the prince's side.
He took her into his palace and
dressed her in robes of silk and muslin. She was the most beautiful creature
in the palace, but she was silenced, and could neither speak nor sing.
The prince was enchanted by her, and said she should remain with him
always. He had a dress made for her, so she could ride with him on
horseback and soon, the two became best friends. As they days passed,
the little mermaid loved the prince more and more, and he loved her, too.
But he loved her as he would love a little child, and never thought
about marrying her.
“Yes, you are dear to me,” the prince told the little mermaid one day.
You have the best heart, and you are the most devoted to me out of anyone
I know. You remind me of a young maiden I once saw, but I will never
meet again. I was in a ship that was wrecked, and he waves cast me ashore
near a holy temple. A young maiden there found me on the shore, and
saved my life. I saw her but twice, and she is the only one in the world I could
love. You are like her, and you have almost made me forget about her.”
The princess wanted to cry and tell the prince that she was the maiden,
but alas, she could not.
And so soon it was announced that the prince must marry, and that the
beautiful daughter of a neighboring king would be his wife.
"We must travel," said the prince.
"I must see this beautiful princess;
my parents want me to. But I cannot
love her; she is not like the beautiful
maiden who saved me. If I were forced
to choose a bride, I would rather
choose you, with your beautiful eyes."
The next morning the ship sailed
into the harbor of a beautiful town
belonging to the neighboring king.
The church bells were ringing, and
from the high towers sounded
a flourish of trumpets. Soldiers,
with colorful banners and glittering
bayonets, lined the shore to greet
the prince and his family.
That day was a celebration, full of
great dances and festivals in the streets
and the palace.
At last the princess entered, more
beautiful than anyone had imagined.
Her skin was delicate and fair, and
beneath her long dark eyelashes
her blue eyes shone and glittered.
"You are the most beautiful person
I have ever laid eyes on!" exclaimed
the prince when he saw his bride to be.
"Oh, I am so happy," said he to the
little mermaid, "all of my dreams have
Struck by the beauty of the princess,
he had completely forgotten about
the maiden who saved his life.
The day of the wedding arrived.
Everyone was full of excitement and
laughter, but the little mermaid,
dressed in silk and gold, was
broken-hearted. She had lost
everything she had, and that night
was to be her last.
Later in the day, after the ceremony,
the bride and groom boarded the
elegant ship that had been prepared
for them. It glided away smoothly
and lightly over the calm sea.
The little mermaid could not help but
think about the first time she had
seen the surface of the water, on the
prince’s birthday. Now, she joined in
the dancing, and had never danced
so elegantly before. She knew this
was the last evening she would ever
see the prince, this was the last time
that she would breathe the same air
as him, or gaze up at the starry sky
and down into the deep sea.
The celebration on the ship continued
till long after midnight; the little
mermaid laughed and danced with
everyone, even though her heart was
full of pain and sadness. Eventually
it grew darker, the party went to
sleep, and the ship became quiet.
The little mermaid leaned against
the side of the ship and watched the
horizon, waiting for the sun to rise.
Taking one last breath, she flung
herself over the edge of the ship
into the sea. But as the sun rose,
casting its warm rays onto the ocean,
the little mermaid did not turn into
the water foam as she had expected.
Instead, she saw hundreds of
beautiful transparent beings
floating all around her.
"Who are you?" asked the little mermaid.
"We are the fairies of the earth"
answered one of the figures.
"Because of your kind heart and your
good deeds, we have decided to give
you your life back in the sea. You
truly sacrificed your life for the prince,
even dancing with a broken heart on
his wedding day. You now know that
even though someone else’s
life might look better, ultimately
you have to be true to yourself.”
With that, the Earth Fairies floated
away and the Little Mermaid grew
back her fish feet. She swam to
her family, hugged her father,
kissed her sisters, and cried with
Finally, the Little Mermaid had
discovered true happiness.