As I mentioned previously, one of my current projects is writing a series of fairytales, some original, some reimaginings of lesser known tales which I plan to post over the next several months. And since my daughter’s birthday is this month, I decided to start with her favorite, Daughter of the Sea.
Just a quick reminder, all these tales are unedited, so there will be typos and grammatical errors, and all artwork is still conceptual or in progress. Still, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them!
Daughter of the Sea
There was once a young fisherman and his wife who lived in a cottage at the edge of the sea. The life they had chosen was not easy, but they were happy in each other’s company and content in all things save one, they did not have a child.
This thought was ever on the young wife’s mind. It made it so that she rarely slept and could most often be found walking along the shore, with only the light of the moon and stars above her. With each passing day her heart grew heavier, until one fateful night, it seemed too much for her to bare. She began to walk out into the sea, resolved to let the waves drag her down into that forever sleep. But just as her foot touched the water, she heard the softest cry.
The sound caught her ear, and she turned away from the ocean, walking along its edge instead until she came to a tidal pool. There, swaddled in seaweed, she found a tiny baby girl. A necklace hung from around her neck and on it was a shimmering scale.
The young wife brushed the baby’s soft cheek. The baby cooed happily, and she knew right then that she could not leave the babe there all alone. So, although she was not sure whether it was the right thing to do, she took the child. Cuddling it close as she carried it away from the sea, back towards the little cottage she shared with her husband.
Time passed. And as will often happen, the young fisherman and his wife grew to be an old fisherman and fishwife. And their daughter, for that is what they told people, grew as well.
The couple had been gifted with three fine sons over the years, all of which they were very proud of. Still, the child the sea had given them was their only daughter and the fisherman’s wife loved her dearly.
The girl had grown to be a lovely young maid, with wild dark hair and eyes as gray as storm-tossed waves. Her mouth was generous, and she often smiled. But of all those things, it was her voice for which she was best known. For no one who ever heard her sing could forget it. And she often sang while she walked along the shore, gathering seaweed for her mother’s soup and searching for treasures in the sand.
That was exactly what she was doing on that day while storm was brewing overhead, its dark roiling clouds turning everything to the color of slate. The waves bucked wildly along the sand, cresting high above the sea, before crashing down into mountains of foam. The wind was blowing full in her face, stinging with salt and sand.
This bothered the fisherman’s daughter not at all. She laughed at the wild ocean and sang with the frigid wind as it stroked her face and tangled her hair. She continued on her way happily down the strand.
She thought herself alone, until, to her surprise, she saw a milk white horse some little ways in front of her, standing in the waves and sea spray. It was long and lean. Its mane and tail lank and dripping with sea water.
Although she was curious, she did not think too much of it. After all, it was not uncommon for a horse to wander along the shore.
But the horse did not wander, instead its head was turned towards her, as if waiting. And when she walked passed him, he turned to follow at her side. When she reached her hand out towards him, he did not shy away, just continued walking beside her. He had such a gentlemanly manner that she felt it safe to touch his shoulder; the coat beneath her fingers was short, and as soft as seal fur.
They walked companionably down the beach until they reached the sea cliffs that pointed out like a giant’s finger into the storm-tossed water. There the stallion, for a stallion he certainly was, stopped and turned to look at her. His eyes, green as beryls, regarding her for a moment, before bowing of his head to her. He turned and with a flick of his tail, trotted out into the iron gray sea. She watched with amazement as he was swallowed up by the waves.
She was still standing there when the next wave washed up, leaving behind it a large fish on the sand at her feet.
She carried the fish home to her family, who marveled at it and asked how she had come across it. And she told them, for they were not generally a family to keep secrets, save one. That one secret, the wife kept close to her heart, along with the scale necklace, listening as her daughter told her tale but saying nothing in return.
The next day the fisherman’s wife gave her daughter a long list of chores, in hopes of keeping her home. But before midday the girl was back down at the water’s edge, walking amongst the foam and singing sweetly to the sea.
The white horse met her again on the shore. Walking along beside her as she rested her hand on his shoulder and leaving her once more when they reached the sea cliffs. The next wave that washed up on shore after he left carried with it a fish even bigger than the last. The young woman brought it home with her.
It was the most wonderful fish, with tender white flesh. But as they sat down to eat it for their dinner that night, the fisherman’s wife could not keep the worry from her face.
“You say this white horse is always a gentleman and asks nothing in return for the fine fish he gives us. But that doesn’t mean that it will always be so,” she warned her daughter. “What he may ask, I cannot say, but be sure that you never mount upon his back, no matter how tempting it may be. If you do, he will surely carry you down below the waves, and I fear your feet would never again touch the land.”
The girl promised her mother that she would be careful and not give in to such a temptation.
Yet, despite her mother’s warning, she was down at the seashore the next day her basket full of seaweed. Again, the milk white horse waiting for her on the sand. They walked amiably together as they had the day before, save this time she did not sing.
When they reached the spot where they would usually part ways, the great white horse stepped out in front, turning his warm side towards her. He nickered and pushed at her hip, urging her to mount on his back. Laughing, she spun away from the circle of his neck.
“Oh no, my handsome one,” she admonished, shaking her finger at him. “I will not ride on your back, for I know where that will take me!”
The stallion nickered and shook his mane at her, before turning and walking out into the crashing waves.
This time, the fish that washed up on the next wave was so big, she had to run and get her father and brothers to carry it home.
As they ate that evening the fisherman’s wife asked her daughter if the sea horse had indeed offered her a ride.
“He did, but have no fear,” she reassured her mother. “I kept my promise and did not mount on his back when he asked me. Which I am sure you have guessed, for here I sit, and I doubt I shall see him again.”
But the fisherman’s wife was not so sure, and feared she may yet lose her daughter.
The next day, the young woman went with her basket down to the sea, as she always did. And despite what she had said to her mother, she kept watch for the milk white horse. She did not find him, but that wasn’t to say the beach was empty. Standing in the place where usually they would meet, was a man.
He was tall and lean, with skin as white as alabaster and hair like a night-dark sea. As she drew closer, he bowed most politely, and the eyes that met hers as he rose were also as green as beryls.
He introduced himself as the Sea King’s son, his seventh son to be precise. And though it sounded fantastical, she found she did not doubt him. He asked if he could walk with her, and she agreed.
As they walked, he told her about the land beneath the waves from which he came from. Of his father’s castle with its towers of pearl and its gardens filled with coral trees and anemones, over which jellyfish hung like lanterns. He talked of nights filled with whale song, and days spent along the ocean’s sandy floor, playing hide and seek with seals through giant forests of seaweed. She found her feet moving slower, reluctant for the walk to end, but end it did. They parted ways when they reached the sea cliffs, but not before he had gotten her promise to meet again the next day.
He left her with a bow, and turning, he walked away, out into the rolling waves. The sea swallowed him up, just as it had the white horse. A giant wave washed up again on the shore, leaving a present at her feet. Except this time, it wasn’t a fish that she found on the sand, in its stead were twelve perfect oysters.
She gathered them up in her basket and went home. And when they opened them up that night for dinner they found, much to their surprise, that each one held a silvery white pearl.
The fishwife watched her daughter with worried eyes as they all sat down to eat. Her daughter had not said from where the oysters had come, and the wife did not ask; afraid she in turn would have to tell her own secret.
The young woman kept her promise to meet the Sea King’s son the next day. And when she came home that night, she had twelve more oysters, all with pearls even bigger than the ones before. And the fishwife’s heart grew ever more uneasy.
When next the fisherman’s daughter and the Sea King’s son met, the sun shone brightly down on them. Its warm light tipping every wave with diamonds as they walked hand in hand over the sparkling sand. When they reached the sea cliffs, he took both her hands in his and laughingly stole a kiss.
“Come with me,” he said in a voice filled delight. “Be my wife. I want to show you all that I have spoken of, and more.”
“Come with you? How can I?” she said. “I would die if I followed you beneath the waves!”
“Die? I dare say you would not! You are a daughter of the sea. I knew it when first I heard you sing,” he said earnestly. “Though for the life of me, I can’t say where you have hidden your tail.”
His words made no sense, though she wished with all her heart that they were true. She shook her head no, and sadness filled his beautiful green eyes.
“It was your song that called me out of the sea,” he confessed. “I came only with the hope that you would be my bride. But my time here is not without end; I must leave on the spring tide to return to my father’s kingdom beneath the waves. I do not know when or if I can return.”
“The spring tide!” she said and her heart felt as heavy as lead. “But that is tomorrow.”
“Just so, my siren,” he said sadly. “Meet me here if you can, before I leave.”
He did not wait for her answer but turned and left. As she watched him disappear into the ocean’s embrace, she knew her cheeks were wet with more than sea spray.
When her daughter did not return for supper, the fisherman’s wife feared the worst. She went down to the shore to search for her and found her there in the shadow of the sea cliffs, her face wet with tears.
“Oh, child what’s wrong!” she asked, although in her heart she already knew.
Her daughter did not answer, so the fishwife threw her shawl about the weeping girl’s shoulders and led her home.
All though dinner her daughter said not a word, and everyone watched her with worried eyes.
On her way to her own bed the fishwife checked the house, as she usually did. Her daughter’s bed was empty, but she found her on the front stoop sitting in the full moon’s light, listening to the waves crash on the not so distant shore. She was crying softly to herself.
The fisherman’s wife sat down on the stoop next to her daughter. Putting her arms around the girl, she asked what it was that made her cry so. Her daughter told her all about the Sea King’s son and all that he had said besides. Hugging her mother tight as she admitted how much she wanted to be his bride, even if it meant that it would be her death to which she went.
The fishwife’s heart broke and she knew she could keep her secret no longer. She drew the necklace out from where she kept it hid. Setting the shimmering scale in her daughter’s hand, she told her of how she had found her swaddled in seaweed out on the strand. Then she kissed the girl on her forehead and went to her own bed, knowing that her daughter would be gone with the next tide.
The next morning dawned bright and clear. Never had the fisherman’s wife seen such a gloriously blue sky. Still her heart was heavy as she began her day.
A little later, the men of the house came back from their run, their boat so full of fish it could hardly float. The whole village turned out help them with their haul, and there was more than enough for everyone. But the fisherman’s wife was not there.
When the evening came and the fisherman went to look for his wife, he did not find her at home. Instead she stood at the edge of the lapping waves, her shawl drawn tight around her as she stared out across the water. Tears were flowing freely down her cheeks, and at her feet sat a small chest filled to overflowing with jewels and gold coins.
He held his wife and stroked her hair, his cheeks as wet as hers. They had both known that the day might come when their daughter would have to return to the sea. Still their hearts were heavy.
From then on, the village prospered. Never again having to worry about missing boats or empty nets. The jewels and gold went to setting the fisherman and his wife up in comfort, and to making sure their sons each had a boat of their own.
A few years passed, and although the wife loved her husband and sons dearly, she greatly missed her daughter. She took to walking along the strand as she had done before, and sometimes her husband would join her.
On one such night, when the moon was at her fullest, they heard someone softly singing. They followed the song, and there, at the foot of the sea cliffs, they found a small girl child waiting. She was wrapped in a seaweed blanket, and about her neck hung a necklace, just the same as her mother had worn. The scale it held shimmered in the moon’s bright light.
They scooped the girl up and headed home, their heart’s full once again.