The Little Mermaid

Hans Andersen

In the middle of the sea the water is very, very blue. You can see through it. Below the water is a strange world of beautiful trees and plants. Fish swim in and out of them. This is the home of the Sea King. His palace is here, under the water.

After the Sea King's wife died, his old mother looked after him. She loved the Sea King's six children, and they loved their grandmother, too. These children were beautiful mermaid princesses. The youngest princess was the most beautiful: her eyes were as blue as the sea and her face was as white as snow. But mermaids do not have feet. The top half of her body was the body of a girl, and the bottom half was the body of a fish.

Sometimes the old grandmother told stories to the mermaid princesses. 'There are many people in the world,' she said. 'Some people live in the sea and some live on the land. The land people are different. They have feet.'

'Tell me everything,' the youngest mermaid said.

'These people are men,' her grandmother said. 'They have ships and they have great cities. There are mountains and gardens with beautiful flowers. Fish fly through the sky and sing beautiful songs!' (These 'fish' were birds, but she called them fish. The little princesses did not know about birds.)

'On your fifteenth birthday, you can swim to the top of the sea,' their grandmother said. 'You can sit there at night and see the ships. And you can learn about men.'

The youngest sister wanted to swim to the top of the sea more than the other sisters. On many nights, she stood by the open window, and looked up through the blue water. She saw a ship above her. 'That's a very big fish,' she thought.

The next year, the oldest sister was fifteen and she swam to the top of the sea. She came back and said to her sisters, 'I saw many things. I saw a lovely big city. It was near the sea and there were a lot of lights. People sang and talked. I wanted to go there but I stayed in the sea.'

'Tell me about the city again,' the youngest princess said. The next night she stood near her open window and looked up through the sea. 'I can hear singing,' she thought.