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The Prince: Based on The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson
Far away, in an ocean as blue as cornflower’s petals and as clear as glass, was a set of six islands. On the first and largest island sat a castle and in this castle lived a king, his queen, their only son, members of their court, and many servants and slaves. The king oversaw these islands and as king, he was just and kind, and all who lived under his rule were very happy.
The prince was just as loved by the people as his father was, but even more so by his parents. He was neither spoiled nor deprived of anything he may have needed or wanted. From a very early age he was given the finest education. As he grew, he was successful in all of his studies, but most particularly in geography, history, and foreign languages. With these areas of interest, the prince developed a great longing to travel and to see the places he had learned about. His father knew this opportunity would not only be a great gift for his son but it would also be an educational opportunity that would change his life and make him a better king in the future. The king assigned the kingdom’s chief navigator to teach the prince all about ships, the sea, and the ways of the water. Soon after these lessons began, charts and maps surrounded the prince’s chambers and the prince dreamed night after night of new lands yet to be discovered and the adventures he longed to have.
In this way, the prince grew up, growing intellectually and more handsome with each passing year. The younger ladies of the court were often seen looking at the prince with yearning eyes, but these occurrences did not last long as the girls soon realized that they were acting silly.
As for his aspirations to explore, during one of his lessons the chief navigator stated that he was learning so fast that by the time he was sixteen, he would be able to successfully lead a crew to sea. The king and queen, hearing this, decided that their son should have this chance.
Three days before his sixteenth birthday, the king and queen told him that a ship had been equipped for him to sail with his own crew to the sixth island and back, a twenty-two day journey. Along the way, he would be able to see the other islands and become acquainted with the people he would soon rule. The governor of the second island had already arranged with the king and queen that a celebration was to be held aboard the ship the night of the prince’s birthday. The idea of an arranged celebration slightly annoyed the prince at first, but the idea of seeing the other islands for the first time thrilled him so much that the celebration became more appealing to him as the hours of the day dwindled. The next morning, the prince said goodbye to his parents and the ship set sail.
The prince had been at sea before as part of his navigation lessons, but never for more than half of a day. The salty spray of the sea was refreshing to him as the ship swiftly sailed on. The navigator had picked the best sailors for the prince to command. By the afternoon, they were telling the prince tales of the deep as if he had always been one of their own.
At night, the prince stood at the helm. As he guided the ship through the sea, he looked at the stars and marveled at the fact that he had looked at those same stars at home, and yet they seemed so different in the open.
By mid-morning on the prince’s birthday, two days later, the second island was in sight. The prince went ashore and was greeted by the governor himself. The prince spent the day learning about the island and visiting the main town while preparations for the celebration were made aboard the anchored ship. As the sun began its descent, the prince, along with the governor’s family and more affluent members of the town boarded large rowboats and headed out to the ship. Ropes were tied to the rowboats and the prince went into his quarters to dress for the evening. When he stepped out, resounding cheers went up. Fireworks lit the darkening sky and cannons sounded, telling all who could hear of the prince’s birthday. There was dancing, a fine but simple supper, and entertainment by the crew well into the night. Finally, the guests went home equipped with light, the ship raised anchor, and was on its way.
The wind had started to pick up not long after the guests had left, with it the waves. Soon, clouds covered the moon and stars, and thunder began to rumble louder. Rain began to pour down from the heavy clouds and soon the only light in the sky was the lightning flashing periodically between the booming rolls of thunder. The prince, having changed back into his sea clothes, was right up alongside the crew, screaming orders, pulling the ropes of the sails in an effort to reef them, trying to keep the ship from going under the monstrous waves that threatened to flood her. The prince had once been in a storm with the navigator, but he had been close to home. Now, he had no idea where they were in relation to the second island. Were they miles from it or was it still close by? He could hear the ship starting to creak under the pressure of the waves. “Your Highness! I need your help at the helm!” he heard someone yell. As he rushed across the deck, he heard a deafening crack, and the next thing he knew, the mast was falling towards him. As he hastened out of the way, he felt himself falling as the boat leaned to her side. He felt himself sliding towards the water, and the pain of him hitting his head on the side of the boat. He was nearly unconscious, but he saw the mast just miss his body and hit the deck, sending a large crack through its wood. The side of the ship nearly gone, a giant wave came across and dragged him into the sea. He tried to fight back up to the surface and grab a plank that had fallen into the water, but the injury to his head had weakened him and he felt himself falling. His eyes began to close. He felt like he was falling asleep. He began to dream and in the dream he felt himself being lifted by something and his head was above the water, gently being carried by the sea and by the something that had saved him.
But, no, it hadn’t been a dream. Somehow, he had gotten out of the water, for the next thing the prince was fully aware of was waking up on a beach and being surrounded by young girls, all wearing similar clothing. The youngest one, probably just about to turn sixteen, was the one closest to him. She gently helped him up and as he looked at her dark flowing hair and loyal blue eyes, he realized that she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. He gently smiled at her and she smiled back and brought him to the building that stood in front of him.
The prince was cared for by some older women whom he took for nuns. It seemed to him that he was at a holy temple and that the young girl whom he had thought was so beautiful was being brought up here to become a servant of the Lord. This thought saddened him as he realized he could never be with her, for in his heart, he had begun to fall in love with her. He only saw her once more, and they spent an hour talking, in which he thanked her for saving him, but he never learned where she was from or her name.
A message was sent to the king about the prince’s location and after spending almost two weeks there, a ship bearing the king’s colors was spotted. As the prince boarded the ship and greeted his parents, who had been quite worried about him, he looked for the girl, but did not see her. With bittersweet feelings, he and his family sailed the five day journey home.
On the way home, he learned to his great relief that all the members of the crew he had commanded were alive and well. Some were aboard the ship, having just been rescued and found themselves. The navigator was also aboard, and he assured the prince that the storm had not been his fault; it was just a matter of bad circumstances that happened to come the prince’s way.
So, the prince returned home. Every night he looked out of the window in the direction of the holy temple, thinking about the beautiful young girl that had saved his life. He knew he might never see her again and this made him sadder. But, his days continued normally and life went on in the castle.
Some months passed. The fruit on the trees ripened and in the mountains, the last drops of snow melted.
During this time of year, the prince enjoyed taking a walk along the shore after his breakfast and before his lessons. Sometimes he saw the dolphins playing with each other, and other times he saw the birds diving into the sea for their breakfast.
One morning, while taking his walk, he came across something he did not expect. A beautiful young girl with long, thick, coral red hair lay naked upon the beach. In shock, he ran to her. As he leaned over her, she stirred and awoke. She looked up at him, looked down at her white legs, then at her body. At that moment, it seemed that she realized she was naked, so she wrapped herself in her thick hair. The prince gently touched her shoulder. “Who are you? Where did you come from?” he asked in a quiet voice.
The girl just looked at him with eyes as blue as the sea. “Do you understand what I’m saying?” he tried.
Nothing. The girl made no effort to speak. Perhaps she cannot speak, he thought to himself. Out of prudence, he did not ask. So, he stood up and offered his hand, which she took. He led her to the palace, where he handed her over to the chief lady’s maid. “I found her on the beach, and I cannot seem to find out where she is from” he said. “Please find some nice clothes for her to wear.” He reassured the girl that everything was going to be fine, and left her with the maid.
The prince sought out his tutor and informed him that he would not be able to attend lessons that day as something had come up. Finding his parents, he told them of what had happened. His parents were surprised by what they heard, but the king said, “She may stay with us.” The girl was then brought forward dressed in a fine silk and muslin gown and introduced to the king and queen.
That night, private entertainment was given for the king, queen, and prince by the slaves. The girl sat beside the prince, and they listened to wonderful melodies. After the singing came the dancing, and the slaves danced gracefully to lovely music from their native land. But then, the girl got up from her place beside the prince and began to dance herself. She was even more graceful than the slaves, and all eyes turned towards her. Murmurs filled the room regarding her beauty, her poise, her grace, and her mystery. As she continued to dance, the slaves joined her, and the prince could not help but smile as he watched his silent little foundling.
A bedchamber was arranged close to the prince’s bedchamber for her, and from the next day on, they were never parted from each other. The prince ordered a riding habit made for her and he taught her to ride. Within the hour, they were riding through the forests laughing at the thrill. This activity could easily keep them occupied the whole day. On other days they went hiking up the mountains, and stood above the clouds. During one of these excursions, he realized that her feet were bleeding profusely. Worriedly, he asked her if she needed to go back, but she shook her head and walked as if her feet were not bleeding at all.
At night, the prince would tell her stories and ask her questions which she could easily convey a “yes” or “no” answer to. Though sometimes, she would not give an answer as if the question was too painful. Through it all, the prince would look periodically into those beautiful eyes, where it seemed there was a hidden message which, try as he might, he could not decipher.
When everyone was asleep, the prince would look out of his bedchamber window towards the island where the beautiful young girl from the holy temple lived. He would talk to her about his new friend and how much she reminded him of her. He would say how much he missed her and wanted to see her again. During one of these times, he looked down and saw the silent girl sitting on the marble steps that went into the sea. She just sat there letting her feet get wet in the cold sea. She looked up and seemed to beckon to something out in the water, but nothing came. Sorrowfully, she got up and returned to the castle.
One night, after hours of sitting in the prince’s sitting room, the girl was looking tired. The prince rose from his seat on the couch, saying, “I think it’s time we both went to bed. It’s rather late.” The girl got up and as she started to leave, the prince took her into his arms and kissed her forehead. She looked up at him with those mysterious blue eyes. “Yes,” he said, “you are the dearest to me, for you have the best heart and are the most devoted. You remind me of a girl I once saw, but I don’t think I shall ever meet her again.”
The girl looked at him, eyes quizzical but interested. “I was aboard a ship when it wrecked and I fell into the sea. The waves carried me to a holy temple on an island five days journey from here. There were several young girls there, but the youngest found me and saved my life. I only saw her once after that. She is the only girl I could ever love. But you, you are so like her that you almost drive her from my mind. By good fortune you have been sent to me, and we shall never be parted.”
The girl looked up at him, her eyes again showing the message he longed to understand. He escorted her to her bedchambers, wished her goodnight, and then headed back to his own chambers.
A week later, after his daily lessons, the prince was heading towards the stables for a ride with the girl, when the king’s manservant came and said, “Your parents request to see you immediately, your highness.” The prince complied, asking the manservant to go to the stables to tell the girl that he would be unable to ride. He entered the king’s study where he and his wife sat waiting for their son. The prince bowed to his parents. His mother gestured to a chair and the prince took it. The king began. “Son, now that you are becoming a man, it is time you started looking for a suitable wife.”
“It just so happens that one of the neighboring kings is the father of one child-a daughter just about your age,” the queen said. “We received a letter from him about three days ago, asking for you to come and meet her, for if you decide to marry her, our two kingdoms would be united when you take the throne.”
The prince sat, a question forming in his mind. “Is it your wish for me bring her home as my bride?”
“We will not force you,” the king said. “It is your choice whether or not you will marry her.”
“However,” the queen interjected, “I hear she is quite lovely. All we ask is for you to go meet her as per the king’s request.”
“You will be greatly welcomed there. The king of this kingdom is one of my closest friends. He will see you taken care of.”
The prince looked at his parents, simply wanting the best for his life. He thought of the girl in the holy temple, whom he could never have. But, his parents had made a request of him. “I will go,” he said.
“A ship will be prepared for you to leave in two days,” the king said. “Please inform anyone you may need to bring with you on the trip.”
The prince stood, bowed to his parents, and left the room, seeking out the girl. He found her in the library looking at a lovely picture book of the sea. He sat across from her, and reached for her hand. “There’s something you need to know. My parents have asked me to meet a beautiful princess in another kingdom. I cannot refuse. They will not force me to marry her; their only wish is that I meet her.”
The girl nodded her head, as if to say ‘I understand’.
“Would you like to come with me?” he asked.
The girl’s eyes widened and he could see the excitement sparkling in her blue eyes. He smiled. He got up and she did with him. “I cannot love this princess, for she will not be the girl I met at the holy temple whom you are so very much like.”
He put his hand upon her face and touched her hair. “If I were to choose a bride, I would rather have you, my mute friend.” As he said this, he leaned in and briefly kissed her red lips. Then, he laid his head on her chest and could sense a smile growing on her face as she held him in her arms.
“Are you frightened of the sea?” the prince asked two days later as they boarded the fine ship.
The girl shook her head, raised her arms wide towards the open water, as if to say, ‘I love the sea!’ He smiled, and then said, “Have I ever told you about that storm?” The girl shook her head. Finding a seat on the deck, he beckoned for her to sit next to him, and for the rest of the day, he told her the story of the storm and other tales he had heard from the crew during that time about the mysterious deep. The girl listened with rapt attention, with an almost knowing smile on her face.
That night, the prince stood with the helmsman as everyone else was asleep. As the two conversed, the prince noticed a light shining on the deck, which quickly disappeared with the close of a door. The girl had come on deck in her nightgown. She leaned over the side, then looked up. She beckoned to something out in the sea. A cabin boy approached her and asked if everything was all right. She nodded, then turned back towards the water. Her shoulders slumped as whatever she had beckoned to was gone. Silently, she slipped back into her cabin. “Strange girl,” the helmsman said.
“Yes,” the prince said. “But, her heart is kind.” He bid the helmsman goodnight, and headed towards his own cabin.
The next morning the ship reached the main island of the neighboring kingdom. There was a great city and the church bells were ringing, welcoming the prince. A group of soldiers were at the dock to meet the prince. Taking the girl’s hand, he disembarked and was led through the streets, people on either side happily shouting greetings. When they reached the castle, the king himself came out to greet them. The prince bowed and the girl curtsied. The prince formally introduced himself and the girl. The king shook the prince’s hand, turned to the girl, kissed her hand, and said, “I have heard of your beauty, my dear. To be frank, the reports do you injustice”. Facing the crowd, he announced, “Come, your highness! We have a celebration prepared in your honor!”
The celebration lasted well into the night. However, there was no princess. The king informed the prince privately that the princess was being brought up in convent far away learning about the royal virtues and that it would be some time before she arrived. “Do not concern yourself, your highness. My daughter will be here sooner than you think.”
Three days passed before the princess arrived. During the days before she came, the prince met members of the king’s council and the governors of the islands the king controlled. At night, there were more celebrations and festivities. On the morning of the third day, a shout went up from the highest tower of the castle. “The princess is coming!” The prince, along with the girl, prepared to meet her at the entrance to the castle. As they waited for her to arrive, the prince turned to her and said, “I cannot help but wonder what you are thinking right now. Are you anxious to see the princess?”
The girl nodded. She gestured to her eyes and then to her face. “You wish to see what she looks like?” the prince asked.
She nodded. “As am I. This waiting has also made me curious about many things.”
The sound of the trumpets grew closer. Finally, they were at the steps of the palace. The prince stepped out of the castle and started down the stairs at a calm pace towards a girl with dark flowing hair and blue eyes. Suddenly, he stopped on the steps. Silence filled the surrounding area. The princess took a step towards the prince, a look of surprise also on her face.
“You are she!” cried the prince. He ran down the stairs three at a time until he was holding the young girl from the holy temple in his arms once more. The king came up the stairs towards them. “You have met my daughter?” he asked.
“Your daughter saved my life!” He then began to tell the story of the storm and how the princess had rescued him on the beach. “I have thought of her ever since, and it is my desire to make your daughter my wife as soon as possible!”
Shouts of joy went up from all around. The girl came towards the happy couple. His one arm around the princess, he reached his other hand out to her. “I am too happy. My greatest wish has come true. You will be happy with me, my child?”
In response, the girl kissed his hand and softly smiled.
Preparations for a wedding were made at once. The princess was quickly fitted into a wedding gown, the prince for a wedding suit, and that evening, they stood before the alter, and exchanged their vows, the silent girl standing nearby holding the bridal train. Following the sacred ceremony, the bride and her groom came aboard the great ship that would take them to the prince’s kingdom and then on a tour of both kingdoms.
A grand celebration was held aboard. A magnificent tent of purple and gold was put up in the middle of the deck with a luxurious couch inside of it for the couple to rest upon through the night. Colored lamps lit the night sky. Fireworks even more spectacular than those used the night of the prince’s birthday flew into the starlit sky. The people danced to the lovely music and ate delicious food, all prepared for this night especially. The silent girl joined the dancers and leaped and twirled about gracefully. The prince enthusiastically applauded for her and those who were in attendance followed suit. This joyful festivity continued well past midnight. Slowly, the crowd of guests went ashore to their own beds while the prince and his new bride turned towards their tent. Before he went to bed, he wished the silent girl goodnight, who in turn curtsied and went to her cabin.
That night, as the ship began its journey, the prince did not dream of adventures to be had upon the sea and new lands to discover with a crew under his command. Instead he dreamed of his bride and the adventures he looked forward to having with her by his side. Perhaps there were territories to be discovered with her, adventures that would not just last a month or two but for forever.
The sun was barely above the horizon when he awoke the next morning. His bride was already awake. As he stretched away the sleep, she turned to him and said, “Where is your silent friend? I was so taken with her at the wedding last night, and it seems that she means a great deal to you.”
“Perhaps she can stay with us and become my chief ladies maid. That way you do not need to be parted from her after our voyage.”
To be asked to become the chief ladies maid was an honor many women of the court were never given. The prince was overjoyed that his new wife wanted to care for his silent foundling just as much as he did. He kissed her, then said, “Let us tell her the good news!” He got up from the couch and knocked on her cabin door. There was no answer. He pushed on the door and it opened. The girl, however, was not in her bed. The couple looked around the entire ship. She could not have gotten off as the ship had started its journey sometime during the night. The prince began to fear the worst. He went to the helmsman, who had been at his post the entire night. “Was the girl that came with me on deck at all last night?”
The helmsman thought for a moment. “Yes, I saw her. Only for a moment, though. She was throwing something into the sea-a tiny little object, couldn’t quite make it out. I must’ve looked down after that, because the next minute, she was gone. I figured she went back to bed.”
The prince walked to the side of the ship. “She must’ve jumped into the sea,” he whispered to himself. The princess came to his side and took his arm. Leaning against him, she too looked out into the sea.
As they looked and thought, the princess suddenly gasped, let go of the prince’s arm and touched her forehead. “What’s wrong?” the prince asked.
“I feel as if a kiss was gently brushed across my forehead by something in the sky.”
The prince looked at her, then looked at the sky. Mixed into the sunrise was the color of her eyes, as blue as the sea, and the color of her hair, a coral red. He thought for a moment. “Perhaps our little friend has gone to Heaven,” he said.
The princess nodded. “I would like to think so.” She took the prince’s hand and the couple turned away from the side of the ship, their hearts saddened for the death of their silent friend, yet happy that she had gone on to Heaven where she would be able to say the things she never could’ve said on the earth.