|Suddenly, the Sea Prince leapt|
into the water with
in his arms.
Once upon a time, "long, long, ago, a king of Persia had a hundred wives, but none had given him a child." One day, a servant ran in to the king's throne room, with the news that there was a man at the door selling an extraordinarily beautiful slave girl. When the king ordered that the slave should be brought in for him to see, he was shown a girl whose hair "fell down her back in seven heavy braids that touched her ankles; her eyes were so bright they would heal the sick. 'Praise Allah!" said the king, and pain ten thousand gold coins for the girl. He brought her cool drinks and refreshments, and asked her to tell her story. But the girl "only stared sorrowfully into the distance". So the king ordered that a bath be prepared for her, and that she be given the best rooms, those overlooking the glittering, blue sea. At the mention of this, "the girl lifted her eyes and a faint smile flickered across her lips." Now the girl sat in her room for hours every day, staring out at the waves. When one month had passed, the king called for all the best singers in the land to come and try to cheer the girl up. They came and they sang, and everyone in the palace had a merry time — except the slave girl. When two months had gone by, the king called for all of the best dancers in the kingdom to come and dance. Many dancers came, alone and in troops, and put on a marvelous show. Everyone in the palace thoroughly enjoyed themselves — except the slave girl. When three months had gone by, and the slave girl still had neither spoken nor smiled, the king bent on his knee and and said, "Please. You must tell me what you want. I will give you anything." But the girl did not say a word, only sat "alone, unmoved, her head lowered, her heart broken." And now the king's heart began to break, slowly, yet surely. How could he ever hope to make this beautiful girl smile and laugh? When he could not stand the silence for another day, he went to her and said," Heart of my heart. Do you not know that I love you? For weeks I have borne your silence and your coldness, and now I fear I will soon die of grief." At this, the slave girl looked up, and said,"Great-hearted king, I swore never to speak again, but your kindness has softened my resolve. I've kept silent because I am angry about being a slave. I miss my mother, my brother, and the land of my birth." And the king praised Allah, and asked where the girl's land and family were. She told him,"My name is Princess Julnare. My land is the Land-Under-the-Sea. My people are the children of the sea. One night, I left my home in the waters and climbed to the shore for a visit. In the moonlight, the warm breeze wooed me to sleep. When I woke, a slave merchant had captured me." And the king begged her to forgive the ways of men, and she said that, because he was so kind, she would forgive them on his behalf. And, she said, "Because your kindness is so great, I will give you a child." Now the king "felt lifted from the very earth by his joy", and gave "a hundred thousand gold coins to the poor as a token of his gratitude to Allah." The very next year a "plump, rosy-faced boy was born to Princess Julnare." The little fellow "shone with the brightness of the full moon." The king was so happy that he opened the jails and set all of the prisoners free, gave his servants gifts, and his slaves their freedom. "On the eighth day, Princess Julnare named her son Smile-of-the-Moon." Then she told the king that in order to be rid of her remaining sorrow, she must see her family once more. He asked how he might summon them and she told him,"I will do it. You may go in the next room and watch." Then she placed "two sweet-smelling pieces of wood upon a fire. When the smoke began to rise, she whistled, then murmured strange magic words." Immediately a handsome young man with green hair and ruddy cheeks rose up. He was her brother, the Prince of the Sea. With him was "an old woman with white hair and a ruby crown", and this was her mother, Queen Locust of the Sea. Now these two looked up and saw Princess Julinare at the window, and jumped up and right into the room. They kissed the Princess with deep happiness, and when they saw little Prince Smile-of-the-Moon, they were beside themselves with happiness. That's when "the prince suddenly leapt through the window with the tiny baby, and he disappeared down into the sea! The king screamed in horror. He flew into the next room" calling out that his son had been stolen from him. But the princess begged him to wait but a moment, and just then, the waves parted, "and the prince emerged with Smile-of-the-Moon in his arms." The child was smiling as widely as a full moon, and the water dripped off of his little back. The prince said, "Oh, King, were you frightened when I jumped into the sea with this small one?" and the king answered, "Yes, uncle of my son, I despaired he would drown and and I would never ever see him again." So the prince told him of the gift he had just given the child, "the same birthright as all the children of the sea," which was that the boy would never drown, and need not fear the waves in his lifetime. "The prince handed the boy to the king. Then he drew a cloth bag from his belt and poured its contents upon the carpet. The king gasped. Before him were pearls the size of pigeon's eggs, and the thousand fires of a thousand underwater jewels." Now Qqueen Locust of the Sea, and her son the prince bade Princess Julnare farewell, promising to return for a visit. With that, they leapt out the window like a pair of fish, and splashed down, laughing, among the waves. "From that day on, the Sea Princess of Persia lived happily with the King of Persia. And their little Smile-of-the-Moon grew up to be very brave and very wise."
From Mermaid Tales from Around the World, Retold by Mary Pope Osborne, Illustrated by Troy Howell. (1993) New York: Scholastic Inc.
Notes: What makes this a Cinderella story? The motif of slave girl rising to queen, even though the slave girl is herself a princess; the motif of princess demoted to slave, even though in this case there is no period of time when she does menial labor; the connection of water spirits. Remember that often water spirits are fish, or crocodiles, or other water animals, or may be well-spirits, or may be old women waiting by wells for a drink of water. In all of these cases, pleasing the spirit brings good luck, and angering it, bad. Here the king has gone to such trouble to please the slave girl, and then allows her to call her family. Notice that this is a happy-family tale: neither the uncle nor grandmother of little Prince Smile-of-the-Moon is vindictive, and the sea princess lives happily ever after. Let us assume that the king granted her freedom; perhaps the dowry paid to him by her brother was part of the deal.
Montessori Connection: The Seven Seas/Mermaids in World Literature and Legend
1. Using a globe, count the seas and oceans.
2. List them, using an atlas if needed.
3. Learn that there are stories about water spirits and mermaids in most cultures.