By Joshua David Ling
Word Count: 4342
Summary: An epic poem retelling Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale “The Little Mermaid.”
The (Rhyming) Little Mermaid
Joshua David Ling
Hans Christian Andersen
1 – Tales of Manfolk
Once underneath the Mediterranean Sea
There lived many people like you and me.
But they were also unlike us too,
These people who lived in the waters blue.
They were Merfolk, with long fishy tails
That had rainbow hues on their metallic scales,
And they danced as they swam, like ballerinas.
This is the story of one named Serena.
Serena was the youngest princess of The Sea King
And all in the kingdom loved to hear her sing,
But she didn’t prefer shows in which she starred;
She preferred the stories of The Sea Bard.
Phineas The Sea Bard sat upon a rock,
And all the young Merfolk to him did flock,
But Serena was led up to the front of the school
And made to sit down on her coral stool.
“Are we all ready?” the Sea Bard chimed,
“For today’s story will be most divine.
Serena? Are you ready to hear
About the Manfolk who live near us here?”
Serena leaped from her stool and twirled,
As did the Mer-fingerlings, both boys and girls.
When they had calmed, Phineas began,
Lowering his tone and pointing to land.
“Up there above lives many a man,
The crowning achievement of Creator’s plan.
And perhaps when you’re old enough, you too will see
what marvelous wonders are beyond the sea.
“For Manfolk live but one hundred years
And are taken up to heaven’s bright stars,
While we live three hundred, and then turn to sea foam.
Merfolk have life, but Manfolk have a home.”
Then The Sea Bard told a fantastic tale
Of men who over the waters did sail,
How they battled sea monsters and won the fight,
And Serena listened with eyes shining bright.
“Are there any questions about our story today?”
Serena’s hand shot up, and the Bard asked,
“You have something to say?”
“Is it true that when we go up to the outside,”
She asked, “We should be very careful to hide?”
“For if they see us, we will cause them danger?
I do not want to harm a Manfolk stranger!”
“When Manfolk see Merfolk, it creates something bad
That is called a storm, and it makes them go mad.
A terrible fear grips them because they could die,
If dragged into the sea, my curious little fry.”
“They can never come down and live with us?”
“I fear not, young one. Not without great cost.
Manfolk cannot breathe underwater like we
Who swim out far in the open sea.
If they go in too deep, or stay in too long,
They will drown just as surely as the rising of dawn.”
“I want to see them!”
“And in time you will.
And I’m sure one day that’ll be quite a thrill.
But for now, dear Serena, go out and play.
You will see Manfolk on your sixteenth birthday.”
2 – Witnessing Manfolk
When Serena turned sixteen,
She swam as fast as she could
Up to the surface to see the Manfolk,
That they might be understood.
And when her head broke the surface
What do you think she saw?
A floating vessel as long as a sea monster was tall!
She marveled at its colored masts of purple and gold
And the little school of white things flying around, bold.
They shrieked and called out discordant songs,
And as they scavenged for a meal,
She wondered: “How can this be real?”
Serena swam a fair bit closer,
Keeping out of sight,
So as not to stir up a storm
Or cause the Manfolk fright.
And as she did she heard a voice
Cutting through the waves;
It was the sound of a man-bard,
And he was heaping praise.
“Prince Silas drew closer to the burning building,
As it swayed and almost collapsed.
He heard the screams of the little ones
Trapped inside the black.
He pushed through the smoke,
The flame and the heat,
And braved it all despite
Knowing he lose his life,
Yet he didn’t give up the fight.
He saved five children,
All trapped there in that house,
Selflessly braving the fire of Hephaestus,
And the danger all about.
And it is my pleasure to present to you,
As venerable custom befits,
The heroic Prince of our country,
The Honorable Prince Silas!”
The people clapped as the Prince stepped out,
And Serena was amazed.
Hearing stories of the Man’s bravery
Made it hard to shift her gaze.
The people sang a simple song
And Serena joined right in.
But then she wished she hadn’t,
As the air began to spin.
Waterspouts, whirlpools, maelstroms, and rain;
Lightning raged, thunder roared,
And the Manfolk were shaken to the core.
They all scrambled fast to steady their ship,
Before they were overcome.
But Prince Silas was swept from the deck,
And Serena’s tail went numb.
She swiftly dove below the ship’s keel,
Straight to the Prince’s floating form,
And she held him just above the water
In the ever increasing storm.
Her tail screamed in pain and effort
As she pushed the extra weight,
But she had to save this noble one,
Never mind the pain that was great.
She dragged and dragged with all her might
Until she reached dry land.
Her skin and scales cried out in pain
As they touched the still hot sand.
She beached herself for a moment
And stared down at his face.
His eyes began to flutter open
And she left without a trace.
She swam back down to the sea below,
Wishing she could stay above.
She wondered at the feelings she felt.
Could this, after all, be…love?
3 – Captivated
And so the days went on and on;
Every other, Serena surfaced,
Trying to catch a glimpse of Prince Silas,
Her curiosity she serviced.
She learned many things
About Manfolk and land.
And she praised Creator for
The amazing work of His hands.
But after many days of this,
Her heart began to sink,
Imagining the riches in their homes,
Fine food, and the songs they sing.
But above all these earthly things,
She longed most of all for two:
The glory of Creator’s Heaven,
And for Prince Silas too.
Slowly this longing into captivation grew,
Yet, it did not even stop there.
She had to do something to live with them all;
An obsession came to breathe air.
And so she confided in the only one,
She believed would understand.
Phineas The Sea Bard,
Who told her of Manfolk,
And the treasures of the land.
She approached him at night,
Before he went to sleep,
And Phineas opened his door.
“Your highness,” he asked,
“What brings you this deep?”
Serena tried her best to explain,
But she quickly began to weep.
Phineas guessed the rest of her tale,
With one great logical leap.
He took her into his simple cave home,
And sitting her on his couch,
Said, “That’s alright, Serena.
Get your tears all out.”
When Serena regained her composure,
Phineas stood and spoke.
“I must know how serious you are.
About leaving to join the Manfolk.”
“Creator calls me to the surface,” she replied,
“Of that I am convinced.”
Phineas’ voice grew grave and low.
“Because I trust your longing eyes,
I will tell you a way it might happen.
But no one may know of what I say,
So I must remain disguised.”
Serena solemnly nodded her head
And swore to secrecy.
Then the sea-bard drew near to her ear,
And whispered: “Sorcery.”
4 – The Sea Witch
Phineas gave Serena good directions
To that lowly part of the sea.
The desolate seascape all around
Made her want to hide or flee.
She’d never seen the sea so empty,
So dark, with so little life.
But she promised herself she would brave this out,
And if necessary she’d fight.
But she was thankful there was no need,
As she finally approached the place
Where she hoped to finally become a Woman
And taste of Creator’s grace.
A sunken ship lay right there,
Just as Phineas had said.
The silt-crusted vessel was massive in size
And the bones of Manfolk lay dead;
All around and inside the ship,
It was a somber place of death.
Serena thought about turning back,
But she yearned to take a breath.
Onward she went into the ship,
And found the Sea Witch’s room.
The Sorceress looked very strange to her,
Petite, with depressed eyes of gloom.
She was an old hag with wrinkly skin,
And Serena could only guess what was within
The cloth covering the witch’s lower half,
Though she didn’t swim…
The Sea-Witch spoke,
“What do you want, pathetic being?
My house is not open to you.”
Serena replied, “If you please, Sorceress,
I’ve come from afar to-“
“Get a Clue!” screeched the witch,
“I know exactly why you came!
And my answer is: ‘Why should I?’
Just take your three hundred years, little one,
Three hundred years, then die!”
Serena almost left right there.
The Sea-Witch was so cruel.
But Phineas told her she’d have to insist,
So she said, “Do you take me for a fool?
I’ve made my decision.
I am not lost!
I will do this at whatever cost!”
The Sea-Witch grew agitated
And slammed a fist on her table.
“What do you have to offer me?!
You poor miserable wretch, are you able
To pay well for your plea?!”
“I can bring you riches from
My royal treasure chest.”
“Bah!” said the witch.
“Riches are worth nothing!”
“Please, I’m not sure.
Can you help me think of something?”
The Sea-Witch exhaled
With an irritated tone;
Not quite a sigh,
Not quite a groan.
“Do you have any talents?”
“Yes. I have a few.”
“Good. Now tell me.
Exactly what do you do?”
“I can sing.”
“Show me!” snapped the Sea-Witch.
And Serena sang a song of the sea.
But before she got far, the witch bid her to stop.
“It isn’t bad,
But it’s not worth a lot.”
Serena bowed her head
And the witch cocked hers.
“You swim gracefully.
Perhaps both talents can incur
The cost of this transaction?
With these will you part?
Your voice and your grace?”
And Serena answered,
“With all my heart.”
The witch snapped into action
Before Serena could have known it.
With one hand she grabbed Serena’s mouth,
With the other, Serena’s tongue, and pulled it.
She released her grip on the cheeks
And knifed her tongue with a swipe.
Pain tore through Serena’s body,
And she stumbled back in fright.
The old Sea-Witch laughed as blood colored the water.
“Here are the rules,
My little daughter!
“First: You may never sing or speak again!
Obvious by what I just did.
“Second: Your grace will live on,
But invisible needles will dig
Into the flesh and bones of your feet,
So to walk will demand masochism.
These are both the price
For changing an organism.
“Third: And very last of all,
You will still turn to foam,
If you do not find true love;
Heaven will not be your home!
And if into true love, you do fall,
And your love rejects you,
Then that is all.
You will die shortly after,
And the foam of the sea,
Will have a few more bubbles to flow aimlessly.”
The witch twirled around, and Serena saw
Legs of Manfolk
Under the witch’s shawl.
Serena’s eyes went dark
As terror gripped her heart;
Was this now the end?
Or just the very start?
5 – Adrift
In came the air into newly formed lungs;
Back it went out in a blast.
Serena opened her eyes and saw her new legs;
She was absolutely aghast!
She felt them with her trembling hands
And found smoothness like her skin.
No longer scales and fishy tails,
No longer rainbow fins.
She touched the bottom of her feet,
And then screamed out in pain;
The needle feeling the witch had foretold
Had quite a powerful sting.
Then she heard a voice as clear as glass
Calling out: “Miss! Miss!”
She saw Prince Silas and his guards riding toward her,
And everything was bliss.
He dismounted immediately and rushed to her side.
With deep concern, Silas asked, “Miss, are you alright?”
She opened her mouth to speak to him,
But her tongue would not comply.
Then he looked in her mouth, saw blood,
And he had to wonder why.
“She must have been attacked by pirates,
And left at sea to die.
God saw fit to save this one.
Whatever she needs, comply.”
They lifted her onto the Prince’s land-horse,
Very different from horses at sea.
And then she rode back to the Prince’s palace.
What joy Serena had to be free!
6 – A True Friend
And so the wheel of time turned round
In Serena’s simple life.
The people of the palace took care of her;
With kindness they were rife.
But nothing compared to her best friend Silas,
The Prince with kindness divine.
He spent a majority of his time with her,
And their feelings continued to entwine.
“This a strange world I’m trying to know,
But I’ve got to give up and go with the flow.
I’m not swimming in the ocean now,
And I want to love, even if I don’t know how.”
Inseparable was the word for them,
No matter where they were at.
Hunting, dancing, going on picnics,
Or just sitting down for a chat.
Silas and Serena discovered the world,
Adventuring onward together.
And even though Serena was not able to speak,
In his company she felt he was clever.
“This is a strange new world I’m trying to know.
But I’ve got to give up and go with the flow.
I’m not swimming in the ocean at all.
With you I feel big even when I am small.”
Serena learned of Creator from Silas,
And how He dealt with men.
Every Sunday they attended church,
And though Serena couldn’t say “amen”,
She absorbed the teaching taught to her,
And loved the stories of His love.
Even if she could not sing out His praises,
In her heart, she praised God above.
“This is a strange new world I’m trying to know.
But I’ve got to give up and go with the flow.
I’ll never swim in the ocean again
I’m no longer a mermaid. I am a Woman.”
7 – The Duty of a Prince
One evening in the palace
While rain poured down outside,
Silas found Serena in the kitchen,
So he pulled her aside.
Into a side room he took her,
Where they could speak privately.
With kindness Silas asked,
“How are you, my mute miss?
Are you wandering idly?”
Serena smiled and shook her head,
And he could tell she was listening.
Her eyes did not wander as sometimes they did,
And they were brightly glistening.
Then Silas told her, “I have news for you,
Of very great importance,
For I am soon to be wed.”
Serena’s smiling, bright eyes
Looked suddenly like they were dead.
She sank down limply on a couch,
With Prince Silas at her side.
“I am unenthused by this revelation,” said he,
“But Father wants me to marry
The Galatian Princess named Demi.
I know nothing of what she is really like;
I simply want to be free.”
Serena stared out over the ocean,
Through the window and pouring rain.
Silas never knew what she was thinking,
Though he could see she was in pain.
He held her hand and looked with her,
Over the water’s waves.
And he said, “I know how upsetting this is.
It has happened so suddenly.
I’m every bit as upset, too,
To have everything planned out for me.
If I were to pick my own wife,
She’d be a lot like you,
My sweet, silent sister.
Thank you for all that you do.”
Serena hugged him forcefully
And said a prayer for him.
Hoping Creator would make him happy,
Though everything looked so grim.
He hugged her back and they sat together,
Without another word.
And as tears filled Serena’s eyes,
The world about her blurred.
8 – The Princess of Galatia
A few weeks later, Silas the prince
Hosted a special ball,
Welcoming the Princess Demi,
To his palace’s ivory halls.
She’d arrive about an hour
Into the party’s festivities,
But for now Serena tugged on Silas,
And she didn’t have to say please.
She took him to the dance floor
And though the pain was great,
The joy of dancing with her best friend
Made her stand up very straight;
And though the sting of her curse
Pierced deeply into her soles,
She smiled as broadly as she was able;
Nothing could crush her soul.
“I’m nervous, he said as they danced around,
“She’ll be here very soon.”
Then his eyes caught the gleam of Serena’s smile.
From the vibrant light of the moon.
He gulped and drew strength from her courage,
And she curtsied at the end of the dance.
The horns blew signaling the Princess’s arrival;
He looked, and was entranced.
Her dark eyes lay in seas of milk white,
Her pale skin shone in the moonlight.
Her raven-black hair glistened darker than night,
And her bright red dress was a lovely sight.
She glided down steps with her entourage,
Shining like a dazzling jewel,
And she rivaled Silas’s nervousness,
Their expressions, a timid duel.
All were quiet in the hall,
Then music began to play.
She curtsied, and Prince Silas bowed,
And Serena left to pray.
Off to the banks of the water she went,
Her feet screaming in her shoes.
She collapsed down at the water’s edge,
And begged God to see her through.
If Silas married this Princess divine,
She’d turn into foam of the sea,
But she was not jealous of the Princess, no.
She hoped the best for Princess Demi.
Over and over in sync with the waves,
Serena repeated this simple prayer.
“Wherever you’d have me go to, dear God,
Please, gently lead me there.”
9 – In The Garden
After Silas and Demi danced,
They retired to the royal garden.
Guards surrounded the ivied gates
So that no one would disturb them.
They were now alone and could speak
All that was on their minds.
No one could judge their manner of speech;
They could be casual, and they could be kind.
They spoke together for three hours
About whatever things they prized,
And here is a portion of that conversation,
Near when they first arrived.
“Since I heard you were coming to court,
I’ve had nothing but constant fear.
But that all disappeared when I saw you,
And I’m excited now that you’re here.”
Demi smiled and blushed
As she sat there on a seat.
He took her hands into his,
And she smiled at his eyes so sweet.
“I was worried until I heard tales
Of how brave and bold you were.
And ever since I saw your face,
My heart is in an uproar.”
“I thought that you would be prim and proper,
And fragile like a lily.
I thought you’d be uninterested in things,
And wear clothes pink and frilly.”
Demi laughed and he smiled back;
They both had more to say,
But they both agreed they should be married,
And they’d get married this very day.
A few more hours of private talk
Would seal up any doubts,
And when they left that garden sweet,
They let their secret out.
10 – Heart Shatter
All the crowd had gathered ’round
For the return of the Prince and Princess;
The two ascended to the royal dais,
A great imposing presence.
Standing with the Queen and King,
Silas whispered in his father’s ear,
Then turned and let his words ring out,
“The Princess and I will be married!”
A collective reaction ran through the crowd,
Wild and joyous shouts,
But nothing from Serena’s throat,
Not a cry over her damaged tongue came out;
She simply stared, accepting the fact,
That the Sea Witch had now won.
She barely heard the voice of the King,
Who called for his servants to prepare
A wedding ceremony for his son,
That they would have then and there.
In the meantime, the band was to play dances
For all the crowd to enjoy.
Serena ran with her agony-ridden feet,
And on her face, she pretended joy.
“This is not Silas’ fault,”
She sadly pondered her plight.
“I cannot share how this has hurt me,
But if I am to die this very night,
Then I will press on in defiance
And have myself one last dance!”
She stood and curtsied before Silas,
Huffing with exhaustion and pain.
But she glued a smile to her face,
And hid all her suffering and strain.
Silas said, “You are happy for me!
Thank you so much!
Oh, you’d like to dance?”
Serena nodded enthusiastically;
This was her final chance
To bid farewell to her beloved prince.
But she felt the curse pressing down;
Soon she would turn to sea foam,
And in endless waves would drown.
But nothing could stop her from having this time
As she waltzed with all her might.
Even though she bled through the toes of her shoes,
She bore it for Silas that night.
And even though the pain in her feet was awful,
That moment itself was sublime
As she stared into Silas’ beautiful, bright eyes
For what would be the very last time.
The dance ended far quicker than she would have asked,
But she thanked him with a tight hug.
Then she let him go to dance with others,
And left the floor with a shrug.
She wandered out onto the docks
And then onto the stern of a ship.
She stared down at the water below,
And tried to take comfort in it
For her pain would soon be over.
But then something strange came below;
Out of the water, eight heads appeared
And they stared at her, sad and slow.
It took Serena a moment
To recognize them in moonlight;
Her eight older sisters came to the surface,
To visit her this night.
But strangely none seemed to have their hair;
It all had been shaved off in mourning.
For their long lost little sister?
Or maybe as a warning?
The oldest one was named Fortuna,
And she was the first to speak.
“Oh, Serena, we know your pain.
We know what made you weak.
The seductions of this cruel surface
Drew you to the Sea-Witch,
But we have shaved our heads for her,
So that you may do this…”
The other sisters whispered their approval
As Fortuna produced a knife.
Black as ink, but shiny as glass,
It glittered in the moonlight.
Serena’s eyes grew wide as she stared
At what her sisters had done.
“Take this knife, and kill your love
Before the rising of the sun.
And if you do, you’ll turn back into a mermaid
And have your all your remaining years won.
Your tongue and all you had will be back,
Restored to perfect health
And you can come back, live with Father and us,
In the seaweed and the kelp.
Serena reached down and took the knife
And nodded to bid them farewell.
They all individually said goodbye,
Then left Serena to the spell…
Serena stared at the knife for a moment,
As she felt her body break.
She looked at her hands and saw foam forming
On her fingers, and she quaked.
But as long as she held that knife in her hands,
She knew she had a chance.
But nothing would make her shed Silas’ blood,
Not even a Sea-Witch’s trance.
She held onto the knife, stepped up on the railing
And looked down at the sea.
Blood dripped from the toes of her shoes;
‘Twould be the last thing she’d ever see.
She stabbed that knife into the rail,
And she’d never felt this alone,
Then she plunged into the salty depths,
But before she touched water, she was foam…
11 – That Was Not The End…
Though she ceased to exist on Earth
And her body turned to spume,
Serena awoke in a strange, white place,
In what looked like her own little room.
She got up and tenderly tested her feet,
Which to her surprise did not sting.
Then she grew brave and tested her mouth;
She had a tongue and could sing!
Then dumbfounded, she turned around
And walked right out of the room,
And as she did, she heard a voice
That chased away all her gloom.
“Come here to me, my little child.
You’ve suffered much, I know.
But you have sought and you have found me;
All your sins are washed white as snow.”
She saw Creator with her own eyes,
Beckoning her into a hug.
She did not cry and her smile did not lie
As she sang to him like a dove.
Her voice was now more beautiful than ever,
In Creator’s warm embrace,
And Serena forever sang the praise
Of Creator’s Amazing Grace.
And so the smallest, most wretched creature
In all the world can be
A child of God if their hope is in Him
And not in the things of the sea,
Or even in the things of the land,
Though enticing they might be.
The Little Mermaid was finally home
And Serena was finally free.
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