The Tale of the Broken Promise
Once upon a time, there was a young prince of a sea-fairing kingdom. One day while he was out fishing, a monstrous wave came and capsized his small boat. The prince was a strong swimmer, but when the boat flipped he became tangled up in the nets.
As the weights began to drag him down, he reached for his knife to free himself. The deepening water blinded his senses as his lungs ached for breath. One rope cut, he started on the next. Then, something swam by him in the black water. Startled, he dropped the knife.
Just as he was resigned to his fate, the ropes came loose from his legs. He kicked upward, greedily gulping in air once he had broken the surface. Treading water, he cast about him, looking for his boat. It, and the shore, was nowhere to be seen.
Weak from his struggle, he floated on his back with his eyes closed. Bobbing with the waves, he then allowed the current to take him where it may.
“Silly boy.” came a high-pitched giggle.
The prince did not stir, thinking it to be a mere seabird.
“Poor, silly boy.” came the giggle again. “All alone and lost at sea.”
This time, the prince turned to look. A young girl was treading water near to him. She had dark hair and delicately pale skin. She smiled as she laughed. “Who are you?” he asked.
“I saved you. From the nets.” She came closer. “You almost drowned.”
“Thank you.” the prince said quietly.
She was almost close enough to reach out to touch him now. “I will take you to the shore, but first you have to promise me something.”
“That one day we will be married.” She watched him with earnest. “Say that you promise.”
The prince, not wanting to hurt her feelings, agreed. With a joyous smile, she dove under the water, a fish tail and fins slapping the surface before she came up beneath him. With one arm around him, she then powered toward shore.
Feeling bottom beneath his feet at last, he stood and stumbled toward the beach, collapsing in the sun. The Fin-maid, for that was what the girl was, stayed in the surf. “Remember your promise!” she said, disappearing into the waves as searchers could be heard from down the beach.
The prince’s boat had been found smashed on the rocks, so they were much relieved to have found him safe. However, when he told them of his rescue by the Fin-maid, they believed it only to be the product of a near death experience. Soon, the young prince came to believe it as well.
Seven years passed, and the Prince had all but forgotten his promise to the Fin-maid. Soon after their meeting, he had been engaged to the princess of a neighboring kingdom. They were married and not long after she gave birth to a little prince.
On the day of the Fin-maid’s return, she happened to see the little family playing on the beach. The prince had broken his promise to her, and she would see that he would suffer dearly for it.
Late that night, she swam into the cove beneath the little prince’s bedroom. While sitting in the moonlight, she sang her most beautiful songs. The little prince heard her and sat at his window, watching her as she combed her dark hair.
“Hello, Little Prince.” she called softly. “Why are you not in bed?”
“I can’t sleep.”
“Then I shall sing you a lullaby.” she answered sweetly, beginning to sing in the eerie language of the Fin-folk.
The little prince soon became enchanted by her song and made his way down to the water. She smiled at him as she gradually moved out to ever deeper water, the little prince following after. He stood in the shallows now, and her song still beckoned him.
The water was to his waist, and yet her song still beckoned him. He paddled, weakly, having not yet developed as a swimmer. Still the song beckoned.
He floundered now, the water too deep and the current too strong for him. Yet he still attempted to catch up to her as she continued to make for the sea.
Once he had sunk beneath the waves and she had at last avenged the broken promise, did she disappear into the sea and leave the prince to mourn.