Far out in the ocean the water is as blue as the petals of the loveliest cornflower, and as clear as the purest glass. But it is very deep too. It goes down deeper than any anchor rope will go, and many, many steeples would have to be stacked one on top of another to reach from the bottom to the surface of the sea. It is down there that the sea folk live.
Now don't suppose that there are only bare white sands at the bottom of the sea. No indeed! The most marvelous trees and flowers grow down there, with such pliant stalks and leaves that the least stir in the water makes them move about as though they were alive. All sorts of fish, large and small, dart among the branches, just as birds flit through the trees up here.
From the deepest spot in the ocean rises the palace of the sea king. Its walls are made of coral and its high pointed windows of the clearest amber, but the roof is made of mussel shells that open and shut with the tide.
This is a wonderful sight to see, for every shell holds glistening pearls, any one of which would be the pride of a queen's crown.
About the Author
Bernadette Watts, known throughout Europe simply as Bernadette, has illustrated many dozens of folk- and fairy tales. Born in England, she loved to draw from childhood. She studied at the Maidstone Art School in Kent, UK for a time under the tutelage of Brian Wildsmith. Bernadette’s many beautiful books include The Snow Queen and The Bremen Town Musicians. Bernadette finds her inspiration in nature. Today she lives and works in Kent. She has been illustrating for NorthSouth Books and NordSüd Verlag since the beginning of her career 50 years ago.
Date of Birth:April 2, 1805
Date of Death:August 4, 1875
Place of Birth:Odense, Denmark
Place of Death:Copenhagen, Denmark
Read an Excerpt
Far out at sea, the water is as blue as cornflower
petals and as clear as the purest glass. Yet it’s very deep—
deeper than the reach of any anchor rope. You’d have to
stack a lot of steeples on top of each other to reach from
the bottom to the surface. And down at the bottom is
where the sea folk live.
Now, you mustn’t think that the sea floor is only bare
white sand—no, because the most marvellous trees and
plants grow there. Their leaves and stems are so flexible,
the smallest movement of water makes them sway as if
they were dancing. All the fish, big and small, flit through
their branches, just like birds in the air up here. In the
deepest spot of all stands the palace of the Sea King. Its
walls are coral and its high pointed windows the clearest
amber, while the roof is made of clamshells that open
and close with the current. It looks magnificent, because
in each shell there are glistening pearls, and any one of
them would be the pride of a queen’s crown.
The Sea King had been widowed for many years,
and his old mother ran the royal household. She was a
wise mermaid, though proud of her high rank; so she
paraded about with twelve oysters on her tail, while the
other mermaids at court could only have six. But she was
admirable in all other things, especially her affection for
the young sea princesses—her granddaughters. There were
six of these lovely princesses, but the youngest was the
most beautiful of all. Her skin glowed like a rose petal and
her eyes were as blue as the deepest sea. And just like her
sisters, she had no feet, for her body ended in a fish’s tail.
All day long they played in the great palace halls, where
living flowers grew from the walls. When they threw open
the tall amber windows, the fish would swim inside, just
as swallows fly through our windows when we open them.
But these fish swam right over to the little princesses, ate
from their hands and let themselves be petted.
Outside the palace lay a large garden with trees that
were fiery red and navy blue. The fruit shone like gold
and the flowers looked like burning flames, their stems
and leaves forever flickering. The ground was the finest
sand, but it was the blue colour of sulphur when it burns.
Everything was bathed in a wonderful azure glow, so that
you might imagine you were high in the air, gazing only
at the sky above and below you, rather than at the ocean
floor. When the sea was calm, you could glimpse the
crimson flower that all the light seemed to be streaming