The Complete Fairy Tales & Other Stories
By Hans Christian Andersen - online book

Oxford Complete Illustrated Edition all his stories written between 1835 and 1872.

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' Why did we not receive an immortal soul ? ' asked the little sea maid, sorrowfully. ' I would gladly give all the hundreds of years I have to live to be a human being only for one day, and to have a hope of partaking the heavenly kingdom.'
' You must not think of that,' replied the old lady. ' We feel ourselves far more happy and far better than mankind yonder.'
1 Then I am to die and to float as foam upon the sea, not hearing the music of the waves, nor seeing the pretty flowers and the red sun ? Can I not do anything to win an immortal soul ? '
' No !' answered the grandmother. ' Only if a man were to love you so that you should be more to him than father or mother ; if he should cling to you with his every thought and with all his love, and let the priest lay his right hand in yours with a promise of faithfulness here and in all eternity, then his soul would be imparted to your body, and you would receive a share of the happiness of mankind. He would give a soul to you and yet retain his own. But that can never come to pass. What is con­sidered beautiful here in the sea—the fish-tail—they would consider ugly on the earth : they don't understand it; there one must have two clumsy supports which they call legs, to be called beautiful.'
Then the little sea maid sighed, and looked mournfully upon her fish-tail.
' Let us be glad ! ' said the old lady. * Let us dance and leap in the three hundred years we have to live. That is certainly long enough ; after that we can rest ourselves all the better. This evening we shall have a court ball.'
It was a splendid sight, such as is never seen on earth. The walls and the ceiling of the great dancing-saloon were of thick but transparent glass. Several hundreds of huge shells, pink and grass-green, stood on each side in rows, filled with a blue fire which lit up the whole hall and shone through the walls, so that the sea without was quite lit up ; one could see all the innumerable fishes, great and small, swimming towards the glass walls ; of some the scales gleamed with purple, while in others they shone like silver and gold. Through the midst of the 'hall flowed