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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the tent, and saw the beautiful bride lying with her head on the prince's breast; and she bent down and kissed his brow, and gazed up to the sky where the morning red was gleaming brighter and brighter ; then she looked at the sharp knife, and again fixed her eyes upon the prince, who in his sleep murmured his bride's name. She only was in his thoughts, and the knife trembled in the sea maid's hands. But then she flung it far away into the waves—they gleamed red where it fell, and it seemed as if drops of blood spurted up out of the water. Once more she looked with half-extinguished eyes upon the prince ; then she threw herself from the ship into the sea, and felt her frame dissolving into foam.
Now the sun rose up out of the sea. The rays fell mild and warm upon the cold sea foam, and the little sea maid felt nothing of death. She saw the bright sun, and over her head sailed hundreds of glorious ethereal beings—she could see them through the white sails of the ship and the red clouds of the sky ; their speech was melody, but of such a spiritual kind that no human ear could hear it, just as no earthly eye could see them; without wings they floated through the air. The little sea maid found that she had ■ a frame like these, and was rising more and more out of the foam.
* Whither am I going ? ' she asked ; and her voice sounded like that of the other beings, so spiritual, that no earthly music could be compared to it.
' To the daughters of the air ! ' replied the others. ' A sea maid has no immortal soul, and can never gain one, except she win the love of a mortal. Her eternal existence depends upon the power of another. The daughters of the air have likewise no immortal soul, but they can make themselves one through good deeds. We fly to the hot countries, where the close pestilent air kills men, and there we bring coolness. We disperse the fragrance of the flowers through the air, and spread refreshment and health. After we have striven for three hundred years to accom­plish all the good we can bring about, we receive an immortal soul and take part in the eternal happiness of men. You, poor little sea maid, have striven with your whole heart after the goal we pursue ; you have suffered and endured :