THE FISHERMAN AND HIS SOUL
This classic mermaid story was written as a reaction to Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid". In Andersen's mermaid story the mermaid longs for a soul, here a fisherman longs to rid himself of his soul for the love of a mermaid. Andersen's mermaid story is strongly Christian in it's outlook and philosophy, Wilde's is delightfully pagan. Here is a brief synopsis:
A young fisherman fell in love with a mermaid and wanted to join her in her land beneath the sea. The mermaid told him he could not be with her because he had a soul and she did not. The fisherman swore to get rid of his soul for the mermaid's love. He visited a young witch who lived in the mountains. She gave him a magic knife and told him to stand with the moon behind him and use it to cut the soul from his feet. She said, "The shadow of the body is the body of the soul." As the fisherman cut the soul from his feet the soul begged him not to separate them. When the fisherman refused the soul asked that he also cut out his heart and give it to the soul. "With what should I love my love if I gave thee my heart? " the fisherman asked. When he was free from his soul the fisherman left to join his mermaid under the sea. The soul, before he departed, told the fisherman that he would return after a year and call to him. The soul returned the next year and the year after that. Each time he offered the fisherman some marvelous treasure he had found in exchange for joining with him again. Each time the fisherman told him "love is greater." The third year the soul offered to take the fisherman to a maiden who danced beautifully with naked feet. The fisherman remembered that the mermaid had no feet and could not dance. He agreed to join again with his soul provided that he could return within a day to his little mermaid. The soul, however, had tricked the fisherman. There was no dancing girl with naked feet. The fisherman, when he realized...