Once there was a fisherman who spent all his time fishing for the village. And he missed his wife as much as she missed him. But she could not bear to be in a boat so he had to fish without her. One day his wife decided that she would try and overcome her fear and visit him as a surprise in a separate boat. And she did a really courageous job even though the seas were calm for a sailor, and when the other fisherman directed her to the cove where her husband was she found him singing a song with a woman. Her long hair was as curly as the waves. And when they saw his wife, she jumped from behind a rock and into the sea. His wife saw that she had a tail!
Her husband rowed after her. Back home, he pleaded for his wife to understand the arrangement. For a duet, the mermaid would give him a bountiful catch to take home. And he had gotten used to it and stopped fishing altogether. But his wife didn’t want to hear it and told him never to see her again and to start fishing again no matter how poor the catch because she could sauce and add other ingredients to make a meal fit for a king let alone a peasant such as he. He knew that was true and agreed. Strangely enough, when she humbled him like that, it made his stomach glow warm for she grounded him in a way that made him feel wanted and needed.
But as the fisherman fished he yearned to sing the duet. He had really enjoyed singing. It was a better way to pass the time than staring at the sea. So he began to sing on his own. To his surprise he remembered the songs the mermaid taught him. And he sang them at the top of his lungs. Miraculously, a bountiful catch found its way on his boat. And before he began rowing home, a vision of his wife came to him. He saw her yelling at him. Would she not think that he had sang a duet with the mermaid again? He took out a few fish that would suit a meager catch commensurate with his passionless fishing and threw the rest of the catch back in the sea.
A piercing shriek caused the sea to capsize the fisherman’s boat. He felt his legs being pulled under. The mermaid took him down to the bottom of the sea where she had a cave she filled with air for the fisherman to breathe. He pleaded for her to understand the arrangement. The mermaid was insulted that his wife would not accept the bountiful catch she provided in exchange for song.
She took the fisherman deeper to a chamber behind the cave’s walls. Therein glowed a treasure beyond anything the fisherman could imagine. As she told him that the entire treasure could be his as long as he left his wife and spent the rest of his life with her, he noticed a skeleton encrusted in diamonds, emeralds, and rubies and it had a grin of pearls that made him feel cold inside. He also saw that the chamber was buttressed by beams of gold and knew this was no chamber at all but a cage that he had unwittingly walked into. Feeling trapped, the fisherman felt sick to his stomach and yearned for that warm humbling love that only his wife could fill to the brim of his modest cup and knew that these chalises would always be empty of the only ambrosia he could ever handle.
To his surprise, she returned him to his boat when he politely declined but she left one strand of her curly hair on his jacket as a parting gift. And his wife took the strand of hair and he explained what had happened. She forbade him from singing ever again out at sea. And the fisherman quietly fished thereafter but his wife soothed him by singing after supper in a voice he had never heard before that sounded so delicate and heartfelt that it brought him to his knees and made him forget about his duets at sea.