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The Mermaid and the Boatbuilder
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Once upon a time in an age gone by-not long by the reckoning of the Sea People, but long enough to be sure for mortals, there lived in the town of Iverness in the Kingdom of the Scots an old boatbuilder. Now like some craftsmen he was a perfectionist, always doubting his own work. And whenever the fisher-folk would leave town to seek their living this old boatbuilder worried. And when they returned home and it was read in the Church those who had been taken as tribute by the sea, the Old Boatbuilder worried lest a man who was on the list had sailed on one of his own boats. For there was nothing he feared so much as that the trust men placed in his skill should fail.
Now one day he was walking along the lonely beach at low tide. Then he looked and his eyes were amazed. For thereupon a rock was a Sea-maiden, stranded by the receding of the sea. She was in agony for the Sea-People cannot endure the full glare of the sun. But she was to weak to move and could not return to the sea.
So the old boatbuilder took pity and carried her to the sea for her to swim to her home. Then the Sea-maiden said, "Thank you for your kindness. What would you have of me."
At first the boatbuilder was going to say that what he did was reward enough. But then he thought of something. And so he said, "I wish to build boats that never sink and on which none who sets foot in them ever drown."
The sea-maiden said, "That is a hard thing you ask , but you have done a great thing for me. So it is granted."
And ever after no boat built by The Old Boatbuilder or his kin unto many generations has ever sunk, nor has any had one drown while in it and the fame of his boats lasted many a year.
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21 Apr 2008
As is appropriate to folklore, this was adapted from another teller, who in turn adapted it from someone else ad infinitum.
In this case the story was obtained from Folklore and the Sea by Horace Beck. This particular version is however my own.
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