If the light which played on the silver sea was a song, it was what she sang—the maiden with hair as sleek and dark as the feathers of a raven. It seemed that the layers of her chiffon skirt were infused with a thousand star-like crystals but it was the glitter of her eyes which stole the kind prince’s heart.
The ball had been open to every maiden and lad from kingdoms near and far. This prince was under no obligation to pick a bride at this grand occasion; he merely hoped that he might make connections across the lands, building bridges between people. Instead of merely making friends, his heart had been lost to the beautiful maiden who came across the sea on a small white boat.
This sea maiden had come out of curiosity from a distant land. She was capable of sailing the wild seas but an ache in her heart drew her to the prince’s shores. What woman does not want to be beautiful, does not want to be seen as beautiful? And so she came to dance, free and happy, in her best dress. Instead of easily dancing and easily leaving, her heart was in danger of falling forever and ever in love.
The crown prince danced only with her all night, and it was not till a moment before dawn when she caught sight of the coming sun and realized how much time had passed. The night had been lost with dancing, laughter, and that kind of conversation which comes between strangers who were always meant to be dearest of friends or more. But as the sky paled pink, she fled and left with not even a glass slipper on the stairs. Her heart was pierced with a love more real and deep than any she had felt before, and she ran from it.
She did not leave behind a slipper made of glass, but she did leave behind a shell. She pressed it into the prince’s hand before she turned and ran, vanishing into the greying light and disappearing with the morning stars. It was a shell which came from a distant island; no one could say which island or how far it might be.
The crown prince was told it would be foolish for him to go in search of her, but his father was still strong and healthy and his brother would be able to rule as well as he, were the worst to happen to him. He was determined to find her and left with his father’s blessing.
He sailed with a small crew and a light ship which skipped playfully across the wild waves of the sea. They had many delightful days of sailing, seeing the lovely sea creatures, singing hearty sailor songs, and listening to the melodic murmurs of the nymphs at dawn. But none had a voice as lovely as hers—the nameless maiden who had stolen the heart of the prince. He ached more deeply each passing day for the beauty which had captured his heart.
He and his men grew quieter as the weeks passed and the ocean remained as large and unconquerable as ever. They began to cast the nets they had brought, and they caught and hauled in fish for dinner.
But one day, they caught more than mere fish. Inside the faded grey strands of the nets there was a bottle which might have once held expensive rare wine but now was covered in rough sea barnacles and strange patterns which seemed to be made of encrusted white salt. The prince paused before opening the mysterious bottle and the moment he did, thick mist poured out, filling the sky, and a voice like thunder boomed!
“I am the genie of the deep, doomed to be locked away by myself as punishment for my selfishness until I be found and granted the finder three wishes. Tell me what you wish!”
“I wish to see the girl I love,” cried the prince in an instant and none of his men were surprised, although they were likely relieved that the tedious journey would soon be over.
"What is her name?” the genie asked.
“I don't know. She would not say.”
“Then I cannot help you find her, young prince,” the genie replied sorrowfully. “Please make a different wish."
The prince paused a moment this time and realized that he was too selfish, thinking only of his own heart. He was the crown prince and must think of his kingdom.
“I wish for the health and wealth of my entire kingdom,” he said this time.
“Granted.” the genie smiled and the boat was rushed almost instantly to a beautiful island which was filled with priceless treasure for the taking. They built a second boat, stored it with enough precious pearls and crystals from the sea to make all the kingdom rich. They discovered plants with powerful magic that would cure all ills and packed barrels of it. And half the crew left, returning home with the ship full of goods that would grant health and wealth to the kingdom. But the prince stayed on the island with the other half of the crew. He was happy for his kingdom but heart-broken for himself. He held both the bottle and the shell as he sat on the white sands of the beach and stared out to sea.
The shell the mysterious maiden had given him was a pale white and pink on one side, a dazzling array of mother of pearl on the other. It was like the woman he loved—lovely and beautiful on one side, wild and complex and beautiful on the other. He remembered how they had spoke of what it would mean to be a good leader. She said that a leader brought peace, true peace, and not just absence of war.
“Genie,” he said so softly that none but the genie could hear, “my second wish is for peace for my kingdom for the rest of time.”
“Humans do what they will," the genie said doubtfully, ‘but I will tell all of nature to guard and care for your people until the end of time."
“Very well," the prince said.
And a wave went over the earth, like wind or water. It was a cry throughout nature: peace for the prince and his people. And nature admired the wish of the prince. In the distance nymphs nodded their fair heads in approval and the gods of foreign lands remarked that on earth there lived heroes still. And quite close, on the very island which the prince was sitting on, there came a voice, singing a song of joy.
The prince knew her in an instant and ran to her with joy—climbing every perilous rock, racing across sandy beaches, and weaving through palms until he found her, seated on a rock, singing her song. She was no longer dressed in stars and silks but wearing a dress which looked like it was made from simple cotton but was all the colors of the sea. Her dark hair fell past her waist and she looked up surprised when she saw him. He saw joy, shock, and perhaps even fear in her eyes now that her heart was so in danger of being lost to her.
“May I ask your name?” the prince asked, scarcely daring to breath or hope. But he hoped enough and it nearly broke his heart.
“Calypso,” she whispered, “Named after a Calypso before. But leave here and be free! Do not listen to my voice which lured so many sailors to their doom."
“But you have not lured me to my death,” the prince beamed, “only my joy.”
“Have I not?” Her eyes filled with tears, “But you have lost your heart to me. Are you not afraid that I will not be a good enough guardian of something so beautiful and precious?”
Her lovely voice broke and revealed her heart and the prince knew he did not want to entrust his heart to anyone else.
“May I make my last wish for you?” He smiled.
“Yes,” Calypso nodded.
He turned to the genie, “Genie, my last wish is that Calypso receives the deepest desires of her heart.”
Her eyes widened, then filled with tears, and she smiled.
For the prince hoped, and Calypso knew in that moment, that her deepest desire was to be one with him for no one wants to be forever alone. So they sailed the wide sea together and returned to the kingdom which was prosperous, healthy, and peaceful until the end of its days. Their hearts remained ever light with the song of the sea and the courage of the prince; they made their home by the sea ever more beautiful.
And so the prince learned that it is through loving others that you find the love of your life, in wishing the good of others that all your dreams come true, and that you must seek if you wish to find your beloved. And Calypso learned that sharing your name, who you really are, is worth the terror of losing your heart, is worth the chance of finding a love greater than life itself. Just as the wild sea is meant to be sailed despite all danger, hearts are meant to be given, and the new couple embarked on a new adventure of true love.
And I can really truly say…
They lived happily ever after.