The Sea King and the Magic Jewels

Hereupon, Prince Fire Fade found his brother, and gave him back his own fish-hook that had been lost. Nevertheless, because of the two great jewels, which he wore in the folds of his raiment, he had everlasting dominion over his brother, and flourished in all his doings.

And, after some time, there came to Prince Fire Fade the daughter of the Sea King, the fair Jewel Princess. And she came across the Sea Path bearing in her arms a young child. And she, weeping, laid down the child at the feet of His Augustness and said, “My lord, I have brought thy son.”

But Prince Fire Fade raised her up and made her welcome, and built for her a palace on the sea-shore, at the limit of the waves. And the palace was thatched with cormorant’s feathers. So they dwelt there with the August Child.

And the fair Jewel Princess besought her lord, saying, “Sweet husband, look not on me in the dark night, for then I must take my native shape; with those of my land it is ever so. Howbeit, look not on me, lest I should be ashamed and misfortune should follow.” So Prince Fire Fade promised her, and spoke many fair words of assurance.

Nevertheless, there came a night when Prince Fire Fade lay awake, and could get no rest. And, at length, when it was very dark, before the dawn, he arose and struck a light to look upon his bride as she slept. And he beheld a great scaled dragon, with translucent eyes, which was coiled up at the couch’s foot. And Prince Fire Fade cried out aloud for terror, and dropped the light. Then morning broke very grey upon the sea. And at the same instant the great dragon stirred, and from its coils the Jewel Princess lifted up her lovely head. And the green scales fell away from her like a garment. So she stood, in a white robe, with her child upon her breast. And she hung her head and wept, saying, “O Thine Augustness, my sweet spouse, I had thought to have made the Sea Path a highway between thy land and mine, that we might go and come at pleasure. But now, though I warned thee, thou hast looked upon me in the night. Therefore, my lord, between me and thee it is farewell. I go across the Sea Path, and of this going there is no return. Take thou the August Child.”

She spoke, and departed immediately upon the Sea Path, weeping and covering her face with her hair and looking back to the shore. And she was never more seen upon the Central Land of Reed Plains. Moreover, she shut the gates of the sea and closed the way to her father’s palace. But the young maid, her sister, she sent to be a nurse to her babe, and because, for all that had been, she could not restrain her loving heart, she made a little song, and sent it to her lord by the maid, her sister. And the song said:

Oh, fair are the red jewels,

And fair is the string on which they are strung…

Even so, fair is my babe.

But brighter far, and more renowned are the white jewels,

The jewels that are like my lord.

Then the husband answered, in a song which said:

As for thee, my lady, whom I took to be my bride,

To the island where lights the wild duck the bird of the offing,

I shall not forget thee till the end of my life.

From Green Willow and Other Japanese Fairy Tales by Grace James.
London: Macmillan and Co., 1910.

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Folk tales

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East AsiaJapan

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