Long, long ago a king of Persia had a hundred wives, but none had given him a child. One day a servant rushed into the king's chambers. "Your majesty," he cried, "there's a merchant at the door with an enchanting slave girl!"
"Let them in, " said the king.
The merchant brought in the slave girl. When he removed a blue silk veil from her face, the king's chambers seemed lit by a thousand torches. The girl's hair fell down her back in seven heavy braids that touched her ankles; her eyes were so bright they would heal the sick.
"Praise Allah!" said the king. He gave the merchant ten thousand gold coins in exchange for the slave. Then he sent the merchant away. "Please tell me your name," he said to the girl. "And tell me the name of your native land."
The slave girl did not look at the king, nor speak. She only stared sorrowfully into the distance.
A fire burned in the king's heart. He desperately wanted to win the love of the sad girl. "We must mend her broken heart," he told his servants. "Treat her with great honor. Anoint her with scents and give her the palace room with the windows overlooking the sea."
At the mention of the sea, the girl lifted her eyes and a faint smile flickered across her face.
The servants took her to her palace room and treated her with great kindness. And each day the king visited her and tried to win her trust. "Please, tell me your name," he said, "and tell me the name of your native land."
But the girl always remained silent.
Day after day, the fire in the king's heart burned brighter and brighter. He thought of nothing but how to win the slave girl's love. He called together all the singers in the kingdom and ordered them to sing music for the sad girl.
The singers sang wonderful songs; they delighted everyone, except the girl. She sat alone, unmoved, her head lowered, her heart broken.
Next the king sent for all the dancers in his kingdom and ordered them to dance for the sad girl.
The dancers danced for many hours; they delighted everyone, except the girl. She sat alone, unmoved, her head lowered, her heart broken.
Soon the king's heart began to break also. "Please," he begged the girl one day, "you must tell me what you want. I will give you anything."
It was no use. The slave girl would neither look at him nor speak to him.
Finally the king could bear it no longer. "Heart of my heart," he said to the slave girl, "do you not know that I love you? For weeks I have borne your silence and your coldness, and now I fear I will soon die of grief."
The girl slowly raised her eyes. "Great-hearted king," she said. "I swore never to speak again, but your kindness has softened my resolve. I've kept silent because I am angry about being a slave. I miss my mother, my brother, and the land of my birth."
"Praise Allah!" said the king. "You have spoken your heart! Now tell me about your land and your people! What is your name? How did you come to be a slave?"
"My name is Princess Julnare. My land is the Land - Under - the - Sea. My people are the children of the sea. One night I left my home in the waters and climbed to the shore for a visit. In the moonlight, the warm breeze wooed me to sleep. When I -woke, a slave merchant had captured me."
The king took the girl's hands in his own. "Princess Julnare," he said, "please forgive the ways of men."
"I do forgive them-because of you," she said. "And because your kindness is so great, I will give you a child."
The king felt lifted from the very earth by his joy. He hurried out to his people to spread the good news. He gave a hundred thousand gold coins to the poor as a token of his gratitude to Allah.
The next year a plump, rosy-faced boy was born to Princess Julnare. The prince shone with the brightness of the full moon.
When the king saw his son, his joy knew no bounds. He ordered seven days of celebration, and during those days he gave gifts to the poor and released all prisoners and freed all his slaves.
On the eighth day, Princess Julnare named her son Smile - of - the - Moon. After the naming ceremony, she drew her husband to her. "I will not be completely free of sorrow until I see my family again," she said. "I beg you to allow me to send for my mother, Queen Locust of the Sea, and my brother, the Prince of the Sea. I want them to bless our child."
"Of course!" said the king. "But how do I bring your family from the sea?"
"I will do it, " she said. "You may go in the next room and watch." The king hid in the next room and watched his wife place two pieces of sweet-smelling wood upon a fire. When the smoke began to rise, she whistled, then murmured strange magic words.
At once, the sea opened. Out of its depths rose a handsome youth with rose-colored cheeks and sea-green hair. Next rose an old woman with white hair and a ruby crown.
The two sea people walked upon the surface of the water until they came to the palace. Then they leapt upwards - as light as foam-and flew through the window to Princess Julnare and kissed her with tears of great joy.
The princess took her baby boy and placed him in the arms of his uncle. The prince lifted the baby high into the air, kissed him a thousand times, and bounced him up and down.
Then as the king watched from his hiding place, he saw a terrible sight: The prince suddenly leapt through the window with the tiny baby, and he disappeared down into the sea!
The king screamed in horror. He flew into the next room. "My son! My son!" he cried. "I've lost my son!"
"Wait, " whispered Princess Julnare. She pointed at the waves out her window.
They parted. The sea opened. And the prince emerged with Smile - of - the - Moon in his arms.
The young prince leapt from the sea through the palace window, and the king saw that his son was sleeping peacefully in his uncle's arms. In fact, the baby was smiling like the moon itself
"Oh, King, were you frightened when I jumped into the sea with this small one?" said the prince.
"Yes, uncle of my son," said the king. "I despaired he would drown and I would never ever see him again."
The prince smiled. "From now on, you need never fear your son might drown," he said. "For the rest of his life he'll be able to leap into the sea without harm. I have given him the same birthright as all the children of the sea."
The prince handed the boy to the king. Then he drew a cloth bag from his belt and poured its contents upon the carpet.
The king gasped. Before him were pearls the size of pigeons' eggs and the thousand fires of a thousand underwater jewels. The room was ablaze with the sort of fantastic lights one only sees in dreams.
"My mother and I must depart now," said the Prince of the Sea. "We yearn for our native land."
Princess Julnare bid her mother and brother a tearful good-bye. They promised to return from time to time. Then they leapt through the window and disappeared below the ocean waters.
From that day on, the Sea Princess of Persia lived happily with the King of Persia. And their little Smile - of - the - Moon grew up to be very brave and very wise.
Source: Mermaid Tales From Around The World, Mary Pope Osborne