Friday, 5 November 2010

Friday is for Fairytales: The Fisherman and His Soul

This is a meme hosted by me every Friday.

My post today is about: The Fisherman and His Soul by Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde wrote some beautiful, although sad fairy-tales and I decided to share a favourite one today.

A young Fisherman meets a Mermaid and wants to marry her, but he can’t, because the underwater people have no soul, so he can’t live underwater with her, since he possesses a soul. He gets two opinions on the matter of the soul: a priest tells him it is his most precious possession and a witch tells him it is a shadow that can be cut away. The Fisherman is in love, so he listens to the witch. Once he cuts his soul from his body, the Soul wants his heart for comfort, as the world is such a cruel place, but the Fisherman refuses his Soul, as he needs his heart for loving the Mermaid. He now lives with the Mermaid underwater.

Every year when the Soul comes back to the Fisherman, the young man refuses him, but when the third year passes, the Soul manages to convince the Fisherman to go to the nearby town to watch a dancer dance. Once the Fisherman is on the shore, he is reunited with his soul and he realises that once the Soul and his body are reunited, they can never be parted again, which is a tragedy for the Fisherman.

The Fisherman builds a shelter on the shore, but the Mermaid never comes back to him – until one day her lifeless body is washed ashore. The Fisherman drowns in the sea cradling her body. When the priest finds them both dead, he says they are curses and has them buried in an unmarked grave. The story ends on a hopeful note, though, as a miraculous event proves that not all is lost.

I find this story very beautiful. Star-crossed lovers will always find a way to be together, even if it means they have to die. I do not approve of suicide, but this is just a fairy-tale, and as such, I appreciate its bitter sweet narrative. This story by Wilde very much reminds me of The Little Mermaid by Andersen, in which it is the other way around: a soulless mermaid sacrifices herself to be with a human man, but sadly, he ends up marrying another woman. However, if I were to briefly compare the two stories, I’d only say that I prefer the ending of Andersen’s tale, simply because it ends on a much more hopeful note and gives purpose to the mermaid’s sacrifice, whereas there is really no purpose in the death of the two star-crossed lovers from Wilde’s story. However, it is still a beautiful tale to read and I just love mermaids, what can I say.


The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

I had no idea Wilde wrote fairy tales and thus I had never heard of this one-it sounds super depressing!

Blodeuedd said...

:( Sad, why aren't there any happy tales

Jan von Harz said...

This is one tale I am not familiar with, but it sounds very sad. I will have to tell my students about this one as I can see it making for a great retelling. Thanks