One of my favorite writers is Hans Christian Andersen. I realize his stories may be a bit too downbeat and moralistic for some people’s taste, but I’ve always loved the way he says so much in such simple ways, all the while taking his characters and the reader on fully imagined (and imaginative) journeys. Here is one passage I like to read every so often from The Little Mermaid. (For those of you who are only familiar with the Disney version of the story, the original tale is quite dark.) This scene, from the beginning of the story, depicts the little mermaid as she contemplates the world beyond the ocean. I like the sweep and feel of this passage—again, told with such simplicity.
“Many a night this quiet, thoughtful little mermaid would stand by the open window, looking up through the dark blue waters where the fishes swam. She could see the moon and the stars; they looked paler but larger down here under the sea. Sometimes a great shadow passed by like a cloud and then she knew that it was either a whale or a ship, with its crew and passengers, that was sailing high above her. None on board could have imagined that a little beautiful mermaid stood in the depths below them and stretched her little white hands up toward the keel of their ship.”
[From A Treasury of Hans Christian Andersen, translated from the Danish by Eric Christian Haugaard, c1974]