The Fisherlad & The Mermaid’s Ring

The Fisherlad and the Mermaid's Ring

Illustrated By: Emma Leeper

ONCE IN SCOTLAND a young lad was so smitten with a bonny lass that he did nothing but think of her night and day. At last he summoned his courage, offered her his heart and asked for hers to return.

However the lass did not share the same feeling about him.  As you may know, this sort of thing can happen.

The lass could have been more polite about it, but what was she to do? 

She let him know the truth as best she could, then found a reason to go as soon she could. Off she was, leaving him feeling cast-adrift and sunk.

Well, if there was one thing the lad was sure of, he could no longer walk about the people of that town. Not with everyone knowing she had passed him over, snickering and pointing at him as he went by. Nor could he fish anymore with the lads at the shore, for the shame of it.

If there was one thing the lad was sure of, he could no longer walk about the people of that town.

So with a heavy heart, he gathered his nets inside his boat, sailed to an uninhabited island, and built himself a hut.  Every morning very early he sailed to the sea, laid his nets, and hauled a day's catch. He took the fish to market at a port where no one would recognize him, sold his catch, bought food and other necessities, and sailed home to his island. Such was his life, day after day.

And so it would have stayed but one day, in the corner of his eye, he caught something gleaming amidst the fish in his net. Quickly, he grabbed the net by one hand, though the thing inside twisted and thrashed, and tied the net into a knot so that whatever it was, it was securely fastened.

"Release me!" called a voice.

It was a mermaid, in his net!  To look at, she was just like any other girl to the waist, but below that she flipped a long fishtail that glittered with shiny yellow-green scales.

"I know better," said he. "You know as well as I do that you must grant me a wish."

"Very well!" she said, "I suppose you want a bag of gold coins. I happen to know of a sunken ship not far from here with such treasure."

"Ay, I have no interest in a bag of coins," he said. "It will not give me what I want."

"So it's a TRUNK of treasure you require?" She reared her head with pride. "I am the daughter of the king of the sea, and can have my mer-servants deliver such a trunk to your island.""If you know enough about me to know about my island," said the lad, "you know what it is that I really want."

"The bonny lass?" sighed the mermaid. "Why her?"

"Och, you know why!" he said. "Her blue eyes. Her blond hair. The way she moves. She is what I want most in all the world.  If I can't have her, I want naught else!"

"The bonny lass?" signed the mermaid.  "Why her?"

"Ah, she is not so different from the others," said the mermaid.  But when the fisherlad tightened his hold on the netting, she quickly added, "Of course I can grant your wish of love, but it will take some time. Release me and I'll give you a magic ring. After one year and one day, when you go to her and offer her the ring I will give you, she will not refuse."

"How do you know she won't be married by then?"

"She will not be," promised the mermaid.

So the fisherlad freed the mermaid from the net, took her magic ring and placed it in a jar on his mantle in his hut. He decided to scratch the wood to keep track of every day that went by.

So the fisherlad freed the mermaid from the net, took her magic ring and placed it in a jar on his mantle in his hut.

One day not long after that as the lad sailed back to his island, he saw what looked from a distance like a heap of seaweed. Curious however, the seaweed moved. As he sailed to shore, the lad saw that it was a wee brown-haired lass whose mangled dark hair lay in a heap around her.

"What are you doing here?" he frowned.

"Och, do not send me away - I have to go somewhere! My father has a new bride not much older than myself. She's horrible and mean and I fear she's bound to do something terrible to me."

"You can't stay here!  You must go back and make it right with her."

"It is not for you to tell me what to do!" she said.  "Besides, I can't go anywhere because the winds aren't right."

"Tomorrow morning the winds will change."

"My raft is broken."

"I'll fix it."

"Stop it! I need to stay somewhere where I'm safe and alone!"

"So do I!" thundered the lad, glowering at her. A long silence.

“There is plenty of room on this island,” she said. “You stay on your side, and I’ll stay on mine.  Besides,” she said more gently, “if I’m going to cook for myself, I may as well cook enough for two."

“Suit yourself,” he said.  “But I eat alone.”

"There is plenty of room on this island," she said.  "You stay on your side, and I'll stay on mine."

The girl was true to her word. When the lad returned from fishing or from the market, she would present a hot meal for him.  After placing it on the table she would leave. Where she went, where she slept, he knew not and he did not wonder in the least.

One day he had an especially good day at sea. The fish were plentiful and his catch sold well at market. He came home earlier than usual and found the girl still in his hut.  She was startled and started to leave. He said, "Please, don't go so quickly. Let me grab you a plate. We might as well eat together."

So they ate, saying little, but the next day they said a few words more, and the day after that, more still, until they got to know all about one another.

Now he understood completely why she had to leave her house, and pounded the table with fury when she told him about her father and how he had been blind to the dangerous situation he put her in. She listened with sympathy to the tale of his bonny lass and how he planned to win her heart with the mermaid's ring after the 101 days.

In fact, she posted a chart over the mantle to keep track of the days gone by and the ones left. A clever idea, he thought, since the scratches on the wood were becoming hard to tell apart.

When the lad returned home from fishing one day, he saw she had moved flowers from the field and planted them in front of the hut. “That's rather nice,” he thought to himself.

Around that time she started to help him beach the boat and spread the nets. Though she was but a wee brown-haired lass and nearly as small as a child and sometimes seemed to disappear completely behind the nets since her skin and hair were as dark as the wet ropes, still she was surprisingly strong and helpful to have around.

One morning she said, "When you go to market, you must bring back a bit of window glass to keep the weather out." He obliged, and the next day while he was gone she placed the glass in the window holes. 

Indeed, the hut stayed warmer that evening. And the next day, a beam of sunlight shone through the new window.Another time she told him, "Bring me back some whitewash paint and a brush - these walls are far too dreary." He did as she said, and she washed the walls and painted them a bright blue.

Though he started to grumble about precious little money that was left after he fetched her this or fetched her that, he had to admit that his hut was more comfortable than it had ever been before.

On the other side of the island one day, he noticed a pile of grass had been pushed against a group of thick trees and was pressed down in the middle. He realized that it must be where she slept at night. A bit ashamed that he had never wondered about it before, he decided to forego fishing for a few days and instead, started gathering wood and hammering it to the hut.

"What are you up to now?" she asked.

"'Tis not proper for a lass to sleep outside in a mound of grass," he said. "This will be a room of your own."

"Don't do it on my account," she sniffed.  "I'm perfectly fine where I am."  But he noticed as she went about the house that evening she was humming to herself. A melody that was the same as one his mother used to sing.

And so the days went quickly by. Before he knew it, it was the 365th day, one whole year since the fateful day he had caught the mermaid in his net. When the lad entered the hut that afternoon, he saw the girl in front of the hearth with the magic ring on her finger, holding up her hand and looking at it from all angles.

"What are you doing?" he called out, startling her.

"'Tis nothing," she said quickly, dropping the ring back into the jar and sealing it with its lid. "Just making sure all is well with the ring for tomorrow."

She went to her room. When she returned, she held a packet with all of her belongings.

"I'm leaving now. I'm going back to my father's home."

"What? Aren't you worried how they will treat you?"

"I'm leaving now.  I'm going back to my father's home."

"I'll manage. I'm older now."

"It's only been a year."

"One year is enough."

"But...the winds aren't right."

"They will be soon."

"We never fixed your raft. I'll give you a ride in the boat."

"I fixed the raft. I'd just as soon leave the way I came, if that's all right with you."

She walked over to the chart, took it off the wall, laid it before him and marked off the last day.

"Tomorrow," she said, "you will claim your own true love."

She walked over to the chart, took it off the wall, laid it before him and marked off the last day.

And she left.

For the rest of the day, the fisherlad stayed in his chair. He stared at the walls and at the floor. He slept in the chair. Early the next morning when he woke, the first thing he saw was the chart on the table before him. He went over to the mantle where he kept the mermaid's ring and set out to claim the love of his life.

Only it wasn't to the village he was born where he set his sail. It was to the land of the girl who had stayed with him at the island. You can imagine how surprised she was to see him enter her father's garden.

"How are you? Did you find the love of your life?"

You can imagine how surprised she was to see him enter her father's garden.

"Yes, I did. I mean, now I have."

"And will she have you?" asked the girl, staring at the ring that he held in front of her.

"You tell me," he said, looking into her eyes.

"Well, she might," said the girl with a bit of a smile.  "If they had a chance to get to know each other, that is, in that way."

So the lad found a place to live not far from where she lived and he went fishing each day.  At night they had dinner together as before, and yet this time it was different.  They still talked about their day, but shared more of it than they ever had before, and they also talked about the future. 

You may not be surprised to hear that the two of them were wed.  And a fine wedding it was, with all the family and friends that the girl and lad thought had been cross with them but who were no longer angry, if they had ever been at all.

You may not be surprised to hear that the two of them were wed.

In the village, one day it so happened the lad chanced upon the same bonny lass who had captured his heart before. She had the same golden hair and blue eyes, and the same tall, slim frame, but there was nothing about her that seemed different or better than other girls. Later that day he took his bride back to their island, where they both wanted to be most of all.

That was when they saw the mermaid sitting on a rock in the water.

"Did you find your own true love?" said she.

"Yes I did - and here she is!" said the lad.

"Did you find your own true love?" said she.

"But she does not have blond hair," said the mermaid.


"And she does not have blue eyes."


"Nor is she tall or slim."

"'Tis so," said he, "as you can see she's right short, and, if I can say so, perhaps a bit filled out?" His bride playfully bopped him on the shoulder.

"Yet she is your own true love?"

"No doubt about it."

"So our bargain is kept. You got what you asked for." The mermaid dived off the rock and into the sea, and that was the last they ever saw of her.

And so the fisherlad and his wee brown-haired lass lived happily for the rest of their days.





  • What did the wee brown lass give the fisherlad that the bonny lass did not?
  • What did the fisherlad learn about love?
Posted in Europe, Holidays, Scotland, STORIES FOR KIDS, Valentine's Day, World Tales and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *