The Mermaid’s Purse
By: Pam Munson Steadman
…Once upon a time in the land of nags, pirates, treasure chests, devils, hills, ducks, marshes, beaches, lighthouses and much more, there lived a lovely fair-haired young maiden by the name of Melanie.
Melanie so loved going fishing with her father early each morning. The two of them would get up at dawn and walk down to the edge of the tiny bay where father’s fishing boat awaited them. As legend has it, Melanie was able to sing to the fish…her melodic voice reaching just about every type of fish there is in the ocean. It was in this manner that her father was able to fill up his tiny boat with many sea creatures and take them into the village of Manteo, where he sold them so that he could support his family. Other fishermen were often envious because they were unable to catch such an amount of fish. In fact, many worried about the ocean being empty of fish one day because of Melanie’s special talent!
Now it so happened that one summer’s morning, Melanies’ father was not feeling well. Melanie’s mother decided that he should just stay at home and rest for the day. However, Melanie knew that the family had to have fish to sell at the market, so she crept down to the edge of the bay while her parents were busily discussing the day’s events with a neighbor.
…Knowing what to do, Melanie was soon floating out in the little boat with her net in hand, as well as her father’s trusted fishing pole. Within a minute’s time, a large mackerel soon popped up out of the water. Melanie was surprised, as she had not even begun to sing!
“How do!” cried the mackerel.
“Good morning, Mr. Mackerel. I have not sung as yet. Why do you now greet me,?” asked Melanie, readying her pole for the catch.
Before the mackerel could answer, something else caught Melanie’s eye. A most unusual item was floating in the water, and the sun’s bright morning rays caught its fine quality. It was a purse. Melanie watched it as it came nearer to the boat. Oh such a purse! It was made from the finest leather and had sparkling golden buttons about the edges of it. A very smart looking purse indeed! Melanie tried to reach out to grab the purse but it kept floating back and forth. She just could not get a hold of it.
Soon, a stingray popped its head out of the water, followed by flounder, yellow fin, and several small schools of fish. Melanie was very pleased at the sight of such an easy catch of sea creatures. She threw out her net this time and began to sing. Alas, nothing happened. The fish just kept swimming around her boat and the purse kept swishing back and forth in the wake.
“Why do you not just dive in and fetch this purse that has caught your eye,?” asked the yellow fin. “It will soon float out to sea and you shall never again come upon such a catch, dear girl. I would not be surprised it it is not full of pirates’ doubloons and pieces of eight. Perhaps a ruby or emerald is inside this prize.”
Before Melanie realized what she was doing, she stood up in her little boat and took a dive into the sea. Her arms had reached the prized purse and the fish began to murmur about what a fantastic catch THEY had just found! The fair maiden Melanie swam out into the chilly waters with the sea creatures and was never seen again.
Legend has it that if you sit along the docks in Manteo in the early morning, you just might see and hear a fair-haired mermaid smiling and singing you melodic songs. There is one catch, however. This mermaid has a pretty purse that she carries around her shoulders. She will wait until a coin is tossed into the water. If you have a fishing pole or net with you however, you just might be rewarded handsomely!