During the conversation, I say “mouth” when I mean “tongue”. This is corrected in the transcript.
Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for beginners. The name of the story is The Little Mermaid. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Little. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Little. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
So, I am back from holiday. I had a lovely, lovely holiday. I did two things.
First, I went to a conference. The conference was about teaching languages. Honestly, it was amazing. I learned so many things. I made so many friends. And it gave me so much inspiration. In fact, I even met a fan of the podcast at the conference. It was the first time I met a fan in real life. So, Jaekyung, if you’re listening, hey! And to everyone else listening, I really hope I can meet you too in the future. Maybe I will do a world tour. Who knows? But I am excited to continue the podcast.
I also went to an Esperanto event. It was really fun. It was in Slovakia in a beautiful area. There were lots of mountains. But it did rain a lot. Still, I had lots of fun and I made some great new friends.
So, thank you all again for being patient. I’m really glad I had some time away. I really needed the holiday, and I am so excited to start working again.
You probably have heard of today’s story already. It is very famous because of the Disney film, but my version is based on the original version. The original story was written by Hans Christian Andersen, and it is much darker and sadder than the Disney version. So, sorry! I quite like dark stories, but sometimes my students get sad when I tell them these stories. But life must have both light and darkness. So, hopefully this story won’t make you cry!
OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in the story.
So a mermaid is a woman who has a fish’s tail and lives in the sea. There are also mermen. So a merman is the male version. And altogether we can call them merpeople. So mermaids and mermen are merpeople. The word “mermaid” comes from French because “mer” in French means “the sea”.
As I said, merpeople have a fish’s tail. So a tail is the back part of an animal that can move around. For example, dogs move their tails when they are very happy.
Another part of all animals, and this includes humans, is the tongue. So the tongue is in your mouth. It is big and pink. And it is a very strong part of the body. In many cultures, it is rude to show your tongue. And if you don’t have a tongue, you can’t talk.
If you wake up very early, you might see the sunrise. So the sunrise is when the sun goes into the sky in the morning. And in the UK it is currently summer, and in summer the sunset is very late. So the sunset is when the sun goes out of the sky at the end of the day, and at the moment, the sunset is around ten pm. So it’s very lovely. We can sit out and have long summer nights. Although, at the moment, the weather is not very nice. So we can sit inside and have long summer nights!
A witch. A witch is a bad woman who does magic. [witch’s laugh]. That’s what a witch sounds like.
A sword is a long, metal weapon. You use it to kill people, but now people usually use guns. In the past, though, everyone used swords. Most people now will never touch a sword. Some people use swords, though, as a sport, or maybe they dress up and use wooden swords.
A knife is kind of like a sword, but shorter. You use a knife when you eat food.
A step. A step is when you move. So when you walk you make many steps. There was news quite a long time ago that you should make ten thousand steps in a day, but now scientists actually think this is not necessary. You just need to move regularly through the week.
Marry. When you marry someone, you become their husband or wife. When you marry someone you wear a wedding ring. A wedding is the celebration where two people get married.
OK, so remember, you can find a full transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Little. You can also find a link there to book classes with me online. I would love to teach you.
OK, so listen and enjoy!
The Little Mermaid
A long time ago, merpeople existed. They lived in the sea, and they were half-fish, half-human. They were human down to their middle, and then they were fish. They had long, beautiful tails, and they swam through the water using their tails.
One mermaid was called Ariya. She was the daughter of the king. She had five sisters. When they became sixteen, they could swim up to the top of the sea and look at the human world. Ariya was the youngest, so each year, one of her sisters went up and saw the human world. She wanted to see it so much, but she had to wait.
The first sister swam up and saw a city. She said the sounds and lights were magical. The second sister swam up and watched the sunset. She said the colours were unbelievable. The third sister swam up a river and saw a castle. She saw children playing in the water, and a strange black animal called a “dog”. The fourth sister was shy, and stayed in the sea, but she saw many impressive ships, and jumping dolphins. The fifth sister had her birthday in winter, so when she swam up she saw large pieces of ice in the sea. She sat on one piece of ice and watched a storm. The ships ran away from it, and it was beautiful and scary.
However, Ariya’s sisters became less interested in the human world. They swam up less and less, and stayed in the sea. But one day every year, they swam up together and sang songs to ships. The men in the ships fell in love with them, and some even jumped into the sea and died in the cold water. Afterwards they laughed about this together.
Ariya watched her sisters leave and felt very sad. Mermaids cannot cry, so they feel sad more than humans. Of course, Ariya’s parents did not like their daughters singing to human men.
‘You are very bad, to kill men like that. You are just like the sea witch, Olghra, and she is the worst thing in the sea.’
Finally, Ariya’s sixteenth birthday came. She was so excited to swim up to the human world. But first, her grandmother put pearls on her tail.
‘Grandmother, it hurts so much!’ said Ariya.
‘Yes. We cannot be beautiful without pain.’
When they finished, it hurt less, and Ariya swam to the top of the sea. When she came out of the water she saw a ship. On the ship, there was lots of music, and people were dancing. She did not want them to see her, so she stayed under the sea. She swam past windows. She looked in one of the windows, and saw a man. He looked very special. Everyone was singing to him, and he had a large cake.
“It must be his birthday,” Ariya thought. The people sang a song, and she heard the number sixteen. He was the same age as her! And he was very handsome. He had to be a prince.
There was a loud sound above. The water went dark. Ariya swam up and saw that there was a storm. It grew quickly. It was beautiful to her, but lightning hit the ship, and it broke in two. The men shouted and ran, and many fell into the water. Ariya looked everywhere, and saw her prince fall into the sea. He had passed out! She took him and swam to the beach.
She kissed his head and said, ‘Please wake up!’
He started to move, and she was shy, so she went back into the water. She hid behind a rock and watched. The prince woke up, and some girls came and helped him. He was safe! Ariya happily swam back down under the sea.
Her family had been waiting for her for a long time. She told them about the ship and the storm, but she did not talk about the prince. She thought her sisters would laugh at her. But every night, she swam back up and went to the beach. His castle was nearby, and sometimes she saw him in the window. Sometimes he even walked down to the beach and looked at the water.
She heard other humans talk about their world. It was very strange. They had kings and buildings like the world under the sea, but there were lots of other things. She didn’t understand most of them, but she was very interested. She wanted to be in that world, and not under the sea. Her sisters said that the sea was more beautiful than the human world, but Ariya thought they were wrong.
‘How can I live in their world?’ said Ariya. And then she had an idea.
One night in the sea, the king held a ball. Ariya had been waiting for this. When everyone was dancing, eating, and talking, she left the castle. Nobody was around, so they did not see where she was going. She was going to see the sea witch, Olghra. She had heard many stories about Olghra, but she was the only person who would help Ariya.
Olghra’s home was a cave. The way there was very dangerous. In the floor of the cave there were many sea snakes. They looked like plants, but they moved. They moved slowly, and tried to touch her. Ariya swam carefully into the cave, so that they did not touch her.
Inside, Olghra sat on the floor. The snakes were sitting on her face, on her hands, on her head. She treated them like pets, and called them “her little chickens”.
‘So, you are here because you want to be a human, correct?’
‘How did you know?’ said Ariya.
Olghra laughed. ‘My chickens tell me many stories. Today is a good day for you. I can help you.’
‘You can really help me?’
‘Yes. I will make a drink. It will change your tail into human legs. It will hurt a lot. It will be like a sword. But you will be beautiful. However, every step will hurt you. It will be like walking on knives.’
Ariya remembered her grandmother’s words, and said, ‘I will do it.’
Olghra smiled. ‘This drink uses love. Love is the strongest magic. It will connect your life to the prince’s. You must sleep with the prince, and then you will be human forever. But if he sleeps with another, you will turn into seawater and die.’
Ariya thought of the prince. He often looked at the sea, and she thought that he must love her.
‘I will do it.’
‘Good. Now, you must pay me. Nothing is free, dear. You have such a pretty face, but what I want is your tongue.’
Ariya loved to sing. Without her tongue, she wouldn’t be able to sing. But she would have legs! Beautiful legs. Did she need to sing?
‘I will do it.’
Olghra cut off her tongue with a knife. Then she mixed the tongue with some of her own blood. She cooked it over the fire, and put it into a bottle.
‘Here. Go now. You must drink it before sunset.’
Ariya took the drink and swam up. It was almost sunset. She did not have time to say goodbye to her family. She sat on the beach and drank the drink, and then passed out.
She woke up in the sun, and her whole body hurt. But the prince was there! He had clothes for her. She wanted to say hello to him, but she couldn’t talk without her tongue. So she smiled.
‘Are you OK?’
She nodded, but showed her mouth.
‘You can’t talk?’
She nodded again. They walked along the beach together. Every step hurt. It was just like walking on knives. But she was still very beautiful, and the prince smiled at her.
In the castle, they gave Ariya beautiful clothes and delicious food, but it was strange. Because she couldn’t talk, they treated her like a child. The prince liked her, but she could not say anything, so their conversations were strange. Still, over the months, they became close. She slept in a room next to the prince. They went horseriding together. They went mountain climbing together. They danced together. These things hurt Ariya’s feet very much, but she never showed this to the prince. In the evening, she sat on the beach and put her feet in the cold sea water. This made them hurt a bit less.
Ariya wanted to marry the prince very much. Before she just wanted to sleep with the prince. Under the sea, merpeople did not get married. But living in the human world, she saw a wedding, and she thought it was so beautiful that she wanted to get married. But even though she was close to the prince, she could not get close enough, because she could not talk.
The prince often talked about a dream he had. He dreamed about the storm on the ship, and he said that a woman saved him, and she looked just like her.
‘That is why I find you so lovely,’ he said. ‘You are like an angel. You saved my life. Or at least, I feel like you did. But of course, I could never marry a woman who can’t talk.’
Ariya was broken. In the world under the sea, love was the most important thing. But for humans, other people could tell you who to be with. Many people who were married did not love each other. Ariya did not understand it.
Finally, the prince told her he was going to get married. His mother, the queen, had chosen a princess from another kingdom. The princess travelled to the castle, and she was just as beautiful as Ariya. The princess sang to the prince. Ariya knew she could sing better, but she could not sing without her tongue.
On the day of the wedding, Ariya felt sadder than ever before. But she could not show it. She smiled, and watched the prince and the princess’ wedding. She knew that that night, she would die.
After the wedding, they all went onto a ship to have a party. There was music and dancing and wonderful food. Ariya joined in. It would be her last dance. The prince was very happy with his new wife.
“At least he will be happy,” she thought sadly.
The prince and the princess danced until the morning, and then went into the ship. Ariya sat by the water, and she saw something below. It was her sisters! They swam up, but they had no hair.
‘Ariya! We have spoken with the sea witch, Olghra. She took our hair, and gave us this.’
They gave Ariya a knife.
‘If you kill the prince with this knife, you will become a mermaid again. You must kill him before sunrise, and his blood must fall on your feet.’
The mermaids swam away. Ariya held the knife and looked at the sky. It would be morning soon. She went through the ship, and went to the room where the prince and his wife were. She put her ear against the door.
‘Oh, my love,’ said the prince.
‘Who is that strange girl? She was looking at you all night.’
The prince laughed. ‘She doesn’t even have a name. One day she just appeared on the beach. Do not worry about her. She cannot talk.’
‘What a poor thing! She is so beautiful, but she cannot talk, or sing…’
‘Shh, she is not important. Tonight is for us.’
They kissed, and Ariya’s heart broke. She ran up to the top of the ship, and threw the knife into the sea. Then she jumped into the water and swam. But as she swam, her body changed. She was turning into seawater. Within a few minutes, her whole body had gone. The sun rose over Ariya, daughter of the sea.
Ariya did not die, though. She could still see and hear. She moved through the water, slowly going down to her family home. They cried and cried for her, and her heart broke again. But at least this way she could be with them, even if they did not know.
Ariya never went to the human world again.
I hope you enjoyed the story. You can support the podcast by leaving a review on iTunes. Search for Easy Stories in English, give us a star rating, and say what you like about the show. It would really help us grow. Thank you for listening, and until next week.