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The Castle Under the Sea
HERE was once an island kingdom in a distant ocean, whose
people were all boatmen and fishermen. They lived entirely
apart from the rest of the world, and were glad to remain by
themselves. Indeed there would never have been a happier
place, if it had not been for one thing. They had an enemy,
who was about as bad an enemy as one could easily imagine;
and nothing that the king or any of his counselors could do
succeeded in making them less afraid of him.
This enemy was a wicked Water Prince, who had magical
powers, and lived in a great castle at the bottom of the
sea. He hated the people of the island kingdom, for no
other reason than that he hated all good
people and good things. He had done them harm in many ways,
for as long a time as any one could remember, by taking the
fishes that they needed for food, although he had no use for
them at all, and by raising many large and cruel fish of
other kinds, which not only devoured the good fish, but
would attack the people of the kingdom whenever they had
Many times the king had sent the best of his subjects to
fight the Water Prince, and some of them had made their way
to the place under the sea where his great castle stood; for
the people of the kingdom had lived by the ocean so many
hundreds of years that they could breathe under the water as
well as the fishes, and knew the plants and animals that
lived on the bottom of the sea almost as well as they did
those on shore. But, in spite of all this, no one had ever
been able to find a way to enter the castle, even if he had
been brave enough to do it, or to think of any way in which
to destroy it.
Worst of all, the Water Prince had now made a prisoner of
the king's son. The king's son was only a young boy, but he
was eager to grow up so that he might fight against his
father's enemy, and he had said so many times that when he
was a man he knew
 he should succeed in destroying the magic castle and driving
the Water Prince away, that the Prince came to be afraid
that it was true. So one day when the boy, whose name was
Valma, was out in a boat with some of his companions, the
Water Prince sent a great fish to overturn the boat, and
then, though he let all the other boys escape, he himself
seized Valma and carried him off to his castle.
This nearly broke the heart of the king of the island
kingdom, and he offered great rewards to any one who should
rescue his son from the magic castle. But no one dared even
try, for the Water Prince had sent word that Valma was now
alive and safe in his castle, but that he would put him to
death as soon as any of the king's men came to rescue him.
So the king mourned many months, and all his people with
him; and many gave up hope that Valma would ever see his
Now there lived not far from the king's palace a little girl
named Milna, whose father was gardener of the palace
gardens. She was a happy child, spending most of her time
out in the fields or along the water's edge. She loved every
living thing so much that the birds and squirrels and fishes
returned her love, and would come to her whenever
 she had food for them, or wished to play with them. Although
her father was a poor man, and she did not have many fine
clothes or other things that only money could buy, yet there
was perhaps no girl in the island kingdom who was loved by
so many people, or who had so many friends.
One day the gardener, Milna's father, was very much
surprised to receive a visit from the Chief Wise Man of the
king, who was thought by most people to know more than any
other man in the world. The gardener bowed very low to him,
and asked him why he had honored him by coming to see him.
"I wanted to speak with you about your daughter," said the
Chief Wise Man.
The gardener could not think why the people in the palace
should have any interest in his daughter, and he was very
sure she could not have been doing anything wrong of which
they could complain. So he asked:
"Are you sure you mean my daughter, Milna?"
"Yes," said the Chief Wise Man. "I have heard many
good things of
your daughter, and I have three questions to ask you about
"Very well," said the gardener.
"Did you ever know her to be unkind to any one?"
 The gardener thought a moment. "No," he
said, "I am sure I never did. I do not think you could
find a man who has seen her unkind to any living thing."
"Very well," said the Chief Wise Man. "The second question
is: Did you ever know her to speak anything but the truth?"
The gardener could answer this without stopping to think.
"No, indeed," he said. "I do not think Milna has ever even
thought of such a thing as an untruth, or would know what it
"Very well," said the Chief Wise Man. "The third question
is: Did you ever know her to be afraid of anything?"
The gardener thought a little about this. Then he said: "No,
I never knew her to be afraid, because she has always
trusted every one as she has been trusted by them. But,
of course, she is only a girl."
"Very well," said the Chief
Wise Man again. "I do not care if she is only a girl. I
think that she can rescue the king's son, if you will let
Then the gardener was startled indeed. "Rescue
the king's son!" he cried. "When she is only a little
girl, and none of your soldiers or counselors has been able
to do it!"
 "It is not like other things," said the Chief Wise Man.
"The Water Prince, as you know, has magical powers, and he
can not be conquered by those who are strong or who have
good swords. I have been studying in my secret books ever
since Valma was taken captive, to find who it is to be who
should rescue him. And lately I found the answer: It
is to be one who has never been unkind, or untruthful, or
afraid. And your daughter is the only one in the kingdom of
whom any one has said the three things as you have said them
They talked a long time about it, and at first the gardener
could not bear to think of his little girl going to rescue
the captive of the great and wicked Water Prince; but when
the Chief Wise Man showed him that it was his duty to his
king to give all that he had to save Valma, he gave his
"But," said he. "while I am sure that Milna can not be
unkind or untruthful, I am not sure that she can not be
afraid. I should be afraid, myself, if I were asked to go
against the Water Prince."
"Very well," said the Chief Wise Man. "We can easily find
out about that by asking her to go. If she is afraid, we do
not want her."
So Milna was called in from the garden, and the
 Chief Wise Man took her by the hand, and, without telling
her any of the things that he had said to her father, he
asked her if she would like to help rescue the king's son.
Now of course Milna knew all about the king's son; and she
had not only thought about his capture, but had often wished
she were a man, instead of a girl, so that she might help
restore him to his father. She answered at once:
"I should like it very much indeed, if there were anything I
"But," said her father, "would you not be afraid, since he
is a captive of the wicked Water Prince?"
Milna, "I do not think I should, for I am not big or
important enough for the Water Prince to care to hurt me.
And besides, if I were really trying to rescue the king's
son, I should be so happy about it that I should never think
of being afraid."
The Chief Wise Man now felt sure that he had found the one
whom he had been seeking, and he asked Milna if she would
be ready to start the next morning for the castle under the
"Yes," said Milna, "but what am I to do when I find it?"
"That I can not tell you," said the Chief Wise
 Man, "for all that my secret books tell me is that you are
the one who can rescue the king's son. So I think you will
know for yourself, when the time comes, what you have to do.
Go to the castle, find Valma, and bring him back with
you,—that is all."
"Quite enough, I should think," said Milna's father,
"seeing it is what all the rest of the kingdom has been
unable to do." But secretly he was becoming glad that such
a great mission was given to his little daughter.
Early the next morning the Chief Wise Man came again to
the gardener's house, and he and Milna and the gardener went
together down to the sea-shore. Milna wore her sea-water
clothing, and, when she had bidden her father and the Chief
Wise Man good-by, she walked into the sea and was soon lost
"It is really a little queer," she thought, as she went
along the bottom of the ocean, farther and farther from the
island, "that I am not afraid to go off in this way all
alone. Yet, after all, why should I be afraid? I have often
walked here with my father, and the fishes are fond of me,
and it is such a beautiful place that I can never be
So she walked on among the beautiful ferns and
 trees that grow on the bottom of the sea, and the fishes who
were friendly to her followed her wherever she went, eating
the crumbs that she had brought for them in her pocket. The
Chief Wise Man had told her in which direction to walk to
find the castle of the Water Prince, and it turned out that
the distance to it was not so great as she had supposed.
Now there were three gates to the castle under the sea. The
first was made of huge rocks, brought there by the giant
spirits who served the Water Prince. The second was of
coral, made to order for the Prince, and still unfinished,
although it had been building for a hundred years. The third
gate, like the castle of which it was a part, was made of
nothing but sea-water, and was of the color of a soap-bubble
with the sun shining on it. It was held together by magic,
and if any one tried to come near it, it moved away as if it
were not really there but had only been dreamed.
When Milna came to the first gate, she found it guarded by
two of the giants that served the Water Prince. If she had
really seen how big these giants were, she might have been
frightened, after all. But they towered so far above her
head that she only
 saw part of their legs among the rocks of which the gate was
built; and as she was not looking for giants, but only for
the way through the gate, she paid no attention to them. For
just the same reason the giants did not notice Milna, since
she was so near the bottom of the sea, and their heads were
so high above it, and as the gate was open, she went through
it without stopping to ask any one's leave.
The second gate was also guarded by giants, and as they were
seated at the foot of the great archway, they saw her
approaching. One of them spoke to her.
"Who are you?" he asked. "And why are you seeking to
pass through this gate?"
"I am on my way to the castle under the sea," said Milna.
"And why do you want to go to the castle?"
"To see Valma," she answered, "who is the son of the king
of my country."
Now the giants had seen many people from the island kingdom
who had tried to come near the castle of the Water Spirit,
but none of these people had ever really told what they had
come for. Instead, they had made up a hundred different
tales to try to deceive the guards at the gate. But it had
 occurred to Milna to tell anything but the truth when the
giants questioned her, and they were quite taken by
surprise. Indeed they felt so sure that Milna could not
possibly mean what she said, that they supposed she had not
really come to try to enter the castle at all, but was only
amusing herself by what she told them. So they laughed at
her answer, and, since she was quite too little to be
considered an enemy of the Water Prince, they did not hinder
her from passing through the second gate.
So Milna now passed on toward the castle itself, which she
could already see rising before her. It was the most
wonderful sight she had ever seen, as it towered high into
the upper ocean, with walls and towers and turreted
gateways, all floating and trembling and glimmering like the
walls of a soap-bubble. From a little distance it seemed
that you could easily look clear through the walls, but this
was only an appearance. No one had ever discovered what was
inside, or had been able to guess how the castle was really
made. But the Chief Wise Man of the island kingdom had read
in his secret books that there was just one sort of person
who could have power over the castle under the sea, and that
was one who
 had never done an unkindness. So it was for this reason,
although he had no idea what Milna would do when she
reached the place, that he had asked her to go.
Milna herself did not know any of these things. She was still
wondering how she could ever rescue the prince, even if she
should finally enter the castle and find him; but the Chief
Wise Man had told her that she would know all she needed
when the time came. So she walked straight up to the castle
gate, thankful that there seemed to be no guards there to
keep her out. For this gate had no need of any guards, and
the Water Prince himself, who was looking from a window of
the castle, laughed when he saw the little girl approaching.
He guessed that his giants had let her pass through the
outer gates because they were so sure that she could do no
harm, and he made ready to enjoy the sight of her surprise
when she tried to touch the castle and found that she could
not do so.
But the Water Prince never saw what he was waiting for. A
wonderful thing happened. When Milna lifted her hand and
knocked on the great gate of the castle, the gate suddenly
broke like a bubble, and instantly all the towers and walls
behind it broke in the same
 way. They might have melted into drops of water and mingled
with the sea, or they might have vanished into nothing at
all. Whichever it was, before Milna could catch her breath
in surprise, the castle was gone. She looked all around for
it, but nothing could be seen except a great stretch of
green sea-water, like that through which she had come.
And the Water Prince, trembling with fear when he saw that
here was the only one, of all who had ever come into his
dominions, who had power to destroy
his magic castle, fled so fast that never a bit of him
showed to Milna's eyes.
She walked over the spot where the castle had been a minute
before, wondering if it had all been a dream. Had Valma gone
with the castle, so that he could never be found, after all?
No; he lay sleeping under a great water-plant whose branches
drooped over his head. The destruction of the castle had
been so silent that it had not made him stir in his sleep.
When Milna saw him she almost shouted for joy. Then she came
close to him and spoke his name. He opened his eyes
"Why, where is the castle?" he said. "And the Water
Prince? And all his servants who have kept me prisoner?"
 "I do not know," said Milna, "but they are gone. I am sent
by the king, your father, to bring you home with me."
So Valma rose gladly, and took Milna's hand in his, and they
made their way back toward the island with no one to hinder
them, for all the servants of
the wicked Water Prince had fled, like him, when they saw
that the castle had been destroyed.
The king, and the Chief Wise Man, and the other wise men,
and the gardener, and many of Milna's friends were waiting
on the shore for her return. When she came dripping out of
the water, and they saw that she had Valma, the king's son,
by the hand, they gave such a shout that the Water Prince
himself must have heard it, though by this time he was
hundreds of miles away.
She had the King's son by the hand