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Magazine Latitudes | The little mermaid 
of Songkhla


The little mermaid 
of Songkhla

By Jean Marcel
Translation by Marc André Germain

11 May 2017

Amidst white sands, blue waves, the azure and the islands lying in their hues of jade in the distance, she cuts a fine figure on her pebble of sun.

All of silver and grace, she slowly primps her long hair in a gesture that might be a trace of eternity. Seeing her for the first time, hailing from the Occident, she conjures us to recall Andersen’s little mermaid, lost in these exotic surroundings. But what, if I may ask, could have brought the boreal Danes to these shores?

It has taken days, days and relays to sift the secret of that wondrous story from the natives of the strand. Here it is. It is said that a fishing ancestor had found an ornate ivory comb on the boulder where he’d sit daily at sunset. As he marveled at the toy, he saw, slipping into the waters with the speed of a frightened eel, a pink torso, sporting mammas and two frantic limbs, merging into a tail with caudal fins. The legend says this nymph of the tides, presumably hailing from the distant Sargasso Sea, seeing then a human being for the first time, was so seized with fear that she bolted, leaving her comb on the maritime rock. No one, since, would have such a vision.

But the kind fisherman, never having seen anything so novel and beautiful, did not decamp but rather remained fixed on the spot, comb in hand. And it was thus that for his entire life, which lasted long, he’d return each day at eventide to sit on that rock, not so much to contemplate the sea as he had used to as to pacify his hope to see the enchantress reappear and to hand her back the ornate comb…

He was nearing his centennial when one evening he thought he saw on the blue horizon, across the dimming sunbeams, a being all of fancy stretching her arms toward him. He stretched his to give her back the comb, collapsed on the spot, breathing out his last breath, his last smile. The astounded villagers cremated his body there where they had found it, where for so many days and nights he had hoped for the reappearance of his vision. From this paste of ashes a plinth was made, and on this plinth was raised the figure of silver, grace and dream as we can still see it nowadays on the shores of Songkhla.