The Ship of Life
Not long ago, there was a curious child who lived on a ship. He was the sailors' pet and, in exchange for stories, he would polish their shoes.
The sailors told him incredible tales about sea monsters and mermaids.
He would listen wide-eyed, never blinking till the end of the tale, when he would shower his many questions on the storyteller. And he could hardly answer.
One day, as one such story came to an end, the curious child said:
"I know this story -- you already told me, but this time you changed its end."
The sailor squinted and gaped.
"Now, lad, that's how I remember it," he said.
The child, who had always demanded a new story, was off to the decks in a second, and that day did not polish the sailors' shoes.
Then he asked:
"What if I tell you a story instead?"
The sailor accepted.
The curious child told a story about a child's long forgotten dream of meeting his mum in heaven. However, the child discovered that his mum was buried in the depths of the ocean, where the kingdom of the merman king was. Thus he travelled all the way down to the ocean bottom through a big shell loaded with a huge stone.
When he reached the bottom, he asked the merman king to grant his mum permission to come ashore.
"I will grant your wish, if you find a rare pink pearl for the princess, my daughter," said the king.
The child sifted through many sea shells, asked many mussels to open up and yield their pearls for the princess, but nobody would listen.
"What will you give us, if we do," they asked.
Low-spirited, the child sat on a stone and thought.
At that time, a small cargo ship came ashore. There was a merchant-fisherman with his booty from the sea: the old man held a small casket and said he would give it to the woman he would marry.
Thus, he opened it and displayed a shiny, pink pearl.
The women narrowed their eyes with desire, but most were old and poor and had no chance to persuade the old fisherman of their worth.
The young ones, though beautiful, were either silly or too proud to marry the old man, so no suitable match was found.
At that point, the child stepped in.
He said to the fisherman:
"If you give me the pearl, I'll serve you till the end of your days, help you with the fishing, prepare your supper, take care of the decks of your shipand of you, when the sea makes you feverish and sick."
The old merchant, who had thought he would receive this kind of treatment from a woman, reflected for a moment. He realised this boy would grow up and be able to help him with his many duties.
Thus, he accepted his offer and gave him the pearl in the casket, with the agreement that they would spend the night onboard his ship discussing their arrangements. And so they did.
Later at night, while the old man slept, they boy called out to the merman king and said:
"I do have the pink pearl for the princess. Send my mother ashore and I will give you the pearl."
A merman messanger came ashore with the child's mother, who was then allowed to come back on earth.
After much rejoicing with her son, she met the old fisherman, who was instantly in love with her. They married and the three of them lived as a peaceful family for many years to come.
When the curious child finished his tale, the sailor looked up and asked:
"Is this story true?"
"Nay, how can a story about a merman king be true?"
"Yet," said the sailor, " you told it well. There is some truth in a well-told story."
He nodded and gave the boy a pat on his head. That day the boy became the official onboard storyteller. He went on to perfect his art and to move to joy many a sailor's heart.