Far out in the ocean the water is as blue as the petals of the loveliest cornflower, and as clear as the purest glass. But it is very deep too. It goes down deeper than any anchor rope will go, and many, many steeples would have to be stacked one on top of another to reach from the bottom to the surface of the sea. It is down there that the sea folk live.
Now don't suppose that there are only bare white sands at the bottom of the sea. No indeed! The most marvelous trees and flowers grow down there, with such pliant stalks and leaves that the least stir in the water makes them move about as though they were alive. All sorts of fish, large and small, dart among the branches, just as birds flit through the trees up here.
From the deepest spot in the ocean rises the palace of the sea king. Its walls are made of coral and its high pointed windows of the clearest amber, but the roof is made of mussel shells that open and shut with the tide.
This is a wonderful sight to see, for every shell holds glistening pearls, any one of which would be the pride of a queen's crown.
No matter how often it's retold, no matter how many illustrators tackle it, Andersen's classic tale of the lovelorn mermaid never grows stale. Unlike the sanitized Disney version, the original isn't particularly cheerful: the mermaid loses not only her voice, but also her prince and her life (although she's given a reprieve in the form of a chance to earn an immortal soul). It is, however, exquisitely written--richly layered, evocative, and full of hope, pain and yearning. Hague's Rackham-esque style suits the intense emotions of the prose; his slightly muted palette seems an extension of Andersen's imagination, capturing as it does the filtered half-light of the mysterious undersea world thronged with exquisitely sinuous merfolk. At once lavishly detailed and fanciful, his illustrations distill the haunting beauty of the century-old story, a story as fresh today as the day it was penned. All ages.