A wonderful prince had come to the Sea King’s palace and my father went out to welcome him. He was known as Prince Fire Fade, Child of the Heaven’s Sun Height. The king led him into the palace and I soon fell in love with the august prince who had come from the sky.
During our betrothal feast, I noticed that the prince seemed unhappy. He gazed out a window onto the sea. Softly I approached him and touched him on the breast. “Oh, my sweet spouse, are you not happy in our water palace, where the shadows fall green? Why do you look so longingly across the Sea Path? Do not despise me, but tell me what is in your heart.”
He said that he could not hide the truth from me. He had incurred the wrath of his dear brother because he had lost his fish-hook and now there would be no peace between them.
I rose up lightly feeling my long hair flutter at the hem of my silken robe as I passed out of the feasting hall and down the palace steps. Standing at the edge of the water, I summoned the fishes of the sea, great and small, from far and near.
Soon they were all swimming around my feet and the water was silver with their scales. “O fishes of the sea,” I cried, “find and bring me the august fish-hook of Prince Fire Flash.”
The fishes answered, “Lady, the Tai is in misery, for something sticks in his throat and it has become impossible for him to eat. His troubles may be due to the fish-hook of his Augustness, Prince Fire Flash.”
The fish brought the Tai to me and I stooped to examine him. With the help of my maids, we lifted him from the water. I reached down into his throat and found the lost fish-hook.
I washed it in the sea, dabbled it on my gown, and brought it to Prince Fire Fade. He rejoiced and said, “This is indeed my brother’s fish-hook. I will return it to him now, and we shall be reconciled!”
He ran to make preparations for his departure while I stood on the palace steps and grieved. What had he wanted from me? Only a reason to go away and leave me lonely.
Jewel Princess, The Sea King and the Magic Jewels, Japanese Fairy Tales. Illustration by Warwick Goble.