The Golden Mermaid
The Golden Mermaid is a German fairy tale. Andrew Lang included it in The Green Fairy Book (1892), attributing it to the Brothers Grimm, but there are noticeable differences between it and the common Grimm version known as "The Golden Bird".
Every year, a king's golden apples were stolen. The king became tired of the theft and told his oldest two sons to go out and find the thief. The youngest begged to go too, but he had always been thought a fool, so the king was reluctant. In time, the king agreed, but gave him the worst horse.
The youngest son met a wolf and offered it his horse. The wolf ate it, but offered to be his steed, and told him that the apples were stolen by a golden bird belonging to an emperor. The bird bewitched the guards and warned him not to touch the walls, but the prince failed, and was captured and sentenced to death. The wolf magically turned itself into a king and visited the emperor. He suggested that because the prince was not a bold robber but a miserable thing, he could set him to perform a bold feat for him. The emperor decided to send him after a golden horse belonging to a neighboring emperor.
The prince and the wolf went, and the wolf bewitched the guards. The prince went after the horse, but a gadfly stung it, and it touched the walls. The prince was again sentenced to death, but the wolf again became a king and persuaded the emperor to send him after something. The emperor sent him after the golden mermaid.
The wolf turned itself into a ship full of goods. The youngest prince got aboard and sailed the ocean searching for the mermaid. When she saw the prince, she tried lure him to her, but at the wolf's orders, the prince said that the buyer must come to the seller. She came on board, and the prince seized her.
The prince went back to the emperor, who realized that magic was involved. He gave over all rights to the mermaid and gave the prince the horse as well. The mermaid rode the horse and the prince the wolf back to the other emperor. This emperor was also impressed and gave him the golden bird.
The wolf left him before he returned to his father's kingdom. His brothers found him and killed him, taking the golden bird and the golden horse, but the mermaid would not leave him. Weeks later, the wolf found her, and told her to cover his body with leaves and flowers. Then the wolf breathed on him, and the prince was no longer dead but sleeping. The mermaid woke him, and they went on. The king heard his tale and summoned his brothers, who were so startled to see him that they could not think of a lie and told the truth. The king banished them, and the prince and mermaid married.
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- Andrew Lang, The Green Fairy Book, "The Golden Mermaid"