A mermaid fell in love with a fisherman of Lochinver. Her lover was enamoured, but he had heard how youths ensnared by mermaids had found a watery grave. It became necessary then to make his own terms, and to arrange matters so as to secure himself.
To rule a mermaid it is necessary to possess yourself, not of her person, but of the pouch and belt which mermaids wear. This carries the glass, comb, and other articles well-known to be indispensable to the lady's comfort, but also as a sort of life-preserver helps them to swim. By fair means or foul this cautious swain got hold of the pouch, and the mermaid became in consequence his bride and his bondswoman.
There was little happiness in such a union for the poor little wife. She wearied of a husband, who, to tell the truth, thought more of himself than of her. He never took her out in his boat when the sun danced on the sea, but left her at home with the cows, and on a croft which was to her a sort of prison. Her silky hair grew tangled. The dogs teased her. Her tail was really in the way. She wept incessantly while rude people mocked at her. Nor was there any prospect of escape after nine months of this wretched life. Her powers of swimming depended on her pouch, and that was lost. What was more, she now suspected the fisherman of having cozened her out of it.
One day the fisherman was absent, and the labourers were pulling down a stack of corn. The poor mermaid watched them weeping, when to her great joy she espied her precious pouch and belt, which had been built in and buried among the sheaves. She caught it, and leapt into the sea, there to enjoy a delicious freedom.
As told by J. MacLeod, fisherman on the River Laxford, in ‘The Folk-Lore Journal’, Vol. VI (1888)
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