Bertie and the Mermaid

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She kissed him.  Bertie went all red and she said "Te he he"

She kissed him. Bertie went all red and she said "Te he he"

Melrose came off his mount and was tumbling over and over and over through the water

Melrose came off his mount and was tumbling over and over and over through the water

Now you know what Bertie looks like, Sophie Green has painted four pictures for this story. We would love to know what you think of the way Prince Bertie looks.

Most people would just love to see a mermaid - but not Prince Bertie. This is the story of why Bertie thinks that mermaids can be as dangerous as they are beautiful. It's all because of something that happened before he was turned into a frog. One Christmas, Bertie and the lovely Princess Beatrice went away to a tropical island. Unfortunately, the wicked step-mother came too... and that was the start of their problems.

This is our longest and most ambitious Bertie story to date. We really hope that you will enjoy it.

Read by Natasha. Proofread by Claire Deakin. Duration 35 minutes. Pictures copyright Sophie Green 2008.

I’m just dying to tell you about somebody I’ve just seen on the pond where Prince Bertie the Frog lives. As you know, there are plenty of fish, tadpoles, frogs, swans, ducks and geese who live there . But today I saw something much more unusual. Something that you normally only find out at sea, and then only hardly ever. Do you know what it was? No, not a whale - and not even a dolphin. What I saw was...

A mermaid.

Yes, her name was Pearl, and she was sitting on little island in the middle of the pond and combing her hair and reciting a mermaid poem:

Who would be
A mermaid fair,
Singing alone,
Combing her hair
Under the sea,
In a golden curl
With a comb of pearl,
On a throne?

I would be a mermaid fair;
I would sing to myself the whole of the day;
With a comb of pearl I would comb my hair;
And still as I comb’d I would sing and say,
“Who is it loves me? who loves not me?”

All the pondlife were as entranced as I was.

Even Colin the Carp was clearly charmed by the new arrival with a fishy tail - and that’s highly unusual, because he’s an especially grumpy fish.

I said, “all the pondlife,” but then I noticed that Bertie was not looking quite so pleased. In fact, he wore his expression that was said he was “jolly fed up.”

When Sadie the Swan gasped, “Oh my, a real mermaid, right here on our pond! Isn’t she the most wonderful creature you ever did see?”

Bertie spat out, “No, she jolly well isn’t. The very last thing we need on this pond is a mermaid. In my experience, mermaids are nothing but trouble. Why, they’re no better than sirens!”

Unfortunately the mermaid overheard Bertie and she was rather put out. She shook her little fist at him.

“Hey, you with the frog-face,” she said, “If I’m not appreciated around here I’ll pack up and go back to the seaside, thank you very much.”

“And Good Riddance!” said Bertie.

As soon as Bertie said that, there was uproar on the pond. The geese honked, the ducks quacked, and the tadpoles- well they just flipped their tails and made minuscule little splashes that hardly anyone could hear.

Colin the Carp swam straight up to Bertie’s face and said, “Oiiiii! If anyone’s going to be rude and horrible around here - it’s me. That’s what I do. So you just pipe down and learn some manners, Prince Bertie the Frog.”

Then he swam up to where the mermaid was dangling her tail of silvery scales in the water and said to her, “There there dear. Don’t be upset by that smelly old frog. He thinks he’s a prince, he does, but we don’t take much notice of him. If there’s anything you need, just call on me, Colin the Gallant Carp. I’m always at the service of a fair and scaly maiden.”

Poor Bertie hopped away looking very sad indeed. I went after my green friend, and when I found Bertie hiding in an old flower pot in the garden, I asked what he had against mermaids. And this what he told me...

It all happened back in the days when Bertie was still a prince and was courting the lovely Princess Beatrice. It was winter, and Bertie’s room in the palace was very draughty and cold. One morning Bertie shivered as he slipped his toes into his slippers, and he said to himself, “Brrr. I’d like to fly away to somewhere lovely and warm this Christmas.”

When he told this to Beatrice, she was simply thrilled at the idea of Bertie and herself on a romantic tropical island - but her wicked stepmother wasn’t. No, not one bit. She didn’t like Bertie you see, even back then.

So the wicked stepmother thought about the best way to ruin Bertie and Beatrice’s holiday. And she came up with a simple but brilliant plan. She would come too.

Just before Christmas, the royal party of three flew away to an exotic tropical island; covered with palm and coconut trees, lapped by a turquoise sea as warm as a bath, and fringed with golden sand that was so hot that you had to wear flip-flops when you trod on it. They ate mango and passion fruit for breakfast, ice cream for lunch, and fried fish for supper. In fact, it was so wonderful that even the wicked stepmother was quite happy to lie in the sun all day and take a rest from casting evil spells.

Bertie enjoyed lying on the beach and splashing in the sea with Beatrice. But after a few days he began to feel, well, just a little bit bored by such a slow life. After all, he was used to action and adventure. On Christmas eve he decided to do something a bit more active. He decided to go wind surfing.

She kissed him.  Bertie went all red and she said "Te he he"

She kissed him. Bertie went all red and she said - Te he he-

He hired a board with a sail on it, paddled out to sea, and tried to stand up on it. But whoops! It wasn’t as easy as it looked, and splash! Bertie found himself back in the water. It took him more than a few tries to get going – but a true prince never gives up, and eventually he was standing on the board with the wind in his sail and and gliding across the sea. Beatrice clapped and cheered, and the wicked stepmother pretended to be asleep. He was gathering speed and sailing further out. He tried to change direction but wey-hey over he went, back into the sea. Bertie took a little rest before standing up again. While he was holding onto the board, still in the water, he felt something ticking his feet.

“Is that a fish?” He thought, “Or is it a shark?” And just to be on the safe side, he started to heave himself up onto the board – but he was in a bit of a rush and woooo… back into the water he went.

A little voice said, “Tee he he,” and Bertie thought that perhaps he was imagining things. But he wasn’t, because when he looked up he saw that a pretty girl with red hair was sitting on his board. And then he noticed that instead of legs, she was swishing a tail with silver scales.

“Come up, there’s room for two,” she said, and she held out her hand to Bertie. When they were both sitting up on the board Bertie said, “Oh golly gosh, a real live mermaid.”

And she said, “Oh golly gosh, a real live prince”.



And she kissed him. Bertie went all red and she said, “Tee he he.”

Bertie would have blushed still more had he known that back on the beach, the wicked step-mother had just handed her binoculars to Beatrice, and the princess was watching all that was happening.

She was, well, furious! “Men!" She said. “What an earth does he see in that red-head? She’s half fish!”

But Bertie didn’t see anything in the mermaid. He just wanted to get back to Beatrice - and when the mermaid offered to swim behind the board and push him back to the beach, he gladly agreed.

She propelled him so fast that it was more like driving a motorboat than a windboard. When they reached the shore, the mermaid blew Bertie a couple of kisses, and then, with a flip of her tail she was gone, back into the sea.

Well I don’t need to tell you that Beatrice had a few things to say to Bertie about his rendez-vous out at sea. Although she was the sweetest, most lovely princess alive, she could be cross too sometimes. She made him promise on his prince’s honour never to speak to another fishy-person again. In fact, the following day they would do what she liked doing – which was pony riding - safely away from the salty haunts of the mermaids.

So on Christmas Day, after they had exchanged presents, the three royals went to the stables to pick some ponies. Beatrice chose a dappled one called Snuffles, because he was the cutest. The wicked stepmother chose a black one, because black was her favourite colour. Bertie was just about to choose a white pony, when the stepmother said, “Bertie. A prince can’t go out riding on a pony like that. He’s far too tubby and short in the leg. Cut a dash. Take the Arabian horse because he looks like he can really go some.”

She pointed to the riding instructor’s horse. He did look magnificent, and full of life and spirit. The instructor said, “Oh no, Ma’am. This is a very special horse. Only I can ride him.”

“Nonsense!” Outreached the stepmother. "Don’t you know who you are talking to? Bertie is a prince. He can ride any horse he chooses.”

The instructor was afraid so he reluctantly agreed to swap with Bertie.

“That’s better,” said the stepmother, when Bertie was in the saddle, “Now let’s ride out over the cliffs. There will be wonderful views. Maybe we can spot a dolphin, or a whale, or perhaps even a mermaid.” And at the word, “mermaid,” Beatrice gave Bertie one of her crossest glances.

The riding instructor shook his head and said, “Please, if I may be so bold as to give some advice, the cliff route is only for experienced riders.”

“Good,” said the stepmother. “We ARE experienced.”

And with that she pointed her black pony towards the cliffs, which were quite a way off. First they cantered over the sand dunes and through the surf of the sea – Beatrice loved that because it was terribly romantic. Of course Bertie’s pony wanted to dash out in front, but he reigned him back so that he was riding alongside his princess. They cut inland, along a path that meandered in and out of the jungle, but always upwards. By mid morning they were out on the cliffs overlooking the sea. It was a narrow path, with the jungle on one side and the sea on the other. Sometimes they had to step over a fallen branch, and that was really scary, because the cliffs went straight down on the other side, and they wouldn’t want a horse to stumble. Then they came out to a flatter and clearer part. The sky was the truest of blues, and it was hard to say where it ended and where the sea began.

“Come on, Bertie,” said the wicked stepmother, “I’ll race you.”

Bertie pulled in the reigns saying "Who- Whooooo" but the Pony would not stop.  He galloped right up to the edge  - and beyond !!!!

Bertie pulled in the reigns saying - Who- Whooooo - ; but the Pony would not stop. He galloped right up to the edge - and beyond !!!!

“Madam. I don’t advise,” said the instructor – but she began to canter and then to gallop. She called out, “Come, Scardey-cat.” So Bertie kicked his horse, in a nice way, to say, “go,” to the Arabian horse. Boy did he go! He shot past the stepmother and her black pony and sped on like an arrow to the edge of the cliffs. Bertie pulled in the reigns saying, “Whoa, Whooooa,” but the pony would not stop. He galloped right up to the edge – and beyond!

Beatrice screamed. The stepmother tried not to smile.

Bertie closed his eyes. “If I’m lucky,” he thought, “and and if we land in some deep water, I might just make it out alive. But if we land on a rock, oh, that’s it. Beatrice my love - Goodbye!”

He waited for the splash or the crash - but there was neither.

“This falling through the air’s taking a jolly long time,” he thought. “Am I wearing a parachute?” But he wasn’t. For when he opened his eyes, he found that he was no longer falling through the air on the back of a horse, but he was deep underwater. All was blue and bubbly. Yet, he was still breathing… and he was still riding. For the horse was no longer an Arabian horse – but a sea horse.

The seahorse seemed to know where he was going, so Bertie just sat back and let him take him there - wherever “there” was. And what a journey! Bertie had never seen so many different colours and wonderful things in his life. Curly coral, swirling sea anemones, and shoals of strange, funny, and scary fish.

Eventually they came to a great gate studded with pearls, diamonds, and other sparkly stones. It was guarded by two fierce mermen, with multicoloured beards flowing from their faces, and three-pronged weapons in their hands. The seahorse swam straight past them and into the underwater city

Inside the walls, there were crowds of beautiful merpeople - both men and women. Some were riding on seahorses, some swimming in pairs, mer-boy and mer-girl, hand in hand, and others chasing each other, and doing underwater somersaults. The seahorse took Bertie through a long pearly alleyway, and at the end they came out into a beautiful underwater garden, full of the most lovely anemones; some like flowers, others like trees. From the other side of the garden they entered a great echoing hall made of gold. At the end of the hall, up on a throne, sat a mermaid. She had red hair and a silvery tail.

 From the other side of the garden they entered  a great echoing hall made of gold.  At the end of the hall, up on a thrown, sat a mermaid. She had red hair and a silvery tale.

From the other side of the garden they entered a great echoing hall made of gold. At the end of the hall, up on a thrown, sat a mermaid. She had red hair and a silvery tale.

She was the same mermaid who had kissed Bertie on the windsurfing board.

“Merry Christmas, my prince,” she said. “You may dismount from your horse. Now come and sit up here beside me. There’s plenty of room for two.”

“And a Merry Christmas to you," said Bertie, "but I’d better not stay down here. My lovely Princess Beatrice gave me an awful ticking off about what happened yesterday.”

The mermaid flipped her hair from her face. “Human girls are such jealous creatures. But there’s no need to be afraid. Even the wicked stepmother can’t spy on you down here. Now come, sit with me. I’m not a shark, or a sea monster – I won’t eat you!”

And so Bertie did as she asked and sat down next to the mermaid.

“Tell me,” he said. “Am I dead or alive? Because everything that’s happened to me in the last hour has been quite impossible.”

“Tish!” Said the mermaid. “This is my kingdom, I’m Princess Calypso and nothing is impossible for me - except, it seems, finding a best friend.
You know that I’m every bit as much a true princess as your Beatrice - and yet here I am, all alone and nobody to play with. I need a true prince to live with me forever in my beautiful city under the sea.”

“Oh no!” Said Bertie. “Not me! I’m engaged to marry Beatrice.”

The mermaid shook her head. “My dear prince. The wicked stepmother will never let that happen. Look into this future mirror and tell me: what do you see?”

Bertie looked into the mirror – and instead of his reflection, he saw a frog sitting on a lily leaf. The expression on the frog’s face looked, well, just a bit familiar. There was a family resemblance, you might say.

"Think again,” said the mermaid. “For Beatrice’s wicked stepmother has plans for you, Prince Bertie... The frog”

“No, I don’t believe you. She wouldn’t dare. This mirror is nothing but a trick,” said Bertie, little knowing how wrong he was.

But Bertie soon realised that he had no way of returning to Beatrice, so he became a prisoner of Princess Calyspo, and had to stay with her in her gilded palace. She loved to swim and dance with him, and to go riding on sea ponies. They ate seaweed and drank the milk of sea cows. In the evenings, the mermaid princess either combed her long red hair, or played on her harp and sang:

"But at night I would wander away, away,
I would fling on each side my low flowing locks,
And lightly vault from the throne and play
With the mermen in and out of the rocks;
We would run to and fro, and hide and seek,
On the broad sea wolds in the crimson shells,
Whose silvery spikes are nighest the sea."

They spent almost a week like this – and to tell the truth, everything was so new and interesting that Bertie did not have time to be bored. But no matter how pretty or attentive Princess Calypso might be, she was no equal to his one and only princess, Beatrice.

And then, on New Years Eve, when Bertie and Princess Calypso were playing hide and seek around the sea garden, a merman in an suit of armour made of lobster shell rode into the city on his sea horse. He went directly to the throne room to look for the princess, and when she was not there, he came out into the garden and called, “Calypso, my lovely. It’s me, your beloved Prince Melrose, back from the war against the Crab People of Atlantis.”

But Calypso didn’t answer. Only Bertie said, “Oh, hi there.”

“And who might you be?” Boomed Prince Melrose.

“Why, I’m prince Bertie. I’m just staying here, a guest of Princess Calypso.”

“A prince you say! A guest of Princess Calypso? Well in that case, I must fight you to the death, for the princess is my fiancee.”

“Oh, no need for fighting,” said Bertie. “You can have her all to yourself. I’d be glad to be off home.”

“What! Are you saying that my mermaid isn’t good looking?”

“No, not at all.”

“Isn’t she the most divine and beautiful creature under the sea?”

“Well under the sea, perhaps, but up on land…”

"Put on your armour and mount your sea steed – for I challenge you to a jousting match.”

Just then Princess Calypso appeared from behind a coral reef and said, “Oh, how thrilling! A jousting match!”

But to tell you the truth, Bertie wasn’t at all thrilled, not one bit - for he had never jousted before on the back of the sea horse.

Anyone who was anybody in Mer-City came out to see the match, which took place in a courtyard in front of the palace.

Princess Calypso sat high up on a throne of gold, and the two princess' sat astride their seahorses before her. She kissed her sash and threw it to Prince Melrose.

“I really don’t care a bit,” said Bertie to his rival. “I told you that I have no interest in Calypso.”

“And for that insult to my princess, I’m going to knock you off your horse and into Kingdom Come,” said Prince Melrose, and he looked like he meant it.

The heralds sounded their conchs and the princess took up their positions at either end of the courtyard. Bertie’s seahorse was the very same one that had brought him over the cliff and down into the city of the merpeople, and he wondered how much he could trust it. But he put such thoughts out of his head, raised his lance, and looked down it to the point and Prince Melrose’s breastplate. His horse was chaffing at the bit, and it took Bertie all his strength to reign him in. Prince Melrose was snorting even louder than his horse. There was froth on his beard. He was a sea warrior to contend with.

Melrose came off his mount and was tumbling over and over and over through the water

Melrose came off his mount and was tumbling over and over and over through the water

Princess Calypso gave the signal - a wave of her handkerchief. - The sea horses both knew what to do, so they charged towards each other. Bertie understood it was complete madness to gallop headlong into a collision like this – both knights would be knocked senseless in the crash, and presumably Prince Melrose knew the same thing. It was just a question of who was the craziest, and who would give way at the last moment. Bertie leaned forward to try and get his lance out a bit further and hit Prince Melrose first. His sea horse careered on, and Bertie realised that the horse was crazier than all of them put together. There was no point in reigning him in. And then Melrose and his horse swerved to the side, Bertie gave him a glancing blow with his lance, and Melrose came off his mount and was tumbling over and over and over through the water. All the merpeople gasped, the conchs sounded – Bertie was triumphant.

“Yes,” he said. ” I did it! Or rather my crazy horse did it for me. Na na na-na na!”

He rode up to the royal box and Princess Calypso offered her hand for the victor to kiss.

“Bertie. You were magnificent,” she said. “Tomorrow is New Year’s Day. It shall be our wedding day.”

“Oh no it won’t,” said Bertie. “I mean no offence, but I’ve referred before to the fact I’m going to marry Princess Beatrice.”

“No no no! Shan’t, shan’t, shan’t!" Screamed Calypso. You’ll stay here with me forever and a day!”

“Fine,” said Bertie. “It’s no problem for a prince to wait forever and a day for his princess.”

But of course it was. That night, even though the whole mer city were out partying, he wasn’t at all jolly as the clock struck twelve and announced a new year.

“Oh dear,” said Bertie, “How many years make forever?”

“More than a few” Said a voice, and Bertie turned round and saw that it was Prince Melrose. “You must forgive me,” said Melrose, “I am a hot-headed warrior. A merman of action and few words. But I see now that you are as true to your Beatrice as I am to my Calypso. Our interests are one and the same. Come. Find your seahorse. I will show you the way back to dry land.”

And the merpeople were too busy celebrating the new year to notice the two princes riding out a secret gate in the city wall. They rode for about an hour, until at last Bertie’s head rose above the water and he breathed fresh air for the first time in a week. His horse was again an Arabian horse and he swam with Bertie on his back towards the beach. Eventually Bertie rode out of the surf and onto the beach.

He found Beatrice in the tower of the palace that they had rented for the holiday. She was quietly sobbing to herself about the worst Christmas and New Year that she had ever had.

And then her prince walked in.

“There, there,” he said. At first she could not believe her own ears. Surely she was dreaming. But she wasn’t, because her prince had returned.

And that’s the story of why Bertie doesn’t like mermaids. But I suppose you are wondering what happened to Pearl the Mermaid who came to live on the pond. Well that all turned out well too. You see, the tadpoles kept on asking her all sorts of silly questions like, “What did the sea say to the mermaid?” The answer being, “Nothing, it just waved.”

And Colin the Carp kept offering to take her out to his favourite dead fly restaurant.

And Sadie the Swan kept on asking her for her autograph.

So Pearl decided that living on the pond wasn’t all that fun at all. She decided to try the town swimming pool instead – and I can tell you that when she appeared on the end of the diving board, she created quite a stir.

So it all ended happily for everyone.