The Tiny Mangrove Princess

On the very edge of a beach forest, a tree baby hovered in her peapod, waiting to be born. Of course, the baby’s fairy knew this was no ordinary peapod she was sent to keep warm. This tree baby was a princess.

Elektrina was so excited to play midwife for the royal cocoon entrusted to her.  Who would have thought she would be called for…to care for a princess?  She smiled as she remembered how she had been sitting on the warm hearth and babysitting the fire when she felt the familiar itch on her left wing.  This meant that the message the dew sprites had left on it three hours earlier was probably about dry enough to read.

Funny how dew messages dried.  She knew something was probably up with this one, because everyday-ordinary texts dried as fast as sand under the hot Philippine sun.  But this one had lingered thickly like newly piled seaweeds.  It had made Elektrina wonder. And (as it turned out) for good reason, because once she had managed to read the impertinent message… which  hopped about and nearly singed itself in the flames she was watching..

And so on…

And so forth…

Elektrina’s thoughts flew with her as she spun around the Princess with her thimbleful of sparks…making sure to warm every green jewel of her bodice.  And these were the thoughts that busied Elektrina the moment the Princess was born.

The princess plopped from her mothering tree like a polliwog egg into the salty water of the Beach Forest.  And just like that, Elektrina’s midwifing was done. So she flew back to the fire she was tending and sent dew messages to all her friends about the little princess…

But…

Please remember this…

Elektrina was only 16, and sometimes 16 year-olds forget to paint letters in early dew for the nursery council of the Sulu Sea…

So the nursery council never found out that the little one was ready to root.

And so…ahem…it would seem to be the case, that even as the Princess dropped like a polliwog egg into the salty sea… Elektrina dropped the ball…and the Princess was left to root…alone.

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The waves were fizzy and ticklish, and the little Princess giggled with them for awhile. But she was such a tiny Princess, and they were such very big, noisy waves that they soon wore her out. And when she cried for them to stop, they slapped at her and dragged her out to sea.  Her tears mixed with their salty waters as she watched her mother grow smaller and smaller until she was just a green dot on the horizon.

And the Princess wished she had never been born.

Of course, the waves didn’t care about that.  All they seemed to care about was roaring about and causing as much mischief as they possibly could.  They spit in the air and threw seashells at each other while their wind sprites howled with laughter. But, tiny as she was, the Princess was a Princess, and refused to laugh at the misfortune they were causing a poor fiddler crab as he begged them not to tear his leg off.  The Princess looked up to Heaven and begged for help.

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As soon as her prayer was uttered, a mountain seemed to appear on the horizon.  “Oh thank you so much!”  She smiled towards Heaven.  Someone up there seemed to care about fiddler crabs and tree babies.  She sighed with relief as she watched the mountain grow bigger and bigger.  Perhaps that’s because we’re getting closer, she thought.  Something Princess-like stirred within her tiny peapod soul, and she had a dreamlike memory of her mother rustling Heaven-bound “Thank you’s,” back when the Princess clung to her on the Beach Forest.  This worried the Princess, because she wasn’t sure Heaven would hear her if she didn’t rustle like her mother had.”Oh, Mama Seagull!”  she called to a Seagull who had stopped to shake her head at the cruelties of the waves.

“Oh, Mama Seagull!”  she yelled over and over until a momentary hush drowned out the watery clamor.  “Would you please tell Heaven thank-you for taking us to that mountain over there?” She pointed to the mountain that was still a little ways off, and was surprised to see how large it had grown.

“I can do better than that. I can take you there, if you’d like,” the seagull answered, peering around a stray feather that hung over one eye.

“Oh, yes please!” cried the Princess.  “It would be so lovely to get away from these bad boys!”

“One mountain coming up,” Mama Seagull promised with a smile. She gently lifted the peapod away from the ocean bullies.

“Oh thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!”  the Princess told Mama Seagull as she flew her higher and higher towards the hot July sun.

Mama Seagull was as soft as clouds, and her heartbeat was a lullaby, so the tiny Princess dozed off to sleep for a little while.  But only for a little while, because the closer Mama Seagull flew to the sun, the hotter the Princess’ seed coat became.  She felt like she was being roasted alive as the sun dried her inside and out.  She tried to ask Mama Seagull to fly further from the sun, but all that came out was a gasp.

Just when she wondered if Heaven was answering her wish that she had never been born, and was about to kill her, Mama Seagull nose-dove down a cool wind.  While it was wonderful to get away from the sun, it was not so lovely to be thrown off Mama Seagull’s back and to free fall towards the ocean.

Head over peapod tail she tumbled and tried to shriek for Mama Seagull to save her, but all that came out was a small squeak.  She knew the seagull could never hear that, so she whispered to Heaven for help as she spun like a leaf in the wind.

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And once again Heaven heard!  Out of nowhere she plunged into downy feathers.

“So sorry about that, dearie,” Mama Seagull told the tiny Princess.  I was just so excited to be at your mountain. You see, here it is.”

But the little Princess was so tired that all she could do was nestle into Mama Seagull’s feathers and whisper, “Are they the Chocolate Mountains?”

“Chocolate Mountains? Why Heaven’s no!  What a little unknowing thing you are.  The chocolate mountains are dry… and why these mountains are so full of wet I’ve heard humans call them tsunamis.

Tsunamis…?”  the little princess began.

But Mama Seagull interrupted, “Yes, that’s what they are and here you are…”

“But…” the little princess began.

“No, no, no, dearie. No need to thank me… I’ll be sure to tell Heaven how thankful you are as well.  Such a good little girl you are.  Goodbye, now.”

And with that, the little Princess once again fell head over tail, head over tail and landed  on the back of the mountain-sized wave named Tsunami.

Tsunami’s roar was so great that even the bullies who had teased her earlier played as nicely and quietly as choir boys.  But that really wasn’t of much use to the tiny Princess now, as she found herself racing like a tiny sled down the icy wave to what seemed to be… the very depths of the ocean.

ocean depths

There were more thrashings and tumblings about… and finally a knock to the head (which thankfully the tiny Princess never could remember, because it made her faint into such a deep sleep). She awoke to the sound of mermaid voices all around her.

“Isn’t she the sweetest little thing?”

“Look at that itty bitty tail!”

“But if she’s a mermaid,” another commented… then where’s her head?

“Of course she’s a mermaid,” another countered.  “Look at her tail.”

“I think she’s a little princess.”

“A little princess?” the mermaids gasped.  “Why would you say that?”

“Look at her tiny heartbeat.”

Of course all mermaids know that a baby mermaid’s heart doesn’t start beating until she embraces the water and learns to swim.  So they stared at the little Princess’s heart for some time before asking…

“What are you dear?”

“I don’t know,” the tiny Princess whimpered.

“Well…is there anything you can remember?” one asked.

“I remember the Beach Forest.”

“Are you an eel?” another questioned.

“I don’t know,” the Princess repeated truthfully.

“Tell us, sweetheart, is there anything else you remember?”

“I remember my mother…” the little Princes faltered, staring at the mermaids’ sleek tails, which were so much longer than her own.

“Do you think she may be one of us?”  asked a mermaid who was known for laying her eggs in all the wrong places, and sometimes losing them altogether.

“Maybe,” the tiny Princess replied.”

“But she has a heartbeat!” someone else insisted.  “She must be a princess.”

“A mermaid princess?” the others questioned.

“I am very sorry. I really can’t be sure,” the Princess said hesitantly.  Her toes were beginning to feel cramped in her tiny peapod, but she wasn’t sure if it would be rude to tell the mermaids this.

“Well, we can’t just leave her here,” said the mermaid who misplaced her eggs.

“Well we can’t just take her.  What if her mother comes back to look for her?” retorted a mermaid with a knowing glance back at the absentminded mermaid who was probably wondering if she was the tiny Princess’s mother.

“Excuse me,” the tiny Princess said politely. “Would you mind if I stretched my toes a bit? They’re starting to hurt from being so cramped.”

“Toes?” the mermaids laughed.  “You don’t have toes. You have a tail!”

“Well,” the tiny Princess explained.  “Whatever it is, it needs to stretch… Oh! I hope it wasn’t rude for me to say that.”

“You see?”  said the mermaid who had noticed her heartbeat. “She is a little Princess! Go ahead and stretch, small one.”

So the little Princess stretched her tail as the mermaids sang a little stretching song they made up just for her. She stretched, and they sang, and she stretched, and they sang. And then, suddenly, her tail said, “POP!” and split open.

“Oh,” the tiny Princess said, “that feels so much better.”

And a few mermaids began to cry, “OH no, oh NO, OH NO! You’ve broken yourself!”

“Well,” the Princess said happily, stretching a long white toe in the sand, “if this is breaking myself, I think I like it.  It just feels so good!”

“You have toes!”  all the mermaids gasped.

“She’s not a mermaid!” a mermaid gasped, swatting the one who thought she was with her tail.

“What are you? Mermaids don’t have toes!”

“I suppose not,” the tiny Princess cried.  For after all, she was still just a baby and it was about time for her nap.

“Oh…go to sleep my love,” a mermaid who was quite good at finding her eggs crooned.  “ I think I can tell you who you are.”

“Who am I?”  the tiny Princess sniffed as she burrowed her toes into the sand to comfort herself.

The mermaids glanced nervously at the shallow waters they were sitting in and watched the tide creep back out to sea.

“We can’t be here too much longer,” they told her, “but we will sing you to sleep.”

“Don’t go! Don’t go!” the tiny Princess protested.  “If you go, who will hold me?”

“We will,” they assured her. We will come back every high tide until you have your own children to sing to.”

“But who will hold me when the tide is low?” the tiny Princess’s voice shook.

“Why the sands of course,” the mermaids crooned. “Go to sleep little one. Please don’t weep,  just bury your toes in sands so deep. And dream…dream… dream of Forest Beach.”

mermaid d

In spite of herself the tiny Princess set sail for dream land.

 

True to their words, the mermaids did not forget or lose her.  The Princess spent her hours sunbathing in pink sand and stretching…stretching as far as she could towards the sea… listening for mermaid songs and laughing when she saw the watery women.  Soon, her heart stretched so tall that no matter where in the whole wide world the mermaids were, she could hear their voices.  Her roots dug so deep that no matter how far she stretched, she never toppled over. Not even the biggest tsunami could drag her out to sea.

Heaven smiled at how deep her roots had grown and how far her heart stretched. Angels spread word of how the Princess’s roots had given her wings to love the whole wide world. One day, Mama Seagull was sent to tell the Princess she was going to be given babies of her own.

And no matter how roudy the bad boy waves grew, they remembered the tiny Princess’ prayer and the tsunami she brought… And they never dared bother her or her family ever  again.  The Princess and all her tiny green princes and princesses thanked Heaven.

And they all lived happily ever after.

 

 

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THE END

 

 

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