Agnete and the merman (Agnete og Havmanden) is an old ballad about a young woman (Agnete) who meets a merman and goes with him to live in the sea where they get 7 (or 9 or 13 depending on the version) children. One day she hears the bells on land and wants to go back. The merman requires that she does not do three specific things on land but she fails and does them anyway.

My focus in the illustrations was on the lack of thought / reflection Agnete has when she decides to stay on land. I relate that to the way many people makes a decision (regarding divorce or just in general) without actually thinking the whole thing through. I am not questioning the decisions, only the grounds on which they were made.

I have translated the ballad to the best of my ability.
The Meeting

Agnete, she stands on highlands bridge
and up came the merman from the depth of the sea

His hair was like the purest gold
His eyes were so full of delight

"Now listen, Agnete, so pretty and so fine
will you be mine all mine?"

"Oh, yes, ofcourse, I will then,
If only you will take me to the depths of the sea"
 
 
 
The Surrender

He closed her ears, he closed her mouth,
then he took her to the bottom of the sea.
 
 
 
Family Life

There they together for a total of eight years,
Seven sons she with the merman has.
 
 
 
The Wakening

Agnete sat at the crip and sung,
when she heard bells of Engelland, they rang.
 
 
 
The Deal

Agnete, she goes to the merman to stand,
"And can't I just one time to church go?"

"Oh, ofcourse, you are allowed,
as longs as you'll be back to the little children."

"When you are at the church grounds,
you may not fold out your pretty yellow hair"

"When you are inside the church,
don't go to your mother in chair."

"When the priest mentions the holy,
you may not bow down"
 
 
 
Emancipation

He closed her ears, he closed her mouth,
he took her to the grounds of Engelland.
 
 
 
Deal Breaker

When she came on the grounds of the church
She folded out her pretty yellow hair

The time that she stood inside the church,
she walked to her mother in chair.

When the priest mentioned the holy,
she had to bow down deeply.
 
 
 
Missing Reflection

"Agnete! Agnete! Dear daugther so mild!
Where have you been all this while?"

"At the bottom of the sea I have my home,
there I have given the merman my faith."

"And seven sons I have given him,
the eight is so small a girl."

"But now I'll stay on the greenest of grounds,
and never ever more down to the bottom of the sea."
 
 
 
Farewell

The merman comes of the church door in,
and the little pictures they turned around.

His hair was like the purest of gold,
his eyes were so full of tears.

"Agnete, Agnete! Come to the sea with me,
your small children are longing after you"

"Yes, let them long, as long as they want!
I will never ever be back to them again."

"But think of the big ones! and think of the small!
And mostly of the smallest, who lay in the crip"

"No, never I will think of the big or the small, 
and least of all the smallest, who lay in the crip."
Agnete and the Merman
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Agnete and the Merman

Agnete and the merman (Agnete og Havmanden) is an old ballad about a young woman (Agnete) who meets a merman and goes with him to live in the sea Read More
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Published:

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