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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Girl From the Sea & Other Stories (The)
by Sophia De Mello Breyner Andresen
Age Range: 12+
The stories in this collection by Sophie de Mello Breyner Andresen (1919-2004), one of Portugal’s greatest poets, have become classics of Portuguese children’s literature. This is the first time these eight short stories have been translated into English by Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson.
De Mello Breyner Andresen fills her tales with a love of nature, gardens and the sea, as well as a keen sense of the fantastical. The first six stories have a distinctly European folk tale style. The Girl from the Sea is about a boy who finds a little girl who lives on the sea bed and "could only have been span high" with green hair, purple eyes and a dress made from seaweed or there is The Fairy Oriana, who must learn her real mission in life. In a Christmas Eve, a young girl discovers the true meaning of Christmas and in The Danish Knight, a pilgrim discovers much more than the Holy Land when he travels the world. In The Bronze Boy the garden flowers throw a secret party and in The Forest, a young girl meets a 100-year-old dwarf who tells her a tale of buried treasure.
The remaining two stories were inspired by Japanese folk tales. The Tree, which is the centre of life on a small Japanese island, continues to live on long after it has been felled and The Mirror or the Living Portrait is about a girl who inherits a magical mirror from her late mother.
These lyrical tales are abundant with allegorical meaning and a didactic message which is rooted in the author's Catholic faith which she remained true to until her death.
De Mello Breyner Andresen published several collections of poems, two volumes of short stories and nine children’s stories, which she wrote originally for her own children. She became Portugal’s most acclaimed poet and was the first woman to be awarded Portugal’s highest literary honour, the Prémio Camőes.