Mason the Mer-boy Learns to Sing
by Susan Bruck
Mason the Mer-boy lived in a cozy little cave among the coral in the warm Hawaiian ocean just off the Big Island. Every day he played with the giant sea tortoises and the dolphins, who sometimes took him for rides, and the little rainbows of fishes that lived all around. But Mason’s favorite friend was the kind old humpback whale, Harry. Harry told him wondrous fairy tales about land-people, and even though Mason knew they were just imaginary beings, he loved the stories.
Every full moon, Harry gathered all the whales and dolphins and became the conductor of the the Pacific Coral Chorale. All the sea creatures came to listen. Mason loved their music more than anything. The seabirds joined in the chorus, too, swooping over the underwater chorus and adding their calls to the chorus. Albatrosses, petrels, gulls and terns all joined in.
“I wish I could sing,” Mason said to Harry. They sat under the rainbow, watching the patterns the gentle raindrops made on the water’s surface.
“Of course you can sing.” Harry wrapped his fin around Mason. “Any creature with a voice can sing.”
Mason wondered if Harry could be right. He found an empty cave and tried to sing, but he couldn’t make the wonderful sounds like Harry made. He couldn’t even make sounds like the seabirds.
“Harry was wrong. I can’t sing,” he said.
Mason swam to his favorite thinking spot near the shore. He floated on his back, listening to the music of the water. As he lay on his back with his eyes half closed so the world looked all golden, he heard another sweet, melodic sound. It was music, but it had words, too.
Up, up above
Birds fly in the sky
Flowers of the earth
Upland, up in the uplands
The grove of trees
In the sea, the sea
The fishes of the ocean
Tell the refrain
Of this beautiful world
In honor of the children.[i]
Where was that song coming from? Mason poked himself out of the water as far as he could. Finally, he saw what looked like a mer-girl, but without a tailfin dancing on the beach. She was a land-maid! He had thought they only existed in stories. He swam closer. The land-maid smiled and waved. Mason waved back.
“Come play with me,” the land-girl said.
“I can’t come onto the land,” he said, flipping his tail above the water.
The girl splashed into the water. “You’re a mermaid,” she said. “Are you really?”
“Actually, I’m a boy,” he said. “My name’s Mason.”
“I’m Leilani.” She took his hand and smiled.
They both laughed when they realized they had each thought the other was imaginary.
Mason loved hearing about Leilani’s life on the land. He told her about life in the sea, too. And finally, after they had talked about everything while they floated between the earth and sun, Mason asked the question he had been dying to ask.
“How did you make that wonderful sound?”
Leilani knew lots of songs, but she had to go join her family for lunch. She stayed long enough to teach Mason one the song he had heard her sing, called Ke Ao Nani. They promised to meet again the next day.
Mason watched in amazement as she skipped away before hurrying off to find Harry. Mason was so excited he swam in circles around Harry.
“Stop it, boy,” Harry said. “you’re making me dizzy.”
“I found a song,” Mason said.
He stuck his head above the water to take a few deep breaths until he calmed down. When he came back, he sang Leilani’s song.
Big whale tears dripped from Harry’s eyes. “That’s wonderful!” he said.
“And it’s all true, the stories you told me. I met a land-maid today. She taught me the song. She’s going to teach me more.” Mason swam in circles around Harry again. Harry closed his eyes and smiled.
On the next full moon, when all the whales and dolphins finished their second song and the seabirds were still singing their first song, Harry brought all the sea creatures to silence and nodded his head to Mason.
Mason popped up above the water and nodded at the girl in the boat. Together, the land-maid and the mer-boy sang :
I luna lâ i luna
Nä manu oka lewa
I lalo lua i lalo
Nâ pua o ka honua
I uka lâ i uka
Nâ ulu lâ`au
I kai lâ i kai
Nâ i`a o ka moana
Ha`ina mai ka puana
A he nani ka ao nei
He inoa no nâ kamalii.
When they got to the part about the fishes in the ocean, all the creatures above and below the water joined them.
It was a glorious night for the Pacific coral chorale. Harry said the moon had never shown more brightly than it did that night.
But do you know what was even brighter than the moon? The smiles on Mason’s and Leilani’s faces.
This story came out really differently than I thought it would! The idea started out because I was thinking about a friend of mine from high school, a trumpet player, who committed suicide when I was still in high school. That was a long time ago, but I still think about him sometimes and wonder why. Anyhow, my mer-boy was going to find a trumpet to play, but instead I started thinking about the amazing music that the whales and dolphins make and ended up with a band instead of a choir. It’s meant to be a story of hope in honor of this man who lost his.
I’ve been listening to the album “Whale Sounds with Music” by Stephen Snow on Spotify while I worked on this story and painting sketch. I found a lot of really cool whale music on youtube and this beautiful humpback whale song on National Geographic. I don’t think that all these amazing creatures really sing together, but it’s nice to imagine.
Oh, and there are also lots of recordings of the song on YouTube, like this one with hula by some very cute children.
I hope you enjoy this story.
And thanks for stopping by!