Bibliographic Information (best version for telling):

Arbuthnot, M. H. (1976). Time for Magic. Chicago: Scott Foresman.

Ethnic Origin:



Running Time:

Six to seven minutes.


Power Center(s):

Princess first hears the beautiful song being played by the fisherman.
Princess waits besides the window overlooking the river for the fisheman who does not come.
Princess hears the fisherman playing his song at the base of the tower.
Princess turns away from the fisherman because he is not the prince she was expecting, but the fisherman falls in love with her.
Fisherman's death and the discovery of the crystal.
Princess looks into the cup and sees the fisherman and hears his song.
Princess dies and her lady in waiting hears the song coming from the river.





Princess's Lady in Waiting


Princess in her room in the tower overlooking the river

Fisherman on the river

Lady in waiting talking to the King

Fisherman being brought before the King

Fisherman playing flute at the base of the tower

Princess in her room in the tower overlooking the river



    A long time ago, a princess lived in a castle beside a river.  The princess was incredibly beautiful and her father had her put in the tower room of the castle in order to keep all but her immediate family from gazing upon her. In her tower, the princess spent many hours reading and doing embroidery and waiting for the prince that she was destined to marry.

    The princess spent many afternoons gazing out her tower room at the river that ran beside the castle. She often wondered what the river saw as it flowed beyond the castle. One afternoon as she sat watching the river, she noticed a small boat coming towards her. As the boat neared the castle she noticed a strong, young fisherman inside. He took out a flute and began to play the most beautiful music the princess had ever heard. The song spoke to her of feelings for which there are no words and all of the most beautiful things on earth. Eventually the fisherman drifted past the castle and his song was lost to the princess.

    The next day the princess again sat besides the window gazing down at the river in the late afternoon and again the fisherman passed by and began playing his beautiful, haunting music. The princess was once again captivated, but being very shy did not know how to let the fisherman know how much she liked his music. Then she glanced over at the flowers in her room and began plucking the petals and sending them down in a shower upon the river.

    This continued every day with the fisherman coming and playing his flute and the princess sending showers of flower petals down on the river. The princess began to fantasize that the fisherman was really a prince and one day soon he would come to marry her. She also began to hear the beautiful melody that he played in her dreams at night.

    Then one day the fisherman did not appear beneath her window. He had known that a beautiful young woman lived in the tower, but he did not know that she was the king’s daughter. When he found out he was afraid to return. The princess stayed by the window until the last ray of sunlight fell across the empty river.

    The next day the princess again waited beside the window searching for a sign of the fisherman, but he still did not appear. She remained beside the window until the dawn of the next day and then she began to weep. One day followed the next and still the princess sat beside the river waiting in vain for the fisherman who did not return. She would not sleep or eat and she grew thin and her beauty faded like a flower left too long out of water.

    The king grew worried about his daughter and called in doctors from all over his kingdom and the next one, but no one could find a physical cause for the princess’ illness. At last, one of the princess’ ladies in waiting could bear it no more and she sought out an audience with the king and told him what she knew of the fisherman.

    The king sent out his soldiers to find the fisherman and after several weeks they returned with him. The fisherman was young and strong, but he was a plain man and not the prince the princess had imagined in her dreams. The king spoke to him, saying “Although you are only a fisherman you seem to hold the key to the princess’ happiness. Perhaps you are the man fate has destined her to marry. Let us see if the princess will love you as she loves your music.”

    The fisherman was told to stand at the base of the tower and play his song on his flute. After several minutes, the princess rushed down from the top of her tower hardly believing that the sounds she heard was really the song she had so longed to hear again. She once again imagined that the fisherman must be a prince who would take her away and they would live happily together from then on. But when she reached the bottom step and turned her gaze upon the fisherman she could not believe her eyes. She thanked him, but turned away as he was just a poor fisherman and not the prince of her dreams. Although the princess was cured, something beautiful had gone from her life.

    The fisherman never returned again in his boat and the princess never again heard his song in her dreams. In time the princess began to forget him, but still she remained in her tower waiting for the prince who did not come.

    The fisherman had been struck with love for the princess from the moment he saw her, but when she turned her back on him, he knew that a love between them was hopeless. Before too much longer had passed the fisherman died of a broken heart. The beauty of the fisherman was in his heart and in his songs instead of his face and the princess could not see past his face to his inner beauty.

    When the fisherman did not come to his boat one day, one of his friends went to his home and found a beautiful crystal  beside the fisherman’s body. He realized at once that the crystal had been created by the unrequited love between  the fisherman and his princess.

    One afternoon as the king was out in the market, he saw the crystal and was drawn to it, knowing that he must take it back for his daughter. He had the crystal made into a teacup and presented it to her daughter one evening. A more beautiful teacup was never seen and when she went to bed that night one of her ladies in waiting brought her tea before retiring.

    As the princess looked down into the warm tea, she thought she saw a boat forming upon its surface and then she noticed a tiny fisherman holding a tiny flute. She bent closer to the cup and as she listened she began to hear the song that had so captivated her in the beginning and she knew that the fisherman had died because of her indifference to his love.

    The princess began to weep and her tears fell into the cup. The crystal dissolved because the princess’ tears were tears of love and they set the fisherman’s soul free.


Rhymes/Special Phrases/"Flavor":

Princess throwing a shower of petals down upon the river.

Audience (why is this story appropriate for the audience? developmental characteristics?):

    Elliot and Geldman say that this age group is dealing with their emerging sexuality and aquiring skills for dealing with the opposite sex and mate selection which are themes in this story. Stover and Tway say that teens are determing their individual principles, developing positive relationships wih the opposite sex and thinking about marriage which are all themes in this story.


Bibliographic information on other versions/variants (at least two)?

Graham, G. B. (1970). The Beggar in the Blanket & Other Vietnamese Tales. New York: The Dial Press.

Shepard, A. (1998). The Crystal Heart: A Vietnamese Legend. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Brief comparison of all versions/variants in terms of language, rhythm, "tellability," "flavor," content, etc.  Stress the differences in style rather than those of content.
    In the Graham version the fisherman sings the song and only passes by the girl's window one time which I didn't feel was enough to develop any kind of relationship between them. This story ends with a festival. Another fisherman brings a tea cup that he had carved from the crystal to the fesitval. The princess sees the face of the fisherman in the cup while drinking tea and her tear of remorse lets the spirit of the fisherman rest. Their is a lot of detail in the beginning of this story, but the ending is really weak.
    In the Shepard version the fisherman also sings the song and only passes by the window of the princess one time. When the fisherman sings to her from the base of her tower she laughs in his face and shuts the door. He is found by the villagers with a crystal upon his chest and a wise woman tells them it is his heart. They put the crystal in a boat and let it float out to sea and it comes to rest at the palace. The princess apologizes to the fisherman when she sees his face in the cup and her tear causes the crystal to melt away. This version ends with the princess marrying someone else, but often hearing the fisherman's song.