Not quite the Disney cartoon--but would one have seriously expected that--this is no happy tale, except maybe in some kind of heavenly salvation sort of way. The youngest mermaid in the family awaits the day she can go to the surface, and the day that she does, she witnesses a shipwreck and saves a prince, with whom she falls in love (and unbeknownst to her, so too does the prince). To become human and seduce the prince, she has to sell her voice to the merwitch (a voice she can reclaim, along with a soul, if the prince falls in love with her; if he takes another woman, however, she will die on the spot). Without a voice, she's incapable of expressing her love or her identity to the prince, who finds her beautiful but, who in a case of mistaken identity, settles on another woman. Oh, there's a bit more, and of course there's Andersen's brilliant set of descriptions as well, which you can read here.