The Tail of the Sea-Witch
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by Wendy Maree Peterson
Category: Young Adult/Fantasy WordWeaving Award of Excellence Winner, LiFE Award Winner
Description: Marina's magical sea witch lives in a houseboat on a lagoon surrounded by a 'jungle of jewels.' But is she really a sea witch? Marina, the imaginative eleven-year-old telling the story, is quite convinced. After all, isn't her very name, Madame Witche, a sure give-away? Both Marina and Madame Witche are lonely until that mid-summer day when they meet on Madame's beach. Together, they find a friendship so unexpected and rich that it takes on a magical aspect--especially to Marina. However, Madame is so unusual, so fey, we are never sure if Marina's suspicions aren't right after all. And there's that remarkably life-like mermaid's tail displayed on a net curtain in the houseboat....
eBook Publisher: Twilight Times Books, 2002
eBookwise Release Date: December 2003
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [85 KB]
Reading time: 52-72 min.
"...The author paints word pictures as wonderfully as the artist she writes about. The story is delightful and makes you think many of the so-called supernatural aspects of the witch are simply products of a child's overactive mind--that is, until the end, and then the reader wonders. This is a powerful story, beautifully crafted, with important themes presented in a loving manner. The setting descriptions are awesome and the characters, especially the animals, are well defined and perky. We rated this book our highest level of five hearts."--Bob Spear, Heartland Reviews
"Eleven-year-old Marina once knew a sea witch who lived in a large houseboat in a private lagoon. Their friendship brings about imaginative happenings, leaving the reader uncertain how much truly happens and how much is the result of Marina's vivid imaginings. Perhaps the lady Marina believes to a mermaid is simply an enigmatic woman recovering from tragedy. Or perhaps she is truly a child of the sea. Author Wendy Maree Peterson pens an entrancing young adult fantasy in "The Tail of the Sea Witch." Peterson maintains a dream like narrative quality that creates a mystical world where the impossible becomes quite logical. In this world of opposites where dreams and reality merge as one, readers will find the beauty of legendary places and extraordinary creatures. Peterson's rich narrative style, replete with magical imagery and extraordinary vision, brings this story vividly alive. While the stated audience is young adults, readers of all ages will treasure this stunning tale. An extraordinary creation, of which readers will hope for sequels, "The Tail of the Sea Witch" earns the WordWeaving Award for Excellence."--Cindy Penn, Senior Editor, WordWeaving.com
I once knew a sea witch. Honest! But she's gone away to sea, now, as she always said she would.
I wish she'd come back. When I look out across the ocean and see a patch of water that's not green or blue, I think of her eyes. And when I see the sky turning roseamberine at sunset, I remember her masses of hair. It was the same pretty color. (She pronounced it ro-zeem-ber-een. Cool word, huh?)
I never believed what the kids at school said about her. But when I first saw her hair, I began to suspect. No ordinary person--or witch--could have hair like that.
Only a sea witch.
I felt very plain beside her. Usually I don't care how I look because of my personality. Mum says I can talk her earrings off. (But that's because she doesn't screw them on tightly.)
In the lagoon where her houseboat is moored, I can still see her floating about her lovely things and smiling at me for no reason. Everything is exactly the way she left it, except for the sand that has crept over the floor and the spider-webs hanging off the beams.
From the cliff-top the lagoon looks a magical place. Surrounding the lagoon are frangipani and tropical trees with flowers that look as rich as jewels. To the left of the lagoon, you can see miles of sand glittering as if sprinkled with diamonds. In the distance, a wide sand bar separates the lagoon from the rush of the ocean.
But, no matter how hard you look, you will never see her houseboat. It's our secret--Madame Sea Witch's and mine.
I remember the first words she spoke to me. I was trespassing on her beach and picking some frangipani and brilliant red hibiscus. (I wanted to prove to the other kids that I'd really been there.)
She seemed to appear out of nowhere. I was watching an exquisite green and blue butterfly landing on a flower just above my head. I looked away for a second, and when I looked back Madame was standing there wearing the same colours as the butterfly.
I had such a weird feeling. I didn't know whether to make a dash for my boat or try to find out more about her.
"Hello," she said.
For the first time all my good words ebbed away.
"How did you get down to the beach?" she asked. "You couldn't climb down the cliff. Surely you didn't just swim?"
By now I had taken a really close look, and I was amazed how witchy and beautiful she was all at the same time. Besides her witchy roseamberine hair, she had starey eyes--like dead fish. It occurred to me it must be lonely being a sea witch with no other sea witches around. There were only farming families, fishermen and surfers around here. Yet, there was something powerful about her; something that made her seem important. She had a shawl of the sheerest green material wrapped around her shoulders; underneath she wore a floaty blue dress (might have been a nightie); on her feet she wore knitted bed socks with fluffy pom-poms. Her roseamberine hair was thick with tangles and knots as if she'd just climbed out of bed. I suppose the afternoon is early rising for a witch.
"How did you get down to the beach?" she asked again.
I pointed to the rubber dinghy on the sand bar and told her I had sailed around the cliff from the other beach.
Her amazing green eyes showed a glimmer of life. "In that toy?" she asked. But from her tone, I couldn't tell if she was impressed or if she thought me crazy.
"Well, I'm not going to let you go back the same way," she announced.
"You don't have to worry about me. I'm an ocean girl," I told her.
"Yes, well, I think you must be," she said, then led me up the hot sand towards the mile-high cliff.
A black Labrador bounded up the sand and trotted along beside us. He had the longest tongue I'd ever seen. It didn't seem to fit inside his mouth and was always hanging over the side. I wasn't sure if he was friendly; so, I made friendly noises and held out my hand. He wagged his tail and licked me. I liked him, then.
The sea witch smiled this sweet smile, and her eyes sparkled like the diamond sand. At the same moment this pack of seagulls flew up and circled over our heads like an airborne crown. I watched the awesome crown of seagulls circling above us; but, when I looked down, the sea witch had gone.
I spotted her disappearing into a cave at the bottom of the cliff. That must be where she lives, I thought as I ran towards the cave. From the beach, I tried to see inside, but the entrance was overhung with vines and things. I didn't want to go into her home uninvited, so I waited outside. I heard the sound of whirring and cranking and she reappeared.
A few metres from the cave, on the right, was a man-sized cage of black iron with fancy lacework. Madame swung the door open, smiled and beckoned.
I panicked a bit. She wants me to get into that cage? But then I noticed the tracks leading from the cage going straight up the cliff.
The lift rose slowly with me inside. I pressed against the iron lacework crushing the flowers I'd picked and watched her waving and smiling way down below. When the lift reached the cliff top, I watched her disappear into the jewel jungle surrounding the lagoon.