The Man Who Would Swallow the Sea


This is a short story from a collection of myths I’ve been working on over the past few years, all of which are based on strange dreams of mine. I crafted a book and bound it by hand, and penned this little tale onto the fresh, new pages, where it was unveiled for the first time in a professional art gallery at Augsburg University for a season.


Once upon a time, a man fell in love with the sea. It did not end well.

He was devoted in heart and soul. An unfounded obsession. Too much, he was warned — he was going too far. He never listened. A man such as that never listens. He was always jealous of the way she caressed boats and cliff faces, but not him. Never him.

The sea was as free as she was loving, but had a temper to rival even the gods. Many things angered her. No being escaped her wrath when they dared provoke her. Many feared her, but she was not lonely, for she hosted life far beneath her watery depths. What use was winning affection of the humans when her realm pleased her well on its own by just being?

Humans would never be content with just being, that much she understood. They always had to feel special, noticed. And they always asked things of her. But not this. Never this.

Not about to be bound by unjust expectations of fealty, the sea scorned the man’s love, full of entitlement and possessiveness as it was.

Driven mad by the pain of love, he declared the sea belonged to him and no other, body and soul. He would have her if it was the last act he would ever commit.

The sea has no body. What insult! How small an idea it was, how narrow. She would not be so limited!

The man, firm in his resolve, dared try to swallow her up and keep her all to himself. Laughable mortality! His village shunned him but still he pressed on in his quest. He must have the sea. It was all he thought he needed.

The sea, in all her fury, swept up and overtook him in waves before his cursed lips could touch her, before he had waded in to his chest, before his ego could drive him further onward. She climbed ever higher before him so he could get an inkling of her vast power, enveloping him the way he threatened to absorb her.

“Haughty mortal,” she laughed, “no one dares contain me!”

The man pleaded for his life, for his humanity, but did not apologize.

“Foolish, tiny human,” she crooned as she squeezed the breath from his lungs, “I condemn you to the fate you would have condemned me!”

The sea was not without kindness. She allowed the man to keep his life, misguided as he was. She knew he was just on the wrong path, but that did not lessen his punishment. He would keep his life, yes. But it would never cast a shadow to the life he could have lived. Her salt and sea foam slowly dissolved him, body and soul, until all that remained were his eyes, doomed to bear witness to his condition until the end of the sea herself. She never answers his pleas and keeps him trapped him in a cave. Away. His story swept away by time. Forgotten.


© Michelle Robins, 2015

Scroll to Top