While on a voyage far from home, a ship&;s master sees a girl laughing in the sea. A wise old woman tells him where to find her, and also tells him that he must hide her shadow. Convinced that he loves the girl more than the sea itself, he takes her back to the river of his birth, where their son is born. The boy grows up in a world of silence. His father is gloomy and his mother moves like a shadow in the house and walks alone by the sea. The boy finds an old sea chest in the attic, where he returns whenever he feels sad and lonely. One day its rusty lock comes undone, and inside he discovers a strange white skin with an underside that stings him. The boy becomes feverish, and in his delirium hears a voice telling him to take the skin down to the shore.