I have written this off the corner of a memory of a description of a tale. I welcome anyone pointing me to the original source so I can give due credit.
A young man and woman married despite the desire of her family.
They did not expressly forbid her to marry, for there was nothing wrong with the hard-working young man, other than he was a fisherman.
“You will be poor, and most likely widowed in your youth!” her mother would moan. “Then what will you do?”
But the couple was determined, and as they began their new life together the wife shyly presented her husband with a gift of her own lovely hair, braided into a small ornate rope. He tucked it into the inner pocket of his jacket, in order to have it always close to his heart.
As everyone had known would happen one day, the fisherman’s small boat was caught out in a storm, and he knew he was lost.
With all his great muscles straining, he fought the winds and rowed until the waves ripped the oars from their locks.
Looking toward the shore he saw his beautiful wife standing on the rocks looking out over the ocean.
Her long hair whipping in every direction because of the fierce winds, he feared she would be knocked into the sea. At the same time he knew she would risk that for her last chance to see him.
The fisherman pulled out the ornament of hair she had given him. It was frazzled and matted from long months in his pocket, but he didn’t notice. All he saw was his bride standing by the water, and felt sorrow not at dying, but for leaving her alone, and his own grief of parting from her.
Impulsively, he kissed the cord of hair, and saw his wife look up suddenly.
In a gray boat tossed like a toy in a gray sea, she saw him.
She held out her arms to him, and without thinking the fisherman dove into the ocean.
Kicking off his huge boots and pulling with all his power through the icy water, the fisherman felt the braided cord clinging to his fingers as he swam. Waves continued to break over him, but they never pulled him under.
Every time he cleared his eyes again, there was his wife standing in the shallows, her clothes dripping in the downpour. She would be waiting with a rope to throw him– if he made it close enough.
He began to feel a warmth that reminded him of her arms. He swam more slowly, and the sound of the wind seemed to be growing muffled.
At that moment he felt a rope against his hand. Coming instantly alive he wrapped it round his forearm and began to fight the waves with renewed hope.
The cold was burning him now– innumerable lances of pain weighing down his limbs and screaming at him to give up, but in the rope he could feel the touch of his wife’s hands. She, who loved him enough to risk being pulled into the sea. His anchor. His tie to land and life.
The combination of storm-twilight and salt-spray now obscured her from sight, but that she held him– defying the sea– was undeniable.
At last he felt rocks underfoot. He stumbled toward the shore as though running downhill. The rope was still in his hand when he collapsed beside his wife.
“That was a good throw, my love,” he said, as she clutched his head to her pounding heart.
“We must get where it is warm,” she said.
“How far do you think you threw it?” he persisted, leaning heavily on her shoulder as they walked toward shelter.
“It was with you the whole time,” she said
The young woman held up the end of the rope he still clutched. He could see it was firm and untangled, woven in the same pattern as the token she given him so many months before.
But this rope was far longer. Long enough to reach from storm to shore, and strong enough to bring him safely home.
“And all the times you’ve been away,” she said, “I’ve never let go of it.”