~Featured Fairytale Friday~
Welcome to Featured Fairytale Friday! This is another new feature I’ve created. Every Friday, I will share a fairytale, my thoughts, list any book adaptions I’m interested in, as well as anything else. 🙂 Please let me know what you think of this feature.
As a child I was never read fairytales, but saw all of Disney’s adaptions growing up. When I got older I was interested in reading fairytales particularly those by Hans Christian Andersen.
This week’s featured fairytale is The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen, a classic, naturally. As children, I think most of us were subjected to Disney’s adaption of this fairytale.
In Disney’s version, Ariel is the youngest of seven sisters who dreams of going on land which isn’t allowed. After going to see a ship, she sees Eric, who she is instantly attracted to. A storm then happens and Ariel saves Eric. After her father finds out she actually saved a human, he destroys her human objects collection. Angry and hurt Ariel ends up turning to a sea witch who tells her she can turn her human, in exchange for her voice. Ariel agrees despite also having to give her voice to the sea witch. Ariel then meets Eric and tries to get him to fall in love with her. This movie ends on a happy note, of course. 🙂
In the original version the little mermaid lives with her father, grandmother and five older sisters. She has a fascination with land. The little mermaid asks her grandmother all kinds of questions about the human world. Each mermaid is able to go see the surface on their 15th birthday. The little mermaid listens to each of her sisters as they tell the others what they saw, longing to go see the surface for herself.
When the little mermaid finally turns fifteen, she goes to the surface where she visits a ship. She falls in love with the prince on board at first sight. A storm happens and the little mermaid saves the prince from drowning. She takes him to the shore and waits until someone finds him then leaves. Unable to keep the information to herself, she tells one of her sisters and the others find out.
Afterwards the little mermaid asks her grandmother if humans are able to live forever or if they never die like they do. Her grandmother tells her they do in fact die and have an even shorter lifespan. Mermaids are able to sometimes live to be 300. Once they die though, they don’t exist anymore because they don’t have immortal souls. Her grandmother says that humans have all have souls which last after their body has turned to dust and they go to unknown areas mermaids will never see.
The little mermaid questions why they don’t have immortal souls and she would give anything to have one. Her grandmother tells her not to think that and to feel happier and better off than humans. The mermaid asks her grandmother if there is a way she can get a soul. Her grandmother says unless she finds a man to love her more than he does, focuses his thoughts on her, and promises to be true, can she have an immortal soul.
Her grandmother tells her that can never be because of her fishtail. They attend the royal ball later that night. While there the little mermaid decides to go to the sea witch to help her. The sea witch already tells her she knew what she wanted. The sea witch says she will get a draught for her which has to be drunk by land the next day, then she will have her legs. However, she will feel great pain like a sword was going through her, every step will feel as if she’s stepping on knives and her feet will bleed.
The sea witch tells her she can never go back to being a mermaid or the water again. Finally, if the prince doesn’t fall in love with her, she will have no immortal soul. The little mermaid tells her she will do it, in turn she has to pay the sea witch by giving her her own voice. The mermaid questions how she will make the prince fall in love with her if she can’t talk, the sea witch tells her she has her looks to get his heart.
After the little mermaid takes the draught in front of the palace, she laid like she was dead. When she woke up, she discovers the prince and they go into the castle. As the little mermaid and the prince became more acquainted with each other, she loved him more. The prince hadn’t thought of marrying the mermaid, but if he didn’t, she would never have an immortal soul and dissolve into sea foam.
The prince tells her the story of how he was shipwrecked, but a young maiden resembling the little mermaid saved him. Due to the young maiden living in a holy temple, they would never meet again. The little mermaid was happy at this thought because she would still be there.
Around the time the prince was to marry, he went to visit a king who lived nearby. It was thought he really went to visit the king’s daughter, but he reassured the little mermaid, he couldn’t love his daughter. The little mermaid goes with him. Later that night, the little mermaid gazes out to the sea sure she can see her father’s castle. Her sisters appear sadly and disappear when a cabin boy came nearby.
The next morning, everyone on the ship went to see the princess’s beauty. The princess was believed to be educated and taught royal virtues. The princess tells the princess that it was she who saved him. He then tells the little mermaid that she will be happy for him because she has a great devotion to him.
The next morning morning, the little mermaid’s sisters appeared without hair as they sold it to the sea witch in return for help. The sisters tell her the witch’s instructions and give her a knife. The little mermaid is to stab the prince in the heart before the sun rises. Once the blood lands on her feet, she will become a mermaid again and return to the sea. The sun was already beginning to rise at this time.
The little mermaid goes to the prince, kisses his brow and looked to the rising sun. She looks to the prince who whispers his bride’s name in his sleep. Seeing this, the little mermaid is unable to kill the prince and throws the knife into the ocean. She then threw herself into the sea and felt herself turn into foam.
The little mermaid looked at the sun which was surrounded by hundreds of transparent beings. She asks where she is and is told she is “Among the daughters of the air”. They tell her that unless a mermaid makes a human fall in love with her can she have an immortal soul.
The daughters of the air tell her they however can earn their immortal souls through 300 years of good works. Looking back towards the ship, she saw the prince and princess look overboard as if they knew she threw herself over. Unseen by them, she kissed the princess’s forehead, fanned the prince and then went to a cloud with the other beings.
The little mermaid tells them that after three years they will have immortal souls, maybe even sooner. As they see good children their three hundred years is shortened. If they see a bad child, their tears shed and for every tear they shed, a day is added for their 300 years of good works they have to obtain.
Well then, that was very long. 🙂 You can find the original version here. In addition you can pick up a book of Andersen’s fairy tales here.
Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid is a beautiful and tragic tale of love and selflessness. My favorite things about this fairytale are the existence of mermaids, the beautiful imagery Andersen uses and the selflessness the little mermaid shows towards the prince. The little mermaid knows then she will never have an immortal soul and turn into sea foam in the morning after his wedding, but still chooses to not kill him for her own life.
I like that this story has an unexpected happy ending. I was also interested in the religious themes the story contained such as immortal souls, celestial beings, and Heaven that the mermaid works toward. I thought it was interesting that a mermaid could have an immortal soul if she found one to love her. In contrast, the celestial beings were able to work for their own immortal soul.
The ending of the story is actually not original to the story though. In the original, the mermaid turns into sea foam and ceases to exist. Andersen later revised the ending saying that was his original intent for the ending. (1)
I think it’s interesting that whether or not the 300 years of good works was original or later decided on, it follows along with other fairytales of Europe around this time. In this time period, fairytales were used to teach children lessons.
Something that stood out to me was that both the life span of a mermaid and the celestial beings good works were both three hundred years. Something I wonder is where these celestial beings came from and whether they were previously mermaids like the little mermaid was.
Now I thought I would list some book adaptions/other mermaid tales for The Little Mermaid I discovered at Epic Reads:
September Girls by Bennet Madison
Fathomless by Jackson Pearce
Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
Midnight Pearls by Cameron Dokey
Mermaid: A Twist on a Classic Tale by Carolyn Turgeon
There is also an anime adaption you can watch on youtube here 🙂
Do you guys like fairytales? What is one of your favorites? What do you think about the little mermaids? Let me know.
(1) Andersen wrote in a letter to a friend: “I have not, like de la Motte Fouquet in Undine, let the mermaid’s gaining an immortal soul depend on a stranger, on the love of another person. It is definitely the wrong thing to do. It would make it a matter of chance and I’m not going to accept that in this world. I have let my mermaid take a more natural, divine path” (Frank 2003, 104).