Friday, 30 September 2016

The Little Mermaid: Disney vs Andersen

Made by Mélanie Delon
First off I want to say that I'm very sorry. I should have posted on fairy tale Thursday but due to an exam I had this morning (which went okayish) and an essay I had to hand in this afternoon (meh..) I was unable to write about a fairy tale on time (I could have but I prioritized). This week I will be talking about the Little Mermaid and comparing the Hans Christian Andersen version with the Disney film (which I loooove). Secondly I want to stress that Andersen really takes his time with his fairy tales. The Grimm brothers write down their stories and they are to the point. Some are only two pages if not less.  Andersen does not. The Little Mermaid is 20 pages and The Snow Queen (which I will be doing in a few weeks time) is 31 pages (yay!).

If you haven't seen the Disney film: it's basically about a naive little mermaid princess who is obsessed with the human world. She has a big collection of objects she found in the sea (from ships that sunk and such). One day she goes up and sees a handsome boy on a ship. She saves him when the ship is hit by a storm. However she cannot be with him due to the fact that she's a mermaid and he's a man. He does not even know her kind exists. After a fight with her father she goes to the sea witch, who convinces her to give up her voice in return for 3 days as a human (which was stupid because her voice would have been the one thing the prince could have recognised her with due to the fact that she sang to him as he woke up). Needless to say the witch almost defeats her but in the end Ariel ends up with the prince and is given legs by her father, who will miss her but accepts her decision (which is why the sequel is so confusing.. for some reason Ariel is no longer in touch with the sea and her daughter is not even allowed to swim). 

In the fairy tale Ariel is still the youngest, but all the sisters are allowed to go up to the surface to see the human world when they come of age (15 years old). Their grandmother is basically raising them (because their mother died) and teaching them things (one of which is helping them with the experience of going up to the surface of the water). Most of them do not necessarily enjoy what they find, others are interested but none really fancy going there. Ariel finds the ship and the boy. She wants to take him down with her but realizes that if she would do that he would die. So she holds his head above the water and takes him to shore. She does not sing to him thus he does not know that she saved him and this makes her sad.

It makes her so sad that she eventually tells one of her sisters, after revisiting the place where she left the prince day after day. Her sister of course tells all the others and soon everybody knows, one of them knows where the prince lives and this makes the little mermaid hopeful. She starts asking her grandmother questions about humans. Her grandmother tells her that, unlike mermaids who can live for 300 years and become sea-foam after they die, humans have very short lives but immortal souls (religion seems to  be a big thing in this tale). The little mermaid says that she would rather be human for a day than live 300 years without the prince (since only 15).

"Then I shall die, and drift on the sea as foam, never hearing the music of the waves or seeing the beautiful flowers and the red sun. Is there not anything I can do in order to obtain an immortal soul?". Her grandmother tells there is something that could be done: "Only if a man would love you so much that his heart and all his love to you, and let the priest place his right hand into yours, with the promise to be faithful to you here and to eternity, then his soul would flow over into your body, and you would receive a share of the happiness of mankind. He would give you a soul and yet keep his own".

Not long after this the little girl finds the sea witch who tells her she can help her, but after drinking the potion that will give her legs, she will always be in great pain. Each step will hurt more than the step before. He also tells her that she can never return to the say and if the prince does not fall in love with her, she will never obtain an immortal soul. As soon as the prince marries someone else, she will instead become foam on the sea like all the other mermaids before her. eventually marries someone else, she will become foam on the sea like all the mermaids who died before her. The Little Mermaid pays the sea witch with her voice. The prince falls in love with her but does not know she is the one who saved her. The girl he saw when he was aboard the ship. It happens much like the Disney film tells us it did. But instead of getting the prince in the end, he marries someone else and she becomes foam on the sea. 

Made by Tim Rogerson
It's a sad ending but we all know that fairy tales do not necessarily have good endings. I love how similar the tales are! It's almost exactly the same, safe for a few minor details (like there is no Sebastian who takes care of the girls, no singing, no seagull and no huge collection of human objects. In this story however it appears that it is not really about being in love with a man, it's more about obtaining an immortal soul. Is this Hans Christian Andersen saying that mermaid did not deserve internal live, because they weren't human or Christian (haha pun, lol). Is this tale instead about a girl who wants to become a good Christian but fails to do so because she uses dark magic to come to where she thinks she needs to be? I'm not religious so I wouldn't know exactly. I did a little research and found that Hans was religious. He may have been gay, though did not act on it due to his religious and moral beliefs. He also met Dickens a few times (oef.. I'll dream about the conversations those two might have had.. hmm)! That's it for today. I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know which fairy tale you want me to talk about next.


  1. Wow, that's really cool how Disney kept pretty closely to the original tale! Of course, they would romanticize it though :) I'm taking a class this semester called history in fiction and fiction in history and we actually read some of these fairytales and it seems like a common theme that the fairytales teach people (mostly children) how to have good morals and live a good and 'virtuous' life. I look forward to hearing your take on The Snow Queen! I still have to read it and I'd be really interested to see how closely Frozen followed it. Lovely post, Alyssa!

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks

    1. Hey! Yeah, I know right! I was quite surprised by it because the other fairy tales were so different from the Disney films. Yes that is very true.
      Haha yeah me too! :)