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"Disney changed the ending of the classic story. They had too, there was no room for a sequel."

- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium Curator

THE LITTLE MERMAID

The Little Mermaid (Den lille havfrue) is a fairy tale about a young mermaid, her love for a human prince, and her desire to gain a human soul. The story was written by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, and was first published in 1836.

A statue of the Little Mermaid sits on a rock in the Copenhagen harbour. This small and unimposing statue is a symbol of Copenhagen, and a major tourist attraction. The statue was commissioned in 1909 by Carl Jacobsen, son of the founder of Carlsberg, after he had been fascinated by a ballet about the fairytale. The sculptor Edward Eriksen created the statue, which was unveiled on 23 August 1913. He used his wife Eline Eriksen as the model.

Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid lives at the sea bottom with her father the Sea King, her grandmother, and her 5 older sisters, born one year apart. When the Little Mermaid turns 15 she ventures to the surface. She sees a ship with a beautiful prince, and falls in love with him. There comes a great storm, and the prince almost drowns, but the Little Mermaid saves him and she delivers him unconscious to the shore near a temple. Here she waits until he is found by a young girl from the temple. But the prince never sees the Little Mermaid.

The Little Mermaid asks her grandmother whether humans can live forever if they do not drown. She is told that no, humans have an even shorter lifespan than mermaids. Mermaids live for 300 years, but when they die they turn to sea foam and cease to exist. Humans, on the other hand, have a short lifespan on earth, but they have an eternal soul that lives on in heaven even after they die. The Little Mermaid spends her days longing for the prince and for an eternal soul. At last she goes to the Sea Witch, who sells her a potion that gives her legs, in exchange for her tongue, because the Little Mermaid has the prettiest voice in the world. But drinking the potion will feel like a sword being passed through her, and walking on her feet will feel like walking on knives. And she will only get a soul if the prince loves her and marries her, for then a part of his soul will flow into her. Otherwise, at dawn on the first day after he marries another woman, the Little Mermaid will die broken-hearted and turn to sea foam.

The Little Mermaid drinks the potion and meets the prince, who is attracted to her beauty and grace even though she is mute and cannot talk. Most of all he likes to see her dance and she dances for him even though it feels like dancing on knives. The prince loves her like one loves a child.

The prince and a princess from a neighboring kingdom (it turns out that the princess is the temple girl) are married and the Little Mermaid's heart breaks. She thinks of all that she has given up in order to be with the prince and to gain an eternal soul - her beautiful voice, her wonderful home, her loving family, her life - and of all the pain that she has suffered. She despairs, but before dawn her sisters come to her and give her a knife that the Sea Witch has given them in exchange for their hair. If the Little Mermaid slays the prince with the knife she will become a mermaid again and be able to live out her full life under the sea.

But the Little Mermaid cannot bring herself to kill the sleeping prince lying with his bride and, as dawn breaks, throws herself into the sea. Here her body dissolves into sea foam, but instead of ceasing to exist, she feels the warmth of the sun; She has turned into a spirit, a daughter of the air. The other daughters of the air tell her that she has become like them because she, like them, strove with all her heart to gain an eternal soul. As a mermaid her gaining a soul was dependent on another, the prince, but as a daughter of the air she will earn her own soul by doing good deeds. When 300 years have passed she will have earned her soul and will rise into the kingdom of God. This time can be shortened for you see, with each good child she finds she subtracts a year, while she adds a day for each tear she must shed over a wicked child.
Many critics considered the last episode with its happy end to be rather "stuck on", with the tale's natural dramatic ending being the moment of supreme tragic renunciation when the Mermaid chooses to die irrevocably rather than kill her beloved prince. Debate on this point has been a continuous topic in Andersen scholarship more or less since such scholarship existed, and is likely to continue.

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The Little Mermaid is the twenty-eighth animated feature in the Disney animated features canon. Based upon the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Little Mermaid, the film was produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and first released on November 15, 1989 by Walt Disney Pictures and Buena Vista Distribution. The film is given credit for breathing life back into the animated feature film genre after a string of critical and commercial failures and later, some moderate successes. (The Black Cauldron, The Great Mouse Detective, Oliver and Company). In addition, The Little Mermaid signaled the start of a decade-long period of successful Disney movies.

The film follows the story of a headstrong sixteen-year-old mermaid named Ariel, who is dissatisfied with life under the sea. Ignoring the warnings of her father, King Triton, and the court musician, Sebastian the crab, Ariel and her best friend, a fish named Flounder, often sneak up to the surface of the ocean. There, they collect human artifacts with the help of a goofy seagull named Scuttle. Ariel knows that contact between the humans and merpeople is forbidden, but she longs to be part of the human world. She falls in love with Prince Eric who is lost at sea and almost drowns before he is saved by Ariel, who has taken a liking to the prince. She disappears just as he is awakening, but Eric is enthralled by the memory of her beautiful singing voice.

Ursula the sea witch, who for many years has been seeking a way to exact her revenge upon King Triton for banishing her from the kingdom decides that now is the time to make her move, and makes a deal with the princess to transform Ariel into a human for three days. Within these three days, if she plans to remain a human, she must give Eric the "kiss of true love"; otherwise she will transform back into a mermaid at sunset on the third day. If this happens, Ursula will own her very soul and wither her down into a polyp, to join her garden of other lost merfolk. As "payment", Ursula takes Ariel's voice and makes her unable to speak, knowing that Eric remembers Ariel only by her voice.

While Ariel is enjoying life with Eric in the human palace but is unable to tell him who she really is, Ursula appears onshore taking the guise of a beautiful young woman named Vanessa and sings in Ariel's voice, which casts a spell of enchantment on Eric, who plans to marry her immediately, much to Ariel's dismay. In the end though Ursula's plot is uncovered and Eric discoveres that Ariel was the girl who saved his life, Eric rushes to kiss her, but he is too late; the sun sets and Ariel transforms back into a mermaid. "Vanessa" transforms back into Ursula and she grabs Ariel as she disappears into the sea.

A battle for the Triton's kingdom follows and Ursula dies. Noticing how his daughter truly loves Eric, Triton decides to give Ariel what she wants. Ariel watches in astonished delight as she is changed permanently into a human, and walks gracefully to shore before her proud father's eyes. She runs into Eric's arms, and the two are married. Both humans and merpeople turn out for the wedding, and Triton accepts Eric as a part of the family. Eric and Ariel sail away into the sunset to live happily ever after.

Hans Christian Andersen purists have criticized the Disney film for dramatically altering the story to give it a happier ending, thus dramatically changing the intended meaning of the classic fairy tale, in which the mermaid dies. This has altered the conception of the Little Mermaid among many people, who may only be familiar with the Disney version. Also there is little reference to Danish culture in the film, unlike other Disney films such as Beauty and the Beast or Mulan which include many references to the original culture of the story. It has been argued that the film also derives elements from Shakespeare's The Tempest, especially considering the inclusion of Ariel. Of course if the mermaid dies you can't have a sequel.

The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea is a 2000 Disney animated feature film and direct-to-video sequel to the 1989 animated film The Little Mermaid. Directed by Jim Kammerud and Brian Smith, the story takes place over a decade after the original film, and focuses on Ariel's and Eric's daughter Melody, a human princess who longs to swim in the ocean despite her parents' law that the sea is forbidden to her. This sequel stars the voices of Jodi Benson as Ariel, Tara Strong as Melody and Pat Carroll as Morgana, the film's new villain. It is the last film in the chronology of Walt Disney's version of The Little Mermaid.

The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning is a 2008 Disney animated feature film, and the direct-to-video prequel to the 1989 film The Little Mermaid. Directed by Peggy Holmes, the film's story is set before the events of the original film, where all music has been banned from the underwater kingdom of Atlantica by King Triton, and his youngest daughter Ariel attempts to challenge this law. Jodi Benson and Samuel E. Wright reprise their roles as Ariel and Sebastian respectively, while Sally Field voices the film's new villain, Marina Del Rey, and Jim Cummings replaces Kenneth Mars as King Triton. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released the film on August 26, 2008. The film openly contradicts certain events of the prequel television series, implying that it is an independent installment of Disney's The Little Mermaid franchise.

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