"Disney changed the
ending of the classic story.
They had too, there was no
room for a sequel."
- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium
THE LITTLE MERMAID
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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: 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.