The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid is a story originally written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1836. The story revolves around a doomed young mermaid's sacrifice for love. The Little Mermaid has been re-told in several different fashions.

The iconic statue sitting in Copenhagen's harbor.

The story of a love saved by a plucky  little princess. The story we are referring to is one often retold by Disney shareholders.

The Little Mermaid in anime. All the story really needed was a sea otter mascot for an old wizard that banged a sea witch.

Just The Facts

  1. Hans Christian Andersen's story originally did not have a 'happy ending.'
  2. Andersen would later add an 'additional ending' in which Air Spirits would save The Little Mermaid's soul. In the re-release, Greedo shot first.
  3. The story has been re-told in several mediums. Disney was the first to re-tell the story with a funky calypso beat.

Den Lille Havfrue ( The Little Seawoman) (1836)

Hans Christian Andersen's original story differs quite a bit from later editions. It also may very well differ from the version that Andersen himself heard. Andersen's story centers around a fifteen year old mermaid who is allowed to see the top side world. Her sister before her had been allowed to see the outside world once as well. When the little mermaid comes up to the top of the ocean, she sees a ship that is sinking. There is a handsome prince on board the ship whom the little mermaid takes to safety on dry land. The prince never sees the mermaid, but she waits until he is found my a young maiden at the temple. The little mermaid has already fallen in love with the Prince, but must go down under the sea. When she goes down below, she talks to her grandmother about her experience. The little mermaid asks her about the life of a human (assuming that they do not drown). Her grandmother tells her that a human has much shorter life span than that of a mermaid. A mermaid typically lives about 300 years. When a mermaid dies, they have no soul to go to Heaven. The mermaid becomes sea foam. A human has a soul and has a chance to enter the gates of Heaven. The Little Mermaid resolves to become 'part of thier world' and go up top. To this end, the little mermaid visits the Sea Witch. The Sea Witch has a power that can make her human. The Sea Witch warns her that The Little Mermaid will only attain a soul by the Prince giving her true love's kiss. If the Prince marries another, then the Little Mermaid will die of heartbreak and become sea foam. There are additional costs to the Sea Witch's help. First, the price of having legs is that the Sea Witch is allowed to cut out the Little Mermaid's tongue. Also, the process of changing her mer-tail to legs will be accompanied by almost constant pain. Anytime she takes a step, the legs will feel like they are being pierced by a sword. The Little Mermaid accepts all of these conditions and becomes human. The Little Mermaid finds the Prince. The Prince has affection for her and loves to watch The Little Mermaid dance. The dancing is accompanied by the constant paid of swords jutting into her legs for the Little Mermaid. She endures the pain out of love for the Prince. The Prince's father The King demands that the Prince marry a Princess from a neighboring Kingdom. The Prince is aprhensive about the request, because he only wants to marry the woman that saved him from drowning. The Prince is relieved to find out that the Princess he is to marry is the Maiden from the shore. Immeadiately, The Prince falls in love and essentially signs a death sentence for the Little Mermaid. The Little Mermaid is despondant knowing that Death will come to her. Her mer-sisters have visited the Sea Witch. They sold all of thier hair to find a way out for thier sister. The Sisters present The Little Mermaid with a knife. If she kills the Prince with the knife on his wedding night, she can let the blood drop onto her feet. The Little Mermaid will then become a Mermaid again. All she has to do is plunge a knife into the heart of one she loves. The Little Mermaid cannot kill the Prince and acceots her fate. The Little Mermaid dies of heartbreak. Her immortal soul is saved however in a coda written after the original story. The Spirit Daughters of the air have seen the Little Mermaid's sacrifice for true. While they cannot give her her life back, they can help with that whole soul thingy. In a complicated bargain, the Little Mermaid can go to Heaven in three hundred years. However, the three hundred years is kind of a rolling countdown. If she touches a child's life and the child is good, there is a year taken off. If the child turns our badly, then the Air Spirit Daughters will cry. For every tear that these weepy spirit women cry, the Little Mermaid gets another month added on to purgatory. This added ending was controversial because it turned out to be too... happy ... rather than finality of the original story. Adding the ending on afterwards made the Little Mermaid seemed a bit forced as well. The original tale is still alot darker than what is to follow.

The Little Mermaid (Ballet and Statue)

Ellen Price acheived unexpected immortality after she was cast as The Little Mermaid in a ballet based on Hans Christian Andersen's story. The ballet was set to music by Fini Henriques and choregraphed by Hans Beck. Art collector Carl Jacobson saw the performance and was enraptured. Jacobson commissioned sculptor Edvard Eriksen to create a bornze statue. Price allowed her face to be scul[ted but resfused to have her body sculpted. More specifically, she refused to be seen by Eriksen in the nude as a subject for sculpting. As a workaround, Eriksen sculpted the body based on his wife Eline Eriksen. Presumably, this was worked around times in which Eline would allow her husband to see her naked. Women named Elin are kind of famously tempermental in this regard. Assuming Erik was not an avid golfer, the sculpture was completed without incident. The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen's harbor was unvieled in 1913. The statue is now and has always been a copy. The original is an undisclosed location protected by the Eriksen family. There are several differene copies around the world of varying sizes. The statue is copyrighted and the Eriksen family owns a copyright on the statue as well as can prosecute illegal copies. The statue itself has had almost as hard a life as well. The statue has been decapitated at least twice. She has also been stolen, had an arm sawed off, bombed, and dressed in a burqua. At the very least though, she gets a bikini birthday party with hot Danish women fawning over her.

A touching episode of the Little Mermaid television series by Disney actually brings thier own Little Mermaid Princess Ariel in contact with Hans Christian Andersen. The episode is titled 'Metal Fish; and in the last three minute of the episode, Ariel is seen in the Statue's pose on a rock in Copenhagen's Harbor.

Adaptations Not Done by Disney (relax, there is a selfish whiny fish in this article)

The Little Mermaid (1968) - AKA Rusalochka. This animated feature of the Little Mermaid was produced in Soviet Russia. Lets just say that there were some .. changes... to Andersen's original story. In Soviet Russia, changes are not made to be happier to The Little Mermaid. First of all, there are no Airy Sistery Women flying around at the end who care about your soul or your dead fishy but. You just become sea foam. In Soviet Russia, sea foam turns you. Also, there is not a knife (as in the Hans Christian Andersen story). Soviets, scarily in our opinion, believe that you can be adequately bludgeoned to the point of bleeding to death by a magic shell. If you want to kill a Prince, you get to work for it with a blunt object. Your situation is dire. There is no sense in introducing pointy objects here. Overall though, they keep a pretty faithful version of the story. There would be enough time to Dreamworks the whole thing later.

Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid (1975) - In this version of the story, the Little Mermaid's name is Marina and she is blonde. This little mermaid has a bit more Disney going for her than her Russian counterpart. First, like the Disney version, Marina finds a statue that Marina is allowed to obsess over. Also, her best friend is a dolphin named Fritz. we suspect that Fritz is one of those dolphin who hump girls in pools with massive erections given half a chance. Yes, horny rapist dolphins actually exist. Be all that as it may, Marina does not get her tongue cut out by a Sea Witch. The Prince and Marina (whom he calls Princess Mermaid) get all the way to the point of ... almost marrying. This is because he cannot find the woman that he believes saved her. When his parents arrange a marriage, the Prince is fearful until he finds the black haired woman was on the beach. Somehow, in any of thier communication Marina failed to clear up the point of Marina saving the Prince's life. So, her sisters are not messing around after the Prince immeadiately agrees to marry the new girl. They bring a knife to a shell fight. It is a Sea Hag approved Magid Knife with all the trimmings absolutely, positively guaranteed to remove Princey's heart and restore fishtail and family. Unfortunately, Marina's feelings get all in the way and she tosses the knife. Its a Magic Knife so it turns the sea blood red. The Knife is pretty cheesed that it did not get to remove anyone's heart. Marina then sacrifices herself to the sea and a life of sea foam. A fish scale and a hair pin suddenly remind the Prince that Marina saved him. As Adam Sandler would later so eloquently put it in The Wedding Singer "Again, Information that would have been useful to me.... Yesterday!!!" There are no air sisters with the gates to purgatory. Marina instantly has a soul and that soul is looking down on the Prince from Heaven. You know, because no one ever considers the value of a carefully worded letter. Truth be told, Horny Fritz aside, this one is pretty close to the story.

Adventures of the Little Mermaid (1991) - This was actually a co French and Japanese production which was anime. There were 26 episodes to completely flesh out the story. Again, the Princess is named Marina and she is blonde as well. The evil Sea Witch is named Hedwig (who must have had an angry itch for centuries at this point.) In Japan, the series was called Ningyo Hime Marina No Boken (The Adventures of Mermaid Princess Marina). Being anime, there are a few twists here not originally thought up by the Dutchman. For instance, Prince Justin has a sorcerer mentor named Anslem with a loyal ... Sea Otter. Anslem's position is sort of complicated by the fact that he use to sort of do Hedwig, angry itch and all. It may or may not have all fallen apart when Hedwig had to turn into an owl and deliver mail to slightly enchanted English brats. At any rate, Hedwig has an underwater posse including and Octopus strong man. Anslem does add a different wrinkle to the story by concocting a potion which allows Marina and Justin to be with each other underwater. Marina has Winnie (a scgeeching sea horse) and Bobo (a clowb fish) as friends. Other than all of that... yeah totally faithful....

Faerie Tale Theater (1987) - In the last season of Shelley Duvall's masterful series, Pam Dawber playes the Little Mermaid and Treat Williams is the Prince. The entire series was faithful to the source material. When Shelley is called out at the cast party at the end of the series by the Brothers Grimm, The Little Mermaid is not mentioned as being unfaithful to the original. Duvall simply tells the story as intended.

Once You Go Disney....

The Little Mermaid (1989) is one of the most beloved animated movies of all time. However, you would not want to watch this movie and then try to take a quiz on the story. In the movie, Princess Ariel lives like any other teenager under the supposedly oppresive thumb of her father King Triton. She has everything she could possibly want, but wants more. Not willing to wait to be a Delta Delta Delta where her sisters would feel her pain and understand, Ariel is left with real sisters who don't see the problem. Ariel saves Prince Eric and falls in love with him. When her father discovers her treasure trove from the above world, he flips out and destroys her stuff. Ariel responds by taking her fishy friend Flounder and going directly to the Sea Witch Ursula. Ursula has a better song and dance number than most of her Sea Hag compatriots and convinces Ariel to give up her voice for about three days to convince Eric. With the help of a calypso playing crustecean named Sebastian, she nearly pulls it off. This is until Ursula shows up as the new raven haired rival. At this point, Andersen is in Heaven with at least two different Mermaid companions wondering why they even asked for copyright. Like a father who needs his perfect children to not have a drunk driving arrest on thier record, King Triton gives up the power of the Sea to Ursula to have his daughter back. Like Will Ferrell in Anchorman, everyone immeadiately regrets this decision. Ariel and Eric work together and kill a very overblown Sea Witch Ursula. You can't help but tell that Eric was thinking about all those tentables. In about a decade, he could probably watch Galaxy Quest and figure out how freaky that could get. With the sea witch dead, Eric and Ariel get married and have bratty kids and sequels.

Apprently, adapting the Little Mermaid at Disney was an idea that went back to about 1930. When the idea was reintroduced in 1985, Katzenberg and Eisner were a little weary of the idea. First of all, it was a girl's movie and they were afraid The Little Mermaid would not gross as much as Oliver and Company. Oliver and Company was a movie about Dogs based on Charles Dicken's Oliver Twist that had songs by Billy Joel. Haven't seen it? We don't think that there has been a special edition. There is also not twenty years of toys, two sequels, and theatrical re-releases in support of Oliver and Company. Oh and has anyone ever dressed as a dog from Oliver and Company for Halloween? Heres one, sing two songs from the Oliver and Company soundtrack. So yes, Basically The Little Mermaid was the hundred million grossing blockbuster that launched Disney's revival in animation in the 1990s. It certainly wasn't The Black Cauldron that did it.

But a faithful adaptation with two eels named Flotsam and Jetsam as well as a strangely phallic tower on a castle? Not so much.