The Original “Little Mermaid” Story Is Actually Much Grimmer Than Disney’s Version

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The beloved tale of “The Little Mermaid” has long been a classic among both children and adults. Many of us grew up with the Disney adaptation of this story, where we learned about the beautiful mermaid who longed to be human and fell in love with a handsome prince. However, what many people don’t know is that the original version of this story, penned by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, is anything but a fairy tale.

In Andersen’s story, the mermaid lives in a world where she is not allowed to have a soul unless she obtains it by marrying a human. She rescues a prince from drowning and falls in love with him at first sight. Unlike the Disney version, the mermaid gives up her voice, not just for a chance to be with her Prince, but as a price she must pay to have legs as well. It is here where the grimness of the story begins. As she landed on the beach, each step she takes on lands, feels like walking on a bed of knives. She also finds out that she will only gain an immortal soul only if the prince loves and marries her.

The mermaid watches the prince fall in love with another princess — who becomes the mermaid’s rival for the prince’s affections. Throughout the story, there are no magical talking creatures or happy-go-lucky songs. Instead, there are darker and deeper themes of sacrifice, suffering, and longing for something that may never come. The mermaid’s love for the prince is unrequited, and she ultimately loses him to another woman.

In the original story, the mermaid also faces the threat of being turned into sea foam if she fails to marry the prince or if he marries someone else. The ending is one that would hardly bring a smile to someone’s face. Instead of a happy ever after, the mermaid dies and becomes “a daughter of the air,” where she must perform good deeds for hundreds of years to earn herself an immortal soul.

This original story is, in fact, much darker and sadder than our usual Disney adaptation. The Little Mermaid doesn’t get her man, and she certainly doesn’t get her happily ever after. Conversely, the Disney version offers a more lighthearted adaptation, distracting us from the underlying themes of despair and pain. The mermaid has a happy ending, where she and the prince are wed in bliss, and she becomes human, living among them forever.

It is undeniable that the Disney version of “The Little Mermaid” has become a beloved classic among children and adults alike. With its colorful characters, fun music, and a happy ending, it is no wonder that it is still so popular over 30 years after its release. However, it is important to recognize the differences between Andersen’s original story and Disney’s adaptation.

The original tale of “The Little Mermaid” is the embodiment of the Hans Christian Andersen’s unique style: solemnity, melancholy, and an often-dark worldview. The mermaid’s unrequited love and sacrifice for the prince touch the heart, and we all can’t help but wonder about the price she paid. Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” is more of a cautionary tale — a story brought by heart-wrenching experiences and emotional turmoil.

The differences between the two stories provide an opportunity to reflect on how we approach storytelling and the messages we communicate to children. While a happy ending is what so many of us want and expect from a fairy tale, it is essential to note that not everything in life is going to end happily ever after. There is merit in appreciating the nuances of the original, grimmer tale of “The Little Mermaid,” reminding us to hold on to hope, even in the midst of despair.

In closing, it is essential to recognize the value of both the original dark tale and the Disney adaptation. Children’s stories can provide a powerful and meaningful way to teach important lessons and moral values, regardless of their tones. The two versions of “The Little Mermaid” have their unique lessons to offer, and while one may be grimmer than the other, they both have the power to captivate and inspire their readers.