The charming Disney tale was inspired by a Danish Fairytale written by Hans Christian Andersen and published in 1837. (FYI: The original story makes no mention of the name ‘Ariel’ nor any reference to skin color of The Little Mermaid or The Prince.)
The original Fairytale, written for children, is about a Little Mermaid, with a beautiful, singing voice, who saves a Prince from drowning. She falls madly in love with him although she lives under the Sea, and he is human. The Little Mermaid spends her days near the shore watching the humans dreaming about the handsome prince and her love for him. The Prince falls in love with her beautiful, singing voice not knowing it comes from the Little Mermaid just offshore.
Desperate for the love of The Prince the Little Mermaid seeks out a Dark Sea Witch. The Sea Witch offers her a magic potion that will change her mermaid tail into human legs. In payment, the Sea Witch cuts out her tongue making her mute and thus now possessing the Little Mermaid’s beautiful, singing voice. The magic draught gives her human legs. She is told, “Your legs shall feel and bleed in torment with every step you take like you are walking on knife blades.” The Sea Witch warns the Little Mermaid she can never return to The Sea and must make The Prince love her and only then will she become human and gain a human Soul. (Mermaids have no Soul to carry them to Heaven.)
The Little Mermaid struggles onto the shore and drinks the Sea Witches’ potion. Knowing she must somehow make The Prince fall in love and marry her. If he marries someone else, at dawn on the day after the prince’s wedding, she will die and become nothing but seafoam After a year The Prince marries someone else.
Just before the dawn on the day after the Prince’s wedding, the Little Mermaid’s five sisters bring her a Magic Knife from the Dark Sea Witch. (The price for the Magic Knife was letting the Sea Witch cut off all their enchanted, mermaid hair.) “If you kill The Prince,” the (now bald) sisters say, “and let his warm, red blood spill down over your legs, The Sea Witches’ spell will be broken, and you can return with us to your home in the Sea!” But The Little Mermaid cannot kill The Prince (because she loves him) so she throws herself into the Sea knowing without her mermaid tail she will drown.
In its original fairytale ending, The Little Mermaid dies and dissolves into green seafoam. After death, she meets the ethereal Daughters of the Air who tell her that after her painful suffering on Land she can now earn an eternal Soul by doing good deeds for her entire 300-year lifespan.
“We may get there even sooner,” one Spirit whispered. “Unseen, we fly into the homes of men, where there are children, and for every day on which we find a good child who pleases his parents and deserves their love, God shortens our days of trial. The child does not know when we float through his room, but when we smile at him in approval one year is taken from our three hundred. But if we see a naughty, mischievous child we must shed tears of sorrow, and each tear adds aQuote by Hans Christian Andersen from ‘The Little Mermaid.’.
day to the time of our trial.”
What a very subtle way to encourage children to behave. No one would want to add even a day to the Little Mermaid’s 300-year ordeal.
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All images and written content copyright Mary Lee Mattison 1/8/1981 All rights Reserved.