She laughed and danced with the thought of death in her heart.
― Hans Christian Anderson, The Little Mermaid
Hans Christian Andersen’s OG version of The Little Mermaid is super dope.
I’m obsessed with fairy tales/folk tales/mythology and their underlying messages, teaching us almost everything we need to know about human psychology, sociology and philosophy.
Disney, more or less, stayed true to the start of this tale but what particularly captured me about The Little Mermaid was Andersen’s intended, transcendental ending.
So, here is the deal; if the Little Mermaid failed to win the love of the Prince, she would die with a broken heart and turn to sea foam (as mermaids do) – as opposed to obtaining an eternal human soul and live happily ever after lalala.
But sadly, the Prince does not fall for her and chooses to marry some girl from the temple, who he believes rescued him from the disastrous shipwreck. The Little Mermaid cannot protest, as she gave her tongue to the Sea Witch in exchange for her legs that allow her to dance so well.
On the day of the Prince’s wedding, she contemplates death, her pain and everything she has sacrificed, whereupon her sisters rise up from the water at dawn. They present a knife from the Sea Witch. They tell her if she cuts out the Prince’s heart and drips his blood on her feet, she will transform back into a mermaid. Problem solved!
Only, she can’t bring herself to do it. She throws herself into the ocean and her body becomes the water. But she feels the warmth of the sun and realises she has ascended into a Daughter of the Air. She is greeted by other ethereal beings. They explain that because of her selflessness, she has been given the chance to earn her own soul by doing good deeds unto others for the next three hundred years, and will one day rise up into the Kingdom of God.