The Little Mermaid was pretty much my favorite Disney movie growing up, but the original story is not like the movie. In fact, the movie has its own problems to deal with. The lesson that this story teaches isn’t exactly a great lesson. I’ll elaborate on that later.
Once upon a time in a wonderful kingdom under the ocean there lived a king. He lived in a great palace with his six daughters and his mother. His mother helped him take care of his daughters because his wife had died. It was a tradition that the mermaids would get to swim up to the surface of the water and look at the world above once they were fifteen years old. Each of the daughters was one year older than the next.
The youngest daughter wanted very much to see the world above. Her oldest sister went up and came back with wondrous tales. All the little mermaid knew of the world above came from things that sank into the ocean. There was a statue of a young man that was near her garden. She enjoyed looking at the statue. The others sisters went up one by one. None of them really held a great affinity for the world above. They preferred their own world. Finally, it was time for the little mermaid to go above.
She saw the world above, including a ship. She was able to see into a few of the low windows on the ship and saw a party going on. Inside was a young man, very much like the statue she enjoyed so much. Something happened at the boat wrecked. The little mermaid grabbed the prince, because that’s what he was, and saved him from drowning. She put him on the shore near some buildings. He was found and he lived. He had seen her though and would not forget her.
Her sisters found out where he lived and it was right on the ocean so the little mermaid would go and watch for him. Sometimes she saw him and sometimes she saw other people. She wanted very much to go up on dry land.
The little mermaid has the most beautiful voice under all the sea. Everyone enjoyed listening to her. She spoke with her grandmother to gain some solace. Her grandmother told her that mermaids lived to be three-hundred years old, but the people above did not live nearly so long. They had immortal souls though, mermaids did not. Mermaids turned to sea foam when they died. The little mermaid wanted more than anything to go up into the world of people. She went to see the sea witch.
The sea witch lived in a place where the waters swirled. The plants were half-plant and half-animal. They reached out to grab whatever was in their path. The little mermaid was very careful not to be grabbed. She spoke with the sea witch who let sea snakes crawl all over her. The sea witch said that if the little mermaid would trade her voice, she would have a chance to be a human. She would give the little mermaid a potion that would turn her into a human. Each step she took on her feet would feel like knives. Her mission was to marry the prince, but if he married another she would die.
The little mermaid took her potion. She was found. She was taken to the prince. He enjoyed being around her, but she could not speak. They went on walks together. They went hiking together. He talked to her all the time. After a while it was rumored that another kingdom wanted the prince to marry their princess. The prince said he was only going to visit the king, but everyone knew he was going to see the princess. The little mermaid went on the boat with him.
It turned out the prince decided that he liked the princess and a wedding was thrown together right away. The little mermaid was outside on the deck of the boat and noticed her sisters. They waved to her. Their hair was cut short. They told her it had been traded to the sea witch. If the little mermaid used the knife they brought to kill the prince the little mermaid would live, but if not, she would die by sunrise.
The little mermaid stole into the prince’s room during the night. She looked at the prince sleeping beside his bride and realized that she could not do it. She threw the knife into the ocean and jumped into the foamy waves herself.
Inside of turning into sea foam, she felt herself rise up. She was in the air with lots of other beings they were fairies. One of them told her that if she was a good fairy for three hundred years she could gain an immortal soul. The little mermaid set about her new life looking for well behaved children and working her ways towards an immortal soul.
It is surprising how many details Disney actually got right, they didn’t get everything right of course, but some of it was taken directly from the story. There was a statue of a prince. There were sisters. There was a king, but sadly grandmother is nowhere to be found. The story does talk of objects sinking down underneath the water. The little mermaid does have a beautiful voice. Disney didn’t screw up entirely.
I’m of the belief that every creature is different and unique. We know that one dog is not like another dog. Each dog has its own personality and life. Each person has their own life and personality. I don’t for a minute believe a creature such as a mermaid wouldn’t have an immortal soul. If people have immortal souls then mermaids would also have immortal souls. A mermaid is a creature, although mythical, enough like a person in reasoning and action that it surely would not be excluded in the soul department.
Seriously, if I’m trading my soul for a longer time on the Earth, I want at least a thousand years, not just three-hundred. Three-hundred years seems like a rip-off.
I also doubt that mermaids turn into sea foam when they die. I’m sure it’s more like various fish eat their bodies when they die, but you know, this is a children’s story, so they turn into sea foam.
If the guy you love doesn’t love you back kill him or commit suicide–that’s the moral of this story. I know, what a moral! We want to teach this to our little girls? People argue about keeping stories true to their original plot, but I don’t know if that would have been wise in this case. The Disney version of this story teaches little girls that they can get the guy with enough determination, if they’re pretty anyway. The original story is pretty much like, “Oh, well, too bad, he doesn’t love you, your life is over, kill yourself.”
The little mermaid had no way of knowing that she was going to turn into a fairy when she jumped ship. She thought she was jumping to her death. She decided that rather than kill the man she loved, she would kill herself. It’s noble, in a way, but also stupid. The girl made a metaphorical deal with the Devil and didn’t have a choice; she was going to die or she was going to be a murderer, but if this was the real world, she could decide to go on living her life somewhere else and get over this guy.
She’s fifteen for crying out loud, fifteen. Do you know how stupid fifteen year olds are? Really stupid. Like, super, super stupid. It’s a whole level of stupid that we look at and go, “What in the heck?” I’m not trying to dis on teenagers, we were all stupid when we were fifteen, none of us are exceptions. We think stupid things. We do stupid things. Fifteen is not the age to be making life changing decisions. Fifteen is not the year when you say, “I love this guy with all my heart and I want to be with him forever, so I’m going to leave my family forever and drastically alter my appearance all while giving up my most cherished activity.”
First of all, I know you may argue with me–argue all you want, but you don’t really love a person when you’re fifteen. You think you do; it’s infatuation; it’s lust; it’s idolization, but it’s not love. This girl had just seen this guy through a window, they hadn’t even talked, how in the heck was she supposed to love him? Admiring a man from afar whom you’ve never met is called a celebrity crush.
Second of all, you shouldn’t run away from your family at such a young age. You’re stupid and you don’t know how to live on your own. No, seriously, if you’re fifteen and reading this, don’t argue with me. You really don’t know how to live on your own. You’ll survive for a bit, but then you’ll find yourself in a terrible situation. You need your family to grow up, even if they suck. At fifteen, you’re like a baby adult; it’s like you’re an adult with training wheels. You can sort of do adult things, but you can’t be trusted to make major decisions.
Third of all, I would call getting rid of your mermaid tail in favor of legs some major body modification; Liken this to getting a whole bunch of tattoos all at once, or bleaching your skin if you’re darker skinned, or getting really tanned if you’re lighter skinned. You should not have to modify yourself so severely for someone to like you. They should like you for who you are. If you have a tail, so be it. Not many people have tails, that’s something to brag about.
Fourth of all, she gave up her voice to try to be with this guy. That was her thing. That was the thing that was special to her. That was the thing that caused people to admire her for. It was THE thing. It was the thing that would rule her life and make her or break her. This talent, this ability, was her life. Sure, she could live without it, but why? I could technically live without writing or doing artwork, I have on occasion went some long stretches without doing either, but it’s not a time worth living. I may sound over dramatic, but it’s not. It’s just not worth it. Why be alive when you can’t do that thing that is such an integral part of yourself that there is no way you could ever separate it out? I could not cut off a piece of my body and say, “This is the part of me that’s an artist.”
The little mermaid could not cut off the piece of herself that was the singer. The sea witch did in fact cut off her tongue, but that only made the little mermaid silent. The little mermaid still longed to talk and sing. She still held that piece of herself inside. The part of herself that was still the singer was there, but she could not use her talent. You should never give up something that important to be with a person. If they ask you to or give the impression that you should do so, then you should find somebody else. It would be better to be alone rather than to live a life with someone whom you suppressed such a large piece of yourself for. In the end, you will be miserable.
I’m beginning to think that Hans has a much darker side. All of his tales seem light and fluffy mentioning fairies here and there, but there are some deep issues addresses here. Some of these people go through some terrible ordeals and make some very bad decisions all for love, or supposed love. Hans himself never had that. He was infatuated with multiple people, but never really found that person to be with. I think he held these really high ideals about what relationships should be like. I think he kind of put himself alone in the world and I think it shows in his stories.
As an end note, I wanted to post the Honest Trailer of The Little Mermaid. Like I said, I loved this movie growing up, but it doesn’t have the best message, neither does the story. Neither the story nor the movie teach a good truth. Yes, they do teach a truth to an extent. Sometimes a person does want you to change drastically to be with them. They want you to fit in their mold of a person. They don’t want you to be yourself. The story of our little mermaid should not be a blueprint. You should not change yourself so much for another person. You should not leave your life behind.