Hans Christen Anderson, a Dutch writer is very underrated. This is one of the few stories he really gets credit for. A lot of the others are overlooked. There are a few variations as to why the Little Mermaid was written. One is a theory that he fell in love with someone who spurned him. So this is supposedly a tragic love letter. I don’t think the ending particularly FITS this theory, but we’ll get to that.
Another version, which is kind of more fun is that HCA spent years writing this huge long story. It was meant to be his magnum opus. It was a long journey of a young mermaid, exploring the ocean, the land and the air. The mermaid falls in love and spends time with the prince, but ultimately, he marries another and she returns to the ocean. He wrote it all out, edited, polished and got it all set then sent it to his publisher. The publisher turned it down and told him to trim the fat, so he wrote it another 15 to 20 times every time it was handed back with “Trim the fat.” Finally Andersen lost his temper, sliced the story to the bare bones of the story (Reportedly he hated it for years) and the publisher sent it at once to be printed.
Anyway. The original story of The Little Mermaid starts out well enough. A young mermaid who is fascinated with the human world grows up with her loving father, wise grandmother and 6 elder sisters. (they aren’t important yet, but it’s important to note they exist and they are exceedingly beautiful like beyond that of the lot of mortals eat your heart out fashion magazines, Aphrodite just ran and hid in shame type beauty.) At the age of 16, she is allowed to go to the surface and look at what it’s like above the water. Once up there she sees a huge storm coming and a giant ship. The storm hits the ship, the prince falls into the water and somehow ( I guess because they are never really seen in the ocean) she figures, he can’t stay in the ocean. She takes him to shore and sits with him until a group of women come out of the church that just happens to be on the beach there…. No, I don’t know why. The group of women come over and see the prince alone on the beach unconscious. The woman in the lead wakes him up and then leaves him there again. No, I don’t know why.. She goes back to the church and the prince finds a way home. The little mermaid is fascinated and she does kind of have a thing for the prince at this point. (I would put money on a case of counter transference.) The mermaid goes home and asks her grandmother about humans, why they don’t live in the water and if they could and all that stuff. the grandmother explains death. (HCA had a REALLY unhealthy obsession with death) the grandmother explained that humans have a short lifespan but immortal souls. Mermaids live 300 years then become seafoam (yea tell THAT to the kiddies next time you go to the beach.)
The mermaid is not only interested in the prince, but humans, legs, and the immortal soul. It is the latter she REALLY wants. So she goes to the seawitch. The sea witch isn’t really evil. There is just the prid-qou-pro. The spell will not work unless the payment is just as valuable as the purchase. A pair of legs for a voice is only fair. The sea witch explains the mermaid has to win the heart of the prince in order to obtain a soul. The trouble is the potion has some side effects… a lot of people who read the book think that the witch created the potion so it would feel like the mermaid was walking on 10,000 knives and that a sword was slicing her in half, but truthfully she didn’t have one that didn’t. Having been told “Oh, hey this is going to REALLY hurt,” the mermaid took it anyway. Kind of like all those disclaimers at the end of the Viagra commercials. Anyway take the potion, grow some legs (I assume just legs?) lose the voice and hit on the prince; check. The prince thinks she is beautiful, and sweet and charming and a great dancer. the only problem is he took some weird vow that since he can’t sleep with the woman who saved him on the beach (he assumes she was a nun.) but his parents want him to marry a woman they chose for him. The mermaid doesn’t give up, and everyday she does something to show love and affection. The prince slowly starts to fall in love with her. Just before it’s really clenched, though the prince is called away because his mother is sick!! He takes a ship to where his parents are, bringing the little mermaid with him, because he loves her. (squee alert)
they get to where the queen and king are staying to find the queen is perfectly healthy and happy. the whole thing was a rouse to set the prince up with his fiance. The prince is mad about this, until he learns the princess he is set to marry is his ‘nun’ (I have some theories about this too, but it involves another prince and illegitimate child(s).) anyway she isn’t a nun, she is a princess and both are willing to marry each other. the mermaid is really sad about this. somehow she gets a message to her family about what is going on. Her sisters sell their beauty for a magic knife (Are there refunds? I don’t know but if not its going to suck) the knife is enchanted to change the mermaid back into a mermaid. All she has to do is STAB THE PRINCE IN THE HEART thus returning the love she had for him. The blood would then poor over her legs, turn her back to a mermaid and she would live her normal 300 years. The death of the prince is just an unfortunate side effect. In the end, the mermaid loves the prince and can not kill him, because it would be wrong (Thus gaining a soul) she throws the knife into the water and leaps into the ocean, waiting for morning until she dies and becomes foam on the waves.
After dying, the mermaid finds she still has a consciousness. she meets a few others who explain, she like them is a sylph, an air spirit. Because she tried so hard, she has a half soul. In a few thousand years, if she doesn’t cry, she will have a full soul and live immortally in the after world. Sylphs are also keepers of children. For children who are good, they have a smile and gain another day closer to ‘heaven’ but when children are bad, the syphs cry, and for each tear, they spen another 100 years in limbo.
Tell THAT one to the kiddies. Severe emotional guilt…