Book Cover
Title The Little Mermaid
Author Disney
Illustrated By Disney
Publisher W.H. Smith Publishers - 1989
First Printing W.H. Smith Publishers - 1989
Book Cover
Title A Treasury of Hans Christian Andersen
Author Hans Christan Andersen
Illustrated By ---
Publisher International Collector's Library - 1974
First Printing ---
Category Children
Warnings None
Main Characters The Little Mermaid
Main Elements Mermaids, witches


One thing I look for in retelling of fairy tales is faithfulness to the original. Now in the book A Treasury of Hans Christian Andersen, it is probably as close as one can get to the original Dutch version. The Disney one not so much, but I was actually surprised after comparing it with the original, how many bits of the story that I thought "couldn't be in Andersen's version" actually was there. For example Ursula's pet eels and the strange polyps that Ariel must swim through to get to the witch. Flounder, Sebastian and Scuttle were of course added for their comedic elements, you can't have a Disney movie without silly side-kicks! But "Ariel" (she has no name in the original story, nor does the Prince or the sea witch) even had a statue of the prince in her undersea garden. So many little details that were surprisingly accurate to the original....

Except of course the ending. I guess a Disney movie has to have the Prince and Princess live happily ever after. I mean, you can't have the evil witch win! But in the story the little mermaid's sacrifices were in vain and her love was unrequited. Also not only did she have to give up her voice, but whenever she walked it would be like she were walking on knives! Those older fairy tales are certainly much darker that our cleaned up retellings are now. Not only is the evil sorceress not destroyed, the little memaid becomes foam on the sea because she has no immortal soul with which to go to heaven.

Now, I still think The Little Mermaid is one of the best of the Disney movies. The music is wonderful, they kept to the original story, and the art is beautiful. But when your kids are old enough, it would be good to expose them to the fact that not everyone gets a happy can do that by going to Project Gutenberg where you will find all the Hans Christian Andersen stories.

Posted: January 2011


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