On a sunny afternoon in February, Banter and Books decided to traumatise their audience by making them read the original tale of the Little Mermaid.
Almost all of us are familiar with the bubbly, red-haired mermaid that dug out a tranquil spot in our childhood with her cheerful songs and happy ever after. However, her original counterpart lacked both song and end. Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid follows the titular character through her journey of understanding love and humanity. The Little Mermaid is a curious mermaid that captures the reader's heart with her wonder and amazement of humans.
Andersen paints quite the picture with his descriptions of the world nestled in the ocean’s depths, he masterfully crafts the Little Mermaid’s kingdom and what lies beyond it. The picture he paints almost leaps out of the page- the Little Mermaid, though tragic, is beautifully written.
Disney’s portrayal of the story is rather tame- a requirement born out of the need to suit their young audience’s palate- and almost erases the message woven into the original tale.
As the little mermaid watches each of her six sisters visit the surface and come back with dwindling patience for her turn, we see her wonder of humans slowly degrade into something darker. More obsessive. She states that she would shave off hundreds of years off her life to get a deeper glimpse into the life of her beloved prince.
Soon enough, she rushes to the Witch of the Deep for the chance to attain true love. Her legs came at a steep price, she lost her voice and every step she would take in her human legs would burn like hellfire. She signs the contract in a heartbeat.
Kids back then were hardcore.
Her tale eventually comes to a close when the prince chooses his new bride over her and she (spoiler warning!) dies by turning into sea foam. It’s not all bad- she is later turned into a daughter of the air for her good deeds. Andersen laces a warning in his tale, one that advises the readers to think before jumping into a decision. His message becomes more transparent by the end when he ends the story with a line on how wicked children break the mermaid’s heart. The Little Mermaid may not get the traditional happily ever after in his tale, but her ending has a bittersweet kick that sits in the readers' minds for days.