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Little Mermaid: the Original Fairy Tale

The Little Selkie has been out a for nearly two days now. It seems to be getting positive feedback–which thrills me! I look forward to hearing what you think of it, Champions. In the meantime, we’re going to take a look at the origins of The Little Mermaid. It was written by the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen, and was published in 1837. In comparison to the other fairy tale stories I’ve adapted, it is quite long.

The original story is about an unnamed mermaid who is the youngest the six daughters of the King of the Seas. The little mermaid has a garden and a marble statue of a young man that she is seriously smitten with. That’s not important to the story, but I feel that it accurately reflects this chicka’s problems. Anyway! The mermaid’s family has a tradition that she and her sisters cannot go above the ocean’s surface until their fifteenth birthday, after-which they can go up whenever they want.

So on the little mermaid’s birthday she finally pops above the water and sees a big ship, which is packed with people celebrating a rince’s sixteenth birthday. She sees him, and falls in love. A storm sets in and destroys the ship. The little mermaid saves the prince—who is unconscious—and hauls him onto a beach the following morning.

This image is of the Little mermaid swimming away as the "Holy Maiden" discovers the prince. I have no idea why she looks holy.

This image is of the Little mermaid swimming away as the “Holy Maiden” discovers the prince. I have no idea how she is holy.

The Little Mermaid then makes like a creeper, and spends a lot of time watching the prince at his seaside palace for an undisclosed amount of time before she goes to her grandmother and expresses a desire to be human. The pair get into a deep conversation, because mermaids don’t have souls but they are nearly immortal. Even so, the little mermaid says she wishes she could be a human for one day and die with a soul. The grandmother tells her they are stuck, and she needs to suck it up.

The little mermaid sighs with longing over the prince, of whom she “wishes to place the happiness of [her] life.” So she gathers up her courage and goes to see the sea witch. The witch—while not being truly evil—lives in a pretty gruesome neighborhood filled with sea snakes and skeletons that try to grasp and strangle people. The sea witch offers to give her the body of a human, but every step she takes will make it feel like she’s walking on jagged glass, and the witch in return will get her voice—which happens to be the most beautiful in the whole sea. Also, she won’t gain a human soul—securing salvation—unless the prince falls in love with her, and if he marries another she’ll die.

The little mermaid complains—because she was planning to seduce the prince with her voice—but eventually they strike the bargain. The little mermaid loses her voice but gains a human body. She wakes up on a beach where the prince finds her and takes her to his palace. There the mermaid shows off her beautiful dancing, in spite of the great pain she feels, and successfully enchants everyone, including the prince who calls her “his little founding” and allows her to sleep on a velvet cushion outside his door–because that’s not demeaning.

The prince and the little mermaid become jolly companions who spend all their time together, and the prince tells the little mermaid that he refuses to marry because he fell in love with a girl who saved his life, and he describes her as a holy maiden of a temple. The little mermaid realizes he is not referring to her, but rejoices that she is the one living with him.

The prince’s parents inform him that he will marry the daughter of a neighboring king. The prince goes to this neighboring country to give his refusal when—plot twist!—the king’s daughter is the holy maiden of the temple, and the prince is thrilled to marry her. (This jerk also informs the little mermaid that she will be happy for him because her devotion to him is so great. What a charmer.)

The day of the prince’s wedding arrives, and the little mermaid’s sisters come to her with their hair chopped, and explain that they made a deal with the sea witch—their hair in exchange for a dagger. If the little mermaid kills the prince, she’ll turn back into a mermaid. The little mermaid refuses, and when the sun rises she dissolves into foam. But wait! She hears beautiful songs and sees beautiful creatures! The little mermaid learns that she has been turned into a daughter of air, which means she can do good deeds and procure a soul for herself. Additionally, the length of time for which she is required to do good deeds can be shortened or lengthened by witnessing the behavior of children.

Out of all the fairy tales I’ve researched, the Little Mermaid was one of my least favorites. First of all, the prince she falls for is a selfish prat. He’s not unkind, but he treats her like a child when she is said to be beautiful and only a year younger than him. (Mind you, this is the same girl who initially didn’t understand that breathing was a thing, and he couldn’t live with her in the sea, so perhaps there is something to his actions.)

I did enjoy that a lot more of the story’s time was spent on setting the stage. The little mermaid is human for only a third of the story. The rest of it describes her home and family life. Also, I liked that the story took place over months—instead of days as most fairy tales.

That’s it for today, Champions! Sorry for the longer entry—as I mentioned it’s a much longer story. Thanks for reading!

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