Monday, November 2, 2009

happily ever after....... not so much

The fairy tale world of Disney is not where near what the fairy tales of old. These tales are full of princes and princess who fall deeply in love while beating all of the odds. Grimm fairy tales are much different slicing and dicing of wives, cannibalism and baby killing are just a few of the subjects in these gruesome tales. Today I am going to compare a very popular Disney movie with the original tale of the little mermaid.

The Little Mermaid

The little mermaid was written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1836. Hans Christian Andersen’s little mermaid lives underwater with her family (except the mother who is dead in both versions) and there was a evil sea witch who takes her voice/tongue just like the Disney movie but that is about where the similarities start and end. The 1836 little mermaid gets to go to the surface on her 16th birthday. She sees the prince and falls in love. The little mermaid eventually goes to the sea witch and gets the potion to turn her tail into legs. The sea witch tells her she will feel like she is walking on shredded glass all the time and will lose her tongue but if the prince does not marry her she will die. What you have to realize is mermaids have no souls she will just dissolve into nothing but if she gets the prince she will gain a mortal soul this mean she could possibly spend eternity in heaven. The prince ends up marrying anther princess who he is appointed to be married to in the end and not the little mermaid. She knows that her inevitable death is coming. The little mermaid’s sisters find out what has happend and sell their hair to the sea witch to get a knife for her to kill the prince with if she does she will regain her tail and her merlife. she cannot bring herself to do it and throws herself into the ocean and becomes an air nymph for her pure dead.

The movie made by Disney in 1898 is very diffrent. In the movie the little mermaid saves the prince from drowning while he is on ship celebration for his birthday. she falls in love as she places him on the beach and he catches a glimpse of her as she dives into the waves. The little mermaid goes to the sea witch and gets three days to make the prince love her. In the movie she loses her voice and is mute just like the story but she keeps her tongue and is not in constant pain like the book. The sea witch has a lot more to do in this story than in the book and actually tries to make it so the prince marries her when she uses a spell to make her look like a beautiful girl with the little mermaids voice. The sea witch almost suceeds until the little mermaids fishy friends interceed and save the day. The prince ends up marrying the little mermaid in the end and lives happily ever after.

The stories are similar but the details are different. The book was made to show that rash decisions can make things really hard for you even cause death. Many “fairy tales” were written to show how things could be if you are guilty of impure or unnatural behavior. In this fairy tale Anderson probably gets some of his ideas from the elementals of Paracelsus there are fire earth air and water. Paracelsus defined paranormal beings into one of these four categories. In this system Undines are water creatures or nymphs. Like the little mermaid she could only get a human soul by getting the love of a man. This inspires many myths and tales of mermaid luring sailors to their death by singing them to the rocks. The little mermaids in these tales are not so innocent as they are in Disney movies but to me make way more sense.


  1. Hey Nikita! Let me first off begin by telling you that The Little Mermaid is my favorite Disney movie, out of all of them. After reading your post I am thoroughly surprised that the story even existed before the conglomerate of the Disney franchise got their hands on it. I will definitely agree with you that the stories seem almost as different as polar opposites, but I can definitely see why Disney wouldn't want to paint the gruesome Andersen story because that just wouldn't sell to the younger crowd that is Disney's audience.

  2. Wow, I am amazed at the differences in the two tales. I had no idea there was an original tale, or that it was so dark. It certainly opens my eyes a bit on the true origins of the story. Wonderful graphics you added as well. Not too overpowering.

  3. When I was a little kid Disney fairy tales were my favorite movies to watch. I loved to see how the “princesses” would have to overcome something or someone evil and in the end she would be with the one person she loved. You could say I like romance, a happily ever after tale. But your blog put things into perspective when you talked about the little mermaid and how things are not always so pleasant. I like how you compare the original fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson to the Disney movie because I feel that it shows us that a lot of what parents show their children is scary.

    When you brought up how the “little mermaid’s sisters sell their hair to the sea witch to get a knife for the little mermaid to kill the prince with and she will regain her tail and her midlife” I feel that by Disney leaving that out of the movie they made it more kid friendly but, at the same time leaving the sea witch in the movie gave it an element of spookiness and the added suspense if the Mermaid was going to live.

    I loved your pictures. Would have loved a hyper-link inserted to read more about Paracelsus and the reference you used when you said that “mermaids have no souls” because your blog made me want to read more about mermaids.

  4. There are a whole log of details here, and I agree with PreslyJo--your blog is very visually appealing. My suggestions: how about breaking up that big paragraph? Since you do have a lot of data/details, it would help the flow if we were to see it broken up a bit. You actually might have multiple paragraphs here, but I can't tell. A cool trick to do is just insert an extra return after each paragraph (as PreslyJo does in her comment).

    And your feedback here from other bloggers is good: a link to Paracelsus would have been nice, as would a post on why Disney "lightens up" fairy tales. That's sort of like taking the alcohol out of wine, right? Where's the punch?

  5. I went back and put breaks in for the paragraphs. I did have paragraphs you just could not tell. but my computer is having probems with hyperlinks and I tried to put a link for paracelsus but it did not work. I will play with it a little more till I get it right.

    p.s thanks for the comments guys!

  6. I have to admit that, The Little Mermaid is one of my favorite Disney movies and my stepdaughter loves it as much as i did. My husband (thinks realistic) did not want her to think that everything always has a happy ending. Where in the Disney version it seems you win the prince and you live happily ever after, kinda like get your man and all is well. But the truth is we all want a happy ending, so i totally see why Disney would change Han's version to make it appeal to children. Children should be happy and there is nothing wrong with hoping for the best.