Monday, July 27, 2009

Book Review: The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid has always been my favorite movie. When I was little I had everything Little Mermaid, and people still buy me Little Mermaid things! However, while they have the same basic (very basic) plot, the original Hans Christian Andersen version is very different than the Disney movie version of The Little Mermaid.
Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid is a much darker and depressing story than Disney's movie version. The story begins with telling the reader that the Sea King's mother keeps house for him, for he has been a widower for many years. The Little Mermaid was not aloud to go to the top of the ocean and see land until her 15th birthday but she desperately wanted to go. She was very interested in the human world and loved human treasures. Being the youngest The Little Mermaid had to wait until all her sisters (five of them) had been to the top. Each would come back and tell the others what she had seen. At last it is the youngest mermaid's birthday and she is allowed to go to the surface. She first saw a ship with a young prince on board. A storm came up and the prince was knocked overboard and the Little Mermaid saved the young prince and brought him to the surface, however she saw back out in the sea before any humans saw her. The Little Mermaid then asks her grandmother is humans live forever, and the grandmother tells her that they too will die and that they live shorter lives than mermaids. However, when mermaids die they become foam in the sea, they do not have eternal souls as humans do. The Little Mermaid wants an immortal soul and her grandmother tells her the only way she can get one is if a man loves her more than his mother and father. The grandmother then tells her that this will never happen because her fish tail is thought to be ugly. The Little Mermaid then goes to the sea witch and asks for legs. The sea witch warns the Little Mermaid that every step she takes will feel like she is walking on broken glass. The Little Mermaid will never be able to return to the sea again. Her legs will remain, and if the prince marries an other women the Little Mermaid will die and turn into sea foam. In return for the legs the sea witch asks for the Little Mermaid's voice, which she takes by cutting off her tongue. The Prince finds the Little Mermaid when she has come ashore with legs and they live happily for awhile, until one day the prince says he must visit a princess nearby-on his parents orders. The prince falls for the princess and the Little Mermaid knows that she will soon be dead, for the prince is to marry another woman. On the wedding night the Little Mermaid's sisters appear and tell her that they have given the sea witch all their hair in order to save their little sister. The sisters give the Little Mermaid a knife which she is to plunge into the heart of the prince. However she did not kill the prince and she went into the sea to be turned into foam. Then she felt herself rising out of the foam and the "daughters of the air" told her that they commit good deeds for 300 years in order to obtain an immortal soul and that is what the Little Mermaid will do.

Disney's movie version of The Little Mermaid is quite different. The movie begins will the Little Mermaid, who is named Ariel, missing a concert she is supposed to be singing in because she is swimming up to the surface. Unlike the original story, the Little Mermaid swims to the surface often, she does not have to wait until she is 15 although her father forbids her to swim to the top for it is dangerous. Ariel also does not have a grandmother that lives with them in the movie version. The Disney movie version also has two main characters that are not present in the story which are Flounder (the fish) and Sebastian (the crab). The Disney movie focuses on Ariel and says little about her older sisters unlike in the book. Ariel comes to see the prince in the same way in the book and the movie. However, she comes by legs in a slightly different way in the movie. In the movie she does not get her tongue cut off by the evil sea witch (who is named Ursula in the movie). The sea witch simple captures Ariel's voice and uses it as her own. The sea witch gives Ariel three days to get the prince to kiss her until her legs (which are not painful) turn back into a fin and she is Ursula's slave forever. On the third day the prince is about to kiss Ariel when two eels (who belong to Ursula) tip over the boat that Ariel and the prince are in. In the movie the prince does not go to meet a princess but is tricked by Ursula (with Ariel's voice) into thinking that she is the one who saved him from the ship wreck. They are to be married on the third day and it looks like Ariel will be Ursual's slave. Right before they say the wedding vows Ariel's sea and bird friends interrupt the wedding and knock the necklace off of the sea witch's neck which contain Ariel's voice. The voice goes back to Ariel and the prince realizes the trick that has been played. Ursula takes Ariel and goes back into the sea since the sun has already set on the third day. However, Ariel's father and the prince fight off the sea witch and Ariel is given permanent legs and Ariel and the prince get married and live happily ever after.

The Disney movie version is much better for kids than Hans Christian Andersen's original version. I also personally like the Disney version better. The movie follows the same very basic story line but changes several of the gruesome details to make the story more appropriate for children. The ending is also changed because Disney movies all have a happy ending where people live happily ever after and in the story the Little Mermaid does not get to marry the prince and have a happy life. The story does not give much description in the way of what the mermaids looked like-hair color etc. so I think that it is interesting that Disney chose such bright, vibrate colors. They make the movie seem much happier than the story sounds.
The original story was written in 1836 and the movie was not produced until 1989. Due to the large time gap I think that several of the changes that were made in the movie were necessary in order to make the movie a Disney movie for children. In the movie they did leave out the sisters to a large degree, and the grandmother completely, which they could have incorporated more in order to make the plot more true to the original book, although I like the Disney version just fine!

1 comment:

  1. I loved the Little Mermaid when I was growing up, but I have to admit that I only knew the Disney version of the story. It is interesting to hear and read about the real story by Hans Christian Andersen because it is so different. Since I used one of Disney's movies as well, I think that it is remarkable how they are able to take a weird or dark story and change it into something that is so bright and cheery. I agree though, I prefer the Disney version of The Little Mermaid also!


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