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‘The Little Mermaid:’ The dark original story behind the Disney classic

Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairy tale is not as charming as the Disney movies.

The Little Mermaid’s live-action has been a topic of conversation on social networks since the moment it was reported that actress Halle Bailey would play the main character. However, the debate was strengthened when the first image of Halle as Ariel came in a new trailer this month.

Between positive and negative comments, the film has already provoked great expectations. Detractors of the cast selection have devoted their energy to social media to hide their racism in the excuse that they’re not being faithful to the original story. However, although the live-action is an adaptation of the animated movie from 1989, that story is not the original story either.

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The Little Mermaid emerged from the imagination of Hans Christian Andersen in 1837, one of the first who was characterized by romanticizing mermaids, after they were considered for several centuries as “frightening” and “evil,” as it was said that they enchanted sailors to end with them.

The Little Mermaid: the original story

Although the story written by Hans Christian Andersen is not so far from the Disney version we know, the ending of the main character is not even close to the “they lived happily ever after” version we know. Here’s why.

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In the original tale by the famous Danish writer, The Little Mermaid is a beautiful young girl, the daughter of the king of the ocean, who since childhood has been fascinated by the human world, to which she wishes to belong. When she comes of age, the young mermaid is given the gift of visiting the surface where she sees the prince for the first time, as he is also celebrating his birthday aboard a ship.

Due to a storm, the prince’s ship sinks, and the little mermaid rescues the young man, with whom she falls in love, increasing her desire to belong to the human world. In her attempt to belong to the human world, and thus win the love of the prince, the mermaid makes a deal with a sea witch, and she gives her her voice in exchange for him turning her into a human.

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Yes, that’s the story we have all known since The Little Mermaid was released in 1989; however, what happens next has nothing to do with the “Magic World of Disney.” In Hans Christian Andersen’s version, the witch does not interfere with the plans of the mermaid in the human world, besides the fact that in this one, the prince is already in love with another young woman.

Although the mermaid and the prince become very close friends, he never falls in love with her; in fact, when he is reunited with the young woman he loves, he marries her. That clearly breaks the heart of the protagonist, who will not be able to keep the deal with the witch who turned her into a human. She wants to return to the sea with her family but is prevented from doing so.

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In an attempt to bring the young mermaid back home to the ocean, her sisters make a deal with the witch: If she ends with the prince’s life, she can return to them; however, the young mermaid’s nobility and big heart prevent her from committing an act of such magnitude, taking into account her feelings for him. In the end, not being able to fulfill her deal, when she decides to return home, she turns into sea foam.

That’s right, the original tale of The Little Mermaid does not end in a “and they lived happily ever after,” and needless to say, there was no sequel, let alone a third part. That’s why saying that the skin color of the new Ariel is not faithful to the story is beyond logic, since the OG film isn’t even close to the darker original tale written by Andersen.

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Story originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva

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