Occasional Shorts: The Little Mermaid – Hans Christian Andersen

I’m currently recovering from a big bout of biopsies earlier in the week and so sadly ‘Middlesex’, which I was reading and loving, has gone to the bedside table for a while and hasn’t been picked up. Oops. I have started cracking open some short story collections and thought ‘ooh if there is a short story that takes hold of me then maybe it would be nice to do a post based on just that tale’ and after  the very first short story in my Hans Christian Anderson I already had a post. So today introduces ‘Occasional Shorts’. Now if you have only seen the film of ‘The Little Mermaid’ or haven’t read the tale then you might not want to read on as there is a rather massive spoiler coming, you have been warned…

I was surprised when I read Perrault’s ‘Fairytales’ a while back that the endings of the tales were nothing like the lovely ladybird editions I was read as a child. Imagine my shock and horror when I read ‘The Little Mermaid’ and it was nothing like the Disney film that I watched, slightly excessively, as a child. You see everything starts as I remembered.

The youngest mermaid princess in the kingdom, both are unnamed in the edition I have read, wants to see the world above the waves and waits and waits until she finally turns fifteen after which she becomes a little obsessed with the world beyond. One night when viewing life above the ocean a boat sinks and she saves a handsome prince and falls in love, so much so she gives her voice (and her tongue, Disney didn’t feature that did they?) to an evil witch in return for legs and the condition that she must make the prince fall in love with her. So far it was much the same as I thought… so far!

However this then completely changed when her legs caused the pain of a thousand knives every time she walked. Poor thing, I thought, she better get the blinking Prince. So imagine my utter shock (spoiler coming) that she didn’t and instead he meets someone else and she is given the option of killing him, his blood turning her legs back into a tail, or turning into sea foam and dying. I wont say which it was but I was mortified.

This may seem a silly post, it could be the painkilling drugs, but I genuinely am quite disturbed and as I read on its getting darker and darker. Normally this would be something I would really like, oh ok I am enjoying how different and dark they are, but would I read these versions to a child? Is it changing my childhood subconsciously as ‘Sleeping Beauty’ did when I read the Perrault tales? Naturally I will have to read on to see what further shocks await!

Have you re-read any fairytales and been rather shell shocked by it all, or is it just me? Oh, and what’s your favourite fairytale?


Filed under Hans Christian Andersen, Occasional Shorts, Short Stories

8 responses to “Occasional Shorts: The Little Mermaid – Hans Christian Andersen

  1. This one was a shock to me too when I read the original version. Somehow I like Anderson’s tale better than Disney, though. I get tired of the perfect happy endings all the time.

  2. Oh, suicidal mermaids. I grew up reading all of these (Czechs adore fairy tales and that’s the one part of my mother’s heritage that she’s kept) and was far more familiar with them than the Disney versions so I’m not sure they have the capacity to shock me any more. I did always love Rapunzel, with her illegitimate twins and blind prince.

    Still, my favourite story is Cinderella. However, in the version I know Cinderella is given three magic nuts by an old woman, each of which contains an outfit for the three balls she is to attend. Nothing particularly gruesome about it but still a little different than the version most people know.

  3. I absolutely love fairy/folk tales in the original versions, they are always much much darker, bordering on the horrific. They often inspire my illustration work (I am forever drawing wolves in frocks!)

    Marina Warner has written extensively on fairytales, (I think she even teaches the subject at Essex uni) ‘From the Beast to the Blonde’ being one title I can think of.

  4. tuulenhaiven

    I loved fairy tales as a child and I read all kinds of versions. I think even as a girl I was drawn to the darker ones – I do remember being flabbergast the first time I read this version of The Little Mermaid! A favorite fairy tale of mine? I still love Beauty and the Beast, in all the various reincarnations I’ve discovered over the years.

  5. Annabel

    I grew up with Hans Christian Andersen and loved all of them – somehow when I was a child I don’t think they scared me, I just accepted what happened. Now I’m grown-up (!) they’re much more shocking and dark and wonderful – I love them more now but not just for the stories. The Little Mermaid was always a favourite of mine, plus the Princess and the Pea and Andersen’s the Little Matchgirl.

  6. novelinsights

    The Little Mermaid is incredibly sad isn’t it?! It’s funny though, I didn’t really feel so disturbed by it as a child – I think actually as kids we don’t really question gruesomeness so much in an odd kind of way…

  7. Janay

    I myself is not much of a reader but i’m a college student and my college English teacher has focused on fairytale’s.But anyway I loved the H.C. Andersen original version of The Little Mermaid it was so very interesting and shocking this piece has me looking forward to reading more of his work.

  8. Pingback: Why Do We Love A Good Fairytale? | Savidge Reads

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