Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Character Analysis & Adaptations || The Little Mermaid

A week or two ago, my friend Alyssa mentioned doing a feature that highlighted one of our favorite characters in literature and some current adaptations. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know that I'm clearly quite obsessed with fairytale retellings. One of my favorite fairytale characters is The Little Mermaid, and today it's her that I'm choosing to spotlight.

Source
The Little Mermaid is the story of a young mermaid with a desire to live above land with the prince she loves. The original fairytale goes that, at the age of 15, a mermaid is allowed to swim up to the surface and see the world above. On the night that The Little Mermaid goes, she spies a ship and the handsome prince on it and falls in love with him. There's a great storm and she goes ahead and saves him from the shipwreck, bringing him to shore and waiting until a girl from the temple finds him.  

The Little Mermaid returns to her home, but is discontent and decides that she must find a way to live in the world above. She takes a potion that gives her legs and the ability to dance, although not without its consequences, particularly pain. Plus, there's a catch - she only gets a soul if the prince falls in love with her and marries her. Otherwise, she's doomed to die as sea foam. She makes it to the surface, meets her prince and he likes her. But he's still looking for the girl from the temple - who he ends up marrying. 

Instead of dying straightaway, The Little Mermaid is given the chance to save herself if she can murder her prince. But, because she loves him so ardently, she cannot do it and instead throws herself into the ocean and becomes a spirit of the air for her sacrifice.

Not quite the happy ending that Disney boasts, yes?

I've always found The Little Mermaid's story quite fascinating. Initially, of course, it was because I was fascinated by the idea of living under the sea, in a world that sounded so magical and wonderful and different from ours. I know that I can probably closely approximate it by learning how to dive, but seriously, how interesting would it be to live under the sea?

But more than that, what really makes her stand out to me is her desire to go against the norm and to do something different for herself. She could have chosen to be content and stay under the sea with her big family (another tidbit I loved), but instead, she chose a path fraught with difficulty and unknowable consequences. I love that she took the risk, I really do. 

Plus, it is clear that her love is deep and ardent, despite being unrequited. She sacrificed a lot for love, and anyone who is willing to give up that much for something she's not even sure of earns a certain amount of respect from me.

The Little Mermaid has been adapted in a couple of ways - ballets, movies, books and even a Broadway show. While I'm sure there are many out there, I'm just going to share the ones that I've enjoyed and can personally vouch for below.

Books


There is nothing like the original fairytale, to be honest. But I do like the way it's retold in Midnight Pearls, and I also think it was creatively done in Fathomless.

Movies


Apart from the Disney adaptation (which was done the year I was born), I've also enjoyed Splash (which was out even before I was born, but is still pretty cute) and Aquamarine (which is just plain fun).

Broadway


When I discovered that The Little Mermaid would be on Broadway, I got super excited! As a theater geek and a Disney fan, this was definitely something I looked forward to. I actually really enjoyed the performance (though I only watched it via YouTube clips) and the songs!

Feel free to share more adaptations of The Little Mermaid in the comments! I'm always on the lookout for new ones to love.

27 comments:

  1. Oooh yay, how fun!!! I'm so glad you chose The Little Mermaid because honestly, I knew nothing about the original fairy tale. Obviously I guessed that Disney switched it up a bit, but I had no idea how much! (Also the Disney version is still one of my favorites!)
    I'm actually not familiar with any of the ways it's been redone with the except of Disney... And Splash haha.
    So much fun to read! I'm really glad I got to know more about The Little Mermaid!!!

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    1. The Disney version is definitely one of my favorites, as I totally grew up with that. Part of Your World is MY JAM.

      But I'm glad I was able to shed some light on the original story! You should check out some of the retellings, as they're pretty great.

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  2. What a great feature, Alexa! Like you, I'm also somewhat obsessed with classic fairy tales and love fairy tale adaptations (when done right)! What I think is so interesting is that most of the originals are more macabre than their Disney counterparts and often, don't have that traditional happy ending. I think it's important to know where these tales came from and understand the original essence behind them.

    The Little Mermaid is one of my favourites and I have an old cartoon VHS of the Hans Christian Anderson version that I remember watching and comparing to the Disney one. Each of them holds a special place in my heart. Wishing I had been able to see the Broadway show in person!

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    1. Fairy tales have always been a favorite, ever since I was a kid. And yes, I completely agree - it's always interesting to dissect the original stories. Most of them were actually written to teach the listeners important lessons (or what was deemed important then anyway).

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  3. The Little Mermaid has always been a favorite fairytale of mine, as well. The Disney movie was the first movie I ever went to as a kid (I think I was five), and I loved it. I'm a sucker for musicals. The original fairytale is a bit sad, though.

    I've read a few mermaid books (not ones based on the fairytale) but have been quite disappointed in them. I haven't read the two mentioned above.

    I was luckily enough to see The Little Mermaid on Broadway a few years back, and I loved it. It's not my favorite Broadway show, but it was fun. I love some of the new songs too - particulary "If Only." Also the actor who played King Triton (Norm Lewis) was seriously good looking :)

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    1. You're SO LUCKY that you got to catch it on Broadway! I wish I'd already been living in NY, because I would have TOTALLY watched it too. It sounds amazing (based on the soundtrack) and looks so pretty (based on the Youtube videos I've seen).

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  4. Hans Christian Anderson was not known for his happy tales, for sure, but I think that The Little Mermaid is my favorite of his. When I was in Copenhagen, we went and saw the famous statue that is in the water, so that it looks like she's sitting on a rock in the harbor. It was very cool!

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    1. Oh wow! I totally forgot about that. I should definitely make a mental note to (hopefully) be able to see the statue for myself in person one day, as that would be AMAZING.

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  5. I had no idea that was the original ending to the Little Mermaid! I've never seen Splash! but I think it would make for a great musical adaptation.

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    1. The musical is pretty wonderful! You can watch snippets of it on YouTube, as you can see from the video I included.

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  6. I loved this!! I kind of knew the original story where she turns to sea foam but I wasn't aware there was another girl and that she would have to kill her prince to prevail! I love the original tales, usually more than the adaptations! The sea kind of scares me a little so this was never one of my chosen tales, though it is one of my favorite Disney movie! Ha!

    I haven't heard of Midnight Pearls, did you really enjoy it? I LOVE fairytale retellings are you know so I might have to pick that one up. I wasn't too happy with Fathomless, yes it was very unique but overall I was underwhelmed.

    Thank you so much for taking part in this today, Alexa! I loved this post!!

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    1. The original tales are a bit more morbid than the ones I grew up with, but I love that. I'm pretty much obsessed with all of them and grew up reading them! I'm glad I was able to share more details from the original tale.

      Midnight Pearls is actually one of my favorite re-tellings! I've read it quite a few times, and wouldn't mind re-reading it again.

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  7. Never knew the original story. Thanks for sharing. How sad :( I used to love Splash. I haven't seen it in so long.

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    1. I haven't seen Splash in a long time! While I was doing research for this post, I saw it and suddenly had good memories of it. I think I might have to watch it again soon!

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  8. I never knew the original story - I know they're always darker than the Disney versions, but somehow I'm always still shocked by how different they can be!

    I'm going to have to check out your book recommendations; I haven't read either of them!

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    1. I hope you get a chance to read the books! I'd recommend Midnight Pearls over Fathomless though, honestly. It's one of my favorites!

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  9. Oh my gosh, AQUAMARINE. I am such a sucker for teen movies.

    I knew the story of The Little Mermaid and I kind of like it way more than Disney version. Maybe! Not really sure how I feel. Because on the one hand, the Disney version had such a boring prince. I was not a fan of him at all. But on the other hand, while like you, I admire her passionate love for him, but I just don't think anyone is worth dying over. Oh, Hans Christian Anderson.

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    1. I haven't watched Aquamarine in a while, but I totally want to after writing this post!

      I actually like the original better than Disney, even though it doesn't have a happy ending. It seems more... real? (That's ironic, considering it's a fairytale)

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  10. SPLASH!!! It came out the year after I was born and it's a movie that my sister and I watched over and over again as kids and we used tok play mermaids in our pool each summer :)

    I love the Disney version, but it is nice to know the oringal way the story ends. And thanks for mentioning the books, I'd like to read them both :)

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    1. YES! I totally remember playing mermaids when I was in the pool with my sisters or friends as a kid. It was one of my favorite games EVER.

      I hope you get to read the books!

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  11. I love The Little Mermaid! I think it's one of my favourite Disney movies. :) I remember singing ALL the songs when I was younger. And Splash!! I looooove Splash! I was just thinking of that movie recently and had a hankering to watch it.

    Great post!

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    1. I think I pretty much had the soundtrack memorized when I was a kid. Until now, Part of Your World is one of my favorite Disney songs :)

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  12. Have you read MERMAID by Carolyn Turgeon?

    This one is based on the HCA version, and you also get the POV of the princess in addition to the mermaid!

    http://abackwardsstory.blogspot.com/2011/04/mermaid-by-carolyn-turgeon.html

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    1. I may have to check this book out! Thanks for the heads up :) I'm always looking for fairytale re-tellings :)

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  13. Awesome post idea! I love the original story of "The Little Mermaid" and the Disney film, but I don't think I've read/seen any other adaptations past those. I actually have to give Disney props for altering the story some so that Ariel's obsession with the human world isn't solely because of her love for a prince, but also has to do with her desire for freedom and adventure in her life. If you want any more retelling suggestions, I suggest checking out Sur La Lune Fairy Tales' The Little Mermaid section. I definitely need to read some of these!

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    1. All credit goes to Alyssa for the post idea!

      That is very, very true. You are correct in pointing out that Disney doesn't make it just about the prince, which is the case in the original. That's a pretty great thing!

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