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Beyond the Fairy Tale: Delving into Hans Christian Andersen’s Grittier Version of The Little Mermaid

Discover the differences between the original and Disney's The Little Mermaid.

Beyond the Fairy Tale: Delving into Hans Christian Andersen’s Grittier Version of The Little Mermaid
Juan Carlos Saloz

Juan Carlos Saloz

The Little Mermaid is about to become one of Disney’s biggest hits this year. Despite the controversies surrounding the film in recent months, it is set to be released next Friday and all indications point to it being another box office success for the company. Yes, despite Sebastian’s appearance and all the controversies it has faced.

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The film, directed by Rob Marshall this time, has a budget of 250 million dollars and its story is entirely based on Disney‘s original adaptation. But did you know that the original Little Mermaid is based on a much darker and crueler tale than the animated film released by the company in 1989?

The big differences between Disney’s The Little Mermaid and the original macabre tale

The story of The Little Mermaid has captivated generations of viewers worldwide. However, it is important to note that the version popularized by Disney differs significantly from the original story written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1837. And perhaps, if the children who are going to see the film this Friday were to read the original tale, they might end up somewhat traumatized.

The most notable difference between the two versions is the story’s ending. Disney’s adaptation presents a happy ending, where Ariel, the little mermaid, achieves her desire to become human, marry Prince Eric, and live happily ever after. However, on the other hand, Andersen’s original tale does not have a happy ending… in fact, it is quite tragic.

As written by Hans Christian Andersen, Ariel sacrifices her voice and identity to be with the prince, but he never fully falls in love with her (and in fact, does not recognize her as the mermaid), so he marries another woman. Ariel, heartbroken, ultimately dissolves into the sea foam due to Ursula’s curse.

This tragic and heartbreaking ending conveys a darker message about the sacrifices and consequences of blindly pursuing a desire. It is certainly far from what Disney portrays… but in a way, its metaphor holds a deeper truth about life.

Another essential difference between Disney’s version and the original is that in the movie, Ariel falls in love with Prince Eric almost at first sight. Her love is primarily based on physical appearance and the romantic notion of being with someone from another world.

On the contrary, in the original tale, the little mermaid falls in love with the prince through his personality, admiring his kindness and nobility. This approach emphasizes the importance of love based on true values and emotional compatibility, rather than mere physical attraction. It is, once again, much more logical.

Furthermore, Disney‘s adaptation tends to soften the darker and more painful aspects of the story. It focuses on adventure, music, and magic, avoiding the exploration of the difficulties and suffering that Ariel experiences when sacrificing her voice and facing the consequences of her actions.

In contrast, Andersen’s original tale delves into the pain and sacrifice of the protagonist, highlighting moral lessons about the true value of love and the importance of accepting the consequences of our choices. And with quite a bit of blood, mind you.

Finally, another notable difference is how Ariel is portrayed in both versions. In Disney’s adaptation, Ariel is a brave and independent character who pursues her dreams and fights for what she desires. However, in the original tale, the little mermaid is more passive and dependent on others to change her fate. Although she is willing to give up her voice and her home, she does not have the same degree of autonomy and determination as her cinematic counterpart. In this case, we could say that the mini point goes to the studio.

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Juan Carlos Saloz

Juan Carlos Saloz

Cultural journalist specialized in film, series, comics, video games, and everything your parents tried to keep you away from during your childhood. Also an aspiring film director, screenwriter, and professional troublemaker.

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