The Little Mermaid: Disney vs. Christian Anderson

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The Little Mermaid is a unique and originally tragic fairy tale in which a mermaid princess falls in love with a man from the real world. In the book, as well as in an animated musical fantasy movie, Little Mermaid or Ariel convinces a sea witch to make her human. The King refuses to allow her to visit the land as he deems it to be evil. She defies her father and makes a deal with the witch in order to visit the human land. She meets a handsome prince Eric, but before they get married, the sea witch deceives her and goes ahead to marry the boy. The witch gains control of the undersea kingdom before the boy overpowers her and takes over. The king admires the boy for his courage in defeating the witch. Thus, Ariel’s father changes his perception that all human beings are evil, and gives his consent for the princess to live on the land forever.

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When comparing Andersen and Disney’s versions of The Little Mermaid, the main heroine is similarly depicted as a strong character who takes control of her destiny. In both cases, the mermaid is a young girl growing up; she wants to get what she desires in life despite opposition from the king and the sea witch (Disney 25). She wants to fall in love just like any other human being. However, there are differences between the two versions: Andersen’s fairy tale depicts the mermaid as an adolescent girl aged 15 years. In this version, she is the youngest daughter of the sea king (Andersen 45). Anderson does not mention her name, while we find out that her name is Ariel in Disney’s adaptation. Anyway, her character does not change substantially. This makes the reader realize that she is still the same young girl.

Andersen chooses to portray the princess as very young. He does this to show the challenges that young girls usually face as they grow up. They still do not understand the world. They want to fall in love. The transition from teenage years to womanhood causes great confusio. Andersen describes the mermaid as reserved and quiet. She is depressed when she saves the prince because she realizes that those beautiful creatures, people, will never be part of sea kingdom.

On the other hand, Disney portrays Ariel as a strong character; almost a mature woman who knows what she wants. This is depicted by her long red hair, which is well taken care of. Here, Ariel has an outgoing and adventurous personality. When she rescues Eric, she celebrates by swimming and singing joyful tunes. Andersen depicts Ariel’s archetype as juvenile. She wants to get rid of her fateful body and yearns for immortal soul. Perhaps, Andersen wanted to depict pure strivings for something eternally wonderful, which will never dissolve as a foam in salt waters. She is concerned about love – the main quintessence of humanity. She has a sweet voice and good looks, which can definitely attract a prince. She is different from Disney’s version in that she is not persistent; nonetheless, she still approaches the witch with her desires. When the story ends, Andersen presents the young sea-born girl as a heroine who saved the prince’s life. She is self-sacrificing, which makes her higher minded than the prince. The lesson is that self-sacrifice rewards since she does not turn into foam, but goes beyond her nature and becomes a daughter of ether (Andersen 65).

Andersen uses a more feministic representation of the mermaid. The quiet and shy princess, over time, becomes curious and brilliant. The mermaid’s dream is to become human and comprehend feelings. She wants to fall in love; she wants to be a woman. Andersen shifts focus from her immortal soul; instead, a reader contemplates a young woman who is on the path of self-discovery. She represents the usual teenager who wants to fall in love and define it.

Disney’s version has a happier ending. Ariel is able to win Eric. They kiss. Eric finds out that he has been tricked and saves Ariell from the wicked witch. At the end, the sea princess becomes a human married to Eric. This story shows that dreams can come true.

Disney directors employed different music to adorn animation Little Mermaid (Disney 24). They used a sad and an emotional song to portray how unhappy Ariel was. In fact, Ariel sings the song. It expresses Ariel’s emotions and shows how desperate she was to fall in love. The song reflects that Ariel feels caged by her father who does not want her to fall in love with a human being. She is rebellious just like teenagers her age. Andersen did not portray this animosity. Danish writer did not mention the mermaid’s father as frequently as Disney did. Overall, Disney’s version is more elaborated.

In Andersen’s version, the mermaid transforms from the underwater creature to a human being, loses the strong sense of individuality and becomes mortal; however, these losses turn into rewards when she becomes a transcendental spirit, one of the air daughters. In Disney version, Ariel lived happily ever after (Andersen 43). Disney shows that Ariel could change her gender roles, just like the ordinary person. Some situations can strengthen a woman while some can weaken their character. Every woman longs for a good-looking hero in their lives.

In conclusion, Disney wanted to identify with issues that affect adolescent girls; their need for identity and recognition. Sometimes, parents fail to realize the need to let their children discover themselves. The transformation from teenage girl to a woman is very significant. Disney shows that adolescents can be rebellious during puberty. Young girls are emotional and want to fall in love. On the other hand, Andersen wanted to depict more mature, vibrant and strong girl, who can take control of her situation; who is not emotional and rebellious during the transition from youth to adulthood. He depicted a kind-hearted unearthly woman with a strong individuality.

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