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The Little Mermaids

Explores the differences between the telling of The Little Mermaid by H.C. Andersen and Walt Disney. Addresses ELACC8RL7

Priscilla Gillham

on 25 November 2012

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Transcript of The Little Mermaids

The Little Mermaids A look at the differences, and reasons behind those differences, between Hans Christian Andersen’s original story The Little Mermaid and the Walt Disney animated film based on the same story. Analyze the extent to which a filmed or live production of a story or drama stays faithful to or departs from the text or script, evaluating the choices made by the director or actors. ELACC8RL7: by Priscilla Gillham Essential Question #1 What are some ways in which Walt Disney’s animated film The Little Mermaid differs from the original story by Hans Christian Andersen? Essential Question #2 Why, possibly, did the Walt Disney company make specific changes to Hans Christian Andersen’s story? The Stories First, we’ll read a plot summary of Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.
Next, we will review a summary of the Walt Disney film The Little Mermaid. The Little Mermaid Hans Christian Andersen's In Han’s Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, the little mermaid lives in the sea with her father, the Sea King, and her grandmother, and her six sisters. When the mermaids turn 15 years old, they may go to the surface of the water and look at the world above them. When the little mermaid has her turn, she sees a ship with a prince and his entourage aboard. A violent storm comes and the prince is tossed from the ship so the little mermaid rescues him, taking him to dry land. But, when the prince awakens, the little mermaid is gone and a different girl is there to greet him. The little mermaid returns to the sea castle sad that the prince did not know that it was she who had rescued him. After a time, she talks to her grandmother about humans and learns that humans have an immortal soul, whereas merpeople do not. She also learns that in order to gain an immortal soul, she must marry human man. Though her grandmother tells her to put these things out of her mind and enjoy her 300 years of mermaid life, the little mermaid longs for a soul. The Little Mermaid Hans Christian Andersen's So, under the advice of her older sisters, she goes to the sea witch to be transformed into a human. In exchange for legs, the sea witch cuts out her tongue, leaving her voiceless. Once the little mermaid reaches land, the prince finds her washed up on the shore and takes her to the palace. He cares for her and grows fond of her but his fondness is of a brother-sister nature, not a romantic love. Soon, the prince finds the girl, a princess, who was there when he awoke on the shore after the little mermaid rescued him and fled. The prince marries this princess and the little mermaid is doomed to die by dawn. Then, her sisters come to her with a knife that they purchased from the sea witch with their hair. If the little mermaid plunges the knife into the prince’s heart before sunrise, she will regain her fins and may live out her 300 years but without a soul. But, the little mermaid loves him too much to do this so she throws the dagger and herself into the sea. As her body turns to sea foam, the daughters of the air bring her to them; they tell her that if she will strive doing good deeds for 300 years then she may gain an immortal soul and go to heaven. Walt Disney's In Walt Disney’s The Little Mermaid, the little mermaid, called Ariel, lives in the sea with her father, King Triton, and her six sisters. Ariel is 16 years old and is not allowed to go to the surface but does so repeatedly due to her obsession with humans. One night, Ariel sees the shadow of a boat and goes to the surface to investigate. On the boat is a prince and his crew celebrating his birthday. A violent storm arises, the ship is destroyed, and the prince is tossed into the water. Ariel saves him and brings him to dry land. She lingers with him until he wakes up and catches a glimpse of her. Ariel returns to the palace but is so madly in love with the prince that everyone notices. King Triton finds out what happened that night and is furious that his daughter rescued a human; so, he goes to Ariel’s secret cavern and destroys all of the human things she’s hoarded over the years. In spite, Ariel goes to Ursula, the sea witch, to become human. Ursula agrees to turn her human if she will give up her voice to the witch. Ursula also gives her a rule: Ariel must get Prince Eric to kiss her before sunset on the third day or else she will belong to the sea witch forever. Walt Disney's The Little Mermaid Ariel agrees, as she turns human she washes up on the shore near Eric’s castle and the prince finds her. She spends two days with the prince and he nearly kisses her but Ursula foils Ariel’s success. Then, Ursula turns herself human, using Ariel’s voice, kept in a seashell pendant on her necklace, to woo the prince. Eric falls for it and almost marries Ursula, but Ariel’s creature friends stop the wedding. The sea shell drops to the deck and breaks, releasing Ariel’s voice. Eric realizes that Ariel is the one he wants but waits too long to kiss her. The sun sets, and Ursula, back in sea witch form, drags Ariel into the sea. Once underwater, King Triton trades his life for Ariel’s, which is what Ursula wanted the whole time. Ursula pronounces herself as Queen of the sea and tries to kill Ariel; then, Eric takes a ship and drives it into Ursula, saving Ariel, King Triton, and the whole ocean kingdom. King Triton then gives Ariel his blessing and turns her into a human. Prince Eric and Ariel get married and live happily ever after. Edmund Dulac, The Bright Liquid, ca. 1911. Key Differences: While there are numerous differences in the two renditions of The Little Mermaid, we will only list the main differences between the stories. With each difference we will explore possible reasons for the changes made. The Little Mermaid Why? In giving Andersen’s little mermaid a name, Walt Disney makes her a more personal character. By changing her personality from thoughtful to stubborn, Walt Disney creates a character easier to relate with, for the stereotypical modern woman. 2. In Walt Disney’s film, The Little Mermaid, Ariel’s father, King Triton forbids her to go to the surface of the water because he is overprotective and afraid of humans. In the original tale, all the mermaids are allowed to go above water when they turn fifteen-years old. Why? By devising a character who tries to keep Ariel from swimming to the surface, Walt Disney creates another layer of drama in order to keep viewers interested, whereas Hans Christian Andersen saved most of his drama for the end of the story to give his theme a final push towards readers. 3. In Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, the Sea Witch is simply a mystical character who remains content to perform spells and give magical gifts for costly prices. Walt Disney’s sea witch, Ursula, has a political agenda in “helping” Ariel; her goal is to trap Triton in order to usurp his throne, becoming queen of the ocean. Why? Because Andersen’s Sea Witch is not a threatening figure, his story lacks a villain and focuses instead on the little mermaid’s problem: obtaining an immortal soul. As with its changes to the character of the Sea King, Walt Disney transforms the Sea Witch into an ambitious villain thereby infusing its plot with more drama in order to entertain audiences. 4. In Hans Christian Andersen’s story, the little mermaid longs to be human and marry the prince in order to gain an immortal soul. In Walt Disney’s film, Ariel desires to be human because she is in love with Prince Eric. Why? While Andersen’s readership was narrow and largely religious, the modern audiences that Walt Disney seeks to appease have a wider range of world views and so may not relate to Andersen’s mermaid’s desires. Therefore, Disney changes the heart of the little mermaid’s longing to one of romantic rather than religious nature in hopes that the story will appeal to a larger base of viewers. 5. At the end of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, the prince marries another princess and the mermaid throws herself into the sea, to be lifted by air spirits into possible eternity. Walt Disney changes the tale so that Prince Eric and Ariel get married and live happily ever after. Why? By deviating from the original tale, Walt Disney gives The Little Mermaid a happily-ever-after ending in order to appease viewers. Helen Stratton, ca. 1899. Wikimedia Commons. Resources Andersen, Hans Christian. The Little Mermaid. 1899.







Flickr.com; photograph of the Mermaid Statue in Copenhagen, Denmark taken by Long Zhen. Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) 1. In Han’s Christian Andersen’s story, the little mermaid is quiet and pensive, and nameless. But, the Walt Disney company gave the mermaid a name and a feisty and strong-willed personality. Essential Questions Helen Stratton, ca. 1899. Wikimedia Commons. Edmund Dulac, The Prince, ca. 1911.
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