Why do I post a Paffooney about a mermaid? Especially the horrific tale of the Little Mermaid written by Hans Christian Andersen? I cannot really say… unless it is about self-sacrificing love… and its redeeming value.
In the original story, the 15-year-old mermaid discovers that mermaids, though they live for 300 years, do not have a soul. She also manages to save a handsome prince from drowning, and then falls in love with him. She goes to the sea witch to become human and have legs. For the switch from fins to feet, the little mermaid pays a terrible price. The sea witch cuts out her tongue. When she drinks the feet-making potion, it hurts as if she were being split by a knife. And, though, she can’t talk to win the prince, she can dance. Dancing, however, feels like walking on broken glass, constantly bleeding and hurting. So she goes to win true love’s kiss from the prince, the only thing that can give her a human soul. But the prince is a total jerk, refusing to believe that the mermaid is the one who saved him and marrying the princess next door instead. The sea witch gives the mermaid one final hope. She can kill the prince, and bathing her legs in his blood, become a mermaid again. Though he probably deserves to die, she decides she cannot kill him, and so she dies, becoming sea foam. Yep, a horrible story in which the heroine sacrifices herself for a love that exists only in her own heart.
And the story doesn’t end there. In the 1952 Danny Kaye movie Hans Christian Andersen, it is suggested that he wrote the story of the Little Mermaid as a ballet to send a message of his self-sacrificing love to the ballerina he loved but had no idea of his love. Now, we know the movie doesn’t even try to be biographically accurate, but the real Andersen, a self-proclaimed asexual being, had many deep affairs of the heart that were not only non-sexual, but decidedly unrequited. He had loves both female and male who could not love him in return. No one ever gave the old bachelor the kind of love he desired, and yet, in his self-sacrificing way he poured his love into some of the most lovely fairytales ever written.
Disney had the audacity to change the little mermaid into a story with a happy ending. This, of course, was the Disney way. Although Walt Disney was dead and had no knowledge of the animated film, he would’ve approved. Wish-upon-a-star magic of happy-ever-aftering is pretty important to the Disney legacy as a whole. The lovely cartoon musical saved the Disney empire from decline and dissolution. I am aware that the business plan of evil corporate manipulator Michael Eisner also has to be given credit, but I prefer to believe that everything can only come to a happy ending by mixing in the essential ingredient of unconditional love.
Why, then, did I do a Little Mermaid Paffooney? Was it so I could draw a naked young girl? I hope not. I hope it is because I believe that the only purpose of art is to portray the uncloaked love that exists at the center of all experience.
The Little Mermaid by Edmund DuLac