The original version of The Little Mermaid, written by Hans Christian Andersen, is a bit more gloomy than the Disney version that most children are familiar with. However, if you love the classic fairytales that don’t always end happily ever after, you will appreciate this version.
The Little Mermaid
Everything was as it should be deep under the sea. The animals danced calmly to the sound of the music that sounded throughout the whole kingdom. This great kingdom of the sea was ruled by King Triton, who had a big white beard and six lovely mermaid daughters, each daughter one year older than the next.
The youngest of the daughters, aside from being the most beautiful, also had the most beautiful voice in the entire ocean; when she sang, animals from all over the ocean would gather to listen to her. One of the things that the little mermaid most desired was to be able to go up to the surface and see the sky and the sunrays, since everyone said they were the most beautiful thing in the universe.
One day, seeing the little mermaid’s sadness at not being able to go to the surface, her grandmother cheered her up, saying, “Granddaughter, don’t be sad, for when you turn 15 your father will let you go to the surface and see how beautiful the world is out of the water.” Her birthday grew closer each day, and with it the possibility to go to the surface and see all the wonders she had heard about. Her older sisters already had permission from King Triton to go to the surface and see whatever they wanted to see, and so each time they returned from the surface the little mermaid spent hours and hours asking them about what they had seen and done there.
At last, the day that the little mermaid had dreamt of arrived. Her father, King Triton, gave her permission to go to the surface while warning her:
“My daughter, you are 15 years old today. It is today that you may go to the surface and breathe the fresh air! But be careful, because in that world I cannot protect you. You must also remember, most importantly, to never go near a human, as they are false and deceitful by nature.”
He no more than finished with his advice before the little mermaid shot up to the surface excited to see this new world. When she arrived to the surface and saw the world above water for the first time, she exclaimed, “How beautiful everything is, I never imagined anything so beautiful!”
What she didn’t know is that she would soon be even more surprised, as a huge merchant ship sailed by to drop anchor. The sun began to set, but the little mermaid stayed to listen to the songs the sailors sang to their captain. When she saw him for the first time from afar, she fell completely in love with the tall, handsome man.
Night continued to fall as the sailors celebrated, oblivious to the danger that threatened them. Little by little, the sea formed giant waves until one of them broke the ship in two, throwing all of the sailors overboard.
It was then that the little mermaid, despite her father’s warnings, decided to help her handsome captain who was now unconscious. She held on to him with all of her strength and carried him to shore, where she cared for him until she saw a human approaching. After waking, the young sailor did not see who really saved him, but instead saw the girl from the beach who took him to her house to care for him.
The little mermaid returned home and asked her grandmother how long humans lived, to which her grandmother replied:
“Granddaughter, humans don’t live to be 300 years as we do, but much less. However, when they die, they go to a place where they live forever, unlike us, who become sea foam when we die.”
The days passed but the little mermaid missed the prince and longed to have an eternal soul to live with him forever, and so she decided to visit the Sea Witch to buy a potion that would turn her tail into a pair of legs. The witch warned her:
“If it’s human legs you want, then you must drink this potion… but beware, when you drink it, you will never be able to have your beautiful mermaid tail again. When you drink it, you will feel a terrible pain, but when it subsides you will have two beautiful legs. But when you dance, you will feel the most horrible pains. You must marry the sailor in order to obtain a soul and be able to go to Heaven, but if he marries another woman you will turn into sea foam with a broken heart.”
Despite all of her warnings, the little mermaid drank the potion to the last drop to go find her prince, who, upon seeing her, was immediately attracted to her beauty and gifts of dance (despites the terrible pain it caused, which the prince knew nothing about).
When the prince’s father ordered him to marry the princess of the neighboring kingdom, the prince said to the little mermaid that he would not do it, that his father could not make him do it, because he only had eyes for the young woman who rescued him on the beach, a very beautiful young woman from the temple. It turns out that the princess of the next kingdom was actually that girl from the temple, as she had been sent to the temple to be educated. When the prince learned this, he fell in love with the young woman. His love was so strong that he decided to marry her.
After the prince’s marriage, the little mermaid’s heart was broken. She thought of all the things she had given up, all of the pain that she had to endure to get to this point, as well as the tragic end that awaited her the next morning. But before sunrise, her sisters brought her a knife that the Sea Witch gave them in exchange for their long hair, telling her that if she killed the prince with it and let his blood run down over her feet, she could become a mermaid again.
But the little mermaid couldn’t bear to kill the prince, sleeping next to his wife, because she still loved him. When the sun rose, she threw herself into the sea to turn into sea foam but rather than ceasing to exist, she began to feel the warmth of the sun and realized that she had become a spirit.
Info: This is a summary of the original version by Hans Christian Andersen. Later, Walt Disney made a movie called “The Little Mermaid” with a happier ending, in addition to containing other small differences. For example, in the movie, the little mermaid’s name is Ariel, while in the original story she does not have a name. If you would like to read more stories by this author, visit our “Andersen” section.