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The Little Mermaid
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Short Story/Novella Collection > The Little Mermaid - June 2017

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message 1: by Bob, Short Story Classics (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bob | 4779 comments Mod
Our June 2017 Short Story Read is The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen, published in 1836, 48 pages.


Pink | 6556 comments I read this a couple of days ago, slotted between some other reads and was pleasantly surprised. I'm really not a fan of children's stories or fairy tales, so thought I'd dislike it more, but it was easy to read and I appreciated that it wasn't a happy ending! I know that other people hate the callousness of the story and how the prince treats Ariel, but I quite enjoyed it not being a sickly sweet tale.


Terris | 2336 comments I recently downloaded this one on my Kindle app hoping I could slip it in between books. Sounds like it'll be a quick read, I'll try to get right to it! :)


message 4: by Melanti (last edited Jun 06, 2017 10:49AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Melanti | 2386 comments Pink wrote: "I know that other people hate the callousness of the story and how the prince treats Ariel, but I quite enjoyed it not being a sickly sweet tale. ..."

Who's Ariel?

Lots of the original versions of fairy tales aren't as sickly sweet as modern versions make them out to be.

One of my favorite sites for fairy tales is Surlalune. Ms. Heiner usually gives the history of a tale and provides annotations. Her page on The Little Mermaid is here.



Regarding the ending, HCA is a pretty religious guy. After reading his complete works, I really think he believed that dying and going to heaven was a happy ending.

Almost all of his characters end up dead at the end. Humans get to go to heaven and the non-humans are just SOL.

This tale was based partially off of Undine, but unlike that tale, HCA chose to change the story and not have the mermaid earn her soul by marrying the prince.

Andersen wrote in a letter to a friend: "I have not, like de la Motte Fouquet in Undine, let the mermaid's gaining an immortal soul depend on a stranger, on the love of another person. It is definitely the wrong thing to do. It would make it a matter of chance and I'm not going to accept that in this world. I have let my mermaid take a more natural, divine path" (Frank 2003, 104). Source



Pink | 6556 comments Was she not called Ariel in the book? Hah, shows how ingrained the Disney version is in my mind and I only just read the story!

I know a lot of the older fairy stories aren't as sickly sweet, that's what I liked about the brothers Grimm. I'd forgotten that Hans Christian Anderson's tales were quite as dark. Though I probably read an edited version of these as a child.

I'll take a look at the links you posted, thanks.


Luella | 5 comments This was pretty probably hands down my least favorite thing I've read since I got back into reading. I'm curious to see what you all think about it.


Loretta | 2668 comments I read this in the beginning of the month without knowing anything about the story or about the Disney adaptation. I have to say that I quite enjoyed it. I'm not sure how this version appeals to children though because in my opinion, it's probably a much deeper story than what Disney put out. Glad I read it. Four stars from me! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Paula W | 554 comments Luella wrote: "This was pretty probably hands down my least favorite thing I've read since I got back into reading. I'm curious to see what you all think about it."

I agree. I gave it 2 stars and only finished it because it was so short. Did not like.


message 9: by Bob, Short Story Classics (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bob | 4779 comments Mod
I don't remember names, except for the prince and the witch, everyone else was referred to as sister, The King, grandmother, and of course The Little Mermaid. I won't bet much on my being right, but short of rereading it I can't remember names.

Luella and Paula if you don't mind I'm interested in what you didn't like about the story. I liked it, but there were sections I thought were lacking, and it's hard to describe why.


Paula W | 554 comments Bob wrote: "I don't remember names, except for the prince and the witch, everyone else was referred to as sister, The King, grandmother, and of course The Little Mermaid. I won't bet much on my being right, bu..."

I'm copying and pasting my very short review here:
"There isn't much to like about this story. A young mermaid finds out she doesn't have a soul and will end up as nothing more than sea foam after her death, so she goes about stalking a human she hopes will fall in love with her and give her part of his soul. Which could work, I guess, if she hadn't gotten her tongue cut out or if the human didn't see her as a pet instead of a serious love interest. He even had her sleeping outside his room on a cushion. ͡¯\_(°_o)_/¯"

A bit flippant, I know, but I had a hard time with it.


Terris | 2336 comments I just finished and also did not like the ending. To me, it was like the author couldn't figure out how to finish so he dreamed up the "daughters of the air" -- what?! I'm glad it was short.
Otherwise, though, it was quite a bit like the Disney version. Well, up until the wedding :/


Luella | 5 comments Paula W wrote: "Bob wrote: "I don't remember names, except for the prince and the witch, everyone else was referred to as sister, The King, grandmother, and of course The Little Mermaid. I won't bet much on my bei..."

Yes I agree, pretty much that. But also her reward for deciding not to take someone's life after she is treated that way is to float around as air for 300 years of penitence (or possibly less) then finally she will get a soul. Her fate all depends on whether children are good or not.

That seems really messed up to me. In a lot of ways.


message 13: by Phil (new)

Phil Jensen | 627 comments HCA was a conflicted person. He was a devout Christian, and also romantically isolated. There is evidence that he had an unrequited love for one of his male friends. This comes out in a lot of his work. He writes about the impossibility of love, the importance of waiting, and the consolations of humility.

I read his complete short stories last year, and it was frankly too much. Little Mermaid was one of the early ones, and I remember liking it, even if the ending was a little weird. At bare minimum, you have to admit that it's less sexist than the Disney version.


message 14: by Phil (new)

Phil Jensen | 627 comments As always, the translation you use can be a factor. A while ago, I compared two different public domain translations of The Snow Queen (the one Frozen is "based" on) with the 1983 edition. Here you go:

Public domain:

You must attend to the commencement of this story, for when we get to the end we shall know more than we do now about a very wicked hobgoblin; he was one of the very worst, for he was a real demon. One day, when he was in a merry mood, he made a looking-glass which had the power of making everything good or beautiful that was reflected in it almost shrink to nothing, while everything that was worthless and bad looked increased in size and worse than ever. The most lovely landscapes appeared like boiled spinach, and the people became hideous, and looked as if they stood on their heads and had no bodies. Their countenances were so distorted that no one could recognize them, and even one freckle on the face appeared to spread over the whole of the nose and mouth.


Public domain:

Now then, let us begin. When we are at the end of the story, we shall know more than we know now: but to begin.

Once upon a time there was a wicked sprite, indeed he was the most mischievous of all sprites. One day he was in a very good humor, for he had made a mirror with the power of causing all that was good and beautiful when it was reflected therein, to look poor and mean; but that which was good-for-nothing and looked ugly was shown magnified and increased in ugliness. In this mirror the most beautiful landscapes looked like boiled spinach, and the best persons were turned into frights, or appeared to stand on their heads; their faces were so distorted that they were not to be recognised; and if anyone had a mole, you might be sure that it would be magnified and spread over both nose and mouth.


1983 Haugaard translation:

All right, we will start the story; when we come to the end we shall know more than we do now.

Once upon a time there was a troll, the most evil troll of them all; he was called the devil. One day he was particularly pleased with himself, for he had invented a mirror which had the strange power of being able to make anything good or beautiful that it reflected appear horrid; and all that was evil and worthless seem attractive and worth while. The most beautiful landscape looked like spinach; and the kindest and most honorable people looked repulsive or ridiculous. They might appear standing on their heads, without any stomachs; and their faces would always be so distorted that you couldn't recognize them. A little freckle would spread itself out till it covered half a nose or a whole cheek."



Jen from Quebec :0) (muppetbaby99) | 215 comments WHY SO MUCH HATE!? (Of course, I am only half way finished, so maybe I will figure it out before the end...) So far, she doesn't even HAVE a name, she is simply 'the Little Mermaid', as far as I can tell. Also, I like the Grandmother character, and think the Disney movie could have made an excellent cartoon portrayal of her! 'The Little Mermaid' is one of my top 5 Disney movies of all time, so it is interesting to finally read the REAL version of the story, and not simply a Disney 'novelization'. I am reading a great Kindle version with illustrations and excellent font choice. I am reading this version === The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen So far I am really liking it, and glad to be reading it. --Jen from Quebec :0)


Loretta | 2668 comments Jennifer Lynn wrote: "WHY SO MUCH HATE!? (Of course, I am only half way finished, so maybe I will figure it out before the end...) So far, she doesn't even HAVE a name, she is simply 'the Little Mermaid', as far as I ca..."

No hate from me Jen, I liked the book! 😊


Milena | 257 comments Jennifer Lynn wrote: "WHY SO MUCH HATE!? (Of course, I am only half way finished, so maybe I will figure it out before the end...) So far, she doesn't even HAVE a name, she is simply 'the Little Mermaid', as far as I ca..."

I also liked it


Loretta | 2668 comments Milena wrote: "Jennifer Lynn wrote: "WHY SO MUCH HATE!? (Of course, I am only half way finished, so maybe I will figure it out before the end...) So far, she doesn't even HAVE a name, she is simply 'the Little Me..."

🤗


message 19: by Katy, New School Classics (last edited Jun 02, 2017 10:10AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Katy (kathy_h) | 9189 comments Mod
I read a free Kindle version.

Before this, I had only seen the Disney little mermaid -- which I love. I was impressed by how well the animated film followed the story for a bit, and then. I didn't know the original ending. So sad.


message 20: by Bob, Short Story Classics (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bob | 4779 comments Mod
Luella and Paula, thank you for letting us know your difficulties with the story. I see you points and admit I thought a little about them as I was reading. I just glossed over them for expedience, but I do agree The Little Mermaid risked a lot with little chance of success. Not the happy ending I remember from childhood.


Melanti | 2386 comments No hate from me, either, but I like fairy tales.

Phil wrote: "I read his complete short stories last year, and it was frankly too much. Little Mermaid was one of the early ones, and I remember liking it, even if the ending was a little weird. ..."

Same. My edition was arranged chronologically, and I think all of his more famous stories were in the first third or so. I liked that first third but wasn't nearly as fond of the last 2/3.


message 22: by Phil (last edited Jun 02, 2017 01:14PM) (new)

Phil Jensen | 627 comments Melanti wrote: "I liked that first third but wasn't nearly as fond of the last 2/3."

I actually liked some of the later ones, like the one about the dunes, where he tried longer formats and developed adult characters. Really, almost none of the stories were bad; I just didn't need 1000 pages' worth of them.


Bobbie | 97 comments I was expecting that this would not be nearly like the Disney version but I enjoyed it. Disney did follow it pretty closely until closer to the end and I didn't think the ending was that bad but certainly sad. I don't even remember the part about the Prince making her sleep on a cushion by his door. If I still had the book I would look for that but I returned it to the library earlier today. I must have just skimmed over that part.


message 24: by Petrichor (last edited Jun 03, 2017 02:42AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Petrichor | 300 comments Paula W wrote: "There isn't much to like about this story..."
I kind of agree.
Although I really enjoyed the story telling itself, I dislike the story the more I think about it.

spoilers ahead!
It's about a young woman sacrificing almost everything for a guy she never talked to. However, as the story puts it, at least she gets to keep her good looks, that should be enough to make the prince love her (according to the witch).
She has to sleep on a pillow in front of his door and becomes something like a beloved pet to him. Except for her decision not to kill him I can't agree with any moral the book provides.

When I manage not to think of all of that and only focus on the style the story was told in, I quite liked it. But that's not enough. I wouldn't recommend it as a source of life advice.

Edit: I forgot to mention the ending that tries to blackmail children into being well-behaved.


message 25: by Pink (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pink | 6556 comments They're all the reasons that mean I should hate it, but for some reason I don't! Probably if it was written today those issues would bug me more, but in the scope of fairy tales I kind of expected those attitudes.


Petrichor | 300 comments I absolutely get what you are saying.

I also enjoyed all the descriptions and how the story was told generally. I also think it it should be seen in the context of the world views back then. However, it was just a bit too much for me. Or at least I didn't find the ending rewarding enough to balance it out.


message 27: by Myst (new)

Myst | 173 comments I was surprised how similar the Disney movie and the fable correlated. Normally Disney seems to take a name and idea and go off on a wild tangent.

Disney actually expanded (some of) the story, took out a few bits that were not child appropriate (forcing a girl to sleep on a cushion outside your door?!?) and made a really lovely movie.

This actually may be one of the very few the movie is equal if not better than the book stories.


Kaylee (kaylee66) | 50 comments Luella wrote: "But also her reward for deciding not to take someone's life after she is treated that way is to float around as air for 300 years of penitence (or possibly less) then finally she will get a soul. Her fate all depends on whether children are good or not."

I think it's implied that sacrificing herself to let him live has earned her a soul. Earlier, there were a couple places where she would have cried, but did not have tears (and it was implied that this is on account of not having a soul). So when she cries at the end, I think that means she has a soul now.

About blackmailing children, I see a couple of you have mentioned that, but I don't see it in my translation. Do you have a quote? I'm curious.


Kaylee (kaylee66) | 50 comments As far as her sleeping at his door, my translation says "she was given permission to sleep at his door, on a velvet cushion." To me, "given permission" implied that she was the one who insisted on being with him wherever he went, and he was flattered and allowed allowed her to stay as close as propriety would allow.

Also keep in mind that he would have had a suite (with a sitting room leading to a bedroom) so I would assume she had a couch or daybed in the sitting room, with the velvet cushion as an extra luxury, not just a pillow in a drafty corridor.

I think he should have insisted on her having a separate suite of rooms, but (from the translation I got) it doesn't sound like he forced her to do anything.


Laurie | 1578 comments I have rather mixed feelings about this story. I had no idea of the story ahead of time since I've never heard any version of it including the Disney movie. The descriptions of the undersea world are lovely, and I can imagine children loving the idea of living as a mermaid or merman and swimming around as freely as fish do. So HCA created a wonderful undersea world that is typical of fairy tales with happy endings.

But I am seriously bothered by the depiction of a young girl giving up her most treasured asset, in this case her voice, to be given the opportunity to be loved by a boy. It is always true in fairytales that one has to sacrifice something when making a deal with a witch or a bad character, but she had to sacrifice even further by gaining legs which will give her the feeling of walking on knives. So her sacrifice is double and all for only a chance of making the prince love her. And then, she only gains a soul if the prince loves her more than he loves his parents. Even in 1836, this is a message to little girls that much may be required in sacrifice to get the boy of your dreams. I know that it is just a fairytale, but fairytales were primarily stories of lessons about life. I don't know exactly what lesson HCA was trying to impart in The Little Mermaid, but I'm not impressed with whatever it is he was trying to say. I gave the story 3 stars since I didn't hate all of it, but I wouldn't recommend it for reading to children either.


Bobbie | 97 comments Laurie wrote: "I have rather mixed feelings about this story. I had no idea of the story ahead of time since I've never heard any version of it including the Disney movie. The descriptions of the undersea world a..."

I agree with your thoughts, Laurie, although I really did enjoy the story. You made some very good points.


Melanti | 2386 comments Luella wrote: "Yes I agree, pretty much that. But also her reward for deciding not to take someone's life after she is treated that way is to float around as air for 300 years of penitence (or possibly less) then finally she will get a soul. Her fate all depends on whether children are good or not...."

300 years sounds like a lot, but that would have been her normal life span. So it's sort of the equivalent of spending the rest of her life doing good works to earn heaven, which is what I assume HCA was going for.

He mentioned in a letter at one point that he thought it was important that the mermaid earn her soul in a more "natural" way, rather than just being given it for something as haphazard as being loved by someone.

The blackmail, though, that's a useless addition.

Kaylee wrote: "About blackmailing children, I see a couple of you have mentioned that, but I don't see it in my translation. Do you have a quote? I'm curious...."

It's the last paragraph:

After three hundred years, thus shall we float into the kingdom of heaven,” said she. “And we may even get there sooner,” whispered one of her companions. “Unseen we can enter the houses of men, where there are children, and for every day on which we find a good child, who is the joy of his parents and deserves their love, our time of probation is shortened. The child does not know, when we fly through the room, that we smile with joy at his good conduct, for we can count one year less of our three hundred years. But when we see a naughty or a wicked child, we shed tears of sorrow, and for every tear a day is added to our time of trial!



Renee | 864 comments The Little Mermaid is one of my favourite Disney movies. I knew the story was different than the movie, but hadn't read it before, and didn't know the differences. Up to a point, the movie follows the story pretty closely, just adding (or taking out) some things to make it more kid-friendly. I liked the story, but I guess I was kind of expecting a sad ending though. Sure, she doesn't get the prince, but she will eventually get the soul that she wanted. The ending did surprise me. I thought she was going to die, and that would be the end.


Loretta | 2668 comments Laurie wrote: "I have rather mixed feelings about this story. I had no idea of the story ahead of time since I've never heard any version of it including the Disney movie. The descriptions of the undersea world a..."

I agree. I would definitely not recommend this version for children either Laurie! 😊


Kaylee (kaylee66) | 50 comments Thanks for the quote, Melanti! Wow, if that had been in my book, I think I would have given it a lower rating just because of that paragraph. My version left that out, though.


message 36: by Kaylee (last edited Jun 05, 2017 08:15PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kaylee (kaylee66) | 50 comments Laurie wrote: "Even in 1836, this is a message to little girls that much may be required in sacrifice to get the boy of your dreams..."

Since you point it out, I can see that being an issue today, but I'm not so sure it would have been at the time. Even as recently as the early 1990s, there was more of a divide between human and non-human, and the farther back you go, the wider that division was. These days it's normal to empathize with animals, fictional aliens, robots, etc. but that was not always the case. When I was growing up, reading a story like this would make kids imagine *meeting* mermaids, having adventures and being friends with them, but they wouldn't imagine *being* a mermaid. That sort of thing never occurred to us, because we had been taught clear divisions from the start, and had never known anything else.

And one thing that's very clear in the story is that the rules for humans and mermaids are very different, so why would a human girl, who already has a soul, need to follow mermaid rules? I really think it wouldn't have been an issue back then, but I agree that in today's world, I would not give this to a child. But that's more a reflection on our shifting values than HCA's intentions.

As far as his intentions, I read that there had already been an existing mermaid folktale, in which she gains a soul through love, and HCA wanted her to gain a soul by her own actions. So, if anything, he opposes the idea that love is the way to a happy ending, and wrote a heroine who saves herself. I know she dies, but going to heaven is ultimately a happy ending. Maybe it's not *our* greatest wish for ourselves, but *she* got what she most wanted and was happy in the end.


Cynda | 2499 comments I read The little Mermaid last year in a Collection of about 9 or 10 stories that included The Little Mermaid.

Here's the link to my review followed by a link to some artwork included in the small collection, including plates done for The Little Mermaid. Note of Interest: This book is not written for small children. Seems to be written for adults re-visiting their childhood favorites.

my review:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/edit...

artwork:
https://www.theguardian.com/childrens...

A GR friend recently described the pictures as "truly nightmarish". How fun for me. I hope fun for you.


Petrichor | 300 comments @Laurie: I think your description is spot on. I feel the same way.

@Cynda: The review link doesn't work. It leads me to editing/creating my own review of that book (which doesn't exist).


Milena | 257 comments Pink wrote: "They're all the reasons that mean I should hate it, but for some reason I don't! Probably if it was written today those issues would bug me more, but in the scope of fairy tales I kind of expected ..."

That's what I think too, Pink


Milena | 257 comments Laurie wrote: "But I am seriously bothered by the depiction of a young girl giving up her most treasured asset, in this case her voice, to be given the opportunity to be loved by a boy.......... Even in 1836, this is a message to little girls that much may be required in sacrifice to get the boy of your dreams. I know that it is just a fairytale, but fairytales were primarily stories of lessons about life.."

Laurie, I understand your point. However I think that rather than imparting a lesson Andersen was actually talking about himself.
What made me think so is that Andersen himself had a fine singing voice. Besides, as Phil wrote above, "he had an unrequited love for one of his male friends".
Anyway, whether intentional or not, there is a message to little girls about sacrificing themselves for the boys.


message 41: by Milena (last edited Jun 06, 2017 10:17AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Milena | 257 comments Cynda wrote: "my review:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/edit...
artwork:
https://www.theguardian.com/childrens...
A GR friend recently described the pictures as "truly nightmarish"..."


Cynda the link to your review doesn't work.
The pictures are charming and also a little disquieting :)


Melanti | 2386 comments Milena wrote: "Pink wrote: "They're all the reasons that mean I should hate it, but for some reason I don't! Probably if it was written today those issues would bug me more, but in the scope of fairy tales I kind of expected ..."

That's what I think too, Pink ..."


Problematic messages aren't that uncommon in older fairy tales. Think of "Beauty and the Beast" for instance. It's basically depicting Stockholm Syndrome and saying if you love your husband enough, he can turn from a beast into a handsome prince.


message 43: by Maartje (new)

Maartje Volder | 38 comments I haven't reread the story for this month, as it was something I used to read many times as a child. I am actually surprised that so many haven't ever read it before.
It is interesting to see how you guys view the whole story, as I cannot look upon it with fresh eyes. To me it is a children's story that I read as a child, and it is hard to see it as anything else. A story with a life lesson to be good and never resort to evil, even if it seems fair.


siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2011 comments I have just started this.In serial reader app.


message 45: by Milena (last edited Jun 08, 2017 12:09AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Milena | 257 comments Melanti wrote: "It's basically depicting Stockholm Syndrome and saying if you love your husband enough, he can turn from a beast into a handsome prince...."

That makes me think about how much the status of women has (luckily) improved since then.


Milena | 257 comments Maartje wrote: "I haven't reread the story for this month, as it was something I used to read many times as a child. I am actually surprised that so many haven't ever read it before.
It is interesting to see how ..."


It's a beautiful story about being good and finding home for our love.
Maybe in two centuries time people will shiver when reading our politically correct children stories ;-)


siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2011 comments Or maybe its a story about grass being greener on the opposite bank..and not appreciating what you have until its lost...
It is written beautifully and I think its upto us to interpret it..as we are doing here..


Loretta | 2668 comments Milena wrote: "Maartje wrote: "I haven't reread the story for this month, as it was something I used to read many times as a child. I am actually surprised that so many haven't ever read it before.
It is interes..."


🤗


Loretta | 2668 comments siriusedward wrote: "Or maybe its a story about grass being greener on the opposite bank..and not appreciating what you have until its lost...
It is written beautifully and I think its upto us to interpret it..as we ar..."


Well said siriusedward! 😊


message 50: by Phil (new)

Phil Jensen | 627 comments I appreciate the Little Mermaid's quest for a soul being more important than her quest for romantic love. I found it refreshing that she had something bigger to aim for.


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