The Little Mermaid: Disney vs Hans Christian Andersen

In comparison to these two versions of ‘The Little Mermaid’ the role of the mermaid is portrayed as a strong character that faces the issues of growing up and struggles to obtain what she wants the most in life.

The Hans Christian Andersen’s version shows the mermaid as a young girl-15 years old.  In the Disney version she remained the youngest of all King Triton’s daughters; and even though her age is not mentioned we know that it is pretty much the same.  The choice of keeping her age so young is to show the difficulty of how a young girl changes to a woman.

The big difference  is at the personality of the mermaid.

  • In the Andersen version, she is very quiet and reserved.  even a little bit depressed after she rescues the prince.
  • In the Disney version though, Ariel is a very vibrant character, something that we also gather from her rich red hair.  She has an adventurous personality and is very outgoing.  After rescuing Prince Eric she sings while swimming around  the castle in very happy tones.

The Hans Christian Andersen Version

  •  Here the mermaid is very juvenile.  She mourns for her unfortunate body and longs for an immortal soul.  This represents her adolescence as she is changing from a child to a young woman.  She is instantly concerned with love after seeing the prince.  Her voice is sweet and her skin, hair and form is beautiful.  While not as determined as Ariel, she still finds strength to visit the witch in order to gain what she wants.
  • In the ending she is presented as a hero as she chose not to kill the prince to save herself, even though he has married another woman, meaning she is doomed to death.  She is portrayed as a self-sacrificing hero, and inevitably comes out looking smarter than the prince.  The moral here shows that self-sacrifice can reward you.

The Disney Version

  •  There is a more feministic approach on the character here. The shy and quiet mermaid from the original tale evolves to a bright and curious young woman.  Ariel focuses more on being human and on the relationship/love aspect of being a woman.  Instead of looking more into her immortal soul, we look at her self-discovery as a woman.  She becomes the average teenager that falls in love and goes after her dreams.
  • Given the happy endings of Disney movies, everything is solved in the end with a kiss.  Eric finally realizes he has been tricked and rescues Ariel from Ursula, the evil witch.  Ariel turns out not to be the strong individual she was at the beginning, and becomes another woman in a heros arms.  While she still achieves her dream of becoming human and marrying the prince, she loses her strong sense of individuality as a woman.  The moral of this story is that dreams do came true.

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One Response to The Little Mermaid: Disney vs Hans Christian Andersen

  1. stephenrhead says:

    I was really interested in your comparison of Disney’s Little Mermaid with Hans Christian Andersen’s story as I have also looked at this. Not only is The Little Mermaid in the original a self-sacrificing heroine on a personal level, she is also willing to endure extreme pain in achieving what she thinks she wants. She is made to suffer enormously as a reward for being able to walk and live on land. Her tongue is removed so she cannot talk and whenever she dances she feels excruciating pain. And in the end all this is for nothing as there is no happy ending. How dark and cruel the original story is compared to the light-hearted and funny Disney version! However, Disney was, as always, giving his audience what they wanted.

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