Don’t get me wrong, I actually DID enjoy the Disney version of the Little Mermaid growing up. It’s so much fun! But then I stumbled across the original Hans Christian Andersen version of the story and WOW what a difference. It’s one of those stories that really sticks with you and makes you think.
And now, looking back at the Disney version, it’s cute but it just doesn’t have the same punch.
In the original story, the prince marries another princess. The mermaid dies. Tongues are cut out. Tongues!
It’s gritty and dark and strange. But it’s still one of my absolute favorites.
You see, the reason the mermaid falls in love with the prince is because humans have something she and all the other mermaids do not have: The humans have an eternal soul that carries on after death.
Mermaids are doomed to become sea foam.
So, the virtuous but naive mermaid, saves the prince from drowning, and then goes to the Sea Witch willing to trade anything to become human. The Sea Witch proposes an impossible bargain: Along with feeling pain as she walks, the mermaid has her tongue cut out—losing her beautiful voice. Then she must get the prince to fall in love and marry her.
If he does, she will remain human and share a part of his soul.
If he doesn’t, she will immediately die—becoming sea foam.
Naturally, the prince doesn’t know any of this. He is searching for the woman who saved him and vows to marry her, but all he remembers is her beautiful voice. He is kind to the mermaid, welcoming her to the palace as a sister, but is eventually drawn to marry another singing princess.
The mermaid knows she is going to die, but her sister mermaids trade their hair to the Sea Witch to give her another chance. If she kills the prince, she will become a mermaid again and not die. But when the little mermaid goes in and sees the prince asleep, lying next to his new bride, the mermaid realizes she still loves him and cannot kill him.
She drops the knife and accepts her death.
This is the beautiful part. Because of her virtuous actions, the mermaid doesn’t become sea foam. She dies, but also gains an eternal soul, something she longed for at the beginning.
The Little Mermaid isn’t a romance. It’s a story of a young woman’s struggle to truly understand pain, joy, and selfless love. She gains a human soul. Romances are lovely, but when writing this story, I wanted it to still have some of the depth and dark beauty of the original story.
Depths is the story of a family of soulless mermaids (Greek-like Sirens) and Arianna’s quest for love that might help her find a soul. It’s coming out next week, but if you would like a sneak peak, this full chapter describing the shipwreck is up on my blog and you can still sign up for the ARCs.