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Mirjana1
Registered User
(11/1/05 4:58 pm)
Moral of the story - "Little Mermaid" - both versi
What is, in your opinion, the moral of the "Little Mermaid" in Andersen's version versus Disney version?

Helen J Pilinovsky
Registered User
(11/1/05 6:41 pm)
Re: Moral of the story - "Little Mermaid" - both v
An interesting question! In my mind, the Disney version celebrates the virtues of "staying in ones place", as so many of Andersen's stories do, while simultaneously proffering the promise of Heaven as the reward for taking a chance, whereas the Disney version seems to celebrate risk, leaving open the option of success once one breaks boundaries. That said, while I like Disney's message ... I've always found their version to be a copout. Sometimes, risk is equivalent to sacrifice, after all ...

Mirjana1
Registered User
(11/2/05 10:30 am)
Re: Moral of the story - "Little Mermaid" - both v
I spoke to few friends, asking them what do they feel is the moral of the story, and they mostly felt that the original version says "grass is not greener on the other side" or "watch what you wish for". In other words, little mermaid was wrong to wish to be someone else and get out of her element, and she got punished for that by dying (have in mind we tend to think about death in today's terms, not in the way Andersen may have, as a way to Heaven and a reward).
The Disney version gave a message of "follow your dreams". One of my friends used a very good expression, he said "it is not about a happy ending, but positive ending".
I am still curious to hear what others think of the moral of this story in today's circumstances. I read a bit on that in one of the previous discussion on little mermaid on this site. However, that thread was more concerned with the social circumstances surrounding the original versus Disney.

I am more interested in the perception that today's audience may have regarding the moral of the story. What is the original story teaching children, and what is the Disney story teaching them? What is your opinion?

DividedSelf
Registered User
(11/2/05 10:54 am)
Re: Moral of the story - "Little Mermaid" - both v
It's been a while since I read the Andersen story, but what I still carry from it is the absence of any regret on the mermaid's part.

For that reason, it can't be a cautionary tale, I think... and it's what gives it its depth.

She loves the prince and meets her end, still loving him. So for me, it doesn't carry any moral about how one should/should not act. It says something about love, its power and its limits.

There is something beautiful about it, but I felt it wasn't suitable for children, or at least not small children. It just seems too honestly painful, or painfully honest, but I guess that's another debate.

The Disney version... cheap and cheerful rite of passage/ oedipal conflict story...?

Veronica Schanoes
Registered User
(11/2/05 11:10 am)
Re: Moral of the story - "Little Mermaid" - both v
Even as a child, I found the moral of the LM to be didactic and specifically directed at children--be good children and obey your parents, and you'll help the LM get a soul and go to heaven. But if you disobey, you make the Baby Jesus--er, I mean the Little Mermaid cry, and it takes her even longer to get a soul. That's not the overarching theme of the story, but it is the final message given to the reader at the end, and I resented it. I resented LRRH too, as I thought it was blatant parental propaganda--do what we tell you, or you'll get eaten up by a big bad wolf.

As to the movie--eh. Ultimately, I think the moral is exactly what Ursula tells the LM: "She who holds her tongue gets her man." Fun movie, though.

nastic69
Unregistered User
(11/2/05 3:24 pm)
Little Mermaid's moral is detrimental to girls..
In the Little Mermaid, Ariel trades her voice for legs, in order to be able to leave the sea, and explore the land. In doing so, she captures the heart of Prince Eric. What is this teaching our children? That girls need not have an opinion (or "voice" if you will), and that they will succeed in life if they have a pretty face and good looks.

DividedSelf
Registered User
(11/3/05 4:33 am)
Re: Little Mermaid's moral is detrimental to girls..
I think the story shows the opposite if anything... that the voice is powerful... that its loss makes us weak...

I'd forgotten that syrupy be-good-for-goodness-sake coda. But it doesn't have much to do with the rest of the story.

Morality lessons tend not to be sad. Good people get rewarded. Bad people get screwed. The foolish learn from their mistakes, etc... But it's pretty clear if the LM got a second chance, she'd do it all the same. She chooses her fate knowingly because she's in love. That's why it's sad. It's a lesson in emotion, not action.

Veronica Schanoes
Registered User
(11/3/05 9:26 am)
Re: Little Mermaid's moral is detrimental to girls..
Heh. I was just thinking that really, the LM is a good argument for literacy. If only the LM had been able to write the Prince a note saying "I'm the one who saved your life, but I've lost my voice now," and he had had been able to read it, all her problems would have been solved! Or not, depending on if he was really going to fall in love with a mute foundling.

Mirjana1
Registered User
(11/3/05 12:46 pm)
This is a bit long winded, my apologies
I am having a chuckle over last few comments- very observant!

I was never a fan of this story, due to its sad ending. However, Disney version didnít make me happy either, I felt somehow cheated.

I've been working on a project with a similar plot - "Rusalka," based on Dvorak's opera. The story is quite similar, so researching LM gives me some answers regarding "Rusalka".

The more I think of this story, the more I read into some elements as related to my personal experiences. I don't necessarily believe Andersen meant it the way I see it, but here is my interpretation (and be gentle, this is all very new to me):

In one sentence: LM is a story of growing through expending your comfort zone (and not just as a young person entering adulthood, but at any point in life).

LM is a princess in her own domain - feels very comfortable, has a family to back her up, she is equipped for that way of life (tail). (So was I before I came to Canada from Europe, but speaking more globally, so is everyone while still within their domain). She longs for a prince and the life of humans, their immortal souls. (Which both can be interpreted as wanting more, having idealistic picture of life someplace else, not necessarily another country, but another surroundings, occupation, set of circumstances: the restlessness that occupy most of us at certain age or stage in life. It is a trait of a curous mind, the one that needs to expand. That explains why would she leave a world she was so perfectly happy in).

To enter that other world, we have to pay the price, and we have to endure changes. Loosing the tail signifies loosing that ability to be functional in your surroundings - suddenly, all the things you knew are irrelevant (and it's very much so in a life of an immigrant - you do feel out of your element, unable to maneuver through these new circumstances) . Every step is a pain you must endure if you wish to go anywhere. It is very much so with entering any other area in life that is new - adolescence, retirement, disability, new job, etc - any other expansion of your comfort zone into the unknown.

The prince is that element we feel we need to feel stronger. It can be a relationship, but it can also be occupation, money, status, children, special interest - any dream OUTSIDE of yourself. We need it to feel better about ourselves as we don't believe we can make it without it.

The voice is a significant factor. When changing our circumstances, we don't have the ability to communicate with those we meet in new surroundings. Not necessarily is this just a language barrier (immigrant issue, again), it is the difference in the mind frame and lack of ability to relate to new surroundings. Our frame of reference is different than the one of those we encounter in new circumstances. An adolescent has difficulties expressing herself in the world of adults she wants to be in. Newly disabled person needs a period of adjustment to be able to relate to the world in a productive way. Losing the voice emphasized the isolation in the new world - no one understands how we feel and we don't know how to tell them.

So, atop everything else, the prince loves someone else (and that he thinks she saved him instead of LM just emphasizes her isolation and helplessness)! LM is losing that one dream that brought her into this new world, the one reason she endured all the suffering. Aside from the fact that happens more often than not, what is more significant is the way we deal with it. There is no going back - we have changed and living as we used to is not an option. We have to let go of the dream if we are to grow. So, finally, "death" (travel to a higher, happier state) means shedding the doubts, fears and desires of earlier stage and re-birth of a new person, one who does not need a dream somewhere OUTSIDE herself. If we can see death as a transformation, not an end, we'd have the moral of the story.

So, if the story is to be retold to change our undertstanding of that last element, "death" (as today we do not see it as passage to a higher state, but simply as an end), LM doesn't die, but she TRANSFORMS (into a fully realized human being, one that does not feel pain when walking, one that does not need a prince to be happy). The moral would be easy to recognize - growth is painful, but rewarding - expend your comfort zone despite difficulties.

However, Disney's version had to drive on the concept of romantic love as the ultimate answer to all life pains (and the 40% divorce rate sure proves how well's that working). The moral of this version, on immediate, superficial level is that all your pain and suffering will be over if you create lasting bond with another human being. Do we wonder why is every little girl so obsessed about being a princess (see the article forwarded by Veronica S., thread on "Cindarella in NYT" )? There is no transformation, just fulfillment of an immature desire.
To be fair to Disney, most fairytales end with "they lived happily ever after" - same concept of a lasting bond with another and starting your own family as an ultimate goal (at least "Shrek 2" deals with in-laws!). At times when a single individual could not prosper without a large family, I can see that justified by societal cirumstances, but nowadays it is, to say the least, questionable. Probably another discussion.

In broader sense the moral of Disney's version is "follow your dreams and you will most certainly be rewarded" , a concept that doesnít even take into consideration the possibility of failure, the very essential fact of life! Speaks a lot of the world we live in. Disney's producers make sure to appeal to the most common denominator, so they are just reflection of our society's maturity - success is everything.

I am sure someone somewhere has already analyzed this story to pieces, (I saw in a previous thread a notion of "passage to adulthood"), so I apologize for my ignorance. To my credit, I've constructed whole this scenario on my own- right or wrong, it was a very exciting process and I've learned a lot. Reading other threads and learning deeper meanings of stories is sure helping me with "Rusalka".

Edited by: Mirjana1 at: 11/3/05 12:47 pm
bielie
Unregistered User
(11/3/05 3:00 pm)
LM & Love
The theme of Andersen's LM is: "There is no love greater than this: That someone gives his life for his friend."
The Mermaid's sacrifice is not incidental, or because she made the mistake of loving a human, or because she wanted a soul, or be a complete human, or as her final rite of passage. She decided to sacrifice her life for one reason only: To save the life of her beloved. The fact that he does not love her back makes her love even greater: True love does not require anything in return.
The 'Good girls go to heaven' bit at the end is not the main theme. It merely softens the blow and affirms the worldview of Andersen's audience.

Rosemary Lake
Registered User
(11/3/05 4:05 pm)
immigration
Mirjana, I think your 'difficulties of immigration' is a very good, thoughtful interpretation of an aspect of Andersen's LM. (I've tried living in a differerent culture -- Thailand -- and it is rather like difficulty at every step, and no way to communicate with the people who are trying to help.)

I'm not sure what your aim is in the thread. Someone wanting a research topic might look for parallels in Andersen's other stories -- and in his own life.

Hm, "The Ugly Duckling" has a lot of difficulties trying to fit into other societies (one with a cat) before finding the one he does fit (the swans). Little Maia also tries to fit in to some weird situations, not knowing any better, iirc.

Mirjana1
Registered User
(11/3/05 4:34 pm)
Re: immigration
Rosemary,
I am not sure what my aim is either. I am a puppeteer and right now I am preparing this new play, "Rusalka" (a Czech version of "Little Mermaid"). However, I am struggling with the ending of it, trying to find out what would be the best for my young audience. I want the play to have a meaningful message, I want to keep it as much as possible within the original story, and I want to know what is this story evoking in others. Right now, I am a bit stuck ("paralysis by analysis"), considering so many interpretations.
I am right now reading "Undine" as well.
I want the play to have several levels, so both kids and parents can enjoy it. I may be over thinking the whole thing. :-)

But I sure enjoy finding out what others feel is the message of this story. Like in a "Rashomon" - we all perceive things uniquely.

Rosemary Lake
Registered User
(11/3/05 6:54 pm)
differently
I love the sort of story that can be perceived differently by different people. I haven't read Rusalka, and I'm not very familiar with the stories about romance between people of different elements. But just some offhand thoughts here....

The Rusalka story's ending sounded like kind of the reverse of Andersen's LM. Suicide or happy land under the water -- the Rusalka 'got the guy'. if you'll excuse a low-brow US expression.

As to what the couple found under the water.... Whatever you do or say, some adults will see it as a euphemism for suicide, a negative view of death. To be sending a happy message to children at the same time, you might just use color and music.

If I were doing this, I might add a scene or two around the middle of the story, where some sympathetic character tells them a legend about a land to be found by going under the water. The legend could have a song, which could be played at the end to suggest they found the way to that land.

Do you know our legend about three roads: one to heaven, one to hell, and one to fair elfland?

Tying in with your immigration post, what if BOTH people have to grow, adapt? What if, to stay together, they have to find a third country, neither his nor hers, different than either.

Mirjana1
Registered User
(11/3/05 10:09 pm)
Re: differently
Rosemary,
I like your idea of inserting a character that will plant a seed of an underground world for both. And yes, it can be resolved in the mutual growth. In "Rusalka"" (which is an opera, by Jaroslav Kvapel's libretto), the prince comes back looking for Rusalka, although he knows he will die if she kisses him. I can find a way to make this reunion work to the benefit of both.
This helped a lot - I was really going crazy! My story was all working well up to the climax, but resolution was hanging in the air. I guess I have to wait until it comes to me. Thank you for great suggestions.

Bats for Tea
Registered User
(11/3/05 11:28 pm)
well..
Perhaps i'm not as over analytical as i've always been told, but what i took away from the Disney version as a kid was just simply "Don't be afraid to take chances, be different and be strong" heh which seems to be the theme to just about all Disney movies really.
Anderson's version..hmm...look before you leap? lol I think Anderson's version was a testament to the side we never hear. "Not everything has a happy ending, and life isn't perfect. You can love someone, love them enough to die for them (and maybe that even makes you happy) But love really doesn't conquer death".
I've wondered why he wrote it the way he did. Could be something so simple as he had a bad day or his wife cheated on him. I tend to think he just got tired of hearing "Happily Ever After".

Mirjana1
Registered User
(11/4/05 12:05 pm)
If we can hanlde it
I remember taking a set of Andersen's books once I was in my twenties, and reading few stories, less popular and known - they were so utterly sad, I got depressed right there and quit! For the first time I realized his stories are not for children, they are for grown ups, and only those who can handle it.

A funny thing happened to me few weeks ago: I was talking to this young lady who will be a part of this new puppetry performance. She is in her early twenties. I asked her which version does she like better, Disney one with "happily ever after" or original, where Little Mermaid dies. Her eyes just popped out:" Little Mermaid dies?" She has never read the original. I felt like I just told a five year old kid there was no Santa. (I also remembered that episode of "Friends" when Phoebe realizes the dog will die in "Old Yeller", which her mother never let her see to the end as a child. That movie sure scarred me!)

A whole new generation is growing up, and their starting point will not be Andersen's version, but Disney one. It's a phenomenon on its own.

Bats for Tea
Registered User
(11/4/05 1:19 pm)
Re: If we can hanlde it
Oh i know! It's disturbing really. I mean, i've read the originals and i'm still overly romantic. These Disney tales don't give children a sense of reality ( especially the girls )

Random
Registered User
(11/4/05 5:41 pm)
Re: Moral of the story
Somehow, I have never considered the ending of the Little Mermaid to be her death, for all that she dissolves and becomes ethereal. Death, to me, is much more permanent, and this event was presented as a transformation rather than an ending to her life. It's still a bit of a sucker punch what with her not marrying the prince, but Andersen seems to have pulled his punch at the last minute by giving her 300 more years of "life" and an eternal soul at the end (no princes required!).

I see now how the events of the ending could be (and apparently are) considered her death, but it was only rereading it with that idea in mind that made me see it that way. I was always under the impression that she was saved from death by her promotion to "daughter of the air".

Am I the only one who interpreted it this way? Is it more explicit in the Danish?

In response to the thread's question (and various discussion), I don't agree that Andersen's warns against straying from one's element, as by the end, the little mermaid is better off according to the problem presented at the beginning, having promise of a soul, and being happy, despite now being a daughter of the air, rather than the sea (a considerable element change). I am, of course, basing this on my optimistic view of the ending; one who sees the transformation as an unhappy one will be more inclined to see it as a slap on the wrist for daring to change. Perhaps the moral might be, "take a risk, and virtue will save you from failure"?

I'm less familiar with Disney's Little Mermaid, but remember her as being rather impetuous and strong-willed, with much less (or even no?) emphasis on the virtue. Perhaps promoting a romantic viewpoint, in which passion is seen as superior and more true than rationality?

Rosemary Lake
Registered User
(11/4/05 9:36 pm)
Andersen's sad stories
I remember a big stage in growing up was when, still too young to read, I said to my mother, "Please don't read me any more out of that big pretty book. The stories always get nasty." It was a big coffee table book of Andersen's stories. I didn't quite understand about authors yet, but I was feeling in them a common theme, pattern, style, quality.... Very, very different from Lang's fairy books, or the other nice books we had.

I had such a distaste for Andersen's that I've never read them much since, so I can't fairly comment. But 'not for children' seems pretty close to my impression now. "The Ugly Duckling" and "The Snow Queen" can be abridged into good stories for children. But all that other stuff he put in them.... I imagine them selling to adults who read them to children, perhaps skipping or downplaying the bits I'd call nasty.

Writerpatrick
Registered User
(11/6/05 10:44 am)
Re: Andersen's sad stories
Andersen's story has a more "romantic" ending. It was written for a more spiritual people, during a time that deep belief in God and the supernatural was more common and the hierarchy of Heaven was clearly defined. The little mermaid didn't "die" but became effectively an angel.

The Disney version was made for a more modern and younger audience that Andersen intended the story, so it was changed to the "happy ending". But folk stories have a way of changing to suit the times, and both work well.

neverossa
Registered User
(11/6/05 6:31 pm)
Andersen and Empathy
I have to say this first: I love deeply Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, and, as with all the authors I LOVE I've been feeling a strong identification with his characters since I was a child. He is still one of the writers that I need to mention when talking of what influenced me, my choices, my writings. I loved his tales when I was a child, The Ugly Duckling has always been one of my favourite, because it was sad, and because there was a lot of hope in that sadness. The same for the Little Mermaid. What you wrote regarding immigration and so, the fact of being an outsider in the society, Myriana, is fitting well with the tale. When Andersen was writing The Ugly Duckling or The Little Mermaid, he was writing of himself. He was writing of DIFFERENCE. LM can't merge with the world despite of her love for it, because the world doesn't understand her. The world of the crowd (that thing that Hardy named MAD) doesn't recognize you, for your inner qualities, for your own poetry (and Andersen was a real poet), but you look at it with desire and ready to sacrifice something of yourself to be part of it. There's the idea of the Christian sacrifice as well, but a very personal one. Difference, that is personality, is what makes you special (a mermaid!), love is the force that drives you in the world and it doesn't matter how much you have to suffer for it. It is not that you can't be loved... it's that you can't be properly seen. The only (important) hope that Andersen shows at last is not in the possible comprehension of the world outside, but it is located deep in yourself, in the fact that the love you have to give and the beauty you hide inside, are the real human strenght. There's no hope in the world. But there's plenty of it in the kind of being you can become. One that is able to love, one that is winged and silent. I don't really see a lot of education for children here, but a lot of poetry, the kind of poetry that is not suggesting you how to live, but what to be. As a child my mother never told me how to behave in order to obtain something: she taught me (and the wonderful thing is that she did it without purpose, according to her natural way of living) just to love small fallen birds and children like me. Because in loving them I could feel life most, even if love can be painful. Small birds quite often die. Children grow up and forget their wonderful childhood and lots of things about you. You have to cross all the hell, to find heaven, that is not a chorus of angels, but just yourself. Or something that another dear Danish man, Kierkegaard, called faith.


I liked Disney's movie (though I was sixteenth when I watched it) but as all Disney's distortions of fairy tales it doesn't belong to me. I found it nice and empty.

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