Little Mermaid | Modern Interpretations

The story of Little Mermaid and its themes have appeared in literature and other forms of art. This page provides a small discussion of some of the better known treatments by authors and other artists. Novels produced by romance publishers are not listed on this page, but can be found on Romance Novels: Fairy Tale Romances at Little Mermaid.

Modern Interpretations

My Love, My Love, or the Peasant Girl by Rosa Guy

Guy, Rosa. My Love, My Love, or the Peasant Girl. New York: Henry Holt, 1985. Buy the book in hardcover
 or paperback.

NOVEL: From the publisher: "Rosa Guy's tropical retelling of "The Little Mermaid" is the gorgeous, tragic love story of Desiree, a beautiful peasant girl who devotes herself to the handsome, aristocratic young man whose life she has saved. When his upper-class family feels that Desiree's skin is too dark and her family too poor for a boy destined for power and wealth, Desiree proves that she is willing to give everything for love. This lovely reprint will break your heart."

The Mermaid's Madness by Jim C. Hines

Hines, Jim CThe Mermaid's Madness. New York: DAW, 2009. Buy the book in paperback or for your Kindle.

NOVEL: From the publisher: "What would happen if a star writer went back to the darker themes of the original fairy tales for plots, and then crossed the Disney princesses with Charlie's Angels? What he'd end up with is The Mermaid's Madness--a whole new take on The Little Mermaid. "

The second in Jim C. Hines's Princess series following The Stepsister Scheme (2009) and will in turn be followed by Red Hood's Revenge (2010) and Secret of the Snow Queen (2011).


Hoffman, Alice. Aquamarine. New York: Scholastic, 2001. Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.

NOVEL: Library of Congess description: "A love-struck mermaid named Aquamarine supplies adventure and insights to two twelve-year-old girls, life-long friends who are spending their last summer together before one of them moves away." Also made in a feature film in 2006 available on DVD.


The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler

Kessler, Liz. The Tail of Emily Windsnap. Boston: Candlewick Press, 2004. Buy the book in hardcover.

NOVEL: From the publisher: "Emily lives on a boat, but her mother has always been oddly anxious to keep her out of the water, and it is only when she has her first school swimming lesson that she discovers it is her natural element. As soon as she gets into the sea, she grows a tail! Now Emily dives under water to explore a glorious world of fishes, coral, shipwrecks and, of course, mermaids. She finds a best friend - another mermaid. She learns how her mother fell in love with a merman, how her father was snatched away when Emily was a baby, and how her mother's memory was blocked by an agent of the merfolk. And in an unexpected and exciting denouement she reunites the family at last. This enchanting fantasy, with its vivid scenes of a brilliantly realized underwater world, tells the story of a delightful and wholly believable girl."


Kozloff, Charles. Ondine. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1980. Buy the book in paperback.



Lainez, Manuel Mujica. Wandering Unicorn. Penguin Canada, 1982. Buy the book in hardcover
 or paperback.

NOVEL: English translation of originally Spanish novel about Melusine set during the Crusades.


Mlynowski, Sarah. Whatever After #3: Sink or Swim. New York: Scholastic Press, 2013. Buy the book in ebook or hardcover orpaperback.

NOVEL: Once again my brother and I are in hot water . . . We weren't planning to mess up the fairy tales. The first two times we did it by accident. But when our magic mirror pulls us into the story of the Little Mermaid, we have no choice but to try and rewrite it. Let's just say the original story does NOT end happily! Now we need to: - Convince our mermaid to keep her tail - Plan a royal wedding - Avoid getting eaten by sharks We've got to find a happy ending for the Little Mermaid . . . before she's fish food and we're lost at sea forever!


The Mer-Child by Robin Morgan

Morgan, Robin. The Mer-Child: A Legend for Children and Other Adults. New York: Feminist Press, 1991. Buy the book in hardcover
 or paperback.

NOVEL: Relates the friendship between a little girl whose legs are paralyzed and a young boy whose mother is a mermaid and whose father is a human.

The Undine by Michael O'Rourke

O'Rourke, Michael. The Undine. New York: Harpercollins, 1996. Buy the book in paperback.

NOVEL: Horror.

Osborne, Mary Pope. Haunted Waters. Boston: Candlewick Press, 1994. Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.

NOVEL: Library of Congess description: "After meeting the mysterious sea maid Undine on a bleak promontory and making her his wife, Lord Huldbrand tries to defend her from the faceless demon that haunts her, while he probes her strange ties to the aquatic world."

The Mermaid's Pendant

Reilly, LeAnn Neal. The Mermaid's Pendant. New York: Zephon Books, 2010. Buy the book in paperback

NOVEL: From the publisher: "Inspired by the beloved classic The Little Mermaid, THE MERMAID'S PENDANT is a modern fairy tale about growing up and discovering who you are -- and what you believe in. At times lyrical, this novel is a fantastic journey filled with magic, myth, romance, and adventure. Four years after John Wilkerson claims the mermaid Tamarind for his wife, they have an idyllic marriage that depends on a talisman that she crafted on their island paradise. But Tamarind learns a painful truth: it takes more than legs to live on land and more than magic to sustain a bond. When the talisman breaks, she and John are forced to rely on themselves instead of magic. Three wise women play key roles in the young lovers' journey to mature love. Ana, Tamarind's aging mentor, casts spells and performs seductions to keep the lovers apart. Valerie, an ex-pat jewelry maker cum fairy godmother, works her own magic to bring them together. Lucy, their widowed neighbor, grounds the couple in the realities of marriage, parenting, and family. THE MERMAID'S PENDANT is a story for anyone who has ever believed in the transforming power of love."

Schreiner, Olive. Undine. 1928. Buy the book in hardcover
 or paperback.

Steiber, Ellen. Teenage Mermaid. New York: Katherine Tegen Books, 2003. Buy the book in hardcover.

NOVEL: From the publisher: "Spencer almost drowns in a surfing accident when a sparkling, golden girl saves him with a kiss of life before she suddenly disappears. Where did this dream girl come from, and will she return? Lilly rescues a boy from nearly drowning and dangerously steps out of her own watery world. Curious to explore this forbidden land, she's gotta find her handsome Earthdude. A silver heart locket is their only clue. Ellen Schreiber revamps a classic favorite with a funky magical romance that shows what transpires when boy meets girl, but discovers girl is really a . . ."

Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale

Turgeon, Carolyn. Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale. New York: Broadway, 2011. Buy the book in paperback

NOVEL: From the publisher: "Two sheltered princesses, one wounded warrior; who will live happily ever after? Princess Margrethe has been hidden away while her kingdom is at war. One gloomy, windswept morning as she stands in a convent garden overlooking the icy sea, she witnesses a miracle: a glittering mermaid emerging from the waves, a nearly drowned man in her arms. By the time Margrethe reaches the shore, the mermaid has disappeared into the sea. As Margrethe nurses the handsome stranger back to health, she learns that not only is he a prince, he is also the son of her father's greatest rival. Sure that the mermaid brought this man to her for a reason, Margrethe devises a plan to bring peace to her kingdom. Meanwhile, the mermaid princess Lenia longs to return to the human man she carried to safety. She is willing to trade her home, her voice, and even her health for legs and the chance to win his heart…. A surprising take on the classic tale, Mermaid is the story of two women with everything to lose. Beautifully written and compulsively readable, it will make you think twice about the fairytale you heard as a child, keeping you in suspense until the very last page."

Midnight Pearl by Debbie Viguie

Viguie, Debbie. Midnight Pearls. New York: Simon Pulse, 2003. Buy the book in paperback.

NOVEL: Once upon a time in the Kingdom of Aster a strange thing happened. They say the prince married a girl who was not what she appeared and that another girl who saved the kingdom vanished without a trace. Some said it was witchcraft. Some said it was only a legend. For those who knew the truth, it was magic.... Rescued from the sea at an early age, Pearl grew up within sight of the water...and the castle. With her pale skin and silvery hair, she was an outcast in the village. Her only friend was a boy she met on the beach -- a young prince named James, who understood Pearl's desire just to be like everyone else. Their friendship is viewed from afar by many: a disdainful king, Pearl's worried foster parents, a jealous young mermaid, a lovestruck merman, and the powerful sea witch. Now a storm brews in the kingdom, with a tidal force that could keep Pearl and James apart.


de Lint, Charles. "Our Lady of the Harbour." Dreams Underfoot. New York: Tor, 1993. Buy the book in paperback.



To Weave a Web of Magic edited by Claire Delacroix

Delacroix, Claire. "An Elegy for Melusine." To Weave a Web of Magic. Claire Delacroix, editor. New York: Berkley, 2004. Buy the book in paperback.

SHORT STORY: Delacroix retells the Melusine story.

Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue

Donoghue, Emma. "The Voice." Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins. New York: Harper Collins, 1997. Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.


Truly Grim Tales by Priscilla Galloway

Galloway, Priscilla. "The Voice of Love."Truly Grim Tales.New York: Delacorte, 1995. Buy the book in paperback.


Armless Maiden edited by Terri Windling

Gardam, Jane. "Pangs of Love." The Armless Maiden and Other Tales for Childhood's Survivors. Terri Windling, ed. New York: Tor Books, 1995. Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.


Once Upon a More Enlightened Time: More Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner

Garner, James Finn. "The Little Mer-Person." Once Upon a More Enlightened Time: More Politically Correct Bedtime Stories. New York: Macmillan, 1995. Buy the book in hardcover.


Silver Birch, Blood Moon

Shaw, Melissa Lee. "The Sea Hag." Silver Birch, Blood Moon.Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, eds. New York: Avon, 1999. Buy the book in paperback.


Shaw, Melissa Lee. "The Sea Hag." Silver Birch, Blood Moon.Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, eds. New York: Avon, 1999. Buy the book in paperback.


Smeds, David. "Foam." Realms of Fantasy. December 1995.


Feminist Fairy Tales by Barbara Walker

Walker, Barbara. "The Littlest Mermaid." Feminist Fairy Tales. San Francisco: Harper, 1996. Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.


Yolen, Jane. "The Undine." Dragonfield and Other Stories. New York: Ace, 1985. Buy the book in paperback.



Cash, Deborah. "The Mermaid Sets the Record Straight." The Endicott Studio Journal of Mythic Arts. Endicott Studio website. Terri Windling, editor.

Return to Magic by Clive Sansom

Sansom, Clive. "The Sea-King's Palace." Return to Magic. London: Leslie Frewin, 1969. Buy the book in hardcover.

If I Were in Charge of the World and Other Worries: Poems for Children and their Parents by Judith Viorst

Viorst, Judith. "...And Although the Little Mermaid Sacrified Everything to Win the Love of the Prince, the Prince (alas) Decided to Wed Another." If I Were in Charge of the World and Other Worries: Poems for Children and their Parents. New York: Atheneum, 1981. Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.

Yolen, Jane. "Undine." Dragonfield and Other Stories. New York: Ace, 1985. Buy the book in paperback.

I have listed primarily classical compositions of music using the themes of this fairy tale in either ballet, opera or some other musical style. I have also provided links to popular recordings of the music when available at The advantage to these links is that you can listen to samples of the music at no charge.

Disney's Little Mermaid Special Edition CD

To learn more about these films, please visit the
Internet Movie Database.


Hans Christian Andersen (1952). Charles Vidor, director.
Buy the movie on VHS. or
 Buy the movie on DVD.

Danny Kaye .... Hans Christian Andersen 
Farley Granger .... Niels 
Zizi Jeanmaire .... Doro
Joseph Walsh .... Peter

A completely fabricated biography of the famous Danish fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen featuring several of his stories and a ballet performance of The Little Mermaid.

Little Mermaid from Shirley Temple's Storybook CollectionShirley Temple Storybook Collection (1958)

The Little Mermaid (1961). Part of the Shirley Temple Storybook Collection. Charles Vidor, director.
Buy the movie on DVD.

Shirley Temple.... The Little Mermaid

"Hans Christian Andersen’s legendary tale of a beautiful mermaid who rescues a shipwrecked prince only to fall hopelessly in love with him. In order for the couple to be together, the mermaid must let go of all that she holds dear, and leave her beloved sea kingdom forever. Shirley Temple hosts and stars as the Little Mermaid."

Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid (1973). Tomoharu Katsumata and Tim Reid, directors. Japan.

ANIMATED FILM: A Japanese animation version of the film that stays much closer to the original Andersen ending than Disney.

Malá morská víla (1975). Karel Kachyna, director. Czechoslovakia. USA Title: The Little Mermaid.

Miroslava Safránková .... Little Mermaid 
Radovan Lukavský .... King of All Seas 
Petr Svojtka .... Prince of the Southern Empire 
Libuse Safránková .... Princess 
Marie Rosulková .... Mermaid's Grandmother 
Milena Dvorská .... Sorceress

This film version honors the original version by Andersen.

The Little Mermaid DVD

Rusalochka (1976). Vladimir Bychkov, director. USA Title: The Little Mermaid.
Buy the movie on DVD. 
If not available on, try searching for it at Facets usually has copies available.

Viktoriya Novikova .... The Shaman, Rusalochka, Malkata Rusalka 
Valentin Nikulin .... Sulpitius 
Galina Artyomova .... Printzessa 
Yuri Senkevich .... Printz 
Stefan Ilyev .... Ritzar

Based on one of Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen's best fairy tales, The Little Mermaid falls in love with a Prince she once saved during a storm. For the sake of her love, she must sacrifice everything to live with her beloved Prince. But will the Prince realize the great trials the Little Mermaid gone through for him or lose her forever? Vladimir Bychkov directs this noted life-action version made in Russia. In this film, the mermaid does not have to give up her voice to the sea hag, but she does exchange her blue hair for legs.

La Petite sirène (1980). Roger Andrieux, director. France. USA Title: The Little Mermaid.
Buy the movie on VHS.

Philippe Léotard .... Georges Maréchal 
Laura Alexis .... Isabelle Pélissier 
Evelyne Dress .... Nelly

"A 40-year-old mechanic whistles at a passing teenager; she stops and upbraids him. In embarrassment, he claims he was whistling at her companion, her 14-year-old cousin, Isabelle. This changes Isabelle's outlook on life: her favorite story is Anderson's "Little Mermaid," and she thinks that in Georges she's found her prince. She follows him, engages him in conversation, and turns up at his flat. At first, he pushes her away and tells her she's nuts, but slowly he finds that she brings out of him a playful self, and he likes her devotion. The attraction builds, threatening Georges' adult relationships, including that with Nelly, his sweetheart." (

Splash DVD

Splash (1984). Ron Howard, director.
Buy the movie on VHS. or
 Buy the movie on DVD.

Tom Hanks .... Allen Bauer 
Daryl Hannah .... Madison 
Eugene Levy .... Walter Kornbluth 
John Candy .... Freddie Bauer

Hannah is a mermaid who comes to Manhattan in search of Hanks, the guy she has twice saved from drowning. Hanks runs a business with his lovable blowhard brother (Candy), whose goal in life is to have a letter published in Penthouse. When this perfect woman shows up, Hanks can't believe his luck and plunges into a dizzyingly romantic relationship, unaware of her sea-water secret. But the mermaid needs to soak and unfurl her tail from time to time, which leads to complications, including her capture by the government for scientific study.

Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale TheatreFaerie Tale Theatre: The Little MermaidFaerie Tale Theatre: The Little Mermaid

Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre: The Little Mermaid(1987) (TV). Robert Iscove, director. Buy the series on DVD.

Karen Black .... Sea Witch
Brian Dennehy .... King Neptune
Pam Dawber .... Pearl
Helen Mirren .... Princess Emilia
Treat Williams .... Prince Andrew

This television series originally aired on Showtime for six seasons and a total of 27 episodes. To see a full episode list, go to Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre.

Disney's Little Mermaid Special Edition DVDDisney's The Little Mermaid DVD

Disney's The Little Mermaid (1989).
Buy the movie on DVD. or Buy the movie on VHS.

From the moment that Prince Eric's ship emerged from the fog in the opening credits it was apparent that Disney had somehow, suddenly recaptured that "magic" that had been dormant for thirty years. In the tale of a headstrong young mermaid who yearns to "spend a day, warm on the sand," Ariel trades her voice to Ursula, the Sea Witch, for a pair of legs. Ariel can only succeed if she receives true love's kiss in a few day's time and she needs all the help she can from a singing crab named Sebastian, a loudmouth seagull, and a flounder. Disney cashed in on this successful film with a TV series (1992-1994) and a sequel, The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000), about Ariel's inquisitive daughter.

The Princess and the Barrio Boy (2000) (TV). Tony Plana, director. 
Buy the movie on DVD. or Buy the movie on VHS.

Marisol Nichols .... Sirena Garcia 
Nicholas Gonzalez .... Sol Torres 
Edward James Olmos .... Nestor Garcia 
Maria Conchita Alonso .... Minerva Rojas 
Michael Reardon .... Pepe Garcia 
Pauly Shore .... Wesley

Combines "The Little Mermaid" with "The Prince & the Pauper" to tell a modern version of the tales. Sirena is a wealthy 15-year-old who lives in Los Angeles with her widowed father, Nestor, and brother, Joseph. Sol lives in East L.A. with his extended family. He's a scholarship student at her private school, and they’re both on the swim team. They're attracted to each other, but Sirena can't imagine dating Sol (despite his good looks)--and nor can her shopping-obsessed friends. Meanwhile, Nestor is planning to marry the gold-digging Minerva. The kids can't stand her, but their father is too blinded by love to see the truth. Originally aired on Showtime.

None so far!

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