Don’t ask me why I feel like sharing this with you, because I don’t really know.
One of my favorite stories is The Little Mermaid. While I enjoy the Disney film version to the extent that I know all the songs by heart, I am actually referring to the original fairytale, Den Lille Havfrue, by Hans Christian Andersen. In fact, although I think I forgot to mention it, visiting the commemorative statue in Denmark is on my bucket list.
I actually love the original story because it is so much more meaningful…
You see, it is a love story, but is also about a quest for immortality.
The little mermaid, upon her fifteenth birthday, is allowed to go to the surface for the first time, and when she does she falls in love with a prince on a boat. Then, just like with Disney, the big storm comes, and she saves his life, taking him to the front of a temple and disappearing as soon as she is sure someone discovers him.
Once she returns to the depths of the sea, the little mermaid is filled with questions about life and death and love. She goes to her grandmother, who tells her that humans have a much shorter lifespan than mermaids, yet they also have an immortal soul–they live forever once their bodies die, yet the mermaid turns into seafoam and ceases to exist in any way.
Never having thought about it before, the little mermaid is alarmed to learn that nothing will become of her when she dies. As she thinks about it, she becomes desperate for an immortal soul. That’s why she goes to the sea witch, who exchanges a potion to give her legs for her voice. Once she has legs, it will cause her almost unbearable pain to walk on them. She also has to find her true love and marry him in order to gain her immortal soul, otherwise she will die of a broken heart.
On land, the little mermaid meets the prince, who is fascinated by her and cannot deny her beauty, but it all comes to nothing as the prince prepares to marry a foreign princess. The little mermaid is devastated and waiting for her death to come as the witch had predicted. Her sisters come, telling her that they made a deal with the witch so that all she has to do is take a knife and kill the prince, letting his blood soak her feet, and then she can return to life in the sea. But her love for the prince will not allow her to kill him, so she allows herself to dissolve into foam in the sea when dawn breaks. Yet as she closes her eyes, she can feel the warmth of the sun. She did not cease to exist, but became a spirit of the air because of her sincere efforts to obtain immortality.
“I would give gladly all the hundreds of years that I have to live, to be
a human being only for one day, and to have the hope of knowing the
happiness of that glorious world above the stars.”
–The Little Mermaid, Hans Christian Andersen