The Original Ending of 'The Little Mermaid' Is Actually Pretty Dark

Talk about tough lessons.

The Original Ending of 'The Little Mermaid' Is Actually Pretty Dark
Disney's The Little Mermaid, 1989

I grew up mesmerized by Disney's The Little Mermaid. Like many little girls, it made me wish for red hair and fins desperately. While I never understood why on earth Arial would trade her tail for legs, I appreciated the tidy happy ending. Recently, however, a friend sent me a video lambasting my favorite childhood film. In it, the original tale of Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid was revealed to me for the first time.

I don't agree with every point Maddox makes about Disney's version—I actually think there is a powerful lesson in there about the danger of giving up your voice, your being, who you are, for someone else—but I found the comparison of the stories fascinating.

Andersen's ending is, quite frankly, depressing. Despite Marina sacrificing absolutely everything for him, the prince does not fall in love her. She then has to choose between killing the prince or dying because she didn't marry him in time. You can feel your heart sink as she dives finless into the ocean. Heavy stuff, right? 

The Original Ending of 'The Little Mermaid' Is Actually Pretty Dark
Andersen's Story: The Mermaid Princess, 1975

I'm not sure how traumatized I would have been if I watched this in my youth, but like Maddox points out, it is an interesting lesson in not always getting what you want—no matter how badly you want it. Something we all have had to learn in one way or another.

Whatever moral you prefer, it's hard to beat Disney's soundtrack. Something I'm not ashamed to say I'll be listening to the rest of the afternoon.

Editorial Director of Livingly's lifestyle group.
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