Earlier, we looked at the sanitizing of old fairy tales, with Disney being the prime offender. This time, we look at the feel-good story of The Little Mermaid.
Anyone with kids has surely seen the story of Ariel, the red-haired mermaid. Ariel lives under the sea with her overbearing father, King Triton, and several sisters. It’s a very musical family, not unlike the Jacksons. It’s all business, with constant rehearsing. And there was to be absolutely no contact with humans. Kind of like Joe was with white guys dating Janet.
Armed with her sidekick Flounder (who is not a flounder at all – Real flounder have that creepy two-eyes-on-one-side-of-the-head thing going on, which makes for poor sidekick material. Now that I think about it, she’s got fish and crab friends…what do mermaids eat anyway?), she wanders around avoiding music practice looking for stuff that fell off of ships like dinglehoppers, crab traps from the Northwestern, and that blue necklace the old lady threw away at the end of Titanic. Along comes a guy in fancy clothes who owns his own boat and Ariel is instantly in love. Some things are universal across species boundaries.
There’s a storm and she ends up saving the guy and enchanting him with her amazing singing voice. She decides to give up her music career (and that whole being-able-to-breathe-underwater thing) to be with a guy who in a couple of years will probably be out chasing tail (literally) all over the place while she slaves away in the kitchen. So she cuts a deal with the sea witch, Ursula, to fulfill her wish. Ariel gets 3 days on land and Rex Grossman. Ursula gets Ariel’s voice and a few conditional draft picks. I don’t need to tell you who got hosed there.
How is she going to go on land and win his love in just 3 days without her beautiful voice? The moonwalk hadn’t even been invented yet. And three days isn’t even enough time to get pregnant. What’s worse is that to become human permanently, she must receive a “kiss of true love” and not just a “kiss of sure-why-not”.
So she takes Ariel’s voice and puts it into a shell that she calls “Milli Vanilli”. The witch tricks the prince into marrying her, but then her ruse is uncovered during a loop of “Girl You Know It’s True”. But it’s too late and Ariel turns back into a mermaid, though the prince stabs Ursula with the point of a ship, and everyone knows that any magic that is done by someone evil is undone when they are killed. Ariel marries the prince, setting the stage for a few more easy money sequels.
The Little Mermaid was originally published by Hans Christian Andersen in 1837. In the story, when a mermaid turns 15, she is allowed to explore the world above sea. Kind of like rumspringa for the Amish, but with less pot smoking. As the little mermaid’s sisters check out dry land, she is riveted by their stories of treadmills, beef jerky, and NASCAR. She falls in love with the prince from afar and rescues him, but she doesn’t dare stay near shore with the new Arizona immigration law now on the books. She simply watches from offshore and sees another girl named C.J. Parker find him on the beach.
The mermaid is told that short-lived humans have an eternal soul that lives on in heaven, while mermaids die after about 300 years and simply turn to “sea foam”. So she gives up the bird in the hand for the two in the bush and takes the Sea Witch’s deal that includes legs and crazy dancing ability in exchange for her tongue. And though she can walk and dance, it is only under the worst pain imaginable. Poor unfortunate soles! And if the prince marries another, it will be Sea Foam City for the mermaid.
The prince ends up announcing his wedding to the girl who found him at the beach. The mermaid is heartbroken and by this time has terrible bunions as well. The mermaid’s sisters trade their gold records for a knife, for the Sea Witch claimed that if she were to slay the prince and get blood on her shoes, she would become a mermaid again. Of course, she can’t do it, so she throws herself into the ocean and becomes sea foam.
It turns out that the ending did poorly with test audiences, so Andersen later tacked on an ending where some good spirits saved her and made her a spirit, too. They shared some complicated formula for how she’d eventually get that soul and go to heaven if she was good for 300 years. Which brought it from most depressing story ever written, to second most.
So if there’s nothing else to be learned here, ladies, making deals with witches are right up there on the foolhardy scale with falling in love with a guy even before friending him on Facebook. Witches be crazy. If you insist on making a deal with one, at least have your lawyer present.