This week’s topic: What tale or fable would you like to see a retelling of?
I love this topic, because there is one in particular that has been eating a hole in my brain for a while. I want a retelling of….wait for it…The Little Mermaid.
Wait! It’s not what you think. I’m not talking about bubbly seashell-breasted cartoons with singing crabs, I want to take back what Disney stole from us. I want to reclaim the original dark and glorious beauty that is the original Little Mermaid tale.
I grew up on Hans Christian Andersen. My mother had a huge leather-bound tome with exquisite illustrations that had been handed down from mother to daughter in her family for generations. This was the Little Mermaid I knew.
I remember the first time I saw the Disney movie I was outraged. I kept whispering in not-so-quiet tones “They are butchering the story!” which would inevitably induce “hushes” from all my fellow spectators.
Here’s the thing, the original Little Mermaid is a very dark tale. There is no slapped-on happy ending. The ending is tragically, gloriously sad. Mr. Andersen famously did not have a happy life, and he was almost quintessentially unlucky in love, and nowhere does this come out better than in the Little Mermaid.
Let me see if I can sum up some of the major differences: The Sea Witch doesn’t magically remove the Little Mermaid’s voice. She cuts out her tongue. And although this bargain gains her legs, she is told that every step she takes on land “will be like walking on knives”. But she does it anyway, because her love for the prince is so consuming. And when the prince asks her to dance, every step in the dance is like walking on knives but she somewhat sadistically enjoys it because she is dancing with the man she loves. Oh, but things go horribly wrong and the prince falls in love with another woman and marries her instead. The Mermaid’s sisters make another bargain with the Sea Witch this time giving up their hair to purchase an enchanted knife. The Little Mermaid is given two options, either stab her love and his betrothed in their wedding bed or die and waste her sisters’ sacrifice. And she almost does it. She sneaks into their room at night and sees them sleeping in each other’s arms, but she can’t do it. Instead, as the sun rises, she throws herself into the sea.
See what I mean…so not singing crabs. More unrequited love and torture and death. Call me old fashioned, but it’s a much, much better story. It absolutely haunted me as a child. Maybe that’s why kids today are fed the pabulum that they are. No one wants to deal with that many lawsuits involving traumatized children.
Am I out of my skull to want to write this one? And if so/if not, what tale would you like to see retold?