The Little Mermaid is getting the live reboot so many other Disney classics have seen over the years, like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. This one in particular, however, is causing some controversy with the casting of Halle Bailey, R&B singer, as Ariel. I wonder if everyone so upset with the casting knows the roots of the story. It isn’t just a sweet fairy tale where the princess falls in love with a prince and everyone lives happily ever after. The original tale written in 1837 is much darker and has a deeper connection with Hans Christian Andersen’s life.
Before penning The Little Mermaid, Andersen had fallen in love with a man of much higher class, Edvard Collin. Andersen was attracted to both men and women according to many biography writers, but he was pining for this one man in particular. Collin never returned Andersen’s affections, actually bothered by the special attention that Andersen had paid him and one of his sisters. Collin ended up marrying a woman, and it broke Andersen’s heart. The Little Mermaid became his love letter to Collin.
image via heroic hollywood
In fact, Andersen’s story and that of Ariel are actually quite similar, both tales of unrequited love. Like Andersen, Ariel falls in love with a prince, but she is a mermaid and can’t just walk up to him and tell him. She has no legs! So she sells her voice to a sea witch in exchange for legs and the ability to walk on land to get the prince to fall in love with her. In both Andersen’s original story and Disney’s animated version, the prince does love another woman. In the Disney tale, it is the sea witch, Ursula, who is overcome by Ariel and her animal friends. Ariel gets her prince in the end. In the original tale, the other woman is just another woman. With no voice to express her feelings, something highly symbolic of Andersen’s situation, the prince marries someone else. Ariel, distraught, cries so much she turns into sea foam.