Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mermaids - Before Ariel or Love Gets You in the End

Mermaids - Half Woman, Half Fish, Totally Intriguing

So many lovely myths to explore.
So many strange tales to share.
Where do I begin?
Where else?

The Little Mermaid

However, not the cute version beautifully illustrated by Disney, but with the original story by Hans Christian Andersen.

The Litte Mermaid Statue, Copenhagen - Wikipedia
When I was young, one of my favorite books was The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen.

Cover Image from
On the cover, it had this marvelous hologram of the mermaid swimming under the sea and inside were many two-page dioramas illustrating the story using these wonderful puppets. I spent many an hour reading and re-reading the story. One summer, my mother, sister, and I even planted our own gardens a la The Little Mermaid, filling them with our personal choices of flowers.

Interior Page Image from
But Hans Christian Anderson's story is not the same story as the one Disney popularized with it's darling Ariel. His story (beautifully portrayed in this book) is darker and tragic. The ending is less Happily Ever After and more selfless sacrifice is rewarded.

The little mermaid sacrifices all in hopes of winning love--her voice, her home, her family. Her transformation is accompanied by excruciating pain, and the price of failure is death. When she loses her love, the prince, to another woman, she is offered an opportunity to save herself, but only if she kills the prince. She cannot and casts herself into the sea. Instead of dying, she is transformed into a spirit of the air (angel) in recognition of her selflessness.

Interestingly enough, some of the earliest stories of mermaids involved an Assyrian goddess, Atargatis, who fell in love with a human. When she accidentally killed her lover (details unknown), she transformed herself into a mermaid. Talk about your story reversals, eh?

I'll be diving more seriously into mermaid myths around the world next month, so please come back to visit.

Denise Golinowski is a reader and writer of fantasy and romance. Her newest enovella, Collector's Item, is available from  The Wild Rose Press

Her first enovella, The Festival of the Flowers: The Courtesan and the Scholar is also available  through the Wild Rose Press. You can visit her blog at Golinowski's Gambol.


  1. My favorite Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale was "The Emperor's New Clothes." (Great reminder to think for yourself.) I love the mermaids in downtown Norfolk (Va.), but I'm glad I've never read Andersen's "The Little Mermaid"! Definitely one of the more intriguing myths. Thanks, Denise! I always learn something when you blog.

  2. Oh, can't wait to hear more about mermaids. I love all the mythological water beings. Fascinating stories.