The Little Mermaid Quotes

Instructor: Ivy Roberts

Ivy Roberts is an adjunct instructor in English, film/media studies and interdisciplinary studies.

This lesson retells Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, 'The Little Mermaid' through eloquent quotes from the actual text. You will learn about the characters, plot, and the conflict in Andersen's tragic tale of love and loss.

Not-So-Happily Ever After

Hans Christian Andersen's original version of the classic tale, ''The Little Mermaid'' varies drastically from the modern version we have come to know. This is not a happy bedtime story. All the prerequisites are there: the beautiful maiden, the prince, and the love affair. But Andersen's conclusion differs from your expected fairy tale ending. Unfortunately, they do not live happily ever after.

Undersea Princess

Andersen's nameless little mermaid is a tragic but convicted heroine. She is the daughter of the sea king. ''They were six beautiful children; but the youngest was the prettiest of them all; her skin was as clear and delicate as a rose-leaf, and her eyes as blue as the deepest sea; but, like all the others, she had no feet, and her body ended in a fish's tail.''

Rules are rules. The princesses aren't allowed to rise to sea level until their 15th birthday. The littlest mermaid yearns for that day more than any of her sisters. ''None of them longed so much for her turn to come as the youngest, she who had the longest time to wait, and who was so quiet and thoughtful. Many nights she stood by the open window, looking up through the dark blue water, and watching the fish as they splashed about with their fins and tails.''

Her Earthly Desire

On her 15th birthday, the sheltered mermaid is finally allowed to swim to the surface. ''The little mermaid swam close to the cabin windows; and now and then, as the waves lifted her up, she could look in through clear glass window-panes, and see a number of well-dressed people within. Among them was a young prince, the most beautiful of all, with large black eyes; he was sixteen years of age, and his birthday was being kept with much rejoicing.''

The little mermaid saves the prince from a sinking ship and deposits him alive on shore. A human girl wanders onto the beach from the local monastery to find the prince laying there, still unconscious. The little mermaid hops back into the sea and watches as one of the lovely young maidens revives the prince.

He doesn't even catch a glimpse of the little mermaid. It's the monastery girl who becomes etched in his memory. ''She seemed frightened at first, but only for a moment; then she fetched a number of people, and the mermaid saw that the prince came to life again, and smiled upon those who stood round him. But to her he sent no smile; he knew not that she had saved him. This made her very unhappy, and when he was led away into the great building, she dived down sorrowfully into the water, and returned to her father's castle.''

The young maiden finds the prince
young maiden on the beach

The little mermaid returns home distraught. Upon the advice of her grandmother, she learns that mermaids lack an immortal soul. If the prince were to fall in love with her and marry her, she would gain a part of his soul. ''Then his soul would glide into your body and you would obtain a share in the future happiness of mankind.''

Draught from the Sea Witch

The little mermaid then commits to win the prince's love. But first, she needs human legs. She seeks out the help of the sea witch, but the cost of a draught (magic potion) is high. The witch cuts out her tongue, making the girl mute. As a consequence, if she doesn't win the love of the prince and marry him, then she will never gain her immortal soul.

The Sea Witch
sea witch

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