The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen

“If men aren’t drowned,” the little mermaid asked, “do they live on forever? Don’t they die, as we do down here in the sea?”
“Yes,” the old lady said, “they too must die, and their lifetimes are even shorter than
ours.We can live to be three hundred years old, but when we perish we turn into mere foam on the sea,and haven’t even a grave down here among our dear ones. We have no immortal soul, no life hereafter. We are like the green seaweed – once cut down, it never grows again. Human beings, on the contrary, have a soul which lives forever, long after their bodies have turned to clay. It rises through thin air, up to the shining stars. Just as we rise through the water to see the lands on earth,so men rise up to beautiful places unknown, which we shall never see.”
“Why weren’t we given an immortal soul?” the little mermaid sadly asked. “I would gladly
give up my three hundred years if I could be a human being only for a day, and later share
in that heavenly realm.”
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Excerpt from : Andersen, Hans. “The Little Mermaid or ‘Den lille Havfrue’.”

The story of this mermaid affected me deeply, however, I’m not so satisfied with the
compromise the original tale ends with and the reward that the little mermaid got for her
“good deeds”. But as it is a fairy tale, the ending supposed to be happy not a tragic one.
The tale develops with the growing eagerness of the little mermaid to the upper, exotic,
unknown world which always aroused her curiosity . Attentively the unusual child listened to her grandmother and older sister stories of the upper world, and the statue of a handsome boy in her garden kept the fire within her burning. Her desire to ascend the upper world in her fifteens was fulfilled and her eyes see the world above the sea surface but that wasn’t enough for her. The over ambitious mermaid who was different from her peers in perceiving the world around her wanted to ascend her soul to be immortal and to change her inevitable destiny.

After she fall in love with the human prince and saved him from drowning in the sea ,
the objections of her surrounding couldn’t prevent the enthusiastic mermaid from taking
the challenge “I dare do anything to win him and to gain an immortal soul” and like Dr.Faustus she made a deal with the “devil ” the sea witch, losing her voice to attain human legs and abandoning her family and her whole world, in which she had everything to be happy , for the upper , exotic , unknown world.

Full of hope she walked towards the gates of “heaven” each time she sacrificed something
and little by little, she began to understand that the winds do not blow as the vessels wish.
The only person the prince will marry is the girl who saved his life, and because the ermaid didn’t have a voice anymore , he never knew that the mermaid was this girl and this love was unrequited . Moreover , the prince chose another girl to marry and by that the ermaid will turn to watery foam , she did everything that she could, more than that she did the impossible, she crossed the forbidden untrodden lines and reached the point of no return “Remember!” said the witch. “Once you have taken a human form, you can never be a mermaid again.”, If he marries someone else, your heart will break on the very next morning, and you will become foam of the sea.” At the end the voiceless young human princess sacrificed herself for the others .

Did she fall in love with this prince because his love is a manifestation of the immortality
that she was seeking for and aspire to? as her grandmother told her earlier that if a mermaid married a human prince then she will gain the immortal soul”…his soul would dwell in your body, and you would share in the happiness of mankind. He would give you a soul and yet keep his own.” What is the most ambiguous thing about this over ambitious girl is that after she gave up everything to possess an immortal soul and to be unified with the handsome prince, she abandoned all that and surrendered easily !!! maybe she realized that the human love and happiness live out of her body and soul or she surrendered to her inevitable destiny after she knew that there weren’t other choices left to her “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust” and a mermaid to foam on the sea. However, in this very moment of surrender she had a choice (her sisters brought her an enchanted knife, by killing the prince she will survive), but she chose to give the happiness to the married couple. Perhaps she discovered the ultimate goal of humanity and instead of taking the prince’s soul to live, the little princess decided to give her life to the prince, to live forever in his heart.


This tale has inspired a considerable number of adaptations, films, and other works of art. One of those works is a statue of The Little Mermaid, in the Copenhagen icon, it makes the little mermaid immortal and now all humans from all over the world come to visit her, while she is sitting on a rock between the land of humans and the sea of mermaids.

What do you think? Please tell us your opinion about the little mermaid, her choices, the unrequited love, and about other characters or events that interested you.

Ghaythaa Deeb , Syria


23 thoughts on “The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen

  1. Ghaythaa, I almost forgot the original sotry. Andersen tells us love is selfish and altrustic at the same time. When I read this story at my childhood, the ending was so sad that I would make various endings for her. Now I believe Andersen could make his little mermaid(or his love?) a permanency for this ending. 🙂 BTW when I visited at Copenhagen (almost thirty years ago), I was surprised she was so little literally. :p


      • Haha I think your mermaids are busy , spending the hot summer days swimming , diving and exploring underwater 😉


    • Hey Mami 🙂 … Hmm there’s a lot to be said about this tale , maybe Andersen wants to draw our attention to the value of our life as human beings , happiness is always in our hands and we mistakenly believe that happiness depends on things outside us 😦 …. The love of the little mermaid is unconditional love , when someone keeps giving until his last breath to others and of course the little mermaid death is figurative .In this meaning , rewarding the mermaid sacrifice ( in a direct/obvious way ) would become artificial , however , the version that I’ve read ends with happy ending as (daughters of the air ) who appears suddenly , told her that she’s now one of them as a reward of her good deeds and she will have a soul after 300 years !! …okay I’m not sure about this last addition and not convinced of it either 🙂 .


      • I agree with you Ghaythaa … though the first scenario is heartbreaking .. yet.. it seems more close to a real end of such a story


    • Hahaah Mami, she is very little, I have seen it several times, and in another city, they made a male mermaid to compete with her XD but the thing is with her story I guess, it is a tourist attraction here, and everyone expect her to be bigger but most of them end up disappointed 😀


  2. This is the power of imagination I think it belongs to the romantic style of writing.
    life is like a rare jewel we don’t appreciate or forget about it until we lose it ..some people live in this planet but they are dead.. actually they didn’t appreciate the value and the beauty of life
    Being a human means having a free well and sympathy with those around us
    So live, love and laugh 😉 🙂


  3. Hi,Ghaythaa, I am surprised to learn the story is so universal that you are charmed by it. I believe we have the feelings that we human beings share and understand anywhere in the world. I think love is essentially unrequited.
    and unconditional. The ability of loving others is itself a reward.
    By the way I see chimneys and rising smokes in the background of the statue of the little mrmaid. Everyone
    that visits the city have to wonder if they do not pollute the air. Is it an act of love? I think it is the act of love of something for the reward.


  4. I have a weak heart towards this story ,, as the first time I heard it I was about 12 years old and cried like a baby when she turned to watery foam …. I believe that the writer pointed out to one available choice and its results .. leaving the door open for our imagination to say what might have gone differently If she chose a different path .. feelings could affect our choices and this make our actions unpredictable 🙂

    thanks for the warm memory that you brought up Ghaythaa 🙂


  5. Nice story, I haven’t read the actual book, but I have seen many versions of the story, I think it shows us the greed of humans, considering that we always search for some ways to convince ourselves that death is not the end, we created things that doesn’t exist for example “souls” just to feel that we are going to have another life after death, I think if we focused on love and helping each other, then humanity will be safe, the little mermaid knew that she would live if she killed the man she loves, but she didn’t do that, why? because she could see that love is more important than any other fantasies, that is my way of seeing the story 🙂


  6. Hi Dado , Mami , Nora , Akio , Katia 🙂 and thanks a lot for your comments 🙂 they are so important and valuable to me :* and I think that our choices and actions can’t be canceled once they are made , so the only way to widen this limited life is through reading literature then think , imagine and suggest different scenarios that we could reach .. it enables us sometimes from being gods 🙂 see what other’s can’t . by imitating human feelings and acts , literature gives us a hand to evaluate our actions , consider other’s feelings and remember that behind the story of each person , there are hidden parts require our sympathy and compassion and that’s the core of our humanity … I think the prince in this story wasn’t a good reader of literature 😉 😀


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