The Little Mermaid Retellings

Posted June 19, 2015 by Carlisa in #AmWriting, Fairy Tale Fridays, Let's Talk / 7 Comments

fairy tale friday

The Little Mermaid

Ah, this was probably my favorite Disney movie when I was little. I don’t know what it was about it, but I just really enjoyed it. So today I thought I’d share the original story and then some with modern or different twists.

The Little Mermaid – Hans Christian Anderson

The Little Mermaid one of five daughters of the mer-king. At 15, each daughter gets the chance to swim to the surface. When she gets her turn, she sees a celebration on a ship and falls in love with the oh, so handsome prince aboard. Suddenly, a storm strikes and the Little Mermaid saves the prince from drowning but leaves before he sees her.

Saddened by her love-that-cannot-be, she talks to her grandmother and asks about humans’ lives. Her grandmother tells her that humans live a lot shorter than mermaids’ 300 years, but humans’ souls live eternally in heaven while mermaids just turn into sea foam. The Little Mermaid goes to the Sea Witch, desiring an eternal soul and her prince. She trades in her voice for legs…and when she drinks the potion it will feel like a blade running through her…and every step she takes will feel like daggers in her feet. And she will only gain a soul if the prince falls in love with her and they get married–when part of his soul enters hers. Otherwise she will become sea foam. She agrees and the Sea Witch cuts of the Little Mermaid’s tongue.

She goes to the surface and the princes finds her. Though she can’t speak, he’s enchanted with her, especially her dancing. So she dances and dances for him, despite the excruciating pain it causes her. The king tries to get the prince to marry the neighboring kingdom’s princess, but the prince refuses saying he does not love her. Instead he loves the girl he thinks rescued him from the shipwreck, without knowing it was actually the Little Mermaid. He marries this other girl and the Little Mermaid’s heart is broken.

Her sisters rise to the surface with a knife the Sea Witch gave them in exchange for their hair. If the Little Mermaid kills the prince with it and drips his blood on her feet, she will become a mermaid again and live. She takes the dagger but is ultimately unable to kill him. She throws herself off the building and dissolves into sea foam in the water. Her spirit floats into the sky where she will serve mankind for 300 years before getting the chance to enter heaven.

[Note: Sounds like the Disney version at first, doesn’t it? Then it…doesn’t.]

My Modern Take

We’re about to get real here. I’m sharing some of my own writing. Which I don’t do nearly enough. I actually wrote this a long time ago…like I think I was 15 or 16. It’s a prologue to a modern day retelling of the Little Mermaid that I wanted to write. I only wrote this prologue and the first chapter, but I actually very much hate the first chapter so I’m not sharing that here. I never got farther than that which is kind of sad. But I wrote it in my early years in high school where swim team basically ruled my life. I thought it would be cool to write a modern day retelling of The Little Mermaid. A girl whose entire life has revolved around competitive swimming, whose parents make her keep going. But a girl who doesn’t want it. She just wants a normal life, one that doesn’t involve an excessive amount of chlorine. So here it is, just for your pleasure. It’s really short, but that’s okay.

I hear the first beep and my hands instinctively reach down and my fingers curl around the end of the block. My head is down, and I keep my eyes closed. The cheering is distant, separate from my thoughts. I can’t focus on that. It all comes down to this. My muscles tense as the referee starts saying those oh familiar words: “On your mark…get ready…” He presses the button and there’s the beep. My body instantly reacts: My arms fly forward, coming together tight around my ears; my legs push off the block, throwing me forward into the air; and I relax, because this is what I know. This is what I do. My fingers cut through the water, letting the rest of me follow smoothly. I don’t even have to think because my body knows what to do. My legs butterfly kick as fast as they can until my head breaks through the water and my arms start working, too. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Turn and breathe. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Flip. It’s natural. I keep going. I’m in my own world–in a bubble. I don’t pay attention to anything but my movements. Only 15 more yards. I kick harder, I pull harder, and faintly I can feel the resulting burn. But I don’t care. I push. And when I reach for that final stroke before touching the wall, I only know one thing. I hate swimming. I hate it.

Retellings Galore

When I was looking for some retellings I couldn’t find that many! What! This needs to change. This could be retold in so many awesome ways. Writers get writing! But here are a few that I did see (click to get the Goodreads info). Disclaimer: I haven’t actually read any of them, but I hope to soon.

fathomless mermaid monstruous beauty the mermaid's pendant the summer of chasing mermaids

What do you think of the original Little Mermaid? Have you read any of these retellings? Are there any that I missed? Let me know!


  • Ivy

    I really like The Little Mermaid, both the Disney and original Hans Christian Anderson version. I’ve never read a mermaid book before, even though I have few on my TBR list. I feel like the execution is something that isn’t easy to capture and every time I think of starting one, I get scared and put it down for fear of disappointment. When I think of a mermaid story, I think of beaches and summer and surfing boys, which isn’t what I want at all. I’m going to have to read one eventually.

    • That’s actually really true and something I hadn’t thought about. Mermaid stories would be super hard to execute well. Hmmmmm, you have a point I think! I like retellings that aren’t straight retellings, if that makes sense. So if someone took the basic idea of the Little Mermaid and made it modern or twisted it, it could be good. I’m not sure. Thanks for the comment though!

  • shannan with an a

    This is also my favorite fairy tale (both original and Disney). Although it threw me for a loop the first time I read the original. I haven’t read many mermaid stories, but my favorite so far is the The Lost Voices Trilogy. And I like your exerpt, and think it’s an interesting concept. You should revisit it.

    • Hmmm I’ve never heard of the The Lost Voices trilogy but I’ll have to check it out!

  • Sofia R.

    Hi there! I just wanted to let you know that I really like your blog and I’ve nominated you for a Liebster Award If you didn’t already know, it’s a way to let your readers know more about the person behind the blog and also a chance to discover new blogs. Here’s the link for the nomination:

    http://rainingbooksandwords.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-liebster-award-vol-2.html

    • Thank you so much! That means the world to me. I’ll make the post either today or tomorrow! You’re awesome!!

  • I didn’t know there were even THIS many retellings. So excited. Now, at some point I simply MUST read some of these. 🙂