Symbolism In Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Little Mermaid'

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Fairy Tales are an important means used to teach life’s basic truths to children. These stories contain deep moral beliefs that sculpt basic understanding of right and wrong for society. Throughout time they have been adapted to a more child friendly form, even so that the film industry now bases child-oriented movies on classic fairy tales. Fairy tales, such as Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”, appeal to a sense of romance, adventure, and the fight between good and evil. Society supports retelling the fairy tales because they support traditional moral values society desires its children to learn. “The Little Mermaid” is a fairy tale about a young mermaid who is waiting until the day she is allowed to explore outside her father’s …show more content…
One such example is the archetypal element of feet. This element symbolises freedom. The little mermaid grows up wanting to be able to explore the land, but cannot with her fish tail. She sacrifices her beautiful voice to obtain feet. This exchange comes with the price of pain, bleeding, and never being able to return to the sea (which in itself is a loss of freedom). Air, another archetypal element, is a symbol of activity. The enjoyment of three days filled with adventure and wonder on the land is coming to a sudden end when the narrator explains, “This was the last evening that she would breathe the same air with him, or gaze on the starry sky and the deep sea” (Anderson). This realization shows the little mermaid’s emotions as she knows this evening would be the last of her life in sea or on land. The sea witch in the story represents “The Devil Figure”. She exemplifies evil manipulation of an innocent person when she makes the little mermaid sacrifice her voice for legs. Ultimately, the sea witch offers the ultimate temptation to the little mermaid when the sea witch offer the little mermaid the choice of killing the prince or forfeiting her own life. The sea witch sends the little mermaid’s sisters to desperately exclaim, “ Kill the prince and come back; hasten: do you not see the first red streaks in the sky? In a few minutes the sun will rise, and you must die”(Anderson). Early 19th century Europe was still …show more content…
This fairy tale teaches society that even though someone may have achieved a heroic feat, such as the little mermaid saving the prince, they may not be renowned for it. This is evident when the little mermaid is rejected by the prince who thinks the young woman from the convent is his rescuer. The prince tells her, “The youngest of them found me on the shore, and saved my life. I saw her but twice, and she is the only one in the world whom I could love; but you are like her, and you have almost driven her image out of my mind”, showing that he truly loves his supposed rescuer (Andersen). That lesson of an unknown hero was lost as the tale was adapted into modern society. It is clear to see the difference between the traditional tale and the retelling in Kristen Depken’s “The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning”, he concludes his adaption of the fairy tale with, “Ariel and Prince Eric married and lived happily in a castle by the sea” (Depken 15). Andersen used his fairytales to convey his understanding of logic and ethics that are still important for myself and my peers to learn. This tale is means of encouragement for those who do not always receive a reward for their efforts. It also provides hope that in the end one’s efforts will be rewarded. It reminds the reader that the wisdom of age is important to consider (the little mermaid’s grandmother). Some choices cannot be undone, even if your

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