the mermaid’s agony…

June 21, 2016


During the writing of The Little Mermaid, Andersen must have suffered greatly indeed. As Tatar notes, much representational energy was spent on dramatizing the mermaid’s agony, both physical and emotional. This is perhaps best exemplified in the image of the mermaid, secretly brokenhearted, celebrating the marriage of her beloved prince to another woman. During the festivities, she:

“Whirled into dance, gliding like a swallow when it is being pursued. . . .It was as if sharp knives were cutting her delicate feet, but she did not feel it; the pain that pierced her heart was far worse. She knew that this was the last night that she would see the prince — the one for whom she had left her family and her home, given up her beautiful voice, and suffered endless torment every day without his knowing it. It was the last night that she would breathe the same air as he, that she would see the deep ocean and the starry blue sky. Eternal night, without thoughts or dreams, awaited her, she who didn’t have a soul and could not win one. . . .The mermaid laughed and danced, her heart filled with thoughts of death.”

Not only does the little mermaid suffer, but she must suffer in silence (having given up her voice) and alone (having abandoned her family and home).

Virginia Borges
A Million Little Mermaids