Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hans Christian Anderson's lesson on love

Hans Christian Anderson is everywhere in Copenhagen from this statue in front of City Hall (He's gazing at Tivoli Gardens across the say) and this manhole cover

Miranda bought a book while here that included the original Hans Christian Anderson story of the The Little Mermaid and reading this has made me resolve to look at all his work in the original again.
His version is a LOT different from that Walt Disney remake.
In the original, the beautiful Mermaid falls in love with a handsome prince on her 15th birthday, the time mermaids are allowed their first trip above the water. She ends up saving the prince from a shipwreck, bringing him to dry land and then hiding her fishiness behind a rock as she watches him slowly come back to consciousness. A young girl finds him lying on the ground and helps him.
She is now so utterly in love she makes a bargain with a seawitch worse than the deal Faust got from the devil. The monster agrees to transform her from a fish to a beautiful woman but with some catches. First the witch wants her voice -- not in the cute gone-mute way of the Disney movie -- and so hacks out her tongue. And the legs the mermaid gets are like two swords cutting into her at every step. And if she loses the gamble -- then on the day after the prince marries she will die and her immortal soul will wither.
After all this, the prince decides he just wants to be friends and he marries the girl who found him on the ground. Some kind of air-angels take pity on the Mermaid as she is about to die and turn her into vapor or something so that after 300 years of floating on air currents she can have her soul back.
So, the moral of the real story is: you can give it your all, suffer pain and angst in soul-deadening silence and it will still all be for nothing.

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