I was the wrong age for the Disney Little Mermaid – too old to be likely to go to cartoon movies myself much, too young to have a lot of friends with children or to have them myself. I had always stayed away from the fairy tale because the ending is sad. In fact I remember thinking how odd it was Disney had made it into a film until I learned they had changed the ending.
Then Mélanie discovered it, first through a lovely video someone gave us that’s a sort of novella about Ariel and a baby killer whale named Spot, then through the movie itself. She loves it. Ariel, I think, is her favorite Disney princess, alongside Anna and Elsa. We have several Ariel dolls, including two who sing “Part of Your World” (last night we had them singing a duet). I’ve come to love it myself and find myself very grateful for the changed ending (which once horrified me).
It was only watching the movie with Mélanie that I realized the parallels to Suzanne Rannoch. A heroine who changes herself (mutes herself in fact) to live in the hero’s world. Suzanne gives up a lot of herself to marry Malcolm, including the ability to directly express much of what she believes in (though she’s finding ways around that). The mermaid saves the prince from drowning. Malcolm thinks without Suzanne he’d almost certainly be alone and might well be dead, one way or another.
This afternoon Mélanie and I saw a wonderful children’s theatre production of the story at the fabulous Marin Theatre Company. The play was based on the Hans Christian Andersen original. I was afraid the differences from the movie she loves, and in particular the sad ending, would bother Mélanie, but she was entranced. I was stuck by how much of the story (the mermaidcollecting things, seeing prince on his birthday, the storm) is the same as in the movie. The physical pain the mermaid feels in human skin (which isn’t in the movie) struck me as another parallel to Suzanne, who I think at times finds it quite uncomfortable to exist in her Mrs. Malcolm Rannoch persona (though less so now than at first). The fairy tale’s ending in which the mermaid has the chance to return to her old life if she kills the prince all struck me as having parallels perhaps to Suzanne’s betrayal. I’m often not sure what Suzanne might do or how far she might go, but I’m quite sure she’d never kill Malcolm. But there are echoes in the idea that returning to her old self would metaphorically kill the man she loves.
Do you see parallels between the mermaid and her prince and Suzanne and Malcolm? If so do you think their trajectory is closer to Ariel and Eric’s happily ever after or the original story in which they can’t be part of the same world?