I won’t lie, there’s a part of me that’s sad to write this post. Ariel inspired an entire generation of women to love and long for the mermaid life…even though, ironically, Ariel herself wanted nothing to do with it.
I loved the Little Mermaid growing up. But after reading of the poignant longing of Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Mermaid…well, I have to say I love Ariel less.
But she does fit into our story, in a very interesting way (even if it is a bit sad).
Last week, we talked of serpent women, and how they connected to Northern European sea women. We covered how these serpent women – and indeed, probably all sea-maiden tales – were ancient and warped memories of Eve and her part in the Fall in the Garden.
We talked of how Eve was the original mermaid, wild and free in Christ…and then when she reached for the forbidden fruit, that image became tarnished.
But we, like Eve, can still be wild and free in Christ.
Mermaids – all of their tales – capture the the beauty of Eve, and the longing we have as humans to take control. But we can only truly be wildly free – “godly mermaids” – if we turn to Christ and bask in His lavish love. However, like Eve and many of the mermaids in our tales, we turn to the world to answer our questions of worth rather than turning to Christ.
So we remain “worldly mermaids” choosing the forbidden fruit time and time again.
Interestingly, our most famous mermaid story comes back to this original story of Eve in the Garden…and just like the stories of serpent women, choosing the forbidden is glorified in Ariel’s story.
Ariel, the Modern Mermaid
As I said, after reading the original story and seeing how profound it is, I like the Disney rendition less. Much less. In Hans Christian Anderson’s tale, I emphatically believe it was not about lust. But in Disney’s version…it kinda is. Even Disney’s Aurora had more interaction with Prince Phillip than Ariel had with Eric. Aurora and Phillip danced and spoke. Ariel simply watched Eric. She saved him, sang to him, and then disappeared.
In our culture, she is lauded as an independent thinker, a learner, and a relatively good role model for girls. The first two are accurate. But throughout the movie, we see Ariel making terrible decisions we’d never want our daughters to make. She disobeys her father, gets help from a shady person, and changes a vital part of who she is just so she can get a man’s attention.
She reaches for the forbidden fruit, and is glorified for doing so. The mermaid tale has gone back to its roots of serpent women and sirens. It’s funny how our stories often do that after centuries of change. Sleeping Beauty did, and now we find mermaid stories doing it, too.
Maybe I’m being harsh on her. But after all the poignant stories of mermaids longing for a soul, this one just feels a little flat to me. Don’t worry, I won’t be one of those moms – I’ll let me kids watch the Little Mermaid.
Honestly, I think she’s so popular ONLY because she is a mermaid. Goodness, that’s why I love her! And every girl wants to be a mermaid: desirable and wildly free. And that’s not a bad thing to be. We just need to realize we have all that and more in Christ, and not in the world…