Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid Is Really About Gay Love

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There’s been a lot of buzz about Disney’s latest live-action trailer The little Mermaid featuring Halle Bailey, specifically surrounding the differences between her and the cartoon version. However, Disney’s animated film is itself an adaptation and actually has many of its own differences from the original story. “The Little Mermaid” was originally written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen in the 1830s. Although it shares many similarities with the Disney cartoon, the original story was much darker and had a Very different ending from Disney’s version.


In Andersen’s story, the mermaid still falls in love with a human prince and trades her voice for legs, but it comes at a much more painful price – every step she takes is full of pain and feels knives stab her. If she fails to get the prince to return her feelings and fall in love with her, she must die like a mermaid and turn into sea foam. She accepts this trade even if she finally receives an unhappy end, the prince marrying a princess from a neighboring kingdom. The mermaid sisters offer her an alternative and inform her that if she kills the prince, she can become a mermaid again and return to the sea and her family, but she loves the prince too much to harm him and throws herself into it. water, turning into sea foam.

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There has been much speculation about the meaning of the story, but one particular version seems to have been widely accepted as the truth. This interpretation claims that “The Little Mermaid” is actually a strange allegory and was a love letter written by Andersen to his close friend, Edvard Collin, with whom he was in love. Andersen had written several letters and poems to Collin throughout their friendship, and much of his writing declared deep romantic feelings for the other man, expressing that his feelings resembled those of a woman. Andersen was rejected, however, and “The Little Mermaid” was written the same year Collin announced his engagement to a woman.

Going deeper into the story, the metaphor becomes quite clear. The mermaid has a strong curiosity for the human world from the start of the story, even before meeting the prince. She wants to feel the sun and dance like humans do, feeling very connected to their world and uncomfortable in hers. She goes so far as to make a deal with the Sea Witch to change the parts of herself she dislikes in order to fit in better with them and try to win the prince’s affection. Obviously, the mermaid is a stand-in for Andersen himself, while the prince is a stand-in for Collin.

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It could be read as Andersen wanting to be like everyone else, wishing to be a woman instead of a man so he could more easily win over Collin’s feelings, since homosexuality was not as socially accepted in the 1800s. There’s a lot to read about the mermaid’s desire for the human world: Andersen’s desire to be heterosexual like everyone else, his wish that one of them was a woman instead, or his desire to be accepted as he was. The ending of the story, with the mermaid sacrificing herself because she loved the prince so much, was also quite predictive since Andersen remained quite close to Collin and his wife throughout his life, even though his feelings for the other man were so strong. .

At a time when homosexuality was so banished, “The Little Mermaid” depicts Andersen’s frustrations and desires in a metaphorical fantasy. He was alone, longed for a world he didn’t belong in and a love he couldn’t have, and just wanted to feel like everyone else. Even the Disney version can be seen through weird coded lenses if one looks hard enough, though its story is very different from the source material. The beauty of the story is how it continues to be adapted and reimagined and how much it is still able to connect and resonate with audiences even hundreds of years after its original publication.

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