The Little Mermaid was a love letter to the author’s gay crush

Reminder: The Little Mermaid was a love letter to the author's gay crush

A statue dedicated to The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson in Copenhagen, Denmark | Photo: Flickr/Maria Eklind

Racists on the internet are up-in-arms about Disney’s decision to cast black R&B artist Halle Bailey as Ariel in their live-action reboot of The Little Mermaid, claiming it won’t be ‘accurate.’ Yet, it’s important to note that the original version of the story was a lot different to Disney’s in general.

Hans Christian Anderson

The Little Mermaid was originally written by Danish author Hans Christian Anderson in 1837. In this version, Prince Eric doesn’t fall in love with a sea witch pretending to be human (which Ariel exposes, leaving them happily ever after). Rather, he actually falls in love with a human. This leads Ariel to essentially kill herself, leaving her body to dissolve into foam. Definitely too graphic for a Disney tale!

But something that’s lesser-known about the fairy tale is that Anderson wrote it after his failed attempt to woo Edvard Collin, a straight man. Many biographers and historians claim that Anderson was bisexual, expressing attraction for both men and women. Collin was a man out of Anderson’s reach, being of a higher class. Collin also apparently rejected Anderson’s feelings toward him and one of his sisters, whom Anderson was also attracted to.

Literary and cultural history critic Rictor Norton wrote:

‘In letters written to his beloved young friend Edvard Collin in 1835–6 Andersen said “Our friendship is like ‘The Mysteries’, it should not be analyzed,” and “I long for you as though you were a beautiful Calabrian girl.” In the fairy tale [The Little Mermaid], written when Collin decided to get married, Andersen displays himself as the sexual outsider who lost his prince to another.’

The ‘real’ Little Mermaid

So, when people try to argue that Ariel has to look a certain way to be true to the ‘real’ story, maybe remind them that the true version of the story was a sad tale of unrequited love, written by a bisexual author.

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