the little mermaid

they don’t make children’s stories the way they used to. when i was four or five, my mom and aunts read me the little mermaid. the hard core, hans christian andersen version. translated into korean. the version where the little mermaid turns into white sea foam at the end because she can’t stab her prince in the heart with a dagger. they told me years later that i’d cry on cue at that part – after reciting much of it with them. a feminist from an early age. [i’m assuming i was heartbroken that she’d put some self-absorbed loser she’d rescued above her own life].

a few years later, the disney version came out. my youngest aunt took me to see it at the movie theater – twice. i loved it that much. the disney cast of characters was raucous, silly, animated (literally). i loved sebastian the lobster (or crab?). a far swim from hans christian andersen. i still love that disney version and always will. the disney fairy dust – sterilizing and prettifying everything.

i think there’s something to be said for the original HCA version though. for one, it’s the original. and two, it’s good to expose children to a range and depth of emotions. yes, the little mermaid felt as if she were walking on daggers every time she took a step with her human legs. there’s value, i think, in exposing kids to that in a story. to all the complicated layers of life that fall short of being disney moments. and all for the better, likely.

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