This cartoon about the Little Mermaid was in the local paper in Dallas. My mother sent it to me years ago and I found it the other day as I was going through my keepsakes in advance of our upcoming move back to the U.S.
It’s funny because when I look a bit more into the story, I realize that I have more in common with the Little Mermaid than I thought. I, like her, gave up my life in the U.S., for her, the sea, for the love of a human “prince.” She also sacrificed her identity as a mermaid to take on that of a human in order to gain a human soul. I too gave up some of my “American” identity when moving to Europe, and particularly Denmark, where I began to adopt some of the local customs and traditions.
What’s striking also is that some say H.C. chose this plot, and especially the much-debated happy or sad ending about how the mermaid dies and becomes an “immortal” creature of the air (from mermaid to human to spirit), as a way to express his struggle with his identity. Critics say that H.C. was using the tale as a way of “repressing his own feminine identity and sexual desires and that he metaphorically removes sexuality from his character,” as stated in a blog discussing his feminist perspective in some of his tales. She “represses female sexuality in order to attain the feminine ideal.”
However, according to the Wikipedia entry about the story, “There are interpretations that suggest the little mermaid did not give up everything for love alone.” The entry states that, “The tale presents a rare heroine with investigative curiosity because she is fascinated by the unknown, the forbidden, and is intent on broadening her horizons from the beginning. She wants, above all, to explore the world and discover things that are beyond what she already knows. The world above, for her, holds a greater range of possibilities to exercise her adventurous spirit. This is demonstrated, in some versions, when the prince has a page boy’s costume made for the little mermaid so that she may ride on horseback and explore the land with him. This willingness to cross-dress shows signs of her willingness to transgress gender boundaries and take risks to be able to see the world.”
Perhaps this too is what motivated me to move half way across the world and live in a foreign land, learn to speak a different language, and act in new ways. Perhaps it was so I could also broaden my horizons and see things from another point of view.