The Inspiration for the Little Mermaid?

Who doesn’t know Hans Christian Andersen? The author of some of the most well known fairy tales in the entire world! You have to at least, heard his name once. His most famous tales like The Ugly Duckling, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and The Snow Queen were adapted by Disney into the animations we love today. But I’m here to talk about The Little Mermaid.

Hans Christian Andersen fell in love with a friend named Edvard Collin. He and Hans wrote to each other and in those letters we can see how his love wasn’t reciprocated. Some say Collin was disgusted and rejected him, but I don’t believe that’s true, at least totally. In his diary he says:

“I found myself unable to respond to this love, and this caused the author much suffering.”

This makes me think he was, at least, sympathetic.

But this story only truly begins when Edvard gets engaged.

Hans is heartbroken by news and it’s around that time he wrote one of his most popular stories: The Little Mermaid, a story about two worlds so close they can almost touch, but at the same time, too far away to have any possible connection. A story about someone trying to touch that world and ending up with their heart broken into pieces. And also dead. Let’s not forget that.

The theory is that Hans Christian Andersen is the little mermaid, Edvard Collin is the fair prince and Edvard’s fiancée was the princess of the neighbour kingdom.

And the parallels don’t stop here. The little mermaid is mute and can’t complain about the excruciating pain for each step she gave, just like Hans had to suffer in silence. The way the little mermaid feels divided between being with her prince on land and being with her family on the sea, is same way Andersen felt about his feelings and religion.

It wasn’t the first time Hans Christian Andersen’s stories were inspired by himself. The Ugly Duckling was inspired by his poor self-image and how he was mocked when he was a child because of his eccentricity and effeminate annerisms and The Nightingale was inspired by another of his loves, Jenny Lind, who had the nickname: Swedish Nightingale.

''Den lille Havfrue'' (The Little Mermaid) by Edvard Eriksen

”Den lille Havfrue” (The Little Mermaid) by Edvard Eriksen

The Little Mermaid was seen by many as a story with a moral that went something like ”Don’t try to mess around with people of higher status, you simpleton!”. That changed with Disney’s well known and sugarcoated happy ending, but regardless of the version this is its true meaning, another artist trying to cope with pain by turning it into something beautiful.

The story ends on a somehow happy note, having the little mermaid turning into a daughter of the air and having the possibility of gaining a human soul due to her sacrifice. Maybe Hans Andersen was hopeful about the man’s feelings? That maybe he would change his mind? Was it just so the story could have a moral?

Who knows?


Hi, I’m Mags! I mostly review animation movies but also expect Fact Lists from me.