Disney’s The Little Mermaid really bothered me when I was kid. I mean, I knew that Ariel had gotten her wish. She got to be human and live with her prince. And he was a pretty decent guy, even if he was a little slow on the uptake. An accomplished sailor and musician, plus willing to take on Ursula? Definitely a nice fella.
But I was still bothered.
You see, I really didn’t care for the fact that she was never going to really get to spend time with her family and friend again. Sure, Scuttle could visit her and bring back word to the others. And Ariel could arrange beach excursions, where she could yell things out to her father who would have to stay in the deeper waters further off the shore. It wasn’t the same though. Even as a kid, I wondered if her “happily ever after” was really happily every after, or if she would later regret her choice to leave for a man with whom, at that point, she’d never actually had a substantive conversation.
So, even though I loved the music and would watch the movie ad nauseum, it still kinda bummed me out.
My dad helped me out with this. I don’t know if he felt the same way about the movie, or what, but he used to tell my sister and me stories of the characters from the movie. The thing was, in his stories, Ariel was still a mermaid. Eric showed up sometimes, but for the most part it was the adventures of Ariel, Flounder, Sebastian and Scuttle. And it was awesome. My dad would pit them against all sorts of watery villains. I remember one in particular, involving a very scary octopus, which had me very worried the gang wouldn’t make it.
Like any good storyteller, he took his audience into consideration. My sister and I could make requests as to who or what might appear in the night’s tale. And every once in awhile there would be a song thrown in.
After hearing all these stories, I was able to watch the movie without too much issue. Cause I knew the secret. It was a great film, but they’d gotten the ending wrong. Which was fine. Everyone makes mistakes. And I had my dad to ensure that I knew the truth. Ariel doesn’t sail off into the sunset (sorry Eric). She decides to stay in the sea (at least for the time being) with her friends and family. She continues her adventures. Based off of some of my dad’s stories involving Ariel saving the day, it seems that her love of humans and her success at saving Eric’s life was likely to lead to her creating a highly successful and respected underwater rescue team that looks out for mariners.
Also, after listening to my father’s stories, I have to believe that Ariel, with all her curiosity and brains, would want to make informed decisions. Eric would come out and visit when his crew went sailing and the two actually got to know each other. Their decision on whether or not to try to make this whole inter-species relationship work was based on more than how cute he is and the fact that she has a killer singing voice. Ariel also learned more about human life, so she didn't make her life-changing choice off of the assumption that we’re always jumping, dancing, strolling along the street and just staying all day in the sun.
I can’t say for sure that Ariel didn’t ultimately make the same decision as the movie has her making. But, thanks to my dad, I know that she didn’t make it without all the facts. And that regardless of where she eventually ended up, she’d probably still be kicking ass.
So, sorry to all of you who were, like me, misled by the honest mistake made at the close of the movie. If you ever want the real story, I’m sure my dad would be more than happy to share it.