Merbeings, creatures that are half human and half fish, are fascinating. There are countless stories all over the world that prove this. We can find them in ancient fairy tales, in northern mythology or in modern TV adaptions. For example Oscar Wilde published a story The Fisherman and his Soul (1888). Even Netflix plans a fantasy adventure film that is based on Andersen´s story of the Little Mermaid in 2018.
Today I invite you to accompany me on the exploration of the country of the merpeople. I call it Mertopia. First we take a look at Andersen´s fairy tale The Little Mermaid and then we move on to the animated film Ariel. After this I want you to join me in a behind the scenes visit of the fairy tale land of the merpeople.
The Little Mermaid by Hans-Christian Andersen
The fairy tale The Little Mermaid was written in 1836 by Hans-Christian Andersen. It was probably inspired by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué´s fairy tale Undine (from 1811), which was very popular in the early 19th century. Undine is the love story of a knight and a mermaid.
Anderson´s merpeople don´t have souls and after a long life of 300 hundred years they turn into foam. Our little mermaid can only obtain a soul and thereby eternal life when a human being loves her, who willingly shares his soul with her.
She lives in an underwater kingdom with her widowed father, her grandmother and her five older sisters. She falls in love with a prince whose life she saves in a storm. She searches for a way to become human and achieves this with the help of a sinister sorceress. The price for her life on two legs is her beautiful singing voice. She will loose her life when her beloved prince does not marry her. Sadly her prince marries another girl, who, he falsely believes, rescued him from the shipwreck.
The mermaid´s family gives her another opportunity to return to them: Her sisters exchange their hair for a magic knife from the sorceress. When the little mermaid kills the prince with this knife she can come back. Of course she is not able to kill him. But instead of dying she is transformed again. She changes into another realm and joins spiritual beings, the daughters of the air. After doing good works for 200 years as a daughter of the air she has the opportunity to achieve an eternal soul.
In Anderson´s story the little mermaid goes through two transformations and lives in three very different places: First she lives in the underwater kingdom, then she becomes human and lives on land and finally she turns into a spiritual being. I don´t like this end very much.
None of the main figures in this fairy tale has a name. For me this makes them somewhat removed from the reader.
The Little Mermaid Ariel by Disney
The animated film about the Little Mermaid Ariel (1989) is based on Anderson´s fairy tale. The original story was too tragic for writer Ron Clemens. That is the reason he rewrote it multiple times and modernised it.
In the films and television series Ariel has bright red hair, blue eyes and a green fishtail. She is the youngest, seventh-born daughter of king Triton and lives in the underwater kingdom of Atlantica. Ariel is a rebellious teenager. She is so fascinated by the human world that she collects many human artifacts. Disney´s characters are never lonely: Ariel´s best friend is Flounder and she is watched over by Sebastian, a red crab from the Caribbean.
Ariel falls in love with prince Eric whom she saves from drowning when his ship sinks. To meet him again she wants to become human. The sea-witch Ursula agrees to turn her into a human in exchange for her voice. She has to make Eric kiss her out of true love within three days or she will belong to Ursula forever. Ursula does not play fair and prevents the kiss multiple times.
In the end Ariel does not manage to be kissed before the three days are over. She is changed back to her mermaid form and Ursula takes her away. Her father intervenes and trades himself for Ariel. In the final showdown Eric kills evil Ursula and thereby breaks her spells and saves Atlantica from destruction. There is a happy end and Triton transforms Ariel back into a human form. She then marries Eric and they live happily ever after.
In the next film Ariel has a daughter, she has started an interspecies family. With the help of her father she can change back and forth from being a mermaid to being a human.
A behind the scenes visit of Mertopia
The main theme of this country of merpeople is transformation.
A lot of the inhabitants of the fairy tale dimension are able to shape-shift. Depending on their roles in the different fairy tale countries they can change their appearance. But the inhabitants of this fairy tale country can do much more: They can morph into beings that can live under water or on land and also change into spirit-beings. This is why this country enables a wide variety of experiences that are not possible in others. As you can imagine this attracts a special breed of adventurous and playful people.
Mertopia has an equal measure of landmass and ocean. The landmass is divided into many islands. The islands are scattered throughout a blue ocean. There are a big variety of habitats in shallow and deep parts of the ocean and on flat and hilly islands.
Nobody has to farm or work for his food. There is enough sustenance in the sea and on land for everybody.
Since the main focus of this fairy tale is the constant change of body and living environment people can change their form easily after some practise. Newcomers are taught by magicians and supported by experienced shape-shifters.
Many different beings live in Mertopia. During our visit we see animals we know from our dimension like dolphins and many kinds of fish. There are also seahorses that are big enough to ride on. Other beings even offer places to live under water.
Mertopia is sparsely populated. There is no goverment and there are hardly any rules beyond showing respect for each other. The inhabitants form a very close-knit community.
Villages and dwellings in Mertopia
On land peope live in organic houses made out of natural materials. When these dwellings are not needed any more they turn into compost. Some land-inhabitants prefer to live in tree houses or in caves that are natural or carved into mountains.
In the sea giant shells are the preferred dwellings. These mussels have a symbiotic relationship with their inhabitants: In exchange for offering a safe place to sleep they are fed by their dwellers and don´t have to hunt for their own food.
The spirit-beings live everywhere. They need the energy of the land: They thrive on the pleasure of exploration and the fun of playing. They don´t need any sleep or food other than the continuous energy input. When they want to meet as a group undisturbed by other creatures they use rainbows as meeting places. These beings can change from being totally invisible to being quite dense, which enables them to manipulate objects.
Life and adventures in Mertopia
People love to take part in dangerous adventures that involve heavy storms. These storms sink the organic ships that are manufactured here, similar to what we read in Anderson´s fairy tale and see in Disney´s Ariel. They die often in these adventures. But remember: Death is not the final thing it is in our dimension. You can come back immediately after you died and go on doing whatever you want to do.
Another favourite pastime beneath and above the sea is the fight against dragons. Dragons from Flitz´es home country love to play here. After a serious game of hide and seek which ends with either the slaying of the dragon or the brave knights being eaten by the dragon there are wonderful feasts that are famous far beyond the borders of this country.
Some adventures have really bad endings when the respective evil sorcerer´s magic gets out of hand and everybody involved is killed: Then the players just say: “Oooops! Here we go again!” and the story starts over.
Free flowing energy is the main resource in Mertopia
I visited this fairy tale country before the frequency change was finalised. My group and me did a healing circle there because the people were suffering more than in other lands. Now I understand why. The transformations the inhabitants of this country do all the time are based on intricate energy manipulations. When the energy does not flow freely for whatever reason this becomes very difficult.
With the frequency change not being finalised the inhabitants of Mertopia had massive problems and could not transform themselves and explore the way they were used to. Especially the spirit-beings were affected. Almost the whole country was falling into a depression and the magicians could only alleviate the worst symptoms. Now the energy flows freely again and everybody can enjoy the freedom of creation very much. In my opinion they are going a little overboard with celebrating at the moment!
Mertopia sounds like a fun place to be, doesn´t it? I chose the name Mertopia because this fairy tale country feels so perfect to me. The way the inhabitants here respect each other and how they treat their environment seems utopian.
How did you like our excursion? Are there aspects of this fairy tale country you want to know more about? Please post in the comments!
Audiobook link to the Andersen fairy tale: The Little Mermaid.
Jennie Fitzkee writes in her wonderful blog a teacher´s reflections about her life as a preschool teacher. The link points to a recent blog article where she shares her personal view on her mother´s fairy tales.
Are you interested in more stories about mermaids? Heidi Anne Heiner has put together an impressive list with links on her website SurLaLunefairytales.
© Inge Schumacher