The last major difference in the plot is the ending of the two tales. In the Disney version, Little Mermaid and the prince are madly in love, get married, and she gets her voice back. They live happily ever after in his palace. The ending in the original is not so perfect. The prince had to go to a neighboring kingdom and meet the princess there. He was extremely hesitant at first, sure that he would not love her or marry her. Little Mermaid and him went on the boat and sailed away. He met the princess and believed she was the most charming woman to look at. The prince recognized her as the one that saved him on the beach and he knew they were meant to be. It was the happiest day of the prince’s life because he was so sure he would never meet that woman again. According to the deal made with the sea witch, Little Mermaid had to get the prince’s love and hand in marriage. If she failed to do this and he married someone else, the morning after his wedding she would turn into sea foam. After the wedding between the prince and his new mate, Little Mermaid prepared to become part of the sea. Her sisters, however, had gone to the sea witch and made a deal with her. In exchange for their long flowing hair, the sisters received a knife. Little Mermaid was to stab the prince in the heart with this knife. His blood on her legs would transform them back into a tail and she would be able to live the rest of her 300 years as a mermaid. Little Mermaid was about to stab the prince when she realized that she didn’t want to, she wanted him to be happy. So again, she prepared to die. All of a sudden, she began to float up into the air. Little Mermaid noticed something floating by her and called out to it. It was a daughter of the air. These daughters have 300 years to do good and then they can win an immortal soul. If they see a child who is naughty, they weep tears of sorrow and a day is added to their sentence. If they see a good, happy child who doesn’t notice when they fly by, a year is taken off their sentence. Little Mermaid gladly accepted her new role and floated away, leaving the prince to be with his new wife.
Disney changed the ending of this tale to make it happy for all. In Andersen’s version, Little Mermaid does not end up getting what she wants- she doesn’t become human and she doesn’t get the prince she is in love with. Instead, she will be forever taunted by the small possibility that she could win an immortal soul. There will never be a time when the daughters of the air see no bad children, so therefore, there will always be days added to their sentence. This change drastically affected the entire mood of the story. The original is definitely more depressing, as we don’t see Little Mermaid get her ideal ending. It is an obvious representation of the fact that not everybody gets a happy ending, despite what we sacrifice for it. Disney tones down this message and chooses to teach children that if you sacrifice some things, you will be rewarded in the end.
Little Mermaid becoming a daughter of the air, as depicted in Hans Christian Andersen’s version: