Broadway Features and Reviews
Broadway's Little Mermaid Before Disney
By Mazall Sharp, Broadway Magazine
If you had to recount the tale of "The Little Mermaid" would it include the likes of a snooty, talking crab, a quirky, red headed mermaid named Ariel and a happily- ever- after with- her-prince ending? If you were a child (or rather just alive) in the late eighties and saw Disney's "The Little Mermaid" this answer is perfectly acceptable. But the original story of "The Little Mermaid" and her tragic story of love was conceived far from Disney's studio by the renowned author Hans Christian Anderson.
Anderson was born in Odense, Denmark April 2, 1805 to a washer woman and a shoemaker. He was known as being a very imaginative little boy and when he was older decided to hone that creative drive in the theatre. He moved to Copenhagen, Denmark's capitol city, and while pursuing a career in acting started to write poetry and prose for which he immediately became popular.
In the 1830's, Anderson began writing his fairie tales and "The Little Mermaid" ("Den lille Havfrue" in Danish) was included in a book of stories published in 1837. He was praised for his retelling of the old folk tales because of the color, character and moral relevance he brought to the dusty, old fables. Anderson traveled quite extensively through out his life, never married and ended up dying of liver cancer in Copenhagen on August 4, 1875.
During his life he was awarded many honors and medals for his achievements in literature and his beloved Little Mermaid has become a national Danish symbol. A bronze statue of the Little Mermaid sits in a harbor in Copenhagen attracting visitors from around the world.
Anderson's fairie tales are incredibly poignant even today and essential reading for any lover of fables, but be forewarned if you're reading his tales for the first time don't always expect happy endings. Anderson was not shy to expose the sadness and disappointment that life often brings. In his version of "The Little Mermaid" she does not win the heart of the prince, but instead heart broken and defeated throws herself into the ocean to become sea foam for the rest of eternity.
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