The Little Mermaid...Reversed


The other day I was drawing a mermaid and came up with a rather interesting story idea-what if a human girl fell in love with a merman and exchanged her legs for a tail? I quickly wrote up this warped retelling. It's very different from the poetical, elaborate style that I usually used. I copied the style frequently used by the old fairy tale authors such as Grimm, Andersen, and Lang. 

This is not based off Walt Disney's The Little Mermaid. It is based off Hans Christian Andersen's fairytale of the same name which inspired the film. As you probably know if you have read any old fairytales, the stories can be quite gruesome and often do not have fairy tale endings! I have toned things down a bit in my retelling, but I just thought I'd let ya'll know. ;)

Without further ado.


Once there was a very wealthy man that lived in a large house in the country. He had six beautiful daughters, all with beautiful dark golden hair and deep blue-green eyes that were reminiscent of soft sea foam that floats near the seaside. This man had lost his young wife nearly ten years before, three months after the birth of her youngest daughter, due to an unfortunate accident in which the girls’ mother had been drowned. It left the man sorrowful even now, and he forbade the girls to ever lay eyes on the shimmering sea that lay so close to their house. Curiosity burned at the childrens' minds, and they had a great desire to see and touch the watery vastness that had become their mother’s liquid grave. Reluctantly, their father announced that they would each have a chance to spend a day by the seaside to read on the beach and play in the waves on their fifteenth birthday. Each girl had their turn, and came home brimming with excited news. One had seen a particularly green piece of seaweed, another had gotten positively drunk on sea air, and one had found a little hermit crab scuttling on the sand. The youngest could not wait for the day she would turn fifteen. And one day, it came. The father was quite wary about letting his youngest go, for she was rather strange, lost in the world of her own mind, rarely venturing out. She imagined things that shocked her older sisters and gained her the reputation of either being very naive or insane. Her father kissed his goodbye and held her extra long, hating to see the girl who resembled his wife the most leave him.
The girl skipped blithely along the dirt road, swinging her lunch basket as she sang. Her voice was clear and sweet, and many a housewife smiled at her from their windows. Finally, the girl reached the sea. She drew in a breath of exaltation as she gazed at the expanse of blue. She hurried to the shoreline and dipped her feet in, splashing. Then she heard something. An unearthly singing, more chanting than anything, floating away and dying on the breeze. She strained her eyes along the horizon. Only a child with her skills of observance could have seen the many men jumping in the waves, laughing and singing. But no, they were not men! Where their legs should have been were long fish's tails of many colors, shimmering in the sunshine. The girl was transfixed, but the mermen seemed to melt under the waves and she could see them no more. She sighed, and retired to a sun baked rock to read the book of old tales she had brought. The clouds gathered dark above her, and  soft drops poured down on her face. She flung back her head and drank of the cool drops that were infused with the sea air, letting them bathe her in their coolness. The water thrashed magnificently, and the rumble of thunder shook the beach. It was beautiful in all its power. Soon though, the sun peaked its timid face from behind the clouds, and the girls was dried in its warm rays. Something caught her eyes on the sand, something shimmering in the sunlight. It was a merman, lying full length on the shore. Red seeped and intertwined with the clear water, and the girl felt a sword pierce her heart as she thought what may have been the creature’s fate. She scrambled down the rock and drew near to the man-fish, timidly laying her hand on the scales. Several had been torn by the waves, and there was a large gash, probably from some rock, to his head. She swiftly bandaged his head with her lace lunch napkin and poured cool seawater on his cracked and dry skin until he woke. His eyes were a deep blue, like the sea from whence he came. He smiled at her. He reached up to gently touch her golden hair, then lithely swam away. The girl’s heart beat with an indescribable exhilaration. The sun was setting, and she walked slowly home, thinking of the merman and the stormy sea.
The next day, the girl rose early, without waking her family, and hurried to the seaside. There were the merpeople, not only men this time, but women, dancing in the waves. She called to them, but they swam away coldly, leaving her alone with the ghostly lapping of waves on the shore. She turned, with an aching heart, towards home. Soon, her older sisters observed a drastic change to the bright and happy sister they had had just a few days before. “Tell us, dear sister, did you see anyone yesterday?” They implored. The girl said nothing, and simply smiled wistfully into their inquiring faces.
Time passed, and the girl returned every day to the ocean to strain her eyes into the crashing waves. One day he came back. The merman’s scales had grown back now, and he seemed younger than before. He smiled at her. “Come with me.” He said in a rolling, deep voice, like the sea that he swam in. “Swim beyond this place, come to the other side of the world with me.” The girl smiled sadly. “I shall drown like my mother before me. I do not belong to the sea, and it does not want me.” It may have been salt water, it may have been tears, but something rolled down her cheeks that was wet and pearly. “I shall come back to see you one more time, tomorrow.” The merman nodded sorrowfully and swam quickly away. The girl turned to go back before her father and sisters woke. She was greeted by an old woman standing on the sand, grinning at her. “Good day, madame.” The girl said politely, stepping behind her. The old woman did not move. Her sparse white hair floated in the wind, her toothless grin did not cease its smiling. Finally, she spoke. “I know what you want, child. You wish to be able to breath under the sea. You wish to have a fish's tail instead of two legs so that you can be with the one you love. Ah, it is unwise and will bring you much sorrow.” The girl whipped around, breathless. “I do wish that, more than anything. No sorrow can come by me when I am with my love. But alas! I am human, and I cannot change what I am.” The old woman placed her frail hand on the girl’s arm. “But I can, my pet.” She said, rolling up her thin sleeves. “You can?” The girl asked incredulously, forgetting all doubts and eyes shining. “Of course, my dear. I could give you a beautiful fish’s tale to replace those two stubby legs of yours. But every flick of the tale would be sharp and piercing knives, cutting into you. Pain is always part of the price.” Here she laughed unpleasantly. The girl trembled, thinking of her father and her sisters at home. She pushed them from her mind. “I am willing to pay that price!” She exclaimed. The old woman shook her head. “My dear, there is a risk. If for some reason the fish man would not love you with all his heart and be willing to spend his lifetime with you for as long as you live, you would die of a broken heart. And then you would become nothing more than foam on the waves, forgotten by all, wandering and alone.” The girl took a step back, but put on a resolute face. “I know he loves me.” She said determinedly. “Ah, but would you be willing to pay me? For, you must understand, if I offered my services for free, I would be simply poor as a pauper. You have the sweetest voice on all the earth, it sounds like liquid gold that drips from a golden flask. It is smooth and rich and velvety, and I want it! Give it to me, and you shall have you shall go to the sea.” The girl nodded, but stopped all of a sudden. “What is left for me then, pray?” She said with concern in her voice. The witch cackled again. “Your grace, your beauty! Your shining eyes and your flowing hair. What, have you changed your mind? Do you fear me? Are you so selfish as to think of yourself instead of joining your love?” The girl nodded vigorously. “I am willing.” she said, with a tings of despair in her voice. The old woman said nothing, but took out a small mixing bowl from her cloak. She flung sand, seaweed, a clump of her own hair and a fingernail, stirring it with her hands and singing as she did so. Lastly, she cut a small gash in the girl’s finger, dripping dark blood into the awful potion. It smelled terrible, and the girl grimaced. But it was clear like water. The old woman handed it to her. “Drink.” she commanded. The girl drank. The old woman quickly cut off the girl’s tongue, and she could speak no more. She turned triumphant eyes upon the girl as she walked into the sea, her old wrinkled legs being replaced with a shining purple tail. The girl fell to the ground. Knives! Sharp knives sliced her legs, and she shut her eyes. When would it be over? Finally, it was but a numb, dull pain. The girl looked down at where her legs had been. There was a shining lilac colored tail. The girl had an irrepressible urge to sink herself in the cool water. With tears in her eyes, she dragged herself to the sea and dove under the depths. She swam, searching for the merman. She finally found him, sitting in an alcove made of brightly colored sea rock. She smiled at him. He exclaimed joyfully and begged her to tell him once more that she loved him back. She smiled and kissed him, but she could not tell him that she had traded her voice to be with him. He took her small hand and led her to his castle, for his father was the King of the Sea, and he would one day be king of all the waters. The whole castle was overjoyed at the sight of the beautiful little mermaid, and petted and praised her daily. They gave her a beautiful room with a bed made of seaweed and a floor made of pearls. The prince announced that she was the brightest and prettiest mermaid he had ever laid eyes on. The princess smiled. Despite the pain in her legs and heart, the love for the prince merman was enough to overtake both. She beamed as she went to bed.
It was a shining, placid morning when the unexpected happened. A princess from a smaller, undersea kingdom came for a visit, and it was just after breakfast that the girl, now mermaid, saw her slipping furtive glances into the eyes of the merman prince. Soon this imposter had taken the place of the little mermaid, and she sobbed inwardly. She could say nothing out loud.
One day the prince came to her chambers. He smiled jovially and embraced her, adorning her wrists with pearl bracelets and her neck with a beautiful necklace made of the purest sea glass. “Congratulate me, dear friend! I am to be married tomorrow! I had not met her until today, for she was the daughter of a Sea Lord that lived far away. But I fell in love with her as swiftly as the sea changes, and she will be my bride before tomorrow night.” The little mermaid felt a pain in her heart as she smiled through the thin veil of tears that the prince in his joy could not see. She knew that she would die soon.

Night came, and the little mermaid retired to her bed of seaweed. She breathed slowly, heavily, a heavy sorrow on her. The songs of the sea polyps sang in her ear all night long.

Little girl with a fish tale
You have but one more chance
Pierce his breast with a knife and kill
Your legs will be able to dance
Once more…
Once more…

The little mermaid raised her eyes to the stars that were faint through the deep sea and felt her heart race. Morning was coming. She stole to the little drawer of her vanity and brought out a long knife. She stole to the prince’s room, her mind buzzing with worry and sorrow and fear. But as she looked into his peaceful face, she flung the knife to the floor and swam away, out of the castle, and far away until she reached the surface. She gazed at the dawn and felt her life flaking away like the scales that fell from her tale. She dissolved into the foam that graced the sea and washed up on the shore.



~ K A T H R Y N


  1. That's a great retelling! And your drawing is really nice too!

    1. Thanks, Ellie!

  2. This is a lovely rendition, Kathryn!! <3 <3 Keep up the good work.

    Sophia xx
    A Lantern In Her Hand
    The Inkpot Girl


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