The original Little Mermaid story, written by Hans Christian Andersen, was like one long love letter to his best friend Evard Collin who rejected Andersen’s affection. As a bisexual man living in a world that had not yet accepted diversity, Andersen identified with the otherworldliness of the little mermaid and her desire for a life she could never have. The whole story is one long metaphor for unrequited love and being an outcast in society.
Most fairytales are just anthropological narratives about people’s struggle for identity in a world that can’t accept their “otherness,” particularly women. Take archetypal characters like Eve from the garden of eden, Persephone from the underworld, Selene, Artemis and Pandora, and yes, even a little mermaid named Ondine. In one way or another, they symbolize darkness – shadowy unknowable places like the underworld, the moon or the deepest part of the ocean. It’s no coincidence that these were places that stand apart from the rest of civilization. For most of history women were believed to have a wild unhinged nature that gave her a certain kinship to the beasts and forces of nature. This is were the little mermaid comes from, it is one long love letter to the misunderstood social outcast looking for a place to belong.