…she will read the original story, so help me God.
As I thought of Sleeping Beauty yesterday while writing this article, another fairytale princess came to mind; Ariel, Disney’s first nonhuman princess, and the only Disney princess to become a mother to her own child, (The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea).
If you first met Ariel as the 4th princess in the Disney Princess line-up, you’d be forgiven for thinking her story is one that saw love triumph despite the odds, resulting in “happily ever after”.
In the original story, however, Ariel’s fate can hardly be described as triumphant. She rescues the prince from the shipwreck, falls hard for him, trades her voice for legs, and makes her way to land in search of love- just like in the movie. The prince befriends her, but this is where similarities with the Disney adaptation start to fade.
A romance never develops. Instead, the mute mermaid-turned-human is forced to watch the prince for whom she gave up everything – the sea, her family, her identity, her voice – marry someone else. She dies of a broken heart, dissolving into sea foam upon the waves.
I would want my daughter well acquainted with this original story by Hans Christian Anderson, before watching the Disney version, because even though the author tries to redeem Ariel’s spirit in the end by turning her into a “daughter of the air”, it doesn’t erase an important message: Uprooting your entire life and discarding your identity in order to pursue the love of a man is foolish.
In real life, as in the original, giving up your all does not guarantee that the man will love you. Even if you win him, you can still lose him, and you’ll be worse off than before.
In the words of Bonnie Tyler, you can “love him till your arms break” and he’ll still leave you.
In Disney’s adaptation, Ariel wins the love of the prince, they marry with her father’s blessing, and they even have a baby, Princess Melody. They live happily ever after. I thoroughly enjoyed Disney’s animated films growing up; gorgeous colour, amazing music, and of course romantic, happy endings.
I look forward to enjoying them with you all over again, dear daughter. You will have a great time. You will also watch with the understanding that life is not a Disney film. There’s no prince charming coming to save you, and you shouldn’t wait for one. Just as importantly, for the sake of all that is dear, you should never ever give up who you are for the chance to win a man’s love. That is a gamble too expensive. There are things in life more important than romance; it is never worth giving up your identity and essence for.
In fact, love thrives when two people meet each other as their true selves. All of that morphing into what you think a man wants or needs just so you can be with him is setting yourself (and him) up for heartache.
Don’t be an Ariel.