Mermaids are legendary creatures who appear in myths all over the wold but only appear in a few fairy tales; the most famous being The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen.
Mermaids are commonly portrayed as beautiful creatures with the head and torso of a lovely woman and the tail of a fish instead of human legs. Some myths elaborate more on their appearance than others with some described has having shimmering skin, ocean-coloured eyes, iridescent fish tails and long, flowing hair. Like the sirens, mermaids often have wonderful singing voices and can sing sweeter than any creature on land and sea. Sometimes, mermaids have magical powers.
While myths potray mermaids as cold and vicious creatures who lure mortals to their doom but in fairy tales, mermaids are often benevolent beings who help mortals; not just the Little Mermaid but the Golden Mermaid and the Kind Mermaid from The Yellow Dwarf.
The Little Mermaid Edit
Not only one of the most famous mermaid story but one of the most popular fairy tales. The mermaids in this tale are more human than other depictions have their own kingdom and culture beneath the sea. The merpeople live for three hundred years but lack a soul. When a mermaid dies, her body turns into sea foam. Mermaids of high rank where oyster shells on their fins. The eldest merfolk wear six but the Grandmother wears twelve because of her pride. Mermaids are only allowed to swim to the surface when they reach fifteen years of age.
The inspiration for Hans Christian Andersen's story, Undine is the story of an undine, a water spirit, that wishes to achieve a mortal soul by marrying a human. Undine are the elementals of water and take the form of beautiful women though they can change their form at will. While immortal, undine lack souls. While undine and mermaids are often seen as different beings in modern times, Huldebrand described Undine as a mermaid. Unlike the Little Mermaid, Undine requires no potion to achieve human form. The story of Undine takes place in an enchanted forest where salamanders play in fire, gnomes live underground, sylphs play in the air and mermaids glide through the water.
Many centuries ago, a fisherman and his wife lived between two worlds; the wild Enchanted Forest and the Undines' Lake. They had a daughter but one day, when she was three years old, the girl wandered out of the house and all that was left was her blue cap floating in the water. That night, they found a beautiful little girl with golden hair. Her name was Undine. The couple adopt Undine and they become a loving family but Undine is still aware of and comfortable with being a mermaid. Undine grows into a confident, strong-willed, stubborn but good, fun-loving and kind woman. One day, a knight named Huldebrand journeys into the Enchanted Forest at the request of Bertilda. While there, a storm comes. Huldebrand stays with the fisherman and soon, he falls in love with Undine. Huldrebrand proclaims his love and asks for her hand in marriage. Undine accepts but her sisters, who live in the lake, tell her not to go but Undine jokingly says that if Huldebrand married another, she would kill him. The two are married and Undine's family come with her to his castle. Weeks later, Huldebrand receives a green glove with a letter from Bertilda "Is it worthy of a knight to forget his promise to a maiden?".
Huldebrand invited Bertilda and her family to his home. They arrived on Undine's 19th birthday. It is revealed that Bertilda is adopted and the daughter of the fisherman and his wife. All those years ago, Bertilda was spirited away by Undine's wicked uncle, Lord Kuhleborn, the spirit of the woods and water as part of a plan to give Undine flesh, blood and feelings. Bertilda was found and adopted by nobles. Undine is overjoyed at having a sister but Bertilda is enraged and distraught over being related to commoners. Her outburst breaks her parents' hearts and they return to their cottage in the woods. Disappointed in their daughter's behaviour, Bertilda's adopted father makes her live as a commoner. Bertilda is taken in by Undine and Huldebrand. Since Bertilda moved in, Lord Kuhleborn rose from the well in the courtyard to haunt Bertilda. To protect everyone, Undine asks that the well be blocked by a stone. She writes a spell on the stone that prevents magical creatures from entering through the well. Bertilda wanted water from the well and demands the servants lift the stone. While frightened of disobeying a noblewoman the servants respected Undine's kindness and refused. Undine reprimands Bertilda for her attitude and an upset Bertilda runs into the woods. Huldebrand finds her and brings her home. The three grow close and became inseparable. Bertilda voiced her wish to see Vienna. Huldebrand organized a boat trip for them. Unfortunately, Lord Kuhleborn appears and stirs up a storm and sends waves to knock the boat until everyone becomes sick. At night, he howls, frightening everyone. This continues until everyone, even Huldebrand becomes miserable. A sickly Bertilda complains "if you had married me, a true woman, you would not have all these problems. Even if my parents are that wretched old couple, at least I do not have demons for relatives".
Huldebrand stumbled on deck and found Undine. Undine tried to order her uncle to leave but he became more dangerous. An upset Huldebrand cried out why he didn't marry Bertilda. Heartbroken, Undine reverts to her true form and dives into the water. Huldebrand and Bertilda return to the castle and were later married. One mourning, Bertilda ordered that the great stone be removed from the fountain. That night, a watery apparition rose from the fountain and wandered into Huldebrand and Bertilda's room. The water formed into the beautiful Undine. With just one kiss, Huldebrand died.
The Golden Mermaid Edit
An Emperor agrees to spare a Prince's life if he brigs him the Golden Mermaid. His ally, the Wolf, agrees to help. The Wolf turns into a boat filled with the most beautiful silken merchandise. The Wolf warns the Prince not to follow the mermaid. Out in the open sea, the Golden Mermaid appears and beckons the Prince to follow but he heeds the Wolf's advice and sails towards land. The mermaid follows. On the shore, the mermaid swings herself onto the deck and examines the silk but the ship becomes a wolf again. The frightened mermaid clings to the prince. After a while, she and the Prince became happy and fell in love. Sadly, the Prince's brothers kill him and took the golden bird and the golden horse but the mermaid would not leave her love. The Wolf arrives and tells the mermaid to cover his body in all the leaves and flowers she can find. After this was done, the Prince's death became a mere sleep. The mermaid woke him and the three ventured to the King's court. The brothers were banished and the Prince and the Golden Mermaid lived happily ever after.
The mermaid in the story is only described as being incredibly beautiful. There is no mention of a fish tail or how she could easily walk on land.
The Yellow Dwarf Edit
When a King's love is kidnapped by a wicked yellow dwarf, the Desert Fairy captures him and takes him to her realm. The King laments on the shore but a mermaid sees him and decides to help. She wove enchanted reeds into a statue of the King. It was so realistic that it fooled the Fairy. The mermaid frees him and gives him a sword crafted from a single diamond. With the sword, the King slew many monsters but was killed by the dwarf. The princess died of grief. The mermaid transforms their bodies into two palm trees.
The Girl-Fish Edit
The mermaid in this story was born a mortal. She was a good queen, happily married to a king and had recently given birth to a son. Sadly, a giant took her crown and cast a spell so the king would love the giant's daughter and forget the Queen. The heartbroken Queen throws herself into the sea but a wizard transforms her into a mermaid. Her handmaidens choose to follow the Queen and they become fish. Under the sea, the mermaid becomes queen of all the fish. Her subjects bring the queen a young girl who was transformed into a fish after eating a magical sea creature. The Queen says she can cure the Girl-Fish, herself and everyone if the girl-fish can bring her back her crown. The false queen had died so the giant took the crown back. To help her accomplish this task, the Queen granted the girl-fish the power to become any animal she chose. The Girl-Fish succeeds and she, the Queen and all the enchanted fish are restored to human form and return to their families. The Girl-Fish then marries the Queen's son.