Mermaid Knife-Fight

THREE WILL ENTER… AND THREE WILL PROBABLY STILL LEAVE: Seriously, a knife fight between three mermaids would just be silly, unless it was this mermaid:

But that is completely out of the scope of this blog post.

As you may remember from my last post, I wrote:

If this plot sounds somewhat similar, it should. It is loosely based off of the Little Mermaid, but is actually slightly closer to the original story than the Disney movie that everyone knows, but that is a topic for another day (Thursday, actually).

If this is the only version you know, shame on you.

See, I did write that! But as you may have already guessed, I will be comparing Ponyo to it’s original source material and the 1989 Disney animated-film.


To start this comparison, I need to make sure that everyone knows the original story written by Hans Christian Andersen, becuase the original story will definitely be unexpected to anyone who hasn’t read it, due to it’s sheer darkness (the summary was lovingly ripped from Wikipedia):

The Little Mermaid lives in a utopian underwater kingdom with her father the sea king; her grandmother; and her five elder sisters, born one year apart. When a mermaid turns 15, she is allowed to swim to the surface to watch the world above, and as the sisters become old enough, one of them visits the surface every year. As each of them returns, the Little Mermaid listens longingly to their descriptions of the surface and of human beings.

When the Little Mermaid’s turn comes, she ventures to the surface, sees a ship with a handsome prince, and falls in love with him from a distance. A great storm hits, and the Little Mermaid saves the prince from a near-drowning. She delivers him unconscious to the shore near a temple. Here she waits until a young girl from the temple finds him. The prince never sees the Little Mermaid.

The Little Mermaid asks her grandmother whether humans can live forever if they do not drown. The grandmother explains that humans have a much shorter lifespan than merfolk’s 300 years, but that when mermaids die they turn to sea foam and cease to exist, while humans have an eternal soul that lives on in Heaven. The Little Mermaid, longing for the prince and an eternal soul, eventually visits the Sea Witch, who sells her a potion that gives her legs, in exchange for her tongue (as the Little Mermaid has the most intoxicating voice in the world). Drinking the potion will make her feel as if a sword is being passed through her, yet when she recovers she will have two beautiful legs, and will be able to dance like no human has ever danced before. However, it will constantly feel like she is walking on sharp swords, and her feet will bleed most terribly. In addition, she will only get a soul if the prince loves her and marries her, for then a part of his soul will flow into her. Otherwise, at dawn on the first day after he marries another woman, the Little Mermaid will die brokenhearted and disintegrate into sea foam.

The Little Mermaid drinks the potion and meets the prince, who is attracted to her beauty and grace even though she is mute. Most of all he likes to see her dance, and she dances for him despite her excruciating pain. When the prince’s father orders his son to marry the neighboring king’s daughter, the prince tells the Little Mermaid he will not, because he does not love the princess. He goes on to say he can only love the young woman from the temple, but adds that the Little Mermaid is beginning to take the temple girl’s place in his heart. It turns out that the princess is the temple girl, who had been sent to the temple to be educated. The prince loves her and the wedding is announced.

The prince and princess marry, and the Little Mermaid’s heart breaks. She thinks of all that she has given up and of all the pain she has suffered. She despairs, thinking of the death that awaits her, but before dawn, her sisters bring her a knife that the Sea Witch has given them in exchange for their long hair. If the Little Mermaid slays the prince with the knife and lets his blood drip on her feet, she will become a mermaid again, all her suffering will end and she will live out her full life.

The Little Mermaid cannot bring herself to kill the sleeping prince lying with his bride and, as dawn breaks, throws herself into the sea. Her body dissolves into foam, but instead of ceasing to exist, she feels the warmth of the sun; she has turned into a spirit, a daughter of the air. The other daughters of the air tell her she has become like them because she strove with all her heart to gain an eternal soul. She will earn her own soul by doing good deeds, and she will eventually rise up into the kingdom of God.

I believe that the next step is to do a character comparison.

  • The Little Mermaid is of course, Ariel in the Disney film and is Ponyo in her respective film. The biggest departure goes to Ponyo due to her incredibly young age, but both stories don’t have the aspect of the Mermaids traveling to the surface at age 15. In both the Disney film and Ponyo, Ariel and Ponyo are both forbidden from going to the surface by their overprotective father.
  • The Little Mermaid’s sisters have never really had any part in either film adaptation. In the source material, they tell stories of the world above, but in the Disney film, they’re just sort of there. They don’t really do anything that progresses the plot except for one line that informs Triton that Ariel is in love, but they at least get names. Ponyo’s sisters (none of which are named, but that’s more due to the fact that Granmamare seems to breed like a fish) actually do something. They are genuinely helpful (and adorable) characters, but just like the Disney film, they don’t tell stories of the human world. They actually seem to be much younger than Ponyo herself, which is a pretty big departure.
  • The Sea King is Triton in the Disney film, and is somewhat separated into both Fujimoto and Granmamare. Fujimoto is closer in personality to Triton, with the whole over protectiveness thing, but also has some aspects of the sea witch in that he is a wizard and makes deals with people to change them.
  • The prince is Eric in the Disney version and Sosuke in Ponyo. The prince didn’t really have much of a character in the source, so there was a lot of room to expand it. Disney pretty much took his character directly from the story, so he’s incredibly milk-toast. Sosuke, on the other hand, actually has some substance to him. He actually feels like a person.
  • The Sea Witch is a fairly benevolent character in the original story, her potion has a downside, but she’s not malevolent. This is a complete opposite of the character of Ursula, who is, of course, the villianess of the Disney movie. She obviously takes on a larger role and is the reason that the ending to that version is so different from the source. The sea witch in Ponyo is split up the same way the sea king is, with aspects of her character being in both Fujimoto and Granmamare. Granmamare’s test at the end of Ponyo is what makes that movie feel much closer to the source for me. Her test is that if Sosuke truly loves Ponyo, that she will turn into a human permanently and they will live happily ever after, but if he doesn’t, Ponyo will turn into sea foam. The movie ends happily, but the seriousness of the consequences lets the darker side of the original story shine through, but I have found that that lets the film shine in a better light.
  • The Temple Girl is a character that has sort of appeared in the Disney film, but is not nearly the same character as she is in the original story. This character is weird due to the fact that she is the reason that the source material does not end happily, but she isn’t a villain. In the Disney version, her character is basically who Ursula changes into in order to force Ariel to fail at their deal, but she isn’t a princess and Eric hasn’t met her before, she’s a “normal girl” who hypnotizes Eric in order to marry her.

If it sounds like I am hating on the Disney version of the story, I’m not. I love that movie to death (despite it’s flaws), but I do believe that Ponyo is a better film overall. I would like to see a straight up adaptation of the source, though, it’s so delightfully twisted that it would make a great film for adults (of course, I could easily say this about any fairy tale), but I doubt that it will ever happen.

Thursday will not be the final trip report (I know, I just keep stretching this out), it will be a massive news post, so be prepared.

Also, if anyone sees any glaring mistakes (whether it is grammatical or factual, I don’t care), please speak up. It would be greatly appreciated.


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