The central theme of Andersen's fairy tale “The Little Mermaid”
Andersen Hans Christian
The little mermaid's love for the prince is the main, central theme of the tale. This is not a theme of ordinary human love, but romantic, doomed love, love - self-sacrifice, love that did not make the heroine of the fairy tale happy, but which did not disappear without a trace for her, because it did not make her completely unhappy. In mythology, a mermaid, having lost her immortal soul as a result of the evil done to her as a person, can gain this soul if she makes a person love herself. The love of a mermaid and a person does not have to be mutual. A mermaid may not answer a person and destroy him, falling in love with herself. But a person's love for her is the main step towards gaining an immortal soul by a mermaid. Therefore, she must provoke a person, evoke this love in him by any means and ways.
In Andersen, this theme is both preserved and rethought. The little mermaid wants to achieve the love of a person, wants to gain an immortal soul. “Why don’t we have an immortal soul? - the little mermaid asked sadly, - I would give all my hundreds of years for one day of human life, so that later I could also ascend to heaven ... How I love it! More than father and mother! I belong to him with all my heart, with all my thoughts, I would willingly hand over the happiness of my whole life to him! I would do anything — if only I could be with him and find an immortal soul! .
Andersen's fairy tale includes Christian motifs. Andersen rethinks ancient pagan mythology from the point of view of Christian mythology: ideas about the soul, about the afterlife, about life after death.
On the combination of two motifs, the story of the little mermaid and the prince is born. The little mermaid saves the prince, she does good for a man who is dying in the waves. Often, by the way, according to mythological ideas, women who died in the water became mermaids. A person cannot live in an element that is not characteristic of his habitat. On the one hand, the little mermaid saves the prince, and on the other hand, she would like him to be in her father's palace. “At first, the little mermaid was very happy that he would now fall to the bottom of them, but then she remembered that people cannot live in water and that he can only swim to her father’s palace dead. No, no, he must not die! .. He would have died if the little mermaid had not come to his aid ... It seemed to her that the prince looked like a marble boy standing in her garden; she kissed him and wished him to live.”
For saving the prince, the little mermaid, of course, has the right to expect gratitude, but the fact is that the prince does not see her. He sees a girl standing above him on the shore and thinks that she saved his life. The prince liked this girl, but she turns out to be out of reach for him, since at that time she was in a monastery.
If the task of the mythological mermaid is to make a person love herself, then the little mermaid cannot force anyone; her desire is to be close to the prince, to become his wife. The little mermaid wants to please the prince, she loves him and is ready to sacrifice everything for their happiness. For the sake of her love, she renounces her home, her beautiful voice, she renounces her essence, herself. The Little Mermaid completely surrenders herself to the power of fate in the name of her love.
But the prince sees in her “a dear, kind child, it didn’t occur to him to make her his wife and queen, but meanwhile she had to become his wife, otherwise she couldn’t find an immortal soul and had to if he married on the other, turn into sea foam.”
The mermaid's dream is a dream of happiness, an ordinary, human dream, she wants love, warmth, affection. “And he laid his head on her chest, where her heart beat, longing for human happiness and an immortal soul.” Love for the little mermaid is a constant overcoming of physical and moral torment. Physical - because "every step caused her such pain, as if she were stepping on sharp knives", moral - because she sees that the prince finds his love; but it does not harden her. Love should not overshadow a person's true vision of things and the world. “The little mermaid looked at her eagerly and could not help admitting that she had never seen a sweeter and more beautiful face.” The little mermaid lost her voice, but gained sharpness of vision and perception of the world, because a loving heart sees sharper. She knew that the prince was happy with his "blushing bride", she kissed his hand and it seemed to her
But Andersen gives the little mermaid a chance to return to her family, to the palace of the sea king, and live for three hundred years. The little mermaid understands that all her sacrifices were in vain, she loses everything, including life.
Love is a sacrifice, and this theme runs through Andersen throughout the tale. The little mermaid sacrifices her life for the happiness of the prince, her sisters donate their beautiful long hair to the sea witch to save the little mermaid. “We gave our hair to a witch to help us save you from death! And she gave us this knife - see how sharp it is? Before the sun sets, you must plunge it into the heart of the prince, and when his warm blood splashes on your feet, they will grow back into a fish tail and you will again become a mermaid, come down to us in the sea and live your three hundred years. But hurry! Either he or you—one of you must die before sunrise!” Here Andersen brings us back to the mythological theme. The mermaid must destroy a person, sacrifice him. The theme of shed blood is reminiscent of pagan rites and sacrifices,
For Andersen, love makes irreversible changes with a person. Love always does good, it cannot be evil. And so the little mermaid, holding a knife in her hand, still sacrifices her life, and not someone else's, chooses her death, giving the prince life and happiness. “The little mermaid lifted the purple curtain of the tent and saw that the head of the lovely newlywed was resting on the chest of the prince.”
The first thing the little mermaid sees is the prince's happiness and love. It would seem that this picture should cause jealousy in her, and jealousy is unpredictable, jealousy is the power of evil. “The Little Mermaid bent down and kissed him on his beautiful forehead, looked at the sky, where the morning dawn flared up, then looked at the sharp knife and again fixed her eyes on the prince, who in a dream said the name of his wife. She was the only one in his mind!” The world of people for the little mermaid is beautiful. He so beckoned her underwater, so enchanted on the day of his coming of age; she feels sorry for this world, she is afraid to lose it, but she sees the prince, who at this time pronounces the name of his wife. “The knife trembled in the hands of the little mermaid.” Love cannot kill another love - this is Andersen's thought. “Another minute - and she (the little mermaid) threw it (the knife) into the waves, which turned red, as if stained with blood, in the place where he fell. Once again she looked at the prince with a half-faded look, rushed from the ship into the sea and felt her body melt into foam. The little mermaid abandoned herself entirely, but she had another dream - to find a human soul. This dream has come true and it hasn't. By itself, love already gives a person a soul. It is no coincidence that the little mermaid does not turn into sea foam, love gave her the opportunity to move into a different state, she becomes one of the daughters of the air.
The little mermaid again has a chance to find what she deliberately renounced. Her love and good deeds give her the right to gain an immortal soul. “Three hundred years will pass, during which we, the daughters of air, will do good to the best of our ability, and we will receive an immortal soul as a reward ... You, poor little mermaid, with all your heart strove for the same as we did, you loved and suffered, rise up together with us to the transcendental world. Now you yourself can earn an immortal soul by good deeds and gain it in three hundred years!” Andersen ends the tale with this theme.
Ancient mythological beliefs, having lost their power over human consciousness, have been preserved in the folklore and artistic images of writers from different countries. In our work, we turned to only one such image and saw how complex and individual the writer's relationship with mythology and the mythological image is. Interpreting the image of the mythological mermaid, turning it into the mermaid heroine of his fairy tale, Andersen partially preserves its mythological features and possibilities. But at the same time, the mythological image under the writer's pen acquires a human essence, human character, human destiny. The little mermaid, with the help of the witch's witchcraft, turns into a man, she selflessly loves the prince, this love turns out to be unrequited and even tragic, she sacrifices her life for the sake of the prince's happiness.
Starting from pagan mythology, Andersen affirms the values and ideas of Christianity, affirms the power of human love as the greatest moral force in the whole world, regardless of whether this world is real or fantastic. And such metamorphoses in Andersen's fairy tales occur not only with one little mermaid. Any mythological characters, be it gnomes, the snow queen, the ice maiden, acquire individual characters and destinies under the writer's pen, become like people, endowed with human dreams and desires. Mythological fairy-tale images are reinterpreted by the writer, used by him for the artistic transformation of such important moral ideas for him as the ideas of humanism, spiritual purity and selfless and devoted love.