Interpretation of the mythological image of a mermaid in the fairy tale by H.-K. Andersen “The Little Mermaid”
Andersen Hans Christian
The origin of the mythological mermaid in European, Slavic myths is associated with her originally human essence, since she turns from a person through violent death into a mermaid. A woman loses her human essence and becomes a creature of the other world, living after death. Life after death, according to our ancestors, existed in a variety of ways: vampires, ghosts, mermen, etc. Turning into a mermaid, this creature takes revenge on people for its death. She lives, lives at the same time in the human world. The mythological mermaid does not have a special fabulous habitat. In the previous chapter, we dwelled on the types of mythological mermaids and their habitats. Recall that they live in the fields, in the forest, on the trees, in the water. There are no borders between the human world and the mermaid.
Andersen, blurring the line between a fairy tale and reality, leaving some mythological features behind his heroine, initially makes the little mermaid a creature of a special world, another, fabulous. Andersen's mermaid is not a mermaid of myth, but of a fairy tale, since it is a fairy tale that presupposes the existence of a special world, a special kingdom, separated from a person by a certain border. This border in Andersen's fairy tale becomes the surface of the water. This is the line where the little mermaids are not allowed, because they live in another world. This world is special, it is endowed with many specific features and details. But life in it is built according to the type of life and relations of the human world. Human relationships, human characters, quite human occupations, human housing and family arrangements. This is how the author draws the world of mermaids in a fairy tale. “Mermaids live at the very bottom. Do not think that there, at the bottom, there is only white sand; no, there grow unprecedented trees and flowers with such flexible stems and leaves that they move as if alive at the slightest movement of water. Small and big fish dart between the branches, just like our birds. In the deepest place stands the coral palace of the sea king…”
Already only from this description of the mermaid world, we see that their world is very similar to the human one: there is a house-palace, trees grow, fish swim.
The little mermaid has a family, but she has no mother. “The sea king was a widow a long time ago, and his old mother ran the household, an intelligent woman, but very proud of her family: she carried a whole dozen oysters on her tail, while the nobles had the right to carry only six. In general, she was a person worthy of all praise, especially because she loved her granddaughters very much ... ”If we remove the definition of the king from the quote “oysters on the tail” and the definition of the king “of the sea”, we will see signs of the human world, an ordinary human family, where the grandmother runs the house taking care of his son, and the house, and little granddaughters, telling them fairy tales and stories. We know many people who are proud of their generosity or some kind of merit, awards. So the old mermaid “carries a whole dozen oysters on her tail.” Remembering what children do in our lives, we can also notice similarities in the behavior and activities of little mermaids and children. “Day by day the princesses played in the huge palace halls, where fresh flowers grew on the walls. Fishes floated through the open amber windows, as swallows sometimes fly in here; the fish swam up to the little princesses, ate from their hands and allowed themselves to be stroked.” These fish can be compared to pets that children feed and play with.
“Near the palace there was a large garden ... Each princess had her own corner in the garden; here they could dig and plant whatever they wanted. One made herself a flower bed in the form of a whale, the other wanted her bed to look like a mermaid, and the youngest made herself a flower bed round like the sun and planted it with bright red flowers.” Mermaids are children who set up their own little corner, taking care of a creature as small as themselves.
More than anything, as you know, children love to listen to fairy tales that are told to them by their grandmother, who knows life, stories about something else unknown to children, but very desirable. Andersen's little mermaids are not without this joy. “Most of all, the little mermaid loved to listen to stories about people living above, on earth. The old grandmother had to tell her everything she knew about ships and cities, about people and about animals. The little mermaid was especially interested and surprised by the fact that the flowers on the earth smell - not like here, in the sea! - that the forests there are green, and the fish that live in the branches sing loudly. Grandmother called the birds fish, otherwise the granddaughters would not have understood her: after all, they had never seen birds.”
Everything that happens in the mermaid world in Andersen's fairy tale turns out to be connected with a person, with his life, with traditions and holidays, for example, a coming of age holiday, when a person is already considered an adult, receives, on the one hand, more responsibilities, and on the other hand, more rights.
“When you turn fifteen,” my grandmother said, “you will also be allowed to float to the surface of the sea, sit on the rocks in the light of the moon and look at huge ships sailing past, at forests and cities!” For a mythological creature that lives in some other environment and appears in front of a person, there are, according to people's ideas, certain days and dates. For example, mermaid week is the time when mermaids are most active, they kind of get the right to go out to a person; this is the time when mermaids have a chance to gain an immortal soul (spring).
This idea that mermaids have their own time to get out of their closed world is also used by Andersen in the fairy tale. But Andersen brings the holidays of the mermaids closer to human ones.
The holiday of coming of age is the right for a person to cross the line, the right to see another, adult world. And each Andersen's little mermaid sees something of her own in this world. This technique is used to show the amazingness, attractiveness, attraction, charm of the ordinary human world. We see that outwardly Andersen separates the underwater world from the human one with a water border, but at the same time he organizes and shows this fairy-tale world exactly as human.
The origin of the little mermaid in Andersen's tale remains mythologically mysterious. If in mythology the mermaid world is the world of those who died an unnatural death, then in Andersen's fairy tale the world of mermaids exists on its own, where it came from is not clear, but it is clear that this world has nothing to do with the appearance of man. Mermaids have been living at the bottom for a long time, they exist on their own, and they even have a life span of three hundred years. This period is long, but it is defined, which means that mermaids are not immortal.
Mermaids are creatures of another element with ordinary possibilities for beings of this particular element: they have no possibilities of transformation, modification. They can only be mermaids. If they renounce their essence, then a miracle and witchcraft must occur, which they themselves do not perform.
Thus, creating a fabulous underwater world of mermaids, Andersen refuses the mythological explanation of the existence of this world, in favor of a fairy tale - it exists because it has always been. And this world itself lives according to the laws of human life, human relations. The world is fabulous, underwater, inhuman, but the possibilities that its heroes possess are ordinary, not fabulous. Miracles both on earth and under water are the lot of witches and sorcerers, and not ordinary inhabitants.
Interestingly, this fabulous underwater world has not only its own witches, but also its own mythology. If, as we know, people have a myth about mermaids, then mermaids, in turn, have a myth about people. . “The old grandmother had to tell her everything she knew about ships and cities, people, and animals. The little mermaid was especially interested and surprised by the fact that the flowers on the earth smell - not like here, in the sea! - that the forests there are green, and the fish that live in the branches sing loudly. Grandmother called the birds fish, otherwise the granddaughter would not have understood her: after all, they had never seen birds.” Mermaids have a cult of a mythological creature - a man. In the garden of one of the princesses there is a statue of a marble boy, the little mermaids plant flowers and dream of human joys. Life on earth is wonderful for them.