Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Little Mermaid: YA Novel Character Study

So do you remember when I decided to do a study of Aladdin to see what he would have been like were he the main character or the love interest in a YA novel? You can read that HERE!

I thought it was about time we gave the same treatment to Ariel.

First of all, I have to say, Ariel is awesome! I LOVE her to death. Ok, she has some downfalls...she is obsessed with being human, falls in love with a human and then becomes one to be with said human, and loses her voice in the process....sound like some other famous literary character of late?

Obsessed with being a vampire, falls in love with a vampire and then becomes one and well, other things are lost in the process.

Anyway Ariel kicks ass (with fins)! I still get chills during the big showdown with Ursula at the end and she has to save Eric's life, and their both falling off of giant monster Ursula because Ariel is awesome!

But, we don't know a whole lot about her and let's pretend for the sake of confining this to the movie and to those of us who saw the original when they were ahem...7 in the movie theaters and didn't quite get the direct to video release of the sequel, or the trilogy or the storybook...

We know that Ariel is the youngest of 7 and her mother is dead (wow this is exactly like my MC Lilliana). Her best friend is a fish! She has an amazing singing voice but she is more interested in collecting items...seems to be her one and only hobby-though she does have a great passion for the human world which never wavers. Ariel also has a driven side to her nature, she sees what she wants..a fork!...Eric!...Legs!....and she goes after it no matter what the cost!
Gotta love a girl who goes for what she wants.

But let's see. What sorts of things are we missing in the movie, that might be important to character development in The Little Mermaid as a Ya novel?

1) How did Ariel's mom die? How old was Ariel? Was it an accident or did she die of natural causes? Did she die in childbirth with Ariel? Does Ariel feel somewhat responsible? Do her sisters resent her? Does Ariel resent her sisters for having more time with her mom? Did she always wish for a mother figure? Is this what sparked her wandering nature? These are things we should know!

2) Why does Ariel have no other mermaid/mermen friends? Why does she only hang out with Flounder and Scuttle? Has she ever met anyone else who wants to be human? Has she always felt like a loner? Did the other mermaids make fun of her growing up because she's friends with a fish? Is this where her longing for the human world came from? Feeling that only somewhere else she'd belong? Is this a story about a girl who wants to find her place in the world, or who wants to make her own place in the world?

3) What about before Eric? Has she ever had a crush on a merman? Who is in Ariel's past? Or has she only ever had eyes for Eric?

4) What early moments in her life led her to become so independent? So rash? Where did she get her rebellious streak from?

And Eric...

Boy is he a mystery.

We know hardly anything about him except that he is looking for love and has a dog named Max, and he is kind of romantic. "I'll know her when I see her...that voice...I can't get it out of my head."

He seems pretty nice and humble for a prince, yeah? How did he get that way? How was he raised? Who were his friends? Did he go to school or have a private tutor?

So...these are my thoughts, a little peek into my brain for how I think about characters. I'd love to see you add some of your own.


  1. Excellent ponderings as usual, Miss Frankie -- BUT you ignored my biggest beef with Ariel. She SELLS HER SOUL (voice, soul - same thing) for a GUY. Yes, you can argue that she does it to become human because all she wants is to become human...but it's because of Eric.

    I totally heart The Little Mermaid, know all the songs (in Kiss the Girl, my favorite part is the background singers going "wah wah wah"), but yeah, I have issues. Though Price Eric = oh-so-yummy. :)

    I call the Beauty and the Beast character study!!!

  2. Her selling her soul for a guy is definitely something Id want to know more about. Why that guy? Why not a merperson?

  3. Exactly, why was Eric worth it? And yeah she does lose her voice for a guy, but its only for 3 days! Not forever. I'd say that this act isn't really one of desperation (ok well it is sort of), but more than showing Ariel is desperate for Eric, it shows that she is a risk taker and a gambler and THAT is interesting. Can she meet the sea witch's terms? Plus she gets her voice back.

    What I would say also alleviates the fact that she gives up her voice for a guy was I feel like if push come to shove, Ariel would have done the same without Eric-she WANTED to be human before she met him.

    Where someone else only wanted to become a vampire after she met him. Difference.

  4. I don't even count the 3 days thing... deals with the devil never work out in your favor! But yes, the motivation behind making those choices is totally intriguing.

    And "someone else"? bahahahaha

    As a result of pure gusto in arguing - Frankie for the win!

  5. wow you know i never thought about it this way or even questioned it but you are totally right! wow this was really insightful! great post! you should totally do cinderella next =P or beauty and the beast :D

  6. I love Disney cartoons :)

    I like this deeper look at the Little Mermaid. There is so much going on beneath the surface that doesn't get touched because, well this is a kids cartoon. That's where it's great to have an active imagination and create the backstory and motivations ourselves

    I vote for Beauty and the Beast next. That's my favorite (well that and Mulan)

  7. Awesome! I think Donna is itching to cover Beauty and the Beast, she has something pretty interesting up her sleeve and I'll tackle Cinderella for you, Leslie:-) I've got some great ideas all ready!

  8. Oh, Ariel. This was my favorite Disney movie growing up. One of my most heartbreaking moments was when, as a freshman in college, I watched Little Mermaid with friends and we started noticing so many flaws with her character and the movie.

    My issue with Ariel is that while she does have the rebellious streak and was interested in the human world long before Eric came around, she doesn't do anything about it before Eric comes along. He's the catalyst for all her decisions, amd her rebellious nature only makes the decisions easier to make.

    I just feel like Ariel is one of those characters that, while I will always love her, she doesn't go through the emotional transformation I want her to. At the beginning of the movie she wants to be a human and be with Eric. At the end she gets her way, but really, what has she learned or sacrificed along the way? Don't make deals with throaty-voiced sea witches?

    This is why, as an adult, Belle has become my favorite. Belle's pretty awesome to start with, but I feel like her emotinal fortitude and growth is what took the film to the next level.

  9. Yes but as a YA heroine she WOULD go through the transformation emotionally and maybe you know there'd be some back story of why she couldn't make the decision to be human now. She would learn a lesson and have to sacrifice something big. Then again, there is nothing wrong with a romantic story every now and then:-)

  10. I meant to say before now. But you get my drift. This is why these posts are so fun-we get to visualize the character the way they should be for maximum impact.

  11. The Little Mermaid is one of my favorite movies, but I've always had a beef with the way Disney kills off all the mothers.

  12. Lenore, I COMPLETELY agree. Actually, I was going to note in the beginning of my upcoming Beauty & the Beast character study that it irritates me how moms just DO NOT EXIST in Disney fairy tales.
    (The anomalies I found - Aurora and Mulan. But those moms are MIA for the vast majority of the movies.)


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