Episode 12 – The Soulless Little Mermaid

Episode 12 Show Notes

Source: Danish Folklore

This week on MYTH, we’ll be diving (pun intended) into the world of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, which was, unsurprisingly, the inspiration for the Disney musical of the same name.  This is the third and final episode in out 3-episode series called “Disney Lied to Me,”, where I take a famous Disney musical and ruin it by telling you the bloodthirsty, torture filled, and rapey story behind the racist singing crab.  In this episode, you’ll learn that being a mermaid princess isn’t nearly as glamorous as you thought, that mermaids are savage as fuck, and that there is a worse explanation for sea foam than “the cum from a severed god cock”.  Then, in Gods and Monsters, it’s the bird that partly explains everyone’s fear of ravens.  This is the Myths Your Teacher Hated podcast, where I tell the stories of cultures around the world in all of their original, bloody, uncensored glory.  Modern tellings of these stories have become dry and dusty, but I’ll be trying to breathe new life into them.  This is Episode 12, “The Soulless Little Mermaid.”  As always, this episode is not safe for work.

  • Ariel, the Little Mermaid, is a Disney classic. It stars a quirky but lovable redhead who struggles to find herself and get out from under daddy’s thumb so she can grow up.  Throw in an obsession with wrongly identified surface thingumbobs and a cast of singing sea creatures as sidekicks, and it’s no wonder it’s a perennial favorite.  Buckle up, everyone, cause this shit is about to get dark.
  • The original story was written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, and was first published in 1837.  The basic elements are the same, although no one has a name, and the Jamaican crab is nowhere to be found.  For the sake of clarity in the story, I plan to use the Disney names for the characters so that everyone can keep up with who’s who, but none of these are their real names.  The original story is unmistakably a religious allegory and is weirdly obsessed with describing utterly unimportant details of the scenery. 
  • In the deep, deep part of the ocean (many church steeples deep, according to Andersen, which is odd), there lived the Sea King and his subjects.  When you picture the sea floor, you probably imagine bare sand or, at most, coral growth, since we’ve actually seen the thing and know this to be the case, but the kingdom of King Triton (whose Disney name comes from Greek mythology) was not like that.  It was full of underwater flowers and plants, which were so springy that the slightest movement of the water caused them to dance with life.  Fish glided between the sea flowers and sea trees like fish in the sky, and all was unbelievably beautiful to behold.  In the very deepest part of the kingdom stands the palace of the sea king (with his phallic towers and one tower, in the original cover of the Disney movie, that was an actual dick).  The wall are built of colorful coral, with windows of amber and a roof made of seashells that open and close with the tides.  In each shell lies a giant, glittering pearl which would be the envy of any rich asshole today.
  • The Sea King’s wife had died many years ago for unexplained reasons, so his ancient mother had taken over the domestic duties of the castle (instead of, you know, a servant or something because fuck equal rights).  The king’s mother was a very wise woman, and was kind of an uppity bitch about being royalty.  To show off her high rank, she wore twelve oysters on her tail, and the next highest ranking mermaids in the kingdom could only wear six.  She was a good grandmother, though, and she raised the king’s six children with care and love.  In the Disney movie, there are seven daughters because seven is a magic number (so six seems odd) and because there are seven seas and a daughter for each.
  • The youngest daughter was by far the prettiest of all the sea-princesses, with skin as delicate as a rose leaf and eyes as blue as the deepest sea (which is actually black, but who’s counting).  The six daughters would swim about all day, playing and laughing.  They particularly loved the garden, which Andersen describes in excruciating detail, but which plays no real part in the story.  Suffice it to say that it was full of all kinds of exotic flowers and had a bioluminescent glow (though he doesn’t call it that) to let everyone see it in the vast depths of the ocean.  Each of the mermaid princesses had their own patch in the garden, and grew it into things they liked best.  One made a whale, and another grew a flower version of herself, but the youngest mermaid (Ariel, but you probably knew that) grew the sun. 
  • She was a strange and thoughtful child, and while her sisters would gleefully swim through shipwrecks, dodging around the bloated corpses of the drowned sailors looking for shiny land shit, the youngest mermaid would ignore it and focus on growing her sun of flowers.  The only exception to her utter lack of interest in whatchamacallits and thingumabobs was a marble statue of a handsome land boy.  The pure white stone had dropped to the sea floor from a shipwreck, and the little mermaid had claimed it and, like Pygmalion from Episode 7, fallen in love with it. 
  • She had taken the statue and set it in the garden, under a rose-colored weeping willow.  The glow of the red leaves on the white marble made it seem almost alive, and the movement of the branches made it seem on the point of moving.  She became even more obsessed that she had been about the surface world.  She didn’t give a shit about the trash that fell in the ocean, she wanted to know about the people and life up above.  She pestered her grandmother into telling her stories, and everything the wise old woman knew about the people, animals, towns, and ships of the surface world.  It made living in the cold, dark ocean depths seem downright shitty in comparison.
  • Her grandmother told her “When you turn 15, you will have permission to rise up out of the sea and watch the surface world.  You’ll be able to sit on the rocks in the moonlight and see the great ships roll by, and to see the forests and towns by the sea side.  Not gonna lie, it’s pretty fucking awesome, my dear.”
  • The young mermaid could hardly wait.  Her eldest sister would be 15 next year, but since Triton had really liked his fucking, each daughter was about a year younger than the next (so maybe her mother had simply died of vaginal exhaustion by that point).  That meant she still had five years to wait, which is an eternity at that age.  She spent many nights staring up at the magnified image of the moon on the sea, and stretching out her hands in desire when a ship passed overhead, unaware that a 10 year old mermaid was watching them.  The eldest finally was able to go to the surface.  She came back in the morning and regaled her sisters with the things she saw.  The most beautiful, she said, was to lie on a sandbank and watch the town, it’s lights twinkling like stars in the darkness and to listen to the sounds of the music, the voices, the rumbling carriages, and the peal of the church bells (not that she knew the exact source of most of the sounds).
  • The next year, the second sister was able to go, and she rose just as night was falling to watch the sun set, and she said that this was the most beautiful, fuck her sister’s opinion.  A year later, the third sister went up, and bolder than the rest, she decided to go a different route.  She swam up a broad river that emptied into the sea in full daylight.  On the green- ivy covered banks she could see the castles and palaces on the waters edge.  She probably didn’t realize it, but she was definitely swimming in human piss and shit, since castles tended to dump their chamber pots into the water.   On the banks, she could see children playing.  She asked to play with them, and they ran off screaming at the fucking sea monster trying to eat them.  Then, a big dog came and barked at her, scaring her off.  She’d never seen a dog before, and most sea creatures are pretty quiet, so I get it.
  • Another year passed, and the fourth sister was able to see the surface world.  She was as timid as her older sister was brave, and so she stayed out in the middle of the goddamned ocean miles from land.  She still said it was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen.  It was clear for miles around, with a sky as clear as a bell.  In the distance, she could see the ships gliding along like magnificent sea gulls.  The dolphins played in the waves around her, and she laughed in delight.
  • The next sister’s birthday was in winter (so her poor mother had at least gotten a few months of not being pregnant).  When she went to the surface, the sea was a deep green and spotted with icebergs (Andersen is Danish, remember, so this makes some kind of sense).  She said they sat on the surface of the sea like magnificent pearls, but larger than the churches built by men (which is the second weird use of a church as a measurement, the weirder since the mermaids couldn’t possibly know what a church is).
  • She hauled herself onto one of the larger ones and watched the ships sail by, desperate to avoid a watery death.  As the day waned and night came, a storm arose and tossed the sea.  Thunder rolled and lightning slashed the sky.  The ships had all reefed their sails in fear of the storm, but the mermaid perched on the iceberg, hair blowing in the storm wind, and laughed into he teeth of the gale.
  • Each of the sisters quickly became jaded with her newfound freedom, like pretty much every ungrateful fucking teenager ever.  They were grown ups now, and the surface was boring.  They were so over it.  Still, there were nights when they were just sooooooooo bored, so they would all go up together when there was a storm.  They would find ships floundering in the a hurricane and sing to the sailors of the wonders that awaited their bloated, rotting corpses after they fucking drowned.  Their voices were otherwordly and more beautiful than any human woman’s could ever be, but the sailors didn’t understand their song and took it for part of the storm.  The sisters either didn’t realize or didn’t care that the sailors never got to see the beauty of the Sea King’s palace because only their rotting bodies ever floated down to the sea floor.
  • Every time they would do this, the youngest mermaid would float at the sea floor and watch her sister’s go, jealous and depressed.  The worst part was that mermaids are apparently incapable of crying for some reason that is never explained, which makes them suffer more.  With all the conviction of a fourteen year old who knows jack shit about the world, she would whisper to the sea “I can’t wait until I’m 15; I’m gonna fucking love it up there, and I’m gonna love each and every motherfucker up there.”
  • It seemed like it took forever, because teenagers are fucking impatient, but at last the little mermaid was 15.  Her grandmother came to her that morning.  “Well, you’re 15 now, so it’s time you dress like a lady instead of a little girl.  Which is basically the same, except for a wreath for your hair and some oysters.”  She placed the heavy wreath of white lilies on her head, and 8 oysters to clamp on to her tail to show her high rank (though still far fewer than her own). 
  • “Holy shit, those hurt like a lot,” complained the teenager.  “Of course it does.  You have 8 oysters biting your tail, hard.  Pride must suffer pain (which is a direct quote).”  Like many human women, the little mermaid was learning that you often have to feel like shit to look good.  The poor girl wished she could take the lilies off her head (they were already hurting her neck) and take those damned oysters off her tail, but that wasn’t proper so she decided to endure.  Besides, she still got to go to the surface today, which was still awesome.
  • Weighed down by her underwater finery, she darted to the surface as fast as she could.  The sun was just setting as she broke the surface.  Across the calm surface of the sea, the little mermaid could see a large, three-masted ship just sitting there.  The wind had died, so the ship was becalmed and unable to move.  Sailors, without another goddamned thing to do, were proceeding to get blind drunk.  Music drifted from the ship as sailors played and danced the idle hours away.  As darkness fell, hundreds of colored lanterns lit the night.
  • Her curiosity aroused, the little mermaid swam over to the ship.  She rode the waves, and would leap up at the crest to see into the portholes in the side of the ship.  Inside, she saw people dressed far too nicely to be sailors (not that she knew any of this) dancing and partying.  In the center of the party was the most handsome boy she had ever seen.  He was 16, and a prince.  Today was his birthday, so all of his closest friends were here on the ship celebrating his sweet 16.  Soon, he grew flushed from dancing and went up on deck to get some air.  When he stepped out the door, a hundred fireworks were launched into the sky to celebrate. 
  • The little mermaid, having never seen fire, let alone explosives, panicked and dove under the water.  Her curiosity quickly got the better of her, though, and she went back up.  She watched the young prince, surrounded in a cascade of colored fire, and thought this the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.  She stayed beside the ship for hours, until late into the night.  A breeze sprang up, and the ship unfurled its sails to get moving.  The little mermaid easily kept pace.  The breeze grew into a fierce storm, and the sails were reefed to try and ride it out.  The waves grew higher and higher, with the mermaid riding them with ease.  She thought it beautiful how the ship dove through the massive waves in a spray of foam.  The sailors realized that they were probably fucked and began to pray for their goddamned lives.
  • Far quicker than she could have imagined, the ship broke under the storm’s pounding, and she finally realized that the people were in a shitty place.  On deck, the prince felt the ship splitting under his feet and leapt into the waves in desperation.  She dodged the broken pieces of ship floating on the water, but it was so dark that she couldn’t see more than a few feet around her.  A flash of lightning split the sky and revealed the pieces of the sinking ship, but no prince.  She’d been delighted when she saw him jump into the water, thinking they could be together now.  Hey, she’s never seen a person before, so she forgot that they can’t breathe ocean.  The bloated faces of drowned corpses in her father’s palace swam in her memory, and she realized that the boy she definitely loved was about to fucking die.
  • She swam desperately through the wreckage looking for him.  She soon found him amidst the flotsam and jetsam and saw that he war tiring quickly.  He wouldn’t be able to stay afloat much longer.  A wave swept over his head, and he rose sputtering, but quickly passed out from exhaustion.  The little mermaid dove to his rescue, holding him above the water, resting his head on her naked teenage boobs, and floating until the storm passed.
  • The sea was calm again come dawn, but the ship had gone to the bottom of the ocean, carrying everyone who didn’t have a mermaid admirer to their death.  The sun lit the prince’s features, and she though his pale skin looked just like the statue she’d loved.  She kissed his unconscious face, hoping that he’d survive.  In the distance, she saw land, so she began to swim off.  On the shore, she saw a large building that was either a church or a nun’s covent (though how the fuck she knew that when there were no mermaid churches is beyond me).  She dragged him into the bay and onto the beach. 
  • From the building, bells began to toll, and a bunch of young girls poured out of the doors.  The mermaid, figuring that discretion was the better part of valor, swam out into the bay and hid behind some rocks, where she could watch to make sure the prince was okay. She covered her face and hair in sea foam to blend in (which probably wasn’t necessary).  It wasn’t long before one of the girls saw the prince’s form and ran to see if he was okay.  He was breathing, so she ran inside to get help.  A number of adults came after her, and revived the prince.  He saw the pretty teenage girl who had found him, and smiled at her thinking she had saved him.  Out in the bay, the mermaid was depressed that he did not smile for her (especially after saving his ass, even though there’s no way he could know that).
  • Anguished as only a lovelorn teenager can be, she dove back into the sea and went home.  Her sisters asked how she’d liked the surface, but she stayed sullen and silent.  Figuring their youngest sister was just being a bratty bitch, they left her alone.  For months, she would go back to the bay where she had left the prince, but she never saw him.  Every day, she would go back hime depressed, and would mope around her statue in the garden and pretend it was the prince.  She gave up tending to her patch of garden, and it grew wild and unkempt.  Finally, she was so depressed that she told one of her sisters about what had happened.  It was supposed to be a secret, but the elder sister thought “fuck that mopey bitch” and told all of her sisters. 
  • Juicy gossip has a way of getting around, and it wasn’t long before fucking everyone knew about the little mermaid’s crush on the prince.  One of her sisters came to see her with a friend in tow.  “I heard about your crush on that smoking hottie from the surface.  I’m pretty sure I know the dude you mean.  He lives in a freaking sweet castle near the shore.  Come one, I’ll show you!”
  • The friend darted off to grab the rest of the little mermaid’s sisters, then they rose to the surface arm in arm for some reason.  They broke the surface near the prince’s palace. It was built of bright yellow stone, with long flights of marble steps, including one that descended into the sea itself.  Through the windows, she could see the beautiful rooms, with people occasionally passing through. 
  • Now that she knew where he lived, she decided to creep him like a creeper.  They didn’t have social media, so she went the old fashioned route and peeped on him from outside his house.    As time went on, she would venture closer and closer to shore, way closer than any of her sisters thought was a good idea.  Once, she even swam right up a narrow channel and under the balcony.  From the shadows, she could watch the young prince, who thought he was completely alone.  The story doesn’t address it, but he was 16 and alone.  She definitely watched him jerk off more than once.
  • Other nights, she would swim near the fishermen and listen in on them, despite having absolutely no reason to understand their language, being a mermaid.  Because, fuck it, she understood them, and was pleased to hear them talk about how much good the prince was doing for the kingdom and how good a king he would be.  It made her glad that she had saved his life from the storm.  She would dream of the feel of his head lying on her tits, and of kissing him while he slept (maybe while she was watching him be alone in the moonlight, if you catch my drift).  He, of course, knew nothing of her, and did not even dream of her.
  • Over the time she spent pining for the boy, she grew more and more fond of humans.  More and more, she wished she could go ashore and live life the way that they did, to be a part of their world (see what I did there?)  There was so much she wanted to know, but no one could answer her questions.  If it didn’t happen in the ocean or really close to the ocean, mermaids didn’t give a fuck.
  • She finally asked her grandmother, who seemed to know everything.  “Grandma, if humans don’t drown, do they live forever?”  “Don’t be silly.  All living things die, and humans live shorter lives than we do.  A mermaid can live to be over 300 years old, which is awesome.  When we die, we become the foam on the ocean and that’s the fucking end since we are soulless, which is less awesome.  Humans, on the other hand, are special.  They have souls, so when they die, they don’t just rot and turn to dust and foam, they leave their bodies behind to become pure souls, which live forever (despite what I said earlier about all things dying).  Their souls get to rise up and see things that we’ll never know, but hey, we get to live in the ocean for a little longer, so pretty even trade, right?”
  • The little mermaid thought this was bullshit.  “Why don’t we get souls, huh?  What makes humans so special?  Shit, I’d give up all of my 300 years if I could live just one day as a human, to see the worlds beyond the stars!” And she threw herself dramatically to the sea bed.  “Don’t be a baby, girl.  We’re much happier than those assholes on land.  We don’t go to work, we don’t go to war.  Everything is awesome!”
  • “Everything is terrible, grandma!  I don’t want to turn into some disgusting sea foam and never hear the wind or see the sunset again!  Is there some way to get a soul?”  “Absolutely not.  There is no way, unless a man were to love you so much that you were more to him than his mother or father, and if all his thoughts and all is love were fixed on you, and he married you.  Then, you would be joined and would have a share of his soul, and each of you would grow full souls.”
  • “Is that all?  Grandma, that’s easy.  I’m already in love.”  “Don’t be a dumbass, girl!  That boy doesn’t know you exist, and humans don’t think fish tails are beautiful.  They are fixated on those stupid legs of theirs for some reason.  You’ll never pull it off.”  The old woman swam up beside her granddaughter.  “Try not to worry about it.  Tell you what.  We’l have a ball tonight to take your mind off things.  How’s that?”  The teenage mermaid nodded noncommittally. 
  • There’s a lot of description of the fancy ball, but fuck it, it does jack all for the plot.  She sings a song and basks in the applause because she humbly thinks that she definitely has the loveliest voice anywhere on the planet.  Suffice it to say that the mermaid snuck off in the middle of it to go looking for the kingdom’s sorceress.  She’d always been scared of the sea witch, but she mustered up her courage since no one else would be able to help her be with her prince. 
  • The Disney imagery of the sea witch’s home is actually pretty spot on.  The little mermaid had to dodge between crushing whirlpools to the dark underwater forest the witch lived in (I prefer the Disney cave, personally, since it makes a shit ton more sense).  The only road (who needs roads underwater, honestly) lay amidst polypi, which were half plant and half animal.  They looked like serpents with hundreds of heads growing out of the ground, and the branches overhead were long, slimy arms with supple fingers like worms.  Anything dumb enough to wander within reach of the polypi would be seized and held there to die a slow, lingering death. 
  • Because teenagers have a poor concept of risk, she bound up her hair, crossed her arms across her tits, and darted between the groping polyp arms as fast as she could.  As she raced through, she saw bits and pieces of things the arms had caught and held over the centuries.  She saw several skeletons of drowned sailors, the skeletons of fish and land animals, pieces of broken ships, and much more was scattered about.  Near the exit, she was terrified to see the rotting corpse of another mermaid, her eyes bulging and her neck a ruined mess where she had clawed at it to try and free herself from the clinging arms. 
  • She breaks out of the polyps in a panic, and sees several eels wriggling around a drab house, built of the bones of shipwrecked sailors.  The eels rubbed up against her sagging tits, and she was feeding a toad out of her mouth (though the story doesn’t say how the fuck a toad survived the deep ocean). 
  • “So, deary, you have come.  I know what you want.  It is a stupid thing you want, but I know you’re too much of a stubborn ass to give up.  It’s going to fuck your world up and leave you broken, but what the fuck do I know?  I’m just a super-powerful sea witch.  Let’s get on with it.  You want to trade your tail for legs so that you can go on land, so that the prince can fall in love with you, and so that you can get a soul.  You dumb piece of shit.”  The witch began to cackle, startling the toad out of her mouth.  It dropped to the ground (even though it really should be floating, or being crushed under the weight of the water) and lay there amongst the eels. 
  • “You’re just in time, unfortunately.  After sunrise tomorrow, I wouldn’t be able to help you for another year.  I will make a magic potion for you.  You take it, and swim to the shore tomorrow before sunrise and drink it.  Your tail will shrivel up and split into legs, and it will hurt.  Oh yes, it will feel like a sword is going through you (which is definitely a sex metaphor symbolizing the end of her innocence, so it’s no surprise it was left out of the movie).”  She leered at the little mermaid.  “You will still be as beautiful as ever, and you will keep the floating grace of a mermaid, but every step will feel as if knives are being drawn across your feet and the blood must flow (another reference to sexual maturity).  You sure you still want to do this?”
  • In a trembling voice, the little mermaid said “Yes, I love him.”  “Bullshit.  You’re infatuated.  And know this before you agree: once your become a human, you can never be a mermaid again.  You will never be with your family again, or see your father’s house.  If you do not win the love of this prince you so fucking adore, his complete and utter devotion, and get him to marry your, it’s going to kill you.  And not in the ‘I’m a teenager and if I don’t get my way I’ll totally die’ sort of dead, but the fucking forever never coming back kind of dead.  The morning after he marries someone else, your heart will break, and I can’t stress enough that I’m being literal here.  You will die, and become the foam on the waves.  Are you still going through with the stupid fucking plan?”
  • “Yes, I’m sure,” said the little mermaid, who had become as pale as death during the explanation.  I think it’s interesting to note here that the witch, as much as she is being billed as crazy evil (I mean, living in a house of bones?), she’s giving the deal to the mermaid straight, with no hidden catch, and she’s honestly doing her damnedest to try and talk her out of being a silly biotch.  It’s very different from the way Ursula undermines Ariel at every goddamned turn.
  • “Alright, then we’ll do it, but I need to be paid.  Hey, I don’t bust out transformation magic for shits and giggles, you know, so I’m going to ask a big price.  You have the most beautiful voice of any of the mermaids in the sea, and I know you thought you’d be able to sing to hm and capture his heart that way, but that is my price.  This is serious magic, and your voice is the only thing you have that I want.  I have to fucking bleed into this potion, so that it may be as sharp as the sword that is going to slide between your legs and rip away your innocence if you do this.  Seriously, don’t do this.”
  • The little mermaid thought a moment (which is the first time she’s hesitated at this absolutely terrible deal).  “If you take my voice, how the hell am I supposed to make the prince love me?”  The witch, who like witches in all fairy tales was quite ugly, rolled her eyes.  “With your beauty, you dip shit.  With your tits and your ass, your lovely eyes, the incredible grace that I already told you about.  Flash tits and a smile, and you can probably catch his interest.  If you still want to do this, and you shouldn’t, stick out your tongue so that I can cut it off to take your voice.”  Crying, the mermaid did so.  A blade flashed in the witch’s hand, and pain seared her face as her tongue vanished in a cloud of blood. 
  • The witch ties her eels into a knot and uses them to scour out her cauldron, because, and I quote, “cleanliness is a good thing.”  She slices open her breast and bleeds into the cauldron, and steam rises from it, writhing into horrifying shapes.  She throws more things in, and the water begins to boil with a sound like a weeping crocodile (whatever that means).  When it was finally done, the brew looked like pure, clear water.  “Here you are, you daft bitch.  If the polyps give you trouble on the way out, sprinkle a few drops of potion on them.  It will tear them to a thousand pieces.  Fortunately for the soft-hearted and really impulsive mermaid, the polyp pulled away in terror at the sight of the potion, so she didn’t have to murder them.
  • She swam back the way she’d came, and went to see the palace one last time.  All the lights were out and everyone had gone to bed, either not realizing or not caring that she was missing.  She turned and went to the surface without bothering to hug anyone goodbye or explain in any way what she was doing, because she was selfish like that.  For all her father knew the next day, she’d been eaten by a shark in the night.
  • She arrives at the prince’s castle before sunrise.  Hesitantly, she swam over to the marble steps extending into the water and perched on them.  She pulled the bottle out of god knows where since she’s utterly naked and has nowhere to have stashed it, uncorks it, and downs the whole thing.  Immediately, it felt as though her lower half was pierced by a double edged sword, and her tail split just below the pain.  If you’re paying attention, her loss of innocence in pursuit of a man comes from a phallic pain right about where her pussy is.  Subtle.
  • The pain caused her to pass out, and she collapsed on the steps.  The warmth of the rising sun woke her, and she gasped at the pain she still felt.  Then she gasped again, this time because her handsome prince was standing in front of her.  He was staring at her, and after meeting his eyes for a moment, she cast them down shyly, and saw the pale white legs and dainty feet that had replaced her tail.  It occurred to her that she was completely naked (see again the loss of innocence, and recall that it was only when Adam and Eve ate from tree of Knowledge that they realized they were naked).  She had not clothes, being a recently metamorphosed mermaid, so she covered herself in her long, thick hair.
  • The prince, now that he didn’t have a beautiful naked girl to ogle, asked who she was and where she came from.  She looked into his eyes with sorrow as she remembered that she had given up her voice for this.  She couldn’t respond.  She shook her head slightly, and stood.  The witch had been exactly right when warning the little mermaid that every step would feel as though she walked on the blade of a thousand razors, but she bore it willingly.  She was finally close to her beloved. 
  • She swayed to his side as gracefully as a soap bubble, according to the story, and the prince and everyone else who saw her wondered at her grace.  He brought her inside, still trying to hid her anatomy in her hair to mixed success, and had the castle dress her in expensive robes of silk and muslin.  Everyone agreed that she was incredibly beautiful, and it was a pity that she was mute, and could not speak or sing.
  • The prince threw an impromptu party for the lost stranger, cause that’s definitely the most helpful thing to do.  He had beautiful slaves, dressed in silk and gold, entertain his few guests and his royal parents with song.  One of the slaves in particular sang like a fucking angel, and the prince was enthralled.  He smiled at her, and clapped extra hard when she finished singing.  This hurt the mermaid’s soul.  She could totally sing better than this trashy bitch, back when she had her voice.  She would have wiped the floor with this hussy.  But, she realized, it didn’t matter for shit, because she would never sing again.  That was the price she had paid.
  • The prince had the slaves perform a beautiful fairy-like dance next, and the mermaid, glad that here at last was something she COULD do, jumped to her feet.  She glided and twirled across the floor with an ethereal beauty that no one has ever matched, and the prince was again enthralled.  Her lovely, liquid eyes bore into his soul and spoke to him more clearly than the sing of the slaves. When she finished, the palace erupted into applause and praise, especially from the prince would decided that she was his little foundling. 
  • Thrilled to have the prince’s eye, the mermaid danced again, as beautifully as before, even though each an every step was blinding agony.  The prince said that she should stay with him always, and granted her permission to sleep at his door on a velvet cushion, like a favorite dog.  He mad a servant’s dress made for her, and she accompanied him everywhere.  They would ride on horseback out into the mountains and climb.  She went with him, even though the rough stone cut her bare feet (no one ever gave her shoes, because the rich assholes didn’t think she needed any).  Her path was marked in blood, but she laughed and followed him still.
  • At night, when the palace was asleep, she would walk down the marble steps and bathe her feet in the sea to cool their burning.  They hurt less in the cool sea water that was once her home.
  • One night, after weeks of this, she was bathing her feet when she heard the ethereal song of her sister’s and she saw them rise from the waves.  She beckoned to them, and they swam over, amazed that their sister was alive.  They swam near to shore and tried to talk to the little mermaid, only to realize that she was mute now.  They didn’t understand the whole story since she didn’t really have any way of communicating it to them, but they comforted her just the same.  They began to come visit regularly.  Once, in the distance, she saw her grandmother (who hadn’t been to the surface in years) and her father the Sea King, though neither was willing to come as close to the shore as the little mermaid’s sisters were.  Still, it gave her some comfort to know her family was there (and for their part, at least they knew now that she wasn’t fish food).
  • The weeks went by, and the mermaid’s love for the prince grew.  He loved her too, but as he might a little sister.  It never occurred to him that the little foundling who danced for him and followed him everywhere, utterly devoted to him, might love him like that.  Whenever he would hug her, and kiss her forehead, she would scream with her eyes “Do you not love me best of all, my prince?”
  • The prince, reading something of her meaning, replied “You are very dear to me, my little foundling.  You have the best heart, and you are completely devoted to me.  Honestly, you kind of remind me of this chick I saw once, and will never see again.  I was in a shipwreck, and was tossed on the waves.  I came ashore near a holy temple, where several young maidens perform holy services.  The youngest of the girls found me, and saved my life.  I only saw her twice, but she is the woman I love, the only woman I can ever love.  You look a lot like her, and you’re gesturing a lot, so don’t worry.  You’ve almost driven the image of her from my mind.  She belongs to the temple, and luck has sent me you in her place, so we will never part, my little foundling.
  • That night, the little mermaid wept.  The prince had no idea that she was the one who had saved him, that she had carried him through the storm for hours, and waited under the foam to make sure he was found.  She remembered the pretty girl that had finally found him on the shore, and she hated her a little.  That girl had gotten all the credit and the prince’s love by just walking on the beach.  Fuck, he should be in love with her!  It gave her some comfort to know that he would never see this girl again, and that she would be by his side every day.
  • Before many months had passed, the king decreed that his son must marry soon.  A marriage had been arranged with the beautiful daughter of a neighboring king, and a fine ship was being fitted to take him across the sea to meet her father.  The official story was that he was just paying a visit to the king, but everyone figured he was really going to meet his betrothed.  The little mermaid knew better.  The night before he left, he told her “I have to go on this stupid trip, and see this stupid beautiful princess that my parents want me to marry, but I know they won’t force me to, and she isn’t the maiden from the temple, so fuck it.  I won’t be marrying her.  If it comes to being forced to choose someone, I’d probably choose you instead, because you at least look like her a little bit.”  He kissed her on the lips and decided to bring her with him.  This honestly seems like a pretty dick move.  This asshole is totally keeping this girl on the hook as a backup in case he never finds his dream girl (and treating her like a pet to boot).
  • As they sailed, he mansplained to her what it was like under the ocean, from secondhand accounts from hired divers of the kingdom, not knowing that she knew way fucking better than him what the depths were like.  That night, as she sat on the deck watching the stars, her sisters rose from the waves, begging her to come back to them.  Before she could attempt to mime some reassurance, a cabin boy came on deck, and they vanished beneath he waves.
  • They arrived at the neighboring kingdom the next morning, sailing into the harbor of a beautiful town.  A crash of cymbals and a flourish of trumpets greeted the prince’s arrival.  For days, they were hosted at fantastic feasts, festivals, and balls, but at no point did the princess appear.  He asked locals about her, and they said that she had been living at a religious house to learn every royal virtue.  She had been traveling since he arrived, and should be there any day now. 
  • Finally, after days of celebration, the princess arrived.  Even the little mermaid, who desperately wanted her to be a hideous hag, had to admit that this woman was a flawless beauty.  She is described as having fair skin, long, dark eyelashes, and blue eyes that shone with truth and purity, whatever the fuck that means.  She looked back at the prince, who was dumbstruck.
  • “Holy shit, it’s you.  You’re the woman who saved my life that day!”  He rushed to the princess, all thoughts of the woman he had been kissing just a day before gone, and took her in his arms.  He pledged to be married the next day, and returned to his little foundling as the princess went inside to get ready.  “This is perfect!  You will rejoice at my happiness in completely rejecting you, because I know how great and sincere your devotion to me is.”  Again, he’s kind of a dick.  The little mermaid kissed his hand, feigning happiness, but inside her heart was breaking.  She had lost her prince, and now the morning of his wedding would literally kill her. 
  • The ceremony began early the next morning, with ringing bells and fragrant perfumes.  The little mermaid held up the bride’s train in one last indignity for the woman he had strung along.    She heard nothing of the music and saw nothing of the wedding.  Her thoughts were all on her impending death.  After the wedding, the bride and groom boarded a ship to return home, and sailed out to the celebratory roar of cannons.  When it grew dark, colored lanterns were lit and everyone danced on the deck.  The little mermaid couldn’t help but think of the first night she had risen to the surface, and seen her prince (though he had never really been hers) dancing in the colored light.
  • She spent the night dancing with everyone so that her prince would be happy, in physical and emotional agony every step.  After midnight, the happy couple went arm in arm into the ship to fuck like the newlyweds they were.  Everyone went to sleep, save the helmsman and the little mermaid.  The first light of false dawn was blushing the sky, heralding the morning that would end her life.  Out of the sea rose her sisters one last time.
  • They were as beautiful as ever, but their long flowing hair was gone.  Each and every one of them was bald as a cueball.  “Sister, we finally talked to the sea witch, and learned what happened.  It’s not too late!  We sold our hair to her in exchange for a magic knife.  Before the sun rises, all you have to do is plunge it into the heart of the prince.  His life blood falling on your feet will turn them back into a tail!  You can return to the sea and live out your 300 years with us, back at home.  Please come home, sister.  Our grandmother is so upset that she is wasting away, and her hair is falling out.  Before the sun rises, or all is lost!”  They gave her the knife, then sank back beneath the waves.
  • The little mermaid took the knife and went to the prince’s bedchamber.  No one stopped his loyal dog.  On the bed, the princess lay naked, with her head upon the chest of the equally naked prince.  Out the porthole, she could see the red streaks heralding the sunrise.  In his sleep, the prince murmured his new wife’s name.  Her hand trembled, as she watched them for a long moment, then she flung it out the porthole into the sea.  Where it landed, the water churned and turned red as blood.  She dashed back to the deck and flung herself into the sea, ready to die and become foam.
  • The sun rose above the waves and fell on the cold foam of the mermaid, but she didn’t feel dead.  I mean, she felt at all., so she couldn’t be dead, right?  In the rays of the morning light, she saw hundreds of beautiful transparent beings floating in the air.  They spoke to her in voices no mortal had ever heard.  “Where am I ?”  This is where the story takes an abrupt, odd turn.
  • “Easy, child, you are with the daughters of the air.  As you know, mermaids don’t have souls unless they win one from a mortal.  We don’t have souls, either, but for completely inexplicable reasons, we can win one by doing enough good deeds.  I guess God just hates mermaids or something.  We fly to warm countries and provide cool breezes, which somehow prevents the spread of disease.  We carry the smell of perfume on the wind to spread health, um, somehow.  Basically, we do wind shit.  If we serve for 300 years doing good deeds with all of our might, we get a soul.  By not killing the prince to save yourself, you have been blessed to join us, even though most mermaids just turn into foam without actually doing anything to deserve it. 
  • “Of course, there is a catch.  When we enter a house, we have to look for children.  If the child is good, it makes us smile and we can get a soul in one year less.  If we find a bad kid, though, it makes us cry, and we get an extra day for every single fucking tear.”  And so she served for nobody knows how long depending entirely on how many random kids were good or bad.
  • So that’s the original story of the little mermaid.  Personally, I don’t love the ending (and a lot of other people don’t either).  The whole thing has been building to a harsh, tragic ending, but abruptly takes a left turn at Albuquerque for no apparent reason.  The daughters of the air are not even a little bit hinted at in the rest of the story, and the deus ex machina that saves her is less than satisfying.  It’s a super obvious attempt to scare kids into being good by holding the much abused mermaid hostage.  The original ending had the little mermaid dissolving into sea foam rather than murder her prince, but Andersen changed it shortly before publication because he thought making her ability to get a soul dependent on another was wrong, even though the new and improved version still makes her dependent on the kindness of strangers.  So if there are any kids out there listening, and dear god you really shouldn’t, be good or else the mermaid gets it.
  • And now it’s time for gods and monsters.  This is a segment where I get into a little more detail about the personalities and history of one of the gods or monsters from this week’s pantheon that was not discussed in the main story.  This week’s monster is the valravn from Danish folklore.  With a badass name that means “raven of the slain”, the valravn is a supernatural bird drawn to battlefield death.
  • Ravens are disliked in a lot of cultures, especially warrior cultures, since they are carrion birds and will feast on the slain.  According to Danish songs recorded in the late 1800s, if a king or chief was killed in battle and left on the field, the ravens would come to devour him.  The ravens that feasted on a royal corpse would become valravne.  The lucky bird that ate the king’s heart would gain human knowledge and supernatural powers.  Ravens are already incredibly clever, and have been known to carry grudges over several generations, so it’s no surprise that these powerful valravne would be malicious, often leading people into danger and causing mischief.  In some versions, the more powerful birds have the ability to transform into armored knights or half-wolf half raven monsters. 
  • In other accounts, the valravne are considered to be lost souls in search of redemption.  They cruise the skies at night looking for the only thing that can free it from its cursed animal form: the motherfucking blood of a child.  One traditional danish song tells how a maiden came to a valravn to ask a favor.  She had been separated from her betrothed and needed to get back to him.  She offered him all of the money she had, but the valravn only laughed.  “What the fuck would I do with riches bitch?  I’m a fucking bird!  I can take you to him, but I need something bigger.  I need your first born child.”
  • Surprisingly, the woman agrees, and the valravn takes her across the miles to be with her beloved.  As dawn nears, it flies away into the darkness.  A few years go by, and the couple is blessed with a child.  The woman is shocked when the valravn appears at their door just after sunset.  “Time to pay up, bitch, or did you forget?”  She tries to protect the child, but the monster is too powerful.  She weeps as the bird drags the child into the yard and rips open the kid’s chest to feast on the heart and entrails.  The child screams in pain and fear as it dies in front of its helpless parents. 

That’s it for this episode of Myth Your Teacher Hated.  Keep up with new episodes on our Facebook page, on iTunes, on Stitcher or on TuneIn, or you can follow us on Twitter as @HardcoreMyth.  You can also find news and episodes on our website at myths your teacher hated dot com.  If you like what you’ve heard, I’d appreciate a review on iTunes.  These reviews really help increase the show’s standing and let more people know it exists.  I want to thank Patty Shim Shoy on Reddit for letting me know that these stories apparently pair well with coffee and waffles.  If you have any questions, any gods or monsters you’d want to learn about, or any ideas for future stories that you’d like to hear, feel free to drop me a line.  I’m trying to pull as much material from as many different cultures as possible, but there are all sorts of stories I’ve never heard, so suggestions are appreciated.  The theme music is by Tiny Cheese Puff, whom you can find on fiverr.com.

Next time, it’s another Grimm’s fairy tale, but one you probably haven’t heard before.  At the request of one of our listeners, we’ll be meeting The Devil’s Sooty Brother.  It’s a weird, weird story.  You’ll learn that making a deal with the devil can be pretty fucking gross, that hell music is awesome, and that the devil is actually a pretty nice guy.  Then, in gods and monsters, it’s a bizarre, top hat wearing version of the devil from Scandinavian folklore.  That’s all for now.  Thanks for listening.