Little Mermaid’s Opening Quote Foreshadowed Its Heartbreaking Ending Change
Written by on June 6, 2023
The 2023 The Little Mermaid remake opened with a quote from writer Hans Christian Andersen’s original story, and it perfectly foreshadowed an impactful change made to Ariel’s ending. Andersen is the author of the Little Mermaid tale, which differs significantly from the animated version by Disney released in 1989. This provided the House of Mouse with the perfect opportunity to incorporate aspects of the traditional tale into their live-action remake—something that was perfectly pulled off with the movie’s opening quote.
The Little Mermaid remake opened with text that read, “But a mermaid has no tears, and therefore she suffers so much more.” The quote is credited to Anderson’s original The Little Mermaid story and describes how, as beings who live in the sea, mermaids are incapable of shedding tears. This isn’t a concept that Disney’s original The Little Mermaid movie embraced. Ariel’s animated counterpart cried several times throughout the 1989 film. However, by including this quote in the 2023 remake, Disney brought Andersen’s idea back and followed through on it all the way to the film’s end.
Hans Christian Andersen’s Quote Foreshadowed Ariel Finally Crying In The Little Mermaid’s Ending
In Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairy tale, mermaids could not cry. This makes sense since they are beings constantly surrounded by water. The poetry of this fits right in with the tragic nature of the original The Little Mermaid story. Despite everything that happened to the titular little mermaid, she could only suffer in cold silence. Of course, Disney did away with the tragedy of Ariel’s story with the animated adaptation, but the remake brought a touch of it back with its opening quote.
Not only did the 2023 The Little Mermaid remake include the “but mermaids have no tears” quote, but the film followed through on Andersen’s sentiment by ensuring that Ariel never shed a tear while she was still technically a mermaid. Though the animated film showed her crying after her father destroyed her treasure trove, she only lay on the sea floor in silent sorrow in the remake. When she later believed Prince Eric had chosen to marry another girl, no tears were in sight. It wasn’t until the film’s ending—when King Triton had made her a human for real—that she shed bittersweet tears as she said goodbye to her old life.
Ariel’s Lack Of Tears In The Little Mermaid Remake Made Her Suffering More Profound
Disney made several changes to the original The Little Mermaid movie with its remake, but the Hans Christian Andersen quote and Ariel’s lack of tears were among the smallest. Still, it had a significant impact on the emotional tension of the film. The greatest benefit of a live-action remake is the opportunity to bring far more emotion to the characters, and actress Halle Bailey did a phenomenal job using her singing voice to translate Ariel’s desperation to songs like “Part of Your World.” However, the moments of most significant impact were those where she suffered behind a blank mask of sorrow—unable to cry.
The fact that this concept came directly from Hans Christian Andersen made it even better. Disney’s The Little Mermaid faced a lot of backlash for its casting, and changes in live-action remakes are often criticized for tarnishing the original story for the sake of needless drama or societal sensitivity. However, this particular change was made to make Disney’s version of The Little Mermaid more true to Andersen’s tale and, in the end, meant a far more poetic story.
Why Ariel’s Tears At The End Of The Little Mermaid Were So Important
The fact that Ariel couldn’t cry, despite her heartbreak, added emotional weight to her story. It built tension—even if audiences didn’t necessarily notice why. Then, when the princess finally did cry after becoming a genuine human in The Little Mermaid, it wasn’t because of pain. Ariel cried out of gratitude for her father’s willingness to hear and accept her. It was a tear of joy for her new life and sadness for what she had left behind. Ultimately, it was the full release of the tension built up throughout the film.
The 2023 The Little Mermaid remake is still extremely different from the original story by Hans Christian Andersen. In the fairy tale, Prince Eric did not choose the mermaid princess, and she turned to sea foam. It was a story of pure tragedy, which is something that Disney did away with. However, by including Andersen’s rule about mermaids and tears, the studio brought back some of the profound emotions the author intended for The Little Mermaid and used this same detail to give her an even better happy ending.