Among the well-known writers of classic fairy tales, Hans Christian Andersen remains high on the list, even today, for his popular stories and his story, The Little Mermaid, is one of the many of his that readers will remember the most (mainly because of how Andersen wrote it; partly because of how Disney interpreted it). What makes this story so popular? Well, what little girl doesn’t want to be a mermaid? There are not many women around who will admit that at some point in their childhood they did not NOT want to be a mermaid and some of these women grow up to write new fantasy stories of new mermaids. Writer Carolyn Turgeon was one such writer; however, she chose to tackle Andersen’s story in her own creative way, putting her own twist on the classic mermaid tale by giving it more depth than it has ever had.
Two princesses are in love with the same prince: a mermaid who saved the prince from drowning in a storm and a human who believes this same mermaid brought the prince to her for a reason. Mermaid princess Lenia longs to be with the man she saved, willing to give up her tail, her voice, and her home to have the chance to be with him. Human princess Margrethe, upon learning the prince is the son of her father’s rival, longs to marry the prince to unite her kingdom with his and bring peace to a war between their fathers that has waged for far too long. Both princesses are willing to give up everything to be with this one prince, but who will he chose to be his true love?
Turgeon’s Mermaid is a unique take of Andersen’s classic tale; however, it is difficult to decide what to make of it. It is not great, but it is not terrible. It is quite unique, and yet rather predictable. It is at times intriguing, while at other times tolerable. Turgeon’s style of writing is rather captivating, using just the right amount of detail to paint a beautiful picture in the reader’s mind as to where the characters are, and Turgeon loves her stories, having written other twists on other classic fairy tales. However, it is the story itself and the characters that make it difficult to decide whether a reader will like Mermaid or not.
What was interesting to read was while Andersen focused solely on the character the story was named after, Turgeon focused on both the mermaid as well as the princess the prince ends up marrying in Andersen’s story. Both princesses had an even amount of time in the spotlight and readers were able to decide who they wanted the prince to be with as they learned more about each princess with each passing chapter. Not to mention, Turgeon gave the human princess the back story and character she was lacking in Andersen’s story. As intriguing as each of their stories were, the princesses are sometimes rather aggravating to read about. Both princesses were willing to give up EVERYTHING for a man they did not even know… Now, both princesses are young in the story (late teens), but one has to wonder: are they simply immature or just unbearably naïve?
Aside from her new additions to the classic tale, Turgeon did stay true to many aspects of the story. The mermaid princess was only fifteen years old in Andersen’s story, but Turgeon kept her close to the same age, giving her a few more years and making her eighteen. The mermaid did give up her voice to become human and did feel pain while walking on her legs just like in Andersen’s story. And, of course, there were tweaks on other aspects of the tale that made Turgeon’s story unique. One nicer example was, while the prince viewed the mermaid as more of a child rather than a wife in Andersen’s story, Turgeon made the prince see her as a lover rather than a child. This new addition makes the readers feel a bit better about the sacrifice the mermaid made for the prince.
Mermaid itself is a good telling of a well-known fairy tale; however, perhaps what makes it difficult to decide whether one likes it or not is perhaps its content. It is intriguing to read the alternative content Turgeon has created, and yet perhaps this alternative content is too much for this story. There are times when the writing is incredibly captivating and readers want to know more about each princess and chose which of the two they side with most. And then there are times when the writing just seems to carry on and the readers read again and again how the princesses feel towards the prince and those feelings never seem to change, so reading these inner thoughts becomes repetitive at times. Andersen’s classic fairy tale will be retold countless times in years to come and each will bring its own unique spin to the story. Turgeon’s spin is one that readers will have to read and chose for themselves upon completion whether or not they liked Mermaid’s particular spin or not.
Originally published at www.examiner.com on March 8, 2016.