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Perplexing Stories: Disney Part 2

Lakshmi Nanda Madhusoodhanan Sunday, May 2, 2021
Perplexing Stories: Disney Part 2

This is part 2 of Perplexing Stories: Disney Part 1

As a Disney enthusiast, I was always curious about the inspirations behind Disney Movies. Their films always intrigued me and the stories behind them is no less captivating. So, with advance apologies again, for tarnishing your childhood movies, here is the 2nd and final installation of Perplexing Stories: Disney.

1.The Little Mermaid


The Little Mermaid is an American animated musical fantasy drama released in 1989. It is also the 28th animated feature film produced by Disney. The Little Mermaid, as the title suggests, tells the story of a Mermaid Princess named Ariel who often wishes to be a human and makes a deal with the sea witch Ursula, to be a human and to be with Eric, the prince who she fell in love with.

The Little Mermaid is loosely based on the Danish fairy tale of the same name written by Hans Christian Andersen. It was written in 1836 and first published on 7 April 1837 in the first collection of “Fairy Tales Told for Children”. The fairy tale was republished on 18 December 1849 as a part of “Fairy Tales.1850” and once again on 15 December 1862 as a part of the first volume of “Fairy Tales and Stories”.

The movie has a happy ending with Ariel and Eric marrying each other with the blessings of Trinton (Ariel’s Father) and Ursula is defeated. But the real fairy tale has a rather tragic ending according to critics. There have been debates on why Andersen chose to end the tale in a tragic way rather than a happy one.

Before reading the conclusion, 2 things are to be kept in mind. Firstly, unlike the Disney version of the story, here The Little Mermaid has no specific name like Ariel. Secondly, in the story the life span of a Mermaid is 300 years.

In Andersen’s version of the ending, The Little Mermaid does strike a deal with Ursula for her to become a human and marry the prince. And she does get a pair of legs instead of her tongue. However, the plot takes a turn as every step the Little Mermaid took with her pair of new legs felt like walking on shattered glass pieces. How painful must have that been? And also, if the Mermaid gets her true love’s kiss, then she can remain as human, otherwise, she will die. As the prince never saw Ariel’s face when she saved him from the shipwreck, he ends up marrying a royal princess and this breaks Ariel’s heart as she has sacrificed so much for him. At twilight, The Mermaid anguishes about death awaiting her, when suddenly her sisters appear with a dagger which Ursula has given in return for their long, beautiful hair. They tell her that if the little Mermaid brings herself to kill the prince and let his blood drip on her feet before dawn, she can return to her home as a mermaid. And of course, The Little Mermaid cannot kill the prince according to her ethics. Thus, she ends up throwing herself into the sea just as the dawn breaks. Due to her self-sacrifice, instead of turning into sea foam, she becomes a daughter of air and this gives her a chance to get back her soul once again by doing good deeds to mankind for 300 years.

Many critics of the tale state that the ending follows a Victorian Moral which scares children into good conduct.

"But--a year taken off when a child behaves; a tear shed and a day added whenever a child is naughty? Andersen, this is blackmail. And the children know it and say nothing. There's magnanimity for you"

as quoted by P.L. Travers, author of Mary Poppins and renowned folklore critic.


Bambi, a 1942 Walt Disney feature film is based on the 1923 novel, “Bambi, a Life in the Woods” by Felix Salten who is an Austrian author and hunter.

The book, “Bambi, a Life in the Woods” is of Bildungsroman genre which is a literary genre that places an emphasis on the psychological and moral growth of the main character throughout their childhood to adulthood. This novel was well received by the critics and is contemplated as a classic.

In the original book, the main character i.e., Bambi is a roe deer but in the feature film, the character is based on mule deer. The book was written in German and told the life story of Bambi who loses his mother, finds his mate, learns lessons from his father and his experience with the dangers created by human hunters.

However, the film is gentler compared to the book which is claimed to be ‘violent’. In the book, when Bambi takes his first stride to the woods, he views a poor mouse getting killed and the gathered creatures blaming each other for the death. As the story progresses, Bambi and another deer get shot by a hunter. An injured Bambi meets The Great Prince who makes him walk in circles to confuse the hunter by spreading blood. The Great Prince also shows Bambi that man is not all-powerful by showing the body of the dead hunter and The Great Prince leaves Bambi by calling him “my son” at the end of the story.

The novel even had a sequel book titled “Bambi's Children: The Story of a Forest Family”, which is way more violent than that of Bambi: A Life in the woods but while translating into English from German, it was toned down, so it would be tender for children to read.

3.Snow White

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all? I'm sure you've heard the story. Snow White, one of the iconic characters in the history of Walt Disney Productions. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, a 1937 animated musical fantasy drama is based on the German fairy tale, ‘Snow White’ written by Brothers Grimm.

Don’t worry, just like the movie the Brother Grimm version too has a happy ending. The plot of the movie and the book is somewhat similar but the ending is drastically different. The film shows that the Queen tried killing Snow White only once which is disagreeing to the book as she tries killing snow white multiple times. Furthermore, the film, shows that the Prince and Snow White meet each other before the kiss. On the contrary, in the book, the Prince and Snow White never meet before her poisoning and the Prince does not kiss her to revive her. According to the book, one of the Prince’s servant trips and frees the piece of the poisoned apple, thus reviving Snow White. The notable difference is the ending of the story. Snow White and The Prince get married and Snow White gets her revenge on the Evil Queen too. When the Evil Queen attends Snow White’s wedding without permission, she is ordered to dance in iron-hot shoes.

In the first edition of the tale, published by the Grimm Brothers, it is shown that the villain i.e., The Evil Queen is Snow White’s jealous biological mother and that the servant takes Snow White to the garden and abandons her. The change was done to tone it down for little kids.

Critics have speculated about the probable origins of the tale which first appeared in Grimms' Fairy Tales. Notably, German historian, Eckhard Sander stated that it's based on the life story of Margaretha von Waldeck. Whereas, Scholar Graham Anderson compared the tale with that of the Roman legend of Chione. On the other hand, Scholar Karlheinz Bartels found evidence that Snow White was Maria Sophia Margarethe Catharina and the magic mirror, known as “Talking Mirror” can still be viewed in Spessart Museum. Also, the gravestone of Maria Sophia Margarethe Catharina was found in 2019.

So here is the end to the Disney not-so-fairy-tale series. Hope you enjoyed it.

Lakshmi Nanda Madhusoodhanan
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