Saturday, August 23, 2014

How I Retold Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid"

Since my third Once Upon a Time Today novella, The Tree Hugger, will be releasing on August 26th, I'm writing a short series on how I've retold each tale. Dreaming of the Sea is the second tale in the collection. It will be free on Amazon August 23rd through the 25th, so pick up a copy if you don't already have one!

When I read the original version of the “The Little Mermaid”, I was surprised with its spiritual emphasis. None of the movie remakes or retellings I’d read conveyed the original tale’s underlying theme: Mermaids don’t have souls and the little mermaid wanted one. Rather profound. But it left me with a dilemma. I have two goals for each Once Upon a Time Today novella. The first is to update the story with characters and setting, the second is to remain true to the original fairy tale’s essence while providing some kind of twist.

I realized if I remained true to the essence of “The Little Mermaid”, I’d be grappling with spiritual themes. I chose to go ahead and twist the original tale by having a mortal at risk of losing her immortal soul.

Although the sea witch is a critical figure in the original tale, she doesn’t get a lot of stage time. I’d read Wicked years ago and loved the spin on the Wicked Witch of the West, so I decided to focus my retelling on “the witch” as well. One fun detail: We see the “original” little mermaid come to the sea witch’s lair and have quite an impact on the sea witch’s apprentice in Dreaming of the Sea.

When it came to setting, I decided to make use of the convent that served as an important place in the original tale. Out of that decision, Miriam was born. Miriam seems to be almost everyone’s favorite character. Determined, but also dreamy, her journey in the story is quite spectacular.