Addressing Language in The Little Mermaid

More precisely, I wanna suggest a different course of events that isn’t the witch taking her voice, and look at the Mermaid’s ability to communicate her love for the prince verbally, or through the use of language of any form. I’m going to look at Disney’s 1989 production, the ladybird Little Mermaid book of the Favourite Tales collection that I got for my birthday from my cousin when I had my Little Mermaid party ( it was awesome), this version, and the information about Mermaids and Mermish from The Goblet of Fire.

Because I’m both linguist and geek, and debunking things is a staple of given fandoms.

Okay, so compilation of info concerning the reason the Little Mermaid can’t talk.
1)  Disney said it was the witch’s spell
2)  My book says she would be dumb after drinking a potion
3)  the link above gives proof for LM having had her tongue cut out

“But if you take away my voice,” said the little mermaid, “what is left for me?”

“Your beautiful form, your graceful walk, and your expressive eyes; surely with these you can enchain a man’s heart. Well, have you lost your courage? Put out your little tongue that I may cut it off as my payment; then you shall have the powerful draught.”

“It shall be,” said the little mermaid.

Which kind of plays into Ursula’s whole body language bit in the movie.

The last one makes me doubt the authenticity of my book now.

Okay so here we have three given reasons as to why she couldn’t talk.

Here I’m going to get into my hypothesis. What if she never took these extensive measures and willingly forfeited her ability to speak, so that she still had her tongue and could actually speak to the prince (just without putting [the Mermish equivalent of] “I” and “love” and “you”  together, to be directed to the prince?

Hold up.

Mermish equivalent? But what about Danish, which I’m positing the prince spoke? 


Continuing my point, what if she wasn’t physically hampered in her communication, either by spell, potion or cutting her tongue out? What if it was just plain ol’ Language barriers? I mean, he was from land, possibly Denmark where Hans Christian Andersen was from. She was from the sea, deep down, a princess of an underwater kingdom. They would have different languages, wouldn’t they? In Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Ariel barely knew the words and concepts of the human world for all her research ( a.k.a. Scuttle). In the series of the same name, Ariel got grounded for a period of time measured by tides. Sorry, she was beached. Grounded is a land-based concept it seems. It may be possible to come up with a Danish equivalent for these concepts expressed in Mermish, but really….  ….eeeeehhhh

Looking at Disney’s movie, we, the audience, see the movie from Ariel’s point of view for most of it, like in her songs, and I’m stating the Part of your World (Reprise) where we hear Ariel sing. We hear lyrics. At one point, we see things from Eric’s POV, where Vanessa “sings” to prove she’s the girl he’s been looking for. The “singing” was vocalisation to Eric. It was what he heard on the beach when Ariel found him. No lyrics, just melody.

Here’s where I’m gonna take liberties with GoF.

What does GoF show us about Mermish? You can’t understand it above the ground. It’s shrieking and vocalisations in the air. Underwater, it’s fine, Harry heard the Mermaids in clear English. ( They were British Mermaids (?)) Above ground, Dumbledore was shrieking like Norman Bates’ victims with Ron Swanson’s deadpan expression on his face.

I’m guessing that our blue-eyed heartthrob wouldn’t take to our fiery (unburnable) redhead, if she’d suddenly started shrieking to tell Chef Louis that she can’t eat the crab because…… she’s …. allergic ( totally not because he’s her Father’s advisor or anything)

My guess too, is that musically, the shrieking can be something melodic, as we saw with Vanessa.

Also, I’m considering Signed languages. In the series, Ariel and Flounder make friends with a Deaf Mermaid and her Octopus friend-slash-interpreter. So, assuming that they were from Atlantica, we see that there is a signed language, which I’m dubbing Signed Atlantican Mermish. Because I’m ridiculous. Forgive me.

So, SAM. Even if Ariel had learned SAM, it may not necessarily be understandable to the Danish Deaf, who would use their version of Danish Sign. Even if she signed there is no way she could make herself understandable to her prince. He may not know DSL, and surely wouldn’t know SAM or Atlantican Mermish. And within a space of the three days she has, she can’t learn his language and he wouldn’t think to learn hers. And if she took him underwater, so he can hear her speak Danish ( because that’s how Mermish apparently works according to GoF- Because she’s a Mermaid in Danish territory?) , dude, he has lungs. You met him when he was drowning. He can’t live underwater.

So yeah, I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and if you don’t consider the more violent or invasive reasons, but instead consider something as simple as language barriers, it’s not a stretch to see the difficulty the Little Mermaid would have had.

To conclude, basically, even if she was whole, she still wouldn’t have gotten her prince. Language barriers separate us all.

But this is a fairy tale. So what. *sweeps PC off desk*

– Kaye~


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