Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

Author’s Note

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pp. ix-x

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Introduction

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pp. 1-4

Since the publication of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Little Mermaid” in 1837, it has traveled across countries and languages, transforming into an astounding variety of forms. The human-fish hybrid body of Andersen’s mermaid and the troubled relationship the story poses between this body and the mermaid’s romantic and spiritual desires have inspired critical and creative musings on gender and its intersections with body, sexuality, and social roles. Moreover, the plot of “The Little Mermaid” seems to anticipate the tale’s transcultural, translinguistic movement: a...

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1. Fairy Tale Transformations in Japanese and English

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pp. 5-38

The heroine of Hans Christian Andersen’s 1837 Danish fairy tale “The Little Mermaid” becomes, at the end of the tale, a “daughter of the air.” Yet even before she is able to fly, she slips across borders: her half-fish form in itself rejects the boundaries of the human body; she changes from mermaid to human and then becomes sea foam so that the border between her body and the sea is removed. Finally she is re-formed as an ethereal air sprite. The mermaid also moves between locations, journeying from the ocean to the land before reaching the sky. Andersen’s popular tale itself has shifted...

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2. Children’s Pleasures in Animated Film Adaptations

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pp. 39-69

Animated adaptations of “The Little Mermaid” often express desire and pleasure through motion. In the famous Disney adaptation of Andersen’s fairy tale, The Little Mermaid (dir. Ron Clements and John Musker, 1989), the mermaid heroine Ariel sings of her desire to walk and run on land, spiralling upward through the ocean water toward the sun. A few decades later, in Gake no ue no Ponyo (Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, dir. Miyazaki Hayao, 2008), Studio Ghibli launched its fish-girl Ponyo into an uninhibited dash over the waves to her prince. These scenes capture some of the possibilities...

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3. Fairy Tale Architextuality and the Prince’s Pleasures

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pp. 70-94

Animated adaptations of “The Little Mermaid” bring the fairy tale to life in brilliant color, sound, and movement, but of course, literary texts had endeavored to capture the striking aesthetic impact of the mermaid in the centuries before these films. In doing so, the transformations I take up here evince a particularly suggestive fondness for gold and silver and other precious objects, as Lüthi describes in the epigraph. Their dialogues with Andersen’s story engage the “clarity” of the fairy tale form to their own stylized, art-obsessed ends, delving into the pleasures of a deep knowledge of...

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4. Mermaids Repeated, Inverted, and Reversed in Women’s Fairy Tale Revisions

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pp. 95-125

The appeal of the fairy tale, it seems, cannot be easily captured. From the quite divergent explanations in the epigraphs, we can only surmise that the fairy tale brings pleasure because it is something with a sharp edge, something with power. For Kurahashi, fairy tales offer the intellectual pleasure of close familiarity with the genre and with the satisfying forces that rule its narratives. For Matsumoto, an academic discovery of deeper “truth” drives our interest in a particular tale. And for Higami, fairy tales are appetizing, mysterious objects with the ability to affect their...

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5. Girls Reading and Retelling “The Little Mermaid”

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pp. 126-156

Though the mermaid might appear to be nothing more than a lonely sailor’s sex dream, she has in fact become a popular figure in children’s stories, a free and magical creature who fascinates young girls in particular. Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” which hinges on birthdays and painful physical changes, cemented the tale as one of coming of age, and we have seen in chapter 2 how this tradition continues in recent analogues such the Disney film adaptation. In fact, growing-up plots feature in many more mermaid stories for preadolescent and teenage girls. As revisions such as Matsumoto’s show...

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6. Beyond Happily Ever After in Women’s Post–Fairy Tale Transformations

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pp. 157-183

A recent collection of short manga episodes by the contemporary woman artist Watanabe Peco, titled Henshin monogatari (Tales of metamorphosis, 2008), opens and closes with a two-part story that transforms “The Little Mermaid.” In Watanabe’s opening episode, titled “A Mermaid of Today” (“Heisei ningyo”; lit. Heisei-period mermaid), a girl mermaid named Rin acts on her desire for her prince. Rin has just left shōjo-hood and come of age. She explains that her ancestor was the model for Andersen’s mermaid but that Rin’s own metamorphosis to human was not equally painful...

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Conclusion

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pp. 184-190

Hans Christian Andersen’s touching, imaginative story “The Little Mermaid” has inspired endless transformations. The fairy tale conveys a deep, dramatic sense of yearning and emotional suffering imagined through descriptions of muteness and terrible pain. It evokes experiences of girlhood and growing up through imagery of physical metamorphosis and upward movement through different environments. The mermaid’s movement across different realms and her experience as an outsider on land is echoed in the journeys that the tale itself has made across cultures and into different shapes. The...

Works Cited

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pp. 191-212

Index

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pp. 213-221