The original Little Mermaid was not fit for children. Not even a little bit.

There’s a new live-action version of Disney’s The Little Mermaid coming, with filming expected to start in the second half of 2020. R&B singer Halle Bailey has been confirmed as the new Ariel, Awkwafina will play Scuttle the seagull, Jonah Hauer-King will be Prince Eric and there are rumours that Melissa McCarthy and Jacob Tremblay (a.k.a. that kid from Room) will also join the cast.

Other than that, little is known about the remake of the 1989 animated original.

And to be honest, that makes us nervous. Because while the Disney movie is a classic boy-meets-fishgirl romance, if the writers stick closer to the original source material we’re all in for a downright disturbing viewing experience.

Video via Disney

Written in 1836 by Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid fairy tale has less seashell bikinis, friendly Jamaican crustaceans and true love, and more… torture, monsters and suicide. (Although, special mention to the serial-killer vibes of Ariel’s ‘collection’ of shiny, sharp objects in the Disney version.)

For the sake of desensitising ourselves, just in case, here are the most unsettling aspects of the OG story.

Dead mermaids turn into foam.

The Little Mermaid’s nanna tells us that while merpeople might have a life-expectancy of 300ish years, once they cark it, they evaporate into seafoam.  You know, that scunge that’s stirred up by waves.

Also, they have no soul. So there’s that.

The sea witch lives in a bone house in a forest of demonic plant-people.

We know her as Ursula, the poor, unfortunate soul whose electric-blue eyeshadow/red-lip combo is almost as hideous as her personality. In the original tale, though, she’s just ‘the sea witch’; a sorceress who lives in a house made of bones. Human bones. Human bones from sailors who died tragically at sea and sunk to the bottom, allowing her to collect their remains and turn them into scaffolding.


Oh, and you’ll like this bit. Her skeleton house sits in the middle of a forest of trees and flowers called “polypi”: “…half animals and half plants; they looked like serpents with a hundred heads growing out of the ground. The branches were long slimy arms, with fingers like flexible worms, moving limb after limb from the root to the top.”

These devil plants also collect bones, and they strangle mermaids to death.

NOPE ON A ROPE. An illustration from the original book. Image: Getty.

The sea witch lets toads eat from her mouth.

Just that.

The Little Mermaid has her tongue cut out.

In the Disney version, Ariel pays for her time on land (and shot at romance with Prince Eric) by giving Ursula her voice. In the Danish short story, TLM pays with her tongue. As in, it's hacked out of her mouth. Permanently.

And the feet she gets in exchange feel like they're "treading upon the points of needles or sharp knives" every time she takes a step. (Girl clearly needs to learn some negotiating skills.)

The Prince is a colossal d**k.

After The Little Mermaid makes her bargain, goes to the 'world above' and meets the handsome teenage prince, she ignores her stabby feet and does a pretty dance for him. He likes it, because hormones, and says "she should remain with him always, and she received permission to sleep at his door, on a velvet cushion".

the little mermaid original

A bit of time passes, and he decides that he loves her "as he would love a little child". In fact, he keeps calling her "my dumb child" and "dumb foundling", despite the fact that she has a perfectly good name... oh, wait. She doesn't in this one. But still.

THEN he ends up marrying some other woman, and has the sheer audacity to tell The Little Mermaid, "You will rejoice at my happiness; for your devotion to me is great and sincere". 

Alright, mate.

The Little Mermaid dies because she can't bag a husband.

Part of The Little Mermaid's deal with the sea witch is that if the prince marries someone else, she will cark it the following day. TLM's sisters end up striking a bargain to save her — their hair in exchange for a knife, which they must give to TLM to use as a murder weapon against the prince. If she kills him in his marriage bed, she can have her fin back and return to the sea.

Of course she won't, because Stockholm Syndrome love. And instead leaps overboard, taking her own life.

Oh, and she doesn't even become sea foam. Instead she ends up being taken away by some ladies called the 'Daughters of the Air' (sounds like a cult, but sure), who promise her that if she flies around doing good deeds for 300 years she might get a soul after all.

The end.

Happy nightmares, children.