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Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale

Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale - Carolyn Turgeon Originally posted at These Pretty Words.I love me a good fairy tale. While I don’t consider myself an annoying girly-girl in that I need everything to be pink and frilly, I do concede the point that I’m a bit of a princess. I collect Cinderella memorabilia and find myself wandering into the Disney store under the guise of shopping for my niece (hint: she’s not even one. She doesn’t know who Cinderella is yet). Anywho, while I adore the Disneyfied versions of these tales, I’m far more intrigued by the original stories. Have you read the original versions? Grimm? Perrault? Andersen? They are morbid and sometimes scary, far from what most little girls today hear. When searching out material for my TBR list, I added a number of fairy-tale retellings. Mermaid is the second one I tackled and I’m happy to say, it’s the second one I’ve really enjoyed.Mermaid, as you may have guessed, is a retelling of The Little Mermaid, the Hans Christian Andersen version, no Scuttle, Flounder or Sebastian in sight. When I picked this one up, the summary really caught my attention for one key reason: the story is told in alternating points of view, switching every chapter between the mermaid, Lenia, and the human princess, Margrethe, who finds the prince on the beach after Lenia saves him. If you know the tale, you’re aware that TLM is ultimately a bit of a tragedy, and Mermaid definitely sticks to the major plot points.Lenia is a mermaid princess who is fascinated by the human world, more specifically, the “myth” that humans have souls, which allow them to “live” forever. Mermaids, on the other hand, have long lives but eventually turn to sea-foam and cease to exist altogether. She’s heard tales of when her kind mingled freely with the humans, but lives in a time when any interaction is strictly forbidden. Each mer-person is granted one day to visit the surface, though they must remain hidden. When Lenia’s day comes, she doesn’t waste a moment, swimming for the surface at midnight, despite the fact that there’s a raging storm. The young mermaid comes across a sinking ship and watches in fascination as sailors die all around her. Swimming through the wreckage, she finds one man who’s still alive and feels pulled to save him from the same fate of his crew.Meanwhile, on land, we are introduced to Margrethe, a young princess who is being housed in disguise at a convent for her safety. Her father, the Northern King is convinced that the enemy Southern kingdom is gathering their forces, intending to attack. On the morning after the storm, Margrethe is out walking in the garden when she spots a mermaid, Lenia, carrying a man to shore. Lenia spots Margrethe and somehow calls to her to come and save the man.The mysterious man turns out to be the prince of the Southern lands, Christopher, a fact Margrethe doesn’t find out until after a mild flirtation with the handsome stranger. When she discovers his identity, she flees, terrified that he will somehow find out who she is. Still, the young princess is drawn to the man a mermaid dropped into her lap, wondering why he was brought to her. When Christopher is well enough to travel, the two share a final (or so they think) goodbye with a very sweet kiss. By this point, I’m firmly on Team Margrethe.Back under water, Lenia can’t stop thinking about the man she saved and visits the surface once more to see if she can find him again. Instead, she finds Margrethe. The two share a conversation, each clearly fascinated with the other, envious of the life the other woman leads.Shortly after, Margrethe returns to her home land and Lenia strikes a bargain with the sea witch to allow her to become human. Here again, we see a very adult version of TLM because the trade-off for legs is having her tongue cut out and constant stabbing pain with every step she takes. Lenia bears her burden in hopes of gaining the prince’s love and his hand in marriage so that she may one day gain a soul of her very own.Unaware of Lenia’s plan, Margrethe hatches one of her own. Convinced that the mermaid bringing the prince to her was a sign, she agrees to give herself in marriage to the Southern prince in exchange for peace between the two kingdoms. When she arrives in the Southern kingdom, she finds not only the Prince, but Lenia as well.What really caught my interest about this telling is that you get two equal sides of the story. Neither of these women are the “wrong choice.” They both have their good and bad qualities but each loves the prince in their own way and neither holds a grudge against the woman competing for his hand. Typically I’m not a fan of love triangles. I like to choose a side and solidly support that choice. In this story, I wanted to choose a side, but the writing and the characters pushed me to consider both options equally.If you’re a fairy tale lover like me, I’d highly recommend this book. It’s a quick read but packed with good stuff. While it’s not overly erotic, it is definitely an adult version of the familiar tale, woven in a beautiful way that will challenge your allegiance.