As we all know, The Little Mermaid is based on a fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson. In it, the prince falls in love with the princess of a neighbouring kingdom. So could Ursula’s human disguise be based on her?

In the original fairy tale, the prince thinks the princess is the one who saved him. In the Disney film, Vanessa tricks Prince Eric into thinking she saved him.

  • Are there details from the original tale that lead you to believe this to be the case? If so, editing that in would improve the question.
    – Xantec
    Jun 28, 2018 at 18:49
  • I especially liked how understated and sane she seems; youtube.com/watch?v=xfkkMHieqcI
    – Valorum
    Jun 28, 2018 at 18:50
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    "Vanessa's role in the film is inspired by the original Andersen tale. In that story, after the prince has been rescued by the mermaid, he is found on the beach by a princess whom he believes to have saved him. ... after the mermaid becomes human, she discovers that the prince will be marrying the maiden ... .the maiden marries the prince while the mermaid (who chose not to kill the prince despite the urging of her sisters) dies and ascends to a spiritual rebirth. The maiden, like the Sea Witch, was also a neutral character rather than a villain." - disney.wikia.com/wiki/Ursula
    – Valorum
    Jun 28, 2018 at 18:52
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    @Valorum: Unfortunately, no source provided for that and it's a publicly editable wiki.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jun 28, 2018 at 19:05
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    @FuzzyBoots - Indeed, and hence why I posted it as a comment not an answer.
    – Valorum
    Jun 28, 2018 at 19:07

1 Answer 1


Yes, of course. The character is a pretty basic element of the plot. The Little Mermaid trades her voice to become human; then, because she cannot speak, the prince falls in love with somebody else. That provides the major conflict of the second half of the story.

Disney films often diverge quite a bit from their source material, often to provide a happier, funnier, or more comprehensible ending. Aladdin (as an example of a movie from the same period as The Little Mermaid) has a primary conflict that bears almost no resemblance to what happens in the original Arabian folktale. Beauty and the Beast, on the other hand, retains the basic plot of Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumontt's story. The Little Mermaid changes the ending so that the heroine doesn't perish, which requires making her romantic rival into an out-and-out villain. However, the key element of there being a romantic rival is taken straight out of Hans Christian Andersen's original.

  • Well it doesn't require the romantic rival to be a villain. Asylum studio's surprisingly good Little Mermaid adaption has the princess simply be more interested in her fashion college classes than an arranged marriage both she and the prince were not really interested in once they got to know each other. Jul 12, 2023 at 22:22

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