The Metaphrog team of John Chalmers and Sandra Marrs working out of Glasgow, Scotland have come up with a graphic non-Disney version of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. Utilizing Andersen’s rich, vivid descriptions of the land beneath the sea, their gloriously appealing, bright colored illustrations attempt to capture the essence of his words. The deep blue and green and orange templates are stunning in their beauty and detail.
This is not the feel-good, love-conquers-all fairy tale that has been sanitized for the general populace, but a sad story of sacrifice and unrequited love. The beautiful and talented youngest daughter of the Sea King finally gets a chance to peek at the human world on her fifteenth birthday. It is even more marvelous than her sisters and grandmother have related. Peering into a passing ship, she is mesmerized by a celebration in honor of a prince, but becomes horrified when a sudden storm destroys the vessel throwing the unconscious young man into the ocean. Realizing he cannot survive without her help, the young mermaid keeps his head above water and eventually gets him to a beach where others find and minister him back to health. Overcome with love for the man, she goes to the sea witch to find a way to become human, but it is a costly endeavor involving pain and the loss of her voice. Now in human form with two beautiful legs instead of a tail, the prince finds the Little Mermaid on the shore and brings her to live with him in the palace. Not realizing this is the one who saved him from drowning, the prince goes searching for the maiden he believes was his rescuer. While he cares for his mute companion, it is another woman he decides to marry. Unfortunately, without marriage to her true love, the Little Mermaid is destined to morph into the foam which floats upon the sea. In order to find a way to save her from this fate, her sisters sacrifice their lovely hair to the sea witch, but the Little Mermaid cannot bring herself to kill the man she loves and jumps overboard to become one with the foam.
Such a tragic ending, but not the intention of the author. In the original tale, the Little Mermaid is given a reprieve due to her unselfish sacrifice and finds herself lifted up by the Daughters of the Air and given a path towards immortality through her continued kindly actions.
The challenge Metaphrog faced was transforming the dense, comprehensive text of Andersen’s fairy tale into simple wording appropriate for a comic book format in order to tell the tale to the youngest of children, letting the graphics carry the plot. While some of the nuances and details of Andersen’s words were lost, the team did a credible job maintaining the integrity of the story. My main complaint is the dismal ending which could easily negate all hope for the future, when Andersen intended to provide a means of redemption for the young mermaid. While I wasn’t looking for a Disney style happily ever after ending, I also didn’t expect a narrative which depresses the anticipated audience of children, or for that matter, adults. Four stars.
A thank you to Netgalley and Papercutz for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.