One of the things I love, is stories (and books of course, I seem to collect them to read later!)
Stories are powerful tools, where we can learn life lessons, morals, and values.
Every great story since the beginning of time includes archetypes and we can identify with these archetypes on a collective level. It’s through the archetypes in stories that we can begin to sculpt an understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
I recently bought Beneath the Moon: Fairy Tales, Myths, and Divine Stories from Around the world, which has been written and beautifully illustrated by Yoshi Yoshitani.
Out of the stories I have read so far, the Little Mermaid, a Danish Fairy Tale originally written by Hans Christian Anderson and published in 1837, caught my attention.
We all know the Disney version of this story; Ariel is a mermaid who dreams of living on land. She rescues a prince from drowning and falls madly in love with him. She takes a gamble, and strikes a bargain, with Ursula, the evil sea witch. Fully aware of the risks, she trades in her beautiful voice for legs, so she can be part of the human world and win the love of the prince she rescued. In the Disney story, love wins the day and they both live happily ever after.
The original story has no happy ending, and your heart breaks for the mermaid who agreed to pay the price the wicked witch of the sea demands, for love, unrequited.
The Little Mermaid is unable to win the love of the prince, watches him marry another and the Little Mermaid dies and is turned to sea foam. Apparently, Hans Christian Anderson revised the ending to a more hopeful conclusion, where the Little Mermaid becomes a daughter of air and earns a soul, something she wanted all along.
I was a little sad at the ending and I began to think about what the moral of the story was, what are the lessons and what was the story reflecting back at me.
The timing of reading this story, was rather curious. The book arrived on International Women’s Day, which was the day after our first Goddess Archetype Workshop and before our deep dive into the maiden archetype.
I felt like there was not only some personal introspection required, but a collective message here to investigate.
Disney Movies (of the past) have adjusted the true value of stories, by appealing to our sense of romance, adventure, and the fight against good and evil. In the retelling of these stories, the truth and depth has been compromised. The morals, values and lessons have been re-written to disempower the feminine (and the masculine). The Little Mermaid was determined to ‘change’ herself and give up everything for the love of a man she hardly knew, even knowing the risks.
This retelling has entrapped women into believing that we need a hero to save us and to be dependent on the love of another. On the flipside the powerless female character is what the masculine is taught to desire.
The true meaning of the Little Mermaid has been covered up and denies us the moral of the story and encourages women to change ourselves to suit the mainstream narrative and to give in and lose our voice. In the movie, girls are encouraged to change themselves, even ‘silence’ themselves in the name of love.
Women are not damsels in distress. We are not powerless, and we do not need saving. We can save ourselves, by appreciating and loving ourselves first.
Women have given up a lot of their innate magic to suit the patriarchal narrative. To fit a script that tells us we are not good enough, that we need to look a certain way and more specifically we need to take on attributes of the masculine to make it in this world.
We step into our wholeness by following our hearts and what we truly want and rejecting the perverted version of what society has told us we want…
We often allow ourselves to get into situations where we lose our voices and our authenticity.
For me the moral of the story is when we give up so much of ourselves, in order to fit in, we curtail our freedom and give up our authenticity and override our innate feminine magic.
We need to think hard about how much of our personal and collective value we have given away, including our voices to fit in?
Where have we give up our magical depths and our feminine ebb and flow… for something that has taken our true magic from us?
I went on to read many different opinions and theories on the original story, some offered hope from a more spiritual perspective, others felt it articulated the harsh consequences stemming from impulsive actions of the mermaid. Some even argued that in the end, her good deeds gave her what she wanted, eternal life.
Another thought was that the more bittersweet the ending, the more realistic it is. We cannot make people love us and we need to learn to live with that fact. The best we can do is act gracefully towards them.
My belief is, that stories reflect back to us what we need to know or consider, and my interpretation will be different to anyone else’s, based on my own personal narrative.
In the Tarot of the Divine by Yoshi Yoshitani, the little Mermaid represents the Fool, who is carefree and excited about life regardless of the warnings. You see the mermaid depicted in the card, sitting on a rock looking up a castle on a high mountain top - a castle in the sky.
For me the moral of the story is a warning. A warning to not to give up parts of ourselves for the sake of another (or the mainstream patriarchal narrative). To slow down and think before we rush in and to not create dreams, hopes, or plans that are impossible or unrealistic.
The Little Mermaid represents the Maiden Archetype. This Archetype displays a youthful effervescence and determination. She has a sense of curiosity, which she uses to explore the world around her. She is creative and has an instinctive approach to the world; however, lacks experience. The world is your oyster when you are a maiden.
The shadow aspect of the maiden is self-centred. All her energy is expended on achieving her own personal needs and goals. She struggles to realize her full potential and she tends to be fearful and co-dependent. She does not consider the consequences and trusts it will all work out.
If I reflect on my own personal story. I identify with the shadow aspect of the Maiden. Having grown up in a restrictive religion (you can read about my story here) then desperately trying to escape, I started to look for love in the wrong places, looking for a hero to save me. I became co-dependant, lacked boundaries and sought validation in all the wrong places. Determined to live my life on my own terms, I ignored all the warning signs, even my intuitive ones.
Where have you given up your voice to keep the peace and fit in? Where have you knowingly given up your deepest feminine attributes to fit into patriarchal society?
I’m sure there are many other threads to unpick in this very profound fairy tale…
What personal connection do you have to the story? What part resonates with you the most?
I’d love to hear your thoughts…
Fionn and Belinda work with the Goddess in all her forms as part of their own transformational work and feel called to offer Workshops and Cacao Ceremonies to support others with these powerful teaching tools, enabling us to create a more fulfilling and magical life.
The Goddess is rising within each of us.... may she light your path ahead.
Wise and Untamed
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