Paintings: The Little Mermaid / The Sea Witch

"The Little Mermaid / The Sea Witch"
12 x 6"
Acrylic on canvas
~ Reserved ~


"I know what you want," said the sea witch; "it is very stupid of you, but you shall have your way, and it will bring you to sorrow, my pretty princess. You want to get rid of your fish's tail, and to have two supports instead of it, like human beings on earth, so that the young prince may fall in love with you, and that you may have an immortal soul." And then the witch laughed so loud and disgustingly, that the toad and the snakes fell to the ground, and lay there wriggling about. "You are but just in time," said the witch; "for after sunrise to-morrow I should not be able to help you till the end of another year. I will prepare a draught for you, with which you must swim to land tomorrow before sunrise, and sit down on the shore and drink it. Your tail will then disappear, and shrink up into what mankind calls legs, and you will feel great pain, as if a sword were passing through you. But all who see you will say that you are the prettiest little human being they ever saw. You will still have the same floating gracefulness of movement, and no dancer will ever tread so lightly; but at every step you take it will feel as if you were treading upon sharp knives, and that the blood must flow. If you will bear all this, I will help you."

"Yes, I will," said the little princess in a trembling voice, as she thought of the prince and the immortal soul.

"But think again," said the witch; "for when once your shape has become like a human being, you can no more be a mermaid. You will never return through the water to your sisters, or to your father's palace again; and if you do not win the love of the prince, so that he is willing to forget his father and mother for your sake, and to love you with his whole soul, and allow the priest to join your hands that you may be man and wife, then you will never have an immortal soul. The first morning after he marries another your heart will break, and you will become foam on the crest of the waves."

"I will do it," said the little mermaid, and she became pale as death.

-- Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid (1836)

In the original story, the sea witch was brutally frank with the little mermaid about the chances of her winning the prince and the personal price thereof; ever the dreamer, the hopeful mermaid still agreed. Upon rereading the story recently, I found it interesting that while the witch certainly does ugly things, she herself is at no point physically described. I thought it only fitting that she and the mermaid should share the same face (Victorian model Evelyn Nesbit), albeit with very different outlooks on the situation!



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Artwork and text © Arden Ellen Nixon