So I got my kids to watch “The Little Mermaid”, and honestly, I hadn’t seen the full film for quite some time. In the context of my last article about who the central figure of this movie is, I began to wonder, what if Prince Eric is the protagonist?
Let’s think about this. For one, he’s the first person we see, usually a giveaway. Ariel doesn’t appear until eight minutes in, after two other scenes. Also, Eric is the one who finally defeats the antagonist, not Ariel. Even though he doesn’t know Ursula from Adam, maybe she represents the Mrs. Wrong he’s been trying to avoid — a bride with bad motivations.
Like all good protagonists, there is something he wants and forces that act as obstacles to it. The kingdom wants to see him “happily settled down with the right girl”. Why the kingdom’s full of gossipy yentes, I don’t know. I always figured it had something to do with royal inheritance or power shifts. Prince Eric must have a real close relationship with his people if they’re so nosy. There’s a great unwritten fan fiction about the Princess of Glowerhaven somewhere.
Anyway, Eric tells his sidekick that he’s not interested in a marriage of convenience or power or arrangement or wealth. This contrasts his role in the original fairy tale where the prince is actually kind of a bad guy. The titular (pun intended) mermaid falls in love with him, sleeps outside his door, follows wherever he goes. The prince ignores her and marries someone else. (Not for love, if I recall.) She’s so devastated, she almost kills them, but chooses to end her own life instead.
Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked. Another factor is that he has a change. His quest is to accept the reality, rather than the dream. Sir Grimsby’s worried that he’s too picky or searching for something he’ll never find. He astutely notices Eric’s affections for the mute girl, and advises him that “far better than any dream girl is one of flesh and blood. One warm and caring and right before your eyes.”
When he throws his flute into the ocean, that symbolizes his capitulation of finding the mystery maiden. Life’s full of tough choices, in’nit? One could argue that this demonstrates a lack of change. But the dramatic irony is that it’s the same girl. So, if Vanessa hadn’t come along, he would have gotten what he wanted all along. Reminds me of an O. Henry story.
And last, we learn a moral from his quest — if you accept reality instead of the dream, the dream might become your reality. And from what I’ve learned in my personal life, I think that’s true.
Love you, honey.