Having conquered the box office, if not the hearts of critics, Disney’s Maleficent has nevertheless piqued the public’s interest in revisionist fairy tales that retell those familiar stories from the perspective of their respective villains, since those characters may or may not have gotten a fair treatment in the original, less-forgiving versions. In this spirit, io9 has unearthed a short story by Digger’s Ursula Vernon that offers a fresh take on the events depicted in The Little Mermaid. In “The Sea Witch Sets the Record Straight,” the much-hated deep-sea enchantress informs us that she did not take the “little fool” mermaid’s voice for selfish reasons but rather to protect the safety and anonymity of her fellow ocean dwellers, since their collective cover would all but certainly have been blown once the ex-mermaid princess started talking to the land dwellers.
Curiously, though io9 is presenting the story as a counterpoint to the 1989 animated film, Vernon does not use the use the character names Ursula or Ariel and seems to be basing her rebuttal on Hans Christian Andersen’s original 1837 fairy tale. Refreshingly, “The Sea Witch Sets the Record Straight” gives readers a version of the story that’s neither as sugary-sweet as the Disney film nor as tragic as the Andersen tale. If there is such a thing as a pragmatic, realistic version of The Little Mermaid, this is it.