Monday, April 28, 2008

The Peasant Mermaid

My Love, My Love, or the Peasant Girl, by Rosa Guy, is the book that the musical Once On This Island is based on. The book is darker, and the ending is totally miserable. No death followed by transformation into a magical tree, just death. Instead of being tenderly cared for by the gods (wrapped in a wave, carried gently to shore, cradled by the Mother of the Earth) her trampled lifeless body is tossed onto a trash heap by a bestial groundskeeper. No uptempo musical ending, just rain falling on a corpse.

It's a good book, it's gripping, told in a hypnotic storytelling style, but it's grim. It couldn't be otherwise. It's magical, it's beautiful, it's grim. It's a real fairy tale. An old school fairy tale. Not a sanitized Disney piece of fluff. Wishing won't make it so, and there's a price to be paid for every desire, every choice, good or bad.

One of the many things left out of the Disney version of the Little Mermaid was the price paid for exchanging a tail for legs - every step she took was as though she were walking on knives. Rosa Guy works this important detail into the story. TiMoune is a peasant. She has never in her life owned a pair of shoes. In order to get past the gates to reach the object of her love, she has to wear shoes. She is given a pair of shoes, and they are too small. They hurt. She has to walk miles in them. Every step is agony.

She's trying to fit herself into a world that doesn't value her the way she is. Of course it's painful.

But what about the prince? Does he pay a price in any of this? Yes, in the book he does. He becomes like his father, a man who carries a perpetual tired sadness and is unable to see beauty when it's right before his eyes. He's locked into a world of doing the expected, proper thing. He's not dead, but he might as well be.


Chucka Stone Designs said...

It always surprised me that the prince fell in love with the Little Mermaid in the Disney version, she was nothing more than a mute stalker, purely interested in him for his looks alone because what did she really know about him other than he had a dog & a boat? (I have serious issues with most Disney movies, throw a title out there & I'll tell you all about it lol)

Although that book sounds very dreary I may give it a read anyway to get a feel for the other side.

vesta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vesta said...

Just for you, I've reprinted a post from my other blog. I too have issues with Disney's inability to tell a story without sticking an inappropriately happy ending on it. But I suppose ending Pocohantas with dirge as she dies of tuberculosis far away in England wouldn't have audiences leaving with their toes tapping....