A Feminist Retelling of ‘The Little Mermaid’

Written by: Ijin Han, Edited by: Jessmine Tay.

What comes to your mind first when you imagine the shape of a ‘mermaid’? Colourful jewelries all around their neck and waist, tails with glowing scales for swimming along the hilarious shade of deep mighty sea.

But here comes a book called “The surface breaks”, written by Louise O’Neil, which reimagined ‘The Little Mermaid’ in a feminist light: how these young mermaid girls were suffocated from the pearls and seashells which isn;t fit for them, devoting their freedom to the Sea King. This is the story about a mermaid girl who breaks the surface of the oppressing sea, and wants to be more than just an accessory to another merman.

As you might already know, the story, The Little Mermaid, is originally written by Hans Chirstian Andersen, which even got animated through Disney. As a feminist retelling, Louise published her first novel to the audiences. Feminist retelling means by telling a story, in a sight of female protagonist, recreating  the story in a way that attempts to break down the treatment of women as inactive objects.

The author well-reflected this properties of general feminist to the story. O’Neill’s Sea King controls his daughters because he is thinking of them just as his property and pretty objects that he is free to use to his advantage and benefit. He puts them into the competition for his strong power and affection, letting them know that they are inferior. Throughout the book, we can well see how girls-living inside the beautiful shell called princess- are treated unjustly in the sea kingdom.

The Surface Breaks is a brilliant retelling of The Little Mermaid. If you’re looking for a thoughtful story with a strong concept of feminism, this will certainly fit the bill. If you are willing to go on to the further plot, don’t hesitate to visit the school library to read or borrow the surface breaks, and even some more books related to women’s rights as women’s day is coming towards us! 



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