Because of Walt Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”, my daughter has always wanted to be a mermaid herself. (Sorry Sweetie, I am not King Triton; I can’t change your legs into a fin.) The film follows the story of a free-spirited mermaid named Ariel. She is an autodidact of sorts—teaching herself about the human world above her. However, keeping her from the surface of the sea is her father, King Triton. The king dictates his desires from a lofty throne—enforces “holiness” codes—and everything is “by the letter of the law.”Triton, in a way, represents religion, political systems, and empire, at least in the worst of moments. This rigid system does not sit well with Ariel. What Ariel wants is to be human, to experience true love—true relationship.
Ariel will get her chance to taste “humanness” during a freak thunderstorm. While on a visit to the surface, she meets a beautiful prince. Ariel instantly falls in love with Prince Eric and all of her desires to be human are tacitly verified. Tragedy nearly strikes when the ship the prince is on is caught up in the mighty storm. Ariel eventually saves the shipwrecked prince, and in doing so, he catches a glimpse of her (before she heads back to the sea) and falls for Ariel’s beauty and singing voice. Witnessing all of this “lovey-dovey romance” is “the satan,” or in this case, Ursula.
Ursula represents all that is evil in the sea kingdom. She is manipulative, sneaky, and downright evil. This wretched “Sea Witch” also knows it is only a matter of time until Ariel’s free-spiritedness crosses paths with King Triton’s rigid rule-of-law. Once Triton finds out about Ariel’s love for a certain human named Eric (she is not exactly subtle about it), he crushes her hopes and forbids her from ever considering seeing him again. It is Ursula’s time to strike. She picks on a down-and-out Ariel, tricking her into a “pact with the devil,” so to speak. The conditions this witch conjures up are as follows:
1) Ariel can be a human for 3 days, and in that time period, must make Eric fall in love with her.
2) Ariel must give her voice to Ursula in the time being.
3) If Ariel succeeds, she is free to be a human, but if she fails, she will become Ursula’s captive (Ursula has “trapped souls” in her cavern—under the satanic mindset—those under the spell of the demonic principalities of the world, as I see it).
Ariel is given her “humanness” and thus begins the countdown. Three days to make Eric, whom she has only met once, fall in love with her…and she cannot even make a peep. However, because of Ariel’s “cuteness” and what seems like innocent vulnerability, it is only a short time before Eric actually begins to fall for Ariel. To put a halt to this blossoming romance, Ursula has to take matters into her own hands. She transforms herself into a mirror of Ariel (under the pseudonym Vanessa), puts Eric under a spell, and tricks him into marrying her instead of Ariel. All too often, humans fall for that which is represented by “the satan;” the father of lies…a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).
Eric was powerless to overcome her.
However, what Ursula does not understand, is that love always prevails over evil. Light always triumphs over darkness. With the help of her friends, Ariel stops the coerced wedding and breaks Eric free from the spell of “the satan”. In doing so, Ariel regains her voice and Eric is able to finally see Ariel was the one who saved him from the shipwreck—it was she he wanted all along. Unfortunately for them, the sun had already set on the third day. Per the agreement with Ursula, Ariel was property of the “Sea Witch”. The tide was turning back in favor of evil.
Yet, Ursula was not satisfied. She wanted more. She wanted King Triton’s crown.
Like any good father, Triton would do anything to save the life of one of his children. Ursula knew this. It was a “no-brainer” that King Triton would give up his own life, and thus, the kingdom, to Ursula in exchange for Ariel’s freedom. Once Triton did this, he discovered true humanness himself. As Jesus said, “greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NASB) This is the most drastic positive mimesis one can display for others.
Once Ursula takes control of the crown, she literally inflates herself to epic proportions. Now, in the matter of moments, Ursula has become “the satan” on steroids.
What Ursula fails to realize is this: the kingdoms of men, the one she inherited from Triton, always fail.
Babylon always falls and Ursula has become Babylon.
Eric pierces Ursula, with a trident of all weapons, and destroys the evil Sea Witch, freeing all those enslaved by the satanic curse they were under—including Triton. Once the former king has his freedom, he gives Ariel what she has always wanted, her ability to be human. Once free to love and be loved, Eric and Ariel wed… it is a Disney film, is it not?
Love conquers the principalities of evil, of the kingdoms of men, of “the satan.” In fact, love conquers all. I Corinthians 13: 4-8 tell us: “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never ends.” (NRSV)
In the end, love wins.*
*A nod to Rob Bell.
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For more in Matthew’s Disney Princess series, see:
Cinderella: Happily Ever After
Beauty and the Beast: Tale As Old As Time
The Little Mermaid: Under the Sea
Alladin: A Whole New World
Frozen: Love Will Thaw a Frozen Heart
Tangled: Let Down Your Hair