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CHARACTER CORNER: Princess Ariel

Updated: Nov 3, 2023


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Princess Ariel is a fictional character and the title character of Walt Disney Pictures' 28th animated film "The Little Mermaid" (1989). Ariel is a beloved character with a rich history that spans centuries. The evolution of Ariel can be traced back to the original Hans Christian Andersen's 1837 fairy tale. However, the Disney adaptation has significant differences from the original story.



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The original tale was written by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen and published in 1837. In this story, the unnamed mermaid princess sacrifices her voice to gain legs and the chance to win the love of a prince. However, unlike the Disney version, Andersen’s tale is much darker. If the prince marries someone else, she's told she will die and turn into sea foam. The prince does marry someone else, but instead of letting her turn to foam, her sisters offer her a way out: kill the prince and let his blood drip onto her feet, which will turn her back into a mermaid. She cannot do it, and as dawn breaks, she throws herself into the sea and becomes a spirit of the air.


Disney's animated film took major liberties with the source material, changing the tone and ending to be more optimistic and palatable for its target audience. Ariel, as she's named in the movie, is depicted as a vibrant, curious, and strong-willed young mermaid princess. Unlike the Andersen version, Ariel interacts with a cast of memorable characters, including

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Sebastian, Flounder, and Ursula, the sea witch. Ursula grants Ariel legs in exchange for her voice, with the caveat that Ariel must receive a "true love's kiss" within three days or belong to Ursula forever. The film became one of Disney's biggest hits, leading to sequels, merchandise, a TV series, and even adaptations in other media, such as stage musicals.

Princess Ariel of Atlantica is the daughter of King Triton and Queen Athena (as mentioned in the prequel, The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning). She has Ariel has six older sisters named Attina, Alana, Adella, Aquata, Arista and Andrina. Ariel is curious, independent, and headstrong. She is often fascinated by the world of humans and collects various human artifacts in a secret grotto. Despite her rebellious nature, Ariel has a kind heart and a strong sense of justice.








Ariel dreams of living on the land. After falling in love with a human prince named Eric, she makes a deal with the sea witch Ursula. In exchange for her voice, Ariel gets to become a human for three days. If she gets a "true love's kiss" within those three days, she can remain human; otherwise, she will belong to Ursula forever. The story revolves around Ariel's experiences on land, her interactions with Prince Eric, and her ultimate battle with Ursula.



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Ariel has made numerous appearances in other media, including sequels like "The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea" and "The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning". She also appeared in the prequel television series and has been featured in various merchandise, stage adaptations, and other Disney media.

Ariel is one of Disney's most iconic characters and is a part of the Disney Princess franchise.

She marked the beginning of the Disney Renaissance, a period during the late 1980s and 1990s where Disney animation regained its critical acclaim and commercial success. Ariel's character broke away from the typical "damsel in distress" trope and was portrayed as an independent and adventurous young woman.


In the years since her introduction, Ariel has become one of the most recognizable and beloved Disney characters worldwide, with her story resonating with audiences both young and old. Over the years, Ariel has been praised for her adventurous spirit and determination, though she's also faced criticism from some who view her choices (particularly sacrificing her voice for a man) as less than empowering. Nonetheless, the story of "The Little Mermaid," in both its original and adapted forms, continues to captivate audiences around the world.



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