Based on the true story of author Hans Christian Anderson, the Poet’s story frames the plot of The Little Mermaid. His heartbreak when his friend Edvard marries inspires him to write The Little Mermaid.
Created out of the Poet’s desire for Edvard, the Mermaid is love and innocence incarnate. She falls in love with the Prince and is willing to sacrifice everything to be with him. But it isn’t to be, and the ballet follows her physical and psychological unravelling.
The Prince (a.k.a. Edvard)
It would be easy to think of the Prince as a villain: he and his doppelganger Edvard break both the Poet and the Mermaid’s hearts. But he isn’t. He’s a kind (if sometimes oblivious) man, whose only flaw is that he can’t return their love in the way they want.
The Princess (a.k.a. Henriette)
The Princess—usually decked out in her signature pink!—is the Prince’s love interest (and bears a striking resemblance to Edvard’s wife Henriette). She loves the Prince and befriends the Mermaid, but ultimately represents everything the Mermaid can never have.
The Sea Witch
Here’s our real villain. The Sea Witch enacts a painful bargain with the Mermaid, taking her beautiful tail and giving her legs. When the Mermaid wants to return to the sea, the Sea Witch says yes, but only if she kills the Prince.
Header image: San Francisco Ballet in Neumeier’s The Little Mermaid // © Erik Tomasson