In Hans Christian Andersen’s account of “The Little Mermaid”, there can be multiple interpretations of a happy ending. Sure the little mermaid dies and is unable to win over the Prince but she is still given the opportunity to earn an immortal soul, which was her ultimate quest. One out of two isn’t too bad. In baseball that’s a pretty good day.
Although it is unfortunate that she couldn’t get exactly what she wanted, it provides a lesson for children, who were the most likely intended audience for the story. This lesson would be something a long the lines of: You can’t always get what you want. Or that life is full of disappointments.
Just because the little mermaid didn’t receive her happy ending, it doesn’t mean no one else did. The Prince seemed pretty happy about finding the girl he believed to have saved his life. He even expresses his joy with the quote “Oh I’m too, too happy” (page 230) upon meeting her again. Besides, the Prince was completely in love with this girl despite not even knowing her, and only cared for the little mermaid because she reminded him of her. So would the little mermaid really have been content knowing she was his second choice as a wife despite the fact that she completely adored him? That could have been possibly problematic. As mentioned before he only loved her “…as one loves a dear, good child.” (page 228)
Ultimately the little mermaid seemed to accept her fate since she cared more for the prince than she did herself. She had the opportunity to kill him to save herself but chose not to. This was a wise decision on her part because then neither of them would have had a happy ending. Since he was happy, she too was happy. She shows her joy on page 232 as she floats towards the sky. “Unseen, she kissed the forehead of the bride, gave a smile to the Prince, and then with the other children…”
In a way the little mermaid did receive her own happy ending. She was able to spend time with the Prince and live amongst the humans and was able to find a way to receive an immortal soul.