Thursday, May 16, 2013
Mermaid Challenge Reviews, Week 1 + Follow Friday!
We've made it through week 1 of the Mermaid Lit Summer Reading Challenge! Okay, I know it didn't officially start until the 15th (even though a few people, like yours truly, started this past Monday) and so not everyone will have read an entire book yet. But, I have! Every Friday for the next twelve weeks (basically the entire summer) I'll be putting up a Mermaid Lit Review post with a Linky list. Anyone who's read a mermaid or ocean-themed book and wishes to link it to the list, feel free!
Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid is the classic that pretty much started the entire sub-culture of mer-people. It's classic and very fairytale-ish, if also very simplistic. I think I read the Anderson version as a kid, but it's been so long I've mostly forgotten it. I was surprised both by how much the Disney version managed to keep in, as well as by how tragic the ending wasn't.
The little mermaid spends months in the prince's company as a human. He comes to have great affection for her, but it's of the sisterly variety. When she saved him and left him on the beach, another beautiful young woman found him and nursed him back to health. It is that woman that the prince falls for and marries. On the morning after they marry, the little mermaid prepares to die, but her sisters show up with a knife, and all their hair shaved off. They say they gave their hair to the Sea Witch in exchange for saving Ariel. If she kills the prince with the knife, the blood will spatter her legs and turn them back to fins, and she can live out her 300 years with her family. The little mermaid can't do it, though. She loves him to much, and instead casts herself into the sea.
As a ten year old child, Gwen lived on the sea with her parents. One night sleepwalking, she saw a young man walking into a turbulent ocean, and feared he would drown. She tried to help him, but nearly drowned herself. He saved her. Of course he was sort of...naked. And when neighbors saw a naked man standing over a young girl, they assumed the worst. Eventually Gwen's parents moved her away to escape the rumors.
Also, if you aren't part of the Mermaid Lit Summer Reading Challenge, but want to be, you can join any time! Check out THIS POST for details.
Okay, so this week I read two mermaid-themed book. Well, really 1 1/2. The first is Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid. (Not exactly a full-length novel.) The other was Seven Tears into the Sea by Terri Farley.
*Warning: I would assume everyone's familiar with this tale, and being a classic fairy tale, it's kind of public domain. But if you're weird about that, know that I'm about to give SPOILERS. Totally gonna tell you the ending. I won't do this with the other books I review, just this fairy tale because it's the mythology that every mer-tale (not tail) unavoidably draws from. Just sayin'.
So in this version, the little mermaid (who isn't given a name, by the way) is the youngest of all her sisters, and has a wonderful singing voice. She's obsessed with the human world and saves the prince when his ship goes under at sea. (There are even fireworks!) The Sea Witch is much the same--if a bit ickier than Disney's version--complete with sea snakes and polyps making grabs at people. I actually think Disney did a great job keeping quite a few of the original elements.
Of course, it's much more tragic than the dumbed-down kiddie-friendly version. The little mermaid isn't given a time-frame to make the prince fall for her (like 3 days) but she has to get him to marry her eventually. If he marries another, she doesn't just turn back into a mermaid, but rather she dies, her body turning to sea foam. Another facet of this I didn't remember is the talk of immortal souls. The little mermaid asks her grandmother about humans and whether they die. The grandmother answers that they do, but they live much shorter lives than mer-people, who live about 300 years. Yet, human have immortal souls that ascend to heaven, while mer-people simply turn into sea foam, their bodies recycling into the sea. The mermaid want not only to marry the prince because she loves him, but she wants to win an immortal soul. Her grandmother says if she can get a human to love her, his immortality will extend around her and she'll win a soul. But of course that never happens because humans would think fins were gross and of course mer-people can never leave the ocean. So you see, she'll turn to sea foam anyway, but if doesn't get the prince to marry her, she won't get her immortal soul and she'll die now, forfeiting her 300 year life with her family. Also, when she's given legs, she is beautiful and graceful, but every step she takes feels like her feet are being stabbed by knives. It's part of the price she pays. And the Sea Witch does also take her beautiful voice.
Now, most non-Disney versions end right there. I know! All kinds of tragic, but actually my buddy Hans adds something hopeful at the end. Her body turns to sea foam, but she looks up to see beings called Daughters of the Air. These are basically spirits that float around on the wind, watching over people and doing good deeds. They've seen her toil and take pity on her, bringing her into their ranks. They explain that if she hangs (no pun intended) with them and does lots of good deeds, she can still win herself an immortal soul. The little mermaid, unseen, kisses the prince and his bride, wishing them every happiness.
Okay, I know, still way sad, but it had more hope than I expected. Other sad elements: the prince loved singing, so if she'd had her voice, she could have won him over, no problem. Also, her sisters visited her often when she was human. At one point she saw her father and grandmother, but they were far off shore. She waves to them, but they won't come close enough to speak to her. they just look sad then disappear into the waves. So, lots of sad times.
Still, I enjoyed reading the fairy tale overall and thought it was a good way to kick off the challenge. Okay, here it comes. You knew I was gonna do it. Just can't help myself.
Doesn't everyone just feel better with that ending? (The Little Mermaid was totally my princess movie when I was like...four? five? Something like that. So I totally had to geek out for a minute. :D)
Okay, next book.
Seven Tears into the Sea by Terri Farley was a very enjoyable read. It actually wasn't about mermaids so much as selkie, but both are under-da-sea creatures, so I think it still counts.
Seven years later, Gwen returns for the summer to help her grandmother--who still lives there--run her inn after taking a nasty fall. And, you guessed it, our favorite naked beach guy returns. The problem is, he may not be entirely human, and the rhyme he whispered to her as a child about seven tears and seven years may have a meaning that is both tragic and inescapable.
As I said, a very enjoyable read. Gwen was funny and down-to-earth, yet just teenaged-girl enough to be believable. I really loved her spunky grandmother as well, and Thelma. In terms of complaints, I had a few but they were mild. There were some things that weren't fully explained. For example, a big deal is made about the fact that Thelma was the one who called the police that night when Gwen was a child, but Thelma lied about where she'd seen Gwen to the police. I didn't think the answer to that was explained well enough. Also, this is a very YA novel. Not in a bad way, but I would have liked higher stakes. I'm sure you've all heard me rant about how YA lit isn't my fave because I like more drama, more earth-shattering problems, etc. and I thought this could have used a bit more of that. Yet, despite my feelings on the subject, I actually really enjoyed this book. The end was a bit melancholy--not in a tragic, someone dies way or anything. I promise!--but in a way that okay too. While I would have liked a slightly happier ending, I think mermaid stories are always melancholy by nature, so this fit well.
I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants a light, fun, quick summer read with a hot guy and a little bit of ocean mysticism. If you have a review, put it in the Linky below. Then hop around to see what mermaid lit others are reading! Have fun! :D
Today's Quote: Ocean is more ancient than the mountains, and freighted with the memories and the dreams of Time.--H.P. Lovecraft
Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow! If this is your first time here, welcome! You are about to make some new friends and gain new followers -- but you have to know -- the point of this hop is to follow other bloggers also. I follow you, you follow me.
The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it'll allow us to show off more new blogs!
How does this work? First you leave your name here on this post, (using the linky tools -- keep scrolling!) then you create a post on your own blog that links back to this post (easiest way is to just grab the code under the #FF picture and put it in your post) and then you visit as many blogs as you can and tell them "hi" in their comments (on the post that has the #FF image). You follow them, they follow you. Win. Win. Just make sure to follow back if someone follows you!
Q: School is out! What is your favorite Summer Reading book?
I don't know that I have a specific summer reading book, but as you can see above, I 'm doing a Mermaid Summer Reading Challenge right now which allows me to read mermaid/ocean/beach-themed books. If anyone wants to join, see above. I've only read a couple books so far, but they definitely do put me in the mood for summer! :D
**FYI: I'm out of town this week so while my posts are going up automatically, I won't be doing as much commenting/ communicating this week. I probably won't get around to many emails until after memorial day. Sorry for any inconvenience.**