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Five Sisters, or The Power of a Moment

An illustrated reflection by Martina Knecht

There's always different ways to look at a story.

Take The Little Mermaid, for instance. Towards the end of the fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1837 there is a highly dramatic scene, a plot twist that really got under my skin—prompting me to produce this illustration.

Picture this.

The Little Mermaid is doomed.

After a big lavish party, shortly before dawn, she's standing on deck of the royal ship that's rocking gently in the middle of the sea. Everyone's asleep. She's alone, utterly and completely alone.

To give some context, the party was her prince's wedding—with another woman.

The Little Mermaid had sacrified everything to her ideal of love: her home, her affections, her identity. Even her royal status! I mean, who can't relate? She'd lost her beautiful tail and mane and voice to the Sea Witch, and suffers constantly from excruciating pain in her legs.

And yet.

She had failed in making the prince fall in love with her. Bummer! The fact that he adores her over everyone else in the world and takes her along everywhere he goes doesn't change the fact that, as soon as the sun rises, she'll dissolve into sea foam and cease to exist.

But let's get back to that moment in the story. After the excesses of the nuptial celebrations, which were many and manyfold, the ship is dark and silent. Everybody's fast asleep. The Little Mermaid leans against the railing, scanning the horizon waiting for the first ray of sunlight that will seal her death.

She's doomed, like I said. Alone. Hopeless. Misunderstood.

This is the moment when her five sisters emerge from the waters, breaking that eternal instant of suspended life. They, too, had given their hair to the Sea Witch, in exchange for a magic that would save her life. They give her a magic knife and disappear as quickly as they came.

Will the Little Mermaid be able to murder the prince in his sleep, stabbing him in the heart with his new spouse sleeping beside him, then wash her legs in his blood—and all this before the sun rises?


Illustration © Martina Knecht | Discover more art by Martina Knecht


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