The essay on Hans Christian Andersen was interesting, but Lurie's reading of "The Little Mermaid" bothered me. She sees the Disney version with an unhappy ending when there is really much more there. The key part of the story that she (and numerous others) seems to have missed is that the little sea maid's real goal is not the love of a prince at all. In fact, the story never even says that she is in love with him. The real goal she has in mind when she trades in her voice and fins for legs and pain is an immortal soul (which mer-people don't have). She wants the prince's heart only because her only way of achieving a soul (as far as we know at this point in the story) is to be married to a human and thus become one. The story has little to do with love from the mermaid's standpoint. It could be argued that the story shows how cruel powerful people can be by having the prince keep the mermaid as a pretty pet, but deny her the one thing that she doesn't have (and he does have), the one thing that matters, a soul. The story isn't about acquiring temporary happiness on Earth (and all earthly happiness is necessarily temporary), but eternal happiness in Heaven. From a certain point of view (ostensibly the one every good Christian should have), giving up comfort and expression for pain and relative obscurity is a reasonable thing to do if your reward for doing so is a chance at eternal happiness in Heaven with God if before making the trade you had no such chance at all. I can't say the religious element of the story ever really spoke to me, but I can certainly see the logic and beauty in it. I can certainly admire it - such a bargain takes serious courage and dedication. I love the story for it's complexity and the very fact that it is not a love story like most princess tales are. There's a lot more going on and I greatly admire that. Love doesn't always have to be an end onto itself, sometimes it's merely a small piece of a much more precious whole. And I will always find inspiration in the mermaid for giving up everything not for the love of a man, but for herself. It's a very powerful and even feminist idea.