Shirley Temple's Storybook

In the 1960s, former child star Shirley Temple had her own television show titled Shirley Temple's Storybook (later rebranded as The Shirley Temple Show) where she got to play the leading role in a bunch of famous fairytales and folklore stories. Hans Christian Andersen is one of the stories she decided to tackle, making this one of the earliest live-action adaptations of the fairytale.

It's a pretty ambitious for a 1960s television show with a tight budget to adapt this story, and to do so directly instead of using symbolism (i.e. the mermaid has an actual tail). Though that tight budget shows, this adaptation did try to bring its own flavour in the telling, such as setting the story in ancient Rome, with its columns, temples and laurel wreaths; and making a whole bunch of changes in the story itself.

Plenty is unique to this version, too! The little mermaid doesn't have to give up her voice, for the sea hag's price is gold coins off the eyes of dead sailors, and a handful of rare black pearls. On the flipside, her timeline is finite, in that she has a hundred sea tides to win the prince's love or she'll turn into sea foam. And instead of her sisters, the little mermaid is supported by her grandmother (who also once fell in love with a human herself), and who sacrifices fifty years of her lifespan in return for a knife that, in another change, will merely turn the prince into a merman and make him instantaneously fall in love with the little mermaid.

The different deals in this version really change up the choice that the little mermaid has to make, for she can get the prince for herself instead of killing him. Instead, her choice comes up against the realization that that happiness would be hollow, and that the passion between the prince and his dark-haired princess is the real thing, which is far more precious.

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