This 2003/2004 Danish tv series adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's work has quite a few different titles, from Young Storyteller, H. C. Andersen's Fairy Tales to The Fairytaler. The Little Mermaid is one of his many stories that gets an episode, and itís a charming adaptation that sticks pretty close to the original story, and has some wonderful little touches that delight me.
This is an understated, quietly mature version of the fairy tale despite the deceptively bright artwork. It's pretty tight, barely under half an hour, but it manages to hit all the important beats, and retains quite a few details that some other versions don't use, such as the little mermaid's garden and statue of the prince, the mermaid's sister who helps her find the prince's kingdom after she saved him from drowning, and the time jump of a few years where the mermaid and the prince are both lovesick for someone else.
Another nice touch is how the other princess also fair-haired and blue-eyed, just like the little mermaid. Although her hairstyle is different, their physical similarity is enough that you can somewhat understand the prince mistaking one for another, and the other princess is drawn in a way that's more mature/womanly than the little mermaid's childlike wide eyes.
Also wonderful is the relationship between the little mermaid and her sisters. They are more present in this story than their father and grandmother, with the little mermaid confessing to them rescue of the prince and his thinking the other princess saved his life. Her sisters are touched and supportive, and the one sister that takes the little mermaid the shore of the prince's kingdom says that the knowledge is for the little mermaid to use, and her choices will be her own to make. That is wonderful. What's wonderful and heartbreaking is the scene at the end, after the little mermaid refuses to kill the prince. She leaps into the ocean, where her sisters are at first excited to be reunited with her, only horrified when she turns to sea form when they touch her.
Overall there's a lovely sense of respect for the little mermaid's choices. There's a subtle emphasis on how much the little mermaid loves for the sake of loving, and although she dearly longs for reciprocation, she doesn't expect it. Her love is unconditional, and just because she wants to and does love the prince romantically, that doesn't mean that he belongs to her, or is obligated to return that love. It is sad, but matters of the heart cannot be forced.
The ending is especially fantastic in this respect, for although the little mermaid turns into sea foam, and then is raised as a spirit of the air, this is something she recognizes as a gift to be celebrated, for she has new life, and can love others, and she is joyous at the fact that she can now cry with happiness. She also visits her sisters to assure them that she is fine, and gives the prince and his new bride her blessing for a long and loving life.
Thanks to Omar for letting me know about this version!