Date of Award

Spring 5-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Justine Van Meter

Second Advisor

Joanna Levin

Third Advisor

Brian Glaser


Mermaid stories have existed for millennia, stemming back to the ancient cultures of the world. Influenced by the mythos established in books like The Iliad, sirens and mermaids were a part of European culture for centuries. The mermaid as chimera monster that represented the duality of danger and seduction was subverted in 1837, when Hans Christian Andersen wrote the seminal fairy tale “The Little Mermaid.” In our present day, we can find that this short story has created a canon of “mermaid” literature, especially in the fantasy canon, and has majorly impacted our pop culture and digital spheres. By tracing the feminist, Queer, and disability centered story elements of the fairy tale forward, one can come to understand how this story has been transformed, remixed, and subverted through various retellings. By analyzing elements of “The Little Mermaid,” and stories adapted and inspired by “The Little Mermaid,” we can find why mermaid narratives are so prevalent in our literary canon, and how they have persisted and reclaimed our modern day culture.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Available for download on Wednesday, May 21, 2025