‘The Little Mermaid’ Summary & Ending, Explained: How Did Eric And Ariel’s Story Begin?

Rob Marshall’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid doesn’t fall far from the poison apple tree; oh, sorry, that’s a different story. Jokes aside, the story really doesn’t stray far from the original, and that might be its biggest flaw if it had to be seen as one. Other than that, it’s actually pretty great, thanks to Halle Bailey’s incredible voice and fantastic performance as everyone’s favorite fish-person. For those of us who grew up with the original, this one may not bring much wonder considering it’s a tale as old as time, but to those who may be new to this world under the sea, The Little Mermaid is sure to bring some smiles at the very least. Let’s dive into the story of Ariel and her dreams.

Spoilers Ahead

Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘The Little Mermaid’?

Under the sea live mermaids in harmony with sea creatures under the rule of King Triton, the Great, with his large trident. It is the night of the crimson moon, and this is the only day all his daughters gather together for a celebration. Of course, there is one missing daughter, who goes by Ariel, or as the king calls her, the little one. Ariel has the urge to be different from everyone else under the sea. She dreams of the world outside, where you can dance because of your feet, walk on streets, and use forks to comb your hair. Triton’s little crab assistant Sebastian is in charge of looking after Ariel and making sure she doesn’t stray far from home, but his little crab legs don’t let him match her pace, and as he sees fit, Ariel’s tail fins should be pinned down to the ocean floor. Ariel is fascinated by all things human, but she’s forbidden from going anywhere near the land since her mother died because the Queen was killed by a human. Ariel is too adventurous and ends up on the surface when she sees fireworks from a ship in the sea. Ariel watches everybody on board and finds out that it’s Prince Eric’s birthday that everyone is celebrating. Quickly, things go south when a massive storm approaches the vessel. Eric tries to steer the ship into a decent position, but instead, the ship collides into a rock, and he chooses to abandon the ship. Everyone successfully gets to the lifeboats except Eric (obviously), who falls overboard from the other side. Ariel is quick to save him and bring him to shore, where she sings her siren song to save him. Just as Eric is about to wake up to see who saved him, the guards come searching for him, and Ariel returns to the sea. Ariel is smitten by Eric’s compassionate nature and sees that not all humans are bad, unlike what her father believes. She also realizes that she’s not very different from Eric, who, too, feels like a fish out of water (not in the mermaid sense). Ariel wants to spend more time with Eric, but her father gets terribly angry with her when he finds out she’s been out of the water. He destroys her collection of human artifacts and permanently forbids her from going to the surface.

On the other hand, Ursula, Triton’s younger sister, dubbed the sea witch, has been watching Ariel’s every move. Ursula lures Ariel into her tentacles with the false promise of giving her feet to go test the waters of the land above. Ariel follows Ursula’s words and quickly through song, Ursula tells Ariel that this would be a give-and-take situation. Ursula asks Ariel for her voice if she wants to go to the surface world, but more importantly, there’s a condition for her “gift” If Ariel doesn’t share a “true love’s kiss” with the prince by sunset in 3 days, she will come back to the sea and be under Ursula’s power forever. Without realizing what she’s doing, the curious cat that is Ariel ends up giving up her voice and a scale from her tail to become a human. She’s caught in a net and brought to the palace by the fisherman. At the same time, Eric searches for the girl who saved his life across the nearby islands but is unsuccessful. With Ariel in the castle, everybody believes she’s Eric’s mystery girl, but because she doesn’t have a voice, Eric can’t recognize her without the siren song.

This doesn’t dampen Ariel’s spirits, though, and Eric finds himself drawn to her because of her interest in everything around him. He spends a full day explaining maps and things to her, and she shows him how the underwater artifacts that he has collected over the years work. As Sebastian says, they’re meant for each other. But there’s one big problem: Ursula has cast another spell that prevents Ariel from remembering to have her true love’s kiss. Ariel’s success depends wholly on Sebastian, Flounder, and Scuttle, Ariel’s watery friends.

‘The Little Mermaid’ Ending Explained: How Did Ariel Prove Herself to Eric?

Ariel and Eric spend a whole day together, and Eric even forgets about the girl who saved him until Grimsby, the prime minister, reminds him that he’s on the lookout for the singing girl. Eric’s mother thinks she’s a fantasy, but Eric decides to spend one more day searching for her, but at the same time, he hopes to spend the day with Ariel himself. Everyone in the palace is supportive of Ariel and Eric being together, even though they have no idea where she came from. During their day together, Sebastian, Scuttle, and Flounder attempt to push Eric to kiss Ariel because she doesn’t remember she has to do it. They are almost successful, as the two are boating in the lagoon, and the mood is perfectly right after they’ve seen the constellations in the sky and Eric has learned Ariel’s name. But alas, Ursula stops them at the last moment by having her eels topple the boat. With only one day remaining, she can’t take any risks, so Ursula decides to show herself to the surface world and do everything in her power to exact revenge on Triton.

Ursula shows up as a beautiful maiden with Ariel’s voice around her neck in the shell pendant she wears. She bewitches Eric into believing that she’s the one who saved him, and immediately the whole castle is made aware. To celebrate the success of Eric finding his fantasy woman, the Queen decides to have a celebration to announce her officially to the whole town. In the meantime, Ariel realizes that Eric has found someone else and runs away from the castle (not too far, literally lying on a rock in front of it, but okay). Eric doesn’t feel right about everything that’s going on, but he goes ahead with it anyway. Ultimately, the Queen gives Eric her mother’s ring so he can give it to his future wife, but Scuttle finds out what has happened and immediately informs Ariel. Ariel comes running, grabbing the necklace from Ursula’s neck and retrieving her voice. Eric’s eyes are finally opened to Ariel, and they’re about to kiss just as the sun is setting, but it’s too late. Ariel becomes a mermaid, and Ursula, back to her actual self, grabs Ariel and jumps into the sea. Inside, Triton has been informed by Flounder of whatever has happened, and he tries to negotiate with Ursula. All Ursula wants is to be Queen of the seas, and so he gives her his trident. Instead of leaving him be, her eels electrocute Triton to death. A devastated Ariel tries to fight Ursula, but she can’t do much herself. Eric, who has followed them on the boat, ends up distracting Ursula, and in trying to kill him, she ends up losing her eels. Ursula becomes massive to show the people both on top and below that she rules the seas and there will be no harmony anymore. She twirls the trident in the water to create a whirlpool so Eric can fall into the water and die, but Ariel manages to remember what she learned from observing Eric’s ship and aims the fore of the ship’s reckage directly at Ursula. She hits her hard, and Ursula falls into the sea to her death. Ariel sees that Eric is safe and follows the trident into the sea. To her joy, her father comes back to life with the power of the trident, and she finally realizes how much he loves her. She can’t believe he was willing to give up his life for her. Eric reaches the shore, and everybody believes his love story is a tragedy because the two worlds are not meant to be together.

Many days later, Triton finally understands that the only way he can make his daughter happy is by letting her live her dream freely. Children can’t always be in the safe arms of their parents, and although they will be missed, they will always be happy. Triton grants Ariel’s wish and gives her legs with his trident. At the end of The Little Mermaid, Eric and Ariel get married, and their marriage is the beginning of a new world where land and sea people will live in harmony without believing the other is evil. Ariel and Eric leave to tread uncharted waters, but before they go, Triton and all the merpeople come to the surface to show their support of the newly forged alliance (even if it was by accident). Triton finally sees that humans aren’t that terrible, and Eric’s mother sees the same about merpeople. Considering they called this just the beginning, there are chances we’ll see Ariel and Eric return to the screen soon enough.

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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika, or "Ru," is a fashion designer and stylist by day and a serial binge-watcher by night. She dabbles in writing when she has the chance and loves to entertain herself with reading, K-pop dancing, and the occasional hangout with friends.

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