by Mokona, October 30, 2018

Korean dramas are often inspired by European fairy tales. Some fairy tales are internationally known, and their storyline is very obviously the base for the whole drama. For instance, The K2 is actually a modern nevertheless, a quite typical film version of Snow White written down by Brothers Grimm.

Sometimes fairy tales are used to highlight the emotional meaning of a relationship. In My Love Eun Dong, the boy is secretly listening while Eun Dong is reading the story of Nello and his beloved dog Patrasche. This is because of the British story A Dog of Flanders by Marie Louise de la Ramée. It is a melodramatic story about a boy who finds a dog that was almost beaten to death and names him Patrasche. The dog stays by his side and follows the boy Nello his whole life until they die. It resembles the situation of Eun Dong and Park Hyun Soo.

There is one fairy tale which is most noticeable, used in so many dramas: The Little Mermaid. Most of you will think of the fluffy Disney movie which is way cuter and shallower than the original story, written by the brilliant Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. This article is about the motive of this fairy tale and is structured like this: Situation at the drama — Picture — Fairytale continuation.

CAUTION: Minor spoilers for Gu Family BookMy Girlfriend Is A Gumiho, The Legend of the Blue Sea,  Dream Knight and Surplus Princess ahead.

The Beginning (Gu Family Book)

Wol Ryung only observes the human realm. He doesn't meddle with their lives, that is how the rules are. One day he finds a fascinating girl — Seo Hwa. At first, he just watches, but when she is about to die, he saves her. Seo Hwa doesn't know he is a mystical creature because she passes out before he shows his true nature.

When a mermaid turns old enough, she is allowed to breach the water surface and see their foreign world. So one day the Little Mermaid rises up to the surface. She watches a birthday celebration of a handsome prince and falls in love with him from a safe distance. The Celebration is held on a ship, and suddenly a violent storm rises and hits, sinking the ship, and the Little Mermaid saves the prince from drowning. She delivers him unconscious to the shore near a temple where another young woman finds and helps him. 

Desire To Become Human (My Girlfriend is a Gumiho)

Mi Ho is a curious and cheerful Gumiho. She loves eating meat and is fascinated by the lifestyle of human beings. While discovering this foreign world, she falls in love with Cha Dae Wung. Her desire to live a human life and be with the one she loves, make her want to stay human. Sadly, she doesn't know that she cannot exist in this realm by herself. She went to the dark Park Dong Joo who gives a potion to her which makes her lose her tails. The procedure is very painful, and she loses power and health with every tail. In the end, she needs Cha Dae Wung to truly love her back, otherwise, she will stop to exist. In this drama, they even read the story.

When the little Mermaid returns, she gets to know that humans have a much shorter lifespan than a mermaid's 300 years. However, when mermaids die, they turn to sea foam and cease to exist, while humans have an eternal soul that lives on in heaven. The Little Mermaid longing for the prince and an eternal soul, visits the Sea Witch. As the Little Mermaid has the most enchanting voice in the world, in exchange for her tongue and beautiful voice, the witch will give her legs. The witch warns the Little Mermaid that once she becomes a human, she will never be able to return to the sea. Drinking the potion will make her feel as if a sword is being passed through her body, yet when she recovers, she will have two human legs and will be able to dance like no human has ever danced before. However, she will constantly feel as if she is walking on sharp knives, and her feet will bleed terribly. In addition, she will obtain a soul only if she wins the love of the prince and marries him, for then a part of his soul will flow into her. Otherwise, at dawn on the first day after he marries someone else, the Little Mermaid will die with a broken heart and dissolve into sea foam upon the waves. 

The Love Relationship (The Legend of the Blue Sea)

Shim Chung is a mermaid who is in love with a human being. She has never met another mermaid/merman until she meets Yoo Jong Hoon. He also decided to leave the sea and become a human existing for the woman he loves. However, this woman left him and decided to marry another man. He is suffering now and has to face a possible death.

Soon, the Little Mermaid becomes the prince's favorite companion and accompanies him on many of his outings. When the prince's parents encourage their son to marry the neighboring princess in an arranged marriage, the prince tells the Little Mermaid he will not because he does not love the princess. He goes on to say he can only love the young woman from the temple, who he believes rescued him. It turns out that the princess from the neighboring kingdom is the temple girl, as she was sent to the temple for her education. The prince declares his love for her, and the royal wedding is announced at once.
The prince and princess celebrate their new marriage on a wedding ship, and the Little Mermaid's heart breaks.

The Dilemma (Dream Knight)

JB and his fellows are guardians made of stardust. They exist to protect the poor girl Joo In Hyung and make her smile again. However, when they complete their mission, they turn back into stardust and stop to exist. But there is hope. If Joo In Hyung deeply falls in love with JB, he can stay human. But if she doesn't, he has to kill her in order to stay a human being.

She thinks of all that she has sacrificed and of all the pain she has endured for the prince. She despairs, thinking of the death that awaits her, but before dawn, her sisters rise out of the water and bring her a knife that the Sea Witch has given them in exchange for their long, beautiful hair. If the Little Mermaid kills the prince and lets his blood drip on her feet, she will become a mermaid once more, all of her sufferings will end, and she will live out her full life in the ocean with her family.

The End (Surplus Princess)

In the first 2 minutes of the K-drama Surplus Princess, a girl is walking on the beach. The sun is going down. She seems to be sad and wistful. She puts her hand in someone's hand. He slowly lets go of her hand and the girl dissolves into foam while deploringly saying that she wants to tell her story... (I do not know how Surplus Princess ends!)

Anyone who knows the real story of the Little Mermaid can already feel the tears in her/his eyes because this is how the fairy tale ends. The Little Mermaid cannot bring herself to kill the sleeping prince lying with his new bride, and she throws the knife and herself off the ship into the water just as dawn breaks. Her body dissolves into foam, but instead of ceasing to exist, she feels the warm sun and discovers that she has turned into a luminous and ethereal earthbound spirit, a daughter of the air. 

So basically the fairy tale is about a mystical creature who falls in love with a human being and developers a desire to become human itself. There seem to be some options to fulfill this dream but in the end the creature has to chose either his / her own life or the life of the person they love. Simply trying to become a human being will lead to death when the attempt fails.

Did you know the original story of The Little Mermaid?

Which fairy tales did you recognize in Asian dramas?

gumiho legend lovestory fairy tale mermaid