WISH I COULD BE
I don’t remember ever feeling like I could completely be myself other than in my own imagination. Growing up as the rebellious little fella in a small village that went against any rules that made me feel either stuck or those I just didn’t agree with, didn’t gain me the acceptance I was longing for. I know my behavior was just cry for wanting to belong, because of a society that wrongs you for being different. This all resulted in me becoming more and more closeted. It started out with my likes and dislikes. Toys, colors and behavior. Growing up, I was taught that most of my interests were “feminine”, which makes a boy “weak”. It was labeled as negative, and I was wrong. Now, a misconception is that these preferences have to do with whether you are gay or not. I can assure you, they do not. It has everything to do with the way society decided you should be. Both issues are a result of this.
A few things come to mind when I think about my first encounters with The Little Mermaid. A McDonalds commercial in Austria, books we had at home, a Disney CD with ‘Part of your world’ and a game called ‘The Little Mermaid: Animated Storybook’, which actually was the closest I had gotten to knowing the story. I never watched or owned the movie as a child, only the second movie, but this game was everything. It made me long for becoming a mermaid myself, sort of the other way around. I wanted to escape reality and be accepted for who I truly was. She fought for what she wanted and got it in the end. Maybe that is why the movie, story and the little mermaid herself, bring me so much comfort.
I have analyzed my life and came to the conclusion that at a later stage in my life, I have always been running from myself, searching for a way to be someone different, so maybe one day I would be accepted. As I grew older, I sought comfort in other things than my imagination. I started looking for acceptance through relationships, but never succeeded. Even after coming out, I still always went for partners that were distant or living abroad. This way I pretty much always stayed in the mermaid fase, longing for the life I wanted.
About four years ago I was in a very dark state of mind. After many tragic events, I finally moved to a room in Utrecht where I found an Ariel soap dispenser at a small store in town and immediately decided to buy it. I hadn’t thought about The Little Mermaid in quite a while, but after this purchase it didn’t take long for me to slowly fill the bathroom with more and more stuff. It seemed like I had found my connection with the movie again. Ever since, I haven’t stopped collecting from the second hand stores in the Netherlands.
THE MOVIE: VISUALLY PLEASING
Other than analyzing the movie and writing down what it meant to me personally, I started doing research on how the movie came about. I watched documentaries and did lots of online research. I was hoping to learn more about the origin of the fairytale and to find more information that could help me figure out what I wanted with this personal obsession.
Last summer I paid a visit to the Disney store in Dublin where someone asked me who my favorite princess was and why. I replied Ariel, because to me she represents coming out as a gay man. Wanting to be accepted and live in that other world. I then learned that there was proof of that the writer of the original The Little Mermaid story, Hans Christian Andersen, was a Danish gay or bisexual closeted man himself. I was happily surprised at this news and decided to buy the original story to read. After reading the original story, I could see many LGBT+ connections but those were of course my own assumptions. I searched for online articles and documentaries about these theories and read many (also investigated) interpretations of the story.
The original story of The Little Mermaid, tells that humans have a much shorter lifespan than a mermaid's 300 years, but that, 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, who willingly helps her by selling her a potion that gives her legs in exchange for her tongue and beautiful voice. Once The Little Mermaid becomes a human, she will never be able to return to the sea. Consuming the potion will grant her two human legs and give her the ability 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 life Andersen resembles that of his most famous fairy tale, "The Story of the Little Mermaid."
The writer had a history of falling in love with women and men he could not have. He wrote numerous letters to his friend Edvard Collins in 1836, explaining his desires for him. A few lines from these letters are "Our friendship is like 'The Mysteries', it should not be analyzed," and "I long for you as though you were a beautiful Calabrian girl.” Andersen said he had feminine desires for him, that he made him feel like a woman, and begged Collins not to marry his fiancé. Collins married her anyway and this broke Andersen’s heart. In the fairy tale, written when Collin decided to get married, Andersen displays himself as the sexual outsider who lost his prince to another. “A different species from humankind .” - Wullschlager. Collins was told that queer people did not have souls, and surely did not go to heaven.
"If you looked down to the bottom of my soul, you would understand fully the source of my longing - and pity me," Andersen wrote to Collin. "Even the open, transparent lake has its unknown depths which no divers know."
The fact that “The Little Mermaid” revolves around the silence of its heroine speaks to the political situation of the era. In some ways, the 1830s in Europe marked an “enlightenment” period for gay activism; although it was still not publicly acceptable (or legal) to pursue a same-sex romance, private romances were another matter. “Like the mute Little Mermaid, Andersen could not tell the world of his own homosexual love for the people of the world, but the original manuscripts showed his feelings clearly.” -My Dear Boy: Gay Love Letters through the Centuries (1998), Edited by Rictor Norton. Ariel’s silence serves as a parallel for Andersen’s own situation; he had to keep his mouth shut about his own feelings, even though every moment must have felt like walking on knives.
-YOU WISH TO -
GET RID OF YOUR
TAIL IN ORDER THAT A
YOUNG PRINCE MAY FALL
IN LOVE WITH YOU
-IS IT NOT SO?-
I chose a few lines that for me personally connected with the interpretation of the story.
“She laughed and danced with the thought of death in her heart.”
The story of Hans Christian Andersen has been told in many different ways.
In the Hans Christian Andersen museum, an automatic voice and supporting sculptors or props, tell the story of The Little Mermaid. This reminds me a lot of theme park the Efteling in the Netherlands, which often uses sculptors, robots or props to tell many fairy tales as well. Sadly the little mermaid only got a fountain with her statue on it and no background story. In Disneyland they use the same methods of telling the Disney version of the fairy tale. With mostly music from the movie playing.
The two films at the right are two examples of the many films that were made. Both are almost exact translations of the written fairy tale by H.C. Andersen. One is a British film, the other Czech.
The three videos below are all different ballet performances of the same original fairy tale.
There are many animated versions of The Little Mermaid. In the first video the story is identical to the original story, in the second video the Little Mermaid gets her happy ending, and in the third the Little Mermaid is a merman, finding himself in a gay romance.
In 1989 Disney also animated their own version of H.C. Andersen's story. The story got a happy ending and some characters were added or removed from the original story.
11 years after the first movie, in 2000 Disney brought out a second movie, mainly about the little mermaid's daughter Melody. Basically the story is also about someone feeling different wanting to go to another world to be who they are, but being kept away from that "dangerous" world.
8 years after the second movie, in 2008 Disney made a third movie that took place before the little mermaid knew anything about the world above. The movie's theme also was about being held from something she wanted so badly.
3 years after the first movie, in 1992 Disney came up with an animated tv series of The Little Mermaid, where Ariel was still a mermaid and also obsessed with human things. Every episode was a new adventure where we also learned great life lessons. The three examples above are about being different, having courage to follow your dreams and never giving up on yourself.
The Disney movie also got their own translations to ballet, live musical performances and in 2020 a live action remake.
STICKY NOTES: MAKE ME THINK
After sharing a short interpretation of the original story with fellow students, I received numerous questions that could help me get further in the process of my project.
Would you prefer to live in The Little Mermaid world or our world?
I have always been longing for a world like that of The Little Mermaid. To escape the harsh reality we live in. I can't remember a time I wouldn't want to escape. But if we talk about the stories, it's quite similar to coming out, the difference is that she got her happy ending, and I'm nowhere near that quite yet.
What influence did the animated Disney film have on your life?
The animated movie made me a dreamer. To believe that there's more out there to explore and dream of a happy ending. It still does. I watch the scenes over and over again, listen to the songs and imagine perfect moments in life. Sometimes a little too much. It can cause me not to be satisfied very often. At other times I'm quite satisfied with little things because I make them more special in my mind.
Is it necessary that the audience understands in the original story? Or is it a hidden message, only meant for those who understand?
Hans created the story to tell his own story without people finding out about his sexuality, because homosexuality wasn't even close to being accepted in 1837, when the fairy tale was published. Therefore it was probably important for the audience to feel what he was writing, but not completely understand the true meaning.
Does symbolism play a role in your own work?
Symbolism plays a huge role in my work. The most important thing in my work is that it's open for other interpretations. So what I mean could symbolize the same feeling, but not necessarily the same story or subject.
Would you have had the same experience if the Disney movie had been live action?
Maybe, though I think the animation makes it more magical and less realistic. Which makes it more of a dreamworld to children. The live action Disney remakes these days are more based on the desires of grownups than those of children.
When about did the truth behind the original fairy tale come out?
Somewhere after his death in 1875. I emailed the Hans Christian Andersen Center for more information about this. I'm still awaiting their answer.
"..and that’s exactly why Andersen wrote the story the way that he did. He didn’t want to be discovered, and so he found a way to tell his story while still remaining silent, like Ariel had to be. But it doesn’t seem like Ariel should have to keep her mouth shut anymore." -themarysue
"I feel that he was really a Swan and for a while was considered an ugly duckling. He felt the wings grow without being able to make himself ready for the justification of this feeling or to impart to others this feeling." -Jonna Stampe: Source
"On Ariel’s wedding day, Triton even uses his staff to paint a rainbow across the sky. The rainbow has long been a symbol of peace and of the bridging of two worlds (sunlight and rain), but it’s also been a gay pride symbol since the 70s, long before Disney’s The Little Mermaid came out. Just a coincidence? Perhaps. But it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to assume that at least some of the movie’s creative team had the original story’s intent in mind when they created this version."
In the Disney movie The Little Mermaid, the sea witch Ursula was based on dragqueen DIVINE.
Harris Glenn Milstead (October 19, 1945 – March 7, 1988), better known by his stage name Divine, was an American actor, singer, and drag queen.
What would you like to tell the audience?
After really digging into what I found the most interesting and important about the research I had done, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to use Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale or metaphors as an inspiration for what I wanted to create myself. The subject however would be about my own coming out experience, which also happens to match with certain parts of his history and story.
Why did Hans Christian Andersen use a woman in his metaphor?
Homosexuality wasn't accepted in 1837.
Are there more fairy tales that are metaphors?
Most fairy tales have hidden messages or are metaphoric. Though those of Hans Christian Andersen are specifically based on his life. He felt ugly, not wanted, never recognized or loved, alienated like for example in his fairy tale The Ugly Duckling.
Did the sea witch play any metaphoric role in the original story?
There's no clear meaning of the sea witch, but I personally can see it as a metaphor for a way of changing who you are to fit in. In an unnatural way. If I think about Hans Christian Andersen's life, the mermaid getting legs could be a metaphor for him being friends with the man he loved. And the feeling of walking on knives when he was around him. So then the sea witch represents the way of changing himself, from a homosexual to a fake heterosexual friend.
If Hans Christian Andersen would have lived in the present, how would that have influenced The Little Mermaid?
I'm guessing that the mermaid would've been a merman. The story would remain the same because it's a story about his life, and even in 2020 we still live in a society in which gay men start out closeted.
Is animation a way to escape reality?
As I said before, animation makes it truly feel like a different world. It makes it more magical and less realistic.
Is the open interpretation of metaphors necessary?
I believe that the open interpretation of metaphors makes a story more powerful. This way the story can stand on its own and still have an extra meaning. It will also reach a wider audience.
Are there also different interpretations of the original story?
There's different interpretations, but only this one is professionally investigated and based on letters he wrote himself.
What can you say about the relation between the time the movie came out and the movie itself?
The Little Mermaid came out in 1989. In the 80's homosexuality was getting more representation and events like the Gay pride or Pink Wednesday were created. However a lot of people still didn't accept homosexuality and this led to a lot of chaos in Amersfoort in 1982. -SchoolTV.
For this reason, I don't think it would've been easy to change the mermaid into a merman. Even nowadays it's hard for openly show homosexuality in children's movies. Disney usually hints to it, like in Frozen or in the live action of Beauty and the Beast, but never makes a main character fall in love with the same gender. #GiveElsaAGirlfriend
Is the interpretation of the story/movie obvious, or would you have to do research to get it?
I've always had my connection with the movie. I felt the same during my childhood, never belonging. However I do think that everyone could identify with her in many ways for many different reasons. I do believe that you need to do some research to get the actual meaning of the original story.
What part of the movie or story means the most to you and why?
There are four parts of the movie that really get to me.
The first part is the transition from the world above to the world down below. When the fish escapes from the boat and swims down to where the mer people live. The music really introduces you to the story as well.
The second part is when Ariel goes to her grotto after a fight with her father. She doesn't get accepted for who she is and sings about wanting to go to a different world. She wants to be "part of that world".
The third part is the reprise at the beach. When she looks at the unconscious prince and sings to him. He represents her freedom. She wants to be with him forever. Oh, the hopeless romantic I am.
The final and most important part is the final scene of the movie, in which the little mermaid reconciles with her father and he accepts her for who she is and what her wishes are. I can never get past this scene without crying. Especially when she hugs her father and says "I love you, daddy." #daddyissues
What do you think about this way of telling stories?
I think symbolism and using metaphors, fairy tales is a good way of telling stories. More people will be able to identify because you mostly describe a feeling most people know without talking about one specific issue.
Are there adult messages hidden in children's movies?
Plenty. Even lots of adult jokes.
Is there any difference from reality between the position of men and woman in the movie?
There's no difference from reality between gender that I can spot.
What can we learn from metaphors?
Metaphors can be used to help understand a difficult issue. It's an indirect way of explaining something and reaching a greater audience.
Why is it important to come out?
Oh boy, it shouldn't matter, but it does. We live in a straight normative world and we are repressed by this society. Sadly we have to come out and wear this with pride until it's normalized. Now someone asked "if you want to normalize it, when why have a gay pride and pay extra attention to your sexuality?". The answer is simple: in order to gain acceptance, you need to pay attention to it first. You need to rise up first in order to go back to normal. Speak up, don't stay silent. Things aren't going to change if we keep silent.
What does it feel like, being in the closet?
To me personally it felt like suffocating. Being stuck while everything in your body tries to move. It feels like being wrong. Like you're the only one that's broken and you can't tell anyone. Because it feels like a disease, and you're ashamed. Ashamed of yourself.
Why did he feel the need to write a story about it?
Definitely during the 18th century when homosexuality definitely wasn't accepted, this would have been the way to get some of the weight off your chest.
What would you like to tell the audience?
During the prototype classes, fellow students were asked by me to visualize their idea of a "coming out" with the given materials in the room after watching a film I made.
Prototyping made me realize that coming out didn't quite make me feel the way I hoped it would. I felt more free to be who I was, but it sadly didn't solve all the issues I had built up and the mental damage that was done by being in the closet all those years. I noticed that now that I'm out, I look for validation in men and often find myself in relationships with distant men. Whether it's long distance, or men who can't get to their feelings, I never got what I longed for all those years. It felt, like I was carrying parts of the damage of my closet which formed a whole new one, just as complex. When will I break out of this one?
After it all seeming so clear, I finally heard
back from the H.C. Andersen museum:
In her email, Anna explains that it doesn’t make sense to apply categories of our time (like e.g. bisexuality) since they simply did not exist at the time. It is true that the term bisexuality was first used in 1892 by Richard von Kraft-Ebing in the 7th edition of his book Psychopathia Sexualis, however, bisexuality has always existed, from the ancient Greeks to Native Americans. Source
It is known that in ancient Greece, young men entered into relationships with older men to give them experience and wisdom. In some myths heroes even had relationships with both men and women. In many other cultures bisexuality was normal. The term bisexuality only existed when society made it abnormal.
The history of bisexuals in Denmark
Same-sex sexual activity was legalized in 1933. Only 58 years after H.C. Andersen's passing. Homosexuality was a crime in Denmark until 1930, at least for men. Danish law from 1683 stated: “Relations against nature is punishable by execution”. By a law of 1866, the death penalty was replaced by a sentence of prison labour. It wasn’t until 1933 that sex between adult men (aged over 18/21) was de-criminalised. Source
This shows that during H.C. Andersen's life, having bisexual feelings would have been difficult. But even if it would've been accepted, it doesn't have to mean anything for his life. Even though I lived in The Netherlands and had parents that accepted me, coming out has been one of the hardest things I had to do in life. I always felt wrong and that society and the people around me thought it was still something to make fun of. Something that labeled me as weak, weird and nasty. Maybe Hans felt the same way?
Knowing times and the bond between men differ from now, we can't know for sure if H.C. Andersen was bisexual. We'd have to ask him. Still I liked to take a look at some of the letters myself and decide my own truth. I visited andersen.sdu.dk to take a look at the letters and research that was done there. I've never in my life had to do this much Danish translation.
Thank you for your inquiry regarding the H.C. Andersen and The Little Mermaid.
It is true, that there was exchange of letters between Andersen and Ludvig Møller and Andersen and Collin, that indicates deep emotional bonds and conversations about emotions. However it doesn’t necessarily makes sense to apply categories of our time (like e.g. bisexuality) since they simply did not exist at the time. There are many sources (e.g. letter exchanges) that indicates close emotional relationships between men in the 1900 century. But this can have a number of reasons. Some researches have pointed out, that this could be due to the fact, that it was unheard of for young unmarried men to have any kind of friendly relationship with young unmarried women. Why relationships between young men have had a somewhat different character.
However, it is extremely difficult to research this unless you are able to read Danish, since all Andersen’s letters are in Danish (and free to see and use from our website www.andersen.sdu.dk ).
Also the only publication that I know of, to have extensively dealt with this subject is “Hjertebrødre. Krigen om H.C. Andersens seksualitet” by Dag Heedes (in Danish) http://www.universitypress.dk/shop/hjertebroedre-1304p.html
The only English language book I can refer to is “Hans Christian Andersen: The Life of a Storyteller” by Jackie Wullschlager. She might have dealt with the subject to some degree as well. https://www.amazon.com/Hans-Christian-Andersen-Life-Storyteller/dp/0679455086
Good luck with your project,
H.C. Andersen Centret
Min kjære, trofaste Eduard!
hvorofte tænker jeg ikke paa Dig! hvor aaben ligger mig ikke Din Sjæl, mon Du begriber mig, begriber min Kjærlighed, som jeg har opfattet Dig! - I dette Øieblik seer jeg Dig, som salige Aander vist see hinanden, jeg kunde trykke Dig til mit Hjerte! Er det Sværmerie, Overspændthed? Nei det er en reen, ædel Følelse! Der maa ogsaa være Øieblikke Du føler et Lignende. Alle Gode maa føle Sligt. I dette Øieblik ligger intet De, iskold, mellem os, jeg siger Du og Din Læbe møder mig med samme Lyd, som Du først i hiin Verden skal udtale, O gid jeg var riig, vi skulde da begge flyve til Italien, det herlige Italien, som jeg slet ikke har nydt! O var vi der sammen! var vi der blot en Maaned! - Eduard, jeg har mange unge Venner, ingen elsker jeg dog, som Dig, for jeg overseer dem. Er jeg forfængelig? Jeg føler en Aandskraft, Verden ikke har seet Prøver paa, men jeg, det fattige Barn, føler mig mellem Tidsalderens Bedste og Første og Du er mig nær i Aand og Tanke, Øieblikke seer jeg op til Dig og da elsker jeg Dig, som jeg kunde elske - den jeg hos Gud skal nævne for dig! ...
I could pull you towards my heart.
It's a nobel feeling. There must be moments you feel the same way. All the good must feel like this. Our lips must meet the same sound.
Min kjære, kjære Eduard!
Skrive eller ikke skrive, er Spørgsmaalet! I Grunden skulde jeg ikke, men De bad mig derom og jeg vil da, for jeg er »god«! men saa vil jeg ogsaa skrive et Brev, ret ud af mit eget Hjerte, ret saadant et Brev, som jeg siden ærgrer mig over. Eet af de Breve hvor jeg lader Følelsen være Nummer eet, men Forstanden Nummer 16. Ærgrer det Dem? Nu saa vil det i Tidens Løb, trøste mig, thi at Eens Følelser blive udleet, kan sætte Gift i Blodet og Dolk i Haanden. Jeg er en Italiener mærker De. Jeg længes efter Dem; ja i dette Øieblik længes jeg efter Dem, som var De en deilig Calabreserinde, med de mørke Øine, og det opflammende Blik. Aldrig havde jeg en Broder, men havde jeg een, jeg kunde ikke elske ham, som Dem og dog – De gjengjælder det ikke! det piner mig – eller maaskee er det just det, som binder mig fastere til Dem! Min Sjæl er stolt, ingen Førstes kan være det mere; Dem har jeg ret klynget mig til, Dem har jeg – – – bastare! det er et godt italiensk Verbum, der i Nyhavn kan betyde »hold Kjæft!« I min ny164 Roman kommer en Characteer, som jeg laaner mange Træk fra af Dem De skal see hvor kjær De er mig, med hvilken Omhue jeg behandler den; men De har Feil og Personen faaer flere end De. Han faaer Feil, De har – kan De tilgive mig det? Han saarer Helten i Bogen eengang saaledes som jeg engang – indbildte mig en Historie, der aldrig glemmes, uden jeg bliver Adelsmand og De – i et ringere Livsforhold, end jeg og det hører til Umuelighederne! Jeg maa skildre denne Characteer saaledes, dog vidste jeg at det var Dem ukjært – jeg kunde selv opgive Romanen, om den endog vilde have blevet min høieste Triumph. Vort Venskab er en forunderlig Skabning! Ingen har jeg været vred paa som Dem! Ingen har jeg saaledes kunde prygle, ingen har faaet flere Taare i mine Øine, men Ingen har heller saaledes været elsket af mig, som De. Jeg vilde fortvivle mistede jeg Dem. Vort Venskab egner sig just til at skildres, og dog – frygter jeg for at det ikke bør sket Det synes maaskee unaturligt at vise denne Contrast og dog store Harmoni! – Hele min Sjæl kunde jeg udtale for Dem, selv – mit Hjertes dybeste Hemmelighed, men vort Venskab, det er, som »Mysterierne«, det tør ikke ret analyseres. O Gud give De maatte blive meget fattig og jeg riig, fornem, Adelsmand. Ja, da skulde jeg ret indvie Dem i Mysteriet, De skulde komme til at skatte mig mere, end nu. O, er der et evigt Liv, som der dog maa være, der skulle vi ret165 forstaae og skatte hinanden. Der er jeg ikke længer den Fattige, som trænger til Interesse og Venner, der ere vi Lige! Alle Former falde bort! Der kan jeg forlange, hvad her paa Jorden blev givet til Mennesker, der stode dybt under mig; ja hvad De166 har kunde givet disse. Studeer ikke paa, hvad jeg mener! De seer det er Drillerie det Hele! Nu skal De høre Nyheder, som De kan fortælle ved Bordet, hvor De vist nu sidder! – Bellona er ariveret med sine Kunstskatte og levende Beboere. Den kom hertil Torsdag middag Klokken 12. Sørgefesten for Schall er udsadt til Torsdag, da Kongen kommer i Theatret. Velhaven fra Norge er ariveret. Hauch har paa ny skrevet mig et nydeligt Brev til, hvori han udvikler, hvorledes de største Digtere blive167 miskjendte, selv af de der burde forstaae sig paa det. Saaledes Homeer af Lucian, Holberg af Schiller. Göthe der ikke vurderede Øehlenschlæger og Walter Schott. Endelig Bulver, som Englands bedste Journaler kalder »en Laps uden Talent«. Hauch sætter mig høit, som Digter, saa høit – som jeg vil168 staae hos Dem som, Ven. Siig nogle Netheder til Deres Jette, hvor der er saa god Anledning maa det jo falde let. Udbred mine andre Hilsener i Familien, giv Emil et venskabeligt Nakkedrag og glem ikke mit Brev. Løverdag og Søndag er hele Besætningen fra Nygaard, Louise og Lind iberegnet, paa Reise O: i Frederiksborg. Farvel kjære Ven!
Does it annoy you? Now, in the course of time, it will comfort me, for one's feelings to be let out can put poison in the blood and dagger in one's hand.
I long for you; yes, in this moment, I long for you, as if you were a lovely Calabrian girl, with her dark eyes, and the flaming gaze. I never had a brother, but if I had one, I could not love him like you and yet - You do not repay it! it bothers me - or maybe that's exactly what binds me more firmly to you!
..in my new Novel comes a Character, from which I borrow many features from you to see how dear you are to me, with which care I treat it; but you have mistakes and the person gets more than you. He gets you wrong - can you forgive me? He hurts the hero of the book at once as I once did - imagining a story that will never be forgotten without me becoming a nobleman and you - in an inferior way of life than I and it belongs to the Impossibilities! I have to portray this Character thus, but I knew it was unknown to you - I could give up the novel myself, if it even would have become my highest Triumph. Our Friendship is a Marvelous Creature! I have not been angry with anyone like you! No one has I been able to bite, no one has had more tears in my eyes, but no one has been loved by me like you. I wanted to despair, I lost you. Our Friendship is just suitable for portrayal, and yet - I fear it should not have happened It seems unnatural to show this Contrast and yet great Harmony! - My whole soul I could speak for you, myself - the deepest secret of my heart, but our friendship, it is, like the "Mysteries", it dares not be analyzed properly.
Having seen the letters myself and knowing a little bit of the history, I'd say Hans was pretty bisexual. The last bit I wrote up here matches the story of The Little Mermaid so so well.
Again, we can't know for sure. But if I've learned one thing about H.C. Andersen, it's that he writes fairytales and that those fairy tales seem to have a lot in common with his own life. I learned that symbolism and metaphors are a great way of telling a story. It is something I would love to use in my work and what I actually already have done in my previous work. It made me decide what I wanted for myself: I'd like to use the way I think Hans told his story. I want to use his metaphors to tell my story that is a whole lot similar to The Little Mermaid.
Just as I ended researching Andersen's letters, I stumbled upon a letter sent from Edvard Collin to Jonna Drewsen. In the letter Edvard explains how sick Andersen's mind was and that society did not understand him. Society was too narrow minded.
I learned about Jonna before, a young girl admiring Andersen's work. Andersen supposedly fell in love with her. This made me curious about the relationship between Jonna and Andersen and who she exactly was. Some information caught my eye while scrolling through many documents. It seemed that Andersen had a little more going on than just being in love with both men and women. Source
I put some of the names, letters and documents together and found a family tree of Jonas Collins and his wife Henriette Hornemann. I believe Henriette was good friends with Andersen. Her son however, appeared to be Edvard, his supposedly gay love. But that's not all, Edvard's sisters Louise and Ingeborg seemed to be Andersen's first and second love. The three of them however broke his heart.
You think it ends there? Wrong. Ingeborg married Adolph Drewsen and according to some sources Andersen fell in love with the couple.
Not there yet, guess who Ingeborg's daughter is: Jonna Drewsen. Jonna married Henrik Stampe and the two became Andersen's new love interest.
How reliable this information is, we'll never know, what this means for my research: not a lot. It will not take away the fact that he could be attracted to both men and women. But it is quite interesting. What has H.C. Andersen's obsession with Henriette's family been about?
What's left for me to do?
From my research I know that I want my work to exist out of 3 parts. The first stands for being in the closet, the second represents coming out and the third will be showing how it is after coming out.
In the original story the main character H.C. Andersen, or The Little Mermaid, could explain who she was. She died being in the closet. This differs from my own connection with the story. In the three sections below you'll see how the story of The Little Mermaid represents Andersen's life and mine.
The Little Mermaid
Sea witch: having to pay the price of losing your voice in order to become human
Transformation: seeming human, dancing like no human has ever danced before, but with the feeling of walking on sharp knives
Prince marries another: the little mermaid could never tell the prince it was her who saved him. He married the wrong girl and broke the little mermaid's heart. She gets the chance to kill the prince with a dagger but her love for him is too great. She decides to dissolve into sea foam instead.
Hans Christian Andersen
Feeling of being different,
wanting to belong
Society: having to pay the price of not being able to come out in order to fit in
Transformation: trying to fit in and not being able to come out and love who you love, felt like walking on sharp knives
Crush marries another: H.C. Andersen could never fully come out to Edvard Collin and had to watch him marry a woman. He did however not break contact but stayed friends with him for many years and just decided to suffer greatly
Feeling of being different,
wanting to belong
Society: having to pay the price of not being able to come out in order to fit in
Transformation: trying to fit in and not being able to come out and love who you love, felt like walking on sharp knives
Distant men: I came out about 6 years ago, but always go for the same distant types. I seem to be stuck in this cycle
So how come, even though I feel so much freer in my sexuality, I still feel so stuck after my coming out? Should I not live the life I had always dreamt of, even though society is not fully built to provide this life for me?
THE VELVET RAGE - Alan Downs
I'm not stating that my issues after my coming out all revolve around the fact that being in the closet damaged me, but it surely did no good. I, however, also see a bright side to this. It helps me become a better designer and a lot of inspiration is drawn from this place of damage and struggle.
After reflecting on my own cycle, I talked to some friends about this and heard the book title "The Velvet Rage" a few times. Apparently it seemed to be a very well known book in the gay world.
My next journey before thinking about and creating my design, will be learning more about why I still experience this feeling of being trapped after my coming out.
“, dancing their way into
the arms of death.”
“The main secret we suffer from now, isn't our sexual appetite for men, but something darker: our own self-hatred.”
The following text is based on myself, but also on most of the homosexual men out there. I used both The Velvet Rage and my own therapy sessions in my research.
Homosexual men were taught by the experience of shame during the tender and formative years of adolescence that there was something about them that was flawed, in essence unlovable, and that they must go about the business of making themselves lovable if they are to survive. If we are to be loved, we must hide the truth about ourselves and work at being lovable. This so called gay shame is not embarrassment over being gay; it is the belief that being gay is a mere symptom of our own mortally flawed psyche. We keep wanting more and better to get the validation we’re looking for.
At the early years of life, abandonment by parents was akin to death, and so we avoided abandonment at all costs. At the ages of four to six, our parents probably realized that we were different, which caused them to treat us a little different. Early rejection at the hands of playmates pushed this a little further and made us consciously think about how we were different from other boys. This early abuse by the world around us engrained one very strident lesson: There was something about us that was disgusting, aberrant, and essentially unlovable. Although we are older now, because of this, we are still driven by those longings for love and acceptance.
As young gay men, the first man we loved were our fathers, and we craved from him love, affection, and tenderness. What most of us received from our fathers fell far short because of the tough, stable, and emotionally detached way they were raised. We grew into our young adulthoods without having had a truly loving , honest, and safe relationship with a man. Not with our buddies, certainly not with our fathers. Of all the invalidation we will receive in our lives, this is by far the most damaging. The first man that we love-arguably the man we will love the most in our life-is incapable of validating us at a time when we needed it most.
Our mothers likely sensed that we were different. She over-validated our feminine qualities to compensate for the betrayal she saw us suffer. This made us more comfortable with women, but need less validation from them.
Many of us, and especially I, find myself in the same relationships with emotionally detached men. These situations seem familiar, looking back at our detached fathers. Everyone is attracted to familiarity, and the danger lies in the fact that many of us keep getting into the same situations because unconsciously we try to change the negative situation. This is similar to a person that suffered from abuse. It is likely for that person to find him or herself in a new relationship with again an abusive partner.
“Gay men in their twenties are increasingly likely to struggle with addiction, depression, and even suicide-all symptoms of the man who bears the pain of feeling unlovable.”
It is finally time to think about the design of my work. I already knew I wanted my project to consist of three parts. Three important stories, built around what has driven me for so long. Name it The Little Mermaid or My Coming Out.
Knowing why The Little Mermaid has (had) such a great effect on me, and more about the background story of both Hans and my own, I know exactly how I want to tell my story.
The first work will represent a "cage" or "closet" of some sort. Maybe one that blends in on the outside but hurts on the inside, "like sharp knives".
The second work will represent the pieces of mental damage that has done while being in the closet. "Like walking on sharp knives" will be translated into literally walking with pieces from the first work which represent the mental damage and shame, and hint to the little mermaid's legs. The pain she had to go through, trying to blend in.
Each part will be based on the structures of something under the sea:
The third work will represent the new "cage" we've unconsciously built by the trauma, damage, shame and self hatred.
The new closet: falling into the same patterns, always trying to earn that love and looking for validation from the same new distant father figure.