Fish Out of Water: a Song for the Little Mermaid

When I was a kid, I had a mild obsession with Hans Christian Andersen. I’m not sure why: most of his stories were sad and bleak, like The Little Matchgirl, and some were downright weird and disturbing, like The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf. But the one that fascinated and troubled me the most was The Little Mermaid.

I don’t know how many times I read the story, imagining different outcomes. It frustrated me that the mermaid couldn’t figure out some way to communicate who she was to the prince. Sign language? Charades? The ending was equally frustrating: the mermaid’s sisters buy her a chance to return to the sea if she kills the prince with a dagger. Unable to bring herself to stab the prince, she dives into the sea, and turns into seafoam. Because of her sacrifice though, she is turned into a daughter of the air. Better than seafoam, I suppose, but hardly a dream come true.

Of course, when the Disney movie came out, it completely ignored the whole murder/suicide-by-seafoam business, and put the sacrifice mostly in the hands of the mermaid’s father. And while I loved the movie (especially the music!), I realized that Andersen’s story did do a better job of conveying the moral that you shouldn’t try to change yourself to fit into someone else’s world.

Regardless of the ending though, I think I was drawn to the story because of the way it captures a longing to connect with someone who seems out of reach, which as an awkward teenager, I related to deeply. This song is for that awkward teenager.

CHORUS

I’m a fish out of water whenever you’re near.
Tongue-tied and awkward when you appear.
I wish I could show you the things I can do.
But I’m a fish out of water with you.

I was a mermaid, a queen of the sea,
Agile and graceful, contented and free.
But I’ve been breathless and floundering, since we met,
I never intended to get caught in your net.
I may be a princess in the wild ocean blue.
But I’m a fish out of water with you.

CHORUS

We may be as different as people can be,
You are steady and grounded, while I’m all at sea.
I just wish I could show you who I really am,
But whenever I’m with you I close up like a clam.
And I feel like I’ve landed in a world that’s brand new.
I’m just a fish out of water with you.

I lure sailors to me with my songs by choice,
But when I’m with you I lose my voice.
I may have saved you from drowning, but you never knew.
I’m just a fish out of water with you.

I wish I could show you my world in the sea,
But I know in my heart that we’re not meant to be.
For it’s only in movies that our love can prevail,
My original story’s a morality tale.
In life happy endings are random and few,
And I’m a fish out of water with you

CHORUS

What stories and books were you most drawn to when you were younger? Please share them in the comments below.

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