Warning: This post contains major spoilers for The Little Mermaid live-actionThe Little Mermaid finally got its own live-action adaptation, and the film’s ending offered some minor changes while also setting up what could come next. Directed by Rob Marshall from a screenplay by David Magee, The Little Mermaid is a star-making turn for Halle Bailey, who steps into the iconic role of Ariel.


The Little Mermaid ends with Ariel breaking the necklace used to trap her voice, but a battle between her and Ursula ensues after Triton takes Ariel’s place and vanishes due to Ursula’s spell. With the trident in the sea witch’s possession, she grows monstrous and in control of the sea, wreaking havoc on it and the surface world. That is, until Ariel runs her through with a ship’s bowsprit. Triton is restored, but Ariel and Eric are both sad because they think they can no longer be together. However, Triton grants Ariel her wish to be human and she and Eric get married, uniting both their people.

Why Ariel Broke Triton’s Rules About Humans & The Surface

the little mermaid ariel surface

In many ways, Triton’s parenting was oppressive in his protection, stymieing Ariel’s curiosity for the surface world and not listening to what she had to say or to what she wanted. Ariel was tired and frustrated, yet still inquisitive. The more her father pushed her away, the more Ariel wanted to experience the human world, which is why she finally did despite Triton’s rules. What’s more, Ariel didn’t want to lead the life Triton had set up for her. She wanted to be free to make her own choices without being held back. Ariel wanted to find out things for herself, and not rely on Triton’s descriptions of a world she wanted to take part in.

Why Ariel Gave Up Her Voice To Ursula

the little mermaid singing

Ariel giving up her voice to Ursula wasn’t just about being with Eric. Ariel longed to be on land, to experience what it means to be human, and to explore the surface world. Eric was merely a catalyst for her to do just that; her growing feelings for him tethered her further to the human world. Ariel felt she had no other way to truly experience the surface unless she made a deal with Ursula. It wasn’t as though Triton was willing to give Ariel what she wanted, so the mermaid decided to take extreme measures. Otherwise, Ariel would’ve gone back to her life, miserable and always yearning to experience the surface world.

Ursula’s Revenge Plan Against Ariel & King Triton Explained

the little mermaid ursula

Ursula targeting Ariel wasn’t a coincidence. Ursula wanted revenge on her older brother Triton after she was banished. The sea witch also wanted to obtain great power, and the only way she could do that was to take Triton’s trident. By making a deal with Ariel, Ursula knew that she would draw out Triton and that he would do anything to save his daughter, including handing over his trident. She would get her revenge and the trident in one fell swoop, especially since she’d made it nearly impossible for Ariel to share a true love’s kiss with Eric. Ultimately, though, Ursula underestimated her niece, who fought back.

Eric & Ariel’s Romance Explained: Why He Chooses Her Over The “Fantasy Girl”

the little mermaid ariel eric

Eric searched high and low for the woman who saved his life after the shipwreck. He didn’t know that it was Ariel all along, but once she was in his life, they grew closer. Eric became so enamored with Ariel that he forgot about the supposed fantasy girl altogether. Eric was charmed by Ariel, and she was there, a real in-the-flesh person he couldn’t be accused of dreaming up.

Ariel was someone Eric could actually fall in love with because he was actively spending time with her and getting to know her despite her voice being gone. Unlike the mystery girl, Eric could actually envision being with Ariel, and she captured his heart in a way that was more grounded than simply hearing someone sing. It proved that he wasn’t simply into her because of her voice — Eric and Ariel had a strong connection regardless.

Why Eric Was Going To Propose To Vanessa (Despite Being In Love With Ariel)

little mermaid eric ariel

Eric was in love with Ariel and was preparing to move forward with her, forgetting about the fantasy girl entirely. However, Prince Eric was going to propose to Vanessa because he was under Ursula’s spell. The necklace that contained Ariel’s voice was also being used to enchant him into thinking he was in love with Vanessa, even though he had moments of confusion regarding the reasons for his affection. Vanessa being able to sing with Ariel’s voice cinched the spell, as Prince Eric had been searching for the woman behind the voice all along. It made his sudden proposal to Vanessa appear valid.

Ursula’s Death Explained

the little mermaid ursula death

Ursula’s death is similar to the one from The Little Mermaid animation. With the trident’s power at her disposal, Ursula grows, taking over the sea and using her power to create a storm that would devastate the merpeople and the humans on land. However, Ursula’s rampage is short-lived. Ariel (and not Eric, as it is in the animated movie) drives a wrecked ship’s bowsprit through Ursula’s chest, killing her and restoring calm to the sea. With Ursula gone, she is no longer a threat to the seven seas or to the surface world, and her death effectively ends her reign and the magic she possessed to control others.

King Triton’s Death & Resurrection Explained

the little mermaid king triton

King Triton sacrificed himself to save Ariel, taking her place to fulfill the deal she made with Ursula, which bound him to the sea witch and turned him into dust. Though it looked like King Triton was dead, Ariel’s defeat of Ursula resurrected him. It’s possible Ursula held merpeople captive for eternity, but the spell was no longer active after her death, setting Triton free of the contract and restoring him to full health. With his trident back in hand, King Triton was back and able to give Ariel what she desired — to be on land with Eric.

Why Ariel Became Human In The Little Mermaid

the little mermaid ariel human

Once Ariel had a taste of being human, experiencing everything the surface world had to offer her, she longed to be a part of that world all the more. There was no going back to her old life. What’s more, Ariel had fallen in love with Prince Eric, and she knew that going back to being a mermaid meant they could no longer be together. Crucially, King Triton had seen the error of his ways by the end of The Little Mermaid, granting his daughter the gift of becoming human permanently. Ariel became human because she wanted to satisfy her curiosity, learning and growing in a way life in the sea couldn’t provide.

Ariel & Eric’s Marriage: What It Means For The Little Mermaid

the little mermaid ariel eric marriage

Ariel and Eric’s marriage in The Little Mermaid teases an alliance between the human world and the sea. Prior to their union, humans were scared of sea dwellers, often accusing them of causing the shipwrecks. Similarly, Triton refused to let Ariel go to the surface because he was wary of humans, and knew the violence and chaos they were capable of. It was two sets of beings who did not understand each other, but Ariel and Eric’s marriage showed that the two worlds could coexist together in harmony. There was much they could learn from each other, and Ariel and Eric’s relationship was a gateway to their working together.

How The Little Mermaid Sets Up The Little Mermaid 2

the little mermaid ariel ending explained

The Little Mermaid ends with Ariel and Eric getting married and going off on a journey together. The merpeople and humans seemed at peace with each other, and there’s a sense that their worlds will be more connected for the first time moving forward. The Little Mermaid’s ending hints that Eric’s island kingdom will be more open to others — like he wanted — and the humans knowing the merpeople exist suggests they will either be united or there will be conflict in the future.

To that end, the live-action leaves things open-ended, but it’s possible a potential conflict between the sea and land could leave the two worlds separated, with only Ariel and Eric being able to bridge the divide. With Ursula dead, a new villain could take her place, wanting revenge. What’s more, The Little Mermaid did have an animated sequel called The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea. With Ariel and Eric married, The Little Mermaid sequel could follow their daughter as she learns about her mother’s mermaid heritage. There’s a lot more to explore and a sequel could tackle the questions the film leaves unanswered.

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