Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale

Readers’ Guide

Discussion Questions 

1. Mermaid is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. Have you read the story? Have you seen the Disney film? What are some of the differences and similarities between the other versions and this one?

2. What do you think of retellings of fairy tales? How do you account for their popularity? Do you think there’s any special power in taking a known story and envisioning it in a new way?

3. How would you describe the mermaid world in this book? Is this an attractive world to you? How does it compare to the human world in the book?

4. What does Lenia find so compelling about the human world? Does she have an accurate view of it?

5. Think about Lenia’s choice to return to the sea witch and trade her voice for legs. What you ever make such a sacrifice—for love, for salvation, or any other reason? Why or why not? Talk about the theme of sacrifice in the book generally. Who is making sacrifices and for what purposes?


6. Compare Lenia and Margrethe. What do they have in common, and how are they different? What do you think about the relationship that develops between them?


7. How would you characterize Margrethe and the choices she makes? Does she change throughout the book?


8. If you could switch places with Lenia or Margrethe, whose life and world would you rather inhabit for a day, and why?


9. Describe Prince Christopher’s relationships with Lenia and Margrethe. Does he behave honorably toward them both? What do you think of him?


10. Mermaids are an incredibly popular subject in many cultures. What do you think accounts for their appeal? What makes mermaids such a rich subject for the imagination? Can you think of other books in which mermaids play an important role?