If you most vividly remember The Little Mermaid as told by Disney, with the mermaid princess and her prince sailing off together beneath a rainbow, now is the time to revisit Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairy tale, which is much, much darker. The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark has published a new edition of the 179-year-old story, featuring fittingly bizarre illustrations by Yayoi Kusama. The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen & Yayoi Kusama: A Fairy Tale of Infinity and Love Forever follows In Infinity, the Japanese artist’s recent exhibition at the museum, which closed in January and marked her first Scandinavian retrospective.
The 96-page book, which is tall and perfect for storytelling time, features, of course, polka-dots aplenty to accompany Andersen’s text. Despite the Danish writer’s color-filled descriptions — from the absolute blueness of the sea to red- and violet-tinged sunsets — the featured images are culled from Kusama’s black-and-white marker series of drawings Love Forever (2004–07) series and some new illustrations in a similar vein. Her bold, undulating lines, however, bring Andersen’s narrative to life, covering pages with waving and wriggling patterns; fanciful plants suggestive of wondrous aquatic wildlife; motifs resembling tentacles and waves; and an abundance of enigmatic, watchful eyes. The repetition of shapes and doodled figures forms a fluid stream of images around Andersen’s prose, giving it new and exciting energy. The images and text build a world that might just be as fantastic and mysterious as the one that the little mermaid saw when she ascended from the depths of the sea for the first time.
During the War of 1812, British troops intended to ransack the American capital. The First Lady took credit for saving White House valuables, but, as Jennings wrote in his memoir, this was “totally false.”