Ariel is one of the most iconic Disney princesses, known for her flowing red hair, seashell bra, and beautiful singing voice. But unlike other more clearly defined princesses like Mulan or Tiana, Ariel’s origins and cultural background have remained more ambiguous. This has led to an ongoing debate amongst Disney fans – is Ariel Greek or Danish?
Evidence For Ariel Being Greek
There are several clues that point to Ariel being Greek rather than Danish. First, her story is clearly inspired by ancient Greek mythology. The original tale of The Little Mermaid was written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, but he drew heavily from Greek legends like Odysseus and the sirens. Ariel’s adventures parallel those of Odysseus, encountering magical creatures and facing trials as she navigates the human world.
Additionally, Ariel’s father King Triton is named after the Greek god of the sea, further evidencing the influence of Greek mythology. Her home Atlantica also shares a name with the legendary lost city of Atlantis which first appears in Plato’s writing. The architecture seen in the underwater kingdom in the film resembles ancient Greek structures as well.
Linguistically, Ariel’s name means “lion of God” in Hebrew, linking to Greek mythological creature the manticore. The names of Ariel’s sisters – Aquata, Arista, Attina, Adella, Alana, and Andrina – are also Greek or Latin-inspired rather than Scandinavian.
Ariel’s physical appearance also aligns more closely with Greek aesthetics than Danish. Her classically beautiful features with waves of red hair resemble iconic Greek beauties like Aphrodite. Danish people stereotypically have lighter features like blonde hair and blue eyes which Ariel lacks.
Evidence For Ariel Being Danish
However, there are also arguments to be made for Ariel being Danish. Most obviously, she was created by Hans Christian Andersen who was Danish. The original fairy tale is set in Denmark and incorporates elements of Danish folklore. So even if Disney changed the setting to be more Greek, the source material is still Danish.
Additionally, Ariel embodies many values that are seen as traditionally Danish. She displays hygge through her curiosity, excitement for adventure, and desire to explore the human world above. This aligns with the openness and interest in other cultures commonly associated with Denmark.
Ariel is also connected to Denmark through the inspiration for her design. Glen Keane, the animator behind Ariel, revealed that she was visually modeled after Alyssa Milano as well as his own wife who is Danish. So there is a literal Danish influence on how Ariel looks.
The landscape seen above water is more reminiscent of the forests and terrain found in Denmark than Greece. The castle that Prince Eric lives in also has some Danish design elements like its tower spires.
Context From Disney
Disney itself has flip-flopped on providing an outright statement on whether Ariel is Greek or Danish. In some behind the scenes content, they have referred to her as a Greek princess. This Greek heritage was emphasized in the animated series focusing on Ariel as well when they visit the kingdom of Sparto.
However, on other occasions like the Treasures of the Disney Archives exhibit, she was described as being Danish. Overall, Disney tends to avoid making definitive claims on her nationality, leaving it open to interpretation.
In the end, strong arguments could be made for Ariel being either Greek or Danish based on her story inspirations, design, and the differing statements from Disney over the years. There is evidence on both sides of the debate, and ultimately her exact origins remain ambiguous.
Comparing Key Evidence
To summarize the key points, here is a comparison of the evidence that Ariel is Greek versus Danish:
|Evidence for Greek
|Evidence for Danish
|– Story based on Greek mythology
|– Created by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen
|– Father is named King Triton after Greek god
|– Set in Denmark in original fairy tale
|– Atlantica references Greek Atlantis myth
|– Embodies Danish values like hygge and openness
|– Name Ariel means “lion of God” in Hebrew
|– Design inspired by Danish animator’s wife
|– Sisters have Greek inspired names
|– Landscape resembles Denmark
|– Appearance fits Greek beauty ideals
|– Some Disney content calls her Danish
This helps show how both cultures have contributed to her character. Certain specific traits lean Greek while others lean Danish, but there is no definitive answer.
Theories on Her Mixed Heritage
Because there are convincing arguments for both Greek and Danish influence on Ariel, some fans speculate that she is intended to have a mixed cultural heritage. Here are some popular theories:
- Ariel’s mother was Greek but her father King Triton is Danish
- The kingdom of Atlantica is somewhere in the Mediterranean near both Greece and Denmark
- Merpeople in the Disney universe are an ethnically diverse group
- After so many years under the sea, Atlantican culture is a blend of both Greek and Danish elements
These types of explanations aim to reconcile the conflicting clues about Ariel’s origins. Rather than definitively landing on one side or the other, they propose a mixed background that allows her to exhibit both Greek and Danish traits.
The Importance of Ambiguity
Leaving Ariel’s heritage open to interpretation allows her to resonate more broadly as a Disney princess. By not rooting her too specifically in one real world culture, she becomes more mythical and universal. Not being defined as just Greek or just Danish makes Ariel feel more approachable to a wide audience.
The hints of both Greek and Danish influence let viewers see reflections of their own cultures in Ariel. For example, Greek viewers can relate to her mythological roots, while Danish viewers connect with the inspiration from their native fairy tales. This makes her character enriching in a multi-cultural way.
So while the debate over her origins continues, the ambiguity may be intentional on Disney’s part. By not committing to a definitive answer, Ariel can remain a princess for all rather than just one country or culture. Her mythic quality enriched by both Greek and Danish traits is what elevates her into a truly iconic Disney heroine.
The question of whether Disney’s Ariel is Greek or Danish has compelling arguments on both sides, with evidence of both cultural influences embedded throughout her character and story. Her heritage remains officially undefined, allowing fans to speculate and appreciate the hints of Greek and Danish inspiration.
Leaving her exact origins open to interpretation makes Ariel more universal and mythic, resonating beyond just one culture. By embodying this sense of magic and possibility, she becomes a truly timeless Disney princess. So while fans may never have a definitive answer, the mystery is what makes Ariel so endearingly magical.