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.