The Little Mermaid dwells in an underwater kingdom with her father (the sea king or mer-king), her grandmother, and her five sisters. Her five sisters are each born one year apart. When a mermaid turns 15, she is permitted to swim to the surface to watch the world above, and when the sisters become old enough, each of them visits the upper world every year. As each of them returns, the Little Mermaid listens longingly to their various descriptions of the surface and of human beings.
No matter how often it's retold, no matter how many illustrators tackle it, Andersen's classic tale of the lovelorn mermaid never grows stale. Unlike the sanitized Disney version, the original isn't particularly cheerful: the mermaid loses not only her voice, but also her prince and her life (although she's given a reprieve in the form of a chance to earn an immortal soul). It is, however, exquisitely written--richly layered, evocative, and full of hope, pain and yearning. Hague's Rackham-esque style suits the intense emotions of the prose; his slightly muted palette seems an extension of Andersen's imagination, capturing as it does the filtered half-light of the mysterious undersea world thronged with exquisitely sinuous merfolk. At once lavishly detailed and fanciful, his illustrations distill the haunting beauty of the century-old story, a story as fresh today as the day it was penned. All ages.