The use of film and TV adaptations as a way into books is probably the most common form of media use in many mother tongue departments, such as English, German, French., without which many texts, particularly pre-Twentieth Century ones, would fall by the wayside. Traditionally, the film of the book has often been screened after the class reading of a novel as the end-of-term treat, the carrot to tempt pupils towards more difficult reading, or the basis for critical writing comparing the two versions, usually to the detriment of the adaptation.

This can be problematic for several reasons:

1) In most cases, adaptations are used primarily to make the original text more accessible; but comparative work can easily degenerate into heated and uninformed debates about which version is 'better' - personal judgments which tend both to ignore the structural differences between print and audio-visual texts and to bypass some of the opportunities for media education such analysis can offer.

2) Comparing a literary text with its adaptation in other media will inevitably draw on differences - what bits got left out, how the narrative sequence changed, how point of view, descriptive detail, the passage of time and thought processes are transformed as an audio-visual experience. But the reasons for these changes tend often to be overlooked and, with them, some other important areas for discussion: questions of readership and audience; the purposes for which the adaptation was produced, and the different ways in which the two texts were marketed; the different ways in which texts in different media are used and understood.

3) The raison d'etre of using adaptations is usually to support or to contrast with the literary original, and the adaptation is therefore often seen as the poor relation, necessarily inferior because it is a reconstruction resulting from collaborative industrial and institutional practices, rather than the work of a single creative individual. Yet the original text in itself has been a product of similar processes, and is no less a construct; it could be argued that one of the most useful functions of work on adaptations might be to encourage pupils to question their assumptions about the creative process and to investigate how form, language and technology influence language and determine the ways in which stories can be told in different media.

4) Comparative cross-media work does not always make for interesting written assignments. Dealing with two similar texts read consecutively often results in minutely observed listings of differences and lengthy re-telling of storylines which offer little stimulus for creative or original writing. Although it may require considerably more advance planning, it's sometimes worth considering reversing the conventional sequence of class reading followed by viewing, and interspersing reading and viewing activities so that the two texts are integrated from the start.

For research about The Little Mermaid and H.C. Andersen, you could search for the following articles at the library:

Bredsdorff, Thomas: "Deconstructing Hans Christian Andersen: Some of His Fairy Tales in the Light of Literary Theory - and Vice-Versa", in: The Nordic Roundtable Papers, The Center for Nordic Studies, Vol. 15, Regents of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 1993.

Dahlerup, Pil: "Splash! Six Views of "The Little Mermaid", in Scandinavian Studies Vol. 62, no. 4, Autumn 1990.

Dahlerup, Pil: ""The Little Mermaid" Deconstructed", in Scandinavian Studies Vol. 62, no. 4, Autumn 1990.