Princess (later Queen) Ariel is the titular protagonist of The Little Mermaid and The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea.
The Little MermaidEditMain article: The Little Mermaid (1989 film)
Ariel first appears in The Little Mermaid (1989), in which she is shown as being adventurous and curious about the world of humans, a fascination which angers her father, as merfolk are forbidden from making contact with the human world. She and Flounder go in search of human objects, which they take to a seagull named Scuttle for appraisal. Ariel falls in love with a human prince named Prince Eric after saving him from drowning, and visits the sea witch, Ursula, who agrees to turn her into a human in exchange for her voice. Ariel must make Prince Eric fall in love with her and kiss her within three days, otherwise she will belong to Ursula forever. Unknown to Ariel, this agreement is part of Ursula's bigger plan to trap Ariel's father, King Triton and steal his magical trident. After being transformed, she is soon found by Eric and is taken back to his castle. Ariel almost manages to obtain the "kiss of true love", but is stopped by Ursula's underhanded tactics. On the third day, Ursula transforms herself into a gorgeous human woman named Vanessa and bewitches Eric to make him marry her. After learning from Scuttle that Vanessa is Ursula in disguise, Ariel disrupts the wedding and regains her voice but the sun sets as Ariel and Prince Eric are about to kiss, transforming Ariel back into a mermaid. Ursula takes Ariel back into the ocean, where she is met by King Triton and Sebastian.
Triton trades himself for Ariel, enabling Ursula to claim his trident. In the battle that follows, Ariel is trapped at the bottom of a whirlpool. Before Ursula can kill her, Eric kills Ursula by ramming a derelict ship's splintered prow through her enlarged torso. At the end of the film, Ariel is transformed into a human by King Triton's magical trident and she leaves to live with Eric.
Television seriesEditMain article: The Little Mermaid (TV series)
The series, set an unspecified time before the first film, depicts Ariel's adventures as a mermaid living under the sea with her father, Sebastian and Flounder. Ariel's mother is absent, having already died prior to the events of the series. Several episodes highlight her relationship with her friends and family, expanding upon their roles in the film. Many involve Ariel foiling the attempts of various enemies intent on harming her or her kingdom. In one episode Ariel comes across Hans Christian Andersen, author of "The Little Mermaid". In the fictionalized encounter she saves Anderson's life, inspiring him to write the story.
The Little Mermaid II: Return to the SeaEditMain article: The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea
In The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000), Ariel, now the new queen of Prince Eric's kingdom, has given birth to a very beautiful daughter named Melody. When Melody's safety is threatened by a sea witch named Morgana, Ursula's sister, Ariel and her husband Eric decide they must keep Melody from the sea, and build a large wall to separate it from the castle.
But Melody's love of the sea proves too strong and she visits Morgana, who turns her into a mermaid temporarily. King Triton uses his trident to transform Ariel back into her own mermaid form to find and rescue Melody. Morgana tricks Melody into taking part in a plot to steal her grandfather King Triton's trident. Together with Tip the Penguin and Dash the Walrus she goes to Atlantica and succeeds in acquiring the trident. Ariel arrives as they return with it to Morgana, and tries to persuade Melody to give back the trident. Morgana captures Ariel, tightly wrapping her tentacle around Ariel's body. She then seals Melody behind a block wall. Tip and Dash rescue Melody and Ariel manages to free herself. Morgana then uses the trident's magic to force everyone to bow before her.
Melody manages to grab the trident and returns it to King Triton, who then sends Morgana to the bottom of the ocean frozen in a block of ice. Triton returns Ariel to human form, the wall separating Eric's castle from the sea is torn down, and contact between humans and merfolk is restored.
The Little Mermaid: Ariel's BeginningEditMain article: The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning
The prologue of The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning (2008) shows Ariel as a cute and pretty five-year-old mermaid, living happily with her father, King Triton, her mother, Queen Athena, and her six older sisters. As Ariel and her family relax in a lagoon, a pirate ship approaches and everyone flees except Athena, who returns to recover a music box Triton had given her and is killed. Afterwards, a devastated King Triton bans all music from Atlantica and throws the music box deep into the ocean. Ariel and her sisters grow up forgetting music and living under their father's strict rules, enforced by Marina del Rey, their governess.
Ariel meets Flounder and follows him to a secret underground club where Sebastian and his band play music. There she sings the song "I Remember", which reminds her of her distant past surrounded by love and music, and of her mother. Ariel introduces her sisters to the club, but eventually they are caught thanks to Marina, who had followed them. Sebastian and his band are imprisoned and the club is closed under Triton's orders. After an argument with Triton, Ariel breaks the band out of prison and escapes with them.
With Sebastian's assistance Ariel finds her mother's music box, and they decide to return it to Triton. On their way back to Atlantica, they encounter Marina, and a struggle ensues in which Ariel is injured, witnessed by Triton. Ariel makes a full recovery, and a remorseful Triton allows music back into Atlantica.