Is Ursula Ariel’s Aunt?

by Barbara

Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” is a beloved classic, enchanting audiences since its release in 1989. One of the film’s most intriguing and memorable characters is Ursula, the sea witch. Her striking presence and devious schemes have left fans wondering about her true relationship with Ariel, the movie’s young mermaid protagonist. Over the years, a popular theory has emerged suggesting that Ursula might be Ariel’s aunt. This article delves into the origins of this theory, examines its validity through various lenses, and explores the impact of such a relationship on the narrative.

The Origins of the Aunt Theory

The notion that Ursula might be Ariel’s aunt is not explicitly confirmed in the original 1989 film. However, this theory gained traction due to several clues and lines of dialogue that fans and scholars have analyzed. One of the earliest hints comes from a scene where Ursula refers to her past living in the palace, indicating she once held a position of power or influence in King Triton’s court.


In one key scene, Ursula says, “When I lived in the palace,” suggesting she was once part of the royal family’s inner circle. This line sparked speculation that she could be related to Triton, possibly as his sister. The theory posits that a familial feud could explain her banishment and subsequent vendetta against Triton and his family.


Analyzing the Film’s Context

To understand the plausibility of Ursula being Ariel’s aunt, it’s crucial to analyze the film’s context and the background provided about the characters. Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale of the same name. However, Disney’s adaptation introduces several unique characters and plot elements not present in the original story.


In the film, King Triton is portrayed as a loving but stern father to Ariel and her sisters. Ursula, on the other hand, is depicted as a malevolent figure living in exile. The absence of explicit information about Ursula’s origins in the movie leaves room for interpretation. This ambiguity fuels the theory, as the movie neither confirms nor denies any familial connection between Ursula and Triton.

Evidence from the Original Screenplay and Early Drafts

To further explore the theory, examining the original screenplay and early drafts of the film can provide additional insights. In some early versions of the script, there are indications that Ursula’s character was more explicitly connected to Triton. Early drafts reportedly included scenes where Ursula directly refers to herself as Triton’s sister, solidifying the familial link.

One particular draft even contained dialogue where Ursula reminisces about her past relationship with Triton and her longing for power, which ultimately led to her downfall. Although these scenes were cut from the final version, they provide a glimpse into the creators’ initial intentions and support the theory that Ursula was once part of the royal family.

Expanding the Lore: “The Little Mermaid” Franchise

The “The Little Mermaid” franchise extends beyond the original film, including sequels, a prequel, and a television series. These additional materials offer more opportunities to explore character backgrounds and relationships. For instance, the 2008 prequel film “The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning” delves into the history of Atlantica and its inhabitants, including Ursula.

In “Ariel’s Beginning,” it is revealed that Ursula was once a powerful sorceress in Atlantica who was banished by King Triton. This film adds weight to the theory by showing a deeper connection between Ursula and the royal family. However, it stops short of explicitly confirming her as Ariel’s aunt.

The television series, which aired from 1992 to 1994, also touches on Ursula’s past. In several episodes, Ursula’s interactions with Triton and other characters hint at a more complex relationship than mere animosity. While the series does not provide a definitive answer, it adds layers to Ursula’s character that support the theory of a familial bond.

Comparing the Disney Adaptation with Andersen’s Tale

Comparing Disney’s adaptation with Hans Christian Andersen’s original tale can also shed light on the plausibility of Ursula being Ariel’s aunt. Andersen’s story features a sea witch, but her role and characteristics differ significantly from Disney’s Ursula. In the original tale, the sea witch is more of a neutral character, providing the mermaid with a potion in exchange for a price, without any personal vendetta or backstory.

Disney’s decision to create a more fleshed-out antagonist in Ursula, complete with a complex history and motivations, opens the door to exploring deeper connections between characters. This creative choice aligns with Disney’s tendency to add emotional and relational depth to their characters, making the theory of Ursula being Ariel’s aunt a plausible addition to the narrative.

Analyzing Character Dynamics and Themes

The dynamics between Ursula, Ariel, and King Triton are central to the story’s conflict and themes. Ursula’s vendetta against Triton and her manipulation of Ariel serve as key drivers of the plot. If Ursula were indeed Ariel’s aunt, it would add a layer of familial betrayal and tragedy to the story, enriching the narrative with deeper emotional stakes.

Ursula’s manipulation of Ariel can be seen as a twisted reflection of a familial relationship gone wrong. The themes of power, revenge, and redemption are prevalent throughout the film. A familial connection would intensify these themes, making Ursula’s actions not just acts of villainy but also of personal vendetta rooted in a painful family history.

See also: Is Ariel A Disney Princess?

The Impact of Confirming Ursula as Ariel’s Aunt

If Disney were to officially confirm Ursula as Ariel’s aunt, it would have several implications for the story and its characters. Firstly, it would provide a clearer motive for Ursula’s animosity towards Triton and his family. Her desire to usurp Triton’s power and her manipulation of Ariel would be seen as part of a broader family feud, adding depth to her character.

For Ariel, discovering that Ursula is her aunt would be a significant revelation. It would add complexity to her character’s journey, as she grapples with the implications of her familial ties and the betrayal by a family member. This revelation could also lead to a richer exploration of Ariel’s relationship with her father, as they both navigate the aftermath of this family secret.

Fan Interpretations and Cultural Impact

The theory of Ursula being Ariel’s aunt has not only intrigued fans but also influenced various fan works and interpretations. Fan fiction, artwork, and discussions often explore this potential relationship, adding to the cultural impact of the film. This theory allows fans to reimagine the story with added layers of complexity and emotional resonance.

Moreover, the theory highlights the broader appeal of “The Little Mermaid” and its characters. The enduring fascination with Ursula and her potential connection to Ariel speaks to the depth and richness of Disney’s character development and storytelling. It showcases how fans actively engage with the material, creating their own narratives and interpretations.


While the theory that Ursula is Ariel’s aunt remains speculative, it is supported by various hints and clues throughout the franchise. The original film, early drafts, and expanded materials all contribute to the plausibility of this connection. Whether or not Disney decides to officially confirm this relationship, the theory adds an intriguing dimension to the story, enriching the characters and their motivations.

Ultimately, the enduring appeal of “The Little Mermaid” lies in its ability to inspire imagination and curiosity. The possibility of Ursula being Ariel’s aunt invites fans to explore new layers of the narrative, deepening their appreciation for this timeless tale. As with many beloved stories, the unanswered questions and speculative theories only serve to enhance its magic, leaving room for endless interpretations and discoveries.

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