Sebastian Crab’s Not-So-Crabby Symbolism


sebastian from Little Mermaid main

The Little Mermaid is all about Ariel. Sebastian the crab looks out for her, and has his own lessons to learn. He is a happy-go-lucky sort, who is comfortable under the sea, serving as a contrast to Ariel.  Sebastian is from the West Indies and has a rebellious side, expressed by his music.  He symbolizes friendship, loyalty, and openness to change.

Ariel aka the Little Mermaid has big and dangerous dreams about life beyond the land under the sea.  Her dad, King Triton, assigned his trustworthy advisor Sebastian to keep an eye on her.  Ariel might be the star, but Sebastian has some lessons to teach us as well.  Symbolism-wise.

Sebastian’s Basic Bio

Sebastian Crab, full name Horatio Thelonious Ignacious Crustaceous Sebastian, serves as the court composer of King Triton, the father of Ariel (aka the Little Mermaid).  

King Triton is the leader of the underwater kingdom of Atlantica.  Sebastian himself was born in Jamaica to Claude and Claudia Sebastian and went to school in Trinidad

Sebastian is a happy go lucky sort, not crabby at all.  He is satisfied with his life in Atlantica.

Sebastian is the royal composer as well a part of a secret catfish club band

Sebastian is deemed trustworthy enough to serve as Ariel’s guardian.   

Sebastian and the West Indies 

Atlantica is a kingdom located beneath the Atlantic Ocean.   

Sebastian was born in the West Indies, the set of islands in the Caribbean some ways off the coast of Florida.  This is where Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, and other islands are.  

Sebastian was going to be British, but turned out adding a different type of island flavor to the story.  Samuel Wright, a black American actor in many music roles, provided his voice.  

Sebastian symbolizes a specific place, providing a West Indies flavor to Ariel’s kingdom.  

Not Crabby, But Still A Crab

The Little Mermaid is a romantic adventure story about a mermaid who falls in love with a human. There are many marine creatures, including Sebastian the crab, to provide the setting

Sebastian is also familiar to children because he is small and worries sometimes about the limits of his size.  He worries he will not keep up with Ariel and Flounder (a quicker moving fish).  

Sebastian sometimes covers up his fears with a bit of bluster and feigned assurance.  Donald Duck might have a thing or two to teach him about overcompensation.  

Music  

Sebastian has many names.  One reflects that he is a crab, that is, a crustaceous animal.  Another symbolizes his musical side, Thelonious Monk being a famous jazz pianist and composer.

Sebastian is a leader of the Catfish Club band, which performs in an underground (underwater?) club.  This reflects his rebel side, calypso and reggae music part of the soundtrack.  

Sebastian’s happy-go-lucky nature is expressed in his music.  Sebastian has a serious and rules following side.  But, his music provides a chance to express a more wild and emotional side.  

Under the Sea: The Pull of the Familiar 

Ariel dreams of life on the land among humans. Sebastian, singing “Under the Sea,” tries to convince her to enjoy what she has as compared to those dubious humans. 

“What do they got? A lot of sand. We got a hot crustacean band. Each little clam here knows how to jam here under the sea.”

Sebastian symbolizes the appeal of the familiar, which sometimes leads us to glorify things too much.  Or, at least, to focus on the good, ignoring the bad.  

This can be a good thing, especially when change is not possible, but can also lead to complacency.  Sometimes, it is a good thing to look beyond the here and now, seek new horizons.  

And, Sebastian disdains humans.  The familiar can also lead us to have unfounded prejudices.  The unknown is not only a bit scary but clearly bad.  These assumptions can get us in trouble.  Sebastian in time learns to trust in individuals, even if Ariel did fall in love with a human.  

Friendship and Loyalty

Ariel’s best friend is Flounder (a fish), but Sebastian is also a loyal friend and protector. 

Ariel learns the importance of friends during her adventures. Sebastian is first shown being upset at Ariel because she was not there to sing in a royal concert.  And, there are various plot complications involved after that as well.  

In the end, however, Sebastian is shown to be a true friend, including challenging the king to let Ariel live her own life.  Sebastian symbolizes friendship, loyalty, and protection

CHECK OUT THE SYMBOLISM OF OTHER DISNEY CHARACTERS HERE.

Conclusion

Sebastian in various ways provides a symbolic contrast to Ariel. 

Ariel is a young princess, who is not satisfied with her life under the sea.  Sebastian is older, satisfied with his life, and has the job of keeping her in place. Ariel is big and quick, Sebastian is small, and finds it hard to keep up with Ariel and Flounder.  

But, Sebastian has layers, symbolizing the complexity of all types of characters.  He has a wild side and is willing to learn and change.  Sebastian adds a lot of symbolism to the story. 

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