The Dinglehopper (a.k.a. the fork) is an artifact from the sunken ship which Ariel and Flounder explore early in The Little Mermaid. It is in fact a fairly ordinary object, but Ariel prizes the dinglehopper, as it is an artifact of the human world. Due to his lack of knowledge of the human world, Scuttle gives this strange name to the object rather than the more-accurate "fork."
While exploring the sunken ship near the beginning of the film, Ariel encounters an item that has been noticeably spared the decay which has befallen every other object therein. The object is small and probably made of silver (or perhaps tin) due to its resistance to corrosion and the fact that stainless steel had not yet been invented (though French metallurgist Pierre Berthier recommended the use of such iron-chromium alloys as cutlery in 1821 (when Ariel was 10-11 years old) the process would not be adequately perfected until the 20th Century). Attracted to this pretty and clearly-human tool, Ariel places the object in her bag and protects this bag even to the point of risking her life.
Scuttle, whom Ariel and Flounder consult after their discoveries, identifies this object as "the dinglehopper." According to him, it is used to comb the hair and thus achieve an aesthetically-pleasing appearance.
In reality, the dinglehopper is an eating utensil; a three-tined fork. Ariel later discovers this when presented with another one while dining with Prince Eric and Sir Grimsby, to her minor embarrassment. However, both of the film's "dinglehoppers" are three-tined during sequences of normal animation yet four-tined in introductory still shots.
In Once Upon a Time, while attending Prince Eric's ball with Snow White, she sees a fork and Snow White quizzes her on what it is, with her calling it a mini-trident. Snow tells her it's a fork and when she sees Ariel pocket it, she tells her it's not very valuable.
Later, when the Evil Queen reveals herself before them, and orders Ariel to leave, stating that Snow White is going to die whether Ariel decides to go to Prince Eric or stays with her friend. Ariel begins to leave, but then stabs the Queen in the neck with the same fork, distracting her while she takes the bracelet off Snow that turned her into a mermaid.
The dinglehopper also makes a cameo in Pocahontas.
Due to its shine, purity, and connection to the human world, Ariel displayed the dinglehopper in a candelabra between a knife and spoon in her undersea grotto. It was perhaps destroyed by King Triton, along with most of the other objects therein. However, even if the targeted energy blast from Triton's trident destroyed the discovered dinglehopper, the far-more-fragile painting Penitent Magdalen and the Smoking/Shooting Flame by Georges de La Tour must have survived the king's rampage, as it is currently on display in the Art Museum of Los Angeles County.
However, the dinglehopper lives on in other Little Mermaid merchandise such as the NES video game, in which it is a treasure worth 800 points. Additionally, due to the success of the initial film, "dinglehopper" has entered the English lexicon, at least where the Disney fandom and mermaid community are concerned.
- There is a slight animation goof on the Dinglehopper/Fork as it keeps alternating between having three tines (prongs) or four.