The Encyclopedia of Walt Disney's Animated Characters: From Mickey Mouse to Hercules
The Mighty King Triton.
Character Description of King Triton from "The Little Mermaid" (1989)
The character of Triton is in many ways rather nondescript, for the mer-king's role in both the plot and the emotional subtext of the movie is as a symbol - and, at that, a symbol of two different things. First, he is the symbol of constitutional authority, convention and staidness: he is the establishment against which Ariel is rebelling, the past which she wishes to leave behind. Second, he symbolizes parental authority; in this respect, the fact that he is a mighty king (and she a princess) is irrelevant. What is relevant is that he is her father: like most young women, she must go through the process of switching her allegiance (by which term we don't mean subservience) to a male outside the family. This process is frequently painful for both participants but is necessary, as we see exemplified close to the movie's end, when Triton and Ariel embrace just before her wedding to Eric: it is the first moment in which we see genuine love expressed between them, yet there is also a great deal of sorrow involved. It is also, with one fleeting exception, the only moment in the film in which we see Triton's personality depicted in any depth.
King Triton and Sebastian has a little chat about Ariel.
A moment of truth for Triton as Ursula explains a few blunt realities to him.
A bittersweet farewell.