We have all heard about mermaids in myths and these mythical creatures became more famous among people after hearing the fairy tales of ‘The Little Mermaid‘. The stories and beliefs regarding mermaids have created a dilemma amid many and one burning question that arises in their minds is Are mermaids real? Do mermaids exist? The intention of this article is to find answers to these burning questions. We will delve into the history, myths, and stories to find answers but first, we must clearly understand what a mermaid is.
1. Half Human
Mermaid is a mythical sea creature who is half-human and a fish from the waist. Mermaids fascinated people and the scientific community for ages. The female counterparts of mermaids are more famous among people than their male counterparts. This marine creature is accepted as both good and bad omens by sailors. Here is a haunting truth for people who love mermaids.
In many legends, myths, and folklore, it is said that there is a specific species of a mermaid called the siren. These water spirits have musical voices, and they lure the sailors to lose their way into the sea by singing enticing songs. But in some cultures, mermaids are accepted as a good omen as well. Whereas according to many cultures and legends the human half gets replaced by animals. So, let us hurry and delve into the stories, history, and myths about these mysterious sea creatures.
2. Mermaid Stories: Myth and History
Myths, ideas, and conceptions about this half-human with fish-tails get weird and weirder with time. In many legends, this half-woman human fish mingles with humans and animals to procreate weird babies. According to many cultures mermaids are considered sea creatures whose tears turn into pearls. While some myths state that catching a mermaid will bring bad luck. The mermaid bodies are distorted in many forms with the amalgamation of several cultures, myths, and legends around the world throughout history.
The stories about mermaids date back to 1000BC in ancient Assyria where the mother of an Assyrian queen, goddess Atargatis murders her human lovers, and out of remorse she jumps into the lake and becomes a fish. The present-day scientific culture has created hypotheses of its own and according to many, mermaids are aquatic humanoids and results of extraterrestrial experiments. Let us explore these legends a little more thoroughly.
2.1) Mermaids’ Existence in Europe and Eastern Europe
According to Russian mythology, mermaids are called Rusalka. These mermaids exist in Russian legends as water spirits who are benevolent to crops but they are also very violent as they are unsatisfied souls of humans who died in the water. They tend to lure men and little children to kill them in water. Finnis folklore states that mermaids are shape-shifting sea people who abduct humans and make them fall in love. Even though we love mermaid stories, such haunting stories about mermaids distort the fascinating fantasy image we created in our minds about these mythical sea creatures.
2.2) Mermaids Example in Asian Continent
Asian countries mingle mermaid bodies with other animals to create weirder combinations. In India, Mermaids are described with masculine features. The Indian mythical sea creatures called the Nagas are creatures who have the upper body of a man and the body of a serpent from the waist. Their female counterparts are called Nagini who is known for fertility and feminine beauty which is quite similar to the nature of mermaids as described in the west.
According to many stories, mermaids fall in love with animals as well. In the Thai version of Ramayana, a mermaid fell in love with Hanuman while he was working on making a bridge to Srilanka. The love story of Suvannamacha is so very popular in Thai culture mingling mermaid and Hanuman and procreating a new creature called Macchanu.
In Japan as well the mermaid bodies are combined with a monkey to form a demonic version of half-fish mermaids’ sirens. These mythical creatures have a beautiful musical voice, their tears turn to pearls, and having their flesh will lead to eternal youthfulness but snatching one out of the sea leads to violent sea storms.
Mention of mermaids exists in Chinese books as well. Chinese works of Shan Hai Jing present mermaids as ren yu. In fact, Chinese stories present various species and types of mermaids. Di ren, chi ru, hu ren, and jiao ren are a few examples. These varied species of mermaids have varied features as well. Some of these Chinese mermaids have four legs with a voice of a little girl while some are depicted as extensive craftswomen weaving special clothes that could never get wet.
One surprising fact about mermaids is that these creatures exist in every culture around the world and throughout history. After knowing about all these facts about mermaids one question might haunt everyone and that is if real mermaids don’t exist how can the stories about mermaid be so extensively dispersed in legends and cultures around the world and throughout history?
2.3) Mermaids Example Around the World
In South African folklore, the mermaids have a different feature. They have a human face, brown skin and green eyes. They also have serpentine features and are called Iara. They also have the common attribute of luring the sailors and making them lovers. In Maori folklore of New Zealand, mermaids are called Marakihau and they are visible in the carvings which might act as evidence of the possible existence of a real mermaid. In Ireland, mermaids are called Merrow; they have a fish tail just like other mermaids but have attributes similar to that of a siren or Iara from African folklore. This half-woman half-fish ocean creature mingles with humans and returns to the water with or without its offspring.
In Scotland, mermaids are presented as gentle creatures who shade their skin and live in the world with humans. According to Scottish legends, these mermaids or Selkies are compelled to live in this world because often their precious skin gets stolen by humans. Such stories around the world are enticing and intriguing to humans as it makes us believe and wonder whether are mermaids real and whether mermaids exist in this world among humans.
Many people around the world believe that mermaids exist but there are very few humans who dedicated themselves to hunting mermaids. A book presenting such a picture is the trilogies called ‘Mermaids of Eriana Kwai’. The book presents people on the beach island of Eriana Kwai in the North Pacific Ocean.
According to their stories, they have witnessed mermaid sightings and they believe mermaids are real. They are the only people around the world who are running programs to hunt mermaids. The book presents mermaids as bad luck to sailors and sailors and island dwellers.
Examples of mermaids and sea demons are extensively present in Greek mythology as well. Nereids in Greek myth are ocean spirits whereas nymphs are mermaid-like creatures living in water and small streams. Sea demons like Scylla and sirens in Greek myths also resemble mermaids. All these stories and myths about mermaids can hint towards a shred of evidence that mermaids exist.
3. Mermaids Representation in Literature and Art
Throughout history, many writers have written about these mythical creatures and many artists have left their marks on history by carving figures of the half-fish and half-human sea people. All these vivid descriptions lead us to a world of fantasy where the real mermaid exists surely. Even though we are not sure whether the mermaids are real or not, throughout history the writings and engravings of these leading artists made the same mermaid a creature of awe and mystery.
3.1) Representation of Mermaids in Literature Throughout history
Every little girl from every culture has listened to a mermaid story the most common story that made mermaids famous was the fairy tale story called ‘The Little Mermaid’. It tells the story of a mermaid who falls in love with a prince and gives up her enchanting voice to be with that prince. The happy ending that most of us grew up hearing is that the prince also fell in love with the little mermaid, she got her voice back and they lived happily ever after.
This story of the little mermaid is famous all around the world. But this fairy tale written by Grim Brothers had a different ending where the little mermaid’s love remains unrequited and she becomes a sea foam and vanishes into the sea. From fairy tales in childhood as we grow up, we learn about Ulysses and read poems like ‘The Forsaken Merman‘
We create a mystical image of these aquatic humanoids when we read the vivid descriptions about Ulysses, who was so curious to listen to the musical voices of these sea creatures that while traveling through the ocean he pours wax into the ears of his sailors and ties himself up to the mast of the ship so that these mystical sea creatures don’t lure him to the sea with there enticing voice.
When we read poems like “The Forsaken Merman” by Matthew Arnold we get a glimpse of the emotional masculine features of a merman who fell in love with a human, married her, and was living happily with his wife in the depths of the ocean. His human wife also loved him dearly but was attracted to the outside world, leaving him and their kids alone in the ocean. The poem presents an ironic picture where the ocean life demonstrates nature while the outside world symbolizes artificiality. Such writers depicted the feelings of these ocean creatures.
3.2) Representation of Mermaids in Art Throughout History
The stories about mermaids especially the story The Little Mermaid fascinated people around the world so much that they have made several sculptures and paintings of fairytale-based ocean creatures. One such example is the bronze statue of the little mermaid by Edvard Eriksen. It represents a mermaid, after taking a human form.
Many painters drew pictures of mermaids after receiving inspiration from the poets. For example, ‘A Mermaid‘ painting by John William Waterhouse was inspired by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem ‘The Mermaid‘; Herbert James Draper’s painting called ‘Ulysses and the Sirens‘ presents Ulysses tied to the mast while getting enchanted by the sightings of these bewitching fish from the waist ocean creatures.
Another painting by Howard Pyle, called ‘The Mermaid‘ shows a mermaid and a man embracing each other. Such fascinating works on mermaids throughout history make us want to see a real mermaid and while wandering a desolate coast we wait for sightings or search for evidence of these ocean creatures.
3.3) Representation of Mermaids Through Movies and Web Series
Even though there are a lot of controversies about the fact that whether mermaids are real or not the fascination with these mysterious sea creatures has led many directors to form movies and web series about mermaids. We all know about the famous Walt Disney movie ‘The Little Mermaid‘ but this is not the only movie about mermaids. In the present day Chinese, Korean, and other web series have taken the theme of mermaids. Here are some of the movies and web series about mermaids.
i) The Legend of the Blue Sea
The series tells the story of a mermaid who comes up into the world of humans and falls in love with a con artist. The series proceeds to present her romance with the male protagonist and she adapts to the human world. Taken from the classic Joseon legend of Korea and starring Jun Ji Hyun and Lee Min Ho, the series is an excellent rom-com if you are craving to see mermaids after reading so much about them.
ii) The Blue Whisper
This is a Chinese drama that takes us to a fantasy world where there is magic and enchantment. A love story between a merman and a woman is presented here. The drama series is adapted from the Chinese novel ‘Yu Jiao Ji ‘ by Jiu Lu Fei Xiang. The sequel consists of a merman, a strong female lead, a demon, and magic.
iii) The Mermaid
‘The Mermaid ‘ is a 2016 Chinese movie that presents a rich playboy falling in love with a mermaid who was sent to kill him. It is a 94 minutes romance movie that had the biggest opening in China.
iv) The Shape of Water
Those who love horror and thriller and want to see a thrilling and more haunting aspect of a mermaid must watch the movie ‘The Shape of the Water‘. This movie shows the cruel aspect of the human world. The setting is a high-security research center where the humans have captured a strange sea creature. The female lead is a mute janitor in that research center who finds out about this secret basement and befriends the strange sea creature. She ends up falling in love with him and tries to return him to the sea. While rescuing the sea creature, she finds out her own real identity. She learns that she is a mermaid.
v) Night Tide
‘Night Tide‘ is a thriller movie. The female protagonist of the movie is an actress named Mora. Mora is a side actress playing the role of a mermaid. A young sailor named Johnny Drake who is also the male protagonist of the movie sees Mora and falls in love with her. However, he gradually finds out that Mora thinks that she is a mermaid destined to lure sailors into the sea and kill them. The movie is a psychological thriller where Mora was brought up by her adopted father who implanted the delusion of the mermaid in her mind.
4. Do Mermaids Exist?
The world is vast and is mostly covered by the ocean. The major parts of these ocean depts are yet unexplored and it is believed that the unexplored percentage numbers up to 65%. Many people reported mermaid sightings on the beach, coast, and sea but the evidence of mermaid existence is yet a matter of dispute. But there are some stories that hint towards the possible existence of mermaids and they
The most promising story about mermaids’ existence is that of Christopher Columbus. The journal of the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus reveals that he spotted three mermaids while he was sailing through the Dominican Republic. He reveals that mermaids are real and are not very beautiful creatures as represented in many stories. However many believe that Christopher Columbus saw manatees and mistook them for mermaids.
There are other stories about mermaids where the mermaids accidentally killed humans or made them fall in love with them. One story about mermaids which consists of the mysterious disappearance of humans is the story of Matthew Trewhella. According to the legends of Cornwall, Matthew Trewhella was the son of a churchwarden of Zennor. The parish boy sang in the church but one day he disappeared into the sea with a strange ageless woman. Throughout history, the stories about mermaids have fascinated people so much that even the American Museum of Natural History has taken interest in the idea of mermaid existence.
Other than the above instances there are other examples of mermaid sightings that are mentioned throughout history and are surfacing on the internet recently. A Syrian writer named Lucien mentioned the possible existence of mermaids in his book called natural history. According to some evidence, mermaid sightings occurred on the Coast of Goul. The evidence about mermaid sightings is stated by a famous 18th-century pirate named Blackbeard. It is said that this notorious pirate deliberately avoided certain places in the sea because of the presence of mermaids.
Mysterious stories and evidence about real mermaid sightings continue to grow as time passes by. In the Kai Islands of Indonesia local villagers and Japanese soldiers who patrolled there during World War 2 claims to have experienced mermaid sightings. According to the local villagers, these mermaids are called Oran Ikang. According to the evidence recorded by the Japanese soldiers, these marine creatures are about 150cm in length and have spikes on their spines and shoulder. Evidence about these mysterious mermaids is presented by Japanese Seargent Mr. Taro but the research was stopped because of the continuation of violent World War 2.
Stories about mermaids go on from Mayne Island where a ferry filled with tourists saw a mermaid enjoying salmon fish to Kauai where Jeff Leicher and his crew saw a mermaid up front. He tried to take a few pictures of the mermaids and those pictures created a lot of controversy among the people about whether those can be taken as evidence of the mermaids’ real existence.
A few of the recent sightings of this half-fish with a human face can act as evidence of the fact that mermaids exist. The most recent stories about mermaid sightings happened in the years 2009 and 2012. According to reports in the year 2009, a mysterious young girl was found doing surprising tricks on the beach of Kiryat Haim.
The stories about this mermaid girl got transferred to the Coastal Ocean Research Center they declared a reward of 1 million dollars for evidence. Since then that mysterious mermaid disappeared surprisingly never to be seen again. The reward is still valid up until this date.
The most recent evidence and example of real mermaids’ existence happened in the year 2012. Local workers in Zimbabwe refused to install water pumps in a dam as they claimed to see a mermaid. The government refused to believe them and hired people from outside but they claimed the same thing. The work remains unfinished to date.
In spite of so many stories and evidence about human-mermaid encounters, the idea of mermaids’ real existence is not accepted by many. The haunting question, ‘are mermaids real’ remains unanswered. But we can still have an idea of our own. When 65% of the world is yet unexplored how can a human claim that mermaids are not real? To search for a mermaid a human must open up his mind and consider all aspects that history has yet presented. Till then the question ‘Are Mermaids Real?‘ remains unanswered.