The babe on the rock, with the fins and scales?…you know the one. She sits on a rock in a harbor, swims across art, lives forever in marble and has remarkable adventures in fiction. She’s the Mermaid. A quintessential image of woman and the sea. Forget about the “fish” part. That’s representative.
Once I sat upon a promontory,
And heard a mermaid on a dolphin’s back
Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath
That the rude sea grew civil at her song
And certain stars shot madly from their spheres,
To hear the sea-maid’s music.
(Oberon – A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
The legend (or perhaps not…) of mermaids is one of the seduction of the sea. The creatures, the depth, the sexuality….of the sea. For nearly as long as humans have walked the earth, we have been sailing, fishing and swimming. Faced with creatures so vastly different than ourselves has created a fascination with a human-like fish. The same can be said of horses (centaurs), goats, eagles and other creatures of the planet. Why not fish.
Merfolk, in many cultures, represented a god or goddess. Some had more influence than others. Neptune, Poseidon, fish-wives, mermaids, water-willows, water kings, oceanides, lorelie and so many other creatures of legend are seen in ancient writing. Merfolk have long fascinated humans.
Is it the desire to swim freely through the deep ocean? Is it the power to lure? What is it that keeps the legend alive? …to a romantic / tragic / fairytale (or is that “tail”) ending, etc. We’ve taken the legend a long long way, complete with children’s movies and stories.
Don’t mistake a Siren for a Mermaid. The two are very different creatures of the deep.
A siren is –
– a sea nymph (part woman and part bird) supposed to lure sailors to destruction on the rocks where the nymphs lived; “Odysseus ordered his crew to plug their ears so they would not hear the Siren’s fatal song” – enchantress: a woman who is considered to be dangerously seductive
– a warning signal that is a loud wailing sound
– an acoustic device producing a loud often wailing sound as a signal or warning
– eel-like aquatic North American salamander with small forelimbs and no hind limbs; have permanent external gills
A mermaid is –
– half woman and half fish; lives in the sea
– A mermaid is a legendary creature with a female human head and torso (if it’s male, it’s called a merman) and the tail of a fish, which inhabits the water. Some sailors claim to have seen mermaids; what they actually saw are probably manatees. A freshwater mermaid-like creature having two tails is a melusine, or a Nixie. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mermaid
As you can see, they are vastly different, but most of the time, writers will intertwine the traits of each. Often a mermaid will be seen lounging on a rock, singing. Not that some might not sing well (although most legend says they can’t speak at all) .
About the breast issue – most legend sees them as part woman. Yes, yes, families were a groovy part of general type merlegend, but mostly it was the chicks. Hot babes in scales and coconut bosom cups.
Wait…that’s the Rated G version. Cleaned up for Family viewing. Mermaids in coconut bra cups. Good thing scales aren’t transparent.