For those familiar with the Arielan era, they well know of Disney’s sweet siren who sought advice from a surly sea monster and wished for nothing more than to walk on land as people do. She was every little girl’s favorite vivacious vixen, yet this famous fairytale lurks even deeper than Hans Christian Andersen, to centuries back in which weary sailors reported incidents of shipwrecks and drownings caused by none other than these captivating mythological merfolk. Accounts span history in the form of journal entries, artwork, architecture, and myth. Here is 8 reasons why people believe in mermaids.
8. A Sailor Never Lies
For centuries, sailors believed of sultry sirens known to bring bad luck and death in the most untimely manner by way of storms, shipwrecks and drowning. Sightings were recorded and passed through word of mouth, to suggest mermaids were a misrepresentation of harmonious beauty, and rather brought upon bad luck and destruction. Stories recounted in early history tell of mysterious sea maidens who bewitched pirates and crewman alike, demanding their gold and dragging them to the depth of the ocean floor. Journal entries from the famed Christopher Columbus, Captain John Smith, and an English sailor by the name of Blackbeard give reason to believe these encounters began from an early age of discovery. Between 1879 and 1890, several sightings off the coast of Vancouver and Victoria warned of trouble at sea through unexplainable visions of women lost at sea, luring in sailors through song and instrument. In June of 1881, five sightings were reported by a Pennsylvania fisherman in the Susquehanna river. It is through voyageurs of the sea that these accounts have surfaced and maintained a fascinating role in art and history. So much so, that the mermaid myth began and rely on the oath of seamen and sailors.
7. Christopher Columbus
Based on the popularity of this likable figurehead and his grand reputation for self discovery, the explorer requires a category of his own. This infamous voyager who played a part in the exploration of the New World was someone we trust, right? In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, or so the old adage goes. Sure, he may not have been the friendliest of guys, but he is a namesake regarding the famed Age of Discovery and for that alone his findings may warrant a little credit. Historical accounts depict Columbus’ voyage toward the Caribbean upon which he reportedly saw a mermaid through the eyes of his very own telescope. On January 9th1493, the year after which his catchy jingle consumed kindergarten classrooms everywhere, Columbus reports not one but three mermaids that rose from the sea’s surly surface. The problem? According to the journal entry that acknowledges this anomaly, the mermaids were quite different than the beautiful women of myth– as these appeared twisted, old and ugly. Poor Columbus… at least he’s got one victory under his belt.
6. Greek Mythology
If our Greek forefathers believed in mermaids than there’s cause that we should too. For example, they implemented the justice system; Hippocrates founded medicine; Archimedes, considered one of the greatest mathematicians in history, became well known for running down the street naked shouting the famous words, “Eureka!”; and further, let’s not rule out Aristotle who is still considered one of the most influential thinkers in ethic and politics. Oh, and Homer, who fathered two of the greatest poems in the history of world literature, Odyssey and Iliad, classic epics which had a profound impact and influence on society — would he lie to us? Don’t let his lack of eyesight fool anyone… he may not have seen proof of mermaids but his peers certainly did. Generally whatever the Greeks say, goes.
The myth on mermaids date back to the Babylonian period, as Mesopotamian artworks portray female forms with fishtail bodies. Greek coins bore the face of Demetrius III Eucaerus on one side and a fish with the head of a woman on the other. Around 546 BC., the philosopher Anaximander claimed that all people were stemmed from an underwater human race— an interesting claim considering unborn babies begin breathing in the womb, adapting to air soon after. A famous legend depicts Thessalonike, sister of Alexander the Great, who was transformed into a mermaid upon her death. The sibling bond was so strong that Thessalonike forbade sailors from their voyage to ask about her brother’s wellbeing, unto which the speech was given: “He lives and reigns and conquers the world.” At these words the sassy seamaiden would calm the seas and bid the team a safe journey; any opposing answer would result in a great rage foreboding doom, destruction, and death.
Accounts from sailors dating back centuries has kept the mermaid myth circulating in folklore and fairytale. Folklorists and mythographers record stories dotting the globe, and for those in the United Kingdom, mermaids are not a pleasant bunch. Their fictional representations of merpeople indicate omens of disastrous misfortune, as the mermaids go so far as to provoke such fate upon the innocent.
China features a beautiful composition of Chinese myth and geographical illustration within a text known as the Shanhaijing. Stories and hints of truth encompass quotations of mermaid sightings and evidence, as 15th century literature tells of sweet sea creatures who fall in love with fisherman. As early as the 4th century BC., a legend of a mermaid involves her being captured at sea, and stolen home by a sailor who makes her his wife. The siren is depicted as covered in a very fine hair with beautiful colors, and after his death she returns to her home in the sea, bidding a positive farewell to those in the village of which she was brought. As for Hinduism, the popular Cambodian and Thai tales pay witness to a princess by the name of Suvannamaccha, translating to ‘golden mermaid.’ The girl is the daughter of a honored member of the great King Ramayana’s kingdom, and dutiful follower of Shiva, and she plays an important role in Asian art and literature.
In the famous collection of Middle Eastern folktales compiled during the Islamic Golden age, One Thousand and One Nights is a series that was written with the intention to avoid any imminent ending. Here depicts various fairy tales of mysterious mermaids– one in particular being “Djullanar the Sea-Girl,” yet the figures are less fish-like and bear the likeness of humans. The characters in this lengthy installment of legend and lore offer people who are able to live and breathe underwater, and their unions with land-bound dwellers cause their children to survive under the sea as well.
4. Historical Encounters
If something has been claimed for centuries, than there may be cause to believe it’s real– right? As we’ve learned here, mermaid sightings date back passed medieval times, when mermaids were spoken of as casually as other aquatic sea life. As far back as the 1600’s tell a “true story” of a mermaid who was injured while entering Holland through a levee. Another account from 1604 has the famed sea captain Captain John Smith, journaling of a mysterious mer-creature off the coast of Jamestown. He purportedly goes as saying, “she was swimming about with all possible grace,” with a description to follow of having “long green hair that was by no means unattractive.” The logbook of the famed English sailor by the name of Blackbeard, bears notes of instruction to have all crewman steer away from ‘enchanted’ waters, or so he recorded. Supposedly there were several voyages in which Blackbeard and his team witnessed such underwater phenomenon, yet they were in no way pleasant and instilled fear in the members of the ship. Throughout history and spanning the globe there have been accounts of humanoid life under the sea; so here the true question remains of how can so many people be wrong?
3. For Art’s Sake
In 1990 Disney rendered its own version of a sweet sea dweller whose one desire was to walk on land as people do. Yet this isn’t where the myth began, and it didn’t start with the famous 1836 fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen, either. While these two works of art helped popularize the tale of The Little Mermaid, artwork, text and illustration reach back for centuries. Perhaps the oldest representation of a mermaid girl is portrayed on the stone pillar of Durham Castle in the British Isles, built in 1078 a group of Saxon stonemasons; By way of artwork and illustration, a mural of an unknown date features the mermaid princess Suvannamaccha, and adorns a wall of a famous temple, Wat Phra Kaew, in Thailand. Grand statues of mermaids can be found all over the world with a particularly famous bronze sculpture, also by the name of The Little Mermaid, was inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen tale and portrays a young mermaid girl perched atop a rock formation in the harbour of Copenhagen. This influenced further works such as Oscar Wilde’s The Fisherman and His Soul, and Sue Monk Kidd’s famous novel, The Mermaid Chair, based off of the legends of the mermaid of Zennor.
In 1604 a beautiful illustration titled, ‘A Most Strange and True Report of a Monstrous Fish’ relays one of the earliest printed reports of an actual mermaid sighting. In the Museum of the City of Mexico, mermaid followers can view a 17th century fountain which showcases an illustrious mermaid playing the guitar, her flowing hair in continual harmony with the running water. Musical representations are famous as well, such as the 1993 orchestral piece The Crying Mermaid, composed by Taiwanese professor Ko Fan-Long. More contemporary films shed a fun limelight on the Mermaid myth, including 1984’s Splash starring Tom Hanks, and the 2011 film The Pirate’s of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, featuring Johnny Depp.
For those unfamiliar with a term known as ‘mermaid syndrome’, there is an extremely rare congenital disorder in which an infant is born with his or her legs fused together, in what would closely resemble the lower body of a merman or mermaid. In a condition that shares a resemblance of the effect on conjoined twins, one out of every 100,000 live births result in this anomaly known as Sirenomelia, and typically result in death early on due to kidney and liver failure. As of 2003, there are only four known survivors of ‘Mermaid Syndrome’ or, Sirenomelia.
1. Recent Sightings
In August of 2009 off the Israeli coastal town of Kiryat Yam, a reward of 1 million dollars was offered to prove the existence of a mermaid leaping out of Haifa Bay waters. Aerial tricks by the mermaid were seen by dozens of people over the course of a few months. In Zimbabwe in February of 2012, two mermaids reportedly harassed reservoir workers from the site of two separate reservoirs Gokwe and Mutare, and according to the water resources minister the work was left unfinished.
Science renders legitimate claims against the reality of underwater sea people, citing manatees and whales as the source of skepticism. Society happily allowed the myth of Santa Clause to lie, yet there were never reports of this jolly gift-giver dating back since the beginning of time. Rely on facts and logistics as one will, though the real truth is that mermaids have influenced every genre from sculpture, to theatre, to music and literature, and most importantly– historical documentation Therefore we have 8 reasons why people believe in mermaids, and perhaps why you should too.