Stay with us down in the deep
Mermaids are those naughty, spritely waifish half-human-half-fishy creatures that seem to be constantly getting pirates, sailors and seafarers of all descriptions into icy cold and very deep water at the drop of a well-handled tri-corn hat!
One of the first mentions of a mermaid, or creature resembling as closely as such, is recorded in ancient Assyrian legend, and mermaids are also commonly associated with the Greek legend of Sirens, the seductive songstresses who lure men to their deaths. Yet over the years mermaid, merman and merfolk legend has not only been sustained – it has diversified and grown, which is not surprising given how much of our planet is covered in that life giving watery stuff, and how many bizarre and beautiful creatures dwell beneath the waves.
Like any legend the facts and fantasies surrounding merfolk are many and varied, but rarely it seems do they bring good news as they are often depicted as the harbingers of storms, death, and the knowledge that one would never see land again. Mermaids also feature in Scottish, Irish, Chinese, Eastern and Western European and African culture, just to mention a few, and so it seems that just about anywhere human’s went to sea they encountered these creatures – in whatever guise matched their own cultural beliefs - who were in turns beguiling them to their deaths, entertaining them with tricks or capturing their hearts. However of the more common threads that flow through merfolk legend, the one that is perhaps the most telling is that they cannot survive out of the water and that they are tied to the sea much as sailors and pirates often feel they are bound to it, and perhaps it is this sense of affinity that both captured their seafarers imagination and terrified them at the same time. The fear that they cannot leave the sea nor survive without it.