For the 1990 movie Mermaids, see Mermaids (movie)
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The statue of The Little Mermaid, a monument to Hans Christian Andersen, in Copenhagen harbour.

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 (if anything) are probably manatees. Others consider this unlikely and regard the mermaid as a composite of sexual symbolism, among other things. The idea that a person could confuse a manatee with something resembling a human female is considered absurd. A freshwater mermaid-like creature having two tails is a melusine, or a Nixie.

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A Mermaid looks up at the legs of a swimmer; 1921 cartoon

In heraldry, the charge of a mermaid is commonly represented with a comb and a mirror, and blazoned as a 'mermaid in her vanity.'

In the 19th century, P. T. Barnum displayed in his museum a taxidermy hoax that was represented as the Feejee (sic) Mermaid.

Sirens in folklore are similar creatures to mermaids. Other related types of mythical or legendary creature are water nymphs or the Banshee (on land).

Mermaid stories first appeared in Assyria, ca. 1000 BCE. Atargatis, the mother of legendary Assyrian queen Semiramis, was a goddess who loved a mortal shepherd and in the process killed him. Ashamed, she jumped into a lake to take the form of a fish, but the waters would not conceal her divine nature. Thereafter, she took the form of a mermaid - human above the waist, fish below, though the earliest representations of Atargatis showed her as being a fish with a human head and legs, similar to the Babylonian Ea, precursor of the Biblical Noah. The Greeks recognized Atargatis under the name Derketo, where she was often conflated with Aphrodite.

Lucian of Samosata in Syria (2nd century CE) in De Dea Syria ("Concerning the Syrian Goddess") wrote of the Syrian temples he had visited. Among them - Now that is the traditional story among them concerning the temple. But other men swear that Semiramis of Babylonia, whose deeds are many in Asia, also founded this site, and not for Hera [Atargatis] but for her own Mother, whose name was Derketo:

I saw the likeness of Derketo in Phoenicia, a strange marvel. It is woman for half its length, but the other half, from thighs to feet, stretched out in a fish's tail. But the image in the Holy City is entirely a woman, and the grounds for their account are not very clear. They consider fishes to be sacred, and they never eat them; and though they eat all other fowls, they do not eat the dove, for she is holy so they believe. And these things are done, they believe, because of Derketo and Semiramis, the first because Derketo has the shape of a fish, and the other because ultimately Semiramis turned into a dove. Well, I may grant that the temple was a work of Semiramis perhaps; but that it belongs to Derketo I do not believe in any way. For among the Egyptians, some people do not eat fish, and that is not done to honor Derketo. (Part 2:ch14 )

It is said in Japan that eating the flesh of a Mermaid can grant unaging immortality.


Mermaids in fiction

Mermaids are present in many books and films, becoming one of the most popular creatures of pop culture. The first time a mermaid was envisioned within her own culture was apparently the one in The Little Mermaid of Hans Christian Andersen, which was embodied in a bronze sculpture in Copenhagen harbor and much later was turned into a Disney movie of the same name.

Other popular movies to feature a mermaid were Miranda, starring Glynis Johns and Splash, starring Daryl Hannah and Tom Hanks. Hannah played a mermaid who fell in love with a man. She could walk dry land as a human female, but whenever water touched her legs they morphed into a fish-tail, and much of the movie revolves around her humourous attempts to conceal her deformity from her lover.

L. Frank Baum (creator of Oz) wrote a novel about merfolk, The Sea Fairies.

Mermaids and Mermen (called Merpeople) are present in the Harry Potter series, specifically in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

For many years, The comic book hero Superman had a romantic love interest with a mermaid woman called Lori Lemaris (one of Superman's "LL" connections: Lex Luthor, Lana Lang, Lois Lane, Lori Lemaris). The name Lori Lemaris was probably drawn from Lorelei rock in the Rhine added to maris from the Latin mare meaning ocean.

Advertising characters from television commercials include the Chicken of the Sea Mermaid who was the cartoon mascot for a brand of tuna.

Also of note was the made-for-cable movie "Mermaids" that aired on the PAX network in 2003; it starred Nikita Ager, Sarah Laine and Erika Heynatz. It was about a trio of mermaid sisters that solve their father's murder (not to be confused with the Cher movie of the same title, which is not about mermaids).

She Creature (2001) featured a villainous mermaid who seemed to have a taste for flesh and lesbian tendencies, captured by sailors.

Mermaids are also fictional creatures in the Dungeons and Dragons game. They are the females of the merfolk race. The males are known as mermen.

Modern representations of mermaids

Coat of Arms of Warsaw
Coat of Arms of Warsaw

A shield and sword-wielding mermaid (Syrenka) is the official Coat of Arms of Warsaw, the capital of Poland.

See also

External links


de:Meerjungfrau eo:Sireno fo:Havfrgv fr:Sirne nl:Zeemeermin ja:人魚 pl:Syrena (mitologia) ru:Русалка sv:Sjjungfru zh:人魚


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