Oh, to be able to swim underwater without any apparatus or device for breathing, to swim and play in the warm waters, fast as a dolphin, and half as smart. Mermaids live deep in our imaginations, perhaps from our aquatic beginnings. We don’t want to be fish, we just want to live like one.
Have you spotted the trend in myths, legends, and folklore? Something or someone is given an ability to do what a “normal” human cannot. Create fire. Fly. Change. Breathe under water. We don’t like our limitations; but we don’t just sit back and take it. We do something about it! We invent airplanes. We invent SCUBA equipment. And nuclear power plants. And, not only that, but if you just so happen to be a magical creature who can fly, breathe in water, or have other powers, there is always a cost. Usually a really BIG one, such as, um, you don’t have a soul. And that hardly EVER works out!
Mermaids or sirens have beautiful singing voices, but no souls. Their primary function is to lure love-starved sailors to their watery graves. (Maybe they’re working in conjunction with Davey Jones to fill up his locker.) And when they do have heart and soul, it never ends well. Only Disney or Tom Hanks has the power to re-write classic stories so everything ends up rainbows and waterspouts.
But, oh, when I was little, I wanted to be a mermaid. In the summer, at the pool, I would cross my feet together and swim under water for as long as I could, pretending I was a mermaid. I wanted long, beautiful hair, and a heartbreaking singing voice. I wanted a shimmery, iridescent tail and talking dolphins for friends.
To read about how mermaids have been used as curious attractions and in stories, go here: