Are Mermaids Real or a Myth?
We explore tails and legends from around the world.
The Myths & Legends of Mermaids from Around the World
Mermaid mythology stands out from other widespread tall tales because of the different ways that these sea monsters have been portrayed throughout history. Some believe them to be magical and kind beings, while others think of them as signs of impending doom. Mermaid sightings have been reported throughout history, despite the fact that they are typically thought of as fictitious creatures. This raises the question, Are there really mermaids?
Assyria was an ancient civilization that once stood in what is now northern Iraq. Assyria is where the earliest recorded mermaid folklore originated. The first mermaid, according to the legend (which dates back to roughly 1,000 BC), was the goddess Atargatis. She accidentally kills the human shepherd she had fallen in love with. The goddess was so humiliated that she plunged herself into a lake with the intention of turning into a fish for all time, but the lake could not hide the goddess’ beauty. She then transformed into the first mermaid, taking on a human upper body and a fish tail.
According to myths from antiquity, Alexander the Great’s sister was transformed into a mermaid after she passed away, and her spirit eventually found its way to the Aegean Sea. “Is King Alexander alive?” the mermaid enquired when a ship passed by her one day. He was indeed alive and ruling the globe, was the reply. She was so happy to hear this that she calmed the sea so the sailors could travel through it securely.
The mermaid is revered as a marvel in Asian cultures. Chinese folklore claims that mermaids are capable of crying pearl-forming tears. Additionally, they had the ability to knit a priceless material that was as white as frost and could never get wet. Fishermen were interested in mermaids because of these factors. However, because mermaids were seen to be the pinnacle of elegance and beauty, fisherman who sailed ship to chase them were looked down upon.
Without the Western idea of a human torso, the Japanese version of this fabled creature was portrayed in a more horrific manner. Instead, they just possessed a fish body and a human head. This strangely shaped creature possessed mystical abilities, and its flesh had the potential to endow its diner with eternal life. Any capture was, however, returned to the water because it was believed that catching one would bring about storms and bad luck. If a mermaid washed ashore on the shore, it was a sign of coming conflict or disaster.
Mermaid sighting claims have started to surface in more recent ages from all across the world. In the 15th and 16th centuries, for instance, sailors frequently reported coming with mermaids while on their lengthy trips. Marine mammals that resembled the legendary creatures, such as manatees or dugongs, were usually blamed for these encounters.
Manatees have frequently been mistaken for mermaids, as is widely known. In fact, during his voyage to the Americas in 1493, Christopher Columbus himself is credited with mistaking manatees for mermaids. The animals he encountered, according to his journal, had “not much hair, a face like a man, and several quite black scales.” When Columbus saw that the creatures he had seen were not the lovely maidens he had pictured, his initial enthusiasm quickly gave way to regret.
The mermaid is less popular in Britain since they think she is the cause of all the bad luck at sea. While some mermaid stories assert that mermaids are unaware of or mistaken about humans’ inability to breathe underwater, the mermaid is typically depicted as a cunning creature with the objective of luring sailors and leading them to a watery doom. For British seafarers, spotting a mermaid is a clear indication of bad luck.
Naturally, no discussion on mermaids would be complete without mentioning the myth that served as the basis for the beloved Disney movie The Little Mermaid. The original Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, published in 1837, was sanitized for this animated film. The story was inspired on myths of incredibly attractive mermaids who would lose their scales and walk among us as human ladies.
Despite the fact that their existence has never been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, mermaid sightings continue today. After numerous people claimed to have witnessed a mermaid leaping like a dolphin off the coast, a community in Israel allegedly offered a $1 million reward to anyone who could demonstrate their existence. According to many folklorists, the bulk of reported mermaid sightings were actually falsely interpreted seal sightings.
Beyond misidentifications, optical tricks or hoaxes have also been blamed for certain mermaid sightings. Stories about mermaids have frequently originated in coastal areas where fishing and seafaring are common. The play of light and shadow on the water’s surface can produce illusions that resemble the fabled figures under specific lighting circumstances, such as at dawn or twilight.
As numerous tales demonstrate, different societies have had various perspectives on mermaids. Some mermaids, like Atargatis, were worshipped and thought to be divine. Other civilizations regarded mermaids as sophisticated con artists who were always willing to prey on the helpless, making them more afraid of them.
Sightings of mermaids have historically been taken as portents of impending storms and shipwrecks. And mermaids were sometimes thought of as predatory beings that enjoyed pulling humans to the ocean in order to drown them, just like the sirens of ancient Greek mythology. However, other legends claim that mermaids may grant wishes and heal serious illnesses. Some mermaids even get married and cohabit with humans.
Do Mermaids Really Exist?
It’s no secret that humans have been enthralled by the prospect of this creature for thousands of years. But mermaid myths weren’t solely invented for human amusement. Myths are made up to attempt to explain the unfathomable. Because of this, some societies prior to the development of modern science and technology attributed storms and other catastrophic natural occurrences to mermaids.
It’s vital to keep in mind that some of the most bizarre sea species that are well-known and studied now were once unheard of, even if the presence of mermaids has never been established. Who knows, then? On your subsequent dive, you might become the first person to ever capture a live mermaid on camera.
While reports of mermaid sightings are still captivating our imagination, it is important to view them critically. Humans have always been drawn to mermaids because of our love with mystery, enchantment, and the exploration of the unknown. Mermaids continue to be deeply ingrained in our cultural awareness as images of beauty, allure, and the mysteries of the sea, whether they are based in folklore, myth, or sincere belief. We like to think that mermaids are out there and we hope to personally see one soon!