For centuries now mermaid myths and legends have fascinated us. It’s human nature to wonder what it would be like to fly high in the sky like a hawk or scour the depths of the ocean like a fish.
With such a large portion of the planet being covered by water it is little wonder that the subject of mermaids arises so often.
History tell us that tales of mysteries creatures of the deep and Merfolk have always been with us. Why do these half human, half marine creatures capture our imagination so frequently…
Mermaids And Mermen Legends
In Greek mythology there are numerous tales that involve the the god Triton who was thought to be a Merman – a messenger of the sea.
There are many different religions that still survive to this day that worship mermaids and claim that they are goddesses. Both Hinduism and Candomble subscribe to these sea creatures being god-like entities.
The Celtic mermaid myths and legends (Scottish and Welsh) explain that mermaids used to befriend land folk and in some cases even marry them.
But not Merfolk legends are of a positive nature. In secular folklore mermaids were a dreaded sight that would only bring bad luck and disaster to those who spotted them. They were also thought to be sirens that lured sailors off course into jagged outcrops of rock.
The Reality of Mermaids
A great majority of Mermaids and Mermen legends are thought to have come from real encounters. Most of these are of course historical claims but there are a few more modern sightings which we will be covering on this site.
One of my favorite mermaid encounters took place in Holland and I was lucky enough to read about it as a child. It captured my imagination and has stayed with me ever since.
The story/incident dates back to midway through the 1600’s. The story starts with a young mermaid entering the country through one of the old fashioned dykes. She suddenly realized she may be trapped on the wrong side of the dyke and tried to return through injuring herself in the process.
The locals found her and took pity upon her and decided to lend a helping hand. They carried her to a nearby lake and spent the following months nursing her back to full health.
In this time period she learned a lot about human ways and even began to speak the native dutch language. She eventually learned to live on dry land as well as the sea and became a productive citizen of the community.
Captain John Smith
I again found this story as a child in the same book I read about the Dutch sighting. The story itself first surfaced in a book by Edward Snow on mermaid myths and legends.
Captain John Smith was a sea captain that was on a routine journey around the coast of Newfoundland in 1614. He spotted a strange female creature swimming about with grace near his vessel and went to take a closer look.
The creature had overly large eyes and a sort of stunted nose. Her ears were well formed but seemed a little to large for the rest of her head. Event though this mermaid had slightly strange features the captain still insisted she was absolutely beautiful.
It was when he was staring at her long green hair running down her back that he noticed the bottom half of her body to be that of a fish. Captain John Smith claimed he was completely enchanted by her up until that point and had even felt sparks of love shoot through his body.
Legend Makes Way to Hoax
Unfortunately most of the older mermaid myths and legends made way to various hoax attempts by the 1800’s. Certain public showmen realized the potential in the creatures and used it to their advantage.
A famous case was when a showman named P.T. Barnum decided to cash in on the Mermaids and Mermen legends. He carefully constructed a pretty gross mermaid body out of the torso of a dead monkey and half a large fish.
At the time this small creature was convincing enough to have the public fooled but these days we would have easily fingered it as a fake!
In the past certain researchers have claimed the sightings of mermaids could be real enough. But instead of these mythical sea creatures people are actually spotting human sized fish!
Manatees and Dugongs are human sized fish that bear some sort of resemblance to mermaids as they swim across the oceans. Their tail is near enough the spitting image of the mermaid tails we see in ancient drawings and illustrations.
As well as this both fish have sort of human like arms which are very stumpy and short. Up close they bare no real resemblance to mermaids or mermen but keep in mind – most of the documented mermaid sighting have been from a distance!