Mermaids are described as an aquatic creature with the top of a human and the lower half as a fish. Usually the fish tail starts at or just below the hip area with strong tails to propel them through the water. They have also been likened to sirens of the sea that sing beautiful songs to lure sailors to their deaths among the rocks. Some records say mermaids trick men into falling in love with them so they can eat their flesh while others say they are kind creatures who help lost sailors.
There are also reports of males known as mermen but they are less popular and aren't spoken of as much as the females but historical records say they co-exist with the mermaids.
In other cultures, mermaids are said to not look like they do in the media, but more wild. They are sometimes depicted as more fish-like and not with a human body. They are described as having scales all over their humanoid bodies, sharp teeth for eating meat and, webbed hands. I personally believe this is the most realistic and most probable type of mermaid that could exist.
History and Literature
The first mention of a mermaid was in Assyrian literature written in the 1000 BC in. The story told was that of the Goddess Atargatis who was mother to Queen Semiramis of Assyria. The Goddess took a mortal lover, a Sheppard, and had unintentionally killed her love. Upset and ashamed of what she had done, the Goddess jumped into a lake and attempted to turn herself into a fish. However, the lake could not hide or conceal her beauty and so her transformation remained half complete and she now had the tail of a fish from the waist down and remained human above. Thus becoming the first mermaid.
One Thousand and One Nights is another collection of literature that has tails of mermaids. These ones are not described as the traditional half fish and half human though, and instead are said to look like humans but with the ability to breath under water. These beings are referred to as “Sea-People” and are said to breed with people on land. The children don’t have physical differences, they just have the ability to breath under water.
One of the earliest surviving artistic pieces to show a mermaid was carved into stone in the Norman chapel in Durham Castle around 1078. In English folklore, mermaids are said to be bad omens and when seen are a sign something bad is going to happen. In the ballad of Sir Patrick Spens, Mermaids have been said to have spoken to the men on doomed ships at sea before disaster struck. Mermaids have also been spoken of to be monstrous in size in this literature. They are said to grow to 2,000 ft.
Mermaids In Modern Culture
Mermaids have been talked about all through history but really exploded in popularity after Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tail of The Little Mermaid in 1836. After the movie, little girls all over started to obsess over mermaids of all kinds. Ariel helped inspire the mermaid culture and is still the first thing people think of when they hear the word Mermaid. Hans’s depiction of Ariel was inspired by the German water nymph Undine. The only way Undine would be able to have an immortal soul was to marry a human, sound familiar right? Ariel also inspired a bronze statue to be sculpted in Copenhagen Harbor in Denmark. Hans work also helped inspire a ton of other artists in Western culture to Incorporated mermaids into their works.
There are over 130 public mermaid sculptures over the world. Drawings, writings, movies and more all about mermaids have exploded in popularity and continue to grow to this day. They even have mermaid themed drinks such as the Mermaid frappuccino, mermaid water, and other fruity and sometimes alcoholic drinks. They even have mermaid makeup now! Usually it’s shimmery pastel colors that can be used in eye shadows and lipsticks but it is extremely popular. You can find numerous video tutorials and review videos on mermaid makeups and fantasy mermaid makeup looks.
A new trend that popped up rather recently, is elaborate waterproof mermaid tails. People can buy custom mermaid tails and actually swim around like real mermaids. Some of these tails can cost more than $100 if they are customized and made to order. They come in sizes for children and adults and are beautifully made but they take training to learn how to swim in these tails. Some zoos, aquariums and amusement parks have special mermaid exhibits with women who are specially trained to swim and perform for the visitors.
The Mockumentary On Mermaids
May 27, 2012 a film styled as a documentary aired on Animal Planet called “Mermaids: The Body Found”. It was also shown on the Discovery Channel on June 17, 2012. This film was fictional and none of the scientists or witnesses were real but just actors. Because it was filmed to look like a genuine documentary and was shown on Animal Planet and Discovery, both educational channels, a lot of people fully believed this was a real thing. So many people got very excited and it blew up on social media and just in general conversation. All this hype and excitement turned sour very quickly when it was announced that it was NOT a real documentary but a fictional work of art. This was a major slap in the face to a lot of those people who trusted these channels to show factual programs. Others took it better and enjoyed it as a fictional film as it was intended to be.
A sequel to this show aired on May 26, 2013 called “Mermaids: The New Evidence”. This time people knew it was a fake documentary and thus didn't do as well in popularity as the first one. This second film was taken less seriously and was watched as entertainment rather then an educational program.
What got a lot of people was that the first film had such a serious tone and had a lot of scientific ‘evidence’ to back up how mermaids could have evolved from our apelike ancestors. They discussed the aquatic ape hypothesis that honestly sounded like it could have been a legitimate line that could have led to mermaids. It also didn't help any that the program had disclaimers stating it was a fictional work but they were easily missed if viewers didn't pay close enough attention. This also made people upset and felt as though Animal Planet and Discovery wanted people to believe it was a real factual documentary to get more views.
Most sightings of mermaids, or any mythical creature, are hoaxes or fictitious sadly enough. Some of the more well known mermaid sightings are of dead mermaids washed up on beaches. Almost all of these ‘dead mermaids’ have been claimed by artists who sculpted these creatures and placed them on the beaches to trick people into thinking they were real. It’s actually devastating if you think about it, because some of these sculptures are very detailed and look extremely realistic. These could potentially ruin the public's reaction of any legitimate real mermaid or aquatic creature washing up on shore. There have been numerous sightings all through history, written down and crude sketches from sailors and ship captains years and years ago.
With the evolution of videos and digital editing it’s easier then ever to fake those “Caught on camera” videos of sightings. Some videos are clearly fake as the editing is bad and the reactions are usually staged or just non existent. Other videos look like they could be real actual evidence of mermaids in the oceans. Some of these videos are shot by people who don’t know how to edit videos, or it’s an old enough video that it would be difficult to do a good editing job.
Mermaid sightings on video
Opinions Of Scientists
The idea of mermaids isn't just discussed by the public, scientists have thought about them to. They have tried to work out if they could really exist or not, and they have come to their own conclusion that mermaids as they are described with a human top and fish bottom, couldn't not possibly exist in the Oceans. They have five reasons why mermaids can’t exist. One is thermoregulation, the ability to regulate body heat to survive in warm or cold climates. Mermaids don’t exactly have a thick layer of blubber to help keep them warm in the colder waters. Two is that humans and fish are too different to be able to breed and create the mermaid look. The DNA is just not compatible. The third reason from scientists is the reproductive challenges they would face. Humans are mammals and give live birth to their offspring while fish lay eggs that are fertilized outside of the body. Nobody really knows how mermaids reproduce though several theories have been put forward. The fourth challenge is that fish and mammals have different digestive tracts. Humans eat and digest food vastly different from fish or other aquatic life that would cause complications for mermaids when feeding. The fifth reason scientists give is a lack of physical proof. They mean the lack of actual real mermaid bodies and unaltered fool proof video or photo evidence.
While researching mermaids and sorting through all the costumes and Disney princesses, I've found that a lot of mermaids from different cultures are all mostly different. The descriptions are mostly the same with the same base of being half human and half fish but they all have their differences.
It is said that as of 2018 experts believe we have only really explored and mapped approximately 5% of our oceans leaving 95% unknown and unexplored. This is because our oceans cover about 70% of our planet and a lot of the ocean is too dangerous and it’s too deep for us to explore. The Mariana Trench is the deepest part of our ocean that we know about. We have estimated the depth of this trench at 36,070 feet or 10,994 meters. It is possible we could be missing other trenches that are deeper or perhaps there could even be a sort of second layer or ocean under the trench. We have no idea what could possibly be living down in the deep waters. Scientists are discovering new species all the time in the ocean so I personally think it’s foolish for them to dismiss the idea of a type of mermaid living in the oceans.
When I say mermaids most people think of ones that look like Ariel, but in my own opinion I feel like they would look more like the ones in Harry Potter. Not exactly like them, but just to give a reference for you. I think we could have broken off from our ancestors and could have aquatic counterparts. The way I think they would look though is more wild, or primitive in a way. Scales covering the whole body, strong tail fins with a dorsal fin down their spines. Possibly arms like ours but shorter with webbed fingers so they can still grab and catch fish or other items. I think they would be mostly carnivorous feeding on fish and other sea mammals. If they don’t need to breath air then they could remain hidden in the deep depths of the ocean away from humans. Evolutionary senses would help them learn to avoid humans and survive the climate changes. This is what I think mermaids would look like if they are real. I can’t say for certain if they exist or not, but I’d like to believe they are out there in the deep oceans. Smart enough to stay away from us and out of sight. With the information I have provided, along with your own research, do you think mermaids could exist?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Jyoti Sisodia from Bangalore on July 08, 2020:
I love mermaids but do they really exist out there? On youtube, there are many videos which claim the existence of the mermaids in the real world but it still a big mystery. What do you think?