Mae Clair’s Mythical Monday: Mesmerized by Mermaids

I’ve been holding off addressing nautical folklore and sea myths on my Mythical Monday posts, saving them for closer to the release of my contemporary romance/mystery TWELFTH SUN. I’m still on schedule for August having just wrapped my second round of content edits, but the pull of the sea is hard to resist 🙂

TWELFTH SUN is the name of a 19th Century schooner I invented. An artifact from the ship becomes the focal point of a treasure hunt in which my novel’s hero and heroine find themselves competing. Ship lore has always fascinated me, so it was fun to sprinkle a few tidbits and superstitions throughout the book. No mythical creatures, however, so I thought I’d share some of those my blog, starting with the mermaid.

bigstock-Mermaid-13710524We’ve all heard the speculation that ancient mariners mistook the manatee for a mermaid, a belief that has always left me scratching my head. Don’t get me wrong – – I love manatees. They’re graceful in the water and gentle, but a man would have to be seriously lonely or swilling too much rum to mistake a 1200 lb. aquatic mammal for a sea nymph. Can you imagine the disappointment when reality set in?

But let’s assume mermaids did exist. Disney put a lovely HEA spin on the story of the Little Mermaid. As a child, I remember the fairytale ending differently and was saddened the mermaid and her prince couldn’t be together. In the original rendition, mermaids lack a soul, becoming sea foam when they die unlike humans who live for eternity.

One day the Little Mermaid spies a ship in the distance and immediately falls in love with a handsome prince she sees onboard. A storm arrives and he is tossed into the sea, unconscious, at the mercy of the waves. The Little Mermaid saves him and takes him ashore, staying beside him until she sees a human girl approaching.  She slips into the sea before the prince awakes. When he does recover, he finds the human girl at his side and mistakenly believes she has rescued him.

Days pass, but the Little Mermaid is unable to forget her prince. Desperate to be with him, she visits a sea witch who gives her a potion in exchange for her beautiful voice. The potion gives her legs but every step she takes is agony, as if she is walking on swords. The witch tells her she will gain a soul if the prince loves her and marries her. Through true love’s kiss she will become a human but, should he marry another, she will turn into sea foam at dawn of the next day.

In love with her prince, the Little Mermaid drinks the potion. She finds him at his palace,Lavender Mermaid but now mute, is unable to tell him she loves him or that she saved him from the sea. He is kind and attentive, but his heart belongs to the girl he believes rescued him. Eventually, he marries her and the Little Mermaid’s heart is broken.

That night, her sisters bring her a knife from the witch. She has one final chance to save herself– kill the prince before dawn, and she can return to the sea as a mermaid. Unable to do it, the Little Mermaid throws herself into the sea at daybreak, expecting to become foam. Instead, she is welcomed by the Daughters of the Air and told she will be granted a soul after 300 years of helping others.

Yeah.

Alrighty then.

I’m sure a lesson lurks in there somewhere, but I much prefer the Disney ending with the Little Mermaid marrying her prince. Even as a kid, I was all about an HEA. I’m all for classics, but sometimes you have to wonder about the guys who were writing them.

That aside, not all mermaids were interested in romantic love, especially with a human. They had strong devoted meremen of their own. In certain legends mermaids behaved much like the sirens of Greek mythology who lured sailors to their doom with enchanted signing.  In some tales they rescued men from storm-tossed seas, while in others they spirited them to their underwater kingdom, drowning them in the process. As with most mythical creatures, there is a touch of beguiling enchantment and a darker side to the mermaid legend.

Which do you prefer?

16 thoughts on “Mae Clair’s Mythical Monday: Mesmerized by Mermaids

    • I had to look up Ondine. I’m very tempted to check it out. I’ve also seen several movies with selkies, but they usually have sad endings.

      Yeah, the original Little Mermaid fairytale definitely lacked in warm fuzzies. I remember being so saddened by the ending.

  1. I’ve never seen The Little Mermaid, believe it or not, but I always pictured mermaids as mischievous nymphs. Although, I always pictured the HEA’s with them as well. I guess it’s that innocent beauty they’ve portrayed them to have. Not the evil devious type. Great post. Really had me thinking!

    • I haven’t actually seen the Disney version but I know it has a lovely HEA at the end (thank you Disney!). I always envision mermaids as being micheivous too, frolicking in a magical underwater kingdom. I’m glad you enjoyed the post! 🙂

  2. Oh, I always vote for the HEA. In fact, if a story doesn’t have one, I rewrite it in my head. LOL (I had to change the ending of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” for that very reason!) Another great post — and I can’t wait for this book to come out. 🙂 August sounds like a perfect time of year for it too.

    • I’m glad I’m not the only who had to imagine Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ending differently! HEA’s are a must, LOL!

      TWELFTH SUN is set in a coastal town, so yeah, I guess August really is a good mesh. 🙂 Sun, the beach and romance. You have me looking forward to it too! 😀

  3. Mae – I’m not willing to give a mermaid anything less than complete and total happiness. I think you know me well enough by now to know that I’m very much a woman with two feet on the ground – but hey – you have me reading time travel and a werewolf so what’s next? You have a feisty way of setting the unsuspecting up and drawing them into your wonderful reads.

    • What a compliment! 🙂 Thank you, Sheri. And grounded or not, I love your view of giving a mermaid complete and total happiness. I’m also thrilled that I got you to venture into time travel and werewolves for a brief foray, LOL!

  4. Well I have to say I learned something about mermaids…didn’t know about the sea foam part, nor about the original story. Very interesting:)…. I do have to say like the mermaid that gets into some trouble but as mentioned in previous post has a good heart.

    • Hello, and lovely to see you here again! The original fairytale was quite the bummer (I’m showing my age, LOL). I always enjoy a story with trouble to keep things interesting, but need that HEA on the end. A good heart for a heroine (or hero) is so important! Thanks for popping in and commenting!.

  5. Sad to say but the first thing I thought when I read the part about mistaking a manatee for a mermaid was…those had to be some serious beer goggles. 😉

    Having said that, I’m familiar with their joint history with siren lore…and this is one of those cases where I much prefer the Disney version…and not just because I love Sebastian’s calypso music. 😀

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