We’ve all stuck our feet in a pillowcase to pretend we lived under the sea after a viewing of The Little Mermaid. Oh, that was just me? Nevermind.
Basically, I would have ordered my own custom mermaid tail. There’s just something about those half-human, half-fish ladies that draws me in like a siren to the sea. You don’t see many myths about half-lobster ladies or half-eel ladies, but stick a half-fish in there and I’m hooked.
According to ancient legend - or in my case, Wikipedia - the first mermaid was the Assyrian goddess Atargatis. She was so madly in love with a human shepherd that she accidentally killed him with her goddess-powers. To escape her grief, Atargatis flung herself into the ocean with the hope of becoming a fish. But then her goddess powers failed her again. Because she was too beautiful to be a fish, Atargatis instead became a half goddess with a tail below the waist and a human body above.
Mermaids have maintained their status as a symbol of beauty. Using their feminine wiles, these mythic beings would lure fishermen to their deaths at sea or entrap them in a giant storm. When they were feeling more benevolent, tales told of mermaids teaching humans how to cure their illnesses.
Chinese legend says that a mermaid’s tail will smell of happiness and men would hunt them down for a chance to smell their tails. Has Chanel figured out how to bottle that scent yet?
Growing up in Florida, I had a grand dream of becoming a Weeki Wachee Springs mermaid. No, not a manatee (did you know that fishermen used to think sea cows were mermaids?), I’m talking about the underwater spectacle that has been going on for 65 years. While wearing synthetic mermaid tails and breathing through submerged air hoses instead of scuba gear, these ladies perform synchronized dances in the spring waters. My dreams of becoming a performer in the City of Live Mermaids were sadly dashed when my doctor told me it would be too dangerous for an asthmatic like me.
What I’m really saying is I think Ariel got it wrong. I’d rather splish-splash with Flounder under the sea than give up my fins for Prince Eric.
Read more about our flippered friends in Forgive My Fins, Fins are Forever and Just for Fins, by Tera Lynn Childs.