Contemplating bird wings for my last post got me pondering other animal attributes we humans envy, which then led me to thinking about mermaids.
I’m not sure what it is about mermaids that is so alluring. Is it our fascination with beings that can exist in multiple realms? Why else would we fantasize about having fishtails instead of legs? Personally, I think I’d rather be able to fly like a bird.
Yet, when I was a young girl I dreamed of being Marine Boy‘s helpful mermaid friend, Neptina – or at least getting hold of some of that oxy-gum . . .
The mythology of mermaids goes back thousands of years and across multiple cultures.
Often they were considered dangerous, luring men to their doom with their sensual beauty and seductive voices.
They were known to be vain, fond of looking at themselves in mirrors and combing their hair.
Some theorize that what early mariners saw as mermaids were actually manatees.
Really? Those poor sailors . . .
But by the 17th century mermaids had moved from the feared to the fantastic,
landing eventually in the realm of fairy tales, the most famous being Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.”
Andersen’s story was a tragic tale of misguided love and sacrifice, a subject of many beautiful illustrations.
And then Disney got hold of her and she became the insipid creature many girls now idolize. At least Neptina had some spine.
One day at an outdoor community pool about five summers ago my daughters and I watched, mesmerized, as a young girl wearing a mermaid tail lowered herself into the water and started swimming around, mermaid style. From a distance, she looked amazingly realistic and the scene, in spite of it being set in a chlorinated, square enclosure, was charming. After she removed her tail (the pretense looked like hard work) we went up and spoke to her. She said she got the idea and the DIY mermaid costume instructions off of YouTube.
Currently you can find thousands of videos online of people “mermaiding.” My teen-aged daughter follows a site called Project Mermaids where models and celebrities pose for photos in elaborate mermaid costumes to demonstrate “how precious our ocean and beaches are.”
Maybe it’s not just the idea of being able to exist in multiple realms that makes us envy those with wings and tails, but also the idea of defying gravity, either underwater or above ground.
I guess it’s human nature to want to be more than human.