Friday, October 01, 2010

Mermaids in Fantasy

They roam the seas of our imaginations. Half woman, half fish, mermaids are mythical denizens of the ocean. Their presence in our myths reflect our continued fascination and fear of the mystery of the sea. Mermaids, mermen and other mer-folk vary in their appearances in myths and folk tales. Some are helpful, saving lives. At other times they are dangerous, luring humans to their deaths with siren songs. Mermaids appear in Fantasy too in a variety of media.

One of the most famous stories of a mermaid is the fairy tale of “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Anderson. The mermaid falls in love with a human prince. She trades her voice to have legs on land, but can not tell the prince of her love. He marries another woman and she ends tragically like in many fairy tales. This story has inspired several retellings in different forms. Authors such as Charles de Lint use it to add a different twist to the story. Walt Disney Studios made it into a popular, animated musical movie a few years ago, though much of the power of the story is removed by this treatment.

Mermaid’s Song by Alida Van Gores is an Epic Fantasy of an undersea world. The Balance has been stable for years, guarded by the Seadragons. Now only two are left while evil is rising to destroy the sea world. A Between must be chosen to serve the dragons to help restore the Balance. Once the chosen were the Merra, but they are few in number due to an ancient betrayal. Elan is the young mermaid who must find her destiny and save the world. This book is a fascinating story of the ocean with magical creatures and a very different heroine.

Another book with mer-people is Poul Anderson’s The Merman’s Children. In this book the world of Fairy and humans interact closely. Four children of a merman seek their destiny by searching for their father to get some answers from him. It is a story about their lives and the destruction of Fairy at the end of the Middle Ages in Europe. They are persecuted by humanity as magic vanishes from the world. The author writes a strong tale of love and sorrow in a plain, but vivid prose. There is a powerful sense of poignancy in the book.

Mermaids have been the subjects of some popular movies too. Like Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” “Splash” was a funny romantic comedy some years ago. The mermaid fell in love with the character played by Tom Hanks. She follows on to land with some amusing scenes throughtout the movie. There is an old black and white movie about a mermaid also. “Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid” tells the story of a middle-aged man that finds a mermaid. He keeps trying to hide her from his wife and friends with many funny results.

Mermaids and their brethren are found in the mythology and folklore all over the world. Fantasy authors have used them to tell interesting stories of magical undersea worlds. Whether helpful or drawing people to their deaths, they express the human fear and awe of the mystery of the ocean. There are web sites where you can find more information and stories of mermaids. Go explore the undersea worlds.

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