What is a Mermaid? A mermaid is an aquatic humanoid with the upper body of a female human and the tail of a fish. These aquatic humanoids have appeared in folklore of many different cultures including Europe, Asia, Africa and Near East. These stories have first started in ancient Assyria in which the goddess Atargatis transformed herself into a mermaid out of shame for accidentally killing her human lover.
According to Wikipedia (2013), ” Mermaids are sometimes associated with perilous events such as floods, storms, shipwrecks and drownings. In other folk traditions (or sometimes within the same tradition), they can be benevolent or beneficent, bestowing boons or falling in love with humans. Mermaids are associated with the mythological Greek sirens as well as with sirenia, a biological order comprising dugongs and manatees. Some of the historical sightings by sailors may have been misunderstood encounters with these aquatic mammals. Christopher Columbus reported seeing mermaids while exploring the Caribbean, and sightings have been reported in the 20th and 21st centuries in Canada, Israel and Zimbabwe. The U.S. National Ocean Service stated in 2012 that no evidence of mermaids has ever been found. Mermaids have been a popular subject of art and literature in recent centuries, such as in Hans Christian Andersen’s well-known fairy tale “The Little Mermaid” (1836). They have subsequently been depicted in operas, paintings, books, films and comics.
The word mermaid is a compound of the Old English mere (sea), and maid (a girl or young woman). The equivalent term in Old English was merewif. They are conventionally depicted as beautiful with long flowing hair. As cited above, they are sometimes equated with the sirens of Greek mythology (especially the Odyssey), half-bird femme fatales whose enchanting voices would lure soon-to-be-shipwrecked sailors to nearby rocks, sandbars or shoals.
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