In 1403 violent storms broke the dykes near Edam, West Friesland in Holland. The low-lying land was flooded and a mermaid floated in through the broken dyke. Some girls from nearby had taken a boat out to milk their cows and saw a mermaid floundering in shallow muddy water. They brought her home and dressed her in women's clothing and fed her. The mermaid hoped to return to the sea but was carefully watched to prevent any escape. Eventually she was taught to weave and spin and show reverence for a Crucifix, but she could never learn to speak. She lived on land for fifteen years and then died. Because she learned to kneel before the Crucifix she was permitted burial in a churchyard.
Say not the mermaid is a myth, I knew one once named Mrs. Smith. She stood while playing cards or knitting: Mermaids are not equipped for sitting.
'We shall see, while above us
The waves roar and whirl,
A ceiling of amber,
A pavement of pearl.
Singing, 'Here came a mortal,
But faithless was she:
And alone dwell for ever
The kings of the sea.'
Afred Lord Tennyson
I would be a mermaid fair; I would sing to myself the whole of the day; With a comb of pearl I would comb my hair; And still as I comb’d I would sing and say, “Who is it loves me? who loves not me?” I would comb my hair till my ringlets would fall, Low adown, low adown, From under my starry sea-bud crown Low adown and around, And I should look like a fountain of gold Springing alone With a shrill inner sound, Over the throne In the midst of the hall; Till that great sea-snake under the sea From his coiled sleeps in the central deeps Would slowly trail himself sevenfold Round the hall where I sate, and look in at the gate With his large calm eyes for the love of me. And all the mermen under the sea Would feel their immortality Die in their hearts for the love of me.
The straightforward mermaid starts every sentence with “Look . . . ” This comes from being raised in a sea full of hooks. She wants to get points 1, 2, and 3 across, doesn’t want to disappear like a river into the ocean. When she’s feeling despairing, she goes to eddies at the mouth of the river and tries to comb the water apart with her fingers. The straightforward mermaid has already said to five sailors, “Look, I don’t think this is going to work,” before sinking like a sullen stone. She’s supposed to teach Rock Impersonation to the younger mermaids, but every beach field trip devolves into them trying to find shells to match their tail scales. They really love braiding. “Look,” says the straightforward mermaid. “Your high ponytails make you look like fountains, not rocks.” Sometimes she feels like a third gender—preferring primary colors to pastels, the radio to singing. At least she’s all mermaid: never gets tired of swimming, hates the thought of socks.
A word about the Images
Many of the images I've used on this blog have been found over years and years of looking at mermaids (plenty are my own though.) I've asked for permission for most but occasionally I don't remember the source. If you find an image here posted that you don't want up (due to your hard work scanning or drawing it) please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
You are watching live video of the "Ocean Voyager" exhibit at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Ga.