Death and Mermaids

In myths and legends, death isn't a permanent state

Mermaids, Jean Francis Aubertin
Issue #5

Last week, I took a break from writing this. In fact, I took a break from almost everything. My dog, Jacob, who was a huge part of my life and family for over 10 years died. It was quick — about three weeks after we discovered he was ill — and even in death, he looked as if he was only sleeping.

But with death on my mind throughout the week, it obviously came to the forefront as I thought about mermaids too.

What do mermaids do with their dead? Would there ever be a risk of their bodies washing up to shore? In Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, mermaids can live to three hundred but their bodies dissolve into foam after they die.

Why are mermaids associated with death in some cultures? Why do some humans turn into mermaids upon death?

It often seems like in mythology, death is simply another part of the cycle. Something that happens, something that’s not necessarily permanent.

The Little Mermaid | The Literature Network

If you’ve never read the full version of Hans Christian Andersen’s story, it’s available online. It gives the little mermaid a lot of personality and you see more of her family life, as well as her relationship with her sisters. She was more than just a silly girl who wanted to be with a boy she barely knew. She was a girl who wanted to see the world.

Thessalonike of Macedon | Wikipedia

Alexander the Great’s half-sister Thessalonike was said to have turned into a mermaid after she tried to kill herself by jumping into the sea. Reading this has also made me realise that there’s a lot of research on mermaids that may not have been digitised yet.

The Lighthouse and the male fantasy of the mermaid | NewStatesman

Came across this piece while doing my weekly reading. It brings up some fascinating points about how the mermaid is a symbol for unrealised male lust. I found myself wishing that the article would dive deeper into its analysis of The Lighthouse.

I’m still figuring out what this newsletter should look like. At the moment, it’s been mostly me sharing links to stuff I’ve been reading. What else would you like to see? Hit reply and let me know!

Also, if you like what you’ve seen so far, I’d appreciate it if you share with your friends!


I spoke about my experience freelancing during COVID-19 on Splice Low-Res a couple of weeks ago. This newsletter got a mention. If you’re interested in hearing from three other amazing freelancers, here’s the video:

Until next Monday! (Hopefully.)

— Jeannette