Why is This Creature Female?

stories, myths and legends about mermaids from around the world

Havfrue, By Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann
Issue #2

One of the ideas that keeps playing in my head is that before they were called mermaids, these creatures were once called sirens.

In Greek and Roman mythology, these were creatures that called out to sailors, luring them to a tragic death at sea. (It’s where the phrase “siren song” comes from.)

It makes sense — the transition from siren to mermaid. But what I’m curious about is how this creature went from a bird-woman to a fish-woman. The other thing that gets me is: Why is she female?

Was the mermaid (and other monsters) created as a way to explain nature’s deviants? People who didn’t look a certain way, behave the way there were supposed to?

I have more questions than answers, but anyway, on to what I’ve been reading this week:

Surgical Humanization in H. C. Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” | Marvels & Tales, Volume 31, Number 2, 2017, pp. 295-312

In this article, Lori Yamato examines Andersen’s The Little Mermaid through a disability studies lens and focuses on the body aspect of the little mermaid. The story is typically seen as a tragic love story, or on the other hand, a moralistic tale. But perhaps there’s more to it than that. After all, not only does she not get the prince. She doesn’t get a soul either.

We Need To Talk About Starbucks's Siren Logo | Buzzfeed

This is a LOL piece about the origins of the Starbucks logo. You probably already know that the woman on the Starbucks logo is a siren (or two-tailed mermaid). This article goes into a little bit more detail on that. But what’s really interesting about this piece is the comments. There are people citing The Odyssey (lol).

Water spirit | Wikipedia

Good ole Wikipedia is always a good place to start reading on any topic. I once wrote an essay (for a TV studies elective in uni) about how Wikipedia was a good source because in a sense, it’s “peer-reviewed”. It’s also a rabbit hole that leads from one tunnel to another. If you’re looking for a good way to spend an afternoon while in “lockdown”, try Wikipedia. Let me know what you find.

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I started reading Goddesses by Joseph Campbell over the weekend. Are you reading anything about mermaids, myths or supernatural events? Tell me about it!

Until next Monday! (Hopefully.)