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Mermaids: 7 Strange Facts about These Mythical Creatures

Find out what mermaids are, what their origin is and where to find these mythical creatures

a couple of mermaids
Mermaids: 7 Strange Facts about These Mythical Creatures.

There is one magical being that has always fascinated human beings, and that is the mermaid. A creature that has become extremely well known in popular culture due to books, movies or songs. Get ready to discover everything about mermaids! 

What are mermaids?

Mermaids are magical creatures that are half human and half animal. If we were to hear this description, we would imagine a beautiful woman that from the waist down has a big fishtail.

In the Greco-Latin culture, however, the torso was human, but the rest of the body was that of a bird. In the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, we can find mortuary statues that look like this while the marine look is found more in Northern legends.

Even though Walt Disney wants us to believe that they are sweet and caring creatures, mermaids were traditionally wicked. The Odyssey tells the story of  singing mermaids that would attract sailors and cause tragic sea accidents. Mermaids were related to the gods of the underworld, which explains their desire to cause harm.    

Magical powers are often attributed to mermaids, and although the most popular depiction is that of a woman, there are also male mermaids. In the Bible we can find up to six mermaid references (Job, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah), however, in modern translations it has been changed to the term “jackal,“ and it is once again presented as a diabolical creature.  

Much like many magical creatures, mermaids have a special gift, and in their case, it is a proclivity for the musical arts.  They are believed to have not only a beautiful singing voice but also great skill when it comes to playing instruments such as the flute or the lyre.    

Where could we find mermaids?

Mermaid stories and legends have been told all over the world. Historically, however, the most important mermaids are the ones that Ulysses allegedly saw on a rocky island which many have identified as being Capri, on the Italian coast.

In fact, the most common thing is to acknowledge the islands as the natural habitat of these magical fantasy creatures.  The Greek poet Hesiod placed them on an island called Antemoesa, while Virgil and Ovid believed they lived in Mermaid Reef, three small rocky islands.

Latin America stood out as a mermaid settlement because of Christopher Columbus who claimed to have seen three of them, and it was also believed that they lived in Assyria, Wales, Ireland, China or Spain, to mention a few.

This doesn’t mean that mermaids can only swim in saltwater: in British folklore, they swim in freshwater rivers and lakes…and they generally have sinister intentions, such as drowning careless humans.  


Seven strange facts about these mythical creatures

You must think that you know quite a lot about the magical creatures that inhabit the bottom of the sea and that sometimes approach the coast to interact with humans. But did you know all of these facts?

1. The difference between the real "Little Mermaid" and that of Disney

Walt Disney's factory-made the story "The Little Mermaid" extremely popular since its release in 1990 when we were introduced to the beautiful Ariel, daughter of King Triton. The movie tells the story of a mermaid that wants to be human and  have  legs, and how in order to do this she must give her most prized possession to a witch: her voice. In the end, the mermaid becomes human and marries a prince she had fallen in love with.

In the original story, however, written by Andersen, the mermaid meets a more tragic end: not only does she not get the love of the real heir, but she ends up taking her own life by jumping in the sea and turning into sea foam.

2. The powerful mermaid milk

There isn't much information about how mermaids are born, but there have been mentions of them nursing their young just like human women do. Believed to be magical, the milk was famous amongst alchemists, and some records mention how for a while, a cunning chemist sold a liquid which he claimed was mermaid milk. 

3. Mermaid mummies

During the 19th and 20th century a lot of traveling circus companies were established as well as circus wagons that showed people riches found all over the world. Among these riches, it was common to find mummified mermaids.

Realistically speaking, these mummies were an “animal Frankenstein,” and  the process involved sewing together the mummy of a monkey with that of a big fish.  Some of these mummies had a decent appearance while others were truly frightening. The most famous one was "The mermaid of Fiji" from the Barnum circus, which was purchased in Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta).

4. Pearls or mermaid tears

Pearls are semi-precious stones that appear in various Hindu and Polynesian legends. In China, specifically, it is said that this biomineral represents mermaid tears  and that is why fishers wanted to catch them. 

5. Mermaids or manatees

 “I saw three mermaids, but they weren't as beautiful as the paintings make them seem.” These words belong to one of the chronicles Christopher Columbus wrote in his Journal when he reached America, more specifically Puerto Rico.

Did the explorer actually run into these magical creatures? Many investigators believe that what Columbus saw were, in fact, a manatee, a large mammal with a similar tail to what mermaids would have had, and with rolls of fat that could have been mistaken for large bosoms.

Other  studies suggest a connection between the mermaid myth and that of another marine animal, the beluga, whose muscle structure could be similar to that of humans and its tail that resembles human legs. 

6. Discovery Channel's controversial documentary

In 2012, the renowned Discovery Channel aired a documentary called: “Mermaids: The Body Found.“ According to the documentary, some scientists had discovered the existence of a marine humanoid, a magical creature similar to mermaids.  

The documentary was meant to portray fiction, but many people believed it was an actual discovery, which caused a lot of criticism and numerous complaints.  

Read all about other Mythical Creatures