Published on Jan 11, 2020

Mermaid Background Images

License Info: Creative Commons 4.0 BY-NC

The official explanation of the mermaid myth goes like this. Sailors see manatees, walruses or seals, and mistake them for women with a fish’s tail. It is claimed that even famous explorers like Christopher Columbus and Henry Hudson have made this error because they also reported seeing these creatures. As did John Smith, who became the Governor of the Virginia Colony in the early 17th century. So are we to believe that even Columbus, Hudson and Smith were so stupid as to mistake a sea cow or walrus for a mermaid? These men were experienced sailors and very well acquainted with marine life in the ocean. Either they were half-bind and credulous or is there some other explanation for the mermaid myth?

To explain the apparent confusion some people have pointed out that the vagina of female sea cows is very similar to that of a human female. It could be that sailors may have had sex with manatees, and to cover up this act of bestiality they claimed they had intercourse with a mermaid. The problem is that there are thousands of stories about shepherds who have sex with sheep and they certainly don’t invent a mythical creature to hide this act. They simply keep quiet about it. Another explanation supposes that sailors on long sea voyages without the company of women become so sex-starved that anything remotely resembling a woman in the sea becomes a ‘mermaid’. But most mermaid stories come from Europe, spread by local fishermen who don’t spend months or years at sea.

Mermaids are reported all over Europe. In Ireland they are called Merrows or Murirruhgachs, in Cornwall, Merrymaids, in the Shetland Islands, Sea-trows, while the Germans on the Rhine called them Meerfraus. The Scandanavians called them Navmands and the Russians, Rusalkas. Reports of mermaids go right back to the ancient Greeks and continued right up to the end of the 19th century. There have even been a few in the 20th century. So what are we to make of this?


Perhaps we need to look at the mermaid story from a different perspective. In most stories of mermaids, a female is sighted. There are very few reports of mermen. Whereas logic would say there should be as many reports of merman as there are of mermaids. In many mermaid stories we are told they come out of the sea and even marry fishermen. This is a very clever trick for someone with a fish’s tail, except that in some reports a fish tail is not always mentioned. The ancient Greeks called mermaids ‘sea nymphs’ or ‘nereids’ and describe them as simply nude women who swam in the sea, similar to a reported sighing in the 19th century.

On September 8 1809 and school master in England wrote to “The Times” stating that twelve years previous he was on the shore of Sandside Bay when he saw a naked woman sitting on a rock. He then realised that the rock she was sitting on was too dangerous for swimmers and concluded she must be a mermaid. She then dropped in the sea and swam away, and other people also witnessed the same incident.

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