Mermaids, like other mystical creatures, occupy a huge place in folk culture. However, are they real at all, and have they ever existed in the past?
These mysterious creatures of irresistible beauty that live in endless oceans have existed in books, texts and films for hundreds of years. Is this due to the fact that they existed on Earth once upon a time, like dinosaurs, or are mermaids just a delightful illusion that feeds our creative imaginations? In this article, we will take a look at the history of mermaids and try to find out if they are real.
Mermaids are extraordinarily beautiful creatures, consisting of the upper part of a female body and a fish tail sparkling with scales. They are mentioned in various texts for many hundreds of years.
Mermaid legends existed in the folklore of many peoples of Europe, Asia and Africa. They come from the mythology of the Sea People. Ancient myths mention people living in water. The female representatives of this mysterious people were called mermaids. The men got a much less romantic name - the water one.
There is no compelling evidence that they are real, but so many myths, legends and fairy tales have been created about mermaids in different cultures that you involuntarily ask yourself this question. Maybe the sea people still existed in ancient times, but their representatives did not look at all the way we depict them today?
In the epic of many peoples, mermaids usually appear in two different, very contradictory images. In the first version, these are evil and insidious sea creatures, luring sailors to ruinous places with their seductive songs and attractive appearance.
Another version is that mermaids are women of the sea, some kind of sea goddess, who were portrayed as unusually beautiful and elegant. Legends say that they suffer from loneliness, yearn for a man and passionate love, and also yearn that they are not destined to be human.
Over time, these legends of good and evil mermaids changed, and then they were heavily influenced by German romantic poets and post-romantic artists.
In ancient Greek mythology, they are known as sirens. They were dangerous creatures that seduced sailors and killed them.
Some of the earliest written records of the "sea people" are Chinese texts dating from about the fourth century BC. Shang Hai Jing (Book of Mountains and Seas) is a classical Chinese text that tells about the mythical monsters that inhabit this vast land.
From the Chinese language, the word "jiaoran" is translated as shark people, and this image is widespread in medieval texts. The first case of a detailed description of sea people is found in a text called "Record of Stranger Things", which is customary to date the beginning of the sixth century AD.
However, the mention of mermaids is found in Homer's Odyssey, written around 675-725. BC. Their seductive singing is destroying the people at sea. This poem is the first literary text to describe their seductive songs that make sailors lose their minds. However, the heroes of the "Odyssey" manage to escape unharmed.
Mermaids also appear in Assyria around 1000 BC. The legend tells of the goddess Atargatis, who turned into a mermaid, jumping into the lake because of the remorse that tormented her after the murder of her lover. She was unable to fully take on the form of a fish, and instead, thanks to her beauty, turned into a mermaid. In Greek mythology, she is known as the goddess Derketo.
The most famous documented sighting of a real mermaid is a recording by Christopher Columbus. On January 9, 1493, he wrote in his logbook that he witnessed something supernatural, magical, which he had never seen before. Off the coast of Africa, Columbus saw with his own eyes three mermaids that rose above the surface of the sea.
His description of mermaids was very different from folklore sources and legends. Columbus did not have them as beautiful or mysterious. He saw in them just a semblance of fish with human faces. It is argued that the navigator was mistaken and actually saw manatees or other sea creatures that could be confused with mermaids from a great distance.
The Little Mermaid is one of the most famous mermaid movie stories, filmed by Disney in 1989. It is based on a beautiful fairy tale, written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1837, which tells the story of a lonely mermaid who was ready to give her eternal and free life in the ocean in exchange for a real human soul.
This tale was one of the first where the tragic story of a mermaid ended with a happy ending. In all likelihood, it is the most famous mermaid tale in world history. And in this story, the mermaid is almost for the first time portrayed as naive and innocent, unlike most other sources, which speak of an insidious seductress.
In the Danish capital Copenhagen, where this beautiful fairy tale was written, there is a statue of a mermaid, which is very popular and loved by tourists.
There is no doubt that the charm of mermaids will continue to be passed on from generation to generation. However, the question of their existence has not been clarified. Despite the many texts describing cases of sighting of mermaids, they cannot be considered convincing evidence. There is also a theory that the "sea people" could exist in folklore, but the fact that they lived by the sea does not mean at all that outwardly they resembled half people and half fish.