Legends of mermaids are ancient in origin. For centuries, people have been fascinated with fish and sea creatures. As a result, many cultures have mermaid myths. Some people have even searched the Internet to discover how to become a mermaid, seeking magic spells to turn themselves into one! While mermaids are not known to actually exist, there have been accounts through history of sea travelers seeing mermaids. There are also common beliefs and rules in mermaid lore.
A mermaid is a woman with a fish tail, capable of breathing in or out of water. Gorgeous in appearance, with long hair, musical powers and beautiful voices, stories of mermaids have captivated people through time. Celtic mythology has pictures of mermaids sitting on rocks, singing and hanging around boats at sea, tempting sailors with their beauty.
Mermaids often can prophesize about events to come. Beyond this trait, there are two very different attitutdes toward mermaids. In some cultures they are good luck, and may grant wishes. Mermaids have also been known to save the lives of sailors following shipwrecks. Hurting a mermaid will bring very bad luck and curses.
In other cultures, mermaids are less benevolent. They linger on rocks at sea, tempting sailors to wreck their ships with their soft songs or distracting men and causing them to fall overboard. A mermaid can cause floods, high tides and other disasters if she is angered.
Mermaids may drown sailors who fall in love with them by pulling them beneath the water. Mermaids don't realize that humans can't breathe undewater.
Noted North American explorer Henry Hudson claimed to see a mermaid and reported it in his writings. Pliny, a Roman scientist, also claimed to have seen mermaids in his travels. Modern scholars believe these were animals seen from afar, such as a seals, manatees dolphins or walruses, although that is just conjecture. Circus acts and side shows have exhibited "mermaids" for the public to see, although these were really women with elaborate fish-tail costumes.
The cities of Warsaw, Poland and Norfolk, Virginia both feature mermaids on their city seals. Mermaids have appeared in all forms of art and entertainment, but perhaps none is more famous than The Little Mermaid created by Hans Christian Andersen, which was adapted into an animated film by Disney. A statue commemorating Andersen's Little Mermaid can be found in Copenhagen Harbour in Denmark.
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