My fantasy elements series rolls on today with the mythical mermaid, nemesis of sailors. Mermaids have appeared in the folklore of many cultures worldwide. This aquatic legend has the upper body of a female human and the tail of a fish. It is thought that the sea nymphs arose from sightings of dugong but anyone who has seen a dugong would be sceptical of this.
In fantasy literature, mermaids are sprinkled throughout though nowhere near as common a fantasy icon as witches or dragons. The most memorable mermaids made an appearance in The Little Mermaid, a tale first published in 1837 by Hans Christian Anderson. Hans tells the story of a young mermaid, willing to give up life in the ocean and her mermaid identity to win the love of a human prince.
Stephen Donaldson had half human mystical hybrids called mer-wives in his ‘Chronicles of Thomas Covenant’
We also find mermaids, or at least mer people (people of the sea) in JK Rowling’s The Goblet of Fire.
“Here and there at the dark windows, Harry saw faces…faces that bore no resemblance at all to the painting of the mermaid in the prefects’ bathroom… The merpeople had grayish skin and long, wild, dark green hair. Their eyes were yellow, as were their broken teeth, and they wore thick ropes of pebbles around their necks.“
These mer people sound a far cry from those we traditionally think of.
In Doctor Who, The Curse of the Black Spot, a mysterious monster rears her head. When our three stowaways appear in their blue box, aboard a 17th century pirate ship, the crew is being mesmerized one by one by the haunting song of a beautiful siren. Her attention means certain death.
And that is the common theme amongst mermaid legend: that the sea nymphs appear to sailors at sea, singing their haunting songs, and the sailors are lured to their death, drowning in the ocean. Mermaids may be beautiful but their attraction has a deadly side effect.
In my third fantasy novel, which I will have more news on soon, my heroine is a mermaid. Merielle has just never ‘fit in’ amongst her people. She makes a decision to flee her family, rather than take part in their murderous activities. Merielle is found by naval captain Nikolas Cosara, washed up on his beach. Having been a sailor for decades and with his brother recently lost at sea, Nik has every reason to hate Merielle. She, on the other hand, has seized on a plan to make a human love her and so become a human woman. Suffice to say that the relationship between these two is turbulent.
The working title of this book is Love Thy Enemy and it has been an amazing and at times difficult ride to explore the possibilities of a mermaid as heroine of a romance novel. I think it very possible that the mer people will return in coming stories.