The ongoing popularity of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid and Disney’s hit comedy Splash which they followed up with their children’s cartoon mermaid character Ariel have all served to make a Mermaid themed parties a firm favourite with girls. Whether you buy a costume or simply adapt a bikini and sarong to suit all little girls of all ages love to pretend that they are sirens of the sea.
But does this love of mermaids come from and why do we find them so cute when legend would have us believe that they used to lure sailors onto the rocks with their singing and then drown them out of spite?
If we start at the beginning, mermaids are fictional creatures being half human and half aquatic creature, fish, dolphin or seal. Mermaids exist in many cultures and stories about them date back thousands of years. Their name derives from concatenating a derivation of the old English (and French) word for sea; ‘mere’ and maid which would simply mean servant.
The earliest representation of a mermaid as we would think of them today would be the story of Atargatis who was goddess who fell in love with a mortal and in so doing killed him and through this loss of love threw herself into a lake taking on the form of a fish. It was said that the waters were unable to hide her beauty and thereafter she took on the form of a mermaid, human from the waist up and fish below.