For many of us the Disney story of the Little Mermaid is one we all know quiet well. From that story alone it has had thousands and thousands of little girls wanting to have a fish tail an long red hair. Oh yeah, and their own aquatic friends like Sebastian and Flounder.
Hans Christen Anderson, the original writer of the story, didn’t have the tamest version as Disney made it be. In his story, The Little Mermaid came upon a shipwreck where she found her prince. Knowing she couldn’t be seen as a mermaid, she fled to the Sea Witch to get help walking on land. The Sea Witch gave her a potion that would grant her legs. The only cost in it was she would be without a tongue and voice. Yeah, the beautiful singing from Ariel wasn’t the true story. Another price she had to pay was that when she walked with her legs it would feel as if she was constantly stepping on sharp knives. I guess that’s a way of saying love hurts. Of course that isn’t where it ends. She has to make the prince fall in love with her. If he doesn’t, the little mermaid will return to the sea as sea foam the first morning after he marries someone else. Tragic right?
Mermaids are depicted in so many ways around the world. Some rendition we don’t hear about. I’ve dug up two just to show you how different they are from our own.
Across the world in Japan. Mermaids definitely aren’t thought to be as beautiful as the Disney version. In Japan, “Ningyo” are said to have a fishes body, a human face, and a monkeys mouth. Hideous right?! The Ningyo’s flesh is said to be delicious. The interesting thing is that in Japan it’s believed if you eat the flesh of a Ningyo it’s like stepping into the fountain of youth. Your believed to appear forever young.
Africa’s Mami Wata
In Africa, the belief goes that mermaids are known as one human/spirit form. They call her “Mami Wata”. Have you ever heard of a snake charmer? That’s Mami Wata! Most fan arts and other depictions show her with a snake wrapped around her. It’s believed that Mami Wata will seduce favored men in the form of a promiscuous woman, or prostitute. The way she works is by seduced said male into secrecy. Accepting the secrecy is supposed to bring the male a perfect life of wealths an fortune. Rejection however will ruin him. Besides this they also believe that Mami Wata is to blame for anyone who comes down with an incurable disease. Barren mother will sometimes call upon Mami Wata to cure their affliction.
It’s really astonishing how big mermaids are. People everywhere love mermaids. Everywhere you turn you can find any kind of mermaid merchandise. From shirts, blankets, lights, anything! There’s even people who have gotten tattoos of mermaids because they love them so much. I’ll admit, I’m a fan! Are you?
[I hope my first installment into my folklore series helped you dive into the mermaid legend a bit more. Soon I’ll be running a vote on social media for my next installment. Until then, share your knowledge! Maybe you have something I can add into this post. If so I promise to add a tag back to you!]