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A tale from the Sea

The Ocean has inspired mankind to tell stories from the dawn of day.
It´s raw power, the countless creatures below surface that appeared alienlike to humans, as well as the Oceans key role in maintaining the existence for humans throughout history, - has created a great setting for storytelling.

Photo : The Oceans Daily Archives

But the part that becomes really fascinating, is when stories, myths and folklore can be linked, - mapped out - stretching from the cold waters of Skotland, to Brazil and furthermore to Greenland and Japan.

When stories have been told, almost at the exact same time different places around the world - despite the lack of ability to communicate cross the globe at the time, a question arises… Are these myths somehow connected to reality, or are they just well told bed time stories ?

On land tales about, for instance, fire breathers that flew and looked like giant reptiles, has been told in the same era - in both Asia, Russia and South America… “Dragons” as we call them today in a popular term. Some Mythologists and Creationists claim, that dragons are dinosaurs, and the reason for the lot of Dagon tales is that a few specimens were still to be found meanwhile humans had evolved to a stage, where storytelling would be prioritized. Though, no evidence has been found to prove this, since dinosaur fossils does not turn up in the same rock layers as human remains…

This though, does proves a point that is linked to the Ocean. We know so much about the ground we walk upon.

And we know so very little about what lyes beneath the surface.

"So what might be the possibility of these creatures from tales actual existence ? A very special Ocean character has been a subject for countless myths and tales… The Mermaid."

Photo : The Oceans Daily Archives

Many of us will picture a red haired beauty with big blue eyes and a green tail, if we should describe a Mermaid.

Disney's Princess Ariel, is actually an interpretation of a story written in 1837 by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. The story is called “The little Mermaid” and in many ways, it is easy to see that the Disney movie is almost a direct copy of the story.

However, this elder literary fairytale is probably one of the most gloomy stories ever written. A Mermaid falls in love with a Prince on land, whom she once saved. She decides to do a major sacrifice to be able to go ashore. Though unfortunately at the end of the story, the Prince chooses to marry another girl, leaving the little Mermaid filled with sorrow. The part, where Disney decided to make a happy ending instead.

The Mermaid in Hans Christian Andersens tale, is described as a mysterious beauty, witholding kindness, but also wrapped in a certain melancholy and longing.

This was his projection of a Mermaid, back in 1837, - but there are many different Mermaid projections and descriptions dating much further back in history.

Some of these descriptions origins from pirates and seafarers all the way back to the 1300s… Describing seductive woman lying on rocks, singing to the sailors - providing them with fantasies they might longed to outlive meanwhile they were still at sea, far from shore and a woman arms.

Others seafarers, described these women as dark and evil creatures. These characters called “Sirenes” would use their beauty to make these desperate men join them in the water. Though what the men would experience, was far from the affection they might have dreamt of, - since the cunning Sirenes would drown them, - and sometimes even eat them…

“If only I could find my skin once more,” she cried to her husband, “So that I might return to the sea now and then, to visit my sisters and my home beneath the waves. The lack of moisture here is withering me so. I shall be old before my time and I fear you will not love me by and by.” - The Selkie Bride (Scottish Folklore)

Stories about “Mermaids” - or “Servants of the Sea” - have existed all over the world - all the way from cold Scotland to hot Africa. Though their names as well as actions varies a lot.

In Scotland, “Mermaids” are called “Selkies”. Selkies are seals, that are able to shed their skin and take human form.

They are gentle, beautiful beings, that loves the Ocean beyond anything else.

Photo by Ashkan Forouzani

Legends about Selkies often ends tragically, since it mainly concerns Selkies being stolen and married on land. The Selkies normally looses their “sealskins” (their skins allows them to transform into seals and live in the Ocean) since their husbands normally hides the skin away. But many of the Selkie legends ends when the Selkie finds the Sealskin and runs off - returning to the Ocean, leaving the human husband and sometimes children behind on land.

Mermaid legends also exists in Japan, - though they are very different from the Scottish Selkies.

“Ningyo” is a fishlike - ugly - described creature, far from the "classic" sensual and seductive idea of a Mermaid. Some of the oldest written stories in Japan concerns the “Ningyo”. It is said, that the “Ningyo” holds the power of everlasting life, and the person that eats it shall live forever. Though the “Ningyo” also has powers to create disasters by casting spells and destroying lives if it feels threatened, or harmed. Some stories about the Ningyo has it, that naive fishermen would catch the grim looking creature, varying in size from a small child to a giant seal. Yet sometimes the fishermen had not thought though the supernatural powers the Ocean creature percessed - which ment their entire village would be destroyed by a tsunami or an earthquake.

Fun Mermaid stories can also be found ! A story from the transitioning era of the 1600s claimed, that a type of Mermaid entered Holland though an embankment, but was injured when doing so. She was then taken to a lake close by and nursed until she had healed. Eventually, she became a Dutch citizen, learned the language as well as taking care of a household - she even converted to Catholicism according to the tale !

A final Mermaid example is from Brazil, where they have a story about a type of mermaid called “Iara” translated, this means : Lady, or, Mother of the Waters.

This immortal Mermaid is beautiful, dark skinned with gorgeous eyes. Iara is said to mesmerize men, and tempt them to join her in her underwater world, to make love to her.

This, as it may seem, irresistible proposal, - has often been the justification for many mens disappearance and drowning accidents. According to some tales, the men that survived Iara by escaping, ended up going mad - or, having teeth marks on their necks and bodies.

When looking at a geographical map - tales of Mermaids has accrued on almost all continents. Still, Mermaids has not been “scientifically discovered”

Folklore, myths, tales and legends are interesting in many ways. But what makes them incredible - is their striking truth.

"Truth" can be many different things - this "truth" being the reflection upon the general works of the human mind - no matter if you live in Brazil or Scotland a projektion of a Mermaid occurs. These myths and tales explains to us who we are, who we have been and displays the general fascination humans project to the Ocean.
Photo : The Oceans Daily Archives

Less than 10% of the Ocean has been fully explored, - and if We come to think about some of the creatures we have discovered, like for instance the giant squid, who knows what our ancestors my have encountered on their journeys at sea ? Perhaps something we will come to know of later on.

Myths, folklore and tales from the Oceans are still worth sharing, since “In mari multa latent” translated “In the Ocean many things are hidden.”


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