Episode 38: Water Fae: Mermaids
The folklore of mermaids in a nutshell, how I reimagined them for my writing, and these fae translated into Afrikaans.
Written and narrated by Ronel Janse van Vuuren.
Copyright 2022 Ronel Janse van Vuuren — All rights reserved.
Learn more about Mermaids here.
Get the transcript here.
Music: Secrets by David Fesliyan (FesliyanStudios.com) and Dramatic Heartbeat by FesliyanStudios.com
You’re listening to the Faeries and Folklore podcast by Ronel.
I’m dark fantasy author Ronel Janse van Vuuren. With nearly a decade of digging around in dusty folklore books, researching creatures of imagination that ignited my curiosity, I’m here to share the folklore in a nutshell and how I reimagined it for my writing in an origin of the fae.
This is the Faeries and Folklore podcast.
Hi, I’m your host Ronel Janse van Vuuren. You can just call me Ronel. In today’s episode, we’re continuing our exploration of the fae realm.
This episode is brought to you by my book Once… Tales, Myths and Legends of Faerie available in eBook, audiobook and paperback. Learn more at ronelthemythmaker.com/my-books.
We’re continuing our exploration of Water Fae.
Today’s Faery: Mermaids
Folklore in a nutshell by Ronel
A familiar figure in folklore from around the world, this half-woman, half-fish creature is usually depicted as being a beautiful woman from the waist up and a glistening fish from the waist down. For the most part, the mermaid sits on a rock and combs her lustrous hair without a care in the world. “Mere” comes from Old English meaning “sea” or “lake” (large body of water) and “maid” means “young woman”, thus mermaid is a young woman of the water.
Each culture has its own version of the mermaid and thus the appearance (and name) varies from region to region. In Brazil, Iara is the mermaid of the Amazon River. Like most mermaids, she functions as a siren that lures men to their death – usually those lost in the jungle. In Britain, there are various names for the mermaid – and her vicious merman husband. Mermen are found in most periods of Mesopotamian and Babylonian history – they are even called “fish-man” in Syria.
The belief in mermaids has been present for a very long time, seen in how similar they are the world over. As recently as 1947, an octogenarian fisherman from the Inner Hebrides claimed to have seen a mermaid combing her hair near the shore.
Sometimes the mermaid is portrayed as a vicious, lustful temptress using her charms to lure men to their watery deaths. Other times she is a gentle, wish-granting creature that also warns about storms and imminent danger. Depending on the culture and tale, different aspects of the mermaid’s character are emphasised. But stereotypes shouldn’t be believed: the mermaid, by whatever name, is a capricious faery with an agenda all her own.
And now for my interpretation of the fae in an origin of the fae: mermaids
Mermaids appear in two forms: the first is attractive to their human prey, the other their true form which is usually with gills, sharp teeth, scales all over, webbing between their fingers, and an all-together otherworldly look that would scare humans off if they ever saw it, but gives them lots more power, protects them from the depths of the ocean (cold, pressure, darkness), and boosts their speed.
Just like Merrows and Sirens, they work for the Otherworld and make sure that those lost at sea – human or fae – go to a proper afterlife. They also find human flesh a delicacy and ignore all rules about interacting with humans that the Faerie monarchs might have in place.
They’re not a fan of Mami Wata or the Jengu, seeing them as overstepping their place as merfolk with their interactions with other fae – and their war with the Obayifo.
Just as folklore warns, they are beautiful, deadly, and capricious.
Translation of mermaid to Afrikaans: meermin.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this episode of the faeries and folklore podcast and that you’ve learned something new about faeries.
Remember that you can get a transcript of this episode in the description. If you’re new to the podcast, why not go and grab your free copy of Unseen, the second book in the Faery Tales series, on my website ronelthemythmaker.com? Loads of folklore, magic and danger await! Take care!
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