Mermaids are those mystical creatures that have fascinated readers and dreamers for centuries. With this year's theme of Make A Splash!@Your Library there is so much to learn about mermaids and believe it or not quite of few good books out there too! Here are some facts about mermaids and other fantastical sea creatures that may inspire a Children Librarian to do a program or two.
Traditionally Mermaids are seen as beautiful creatures with lovely faces, long hair and signing voices that could lure brave, strong men to their watery grave. Mermen on the other hand, are not as good looking nor do they possess the singing talents as their female counterparts. Let's be honest, is there really anything "beautiful" in a species that is half human, half fish? It must be true that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
The stories of mermaids came from sailors who claim to have seen these beautiful creatures and spun their tales when they returned home after a long voyage. Ah, but did they really see mermaids? Or had they been out to sea for far too long? If one were practical, it could be suggested that the poor sailors mistook a manatee or seal for a human like creature? Then again, does it really matter? The story of the menfolks have entertained for years. Sometimes, practicality has to be thrown out the window.
Where is the first mention of mermaids and mermen? Back to Greek mythology. A little test, do you remember the name of the Greek god who was a merman? Give up? It was Triton. Of course his father would have to be the God of the Seas, Poseidon. His mother was a nymph, Amphitrite. The tools of Triton were a trident and a conch shell that was used as a horn. Eventually it seems as though there were many Tritons because Greek mythology tells the tales of how Poseidon would have merman blow their conch upon his arrival and they were also given the task of pulling Aphrodite's chariot across the waters.
In Ireland mermaids are known as Merrows. In some folklore, merrows would marry humans and live happily ever after. Offspring from this union would have webbed fingers and toes. What does that matter when a family home is filled with love and bliss?
In Scotland, there is a creature that is similar to the mermaid but is called a Selkie. Selikies are part human, part seal. As the tales goes, Selkies are seals in the water, but once they reach shore, they may shed their fur and become a beautiful woman. Any many who wished to make this stunning creature his wife would steal the fur, thus trapping her in her human form. Once the Selkie is trapped, she is forced to live a sad life longing for the sea home.
Have you heard the story of Melusine? This story comes from France, and it has a very sad ending because it begins with a curse. A fairy who has married a gentleman has been cursed to live one day a week as a mermaid. Her husband is blissfully unaware of this because every Saturday she turns into a mermaid and she mad him promise to go away for the day. After keeping the promise for many years, he begins to be curious as to why Melusine would want him gone. He sneaks back to the house and takes a quick peak. When Melusine realizes that her secret has been revealed she leaves her husband.
In Japan a mermaid is known as Ninygo. A slight difference in their version is that the body is all fish but the head is human. They generally give warning to humans about bad storms approaching.
Haitians have a story of a man who was lured into the sea by a long silver-haired mermaid. His friends saw him go into the sea and were frightened when he did not immediately return. After several months, the man found himself floating on the ocean and returned home. It seems that the mermaid knew he was missing his friends and family, and allowed him to return.
Whether mermaids are friendly, luring, or nasty, they are fun to read about. Here is a list of books that you many want to consider for your summer reading pleasure.
Juvenile and Young Readers Fiction
The Little Mermaid / Hans Christian Andersen
Mermaid Dance / Marjorie Hakala
The Tail of Emily Windsnap / Liz Kessler (Series)
Sukey and the Mermaid / Robert D. San Souci
Young Adult Fiction
Midnight Pearls (Once Upon A Time Series)/ Debbie Viguie
Ingo, (series) / Helen Dunmore
The Girl With the Mermaid Hair / Delia Ephron
The Daughters of Sea: Hannah / Kathryn Lasky
Sirena / Donna Jo Napoli
Selkie Girl / Laurie Brooks
Mermaid Park / Beth Mayall
False Mermaid / Erin Hart
It was a wonderful trip through the seas and back. Each tale had a unique spin on mermaids and sea creatures that it makes one wonder that perhaps these creatures really do exist! For a complete list of books, craft ideas and programs please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll leave with an old shanty that truly makes one believe the sea faring folks did indeed see mermaids on their voyage.
The Mermaid (Folksong circa 1700)
words and music Traditional
Twas Friday morn when we set sail
And we were not far from the land
When the captain, he spied a lovely mermaid
With a comb and a glass in her hand
O the ocean's waves will roll
And the stormy winds will blow
While we poor sailors go skipping to the top
And the landlubbers lie down below (below, below)
And the landlubbers lie down below
Then up spoke the captain of our gallant ship,
And a brave old man was he,
He said, "This fishy mermaid has warned me of our doom:
We shall sink to the bottom of the sea!"
And up spoke the mate of our gallant ship
And a well-spoken man was he
I have me a wife in Salem by the sea
And tonight she a widow will be
And up spoke the cookie of our gallant ship
And a red hot cookie was he
Saying I care much more for my pots and my pans
Than I do for the bottom of the sea
Then up spoke the cabinboy, of our gallant ship
And a nasty little lad was he.
I'm not quite sure I can spell "mermaid"
But I'm going to the bottom of the sea.
Then up spoke the cannibal who snuck aboard our ship
And a hungry mad invader was he
You can drown right now beneath the cold ocean waves
Or you can be dinner for three, your choice
Then up spoke the parrot of our gallant ship
And a smartarse parrot was she
Brawk, you're going to drown, your going to drown, Brawk
And flew to the shore for her safety
Then three times around went our gallant ship
And three times around went she
hree times around went our gallant ship
And she sank to the bottom of the sea