Historical Description by the Artist:
The Mermaid, a beautiful girl to her waist, but a fish from the waist down, has always been a favorite creature of legend and romance. There has never been a time or place in nautical history in which mariners have not told of Mermaids and Mermen they encountered. The Mermaid of tradition is a seductive and dangerous enchantress, who personifies the beauty and treachery of the sea, and especially of the shoals and rocks of the coastline. Her long hair is said to be composed of seaweed.
For a sailor to see a Mermaid is almost always a portent of aster-storm, shipwreck, drowning. Mermaids lure sailors with singing and lovely music. They live in a kingdom on the bottom of the sea, where they take their prisoners. Some tales tell of kindhearted beauties desiring only to introduce their lovers to the rapture of the deep; while others recount mer-monsters bent on ripping the drowned from limb to limb.
The folklore of Mer-people is ancient and widespread, crossing cultures, continents and centuries. They have been called by diverse names-Sirens, Silkies, Tritons, Undines, Melusines, Morgans, Korrigans, Lorelei, Rusulki, Nixies, Nereids, Naiads and Ningyos. Some gods and goddesses of the ancient world appeared in the form of mer-folk. The Babylonian god Oannes and the Philistine god Dagon were both depicted with the tail of a fish. Oannes’ fish-tailed feminine counterpart, the Moon goddess Atargatis or Derceto, was the earliest Mermaid deity. She was the predecessor of the Greek love goddess Aphrodite, who arose from the foam in a seaborne scallop shell.
Unlike many creatures of literature and myth, the Mermaid was thought to be real by both natural historians and explorers, who have reported many sightings and encounters over the centuries. Pliny the Elder was the first naturalist to record her in detail, in his monumental 1st century CE work, Natural History. In the mid-19th century, stuffed “Mermaids” (monkey-fish composites created by Japanese taxidermists) became spectacles in Victorian London. The most famous of these curiosities was the “Feejee Mermaid” brought to Broadway by P.T. Barnum in 1842.
The universality and vitality of the Mermaid legend indicates that there may be a substratum of fact: an actual animal that may appear Mermaid-like from a tance. Suggested candidates have included sirenians (manatees and dugongs) and pinnipeds (seals). In the early 1980s, off the coast of New Ireland, North of New Guinea, anthropologists reported seeing an unknown sea mammal. The natives called it a Ri or Ilkai, describing it as having a fishlike lower body and a humanoid head and torso, including, on the females, human breasts. In other words, a Mermaid. This identification was reinforced by the Pidgin name for the creature: Pishmeri, meaning “fish-woman.”
Size: 7.75″ Tall