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Monday, 9 May 2016


The earliest account of a mermaid appeared in Assyria around 1000 BC. It is the story of the Syrian goddess Atargatis who became half-fish after accidentally killing a shepherd she loved.

John William Waterhouse A Mermaid

The One Thousand and One Nights includes several tales featuring "Sea People", such as Djullanar the Sea-girl. Unlike other mythologies, these are almost the same as humans, except the fact that they can breathe and live underwater.

The mermaid, or syrenka, is the symbol of Warsaw. Images of a mermaid have symbolized the Polish capital on its crest since the middle of the 14th century.

Coat of arms of Warsaw
On January 9, 1493, Christopher Columbus, sailing near the Dominican Republic, thought he saw mermaids. They were "not as pretty as they are depicted, for somehow in the face they look like men." Most likely they were manatees, which are slow-moving aquatic mammals with human-like eyes, large faces and paddle-like tails.

Mermaid sightings by sailors, when they weren't made up, were most likely manatees, dugongs or Steller's sea cows which became extinct by the 1760s due to over-hunting.

The most famous mermaid in literature is Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale The Little Mermaid, which was first published in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1837 in the third volume of Fairy Tales Told for Children  It has been translated into many languages.

The famous sculpture of The Little Mermaid at the entrance to Copenhagen harbor was unveiled on August 23, 1913.

Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen (1913)

In August 2009, the town of Kiryat Yam in Israel offered a prize of $1 million for anyone who could prove that mermaids existed off its coast, after dozens of people said they had seen a mermaid leaping out of the water like a dolphin and doing tricks in the air before returning back to where it had come from. The prize has not yet been awarded.

The Mermaid is a Chinese romantic comedy movie that was released on February 8, 2016.  It tells the story of a playboy businessman who falls in love with a mermaid that was sent to assassinate him. Within 12 days, it had become the highest-grossing film of all time in China.

Animal Planet has twice made documentaries that uses evolution-based theories and several real examples from nature as a springboard to weave an imaginary story about the existence of mermaids.

There is a strong belief in mermaids in Zimbabwe but they often have a bad reputation including kidnapping, torture and murder.

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