Merfolks — or tales about mermaids and mermen — have long been part of our culture. Even the ancient cultures have their own version of these mythical creatures, such as the Babylonian deity Oannes and the Greek sea god, Triton.
Children are also well aware of the modern mermaid from the Disney classic The Little Mermaid, an adaptation from Hans Christian Andersen’s 1837 fairy tale story. As part of world culture, urban legends are also dotted with sightings of the half-man, half-fish creature appearing in coastlines and occasionally surfacing from the water.
How the legend of the mermaid started
Because our planet is mostly covered with water, it is not surprising that mankind started telling tales about the unknown. Sailors during the early days of exploration claimed of legends where these part-human and part-animal creatures were captured or seen in deep oceans. Ancient maps are strewn with strange creatures including mermaids and mermen.
An Asian literary piece entitled “Arabian Nights” depicts mermaids with moon-shaped faces and had a woman’s hair. Their limbs were attached to their bellies and had fish tails instead of human feet. Similar creatures can also be found in other ancient cultures including the Greeks who had the sea-God holding a trident, Triton. Merfolks have been passed down from generation to generation becoming one of the most recognized mythical creatures.
Sea-creatures that inspired the tale of the mermaid
Sea cow creatures such as the dugong and manatees are thought to have inspired the folklore because of their almost human-like size. Their grace underwater can also be likened to a human dancing in the sea and their flipper look more like a human arm.
Most sightings of mermaids can also be attributed to the dugongs because they can pop their heads out of the water and resemble human being especially during sunset. Jumping into the water and disappearing would show their tails, something most people report as a mermaid sighting.