I did a post on Monday about a vengeful mermaid taking revenge for her rock being smashed. Judging by your comments mermaids are quite popular.
Obviously you all have fond memories of the mermaids in the fairy tales of your childhood. Not all of you grew up on the Disney version either, I always preferred the drag-you-to-your-doom kind of mermaid, not the pining-for-legs type, myself.
Naturally I kept on looking for more mermaid articles after I posted and I was pretty happy to find this one. It is a little longer than I normally use, apologies, but it was interesting enough for me to let it through!
This article starts by mentioning a mermaid captured in Bangor on the shores of Belfast Lough in the sixth century. This mermaid was baptised and then admitted as a saint called Murgen. Clearly it didn’t take much effort to be regarded as a figure of holiness back then. As yet I can’t find the feast day for this saint, which is a pity. I would love to celebrate the Feast of St Murgen with a fishy dinner.*
The rest of the article is about a mermaid and a merman caught by fishermen at Little Aden. They were bought up in a net, fighting fiercely until they were subdued with a thump on the head. Obviously they didn’t survive the thumping, as they were sold to a tailor in Aden and stuffed.
Now, you would think that the tailor would hang such a prize in his window as a bit of morbid advertising, but no. They were hung in a back room and those wanting a look were charged 4 annas (4d). I wonder if the light was kinder to them in a dimly lit back room than the cold hard (and revealing) light of day out the front?
Major-General Sir George Younghusband reported seeing these fishy corpses in 1915 and noted that the female had breasts under her armpits. Alarming! Not really helpful for swimming either…
I loved the bit that said that the mermaids were ‘exactly in the lines of pictured mermaids, except that instead of being perfectly beautiful they were monstrously ugly.’ The line between ‘perfectly beautiful’ and ‘monstrously ugly’ is quite a wide one in my world!
After reading this description I have no problem believing that the tailor had something that resembled half-fish half-human specimens in his shop. I don’t really think that they were hauled up in one piece in a net though. I suspect that there was a little creative taxidermy going on there. I wonder if they were made out of wax, or if something a little more distasteful was used?
If you are interested in stories of historical fish-human taxidermy have a look at a post done a while ago by Miss Apis Mellifera called Who is monkey-fish?, complete with X-ray and CT scans.
If you are interested in more of these historical curiosities I did a post inspired by her monkey-fish post called The Manchu Man-fish.
* I wondered where the name Murgen came from and instantly my brain jumped to the celebratory feast by the shores of the Lough after the baptism of the mermaid. I thought it may have originated when asked by a passer-by what they were eating.
Can you say mermaid when you have a mouthful of ‘fish’? ….murgen?…. 😉