I’m pinning the blame for this on Rara Saur
I actually had to do some legwork here, because all I knew about them was their supposed physical beauty, and the fact that some authorities think that the mermaids that Christopher Columbus reported were in fact manatees. I never gave that idea much credence. Manatees are lovely, gentle creatures, but in all fairness only their mums think they’re beautiful. They’re like very big walruses with no tusks and a better attitude.
Not a great deal of similarity is there?
Right, here we go. The myth of mermaids first surfaced (did you see what I did there?) in Assyria round about 1000 BC. The goddess Atargatis unintentionally killed her lover, a shepherd, and in her shame jumped into a lake and took the form of a fish. No mention is made of how she killed him, but I know where my mind strayed to.
The idea of mermaids is extraordinarily widespread. Ancient Greece, Britain, Eastern and Western Europe, China, Africa, the Caribbean, South America… You name it, they’ve been there. They even crop up in One Thousand and One Nights, and some aspects of Hinduism.
It’s not that surprising that the myth perpetuated itself at sea. If you’re on a ship with a load of hairy blokes and a pint of rum a day, you’re likely to let your mind wander a bit aren’t you? But there are some technical problems, aren’t there? Firstly for the mermaid, and then for any potential paramour.
Not to put too fine a point on it, mermaids don’t have an anus. That’s not healthy, is it? The human record for not defaecating stands at just over a year. Don’t ask how or why I know that. But a year is quite a short time compared with a lifetime. Is that why manatees are so bulky, do you think?
As for the paramour side to things, well, they don’t appear to possess a vagina either. That’s a pretty serious obstacle, though perhaps Atargatis found a way round it in the process of killing her lover. It’s all a bit weird however you look at it.
This was prompted by a discussion with Rara Saur about the film Splash. It’s one of my favourite soppy films of all time, Darryl Hannah looks hot as Hades as Madison, and Tom Hanks plays a great role as the hapless, lovestruck hero Allen Bauer. The bit where Madison cuts loose in the television shop is spectacularly funny.